The airport was bustling, people on the move, travelling to many different destinations, burdened by excess luggage. Maya could have been anywhere in the world as she walked through the concrete, steel, and glass of the airport; surrounded by corporate multinational outlets selling indistinguishable goods that could be bought anywhere in the world. Indecipherable digital letters flashed up for unknown destinations. Maya was unable to read these but was not yet concerned as she had 6 hours before her connecting flight.
Feeling weary from the preparations for flying, spending so long cocooned in an air-conditioned aeroplane then wandering around the vast airport Maya sought a peaceful place to wrest away from the constant bustle and movement. Finding a quiet corner Maya sat down and reflected on her journey. She thought of the obstacles she had overcome to reach her dream of living and working in Asia. Throughout her education she had encountered a lack of understanding about her albinism, how this affected her eyesight and the impact of this. While her teachers had tried to be helpful, other young people had periodically teased her about her platinum blonde hair and visual impairment. She was usually the last person to be chosen for sports teams. For a long time, she had felt isolated, but eventually she started to realise she needed to overcome other people’s negativity; rather than be inhibited by criticism she started to regard appearing different as positive, and as a strength. While this had been challenging and she had encountered many barriers throughout her education and when she was working, she had been determined to move forward and achieve her wishes. It was hard to believe she was now travelling to an entirely different place to start a new phase of her life.
Maya closed her eyes as she relaxed. She felt a brief gentle touch on her arm, like a caress from butterfly wings and saw a woman standing beside her. The stranger had long sleek black hair adorned by a solitary pale pink flower and wore an aquamarine silk dress. The woman smiled, ”Hello. Please, come with me.”
”Thank you, but I’m comfortable here.”
”I will show you somewhere beautiful.”
”In my country you are lucky, you deserve this. Please, come with me.”
Maya looked at the stranger’s calm serenity and gentle kind expression. Her curiosity quickly overcame her scepticism, and she wondered why this stranger was taking her away from the airport and where they were going to. Intrigued Maya got up and followed her. They walked out of the air-conditioned airport into the steamy tropical heat. Maya looked at the unfamiliar surroundings, curious and overwhelmed by the vibrant colours, sights, and sounds. The stranger gently took her arm as they walked past the chaotic hubbub of the taxi rank outside the airport and along a main road with many cars streaming past, honking their horns in a frenetic hurry to reach their destination. After a short time, they left the busy road and turned down a quiet tree lined alleyway sheltered from the scorching sun.
The path opened into a beautiful garden with lush vegetation shaded by palm trees rustling in the breeze. Maya immediately noticed a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours, cerise pink, red and purple blooms interspersed with delicate pale pink flowers, and heady intoxicating scents. Maya and the stranger walked down a flight of steps into the tropical paradise and along a path past verdant tropical greenery. The woman beckoned to a seat in a shady arbour surrounded by bright hibiscus flowers fluttering in the breeze and scented by delicate frangipani. She turned to Maya, ”Welcome. This place is my sanctuary.” She looked at Maya with a gentle curiosity, ”May I touch your hair. It is beautiful.”
Maya nodded. The stranger leant across to touch Maya’s hair briefly feeling like the fleeting movement of a butterfly’s wings, fluttering almost imperceptibly. ”It is so soft. You are lucky.”
Maya smiled, feeling a connection with this serene woman whose name she did not even know, then lay back and looked up towards the azure sky through vivid flowers and tropical vegetation. Tropical birds with vivid plumage flew amongst the flowers, calling out to each other. Maya noticed the intensity of the colours, more vibrant than anything she had ever experienced. She could see every minute detail of the leaves, flowers and the birds’ feathers, an intricacy she could only have ever imagined Maya was captivated, yet felt soothed, luxuriating in the calmness and peace in this amazing place. She stroked the delicate petals of the hibiscus flowers next to her gently as they fluttered in the breeze. The garden was so beautiful, intense yet calm and soothing. It was a sanctuary from the world around her, a long way from the frenetic anxiety of international travel and the constant need to keep moving.
Maya turned to the woman and smiled, ”Thank you for bringing me here. It’s lovely.” She stretched luxuriously enjoying the warmth and soporific feel of the humid tropical air as she relished the tranquil scene.
The loudspeaker interrupted Maya’s reverie. ”Will the last passengers for flight BA 685 to Bali please proceed immediately to departure gate 7.” Maya looked around dreamily, feeling calm yet refreshed. The stranger was no longer sitting beside her; she was on her own. She suddenly realised her flight was being called and she needed to leave immediately as she stood up and hastily gathered her luggage. Maya was aware of her mixed emotions, both apprehension and excitement, as she walked towards the Departure gate to begin the next phase of her journey.
Liz Gregson copyright retained.