A Stuffed Animal

When I was in third grade, I wanted to go see Kung Fu Panda. All my friends were excited about it, but, when my mom broke the news to me that we couldn’t afford to go, I was heartbroken.

For weeks and months, I was upset about it. Until one day after school, when my mom made enough money, she showed up with the DVD and a stuffed panda bear in hand.

I’ve kept that panda bear ever since. Its name is Bob, and it’s a she. I don’t remember why I decided to give a girl panda one of the most boy names I knew at that time, but I do remember the countless questions I was asked, and the countless times I didn’t care to give an exact answer I didn’t even know myself.

What I did know was that I loved that panda. I brought it everywhere. I brought it to my dad’s home on the weekends, to the occasional family dinners, and to the sunset Malibu car rides.

It was around me when I was happy and when I was sad. I held onto it during the silent nights. I held onto it with the grip of my small, but tight hand while trying desperately not to feel alone with my family in the other room.

In a time of darkness, that stuffed animal was the last dwindling light source. It held every bit of my fighting innocence that diminished within me as I grew up, but, as I carried it with me through my life’s adventures, I carried bits of my childhood along with it.

When I moved in with my dad, I brought that stuffed animal with me.

When I went to Argentina for the first time, I brought that animal with me to the hotel, on the plane, and in my backpack on tourist trips.

Every trip I took to Mexico, I’d bring it with me.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

When I went to boarding school for the first time, it stayed on my bed. When I went home for weekends, it came with me in my suitcase. When I went to OVS for the first time, it came with me.

After I got back surgery before sophomore year, with all of my emotions ridiculously heightened from the the extreme pain meds that put me under, I had a mental breakdown for hours because I thought I had left this panda at OVS. It didn’t stop until my uncle lifted up my blankets and handed it to me.

I was fifteen then.

Then the Thomas Fire came. In a panic, I only had thirty minutes to pack anything valuable to me. Without hesitation, I grabbed my panda and threw it into the bottom of my bag. The dorm parents told us we would only be gone for the night, but I couldn’t risk it. I cried when I thought I left it at school, I couldn’t imagine what would happen if it burned. I had to bring it with me.

It seems ridiculous how emotionally attached I am to an inanimate object now that I’ve grown up, but it’s still important to me. It stays on my bed and it no longer goes on trips with me; I no longer rely on it. I don’t hold it when I fall asleep. In fact, it sometimes slips onto the floor guiltily in the middle of the night. But, whenever I’m distraught or alone, I grab onto it and hold it as tight as I can.

It may still be a stuffed animal, but it’s so much more.

It’s the last thing I have from my mother. I no longer have photos in my possession or objects from her and, despite all the tragic, dark times, this bear represents one of the few good memories I have of her. It symbolizes the goodness in her which faded away over time, but is still kept as a stored memory I hold onto – literally.

It holds my innocence. My ruined, diminished childhood innocence still stays safe inside that stuffed animal I look at every time I make my bed and I still smile about it.

The panda symbolizes my childhood. Without it, the last remnants of it would vanish.

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On our hill

Like so many students at this school, I don’t live at home. I don’t even live in my home country, not even on the same continent. So many people at this school took the risk of moving across the globe, to learn english and live a life on this beautiful hill with rosy sunsets and a breathtaking night sky. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

Photo Credit: kazheadrest.com

When I first came here I was 13, and to be honest, my English was pretty miserable. I still recall the moment I got on the plane to LAX, and a flight attendant tried talking to me in English. I remember how I barely understood her and froze, and thought to myself, “Holy hell, I can’t do this!”.

As the days passed, I became more and more anxious about going to school where everything is in a language I hardly know. But the second the first OVS student talked to me, it was all gone. Well, most of it. I realized that I, by far, was not the only international student, and that everyone here was willing to help me feel as much at home as possible.

I remember  always looking over to my brother, seeing him talk to other students already. And then there was me, sitting in the corner with my beloved social anxiety. I imagined the next year to be like one of these movies, where the awkward new kid doesn’t find any friends. Oh, how wrong I was!

I can’t express how thankful I am for everyone here. For my roommate, who helped me with literally anything, no matter if it was about a word I didn’t understand, or where to find my classrooms, and who supplied me with snacks and BuzzFeed quizzes and “Mean Girls.” For all my friends and classmates who would never let me feel left out. And for all the teachers and faculty who do their best every single day to make this community work.

OVS, as cliché as this might sound, has helped me grow so much over the past years. I learned that change can be good, I learned how to socialize in an environment where I barely know anyone, I learned how to express myself without feeling judged by every human being around me. One of the things I learned, however, that I consider one of the most important ones, is that I learned how to write. I’m not a very good writer, don’t get me wrong. But before I came here the thought of me writing in a somewhat nice manner has never even occurred to me, let alone in a different language.

OVS has taught me so much. I know it is just a school, and it surely isn’t perfect. But it was this intimidating change that was needed for me, and so many other people here, to make high school a better memory than what it would have been without this place.

