The View from the Other Side

By Tsz Yan (Kitty) Lo

Moving from the bustling traffic in Hong Kong to the top of a tree in San Jose, CA.

 Photo by Hanna Benavides.

Photo by Hanna Benavides.

“Do you want to climb on this tree?” my host sister Sarah asked me, sunlight shining on her face.

I had arrived in San Jose, California at 5 that morning, with terrible jetlag and a fuzzy mind. Upon the invitation of my host family, the Florenzies, I decided to walk with them through a trail near my new home for the next two years.

The wind blew softly on my face. I started to feel better and enjoyed the nice, calming weather. Not counting the skyscrapers and busy traffic, there is a sense of calm and placidity in the U.S. Back in Hong Kong, I never took morning walks with my parents because they were always busy, and we lived quite far from the trails and parks. But it was the beginning of my new life in the United States. I needed to open my mind to try new things, new food and experience a different lifestyle.

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"In my heart, I believed that everything would be fine as long as I didn’t get homesick."

Photo by Kitty Lo.

In my heart, I believed that everything would be fine as long as I didn’t get homesick.

“Kitty? Are you okay? Are you ready for this challenge?” As I heard Sarah’s voice, she was already atop the tree.

“I am afraid, Sarah. This is scary and I don’t think I can do it.”

I had only climbed trees when I was a child. And this was the first time that I meeting my host family; I did not want to be embarrassed in front of them.

“Just do it! You can see such a good view up here!” Sarah insisted and tried to grab my hand.

I gave in. It was a big challenge for me to climb up the tree, since it had huge branches. But as soon as I climbed to the top, I saw a view that I would never forget. There was a tree standing in the middle of the field. The wind blew on the grass, and the grass blades all seemed to dance in sync. The rising sun shone through the fog, and I could see the tree clearly. With the sound of the birds and the smell of the fresh grass, I felt a calm in my heart that I had never experienced before.

 Palm trees in San Jose, California. Photo by Kitty Lo.

Palm trees in San Jose, California. Photo by Kitty Lo.

“Let’s go!” Immediately Sarah stepped down and got down from the tree.

My legs could not reach the branch, and I could not find a way to get down. What should I do? I was looking down with sweat dripping from my head. Oh no! I know this was going to happen! How embarrassing!

“Step on my shoulder, Kitty. I got you!” My host dad, stood right under the tree, held his hand high and tried to save me from this tragedy. With his help, I was rescued from this tree and I landed safely on earth. My face turned red, but my host family kept encouraging me and told me that everything was just fine and how I had made their day.

 Photo by Hanna Benavides.

Photo by Hanna Benavides.

That was the first memory of my journey with my host family in the U.S. This was how I soon learned that besides school work, I should spend more time outdoors and experience more of nature. I never realized the importance of nature during my years in Hong Kong. Everything had been so urbanized, and I just could not settle my heart long enough explore the nature around me. The sun, the stars and the trees here reminded me of home, but the attitude of curiosity and calm around the same sun, stars and trees in the U.S. inspired me to see my hometown from a fresh angle. Alongside high skyscrapers, crowded streets and fast-paced life, I could now also find my heart in a new place and a new peace.


Tsz Yan Lo is studying Information Management and Technology at Syracuse University.