short story

PROJECT L.E.L. – Year30

Project LEL 30

“Can I talk with you please?”

Michael looked down in surprise at the young woman standing in front of him. He had noticed her previously as he walked towards the entrance to The Warehouse. She had moved very quickly to intercept him.

Before he could reply she added, “I’ve been praying for a man in a red shirt!”

Michael grinned and replied, ‘I bet you use that line with all the men you meet!”

Unfazed she continued, “Have read this book?” Reaching inside her bag she withdrew a hard covered book entitled “Bhagavad-Gita” and showed it to him.

The offer was unexpected but exciting as Michael had recently been comparing Sikhism and Hinduism and found they had very similar beliefs to his own. So he asked, “You believe that there is but one God?”

Nodding and smiling at him in return she introduced herself as Gunjita, obviously an adopted name, and then commented, “You are very aware!”

Fascinated by the opportunity to discuss such an important subject with a “devotee” who spoke English, was a Kiwi and, as he found out later, born in Wellington, Michael was enraptured.

Transforming into his “teacher’s mode” Michael started questioning her starting with why she used a Hindu name and then into other aspects about her belief system.

Gunjita in turn explained Hinduism and the importance of the “Bhagavad-Gita.”

Their discussion became so intense that they moved closer to the building to get into the shade out of the hot sun on the late summer day.

Finally, after about half an hour’s discussion, Gunjita mentioned that the book was published by the Hare Krishna movement and a donation would be appreciated.

In response Michael immediately opened his wallet and withdrew a $20 note which he passed to her.

Thanking him, Gunjita expressed her great pleasure that they had met and offered Michael a second book entitled ”The Science of Self Realization” for free.


When he arrived back at his apartment, Michael sat down and started to review the Bhagavad-Gita. He found it had originally appeared as an episode in the Mahabhdrata, the epic Sanskrit history of the ancient world. It was at the beginning of this age, some fifty centuries ago, that Lord Krsna spoke Bhagavad;Gita to his friend and devotee Arjuna.

The discourse took place just before the onset of war, a great fratricidal conflict between the hundred sons of Dhrtarastra and on the opposing side their cousins the Pandavas, or sons of Pandu. To Michael it seemed reminiscent of the wars between the Greek gods of old.

He was interested to read that one of the family members, Lord Krsna (now days often spelt as Krishna), was God in a human form. And further on there was discussion about the dilemma facing God, in his capacity as Lord Krsna who was to lead the forces for his brothers and, at the same time, advise his cousin who was fighting on the other side!

Over and beyond the revelations given by Lord Krsna to his brother Arjuna, which is the basis for the book, the most important point for Michael was that all people are God. We are all one!

Later that day Michael explored the teachings from the second book, “The Science of Self Realization” written by Swami Prabhupada, which he found to be very appropriate and useful in this modern life. The Contents of the book covered a wide range of practical matters from ‘Learning the Science of the Soul” to “Looking at the Cultural Background” to ‘Finding a Cure for Today’s Social Ills” to “Reaching Life’s Perfection”.

Michael, now bathed in the new information and explanations, felt inspired as his understanding had increased. Now he was ready to finalise his own thoughts.

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PROJECT L.E.L. – Year 29

Project LEL 29

Master Learning?”

Michael smiled at June’s puzzled question. “Yes, a Master Learning!” he confirmed, then explained, “From a Spiritual point of view this is where a person chooses an extra challenging way to live in this incarnation!”

June stared at him repeating, “Extra challenging way to live! You’re right about that! But why?”

Michael smiled again at her self-examination, then continued, “At present you are the sum of all the past lives you have had – it’s easier to understand this if you accept reincarnation – and you have chosen this difficult way as proof to yourself and to God that you are ready to move to a higher plane, and do not need to return to Earth again!”

June nodded slowly as she took in the explanation.

Michael continued, “You are intelligent – you’re completing a Bachelor’s Degree. You are independent – you have all these book reviews to complete, and you have a great personality, you have a partner – but you have chosen …”

June took over and ended the conversation, “… chosen to be born without the use of my legs so I am confined to my wheelchair!”

