By Stan Stewart.
I occasionally have a good idea - like once in ten years. I had one in Beijing, China.
We were on a tour through China (not our first). Our friend had set up the itinerary. We arrived in Beijing for a four-day visit. We were met at the airport by a professional-looking young woman and a driver in a Mercedes. On the way to the hotel, she produced a sheath of detailed itinerary notes. “We will stay at your hotel until you unpack and then our itinerary will commence. And tomorrow...“I interrupted. “How much are you paid per day?” I asked. She told me. “What say we pay you your daily rate and we cancel this itinerary. We could just hang out together and do our own itinerary?”. She was startled. However, when she saw we were serious she agreed. She rang and cancelled the prearranged tour. And that’s how we met our guide whose name was April.
We had a wonderful time together. At our own pace we did visit some of the main tourist destinations. I remember seeing hot and tired groups walking behind a guide who was holding a small triangular flag. “They will have a big day for them” April said. “The forbidden city is huge”. We stayed only 2 hours so there was much we didn’t see. Then we went and sat in a park and watched old people in formal dress waltz to recorded music.
At our request April took us to the university where she was studying. We ate in her favourite noodle bar and walked through the mall she often visited. She showed us photos of her sister and her parents and their family home in a distant town. What I am saying is that she shared her life and in this way the foundation for a lasting friendship was laid.
The Chinese government does not allow mention or discussion of any bad news or disturbances. Their beautiful museums featured pottery and artefacts from thousands of years past. Mention of the troubles in Tiananmen Square of even the Cultural Revolution was banned.
On one journey I could see that our taxi driver must have been in his fifties. As he had a little English, I asked him did he have any memories of the Cultural Revolution. He said nothing in English, but he replied to April in Chinese. Then I noticed that as he drove tears were rolling down his cheek. When we alighted I asked April what he said. “He told me”, said April, “He could never forgive himself for what he and the other pupils did to their school-teacher”.
April would love to visit New Zealand. But it is hard to see how this will be possible.
Pauline and I have been married for forty-two years and we will be married of life. When I fell in love with my dentist it was a kind of side gig.
I was most reluctant to go to the dentist but when I met this friendly, bright young woman things changed. She is tiny and she was pregnant. To get into my mouth she had to lean against me, and I clearly felt the baby bump against me. I remember thinking, “This is special!” Later when I had to have three root cannels, I wasn’t that fussed (except for the cost) as it meant hours with my favourite dentist. She poked and prodded and her apparatus whizzed and most of the time I said nothing. I couldn’t. My mouth was wedged open. With her assistant she talked about all kinds of interesting things. When I could get in a word I asked about her family and her husband who worked from home. “I earn more money than him", she said. And so, my appreciation grew for this tiny, powerful, skilled young woman.
During covid I had a dental emergency. Not painful except for those who had to look at me. So, I coped by mumbling. All dentists were closed but I managed to get the first booking when my dentist came back on-line. The thought of catching up with my wonderful dentist filled me with excitement.
However, my visit was doomed. Not only did she wear two masks, she had fixed to her glasses a tiny set of binoculars. I couldn’t even see her eyes. I felt like I was being operated on by Darth Vader’s daughter. Plus, my hearing had been loosing its edge and I couldn’t hear a word she said.
There it is. I’ve shared a story of two significant females who were important to me. Bless them both. I now think we are all special. You just must look for a person’s specialness.