“May I take a photo of you?”
The Taipei sky was clear and blue, with beautiful clouds scattered overhead as we sat on the Gondola to Maokong, enjoying the sights of the jungle passing below as our group glided up the mountainside on our way to the morning’s tea tour.
But my guest, a sixty-ish man from America, just shook his head.
“No thank you,” he answered.
As a tour guide, taking photos of guests is something often requested of me, especially on the Maokong Gondola which overlooks both the jungle and city. So I was a bit surprised when the man declined my offer. I’d just finished taking a photo of the other two guests on the tour, a newlywed couple on their honeymoon from the United States. They had come to Taiwan from Hawaii and Japan, and were planning to head to Thailand and NZ before heading home. They were a beautiful couple, almost picture perfect. I found their bubbly attitude contagious, so rather than keep silent I asked the man why he didn’t want his picture taken.
“I don’t want to look back at a photo of myself without my wife.”
I understood then why he had declined my offer, and felt a bit sad at having asked the man to explain his reasons. But rather than keeping silent, the man began telling me about his wife, and about how much she would have loved to have been here. She had been a primary teacher who’d touched many lives in her teaching career, the man told me.
“We’d had plans to travel together after her retirement, but she was diagnosed with cancer before that could happen. Before she passed away she asked me to go and traveling alone, and to bring her memory with me.”
As the man continued to speak with love and admiration of his wife, I could feel her presence in the gondola.
“After she died, I was quite broken up, of course. I didn’t want to leave the house, and was pretty much crying every day. But I finally decided that my wife wanted me to complete the journey we had planned together.”
“I think she is traveling with you right now,” I said quietly. “Maybe not physically, but in a different way.”
The man smiled and nodded, and the gondola shook slightly as it continued to climb.
The weight of a dream can be very light or heavy, I thought.
Claire Tseng is a guide with MyTaiwanTour. See what people loved about Claire on TripAdvisor.
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