Below is the script of my speech tonight:
April 28/14 – Toastmaster CC#2 – From Cape Town to Escape Town
So far, I have travelled to 41 countries. My “to go” list is still very long and got even longer because I added Cape Town to that list after hearing a love story that reached its height in this place.
Good evening, Mr. Chair, Fellow Toastmasters and Most Welcomed guests.
When I was young, I had this idea that there indeed was such a thing as true love. I grew up adoring Cinderella and imagining myself meeting my Prince one day. I would look enviously at couples holding hands and lost in their PDAs.
At 16, I found myself married to a man double my age – which wasn’t quite my idea of a romance! Well, it was a unique relationship, but it wasn’t long before I realized that it wasn’t my idea of “true love.” It was more like me wanting a father figure since I lost my dad when I was 12. Anyway, I escaped when I was 24 years old before I totally lost my faith in “love.” I’ve had relationships after this but they left me questioning the reality of true love.
And then I met Carol.
Carol was introduced to me by a mutual friend while I was traveling in HK in December 2012. Carol had been dreaming of going backpacking all her life but being raised in HK, backpacking and women just don’t go together because it was considered very dangerous.
At 30, she met Henry, an Englishman in a night club in HK. They partied hard and had a fling. Henry had been backpacking for over a year around China and was in HK before proceeding to his next stop. He invited Carol to join him for 6 months of backpacking in Australia and New Zealand. She agreed since backpacking had always been her dream. At the end of the trip, they returned to HK, said good-bye and thought that was the end.
They stayed in touch and three months later they realized they missed each other so much that Henry went back to HK and proposed to Carol. She happily accepted and they continued backpacking for another three years, visiting over 100 countries. They experienced all kinds of adventures together, went to many exotic places, did all kinds of crazy things, and made love under the stars frequently. One time they got robbed and lost their passports and wallets. They ended up sleeping on the streets and Henry was begging for food for Carol to eat until their money arrived. Carol said that was the most humbling experience for her. Those 3 years were not easy but their love for each other grew so strong that they felt they would be able to overcome all obstacles. Wow! How Romantic!
Eventually they ended up in Cape Town which totally captivated both their hearts so they decided to settle there. Henry worked as an engineer and made great money while Carol enjoyed being a housewife, making lots of friends and taking many courses for fun. Life was just perfect!
They enjoyed a fairytale life for 3 years.
Then Henry was diagnosed with a disease (but I forgot that name), that disease made his body shake suddenly and unexpectedly. Within a year, the disease recurred 3 times. The first time, Carol was totally supportive. The 2nd time, she started to have doubts whether she still wanted to be with a sick person. By the 3rd time, Henry gave her the choice of going back to HK by herself if she didn’t feel she could handle being with a sick man anymore. Wow! What an offer!
So, what did Carol do?
Well, Carol chose to go back to HK and leave her husband behind. I thought to myself, how could she just leave behind those beautiful memories they created together during those 6 years just because he was sick? Had she forgotten he was the one who gave her the life that she had been dreaming of? Had she forgotten how he begged for food for her? How pathetic! She chose to leave Cape Town by pulling an “Escape Town”!
I was like, “Seriously? How could she?” It appeared to be true love for him but was it for her? I was shocked. Actually, I cried upon hearing this part of the story. How can anyone do this to someone else? I can’t even imagine doing that to a friend let alone the man I love.
Here comes the worst part. I asked Carol if she had any regrets at all. She said NO because she felt she was still young and pretty back then so her chance of finding another healthy man in HK is good therefore why be stuck with a sick person whose illness could attack him anytime? I said to myself, “What? Am I really hearing this?” Oh my gosh, this totally ruined my idea of true love.
Carol had been hearing news about Henry through their mutual friends all these years but Henry refused to stay in touch with her since she left. I don’t blame him since she betrayed him and abandoned him when he needed her the most.
Eventually Henry was completely cured of whatever disease he had and got re-married 3 years after Carol left. He now has a very happy family with 2 beautiful kids.
And Carol? Ever since leaving Henry and returning to HK, Carol has been living a very lonely life. She’s still hasn’t found someone else over the last 18 years, and couldn’t help comparing every man she dated with Henry — but no one could live up to him.
Carol’s story really moved me. It was a roller coaster ride listening to it. I started with feeling “awwwe” for how romantic their relationship was, then I was “WOW’ed” by all their experiences during those 6 years, and certainly gave me the impression that true love DOES exist! However, I was very shocked with the ending. I know I will not choose the same path that Carol did because I recognize that choices are based on values, and obviously Carol’s values are not the same as mine. Of course, I still believe in the saying that “it is better to love and to lose” than never having loved at all.
Carol admitted that she certainly loved Henry. But I suspect she only loved the lifestyle he provided her. I think that the ending would be a lot different if only she had remembered the words of the marriage vows, that real love is: “to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish for ever and ever.”