It all happened so fast. I knew it was going to happen and I knew it was going to be today. But why couldn’t I feel it? Why didn’t the emotions start filling in? I have lived here for 3 years and I didn’t care? That was impossible. I did care. I cared so much I could cry!
But I didn’t. This was my last day of school. I entered bus number 36, took a deep breath and cherished the annoying sound of the two brothers always fighting: “Put on your shoes!”
“NO! You put on your shoes!” I swear, they did it every single day! Until the bus monitor came up to them and told them to be quiet. I never thought I would say this, but I was going to miss the sound of the brothers quarrelling in the backseat of the bus. I was going to miss the silence of the awkwardness after the fight had been put to an end. I was going to miss my odd and annoying bus I thought.
I shrugged it off and claimed my usual seat on the bus; not in the front, but not in the back, just in the middle. As I sat down, the warm feeling of the sun’s rays from the window brushed against my skin. I set my bag down on the floor and shut my eyes. The bus finally reached the enormous school. Home of the dragons, ISB Beijing. I couldn’t imagine the thought of leaving this place that I had dreaded to go to. Three years. Three long years of fun and crazy experiences, going to disappear by the end of the day. Entering the playground of heaven was not the same. I didn’t want to play and laugh my head off with my friends. I didn’t want to do anything. My best friends, Hannah and Sydney came running up to me with their hands held out.
I took them, but I didn’t want to. “OMG! I can’t believe you are leaving today!” Sydney exclaimed. “Yeah! I thought we could have like another sleepover or something!” Hannah pouted. They made me feel excited to spend the rest of the day with them. The idea of leaving escaped my head and I played like all nine year olds do.
The song started to play. My friends started to dance and sing on their way to the line. The song: Waiting on the World to Change by John Mayer was a familiar sound. The song that played every time recess was over. The song that my friends and I would always dance to. The song that I wouldn’t be hearing anymore.
I reluctantly stepped into my classroom: 3MO. I could already see the day that would happen in the future. I didn’t envision it, I already knew it. The aroma of savory and sweet swirled through my body. My peers’ laughter and cheering rang through my ears. Explosions of color everywhere.
But one place.
One place that was covered with shadows. Sadness creeped into the scene. My conscious whispered hatred and worry. It told me I wasn’t going to be happy ever again. I wasn’t going to see them again. I would be alone. I yearned to join all the other kids. Tears blinded my eyes and I hastily wiped them away. Mrs. O'Reilly led everyone onto the carpet with a warm welcome. She smiled her toothy smile. Like always, little lines invaded that outer corner of her eyes. She always had that aspect about her that made you return a smile immediately. She met my eyes and frowned. She walked up to me and squeezed me tight. She looked me in the eye,“It’s okay to cry. Whenever you need to, whenever you want to, you can always cry.” I delivered a fake smile but I couldn’t look her in the eye. Saying this made me want to cry. But I couldn’t, wouldn’t. I had to be strong. I had to be fearless. She let go and gave me a sincere smile. She turned her attention to the rest of the class with the sound of her boots clicking behind her. “Now all the room moms are here, so they’ll take it from here. Now enjoy yourselves and have fun!” Mrs. O announced. My class started to do activities and eat food from every different country! With all the noise and laughter around me, I could only look at the broken wheely chair in the corner. Hannah and I were having our second day of school. We were playing with the wheely chairs that Mrs. O had in her classroom. Being in second grade the year before, we still got normal chairs that were glued to the ground and couldn’t move. But when we laid eyes on the chair we exchanged the look of joy. We shifted and made space for each other. Everybody started taking turns spinning around and I felt like I was on a rollercoaster! But with excitement came the...well not so exciting part. Hannah and I were spinning so fast that all we saw was the outline of a woman standing arms crossed. Attempting to stop the chair, our tiny bodies flew off and onto the carpet. Chair broken. We had to come in during recess. At that moment, I knew that I was going to have a year filled with memories. The time when I was still excited about school. The time I wouldn’t have to worry about leaving. After the party, Mrs. O said we needed some words in our brains. So she read a book aloud called: “Fly Away Home” by Eve Bunting. I couldn’t help but notice the connection in the title. I was going to fly away home, I was going to fly back to Malaysia. But was I really flying away home? I had lived in and kind of grew up in Beijing. Was I just going to forget all the memories in China and ‘fly away home’? I couldn’t get it off of my mind until a hand appeared and started shaking me.
