October 18, 2023
My first-ever air travel was BIG. I flew thousands of miles from Beijing to Minneapolis, then Milwaukee. I landed at Mitchell International Airport on March 31, 2000. It was a bright sunny day. A friend told me that he asked his neighbor to pick me up since he did not have a car.
I was in my 20s. I had many years of schooling and had studied English since middle school. I had tons of vocabulary floating around in my head; I just did not have the ability to string them together and pour out cohesive sentences. Still, I wanted the neighbor to view me as “friendly.” Inside my head, I kept rehearsing two sentences that I felt confident to handle: “What’s your name? How are you?”
The neighbor arrived late. I claimed my luggage, found a bench outside, and waited for him. As I was busy searching deeply inside my memory for English, suddenly, the neighbor loomed over me and stretched out a big, long arm. Startled, I jumped to my feet. My eyes landed on a 6’7” tall bald guy with a kind smile. “Hi, my name is Andy. Nice to meet…