Michael smiled at her self-flagellation, understanding her concern, then offered a further explanation, “The learning you experience as a person confined to a wheelchair is quite different to when you experienced being able to walk and run, because you have already experienced that and you don’t need to go through again!”

June nodded in semi-belief and Michael added, “And you chose this experience as your own final self-test!”


While June contemplated her situation, Michael recalled back to when he sought out a helper – someone to manage his social media and PR requirements.

He had approached the CCS Disability Action, Northern Region which had their offices close by and Peter the Community Support Coordinator had no hesitation in recommending June. He himself, as he explained, had an impediment which took effect when he was under stress. However, he looked and acted very normally to Michael.

It seemed that June had been born crippled, without the ability to use her legs. This confined her to a wheel chair for the rest of her life.

“But she is a smart person with a wonderful personality who is passionate about books. I believe she is studying for a BA majoring in Communications through the Open Polytechnic. She is a hard worker who has shown great patience and perseverance in achieving what she has.” Peter explained as they sat in his office. “Normally people like June, work with you on a voluntary basis for several months before going onto a payment basis.”

Michael was impressed and asked, ”Has she worked with others?”

Peter nodded and explained she had a full time position as a Library Assistant with Manukau Public Library.” Then, seeing Michael’s interest continued, “Can I have your contact details please?”

Michael accepted his recommendation, as it was becoming important for him to have assistance in this area so as to allow him more time for other work matters. As he gave Peter his phone number and e-mail address he asked, “What do we do now?”

Peter smiled as he advised, “I will ask her to contact you directly and arrange a time to meet.”

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PROJECT L.E.L. – Year 28

Project LEL 28

“Why does my father not take interest in me?”

Sitting at a table in the food court Michael looked up surprised at the announcement expounded by the young Chinese man opposite. “I hear what you say Yan, but I am sure he has a good reason to treat this way!”

At that moment Michael did not realise, how important it was for Yan to ‘get it off his chest’.

Fixing Michael with a steady gaze Yan began his tale – which was to take three hours to unfold. “I have been in New Zealand since I was 20. After I had graduated from University I had a choice, continue my education in China – we lived in Shandong Province – or go overseas for further education plus gain the experience of living in another country.”

Pausing for a moment, he allowed Michael time to interject then carried on. “So I came to Nelson- it’s a nice town with lots of sun – and after two years I completed a B.Com.”

Michael nodded but did not interrupt so Yan continued. ”So when I was 22 I had another decision – what work should I do?”

As he listened, Michael remembered the details of an article in the Central Leader, written by Karina Abadia. He could not help but compare Yan’s apparent life of ease with that experienced by Kong Chow Loo. He was 7 years of age when he and his mother took a boat from Hong Kong to Auckland. It was 1939 and they were fleeing the Japanese escaping the brutality committed against his village people during the second Sino-Japanese War. The boat took about a month to arrive and he made lifelong friends during the journey.


Yan continued his tale explaining, “So here I was twenty two years old with good Chinese and New Zealand qualifications in the small town of Nelson deciding what job I should do.”

Michael nodded beginning to understand Yan’s dilemma. Here in Auckland it is challenging for a new student to get a job, so in Nelson it was even more difficult!

Explaining his situation Yan proceeded saying, “I had to decide what visa to obtain so as to stay in New Zealand. Most other students sought a work visa where you had a year to get a full time job that would allow you to gain an assistant manager’s job, in keeping with your qualifications.”

Michael murmured his understanding of the situation.

Yan, now clear that his predicament was understood continued, “I did not want to work in a set job and there were no suitable jobs available for me. So what other options were open for me?”

Sitting in his chair listening to Yan, Michael mused on Kong Chow Loo’s story. “He and his mother were among the 244 women and 239 children who arrived as refugees from China in 1939 and 1940. His father was already in New Zealand working as a cook for the Wahi Gold Mining Company.”

