An Unlikely FriendPosted: January 10, 2012
Last week, I received a text from my student that said this (in Chinese):
“Emily, this is Wendy. Do you have time the day after tomorrow? It’s my birthday, I want to celebrate it with you. You are my favorite teacher and friend now. Is that okay?”
My heart crumbled into a million little pieces. She not only said I was her favorite teacher, but that I was her friend. How could I say no to that?
We spent the following Thursday watching a terrible Chinese movie while gorging on Chinese-movie-theater-snacks, eating hot pot, and doing a little shopping. Despite the few awkward silences, it was actually a pleasant time, and I think Wendy genuinely enjoyed her 15th birthday. I gathered this from her jumping up and down screeching “I’m having so much fun!”
Going to the movies was a rare treat for Wendy. Like my other students, Cindy and Tanya (who are also my mom’s music students), every minute of her life revolves around studying for the entrance exam to a renown music school. All three of them moved to Beijing from their hometowns in Northeast China to devote time to studying music. They left school, their friends, their extended families, to begin intensive preparation for the exam, basically the biggest deal of their entire lives because it will determine everything thereafter. Personally, I think having a proper childhood is more important, but who am I to define “proper” here?
When I look at Wendy, Cindy and Tanya, I thank the-big-man-upstairs for my teenage years surrounded with friends, fun and plenty of time for leisure. I admire their drive to succeed, but where is the harm in enjoying life? I guess from their parents’ point of view, fun comes after a lifetime of hard work. This has some truth to it; it’s just not the lifestyle I would choose.
I’ve been complaining about not having friends in China, but I am happy to say, alas, I’ve found some company in Cindy, Wendy and Tanya. I don’t know how long our friendship will last, but I’m glad to have them call me their friend for however long they need me. After all, I need them too.