I woke up and looked out the car window. It seemed like the sky was mourning and crying for me. I sat there knowing everything we left behind. But the memories would stay with me. At that time, as we entered Maine, I remembered some of the stuff I had left behind. We left my sister’s turtle at my aunt’s. We separated the turtle from its friends who it would probably never see again. We left our beautiful two-story house alone–empty with no one to comfort. We left my mom’s side of the family, we left my cousins, we left our friends to find Maine.
As I looked around, I was tired. We’d been running around the parking lot in the airport in Boston looking for the car. I looked at my sister. She was probably thinking the same thing I was: How was our life going to change? As I rolled down the window, the blowing wind took away the strong smell of the trees, but I could still smell them.
I bit into a doughnut and it reminded me of the doughnut shop at the mall in Lima. Their doughnuts there were baked fresh daily and you could watch them make the dough. As I bit it, I didn’t think of the difference between real donuts with fresh frosting and cheap chemically made frosting.
The car was going at the speed of light–we were already at my uncle’s house where our family had been expecting us for two hours. My uncle and aunt had arrived hours ago from the airport, but because we forgot where the car was, we were late. Our family welcomed us with warm hugs.
The next day, my uncle took us to various places. He took us to Portland Head Light and other Maine spots. I remember going to the mall thinking it was so BIG. I remember trying Panda Express, hating it and throwing it away. Now I love Panda Express. I guess my taste for food has changed. I remember as soon as we got to the food court area, I saw the McDonald’s area. It was so small compared to the one that we’d passed by every time we went to *Metro to buy food supplies in Lima. The McDonald’s in Peru was in the middle of Lima, which is the capital city in Peru. The McDonald’s store was at lest six stories high and very wide like a hotel. We never went in there because I was afraid of the Ronald McDonalds up there, always on the 5th or 6th floor. Sometimes my cousins went there and the Happy Meals were in a box like in the commercials, not in a paper bag like here.
When my uncle took us to Hannaford, I remember seeing the cereals. They were in boxes. In Peru, most of the cereals were in plastic sealed bags–just like a cereal box without the cardboard box.
The first day I went to school in Maine, I was totally confused. It was kinda useless going to school since I couldn’t understand what they were saying. When I first ate the school lunch I noticed it was awful. Now I know that it isn’t just me.
When I finally started reading English, I was reading faster than anyone. I was always the first one to finish stuff in my classes for 5 years. What we learned in Peru in 1st grade was what we learned in 3rd grade here. I was surprised the kids in my classes didn’t know how to do multiplication, division, subtraction, integers, or even addition in first grade! When we started doing long division I was so bored.
By 4th grade the school assigned me to an AG (Academically Gifted) Math program for one hour, three times a week, but I still had to do the math in my normal class.
Now Maine feels natural. School isn’t confusing. I’m learning a 3rd language and doing better than ever. Now and then, my aunt sends me a picture of my sister’s pet turtle which is now huge. School lunch is still kinda disgusting and many people if not everyone agrees with me. I have gotten used to chemically made stuff, but now our family doesn’t go to any fast-food place other than Elevation Burger which is 100% organic.
Heres another story in case you didn’t enjoy the first one:
One time there was a fish.
The fish swam by accident into a water bottle.
It continued eating plankton until it outgrew the bottle and
Stop being lazy and buy a reusable water bottle.
Tia Jwanina’s house felt lonely and so did I. No one was there anymore. The only thing I could hear when I went to her house was the trees going back and forth in the yard. The house still smelled like it used to – like dark, strong coffee – but there was no one there to drink it. The bed was made up with sheets, but not for Tia Jwanina. A man would sleep there at night in case anyone tried to come into the house, and in the morning he would feed the chickens. The rooms were grey. All of her religious statues were gone. She took them with her when she moved away. She took everything. Tia Jwanina was my Father’s cousin. I called her my Aunt, even though she was more like a Grandmother. She was in her 80’s when I was growing up in Madacruz, Cape Verde. Everybody liked to go to Tia Jwanina’s house; mostly kids, because they liked being around her. We would play outside on her cement patio everyday, especially on Sundays after church. Tia Jwanina had black hair, light-colored skin, and she always wore black clothing, because she was a widow. She wore black the entire time I knew her. One time I made her a bracelet out of blue, pink and purple beads and gave it to her. When I asked her why she wasn’t wearing it the next day, she told me that even though she loved it, she couldn’t wear it because it was colorful and she was a widow. It didn’t hurt my feelings though, because the way she talked to me was so soft and kind. She always told the truth. She lived in a big, green house right next to my Grandmother’s and my sister’s mother’s house.
