Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SHOP (01/03/19)
TITLE: A Shopping Paradise?
By Linda Lawrence
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It was Christmas Day, 1967.
Three weeks earlier I arrived in Hong Kong with 3-year-old Shannon and infant Sean. Carl met us at the airport with tears and hugs and kisses. We were delighted to be a family again.
Two months earlier Carl had been sent to southeast Asia to research radio listeners’ habits, in preparation for our family’s move to Hong Kong, and his work with Far East Broadcasting Co. He had found us an apartment and beds, but that was all he had time to accomplish before we arrived.
I was shocked to see Carl so thin. I soon discovered he had been deathly ill with dengue fever while in Thailand. No wonder his few letters told me so little. We needed to talk. But first, we needed to shop for some essentials.
Children in hand, Carl hailed a taxi for our family’s first excursion into a city very unlike California suburbia. We succeeded in finding a small folding table with stools, and then four plates, cups, and eating utensils. We managed to squeeze into a taxi again with our purchases before collapsing with exhaustion.
My second day in Hong Kong, Carl was too weak to get out of bed. A relapse of the fever? Talking would have to wait. He needed to sleep. I paced from room to empty room, fighting down my panic, having no idea how to provide for the family. I needed my husband to acclimatize me to our new lifestyle. I knew no one else. I spoke no Cantonese or Mandarin. Where was a bank? A grocery store? Lord, help! What about a doctor?
Fighting back tears, I set out with the children to find a grocers. Asking for help, I was pointed in the right direction but returned home defeated, unable to see the grocery store. It was later I learned the grocer was on the second floor. I had walked right by it, several times, not thinking to look up. In the meantime, I bought fruit and bread from sidewalk vendors, gulping as I watched the bread being sliced with a knife sharpened on the spittle splattered curb. Lord, help!
But on Christmas Day we needed more than a table and bread. Carl’s onset of delirium frightened me into phoning a missionary doctor whose name had been given to us. She said I needed to purchase a particular medicine for Carl, and it needed to be bought from a British pharmacy, not a Chinese medicine shop. It felt like an impossible assignment.
Praying for longer lucid intervals, I left Shannon to care for her feverish Daddy. Lord forgive me! She liked to wipe his brow, a willing little helper.
I wandered the city, carrying Sean, looking for a shop I wouldn’t recognize even if I saw it. Overwhelmed with the futility of my search I phoned the doctor again. Sensing my despair, she sent me to the Buddhist charity hospital where she worked. They had the needed medication. She would let them know I was coming. She dictated directions to give a taxi driver — in Cantonese! I wrote what she told me — I hoped — phonetically, and went back to the taxi and tried to read aloud what I had written. I had no idea what I was actually saying.
At each turn the streets appeared narrower and narrower. I saw no English signs beneath the tunnel of wet laundry high overhead on bamboo poles. Where were we being taken? Lord, help! Help!
We came to a dead-end and the driver motioned for me to get out. Where were we? I nearly collapsed with relief when I caught sight of a nurse’s white uniform through a window.
The ride home was another nightmare. This driver indicated he understood the address I gave, but when I saw sandy beaches it was apparent we were on the opposite side of the island. Lord, help!
Eventually the driver stopped, and asked a cosmopolitan appearing Chinese for translation help and we were finally headed in the right direction.
Carl, Shannon, and I were all slightly delirious with joy and relief when Sean and I stumbled through the door, home at last, with medicine in hand. Thank you, Lord!
Hong Kong may be a world class shopping paradise, but not to this unsophisticated, harrowed shopper.
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