“Yes, but I think they’re only open for skiers this time of the year…”
And so, my day with my favorite Canuck officially began as I pushed the door open to the crisp Canadian air. Inhale. Exhale. I was starting to smell like my cup of caramel macchiato. Good morning, Grouse Mountain. Also, hello Eugene – it’s been three years.
I met Eugene during the summer of 2010. He was in theology school back then, and was assigned to intern for my home church in Hong Kong. During the three months he was there, he was assigned to run youth groups and give a few sermons. But despite the complicated descriptions of his role, we all knew that his job was intrinsically simple – he just had to be available for the teens at church. And he was. Or in other words, it took him no time to earn our respect and trust. A month into his internship, we were already bringing him to all our favorite spots around Hong Kong. My childhood friends and I introduced him to, in his perspective, relatively strange Asian snacks, and satisfied his thirst for “North American food” by taking him to Canadian chain restaurants. We taught him how to take the minibus and spend weekends at Stanley. In the sea of conservative Asian Protestants, he dashed out of the water as a laid-back aspiring youth pastor. For most of the teens at church, he was “Eugene, the sort of, somewhat mentor.” But for me, he felt like the best friend I never had.
After that summer, we returned to Boston and Vancouver for school respectively. Kudos to the invention of smartphones, keeping in touch has never been difficult for us. Sometimes, we’d talk as often as everyday. At times, it’d take us a few weeks to respond to each others’ messages. Yes, I am proud of how well we’ve been able to stay connected. However, virtual conversations can feel a little flimsy at times. Sometimes, after being rejected by a dream college, all you want to do is sulk in front of a good friend. That’s why when time came around to make Thanksgiving plans this earlier this fall, I decided to pick up the initiative to head over to the West Coast. First of all, my best friend and I have been hoping to break out of the East Coast bubble. Secondly, we wanted to be in a warmer climate. But most importantly, I wanted to visit Eugene.
That week, Eugene took time off from work to take me around Vancouver. In some ways, it was his chance to introduce me to his hometown. It was his opportunity to make Vancouver shine. And he did make it happen. In the four days I was there, I was thoroughly amused by everything I was surrounded by. We bought a Groupon deal and indulged in a decadent fondue dinner. We visited the Canucks team store, strolled around for a good amount of time before I finally made up my mind to purchase a relatively overpriced crewneck. I asked him to take me his favorite coffee shop. He did. We caught glimpses of the Lions Gate Bridge. We ate doughnuts on the logs of English Bay. We overlooked the skyline of Vancity at Stanley Park. On the last day I was there, we hiked up Grouse Mountain bright and early. After the three-hour hike, we ice-skated with toddlers by a hut that was modeled after Santa’s Workshop. By the end of the trip, I had a stack of unsuccessfully developed Polaroid pictures and a pair of sand-filled flats that I have no intentions in wearing again. But, it was all worth it. In retrospect, it really was an adventure.
I’m not referring to the physical act of traveling to the West Coast. That was not my adventure. This Thanksgiving, I was reminded of one of the most courageous adventures humans can always choose partake in – the act of opening up to someone.
I once heard someone tell me “you cannot be impressive and be a friend at the same time.” This holds true for Eugene and I, and shouldn’t it hold true for all of you as well?
On my way back to Syracuse, I reflected on this so-called “serendipitous” friendship. The truth is, it was not “serendipitous” that I was able to connect so well with someone from a relatively random part of the world. It was not a “happy accident.” It wasn’t random, lucky, or spontaneous. For all it matters, our friendship consisted of the adventurous act of disclosing scars, embarrassing life stories, and whatnot.
Adventure time, as cliché as it sounds, means laying down one’s weaknesses and shedding the idea of “I want to sound somewhat put-together.” At the end of the day, life is messy and no one is perfect. Adventure time means figuring that out. Adventure time means understanding that. Adventure time means putting that idea into action. And yes, it takes a whole lot of guts to do that.
“Eugene, I think my sister is on antidepressants. Can I call?”