Thursday, March 08, 2007

Andrei's Story....Chapter Two

Honey! I’m home! I’m baaack! It’s time I completed “The Story of Andrei”.

The morning of Andrei’s arrival in Collinsville after we unloaded the provisions’ truck, I took him to my home so he could deposit his luggage. My brother, Graham, had been staying with me the couple of days prior and he was leaving that day. I introduced Andrei to my brother and they chatted for a brief moment before I took him back to the Mess with me. Shortly after our visit, Graham left for his home in Mackay, approximately two hours’ drive south of Collinsville.

Thursday and Friday, Andrei spent his days in the Mess with me. I had him peeling and chopping vegetables and other mundane chores such as those. Our evenings were spent quietly watching movies, talking and not depleting further bottles of Bundaberg rum. Saturday morning approached. I loaded up the company Suzuki four-wheel drive with an overnight bag for me, Andrei and his luggage. On the Sunday, my plan was to drive him on to Mackay for him to catch a flight back to Brisbane.

We headed off along the road from Collinsville into Bowen on the coast. I took him on a scenic tour of the Bowen beaches, which are quite magnificent. He had never seen anything like these areas before, nor the type of homes. He was quite enthralled, taking everything in with the enthusiasm of a child. It was impossible not to catch his excitement. It was contagious. We ambled on down to Airlie Beach. The entrance into Airlie Beach through the northern end, via Cannonvale is very picturesque. A tall tree-covered headland falls directly into a turquoise sea below. As I drove around a bend, I heard Andrei gasp at the sight of the beauty before him. Dotted over the crystal water were many boats of all sizes, styles and colours. The scene before us was like something out of a tourism brochure. It was as if the day had been tailor-made just for him. Not a cloud blotted the clear blue sky. A gentle breeze hardly causing a ripple on the surface of the water nor stirring the leaves on the lush green trees as we drove along.

Entering Airlie, I said to Andrei, “We’ll book into our room immediately. We’ll drop of our luggage and head into town, if that’s okay with you. Once I’ve parked the car, that’s where it will stay until it’s time for us to leave tomorrow. There will be no chance of finding a parking spot in town. And we won't be back to our room until much later tonight!”

Whitsunday Resort is at the top of a steep hill. I found a suitable parking spot. We booked in and we made haste to our room. It was a quick turn-around, bidding farewell to our room, knowing we wouldn’t see it again until we knew not when. Susie and I had agreed to catch up with each other at the Whitsunday Yacht Club. She and her boyfriend were amongst the organizers of the yacht race. I knew she would be very busy and I had no intentions of taking up much of her time.

Just as we approached the main street of Airlie, a parade was in progress with colorfully decorated floats, clowns, jugglers and all forms of entertainment dancing and prancing along the street. People were milling about everywhere. All was motion. I couldn’t have chosen a better weekend to show Andrei a bit of our lifestyle than that weekend, even if I’d planned it well in advance. The small township was alive with happy people, all in the mood to celebrate. The air was alive. Andrei couldn’t wipe the smile from his face. We strolled leisurely through the street. My guest was in awe of all that he saw. He had never seen anything like it before. We arrived at the Yacht Club and found a vacant table outside over-looking the water. We’d not been there long when Susie arrived, bubbling as much as the champagne she had been enjoying since mid-morning! She invited us to a party at her apartment, but after conferring with Andrei, I declined on behalf of the two of us. I figured it would be far more interesting for him to partake in the afternoon and evening’s events at the Yacht Club, than being cooped up in an apartment amongst strangers. Fair enough that he was going to be amongst strangers at the Yacht Club, but a band was due to commence playing and I thought he would enjoy that much better.

Night fell. We ordered our dinner and settled in for an evening of fun. The band played excellent music and soon we were up rocking the night away. In between music breaks, some of the band members joined our table, much to the delight of Andrei. He found he had a lot in common with them because of his own small band back home. The conversation and laughter flowed easily and freely. The time came for the last bracket and the band played some rocking good music. We kicked up our heels. For a moment, my attention was elsewhere, then to my surprise, I noticed I didn’t have a partner. Andrei had fallen to the floor! Purposely, I discovered amongst my shock and hilarity. He had perfectly performed the splits...down and up again as quick as a flash! Everyone cheered and clapped, even the band members! We said our farewells and headed off to join the merry group of revelers out in the streets.

