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From East to West

I am different. This was the first thought that came to mind as I stepped into the brightly lit classroom filled with eyes fixed on me. I remember trying to blur out the faces of my new peers and placing the images of my family and friends over them. The family and friends whom I love dearly that was on the complete opposite side of the world where I stood that day. I made my way towards an empty seat trying not to pay attention to all the glares. I hesitantly sat down and proceeded to look down at my worn table in order to avoid any eye contact. Suddenly, I felt a slight nudge to my left; I looked up to find a most pleasant smile from this very frail and pale boy. “Hi there, I’m Liam, what’s your name?” he said, still with a grand grin upon his face. “I’m Yahya” I said shyly. At that exact moment my mind became cleared from all the clutter caused by coming here and was replaced with something I didn’t have before, hope.
The day it began had to be when my father came back from work several months earlier with his face drowned in despair. He had lost his job after several years of loyal service to his company, but he wasn’t fired, he left willingly. At the time, my mind was completely oblivious to this part of the story and only until later would I know why this had happened. My father had made the decision to move to the United States, and instantly, mixed reactions surfaced. My mother, I noticed, was very calm and reserved about everything meaning that she probably already knew about it from before. My eldest sister, on the other hand, started to shed tears while my eldest brother was literally jumping up and down with joy. I wasn’t sure how to feel at the moment, seeing everyone’s different reactions made me question if this decision was a good or bad thing. My father further explained that this change would be best for all of us, and especially for our education. My sister, red as a tomato, began retaliating back from what my father had to say and started defending the importance of staying. I understood why she felt the way she did, knowing her unbreakable bond with her friends. After our little “family meeting”, my father came to me personally and explained how this decision could be the perfect opportunity to change and become a more confident person. I believe he told me this solely because he was worried of what I would grow up to be or rather what I wouldn’t grow up to be.
My instability with grades and mostly myself would have their roots deep in another decision my dad made a long time ago. We used to live in Denton, Texas and that’s where I was born along with my elder brother. We were a struggling family trying to get by every single day, living in near homeless conditions at times. My father had his checking account completely stolen by a former co-worker of his, who was, unfortunately, never apprehended for it. As times became harder, I believe that my parents decided that it was necessary to get some help from our extended family in Malaysia. So we moved over to this, at the time, foreign land for most of us. As everything settled, and we were doing somewhat better in our new home, it was time for me to go to school. At around eight years old I have no idea how the Malaysian language went and I didn’t know any children my age. I ended up as an outcast in school because I couldn’t even speak the language that most everyone spoke, this led me to slip. I became known as the kid with few words and nobody bothered to even try to get to know me as a person. My grades slowly became a major disappointment for my parents and I basically lived life friendless for a quite awhile. For me, I had nothing worth holding on to except my family, for me, a change was what I needed.
To be honest, I don’t remember much from the time my father told us the news to the actually day for us to leave; it’s entirely a big blur to me. So we left for the airport with several of our extended family tagging along. When we arrived, I am awoken by the loud turbine engines coming from the airplanes up above. My legs throb as I tried to get out of our car and my brain felt like mush after the long drive. Everyone seemed pretty calm as we waited for the announcer to call our flight. We all haven’t eaten yet, so my cousins decided to treat us to some McDonald’s, the restaurant would soon be filled entirely with all of our relatives eating our last meal together. Suddenly, a monotone voice filled the courtyard announcing our flight for boarding. I could feel the mood change amongst everyone, the faces of joy slowly turned glum, it was time for us to go. Now, being as little as I was, suddenly was surrounded by towering relatives each trying to get a hug or a kiss and to wish the best for what was to come. After being stampeded by everyone we all aligned ourselves in order to take one last picture. Then, I finally realized as I stared into the bright flash of my uncle’s camera that we weren’t coming back for a long time. We said our last goodbyes and headed for the terminal, I looked back seeing everyone waving and slowly fade amongst the crowded backdrop. We rushed towards our destination, dodging people as we went and arrived just in the nick of time. As I climbed up the steep steps to the plane, I took one last breath of the past and walked in the future.
When we finally arrived to Duluth, Minnesota, everything was different; the people, the buildings, the weather, us. The first thing that struck me the most about our new home was the extensive security they had, this all due to the occurrences of 9/11. It took awhile before we actually got out of the airport, although, others easily passed by. We were all tired from the flight, and wanted to sleep, than explore the area. We settled in the Edgewater motels for quite some time before we actually had a house suitable for our family and budget. Then, it was time for school and I prayed that it wouldn’t be the same as before. Woodland Middle School had to be the roughest time of my life. Everyone would stare at me because of how different I was with the way I dressed to the way I talked; some people were nice and accepted my culture while others weren’t as welcoming. Everything was horrible for me except that my grades were finally better which was partially why we came here in the first place. By 8th grade, I became extremely overweight with little to no friend because my shyness had taken over me and I wasn’t really happy. The, it came to high school, another chance to change myself and start over and hopefully actually work this time. Since most woodland kids go to Central High School, I could be an entirely different person and start fresh. When I came to East it took awhile but I finally got what I wanted; friends, good grades, respect and most of all happiness. I’m happy to be a Duluthian.





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