Family at its Finest

Eli Zimmerman Miss. Pahomov English 2 29, September 2016

Just to set the record straight: I love my grandparents, as well as my aunt and uncle. However, every three months or so my parents and I travel down to Virginia to see my family, every time I go I’m terrified. It’s just what they think to be normal is completely different from my variation of normal. Both my fathers grandparents come from a Catholic and Republican family. I am Atheist and have what I believe to be left wing points of view. My Aunt Val and Uncle Bryce do not care about politics at all, because they believe each side has a major flaw that deters them from either party. Nonetheless, they still have a very country suburban lifestyle which at time can be intimidating.

My first time going to Virginia I was 10 and out of all the trips we have made down there, this one was by far the worst. I remember getting in the car, ready to drive down to see my uncle for the first time in a couple years. I had no idea what to expect, I was nervous, anxious and excited. So my family made the three hour drive down to Purcellville, Virginia, a suburb of Washington D.C. My uncle lives in an old country style log cabin that is 4 stories with old windows. To get to the house, you have to drive down a gravel road. At this time my grandfather and grandmother had retired, so Bryce had offered up his guest house to them as a permanent residence. I remember pulling up to the house and being astonished by how nice his property was. In total there are two houses, a 4 car garage, a loft above the garage, and a swimming pool. All of this is on nearly 8 acres of land.

As we arrived in our Volvo station wagon I noticed Bryce, Val and my grandparents were all out in the driveway waiting for us. My Uncle Bryce is 6’3 stocky man with a grey goatee that matches his somewhat long hair. My aunt Val is short, about 5’5 and has blonde short hair. I remember getting out of the car and giving my uncle a handshake, I was astonished by the sheer size of his hands in proportion to mine. Bryce can be a very intimidating man when you first meet him because he’s a technical thinker, this means he does not always take into mind the feelings of the person to whom he is conversing with. So he began asking me questions I did not know the answer to, which embarrassed me infront of the whole family.

After his bombardment of questions I went over to hug my grandparents, they lived in Florida prior to the move to Purcellville so I rarely ever saw them. My grandma and grandpa both have an old fashioned parenting style so I had to go out of my way to be super precatious around them, especially when it came to my vulgar sense of vocabulary. I remember after all the hugs and hellos we all went into the house to eat an early 4 o’clock dinner. Once we all sat down my grandfather asked me to say grace and I quickly became terrified, I had never said grace before. After a couple moments of silence my grandfather breaking the quiet by beginning his prayer. After we began serving my grandma scolded my granddad for asking me to say that. I felt so bad at the time, I felt as if I was letting my family down by not knowing how to say christian prayer at the dinner table which scares me now to think about today. How could I have been expected to know how to say grace when I had never been exposed to christianity. Bryce told me later on in the stay my grandfather had done the same exact thing to his kids and it was no big deal. It felt as if my grandad was expecting all kids in our family to know about christianity and a god. By the end of the trip I felt as if I didn’t belong to my family solely based on the fact I didn’t know how to say grace. I will never forget this event because it reminded me how different I am from my family but in reality I am proud of my independence because that’s what makes who I am.

Time cannot be gained - James Adams

“You may delay, but time will not.”-Benjamin Franklin. I have never been good with time, partly because i procrastinate and partly because I lose track of it. The more i grew up the more I understood how time works but I still don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Being focused on time caused me to be forgetful of other things, but being not focused on time made me late and uncaring.

“Jimmy wake up you’re late for school!”

Oh boy. Here we go again. As soon as I hear those words, I already know that I’m going to get slapped and get water thrown on my face because I’m a heavy sleeper. My Dad takes waking up very seriously for some reason even though we’re usually late so it really doesn’t matter

“Ok ok I get it I’m up!” I exclaim. During my 8th grade year, I was late every day so it wasn’t a surprise when I got woken up like this.

“Were gonna be late get up! If your mom finds out about this, you’re not the only the that will be in trouble,” The worst part about being late wasn’t getting beat up by my Dad or being talked to by the principal or the teacher, but it was my Mom.

“Jimmy this is your 4th lateness in a row. You need to pick it up this is your 47th lateness. You need to realize that being on time is important. It interrupts your learning and everybody else’s, I also need to tell your parents,” My advisor explains. Unfortunately, this information went in one ear and out the other, the only word i heard was parents.

When I got home, I was preparing for the inevitable. I heard the door opening a little earlier than usual and I was not ready.

