Stranger in Berkeley

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If you are a foreigner and visit a city in US for the first time, standing on the street with a map in hands, you may feel surprised as well as happy if someone unknown walks by, saying ‘may I help you’.

That was what I had experienced 6 years ago when I visit Berkeley, CA.

Ralph, a stranger in Berkeley who met me on downtown Berkeley, became one of my best friends. His thoughts and living philosophy to me are almost the spirit of Berkeley.

‘Tao, bring your camera and wait for my car in the lobby of your hotel, I will show you the sceneries you’ve never seen on the Bay area. ’ Ralph told me on the phone before I arrived at the airport of San Francisco. 6 years later, I visited Berkeley again. I told Ralph as soon as I know the schedule was done.

As 6 years ago, we walk and talk on the mountains near the Bay. The air is fresh, sky is blue, sunlight is brilliant and I could even smell the perfume of redwood. This is one precious page of the most beautiful memory book in my life.

Ralph, almost 80, who lives in Berkeley for decades, told me his life stories and his views of life and society. I, more than 40 years younger than him, who are from Beijing, told him my challenges, struggles and confusions in my life. Sometimes I feel the distance between different cultures and ages is so short that he seems like my grandfather.

6 year ago, He strongly recommended me to keep my Chinese name Tao as English name, instead of the English, Tony, which one of my Chinese friends used to recommend to me. “Tao, this is perfect name.” Ralph told me when we met the first time, “you need not any English name any more.” Some days after these words, Ralph had sent me an little English book. The name of the book was the English Version LaoTzu(老子).

As 6 years ago, I still want to ask some basic and even ‘stupid’ questions, because I think it is necessary for me to know the original thoughts and feedback of a common American. Ralph never laughs at my naiveté. he would like to answer my questions. Meanwhile, he is very patient to correct my Chinglish, as he had done as a teacher in high school before he retired.

Days' staying with Ralph, I have learned Ralph is always so friendly and helpful to diverse people from various cultures and countries. As an environmentalist, he classifies trash, uses little plastics packaging, and communicates even without a private car. He tries to keep his life and food simple and healthy, living a life close to oriental naturalism. He continues to write his book on the art of roofs in the world.

This time, our talk went deeper than before. We talked about the difference between Republican and Democrat. As a Democrat, Ralph shared me his insights on the reason why he is a democrat.  

six years ago, Ralph and me at the main library of UCB. He told me a lot of Chinese came here study tech and just a few culture.he hopes there are more communications and less conflicts beween different cultures and countries.