Tuesday, April 26, 2011

For The Young and Crazy - Live It In Full!

Went to check out the dorm rooms reserved for foreign students on campus this afternoon. When the manager opened one after another single, double, single-with-bath, or double-with-shared-bath rooms for our examination, unexpected nostalgia emerged to overwhelm me.

Summer of 2000. In the midst of a hot, humid, and non-stop rainy season - in which whenever an afternoon shower arrived, we would be walking on the street with our sandals and feet half-submerged into muddy puddles - I embarked on my very first journey to China, dying to get to know this land of my ancestry.

Back in those days, convenient stores remained a rarity in Shanghai except the filthy and dimly-lit "Kedi" where we always filled our water, milk, and breakfast supplies. Back in those days, buses that looked like beat-up iron junk roamed around the city, taking us from the old campus to the new campus afar; each journey took about 45 minutes one way - standing, of course.

Back in those days, 11pm curfew was still applied to even the foreign student dorm, and each time a violator - myself included - returned, putting on the most charming smile was a must in order to avoid a harsh scolding from the first-floor A-yi. And back in those days, a meal in the school cafeteria cost less than 5 RMB, while an occasional self-treat to the nearby Korean or Dongbei dumpling restaurants right outside the school gate could mark the highlight of the day.

I have no doubt that even though our budget only allows us to put two students in one tiny cell-like room with shared washroom and shower room in the hallway, the best late-night conversations, mafia games, random ruminations of the 20-something-year-old's, and contemplations or debates about life, dreams, regrets, and love aches WILL happen and happen earnestly and unforgettably in those tiny, cell-like rooms.

I also have no doubt that with the bloody hot summer weather outside - when the fans or AC's in the rooms will be bound to die or work only under the condition of making incredibly loud noise and creating ceaseless water dripping - some students will fan themselves to sleep in class, not obtaining any of the materials that the professors have said. Others, who manage to keep their consciousness alive, will do so by busying themselves with doodling, journaling, day-dreaming, or again, contemplating about the unfinished bedtime chats from the night before.

That's what youth is about. And that's what leaving your comfort zone and encountering and embracing a world of new culture, funny habits, unfamiliar diet, and strange accents and intonations are all about.

If everything goes well, this summer, there will be a Shanghai-Busan-Fukuoka student exchange program among our school and two other schools in Korea and Japan. Though the prep work remains mountain-high, and the thought of maneuvering through all the required paper work and bureaucratic red-tap for students just paralyzes me, I do hope that one day - in the year 2020, or 2036, or 2045 - someone (more than one!!!) who participates in this program will still remember those bedtime chats, early-morning strolls, mid-day rumination, and late-night curfew violations as a way to remind themselves:

I too was young and crazy, and I too had lived it full.

Better yet - if this may somehow provide students with a life-changing, mind-blowing, vision-opening moment for them - let all bureaucratic paper work and prep work fall!

梅ちゃん at 2:52:00 AM



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