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This book tells the story of Pearl, a little Chinese girl whose life is at risk even before it has begun. Chris, the right person at the right time...a man who has suffered and whose destiny tore from him that which was dearest, is her angel, the one who will bring her to know and understand what is love, what is a family.
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To all little angels,
whom, even before knowing life
and opening their eyes to the world,
had their dreams,
heir breath, and all hope ,
crushed out of them by an insensitive
and merciless hand.
The same hand of the one
that should have both loved
and protected them...
A hand that inflicted violence
upon one so defenseless,
then crushed, humiliated and
annihilated all semblance
A little star exploded in the sky,
a light and shining fragment falls to the earth
a shoot of hope searching for its roots
to attach itself, to a life that will make it eternal
But the earth is barren, dry
...it does not offer, does not give, does not welcome.
That flash of color that invades the heart, that tiny rainbow...becomes dark uncertainty,
the smile that darkens even before it can illuminate.
But here in the darkness of nothing,
Where the arid world cries out in violence and absence,
a hand reaches out to offer love and tenderness,
presence and awareness.
It is the tenacious light of a heart that dazzles
and offers certainty, existence and kindness.
It is the light that reigns in the strength of every man
who knows how to remember.. who knows how to hope...who knows how to seek.
It is the strength of a man who believes and does not permit
the world that surrounds him to prevail
over the strength and purity of his soul.
light...makes darkness disappear
The right to live, exist, dream
is power...is flight.. is the acknowledgement of love
I find the confines of the earth...following the light of a star
That leads me always
there...where exists the smile of a child,
Wherever it may be. No matter what color it is.
There.. where his smile shines… the stars are ever ending..
the world will never end.
This is the story of a father that never knew to be one until, one day, destiny made that decision for him, This is the story of a man that had known how to be the best father in the whole world. A father by chance, for love, perhaps unconsciously, but a real father. I never could have become the person that I am today if it hadn’t been for my father who I encountered by chance, loved for a lifetime and whose passing I will regret for all eternity. A father that had loved me, his ‘child of the heart’, more than his own life. It is the story of a father who overcame insurmountable barriers, blood ties, cultural prejudices, and even risked his own life to save mine. This is the story of a father, who, life chose to put on my path; the difficult story of a man that had lived, suffered and loved in order to be able to give a life to me, one not generated from his loins but from his soul. It is also my story. A daughter chosen by destiny, blessed with an irreplaceable and precious gift, born from the heart of a marvelous man...this is the story of my father, my very unique, irreplaceable and true father.
This is my tribute to you...
Chris Farry was a solitary man. Life had given him much and he had taken from life all that it had to offer. He had been privileged enough to have experienced happiness in its purest form, to the extent of having realized the impossible. But, in equal doses, he had known and experienced on his own skin the price that was to be paid for having had a taste of that oasis of perfection in which he had believed that it was possible to live for all eternity. But that was another life, one of a man that had known how to laugh, love, joke and rejoice. Now that man was changed and a desert dwelled within his soul, almost like a wall that had been built to defend him from more pain that he would not have known how to deal with, no longer able to come to terms with himself, nor lightheartedly feel the serenity that only the intoxication of sentiment can give you. Simply, he had lost the desire to dream and hope for love or anything that vaguely resembled that combination of emotions. He had a job that practically was his childhood dream come true, not something to be taken for granted and a career chosen with passion and love, which, above all, permitted him to be able to every day, in a new way, live out his greatest desires; travel, discover new worlds, new realities, ethnic groups, and diverse cultures. His researches, enriched with marvelous images that only an expert and motivated lens would know how to capture, were sought after by the most well known journals and publishing houses in his city, Chicago. They would compete to get hold of his works, even scientific magazines and television stations of his area. All of his trips never had a sure return date; when Chris felt that he had found, what he was looking for, well then he would come back to what he called his haven; an attic apartment that looked out onto the roofs of one of the oldest villages of the city, the old town. There he would work on all of the material that he had put together, developing all the hundreds of photos that he had taken and would emerge only when his ‘creation’ was finished. Chris loved his city of Chicago, known as the ‘Windy City’. When he managed to have a little free time he liked to walk along the shores of Lake Michigan in complete solitude because being alone with himself was the best way for him to ‘recharge’ his soul. At least, this was more or less what he told anyone that pointed out to him how he was, one very reluctant to make friends. However he had his own good reasons. His daily needs were looked after by a Philippine woman, Manan, who went to his home at least twice a week. Had it depended on him, Manan often declared ,he often would have forgotten that to survive, one occasionally has to eat. Within his chaotic design of life Chris found a kind of natural order to his way of being. That morning there was already the smell of Spring in the air and Chris was to be found at Oliver Newton’s, his old friend and none the less than owner of ‘New Genius’, a prestigious monthly magazine that focused on culture and science. They were discussing the high approval rating that his latest works had encountered with the public.