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Project L.E.L. – Year 27

Project LEL 27

In “Year 27” a bright young Chinese boy chooses to go overseas instead of following his father into law and become a Judge. He is given an ultimation or is it a threat? His hard work leads him to rapid promotions but his nativity leads him to his greatest failure – or his greatest learning! What did he learn? Check it out.

“I failed!”

Sitting at a table in the food court Michael looked up surprised at the announcement expounded by the young Chinese man opposite. “I hear what you said An, but it was only a mistake – a learning experience!”

Michael paused as he reflected on this intelligent Chinese man, then decided to get his full story. “That’s a strong statement. Perhaps you should explain further. What was your relationship like with your father?’

An stared intently at Michael who gave a brief shrug to his shoulders and started.” My father was – is a Judge.”

“So!” Michael challenged. “What sort of cases did he preside over – civil or commercial?”

Pursing his lips briefly An replied, “Commercial, civil and criminal!” Then he paused as he began to remember. “He took me to his court the first time when I was six!”

“That’s young!” Michael responded ruefully. ”And was this in one of the big cities – Beijing or Chongqing?”

The answer was quick and sharp. “No, a second line city which meant he judged many different cases.”


Michael prompted An with a questions. “So you started going to the court when you were six – and did you sit in the courtroom?”

Now fully recalling his early years, An replied slowly as his past memories returned to him. “Occasionally – most times I played outside. It was not until I was about nine that I really became interested.”

‘And why was that?’ Michael questioned.

An continued, ‘That was the age that my father gave me court files to read. They were confidential and not available to the general public – not that that meant much to me – I was interested in the stories!”

Intrigued by An’s revelation Michael asked, “So you were able to read about cases, but when did you start sitting in the court listening to evidence being given and hearing your father control the court?”

“Twelve. I was about twelve when I started attending regularly.” An responded, then added, “I was the youngest there!”


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Project L.E.L. – Year 26

In “Year 26” a young newly married Indian guy living in New Zealand explains how his arranged marriage took place. Compared to a Western culture approach he considers the benefit of longevity of his marriage is worth the effort of not becoming emotionally involved before his marriage. Now he is married and living away from his home country he and his wife are very happy? What can we learn?

Project LEL 26

The door to the lunch room opened and a Chinese female teacher bustled in carrying her lunch. Michael looked up saying, “Hi Alison. How are you?”

Barely looking at him she began clearing space on the bench to lay out her food, she responded, “Fine thank you. And you?”

Michael paused as he reflected on this intelligent woman who was the head English teacher, then decided to get her opinion. “Great, but could be better if my Chinese students would be prepared to ask and answer questions in class!”

Alison looked at him for a moment to see if he was kidding her, then replied, “You know Chinese girls – they don’t want to lose face!”

“Maybe so!” Michael agreed then challenged her, “But if they can’t answer questions in class how do they handle a guy asking them out on a date?”

Taking on her teacher’s role Alison responded with a brief explanation. “That’s a different situation and if they were still at home in China their mother would organize meeting a potential husband and if she can’t do it she would use a marriage broker!” Pausing a moment looking up as the door opened, she added, “Remember there are many more unmarried men than girls in China – the result of our one child policy.”


Aware of the arrival of Manpreet, the International Marketing Manager, Michael continued his way to the white board saying, “Let me show you my theory!”

Quickly drawing a triangle divided into five levels, Michael began to explain each level. “The lowest level can be called Attraction. This is the chemistry that occurs between two people when they first meet.”

Alison smiled as she remembered a past experience, then return to the present saying, ‘I know what you mean. Go on.”

Pointing at the second level Michael continued, “Here is the bonding period where each person discovers similar Interests, Hobbies and Education standards.”

Alison nodded again commenting, “The purpose of dating.”

“Correct.” Michael agreed as he noticed Manpreet nodding as well, and then continued. “The third level is finding out and accepting the other person’s values. These are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work.”

Now fully involved Alison intervened, “Like Religion and Belief systems!”

Michael wrote the words on the whiteboard then added, “Also, Political, Social and Aesthetic matters.”

