SPECIAL NOTE: I decided to share my book with friends and students in mainland China because it costs too much to order a copy from Amazon.com USA. Enjoy it and share it with people love and care. Steve, USA, feb 7, 2019 firstname.lastname@example.org blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com
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I saw John one day around noon right after morning classes while riding my bicycle with many others on their way to the canteen in the campus.
“What is up, John?”
“Why are you looking so gloomy and sad today? Is everything OK?”
“Don’t call me John anymore. My name is not John anymore.”
“What happened? Can we go somewhere and talk about this? Is that ok with you?”
We went to the school hotel lobby, where some students would use it to meet friends or their parents who came to visit them. We delayed our lunch. We found a quiet corner in the lobby for our conversation.
“So something must be bothering you. What happened?”
“My girlfriend doesn’t love me anymore, so I want to change my name John so I could forget her.”
“Hold on…so what happened?” And then I tried to humor him by saying something stupid like, “So every time a girl stops loving you, you are going to change your name. Is that it? How many times, John?”
“When we were in high school, she and I would spend a lot of time together because I was good in math. I would help her. A few times she would cook some delicious foods for me. She would also make some cakes for me. Now here on the campus, she did not want to answer my phone calls.”
“John, you need to remember she might be busy trying to adjust herself to this new campus. And she did not have time to answer your phone calls. I need to say to you John. In America, friends might cook something for you or make some cookies for you, their way of saying ‘thank you’ for helping me in my math or science. It does not mean the person is in love with you. Get it?”
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“We spent a lot of time together in high school. Now she did not even want to answer my phone calls.”
“Tell me something. When did she tell you ‘I love you’, when?”
A short pause, shaking his head slightly, he said, “She did not say that to me.”
“But you said she did not love me anymore. Now you said she never did say to you ‘I love you’…John, listen here, you have a problem. If she never did say ‘I love you’, how could you say ‘she does not love me anymore’? You know what John?”
“What? What are you trying to say?”
“This is your problem John, not her problem. She never did say I love you, it seems obvious to me you have created the problem yourself and now you should be able to solve it. Right?”
John remained silent. Gradually he understood what I said, that he had created the problem himself and now he would have to find a solution. And we left for lunch. He was happy when I saw him later in the week.
Leslie came to me one day and asked me if he could stay with me for a few days because “my roommates want me to move out”.
“What happened?” I asked him.
“My roommates somehow did not want me to live with them. So now I must try to find another place to live.” He said with some doubt and deep sadness in his voice. He had shared with me before that his roommates did not invite him to join them on a weekend trip to Xiamen city. I was concerned then. And one evening the roommates were cooking a hotpot dinner and they did not invite him to join the meal. I became more alarmed and concerned why his roommates would treat him like a leper.
“Did you talk to anyone in the school about this?”
“I mean did you talk to the school or dorm counselor.”
“What for, they do nothing for us.”
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“It is so simple. I want you to make an appointment to see the dorm counselor and maybe the person can arrange to see you and your roommates to solve the problem. You must try it, ok?”
He stayed for one night, then two, then a week.
“So what did the counselor say? A good counselor should be able to bring you and your roommates together to discuss the problem together. In America a counselor would do that. It is not the job of a counselor to provide you with the solution. What the counselor can do is to bring all of you together and let you guys talk the matter over. The students themselves must learn to know and understand what the root causes are of the conflicts between you and your three roommates. You are now in college, you should be able to think this through, and then come up with some viable solutions to solve it.”
“I did go to the office.”
“And then what happened?”
“Nothing. She told me to go back to my dormitory room and talk to my roommates.”
“You need the counselor to help you to do this. Your roommates refused to talk to you and that is why we have the counselors in our campus.”
“The counselor would not do anything. She asked me to return to my room and discuss the problem with my roommates.”
