The next day was the same as the first, and the next, and the next. It seemed as though I was never going to be able to communicate with people again. My routine of stressfully attempting to converse with my peers went as bad as it could have gone. I couldn’t believe my eight-year-old mind was so overwhelmed with positive thoughts, joy, and excitement. My optimism fully blinded me from the fact that the little English I was taught in Argentina was not going to be enough.
I vividly remember the day I walked into the American School of Paris, keeping my chin up high, not knowing what to expect. My small hands opened the big blue door to reveal a colorful yellow, red, and blue classroom. Holding my mother’s hand on one side, and my father’s hand on the other, I quietly walked into the dark room trying not to interrupt a presentation, and sat on the small chairs surrounding the typical lower school hexagonal table.
“Hello toay aim takin aodut de sted mard,” explained the presenter, “pole an wert roud levy.” I remember looking at my parents confused, begging for answers, unable to get them. “Owoer anep pewas senau wour own” he continued as he pointed to the screen, displaying pie charts and bullet points that I was not able to read. I remember going back home and not being able to sleep, wondering how the next day, and the whole year, would turn out. Every day was the same, except I was all alone, without my parents.
One day, we had to sit in the quiet room and write about a special anecdote. I don’t remember exactly what I picked, but with my limited linguistic abilities I was somewhat able to get my point across. Halfway through my story, I realized I didn’t know how to say “inflable” in English. Shyly walking over to the teacher’s desk, I whispered my problem to her. She was trying her best to help me for what felt like ages. Finally, instead of looking it up on Google Translate or handing me a dictionary, she made sure everyone heard the clever idea she came up with of making me ask Juan Pablo. Juan Pablo, the quirky Mexican boy with a bowl cut, dark hair, and eyes as big as tennis balls. He happened to be the only Spanish speaking person in my grade and had a huge crush on me. My third-grade self was terrified.
I walked over to his table and bent down quietly, making sure not to disturb anyone from their writing process. Of course, my efforts were useless since the entire class was already staring. I leaned toward him, hands on my knees, and mumbled in the lowest voice possible if he knew the word for “inflable.” He did not hear a single word I said, forcing me to continue asking gradually louder and louder, making everything even more embarrassing. All twenty pairs of eyes were on me, and, after it felt like I had repeated myself one hundred times, he finally told me to use “inflatable.” Not only had he told me the wrong word in his broken Spanish, but I had also gone through all of that trouble for absolutely nothing but embarrassment.
What I wanted to say was “bouncy castle,” the most simple and obvious word.
Before leaving my familiar, comfortable home in Argentina, I was not aware of the obstacles that I would have to face. But, the moment I stepped off of my parents' cozy white bed after jumping up and down as a reaction to the big news, I became a new person. I became a citizen of the world, a passenger with no home and no final destination. And that day, in that third-grade classroom, I learned one of the biggest lessons so far. Not how to say bouncy castle, not to stay away from weird boys who have a crush on me, but instead, not to rely on anyone to help me with my struggles; to learn to face challenges all by myself. And because of that, each new obstacle was able to become just another funny anecdote.
Lucia Zac is 16 years old and lives in Singapore. Some funfacts about Lucia is that she was born in Venezuela and has lived on four continents! She loves marine biology and her favorite animals are sea turtles.