Godwinks from Australia, Austria, Argentina and Peru!
What is a Godwink?
First of all I will define the word. For me a Godwink is like a coincidence, but it is so special and out of the ordinary that I like to think of it as a kind of sign, or wink, if you like, from God. It is His way of letting me know that I am going in the right direction and that I should just continue on. It is like a kind of message of reassurance sent personally to me.
One could also consider it as a small miracle, but an anonymous one if you like, something that is just between Him and me! Most of the time nobody would even notice that it took place, as it is a kind of silent signal. It is not always an answered prayer either, as I was not necessarily expecting any message, or anything to happen.
Godwinks give me a kind of encouragement or reassurance that everything is going to be all right. In a way it is like using a GPS system, one does not really know where one is going, but one trusts the system to take you to your destination. It is as if there was someone up there watching over me all the time, so I am never alone.
SQuire Rushnell has developed Godwinks further and he even has a website especially devoted to them and he has also published the When God Winks book series. He also points out that one should map our Godwinks, watching out particularly for turning points, or crossroads in our lives, as in all probability we have overlooked, forgotten or simply ignored many winks. As far as the future, one should be aware of and even be on the lookout for them, as they are like signposts that will indicate the way.
And just like SQuire Rushnell, author Paul Auster also invited Americans to talk about coincidences and that resulted in T rue Tales of American Life , the collected effort of many Americans who sent in their stories. The people presented piercing truths that resonated with the themes that affect us all, so I wondered about all the stories that must be out there just waiting for somebody to tell them! True Tales covers many different topics, but the list could be endless. I think that when there is a Godwink, there is a story to be told!
I will now share with you my Godwinks and even though most happened many years ago, I still haven’t forgotten about them!
My preferred seat on a plane is the window, while my husband, who frequently travels on business, would rather have the isle. The plane we took to Paris was rather full that day, but he still managed to get his favourite seat, while I found myself sandwiched between him and a middle-aged woman on the window seat! I didn’t mind really, as I had brought my embroidery bag along, so I was guaranteed full entertainment during the flight.
The flight was like a dream come true for me, a couple of hours of quietness, when I could just sit and concentrate on my cross-stitch. The plane took off from Vienna and we settled on the early afternoon flight. After the stewardess went around with drinks, my husband sat back to relax and read his newspapers, while I took my embroidery project out of the bag and placed it on my lap. While I was totally absorbed on my cross-stitch, the woman sitting next to me suddenly turned towards me and asked me, in perfect Spanish, whether I would adjust the overhead fan for her. I immediately did as she asked, but then I realised that she had asked me in Spanish! How did she know I could speak the language? I don’t look like the typical hispanic woman, so I was mystified! When I first saw her I had assumed she was Austrian, so her request surprised me! As we boarded the plane, my husband and I had been speaking English, like we normally do, so there was no way for her to know I could speak Spanish! I was very intrigued, so I asked her and she said that I had counted my embroidery stitches in Spanish! It is true, I normally count in Spanish, but I don’t normally count out loud anyway, so she must have been watching my lip movements from the corner of her eyes!
We have always spoken English at home but, when the children started going to school in Austria, they began to learn German and it was slowly becoming their mother tongue. My neighbour and I then started talking and it turned out to be so interesting, that I completely forgot about the embroidery and my husband next to me! She told me that she was born in Austria, but that she now lived in Spain, working as teacher in a bilingual school. She was the perfect person to talk to about bilingual education, a topic I was very interested in, as I wanted our children to be completely bilingual in English and German.
She commented that it is not just a matter of the language itself, but also the way people think and she gave me an example. She said that in Spanish el sol , means the sun and is masculine, while la luna , is the moon and is feminine. In German, however, it is the other way around! Die Sonne is feminine, while der Mond is masculine! Your whole way of conceiving those two words is totally different between one language and the other, she said. Especially for you Peruvians, the sun, evokes masculinity, power and strength, it has a very macho kind of connotation, while the moon, she continued, is associated with something soft and weak, even romantic, if you like.
