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By Vanessa Wang
I’ve been on more airplanes than anyone else in my class. I’m the girl who misses school the first and last week of every semester, who starts her vacations early and returns to school late. I’m the girl who travels to America two times a year.
“Let’s go to the zoo after the finals!” My classmates discuss their plans for the last week of school, the week after exams but before vacation starts, the week teachers show movies in class. But I am not included in these plans, because I will be on an airplane flying half way around the world to America. We need to fly out early, before plane tickets become expensive. It is always this way.
On the plane I sit next to my younger brother and one seat from my mother. We sit in the middle section, where there are four connected seats, and if we are lucky, the fourth seat will be empty and we can pull our legs up or even lie down.
On the plane I watch lots of movies and read lots of books. It takes twelve-hours from Taipei to Los Angeles, eight hours from Los Angeles to Miami, and three hours from Miami to San Juan, plus the time we wait at the airport in between flights. I read the books my American cousin let me borrow last time we saw each other. I read American Girl books and Jodi Picoult books; I read The Trumpet of the Swan, The Divine Secrets of the Yaya Sisterhood, and The Secret Life of Bees. These are the books I like, the books none of my classmates have ever heard of. My American cousin will be waiting with outstretched arms for her books. She’ll flip through the pages and check for dog-ears and run her fingers over the book spine for bent marks.
On the plane I ignore the textbooks I brought with me in my carry-on backpack. Chinese, Biology, History, Geography, and Math—these are a few of the beginning-of-semester exam subjects I will take when I return to Taiwan in one or two months. I do not bring the English textbook, which teaches sentences like “Where is the convenience store?” and “What are your plans for the summer?” In class I am known as the one who speaks good English. I am the one who represents the class for English speech and essay contests. In truth, I wish I were known for something different. I grew up in a Spanish-speaking place, I want to say, and only for a very short time. But most people have never heard of Puerto Rico.
On the plane my brother plays his Game Boy. He has played through Pokemon Gold, Silver, Sapphire, Ruby, Crystal, and Emerald throughout these trips and has become a Pokemon Master. When I need a break from reading, I bribe or force him to let me play the Game Boy. Mother says we need to share, so he doesn't have a choice.
On the plane I think about my classmates, playing basketball on the school court, going to the movies, and eating at the night market. Do they spend their days in the air-conditioned manga stores? I would like to stay in Taiwan next summer, I tell Mother.
Because I don't like missing the first and last week of every semester. No one else does that.
But all your classmates wish they were you. Who leads a life like you? Plus, your father is in Puerto Rico.
On the plane I think about my father waiting for us at the Luis Muñoz Marín airport. I think about the days ahead: the beach, the pool, reading, sleeping late and waking up in the afternoon. I will watch I Love Lucy on Nick at Nite, and I will order Domino pizza in Spanish with sweaty palms on the receiver while my mother listens to see if, after all these years, I still speak passable Spanish. Around midnight, we will wait for my father to come home from his restaurant, listening for the rattling of his keys on his belt as he approaches the door. I think about the four of us, reuniting three months out of a year, eating sushi, dressing up for dinner at my father’s restaurant, playing Monopoly, going to the mall, and midnight-snacking on Korean instant noodle. The same routine every summer and winter, even though my brother and I grow up, go to new schools, win awards, make new best friends, and form new crushes on boys and girls in our classes.
I think about the plane landing in San Juan, the passengers clapping because they’ve arrived home. We will claim our luggage, read the signs that say Bienvenidos, and walk into the humid tropical weather where my father will be waiting in the palm tree shadows on the pavement. The four of us will walk to my father’s white SUV, and we’ll speak in Mandarin while everyone around us speaks Spanish. Even though we haven’t seen each other in many months, for a few minutes we will feel that nothing has changed. We’ll talk about the things we did and saw on the airplane as we walk to my father’s car, in this place that is and isn’t our home.
#Real #PersonalEssay #Travel #Airplanes #Pokemon #Trips
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