Multi-Cultural American School
At times, I wonder how I threw my staunch Chinese culture for the contemporary American ways. As a child, my parents held me close to their arms to ensure that I do not adopt the “superficial” ways of the American culture. This took place drastically during the time that I left my Chinese cultured elementary school for the government sponsored schools in my early teenage- that took quite some convincing to my parents. This came as both a relief and a scare to me even though I had longed for this immeasurably. Having spent my early years in school studying the ambiguous Chinese calligraphy and writing using the ancient pen, the moc, a light pen came and basic alphabet relieved my labored brain and fingers. The transition into the American ways was tough as well as it was discouraging, but I never lost my motivation to learn them.
My mother’s vigilance in raising me up, fellow student’s ardency in recognizing my mistakes and the support of my enthusiastic teacher, Ms. Jones, encircled the tough transition into the American culture. I had to adjust to the less congested schedule of the new school I was now a part of with different ethnicities to interact with daily. The various stereotypes that came with being a Chinese person manifested in me immensely having known other culture beforehand. The use of articles in sentences had to be hammered into my speech by the various jives and mocking that left me humiliated. The confidence I bore at this point came only from the fleeting moments when I shone in the Mathematics and Physics class that left all the other students jealous of my comprehension of these relatively challenging subjects.
The first day of school was a memorable one owing to the dramatic flair with which I made my entrance into the class.
“I bring my son to join you!” said my mother, who was definitely skeptical about my joining such multi-cultural school.
This was met by a rejoinder of laughter that the teacher helplessly tried to quell to no avail. The torture had begun. My mother insisted on the minor details of my life that the teacher should watch out for like the inadvertent leak I may take during the afternoon nap. This trivial detail was said at volumes so loud they would call out to aliens from outer space. I hate to remember all the jives I got from my fellow students from that.
The teacher found a liking for me during this time due to my deep-seated discipline and focus in class that I adopted from the Chinese school that I was previously a part of before. My seclusion from the incessant burst of energy from the rest of the class made me look like the ugly duckling. It was unbelievable for me when I witnessed the verbal exchange between a student and Ms. Jones in which Ms. Jones resignedly accepted humiliation without retaliation.
“Please maintain silence when am talking,” Ms. Jones politely asked John Simmons, a student in our class.
“Why don’t you shut up when am talking?” retorted back John.
“Excuse me, can you apologize for talking like that this instant!”
Ms. Jones left this inappropriate outburst unattended to from this point on leaving my jaws dropped for the rest of the lesson- and my mind shocked. Back in the Chinese school the repercussions of a simple disrespectful facial expression is severe enough to make you wonder how little you have to do to get the death sentence.
The students built an inescapable hell for me during the early days, long enough until I found a way to integrate into their ways of living. The accent, dressing and ever-present, conservative mother gave my fellow student a limitless avenue to make fun of me. This made me cry on most of the days, but with time adaptation set in and I turned all the ridicule into a perquisite. I also enjoyed the fun that they made of me while I came to understand the mentality of the various cultures. This decimated the number of jokes that were thrown my way, and led to the acceptance of my culture with time.
Nonetheless, the final assimilation into the cultures of America came with a relief and also with a sense of guilt. The segregation from my culture left me with a sense of emptiness, but the acceptance by my peers came with a satisfaction that a young person so craves for in his/ her youthful years.