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“He’s Adopted.”

That was one of my favorite lines from Avengers, but I have, in a weird sense, felt like I adopted someone. When I first met him, I have to say I did not really warm up to him immediately. He and I are literally from two different worlds. We were like two partially deaf people trying to talk to each other, and most days, this is the case.

However, if it is anything I am learning from this job, it is that even if there is a language barrier, we can still extend love and compassion.

When he first asked me to help take him to the DMV, I thought he would have everything else taken care of. As it turned out, I could hardly catch up on my reading as I had to hold his hand throughout the whole process, translating where I could (a few times via iPhone) general to personal questions about him, and then standing in line with him for everything.

I was very uncomfortable at first, taking some guy I hardly knew to some place, but I could tell he was desperate for someone to help him. However, I am glad I did. I got to understand him a lot better through talking to him and I learned about his situation—-and apparently he enjoys K-pop (which is always a plus). If it is anything I understand and have compassion for, it is those that feel a little out of place…and I can hardly begin to imagine how this guy feels. My early days of growing up amidst a heavily Hispanic community while struggling between my identity as an American or as a Chinese, and even as an age-appropriate girl (I am still VERY tomboy at heart) are nothing compared to what he must be going through. But I will not go into details about his details.

On a side note, it is this compassion for the minorities and those that are different that I hope will carry me far as a teacher one day.

Anyway…after I learned about his situation, my whole perception of him changed. Since he is taller than me and honestly looks about my age or even older, I sometimes forget that he is still a boy at heart. However, seeing him and 16 year-old D. and 19 year-old(?) J. throw ice at each other in the kitchen, and seeing all his weird Asian kwirks/jokes, I see that he is in fact a growing boy in a world that is very different for him.

In some ways, I feel bad for him, but more than that, I feel some innate duty to take care of him and lend him help where he needs it. I could not pinpoint my feelings about him until I described it to my roommate after work yesterday. About a week ago, he whiningly called me noona (Korean for older sister) my whole shift and jokingly insisted I call him oppa (the endearing term used by younger Korean girls on older Korean men). I refused to call him anything but his name, but I do admit that I did feel some happiness in being called noona. It was that same feeling I got when I tutored my (adorably cute) little 4th-grade cousin over the summer, or when my teenage cousin started a girl-talk with me about boys (and we agreed how stupid they were…me telling her that for most guys, that does not change until they are probably 25 or so). Or how I feel when I talk about my good friends who are practically like brothers and sisters to me.

In short: he is like that little brother I never had, as I had described to Steph.

Coming from an immigrant family, I know how hard it is to be an immigrant—-it helps to be in a community with people in a similar situation, but Irvine is NOT such a place. Yeah, the boy is a little over a head taller than me and has been mistaken as my brother before (and maybe to strangers, something else). Yeah, he and I have communication issues. But as cheesy and cliche as it sounds, I believe he is in my life for a reason, just as every pleasant and unpleasant encounter of my life was and is there for a reason. If I were in his situation, I know that I would appreciate the help and compassion.

Admittedly, my greatest worry is that my helpfulness will be taken for something else by him, but as long as he understands that I have some weird, almost filial duty to take care of him and connect him to this American world as a sort of older sister figure, I can continue to help him without feeling too weird about it.

That is that.

On another note…I cannot wait until this quarter is over. So many papers to do, yet so many things I want to get into. Bike rides! My story! Beach trips! Picking up crocheting! Improving my locking! Working out! Having a lazy, make-up free day against a wall in the living room reading books. Lunch with Grandma. Road trip with friends. Nevada/Vegas weekend with friends and family (not kidding).

But for now…I am kind of sad that my 16GB USB was left in the library. I do not trust humanity to be as honest as I try to be, but maybe the person who finds it will do as I did and turn it in to the lost and found.

Pfft. Yeah, right.

At least I did not upload my story onto that, although I have thought about it. I can lose articles, even papers that I worked my butt off for (and have thankfully already turned in). However, I would be heartbroken to know if someone got their hands on something I have been crafting for over a year in head and heart. That would be one of my ultimate losses.

In a strange way…I am thankful for that :) Life rocks when you look at the bright side of all things.

…Except I do believe that I will not find my USB in the Lost and Found when I show up after Memorial Day asking about it. It is sad that I can accidentally leave my car keys WITH my USB and bike lock keys resting on my obnoxious, pink/yellow mixte bike frame during class and still find it after class, but probably will not find it after a few days in the library.

