I am in Beijing improving with Chris, Joanne, Rocky, Debra their professional and managerial  competences in view of educating new trainers and attracting entrepreneurial professionals for Shanghai and Beijing. I finished my activities for now, but cannot move to my projects in Holland that I like to work on too. Airplanes stay grounded. I recorded my thoughts and emotions and actions being in the special position “I am in a place I like to be, but not at this moment”.



A small red light glooming at the corner of my attention.


A colleague from Holland (W) flies directly to Shanghai to execute some training. She is supposed to arrive on Wednesday. Crystal comes to me.

“Do you know if she arrived? Did she get the plane at all? Did the airplane leave from Schiphol?

“I do not know.

In Holland everyone is still sleeping. Text massages to her:

“Are you safe?”

“Did you arrive?”

No reaction.  A call, the power is off.

“Maybe she arrived in the hotel?”

No clear information. On Saturday she phoned one of us:

“I lived in a dream. I had not any idea of what was going on in the world. Now I understand why so many people worried about my wellbeing.”

She performed excellent in a training in Shanghai.


The ash cloud affects my life

Sunday. I checked-in by internet, no problem. All is okay. I expect to fly. Two more talks today and tomorrow as expected: “go home”. A text message from Debra: on the Chinese radio news:

“All flights from and to Europe are cancelled.”

-Maybe it will change tonight? Every hour I log-in on the website of KLM for new information. My flight is cancelled. On the KLM website:

“This afternoon a new decision will be made”.

“I hope.”


I phoned my assistant in the Netherlands Sunday afternoon (Dutch time). She was on a busy party actually: a lot of cheering noises in the room. She said she would take care for me tomorrow. Tomorrow? I felt lost and angry: she goes on with her life, I am part of her working life: no care for me now. I expect immediate activities. Late in the evening (Beijing time). I checked my e-mails:

- Maybe some activity of her?

- No.

- Maybe the cancelling changed?

- Check the website.

- No.

I must prepare myself for a stay in Beijing. Now I realize that up till now I counted on the possibility of a de-cancelling of the flight to the normal routine. I search for more help: I phone BCD travel 24 hours help service. 15 minutes in a waiting list: the same message all the time: “we are busy”. I send an e-mail to activate them. Eight hours later I received a nice e- reply: they passed the mail through to another department. I have to inform more people of my longer stay in Beijing.

- How long?

I talk with Hannelore:

“Just now you can do nothing else”. Wait and see”


More voices:

- What if it takes more days? A week?

- Last time the volcano erupted for two years.

- Go by train: the Transsiberian express to Moscow.

- Two weeks travel?

On a website someone describes this solution: luxury and one week.

- What is really happening?

- What it is all about?

- Ash in the air?

- So what?

- Is it really dangerous to fly or is it an overreaction of the air-authorities?

I build up anger on the idea of overreacting. I typed a letter to the Telegraph. The headline is:

Who controls the air-authorities?

What to do now?

I have undefined time in Beijing. Work, travel, meeting unknown people? I go to sleep at 1.30 in the morning (Beijing time). 6 o’clock in the morning awake, clear and alert.

- Maybe some news?

On the KLM site no changes.

- I hopped there might be a change.

- No, so now it is a fact.

- Can I change the booking myself?

- Try, try.

- No opportunity.

- Shall I call the KLM office in Beijing? Yesterday I searched for the address and put it in my bookmarks. To early. E-mails.

- May be some reply of BCD?

- No. from KLM?

- No.


Gonnie sends me a text message:

“Tomorrow when working starts in Holland we will do all to get you back”.

She is on a ferry from Dover to Calais in return to Holland. This is great: an immediate response of care and attention.


Agnieszka sends me two e-mails. One with the text for the flyer on the conference in November: a good invitation. The flyer looks good, and although I cannot contribute now on the conference tomorrow, she mentions my name and ideas. I feel included, really working together. The second mail is on the presentation for Wednesday. I cannot present my workshop on the conference in the Hague. She included my workshop in her presentation. Oh, what a thought fullness. What a joy. I am really not lost. It opposes one important fear “be forgotten”. “No one taking care: you have to help yourself.” She gave me signals of belonging to and including. The word friendship expresses this bond.


Fighting for attention

I get cold sitting in my pyjama behind the laptop in Beijing where the central heating stopped three weeks ago. Night temperature: 6 degrees.

- I must dress.

- And then?

- Go to the office or go the airport and see what I can influence?

I know it is all by influence. Those who know the path, have the connections, can be put in a better position.

- Am I the one who has to wait for a solution found by others?

- How can I bring myself in a position of being served first?

In my mind I see pictures of people running for the first place in a line, or fighting for the only seat that is left, or talking to an influential friend and get a preferred position.

- How can I bring myself in a more favorable position?


Jessica picks me up with her black spacious car. John is in it too. He is unaware of what is going on: his internet connection is broken down. He had to take care of his 80 year old father who needs a nanny.


