Thursday, February 14, 2013

Moving into an American Home

Soon came early spring, and my English still had not improved to my satisfaction. Ding Hua and I decided to look for an American family that rented to Chinese students. Soon we found an older woman who wanted to rent out two of her rooms. The rent was really cheap, plus we needed to do some housework. So we went to the house and talked with the woman. She was very nice and agreed to rent to us right away although our rooms were not yet prepared for renting. She told us that she would empty two rooms for us before we moved in.
     Although nothing had moved by the time we moved in, I didn’t mind since I didn’t have much stuff (only two suitcases). I didn’t realize that place was going to be a disaster, and I would have to move out in the first month.
     The first problem was that she had five cats and a German shepherd. My bed was a bed for one or more of the cats. So, a cat tried to come into my room every night by scratching and screaming at my door. The woman tried to tell me that it was not too bad to have cats in bed because she had one. But I firmly told her “no.” Very soon, fleas started to attack me. I got bit all over. The woman said that she never get any bites implying that I might have been allergic to something else. She told me that she would make sure that the cats didn’t go into my room while I was not home, so I wouldn’t get any more flea bites after I washed all my bedding.
    It did not take long for me to get close to her German shepherd. I bought some pig’s ear that I cooked for myself with the dog in mind. Compared to eating that dry dog food, you know how the dog appreciated the pig’s ear. He became so friendly to me, which made the owner very upset. “He is my guard dog; why is he greeting you every time you come home and not me?”

He was such good dog that I wished he were mine
     Our landlady loved to talk and had more to say than we could listen to — how she married and divorced twice, how she fought with her husbands, and how proudly she owned her own house. She told us that we were bookworms and too pure. She would teach us some dirty words to start.
     She had two daughters and one son. One of her sons-in-law was in jail for drug trafficking; and I did notice in the closet that there were a lot of loose maps. She talked about how hard jail life was. She went to visit him once a month. She said that we could go to see what a jail looked like in America if we wanted to go with her the next time. That made me a little nervous; I never knew or was around anyone who had someone close in jail. I didn’t think that I wanted to go with her.
     Then one day, she told us that she was going to hold a party. Her kids would come and she waned us to join them for dinner. It was fine until she said, “well, after dinner, my kids might decide to smoke marijuana. I really don’t smoke that, but I like the sweet smell when they smoke. I just wanted you to know first, so you wouldn’t be surprised. You girls should know how an average American family lives,” she said with that kind of smile again, like she knew so much. That really scared me.
    We didn’t know what to do. Ding Hua decided to go to Kansas to see her ex-boyfriend and left me with nowhere to go and I was scared even more. I heard about people who did drugs but never saw any. I certainly didn’t want to be alone with them when that was going to happen. So, I talked to another friend of mine and she let me stay at her house overnight since I didn’t want to go home that night. That afternoon, I called the landlady and I explained that I had to be on the computer and write my program which was due the next day. I also explained that I might need to spend the whole night at school and apologized that I couldn’t make it to her party. She was very disappointed. In the meantime, I started to look for another place to live.
     Ding Hua came back after that weekend very sad. She knew for sure that she didn’t have anything to miss or think of anymore. She cried again; I was with her to try to comfort her. She started to think about her husband and her future. I told her she should concentrate on her husband since he was a good man and really loved her. She agreed, then she was worried that she might not be able to have a child and her husband would leave her too. She was only 27, but she already had a mastectomy because of cancer. She tried to have a child with her husband a year before without any success. So, she was afraid that she would end up lonely all by herself. She was not sure that she should stay for a higher degree or go back and concentrate on her family after a year. I told her that it all depended on what she wanted to do in her life. Finally, she chose her marriage. She said that her husband was really a nice man and deserved her true love. She went back to China. A year later, I received a letter from her with a picture. She was holding her son. From the picture, she wasn’t the same person I knew. She was a new person with a new life, and she was happy. Later on, she also sent me a copy of the papers that she had published in the newspaper on her life in America and a scientific paper in the Material Science Journal in China. She became an assistant professor.
Din Hua and I in Syracuse before she returned to China