THE NEXT STEP (6)

‘Well, I spent a little bit of time in Morocco after visiting my family in Nigeria’, Sheila said with a thick American accent and rolled the coin in her palm. ‘I was just curious to see the place since my family are Muslim and we are marginalized in most of Nigeria, yet in Morocco we should be able to be more free. But I am not sure…. The country is so traditional.’
She looked deep into Ted’s eyes. ‘Anyway, what’s it to you. You look like the kind of guy who probably doesn’t care much about politics.’ She laughed a little and put the coin in her pocket. ‘Or are you from England? You seem to have a fancy British accent.’ She laughed some more and shook her head so that her thick black hair waved from one side to the other.
‘Oh, hmm, I am from Africa actually, and I do care about politics. But I moved to Switzerland when I was young and then to the UK. So I guess I am both European and African’, he explained and smiled at her. She had a warmth to her that made him want to touch her hand, but he restrained himself.
‘That’s awesome’, Sheila said and looked around at the people walking past. ‘Similar story as mine, except for me it is Nigeria, Austria and then America.‘ She kneeled down next to Ted and offered her hand to him. ‘My name is Sheila, by the way. And yours?’
‘I am Ted’, Ted said as he shook her hand. The warm feeling seemed to intensify with the hand shake. Why was he drawn to a woman who was so much older than him?
‘Are you on your way to the US?‘ he asked, to get his mind of the warm feeling.
‘Nah’, she said and stood up again. ‘ I am going to Malaysia, to visit a friend who runs some training programmes for locals there, in the rural part of the country. I am just… sort of traveling a round for a bit before heading back to San Francisco. I need some time…. just for myself, I guess.‘ She looked baffled and started tracing the line of her turquoise skirt. Ted noticed that she wore a crystal ring on each finger on both hands, bangles clicking away to the movement of the hands, and dangly earrings. And even a nose piercing, and was that an actual dread lock? This woman is intriguing, Ted thought.
‘Same for me, I suppose’, Ted said. ‘I am going to Taiwan to stay at a Buddhist monastery for a while, to help them over there to teach English to the monks and local kids. I needed this trip for myself, to have time and space for myself, whilst doing something worthwhile.’ He also started feeling unusually nervous and reached out to his shoe laces to untie and tie them again.
Sheila looked him deeply in the eyes again. ‘So we are on the same boat…’ She smiled. ‘What is making you do this, if I may ask?’
Ted hesitated for a moment. What was in fact making him do this? It wasn’t just his family, though getting away from them was one reason. It wasn’t just his girlfriend who wanted to get married and start a family. It wasn’t just the pressure that he felt to be somebody in the Western society. Nor was it the lack of will to study to become that somebody.
He shrugged. ‘Many different factors I suppose. Ranging from more personal to simply wanting to experience living in a different culture.’
Sheila nodded knowingly. ‘I guess that we are on the same boat on that one too.’ She laughed. Her laugher seemed to echo through the airport hall.
‘Oh I need to run’ she shrieked. ‘My flight is taking off soon. You take care and enjoy your time in Asia. Hope you will find yourself’. She laughed and waved as she ran past the golden Buddha statues that seemed to be transmitting tranquility to the hall.
‘Bye’, Ted shouted after her and realized that the silver coin had dropped from her pocket and was lying in front of him. And then he realized that he had not asked for her email address. Oh you idiot, he cursed himself, just before falling into a peaceful doze and being suddenly woken up by an air hostess who advised him to board his plane as otherwise he could miss his flight all together.

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THE NEXT STEP (5)

The humidity hit him in the face as he stepped out of the aircraft. Ted felt sweat starting to tickle his neck. Oh boy, it was true what they said about it being much more humid in Asia than in Europe, he thought as he walked across the airport lounge. The heat in Africa that he had experience was nothing compared to this. Somehow humidity made all the difference. The twelve hour long flight from London to Hong Kong did not help his energy levels either. He could feel how his skin and hair were dry and he was desperate for some water.
Ted stopped at the restroom before proceeding to the gate for his connecting flight to Taipei. Splashing his face with cool water and drinking some from the water fountain next to the restroom made him feel more alive. In any case this is part of the experience, he mumbled to himself as he looked for the correct gate number.

The Hong Kong airport was a very busy place. So many people had their stop-over flights here, on their way somewhere else. Ted sat down on the ground by his gate and watched people walking by. Swirls and swirls of people.
Ted was staring at the floor when he noticed a silver coin rolling towards him. He picked it up; it was a silver coin from Morocco. As he was staring at it, he felt a shadow above him.
‘Hey, that’s my coin. Thanks for picking it up’, Ted heard a female voice say and then saw a light brown hand reach out for the coin.
Ted looked up. The woman talking seemed to be in her thirties, perhaps early fourties. She had a wide smile with white pearly teeth, her black hair making a frame around her pretty face. She was dressed in a clourful floaty dress that framed her beautifully.
‘Oh, okay, there you go then’, Ted mumbled and handed the coin to the woman. ‘You are coming from Morocco?’ He asked and blushed. Why was he acting so weird? Why did this woman make him feel that he should be saying something to her? Why did she make him feel as if she could see right through him?