‘What next?” Manpreet questioned.

Michael smiled to himself, keen to hear their views on the top two levels. “The next level is the Physical level – this is where sex happens!”

Neither Alison nor Manpreet reacted outwardly so Michael felt they must accept this level so proceeded to complete his theory. “And after all these levels have been completed the couple achieve – Love – or in my mind “Romantic Love!”

Still no comments from the other two, so Michael added humorously, “Here in Kiwiland it is quite normal for a guy and a girl to be attracted at Level 1 and then go straight to the physical level at Level 4 and then consider they are ‘in love’!”

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Project L.E.L. – Year 25

In “Year 25” a single Korean guy living in New Zealand with a good job admits to letting others split up his relationship and his fixed ideas meant he gave up his sport. Has complying with others wishes and holding fixed ideas the best way to live? Now he is away from his home country does he still have to obey their rules? What has he learnt? Check it out.

Project LEL 25

“Good to see you again.” Michael smiled as he sat down at the table beside a window overlooking a busy street one floor below. It had been more than twelve months since he had met Blair, so they had a lot to catch up on.

“I’m pleased we could have lunch.’ Blair responded, his smile making him look younger than his 25 years. “How are you?”

Michael reflected a moment and then decided to give the short answer to the question and ask his own. ‘Wonderful. Everything is going well and I am making good progress. But what’s happening with you?

At that moment their meals arrived and Blair took his first mouthful, using the time for his own reflection, then replied. “The job is going well. As you know my boss is Korean and he and I were in the same regiment for our military service, so we have a lot in common. We get on well and he has given me a few breaks – so now I am in head office!”

Michael nodded in agreement, aware of the three year compulsory army service required in his home country. This contact had been a great advantage to Blair. “Very good. I‘m glad that’s going well for you.” Leaving that subject Michael moved on to checking out his personal situation. ”And where do you live – how’s that going?”

Blair responded briefly and Michael nodded without comment. Then he asked, ‘Got a girlfriend? ”Blair gave a rueful smile, “Not yet!” Michael raised his eyebrows in mock surprise as he taunted him with a challenge. “You are young and handsome – have a stable job, and you’re a Kendo Master – so you can defend her” Michael grinned, “You must be every girl’s dream!”


Blair paused again, this time he appeared to be arguing with himself about what next to say. Then a look of resignation appeared as he started his story. “I came to New Zealand for two reasons.” Blair announced, and then continued, ‘The first was to follow my friends to get some overseas experience after completing my military service.” Michael, sensing a discovery, probed, “And the other?”

Pausing yet again to finish his mouthful, Blair continued, “And the other was to get away from my girlfriend! “ Michael, unsure of the reason interrupted with a question. “Get away! You mean you broke up?” Blair gave his rueful smile again before he replied. “Not broke up – more like – forced apart!”

“Forced apart?” Michael could hardly restrain himself. “Forced apart! Who did this to you?” Blair grimaced, this time the pain of his explanation beginning to show. “My mother!”

“Your Mother?” Michael repeated, intrigued by his reason. “Why?”

Blair paused yet again, seemingly reluctant to reply, then looked directly at Michael as he blurted out the surprising revelation. “My ex-girlfriend is a Shaman!”

“Shaman?” Michael exploded. “You mean a person who has physic powers?” Blair nodded in confirmation. Then Michael followed up with, “Like what sort of powers?”

“She could tell the future!” Michael looked carefully at Blair to make sure he was not joking with him, then questioned. “She’s a fortune teller?”

Blair nodded again, a slight grimace appearing on his face.” My mother is a strict Christian and could not accept me being with anyone who was not of the same faith!”

“I know what you mean, as my mother told people’s fortunes by reading tea leaves. She was very popular.” Michael replied then gently probed. “So what have you learnt from this experience – other than the pain of heart break?”

Blair stared at Michael astonished are his suggestion, then, with a slight stutter, responded, “Learnt! What do you mean?”

