Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My friend, the biology watcher

Shibani and I met the last week of 5th grade. Within 5 days of our first encounter, school was over and  we were both off to separate summer vacations. The first day of 6th grade, I spotted Shibani in my classroom, and we smiled. Miss O'Cleary, our teacher, had designed a seating chart for all of us 6th graders; she sat us in a cluster of four desks turned inward. Shibani and I were lucky that day - we were the two girls in our cluster. 
Shibani's parent were of the upper class of India's population. Shibi's mom worked for the U.S. Embassy - she was some kind of attache to an attache to the US Ambassador. Shibi's dad was something, but it was her mom who had a presence in Shibi's life. Shibi was a serious science kind of whiz who spoke English with a clipped British accent. Her first language, of course, was Hindi.

Shibani was my best friend during each school year. But during the summers, we never saw or heard from each other. She went to wherever her home was, I went to whatever direction my parents pointed me. Come the first day of school... Shibani and I would find each other and our conversations would begin anew.
In 8th grade, our whole class participated in a Learning Fair on the last day of school. Shibi and I were in the "Learning English" class of the fair. We each had to read a book of our choice, prepare a booth that reflected or advertised our book, and then 'man' our booth and answer questions about our book (if anyone bothered to ask). Shibi immediately picked "The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher" by Lewis Thomas. No one doubted that was a perfect pick for Shibi. My own library was full of Leon Uris books, but our teacher thought that "Mila 18" was a bit out of our league. I settled on" The Diary of Anne Frank".
Shibi and I worked on our posters together. We practiced our book 'previews' out loud to each other, and together we collected visual aides for our displays.  Shibi found a child's microscope, some slides, a petri dish, tweezers, and some stinky cotton balls. She built a scientist's paradise in her little booth. I was envious. My little booth had a blank diary and a pen... and poster that mistakenly advertised "The Dairy of Anne Frank". 

The Learning Fair started that last Thursday at 10 a.m. Teachers brought their students to our room, and we invited them into our booths to listen to our spiel. A few parents even attended the Fair, but neither Shibani nor I had mothers who attended. 
When the day ended, Shibani's microscope and slides were fingered, smeared and messy. My 'dairy' sign still reflected its err in spelling (I just knew I should have reported on Mila-18!).  We packed up our booths, threw away our posters, and waved a 'see you in August!' goodbye.

Within a week, my family moved. And Shibani? She never went back to that school either. Turns out the US Embassy took over the school. They converted "our" school to an 'embassy' school - only American embassy children or American children of U.S. Foundations or religious organizations were allowed to attend. Shibani wasn't American. She was not allowed back in. I was American, but my dad didn't work for the right 'company'. I wouldn't have been allowed back in, either. (My mother assures me that I would have attended a highly rated international boarding school in Kuala Lumpur.)

I wonder where Shibani went. I hope she is a doctor or mad lab scientist in Switzerland or Australia. I hope her education didn't end after 8th grade. I hope she is strong. And I hope she knows I still think of her. 

(The above photo was taken during 8th grade. I never got a yearbook that year, but I did find that the Embassy School website has posted all our yearbooks online. I hunted for Shibani's photo - and found her. But she isn't in the 9th grade yearbook, or the 10th... or the 11th... I'd like to think someday I will find the real her.)


Pat Tillett said...

I love the stories from your life. They are so darn interesting! Also, you almost always seem to come up with a photo or two to go to the story...

altadenahiker said...

Mmmmm: She went to wherever her home was, I went to whatever direction my parents pointed me.

So strange, I must have been channeling you today.

Did you put up a brief fight, move to move, or at any move, knowing from the start there was no chance you'd win, no chance at all.

Pat MacKenzie said...

Wouldn't it be nice if we could reconnect with our 'lost' friends after so many years have passed. Maybe that's what all the social networking sites are all about. Ihope you meet your friend again.

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Very poignant story. It would be wonderful if you could find her again.
I'm not a big Facebook fan, but you might try that if you haven't already.
I signed on once to find a couple people from my past and after about a half a year I did connect with two people I was looking for. My old foster sister and another friend from school. I had also looked at

Kathy said...

I hope you find her someday too.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Is this segment of your life taking place in India? Moving around, thats something you and the hiker have in common. I got stuck in one place and stuck I was (probably why I never attend reunions) but I remember a girl in 6th grade whose family was transfered to So Cal from Japan. Noriko: didn't speak a word of English so she was put in the idiot classes with me. And we became friends. I think of her too

The Retired One said...

Gosh, I hope you find her! Maybe she is looking for you too?

Brenda's Arizona said...

PA, yes, this segment was India. AH and I have this 'moving' thing down, don't we? Perhaps we DO channel each other? Karin, I died a thousand times when we left Argentina. I was mortally wounded that our parents would move us... but I guess I was young enough to recover! And I never complained again about moving. How about you???

Finding Shibani would be amazing. I did find email addresses for a few other friends from the same school, but I have not contacted them. Something about losing the innocence of our friendships... and lots of fear.

Thank you all! Pat, your stories are still the best - in a sad sort of way.

Kilauea Poetry said...

Hello there-
This was intriguing..such a delightful read!
Sometimes I think if the title of a post stands out- someone perhaps may find you? I did a family (ancestry) type finally.. only because I got so frustrated running into so many dead ends. I did what I would of wanted to find, so to speak?
I enjoyed your story and photo (I came through Ginny's blog btw)..
anyway, my best-and hopefully she will come back into your life:)

BANJO52 said...

Ditto all the others. There are some I'd love to hear from or about.

I too flirt with the possibility of Facebook, but there's also truth in "You can't go home again." Or, "That was then, this is now." And how do you UNfriend somebody? Ouch.

I think maybe you and AH remember more of the SCHOOL part of school than I do. Oh well.

Kathy said...

You wanted more before and after? I dedicated today's blog to you. FKH Photo Journal.

altadenahiker said...

Yes, I recovered within weeks. Maybe less. But I remember digging my heels in from time to time, to stay with other families who wanted me to stay with them until the end of term. Somehow I knew it was never an option. Because it wasn't.

giantspeckledchihuahua said...

I always enjoy your reflections and often times my own mirror yours. I hope Shibani's path crosses with yours again, and soon. The world seems to get smaller each day so it's definitely not out of the realm of possibilities!

giantspeckledchihuahua said...

I always enjoy your reflections and often times my own mirror yours. I hope Shibani's path crosses with yours again, and soon. The world seems to get smaller each day so it's definitely not out of the realm of possibilities!