I’m the youngest of two brothers and many years ago when I was a little trouble-maker we lived in Beijing, China for a few months while my dad worked with Qantas. The HR Manager for Qantas at that time was a gentleman by the name of Mr. Wu.
China’s one-child policy had only recently come into force and Mr. Wu and his wife had recently had a little girl. I’m not sure if it’s still the case today, but boys were valued more than girls, especially in rural areas where they could help in the fields. Mr. Wu and his wife were so desperate to have a boy that they offered to exchange their little girl for me. I’m not sure what dad said, but thankfully mum wasn’t willing to give me up! When we did leave China Mr. Wu and his wife gave us a little toy panda bear. A little worse for wear these days, I think i’ll have him for the rest of my life. His name? Mr. Wu of course.
He will always remind of that trip – of all the Chinese people that would touch my head because I had blonde hair – of Mr. Wu and his wife and their little girl, and of a different life. Not a better life or a worse life, just a different life.