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Each Friend is a World in Us

June, 2012
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Ere summer, the warm breeze had rushed to greet us. In this cafe did I sit, musing on the memorable moments while sipping a bittersweet cup of hot chocolate with cream on top.

A kingdom without oppression, grief or regret. A realm full of respect and inspiration. A place where we truly comprehend each other from the bottom of our hearts without mystical fantasies… Take me to this location, bring me eccentric novelty.

After all, studious April seemed to have spent much of her childhood reading books, swimming in the fictional oceans; Danny, on the other hand, apparently explored different realms with his own expeditions. Clash! When April met Danny so many years back in Canada, rather peculiar circumstances occurred.

“Hey, this is my new walkie-talkie, April. Hello? Hello?” And he basically yelled at me for ages with his latest toy right in front of my face. I sighed, with a small grin. Danny has always longed to depart on his own expeditions, and a walkie-talkie definitely seemed to fit his personality. I wondered if he would disseminate his sense of optimism and enthusiasm all across Canada, thinking that the country was absolutely gigantic, displaying a fearful attitude to the largeness of the world whilst he continued to dream about new explorations and ignoring my own abstract musings and naive idealism.

Naturally, as the studious April, I tranquilly labeled some of Danny’s ideas as immature, illogical or surreal. We are two very different individuals. Nevertheless, I have always regarded our friendship as precious and empowering, for I have found many similarities amongst our differences.

“April, would you like to come with me to an old lady’s house?” He smiled mysteriously, without more clarification.

“What for, Danny?” I wondered out loud, immediately thinking of the images of old ladies depicted in Western literature.

“Some pocket money would be lovely!” As simple as that? How? I did not need to ask this time, for Danny readily told me about earning some cash by handing the bottles he collected to this old lady in his neighborhood. Recycling and earning some rewards simultaneously sounded interesting to me, so I quickly deserted my books in Danny’s house and followed him outside.

Neither of us actually realized the true meaning of recycling at that time, but with great excitement, we walked down the sleepy streets with bags of plastic bottles in our hands.

I could not forget the feeling of satisfaction and appreciation as I felt the warmth of the coin Danny shared with me - ‘well, we get 50 cents, which means 25 for me and 25 for you.’ The coin looked tiny, just as the way I perceived individuals to be minuscule in the world. Yet, the tiny coin was somehow imprinted in my memory that it represents the reward of conservation and of friendship. Since then, I have been a keen conservationist and have attributed this desire to protect the environment and preserve nature to my childhood friend, Danny. Though I have not been offered the opportunity to return to Canada again, Danny continued to share with me his new ideas by e-mail, which connected us despite the distance I used to emphasize as a child. Thanks to his passion for idealistically exploring and executing new thoughts, I have been convinced that the world is not as grand as I had imagined it to be.

 

Distance does hinder friendship, but it definitely does not serve as a stumbling block. My friend Zala is from Slovenia, a small European country which I visit periodically, and we have managed to meet up almost annually for more than five years now, enjoying the sustained friendship.

“Hello April, I am in Ptuj (town in the northeast of Slovenia) for two weeks, making my new drama Smeti Na Luni, in English Garbage on the moon at the city theatre. I am not in school now; I will have a lot of work when I go back. I found ice-skating dresses on the internet from Beijing. They are wonderful! Hope you come to Slovenia soon, you can go with my family to Fiesa and stay there with me. We can swim in the sea.”

If I were asked to characterize Zala succinctly, I would tell you that she is extremely versatile and virtuoso in all her activities. An actress, skater, dancer and broadcaster who has been eminent in her country from an early age, Zala is always determined to excel at her interests. I have been very impressed by the continuation of all her activities that I consider remarkably tedious at times because of the hours required to spend to perfect the skills.

Zala dances, acts, skates and does gymnastics to very high standards that result from her hard work. She never complains to me how hard it is to attend training sessions day after day for hours without stopping, and to travel across Europe to participate in competitions. Each time I meet her, Zala is always smiling with confidence. I have recognized that inside this young celebrity’s heart is my favorite part of her character – naivety.

No matter how regularly Zala appears on Slovenia’s TV shows, radio broadcasts, theater productions and magazine advertisements, she never betrays her authentic wishes that may not even be easily comprehended by grownups. When I asked Zala what she wants to be in the future, I was not prepared to receive her answer – ‘I want to be a clown’. I gazed at her graceful brown eyes that assured me that she was perfectly serious and resolute. Perhaps I was too conventional in thinking that Zala would naturally aspire to be a Hollywood superstar or a world-renowned dancer, but I was overall happy for her that being a child celebrity in Slovenia, Zala is perfectly a child who is uncontaminated by the negative aspects brought by her fame and I truly admire her qualities as a hardworking learner whilst most importantly, being herself. Meeting Zala annually enables me to consistently reflect on my own personality and urges me to stay true to myself and others around me.

 

Ancient Greek philosophers, as represented by Socrates, believed that one should ‘be slow to fall into friendship, but when in, be firm and constant’. Indeed, Ritika and I continue to keep in touch and learn from each other.

“Learning is a treasure that follows us everywhere. Thank you for inspiring me April.” This Skype mood message clings to my brain as I am writing these words. Ritika and I share so many similarities that we can hardly believe we have only attended school together for a year and really got to know each other after an entire semester: we both are fans of Emma Watson and Kate Middleton; we both regard ourselves bookworms; and we both believe that friendship is firm and constant.

Two ambitious students, Ritika and I are far from desiring to cling to any regrets. On the day she left BCIS for Malaysia, we exchanged best wishes and huge hugs. The farewell was optimistic, not at all sad, though we could have lamented for a long period that we cannot meet up. Instead, we were rather cheerful that technology allows us to stick together as if the distance between Beijing and Malaysia is zero miles.

Countless ‘me too’s on our e-mails and Skype chats do imply a strong likeness between us. A friend like Ritika is sometimes the mirror of myself and it is always interesting to look at our similarities under varied backgrounds – Ritika is from India but has been attending international schools since kindergarten in Indonesia, China and Malaysia, whilst I have always lived in Beijing and previously attended a local school; Ritika has two siblings whilst I am the only child. Being in an international school enables me to communicate with others from different cultural backgrounds by meeting interesting and inspirational individuals such as my best friend, Ritika.

Perhaps, I contemplated, the significance of friendship is evident in a way that a new world is born, shaped by mutual identity and molded by individuality.

 

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” Just as Anaïs Nin highlighted the true meanings of friendship, I have taken a journey of reflection with a bittersweet cup of hot chocolate. To me, true friends share memories and affections that never alter and guide us to certain mutuality of thoughts and achievements.

The breeze gently massaged us, telling me that summer time is here and that I now have more liberty to get in touch with my old friends from faraway locations.

 

By April Xiaoyi Xu

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