Growing up in one of the five boroughs, you would have thought Queens would have had diverse cultures there. They did, but they also spoke English very well.
When I moved out of Queens and into Valley Stream on Long Island, I didn’t find diversity there. Everyone I had met were clueless to outside cultures. They would have definitely been in for a culture shock had they stumbled upon Greenwich Village in the City. But that’s not the point I’m getting at.
It wasn’t until I moved back with my grandma to Hewlett that I found some diversity.
Um, not really. I met some kids that I had gone to elementary school with back in Queens, but I guess that was to be expected considering where I lived on Long Island was pretty close to the Queens border.
Eighth grade was my chance to prove I belonged there and not held back in seventh grade like the teachers in Valley Stream thought should happen to me.
I had to babysit my younger brother a lot, and therefore, I missed a lot of school. I’ve missed so much school, I remember in one class I had to cheat off another student because I had no idea what anyone was talking about. My older step-brother wasn’t of any help. He didn’t wouldn’t even bring me any school notes…Come to think of it, he might have cheated on tests as well.
So I got held back because it was my responsibility as a young woman to take care of her six year old brother who didn’t want to go to school because he was being teased. Because women should be home makers and housewives? That was a very barbaric thought even for back in the 90’s.
My grandmother pulled through for me. She explained to the school board that I was a smart child and holding me back would only lower my self-confidence. The school board was willing to give me a chance.
I was an eighth grade student at Woodmere Middle School. I might have lived in the town of Hewlett, but Hewlett was too little of population (I’m guessing) to have their own middle school. They had their own high school and elementary schools, but not middle school.
While at WMS, I met a 16 year old girl named Patricia. She was in the eighth grade and from Honduras. We became friends but only briefly. We had a language barrier between us. For some reason, Patricia was not willing to learn. She was just going to school until she was 18 or so.
Some time in the middle of school year, I met another girl named Su Hyunn. Su, as we called her, was from South Korea.
She seemed to have spoken and written English very well–or at least it seemed that way to me–but I started hanging out with her when I joined the track team and she had joined as well.
She taught me how to run faster, and I would read to her my Baby-Sitter’s Club books I had lying around.
She once asked me what a wall was and I had to point it out to her. She says that I taught her English, but I beg to differ. She was already knowledgeable in the English language department. But that didn’t stop us from translating words in her English-Korean dictionary.
She would show me words she said, and I would show her words I said.
I will never forget the day my grandma’s boyfriend came home and annoyed me to no level while Su was around.
I actually shouted the word, “F*CK!”
Su looked puzzled. She asked, “F*ck?”
And I was embarrassed because I really never wanted people to see the potty mouth side of me. If you really knew me, you would think I was a sailor or a trucker, but that’s another story.
I grabbed her Korean-English dictionary, was surprised to find the word there, and showed her the word.
She first said, “Oh,” and then it went to, “Ooh, bad word!”
And I was like, yeah very bad word.
I did apologize to her, but she seemed to have let it go.
We lost contact with each other sometime after senior year. I lost touch with most of my friends once I moved from NY to FL, but I’ll never forget my friend Su.