Turks and Caicos - United Hub
rhapsody

Turks and Caicos

By The Hub team , March 22, 2017

Story by Richard Morgan | Photography by Michael George| Rhapsody, March 2017

At a yoga retreat on a private island, an exercise-averse writer finds his lotus operandi

I stood on the beach at sunset, as ordered, fretful and even fearful for my rendezvous. The sun, that glowing yolk, spilled across the shores and waves of Parrot Cay, a private island resort in Turks and Caicos, bathing white sands and coral-and-periwinkle clouds in sumptuous warmth. And there she was: a woman sitting cross-legged with her back to me, with the sun and the breeze and, hell, the whole universe swirling through her flowing brunette tresses and exotic floral clothes.

“Is that her?" asked a new friend, a six-packed blonde woman from San Francisco taking her first vacation in two years.

“I think so," I said, stroking my jaw as if to pull answers from it.

“It must be," the blonde said. “Look at her. She's so holy. Perfect. Isn't she just like you imagined?"

Even though this holy woman must've been 10 or 20 feet away from me, a voice filled my head as if coming from right next to me. “You must be Richard." Gentle and forceful, the way angels or flight attendants speak. It was cosmic.

The path to the ocean from the resortThe path to the ocean

Then, a force on my shoulder. A hand. I spun, and there she was: Elena Brower, the celebrity yogi I had come to meet, was standing beside me. The sunset woman, it turned out, was a case of mistaken identity. “Let's do this," said Brower, who has been teaching the likes of Eva Mendes and Naomi Watts since 1999. I cackled. It was the first of many times we would surprise each other that week.

We strolled along the beach. She cussed.She joked. She teased. In short, she shocked the hell out of me. But she also read the doubt in my face and smiled.

“Let me show you as we walk back," she said. “Think of five things you can hear. Your feet on the sand, the wind, the waves, my voice, but what else? Push your ears. Reach out around you. Welcome that fifth sound. That is meditation. That is yoga. Easier than you thought, isn't it?"

I hadn't known what to think. I did not come to this yoga retreat. I was sent. My editor sent me, frankly, because I didn't belong.

The author cools down after classThe author cools down after class

The most flexible and spiritual I get is when I cross my fingers. I lettered for three years on my high school track team as a statistician. In college, I took social dance as my P.E. requirement. I hadn't set foot in a gym in years. I'm even terrible at vacations—especially beach vacations, given that I don't know how to swim. On the shores of various paradises, I stare out into a cloudless Caribbean or perfect Pacific vista as if it were a Rothko of teals at a museum, full of anxiety about how long I have to look at the damn thing before moving on to the next exhibit without being scolded by the art lovers around me. Yoga, I thought, was for Himalayan splendor. Not for me, a man of I'm-a-layin' languor.

“This is the kind of paradise where the horizon does the exhaling for you."

But now I had been assigned to four and a half hours of yoga a day—two and a half at 9 a.m. and another two at 5 p.m. Yoga, for all its mellow mantras, was about to kick my butt.

I deflected my anxiety with dumb jokes. Before class started, I did a bunch of weird fake yoga positions. “Winner pose!" I cheered, mimicking the Heisman Trophy. “Stud pose!" (A bodybuilder pose.) “Star pose!" (Jazz hands.)

On top of all of Brower's en masse classes—thousands of practitioners in Central Park or under the Eiffel Tower—she also offers a handful of retreats each year (to Costa Rica, Germany, California). But the week at COMO Parrot Cay is special—the only one she returns to year after year. Next November's will be her ninth. And why not? It's the kind of paradise where the horizon does the exhaling for you. Even at peak capacity, tucked within its private banana and coconut plantations, the resort never feels full. It frees you to find your own fullness. It's not for getting trashed. It's for getting treasured. After the airport novels and self-help books and guru guides, the oasis whispers your own story to you. Bring a journal.

A yoga instructor leads a yoga class on the beachBrower leads a yoga class on the beach

Brower's 2012 book, The Art of Attention, has chapter prefaces written by Donna Karan, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Christy Turlington Burns. She is a much more flexible version of Oprah Winfrey or Martha Stewart. She is their higher Brower, the Brower that be, and looks like she could be Rachel Weisz's 35-year-old hippie sister (even though Brower is actually 47).

She is everything to everyone. And who was I? This lumpy, rookie interloper. This impostor in never-before-worn Uniqlo activewear. This night owl pretending to be a morning person and trudging down to my first class—in a screened-in, stand-alone riverfront yoga studio where I'd be the only man among 20 ladies who lunge.

The human brain and heart are 73 percent water. Bones are 31 percent, skin 64 percent, muscles 79 percent, and lungs 83 percent. On the whole, babies are 78 percent water, and grown men are 60 percent. But in that first yoga lesson, I was 4,000 percent water. I was a human-shaped cloud that rained nonstop onto my yoga mat. I was so sweaty that my fingers pruned. My shirt splashed when it hit the mat. At the end of the two-and-a-half-hour session, during which poses were held for as briefly as 30 seconds or as interminably as 10 minutes, I guzzled half a liter of water in one long swig. That “namaste" greeting yoga practitioners are always saying to each other? I'm pretty sure it means “don't forget to drink eight glasses of water a day."

“In honor of Richard, let's do a child's pose," Brower said halfway through that first class. I flopped to my knees and threw my arms forward, as if in prostrate prayer. A moment of relief! And suddenly, I was a child again.

