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A Local Encounter that Changed my Perspective - Do butterflies dance in spring?

GERMANY | Wednesday, 10 April 2013 | Views [197] | Scholarship Entry

Fifteen and chasing perspective, I travelled to Germany as part of a work experience foreign exchange programme. This, our teachers said, would give students insight in to the ‘real world.’ For me, cleaning without pay in some dingy hotel was merely insight in to a life I did not want. Nonetheless, another day was over. It was time to catch the 15.42.

The train was packed; before I knew it I was being hustled into an aisle seat. I looked into the weary eyes belonging to the traveller beside me. I assumed she was self-assured by the way she made no attempt to accommodate me. Instead I hung from the seat and thought of how I longed to breathe air that wasn’t infused with lavender.

I expect the woman was stout. A bonnet of tight curls drawn in neatly around her crown revealed an eerie white scalp spotted with brown imperfections. Fleshy lips bathing in a soup of grease immediately bounded from one another to form accusing words saturated in a thick German accent. They asked where I had been, where I was going and where I lived. I replied like a well-mannered girl should, all the while looking beyond her hook nose and at spring’s offerings.

Daffodils swelled in the sun’s temperate heat; their presence no doubt encouraging other flowers to emerge. Fresh buds poking their noses out of dew-embraced soil guarded a path of ducks wobbling towards a river.

The water radiated a compelling light that soon became sickly, sending me into a blind head rush and forcing my eyes to fall on a dark corner of the field. A strip of light burning against the dusk emphasised butterflies unwittingly condemned to the joys of spring. And as the train gathered momentum, much like the fleeting seasons, I blinked and the creatures were gone.

I looked back to the woman; she had somehow managed to discover my mother had died. However, the cause of death was tricky for her to guess. I could see perplexity welling up in her eyes as though great confused tears might tumble. She was hungry for gossip, and probably fearful I was going to depart at the next platform. Her eyes quivered with each new piece of information.

“Cancer is a terrible, painful way to go.” She said, emphasising the word ‘painful.’ She told me facts about cancer; facts I didn’t need to know. I continued to search beyond her hook nose for the dancing butterflies; I found them chasing flecks of dust only visible in a light of the sun’s creation.

It was only then I learnt how to turn ugliness into beauty.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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