Friends Reunited in Portland
Following my recent blog on our trip to Seattle to see my former teacher Mrs Redding, my joy of being reunited with people I had come to meet and love did not end there. In fact, visiting Millie was just the first of many highlights of my ‘Discovery of America’, during our unforgettable trip in 2007, and 500 years after Christopher Columbus.
England: University of Warwick, 1988-1989
If you have read my book The Same Moon, or will one day read it, you would have identified some similarities between the Protagonist Pearl Zhang and myself. Like Pearl, the University of Warwick was my destination when I arrived in the UK in the summer of 1988.
I had some of the best times of my life while studying in this first-class English Higher Education Institution, situated in the beautiful English countryside of Warwickshire, only 20 miles from where I live now. It was not just the natural beauty of the place that enchanted me, making me falling in love with the university and the country, it was more so because of the fabulous friends from other parts of the world whom I came to meet there. My blog today is dedicated to someone very special, Charlotte Chen, whom I first set eyes upon at that campus 23 years ago.
Our “attraction” was instant. Look at our pictures taken back then: two young women in their prime, she hailing from Taiwan, me Mainland China. Despite our historical and political differences, when she was brought up hating everything about Communist China, and I the very opposite. We were united by our common language and shared cultural heritage. We became firm and enduring friends.
Charlotte and I were not on the same course but we did spend a lot of our leisure time together and socialized in the same circles. After the Tian’anmen Square student demonstration and the subsequent slaughter of protesters, we both went to London to support the democratic movement back in China.
Before she jetted back to Taiwan, Charlotte was so kind and generous that she offered to lend me money if I wanted to pursue further studies in the UK. As a matter of fact, during my next decade of struggling trying to stay on in the UK, Charlotte was a rock in supporting me, even though she had been through many of life’s ups and downs herself.
As I relocated from England to Scotland and then back to England again, Charlotte was not idle. After a successful career in Taiwan on TV and as a teacher, she returned to Warwick for another year, and eventually emigrated to America with her husband and son, first to the East coast and then the West coast. It was sometime in 1998, when we both relocated again that we finally lost touch.
Eight years later, in September 2006, I received a surprise message on Skype: Are you the Junying I knew back in Warwick in 1988? Charlotte.
What happened next was only natural. Our friendship picked up from where it had left off, as if time had not moved on at all.
It had. Time is in relentless forward motion, and it will not pause for anyone. Our regular emails flowed back and forth and we caught up on what life had thrown at us in those interim years. While I had my own traumatic battles, fell in love and settled in a new city with a fairly new husband, my friend across the pond has suffered dreadful leukaemia, subjected to horrendous chemo treatment and only just in remission.
United States of America: Reunion in Beaverton 2007
There was no reason for us to delay our trip to America. After thorough consultation with Charlotte about time, schedule and everything else related to the itinerary, we left Seattle with our hired car, heading south from Washington State towards the less populated and very scenic Oregon.
Since I last saw Charlotte face to face in the year of 1991, when she and her then fiance Patrick stopped by in Glasgow, taking me along with them to their one and only Highland tour, 16 years had passed. When we arrived in her lovely new home in Beaverton, a town just outside Portland on the West coast of America, she remained the same dear friend I have had in my dreams and in my heart. She still looked stunning and beautiful, her big smile as infectious as before, and her generosity intact. Her positive outlook on life had been re-affirmed despite her brush with deadly blood cancer and her lust for life even more in evidence. She was still full of advice on which store has the best skin care, what brand offers the perfect lip gloss, and she knew exactly where she could take us for the best Vietnamese food!
For me, I was just happy to have my friend back in my life, now and forever!
Come and meet my friend Charlotte, her husband Patrick, and join us in Portland, Oregon and its surrounding areas. Please click on YouTube or the video link below.
My America tour is still on, and there is more to come!
Reunion in Portland