Fitting In, by Victor Trinidad

“Welcome to America” said immigration personnel as I landed.   The year was 1999, when I landed on American soil; I was 8 years old.  In the middle of the airport we were like lost puppies not knowing where to go.   It was very strange seeing different races of people together in one place.   As we got closer to the arrival gate after getting our luggage, my mother pulled my hand and yelled, “I think I actually see him!”  As we got closer, my mom started walking faster, almost to the point of dragging us.   Suddenly my mother stopped, and I heard the man say “hola!”  My mother hugged him like a little girl with a new teddy bear.   That was one of the best times of my life, seeing my father for the first time.

I was raised all of my life in México without a father, because he left to go to America to find a job to be able to support us.  I actually didn’t hate him for not being there when I was growing up.  Because of him, we weren’t as poor as other people. Thanks to him I could afford many things my classmates weren’t so lucky to obtain like school supplies, new shoes, clothes, and we always had food on our table when we were hungry.  Therefore, there was no reason for me to hate him, but that didn’t mean I didn’t miss having a dad around.   Luckily I did very well for a kid without a father.  For instance, I had the best grades in the class, was always chosen by the teachers for special activities, always starred in school plays, and was very good in sports compared to other kids.  Most kids my age looked up to me, and wanted to be just like me when I was little; however, that was all going to change in America.

“What’s your name?” asked the school teacher, gesturing for me to come inside the class.

“Victor,” I stuttered back, and grabbing the door.

“Come right in and take a seat,” she indicated.

The seats were cold and very stiff.  The walls were bright and packed with cut out paper shapes. Kids were running and laughing like a circus in the classroom.  As I waited for the teacher to gain control of the class a boy started speaking to me, but unfortunately I didn’t understand any English.  Out of nowhere the little boy noticed that I didn’t understand English.

“Hola como te llamas?” asked the little boy.

“Victor,” I told the little boy.  At that moment I didn’t feel alone anymore; I had someone to talk too.

My first impression of America was that it was cold, huge, and lonely. This reminded me of how much I missed México.   I tried not to whine, or mention to my parents how much I hated being here in America all alone with almost no friends.   As time went by I started changing from that very confident boy to the most timid boy in the class not speaking an entire word the entire class.  By that time one thing was clear.  I hated being in America.

The winter of the 4th grade during 3rd period left a scar in my life.  It was the worst class – English.  It wasn’t because I didn’t know English, but it was rather because the teacher didn’t know how to teach to someone that didn’t understood any English at all.   The entire class period I really tried to follow along with the class, but at soon the teacher said the first sentence I was lost in the middle of nowhere.   As I was sitting in my seat the teacher was calling random names for answering the following questions in the overhead. Clearly I thought she wasn’t going to call my name, due to the fact I didn’t understood anything.  Then I realized she wasn’t actually calling names randomly, but rather in the order of our seats.  As she was getting closer to me I started sweating all over my hands, shivers ran thru my skin, and thoughts came rushing into the back of my mind.  I had the fear of not knowing what to say.

Suddenly, I heard a squeaky voice, “Victor please answer question 6,” requested the teacher.

I had no idea what to say at that point, nothing came to my head.

“Victor answer question 6,” repeated the teacher with an irritated voice.

I still can’t remember what I said that day, but when I did my worst fear happened.  The entire class stared laughing at me; making me feel ignorant, different, and unwanted.    At that moment I realized kids were just pretending to be my friend, or talking to me just so they could laugh at me.   As the whole entire class kept on laughing at me, my tolerance was getting shorter to the point that enough was enough for me.   I got up out of my seat and ran out the door very humiliated.

As I was sitting in the principal’s office I started to remember my father’s words, “ At first you may have to pass through humiliations, but with hard work, over time those people who laughed at you, or said you couldn’t, would look up to you.” My father lived these words; he came from literally nothing and now he has enough to retire at the age of 40.   To this day I still live with my father’s words; inspiring me to work hard and give it my all.  I hope one day I’ll be able to become a great man like him.

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