A Gift from Yu

The other day I received a bird in the mail. Not a real bird, of course, but a crane nonetheless. It was a pink patterned origami bird that my friend Yu made and sent me from Tokyo. Here’s what he wrote about it:

There is a story about this swan. When World War 2 was happened, Atomic bomb was thrown to Hiroshima and Nagasaki by USA. There are so many people dead. And so many people were also got heavy sickness (radiation sickness). One girl got that heavy sickness. She needed to be hospitalization after that. She wished to be getting better and no more war in her hospital. She tried to make 1000 cranes for her wish. So crane origami means peace in Japan.

Yu was doing research on pastoral degradation and environmental preservation (due to overgrazing and mining) in Mongolia when our paths crossed a few summers ago. He was recently married. Yu has a big heart: Through our correspondence, I learned awhile ago that he has an endearing habit of donating blood regularly as a way of helping the sick.

Yu and I met at Eiggy’s, the homey Ulaan Bataar guesthouse tucked away behind a bank; part way between Sukhbaatar Square and the imposing Communist-era State Department Store.

The day before I left UB to take a bus across the border into Siberia, Yu presented me with a gold Japanese coin dangling from a white string. For luck, he said. And then, the next morning, at the crack of the dawn, while I was quietly preparing to leave the guest house, Yu woke up to send me off with a hug and message: You know what, he said, I wanted to see you off from our guesthouse when you leave because I was also traveling alone for 1 year. So I know you feel lonely a little bit when you leave your favorite places, like our comfortable guesthouse.

Since that summer in UB, Yu’s coin has become an integral part of my talisman collection – guardian angels from friends living near and far.

What blessings he’s brought into my life: friendship, a coin for good luck and a symbol of peace.

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