Michael smiled at Blair’s question then explained.” Every event, situation and person you interact with is a learning experience. If you can accept this statement then you can view this experience from the view-point of why it happened for what you had to learn. This approach makes it easier to understand all the events that happen in your life.”

Blair nodded but still puzzled asked, “How do you mean?”

Michael smiled kindly, then explained. “While the experience was painful for you I can see at least two lessons you have learnt.” Continuing without a pause, Michael continued his explanation. “The first is independence and the other is the folly of following others advice!”

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Project L.E.L. – Year 24

In “Year 24” an attractive, well educated, unmarried Chinese girl has a good job, her own home, but no boyfriend. Has being born a twin or being too successful or being a “left-over woman”, affected her life? What has she learnt? Check it out.

Project LEL 24

“So your father is an engineer?” Michael asked shortly after they sat down in the metro train on their way back to Auckland.

“Yes.” Belinda replied, not looking at him as she adjusted her dress on the seat and finding the best position to sit.

“What sort?” Michael probed, seeking to better understand his new assistant’s family situation.

“Mechanical. He specialises in diesel engines.” Her reply was specific.

“Ok.” Michael mused, still not sure what her father did. “What industry is he in?”

“Drilling – oil drilling.” Belinda answered as she turned to look at him, a half smile appearing on her face. “Why do you ask so many questions?”

Oh – I just wondered about your family.” Michael paused, then added. “Often girls have a close relationship with their father.”

“Not me.” Belinda answered, “But I know he loves me.”

”‘That’s good. But why are you not close?”

“When I was working in Beijing I did not see him often,” Belinda explained, “He worked on oil drilling rig off the shore of Indonesia, two months on and one month off.”

“And what about your mother?”

“She is a career person so we moved from Chengdu to Beijing for her job.” Belinda explained, slightly exasperated.

“So you have a remote father and a busy career driven mother.” Michael summarized. “And how did they treat you when you were upset?”

“They always allowed me to express my feelings.” Belinda paused in thought, “but they would never let me hurt myself like if I was to hit or kick something when I was angry!”

“Lucky you to have such supportive parents.” Michael responded, ‘And that has made you very independent.”

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Project L.E.L.- Year 23

In “Year 23” Michael, a teacher, is fascinated by the reason a female student from Northern India has come to New Zealand where she enjoyed living in a small rural city. This short story sets out the brutal challenges facing women from India where traditional rural practices still dominate, giving men undue power over females.

Project LEL 23

At the reception desk for the College where he taught business subjects Michael observed the many colourful images hanging on the walls from the Design class, photographs of happy students smiling and various notices pinned on the notice board.

“Good morning Michael. How are you today?” the Receptionist asked giving her special smile.

“Well thank you.” He replied. “And you?”

“I’m good to.” She answered, and then became more serious. “You have a new student in your class today!”

“Oh! Male or female?” Michael questioned automatically without thinking too much, as he was taking papers out of his shoulder bag to leave them to be photocopied.

“Female. She’s from India. She’s very nice!” She replied, and then announced, “Here she is now. Priya meet Murray – he’s your teacher for Organisation & Management.”

“Hello Priya. Welcome to the College.” Michael clasped and shook the extended hand from a young slightly plump girl with a wide smile that projected a pleasant personality.

“Thank you!” Priya smiled back. “It’s so wonderful being in New Zealand!”

“Have you been here for long?”Michael asked.

“Two years plus one month.” She replied specifically.

“That’s a while.” Michael responded. “And how long have you been in Auckland?”

“Just arrived” She responded. “I’ve just come up from Invercargill.”

“Invercargill?” Michael exploded with surprise. “That’s at the other end of New Zealand – almost in Antarctica.”

“It’s wonderful.” Priya cooed. “It’s the most wonderful place I’ve ever lived!”

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Project L.E.L. – Year 22

In the sixth story a Chinese girl, Jia, comes to New Zealand as a student. She works hard, helps a local company do business in China, finds her true love and a fulfilling life. This short story sets out the adventures and challenges of one girl, who finds “joy and peace” through her own will.