 

The Truth About Boarding High School

What is your impression of a boarding high school? Maybe you think it’s a place where bad behaved teenagers are sent. Well, this is not always the case. For example, I came to boarding school to get an American education.

I’m dyslexic, and I grew up in Japan where the disorder isn’t known at all. I was terrified to go to school there because my parents told me that if people found out I was dyslexic I would get bullied. I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone. The constant fear of someone discovering my secret crushed my spirit and my school life. Even though I studied hard late into the night, my grades were terrible. As an excuse for not doing well I pretended to be dumb and lazy. I couldn’t be myself, and no one could offer me help.

My life has changed completely since I came to OVS (my boarding school.) I’m getting good grades and am in student council, something I always dreamed of but couldn’t do in Japan because it involved a lot of reading. I’m able to play tennis, which I quit at home because I needed more time to study. I’m able to work on my photography and Photoshop skills. And most importantly, I’m able to tell people that I’m dyslexic without being ashamed about it or worried that I’ll be bullied.

It wasn’t easy to leave my friends and family, adjust to a language I wasn’t fluent in, and start life at a boarding school with new people. But my decision saved my life.

The video below shows a glimpse of what boarding school is really like.

Fast Pass

It’s finally Thanksgiving break!

The stretch from the start of school to Thanksgiving break is the longest stretch without breaks. And we’ve made it through!

From here on out, it’s just break after break, with only a few weeks in between. We’ve made it thus far, and it’s almost like we’ve all obtained a sort of fast pass for the rest of the school year as a reward. 

Photo Credit: vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net

School is always crazy right before breaks, with teachers giving insane amounts of homework and squeezing in tests before students leave and forget all information as the week runs its course. Similarly, students are packing up to go home, frantically washing and drying clothes, and gathering up all they need to bring home.

Classrooms, dorms, you name it. It’s all hectic!

It’s all done in good spirit though, as students are ever so excited to finally head home. As Thanksgiving break is the first of the year, students are looking forward to going home and reuniting with their family and friends.

This week is the longest of any, as the anticipation is building and building. But soon everyone will be aboard airplanes, en route back to welcoming homes!

The Faults of Living (at school)

When I was younger, I thought that teachers lived at school.   I imagined them sleeping in the classrooms, pulling out the mats we used for nap time and creating comfortable beds.  I thought it sounded really fun and cool to live at school.  Now that I actually do live at my school, I have a better understanding of what it means and what you give up.
At OVS, there is a clear divide between the day students and the resident students. This is because the day students have time to see each other outside of school every day without the resident students.  Similarly, the resident students have a lot of time every day without the day students.  This has created a noticeable rift between the student body.  When you live at school, it’s harder to put aside free time for your friends.  With a schedule that maps out almost every minute of the day, it is a lot more difficult for residents than day students.
There are a lot of day students that I really like and want to get to know better.  However, as much as I wish I could change it, watching them drive away as I am confined up on the hill is pretty much standard procedure.

Boarding School vs. Reality

Living at boarding school makes for an odd double standard, specifically in the sense of relationships – any type. If a boarder and a day student are friends, the boarder can go to the day students house and get to know their lifestyle.

Over this weekend, or whenever the visit takes place, the boarder explores the day student’s house, and gets to know their family and friends. It’s just odd how this can’t be reciprocated.

Because of the boarding school situation, social events are so different from a standard day school, where people can go over to each other’s houses whenever they please. With a boarding school, it’s so one-sided. The boarding student may become close and acquainted with the day student’s lifestyle, yet there is still a whole part of the boarder’s life that the day student will never know. They will never visit the boarder’s house, or get to know their family or friends.

This unavoidable situation creates a barrier between life at boarding school and reality, and causes day students to never know the boarding student’s true way of life.

Photo Credit: upload.wikimedia.org

 

The Right Stars

Up on a large hill, or a small mountain (wars have been fought), you would expect the view to be utterly amazing.

And it is.

The mornings can surprise you; you may walk into a cloud of mist with the sun shining through powerfully and cloaking the campus in gold. Some days the sky is a magnifying glass to a sun, blinding white, and permanent sunglasses are needed by everyone.

Nighttime is difficult. The campus lightly shines in yellow, star-like lamps that scatter almost randomly across stairs or walkways, and often overpower the stars.

To stargaze on campus means you must search high and low for the best, unlit spots. There are two areas that I have concluded to be the best spots for the right stars.

The first spot is the lower field, or the big field, while we’re playing glow-in-the-dark capture the flag. I have found out that, if I just stop what I’m doing and lay down on my back, the rest of my team will follow. If you lie down on the right spot the campus lights will not hinder your eyesight, and the stars will shine to their full extent.

The second spot, an easier spot to reach, is the newly built staircase. At night when the sun has fully set and things are quiet, perhaps at 9pm or so, there is a particular step on the staircase that you can stand on and the trees around you will block out the campus lights. Then, if you look up, it looks like the stars are framed by the trees.

No I did not sneak out of the dorm at 9pm to watch the stars.