“‘Beep Beep Beep…’ Jimmy wake up it’s time for practice,” I hear my alarm and my mother at the same time, which means it’s time to wake up for practice again. Fortunately, I did all my homework except for one. Usually, when I do my homework, I do all of it except for one and I have no idea why. What this means is that I do it in the car on my way to practice or at school. This usually works out fine for the most part.

“Jimmy, are you doing your homework in the car again? It looks like you’re not done and we’ve arrived,” my Dad says. Sometimes when you plan things out, it doesn’t work out in the end, and this is a perfect example of that. When I said saving my homework for later usually works, I lied. It never works but almost always I can finish it at school.

“Rockets on three family on six!” It was the end of practice and we did the usual chant. We, unfortunately ended a little late, but what I had was faith. Taking the bus to school is the fastest but I Already knew it was probably going to make me late. I also knew that taking the trolley was going to get me there and was consistent, so I decided to take that.

“Of course I get here at 8:10,” I say with a sigh.

Turns out it didn’t work out. Sometimes when you think things out, time just doesn’t go your way. If only time didn’t flow then you wouldn’t have to worry about being late or early, you could have time for anything you wanted to do, but I don’t know if it would be a good thing or a bad thing.

Tech Today - Maddi Etxebeste

Maddi Etxebeste
- Silver Stream - English 2

          “Tech Today”

I don’t know if it’s your case, but I love listening to music and I’m 90% of the time with my earphones listening my songs. I usually have discussions and arguments with my mom, because she sees that I’m with my earphones 24/7 and says that it’s like I didn’t care about the things that are around me. And, well, this can be true, sometimes I put my earphones on to relax and I don’t see what is happening next to me. It’s a way to “disconnect” from the real world for me. That’s the reason why my mom blames many tasks that I don’t do while I’m on the mobile phone.

And all this made me think about, nowadays, it’s like we, teenagers, are addicted to the mobiles phones,PCs, and to all the technology in general. We have “grown up” with them. When I went out with friends, when we finished bored, we all take our mobile phones and try to see if there’s activity in any social media to entertain ourselves. For example, when we’re in a fast-food restaurant and we’re waiting for what we ordered, we’re always using our cell phones, chatting with someone, seeing photos on Instagram, videos on Snapchat, answers and questions on Ask.Fm, etc.

First, I thought mainly in teenagers and young people, you know, but in big cities adults behave in the same way (although it could be because they are business men/women). In addition, technology evolves faster each time, so we want to have the new thing. When we were young we saw the first real mobiles phones, these Nokias, the first generation of “famous” Apple products, Samsung Galaxies , and all this old mobile phones which in those years were the bests of the bests, and that now they’re all old and worn out. What will we become in the future? If we have been got used to all this “new” technologies, how will we be later? If now we’re attached with all this stuff, in the future we won’t interact with the people, we will text them even if they’re next to us; what kind of disaster would it be? Because actually, when someone loses his phone is like if he lost all. Will the humanity, our humanity, disappear? We’ll meet by video-call… What will happen if finally technology invades all the fields that actually exist? No jobs, no income, no food; or maybe, all would be free? We can’t make the people change their personality, so we’ll keep from being addicted to our electronic devices so much.

And I talk about this as a testimony, because I think that most of the teenagers panic when we don’t find our phones. First phones only served for calling and texting, but now, we have Internet social nets, stupid but entertaining apps, the calendar, clock, voice recorder, camera, weather, calculator, note recorder, music, practically all in our cell phones, without needing a TV, a PC or an iPad. Summarizing, we have all in our devices. Anyways, I prefer going out with my friends in the center of Irun, meeting people face to face, asking to friends “hey! If someone wants we’ll be at SJ square at 5 pm, everyone that wants to come can come!” and then walking in the town and see a known face (it happens often) and say “hi! How is it going? See you later!”. I really don’t know what will happen in the future, but our situation can’t change. We are who we are and our being is unique and cannot change easily. In my opinion I just have to accept the reality and that finally all this new technology is winning importance and is invading us, little by little, even if we don’t notice it, even if we think that all this stuff is kinda normal and ordinary thing nowadays.

Planes To Israel Fly Slower Than Time

I bounced on the balls of my feet as El Al’s security questioned my parents in the airport. Why were we going to Israel? Who we were visiting? What was our relationship with each other? This was all new to me as this was only my second time in Israel, and only the first time I went at an age I would remember. I was excited to be going and seeing all the sights, but there was also an anxious feeling at being out of the country for a few weeks.

