Today marks the closure of a great chapter in my life. Someone very dear and close to my heart, left Bahrain today. A mentor, a Chinese Martial Art Master (even though she doesn’t like to be referred to as such), a mother, a friend, and a role model. Shao Nian Bates, her Chinese name means: “Youngster”, and in the Chinese culture the name is strongly linked to being a traveler to all 4 corners of the world. A name that she carries well, since she has been to all 4 corners of the world, physically and metaphorically.
I have known Shao after I moved to Bahrain and since then her presence in my life has been vital. I saw her every morning at 6am, we trained together, we drank tea together, we told each other stories, we ate together, we watched people joining the studio and witnessed them leave, and today I, here alone, am witnessing HER departure.
Every time I was sick, she would rush to her kitchen, prepare some kind of herbal tea, warn me of how sour and undrinkable it is, then hands it to me, while telling me all about the benefits of the herbs in it. Every time I told her things that were bothering me, she would tell me a story similar to mine, and give me, unintentionally, an example to follow. Every time I wanted to learn a new form she would tell me that I didn’t need to, and that I have learned enough, yet she would cave in, and teach me some more. Some mornings she would tell me that I looked beautiful in whichever color I was wearing, some other days she would say: “Hmm those colors don’t look good together”, yes she was brutal like this, she would never say something unless she means it 100%. The first day I met her she almost sounded rude to me, but the force led me to go again and again and again, and every time I sat with her, and learned about her, I loved her even more. Then she gave me a book she wrote about her life, and that was the turning point in our relationship! A woman who served in General Mao’s camps, who found her way into learning a new language and even writing in that new language, she did the unthinkable and left China, she faced life’s hardships in bulks, not one or two, like me and you, but way more than what one can handle in a lifetime. She built houses and businesses, she traveled around the world, met many many interesting people. She experienced the other side of the pink rosy world, she lost money, friends, family, and survived it all quietly and humbly.
When I met her I was 21 years old, a little girl, who knew nothing about life. I looked at her with wide eyes and a dropped jaw every time she told a story. To me she was the most interesting person I have met in my whole life, 10 years later, she still is! Now I wonder whether the universe has sent her my way to teach and guide me in a time when I knew nothing, and now that I have seen, lived and experienced a little more, it was time for her to leave. Now that I have matured enough to be able to live on my own, it was time for her to move, and probably go nurture another soul somewhere else.
What always impresses me in this magnificent woman, is that even though she is 70 years old, not a minute goes by where she isn’t learning a new thing. Her moto in life is: “if they can do it, I too can do it”. She lived and still lives her life to the fullest, she doesn’t waste a minute worrying about life, or entertaining any negative energy, or simply doing nothing.
We went to many breakfasts, lunches and dinners, we laughed and cried, we talked freely and openly about anything and everything. She was my companion, more than she was my teacher. We celebrated birthdays, Eids, house-warming parties, Ramadans, and many more events together. We also shared a passion together, which is taking pictures! Boy did we take pictures! She is the kind of person, to whom you can tell your deepest, darkest secret to, and she would just sit there looking, listening and simply fully present. She took care of everyone, she knew what everyone liked and what they didn’t like, she was a mother to all!
We both shared the same Chinese horoscope: Tiger, and we were very similar in so many ways. We are both fierce, stubborn, faithful, and honest. We both loved tea and drank tons of it. We both loved reading. So some mornings, instead of training, we would just sit, drink tea, and talk about books.
We both experienced life’s ups and downs together, we both made mistakes together, we both saw how life can unfold. She knew me as a little girl, and now she is leaving a strong, woman behind, a wife, and a mother.
In the 31 years that I have lived, I have been blessed with many motherly figures in my life, beside my wonderful mama. I have shared and connected with many older women, and learned so much from them. I always became friends with my friends’ mothers, and that’s because I have an old soul, yet somehow they all seem to vanish and disappear at some point of my life. Somehow it is as if they are on a mission, and once the mission is done, they leave. I have said way too many goodbyes in my life, and somehow I got so used to the idea that all the people I meet come into my life for a purpose, and once it’s done, they will leave. Seeing friends leave is always sad, and even though I truly believe that the universe always has a plan for you, yet this time, it’s a bit harder and a little more life changing. I am not only saying goodbye to a friend, I am closing a whole chapter in my life, and getting ready to open a new one.
So to Shao: You are taking a piece of my soul with you, I know that we will meet again, if it is not in this life, then in the next one. I will not promise to send you emails and pictures, updating you with what’s new every once in a while, simply because I know that won’t happen, yet I promise you that in my heart you will always have a beautiful, and very special place.
From Ouiam with Love…..