There was a Go player
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|Guo Juan|| There was a Go player
These days there are shadows floating through my mind. I am listening to the same music all the time...
A long time ago, in the middle of a Go tournament, my friend Rob Kok walked up to me and said ‘Hey, Guo Juan, I have a good friend who wants to take lessons from you.’ ‘Who is that?’ ‘Oh, the guy over there.’ I looked in the direction he nodded, which was the other side of the tournament hall. It seemed far away for my weak eyes. I squinted and saw a guy standing there, looking in our direction. 'Oh that white man?’ Of course I meant 'that gray man.’ My English at that time was even worse than it is now. And I never remember western names, because they don’t have any meaning to me. So I remember people by their appearance: the tall guy, the thin one, the happy guy or the sad looking man. ‘Yes, that white guy’ Rob said. He was used to my funny English.
So I had a new student taking weekly lessons. He was a very confident man. His name was Wiet. He told me he was about 5k, but after our first game I realized I would have to work really hard to actually help him reach 5k. He was very frustrated by the game. Wiet was a very strong chess player, and he was naturally strong in any game he tried. He was very good at anything he did. But he was stuck on this game, Go, and he had decided that he must become a strong player! And I, as his teacher, must make him stronger and stronger and stronger!
Time went by, he became stronger, and we went to tournaments together. Wiet had a beautiful car, with room for four of us: Wiet, Rob Kok, Marti Groot and me. So the four friends traveled to quite a few tournaments together, especially in the eastern European countries.
Wiet drove his car peacefully, I thought. I was never worried when he was driving, and indeed he was a very good driver. I did tease him, though, and I told him, “Please be careful, I have to live at least until my son reaches his 18th birthday.” That was just after I finally got my first drivers license and began driving a car myself. Rob had a great sense of direction, so we never got lost in these unknown cities, not even once.
But there was one time, in Warsaw, with only three of us in the car: Wiet, Marti and me. We were traveling with another Dutch player who drove his own car. He told us that he knew Warsaw very well, and that we just had to follow his car and he would lead us to the tournament site. So, piece of cake! The guy who knew Warsaw started his car, said “follow me!” and drove away without waiting for us. We drove around Warsaw for more than two hours, looking for the tournament site. We eventually found it, but we were terribly late. I started my game immediately in byo-yomi. Half way through byo-yomi, I felt very sick, and desperately grabbed some coffee. I love tea, but I almost never drink coffee. The 4 of us had a great party the night before the tournament, and we didn't sleep much at all. And here I was, in byo-yomi from the very first move! Someone gently took the coffee from my hand, and said 'Don’t drink coffee! It will make you feel worse’. It was Wiet. He held me tightly in his arms, and told me ‘you will be alright.’ His eyes were so soft! I was so tired and nervous about the byo-yomi game that I started to cry… But I won that game, and I thanked him with a very happy smile.
So we had a great driver who took great care on complicated roads in unknown countries, and who also watched me carefully. And we had a great navigator in the car, most of the time. And we had two strong players, Marti and me.
One time we became stuck at a border crossing. The waiting line was so long that we were sure we had no chance to make it to the tournament in time for the first round. Wiet searched the entire area and eventually found a telephone. We got permission to start the first game in our car, Marti against me. And Wiet was very happy because he would be able to watch our game closely, and Rob could explain each move to him.
Wiet hated to loose. So do I. And this caused us some problems. One year at a Hamburg tournament, ‘Hey hey, what is wrong with you Guo Juan?’ That was Rob, looking at the huge glass of beer in my hands, so huge that I could not hold it with one hand. Rob knew I didn’t like beer. I was drinking because Wiet lost his game, and his loss made me unhappy, so I lost my game as well! So, I drank beer. I played a 7 stone handicap game with Rob and I killed him, which made me very happy. And he was happy, too, because I was happy.
In 1996 Wiet and I played pair go together in the European pair go championship. He was very nervous about this event, but I told him ‘we will be alright.’ And he played quite well, at a level much higher than his real strength. We won third place, and we were so happy that we celebrated our victory by drinking for hours at a great restaurant he'd known from years before. At that time he was a 2k.
Wiet had many Go books and beautiful sets of stones. He carried a big go table from Japan back home to the Netherlands. Like many Go fans, he loved everything related to the game. All of the go players were his friends.
In addition to traveling to tournaments together, we had parties at his home. He was a great cook. I still use many of his recipes today. I always stood in his kitchen and watched him cook, and learned from him. When I started to cook, he would stop by and often brought his friends to eat my food. He thought he had a good excuse, saying that I was a better cook than he was, but that was not true at all.
