An ocean apart:Friendship that began in a bottle is blossoming

2012-05-14 00:00

IT’S like a story you’d watch on the big screen, a bit bizarre for real life.

In March 2009, Australian teacher Anne O’Sullivan wrote a message and enclosed it in a bottle with her contact details. Then she tossed it overboard from a cruise ship off the Indonesian island of Komodo.

“… We’re sitting in our balcony pondering. Is it better to love or be loved? Your answer will be appreciated. Call us or write to us …” the message read.

Fifteen months later, in May 2010, Creighton resident Fiona Marlton discovered the bottle along the Mozambican shoreline.

“I found your bottle … It’s better to be loved. But to be loved you must love,” these were Marlton’s first words when she telephoned O’Sullivan.

Both strangers screamed and laughed with excitement over the phone.

And this was a start of a two-year-old friendship.

O’Sullivan admitted that she never expected a response.

The pair started chatting via e-mails about life and love and exchanged pictures and more.

The school teacher has since travelled from a small seaside town south of Sydney to meet her friend.

Sitting on the veranda at a quiet farm house in Creighton, the two women’s faces beam with joy.

“It’s amazing. It feels like we’ve known each other for years,” they said.

O’Sullivan said it was all tears and hugs at the airport on Friday when they saw each other.

“It was like meeting an old friend. It’s still feels surreal,” O’Sullivan said.

Marlton said they have lot in common. They were both born and bred on dairy farms, both are Aquarius, have sisters named Trish and their daughters both recently got married.

The pair said they can talk about anything.

Marlton said when she made this astounding discovery in Mozambique, a close friend had been supposed to join her but fell sick. She died three weeks later.

“I lost a good friend but when I found this bottle I gained another friend,” she said.

O’Sullivan, joined by her husband, will be touring southern and eastern Africa.

They’ll travel to the Kruger National Park, on to Mozambique where Marlton discovered the bottle and to Kenya and Botswana.

Today she will visit a school at Ixopo.

“What I love about Anne is her bubbliness, her spontaneity and lust for life,” said Marlton.

On the other hand, O’Sullivan said Marlton is trustworthy and organised.

“Fate brought the bottle to her. Being here feels like I’ve gone back to my childhood and roots.

“There’s so much peace and love. I’m being treated like royalty,” the Australian said as she gazed at the hills and green pastures of Creighton.

Marlton said she hopes to save enough money to visit Australia in 2014.

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