“We did a ‘sold out’ in less than a week, Chris! You showed them Egypt as if it had never before been discovered! But all those legends, those stories...where the devil do you find all that information?”
“Oliver, don’t forget that to do that job, I had been away for 9 months! I met different people, saw new places, listened to old stories and I made my way in. I didn’t sit by and be a spectator! I didn’t stop at the mummies or at the legend of Cleopatra...I don’t know if you get what I mean?”
“ Not really, and I really don’t try to any more than I have to Chris, I couldn’t”, Oliver chuckled. “Your works have the power to make anyone capable of entering into history, and this is a dark power that only you possess and we common mortals are not permitted to comprehend....” “ Ok,ok,go ahead and ironize!! So, what do you think about China?” “What about China, sorry?” Oliver asked arching his eyebrows as if surprised...
“What I mean is that I’ve decided to do a reportage about China, discover the real story of the Great Wall, know the truth about this scarcely considered race,arrive in Manchuria, Tibet, but above all confirm if some of the stories that have been passed onto us as legend are actually a reality in their way of life. In short, China is very near to us and I’m not saying as in distance, but everything else Oliver. There are Chinese restaurants all over, Chinese stores. fashion shows, and Chinese writing everywhere, on T-shirts, tattoos that so many have, The West seems to have opened its doors to the Orient as if it was the most natural thing to do. But, listen, I’m sure that it doesn’t all just end there, that behind this screen of integration hides something that makes me feel very uncomfortable, Oliver...” His friend eyed him attentively. When he saw that particular look shining out of those incredibly green eyes he knew that it meant the beginning of a new and exultant adventure. This was the real Chris, unique, inimitable... a force of nature... without boundaries, ”Right,” shot out Oliver while getting up from his huge, antique mahogany desk that was incredibly over-burdened with papers and documents...”I bet that you wouldn’t stop in front of a rice paddy... you’d go in there and become a grain of rice just to discover something,” he began, while attentively watching him to see his reaction...”
“Oh.. shut up with making stupid jokes about everything that I say, come on!I mean it!” Reaction foreseen. All as from the script. Chris in his own mind had already left. He knew him very well and after all his interest was not only because of a new scoop, no, for Chris he felt sincere affection. He saw in Chris a true man, a man that had suffered as few had, but one who had a primeval instinct, pure and immortal which always lead him to do as his heart dictated.... Always. “Ok, sorry, come on....we were saying.. ah yes.. but to what legend were you referring?” said Oliver.“ I’m talking about stories that I have heard, about woman who give birth to daughters and fathers that kill them! I’m talking about women forced to abort their third child, talking about children killed like dogs because they are born of the wrong sex!” answered Chris with excitement. “Yah well, I’ve heard of this too but I believe that these are all unfounded stories, Chris,” Oliver continued.. “No one until now has ever had any sure information from any direct sources. Once in a while a little news, that’s true, but never a real coverage, never a testified story...” “ Here you go Oliver,” Chris insisted “This is it...and I want to ascertain that if they are legends,horror stories for bad children or real inhuman behavior within a civilization of which no one has any in-depth knowledge, Oliver”
“ So, we have the plot for your next piece of work ,Chris!” answered Oliver while feeling his heart expand, if possible, with the admiration for this man that he had in front of him.. “ Great,” he continued, “Advise me of when you plan to leave and make up the usual list of everything that you’ll be needing. You’ll get it all right away, as usual. This story has got me curious and I hope that at the end you come back to me with a great service about a population so different from us, but, on hand the certainty that what you have just told me is just that....only a story.. or an isolated case and not a part of their daily life. It would really be something atrocious, even for ourselves who have seen so much and are always on the lookout for things that no one has ever uncovered before....” Chris looked Oliver in the eye and replied..