Walking past the Airlie Beach Hotel, we popped in for one last drink, just as the hotel was closing. Turning into the main street, we came upon a park wherein a crowd was gathering. A band was setting up to play on the tray of a large truck. Not ready to call the evening 'quits', we settled ourselves down on the grass. By now it was just after midnight. The party was still in full swing. I can’t remember the name of the band, but to our surprised joy, they played Pink Floyd music. Soon, the crowd numbers increased and the band played for another ninety minutes or so. It was one of the best bands I’ve heard. Somebody sitting next to us informed me that they were from Mackay, which was surprising, to say the least. I always thought the only good thing to come out of Mackay was sugar!

We ambled back up the hill to our accommodation, arriving around 2am. For a while, both Andrei and I sat out on the balcony, looking at the stars and the cloud formations, rehashing the day and evening’s events, while we sipped on coffee.

It was difficult to bring the day to an end, but I knew we had to rise early in the morning to continue our trip on to Mackay and the airport.

An friendly argument ensured as to who was going to have the bed and who was going to sleep on the sofa. I won! I insisted Andrei have the bed. He was my guest. I wanted him to enjoy the whole ambience of his stay in north Queensland. I told him the sofa was better as I could look at the stars as I fell to sleep.

He perched himself up in bed and said, “Lee…I thank you. This has been the most wonderful day of my life. To spend the time with you these past couple of days will be something I will never forget. I don’t want this day to end.”

I thanked him and agreed that we had had a wonderful time, but we must get some sleep!

Like a mischievous child, he said, “Okay…but I’m going to have one more cigarette…just one more!”

How could I deny him? It had been a special time for me, as well.

In the morning, we continued our adventure onto Mackay, arriving a little after 8am. We decided we would breakfast at “Hungry Jacks” before heading out to the airport. Another debate arose. Andrei insisted on paying for our breakfasts. I tried to put forth an argument, but he wouldn’t let me win that one. He wanted to do it, so I gave in and let him. He looked across the table at me. With sincerity, he said, “As long as I live, I will always remember the special time I spent with a woman called ‘Lee’…I thank you.” Of course, being who I am, tears flooded my eyes. And for once, I was without words.

We arrived at Mackay Airport. I waited as Andrei checked in his luggage. I turned around and came face to face with Graham, my brother. He had decided to come out to the airport to bid farewell to Andrei. He had told me on the telephone he might do so, but I had said nothing about his tentative plan to Andrei, in case it didn’t come into fruition. When Andrei returned to where I was standing, the look of surprised happiness on his face at seeing Graham standing there alongside me is one I will never forget. He was overcome that someone he had only met for a brief few minutes in time would do something like that for him.

By the time, Andrei was called for his flight the three of us had tears in our eyes. Andrei shook Graham’s hand and then he turned to me. He gave me the biggest bear hug I’ve ever had in my life. Eventually, I pushed him away gently, saying, “Go! Go! Before I turn into a blubbering mess!”

With tear-filled eyes, my brother and I watched as Andrei walked towards the ‘Exit” door. At the door, Andrei spun around, stopping all who were behind him. He swung his arms out and then down as his body bent in a wide, sweeping, low bow as a salute. He turned and walked across the tarmac to where his plane waited. Another moment in time, I shall not forget.

Graham instructed me to follow his car. This I did and we pulled alongside a grassy verge at the rear of the run-way. There we alighted from our vehicles to watch as Andrei’s plane lifted and turned on its way south to Brisbane. It was a beautiful thing my brother did that day. It had meant very much to Andrei. And it meant a lot to me.

After saying our ‘Good-Byes’, Graham went home and I turned my car north to Collinsville.

Andrei rang me from Brisbane a couple of times before he left for Melbourne. He stayed in Melbourne for a few weeks, during which time he, again, telephoned me. Andrei laughingly told me he wasn’t like the rest of the group who had come to Australia the same time he did. They, he said, saved the money they received during their visit. Andrei bought himself a spanking-new stereo system! He left Melbourne after his time in Australia, to head back to Yakutsk, via Moscow.

We corresponded for a while upon his return home. He had gained employment at the Gold Bank in Yakutsk, earning $300US a month, which was classed as very good money as the average wage at that time was around $100US a month. His older brother Vladimir also worked in the Gold Bank and at one stage was based in Melbourne.

During my next visit to Airlie Beach after the trip Andrei, I found a t-shirt in one of the menswear stores. It was a “Bundaberg Rum” t-shirt and had a plastic sealed pocket on the front of it, filled with Bundaberg Rum. I bought it and sent it to Andrei in memory of a great time shared. He rang me from Yakutsk upon its receipt to thank me. I asked him had he drunk the rum and he told me he would wait until winter. It only gets around 40 degrees below there in Yakutsk. I think he would need a ship-load of rum!

