An old friend often told me that people come into our lives through one of three circumstances. They come for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I think that’s all we really need to concern ourselves with. Those three will work for any situation. I’m going to share four stories of friendship that come from the recent travels that I have made.
Story 1 – Taichung, Taiwan
We walked into our 9th and final presentation on Friday afternoon. The presenter’s laptop is open on the table. His PowerPoint is up on the screen. The lid of his laptop proudly bears a big sticker that proclaims, “Go Cougs!”
Here I am, on my own and 6111 miles from home (as the crow flies) and I run into someone who has spent time where I live, in Washington State. As we talk he shares that it’s impossible to getdecent Chinese food in Pullman, WA. He would come all the way to Portland/Vancouver to get something good to eat…something like at home.
His grandfather started the company. He's third generation family management. His education at WSU and his placement in the family tree explain his much more understandable use of the English language.
He’s the best presenter of the bunch. All the others were second generation and pretty heavily accented. Sometimes it's impossible to get all of what they’re saying...bless their hearts. I can only imagine what the German and the Japanese gentlemen in our group were hearing. But no matter what, we are the foreigners here.
Story 2 – Bento Goncalves, Brazil
Fast forward two weeks. We are now 6911 miles away from home in another direction. In this case, the crow is the only smart one. He would never bore holes in the sky the way the silver bird does to travel to Brazil.
It’s night 2 in Bento. Bento was settled by the Italians. In addition to being the furniture making hub of Brazil, it’s also the wine making hub and home to many nice Italian restaurants.
Carol and I had a really nice pizza and a bottle of Merlot on night one. Tonight, our local contacts suggest we try the local craft brewing scene. There are also more than a few Germans here to help out with that art form.
We head out the back door of the hotel and down a few paces to a place called Doppio Malto. Oops, nobody speaks English. In frustration, the second or third waiter we try runs and gets a local who, we soon discover, spent a year in California. This guy speaks great English, knows the beer list as well as the owner, and hooks us up with what we need, a good glass of local microbrew.
Come to find out, this guy is the Brazilian rep for a hops importer/distributor. He sells hops to Doppio Malto and reps hops grown in Yakima, WA. F.Y.I., the Northwest is the hops capital of the USA. Carol used to live in Yakima, and my son Eryn works for Boston Brewing. B.B. buys hops from this guy’s company…probably a LOT of hops.
The world is getting smaller.
Story 3 – our last day in Bento
We would never have made it to Bento had in not been for Debora and Diego. Debora works for FIMMA. She is responsible for the international press portion of the show. She thinks that her English is a little ragged so she enlists Diego to help out with this poor couple coming from Washington. Boy, are they a hand full!
Several phone conversations and many e-mails happen between Diego and Bernie leading up to the trip. The most touching one is where I have to give Diego my credit card number to pay for our plane tickets. I think you can imagine my reticence. I don’t know this guy and he’s half a world away.
He says, “Bernie, you can trust me.” Isn’t that what Custer’s Indian scouts said to him?
We quickly came to trust Diego, Debora , and our interpreter, Mari. So much so that when we had a little medical emergency and needed some real help, I text Mari and e-mail Diego. Quick as a flash, Diego was on the way to the hotel to pick us up. Mari called Debora and she had gotten Diego moving before he even had a chance to read his mail.
Diego stayed with us as our interpreter at the hospital. Debora drops what she’s doing and shows up there too. Emergency dealt with, Bernie and Carol are off on an afternoon wine tour and a country-side lunch led by a guide.
We owe these folks big time. We make plans to meet D & D for dinner that night.
Story 4 – Bento, later that evening.
After we parted company that morning, Debora goes back to trying to catch up on what she was supposed to do that day. Diego, who doesn’t even work for FIMMA, goes back to doing whatever it is that he normally does.
That evening we go to Canta Maria, (the Singing Maria) a restaurant that can only be described as being as close to “old world Italian” as I have seen anywhere except in Italy.
Dinner is grand. There’s lots of good food and another good bottle of local wine. The restaurant is full. At the next table are three gentlemen that one would assume are locals. In addition, two are obviously grandfathers with oak leaf clusters attached to their grandpa merit badges. Manuela, Debora and Diego’s delightful three-year old daughter is along and she’s working her magic to charm everyone. The grandfather duo is soon fawning over her. The big burly one is giving her rides on his leg. Up and down she bounces in glee while the other one talks to her in his best Italian grandpa tone of voice.
Come to find out, these guys aren’t locals. They are from Italy and here for the show. Diego speaks Italian as well as several other languages. He’s telling me these guys are associated with a company called Md-Dario Company. They make saws.
Hmmm, that rings a bell. I know that company, I proclaim to Diego. He tells the Italians and suddenly we are all friends well met.
The next thing I find out is that Dario Saw makes band saws. BINGO!!! The puzzle is complete. I wrote an article about Dario Saws at IWF in Atlanta. They make very specialized band saws that ride on an articulated arm. The saw moves and the project remains stationary.
The rest of the story is that Fabio Calzavara, the owner, was a pattern maker frustrated that he couldn’t create his patterns efficiently. He built his first prototype out of wood. It did what no other machine could do. Soon he was no longer a pattern maker. Today he is a builder and exporter of specialty band saws sold across the world.
The conversation continues as we exchange stories and the evening speeds by. Soon, we are almost the only ones left in the restaurant. Debora and Manuela are exhausted. We all need some sleep. But we can’t part, Fabio says, until we share a toast of Grappa.
He summons the waiter, out come the glasses, they’re filled, and we toast to new friends. We toast to seeing each other again at the next show, and we toast, as Fabio says, “tutto il mondo è paese,”…the world is a small place.
It certainly is. And regardless of whether we see each other again, we all know that we are friends for a reason, for a season, and for a lifetime.
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