After the security personnel witnessed my parents’ bickering, it was made clear that they were a married couple, and we were free to move on. Dragging my suitcase behind me, I looked around the airport, mindlessly following my mom. Slews of people moved about, a tangle of different languages hitting my ears. My mom’s voice broke through the other conversations as she directed me into the waiting area. I settled next to my dad, preparing myself for the two-hour wait to board.

A couple hours later, the flight attendant lady’s voice sounded over the loudspeaker, and my dad was telling me people were starting to board our plane. There was a lot of jostling and unwanted breathing on the back of my neck, and I began to feel a little bit sick from nerves. Once on the plane, I grabbed onto my mom’s arm so I wouldn’t get lost among the people in the aisles. We found our seats without incident, and I settled down for a twelve-hour flight, thinking about how I would fare navigating a hectic airport by myself.

Many naps later, I groaned as the pilot announced the descent of the plane. It started to go down, causing my ears to pop and making my stomach lurch. I ground my teeth until the plane landed, bumpily, onto the runway. Exiting the plane was a little bit wobbly for me, but I managed to make it into the airport without toppling over. Finding our bags was relatively uneventful. Supposedly, we would be meeting a small group of other students’ relatives once we got to the hotel in Jerusalem. Getting to the hotel seemed pretty easy at first. It wasn’t easy at all. Cab drivers in Israel don’t care, and once we did get a cab the language barrier was fierce. I realized this would become the norm if I decided to come here. My dad was able to communicate where we wanted to go without too much yelling, and the driver helped us cram the large luggage bags into the cab’s trunk.

Eventually, my family and I were safely deposited in front of the hotel. There was little hassle as we met the group of other students’ relatives, found our hotel rooms, and set off to visit my sister and the other students. The building was tucked away on an almost hidden street. Everyone filed in through the doors and were greeted by the corresponding student, and we were given a small tour. That night, I had my first dinner in Israel, and it really left something to be desired, especially compared to the foods we got later on. Since it was Shabbat at the time, and the head teacher was religious, there were a lot of chanting before we ate: acknowledging the Sabbath, blessings over the challah and wine, and thanking the Lord for this day of rest. I didn’t participate in singing with everybody else, but I listened for recognizable words. I was slightly disappointed in the quality of the main course, but there were plenty of persimmons to eat afterward. During the dinner, I was able to catch up with my sister and ask her questions about what Israel had been like for her so far.

As we toured through Israel, we would also be sitting in on some of her classes and visiting different family sights with her and the other students. My parents kept reminding me that I would be doing this in a few years. I figured four years was plenty of time, and I was actually excited about doing this myself. However, now that the time to go is less than a year away, those few weeks I spent in Israel barely seem like anything compared to the few months I might be spending there.

That's your real name? -- Maciej Pokora

“Is that your real name?”

I knew from a young age that my name will bring a lot of questions. But I never not liked my name, I thought it was unique at least over here in the U.S. Sure it took a lot of tries for people to say it correctly, but after a couple tries of them getting it wrong I feel sorta awkward having to tell them it’s wrong again.

“Yup, that’s my real name,” I answered with a smile on my face, proudly wearing my name.

“What’s it mean?” he asked with a confused look on his face.

“Nothing, it’s just a name. It’s Polish if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Cool.” after that he just walked away with a confused look.

It was the first day of school, that meant new teachers. I already knew that I’m going to have to go through the whole name process, where the teacher needs to learn my name. For most people, they didn’t have to stress or worry about getting their name mispronounced. But that isn’t the worst part of the whole ordeal, them trying to get you to adjust by asking if they could shorten it or call you something else, giving me that feeling of them simply not caring enough …

There I was sitting in my new seat waiting for the teacher to start class as the kids are rolling in, each of them taking seats next to their friends. I was happy to be in the class, I had a good seat where I could see the board and sit next to all my friends. The teacher picked up the paper with all of the student’s name and started going through the list, breezing past all the names. I sat there wondering to myself, what silly sound will he make for my name. There was a pause, silence.. I already knew it was me he stopped for since we just went by the letter “O”. He glanced up to scan the class briefly, expecting to see a big name tag on my forehead. “Ma-ke-edge” the kids in the class that pretty much already knew my name burst into little chuckles, all of them already knew it was me and they all looked at me.

