Far From Home

BY GERALD GAO (staff writer)

Lying on the wet lawn, looking up at the moon, I think about my family. I think about China. I think about my home. The words of the ancient Song poet Su come to my mind: “Though far apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon.” I close my eyes, and it is quiet. The absolute silence brings back old memories.

I recall the first day I was transferred from a Chinese public school, where I spent six carefree years, to an American private school. That day, I did not have to stand up to answer questions, I could bring my favorite snacks to class, and I saw no students with red scarves around their necks, but rather, wearing GAP hoodies. Their dressing style and conversations made me feel out of place, and I lost myself. I spent my entire day finding a Mandarin teacher to translate and explain things. Standing in the middle of the lobby, people moved past me like I was invisible. I felt extremely lonely, to the extent where my mind was empty. I whispered to myself, “I don’t want to do this. I can't do it.” But I didn’t have another option, so I mentally pushed myself to go forward: “Don’t be afraid Gerald. Just take a deep breath and move on.” I clenched my hands and stepped into the English classroom.

The silence is broken by the sound of footsteps growing louder. A Chinese student runs towards me, holding two mooncakes: "Today is the Mid-Autumn Festival! Join us and we’ll hang out together!" I grin at him, but my nostalgia has left me in a melancholic mood, so I do not answer. He must have sensed my mood because he sits down and puts his hands around his knees.

"Well yeah, it’s the Mid-Autumn Festival," I say feebly. "Look at the moon! It's really round and big, as if I could just reach out and touch it."

But it's so far away from us.

The Mid-Autumn Festival has been passed down from ancient generations and has transcended the significance of the traditional festival itself. For Chinese students, this is our day. It makes us ecstatic, allowing us to forget our stresses and celebrate together. It gives us the confidence to keep striving here in America. Thousands of overseas students have overcome obstacles thanks to this spiritual support.

But at the same time, the day takes its toll on us, plunging us into the abyss. How many international students have wept because of this day without their families, and how many international students were overwhelmed by loneliness? We have all felt the same feelings, both in ancient days and modern days. The Song poet Su missed his brother, just like I miss my family. At this moment, the ancient poem doesn’t seem that far away. Su’s and my feelings are linked together.

I take the mooncake from that Chinese student, and I take a bite. It’s sweet! The bean paste is mixed with the egg yolk. I say to myself “Now, full of energy, full of happiness.”

Late at night, the group of foreigners returned to their dormitories, ready for tomorrow's challenge. I say to that Chinese student, "We should go back, too. My soccer team has a 5 mile test tomorrow morning."

We are striving for our dreams, and the only ones who can help us are ourselves.

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