“Hello? Lola, no more daydreaming. It’s PE time, you better get going.” I was glad Hannah had interrupted my queer thoughts. If not, I would have gone crazy. After PE was lunch. I wasn’t really hungry. We already had food in the classroom. So that left me with recess. The only thing I could do was hang out with my friends. But I didn’t want to because it would make me miss them even more. I tried to keep my distance but it was nearly impossible. “Lola can be queen since this is her last day at ISB,” Hannah suggested, “or if you don’t want to you can choose whatever position.” We always played four square or basketball. This time, four square was the way to go for my friends. But it reminded me too much of the time the bird peed on my arm a year ago. The time me and my friends laughed their heads off. The time we rushed to the bathroom to clean it off. Despite the memories, I had to act normal. I just had to go with it. “Yeah, sure. I’ll be queen.” Weirdly, I stayed queen the whole recess and didn’t get out. I had completely forgotten about keeping my distance. I was having too much fun. Sweat was dripping down our faces. We weren’t tired, just hot.
The end of the year assembly was coming. I knew my face was going to be on the screen. They were going to show that Mission Impossible video where all the kids leaving are in it and then they have a bunch of information about their next ‘mission’. I had always wanted to be one of the spies, but now that it is actually happening, I can do nothing but cover my eyes. The day I was waiting for now became the day I was dreading. My face appeared on the screen and all my friends started whooping and cheering. A tear slowly rolled down my cheek and off of my chin. I tried to cover it, but I know Hannah saw. She stayed silent and tightly squeezed my hand, blocking the tears.
“Time to go home…” I whispered. “OMG! Can’t wait for the summer holidays! Like OMG! My family are going back to Seattle, then to London, then back here! GOD! The year has been has been so long! Finally! Time for some vay-cay you know what I mean?” Sydney was way too enthusiastic for my liking. Why didn’t she feel bad for me? I am one of her best friends and all she cared about was going overseas with her family? “Yeah, sure.” Was all that my voice could make up. “Lola! We are gonna miss you so much!” Hannah was always there for me. She always knew what I was thinking. She always knew when to comfort me. That’s why she was my best friend. “I’m gonna miss you too! I can’t believe we met three years ago, and we are still best friends! Keep in touch, OK?” She made me feel that I could actually be sincere and show how grateful I was that she is my best friend. She knew what to say. She flung her arms around me and stifled a cry. I entered my bus, number 15 and I immediately looked out the window to see all the wonderful teachers wave farewell all around the busing area. There were flags from all different countries flowing in the wind. I spotted the flag I wouldn’t be seeing in a long time. It was the biggest one. It was a bold red flag, with 5 yellow stars on the upper left hand corner. One big one, and four small stars surrounding it. I smiled to myself, and I waved. I spotted my past teachers smiling at me. I closed my eyes with a smile on my face.
* * *
I didn’t return to my home. I went on the River Garden bus. Not the Rose and Ginkgo Villa bus. Me and my siblings were going to stay at the River Garden service apartment because our house didn’t have anything in it. We were going to stay at River Garden for one night, then just leave. Leave the place I would call a home. Leave the place I had grown up. Leave. My mom met me at the bus stop. She was already there. She held her arms out and I dug myself in them.
For the first time that day, I couldn’t hold it anymore, I didn’t hold it back, I burst into tears. I was leaving China. I was leaving a place called home. I was going to be the bird. I was going to fly away home. But to a different home.
ARMOURED in dignity and determination, resilience marches into a community with perseverance by his side. With his head raised high, he leaps over obstacles and SHIELDS away n e g a t i v i t y as he strides forward, leading the community to success.
Depending on when you met me... I might’ve been blowing my lungs out into a clarinet, a proud javelin award winner, freezing myself in a yurt, kicking people’s butts in taekwondo, cheerleading for the dragons, getting a hairbrush stuck in my hair, following a s t r a n g e r that looked like my mom, making a friend bleed using my teeth (It was an accident I swear!), slicing my brothers hand open with scissors (No it wasn’t on purpose!), a baker, the girl who rebelled against her teacher and got sent to ‘jail’, the girl who amazed everybody with the splits, or i might’ve been peeing my pants right in front of the toilet seat.