I was a shy kid and I still am. Being embarrassed like that and now having the entire class look at me made me very uncomfortable, feeling really awkward. I hated moments like these, it made me feel just different because I don’t have a “normal easy name”. They always happen on the first week of school, after that it goes away. I raised my hand and utter my name pronounced correctly: “Ma-ch-a” but the a being sound like you were reciting the alphabet.

The idea of names and naming thing is pretty big in our society. When we make new medical discoveries now, one of the first things we do is name it. There’s just a huge system of names and naming things that we all use. Practically everything has a name in our society, especially people. It’s something that gets planned before you’re even born, at least now it is. Name’s are a pretty big deal, it’s one of the first impressions you have on a person, this becomes even more important when you don’t see them physically too. It’s important to have your name respected for what it is. Sure you can have nicknames, but only if you consent to it. Having people force a nickname upon you because they don’t want to put in the small effort to just saying it correctly, is just wrong.

I do, however, understand that my name is hard to pronounce for a non-native speaker and I don’t expect people to get it right the first time. Asking and showing effort of getting the name right is all it takes. Teachers have plenty of students, therefore certain names can be hard but if they still respect it and show or act that they are trying to say it right, it also counts. Names are a part of who you are and if you reduce the name without care you also reduce the worth that person and show a lack of respect for them.

Plenty of times I had people come up to me and ask me what my name meant. Apparently names have meaning to them like “the wise one,” or “lucky one.” I didn’t really know that was a thing so when I got asked that, I didn’t understand.

“It doesn’t mean anything it’s just a name.”

That was my go-to answer, I justed wanted to go back to my cursive homework so I can snack on my gummies..

“I never heard of that before… But are you sure it doesn’t mean something?”

I got pretty annoyed and I didn’t want to go into a full on discussion about my name and it’s origin, followed by a little geographical lesson of where Poland is.

“It’s Polish if that’s what you’re asking, it’s sort of a common name there, but I can assure you it’s not some sort of weird spelling of another name or a bizarre mispronunciation of a utensil.”

That’s usually what got the person to realize that it was just foreign, yet unique name.

"You're lying"

A big part of my life is my heritage, since being Polish is an everyday type of thing. I mean we eat Polish food all of the time at my house and celebrate Polish holidays. I don’t just stop being Polish sometimes, which is why it is weird when people don’t believe me when I tell them I can speak Polish. Here’s a typical scene:

“You’re Polish?” “Yea, both my parents are Polish and I was born in Poland,” “Well do you speak Polish then?” “Yea, I speak Polish fluently,” “You’re lying! I don’t believe you.” “Um, ok? Why not?” “Prove it then, say something Polish right now,” they demand. “Ja mam na imie Marcin Czapla, I ja umiem rozmawiac po Polsku (My name is Marcin Czapla and I know how to speak Polish),” I would say with almost annoyance in my voice. “Wow you really do know how to speak Polish!” they would exclaim almost surprised as if I hadn’t told them already. “Yea..,” I would reply.

I understand people could be from a different country, like for example Spain, and not speak that country’s language. If I tell you I’m Polish though, and you ask me if I speak it, and I reply with “yes”, then how can you tell me I’m lying about that? Why would I lie about being able to speak the language of the country I am from, there almost no benefits to it if any, especially if it’s just a friendly conversation where I am trying to get to know you? Maybe if it was to go on a application to somewhere, like a job for instance, that needed a Polish speaking employee, then I would understand the speculations. For me though, it usually happens during one of those friendly types of conversations where you are just meeting someone for the first time and are trying to get to know them better, or when you just see someone that you don’t talk to as much and you start some small talk.

This has been happening to me my whole life which is why I’m basically used to it by now, but in the beginning it used to always annoy me. I mean I was born in Poland, but my parents came to this country with me when I was only a few months old. Even though I’ve spent almost my whole life here, at my house we all still speak primarily Polish to each other. My parents are both Polish too and were born there obviously, but unlike me this doesn’t happen to them. It might be because since their adults and they are immigrants, it’s almost expected of them to be able to speak the language of the country that they came here from. I also understand that for someone my age to speak another language fluently could be seen as impressive or not very common, but telling me I’m lying when I tell you I speak Polish or telling that to someone no matter what the language is disrespectful. What that shows, or how I perceive it at least, is that you are doubting the fact that I know another language, or you think I’m lying to you. I know that some people use the phrase “You’re lying” as just a way of expressing that they are surprised, but in most cases that I’ve been in the people that said this were being serious. I think that people do this because a new language is something so new and well foreign to them, which is why they aren’t used to it and act like they act. It’s basically the same situation for me every time too, but I could understand why, I mean if I were to meet someone who spoke another language I wouldn’t say the same thing as them, but I would be just as surprised.

