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International Play: Stories From an Airport Playground

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by guest blogger Andeep Singh, documentarian and television and Web video producer

There are times in life when you find yourself saying hello and good-bye at the same moment in time. Such are the encounters at airport playgrounds.

On a recent layover at the Stockholm Arlanda airport, my jet-setting preschooler made several forays into the enchanted garden playground in Terminal Five.

Based on the stories and illustrations of local author Elsa Beskow, the playground is complete with a snow-covered cottage, plenty of mossy knolls, and even a mini yurt. It was the perfect place for our little international traveler to let loose after an overnight flight from New York to Sweden.

On our first jaunt into the playground, we met a little blonde girl from Russia. As the girls took turns "cooking" meals, theirs was an instant kinship. They made chocolate cake in 5 seconds, finished "eating" in 3 seconds, and then 10 seconds later said good-bye as the flight to Moscow began boarding. It was a perfect three-act story about food and friendship playing out in just under a minute.

Soon, a little boy from France came onto the scene. He was a younger, much less steady man just finding his way into this new playground. However, my older, sophisticated little lady was not to be swayed by his big brown eyes. Perhaps it was his persistence or maybe it was the drool, but soon she relented and the two rode happily together on the giant playground rat before she tired of him and said good-bye. Heartbreak happens on the airport playground, too.

Later, we met a little Swedish girl who was on her way to London. Upon hearing my daughter's American accent, she immediately said hello. The girl's father explained that she was excited to practice her English. The girls instantly bonded and forged a friendship worthy of an Ikea commercial. But as happens at airports, we too had to depart, and the only other words needed after that initial "hello" were "good-bye" and "hej då." Which, given the rules of this airport engagement, could not have been more appropriate.

As we boarded our flight to Rome, I remarked to my husband about the instant friendships formed on airport playgrounds. It was amazing to see captive kids from all over the world find each other in a perfect moment, only to say good-bye so soon afterwards.

On the one hand, it's kind of sad these friendships aren't given a chance to grow. On the other, it's greatly affirming that on life's great journeys there will always be fellow travelers with whom you can share a fleeting moment. Even at age 3.

Andeep Singh works at the Rodale Video Network and has produced nonfiction television, film, and digital video content for some of the biggest networks in the country, including ABC, NBC, PBS, CBC, and A&E. She recently completed producing her first feature documentary film, titled Living the Fantasy, which follows the lives of six high-stakes fantasy football players. Originally from the Great White North, Andeep has a serious case of wanderlust, is afflicted with perpetual food envy, and is mildly obsessed with the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.

For more from Maria Rodale, visit