“This volcano outburst will be the beginning of a explosion of four more volcano’s. It will not end for years. Trains, ship, bike, foot all other than airplane traveling

options pass. More disasters happened: a small earth quake in Beijing yesterday. In the Tibet region where the earthquake was last week now snow is covering the earth. Thousands of people without housing. This is the beginning of more. The centre of the earth explodes. More volcano’s, earthquakes. We are witnessing the beginning of the end of the world in 2012.”

- Ha-ha


Normal life

I enter the office: everyone is smiling and very nice to me. I joke:

“I am a ghost. The government forbids me to travel.”

“We thank the government for their wisdom to keep you here”.

Chris phones, I tell jokes, he laughs, relieved that I am not angry or in another bad mood. Jessica gets all the information about my status and with Christal they start making phone calls to KLM and ChinaSouthern. Debra offers me warm water.

- What now (4.22 in Holland)? I first send some emails to close loops with several people I talked to this week. Rocky comes to me.

“Hi Ton you are going to live with us forever? We are lucky.”


“No contact with the KLM or SC offices.”

More three hours to go before Holland gets active. After lunch I feel very tired. I stretch on two chairs for some time.

- When will the update come with the decision of the authorities?

A view at the KLM site: nothing new. Cessa phones:

“We all do more when we know more”.

Another phone call about the question of a client. I only get unrelated pieces of information. I cannot make myself understood I get frustrated and angry. I call U. myself. Slowly pressing the lady at the telephone for real figures:

“How many pages?”

“How much time?”

Technical issues. The translation.

“What more has to be arranged?” Slowly step by step I understand how “it” works. I cannot influence her by force. I calm down and close the conversation with the expression of understanding. I again express it in an e-mail. A new date in

the far future creates clarity, acceptance. U. replies, she is really glad with the mail, so I was able not to show my real feelings. I feel hurt of “being set aside between other projects”. I am unstable and highly inflammable.


A quarter past five in Beijing. A quarter past eleven in the Netherlands. Still no decision in Europe. Activities slow down here. So no flights from Beijing tomorrow. It will be Wednesday at the earliest. Another day of alertness. I do not have the trust I can leave it in the hands of the people in the Netherlands or even here. Do they have the same feeling of urgency as I have. The feeling not to miss the first moment and be in the end of the row. I can test but I would rather not.

- What to do?

- Going to my apartment and waiting?

- Ask someone for a dinner, company?

- Take a possibility to make a tour tomorrow or something…?

- First check again and ask the Chinese friends.

- Yes, but the KLM site is out of the air. No information at all. Websites of newspapers have no new information.


It is all a disguise.

A new option to reduce uncertainty is creating a new certainty. I book a flight in the end of this week or next week. My future is fixed in what is going to happen and I can concentrate on working. This is casinos online better for me and not so killing. Uncertainty all the time, alert all the time, is killing.

- Do I have to change my tactic?

A call from Holland: you are scheduled to have the flight on Thursday morning. I feel relief. I can go. I calm down. Inform my family and start working and organize time in Beijing. E-mails.

A last look at my email before closing my internet connection. It is almost 17.30 Beijing time. I hit on a mail send to me hours earlier. A message send by an office in Holland.

“You are only on the waiting list and the authorities in Beijing decide who when travels coming week. It can be next Sunday.”

Offices in Beijing are closing, Crystal and Jessica try and try. No contact. Tomorrow. I react angry to Holland:

- Why didn’t you tell me? You let me find this no download pokies message by chance!


I inform Han about the surprise. Back in the uncertainty, in the in-between. I have a dinner and go to my apartment. Three hours later. 10PM. SchoutenHolland phoning:

“I have an other opportunity. You can fly tomorrow to HongKong and then take a flight to Amsterdam. You are in Amsterdam Thursday at six oʼclock in the morning”.

I feel relief.

“You must decide now, I have the travel agent on the line. Do it”.

I phone Han. She is down to earth and asks:

“Is it for sure that the airplane leaves from HongKong and that you can get on board? Maybe they have the same problem: more people for travelling to Holland then places in the airplane? If you have to stay in HongKong then you better stay in Beijing where you have friends who really take care of you”.

Oh,oh. I phone Holland again.

“Is it for sure that I can get in the plane in HongKong?”

Oh, I do not know, I phone the travel agent”

The travel agent cannot give a convincing “yes”. I stay in Beijing. Han informed. We all relieved I did not jump in this nice pitfall. I am not thinking clear; too much upset.


I fight for my chances.

Together with Crystal to my apartment and get all my medical information. In the taxi I prepare my story and my face. I phone my family doctor in Holland and ask him to fax my medical record to the office: the condition of my heart and the medicine I need. (three hours later the fax enters the office) .In the KLM office a quiet group of ten people waiting with a number. Crystal is best online casinos australia alert that casino online nl no one steals our turn. Immediately when a man gets up she claims the chair showing her number. I give the lady in KLM colors all information.

