© 2010 Marica


We only part to meet again.
John Gay

As a young girl I spent a lot of time at passenger departure lounges, at both airports and wharves, saying good-bye to people as they left our shores permanently or temporarily. These departures were always a big occasion and everyone in our ethnic community would turn up to say their good-byes. You were conspicuous by your absence. Everyone dressed up in their best clothes – even the people who were travelling. There was lots of talking, lots of hugs, kisses and copious tears.

I’ll never forget the feelings associated these good-bye especially when it was someone that meant a lot to me.

Those were very different times. Travel was a big deal and options were limited. To get from New Zealand to anywhere else in the world took a long time – months by boat, days (even a week) by plane – and a lot of money. Added to this communication options were very limited so keeping in touch primarily happened by mail which was also slow at reaching its destination.

Funnily, I don’t have many memories of greeting people as they arrived back from their travels. However, today I had an arrival experience that warmed my soul and made me instantly forget the pain of being apart.

As I walked through the arrivals gate at London’s Heathrow Airport this afternoon after 26 hours of flying I walked straight into the arms of my oldest daughter Zofia. The minute we spotted each other the tears started to stream. We raced towards each other and just hugged so tight. We were completely oblivious to the obstruction we were causing, all that mattered in that moment was that we were together at last. This could have been a scene out of the movie Love Actually.

Once my daughter and I composed ourselves we became practical.

‘Here is your tube map and your oyster card,’ said Zofia as she handed over the items.

The confusion began for me. Very quickly I realised I was no longer in New Zealand.

On one of my earlier flights a man I was sitting next to expressed dismay that I had never been to London before. He thought this was a rite of passage for every New Zealander as they were growing up. Somehow I missed out and I’m very aware of that as I have sat through numerous conversations over the years about various people’s London experiences. I smiled at the man and thought, ‘better late than never’.

Now I can say I have arrived. I am in London with my husband and daughter. Let the adventures and learning begin.

By the way … the cover of the tube map is an art work – Untitled (Tube Map) by Barbara Kruger, 2009 – commissioned by Art on the Underground:

The image shows a section of the Tube map in which the station names have been replaced by words that relate to Kruger’s experience of that part of London. Taking the very familiar visual language of the map, she keeps the main image intact but changes the words – still in the classic New Johnston Font – and liberates them from their daily function. St James’s Park is momentarily renamed ‘Fame’, Westminster station becomes ‘Reason’ and Victoria station as ‘Pride’ completes a humorous triangle/set of three.

02. Every day is an opportunity for a new beginning.
18. Every day express love. Some people need to hear it. Most people need to see it. Don’t take it for granted.
44. Every day remember how far you have come.

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