A Memorable Trip To Recall

Ada Wong \  60

In my younger days air travel was very exciting and I used to think nothing of taking a trip to Canada or the States in order to attend a conference or to visit friends and relatives. But, I have long since ceased to enjoy flying and, while I still make the short flight to my second home in Sydney quite frequently, the thought of being cooped up in a plane for the best part of a day on the way to North America has become too onerous. Consequently, over the last five years, my phone bills have increased dramatically while my face to face contact with my friends and relatives in your part of the world has dwindled.

In May, however, my hand was forced when a long anticipated wedding in Washington was announced. I soon found myself, quite happily, bustling around in search of the most convenient, and cheapest, airfare and, after a while, this trip seemed to take on a life of its own as I included side trips to St Louis, Boston, Toronto, Vancouver and then a return via Tokyo to spend some time with my nephew.

The wedding in Washington was truly spectacular in the manner that only Americans can achieve. It was spread over five days and included a personal White House tour, the ceremony in the Virginia Theological Seminary, the reception at Fort Lesley J. McNair, innumerable lunches, dinners and afternoon teas, a little bit of sightseeing and I even found some time to go shopping. And to cap this memorable experience off, I stayed in a grand old hotel just across Lafayette Park from the White House.

Perceptions and memories are funny things and, when I look back on this trip, what really touched my heart was my visit to St Louis to visit Mrs. Nellie Pun, wife of our late Principal James Pun, and my meeting in Toronto with Mrs. Ho Lo and two of my old classmates, May Wong(H) and Christina Chan(z).

For many years Mrs. Pun lived in Oakland and on a couple of occasions I visited her there finding that she was just as busy and no less gregarious than when she was in Hong Kong. For the last couple of years she has, to a large extent, stayed with her daughter in St Louis while still maintaining her Oakland home. In my school days I spent a few months living with the Puns and their lifestyle was a revelation to my coming, as I did, from a very strict family. So, my Washington wedding activities completed, I set off for St Louis. Never having been to this part of the US before I was not at all sure what to expect so it was very comforting to be met at the airport by Mrs. Pun and her daughter, Jane, looking much as they did when I last saw them. St Louis is small in population but large in area and we spent the next two days gossiping, shoe shopping and seeing some of the tourist sights. It is a clean and green city and, for me, the most memorable sights were the fabulous Arch and the views from the top, the Botanic Gardens with their Japanese Garden and sculptures from Zimbabwe and last, but definitely not least, sitting in a quaint, old restaurant on the banks of the mighty Mississippi and having tapas for dinner.

Toronto, by contrast, is gray and oh so busy! I seemed to spend hours each day traveling from Mississauga, where my little brother lives, to Markham where everyone else seems to live and where most of the nice restaurants are. But meeting with my former St. Marks teachers and friends made the effort well worth while.

All former St. Marks students of our age group will remember Mrs. Ho, whom we address her as Teacher Liu and she knew each and every student by name. Every organization needs one pivotal administrator; someone who knows everything about any possible matter and about whom everything appears to revolve, Mrs. Ho is one such person. From the tuck shop to employment, I never found her wanting and, indeed, she sent me off on my first employment as a temporary typist for the princely sum of HKD500 per month. This might not sound very much until you realize that, years later after my graduation from UNSW, I earned only $1,000 per month. I had a very nice and very noisy lunch with Mrs. Ho and a group of former St. Marks students where we talked over old times and brought each other up to date with the activities of our mutual friends.

I have not seen Christina Chan since we bid farewell as schoolgirls at our St. Marks graduation and May Wong for at least ten years. It was with some trepidation that I met them on this occasion. Would we recognize each other? Would we still have things in common to talk about? I need not have worried in the slightest; we fell back into our easy relationship as though we had seen each other only days ago.

I have come to understand that, now most of us are retired or approaching retirement, we should be more rigorous in maintaining contact with our friends and relatives because what we are today is largely a result of what we were taught and who influenced and guided us all those years ago.