This is an article I promised Billy for over a year. Billy once told me I’m very good at being late, so is my article. To pay for the late fee, I’m going to write a long one. And here is the first part.
Before I wrote this article, I asked myself: what is the definition of friends? Some people say friends are someone you like hanging out together; some say friends are people who help each other. I think friends are two different souls finding each other dearly and always want the best for each other. Shay* is such a friend to me. Actually Shay is one of my best friends.
I met Shay in New York City on the first day I moved into The Webster Apartments. The Webster Apartments is a building on the upper west of Manhattan for single women only.
At that time, I had lived in the U.S. for over two years. I made American friends, but none of them I would consider a real friend – who would like to spend time listening to me and to share laughters and sorrows together. I asked many of my friends who, like me, coming to the States to study from China: do you have any very good American friends with whom you can share your laughters and sorrows? Very few of them answered “yes”, or “I once had one”.
Is it really hard to make a really good friend who has a different cultural background from mine? I have been struggling with this question for a while until I met Shay.
Chapter One “Oklahoma! The musical?”
The Webster Apartments provided two meals for all tenants. As I already missed the first meal by moving in too late in the afternoon (yes Bill is right I’m always late), I rushed to the dining hall for dinner super early.
Trying to find a seat to start my dinner, I saw a blonde lady eating alone by a table.
“Hi, can I join you for dinner?” I smiled and asked her.
“Sure.” This lady looked at me and squeezed the word from her full mouth.
Two years later, when Shay and I became close friends, Shay told me the moment she saw me look around for a table, she told herself: girl, please do not come to my table. When I was walking towards her table, she almost prayed for me not talking to her.
“Why?” I asked her.
“I never had any close Asian friends. I didn’t know how to deal with it. Plus I had a very long day and I just wanted to have a quiet moment by myself.”
This lady, who never had a close Asian friend, was trying to be polite by answering all my questions.
“Where did you grow up?” I asked a very typical question if you were in China.
“I grew up in Oklahoma.”
“Oklahoma! The musical?” I shouted out excitedly.
To be honest, I knew nothing about Oklahoma, either the state or the musical. I happened to see a picture of the musical in a movie magazine when I was 5 years old in China. Surprisingly I still remembered it.
Maybe it is my loud voice, or maybe my sudden excitement, the eyes of this young lady lightened up and started to tell me her stories growing up in Oklahoma. I told her what my experience was like living in a country more than 12 hours flight from my parents. We also found out we both loved literature and writing, and neither of us liked working out.
We talked for two hours at the dinner table and another two hours at the lobby when the staff kicked us out of the dinning hall as it was going to be closed at night.
“Hey, we should hang out! I haven’t been to many tourist spots in New York City.” This young lady offered me an invitation.
“Me either! Let’s visit the Free Lady this Week this weekend!”
“You mean the Statue of Liberty? Yes I’m in!”
“Yes yes Statues of Liberty.” I finally knew the real name of that huge woman with a torch. Zi You Nv Shen 自由女神 [Statue of Liberty] in Chinese which can be literature translated as “Free Lady”. But at this time I didn’t know this was just a beginning for this young blonde lady to correct my English in the next 5 years.
This is how I met Shay, who later became one of my best friends.
Want more funny stories between Shay and me? Please stay tuned for Chapter Two.
* As my friend told me she’s very shy (Really?) , she wants me to use a pseudonym. I’ll name her Shay for this article.
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Bio of Catherine Zhao
Catherine has been Billy’s friend for over 5 years since her last year at Stanford University. She is currently working as a product marketing manager for a technology company during the day , and a standup comedian at night, with various random volunteer work on weekends depending on her mood. She was a technology journalist in Silicon Valley, though she never had one signal journalism class at school. She studied linguistics, comparative literature, and anthropology in China and the U.S. She really likes talking to interesting people (like Billy) and retells the story to strangers. She’s currently working on a course to help people of different cultures communicate better with humor. If you have any questions or any funny stories, please reach out to her at suiyucathy123(AT)gmail.com.
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