During our wander down the main street of Airlie Beach that sunny Saturday afternoon, we bought raffle tickets in a wheelbarrow full of Bundaberg Rum. We didn’t win it, but we did discuss how we could make money from exporting Bundaberg Rum into Russia. We never did anything about our grandiose ideas, of course. I wonder if anyone has!

I often think of Andrei, of how his life has turned out. Those few days will always remain very special to me.

I feel honoured to have met such a fine young man.

32 comments:

  1. Lee, a wonderful ending to a wonderful story. Thanks for posting it.

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  2. You are most welcome, SteveG...it is my pleasure to share it with you and others...as it really was a wonderful few days with a special young man. I hope his life is turning out well for him. The last couple of times I tried his phone number it was out of order. I hope he has moved on to better things....he deserves it.

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  3. Aaah, I really enjoyed that, Lee. I felt Andrei's joy and saw the beauty of Airlie Beach. What a lovely time you two had. See what we miss when we don't put ourselves out to meet people from other cultures! Thanks for that story, Lee, it was lovely.

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  4. Thanks for your comments, Robyn. I felt pity for those in the Brisbane and Glenden office etc., for not taking time to get to know Andrei...it was their loss.

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  5. You said he had the enthusiasm of a child. Not long ago I blogged that my favorite people have a child like enthusiasm about them. Unpretentious if you will. I think it might be that way with everyone. That type are a joy to be around.
    You are a great writer. I feel as tho I should go try and sober up now from the great time we've had.

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  6. Hi Lee ~~ Thank you for the story of Andrei - he sounds like a really nice guy, but was lucky to find you.Thaks for your comments, and I plan to have a day of rest tomorrow and catch up on the papers etc. Just as you ordered ! Thanks for your caring words, Lee. Have a great weekend.
    Take care, Love, Merle.

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  7. lee,
    What a beautiful story. Those memories are for cherishing and reflecting on when we need a lift.
    This exemplifies the adage that if you bring joy to someone elses life your own becomes enriched. (That's not how the adage goes, but that's what it means. ;-))
    rel

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  8. My son is supposed to travel to Russia to study this spring. I don't think he will have any similar stories to tell of his studies abroad. But you never know.

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  9. Great story. It reminds me to pass on some wisdom a friend of mine sent me. This one is for all to read.

    It Is Better To Be Alone, Than In The Wrong Company.
    Tell me who your best friends are, and I will tell you who you are.
    If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl. But, if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights.
    A mirror reflects a mans face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses. The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those with whom you closely associate for the good and the bad. The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve.

    Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people.
    As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are.

    Friends that don't help you climb will want you to crawl.
    Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream.
    Those that don't increase you will eventually decrease you.

    Consider This:
    Never receive counsel from unproductive people. Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the solution, because those who never succeed themselves are always first to tell you how. Not everyone has a right to speak into your life. You are certain to get the worst of the bargain when you exchange ideas with the wrong person. Don't follow anyone who's not going anywhere. With some people you spend an evening: with others you invest it.

    Be careful where you stop to inquire for directions along the road of life. Wise is the person who fortifies his life with the right friendships.

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  10. That was good Lee.

    Makes me long for another Aussie trip.

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  11. Cliff, Merle, Dave,Rel and Sandra...you are most generous in your comments.

    Never sober up, Cliff...I think we would all be so much better if we were drunk with the elixir of life.

    Merle...I'm glad someone listens to me! ;) You have a wonderful weekend, with your feet up, relaxing...that includes Sunday as well, young lady!

    Dave, I hope your son is welcomed and treated well. No doubt it will be a wonderful enriching experience for him. Tell him to soak up every moment while he is there.

    Sandra...wonderful words to try to live one's life by...oft times we forget and need a nudge to remind us. :)

    Rel, I total agree with the adage. I love swinging on the coat tails of someone else's enjoyment. I love watching their joy.

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  12. G'day, Marc...you snuck in while I was replying to the kind words of others. I hope I can tempt you with my stories. You and Stormy need another trip Down Under! :)

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  13. May be able to do that in a couple years. I could spend a couple months there and still not see everything I want to.

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  14. It's something to strive towards, Marc...by the sounds of what you've said previously, you both had a wonderful time in Aus when you were here a few years ago. Let's hope if you do make it back to our shores again, we do not disappoint you. :)

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  15. Lee,

    Austrailia is so huge! I could spend the rest of my life there and never see everything that interests me. I'm almost 63 so that isn't a huge gamble.

