Kinsfolk of Outlanders
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