China Series

A version of this story was published as part of monthly series that ran in the Warrensburg, MO The Daily Star Journal from Oct. 2000 through May 2001.

Expecting the Unexpected

The day we spent on homecoming at the Chao Yang Center here in Beijing was indeed special to Sara and me; but, I must admit that I wrote about it in the last column mostly because it related to three events that occurred afterwards. One of those stories is the basis for today's article.

The following weekend we met our friend LiLu (AKA Lucy), the woman from Xian, to go to Pizza Works. We had first heard of Pizza Works from Barbara and Ted Nicoll on their return to Warrensburg. Since they had recommended it highly and LiLu loves pizza, we had to try it.

That Saturday afternoon we took the subway and then a bus to Beijing Normal University (BNU) where Lucy teaches. Unfamiliar with the route, we left two-hours prior to the meeting time, and got there in thirty minutes.

We spent the time walking around the campus on that beautiful fall day. The campus had much more of an academic feel than our "pocket college." Sara remarked how she could almost hear the roar of the crowd from the football stadium. From the setting of tall cypress, pine and sycamore trees, the game could have been on a campus in Mississippi.

The rendezvous point was on a huge overpass similar to the small one over Hwy. 13 at Central. As we crossed it, we saw Lucy, below, at a news stand. She was reading The Beijing Evening News.

When we hailed her, she cried, enthusiastically, "Look, look! It's you." There was an article about the Chao Yang Center's promotion of Beijing's 2008 Olympic bid. Our picture took up much of the bottom fourth of the page. "I almost never buy the paper on Saturday, but since I was waiting, I was just looking through it and there you were!" Sara taught Lucy the word, "serendipity," as we rode the bus to Pizza Works.

Pizza Works has a buffet. The menu says the chain is based in Pittsburgh. From the size and variety of the menu, it is believable. It has 18 varieties of pizza. It also has a sizable pasta bar, a fairly good salad table and a selection of hors d'oeuvres. Plus, you can make a soft-ice cream sundae and have cookies and/or egg custard that Sara especially likes. All this for the equivalent of less than $5.

We spent three, leisure hours sampling the various foods while laughing and talking. Occasionally, the discussion had a serious slant. We told Lucy that we wanted to introduce her to Otto, the man who had met us at the airport. He had since been promoted to Director of the new building which still wasn't ready for us to occupy.

Sara was telling Lucy that she and Otto had much in common in their ability to deal with people, but Sara was also warning Lucy that perhaps Otto was too good with people. Then, right before my eyes, across the room, I saw Otto.

I blinked twice, but he was still there. I cried out, "There he is; there he is!" Sara shook her head in disbelieve and continued to talk to Lucy. I said, "No, there he is now!" By then, he had seen us. We weren't exactly inconspicuous even in the large, crowded room.

He came over and we introduced the two of them. If we had seen this in a movie, we would have said, "Ah, come on now!"

Talk about serendipity! It is impossible to know what will come of this, seemingly chance meeting. All that any of us can do is position ourselves and to help others to be where good things can happen.

What we do when those opportunities present themselves, I trust goes beyond chance. The next Saturday, the English Corner had the largest turnout of the year; many new people came just to meet us.