I would walk there everyday from my house. I passed a tamarind tree on the corner that smelled sour when the fruit was ripe. Her house was cement, like all the houses in Cape Verde. When you walked through the front door, the blue painted walls were so bright. Children would laugh, running through the cornfields outside. It was a happy place. It was alive with energy. There were two sisters who would always go and play at Tia Jwanina’s house. They called her vovo, which means Grandma, even though she wasn’t their real Grandma. Joel, a little boy who lived in the neighborhood, would spend time there with us too. I loved Tia Jwanina and I still do to this day. She was so kind and she always put a smile on my face. Tia Jwanina is my favorite person in the world. Even though I could still visit her when she left her home and moved where people could take care of her, it was just not the same. I moved to the United States three years ago with my sisters and my niece. First we went to Wells, Maine and then we moved to Portland, Maine, where we live now. Last year, Tia Jwanina died. I was not there. I hope to go back and visit Tia Jwanina’s house and smell the dark and strong coffee again. I can still smell it now.
Picture this: a four-year-old boy is at L.L. Bean, picking out a fleece. He runs toward the rack of pink ones and says, “This is the one I want!” At home, he dresses up in his sister's ballet leotards and puts on a white poofy skirt they use for dress up and goes to show his mom saying, “Look mom, I'm a ballerina!” Brown eyes turn on him, crinkling at the corners She breaks into a smile and asks, “Do you want to do ballet like your older sisters?” “YES!”
The little boy has three sisters, and both of his older sisters have taken ballet lessons. The oldest one walked into her first lesson, promptly stated that it was stupid and a waste of her sixth year on earth, and marched out. She never went back. The second sister went for almost two years, but got fed up with having to go each week and she quit, too. The little four-year-old boy got black tights and a white t-shirt and, at long last, his very own pair of black ballet shoes. He started out in a class with girls - he was the only boy in there - and all they did was leap around like gazelles as four year olds do in ballet. Fast-forward eight years. The boy is twelve. He, out of all the siblings, stuck with it. Now this little boy is over five feet tall, he is in sixth grade, and he is still dancing. Everyone in his class teases him because he dances. They have called him gay and said dancing is stupid. He comes home from school looking sad with his head bent towards the ground. His family asks him what is wrong and at first he refuses to tell them but they keep bugging him until he spills. His two older sisters share an evil look and offer to kill them to death with zombies, but their mother says no, even though the look in her eyes clearly says that she thinks zombies would be humane compared to what she was thinking. So, they hug him and tell him that he is more amazing than any of them could ever dream of being. They say that his classmates are just jealous because of the many hours he spends with girls dancing in tight leotards every other day. They tell him that the other kids are also jealous of the frightening amount of muscle he has for a twelve year old. His second sister reminds him that the tides have turned and if they wrestled now, she would stand no chance against him. Slowly, he begins to smile again. When he feels better and goes outside to play with the dog for a while, everyone else sits on the couch thinking about just how fantastic he is. After six years of his class giving him hell, he still dances.
I found the final quarter two days ago. It was in my lunch money. I got home and emptied my pockets, tossing my pencils, pens and homework on my desk, and then I took out my guitar picks and change. I went to put the coins in my bank and I always check the quarters, trying to find the last one. I looked through the change, and said aloud what I had. "Nickel, penny, penny, dime, nickel, quarter." My Papa and I have been collecting state quarters from the time I was eighteen months old. Four or five come out each year until they are all out. They finished coming out in 2008, and I'd been looking for the last coin, from Hawaii, for the past year. We kept our collection together by nailing them into a board. The quarter board is one of my most valuable possessions, and I would be very upset if I lost it. My Papa put in a few quarters when I was too young to start helping him. I always wanted to try to hammer the coins into the board myself, but he didn't let me until I was three or four. He didn't let me because he was always so afraid I would mess up the dining room table, since we hammered the coins into the board while it lay on the table top. My parents and relatives remember how I always wanted to hold the hammer, but he was always too worried about my safety and his dining room table. I remember he had a big bag of quarters he would pull out of his large desk drawer as soon as I would walk in the door. Anytime he got a quarter that's where they went, into that bag in his desk. We went through that bag of quarters two times a week and found new ones each time. I don't remember one time when we didn't find a one new one or more. I especially like the Utah quarter because it has two trains facing each other. I like it because it reminds me of my Papa because he used to work on a train. Once we were at his dining room table in Bangor, where we used to live, and I began to hit all the quarters with a hammer. I remember how the hammer used to sound, banging on the table. One by one each quarter popped out as I went down the line hitting the one next to it. He came into the room and started laughing. I remember him saying, "Oh well, we can just put them back now.” Most people would have gotten mad or flipped out, but he just laughed. That’s just the way he was with me.