This story is by Gigi Guan and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Mom, I want to come back to Canada. Things in Germany are just too hard for me.” I was sobbing on the end of the phone.
“What? Don’t be ridiculous. You’ve just been there for a month. I paid your tuition fees, and asked Aunt Rose to provide accommodation for you,” My mom said.
“I don’t understand the language and I don’t like the food here,” I complained.
“That’s why you have to learn and adapt.”
I just turned sixteen last month, and my mom sent me to Germany to study. I always had reliable parents. In order for me to become independent, my mom decided to let me study aboard. I stayed at my aunt’s house in Germany which made me feel less lonely.
I had to do household chores for the first time, like laundry, cooking, dishes, and so on. I didn’t realize how hard these chores are until I did it myself.
“Is dad there?” I asked.
“You want to tell your dad to change my mind now? Linda, you need to grow up. Your dad and I won’t be around forever,” Prove to me you can be independent.”
“I know, but mom…”
“Enough Linda, don’t piss me off. I have to go to work. Talk to you later,” My mom hung up the phone.
Although Germany is a beautiful country with the spectacular views of forests and mountains, it repelled me with obstacles I have to overcome.
I still remembered the first day of school; I didn’t understand a word the teachers said. I sat at the cafeteria alone when I was having lunch; it made me miss my two best friends back home who I hanged out with every week.
I hugged the teddy tear that I brought from home. I had it since I was five years old. Every time I felt sad, I hugged the teddy tear, and that would make me feel much better.
Someone knocked on my bedroom door.
“Come in,” I said.
It was Aunt Rose.
“We are going out for dinner tonight, want to join us?” Aunt Rose asked.
“Sure,” I said.
My cousin Finn, who was sitting next to me in the car with arms crossed, is an arrogant person. He barely talked to me. Predominantly because I didn’t speak German.
“Finn, talk to your cousin,” Aunt Rose said.
“Sie kann kein Deutsch (She doesn’t speak German),” Finn said.
“Talk her in English.”
“Ich bin besser in Deutsch (I am better in German).”
Although I didn’t really understand what Finn said, it clearly showed that he didn’t want to talk to me.
Finn took out his phone and started playing. I took a look at it and saw he was playing “Jumping Pig”, a game that I played too.
“Ich spiele das Spiel auch (I play that game too),” I said to Finn, trying to get him to talk to me.
“Sorry, I don’t understand what you just said. Your accent is hmm unfathomable,” He said.
I was vulnerable to criticism. My eyes filled with tears instantly. I looked out to the window, so they wouldn’t notice I was crying.
“Finn, be nice. This is your cousin,” Aunt Rose said loudly.
“I am telling the truth.”
“Just ignore what he said, Linda. He’s sometimes a nuisance.”
“Mom!” Finn said.
We went to a restaurant called Jonas’s spaghetti.
“Linda, take a look at the menu, and tell me what you want to eat,” Aunt Rose said.
“Sie kann kein Deutsch lesen (She can’t read German),” Finn sniggered.
“halt die klappe (keep your mouth shut),” Aunt Rose glared at Finn.
After I got home, I hugged the teddy bear extremely tight. I closed my eyes and tears rolled down my face.
“Teddy bear, can you come to life? I really need someone to talk to,” I held up the teddy bear and gazed at it. Then I sighed and put it down.
I hugged the teddy bear for a long time. Then I took the German vocabulary book from my backpack. My head started aching because it looked like double Dutch to me. I closed it went to sleep.
I didn’t go to school the following week; I just wanted to escape from reality and go to a place where I didn’t have to deal with stress, so I went to a park and fed seagulls all day. Finally, the school called my aunt.
“You skipped school for a week, Linda? Why did you do that?” Aunt Rose asked.
“I didn’t feel like it,” I answered.
“I have to tell your mom.”
“No, please don’t, Aunt Rose,” I begged her.
Aunt Rose didn’t listen to me and called my mom. She talked to my mom for ten minutes, then she passed the phone to me.
“How could you skip school? I am very disappointed in you. Without me beside you, you can do nothing, right?” My mom berated.
“Mom, it’s hard, it’s hard… You don’t understand,” I whimpered.
My mom took a big breath and said, “Linda, I do understand. When I was a teenager, I moved four times. Every time I had to adapt to a new environment, make new friends, and I never complained because I believed I can do these and I did it. So I believe you can also overcome these barriers, right?”
I fell silent for a moment, then I said, “Mom, I try.”
The next day when I was having math class, there was a new girl. Her name was Christine, and there were Canada flags on her backpack which made me wondered she was from Canada or not.
“Hey, are you from Canada?” I asked.
“Yes,” Christine answered.
“So am I. My name is Linda.”
“Nice to meet you, Linda. I moved here last week with my parents.”
“You’re lucky to have your parents with you. I’m an international student, under my aunt’s roof.”
“That’s not so bad. You have your aunt.”
I smiled and shook my head.
The school bell rang. We walked out together. It was raining. A woman in a black car waved at Christine, and she waved back at her.
“Do you need a ride home?” Christine asked.
“No. It only takes me ten minutes to walk home,” I replied.
“See you tomorrow then.”
I envied Christine. My mom used to drive me to school and pick me up from school back home when it rained.
It was time for laundry again. I grabbed my laundry basket and put the clothes in the washing machine reluctantly. I stared at the washing machine blankly for a minute, then I sighed and turn it on.
“Linda, don’t forget to hang your clothes after washing,” Finn said in a condescended manner.
I turned my head and said, ”I won’t.”
When I had Math class again the next day, I sat beside Christine. We also had lunch together at cafeteria.
“Do you want to try this chocolate chip muffin my mom made?” Christine asked.
“Sure,” I said. I love chocolate chip muffin, but Aunt Rose had never made them. “I can’t believe my first friend here is you, I mean I didn’t expect someone who’s also my home country will be my first friend here.”
“Me either,” Christine grinned.
“Tomorrow is Saturday, do you want to go out?” I asked.
“Sure. Bussimoty mall?”
“That’s exactly where I want to go.”
Christine and I took the bus to Bussimoty mall the next day. We went for poutine when we got there. It tasted a bit different than the poutine back home, but it was still good. Then we went to a clothing store and bought a couple of T-shirts. Later, we went to a video arcade; we had so much fun playing the games.
Having Christine as a friend, my desire to go back to Canada was weakened.
Christine and I took the bus home when it was seven o’clock. When I got home, my mom’s word “I believe you can also overcome these barriers” reverberated in my head. Then I thought to myself: “I can’t disappoint my mom. I have to show her I can overcome these barriers.”
Slowly, I got used to doing household chores. I also made a German learning plan: wake up at six o’clock everyday, memorize ten German words, read one chapter of Emil and the Three Twins (Emil und die drei Zwillinge) by Erich Kästner and watch educational German T.V. shows for one hour after school. Sometimes when I felt like I can’t go on anymore, I just hugged my teddy bear.
After six months, my German had improved a lot. I also made a lot of friends at school, and Christine became my third best friend.
It was almost summer, my mom called me and asked, “Linda, are you coming back for summer?”
“Mmm.. nope, I want to have a summer job here to pay my tuition fees,” I said.
“Wow Linda, I am glad to hear that.”