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Exam gift is a lucky charm!

June 12 -18, 2019

Gulf Weekly Stan Szecowka
By Stan Szecowka

Gulf Weekly Exam gift is a lucky charm!

A teacher handed out a small gift to students in her Bahrain class to help ease the stress before their examinations and was stunned to find out that years later one of the pupils was still carrying the good luck charm on his global travels … after a chance encounter in Japan.

Former St Christopher’s School’s head of psychology Lizzie Banks, now living in Singapore, met up with South African teenager William Perois, after receiving a photograph of him holding the treasured ‘worry doll’ whilst she was on vacation.

Worry dolls (also called trouble dolls; in Spanish, Muñeca quitapena) are small, hand-made dolls that originate from Guatemala. According to legend, Guatemalan children tell their worries to the worry dolls, placing them under their pillow when they go to bed at night. By morning the dolls have gifted them with the wisdom and knowledge to eliminate their worries.

“One of the many best things that happened in Japan was receiving an email from a student I taught two years ago,” she explained. “Attached was a photograph of the Guatemalan worry doll that I gave him before his final exam for luck!

“It turns out that he has been carrying it around in his wallet ever since and wanted me to know that it was enjoying another world adventure in Tokyo!”

Given that she was only down the road in Yokohama, a couple of days later the ‘three of them’ were reunited over a plate of Okonomiyaki, a Japanese savoury pancake.

“His doll had lost an arm and his head and was all bashed in but Will was thriving!” added Brit Lizzie, 52, who is married to US Navy commander John Tinetti.

The story of the worry doll is a local Mayan legend. The origin of the Muñeca quitapena refers to a Mayan princess named Ixmucane. The princess received a special gift from the sun god that allowed her to solve any problem a human could worry about. The worry doll represents the princess and her wisdom.

William, 19, was a student of St Christopher’s School from 2015 to 2017, graduating with aspirations of becoming an actor. He said: “During my final exams, Mrs Banks gave every student in our class the small ‘worry doll’ which bring fortune and relieve stress, to wish us good luck on our exams.

“The day I got the doll, I put it in my wallet and kept it there.”

Will decided to take a gap year after graduating, joining Spartan Fitness Bahrain as a personal trainer for around six months, as well as performing small pieces of theatre around Bahrain.

“From my work, I had saved up enough money to afford my trip to Japan that I wanted to take,” he explained. “I wanted to learn and speak Japanese, as an extra skill for my acting career as well as the country and language being beautiful.

“After a lot of planning I found a school in Central Tokyo and made the plans accordingly.

“After having been in Tokyo for two months, I found myself in a Darts Bar, a very popular type of facility in Japan. Whilst paying, the worry doll I had kept on my person for nearly three years dropped out. ‘Why not email Mrs Banks?’, I thought. And so I did, with a ‘hello from Tokyo’ message.

“I was surprised to not only receive an email back within minutes, but an email saying that Mrs Banks was also in Japan and about to visit Tokyo the coming weekend!

“We organised it and met in an Okonomiyaki restaurant in Shibuya, minutes from the famous Shibuya crossing.

“Ironically, we had kept in touch after St Christopher’s, but never had an opportunity to meet and reminisce about our time in Bahrain. Yet this opportunity presented itself in the Land of the Rising Sun, by complete chance after sending a quick ‘hello’ email. Luck? Who knows?”

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