Friday 14 February 2004, A level Year 2, Leicestershire, England

Another half term began today, but one that I was really looking forward to this time. One reason was that the university application had pretty much wrapped up. After Cambridge, I received two more offers, from LSE and Bath respectively. If I could get 3 As in the final exam this year, I could choose between them and Cambridge. And if I managed to get one more, I could get in Warwick as well—always a reminder for the importance of taking the right train. Of course, if all these offers could come before the two rejections from LSE and the grilling interview at Cambridge, it would be a lot more enjoyable. But it was all right, these things never seemed that significant again once they were past. Maybe they were not that important to begin with.

The most important thing, on the other hand, was I had met Lanfang.

In China, having a relationship at school was highly discouraged if not outright banned. Schools and parents were highly united in making sure students spent time in nothing else but studying. I guess it was just not part of the plan under Communism. I was repeatedly told that before I was 30, my eyes should be firmly set on schools, university and a career. Having a girlfriend was not necessary. Instead, I should just find a wife when I am 30. (The view, although strong, was at least somewhat consistent. Since then, it had gone even worse. Somehow, the new expectation was that although one should not have a relationship before graduating from university, she should get married quickly afterwards. The society worshiped practice when it came to exams but totally disregarded it when it came to marriage. Wing it please, everyone.)

Luckily when the right person came knocking on the door, all those words quickly went out of the door. The problem of micro managing one’s offspring or citizens was that you could not watch them 24/7 forever. Otherwise, it might actually work.

I first saw Lanfang when she came to interview at Hurtwood last spring. She was being led by Mr. Jackson down from the music rooms to the lower car park when Dennis and I came out of the study room. Although she ended up going to another school, the seed was planted there and then.

Lanfang was also from China. But unlike most of us raised there, she was fearlessly independent. Never once had she gone down the path that was widely followed by the others. She always picked her own school in China as well as what to do outside class. Even when her parents disagreed with her, she would stand firm and march on. Last year, she joined a school trip to England and thought this island suited her better. So after getting home, she went to look for a school, took her IELTS and was back in England as a full time student six months later. In a nutshell, she was the coolest girl I had ever met, and I could not wait to spend the half term with her.

But somewhat understandably, her independence (or non-obedience, depending on who you asked) was a lot less attractive to her parents. It was probably a very different feeling to have a cool daughter than a cool girlfriend. Anyway, after she came west to study in the UK, her parents went east and went to live in Canada. It was not easy to make everybody happy, I guess.