I was very angry about this. For one thing, the counselor Leslie was talking about did not receive any special training in counseling. She is a regular staff member in the school. She knew nothing about human psychology and never did study counseling anywhere. Finally, Leslie was able to find a new roommate and moved to the new housing on the campus. For students who can afford it, the school has opened a new dormitory just for two students to a room. This move is not good for Leslie or any student. Instead of facing the problems, students are taught not to learn how to solve a problem in the process. I wish our campus would do what Peking University did: providing consultations for students who genuinely are in trouble.
It was a Friday night when Benny came to see me in my apartment in China. In America, Friday nights are the busiest time of the week for many students: dating time! Without a date on Friday nights means death for many virile young men! I
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remember writing one of my first articles for a student newspaper when I started university in America (most American universities have a weekly newspaper reporting on matters of interest to all students). Why wait for Friday nights? I remember writing. The music, the wine, the women, the candlelight and the flowers are just as good any night of the week, why wait for Friday nights? I wrote this after I saw my white roommate was about to jump out of the window because he could not find a date one Friday night. Benny instead came to see me, upset about his girl friend.
“So what did she do to you to make you so upset?” I asked the obvious question. Friday nights in China are not the same as Friday nights in America. Boys do not go crazy on Friday nights. Many prefer to spend time with their friends or roommates, not necessarily with their girlfriends.
“I have lost all my friends.”
“Do you care to explain to me what this means?”
“She does not want me to talk to girls in my classes. She does not want me to spend time with my boy friends. She wants me to spend every hour with her.”
“You allow this to happen to you. So why are you complaining?”
“For example, she wants me to go here and there. And I have to go here and there. I thought this is what love is about. I do everything she wants me to do. Honestly many times I prefer to do nothing.”
“You know what? That is not love, Benny. That is called ‘slavery’ in English. Unless you are married to her, you should have the freedom to be yourself.”
“But if I do not do what she asks me, she will get very angry at me.”
“That is good. Let her get very angry, Benny. You need to know who she is. Let her get angry and maybe you will get to know her true color, who she really is. Agree?”
“Hm. I just don’t understand this girl. Now I have lost all my friends. I gave them up all because of her.”
“Whatever you think, Benny. This is not love, to me. You have allowed her to take away all your freedom, freedom to be yourself and do what you want to do. That is not love. That is slavery. You have to decide what is best for yourself. I cannot tell you
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what to do. You must decide what is best for yourself. But to give up everything? For her? That is not love.”
Eventually, Benny broke up with this girl.
David also graduated, like Benny, from Xiamen University and now working for a state-owned company. He broke up with his girlfriend because David felt he did not have the money the girl’s mother was asking. She is the typical Chinese mother who expects her future son-in-law to own a car, an apartment, a large bank account and a good paying job. And she expected David to hand over a large sum of money. David’s response was honest and simple: I did not come from a rich family. But I did graduate from a prestigious university. I am working hard to save enough money so one day I might be able to own an apartment and buy a car. So David left her because the mother expected David to hand over a large sum of cash. He went back to his hometown and did try some blind dates but to no avail: They were uneducated, dumb and could not hold a decent conversation. Some of them did not have jobs. I guess I will focus on working now. David told me one day but was not bitter about the experiences. He was determined to work harder and save. David refused to consider “naked marriage”, a term that has become popular in China because of a TV show of the same name, meaning you do not need to have an apartment, a large bank account or a car in order to marry someone you love. It is for certain young people who choose to marry against the customs and traditions of today and they are the brave ones who do not believe you need an apartment, a car, a big bank account and a good career in order to marry someone you love.
I saw Martin many times on the campus, obviously he was not able to see well. I concluded he was short-sighted and needed a pair of eyeglasses. So one day, I took him with me to an eyewear store to have a pair of glasses so he could see better. It was such a simple act of kindness and it was inexpensive for a pair of student eye glasses. He wrote me a simple email to say, “Steve, thanks for doing this for me. Now I can see better the power-point presentation in my classes.” He went on to pursue a PhD in oceanography in America.
The world is a stage and we are all merely players. “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.” An anonymous saying but so true and I will continue to enjoy meeting and interacting with many other players on the world stage. This is China.