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Her luggage was lost. Then a kind stranger came to her aid

<i>Courtesy Hana Sofia Lopes</i><br/>Hana Sofia spent a week in New York City without her luggage.
Courtesy Hana Sofia Lopes
Hana Sofia spent a week in New York City without her luggage.

Francesca Street, CNN

It had been seven days since she landed in New York City, and Hana Sofia Lopes’ luggage was still lost.

Every morning Hana Sofia phoned the airline for updates and ended the call increasingly frustrated, and still luggage-less.

“Here I am in New York, with no clothes other than those I was wearing during the flight. No shoes. No brush for my hair. No makeup. No socks. Nothing. Just me and my handbag,” she tells CNN Travel.

Hana Sofia, a Luxembourg-born actor of Portuguese descent in her early 30s, was stopping off in New York City in October 2022 to catch up with a friend. Her end point was Canada, where she was beginning production on a movie.

Upon arrival in Montreal, Hana Sofia was due to attend a prestigious industry event, where she’d rub shoulders with film legends and Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel. Her carefully planned outfit seemingly lost forever, Hana Sofia bought a last-minute dress in New York and boarded the flight to Canada.

After landing in Montreal, Hana Sofia headed straight to the airline information desk to raise her luggage complaint in person.

“I was really thinking to myself, ‘You know, I’m going to explode,'” she recalls. “But on the other hand, I’m a yogi too, so I also believe in karma.”

Hana Sofia knew her lost luggage — mislaid somewhere en route from Europe to the US — wasn’t the fault of an airport worker in Canada. So as she approached the counter, she tempered her anger.

“I just start by saying, ‘Listen, what I’m about to say is nothing personal. It’s really just against your company, against the company you’re working for,'” recalls Hana Sofia.

As she spoke, Hana Sofia’s frustration manifested not as anger, but as tears, and she found herself getting emotional as she poured out the details.

On the other side of the airport counter was Azalia Claudine Becerril Angulo, a part time airport worker in her mid-20s who’s lived in Montreal all her life.

Azalia listened to the story, and found herself imagining how she would feel if she were the crying stranger.

“She was really sad, angry also, and I understood why,” Azalia tells CNN Travel.

“I wanted to help her. Normally, people are rude and they’re very aggressive. She was different.”

Azalia looked up the lost luggage reference number but it wasn’t good news — the screen said the bag was in Frankfurt, Germany.

Hearing this, Hana Sofia deflated.

“I’m here to shoot a movie, and tomorrow, there is a reception with the prime minister of Luxembourg, which is my home country,” she explained. “I don’t even have makeup to put on my face. I don’t even have face cream. I have nothing.”

Azalia turned back from the computer.

“Wait, do you need makeup? I’m a makeup artist, I can do your makeup for you,” she offered.

Hana Sofia was completely taken aback, but Azalia carried on, explaining when she wasn’t working at the airport, she was a professional makeup artist.

“If you want, I can come to your hotel in the afternoon and do your hair and makeup so that you can attend your reception,” she said. “If I was in your place, I would be also freaking out. So I really want to do it for free.”

Both bemused and touched, Hana Sofia agreed and the two women exchanged numbers.

Azalia says she didn’t have any reservations about helping Hana Sofia.

“I really trusted her,” she says. “It’s really about her vibe and the connection we had.”

Hana Sofia felt the same way.

“I sensed in the way that she was talking and also the way that she was behaving that she was really, really honest,” she says of Azalia.

Forming a connection

The next day Azalia arrived at Hana Sofia’s hotel, and as Azalia got to work, the two women starting chatting about their lives.

Hana Sofia talked about how she felt both nervous and excited about the reception that evening, while Azalia spoke about what it’s like splitting her time between the airport and her makeup career.

They toggled between French, English and Spanish — both women are fluent in multiple languages.

“While she was doing the makeup, it was very natural,” says Hana Sofia. “It didn’t feel like I was just meeting somebody for the first time. It felt like I was meeting up with an old friend, which is crazy, because I just met her the day before, but we were talking a lot.”

As an actor, Hana Sofia spends a lot of time in the makeup chair. She knows what she likes and what she doesn’t, but she absolutely loved the look Azalia put together.

“She did a great, great job,” she says.

Hana Sofia’s only hesitation was Azalia’s insistence on doing the service for free. But Azalia was resolute.

“Makeup for me, it’s an art, it’s really a passion,” says Azalia. “So it’s not about the money. It’s just because I really like to make the person feel good and happy.”

To top it off, that same day, Hana Sofia heard from the airline. Her lost bag wasn’t in Frankfurt after all. It had been tracked down and was on its way to her Montreal hotel.

At that moment, Hana Sofia says she felt like Azalia was a real fairy godmother.

“She’s not only a great human, she’s also really good at her job because she managed to find my luggage,” says Hana Sofia.

A friend in Montreal

Cut to the present day and Hana Sofia is back in Europe for the holidays. She will return to Montreal to film in the new year, when she plans to meet up with Azalia for dinner and drinks.

The two women have kept in touch and message back and forth regularly.

“She has a friend in Montreal,” says Azalia of Hana Sofia. “Anything that she needs, I’m going to be there.”

Both women say their unlikely connection illustrates the importance of openness and empathy, especially at the airport, where people are often stressed and laser-focused on their own journey.

“People have to be a little bit more understanding that the person in front of them, they don’t have control of what happened,” says Azalia. “So if they are patient and really calm about it, the person in front is going to help you the best that we can.”

“It’s not about makeup. Of course, if I didn’t have makeup, it’s not the end of the world,” says Hana Sofia.

“It’s much more about how little we do these kind of things. We don’t stop really often to think about how the other person might be feeling or how the other person might be experiencing something. We just do our own thing and we don’t care, unfortunately, that’s how it goes. And in her situation, she really didn’t do that. And that’s what’s extraordinary.”

Top image: Hana Sofia Lopes, front, pictured after Azalia Claudine Becerril Angulo, back, did her makeup in Montreal. Credit: Hana Sofia Lopes

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