Have you ever had an experience that you know a person so well and care so much for (him or her) even though you two  have just met?. That is what I feel for Ella. A woman I just met not long ago.

Ella and her husband Ed came to the restaurant one evening in summer 2009. They sat at a corner table in the patio while I was walking by. As I was making a tour around the tables to make sure our customers are happy with their meals, at the first “Hello”, I got caught by the “Sweet Alabama” accent Ella has. We chatted a little bit about where they come from and of course, about the famous movie “Sweet Alabama”. I found out Ella and Ed have been working and staying at the Hyatt hotel next to us. Ed is an engineer who is working for a construction company which won the contract of a complete remodeling for the Hyatt. As of today, the contract is completed and Ella and her husband are about to leave Palm Spring for the next job.

Ella and I have become soul sisters ever since we met the first night. Even though we both are busy with works and family, but we managed to spend couple times together to talk. It always amazes me how deep and fascinating a soul can be, especially when it comes to love, changes, human’s experiences and personal life’s journey. And trust me, as soon as you have a chance to open a door to any human’s world, you will be struck to discover how complicated and unique each man (or woman) lives his (or her) life.

Just the other day, I read a memoir of a Vietnamese woman whose life was torn and tortured by her own comrades during the fifteen years they captured her in North Vietnam (just because she was a brave and honest writer who dared to speak up the truth). At the end of her short live, this talented and courageous woman died in poverty and loneliness after devoted her entire life to her country and for her idealism .

Ella’s story and the memoir’s tragedy remind me of my own conflicts and battles to learn. It makes me think no matter where a human is born and lives… in America, in Vietnam, or Italy, or Haiti….Life will always present us with so many lessons to learn, battles to overcome, and conflicts to be solved. I can’t help but think at this very moment, how many lives have been changed, how many men and women are about to lose jobs, to lose houses, peoples get accidents, how many peoples die in war, in disasters, leaving behind loved ones whose lives will be affected and changed for ever….

In the end, I told Ella: “Ella, what ever happened to you, just think. You are not alone. As we speak, there are so many peoples out there who are facing life challenges just like you and me, perhaps worse. It’s our strength and our resilience that will be the force to carry us on new journeys and most importantly, to help us gain greater awareness of our true self.”

That was the last time I met her. The day we said goodby, the sky was dark and grey and the El Niño storm had just left the Coacha Valley, leaving the entire town soaked with five inches of water. Ed and Ella probably already left town by now, I think. Have not heard from her. But I am sure where ever they go, she will remember what we said. And I hope, peace and love will accompany my “sweet Alabama” friends to any destination.

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