“You are in the system”.

Thank God. Hallelujah to the system. I am still on the waiting list for tomorrow, Friday and Saturday. I ask for tomorrow. My heart condition needs a daily dose of medicine. - I ran out of medicine- I tell.

She looks me directly in the eyes.

- Do I pass the lie detector test? At least I tell the truth.

She reads my file and make notes: I am high in the client hierarchy. And the medical arguments.

“Every day a committee decides who on the waiting list is flying the next day”.

She writes down our telephone numbers. This evening I will get a message.

“By all means be at the airport at least three hours before departure”, she alerts me.

Han tells:

“On the internet KLM site you are for sure scheduled for departure on Sunday. Still on the waiting list for tomorrow, Friday, Saturday.” Six o’clock no phone call yet. Six thirty the signal”:

“There is a recorded message in your box”. Yes.

“You are expected to be at the check in counter tomorrow at eight o’clock. We made a reservation for you. Be in time”.

I do not feel completely safe and ask Jessica to come with me to the airport. Take your passport with you for in case....

Relief, joy. Debra laughs and jokes “It is because you hate me you leave us”.


When I think “it is over”,  a new fight.

In line for the check in counter. I present my passport and tell the story of yesterday evening. He reads the list. He cannot find my name. I again:

“I am assured I am on the list”.

I get my phone. Loudly the recording of the telephone message. Jessica talks to him and reads the list herself line by line. He says:

“You are not on the list you have to go to the waiting list line.”

“No, I must be on the list. I have a priority.”

Again I repeat the story. Jessica talks to him with more power in her voice. Again through the list. A supervisor asks me what is going on. I make small step aside, not giving away my place and Jessica goes on checking the list. I tell the lady my story.

She moves uncertain, Her eyes turn different directions. She is thinking, finding a way out. Jessica goes on reading and reading. The other man with a checking lists redirects the attention to another, small list. The man looks.

“No, the name is not on it”

Jessica reads too.

“Yes, here is your name ”- She shouts out loud.

The man confirms. I feel the tension fading away and joy comes in. Smiles on all faces around us. General relief. Jessica is in a victory mood. At the counter:

“Okay sir you are with priority on the waiting list “what seat do you prefer?” Jessica and I embrace.

“Good we were with the two of us.

” Next time in Beijing we will have a party in the best restaurant of town”- She jokes-“You can never be sure of the future. May be the plane has a problem and cannot fly today. The plane can depart, but will it arrive? And then you have to make a car ride. Give me a text message when the plane really is taking off”...

Joanne send me a farewell message. Han wishes me a nice flight and a warm welcome home. Hans wishes a safe landing. John wishes me a nice flight. The next day 19.00 hours home. Sophie jumps on the street. We embrace. She takes one bag. Linde (Bregje for the Dutch) hugs me. Kisses with Han. She prepared the meal. At the table we enjoy and shiver hearing the latest details of this journey. Make jokes, laugh on the silly things I did.


Looking from the perspective of the Dialogical Self Theory (Hermans& Kempen, 1992, Hermans, 2001)


In an uncertain situation a kaleidoscope of experiences, thoughts, emotions starts to move faster, the voices of external and internal positions interact in intensified way. They flow like a stream. In this situation more and more questions from different I-positions (e.g. I as uncertain, I as impatient, I as in control, I as angry) are posed but answers are not clear; there is not enough information to get answers, so new and new questions are evoked. In dialogical term such uncertain situation is full of questions but lacking answers.  It seems that the inner and outer dialogue is stimulated by uncertainty, however there is an imbalance between questions and answers. Voices of emotions are added, external dialogues are intermingled with internal ones.

When one uncertainty starts, it is not fixed to a specific area, it is not contained in one I-position, but in this case the uncertainty about the moment of departure influences all other areas of interactions. Interactions that have nothing to do with the positions involved in the delay are affected. The uncertainty position and the emotions connected radiate, give a “tension color” to all other positions and interactions. The whole organization of the self becomes influenced.

More we move in a direction of micro level, more discontinuities we can find, it is may be unclear which voices come from which I-positions. The level of reflection, concepts and I-positions, can give, on the other hand, an order and some structure.  Both levels seem to be of a great importance for the dialogical self.  The level of perceptions, feelings, sounds, small events experienced here and now and the level of reflection over it as a level of ordering it is terms of different I-positions.

The first level broaden the experiential material, gives new content, allows the direct contact with the world and one’s self, the second level orders, gives an insight, and a structure. I-positions need to be grounded in the flow of direct experiences, because otherwise they could become abstract concepts. The flow of experiences can be ordered by searching for I-positions and their structure. In the Dialogical Self (Hermans & Kempen, 1992) the discontinuity and continuity are present in a dynamic tension, what becomes especially visible in moments of uncertainty. The self is like a   process of imbalances or as Trungpa calls it “orderly chaos” in which both sides: order and chaos, continuity and discontinuity need to stay in a dynamic dialogue.