It was the winter of '98. I arrived from Malaysia in the small city of Lincoln, Nebraska, host to 200,000 corn fed and bred, die-hard 'Husker' fans. I was taking up an engineering course at University of Nebraska - Lincoln. This was my first time travelling so far away from home. The furthest that I've travelled before here was Thailand and Singapore. But it was a dream come true for me. I've always longed to visit the "land of the free" and "home of the braves".
The first thing I did after enrolling in my classes was to get a part time job. I knew that the money my parents gave me were only sufficient for tuition and other basic stuff, and if I wanted to spend on anything extra, I'd have to earn it. Gathering information from the senior students there, it seems that more Malaysian students tend to work at the food service. Immigration laws prohibits international students to work more than 20 hours/week, so I signed up for 20 hours of work at the food service of two different halls.
I reported for work on the first day, and I was stationed to clean the pots and pans. No complains there, I figured as I could just clean it all by myself. Dad has always told me that "anything that's worth doing, is worth doing well". That's why I made sure that if I were to clean the pots and pans, I would clean them well. And they were clean alright, only that I took a tad too long to clean it. It wasn't long before the lights of the kitchen begin to go out, and I was still not done. I turned around and I noticed two persons standing by the dishwashing machine, waiting for me to finish. And I noticed that one of them was a girl. "Looks cute" I told myself silently. But I had other things on my mind. Like the pots and pans, and the person needing to lock up after me.
Aside from studying, I've tried to make a point to make sure that I find myself Christian fellowship. I can't remember very well how things went, but I was invited to join a fellowship named 'TGAN', an acronym for 'Tabernacle of Grace for All Nations'. I recalled for the first meeting, I was told to wait at a certain place, and someone would take me there to the meeting place. I waited there at the appointed time, and I noticed the same girl that I worked with at food service approaching me. When she got near enough, she looked at me, and without saying a word, somehow she assumed that I would understand enough to just follow her. I followed her, but for some reason, she kept her distance by walking about 5 feet away from me. "Friendly.." I told myself. When we reached the hall, I met some other people at the fellowship and lost sight of where she went. I had a good time there at the TGAN meeting.
It was the summer of 98, and me and some bunch of friends decided to take a tip to fly over to the desert of Arizona to earn a few credits for our degree. Before flying, I've also managed to get myself involved in the Malaysian student association there. Who knew, the girl that I worked with at the cafeteria, whom later I begin to address as Angeline, was also part of the committee. And also who knew that we would be teamed up to work together to organize a welcoming party for the new students.
Our first communication was thru email. I don't recall speaking to her before the emails. I could have, but certainly, it didn't leave an impression on me. But her emails were definitely impressive. Not only was the English impeccable, but she had a cute ASCII text art of 2 fingers showing the 'peace' sign as her email signature. Back in 98, that was cool.
I returned to Nebraska sometime before the summer ended and helped Angeline organize the welcoming party. If my memory served me right, it was held in Trago Park. I guess the party went quite ok.
Then came Fall of 98. For me, it had to be the most enchanting moment in my life. I was invited to attend IVCF's fall retreat in Iowa, and for rides, I was put together with Brian Galaznik, Zoe and Angeline. Again, who knew. Zoe was becoming Angeline's best friend then. Brian had a car, and I didn't. So off we went up to Iowa. The journey there was amazing. I was amazed by the trees changing colours and how the entire landscape from green had changed to golden brown. The air was cool and refreshing.. ahh.
During the retreat, I guess I was more attracted to Zoe than Angeline. Partly because Zoe was more outspoken, while I still didn't know how Angeline sounded like. Zoe responded well to me in conversations, while Angeline reserved her conversations with Zoe. But it was during that fall itself, that something was happening between me and Angeline.
...to be continued...