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A wish for the new semester

| Friday, August 26, 2016

Another semester of uncertainty, and thus, of opportunities.

Words carry weight, and weight fills hearts; words bring hope and hope brightens lives; words redefine beauty, and beauty shapes minds. To discover the beauty in others’ happiness, not judging it but simply portraying it in words, is the deepest joy of an observer, I guess.

“You don’t come all the way here to talk to me about founding a L’Arche in China, Rebecca — you come here to talk to me about your personal concerns. We all do,” Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche Communities, smiled. His deep voice echoed in the tiny village of Trosly-Breuil in northern France. It was a bright morning, soft clean snow melting on the red window seal.

“Come back, and we will have another beer in this same bar, and figure out life,” my friend said. His laughter faded into the dim light of Café Extrablatt in Oldenburg, Northern Germany. A couple was kissing in the corner of the crowded bar, their eyes locked. It was almost midnight — the loud dance music overwhelmed my friend’s gentle sigh.

“I will paint these shells and return them to the sea,” I murmured to myself. I didn’t have to, since nobody was listening. Waves lapping upon the shore of St. Andrews, Scotland, I bowed and received a shell from the sea, washed it and painted on it, imagining its life journey. So many more places it must have been than I have. The shell is a respectable true lone traveler.

“Cheers for the future of St. Andrews, of Scotland, of the world!”


“Shut it. ‘We know what we are, but know not what we may be.’”

“Bad citation. Ophelia was already mad at that point in Hamlet.”

“You got me.”

Friends’ faces lit up by the glowing bonfire on St. Andrews East Sands. S’mores sizzling, friends giggling, warmth coming in waves.

An old woman leans on the parapet of Pont Alexandre III Bridge, smoking. A red fedora hat, heavily woody scent perfume, black leather coat, burgundy tall boots. She stood there like a statue, resisting time’s cruelty. She was looking at the faraway horizon firmly, as if the faraway was her belief. I shivered because I knew she would not return my glance.

Two wine glasses on my table. “Miss, are you alone?” “Yes I am.” “Shall I take away one of the glasses then?” “No, leave it there, if you don’t mind.” I saw people looking at me, their eyes avoiding mine. Suddenly, there was something heroic about dining alone. It is the kind of fearlessness that a lot of people call loneliness.

A student sitting next to me in the airport waiting area near the boarding gate, his glasses sat low on his nose, his mouth half-open. I wonder what music was playing in his ear buds. Dressed in a suit, he was writing down tens of mathematic formulas on a piece of yellowed paper. He wrote with purpose, like composing music. He looked up from his work, cleared his throat, and lowered his head again. The world passed by.

In the twilight, a girl was walking with a professor from DeBartolo to South Quad. Her long black hair danced in the air and she did not care to fix it. His white short hair stubbornly sat on his almost bald head and he did not care to fix it either. A book occupies her hands and his hands were free in the air. She looked up at him and his eyebrows were locked. She walked fast. He breathed deep and hard, trying to catch up with her. Just as I was ready to marvel at what time could do to a wise man, I heard him calling her name. The pair stopped. He pointed to the pink clouds and the orange sky in the west and soon, I heard their laughter. How many sunsets he had seen and how each of them was still able to move him like the first time? We must have wrinkles on the forehead, but we can try not to allow them on the heart.

Let’s hope this semester will be a “felt” one; let’s hope there will be struggles and hardships, so that we can fully engage with life; let’s hope this semester we will receive joy from observing, not judging.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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