Friday, December 31, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Friends

Years ago in Indonesia as we said goodbye to a friend - we reassured her that we always return and we have. We have visited her twice since that visit. We are saying goodbye to friends here in the same spirit. I have tried to have coffee or lunch with as many friends as possible. Many of them are from the university - a point that was obvious when 4 people suggested lunch on 6 December, the first day after classes ended.

At Thanksgiving Han Di reminded me that he had spent 27 Thanksgivings with our family. Shortly after we first met him we took him to his first movie in the US, ET. We had decided that Tootsie might be a bit racy for someone who commented that he liked Singing in the Rain. Early in their graduate studies Han Di, Arvind from India, and Mahmoud from Egypt regularly joined us for dinner. One year we invited them to watch election returns. They weren't sure why we suggested this: the Chinese did not have national elections, the Egyptians always knew who was going to win, and the Indians had to wait for weeks for the final results. (Obviously, this was before the 2000 election.)

After Han Di finished his masters he returned to China and married Gu Wei. One of her first meals in the US was Thanksgiving. What a dose of culture shock that must have been, testimony to Gu Wei's resilience. After their first child, Joey, was born I went to their flat each week so that Gu Wei could get out. Joey, a few months old, and I watched the Iran Contra hearings. Joey graduated this spring and found an engineering job with little trouble. I guess the hearings did not enter his subconscious. Two weeks ago we had dinner Bombay Beijing. Gu Wei asked if they had chopsticks. The waiter was puzzled at the request - Gu Wei pointed out that the restaurant's name included Beijing. For over 25 years we have hosted international students and their friendship has enriched (and continues to enrich) our lives. If a local university provides opportunities to introduce an international student to your community I strongly recommend it.

We also made friends with the parents of Brendan and Colin's classmates. Over the year we have lost contact with all of them except Rita. Since 7th grade Rita's son, Michael, and Colin were together in the band and advanced math and science classes. They both pursued Ph.D. (Michael's is in Chemistry). We have dinner with Rita several times a year. In Raleigh we tend to eat close to home; Rita who lives in North Raleigh has expanded our restaurant range. When we had dinner this week we were comparing notes on our sons' personalities. In the interest of family peace we won 't disclose the details other than to note that they are very similar - think of your stereotypes of scientists.

Tomm has been part of our life since 2002. After 9-11 I found it hard to get to the gym and months went by as I kept planning to work out "tomorrow." So I decided a personal trainer was the best solution. Doug also began working out with Tomm. Tomm's children and ours are about the same age. Doug bonded with him because they were both PK (preacher's kids). I had hoped that by working out with a trainer I would end up tall and thin - some things aren't meant to be. This week when we had lunch Tomm showed up with his Nova. He didn't want his recently acquired Toyota convertible to be exposed to the salt and mud on the road.

One Christmas he gave us Sweat Shirts that read "I would rather be at

02degrees 44’ 04” N

101degrees 41’ 39’’ E

The coordinates are for KL. (That year I was entering the cabin of an unnamed domestic airline and the pilot was hanging around talking to the flight attendants. He saw our sweat shirts and asked where that was? I was not reassured.) Would we rather be in KL? It is not easy to answer. Our friends here, in Malaysia, and in other parts of the world have added to our lives - the stories we tell, the opinions we hold, who we are. We look forward to continuing and deepening our friendships.

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