March 2, 2004
I arrived home after my first day of school exhausted
both mentally and emotionally. I had left my friends
in Iran for this? But I thought to myself that my
first day was done with and that it couldn't get any
worse from that point on. And at least this time, I
had an idea of where to go and whom to avoid. A
little while later, my brother arrived from his first
day of school and was ecstatic. Apparently he not
only was in the ESL (English as a Second Language)
class all day but he had also made a few friends.
Having been put in the ESL class allowed him to
hang out with other kids who didn't speak English either so
there really wasn't a chance of becoming an outcast. He had had
quite the opposite school experience than me and although I was
for him, I was really
jealous. Just then, my mom sat us down and asked us
about our day. My brother went on an incessant rant
describing every little annoying detail about his day
with the excitement of an eight-year-old.
finally ran out of breath, my mom interjected before
he could start again and asked me about my day. I
decided to skip the whole getting punched at P.E. class story
and just stuck with the basics. There was no need to
worry my mom and quite honestly there was nothing
she could do about it.
After a brief summary of my miserable day, which
tried to make sound as pleasant as possible, my mom
proceeded to grill Mahan and me about the other kids
"Did anyone tell us to drink anything?"
"Did anyone try to offer us cigarettes at school?"
" No," we answered impatiently.
"Did anyone walk
up to us and tell us to smell anything, like flowers?"
"What"? This one threw us off for a
She was really worried about drugs in school and
wanted to be sure that we wouldn't get caught up with
the wrong crowd. So she proceeded to lecture us for
another hour or so about drugs,
cigarettes and alcohol. To this day I feel a
bit guilty when I drink a little champagne at weddings
It was even funnier that she was telling
this to my eight-year-old brother who was in the prime
of his Inspector Gadget and He-Man phase and couldn't
even figure out what she was talking about.
The second day of school arrived much faster than
I had hoped. But it was a Friday and I knew that I
would get 2 days off (unlike in Iran, where we only had
Fridays off) and I could thankfully forget about Lakeside for a
couple of days.
I arrived at school about half an hour early and
stood by my classroom. I was already feeling like an
old pro. I was feeling really confident that if nothing
else -- I wasn't going to get lost.
Just as I was
waiting for my first period to begin, an Asian man and
his son approached me. He looked at me and pointed to
his son and asked me to take him to his classes.
Before I could even comprehend what he was asking me
to do, he had left his poor son under my supervision. The phrase "blind leading
the blind" came to mind, or would have, had I known the phrase
at the time.
tried to ask him his name in my broken English but it
was quite obvious he spoke even less English than me,
which I didn't think was possible. So I decided to
try the old Tarzan approach and pointed to myself and
said "Houman". He then pointed at himself and said "Eric". And with that,
I had made my first friend in America.
Neither of us could communicate with the other but
we kept each other company. Throughout the day I took
him to all my classes and not one teacher complained
or even noticed that there was a random extra student
in the classroom. Third period was my ESL class, Eric
found a few Chinese friends and hung out with them and
so I was alone again for that period -- or so I thought.
Just as I had resigned myself to spending the rest
of the school year alone, an Iranian student was brought
in by the Vice Principal. The teacher had Saeed sit by
me and told me that he was going to follow me around
the school. Just like that, on the second day of
school, I went from not knowing a word of English and
not being able to read my own schedule to having to
show two people around the school as their personal
tour guide. After that moment I felt pretty safe that
no one was going to bother us since there was safety
All was going well until the 6th period,
our final class for the day. Our teacher asked us to
look under our table and clean up any trash that maybe
under there. I didn"t understand her question and did
nothing and since Saeed and Eric were following my
lead they just sat there as well. As a result, on my
second day in school, I not only got detention but I
also managed to get my two friends into detention as well.
Eric became friends with a few more Chinese students and we all would
eat lunch together. One of
the more interesting members of our group was this
small shy Chinese boy named Jason who in later years
became one of the most dangerous drug dealers in
Saeed and I became good friends since
we spent most of our day together in classes and for
the most part not understanding anything anybody was
saying. The teachers would leave us alone, not
questioning or testing us, so Saeed and I would keep
to ourselves and stay out of trouble.
We knew of
only four Iranians at our school; one was my cousin,
one was Saeed, then me and finally another who was a year
older. For certain state exams (for example TOFEL) he
would be sent to translate the questions for us but
during normal school days they would both avoid us
like the plague.
The days at school became more manageable until
October came around. During Home Room, the teacher
told us about Halloween and dressing up. I didn"t
really understand her and asked for a translation. My
cousin said that I had to dress up or else I would be
regarded as an ass. I already had enough issues
fitting in and I didn't need another. So that day I
came home frantic, demanding a costume. My grandparents and parents took me
to the local Sav-On and bought a mask and a cowboy
hat so that I could transform myself into the Lone Ranger.
On the morning of Halloween I arrived at school
in my Lone Ranger outfit happy that I could attempt to
slowly integrate myself into the general population at
Lakeside. Within 5 minutes, however, I realized that
apparently only around ten people had dressed up in
the entire school. Saeed had also opted not to dress
up figuring, that if need be, he could fake it.
was sitting and waiting for the classes to begin I
noticed that the gardeners were pointing and laughing
at me. Now you may think I was being a bit paranoid
but I was the only person there and some of the
gardeners were calling their friends to come over.
They would say something in Spanish, then look at me
and start laughing. It was another long day. >>> To
be continued >>> Index
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