By Akie Ueda (Japan)
“I WANT YOU TO BE MY CONVERSATION PARTNER!” That’s the beginning of our longtime partnership for three years and counting. I first met Ron when he was under the volunteer-training program and instantly realized he was the ONE. He was a talented photographer with elegance and high intelligence who would make a perfect conversation partner. So I dared to ask him to be my partner instead of having one randomly chosen by the International Center. As a Japanese with cultural background where being reserved is often considered a virtue, it took me a lot of nerve to do so. But soon after I knew I made the right choice. He actually was a great teacher in all directions from English to how to enjoy life.
After a lesson, we often hung out in the cafeteria where he met many of my friends. It didn’t take long for some of them to ask him to be their partner just like I did, making him a fully booked teacher who constantly has many students. He currently teaches two of my best friends and one of their husbands. We are like “Ron and his family” now. We often eat out, get together at his place for a drink, go to galleries, and the like. Every place we went, every word we exchanged, and every event we enjoyed made all the difference. Without this circle of friends, I wouldn’t have enjoyed my New York life this much.
Come to think of it, I’m the one who took the first action to make everything happen. I’m now proud of myself for being proactive in asking him to be my partner. “Speak up, and you get what you want.” That’s often said to be a tip on how to survive in New York, and my experience of having a great conversation partner exemplifies that.