“Yoga, I thought, was for Himalayan splendor. Not for me, a man of I'm-a-layin' languor"

I was in second grade, mocked for being unable to pat my head while rubbing my stomach in a circle. In fourth grade, falling off my bike, and in fifth grade, falling off my skateboard. In seventh grade, caught saying “1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3" aloud during my first slow dance at my first boy-girl mixer. In ninth grade, diagnosed with a heart condition and put on the track team as a statistician instead of a runner.

When I told my friends I was going to a yoga retreat, one said, “No one will believe you"; another said, “No one will recognize you when you return." It's weird: There's an idea that yoga
transforms you but only if you're already pretty awesome—that it turns princes into kings but not frogs into princes.

Brower's Art of Attention yoga cards spread out, offering positive affirmations and yoga posesBrower's Art of Attention yoga cards, offering positive affirmations and yoga poses

And it was then, flat on my knees, that I realized that child's pose could easily be called frog's pose—and that I had remained in the pose far longer than the rest of the class. “Man down," joked Brower. I tried to mutter a pep talk to myself. If the Chicago Cubs could win the World Series, then surely I could do some yoga. But instead, under my breath, I muttered one simmering word: “Enough." I wanted to quit. I had quit swim lessons, guitar lessons, and French lessons. What was one more thing? One less thing, really.

It turns out Brower knows about quitting too. Before becoming a yogi in 1997, she was a self-described “loser stoner." Even until 2010—well into her yoga stardom—she was smoking up to half a pack of cigarettes a day. I mention it not to point fingers (Lord knows I've had my own vices) but to mention how it relates to Brower's best qualities. She's no wax-on-wax-off cryptic sensei. She wasn't the perfectly holy sunset woman. She's goofy and gentle, relatable, and candidly, unabashedly human. One night—at a group poolside dinner of jalapeño oysters, Indonesian gado gado salad, tomato sambal, fried red snapper, red lamb curry, and crab cakes with wasabi mayonnaise—she pointed at a star above us, near the moon, and claimed it was Mars because, she said, it looked red to her. Doubtful, I pulled out my phone and used an app to identify the star. It was Mars, even though it didn't look red to me. “How could you see that?" I asked. Without missing a beat, she replied: “I'm very farsighted." She rolled her eyes jokingly, a move not nearly enough yogis know how to do.

She'd stroll around during class commenting on how we were doing. Move your hand an inch to the left. Keep that heel touching the floor. Shoulders out. Chin up. Back arched. Some directions were almost purposely baffling. What does it mean to move your navel in? Or your armpits down? Or your spine forward? “I need a sassy tush from you, Richard." I broke the unspoken (unknown to me) rule: I talked back. “It's as sassy at it gets!" I said, my body trembling to keep the pose. “It's getting sassier by the minute," she joked.

One of Como Parrot Cay's rooms, which all feature four-post bedsOne of Como Parrot Cay's rooms, which all feature four-post beds

All this changed in my second lesson. She asked us to do a full lotus position. Wondering what this was, I asked the woman next to me, a practitioner of 10 years who confessed she couldn't do it but explained that it was both ankles on both thighs.

“Like this?" I asked, trying it. The woman stifled a surprised laugh. Brower suddenly sounded uncharacteristically schoolmarm-ish. “What is going on over there?" she asked. Tangled and embarrassed, I looked at her in silence and hoped she'd move on. But she didn't. She stopped the class. “Everyone! Everyone! This is Richard's second class, and he is in full lotus!" There was a smattering of oohs and aahs and applause. “You're 37 years old," she told me. “That doesn't happen. You must've been a yogi in a previous life."

“I didn't realize it was part of yoga," I said, “to put my age on blast like that."

The whole room laughed. Comic's pose!

As I looked around at them, I saw something I hadn't seen before—or had seen but not realized: Almost nobody was doing the same thing. Some had their ankles at their knees, some deep into their hips, others had just one ankle up or were just kneeling or finding their own version.

Elena Brower finds her centerElena Brower finds her center

For seemingly the first time at the retreat, despite breathing being so integral to yoga, I exhaled. I let it out. All the stress, all the pressure, all the wondering how I'm doing. Gone in a puff of hot, stale air.

My third eye opened. My lotus operandi.

“Will you do this when you go home?" people asked me all that week. “Probably not," I said, “but I have awakened something that I can only call my body's conscience."

I had seen that the obstacle course is also scenic. I had learned I couldn't get an A+ in yoga, that it wasn't even exercise, that it wasn't about building muscle but shedding ego. Here was my fairy-tale
ending: Yoga kisses frogs not in the hopes of them becoming princes but because frogs are amazing and deserving of love.

For me, at some bourgie point, vacations became a matter of acquisition over meditation, of getting more than being more, of bucket-list check marks as status objects. A vacation was something I could win.

Now I knew: It doesn't matter.

In my life, only three things have mattered. First, in my teens in North Carolina, I realized I was gay. Then, in my 20s in New York, I realized I was a writer. Lastly—finally—in my 30s in Turks and Caicos,I realized I was this one simmering word: enough.

Reflecting on Veterans Day: a message from our CEO Oscar Munoz

By Oscar Munoz, CEO, United Airlines , November 11, 2019

Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.

When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.

They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.

I want them to look no further than United Airlines.

That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.

They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.

That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.

We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.

We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.

We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.

As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.

Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.

They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.

Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.

Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.

Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.

But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.

We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.

It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.

On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.

Humbly,

Oscar

United named a top workplace for veterans

By The Hub team , November 10, 2019

Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.

"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.

"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."

Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.

Mission Accomplished

By Matt Adams , November 06, 2019

The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.

Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.

Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.

Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.

"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."

When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.

For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.

Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.

That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.

"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."

The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.

About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.

"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."

When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.

"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."

On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.

"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."

For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.

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