Despite the oppressive heat and thick sheet of humidity that has been pressing down on the island for the last month and a half, I have only recently begun to notice the arrival of summer. That is not to say that I am not completely aware of the drastic change in weather conditions. My entire body is cocooned within a greasy film of sticky sweat that even the coldest of showers can’t seem to penetrate. I have to change my shirt at least once a day to avoid sweat stains and the stench of B.O.. I char my ass cheeks every time I sit on my scooter. (They can reach upwards of fifty-seven degrees under the hot summer sun. Ouch!). Trust me. I am aware of the weather conditions.
Nevertheless, ever since I was a boy, summer has meant one thing and one thing only: vacation. And for me, this only began last Friday. Admittedly, I am still working a few hours a day; however, my schedule is far less rigid than it is during the school year. I now have time to relax between classes and am able to come home for dinner with the family. This alone is the vacation that I have been waiting for. And yet there’s more. We have planned day trips, camping getaways, and even a two week holiday in Thailand. Could things get better? Oh, yes. They could. For the days that we remain in Hsinchu, Siaya is enrolled in a couple of summer camps leaving Rachel and I with a few extra hours for unadulterated fun and frolic. Now THAT is the summer for which I have been waiting.
Call me greedy, but even with all the fun we have planned, two things are left missing: 1) my friends and family from back home (I know that Chinese New Year was full of cuddles and conversation on Canadian soil. What can I say? I’m greedy. I want more. Besides that, we had neither the time nor the opportunity to visit with everyone we had hoped to see. I miss my peeps in the homeland.); and, 2) the cottage.
Oh, yes! The cottage. Oh, how I miss the long summer days at … (Let me say it again.)… the cottage! Beers on the deck; dips in the cool dark waters of the lake; tours along the coastline in and behind a boat; adventures in the waves and through the air on tubes, banana boats and knee boards; leaps from small cliffs and the arching end of a swinging rope; barbecues at sunset; small bonfires at night; cards before bed; coffee at dawn; and then, one more time with beers on the deck. It is, in a word, spectacular.
And yet as amazing as all of that sounds (and is), those four walls would just be another hut in the wilderness if not for the girl (now woman) who first brought me there. After all, the cottage about which I am referring isn’t even mine. It belongs to her family, an amazingly warm group of individuals with whom I have had the privilege to share a connection since my first year of university. Without them (and particularly her) the water would be less alluring, the boat rides less thrilling, and the sunsets less appealing. Without them there would be no cottage. Not for me anyway.
As I sit reminiscing about the days and nights I spent embraced within the calming exhilaration of my friend’s northern getaway, I can’t help but wonder how it came to be that I still have the opportunity to enjoy such hospitality. The history that my friend and I share, as colorful, fun and exciting as it is, has also been tarnished with hurt and heartbreak both caused by me. Most people would have chosen to walk away from my company; most people would have ended the relationship then and there. I am forever grateful that she was/is not ‘most people’.
She is a woman with the strength of a lion who chose to hold on when most would have let go. She is a woman with the compassion of a saint who gave comfort when most would have walked away. She is a woman with a heart of gold who opened the doors to her home when many would have locked them and turned out the lights. She is more than just a woman. She is family – faithful and true.
Faithfully, by Journey, is the tune that takes me back to my undergrad years and the time I shared with this friend. Our history and her strength have taught me about the importance of forgiveness, empathy and understanding. Because of her I now see that I have the choice to rise above the cruelty and hurt that surrounds me and use the goodness inside of me to help make things better. Through her and her actions I have learned what it means to be a friend. Faithfully.
Faithfully youtube link