Wise Elder

Beijing #1 – November 2010

Cousin Cathy with “Welcome Lilies”
Pink Roses from Ritz Carlton

Cousin Cathy arrived from Australia earlier in the day and she is still sleeping this morning. It is 4AM in Beijing and 1PM (yesterday) in Seattle. I am sitting on the edge of the enormous luxurious bathtub with my laptop carefully balanced over one of the sinks in our bathroom at the Ritz Carlton Financial Street in Beijing.  The only light is a soft glow coming from a very fancy make-up mirror on the wall. I arrived late last night and the only transformer in our room so far is in the bathroom. Shhhh…..I am typing quietly, hoping not to wake Cathy just yet.

I was met as I walked off the plane in Beijing by a young man holding a sign with my name on it. He took my carry-on bag & briefcase and guided me through the expansive Beijing Airport. Even with my long legs I literally had to run every now and then to keep up with him but I was grateful for the assistance after a 12 hour flight from Seattle. I did not take time to ‘freshen up” at the airport, thinking that I’d sneak into the Ritz Carlton, find a ladies room, freshen up, then check in and see if my friend Josephine was still awake. Cancel that thought. The car that picked me up at the airport drove into the Ritz Carlton drive through. Waiting there to greet me was my sweet friend Josephine and Lydia who also works here, holding two dozen beautiful pink roses for me. No necessity of stopping for a luggage claim check or check in – they whisked me immediately up to my room – and within 30 seconds my luggage, briefcase and coat had arrived. They are very efficient here and I can tell already that THIS is another of Josephine’s hotels. Waiting on my nightstand were framed pictures of my three Tibetan Spaniels and a picture of me at Lake Tahoe…..Josephine’s “fingerprints”. It may say Ritz Carlton on the sign out front, but Josephine is one of my favorite demonstrations of the difference one person can make. It is no wonder that she was honored as Marriott & Ritz Carlton’s “best employee in the world” in 2006. I have just arrived and I already feel as though I belong.

It was a great reunion with Cousin Cathy who enjoyed similar treatment when she arrived from Brisbane earlier in the day. She was presented on arrival with a huge bouquet of Stargazer Lilies.  Our room smells delicious from the fragrance of lilies and roses. We will need lessons today in how to work all the fancy gadgets in our room. There is a panel between our beds with multiple buttons to dim or brighten the lights, open the drapes, call for services, etc. Cathy reports that how to work the shower is still somewhat of a mystery. It’s Josephine’s day off, so she will come touring with us for a few hours today as we see some of the sights of Beijing. Tomorrow we will go out to the Summer Palace, the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.

This has been quite an adventure already. I met two amazing women at the Delta Crown Room in Seattle. When I arrived in Beijing I received emails from them saying they watched my plane take off.  One gave me a “wish come true” card good for free technical support from Microsoft.

Delta Sommelier with Offerings

When I boarded my flight I kept looking for the person coming down the aisle who would be my seat-mate. I always end up sitting by the greatest people and I just can hardly wait to see who it will be this time. No one had shown up as the cabin doors were closed, and I felt a wave of disappointment at having an empty seat next to me. Most people would be thrilled. I don’t sleep much on planes because I don’t want to miss anything. I realized that I’d have to look somewhere other than the (empty) seat next to me for great people on the flight.  A sweet looking Chinese man who spoke no English sat in front of me, and often turned around to look at me between the seats. Another Chinese man sat across the aisle and he snored so loudly that several rows of seats trembled. They spoke no English, so I got to know the flight attendants on this flight. Passengers often mistake me for a flight attendant because I am tall and blonde – so I told the flight attendants I’d be glad to pick up trash if they needed help. That always gets them laughing, but I don’t think they realize that I’m serious. Just wanting to ensure that I can sleep when I reach the destination.

I arrived at the Seattle airport early enough to enjoy Halibut & Chips at Anthony’s Restaurant. I sat at the counter and struck up a conversation with Laurence, a joyful black man, who was cooking. He was as full of life and smiles as anyone I’ve ever met in my life. I told him I was going on a grand adventure in search of wisdom from people I met along the way and that he was the first. I asked him what he loved about his life. He said he thanked the Lord every day for his wonderful life and that every day he hoped to be able to bring a smile to someone’s face.  So Laurence – thank you for bringing a smile to MY face as I set out for an adventure halfway around the world to discover more of what we all have in common. I hope my Seattle friends who travel might look up my friend Laurence next time you’re at Anythony’s at Seatac Airport….and tell him you received a picture of him from Beijing.

An account of our first day in Beijing will follow. 

Leave a Reply