“Yes Oliver...but see...for me it’s not only curiosity. Yah, it’s true, I do like to make new discoveries and be the spokesman. Those are experiences that can give you some pretty strong emotions, unique I’d say. But.. this time it isn’t just all about some far away land or saving some species of animal from becoming extinct. It’s something cursedly more serious this time, Oliver!! I have a restlessness inside of me that stops me from sleeping, all because of certain things that I involuntarily became aware of...and even if no one wanted to sponsor this expedition, be sure.. I would do it from my own pocket!” Oliver remained quiet. He knew that when Chris got something in his head, nothing and no one could remove it until he’d dealt with it completely and got to the bottom of it. .and then, that’s probably one of the reasons that each story that Chris covered on his magazine was a guaranteed success. Certainly for Oliver, this was a significant factor, for the complete businessman that he was. They were completely different, he and Chris.. concrete, methodical, and down to earth was he, whereas idealistic, free-spirited and in-love-with-life was Chris. Beyond all this, Oliver realized that this was the very reason that Chris was his ‘winning horse’. Above all, it was Chris’s humanity that touched his heart and the heart of his readers so profoundly. Something that made his heart tremble as nothing else had ever been able.
After long and endless hours of flight, Chris found himself on a crowded and uncomfortable train that was taking him to the antique and splendid capital of Mongol, Peking, where he would stop for two days, then onto Shanghai where he was to board a flight that would take him to Canton,the main town of the province of Kwangtung, a main seaport surrounded by poor suburbs. Chris took a look around himself with a mixture of curiosity and apprehension, that he always felt each time he found himself in a new and different place, with the desire to know, discover and understand, except ,this time he felt an uneasiness, perhaps connected to the ‘stories’ which he hoped were only legends without any foundation. He smelt strong acrid odors of tobacco mixed with sweat, listened with avid interest to people in his carriage of the train that spoke excitedly, in high, shrill voices ,in a mixture of languages that he barely recognized; Korean, Tibetan dialect, Kazakh, Mongolian and Uyghur. He knew that he would have some difficulty with the Chinese lan-guage, that he had very little knowledge of, but, knowing that he was taking this trip, had tried to study and pound it into his head, using Chinese recordings and vocabulary so that he could get a grasp of the right accents and inflections of this difficult and complex language. The plaintive crying of two children and the animated discussion of an elderly couple behind him drowned out the clatter of the train tracks. He scrutinized each individual one by one and felt that he too was being observed, being the only Westerner on the train, which he noticed as soon as he had boarded. He had procured a discreet amount of Yuan Renminbi, the local currency before he left, even though he had brought with him everything that would be required for his expedition; two huge back-packs, a pocket size recorder and around his neck his precious camera, which in that precise moment was being eyed by a small boy with almond eyes and a completely shaven head. Instinctively Chris reached out to gently caress that little moon-face, but the child quickly jumped away with an acute scream! At that same instance a tiny, minute woman appeared at the childs side, excitedly screaming incomprehensively, “certainly not kind words!” ,Chris thought. He lifted his hands in sign of peace and murmured a few words to make her understand that his intentions had not been malicious: Chris completely understood the significance of the next words that were thrown at him which were the equivalent of a very heavy insult! “Off to a good start!”, he thought, and decided that, seeing as most of the passengers were giving him a look of intolerance, perhaps it was better if he distracted himself by reading something. Outside it was pouring and the heat in the carriage became ever more oppressive.. to think that this was just the beginning of Spring! In China summer downpours were not uncommon and Chris remembered to have read somewhere, that, from May until September, in that area, there was a high risk of typhoid fever. Even reading, with that sticky humidity, proved to be an almost impossible venture, so Chris closed his eyes and reclined his head back while pulling the visor of his straw hat over his eyes, hoping to catch a few winks of sleep. “Mission impossible”, he thought, seeing as the old couple behind him started chattering even more animatedly than before. Chris let his mind wander to many years back, something that he did often when he felt left out and had nothing better to do to pass the time. This is why he did not want to have free time on his hands, why he travelled continuously from one end of the world to the other, with the frenzy of one who was searching for something and never seemed to find it, never seemed to be satisfied.