I would be walking somewhere, usually down a hallway at school, when I run into someone from one of my classes that I really don’t talk to that much. We would start conversing and create some small talk and eventually the subject would somehow get to me being Polish.

In conclusion, being Polish is a big part of my life That’s why when someone tells me they don’t believe that I can speak Polish it’s pretty offensive to me. I do understand that people might do it without even knowing it could be offensive or they don’t mean it to be, but it does sound a little rude most of the time and it hits me on a personal level if said in the wrong way.

Technology Takes Over

I put my earphones in my ear and turned my music volume on full blast. I did this a lot when I was home; I didn’t like interacting with humans so I was always in my room “TYLIER!!!” I had thought that I heard someone call my name. I pulled my earphones out of my ear. “Yes?” I called out loud. No answer. I plugged my earphones back into my ear. “TYLIER!!!” I paid no attention to it this time and I continued to listen to my music. After about a minute passed, I heard a loud thumping sound getting closer and closer towards me, until my door flew open. As I removed my headphones, my mom said, “I’m taking your headphones.” This always happened in some way, shape, or form in my house. Ever since I was little I was little, I was never the talkative type. You were either told to speak when spoken to or to sit down and shut up. I abide by those rules, I thought about those rules, I lived by those rules. I never interrupted an adult’s conversation unless I thought what I had to say was important. I thought about what I said before I said it. I was extremely shy in front of people, and I never knew what I was until I found a name for myself, the ultimate introvert. I was awkward around people, but not around screens. I really enjoyed music since I was little as well; it’s been a big part of my life. When I found out that I could quietly listen to music without alerting or speaking to people, I changed. My new addiction to technology had begun. I got my first touch screen phone in fifth grade (lucky me), and it was a white and black Droid Razr. I had that phone for the longest time. Now I’m on my fourth touch screen phone, a black Note 5, and I’m extremely addicted to it. Probably a lot more than I should be. I can’t go anywhere without my phone, and I am constantly checking to see if I have my phone on me (I get anxious if I think I lost it). Even if I did lose things frequently, I couldn’t bear to lose such an expensive product. Every portable piece of technology that I’ve ever owned, I’ve had a connection to. Endless hours of typing, scrolling, turning, sliding, and adjusting until my hands started to hurt. I didn’t want to speak to people because I wanted to be on my phone, and I saw myself values and emotions changing into something different. That’s what isolation did to me. When you listen to a lot of music and keep to yourself you change, your feelings towards others change. I remember I was always annoyed at my little brothers because they wouldn’t be quiet, like me. They would scream, yell, and cry. They were loud. I preferred silence, and I wasn’t like them, I didn’t want to be loud so I couldn’t relate to my family. I solved my problems by sticking my earphones in my ears and blocking out the thoughts that crept in my mind. Like I said before, music has always been a big part of my life hence I took my headphones everywhere I went. Music on the radio was overplayed and dreadful, so I put my music on my phone. Thus, further isolating me from people. I had one pair of earphones that I used frequently and four backup earphones just in case those earphones stopped working. Today I don’t use earphones because all of my earphones stopped working. Life was so boring without music, and I had many awkward moments with people because I never talked and always listened. Instead of listening to what other people had to say, whether that be within songs or in real life, I began to listen to myself and my inner thoughts. I’ve just been trying to figure out who or what I am. I have been trying to figure out my likes and dislikes. Recently, I’ve been reconnecting with my family and friends. I’ve been trying to build up those relationships because I’ve neglected people by avoiding them, and they’ve neglected me when I’ve avoided them. I’m not blaming this completely on the technology, however, it played its part. It’s important to acknowledge the things that hurt you, the things that help you, and know that they both can come from one central entity.

"I'm Burmese"

“I thought you were Hispanic.”

I actually find it funny when people say this to me. I don’t know how or why they get this idea, but it’s just a repeated concept that I’ve noticed throughout my life. I find it funny because I’m actually not Hispanic at all.

“Oh no, I’m Burmese.”

“What’s that? Like where is it?”

And from there I explain what my culture is and where it comes from.

