I often hear from my friends that Dongguan has changed dramatically since I was last there. A couple of articles this week, caught my interests on this subject:Dongguan: the nightmare flip side to China's economic dream
- see that number of 70,000 factories shut down recently.Xi Jinping’s Trump Moment
- Wall Street Journal's interesting article, with several comparisons, such as Dongguan to Lowell, Massachusetts, and Xi Jinping to Donald Trump. I don't necessarily agree with many of the conclusions offered, but the challenges are certainly highlighted for China and the USA.
Good luck, my friends, on both sides of the Pacific.
Back while I was on dialysis for my transplant, I had the opportunity to work for a neighbor as a part time clerk at her consignment shop. The owner, Gigi, lived in our neighborhood. My neighbor, Kay, had introduced us. It kept me busy for a few hours a week, earned me a little money, and kept me occupied.
Gigi was from Thailand, and I greeted her in her native Thai with “Sawatdeecup”. It was good to keep a little of my love of Asia in my life of fighting kidney failure.
In July 2010, I got the “gift of life” in the form of a kidney transplant. I wasn’t working at the store much after that, but Gigi still invited me to the annual Christmas dinner.
I had only recently met Gigi’s husband. At dinner, he asked me where I was from originally. I gave my typical answer: “Just a little town in the foothills southwest of here – Rutherfordton. It’s otherwise known as ‘Rulfton’ to locals”. Surprisingly he knew my little hometown. And then he stunned me even more when he turned to Gigi and asked: “Gigi, Didn’t you speak at a high school in Rutherfordton one time?” I was floored by the question, and even more by the response: “Oh yes, a Rutherfordton Central High School or something like that.”
“What? Do you mean R-S Central High School?”
I asked, when I could close my lower jaw. I guess, I had always assumed Gigi had just moved to America in recent years. When she responded: “Yes, that was it”. I was more intrigued. My mind was also spinning. Gigi, like so many Asian women, seemed younger than me. Was she my age? Had a Thai girl been to our school when I was a student there. So I asked again: “How and when?” Gigi responded: “I was a foreign exchange student in Gastonia, and went to the high school there to share my background. It would have been in 1965.”
“Wow” I said, "That’s where I went to school! But I wasn't in high school then.”
But my mind was still jumping. I was in the 7th
grade then. At least, I hadn’t embarrassed myself, by missing a prior encounter with my current boss. I shook it off, and got back to talking about Christmas with the others.
In the back of my mind, something was still bugging me about how Gigi had been to my high school. Wait a minute
- my sister was in high school in 1965
. Oh hell! Let me get to the phone. As soon as I got home, I called my sister. She had moved to Colorado years ago. I asked her: “Do you remember a Thai girl that may have come to R-S Central, when you were a student there?”
Her response sent me reeling: “Oh Gene, do you mean Gigi
? Remember her? She was a Thai exchange student from Gastonia, that came and stayed in our home,
when visiting with Christa, and making a presentation at the school!” Well, pick me up off the floor! Are you kidding me!
Anna went on to say: “Don’t you remember that I always asked if you could find Gigi
when you traveled to Thailand.” I had always replied: “Are you kidding, like I’m going to run into a girl we knew in 1965 among the millions of people in Thailand!” I had just let those questions go in one ear and out the other. But no, instead: I’ve been working for Gigi for the last two years! And 45 years since she stayed in our family home!”
I told Anna the whole story from the night’s Christmas dinner. She knew I had been working in a consignment store, but I guess I had never mentioned the owner was a Thai lady. But who would have put this together. We both were flabbergasted, to say the least. Anna searched through a few keepsakes and found a necklace that Gigi had actually given her during her visit to our home in 1965. Anna called me back to tell me that she had sent me a picture of a necklace via email.
The next day, I went to the store and called Gigi over to a computer. I pulled up the email from my sister, and showed her a picture of the necklace. “Have you ever seen a Thai necklace like this?” I asked. I watched her reaction as she actually staggered backward, turned white, and turned to me with a look of utter astonishment. In a cracking voice she said: “I gave a few necklaces to friends when I was an exchange student in Gastonia. How did you get that picture?”
Then I told Gigi: “This is a picture in an email I just got from my sister, Anna. You gave her this necklace, when you came to speak at R-S Central, and stayed in our home in 1965!”
Gigi had returned to the US after college in Thailand, but came back back in North Carolina and married and remained here. She didn’t remember that she had stayed with a Bryson
family back in 1965 in Rutherfordton. So she never put the relationship, that I, her part time employee, a Bryson myself, could be the little brother of the girl whose home she had stayed, 45 years earlier.
My Dad later found a neckerchief that Gigi had given my Mom (now deceased). It even had a note from Gigi. My sister, Anna, and my Dad visited with Gigi shortly after we realized the chance re-encounter. Dad’s 91 now, but still asks about Gigi. I stop in to see her, whenever I’m near the store. It’s been a surreal reunion.
And no wonder I didn’t find her in Thailand on those trips to the Land of Smiles. Okay, I hadn’t heeded my sister’s request, or maybe I would have connected the name to the Thai lady that was now my employer.
After 45 years, I had ended up working for Gigi! It’s a small world! Indeed!
I know it's been a while. Just reading about Usagi, the typhoon that recently ravaged Guangdong. Hope all my friends are okay. Here is some news from the typhoon, and other recent reads:
Of course, my friends at One for the Road pub, sent out an advance notice that the pub would be open through the storm in British tradition (or interpret as you wish). I don't see anything about it in their website
or blog. Assume they are still partying.
But one of the more interesting things I saw about Usagi, is the damage to two Buddhas in Guangdong. You have to see for yourself: Depressed Buddhas
In the meantime, WalMart just continues to open stores in China: WalMart Opens More Stores in Small China Cities