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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A Letter To My Younger Self

You’d be surprised how often I write letters to people I can’t send them to. I write them to mom, dad, past friends, future friends, animals, and now I’m writing one to you, my younger self.

I could just see your face reading this. You’d scoff, then toss it aside not wanting to read it. You were never a fan of reading; now you read all the time.

You’d be surprised how much has changed.

I no longer want to be a movie star, nor is UCLA my top choice. In fact, I want to be a lawyer, and I want to go all the way to the other side of the country and pursue law in New York City.

Hannah Montana isn’t my favorite artist anymore, and Wizards of Waverly Place is shockingly not my favorite TV show anymore.

Instead, you went through the embarrassing seventh grade emo phase you shamed Rachel for going through.

If I’m honest with you, younger self, I’m so much different than I thought I’d be.

Some things stayed the same. Logan is still alive, I still love horses, and I still love to sing- though the older I get the worse I seem to become.

But, oh boy, I am definitely not the person I thought I’d become.

I no longer have hair that goes down to my hips, instead it’s right below my shoulders.

I dont have beach blonde hair or sun-kissed, clear skin. I have glasses, and I have freckles, and I have scars.

I don’t go to a big public school where I’m the most popular girl. I don’t go to beach parties on the weekends or sneak out of my bedroom window at night time. Instead, I go to a small boarding school. Instead, I spend weekends going to the movies and riding horses.

I haven’t had a boyfriend yet, but I really could care less. It was something I dreamed of, but now all I dream about is getting into college or passing my math test.

This may not sound appealing to you. You always dreamed of the crazy nights, city lights, and the “celebrity” life, and maybe a glimpse of that dream will come true in NYC, but trust me when I say what’s happened after mom and dad is quite possibly the best thing that could’ve ever happened to us.

Life has gotten so much better. I’m writing this letter contently from the warmth of my bed, music through my headphones. Summer begins in five days, and I’ll be going to Disneyland, one of your favorite places, a week from today. You used to be obsessed with Maroon 5, and I finally see them next Tuesday.

Though you had all these dreams when you were younger, none of them seemed possible due to our circumstances. They were all just dreams in arms reach, yet they seemed so far away.

Well, I’m glad to say that I’ll be a senior in just a few days. That while my dreams weren’t the same as they were when I was younger, they’re coming true, and I hope you’re proud of me.

Photo Credit: takemygist.com

My Summer in Paraguay

This past summer I went to Paraguay for seven weeks as part of a program called Amigos de las Americas. After a one week training period in Houston, TX, I flew for 16 hours to the country’s capital, Asunción.

From there I met with all 50 of the volunteers, who were from all over the U.S. We then went through a more in-depth training, got our partners, and left for our communities.

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My partner Elizabeth and I were in a community called Costa San Blas, in the Department (kind of like a state) of Paraguarí. It was a beautiful, rural community, with roughly 800 people. We lived with our host family, which consisted of a mom, dad, two sisters and two brothers. Normally, only the mom and the sisters were around.

The community is living in poverty, but we were lucky enough to have running water and other appliances. We had a shower (though no hot water) and even had a washing machine! Surprisingly, we also had a T.V. and huge speakers, almost as tall as me.

A big part of their culture is music and dancing, so they would constantly be blaring their favorite songs and dancing as much as possible. It was so cool to experience.

As Amigos volunteers, Elizabeth and I were required to implement a project in the community, work with our partner agency, SENASA, to provide latrines to those in need, and hold camps for the younger kids at the school.

It was a busy summer!

The seniors at the school were building a playground for the younger grades to play on, and we adopted their project as ours. The kids still did all aspects that they planned – our job was to fundraise and buy paint to add some color to the playground.

We fundraised by holding a soccer tournament in the field behind our house. With the help of the senior girls, we made empanadas which we sold, along with other food and drinks at the games.

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Teams were charged, and the losers bought beer for the winners. With the money we made, we went out and bought paint!

For the latrines, we went around the community and met families in need, who we then taught how to construct the facility. Elizabeth and I helped distribute the materials, and the latrines were built!

Out of all our duties, the camps were my favorite. Held at the school while it was in session and behind our house over break, we worked with children from grades K-6 for two hours each day. We would play game after game, including duck-duck-goose, and games just from their community.