The time seemed to just fly and the two-hour flight was regrettably soon over. We had actually landed before I realised that I knew nothing about the her! I had not even asked her what her name was, her address or anything! As I hurriedly started putting my things together, ready to disembark, I felt the sudden impulse to ask her for her name. I was not ready for the answer she gave me, though. She told me that her name was Helena and I couldn’t believe it! Elena was my grandmother’s name too. As we got along so well, I could not resist the temptation to ask her what sign of the horoscope she was. Her reply took me by surprise once again. She said she had been born on September 7, a very meaningful date for me, as that was exactly the day when my father, who had recently passed away, had been born!
So, with thoughts of that neighbour’s inspiring conversation, memories of my father and my grandmother in the background, I disembarked from that flight, full of regrets for not having obtained her particulars, as I would never have the chance to contact her again. I haven’t forgotten her, or the conversation we had on that flight and I often daydream of meeting her again by chance sometime, somewhere! So I am just waiting for another Godwink!
One morning, after I had taken my son Christopher to kindergarten, I went to visit a department store, which had a small book section, including some in English. I walked out of the lift and soon found the section I was after. I noticed there was a wide selection of books in German, but unfortunately, the foreign language section was more limited. I stubbornly continued looking and soon found myself browsing through some small books that had the Spanish text on one side of the page and the German translation on the other. I normally dislike such books, as I think they are aimed for people who are learning the language, not native speakers like myself.
The books I was eyeing were a series entitled Cuentos hispanoamericanos , containing short stories from different Latin American countries and surprisingly, there was even one from my native country Peru! I was immediately attracted to it, as I wondered which writers had been selected to represent my country.
Suddenly, towards the end of the page, I saw a name that meant something to me, Graciella Sala! I used to go to school with a girl with that name! Could that possibly be my friend Graciella? What was Graciella’s name doing in that book, I wondered! I immediately turned to the first page, looking for some biographical information about the authors, but the short stories started straightaway! I then eagerly turned towards the back and finally found what I was after: short paragraphs about each author! There it said that Graciella was born in Lima, in 1952, which made her my contemporary, as I was born a year earlier, that she was a storyteller and a journalist and that was basically all! I never knew that Graciella was a writer!
Then I started having second thoughts, was my friend’s surname Sala or Salas? Was her first name written with one, or two L’s? I went home and suddenly remembered that my sister had brought along my school album when she had last visited me, so I had a look at it and sure enough I confirmed that my friend’s name was Graciella Sala (2 L’s in first name, 1 in surname) and I also found her photo and address, Calle Berlín 1456, which I remembered was just around the corner from where we used to live in Miraflores. Later I searched the Internet and checked in the Peruvian White Pages to see whether I could find Graciella's new address. I found there was only one Graciella Sala and I had to smile when I saw the address: Berlín 1456! I immediately sat down to write her a letter, it was too much, to hear about a school friend from Peru in Austria of all places and after 31 years of not hearing a word from her! Once again I could not help but remember Carlos Gardel´s tango 20 años no son nada (20 years are nothing) and suddenly time and space seemed to have no significance at all!
I took Graciella´s picture out of the school album and to my surprise there was something written on the back: Para mi vecinita Sylvia que me va a dejar sola y se irá a Tasmania. No te olvides de mi dirección, ni de mi nombre . (For my neighbour Sylvia who is going to leave me alone to go to Tasmania. Don´t forget my address or my name”. The funny thing is that it was exactly her name and address what drew me back to her. Her name I had been able to find on the book, her address on the Intenet!
Numbers and the King
So as to relax somewhat, I listened to some merengue music on the car’s CD player before stopping in Burger King for lunch. We usually go there on the way to our weekend house, so we were surprised when the young girl serving us said that the bill was €32 Euro. Our orders in Burgen King are usually similar and our bills are usually in the low 20´s, but never in the 30´s! Nevertheless, my husband paid her, but she returned some money, as she had made a mistake. It was not €32.60, but only €23.60! (not two and thirty 60, but three and twenty 60). I had noticed the girl as we came in, as I thought she looked Latin American. We had to laugh, as that was exactly the same mistake I used to make with German numbers when I first arrived in Austria! Her mistake gave me the clue, so I asked her where she came from and to my delight; she said she was from the Dominican Republic, a country where I had lived for 12 years! A meringue in the car and now, a real Dominicanita before me! The Caribbean music and the girl made my day and for some brief moments, I was back in the DR once again!
