Category Archives: How We Met

Making My Move

Back in September I started writing about how P and I met and starting hanging out but it has been a while since I’ve picked up the thread of the story, so I figured it might be a nice way to return from the mini Thanksgiving hiatus.

After the famous “pretty woman” comment, where we stood (friends, more than friends?) was a bit ambiguous. We continued to study together, go to movies, eat at the cafeteria with groups of friends, but a lot went unsaid. I would later learn that in a lot of ways P isn’t very vocal about things, particularly feelings. Where I often talk too much, he often speaks too little.

Meanwhile, P was pretty popular amongst many of the girls in I-House. He is a very friendly guy, caring and chivalrous; he would do absolutely anything for a friend (even to this day). There was a while where I wasn’t sure if I was imagining his interest in me or if it was real, maybe he was just super friendly to everyone? But I knew I was interested.

What would be a story without a bit of drama? Besides my insecurities about what was actually happening between us, the other major issue was that I was dating someone else.

My high school sweetheart (HSS) went to the same university and also lived in the International House. We began drifting apart awhile before the school year had started, but I had trouble acknowledging this, and felt very loyal to this previous (and my first) long serious relationship. It wasn’t until I met P and became close friends, that I was able to start realizing that the other relationship wasn’t working out, and it took some time to decide what to do. I was realistic though… I was young, and I knew that if I felt something for P, I didn’t want to live life not knowing what could have happened if I didn’t give it a try.

It took a little while to finally break it off with HSS. I remember right after the “pretty woman” incident I was having tea with him and another friend outside the campus bookstore and I mentioned to him the conversation that I had with P the night before. The friend made the typical “ooohhh, scandalous” type of comment, while HSS said something to the effect of, “C has a lot of male friends. I’m not worried.”

Over the next few weeks I tried to mention to HSS that I enjoyed spending time with P, and that I might be falling for him. I tried to be honest, and I tried to spark a discussion, but I think HSS was in a bit of denial. He kept brushing off my comments. “P is just a friend, nothing wrong with that…”, “P is a nice guy, you have lots of nice guy friends, what is the difference?” At the same time I wasn’t even sure if I was imagining P’s interest, and I was worried I was trying to break off this other important relationship in my life for something that didn’t exist.

Finally there was a brief school break. HSS when back to our hometown, P went on a trip to Canada with other international students, and I stayed on campus to work. I found myself hoping that HSS would stay home a little longer and P would come back a little sooner, and that’s when I knew I had to make my move.

When HSS came back to school we sat down and finally  had “the talk.” Yeah, I might have had a lot of “guy” friends, but this was different. I had to have time to explore. I couldn’t live my whole life not allowing myself the opportunity to know what else was out there.

I felt like a huge jerk. I knew I was breaking the heart of one of the most important people in my life, but I felt like I had to do it, I couldn’t keep up the false pretenses. We kept the breakup private… but when you live in a close-knit dormitory like the I-House, rumors and gossip constantly fly.

The trouble was… HSS had lived there a year before I, and was friends with a lot of the other people there, particularly a group of South Asians, including P’s high school friend AC, as well as a very outspoken Pakistani guy (PG). They didn’t really know what was going on, or that HSS and I had ended our relationship, but they knew I was his girlfriend from high school and they saw me hanging out with P a lot… and they didn’t like it (I mean, AC already told P that I was “weird” and “not to bother” with me).

I used to hear all sorts of things, particularly from AC and PG. They were mean in a sly, under-the-table, passive-agressive kind of way. They would make loud comments about “honesty” and “loyalty,” and other stuff like that, they would try to keep P away, and they would say nasty things behind my back. I was definitely cast as the “bad guy.”

HSS was a better person than I probably would have been if the roles had been reversed. He was adamant that we continue to be friends, and he stuck up for me when the others wanted to have a complaining session. We would still have lunch in the cafeteria, which probably only served to confuse the people around us even more.

Anyway, one night I decided I was going to find out if P was serious… I was determined to find out what he was thinking. It was about 11 o’clock at night and I went to his dorm room to chat. He had mentioned that he had to go to the library to return a book (PG was working the circulation desk). It was raining… and I offered to accompany him to the library across campus. As we walked I tried to muster up the courage to just lay it all out on the table, but by the time we reached the library doors I hadn’t really said anything.

We went inside and P gave PG the book. The South Asian guys often ordered chicken wings from a local place for late night snacks, and PG was asking P if he wanted “in” that night. P said sure, and PG told him that he got off his shift around midnight or 1 am, and the chicken wings would come to the I-House around then.

We left the library and P started walking back towards the dorm, but I told him “No… I have something to tell you, and we can’t go back until I say it” so we started walking around the campus in the middle of the night in the pouring rain.

We spent the entire night out there. In true high context fashion, nothing direct was really said, and the two of us skirted around what we actually wanted to talk about. However, I think we both understood, and by the end of the night I realized that it was a done deal, we were going to try this thing out.

