It was the luck of the draw if you will. An oblong piece of paper, stiff, printed with computerized letters and numbers. One letter larger than the others, a capital A. One number smaller, leading me to a seat next to a window where I could see clouds of fluffy cotton candy high in the sky. Floating by.
Beforehand, while waiting to catch a plane, I noticed her. A young girl-woman excited to take a new adventure. Her face was fresh and pretty, scrubbed clean and framed by long, strawberry blonde hair. Straight, it was held back by a headband of leather. She seemed perfectly comfortable alone, as if already a veteran traveler at a relatively young age.
Settling into my seat, I stuffed magazines into the back of the one in front of me. All the while, people tall and short with kids of little, plus parents holding babies passed by, single file. My head popped up from reading. Smiles my way, a nod of a head or eyes straight ahead every few seconds…Or once in a while.
Then a backpack of black trimmed in royal blue plopped down next to me. Jammed and filled to the brim. Pockets with side zippers nearly split open. Papers peeking out together with brochures depicting colored pictures of a world I had never seen before. Clutched in a hand of right, a plush walrus, soft and cocoa colored with warm, comforting dark eyes and a fuzzy, tickling mouth. A good-luck charm?
“Hi,” she said, enthusiastically!
How lucky was I? It was the girl I had noticed in the airport waiting area. The girl-woman surely about to take an adventure. Although much younger, I sensed she was about to teach me…. Life Lessons. Closing my book, I welcomed her, ready to absorb whatever she had to say.
Turns out Becca was a member of her high school Rotary Club together with a group of several students boarding other flights that day. Each had been assigned to live with host families for the next nine months. It was part of their high school education of which they were expected to journal, in addition to keeping up with all of their regular studies. Becca was beginning the first leg of her journey to Thailand, where she was scheduled to meet one of three host families who she would live with for nearly a year.
Tossed over an empty seat between us, Becca’s jacket rested over her backpack. Covering nearly every inch of the front were pins collected from countries around the world. She proudly showed me many of them, gingerly rubbing her fingers over her favorite, a pair of smooth, cream-colored wooden shoes from Holland. They were brightly hand-painted with tiny wind mills, surrounded by colorful tulips sprouting at the tips of the toes.
During the whole rest of the flight, Becca thumbed through page after page of what was to be her lifeline, a paperback book on the topic of Thailand. Several sticky notes stuck to the beginning of chapters, marking the importance of black and white words written inside. Where to go, what to see and do, political correctness together with the vast, endless beauty of a country never seen before.
Vibrant pictures of color were captured within Becca’s book. People and places, food, culture and language, dress, customs, transportation and tradition together with life. It was fascinating to me. Even more so, was the thought of this young girl-woman off to another side of the world for nearly a year.
Becca taught me a lot in that short ride on the inside of two wings. Beside all of the facts about Thailand, I learned about Becca, the person. How very different life was for her than when I was a teen! Thrilling were her opportunities! To see the world, to learn and grow like most would never know.
The best thing about meeting Becca was getting to know her personality. So down to earth she was. No airs about her. She appreciated all gifts in life and looked forward to giving back. I had a feeling that whatever she learned or received from the people of Thailand, they too were about to be given life lessons never imagined.
Most of the Thai people probably would never make it to America, but they would see it through Becca’s eyes. Soon, many of them, families of young and old would take an imaginary trip across a great ocean of blue to stare wide-eyed at our Statue of Liberty where they would be welcomed too.
The world around us. So much to see and do even if only through paper pages of a book. Read one today. Touch the vibrancy of spectacular colored pictures to imagine that you’re traveling all around the world.
It’s the next best thing.