The Boy From Po Toi

Echoes of a ghost?  Of the future?  Of the past?

There is a feeling of perplexity.  I’m no longer standing in the conference room on the top floor of a skyscraper.  There are no floor-to-ceiling windows with Hong Kong harbor far below.  And my Armani suit?  Transformed into what appears to be rags.     

There is panic, but also familiarity.  I look down at my hands holding huge buckets of supplies, filled to the brim; shocked to learn I can hold so much.  My first instinct is to drop the buckets, must be too heavy but the weight is electric. My arms and shoulders are full of life.

I let out a lighthearted sigh. I’m not sure what I am doing but it feels right.

Beside me, the sea glimmers with life while the sun prepares for another colorful dive to end the day. I’d like nothing better than to sit peacefully and watch her.  How is it I am here?

I recognize this world.  This body.  My blood, powered by a slow heartbeat flowing briskly with purpose.  I lift a bucket up towards my face without effort, ignoring the pungent fish odor.  The power of my arms makes me smile.  Damn, I feel good.   Am I dreaming?

The smell of the sea vanishes, replaced by the scent of the exotic. My heart races.  Ms. Laura walks my way, pausing as she looks at my hands ~ ha, perhaps it’s my powerful arms?  She blushes, smiles, and quickly looks away.

Her dress, beautiful and modest, does not belong here. We are a fishing village; well-worn clothes are all we own.  It finally dawns on me.  This is no dream.  I am a man of the sea, she is not.  I speak the Hakka dialect, a little Cantonese, and zero English.

“Did you enjoy class today?”  Ms. Laura asks very slowly, enunciating every syllable, her British accent snaps me to attention.

My mind spins with answers.  I understand her English words but my voice cannot be found. With a red face, I spew out a reply in my unintelligible Hakka dialect.

She laughs. “You need to study harder, or could it be you need a different teacher?!?”  I look at her in fear, a little slow getting her joke before she reassures me and puts her hand on my shoulder, resting it longer than one would consider normal.  I relax. Her touch transports me to another world.

A world where we are together, she’s my wife in total happiness. Quickly the dream fades with the chuckle from my fishing partner, Xiao Gao.  He grabs a bucket and loads it onto our skiff and without skipping a beat says, in a rough Hakka tone, “Rui-de, you’ve attended her class all year, yet you cannot speak one word of English,”  his infectious laughter inspires others to join in.

“She is so perfect…” my face still burning, I let my words trail.

Sometimes I’d like to just fly away, I think to myself. Escape into my dreams and chase the world. But then all I have to do is look around.  Everything I want is here.

My mind begins doing battle with my memory.  Somewhere, I know her.  I’ve talked with her.  I’ve been with her.  But I catch a glimpse of myself in the reflection on the water and I laugh a bit at the thought.

Me.  A simple Po Toi Island boy.

The blast of the horn signals the departure of the Po Toi ferry back to Hong Kong Island and the wealthy Stanley village. We are cut off again from the outside world until its return.

Three times a week this picturesque lady arrives in Po Toi to teach English to our dwindling population. Most of my friends have already left to seek a better life.  For me, though, Po Toi is my home.

Well, the sea is my home, Po Toi the place where I have the greatest access.

Another great ending to the day.  Ms. Laura takes her position alone at the stern of the ferry and our eyes lock, my favorite part of her visits.

With the sun gently reflecting off her golden hair, framing the picture of perfection, she looks over her shoulder to see if anyone is watching and then turns back and brings her fingers to her lips and waves me goodbye.

It is a goodbye with hope.  Recognition of yuan-fen (缘分).  The moment in time where our destinies align and we become what we are meant to be.

The changing reality of what “can be” sends my heart pounding to the beat of the surf.  The world once again has meaning.  I step onto the skiff and head out to the deeper waters to chase my living.  Chase my dream.

The sea knows my soul. The sea is my soul. Nevertheless, it is possible there is something else out there for me as well. My mind and memory once again run wild to find her, to find our future.

As We Begin our Journey of Yuan Fen – 缘分

The beginning of China Sojourns Photography (作客中国摄影) is a simple project that will consist of posting photos from China and around the world.  As I post these photos, I will also comment on the mood of the place and hopefully some useful photographic techniques as well.

While the focus is on photography, there will also be occasions when the mood strikes that philosophy via photography will be combined.  Often I believe that while writing & photography is generally a solitary pursuit, it is the inspiration of others that allows us to create: the sharing of ideas and learning.

As such, the theme for this site will be “us”.  Two souls dancing and learning as we move forward in life.

Us Dancing

The definition of “Us” in this blog can be explained by the Chinese word 缘分 (yuan-fen).  

There is no direct translation of 缘分 (yuan-fen) to English.  It is often link to Buddhism and karma and defined as ‘pre-ordained affinity/fate/destiny’, where destiny awaits your action when opportunities arise.  This means, that while it may be fate two people should meet, whether they stay together is up to yuan-fen and destiny.  Yuan (缘) brings two people together, and Fen (分) is the work necessary to fulfill this destiny.  When you choose to take or forego an opportunity, 缘分 (yuan-fen) has arrived and depending on your commitment, becomes a part of your life forever. 

It is in this blog that I hope to expand on the 缘分 (yuan-fen) between us, increasing our value and happiness.  

Through contemplation & through the lens of a camera are where many ideas of life are created.  The constant search to find a choice moment in time where an idea will transpire via words or a photo to bring inspiration is a daily goal.  I see inspiration every day in the people I know.  Ideas are what keeps us dancing.

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