We returned to the International House close to sunrise, and I was happy. But P had been missing for the chicken wings… and then it was discovered I was missing too, and the last person to see us (together!) was PG who was already not satisfied with the situation… so we only added more fuel to their “scandalous” fire.

I didn’t care though. I was really happy. I am still really happy. So too bad for the people who wanted to make it difficult in the beginning!

Advertisements

“Pretty Woman”

So what happened in-between eating a piece of cake and six years later? I can’t fast forward through all of that so quickly, but I can at least give you the next installment.

For the first week or two I knew P, I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name. I knew it started with a P, and that it sounded similar to the last name of another Nepali student who lived in the I-House that I had met the year before. I really try with names, because I think they are important, and especially in my current profession of international student advising I have to know names of all sorts, but something about P’s name just didn’t stick. Maybe its a family thing, because later on my mother and grandmother couldn’t do it either. In fact, to this day, both of them still don’t say it right. Anyway, during those first few days on campus most of us referred to P as “the new Nepali guy” (at least when P wasn’t around) so it was easy to not come across his name on a daily basis.

One morning I found myself in the nearly empty college cafeteria and P was the only person I recognized sitting at the tables. I sat with him and made small talk, but it was awkward to sit with him and not properly know his name. If I continued chatting with him, eventually I’d know the guy pretty well and I’d look like an idiot if I had to ask. So I tried to play it real smooth… “we call Abhishek Abhi and Omprakash Om, so do you have a nickname you go by?” he told me, and I quickly forgot it before the end of breakfast. The only name that would stick in my head was the last name of the other Nepali guy that sounded similar to P’s.

Meanwhile P and his friend AC were talking about some of the people in the I-House, and eventually P asked, “What about that C girl? She seems nice,” to which his friend replied, “Ah, she’s just weird, don’t bother with her.” A few days later P and I realized that we worked the same early morning shift in the campus library. I sat at the circulation desk while he worked in the interlibrary loan office. That first morning he walked in I gave him an enthusiastic wave and he thought to himself, “AC is right, she is weird.”

Yet regardless of my naming issues and P’s friend’s discouragement, we became fast friends, and started studying in the I-House computer lab quite frequently in the evenings together. I remember being very studious back then, in part because I  enjoyed spending time with him. I use to teach him phrases in French, and he would write down some stuff in Nepali. We were dorky, but had a good time, and never really thought of each other as any more than friends.

S takes credit for our relationship based on his movie initiating a change in our "feelings" for each other

S takes credit for our relationship based on his movie initiating a change in our "feelings" for each other

Then one night, as our dear friend S likes to take credit for (yes, the same S of momo fame), things started to change. S had somehow come across a DVD that he thought was really good back at his school in Maine and assumed that P would like it too. To my knowledge, I think this is the only time that S has done this, but he mailed P the DVD, and P decided to show it one night in the I-House lounge. The movie, “East West,” was half in French and half in Russian. P mentioned the movie in passing and asked if I’d like to watch it due to my interest in French. As with most random I-House movie screenings, the movie started with about four people on the couch but ended with half a room full of people sprawled out all over the place.

Once the movie was over everyone filed out of the room–P and I just happened to be the last two to leave. We were chatting while walking down the hallway. It was a weekend, I hadn’t really showered, and I was disguising my somewhat-too-greasy-hair with a handkerchief. As we walked P said, “why do you wear that thing on your head?”

Me: “Well, I’ve been a bit lazy this weekend, I need to take a shower and I’m trying to hide it.”

P: “Oh… well I think you look fine… actually do you know what song I think of when I see you?”

Me: “Um… no…”

P: “Pretty Woman…” awkward silence… “I think it’s the glasses…”

Me: “But Julia Roberts doesn’t wear glasses in that movie…”

P: Confused look, “oh, okay…” and we both turned around and went our seperate ways.

Roy Orbison or Julia Roberts? Either way, it got the job done...

Roy Orbison or Julia Roberts? Either way, it got the job done...

Little did I know P was making a reference to Roy Orbison the singer of “Pretty Woman.” He was known for wearing dark sunglasses, which I never wore, but I think maybe P was confused with Buddy Holly or some other random 60s singers who wore thicker rimmed tortoise-shell glasses. I wore glasses at the time (and continue to wear a similar style) that had a retro tortoise-shell type of look. Roy Orbison is actually not very attractive, and perhaps if I knew what P was talking about I would have been a little confused or even offended. Instead it planted a seed in my head… why would he say such a thing? Does he have feelings for me? Why would he put himself out there if not to let me know he liked me?

Poor P, he wasn’t used to an American girl’s way (or at least my way) of over analyzing these kinds of things. In fact he was just making an innocent comment, even if it came across a bit corny and romantic, he assures me that at the time he didn’t actually think of me as more than just a good friend. Yet from that moment on my approach to him was based on my perceived interpretation of his feelings for me. Instead of me reacting to his pursuit of me, I actually started pursuing him all on my own!