I loved spending time with the kids, and getting to know them all. They always looked forward to the camps, and it was the cutest thing ever.

At home, Elizabeth and I mainly hung out with our host sisters, Leila, 11 and Rocio, 6. Feisty but adorable, they would take us around the community, showing us every nook and cranny, and introducing us to different community members. Back at the house we would also play cards – I must have played at least 100 games of UNO.

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I know I made an impact this summer, and that’s an awesome feeling to have. I have a sense of accomplishment that I couldn’t achieve in any other way.

The fact that I built relationships with so many people, all in a different language and living so differently than what I’m used to, is pretty incredible to me.

I may not have changed the world, but I think I’ve impacted the lives of a few. And I’ve had an experience unlike any other, which I think is amazing within itself.

Take a Look at Me, an ASIT You Will See

You don’t just pay to be an ASIT, you have to work to be an ASIT. You have to work to work. (Many of us ASIT’s have talked about the logic, but nobody has bothered to rebel yet.)

To be an ASIT, you have to have been a camper for at least one year beforehand. Not many ASIT’s are second years, so a few veteran ASIT’s were surprised that I was an ASIT on my second year.

I didn’t look like an ASIT. ASIT’s are like the equivalent to a high school senior, and as I am 5’2 and quite petite, many people assumed I was anywhere between 12 to 15 years old. I’m 17.

ASIT’s don’t only take care of a camel and emus — we get assigned to Junior Cabins (aged 7-11) and help with classes and courses throughout the day (equivalent to a TA in school). So not only did I get incredible hands-on experience with animals of all shapes and sizes, I was also (almost unwillingly) working with children (aged 7-17 but they’re all children to me) for hours and hours of the day.

Although we had ASIT training, new ASIT’s really have no idea what to do, and as most stay for only two weeks, they leave with a feeling of hesitant accomplishment. I (and just a few others) stayed for a solid 6 weeks, from the beginning of the two-week sessions to the end of camp.

I knew I was walking differently and I was talking differently. The way I looked at the (ordinary) campers was different than the way I’d look at a fellow ASIT or a Counselor. Six weeks was just not enough time to be an ASIT.

F.I.N.A.L.S.

It is that dreaded time of year again, finals. 

After a full semester of work all I have to show for it is a bunch of pieces of crumpled papers in the bottom of my backpack and the ink my teacher puts on my test telling me how I did in their class this semester.

This time is stressful for all, and I try to not get caught up in the stress, but there is just no way around it.

Honestly, most finals for me aren’t too hard.

Math? Easy.

Science? Easy.

English? Easy

History? No sir.

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Bedtime Story

Once upon a time, there was a little Koi fish named Paz. He lived with his friends and family, in a giant school. The school of fish had made it’s home in Brazil years before, and that was where Paz had lived his entire life.

His family loved him, and did their best to give him everything that he wished for. Very quickly, Paz’s friends started to become jealous of him, and didn’t spend time with him anymore.

As the weeks passed, his friends not only didn’t spend time with him anymore, but they made fun of him as well. Poor Paz would be swimming by, minding his own business, when all of a sudden he would hear giggles from the Koi his age.

Paz was so upset, he would spend hours in his room crying, wondering what he had done wrong. He could not imagine why having things given to him by his parents had been twisted into such a bad thing. He had not rubbed the presents in his friends faces, or bragged every time he got a new one. No, Paz had been respectful, always offering to share.

Eventually, Paz became so upset that he saw no other option but to leave his school. He brought nothing with him, leaving all his beloved presents behind. Paz had no idea where he was going, or when he would return. He only knew that he could stay no longer.

For years, Paz went from place to place. He saw the shores of Africa, Japan, France, and Canada.

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Batteries, The”shocking” danger. they bring.

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It seems the children of the world are in constant danger in these modern times. From kidnappers to obesity the world is rife with threats for children.

Some of the biggest dangers however come with toys made for children. Batteries being swallowed are one of the biggest threats to a child’s health.

To often batteries are left lying around. The young child, being curious, will bite and swallow the battery. For one the battery can get stuck inside the child’s windpipe, suffocating the child if the battery is not dislodged. A bigger problem is if the battery is swallowed. The battery can get lodged in the child’s small intestine causing major harm.

Help make the world safer for children and properly dispose of your batteries.

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