Irvine really baffles me!

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2012-05-28, 2:38AM

His Name Was Duane

It seemed like any other Sunday night, albeit a little slow. Okay…VERY slow. It was Mother’s Day but the restaurant was drastically slow unlike the day before. I figured that everyone and their moms (literally and figuratively speaking) chose to come in the day before.

I looked at the time displayed on the cashier/menu screen and it told me that I had about 30 minutes until it was time to close up. The place was empty, and my waitress-self told me that my job was done.

Then came Duane.

From the moment I saw him, I felt an instant connection. As one of the few Americanized, non-Taiwanese workers, a part of me always rejoiced whenever an “atypical” (that is, non-Mandarin-speaking) customer came in to order something. It didn’t help that whenever a gueilo (as we Cantonese would call them) came in, the boss lady always had me talk to them as though they’d order in the most complicated, foreign dialogue.

He was pretty tall, slightly muscular in build and had a hair full of long dreads. In looks and attitude, he seemed like a super-chill person, but throughout our conversation, I had a feeling that my peeps thought otherwise. At one point, R.L. butt into our conversation, rather cautiously behind me, asking me in Mandarin if I liked talking to this customer. I sensed that he and perhaps others wanted this customer out so that they could close soon. Or perhaps they weren’t comfortable with him. I couldn’t blame them…the sad fact is that I imagine my parents would react similarly.

…Anyway, this customer first asked me what time it was and explained that he just came from out of state. Since we had Internet, he ordered a drink and two snacks so that he could use our it since the place he was staying didn’t have any.

Unfortunately, the wifi ended up not working for him, but it was a very uplifting conversation that we had.

I asked him where he came from after he ordered and he told me that he came from South America (forgot specifically where). I thought his English was superb for a foreigner, but then I learned that he was actually Canadian (from Toronto). He was a traveling musician.

The indie-music-loving side of me exploded. I started asking about his music, his style and his life as a traveling musician. I got more excited when I learned that a lot of his funds went back to the Central American music school he started. If he didn’t see the sparkle in my eyes, I’m pretty sure he (and my peeps) heard the ecstatic edge in my voice. This man was living my dream job…AND he was doing it for children!

My first response to his life description was an understated, “Wow, that’s quite a calling.” I asked what he played and he said he started playing guitar early on in church. A few lines into our conversation, I just had to ask, “I hope you don’t mind me by asking, but are you Christian?” He smiled and said yes, and I couldn’t help but blurt back, “Me too! Now I REALLY want to support you!” I realized how weird it sounded, but he just chuckled at my weirdness, saying it was “funny.” Regrettably, he didn’t have any CD’s with him, but upon my request, he left me more info about his music and ministry.

He asked if I was a musician because I apparently “looked” the part, but I confessed to being a newby-of-several-years in guitar. He then gave me the following advice:

  1. JUST PICK IT UP. He asked if I kept it in a case, and then told me to keep it out of its case. When I admitted that it was in a case in my closet, he suggested to keep it by my bedside, and even play it until I fall asleep (apparently, he used to do that).

  2. PRACTICE EVERY DAY. Try for at least 5 minutes, then slowly move up. It all adds up, and a few minutes a day beats a 3-hour drill once a week.

I thanked him for the advice and we parted ways when he couldn’t connect to the Internet and I had to start cleaning up.

Although a slow day, Duane made my day. Even now, I still consider that one of those significant, uplifting moments in meeting a stranger. Like the man at Panera Bread a while back. Like the man in Vegas who, while waiting for his wife to do something, helped my grandfather lift up my mom’s rental and change its spare tire, even offering his own carlifter tool when my mom’s was no good.

There are good people in this world, doing great things. We focus on the negative because bad things make good stories, but there are also lots of good things that happen. Good things as small as just a simple, kind gesture or a talk with a stranger.

Thanks, Duane, for being yet another good reminder of some of the good things and good people in this world. God bless you and the work and music you do. You have no idea how much you’ve inspired me to live for what really matters, and to use the passions and interests God gave me for His grand purpose…and that, I admit, I am still trying to learn.

If anyone’s interested in checking out Duane’s music (it has a reggae and acoustic sound to it)…

www.duanesguitar.com.


2012-05-26, 10:42PM