Twenty years had gone by since then. He had been very young then, not much older than twenty,living in a world of dreams,like all young men that had yet many roads to travel and an infinite number of choices to make. He was studying at Loyola University then, run by Jesuit priests, one of the oldest universities of North America, and only one remaining year separated him for his wholeheartedly desired degree in architecture and ancient history, his innate and intemperate passions. Since he was a child he loved to dig in the small garden behind his parents’ home and every rock and twig or leaf that he found would be put into the catalogue that he kept in his room and be considered an antique and precious artifact. This passion became the focus of his life. This is what he wanted, what he had always desired. Everything was going better than he could have ever dreamed of. His studies advanced well and to help his parents with the expense of college, he would work a few hours in a drive-in at night and twice a week at the campus library. By doing so he would also have a little ‘pin money’ leftover to be able to enjoy a pizza or a movie with his buddies once in a while. Even if, the major part of his savings served invariably to add to his already rich collection of books, manuscripts, video documentaries and more of his favorite topic.. the world. He also had a full photographic kit and in his room on campus, he had set up a mini ‘dark room’ where he would develop his ever increasing collection of impressive photographs.. Now, Christmas was approaching and that particular ethereal, yet strong feeling of joy and happy anticipation that only the Christmas season can evoke and transmit was already in the air and more contagious than chicken pox. That afternoon Chris was covering his shift in the library when suddenly one of the most beautiful girls that he had ever seen appeared in front of him. He dazedly stared at her while she, whose oriental looks gave away her Indian origins, with head slightly inclined, amusedly observed him, perhaps convinced that she was dealing with an eccentric type of person. “I would like to know how to use the library services”, she asked fixing him with two eyes as black as coal. “Here, you have to fill out this form…” he answered without ever stopping to stare at her. That was the beginning of the end. Or better still, for Chris it was the beginning of what would become the most important story of his life, that totally capsized his world of dreams, projects and maybe.. illusions. After one year Chris finally obtained his much sought after degree. In the meantime, Swana, this was the name of the beautiful Indian girl that had captured his heart, stayed near his side ,day after day. She was studying art and literature and she too had a passion for distant worlds and civilizations, having escaped from a life that she did not feel that she belonged to, away from a civilization that ‘smothered’ her, therefore leaving her homeland and past behind her forever .From the first time that they met they had felt as one, her and Chris, since that first encounter in the library. Soon after Chris had been immediately hired for the drafting office of a local newspaper to then move onto, after only two years, a position on the staff of an important archeological research group. It was here that he began the travelling, the continuous discoveries, encounters with various civilizations and comparisons between so many similar and yet unique worlds. Swana abandoned her studies to be able to follow Chris. She became the focal point of his life, she was his best friend, best ally, his woman and his councilor. It was with her that he shared every one of his discoveries, every success but also every disappointment. It was she who urged him on when something went wrong. To Chris it seemed as though Swana had always been a part of his life and often at night he would watch her as she slept and ask himself how he had ever managed to exist before she came into his life and how he could ever survive without her. Her felt as though the more her looked upon her, the more the intense love that he had for her, filled his heart. That young and delicate girl. He watched her as she was lost in sleep, trusting and serene, looked at all of her, looked at the small firm breasts that glimpsed through the light material of her nightdress, looked at her perfect child-like face, her long black hair scattered across the pillow and thought that it was impossible to ever love her more than he did now. Yet instead, he noticed with astonishment that he loved her more with each passing day. He knew that it would be like this forever. She returned his love with the rush and immense power that only true love possesses. They had been in New Guinea, Australia, a group of seven members on commission for an important television station who wanted to realize a documentary series on the indigenous population that still existed in various of the world. They had just set up camp and were having dinner when Swana looked at him and hesitantly said: “I’m pregnant,” in a voice that wasn’t much more than a whisper. But to Chris, it was as if he had never before heard clearer, louder or more touching words. He looked at her as if it was for the first time, a few interminable seconds went by while, the voices of their companions mixed with the sounds of the night that had lightly and suddenly fallen, like a warm cloak that wrapped around them. The flickering flames of the fire illuminated their faces, spreading strange shadows that danced around, alternating dark and light that seem to blend in with the moonbeams to create a special light, that