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  • "Hey, do you want to go the sports meeting tomorrow?" asks my friend "Alice."

    I am in Lanzhou, China studying Chinese Language while doing my Senior Thesis. I have heard my share of "Chinglish," but even this phrase seems a little strange.

    "What is a sports meeting?" I ask.

    "Oh, it's like the Olympics for our school. Students and teachers compete against each others' departments."

    "Awesome, let's go!"

    The next day, Alice and I meet up with three of our friends and we set off for the school's western campus.

    We arrive just in time to catch the opening ceremony. Drums pounded, the "ROTC" program chanted together through kicks and punches, the music blared, and the flag flapped and unfurled in the desert's summer breeze.

    We stay through the hour and a half ceremony, but leave to get something to eat. We dig into our spicy Sichuan food and laugh and drink and share in this meal and this memory together. Not as a foreigner with his Chinese friends, but as simply friends. There were no nationalities, no politics, no racism, just people having a great time together.

    We leave the restaurant to go the school's lake. We sit in the shade of the trees, listening to the birds and talking about music, John F. Kennedy, nature, and our hometowns.

    The afternoon drifts slowly into the evening, and it is time for me to go back to the "old campus" with Alice. As I leave, I feel the warm afterglow of a perfect day spent with friends who unconditionally loved me and accepted me for who I was.

    No white lies to save face, no self-censorship, no whispering behind backs, none of that.

    The honesty and innocence of these friendships are memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

    "God, it's great to be alive. Thank you. Thank you." - Chris McCandless
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