…and, what South Asian story about “Pretty Woman” would be complete without a link to the “Kal Ho Naa HoBollywood movie scene of Shah Rukh Khan singing a Hindi version of “Pretty Woman”??? At least the “pretty woman” (Preity Zinta) in this song is also wearing tortoise-shell glasses! Enjoy…

How the American Girl and the Nepali Guy First Met…

I know on the other blogs that I read, I really enjoy the personal stories—how the couple met, how did they get together, what happened next—so I figured it was about time to make some introductions.

New York is a massive state, not just a city!

New York is a massive state, not just a city!

I say in my “About” page, that P and I met at a small liberal arts college in upstate New York. I’m originally from central New York, several hours drive north of New York City (yes, such a place exists), so when I say upstate I don’t mean Poughkeepsie, I mean “practically Canada.” (sorry, I had to get that off my chest, upstate New Yorkers don’t like being confused with “downstate” and NYC- I actually come from a part of New York with cornfields, onion mudflats and cows! No skyscrapers, yellow taxi cabs or hot dog and pretzel stands…)

As the first of three daughters, my family was more restrictive with the geographical range of my college choices. I was ready to fly the coop and move half way across the US, but when reality hit, I eventually settled on a school in upstate New York because of its African Studies program (and multitude of study abroad options- if I couldn’t go to school far away, I’d find another way to do it). I can’t really articulate why I was interested in Africa straight out of high school. Everyone probably thought I was just weird, but I thought it sounded so exotic and different, so far from everything comfortable and “normal,” everything that I had known all my life. I grew up in a very monocultural town in a very Caucasian school system. Cultural diversity was expressed through wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day or red on St. Joseph’s Day depending on if your ancestors where Irish or Italian. It wasn’t a bad place to grow up, but I was ready for something different.

Nepal

Nepal

Meanwhile P grew up in Kathmandu in a house with his mother, father, younger brother (U) and paternal grandparents (particularly his grandfather, Kakabua). He was granted admission for his “plus 2” at one of the prestigious boarding schools in the valley with a reputation for sending graduates overseas for their university education. After finishing secondary school it took him about a year to finally gain admission (with an affordable price tag) at a small, very rural state school in the northeast. Luckily his old roommate had been granted admission at the same school a semester before and was already there to help with P’s transition from life in Nepal to life in the States.

Can you imagine this being your first experience in the US?

Can you imagine this being your first experience in the US?

P’s first experience in the US was during a layover in Minneapolis, Minnesota when a cousin picked him up at the airport for a few hours to visit (this was pre-9/11, air travel was easier back then) and took him to the Mall of America. Already a bit overwhelmed, P was going to buy an alarm clock, but then converted the price into Nepali rupees, and quickly put the clock down. His cousin said that he had to stop converting or he would never survive in America.

P was at the state school for about a year and a half. He lived with his old roommate, S, and the two of them were probably the only Nepali people within a 200 mile radius, especially after another high school friend of theirs (AC) transferred one semester into his program from their school in Maine to my school in New York.

P’s original plan was to study biology, his parents were encouraging him to become a doctor, but he found he was more interested in environmental studies. Since the school was located on the ocean, the biology and environmental program was specifically geared towards marine environments. Nepal, as a landlocked country, would not benefit much from P if his knowledge was about the oceans, so he decided to start over at a new school. He gained acceptance at the school where his other high school friend transferred… my school in New York.

I had already been a student at the school for a year, but had jumped at my first opportunity to leave the country on an experimental freshman abroad program in the spring of my first year. It was an introduction to the “francophone world” and included study in Quebec, France and–this was the selling point for me–Senegal in West Africa.

International House, affectionately referred to as "I-House" was in this building...

International House, affectionately referred to as "I-House" was in this building...

When school started again at the end of August, I was excited to start living in the International House, a place I qualified to live in because of my recent international experience and my international major. However, I still felt like a new student since I didn’t know many people at the school besides the small group with whom I traveled to France. Luckily an older friend from my high school had introduced me to some international students my first semester, so there were a few familiar faces in the International House.

That August I was able to sneak in to the dorms early since I was assigned a Ukrainian exchange student roommate and she had already arrived. It wasn’t long after I finished moving my boxes in that I bumped into AC, the Nepali guy I knew from the previous year, with the “new Nepali” (as we called P for a while) transfer student. We exchanged quick hellos and took off down the hallway in opposite directions. That was the first time I remember seeing P, but he thinks the first time we met was this:

Now, I have the misfortune of having a birthday at the very end of August. When I was a kid I didn’t like it because it meant the end of summer, and when I was older I found myself constantly in a new place, with people who didn’t know me on my birthday, so it felt like I could never do anything “special.” That year was no different. Few people knew me, no one knew it was my birthday, and I was a bit bummed out. So I walked to the one grocery store in town, bought some cake mix, and baked my own birthday cake in the I-House kitchen. I figured that a good way to meet people was to give away food, so I propped open the door to my dorm room, put the freshly baked cake on a chair and invited who ever walked by to come in for some birthday cake and conversation. That’s when P walked by… and got himself some cake.