Wiet was my big friend and my big brother. Whenever I was in trouble, he was there to help. I remember I could call him in the middle of the night to complain… and he would listen to me, patiently…
He loved my son like a real father loves his son. He was a real father to my son. He taught my son to be a kind person, to be a happy person, and to be a useful and helpful person.
Once, when my son was a little boy, he was running and collided with another boy. The other boy's forehead smashed into the back of my son’s head. My son had a cerebral concussion and had to lie still for a whole week. Wiet visited us almost every day. He brought my son a video of the ‘Aladin’ movie, and he brought flowers to me. He told my son stories, and spent time with both of us.
Wiet and my son also conspired together and did some ‘bad’ things to me. I had a rule: never buy computer games for my son. But each time when I came back from my Go tournaments, the two of them behaved oddly, with strange smiles, acting extremely nice to me. I knew they had new computer games!
Wiet supported my Go playing. When I lost, he held me, and when I won, he bought me great wine. He helped me teach Go online. He created the first website for my online Go school, which my son continues, today. Wiet told me “you will be a great teacher.” So I try my best to be a good teacher. He pushed me to write books, so I wrote ‘The World of Chinese Go’, and I am still writing...
He exposed me to various styles of western music, and explained them to me, one by one. He took me to concerts. He knew my tastes and he knew what kind of music touches my heart. He took me to museums to teach me western culture. He found books for me to read, to improve my English.
And he traveled with me around the world. From place to place, he taught me about western history, local life, provincial food...
He bought me beautiful dresses. He said “You are really attractive, don't you know that?” Indeed, before then, I did not know. My world, since I was a little girl, revolved around the Go board. My mind was always on the Go board. All of my friends were Go players. I had to fight with boys to win a place in the Go world. I never had time to notice myself as a girl, as a woman.
Wiet was a very strong man, both mentally and physically. He was also a good looking man. He was full of energy and walked very fast, always with a smile on his face. He cared about his clothing and took great care of himself, so when he met people, he gave them a very pleasant feeling. He cared about his friends, very much.
I remember once I was playing in a tournament without him, as he had no time to play. He came to pick me up after the tournament so that we could look for a house. The way he walked into the room was like a fresh wind, which filled the room with light. Wow! His energy and vitality made me forget how tired I was from the playing in the tournament.
Wiet was a professional mathematician, so he did everything very precisely and accurately. At the same time, he was also an artist. Together, we built a palace, reflecting his great taste and elegant style. The floor, the color of the walls, the paintings... Wiet made a careful study of every little corner of our house. He always studied deeply, no matter what the subject. I learned a lot from him, and he taught me how to make our life wonderful.
One of the most important things I learned from Wiet was to accept myself. I had always been very hard on myself, before I met him. He taught me how to be gentle with myself. He said that this was the only way that I could become gentler with other people. Wiet always paid great attention to other people, and especially to his friends. He helped them whenever they were in need. He always looked directly into your eyes when you were talking, and he listened carefully to everything you said. He never forced, but accepted. He loved life as he loved people.
And then he got cancer. As time passed, he became weaker and weaker. Half a year before he died, he could not drive anymore. We still walked, hand in hand... And then, he could not sit at the goban anymore, so we played go in his bed...
Wiet cared very much about what was happening in the world, and about the poor and those who suffered. On 9/11/01, I came home from shopping, and, strangely, he was sitting in the living room watching TV. I didn't notice what was on the TV. I walked to him and complained that the people in the shop overcharged me, and that I'd forgotten to buy some food I needed to make soft Chinese pudding for him. He didn't say anything. He didn't notice me. Very unusual. I said to him, “Hey, do you hear me?” He couldn't say anything. He just pointed at the TV. I looked at the TV, and my jaw dropped. We were both speechless. We both saw the second crash as it happened. We sat there together, watching the tragedy unfold, without speaking. After half an hour, Wiet began to cry. “What a horrible world.” We saw the people waving the towel from the windows, and Wiet was crying. We talked about this horror for many hours, even though he was feeling terrible pain from his cancer.
We fought the cancer for many years. In the end, as always, he was thinking of other people. Wiet said to me “we have done our best.” He told me “Life is so good. I wish I could grow old with you. I had a good life. I am not sorry for myself. So live, Guo Juan. Do not have regrets when your life ends.”
Wiet Bouma, my dear husband, shall we play?
“Erquan Spring Reflecting The Moon” is the song Wiet and I both loved so much. Now it is the music I use to mourn Wiet.
--- Guo Juan
Written October 26th, 2006, the Fifth Anniversary of our last kiss.
Mountain cherry blossoms
Against the snowy peak.
Silent harmony in heaven
|Buri||apparently western computers can`t space haiku......|
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