seemed to be reserved for them. Chris took her tiny hands in his and brought them to his lips, closed his eyes and in a whisper said: “Thank you”. Then he grabbed her and hugged her tightly, almost as if he needed to protect her from someone or something who would take her away. Perhaps it was an omen. From that day on Chris became even more full of joy, cheerful, more optimistic and as if possible, even happier. When they had finished the service in New Guinea, he had himself assigned to a fixed position within the same television station who commissioned him with their most important jobs ,as the coordinator responsible for the production of documentaries and scientific and cultural drafts. With the experience that he had accumulated in the past years, this job was like a child’s play to him. Besides this, the owners of the station New Time Television, were more than happy to have him all to themselves. This is how Chris set off on his new life. If for a minute he missed the adventurous life that he had been accustomed to, all he had to do was look at Swana and her rising tummy and all was completely forgotten. It was a frosty night in December when Mathew decided to come into the world. A rush to the hospital, an interminable and spastic wait outside of the delivery room,a dozen cigarettes lit as is permitted to every man who walks the corridors awaiting the most precious gift that a woman can give to her companion: a son. To think that he very rarely even smoked! From the moment that Chris held the tiny bundle that was put in his arms, he knew that he had already had everything that he could ever desire in life and yet he was not even thirty years old! Suddenly, he was afraid, afraid that it was all a dream, afraid because it was too perfect, too beautiful ,and someone once told him that perfect things cannot last forever. But, perhaps these were just sad thoughts, totally normal at a moment when one feels to have arrived at an apex of joy and asks oneself “What could be more after this?” From that moment on everything drastically changed. Mathews’ well-being became his absolute priority above everything. Chris would come home at night happy and knowing that he would find the two persons that had given his life a meaning, light and warmth to his days, hope and a project for his future, awaiting him. Swana and Mathew were the reason for which he opened his eyes to a new day. Mathew had just taken his first steps that day when the telephone rang. How many times Chris thought, “ If I’d only not answered, if I’d only not accepted, if, if, if..”
But all the ifs that filled his mind and his thoughts could not have changed the course of events. That morning the director of ‘Acropolis’ a scientific magazine that was very popular at that time, called him to his office. Chris found himself comfortably sitting in a black leather armchair, in an elegant and sober office, in front of Nelson Hayden, director and major shareholder of Acropolis “I’d be very happy,” he was saying,” if you personally would look after this service which is the ‘feather in the cap’ of our newspaper in anticipation of the award of “Over the Top”.
The award Over the Top was a prestigious recognition assigned to national newspapers that, during the course of the year, had sold the largest number of copies.Chris listened but in his mind he was light years away from earth. His vagrant instinct was already taking over. “ The service that I am talking about is to be covered in East Africa, in Ethiopia to be precise, in the tiny village of Bure, about 300 kilometers from the capital…There is an old legend going around, but from our almost sure sources of information, a few hundred kilometers south of the capital, that there has been a sighting of one of the largest elephant cemeteries ever seen with hundreds of quintals of ivory waiting to be found.”Chris had already made up his mind: “I’ve no problem with that, and I’d willingly accept but under one very important condition, from which I cannot waiver.”
After a pause he continued, “I have a companion, who has always been at my side in all my travels around the world, and we have a one year old child. I don’t want to have to leave for months and stay away from them. I would like to know if my expedition could include them? They could stop in Addis Abeba, the capital, and stay in a hotel until the expedition ends. At least they wouldn’t be so far away…you know, I’d decided that for a while I could have done without any trips or adventure, but today… it’s as if the trips, the discoveries, the adventures have returned to become a part of me…but at the same time I couldn’t be without them…I don’t know if you can understand me…”
“ No problem as far as I’m concerned, as long as the operation proceeds according to program, Chris”, answered Nelson Hayden, “but you don’t think that a trip like this may be a risk for a one year old…a little unusual?”.. “ Not if the right precautions are taken Nelson. I’d really like it if one day my son discovers within himself what his mother and I have always felt…even if it means that he too will one day go off to discover the world when I am no longer able to do it. Anyway, I know Addis Ababa well. Years ago I was there for a long period, more than 4 months, for an important job, a documentary and layout about a few tribes that live in the interior, that no one knew anything about. There are many comfortable hotels there and I would put my family in the hands of Nyiuri, a dear friend who surely remembers me…I used to buy tea, tobacco and nuts from him…his wife made the best soup that I have ever eaten in my life!”
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