in the summer of 2005, i lived in Haikou city on China’s Hainan Island.
i went there to study the mandarin language after only studying mandarin 101 and 102. needless to say, my mum was worried (plus the SARS outbreak had JUST died down). it was a great adventure, one the greatest of my life so far. it was the first time i was going to be living on my own….and in another country…and where i barely knew the language. i was 19 and celebrated turning 20 in china!
anyway, while studying there i’ve made a few close chinese friends– some of whom i still keep in contact with. one of them — is Jaken Li. i call him gege which means older brother and he calls me meimei which means little sister. he would come visit me at my apartment as often as he could and we’d go gallivanting around Haikou (which is like a huge chinatown). he’d take me to little mom and pops eateries where we’d sip up 40 cent noodle bowls and buy desserts from the street vendors, which my professor told me to be careful of (because lots of foreign students get sick from eating from street vendors)..but i have an iron stomach. we would try to practice wu shu (kung fu) with the boys in the afternoons but decided it was not for us and we went to the library instead. one week i got really sick and jaken was darling enough to bring me chinese medicine and call me to make sure i was okay. when summer was over and he had to return to his hometown (which is in a different province), i cried. oh yes, i cried. i was going to miss him. he was such a quirky funny little friend (yes he’s smaller than me). he cried too..my big brother.
i knew we were good friends but i never imagined we’d keep in contact this long just because we’re oceans apart and kind of have a language barrier. i mean we understand each other when we talk in person..but how were we going to understand each other when my computer can’t type chinese characters and his english writing is kinda funky?
oh, want to know something really funny? the next summer i had a package sitting in front of my door with little buddha figures and a cute shirt from china. a little note said that it was from jaken. it was SO WEIRD. there were no postage stamps or anything so its not like it was mailed. how did it get to my front door? hahah come to find out..jaken had befriended the new study abroad group from hawaii and had asked one of them to deliver these gifts to my house (he had my address)! that guy…..
hehe. needless to say…we are still very good friends. he always remembers to check on me and my family when he hears of any tragic news happening in hawaii….and i check on him at random times in the year. in 2007 i returned to china (for a 21 day ambassador/luxury trip all over China that i won for competing in a pageant) and jaken sat on a train for 17 hours to get to shenzhen to visit me and meet my siblings. he even had to wait an additional 3 hours in the hotel lobby because our tour was running really late. i couldn’t believe he had gone through all that trouble.
i just got an email from him today (with that picture attached) because he got my message about trying to win the Easton Cycling bike! haha! he said he couldn’t vote for me because china has it blocked. oh china. ….
jaken started his own business selling his hometown produce to big markets in the city. he hopes that one day his business will take off and can start selling goods to hawaii so that we will meet again. 🙂
i am so very grateful to come across such a wonderful soul in my life’s journey. i’m excited to see when we will meet again.