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  • Have you ever noticed that, sometimes, people turn up out of the blue and life takes a decided turn in a completely new direction? There I was, trying to edit some of my turgid prose when there was a knock on my office door. Outside was a petite Chinese lady of indiscriminate age [at least I couldn’t tell]. The conversation went like this -

    Me: “Yes, can I help you?”
    Her: “You are going to take me as your student. I have come to study with you!”
    Me: “What?”
    Her: “I have a one year sabbatical and I am coming down from New Hampshire to Rhode Island once a month to see you and to discuss our readings concerning academic librarianship. Here is the list of our readings.”
    Me: “Huh?”
    Her: “I will also cook you some good Chinese food. You certainly need good food.”

    And, that was that. I never found out how she found me or determined that I was to be her mentor for a year. I only knew that that steely look would brook no objection – resistance was useless.

    Over the academic year I grew to anticipate with great relish her monthly visits – including the food. She was highly intelligent, a combative conversationalist and had a unique ability to sweetly nail me against the wall with a smile.

    One day I received a phone call from her delaying our meeting for two weeks; no explanation was offered.

    When next we met she was in a contemplative mood and began to talk about her childhood. I found out that, as a young girl she and her family were on one of the last planes to leave China for Taiwan as the Communists took over. It seems that her 90 year old mother had finally decided to visit her for three weeks. After she got over the fact that her daughter did not have servants -- she cried the entire first week -- she got down to adjusting to the alien culture which she vehemently disliked.

    The final shot at the aliens came at the airport. As they went down the corridor to the plane they passed a Hoffritz store. As her mother was in line to board she turned to her daughter and said “With all of those knives you would think that they would be better cooks!”

    Makes you kinda think huh?

    As is frequently the case, the mentor learned more from the student than she did from him – in so many ways.

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