(13 February 2011 at LSU, Baton Rouge)
Strolling along the lake
It is 6.30 am. I put on my shoes and wear my winter jacket. Then, I carry my backpack and put Richard’s binocular around my neck. Today, I am going to do bird watching at the LSU Lake. It is a cold early morning with the temperature of – 2 °C. I see fog engulfs a small field near to my apartment area. When I look down at small leaves along the side road to the lake, I notice the leaves covered with ice. It is a marvelous thing that I never see in my life before. I take few pictures of the ice-covered leaves. After taking few pictures, I continue on walking until I reach an area of oak trees. I cross the area, and I feel like walking in a mystic forest with fog surrounds the oak trees. I stand for a while, allowing myself to appreciate the nature beauty in the morning. Then, I continue on my journey until I reach the lake.
At the lake, I see a boy is watching a group of Egrets opposite of the lake using his binocular. I recognize the boy as one of students who takes the same bird course as me. I sit down on a bench, while waiting for him to finish his work. I open my backpack and take out the book of Field Guide Birds on Eastern of South America. I browse the book from one page to another, looking for the birds that I will observe at the lake area. I expect to see, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Cormorants, Brown Pelican, Green Heron and many migrated birds. February is a perfect time to see migrated birds that are migrated from South America to North America. Louisiana is one of the stopping or transit area for these birds. I jot down few bird names that may be found at the lake, on a piece of white paper. It will make my observation easier without me struggling to open the Field Guide book again. After the boy has left that area, I start my observation. I adjust the lens focus of Richard’s binocular, and then put the lens parallel to my eye level.
I can see three Great Cormorants sit on a large trunk in the middle of the lake. I put down my binocular, and I reach my pen to write the number three next to the Great Cormorant that I had written on the piece of white paper. Then I put up the binocular, and suddenly I see a flock of Egrets on two large trees that grew along the lake. They are more than ten birds, but I cannot differentiate between the Snowy and Great Egrets from afar. I make a decision walking around the lake, and expecting that I can find more birds. While walking, suddenly I see a large brown bird, standing with one leg near to a sandy area. I suddenly know it must be the Great Blue Heron. It is a giant bird. I never see that bird in Sarawak. I slowly walk to see the bird closely. I stop at 50 meters away from it. Then, I straight take my camera out of my jacket pocket to shot a picture of that bird. I manage to get a clear shot. The bird feels my present, and it flips its wings to fly across the other side of the lake.
It is 7.30 am. The temperature steadily increases to 13 °C. Many joggers are already at the lake. I continue with my activity. I do not realize that the white paper contains the bird list dropped from my pocket.
“Excuse me, ma’am. You dropped your paper.”
I reply the same words back to both of them. It is a common practice here, when there is a stranger greets you. They may say ‘Good morning’, ‘Good afternoon’ or ‘How are you?’ I seldom start greeting to them, as I know they will greet me, first. In Malaysia, it will be weird if there is a stranger politely greets you. It will be the same if we greet any strangers; they will look at us suspiciously. My first week I was in the USA, I felt weird, but eventually I used to the ‘friendly’ culture. I meet an old man with his dog, and I greet him. He smiles and greets me back.
I walk and pass many grand houses that circling around the lake. There is one house with a small door covered with bushes. The door makes me remember a classic story, The Secret Garden, written by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I keep on walking until I stop at a big tree. I still remember three months after settling down in the Land of Freedom; I sat down crying alone to pacify my broken heart under of that tree. I do not want to think that, and I quickly opened my pace. I try to control myself, but I cannot contain my tears from straining down on my cheeks. I wipe my tears from my cheeks, and tell to my heart to be strong. I walk faster and faster, until I feel I need to stop. I look up in the sky to see a group of Least-Terns fly circling the lake. I walk while looking at the terns. I do not realize that I already reached the end of the lake. I look around, and suddenly I see a Green Heron, standing under a bridge. The bird becomes the last bird that I have seen on that morning. The time is 10.30 am. Three hours bird-watching shall be enough for me. I manage to list 11 species. I hope this assignment can help me to score 10 points bonus after failing to score full 10 points for my first quiz.
A poem for an Angel
I walk back to my apartment using the other route. At the junction to my apartment, I meet an old man with a shabby look. He carries a brown cardboard. There are words written on the cardboard, but I cannot see the words from afar. The more I approach the old man, the more clearly the words written on the cardboard. The old man wrote:
“I’m looking for a job so that I can buy food.”
I am speechless after knowing what was written on the cardboard. He wants people to hire him and pay him so that he can buy food. I have never seen anything like that in Malaysia. Beggars in Malaysia will ask money without putting much effort on how to find a job so that they can get money. When I close to that old man, he stops me.
“Hi, I’m John. Do you speak English? I’m cannot speak in Spanish.”
He thinks I am a Latin woman.
“You can speak English with me. I’m an Asian. I also cannot speak in Spanish.”
He smiles and then takes out a small white paper from his left pocket of his trouser.
“I want to read a poem for you. The title is ‘An Angel’. I want you to listen. You don’t mind spend five minutes listening to my poem?”
I ask him to read.
“There is an Angel. An Angel sent by God. She…..”
His poem is beautiful. I am carried away by his beautiful words. Once he finishes reading, he asks whether I like it. I just smile and nod my head. Then, he asks whether I have a job for him, so that he can get money for him to buy food. I feel guilty to tell him the truth that I also need money. Being a poor student, I need to be rigid with my spending.
“I’m sorry, I can’t help you. Maybe you will meet someone else that can give a job for you. I’m just a poor student. If I have extra money, I can give some for you to buy food. I wish I can. God can help you. Just pray to Him.”
“Every day, I pray to God so that He can help me. I know God will help me, but until when I need to suffer like this.”
I am stunned to hear his words. I motivate him that God is gracious and will not make him suffer too long.
“God always listens to our pleas. It just that, He will give His helps when the time is right. Since Adam and Eve disobeyed Him, we will always suffer in this world. But, God is gracious. He sent His only son, Jesus to save us. God does send His Angles to look after all of us. Perhaps, there is another Angel for you. You just need to be patient. Patient is LOVE. John, God do LOVE you.”
He smiles listening to my words.
“Dear Girl. You know what; you are already an Angel for me. You are right. I need to be patient. I will wait until there is someone willing to hire me. Thanks for your advice.”
I smile, and I give my hug to him. I do not know why I suddenly want to hug him. I see tears streaming down on his cheeks. After hugging, we say goodbye to each other. I continue on walking, and when I turn my back, John shouts at me.
“Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you my dear Angel.”
I receive the three magical words from a stranger on the Eve of Valentine’s Day. I wave at him, and he does the same. I know that I cannot hold my tears. I turn myself from looking at him, and then I walk as quickly as possible. I just let my tears flowing down for the second time. In my heart, I ask God to make myself be loved by those who love me.