Back in October, when I was up to my elbows in midterms and papers, my friend Lauryn asked me if I fancied going skiing with her and her friends in March, in Niseko, Japan. I met Lauryn some seven years ago at NYU, where I knew nobody and where, though I had vowed never to play badminton again (knowing in my heart that in the U.S., it was a loser’s sport and I wouldn’t be a loser in college), I took up the sport again because I had so little else to do. The badminton team at NYU was small, consisting of a few Asian kids who had played at various international schools throughout the world. The team captain, Kenny, was a tall, skinny boy from Hong Kong who spoke Cantonese-accented Mandarin and who, upon meeting me and seeing me play, lit up and said, “You know, there’s a girl here who could use a partner like you.” I was skeptical at first, in the same way I was skeptical about everyone and everything I had encountered in New York – I had gone to college with a rather closed mind – even though I was happy to be moving again, to be hitting something, to be doing something familiar. “Her name is Lauryn,” he said, “You’ll meet her next practice and maybe you guys can play together.”
Next practice, she was there, sitting on the scuffed wooden floors of NYU’s Cole Gym tying her shoes with quick, rapid movements. “I’m Lauryn,” she said, not yet getting up, and to show that I was ready to play doubles, I sat down next to her. I learned that she was from Singapore, had gone to Singapore American School or SAS for short, and that she was a photography major at the Tisch School of Arts. Like me, she had played badminton in high school and like me, hadn’t really sought to play in high school but when other avenues of exercise failed to appeal, thought, “Why not?” It was a good semester, in terms of badminton, and looking back, the best first semester at school anyone could ask for. But I was too close-minded to think of it that way. I was lucky to meet Lauryn – lucky that she could overlook my wet-blanket tendencies and invite me to various dinners out with her friends. I often declined, but when I went, I invariably had a great time. That was an important lesson I learned then – when people invite you out, try your best to say yes.
This trip to Niseko might never have happened had I hung on to bad memories rather than good. Or had I left Lauryn as a friend along with NYU as a possible alma mater. We have kept in touch over the past seven years via email and Facebook, and a little over a year ago, Lauryn found herself in San Francisco for a photo shoot. We met up in the lobby of her hotel, where she was packed and waiting to come to my house in Berkeley, where she would spend a few days before heading back to Singapore. By then, she was an accomplished photographer, featured in Travel and Leisure Asia, Epicure, and soon after she left the Berkeley, the New York Times. I offered to carry her camera gear, seeing that it was a relatively small black bag. “Are you sure?” she said, “It’s really heavy. Really.” She carried it with relative ease and as she is quite petite, I laughed and said, “Not for me, it won’t be.” She handed it to me easily, her arm outstretched and as my hands grasped the strap, she let it go and I dropped the bag to the ground like a sack of stone potatoes. It must have been fifty pounds, that bag, and add to that her luggage and purse – I wondered why anyone in the world wanted to be a photographer.
Anyway, she is very talented and I am happy to be here, in Niseko, Japan with her boyfriend and a handful of very friendly Singaporeans. Like a proper photographer she travels prepared, with Macbook Pro and cameras in varying sizes, including her iphone, with which she took these. For now, I’ll let Lauryn’s eyes do the work.