At a quarter past midnight a MAS plane took off from Auckland, bound for Kuala Lumpur and on to Bangalore. In far too recent history a MAS plane disappeared without trace. Just last week one on the KL to Bangalore leg had to turn back due to a blown out tyre, though at the time no-one knew why they had just veered dramatically off course. And at the same time, other friends were travelling back from Nepal and their luggage disappeared just like the first plane.
Two kiwi kids on last night’s flight are hoping for a more successful outcome.
Those two kids have not travelled alone before. They have travelled fairly extensively, but as they pointed out to us (their parents), they have only ever had to follow. We, the parents, always knew which gate to turn up at, which train platform to look for, how much money to carry, how to find cheap food, what to write on the various forms that are part and parcel of travelling, what to do when something went wrong. Sure, they were sent down to the bakery to buy bread in Bulgaria and Poland on their own, but that’s not quite the same!
We’re confident they’ll be fine. They’re probably less confident than before we gave them the How To Keep Yourself Safe talk. Before that they didn’t even realise there were so many ways to be unsafe!
They didn’t realise they might have to feel rude refusing a little old lady who begs them to carry a teddy bear for her at the airport (“Yes, Kaleisha, you might feel rude, but you have to absolutely insist that you cannot take it for her, no matter how sad her story or how delightful she tells you that you are. You must refuse. You can take her to the information desk, but you must not take the teddy bear, or parcel or bag or whatever she might want to give you.”)
Kyle didn’t realise he will be standing guard outside public toilets and that he will go in to the ladies if his sister has not emerged after an agreed-upon time and she doesn’t reply to his calls. Yes, he will make a scene if he needs to.
He didn’t realise he would have to wake up in the middle of the night and accompany his sis to the loo if she wants to go and they don’t have a private ensuite.
They didn’t realise that while they were sleeping comfortably on the many overnight trains we have taken, that their mother was hugging a bumbag full of ten passports and tickets and a camera to boot. Now it will be their turn.
All these things that you *just know* as an adult and carry round at the back of your head sound ominous when you spell them out to your kids. But better safe than sorry. And hopefully they’re just fearful enough to take seriously the warnings we have given and to look out for each other, to be alert, to remember to be aware.
More than all that, though, we hope they go with open eyes and open hearts. That they be willing to be touched by the people they meet, to be challenged by what they see, to align their future lives differently than they might have if they had just stayed in comfortable suburbia with the assurance of friends for three months. Seven years ago we were planning a trip that we hoped would open their eyes and hearts…
It seems it did! Neither Kyle nor Kaleisha actually wanted to leave our kiwi shores when we first made the suggestion. In fact, there may have even been some foot stomping. Real, actual foot stomping. Accompanied by spoken words which they informed us were said in capital letters and followed by exclamation marks. We didn’t make them go, we just asked them to consider the possibility. And they opened their hearts.
Now there is tension for me as their mother. I want them to be safe. But I want them to be willing to risk everything, too.
May this be the beginning of two lives abandoned…..actually, make that another step towards eight lives lived for others….