I’ve been escapading around the world, Asia via The Philippines to be exact, and it was a prolific and deeply impactful experience for me. My trip began May 1st and here’s a little bit of what my eyes, ears, and heart took in when I traveled back to the U.S. from Manila to Tokyo, to Atlanta and then finally to Orlando on May 11th:
I’m standing near mirrors after washing my hands in one of the Tokyo airport restrooms. A little Asian girl with pigtails, probably about 4 years old is walking out with her mom. They stop as mom washes and dries her hands. I notice the little one peeking around her mom, at me.
I look at her and smile.
She smiles back sweetly with that precocious innocence that kids have that you want to keep safe forever and waves at me as she exits the restroom with her mama.
That made my heart smile. A great deal.
10 or so minutes later, I walk around the peaceful and sunlit terminal to stretch my legs a bit. I see the little one with her family, resting and waiting for their flight. She sees me and waves again. I wave back.
And we didn’t even say one word to each other…but kindness is recognized beyond languages.
Arrived in Atlanta this afternoon a little after 3:30 pm.
I leave for Orlando at 6:55 pm.
While in the international terminal at the ATL airport, I was washing my hands in a restroom and heard a beautiful African melody in a language I did not know floating through the air. It seemed to be the same line sung over and over with a sweet, steady affection.
It reminded me of the song the tribes of Wakanda were singing during the waterfall ceremony when T’Challa became king in the movie Black Panther.
A moment later, one of the airport employees came out of a stall and began cleaning around the counter. She was the hidden singer. She was an older black woman, a little under 5 feet and seemed very content.
I began brushing my teeth and kept listening to her song.
I finished a minute or so later, smiled at her and asked, “What is the song that you are singing?”
She stopped, a little surprised, smiled and asked me if I was Nigerian. Her English was touched gently with an African dialect.
I said I was American and she said the song was about Hannah, the woman in the Bible who prayed to God for a child and God blessed her with a child.
She kept affirming, “Hannah prayed…God answered…Hannah prayed…God answered.”
I listened to her words and I heard her. I heard her. There was truth in those melodies. And God was in those melodies too.
I smiled at her, thanked her and said, “God bless you sister” as I headed out of the restroom.
That melody is still touching my heart.
I’m sitting at my gate, ready to board my last flight in this 25-hour travel journey through three countries and four airports. Orlando…home…is just an hour and a half flight away. Sunlight beams into the large floor to ceiling windows behind me. The ATL airport is a little calm and chill where I am from the typical noisy and action-filled movement that flows through terminals.
I’m fidgeting around with something – maybe cleaning my glasses or organizing a personal bag – when a woman next to me gets my attention. She begins speaking in Spanish and pointing to her phone.
I can see that she’s trying to access the internet but it’s not connecting. She’s speaking in Spanish and I’m speaking in English. Then I say in some pretty simple beginner’s Spanish that I can’t speak Spanish but then an idea comes to me. I remember Google Translate and how I used it often a season ago to connect with special messages someone in my life would send to me.
I pulled it up, put in a line that shared maybe she should try connecting to the free airport WiFi again and selected Spanish to translate it. I handed my phone to her and she immediately understood. She typed back in Spanish and selected English for me to read her reply. She was from Colombia.
That began a few minutes of Google Translate conversations…she writing and me reading, me writing and she reading. I landed on the idea that maybe even though the WiFi in the airport was free, she wouldn’t be able to connect because she didn’t have a U.S. phone number.
That happened to me often in The Philippines. There was free WiFi many places, but when asked to type in my phone number, I couldn’t because my number wasn’t from the country. Interesting, eh?
She understood my idea. I encouraged her to try again on the plane…maybe it would work there?
More than a day of travel and the gift of three international experiences in my international travel home. From a sweet little Asian girl to a truth-singing Nigerian sister and a kind Colombian woman, I got to experience a little bit more of the world along with Manila.