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Tea, fish, and friendships

I have learned a couple of things in New Zealand. Afternoon tea has nothing to do with tea. Ditto morning tea. I'm a tea drinker so this is good to know. But, more importantly, I've learned that inspiration is inter - well, intereverything. My cousin and I are traveling together and we have been chronically lost in time and space. Our first planned tour was no different but, once we boarded the right shuttle, we enjoyed the stops along the way as our driver picked up other passengers headed for the same next transit stop. There was the Asian couple who decided they were wrong place/wrong time (been there/done that), and Sue, from England, whose husband has Alzheimer's (insidious disease) and is traveling alone because if that happens to her, she wants to have done the things important to her by then. Tom, a fellow American, boards toward the end.

At the transit station, we all split up but then find ourselves with Tom in the same information line. He clearly is the better listener because he leaves and we wind up in the wrong line. Tom catches our eye and waves us over to slide in with him, in the correct one. It's the beginning of a warm, 12 hour friendship. Tom is maybe 80, wearing an old-fashioned camera and a snazzy backpack. We learn that he is savvy and every time we can't find the right coach, we just look for Tom. Over the course of the day, he makes sure we don't get lost and we make sure if he needs to sit a second, we all sit.

We learn that Tom was widowed in October. His precious wife was sick for five years; the last two were really rough. Yet here he is. My cousin told him about my book, "Hey God? Yes Charles," and he told me he plans to read it. He told us he was keeping a daily online journal detailing his travels. We also sit in front of him on the coach so when we're moving, we pass Tom's phone back and forth over the seatback so we can read his journal. I'm going to the Great Barrier Reef later this month and I read where he's already been and they wouldn't let him dive because of his diabetes. But by golly, he could skin dive and snorkel and he has the pictures to prove it.

At the end of the day, the three of us have to say our goodbyes. We smile and wish each other safe travels. That's not enough. We all hug and wish each other more. Now, where's that tea? And where's my snorkeling gear.

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