LEL Year 22

Michael closed his briefcase filled with copies of handouts and a text book. As a part time tutor he had just finished teaching the Organisation & Management class and was completing the administration details. Extra time was required after this first session, but now he was ready to leave.

Closing the door to the staff room, he stepped into the large Reception area on the second floor and as he turned he bumped into a young (female) woman sweeping the floor.

“Sorry!” Michael said moving away.

“That’s OK,” was the reply.

Michael looked closer and to his surprise he saw a young Chinese girl dressed in a cleaning uniform. “Aren’t you from my class?” he asked.

“I’m Jia from your O & M class.” She replied still sweeping.

“Well you are very busy! Are you employed to clean here?” Michael asked.

“Yes this is one of two part time jobs I do!”

“Two jobs?” Michael was surprised.”Why so many?”

She stopped working and looked him directly “My parents have restricted my living allowance so if I want food …. I have to work!”


“Well I never thought I would ever travel to China with you Jia.” Michael commented looking out of the car window. “It seems a long time ago when I was your teacher back in Auckland.”

“This is good experience for us both!” Jia responded smiling as she had done so since collecting him from the airport at Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. “We should arrive in Wenchuan County soon and meet Brian.”

“Yep! Sending him over early to organise the flower growers was an excellent move.” Michael commented, knowing that his business partner who was the Technical Director, needed to be at the site earlier. Now they were travelling to the eastern foothills of the Kunlun mountain range, some four hours drive inland from Chengdu. “These hills are very steep and high. I wonder if they get snow on the tops in winter?”

Jia responded to his question and spoke quickly in Mandarin to the driver who snapped back his reply as he skillfully drove the SUV around a stalled truck on the narrow winding road.

“Yes, snow is seen on the tops in the winter.” Jia replied.

Michael thought to himself ‘Therefore the only land to use is the river flats!’ Then aloud he drawled, “We would never consider planting in an area like this in New Zealand!”

Jia nodded in agreement.

Michael was pleased with the day and the help he had had from Jiaas he expressed his thoughts. “I hope the new ideas will help the villagers! In my eyes,these rural communities have a limited consciousness … “he stalled for a moment searching for a simpler word, “understanding – because they have followed their cultural patterns over so many centuries.”

“You’re talking like a modern Westerner!” Jia shot back.

Looking out the car window Michael could see they had reached the new road – like a motorway with two lanes either way. Further in the distance he could see a lot of vehicles parked on the road side. Wondering what they were, he did not have long to wait as they came around a corner to start passing army trucks filled with troops!‘Were they on an exercise or getting ready to invade Tibet?’


“Good to see you back in NZ.” Michael said as he hugged Jia after she had got off the aircraft at Auckland Airport.

“Thanks for meeting me.” Jia replied as they started walking out of the terminal building. As they came into the daylight she covered her eyes crying.”Aah! It’s so bright here!”

“Bright?” Michael questioned looking at her intently.

“It’s so bright. I can hardly open my eyes!” Jia repeated opening her shoulder bag. “I’ll get my sunglasses.”

They stopped and as Jia searched in her bag, Michael murmured.“And congratulations to both of us as well!”

“Why do you say that?” Jia asked now able to look at him with her sunglasses on.

“Well we didn’t get caught up in the earthquake that was centred in Wenchuan County!” Michael smiled to himself knowing they had both been very lucky escaping from the devastation and suffering caused by the 8.8 earthquake in early May 2008.

“Yes we were lucky.” Jia replied thoughtfully as Michael loaded her suitcases into the boot of the car. “If we had been three weeks later – who knows what we might have experienced!”

Changing the subject Michael gently probed “Did your mother introduce you to any suitable guys when you were home in Wuxi?”

“Yes. Plenty. But… “ Jia paused as she buckled her seat belt then continued, “ … they’re all from the rural areas – ugly and dumb!”

“Ugly and dumb you say!  Well, remember you get what you ask for, so it looks like you are back to Internet dating, again.” Michael smiled at her, fully aware of the level of intent Jia had to find the ‘right man’.


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