When I was in college I went on a summer exchange program to China. The year was 1987 and there were only five of us in our group. Ray joined us two weeks in so we were ultimately six people. One of the most memorable travel companions on that trip was Anna Gregor, the wife of my Geology professor no less. Anna was born and raised in Florence and I’ve thought of her often since I’ve been here. Actually she was from a small town in the hills that overlook Florence. I took a bus a couple days ago to one of those little villages, probably not her’s, but as I walked the little streets I wondered what it must have been like to be a child here in the mid 50’s. Although I’m sure that she would have found Southern Appalachia just as exotic had she lived to see it.
In 1987 we had to use film in cameras and China was no where near the modern country that it is today. So we brought our film with us. I still smile when I think about the time that our group was sitting around, just killing time, comparing how many rolls of “36 exposure” we had brought along with us. We got to Anna, she looked at the back of her Instamatic, extended her arms so that she could read the fine print and said “Twelve.” Someone said “twelve rolls?” and she replied no, “12 exposures.” Of course she heard the collective gasp from the group and immediatly replied in her smooth, Italian accent: “I am uh not uh looking at China through uh the lens uh of a camera!” She was very matter of fact, nothing was open for further discussion.
I took a very long walk today, several hours and I thought of Anna several times and her discipline in how she looked at her environment. Around every corner was something beautiful, I could have honestly gone nuts with the camera. But I tried Anna’s advice, when I saw something beautiful, I just looked, I appreciated, I reflected. She was a smart woman. God rest her soul.
On the plane back home from China Ray, Anna, and I sat together. I asked Anna how many pictures she had taken. She looked at her camera once again and said: “I have two left, so ten.”