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Travel Tales from Downunder - Friendships encountered

The friendships that had been extended to me during my 6 weeks away from Sydney were so genuine and touching that I want to tell the world that I'm the most lucky person in the world. It feel so good that when you have friends who care for you and look after your interest. So far I have mentioned 9 friends: Tommy and Winnie, Bor and Susan, Lola and Gary, Tony and Mabel and Sidney who had made me feel welcomed and helped me in the first leg of our vacation. You will hear me mention many more friends who had warmed my heart and touched my soul with their friendship, especially Godfrey Lam and his wife Martha. 

I was in Hong Kong to visit my mother who was 93 before I set out for my travels. While in Hong Kong, Magdalen and I did a dance demo/talk in a school hall attended by about 20 dance enthusiasts organised by my friend, Martha Lam who was a former work colleague. Her husband, Godfrey, is an eye surgeon whom I have met in Sydney 25 years ago. We had lunch together before the dance demo and almost casually I mentioned my vision problems relating to my recent cataract surgery. Without anyone prompting Godfrey knew that I needed remedial surgery so he suggested that I should see him for consultation. Because his schedule was so tight he had to sacrifice his lunch time in order to see me on Wednesday. On Friday, he carried out the remedial surgery necessary to re-adjust my cataracts. I have included the following letter of gratitude which I sent to Godfrey:

Dear Godfrey,

I can't wait to tell you how happy I am with my eyesight. My vision has never been as good as this, not even after my first cataract operation last February! This morning I woke up with a crispy clear vision. The fog has disappeared and there is no halo underneath people's eyes as I used to see on the television screen any more. However, close vision is still a little unclear and I expect that since the surgery did not involve the correction of stigmatism. I'm in a dream and I'm wanting the dream to last forever.

Godfrey, I don't know how to thank you enough for restoring clear vision back to my life. Before this trip I was going to see my Sydney surgeon, Dennis Lowe, about my poor vision but I was not hopeful that he could fix the problems as he didn't fix them last November after 2 treatments. So I didn't try very hard to make the appointment. In the last 9 months I have learnt to live with poor vision, regretting that I have done the cataract surgery for both eyes in the first place. I have never seen a more caring and conscientious doctor who explains so clearly to his patients about their ailments and tells them what precisely he is to going to do to treat their problems. Of course, caring and compassion for patients take up a lot of time and you have been so generous with your time both with myself and with Anthony quite beyond the call of your professional duty and you didn't even bill us for consultation and treatment! After the cataract surgery I was dining with 4 other former Wah Yan alumni and they found the whole episode so incredible. When I returned back to my brother's apartment, my brother and sister-in-law could not stop saying that they couldn't believe what you have done as this is such a rare and 'saintly' act! Just like Julie Andrew singing in <The Sound of Music>, I must have done something good in my life to deserve this privilege! I came to Hong Kong to visit my aging mother on route to a North American holiday. Everyone has been telling me that Banff and Jasper National Park are the most beautiful places on earth but in the back of my mind I have always worried if my eyes are good enough to capture such beautiful sights. I bought the latest Sony Handycam with the intention to capturing the scenery so that one day I could watch it when my eyes are better. Now I can see Banff and Jasper in HD with my own eyes!
Can I end this letter of gratitude by using the lyrics of one of my favourite songs? I think it goes like this: Blue sky's smiling at me, nothing but blue sky do I see. Blue birds're singing a song, nothing but blue birds from now on. People just don't realise how lucky they are to have good vision. I know because I have had poor vision in the last 9 months, so you can imagine how grateful I am for your help. Is this Divine Intervention? Whatever it is, Godfrey, I owe you. If there is anything I can do to repay this debt I will do it.  --- Philip

As you can read in the above letter, Godfrey's offer of friendship and the actually treatment was so unreal that I have to thank my lucky star for giving me the opportunity to meet him again after 25 years and on the occasion of a dance demo! It was pure kindness from his heart that he helped me and I thought to myself: who am I to be blessed with such friendship? As a tribute to his character, Godfrey did not bill me for the remedial surgery apart from what the Eye Centre charged him for the use of its sophisticated equipment, a token charge of HK$1000 which he wrote a receipt for in order that I could claim from my health fund back in Australia. Such was the character and kindness of Godfrey who gave up 2 valuable lunch breaks totally over 2 hours to treat my cataracts all for free. Was I in fairyland? Only God Himself could have done that for me. However, knowing that I have sinned repeatedly, God might not have been kind to me either.

