While waiting for a boat to take us from the Chateau d’If to the rest of the Frioul islands, my sister and I fell into conversation with a Taiwanese lady named Sophie, who was in the south of France to select wines for her F&B company. When she learned we were from the Philippines, she proudly told us she had two Filipina friends who were working as domestic helpers back in Taipei.
Sophie expressed a deep respect for her friends: whereas most people would whine about how tired they were from work, her friends slaved without complaint and even prayed for side jobs so that they could send more money back home. From their example, Sophie said, she learned to appreciate what she had. Her job might sound heavenly, but in exchange for getting to visit chateaus and vineyards, taste delicious food and sip the world’s best wines, she has to live out of a suitcase and never stay in one place for long. Because of her Filipina friends, though, Sophie has learned not to complain; as it is, there were so many people in the world who did not have enough to eat. And my sister and I were very lucky, she pointed out: her two Filipina friends had to work hard to support their families, while there we were in the south of France, basking in the Mediterranean sun.
To a great extent, we really are very lucky. I won’t apologize for it: our parents came from poor families, but they have worked very hard to give us a good start, and we ourselves have studied hard and worked hard to get to where we are now. At the same time, no matter how hard we work, we will never be on the same level of comfort as the Zobels or the Henry Sys of this world, not even if we win the lottery ten times. And there are people who work harder than we do and still will only have enough to get by, one day at a time. So to a certain extent, there is indeed some luck involved. In the great lottery of life, we relatively lucked out; we worked with what we had, and life took us somehow, through twisted paths, to Chateau d’If on a warm October afternoon.
Funny to be contemplating about life and fortune in this rocky island off Marseille, where the fictional Edmond Dantes had his life and fortune unjustly taken away from him for countless years. The world isn’t fair, we know that now. Many of us have troubles of our own: challenges, hurts, many of them richly undeserved. But if The Count of Monte Cristo tells us anything, it’s that we won’t always be down and out; the wheel of life will turn. Maybe all we need to do is hang in there for a bit; count our blessings. (Also, it probably won’t hurt to start chipping away at the rocks.)