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Wednesday, 09 May 2012

A Pareidolia

By Johna Ferguson

On my three bicycle trips thru China, I met some very interesting people and at the time thought, “I’d really like to come back again.”

One was a young man, a sports doctor who accompanied us on one trip as an interpreter. A year after that third trip, I got a call from him. He was studying for an MS degree in biology at Montana State University. He invited me over as it was spring break and he was free for a few days.

I didn’t want to drive my classic sports car there alone over the Continental Divide, so I decided to take the Greyhound bus. I’d never ridden a long distance bus, especially on an over-night ride, but it was the only way to get there.

He met me at the station in the late afternoon. He was on his bike and had borrowed one for me. We rode to the campus and ate a quick meal in the cafeteria.

Actually, there were no students in his eight-story dorm building as it was vacation and they’d all gone home. He took me to his room, a really barren place with two empty desks and twin beds with no sheets, blankets or pillows.

Then he walked me down a floor to where the girls had their rooms. It was a co-ed dorm, girls’ one floor, boys’ alternative ones. He showed me the bathroom on that floor where I could shower and wash up. Interesting I thought, sleep on one floor and go down a flight to use the toilet.

I was really tired, not having slept on the bus the previous night, so I suggested I just go to bed. He gave me his overcoat for a blanket, I put on my pajamas and rolled my jeans and sweater up for a pillow and fell fast asleep.

In the morning we ate, ordered box lunches and took off for the day to tour the lovely, vast Montana countryside. After a full day of cycling, I was exhausted so after a quick supper I felt I had to go to bed as my bus left early in the morning.

We lay in bed talking and then his reason for asking me was revealed. His wife, a doctor in Beijing, wanted to come to the States, but he had to have $10,000 in a savings account for six months before he could submit her application. He wondered if I could loan it to him.

I explained how most Americans did not like to loan money to friends for it often ended in loss of that friendship. He understood and nothing more was said.

I was lucky, for the next morning when I boarded the bus, I found a window seat. I put on my Walkman and relaxed, looking up at the high mountains of Western Montana. The sky was bright blue with lots of white fluffy clouds moving slowly.

All of a sudden, I couldn’t believe when my eyes saw a pareidolia; it was a cloud formed in the perfect silhouette of my mother’s head floating above me. She had passed away just the year before and had left me $10,000; not much by today’s standards, but in 1984 it seemed like a fortune. I put it in a CD at the bank until needed.

After seeing that vision, I decided I would loan it to my Chinese friend but I would tie restrictions to it. I didn’t want interest and gave him five years to pay it back. All I wanted was for his father-in-law to get me a job teaching English at his hospital in Beijing.

It took six months for him to get a visa for his wife and for me to get all the paperwork for my job but finally, in 1985, all was done and I flew off to Beijing, passing his wife in the air on her way to Seattle.

The story has a happy ending. They both earned MA degrees, obtained jobs in Chicago and had a son. I loved teaching medical students and stayed on for 13 years teaching in various universities in China until I met my present husband, a retired pathology professor.

For the past 11 years we have lived six months in Qingdao and six months in Seattle. I think I have the best of both worlds.

For any of you looking for a partner, maybe a bike trip to China should be in store for you.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post



At age 83 I seriously doubt that I will be taking any bicycle trips through my neighborhood,much less China.

Isn't that a shame? I would love to see China but doubt I ever will, which make your stories so valuable to me. I really enjoy hearing of your adventures there and love when you post pictures.

So, thanks to you, I AM seeing some of China.

What a wonderful story, Johna, especially since it's true. You are an inspiration for us to take a chance...do something different...get out of our little boxes.

You are a role model for being a real person...I often do things that are kind or more generous than I would ordinarily because some tiny inkling in my very being says, c'mon now, you can do this..be a good girl now...Those Mothers of ours at work even up in the clouds...Love your musings always...thank you.

Johna, thank you for sharing this story, it's great!

I always love your stories. Until you mentioned his having a wife, I thought that was going to be the story of how you met your husband! I do hope you got all your money back in good time, and had fun spending it yourself!You are a good and kind person.

I could start with negatives: Not looking for a partner, not looking for a job, nor a bicyle ride through anywhere. Ooops, I just did.
So, I'll just finish with a big YES for what you did and what I'm doing with the remaining time on my watch.
Or in other words, "Pass it on." One way or another, "Pass it on."

Wow. Wow. Wow.

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