Most of the time, a lot of the people I would talk to would then google Burma and try to make out an idea of what or where Burma is. Burmese people aren’t as common as the people of other Asian cultures. It’s one of those cultures that are just as unique but not very well known. The first thing people would normally do is click on images because who would actually want to read articles about what Burma . When this happens, the first thing that shows up in images are those golden high top point temples.They don’t know what-what they are so they would ask if that’s what the houses there look like.

“Um, no. They’re temples.”

From there, most people would think that Burma focuses around temples and that’s what it’s known for. Most people find it fascinating because of how cool those high point tower looking like things look. It grabs their attention. In real life, for a person that’s been to Burma multiple times for vacation, I don’t find it fascinating. I don’t find it fascinating because I don’t see what the big deal is compared to the random tourists who would see them for the first time.

“So like what’s it for, why are there so many of them?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. They’re just there, they’re everywhere.”

It’s true, these temples, they’re everywhere. There are more than two in every city. There would even be one in every neighborhood, let alone city. They come in different shapes and sizes. But the one thing that is unique about them is that they all have the high point at the top of the building. Basically what it’s for is so people can go inside the temple and pray at a statue of a monk. They light up candle sticks and provide it water and/or fruits, it’s basically like a ritual. Every so often people do this to show respect. It is very much similar to the Chinese culture.

“Are these what the actual houses look like?”

Other than temples, people would also find pictures of houses built on the support of somewhat thin wood sticks IN WATER. Yea, it sounds crazy, but it’s actually a thing. There are many parts in Burma that have houses like those. Some are purposely like that to attract tourists attention, like for example, hotels and tourists sites. Other than that, the really poor looking houses are actually made from people who live near high tide rivers or lakes or water bodies of any sort.

“So they are houses?”

“Yes, but not all are like that.”

“Why won’t they just build it on land then?”

In Burma, and I’m sure many other countries, there is a season called raining season. Here in America we have “April showers”, it’s about the same meaning, but it’s way more effective in Burma. What happens during raining season is that for months (about 3), it would rain just about every day. No bright sunshine, like ever during that season. Some days it would just be light drizzles and that’s fine, but on other days it would rain hardcore and not only for one day but for days continuously. It causes the land to flood, and it’s not just any small flood, these are high floods. Floods that would ruin houses and supplies. Since this season comes around every year and it lasts for about three months, these poor people just decided to build their house on top of the water with support sticks because they don’t have the kind of money to build a new house every year when the flood hits.

“Oh, that’s sad. How many times have you been to Burma?”

“Quite a lot, my first time was when I was only 2.”

My first time in Burma, I was young, really young, I didn’t know anything about the place or people or cultures. As I grew older and visited Burma more, I started to notice my culture more and what it means to me.

Defying Expectations -- Jack Sugrue

In the eighth grade, I was an A/B student at Masterman. Most of my teachers liked me, and I was having a decent year. Now, eighth grade was important in that this was the year where everyone chose their high schools. It was almost an unspoken rule that everyone who got into Masterman would go there, and everyone assumed I was just going to Masterman for high school. Getting in would be easy enough, and there was no reason not to go to the best high school in the city, right?

From the moment my sister started as a freshman at SLA, she fell in love with it. There were countless family friends from my neighborhood who praised the school for how amazing of a place it was. As an outsider, I was enthralled. As early as sixth grade, I saw myself at SLA, and was convinced that it was the place to be.

So, when the time for high school application came around, I put SLA first and Masterman second, with Central and Palumbo on my list in case I didn’t get into the first two. I shadowed everywhere, even the two schools I probably wouldn’t go to. I wrote out an essay for each, and went to my SLA interview. After I had finished all the stress that comes with high school application, I waited.

Later that year, I found out I had gotten into every school I had applied to. It was exciting, yet equally overwhelming. I still had my eyes on SLA, and had started telling others that. The responses I got weren’t as enthusiastic.

The mother of a friend of mine was ecstatic at the thought of being able to carpool every morning. I had to break it to her that I wasn’t going to Masterman for high school, and she replied by letting out a despondent “Oh…” and changing the subject.

My math teacher, who I thought was a joy, had a similar response to my news. My history teacher, who went on to say I was one of the best students he had ever had, was simply crestfallen.We had a class period where we all stated our choices for high school, and others were surprised by my decision, some saying I had made the incorrect choice. This wave of disappointment from others turned into self-doubt on my end.

