Personal Narrative

Introduction

            What does it feel like when adapting to a new environment? And what about you barely even know the language that people in the new environment are speaking? For me, it’s not an enjoyable experience. In my personal narrative, I have chosen a story to show how I felt when I went into a new place that was full of English speakers at the time when I was only fluent in Chinese. If you have had moved to a place where people there spoke a different language, you might find out something you have in common with me by reading my writing.

 

How to Make a Basket?

To recall what had happened on my first day of school at Brantford Elementary in Vancouver, all I can remember is the terribly embarrassing moment.

I was sitting alone on the bench in the girl’s change room while waiting for my first PE class to begin. I had never been to a change room at a local Chinese school before, so the lockers around me should be grabbing my attention. However, I had no time to look at the surroundings, because I was way to upset about what was going to happen next.

All the other girls were chatting loudly in English, a language that I was not even fluent in. But by looking at their facial expressions, I could tell that they were all pretty excited. I wasn’t good at communicating, but I knew how to discover people’s feelings and thoughts without talking with them.

Suddenly, the bell rang. Everyone in the small room rushed into the wooden door in less than one second. I just remained seating and watched them leave.

Being the only person in the dim room, I had this weird feeling of something wrong was going to happen. I told myself that it’s probably because I’d heard too much of the other people’s conversations and I just didn’t feel right when they were gone and left the silence behind. Thus, after I was convinced by myself that nothing too big was going on or was going to happen, I started to slowly move my legs and walked towards the door like a turtle.

It was early April and the outside temperature was still cold. Although teachers would usually turn the heater or the AC on when it was cold, I didn’t think they had done it to the gym. I felt goosebumps appear on my skin. I crossed my forearms and rubbed my skin as I got closer and closer to the crowd that’s standing at one corner of the gym. It was a new school. All four walls and the floor had been polished with wax and they were shiny.

The girls and the guys were all talking now. As I walked into the crowd, some of the people glimpsed at me and quickly went back to their conversations, but most of them just didn’t even seem to notice my arrival. The coach beside us looked at me, check his watch, and looked at the other people.

“Good morning grade 7s. Your homeroom teacher might have already told you, I am a professional tennis coach. I will be your PE teacher for the next couple of lessons starting from today.” The coach said in an enthusiastic tone, “Before we get started, I want you guys to do some warm up exercises first…”

I wasn’t listening after that, because I couldn’t focus when I didn’t get the meaning of what the person was talking about. I followed the crowd to one side of the walls and did a few running exercises. I just simply acted like a copy machine that copied all the movements that others did. Surprisingly, I began to feel that PE was actually one of the easiest subjects that I was taking after moving to a new environment with a new language, because if it’s always like what we’d been doing, I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone and be exposed.

Unfortunately, the courage I put into myself and the hope I had started to see were immediately gone when we got back to the circle where the coach was standing in the center. The coach started scanning every single person’s face as if he was trying to discover an important finding. Finally, his sight fell on my face and his eyes stopped moving. I felt like someone big had just punched his fist onto my stomach.

“Hey, would you like to do me a favor?” The coach said, and pointed out a cardboard box that was a few meters away from us with his finger, “Can you see a box over there? It has all the tennis balls that we are going to use for this unit. Could you please make your shirt a bluhbluhbluh and get as many balls as you could into your bluhbluhbluh and carry them back to here?”

All of a sudden, I stream of heat came out from the back of my spine and went straight up to my neck. It was coming, I told myself. I didn’t understand what he was asking me to do, so I decided that I would do something that could show him my confusion. Since I didn’t think of myself as someone capable of talking in English, I figured that I had to use my expression to reveal my feelings. So, I started looking at him with a small frown, intending to reveal that I was confused.

He saw that I didn’t move and remained at my original spot. He obviously didn’t get what I was trying to show him, because he said the same thing once again with a louder voice: “Could you go to the box and make a bluhbluhbluh using your shirt and carry the balls back to this place?” And then, he held the lowest part of his own shirt, like he was demonstrating something to me.

I didn’t move. The heat stream in my body became hotter and stronger. I didn’t know what to do. The coldness in the gym was suddenly gone. I could tell that the heat got my face got really red, as well as my neck.

I slightly moved my eyeballs to see if everyone else in the crowd was judging me, and I found that they were not. But I was too self-conscious that even though I knew that those people didn’t care how I acted, I had a huge sense of embarrassment.

The world was silent for a while before anyone started talking. For me, that was the moment that ruined my entire day. I thought about a lot of things in that single moment —- If I keep being like this, would I get any friends from my new school? I am an outcast of the entire group. I’d never been like this in the past years of my lifetime, then why do I have to go through this today? What if everybody starts thinking of me strangely and hating me because of my poor language? What should I do now?

While having all those thoughts stuck in my mind, felt like crying. But I knew that crying wouldn’t help me with my situation. I barely even knew any of the names of my classmates, so who should I reach help to?

Thinking about that particular moment of silence as a sophomore today, I think it had only lasted for about at most 20 seconds. But as a person who was one of the main characters that involved in the whole story two and a half years ago, that short moment felt like ages.

Not as what I had expected, a girl named Jennie who sat next to me in the classroom suddenly came up to me. Although I my mind was still at an unconscious state, I clearly heard that Jennie whispered some Chinese words into my ear, saying that the coach was asking me to make my shirt a basket by folding the bottom part of the cloth of my shirt. She had a huge smile on her face after helping me. I sort of pulled myself out of the previous mood and smiled back at her, as both my appreciation to her help and a celebration of my survival. This time, I felt something warm sprouted inside my chest, and the burning feeling on my back was gone.

I can’t remember anything on my first day of school in Vancouver other than the little conflict I had. But luckily, I know and I’m sure that I did a lot of practice on my English and got a lot better at it. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even be able to write this sentence at the time when I just transferred into Brantford.

 

Rationale of Personal Narrative

In my personal narrative, I used first-person point of view to convey a strong sense of my real feelings. The story is a true experience that I went through in my grade 7 year when I transferred to Vancouver from Beijing. I had a hard time in the beginning because I was not used to speaking English. The main conflict in my piece of writing is about me getting embarrassed when my PE teacher asked me to do something and I couldn’t understand his instruction.

I defined the girl’s change room as a “dim room” to reveal my feeling of unprotection and insecurity. I wrote “I slightly moved my eyeballs” to show that I was really self-conscious at that time while being in a new environment with no friends around. When I wrote the teachers said: “Good morning grade 7s”, I was indicating my identity.

I applied some literary techniques in my writing to intensify the conflict, for example, hyperbole (walked towards the door like a turtle), simile (acted like a copy machine that copied all the movements), contrast (heat, coldness), and repetition (bluhbluhbluh).

In the end, a girl came up to me and helped me with my language. My stress was finally released by her help, and that resolved my conflict. I wrote “I wouldn’t even be able to write this sentence at [that] time”, meaning that I had been working on my English after the conflict, which gave the readers a sense of what had happened after the story.

By writing this particular moment of my life, I could make myself remember the challenge I have overcome, as well as reminding myself of the effort that I have put into learning English and how it allowed me to go through my hard time.

November 29, 2018. Tags: , , , , , , .    Category: English 10.   No Comments.

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November 29, 2018.     Category: Myself as a Learner.   No Comments.