Monday, 13 March 2017

Journey to NOAHCON 2016 :: With Hands Just Like Mine.

When she walked in she looked just like I felt. Nervous, scared, excited, confused, anxious. I was a grown up sitting with my hands crossed in my lap. She was being guided around by grown up. She was staring at her fingers, tying them and untying them in front of her.  Her guide led her to me.

She said she was from far away. 
I said me too. 
She said she gets a lot of snow where she comes from 
I said I get none where I come from. 
She is from Canada 
I am from the Caribbean. 

She told me about Canada, the rains and the floods and the snow. With excitement she shared with my and her voice got stronger and braver with every word as 'really?" I said 'waw' I said. She went on with flamboyant hand gestures explaining.

I told her about the Caribbean, the heat and the trees. While I was talking she took up a lock of my hair, held it up to her own and said 'hmmm...just like mine!' I said yes and with a heart so suddenly full I wonder how I remembered how to use words then, I showed her that my hands were like hers too. 

She was so shocked, her jaw dropped open and her little sapphire dress made a wide O around her body as she stared. I was too, I was shocked too but this time, I was a little better at hiding it. 

She squealed with excitement and joy, gave me a huge hug and ran away after changing my life forever. I'll never forget that moment with that child's pure, unbridled affection for a person that looks like you. I understood for the first time after her that...a baby of my own with albinism would not be so bad. It would not be the atrocity the world around me tries so loudly to convince me it would with every negative word they pitch or every unavailable opportunity. It would be a baby...with hands...with ten fingers and toes and joy just like mine. A baby that despite hardship could find joy in the world just like I have found it in the trees, in friendship, in overcoming challenges, in travelling and in faith. Just...a baby, with hands just like mine.

Don't get ahead of yourself their my stance on birth hasn't changed. I'm just saying that for the very first time I I always knew that everyone was wrong but for the very first time I held just how wrong they were to my chest, felt her heart beat, listened to her laugh and thanked God she existed. All in under a minute.

Lets get back to our story.

This was my first exchange at the NOAH conference. Just a little girl under the age of ten and a grown woman far from home, both never in a situation like this before, both feeling shy and overwhelmed about it. 

On the first night I went to the opening ceremony and the founder told us that we would cry, he told us that we would have a sensory overload. I didn't really believe him.

Then we were dismissed and I stood in the doorway by myself. I'm a very shy girl and I stood there marvelling about how shy I was in a situation I had dreamed about being in for so long. I could hear Mike in my head chastising me when we first got there at the hotel, I had refused to go up to someone I knew from facebook and had to physically stop him from loudly drawing attention to me. 'This is why you're here!' he had said. I ignored him then, as I usually do. Though I did hear him. There I stood hugging my fear tight and watching beautiful people walk right past me. This is why you are here I reminded myself.

People who looked just like me and nothing like me all at once filled the room and emptied it and filling it again. People with afros and dark lipstick and guide dogs and canes and babies, the babies owned the room!

The babies were being thrown into the air and caught. They were discovering every inch of the floor including the corners. They were vulnerable but bold, independent but calculating every step of their environment one step at a time. Their parents were watching in awe as their babies took life by the horns with no fear and we all truly lived in that moment, in that room together.

My eyes caught on a girl with a mane of curly blond hair and dark lipstick and I was struck by how gorgeous she, so struck in fact that I forgot I was staring and only realised it when she walked right up to me and said 'You're beautiful' smiled and walked away. I have been told I am beautiful often so it wasn't that I had heard it for the first time. Parents, tell your children they are amazing, this will set the tone for the rest of their lives and they will never be shocked when someone else says it to them. When she said it, this woman that i had been staring at my heart kicked because it was her and I saying to each other that we are more than skin and difference. We who looked the same but nothing alike.... I needed to sit down. 

Not before I found that facebook friend I had been too shy to say hello to by the way (hey Kadie, hey Ariel, hey Gabrielle)

Then I found my little friend again for a picture. By this time she had made a friend her age and they were wrestling. I mean full blown, belly laughs, rolling on the floor, they were born to meet and share stories bonded. 

I met a girl in a sapphire dress with a generous smile, bright eyes and a big heart and she made me weep. I met a girl who hasn't been alive for long but who has struggled and twirled and been brave and reminded me to be brave by her willingness to do just that very thing. I met a little girl with hands just like mine and I am so glad she said hello to me. 

She was my first little friend at the conference and honestly everything went great from there. She reminded me that at the core of it all, this moment was meant for all of us to meet, to come together and appreciate every thing that makes us different and the same as people with reckless abandon.

This is why we are here.

 To be continued
Check out more from this series here 1 and 2
My trip to the NOAH Conference 2016 was made possible by sponsorship from: The Writers Association of Grenada, Kallalou Designs, The Office of the Prime Minister and various good Samaritans who insist upon not being named. 


  1. I am on the edge of my seat wanting to read more....more of the saga of rare spice.

  2. Beautifully written! Heartfelt story ❤️

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  3. Liz, I was filled with goosebumps reading this.Till today i've never seen you as different. I mean yes you look different from me but I am thankful for eyes that are accepting and nonjudgemental. When I look at you before I saw an eccentric, brave, bold, unapologetic, beautiful young soul, full of life. I didn't see fear or even imagined it till this moment. But, don't we all have that?I can see how growing up must have been a challenging transition being looked at as different. But girllllllllll your amazing energy and authenticity is on fireeeee. *hugs*


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