I remember vividly staying up late one night to finish an English assignment. Every month, we would write a letter to our English teacher, telling her what was going on in life, what we were planning on doing, that sort of thing. It was always the most superficial stuff: I saw this movie last week! I’m getting a dog!, whatever was literally happening in life. She would always respond with nice comments along the way.

I wrote my English teacher an emotional breakdown in a letter. I talked about this disappointment I was feeling, and how I hated it. What I really was looking for was empathy. She always wrote really sweet comments, and I really liked her as a teacher. I was hoping she’d understand and be able to help a little, at least. I turned it in the next day.

A few days later, I got my paper back. There were no comments on any of my emotional ranting. In that moment, I felt the insecurity booming inside my head. Not too long later, I would spend an entire English period sobbing. The disappointment, whether real or fake, had gotten to my head, and my own self-doubt led to me believing I had made the wrong decision.

With all this negative emotion bouncing around, I grasped to the support I was given. My family was entirely behind my decision, and I took a lot of comfort at home in those days. I had a close group of friends reminding me how excited I was for SLA. And, through the disappointment, I persevered.

It’s been a little more than a year since I left Masterman for SLA, and, in retrospect, I feel only a twinge of regret for leaving it all behind. In these situations, it’s often better to go with what you think rather than what others believe, because you know what’s best for you. I knew SLA was right for me, and I turned out well, despite what other people said.

Swimming and Segregation

I was in third grade, and my father, mother, sister, and I were spending the year traveling the world. It was spring, and we were all in Bangalore, India. It was an especially hot day, so my family decided to take a break from touring temples and going on hikes, and we went to an amusement/water park called Wonderla. We left our hotel and got into a taxi to take us there. As I looked out my window, I noticed that the street was full of rickshaws, oxen, taxis, and cars. I was also struck by how everyone drove incredibly fast, and they never stopped. There also were absolutely no stoplights. I determined then that these were the craziest roads that I had ever been on. As we entered the park, I was surprised by how similar it was to an American amusement park. It had many rides like bumper cars and tilt-a-whirls and a few roller coasters. After going on a ride or two, we went over to the water park, which was what we were really there for. The water park itself was pretty similar in terms of look and design to the water parks I had been to in America. However, during our time at the water park, my father, sister, and I encountered many cultural differences. On one slide, everyone was staring at my dad because he was not wearing a shirt, whereas all of the women were fully dressed in their salwar kameezes (dresses over loose pants), and the men wore shirts and khaki shorts. On another slide, the other people in line were loaded with questions for us. They asked us a lot of questions about ourselves and about America. Despite all of that, we all had a pretty fun time at the park. After going on several slides, we decided to take a break, and we went over to the wave pool. As I approached the wave pool, I noticed that there were actually two different wave pools, one for men and one for women. The pool for men was a lot larger, and had a lot bigger waves.
“Why are there separate pools for women and men?” I asked my mother. “Because they want to have a pool where the women can swim in peace while away from the men,” she answered. “That’s stupid,” I responded. My father, sister, and I went over to the wave pool for men, where we swam around for a while. I swam, got hurled around by the waves, and was having a great time. Then, a lifeguard approached us. “The women’s pool is over there,” he said to my sister as he pointed to his left. We all stood there looking confused for a second. My sister got out of the pool, and went into the wave pool for women. She didn’t stay there long, likely because she felt a bit awkward. My father and I shrugged and continued swimming around in the pool. After jumping in the waves for a while longer, we got out of the wave pool. We met up with my sister, and she complained about how it was unfair that there were separate pools, and that the women’s pool had smaller waves. We then went on a few more slides. We were a little hungry afterwards, so we went over to the cafeteria to get some food. There, we encountered some more cultural differences. While many restaurants we had been to in India had offered silverware to tourists, this cafeteria did not. We also knew that it is unacceptable to eat with your left hand in India. There was nothing there that I wanted to eat, so I sat and watched as my family had to struggle to tear naan and scoop rice and sauces while only using their right hands. We left that park having encountered many cultural differences. Even though we had travelled to many places prior to Bangalore and encountered many cultural differences, this was one of the only times where they had a direct impact on us. On our previous travels, we had merely observed the differences, however, now we had to decide whether we should adapt to their culture, or we should just be our normal American selves. Should we change our dress, follow their cultural taboo about eating with your left hand, and should we follow their rules about gender interactions. We didn’t agree with many social rules and found them a bit inconvenient at times, but at the same time, we didn’t want to offend anyone.