Tears flow for for­mer ship mates

Townsville Bulletin - - Your Christmas Txts -

IT’S a tale that in­volves three coun­tries, one epic boat ride, two best friends and one teary re­union.

Af­ter 30 years, Townsville res­i­dent Stephanie Schon­feld has been re­united with ‘skinny lit­tle thing’ Jaswanti Dheda, whom she met on a ship on her way to Aus­tralia.

Jaswanti and her fam­ily ar­rived in Townsville yes­ter­day morn­ing for the first time to spend Christ­mas with Mrs Schon­feld.

Both women were forced to leave South Africa many years ago un­der sad cir­cum­stances.

For Mrs Schon­feld, it was fear.

In 1976, apartheid still reigned in South Africa and her hus­band-to-be, a Ger­man pen­pal, just hap­pened to be white — a sit­u­a­tion the gov­ern­ment at the time would not have tol­er­ated if he had joined her in South Africa.

So she fled to Aus­tralia to marry him and live in a more neu­tral ter­ri­tory.

Her cabin mates were young party girls — a lifestyle which did not ap­peal to Mrs Schon­feld.

But when she laid eyes on Jaswanti she knew they were des­tined to be friends.

The girls shared many ad­ven­tures on the ship and in Aus­tralia when it docked at Fre­man­tle.

How­ever, when the ship ar­rived in Melbourne, the pair had to say good­bye as Mrs Schon­feld dis­em­barked while Jaswanti con­tin­ued on to New Zealand.

And it has taken 30 years for them to meet again.

‘‘I’m so over­joyed to see my best friend again,’’ Mrs Schon­feld said.

The friend­ship has stood the test of time, with both women con­tin­u­ing to stay in con­tact via email, phone and mail.

Like so many vis­i­tors to the north, Jaswanti has de­cided she hates the rain and gloom of her home town in New Zealand and wants to live in Aus­tralia where the weather is more like her home land of In­dia.

Her old­est daugh­ter is ready for work — and Jaswanti feels she will have more op­por­tu­nity here.

‘‘I don’t like the weather in New Zealand and it is so very dif­fi­cult to get a job down there,’’ Jaswanti said. But work can wait. Yes­ter­day the pair were all gig­gles and cud­dles, kisses and tears.

‘‘I can’t de­scribe it to you, I’m so happy, I never thought I’d see her again,’’ Jaswanti said.

MEGANBRAYLEY VRR24548

BEST FRIENDS . . . Stephanie Schon­feld and Jaswanti Dheda yes­ter­dayPhoto:

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