Once we arrived to Venezuela, and settled down in our new home, I had many things to do before entering school. I had to perfect my spanish, study everything about latin America, re-study Math (divisions were done differently, and math was more advanced than in the US), and read many books so as to acquire vocabulary (up to this day, I like to read in English more than in Spanish). I had plenty of time for all that, because that was the only thing I had to do. School hadn’t started, and I had no friends to hang out with. It was all about studying and helping around in the house.
We lived in a building condo, with a huge central playground/patio/area. Once my catching up was pretty advanced, my mother would tell me to go down and make some friends. Wherever we ended up living in the States, I made friends in a second, and they would be my friends until we moved to another place, which was generally in no more than a year, every year. The problem now, was that I felt intimidated by the language, and the change of country was a bit of a cultural clash for me. I had no idea how to make friends here, so I would just tell her that I had a lot to do still. When she figured out I was hiding away from her idea, she came up with a plan. Beginning the next day, I would have to go downstairs, and I would have to stay there for two straight hours. I panicked at the thought. What was I supposed to do for two hours?? Just sit there? Walk around? Look at people? Try to talk to someone? (no way…) Let anybody approach me? As I went to bed that day, these questions nagged at me and my heart wouldn’t stop pounding crazy hard in my chest, until I drifted from nonstop thinking, to weird nightmares.
The next morning, I woke up zero rested and took off to studying, went on a breakfast break, and continued to study and read, dreading the moment my mom would tell me to leave. Well, it did arrive, and my stomach was tied in a knot even before my mom had told me to go. I, reluctantly, brought my body to a standing position and left. Bickering or complaining was not an option, and asking for less time was not one, either. After what I considered was the longest elevator ride of my entire life, I forced myself to sit at the entrance of the building, from where I could see all the kids playing around, riding their bikes and skateboards. And I did just that: sit. I sat for many long minutes, until they became hours. Kids came and went. Some fell off their bikes and immediately got up again. Everyone seemed happy. Most of the kids were 15 and older, while I was barely 11. I felt completely embarrassed to be there, and I obviously didn’t have the courage to talk to anyone. When it was time, I stood up and returned home. Exhausted. Mentally exhausted. Never had I been so tired by doing nothing. My mother received me with a huge smile, but after seeing the look in my face, all she said was “tomorrow will be another day.” To which I just winced, and decided that it was better not to respond.
Tomorrow came. And the day after tomorrow. And the next day after that one, until a week had gone by. I was feeling completely incapable, and was about to beg my mom to please let me be alone, when a boy sat next to me. He looked like he might be 16 years old. Smiling, he asked me why I had been sitting in the same place, for the same amount of time, for a week. I was too embarrassed to tell him the exact truth, so I just told him the story of where I came from, and told him that I had nothing else to do, but be at home and study. He smiled and called his friends so they would meet me. Soon enough, I was chatting my way through the afternoon and they were all eager to tell me about each other, and their skills at the bikes or skateboards.
My mother’s plan had worked.
I made a lot of friends, and I looked forward to those afternoons. As usual, I don’t think I’d do that to my children. Many things my mom did to me, I cannot even think of doing to my kids. But in her own way, she got the results she wanted, and I got my friends. And this time around, they lasted for two years! The time it took us to move to another place…