searching for two people amongst a population of 1.5 million doesn't sound that hard, right? what if the only thing you knew about them were their names, and the last time you knew anything about them was when you were all barely 8 years old?
when i went back to visit my grandparents briefly last year, i decided to find two of my best friends from when i attended school there in grade one. i had two main motives for this, 1. the city is small, 1.5 million people in 4,500 square kms, i was thinking i needed something else to do other than buying vegetables with my grandfather from the market for really cheap prices, and 2. i like adventures, if this counted as one.
on my second day in the city (and four trips to the market already) i decided to figure out how i was to do this, unless they were kept down numerous times, they should both be in grade 11. there're over 50 different high schools, but three main ones. they're ranked in academic order, first high school, second high school and third high school, haha it doesn't sound as weird in chinese i tell you. i sort of figured from when i use to be in the same class with them, that they'd be smart enough to get into the top three, but they weren't entirely really highly academic kids, so that only left me with the second and third high school.
yes my reasoning and elimination skills are really good, i... have good intuition.
because the city isn't too big everything is within a ten to twenty minute walk, i walked. though i'd still take taxi trips to nowhere just to pay 4rmb. my grandparents lived a 5 minute walk to this 'second high school' and with common sense prevailing i decided to visit this place first.
all the gates at schools are actually guarded, so i went in pretending to be a student, although my dress code lacked dirt and the smell of fried rice (jokes, no one in that part of the world actually eats fried rice, just rice), i got in and started asking around shamelessly where the grade 11s were located in this mass area of buildings.
i soon found out there were about 20 classes in each year level, and 80 students in each class! 1600 students? and another school to go, i felt like giving up already. but counter climax aside, i just asked every person i met if they knew (insert name) and (insert name). let's give my friends fake names so i don't have to say insert name all the time, i've always thought one of them looked like a james, and the other can be dylan, because i like that name.
there're quite a few things that happen over the next 5 days, every student and teacher i ask in the two schools all respond in 'no' or 'why do you need to know?', in which i'd respond 'because they're my primary school friends and i'm trying to find them', not once did i mention the fact that i'm actually from overseas, i didn't think that mattered. little did i know how shallow people are. during the 5 days, i met through a friend of a family friend, a teacher who taught grade 11 in the second high school, and he managed to get me a list of all the students in that year level.
i read over all the names in anticipation, more than 4 times, (i know four times doesn't sound like a lot, but that's 4 times 1600 names!) the whole time i was hoping one name i know will come up, but none do. does that mean they're both in the third school? but i was sure one of them was here. by now i had one more day to look for both. all i knew was if i found one of them i found both, because they themselves were best friends in primary school, and i was mainly friends with james but dylan was his best friend and that's how we all became friends. so i just needed one person.
the next day, with only that day remaining before i leave, i decided to go back to the third secondary school, which i had already visited twice. i thought if nothing comes out of it this time i might as well just... just... not look for them. i went straight to the grade 11 co-ordinators office (i went a few days ago but the two teachers there told me they didn't know anyone by those names). i saw a different teacher come out before i went in so i asked her instead,
me: hi, um...
teacher: what's your problem? (that's a directly translated quote)
me: i was wondering if you knew anyone in your year level by the name of james, or dylan?
teacher: no, but you need to know because?
me: i use to come to school in (insert city name) but i'm actually from new zealand, i just-
teacher: really? you're from new zealand? oh my goodness! i think i have heard of a james, come in to the office, i'll ask for you!
at that point i felt i really understood the full use of 'sweat drops', so we head into the office and the teacher repeats what i said only in more exagerrated form and then the same teacher who told me no he didn't know anyone by those names i had given him a couple of days earlier says james is actually in his tutorial, and should be in room *direct quote* '316 right now'. instead of joy i really felt like smashing his face against the window that was reflecting this angelic light on his receding hair line, but that was soon overpowered by the fact that i could very well have found one of them.
i went to level three during the next class break and 316 was the first room near the staircase, i knocked on the door and the first row of people all looked at me, i asked if there was a james in the class and they all turned simultaneously to look at someone else. at that point i turned back around and realised, what am i doing? just because i remember them doesn't mean they'll remember me, okay, breathe in, breathe out, if james doesn't remember you, then just turn around and leave, and- at this point i realised was now facing him,
james: how did you get here?
james: no i mean here, how did you know where i was?
me: wait, wait, you actually remember me?
james: we hung out everyday, who can forget?
me: okay stop ending everything in rhetoric questions, it's confusing.
james: i seriously can't believe this.
we pretty much just stood in silence for a few seconds, in which he swore at how tall i was, and then told me dylan was indeed in second high school but had changed his name, before any more conversation, his teacher had resumed class and came yelling out, we exchanged numbers and i said i'll go see dylan now and we'll figure something out later on.
remembering that this high school wasn't too helpful either, i decided to use my 'i'm from overseas' speel again. i went to the grade 11 co-ordinators, as i was giving my talk on being from overseas looking for primary school friends... the teacher upon hearing that, said quote 'oh wow! wait, you wait here, and i'll find him for you... wait a second... it's a him? are you guys... going out?' hahaha, yeah, no. upon replying 'no' the teacher again told me to sit there, don't move, and said he'll help me.
five minutes later he bought some random guy into the room, or so i thought. but it was really dylan, i don't think he recognised me either. but the teacher told us to sit down, and said we can talk and catch up while he sat at his desk. you should have seen the look on our faces, the teacher was just sitting there and you could see him with his ears waiting to catch the conversation. i decided to be all asian and told him it was bad to miss out on classes, i'll walk him back to the classroom and we'll catch up later.
on our way back he told me he wouldn't have recognised me if james hadn't already sent him a txt saying i was coming. i complained about the amount of times i came to his school and blah blah blah. upon mentioning this is actually my last day here, we made a time to all catch up over dinner. when i sat down at dinner with the two of them we all couldn't believe to be hanging out again. they reminded me of all these little stories i had forgotten over the years, like how i use to speak another dialect when i first went to the school and they couldn't really understand me, what we did during the summer holidays and what they've done in the past few years. my favourite part was when we all fell to a silence and,
dylan: you know i really wouldn't have believed you were you, if you had found me first i would think it was a joke. it had never, ever crossed my mind you would actually look for us two these many years later,
james: speak for yourself!
dylan: what, you knew she would do this?
james: yeah, i knew she'd at least try, you have way too much doubt,