Sunday 5 August 2012


Thirty years! Next month, it will have been thirty years since I met Vanessa for the first time. I had enrolled in a new school, far from where we lived. The previous year, the music teacher had seen how passionate I was about  music and she told me about this special school which would allow their students to share their time between academics and the music conservatory. My parenst listened to the advice and sent me there. 
On my first day, Vanessa was the first one to greet me and I will never forget the twinkle in her eyes, her warmth and her friendliness. A tall girl she was wearing a white and turquoise flounced skirt with polka dots, her long chestnut hair tied in a pony-tail. Quite a sight! 
Little did I imagine that thirty years later, I would wait for her at the TaoYuan airport. She was on her way to Bali but decided to stop over in Taipeip to visit me! Only two days, but that was better than nothing. I didn't quite realise that she would actually be in Taipei before I saw her walk past the arrival gate. The plane had been delayed so I had been idly watching the giant screen which had been placed in front of the waiting area for people to spot the arriving travellers. I knew she would be there, but my mind started to toy with me. "And what if she said she would come the next day? And what if you got the wrong airline  company? And what if....?"
When I saw her I suddenly woke up from my semi-doziness and ran to her, excitement storming in my heart. 
It was the most natural thing to be with her in Taipei. She immediately warmed to the city and instantly felt at home. 
On the next day, I took her to Maokong. I had never bene there myself, although all my friends kept telling me how beautiful it was to be in the mountain and see contemplate the whole city of Taipei whilst sipping tea. 
We took the gondola to the peak point and wandered aimlessly until we spotted a small family teahouse hidden from the road by trees. Only a signboard would attest of its presence.
There wasn't any other customers but us. The owner was spending time with a couple of friends and his adorable little son. 
"I'm 6 years old" he said to me in English. He was the only one to be able to communicate with us in English. 
We loved the place so much that we forgot about time. 
"I feel out of time" Vanessa told me. 
We ordered tea and enjoy the silence of the mountain around us. No other customer came. It may not have been good for the owner, but we savoured the moment even more. What a perfect place for a reunion!
The owner took out his flute and began to play for us. When he learned that Vanessa and I were musicians, he went inside and came out again with a small keyboard. The boy was getting some music lessons. The modest instrument would do for the beginning.
We understood that we were expected to play something. Vanessa and I looked at each other.
She went ahead at played the famous first prelude from the Well Tempered Keyboard by Bach. When came my turn, I had no idea so I improvised for a few minutes. The keyboard didn't allow much musical expression but the owner seemed happy as he filmed us playing.
The son warmed to us and started to show us his prized possessions: stones, paintings, grasshoppers he was keeping in a jar. The owner brought a new teapot on the table:
"This is Oolong mountain tea" he said in Chinese.
The tea was delicious. I could not have dreamed for a better way to reunite with my long time friend.

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