It was an eastern tropical island of Thailand on a December day. She lied on a beach chair hiding from the sun under the shade of a coconut tree. Turquoise sea water endlessly stretched in front of her. A couple paddled in the water. The girl was blonde. Her bikini was bright red. The guy was tall and tan. That very scene would make a perfect advert on any English best selling magazines for ideal holiday destinations, she reckoned. Her eyes moved away from the couple to the sea-view wooden bungalows on her left and to the restaurant named Pizza on her right. Unlike most so-called Pizza restaurants found in the west, customers here have to take off the flip flops when they come into the restaurant.
She arrived at this island yesterday on a ferry full of European looking tourists. Except for some local people working on the ferry, none shared the look of her dark skin, jet black fizzy hair and snub-nosed face. It was more or less the same in the island. The popular beach was packed with restaurants serving western food and luxurious resorts accommodating westerners. Three years in England has not made her more aware of her South East Asia appearance than an hour wandering around this tropical paradise. She felt rather out of place. She was on her west-to-east journey back home. Physically, she was a few thousand miles closer to home than two week ago. Somehow she felt much further in this island.
Still lying on the beach chair, she randomly looked up from her note book, cast her eyes over the crystal clear water to find her sweetheart swimming. Two weeks in South East Asia has not been enough to darken his fair skin “granted” by gloomy English weather. She wondered how he felt going back to this island with her and whether he felt more belonging here than she did because of the familiarity, the other “farang” (i.e. Thai expression for Europeans), and possibility of getting his comfort food. He did notice that she was not as exciting as him being here. She wondered if he knew why. She hadn’t really figured out herself. Undeniably, it is absolutely gorgeous here. The sand is finely white. The water is crystal blue. The sea surface is embellished with idly colourful boats of banana yellow, watermelon red, and leafy green. Paddling in the water was her sweetheart with his bright smile. There is hardly anything more to wish for.
He got out of the water, walked toward her, put a kiss on her lips, asked how she got on. She suddenly realized that she had been looking for the sense of belonging at the wrong place. That very moment is the found paradise. It doesn’t matter where it happens.