Incidentally, Godfrey also extended his friendship to our Wah Yan '64 alumni, Anthony Poon, who also had problems with his vision. When he found out the story on Wednesday after I told him that I needed surgery he requested an appointment to see Godfrey because he also had vision problem. To my surprise, Godfrey agreed and on Friday after he finished the surgery on my cataracts, he examined Anthony in my presence and recommended treatment. Once again, I'd never seen any doctor who was so caring for his patients that he took so much time to explain their ailments to their satisfaction. Believe it or not, he rendered his service free of charge again! In gratitude, Anthony wrote a poem praising his professional ethics of caring for people in need of treatment.

While in Hong Kong, I was fortunate enough to meet my old P6D buddy, Denis Lee Ming Sheung and Joseph Ng Shek Hung, both of Class '63 vintage and of course Thomas Luk Hing Kay whom I shared so much of our teenage years together. Lo Hon Bor also joined us for dinner and the five of us had a great time together as Bor provided us with the entertainment by pointing out unusual things which we did in the past but had since forgotten. Btw, you wouldn't want to know what was said around the dinner table which was a lot of teenage fun. The reunion was really memorable as Denis Lee wrote:

Dear Philip,
It is really wonderful to have the opportunity to reconnect up with you after almost 50 years. Getting our old crowd from Wah Yan together is precious. Hope we will have a lot more occasions like that! Too bad that you and I couldn't have more time together in HK. Otherwise I would have liked to get a few pointers from you on starting to learn some basic ballroom dance. When I get settled down in HK I do hope to join some group and take a few lessons.
Wishing you and your family the best and hope to see again soon! -- Denis

People say that friendship is at its purest when it is developed in childhood or teenage years. University years could be the later limit where true friendship occurs. Once we started working, it is rare for genuine friendship to blossom especially among work colleagues as conflict of interest comes into play. By and large this is true, but having a common identity such as old Wah Yan boy is definitely conducive for friendship to blossom. For example, my former 2C buddies, Gregory Yu Tat and Lawrence Chan Wang Yip welcomed me in open arms but later confessed that they didn't recognise me after nearly 50 years. On the strength of Cecil Li's instigation, another Class '64 alumni who was away in Asia, Lawrence and Gregory got into contact with Tommy and organised a dinner gathering at the Red Star in Vancouver to welcome us with a dinner and karaoke afterwards in Gregory's home. Edmund Heung, another P6D buddy was out of town so he could not attend. Below is Gregory's wife, Melaine's response to Tommy's letter.

Hi Tommy:
May 17 at 7:30 p.m. should be fine for Gregory and I. The recent favorite restaurant for us is 
"Dynasty" on 777 W. Broadway. Other choices are "Red Star" on Granville or "Sea Habour Seafood  Restaurant" in Richmond. The final choice should depend on how easy it is for Philip to get to the  restaurant after his trip to Whistler or from his hotel. Please let us know once you have made reservatiion. -- Melanie

As it happened Melanie could not join us for dinner because she had to be at home because a plumber was fixing something but when we arrived at their home, Melanie had a beautiful mango chocolate cake with the word "welcome" to greet us. We had great fun singing songs in the 60s and 70s. Both Yu Tat and Melanie sang really well and so did Tommy and his wife Winnie. Lawrence and I did a duet and sang <I left my heart in San Francisco>, but Tommy insisted that we should swap the city to Vancouver instead because that was where the Canadian friendship was renewed. At 12:30 AM, Melanie feasted us with the welcome cake and aromatic coffee with the warning that for the Yu household singing only stops at 1:30 AM. We had a lot of fun but it was apparent that Magdalen and I needed more practice in singing instead of dancing. Further warnings were dished out that we should practise more songs when we meet again in 5 years' time.                          -- By Philip Lee

 

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