Brett 17 years after
We just came back from visiting Australia and although short, it was a worthwhile trip. I was able visit my sister, mother and nephew in Brisbane, while my husband could go back to CSIRO, the place where he used to work seventeen years ago. After a long flight from Europe we arrived late on Saturday, so we could go out for lunch with my family on Sunday; my husband could visit his colleagues on Monday and then on Tuesday it was time for us to leave, as we had to drive to Sydney. I told my husband that I would like for him to find out about Brett, a person he used to work with. My father used to be a quadriplegic, so maybe that was why I was attracted to Brett on his wheelchair, as I was not really his friend, although I knew he did work for my husband.
For some strange reason, the Sunday we went out for lunch, I chose to tell my sister and mother a few things about Brett. At my sisters suggestion we went to Riverside and I was glad we did, as that used to be the site for Expo 88, which I visited back in 1988, the time when I first got together with who is my husband today!
The place has grown a lot since we used to live in Brisbane and we had to look around to find a parking spot. The one we found required that we walk for a bit, but the weather was fine, it was sunny and it was most pleasant walking around the gardens and pathways along the Brisbane River. The five of us had lunch in a Greek restaurant and we all really enjoyed the outing and the opportunity to be together. We then walked around some more and then went towards our parked rented car. I took many pictures as we walked along, but then I saw a wheel chair coming towards me. I had just been talking about Brett a while earlier, so that was a coincidence, but then I recognised the person sitting in the wheel chair and I could not believe my eyes, it was Brett himself! Wow! I rushed towards him and hugged him and I could not believe it! Except for my family, we did not know anybody else in Brisbane anymore, so what are the chances of something like that happening? This could only be a Godwink! Brett told us that he was married now and that he also had a little daughter and I felt so very happy for him then!
In Sept 2012, my husband and I returned back to Australia to settle permanently. We made a deposit for purchasing a single bedroom flat in Nelson Bay and we will be moving there in just a few weeks. Like he usually does, my husband bought the Weekend Australian and what did we find on page 14? An article entitled "Scooter helps the disabled get back on the road again" with a picture of our friend Brett seating in the sidecar of his modified vehicle! Wow, another Godwink again!
The article mentions how Brett became a paraplegic when he was 19 and his feelings about it as a young male. He had to spend months in hospital, but then he had to go back to living with his parents. He found it demoralising for his mother to have to give him showers. He ended up with a depression, as he had to rely on other people for transport, to be driven around by mates, or to be back in a taxi van. He said he felt like a bag of potatoes.
After putting up with frustration for 16 years, Brett has now developed a vehicle that would get him back on the road on his own. He has made the finals of the backyard innovation category of the Australian Innovation Challenge awards with his technology - a scooter modified so that it can be driven from a wheelchair and he has won $10,000! The scooter has a sidecar with a ramp, which allows access by a wheelchair. All of the controls have been moved to the sidecar.
Australia back then and now! - Link to the hub where I talk about our return to Australia in July 2010 and accidentally coming across with him two years ago.
This story has to do with my grandfather, who was born in Rosario de Santa Fe, Argentina. He lived there while he was young and when he reached his twenties he traveled to the United States. During World War I he tried to enrol in the U.S. Army, but was not allowed to do so because of his alien status, so to solve the problem he just crossed the border and joined the Royal Canadian Engineering Battalion instead and they sent him to Europe for the remainder of the war.
One day during the war he was standing on a dock with a fellow soldier watching a man throw a rope in an attempt to loop something. The man kept trying and trying to throw the rope without accomplishing anything, so laughingly, my grandfather let out Qué chambón and then noticed the look of surprise on his friends’s face! In Argentinean Río de la Plata lingo, chambón is a clumsy blunderer, so here were two young soldiers, in Canadian military uniforms, stationed somewhere in Europe, both discovering by the use of just one word, that they both originally came from the same country, Argentina!