There was just nothing special about 1998. I was a plain 21-year-old senior at the UNL, busy with everything else but God. There was absolutely nothing significant, nothing interesting about it as I lived through the whole year unsuspectingly. Only until much later, enlightenment came. Every seemingly trivial and random thing, gradually evolved, formed a greater definition and as of now leading towards 11.11.06 until death separates us.
Kah Kheng came to Nebraska for the Spring 98 semester. He introduced himself to the Sunday School which we attended at Christ's Place Church. "What a strange name, strange face, and strange hair", I thought, "a new Malaysian student...rare enough that he's a christian, I'm sure he will be asked to get involved with TGAN ( a Christian chapter started by international students, primarily Malaysians) soon". I was a TGAN musician then, for no surprise.
My second encounter with Kah Kheng was at Selleck Kitchen. I was working part time washing dishes with my then boyfriend Chern Chuan who was the dishroom supervisor that night. So there was this new student worker (KK) coming to work every Wednesday night now. The only reason I took notice of him was that he was a record slow. Our usual clockout time was around 745p and had never worked past 8 unless there was a special dinner. And the rule was no one leaves until everyone's done. It was 815p and even though Chern Chuan was helping KK scratching the pots, we were all still in the kitchen. I remember being so angry and wanted to leave. But Chern Chuan being the kind but fair dishroom leader wouldnt allow me. We waited and waited and finally we clocked out at 825p!!! Outside the kitchen, I spat fire and brimstones at Chern Chuan who gently defended KK and at the same time trying to calm me down. A couple weeks later, KK quitted his shift. It's not easy being Selleck's dishroom crew.
I have no memory of bringing KK from Selleck to Kimball Music Hall for TGAN meeting as he remembered. From my memory, he was already there with Shannon waiting for me to arrive. So there, we officially met (when I told him my name for the first time), shook hands, at Kimball Music Hall, for worship practice. Shannon had invited him to be our guest musician that night. I remember seeing him tuning his guitar with a tuner. It was the first time in my life to see a guitar tuner. "Oh my gosh", I thought, "this guy is a guitar geek"! Real respect and admiration for him suddenly came. I was more open to the possibility of friendship. Even so, we still hardly talk. I remember the same night, we walked back to Selleck together without a single word being exchanged.
Summer came. There was an internal chaos in the leadership of Malaysian student association. Many events were coming up but there was no official committee assigned to plan for the logisitics. The newly chosen leader sent out a word, requesting the Malaysian community to volunteer themselves to serve temporarily during the summer until the next official election. I signed up for it. So did KK.
My next close encounter with KK was during that first temporary committee meeting. While we were waiting for all the volunteers to come, I overheard some of the conversations between him and his friends. I learnt what he was like from how they talked. "Oh my goodness....how immature and arrogant these boys are!", I thought to myself and I even remember thinking this specifically "Thank goodness, my own boyfriend isn't like them at all"! From that time onwards, I made a mental decision, leaning towards not liking KK.
Almost the end of that summer, something came up again. I was away for a few days attending a Food Technologist conference in Atlanta. He was doing a summer school in Arizona. Both of us happened to be absent for the same volunteers meeting. Because of that the group made a decision without us that both of us would be organizing a welcoming party for the new students. I was less than happy about it mainly because I didnt know KK at all and I was forced to work together with him. Being his senior, I had an upper hand in controlling the scene. I delegated the work in such way that we need minimal contact. The party went decent and we again parted ways minding our own business.
That fall, I withdrew myself from TGAN's involvement and became Special Project Executive for the Malaysian Student Association. Within expectation, KK took over my position in TGAN as the music director. Life had become busier. I quitted my job at Selleck and worked 40 hours at a lab in my department. This was during the Asian Economic Crisis where students from affected countries were allowed to work full time and study part time. Very often, KK would persuade me to go back to TGAN by inviting me to play for worship. So, I became even busier.
It was also during that time we developed a online friendship. I was on the computer a lot....doing homework, typing papers, downloading music, being a geek...etc. We would send instant messages back and forth as we did our homework. So, in that geekiness, we somewhat connected. He was rather likable, surprisingly. Even so, he was still more an acquaintance than a friend then.
We rode to Des Moines together for IVCF's Fall conference, with Zoe and Brian. That was the most memorable conference. Even putting God far behind my mind, I felt his call twice in that weekend, TO GO TO THE LOST. I recall standing beside KK one morning at a service. I stole a look at his face and I saw his tears when someone on the stage challenged us to go on missions. "What a guy" I thought, "I bet he really loves God". Anyway, even until today, we've not talked about it.
Despite what he wrote, in my memory and in my heart, KK finally became my friend that weekend.
To be continued...