    Most Americans don't realize that Australia is around the same size as the US. Not sure of the stats, but close.

    We were focusing our trip in 1990 around the GBR for the SCUBA opportunity. The live abord sail dive ship will be one of my life's most vivid memmories. Storms, sea snakes, beautiful fish, Northern cross, everyone seasick but me and the crew, me doing spotlight duty on deck to illuminate the plastic milk jug markers to keep us off of the reef.

    The dives were fantastic. I'm too old to do that again...Dang shame.

    Logisticaly GBR meant West coast, to stay within our budget. Next trip, East coast and central.

    On another note, my Globe Trotter Stormy is going to South America in a week or two. She will post Photos I'm sure. Me, I'm staying here.

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  16. Well, someone has to stay home and keep the home fires burning, Marc! ;)
    I look forward to seeing Stormy's pics of her trip upon her return.

    You are correct there is a lot to see in this country...we are a country of vast differences and wide, open spaces. I've not seen enough of it myself, sadly.

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  17. OK, you've had all the nice polite comments Lee.... I just couldn't resist copying a few bits as I was reading.....
    I heard Andrei gasp at the sight of the beauty before him.... It was impossible not to catch his excitement..... He had never seen anything like these areas before.... I heard Andrei gasp at the sight of the beauty before him.... Okay…but I’m going to have one more, ... alright I admit I played around with that last one it must be just the way my mind is wired!!!!!

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  18. I think so, Peter.

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  19. It must have been very sad saying goodbye, it sounds like you developed a very close bond, I hope you will see each other again. Good friendships should never be forgotten.

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  20. Hello, Ellee...I think Andrei would have gone on to bigger and better things in his life. I hope so because he was a lovely young lad. Smart, bright, with a great sense of humour and a desire to learn all he could about the world he lives in. I have no idea where he is now. Thanks for commenting.

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  21. We should all be fortunate enough to know an Andrei. Beautiful story, Lee.

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  22. Thank you, Serena...I agree with you. :)

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  23. Hi Lee,

    Wow, thank you for posting that story. I could almost see the beach and hear the band play. How wonderful for Andrei that he met you.

    Janice~

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  24. It was a two-way street, Janice.

    I would hope that if I had had a son or daughter and they went to a foreign country wherein all was strange to them, including the people, they would be treated with respect and with kindness.

    I gained so much from those few days. The company and people I was working for, lost out in so much by not taking the time to get to known Andrei. I lost all respect for them, for attitude they adopted.

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  25. I agree with Steve, Lee. A wonderful story, perfectly told. I'm sure Andrei has never forgotten his time with you. What a lot you gave him... Memories like this are worth such a lot, aren't they? You experienced in those few days more than some people manage in a lifetime. And Lee, I say it again - nobody tells a story as well as you, my friend!

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  26. Thank you for your generous comments, Welsh. I like to think Andrei hasn't forgotten those few days. Sometimes life gets in the way, but I hope not in his case. I often wonder if he stayed in Russia or traveled further afield.

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  27. Aw, that's a great story. Lucky Andrei to have come across you. And your brother.

    Andrei must have been really nice too.

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  28. A beautiful memory, Lee .. and a story well told. How interesting it would be to catch up with him again - you'd probably find he was so thrilled with Oz that he migrated here and now lives happily at Airley Beach?

    Re your comment on my look-alike, that was SO funny... hahaha... but I do know that I have a double somewhere around here, it's happened before, would you believe - so we must really look a LOT alike... I have never seen her though, so if you see her again, get her name for me, we might be long-lost twins...

    I have been reading over at FauxNews... good luck with that venture, great mix of stories and comments.

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  29. Hi Liz...Andrei was a lovely young fellow...once he got over his shyness, which took him about 30 minutes... he was great company. This is what those who ignored his presence would have discovered if only they had taken the time and forgotten their own self-absorption.

    Hey Della...that was a bit of a giggle at the coast but I didn't care, if it wasn't you then the woman would never see me again anyway! lol It was worth the challenge! ;)

    Thanks for vising FauxNEWS, Della...we'll get it firing...only early days yet but it will be a bit of fun.

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  30. I am speachless Lee. You did'nt let me down. xox

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  31. I'm glad you enjoyed my 'Story of Andrei', Nicole. Thanks for visiting, reading and commenting. :)

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