Sometimes taking a risk is something that you prepare for. Often, it is physical such as jumping out of a plane or climbing to the top of high mountain. Sometimes it is something that you hope will improve your life and give you and your family the opportunity to experience other ways of living.
I had lived my early life in a very secure household, knowing what was going to happen each day, each week and in fact each year. Very little happened that wasn’t planned. Even our yearly holidays was a small holiday house on the central coast about two hours from our home. I always dreamed of far a way countries and experiencing how people in other countries lived.
When I was first married, life looked as though it was going to be much the same. At first, it was. A nice apartment in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Paul, my husband, off to work each day, few years later we had three young daughters and the eldest was at school. Much as I loved my life as a wife and a mother, I hated being a housewife.
One day Paul came home and said he had been offered a job with a newspaper in Canberra and we would be given a house there. He would be working in as a political journalist. Suddenly my life changed. After we moved, there were diplomatic parties to go to, political events to attend, I felt I was given a new lease of life.
A year or two there, Paul said he had seen an advertisement for journalists to work in a new English language paper in Hong Kong. At first, I was a little worried, giving up a good job for a rather risky job on a new newspaper. There were problem in Hong Kong from the difficulties with communist China but a couple of Paul’s friends were also going and I was excited by the prospect. Hell, why not!
We sold our furniture and other possessions, Paul left for Hong Kong and we – myself and three children – moved into my parents home in Sydney to leave on a ship leaving three weeks later. Despite the crowded living with my parents and sister in a weatherboard three bedroom, we managed and my parents enjoyed having us there for a few weeks.
Two days after Paul left, I got a letter from him to say it was a mistake. The Chinese were leaving bombs around Hong Kong, and it was expected that there might be other attacks soon. Bodies were floating down the river from China and nobody had any idea what was happening. It was what was known as the Cultural Revolution. Mao Si Tong was cleaning China. The bombs were neatly wrapped in brown paper and put throughout Hong Kong each day in strategic positions to disrupt the traffic. Some were real bombs and some were not. but each time one mysteriously appeared, everything around stopped and the bomb squad called. It could take one or two hours until they were cleared and life went back to normal. Occasionally, There bomb went off and had terrible outcomes with people killed.
Paul, was concerned and suggested that maybe we should go to Canada instead.
My parents were horrified. My mother was concerned for our safety and my father was sure Paul had left me and Dad was stuck and me and the children. Despite phone calls over the next few weeks nothing had been resolved. Things were getting very tense at home. My money was running out. Eventually my dad said that that I had a month to either go to Hong Kong or anywhere but I had to leave the house.
I wanted to go to Hong Kong. I rang the various shipping companies and found two ships going to Hong Kong in the few weeks. One I could afford, but I was $100 short on the other one which was leaving in a few days. My mother who was really concerned said that she would give me the money but not to tell my dad.
I decided not to tell Paul because he would say don’t come, to wait awhile. I felt if I arrived there (it was a four week trip via Japan and Taiwan) and he had left, I would somehow find a way to come back and if he hadn’t then we could stay for awhile until he decided what to do. Whatever happened, I would have sailed out of Sydney Harbour and had been overseas.
We rushed around and packed for the trip. Various friends found me “tropical” clothes to wear on the ship. I figured we had $1 a day to spend and $10 a port. This was 1967 so I learned we could have two drinks each day and a trip at each port. It wasn’t going to be easy but we could do it. My friends gave me a few extra dollars as a goodbye gift so we were fine. There was still a little worry about Paul but I figured it was worth the risk
The first night on board, I put the kids to bed and the Chinese cabin steward assured me that would be ok and he would come and get me if there was a problem. I went up to the lounge, bought a beer and settled into listening to the band and started reading my book. An officer came over and asked me if I would like to dance.
Next morning, the children were in the Children’s playroom. I went along to the morning tea being served on the desk. This was fun. This was going to great. There was an announcement on the loud speaker. “Would Mrs Dougherty come along to the reception desk, please” Suddenly, I was not so sure.
There was a cable for me. I opened it. Somebody, probably my father, had contacted Paul. I read it. “Welcome aboard. See you in Hong Kong, Love Paul.” It was worth taking the risk. We stayed in Hong Kong for four years.
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