Kins­folk of Out­landers


Special Focus - - Contents - Patrick Ni­et­zsche [Malawi]

One week­end, I stayed in my dorm with my room­mate and two of his vis­it­ing friends. There was no com­mon lan­guage be­tween them. De­spite a few bro­ken words in Chi­nese, the rest was body lan­guage. They kept cack­ling at their wildly told jokes (I sup­pose they were). A group of for­eign stu­dents were par­ty­ing in the next room, which hap­pened to be a kitchen—their loud sound pen­e­trat­ing our thin wall.

It’s how we live as stu­dents. Dif­fer­ent lifestyles, cul­tures, and na­tion­al­i­ties— every one of us is just one part of a big fam­ily. There is a great con­nec­tion in many of our dif­fer­ences, we are all at home, and yet so far away from home at the same time.

Liv­ing in a for­eign coun­try has its chal­lenges, es­pe­cially when you are new to the place. It is hard to keep your ev­ery­day life go­ing. I have in­vari­ably had to be res­cued from many awk­ward mo­ments be­cause I couldn’t speak Chi­nese.

One day I was in front of a desk fac­ing one of the guards of our dor­mi­tory. I had just bought drink­ing wa­ter. He opened a book, and with a pen in his hand he asked a ques­tion in Chi­nese to which I replied, “Sorry, I can’t un­der­stand.”

I chewed over it but I couldn’t guess what he wanted un­til I felt a tap on my shoul­der and a guy said to me, “He is ask­ing for your room num­ber.” Many of the peo­ple who have given me a hand in one thing or an­other be­came my good friends. Friends are a re­minder that we need each other as hu­mans, even when we do not know each other.

I have seen bor­ing stair rails dec­o­rated in col­or­ful bal­loons for a birth­day party. One would surely mis­take it for the tread­ing path of a god­dess. Late night par­ties, gifts, and beau­ti­ful songs are just to show how peo­ple cher­ish the friend­ships they have.

Beau­ti­ful mo­ments can bring peo­ple to­gether, but so do un­lucky ones—which I have wit­nessed.

On one sunny day we were in class. Learn­ing Chi­nese gram­mar as was the usual rou­tine. There was a sud­den scream from the front of the class. A stu­dent had had a sud­den seizure and was vi­o­lently shak­ing on the ground. It

was a time of chaos in a class­room of about 20 peo­ple. One guy knelt next to him and put part of his hand in the vic­tim’s mouth. He was shout­ing in Rus­sian, maybe call­ing for an ob­ject to re­place his bleed­ing hand. Some were stand­ing around and fan­ning him and some of us were try­ing to call an am­bu­lance or taxi. Many girls were just scream­ing and some peo­ple just mourn­ing in si­lence.

A group of 5 stu­dents were gath­ered at one cor­ner hold­ing their hands in a cir­cle pray­ing to their God to have mercy for this in­no­cent kid with all his life ahead of him. Some peo­ple were just mov­ing up and down in con­fu­sion. Our teacher was hold­ing her phone to her ear the whole time talk­ing to some­one to get an am­bu­lance. In no time a lot of stu­dents from other classes had flocked in.

Af­ter a while, the stu­dent was made to sit and he was be­ing asked dif­fer­ent ques­tions from dif­fer­ent peo­ple— all des­per­ate to know how he was feel­ing. He

couldn’t speak nor con­trol his own arms and he was drool­ing.

One young lady, who was trained to han­dle emer­gen­cies, ex­plained the con­di­tion to our teacher. From her telling, it seemed as though he could lose his life if the am­bu­lance didn’t get there soon. That only in­creased the ten­sion in the al­ready con­fused room.

There was a col­lec­tive con­cern that lin­gered amongst all of us. The sit­u­a­tion touched every heart as though it was the sor­row of a mother over the fate of her child.

We all waited with clenched fingers for the re­sults from the hospi­tal. What a re­lief it was to every­body to hear that he was feel­ing bet­ter.

So, here I was in my room with my room­mate. His friends had gone. He started telling me a love story about one of the guys that came.

“But how did you un­der­stand the story when you guys have no com­mon lan­guage?” I in­quis­i­tively asked whilst we were both laugh­ing at the strange ex­pe­ri­ence.

Then he re­sponded, “I guess you should be more puz­zled that with his girl­friend; they can’t speak any com­mon lan­guage ei­ther. At least we have a few Chi­nese words to say to each other.”

It all ended in laugh­ter. But that is a great rev­e­la­tion of hu­man con­nec­tion. It re­minds me that we are still an­i­mals which na­ture blessed us with a deep con­nec­tion that even spo­ken lan­guage can­not re­place or take away.

A con­nec­tion and af­fec­tion that even the bound­aries of con­ti­nents and coun­tries can not erase. We do have a friend­ship and love as hu­mans that skin colour and dif­fer­ence in cul­tures can­not de­ter us from pur­su­ing and feel­ing.

If only all hu­man­ity could fo­cus on that, maybe we could sur­prise those dead philoso­phers by liv­ing a well thought out utopia. In­deed, the world is a strange and won­der­ful place.

Patrick Ni­et­zsche, a so­cial science stu­dent by day, a writer and a poet by night

Patrick Ni­et­zsche (first one on the right) and his class­mates

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