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Friday, May 7, 2021

My Five-Year-Old Journey With a Chinese Mother and Children

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One Wednesday, young foreign women were informed by flight agents that a Hong Kong-bound plane was about to leave. Notices were slapped on our heads, and we were standing in line, waiting for clearance. Suddenly, an Asian woman came up to us and told the boarding agent she didn’t care. She climbed onto the plane, hung in the aisle. When we asked why, she said she was a “mama,” a word I’d never heard. I didn’t understand what she meant. From whom did she get this word? There are no mamas in Japan. Why would she speak like that, and why did she have three kids with her? The domestic help? Was this why she was so funny? Did she have a sense of humor?

The plane takes off, the seat belts flip up, and the pilot waves good-bye. As we leave, the stewardess asks what we want to do when we land. What do you want to eat, I say.

The stewardess turns around. Momma’s on the plane, she says. The stewardess leads us up a staircase to a smaller flight, even though the official flight number is still I.3 01 7 0.

“Earthlings!” the lady says.

“Mama!” I say. I feel like I’m a piece of luggage. I wish that I had something to hold onto.

“Earthlings, let’s board!” the stewardess says.

There is nothing but dirt on the floor, and when I take my seat I can see the strange white thing in the rear. I get up to find out what it is. That’s what you’re supposed to do, I say. I take the person who was holding it from behind and hold on, pulling as one would a chair. We’re about to go, though, and now the stewardess tells me to sit down. I don’t know what the four of us are supposed to do. This is not a tour group.

The plane takes off, landing in Bali, Indonesia. The plane was a wreck. The stewardess who held onto the tray table was missing, and the three children who were looking out the window couldn’t see much. They didn’t notice us. Our daughter leaned over, her eyes closed, and I thought she was about to cry. I turned away, pulling the small belongings on the tray table from my legs, the part of my body that was talking and walking and acting. I was carrying my passport and my handbag, then my necklace, which my mother had given me on my fifth birthday.

Bali is pretty green and tropical, as such, but nothing we had seen looked like this. It had a heavy sickly smell. They say the pine forest that runs along the sea was supposed to protect us, but I felt like somebody had opened the gas lines and hit us with an electric shock.

From Indonesia came another mystery. The plan called for us to get off the plane, join other travelers and be given a gift. It could have been an item from our luggage, something normal, something that might have smelled of earth or a river. It didn’t matter what. We were to go forward and walk to a demonstration of a place called Megumi Park, where a big iceberg has retreated out into the sea.

They made a lot of noise, their voices coming out from every possible direction. The place was great. The entire building – it was only a ground floor – was its own world. There were lots of trees, sand and water, green waterfalls, and a lot of blue sky. It looked at least two or three stories high. Those tiny people with their bowls of seaweed sprinkled with sesame seeds were not real people. We went forward, but in one direction. One of the boys was following us, but I think he took a wrong turn because he was soon running away from us and lying on the ground. Then the blind man carrying his dining chair and empty glasses ran toward us. I thought he wanted help, like he knew we needed it.

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