Sometimes you wonder if you are still asleep. The dream seems so real. And then you wake up - but you weren't sleeping at all! It is real.
For a blur of a weekend this was my story.
There - on the periphery of my vision - coming into sight again and again: my dear friend Ken Hugoniot!
Look, there in our Sunday afternoon prayer meeting! Talking to bro Jolly! In the flesh!
And then again, sitting in my office at JSK, talking with our staff, sitting next to me in the Philip Yancey meeting, showing Sheba and I pictures of how the family had lived in Yunnan late at night.
Almost before it had begun, our time was already over. Ken is back in the US, meeting his wife Ellen and their lovely 13 year old Isabelle at San Fransisco airport. We missed the ladies - but are so very glad Ken made it out to spend the three days in which we worked like squirrels to fill in the 17 years of being apart.
We Eichers have been in Thane for the past 12 years. The Hugoniots have spent more than that in China. We were neighbours but had the massive border barrier formed by the Himalaya between us! But then again, Ken and family lived pretty much up on that border...
Asha and Enoch whispered to me about how muscly Ken was. "He is not like I thought he would be" said one of them. "So what did you think he would look like?" I asked my un-named source. "More shorter, and rounder.... like you!" was the reply I got! Hmmm.
Ken seems to have drunk some Ambrosia. Has he aged at all since our shared college days at Taylor University in far off Indiana? Have any days been added to his frame since he hung out with us in Mussoorie in 1996 while doing his linguistic field work?
Yes, there have been valleys that he and the family have gone through. Some are as beautiful as this:
Yes - that is Ken taking a shot and if you look closely a the rock, there are what look like Tibetan symbols and the words 'be careful' written in Englishsthani! Judging by the sheer drop down, I would be very careful in deed.
Other valleys have been darker. We touched on a few of these over our late night talks. And I am so glad that Ken has held on to the light.
Just after their marriage, Ken and Ellen actually visited me at the Nav Jeevan Hospital in Jharkhand!
Over the past 13 years Ken and Ellen have been blessed with the joy of seeing their lovely daughter Isabelle blossom. Now Isabelle is poised at another big adjustment in her life. She had already left the village school she attended for her first years. The place where the family lived could be used as a definition for remote (we got to see a video of her class and teachers and fellows students). Having moved to a large town (with 'all the amenities') but still one with a variety of at times opaque cultures - she now transitions to the scenic beauties of Washington state where the family will be living a stones-throw away from the sea! And to a whole new culture in her new school this fall! How we wish Isabelle could have met Asha and Enoch - and that Ellen could have met Sheba. Surely our heart-aches point us to something that is to come, a home where we will not be separated?
Before I knew it, I was driving our beloved papaya with Ken in it through the occassional gusts of lashing rain (which amused Ken) towards Mumbai's international airport. After an unintentionally scenic route I dropped Ken at the entrance and saw a small figure of him wave to me before he stepped through the door and was lost to faith. That Cathay Pacific would whisk him off to Hongkong and then to San Fran. That he will meet up with Ellen and Isabelle. That they will step forward joyfully into the new challenges of finding a job and being available for Ken and Ellen's parents and diving deep into building a new set of relationships.
Speaking of relationships - who else would bring both Senior and Junior Eicher joy with German world-cup football kits!
So the slightly portly fellow in the back now has something to work towards - get fit enough to have the kit fit!
And young Enoch - a.k.a. Mueller (by what is on the back of his jersey) - has already taken a small step towards being the footballer his dad never was. His class 6 'Yellow House' team at Bombay Scottish won the inter-house football tournament. Enoch, playing an attacking defender assisted 3 of the 5 goals his team scored in the 5-1 rout of a final.
But back to that dream.
It was real. Ken was here.
But now he is not. A sweet set of memories remain.
We parted vowing not to let another 17 years slip by before we meet again.