Reaching Out

On the stage, Kimani and I were dancing together, to distinctively different music and with distinctively different choreography. To the Rock music, Kimani was the lead dancer, dancing with dynamic rhythm and energy. When the music switched to strikingly Chinese melody of flowing peace and tranquility, I led the dance with oriental grace and lyrical expressiveness. Our dance was a perfect fusion, conflicting elements yoked together to produce a unique harmony. As our dance concluded on the final lingering note, the audience, our classmates at the New Year Evening Show, burst into thunderous applauses, not only for our artistic creativity but also for a seemingly impossible reconciliation.

Kimani and I have been roommates but it was a known secret to all that we were sworn enemies. The first year at XXX School, plunged into a different country with different culture, I was diffident and reserved, naturally alienated from Kimani Keaton, a typical Brooklyn girl, distinctively different in appearances and cultural backgrounds. Our conflicts over trivialities aggravated the alienation.

As the freshman year went on, our direct communication was minimal and our dorm became an arena of cold war stalemate, interspersed by open confrontations and music would be our weapon. Kimani turned on her Ihome speaker to play loud Rock music while I might be engrossed in wrestling with a challenging calculus problem. To retaliate, I would instantly download a high-pitched national revolutionary song and played it loud to drown Kimani’s favorite Miley Cyrus’ voice. The whole freshman hall was loud enough to wake the dead. Surrounded by enmity, I felt as if living in a prison house.

Bur secretly, I was envious of Kimani. She had many friends who came to chat with her and have fun. Her enthusiasm and optimistic energy won her great popularity. But I was all alone and isolated. In my despair, I remembered reading about Nelson Mandela and the speech he made the day he was released from the prison—“when I walked out of the prison cell towards the door leading to freedom, I have made it clear that, if I could not leave behind me my pains and resentments, I would still be in prison.”

In my diary on Oct. 12, 2008, I thus wrote “Lily, no more complaining about Kimani and self-pitying. Be brave to talk to her and learn about her culture and habits. You can do it!”

The next day, I invited Kimani to coffee. “Fancy listening to Chinese rock’n’roll?” I asked. “Chinese rock’n’roll, really?” Kimani’s eyes shone with interest and excitement. I played one to her which I downloaded the night before and told her a list of Chinese rock’n’roll stars. Soon we were heatedly discussing the characteristics of the music of two countries. “You did not tell me you have rock’n’roll in China. I thought you hated it,” she said. “No, that was a misunderstanding; I only wanted to concentrate on my studies.” I lost no time apologizing to her for not communicating with her and not stepping out of my shadow of inhibition. Kimani was surprised at my apology, but she knew I was sincere. She said sorry too, for her lack of knowledge and appreciation of another culture.

For the first time, we talked truly heart to heart and our coffee session ended up in a big hug. We started becoming great roommates as any great roommates could ever be. I stopped disliking New York as a noisy party city because Kimani invited me to a tour there, introducing me to some of the city’s best cultural highlights. On my part, I took her to Chinese restaurants and exposed her to some of the greatest delicacies of Chinese cuisine. From then on, our gossips covered any topics that girls love to talk about—music, food, dress, sports, books, and hobbies. Before the New Year Evening Show, we made music arrangements and rehearsed hard, and put on the best performance of the evening.

Now, as president of “International Students Organization,” I love to use my own experiences and lessons to help international students who face barriers in cross-cultural communication. As I tell them, “the barriers are as thin as a sheet of paper; and breaking them up does not require efforts, but only courage.”


        舞台上,Kimani和我正跳着双人舞,伴随着迥然不同的音乐,呈现出迥然不同的舞姿。摇滚乐响起,Kimani 为主舞,节奏强烈,动作劲爆。当音乐切换到具有显著中国特色的宁静幽远的旋律时,我变成领舞者,一展东方的优雅和充满抒情性的表现力。我们的舞蹈节目成为天合之作,大相径庭的元素搭配在一起,制造出一种独特的和谐。随着我们的舞蹈在最后一个余声缭绕的音符上戛然而止,我们的观众——新年演出上的同学们,报之以雷鸣般的掌声,不仅仅因为我们的艺术创造力,也因为我们实现了一次近乎不可能的和解。

        Kimani和我是室友,但一个公开的秘密是,我们俩是不共戴天的敌人。入美国XXX中学的第一年,突然置身于文化迥异的异国他乡,我信心不足,沉默寡言,与Kimani Keaton 格格不入,而Kimani则是一个典型的Brooklyn女孩,每天以奇装异服示人,文化背景与众不同。我们生活琐事上的摩擦使我们俩人的格格不入每况愈下。

        随着第一学年时间的推移,我们之间的直接交流微乎其微,我们的寝室成为冷战僵持状态的阵地,时常也伴随着公开的冲突,而音乐则成为我们的武器。当我正在专心致志地攻克一道艰难的微积分题目时,Kimani会打开苹果家庭音响设备,大声播放摇滚乐。为了报复,我会立刻下载一首音色尖利的中国革命歌曲,开大音量,将Kimani最喜爱的Miley Cyrus  的歌喉淹没殆尽。整座新生宿舍楼声音震耳欲聋,足以把死人也给吵醒。身处这一充满敌意的环境。我觉得仿佛生活在囚牢里。







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