Symbiosis | Sharing | Harmony

Remember Me With Smiles And Laughter

by Lee Sok Lian|李淑莲

“It doesn’t matter if you have five friends or five thousand friends. When it all comes down to it, popularity means nothing. All that matters is that you know these five will be there holding your hand, as the five thousand walk by.”  -- Source unknown

Good bye Zhao Yan (in red jacket)!

At about 10am this morning, a restless, somewhat anxious, lanky figure suddenly appeared at the open doorway of my office. I glanced up. Zhao Yan, a long-time caddie, had come to bid me farewell. With some difficulty, the words came tumbling out in a rush, as if the speaker was in a hurry to say all that he had to say before his nerves got the better of him.

“Teacher Li, I am sorry, the time has come for me to return home (to Xingyi, in Jiangsu). Thank you very much for your teaching. I will always remember your words…”

The words trailed off.

Then a warm embrace, followed by an awkward handshake.

At moments like these, it seems facile to talk.

How do I even begin to thank Zhao Yan for all the lessons he and his friends taught me? The lessons in loving kindness, patience and humility, caring for others, friendship, and much, much more. When I first arrived on the island four winters ago, I did not know as many people as I do now. That year, we put in place the English Language Proficiency Program; Zhao Yan was in one of the classes I taught.

In those days, unsure about Chinese customs and over-zealous about doing the right thing in a foreign country, always afraid that my words, motives and intentions might be misinterpreted, I often erred on the side of caution. I might have unwittingly given offence to all those who proffered fruits and canned beverages, only to have the items returned. I now look back at those four years with wonder and nostalgia. Has it really been four years?

I vividly recall once, as I was making my way to the bus terminus, Zhao Yan, a red plastic bag clutched in his hand, came running up and urgently thrust an apple, heavy and crisp, into my hands. Reluctant to accept gifts of any kind, I hastily stuffed the fruit back into the plastic bag bulging with shiny Shandong apples. A tug-of-war ensued. How ungrateful I must have seemed.

Zhao Yan implored: “Teacher, please accept this small gift from your student. It is just a token of goodwill. Do not think too much about it, please. It costs very little.”

It is my hope that Zhao Yan will continue to learn English, and follow all the blog posts dedicated to him, and to all those whose paths have crossed mine on our brief sojourn.

“I feel like I don’t need to say goodbye. I just have this feeling like I’ll see you again soon.” -- Source unknown

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints in your heart and we are never the same.” -- Source unknown