Thursday, October 7, 2010

Like Thunders to Ducks

She must have been watching me. As soon as I finished the form she gestured “Can you do this for me, too?” while holding up her form.

I guessed it. I didn’t understand a thing uttered from her mouth. Thank goodness hand gestures are mostly universal. The smile didn’t hurt either.

I could see the plot she and her husband secretly came up when I was writing. “Look, she knows English! She can help us!” Two heads nodded eagerly.

I assumed they were a couple. I know her culture. She wouldn’t be traveling with a man who was not her husband. But wait, they had different last names...

Two different passports for a couple. Interesting… Maybe they were brother/sister whose life paths led them half a world apart. I have never met my uncles, aunts, and cousins from either side of my parents, except for the one uncle who fled to the island. The war tore the families apart.

“Do you have meat, poultry, or food with you?” He shook his head. I didn’t think he knew what poultry was.

“Do you have over ten thousand dollars with you?” He showed me his index finger and said slowly: “One thousand.”

That was five times of my cash on hand. No wonder she wore pure gold earrings and ring.

“Do you have any guns?” I formed a gun with my fingers and aimed it at him. He laughed and said no. This question never ceased to amaze me. Do they really expect me to say “yes” if I had a gun in my bag and somehow escaped the baggage screening?

I skipped the question about the farm. It would be too much work to explain a farm. The local agricultural bureau would have to be on guard without my help.

“Sign here.” I pointed the form and handed over my pen. They both signed. She thanked me in her dialect.

It appeared they wanted to stay quiet and subdue. They didn‘t get such luck from me. I opened the booklet and showed them the choices of snacks available for purchase. They smiled and nodded, then shook, their heads.

Our abilities of understanding each other fit the saying “like thunders to ducks” perfectly. We knew something was making a lot of noise, but had very little idea what was really happening.

This must be how my mother used to travel to see me. She always called me after she arrived home, describing the trip to me loudly. The flight was delayed. I met a person on the plane who spoke my language. My friend picked me up. I ate the sandwich you made for me. A woman at the customs questioned me on the jewelries I wore. Etc, etc.

I always thought it was silly to make a less-than-two-hour trip sounded like a big ordeal.

The couple made me see that it was a big deal for my mom. She couldn’t fill the customs form. She couldn’t order anything to eat or drink. Somebody had to help her. With a lot of patience while doing it.

My eyes welled up. I was full of gratitude to those strangers who helped my mom on the numerous flights she took. I now know why she was so excited when she got home safely.

I ordered a box of snacks and forced the couple to eat it with me.

Let them think I was a strange and crazy woman. I don’t care.

(I’m visiting my mom who broke her wrist recently. I will be mostly missing from the blog world for a while since there’s a lot to do.)


  1. Sarah, beautifully written, as always. My father came to this country from Hungary. When they arrived, and had to fill out the forms, the family was given a different last name from their own. I did not learn how this happened until recently.

    Thanks for reading my "C" post. Incidentally, I coined that phrase myself. It is an original!

  2. Oh, I loved this post. These small acts of kindness mean so much to everyone involved.

    Hoping your mom's recovery is quick and complete!

  3. Judie - I like your new phrase. It sounds much better than 'brain f**t' and your father's story is not unique, as I've heard similar ones before. Isn't it funny though?

    Betty - You're so right. I felt so much better after doing it. It's like paying it forward. Thanks for your kind wishes.

  4. Good luck with your mom. I'm sure you will be back to your wonderful writing before long! :-)

  5. Charlene - thanks. I hope so too! (the writing, not the wonderful part, that is)

  6. Sarah, we're lucky you are gifting us with your writing at this time. It's even more meaningful, given how relevant it is to your current life experiences. That is ridiculous that you had to ask about carrying a gun.
    You are a very gracious lady!
    Take care.

  7. Robyn, you're so sweet and kind. I'm lucky to have a blogging friend like you!

  8. Taking the extra time to help the couple was a very kind gesture and I'm sure that they were extremely thankful to you for it! You're not're just so so nice! I loved the story.

    I really hope your mother's wrist is going to get better as soon as possible. Take care, Sarah.

  9. Sarah - you changed your picture! It's not so much I was nice but more of I wanted to pay it forward as a 'thank you' to those who helped my mom before.

  10. Wonderfully written, Sarah. Thank you for being such an open book and allowing us to read your stories.

    I hope your mother is healing quickly.



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