Two Places At Once

Two months ago, when the school counselor introduced me to two new sophomores, Charles and Min Qi, who mirrored my Chinese ethnicity and explained that they had just moved from China with very few English skills, I was more than willing to tutor them. Being fluent Mandarin, I thought tutoring them would be as simple as talking to my grandpa in Shanghai on the weekends. I ended up not only tutoring them but also serving as a Chinese-English translator for many weeks to come. Little did I know that this experience taught and benefited me as much as I did them.

Throughout the past few months, both students have introduced me to a new type of friendship that I had never had before, but I have been able to identify and bond with Charles the most. We have similar personalities and both love to laugh. Luckily, we have lunch together, and because his teachers know that I am his special translator, I have the special ability to visit any of his classes as well as homeroom. *sits proudly* During our meetings, we have been able to share so much with each other, everything from culture to personal views to inside jokes to ancedotal incidents.

I truly admire Charles for his courage to move from his home country to an entirely new one whose cultural traditions and customs are completely different from his own. It was extremely difficult for me when I moved here from Massachusetts; I can barely imagine what it would be like to move across the world. Naturally, both Charles and Min Qi have had to go through several difficulties–the biggest one being the language barrier. I am so glad that I have been able to help and provide them with a guide that has led them through the challenges of molding into the now familiar American society that they were once so accustomed to, and, more importantly, a friend who not only relates to their own culture but also constantly points them in the right drection when they feel lost. Likewise, both students have been able to teach me what student life is like in Chinese schools as well as their anecdotes of moving from there to here. Charles especially has been eager to share all that he knows…quite frankly, he talks A LOT. :P

To be honest, I have never had the privilege to bond with Chinese peers of my age, much less befriend them, so this new bond that I share with Charles amazes me because it is something new that I do not experience everyday.

China and America are both my homes. I have spent countless memorable summers in China and have lived all seventeen years of my life in America. Both cultures have become so familiar to me that they are both a large part of who I am and will always be. When I am with Charles, I feel like I am in two places at once–the two places where there is absolutely everything that I have ever known. China and America. My surroundings are nothing but American; the burgers, the colloquial slang, the decorations on students’ backpacks. Yet, with Charles by my side, I also experience nostalgia for China in mind: the porkbuns, the sticky heat, the swift Shanghainese accents. It is as if both parts of me have come together to meet ends.

I am eager for the Chinese New Year Festival that will take place this weekend. Charles has invited Min Qi and one other friend of his. I have invited my boyfriend and his brothers. Needless to say, it will be a very interesting event…in a way, this will become an analogy. The CNY event will have my personal ideas of China and America truly meeting together for the first time. Rather, my boyfriend and my new best friend. Interesting.

Every once in a while, I do believe people need to experience something new and fresh, something that breaks them from their normal routine and opens their eyes, their minds, and their hearts to what the world really is like. Learning and experiencing something different from usual is what makes life interesting the most, I think. Certainly, it is one of the many reasons that prove that life is amazing!

~TRA

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