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Part 11

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 happy 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.

When he 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 I tried to make sound as pleasant as possible, my mom proceeded to grill Mahan and me about the other kids at school.

"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 curve.

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 and parties.

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.

I 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 in numbers.

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.

Eventually 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 Orange County.

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.

As I 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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By Houman Jazaeri
Escape from Abadan





Book of the day

Funny in Farsi
A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America
By Firoozeh Dumas
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