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Kelly's Life History Story

Kelly Cruz

The earliest memory I can remember is when I was three. My mother had brought me, my sister, and my brother to our aunt's house. I had not known this at the time, but my father had left us, and my mother was having difficulty raising three children by her self. As she left, I had asked her where she was going. She said she was going down to the store to buy something. Being three, I did not want her to leave. At the door, she handed me a lollipop saying that she will be back soon. With that, she left for America.

I waited for her, and then I was crying for her. I remember crying a lot. I used to cry at nights. I think my brother may have known that she was leaving.

We were left at our aunt's house for a year, until my mother had come back to us. She missed us too much to stay away. She had saved some money, but in the society as it was in Guatemala at the time, she could not work there then. When she found herself spending her savings and having no way to earn, she decided that she should return to the States. She wanted to bring all of us with her, but I and my sister were too young to cross the border. My brother, who was at the time 9, was the only one she was able to bring with her.

We are grateful to our aunt. I call her mama. She is a second mother to me. But she never let us forget that our mother existed. With frequent phone calls and letters that went back and forth, we had our mother clear in our memory, even though we were very young. May be that was another reason I kept missing my mom and kept on crying. It took her ten years to obtain permanent residency and invite me and my sister to move with her.

I was thirteen when I moved to the States, a foreign country where I do not know anything about. During this time of not being with my mother, I was constantly sad. I guess that it is obvious. First, I was bewildered at being left alone with my brother and sister. Then the constant missing her and crying had me depressed all the time. The reason I remember it so well, I think is because it is an event that changed my life around. Coming to this "new world" had turned my life around.

Story 2
Things were very different here in the States. Everything was so big. Even the shopping malls surprised me. I think it was Jewel that I was taken to for the first time. In Guatemala, we do not have such stores. Only a few in a city but they were not as big compared to a Jewel here in the States.

School systems were different also. When I first enrolled for school, I had to get some shots. When I got the shot for tuberculosis and was tested positive. The doctor prescribed some medicine for me to take over fifteen days and I was not allowed to go to school during the time. My mother worked and with my sister and brother also out, I was home alone with nothing much to do.

One thing that caught my attention was my brother's phone book. The telephone was another thing that had me in wonder. In Guatemala, it was not common for people to have phones at their homes. So the telephone was like a new toy to me. I looked at my brother's phone book and dialed just any number that I came across. When the other person picked up the phone, they answered in English. Not being able to speak English at the time, I could not understand them and hung up on them.

There was this one number. I cannot remember if I had known whose house it was, but it was my brother's girlfriend's house. My brother's girlfriend, now my sister in law, answered the calls and was starting to get angry at the caller who hung up her like that.

We have couple of birds at home. Once when I made the phone call to my brother's girlfriend again, she heard the bird chirp. She had guessed correctly that the voiceless caller was someone in my house. My brother called right back and yelled, telling me not to make crank calls. It was fun making calls, but it was no fun being yelled at.

Making crank calls in early teenage years is something that many people have experience with. But this experience was different because it involved some kind of fascination at this little piece of technology that I had not much contact with before coming to the United States. I think I remember this because it would have never happened back home. It opened my eyes to the technology of this new place and also it marked the beginning of difficulties for not being able to speak English.

Story 3
A few things happened at school because I did not understand English. I think it was more difficult because I was trying to adjust to the new place at the same time. Of all the things that were different, language was one that I had most difficulty with. My sister had refused to learn English, and to this day, she only speaks the basics. Two things relating to learning the language, well, actually three but the last one I will make a separate story, I remember better than others.

The first one was not a single event, but something that happened pretty often. When I did not understand something that was being said to me, I have developed a habit to just say "yes". I would only be able to make out what they were talking about, and not really have a full idea what they were talking to me about, but I would respond to what they were saying by saying "yes".

A few times, during lunchtime, kids came up to me pointing to the milk I had on the table or apples. They would ask, "if you are not going to be eating that apple, may I have it?" or, "if you are not going to drink that milk, may I take it?" Not understanding fully what they were saying, I just answered "yes". I had thought that they were asking whether it was mine and if I was going to eat, or drink it. Now understanding those little conversations as I did, I was really shocked when they took my milk or apple. I thought that those kids were very rude for taking my things and also, very stupid for not understanding them correctly.

Not being able to talk to many kids, I did not have that many number of friends, so it made me feel lonely also. It made me see that I was different from the others because of everything else, plus the language. It also gave a realization of the process of learning a foreign language.

Another incident with language was involving two words, "I know". There is an expression in Spanish, which sounds very similar to that, but it means something completely different. It means something along the line of "please do not continue talking to me".

One day, a girl was speaking to me about something. I was having a difficult time understanding her. I kept on saying, "I know", to ask her to stop. Although I kept on saying that, she just kept on speaking to me. I was getting a little angry with this girl, not understanding at the time that she was taking the phrase as an acknowledgement I was making. It was not until a close friend of mine, who was from Mexico, translated and explained what I was saying to the other girl, that she stopped.

Things like these made me feel very homesick. I sometimes felt stupid for not knowing the language and bewildered also, but most of the time, it made me feel very lonely. I missed home and often threw tantrums to my mother about it. It was time like these that I thought I hated being in the States.

Story 4
Along with the language, for a thirteen year old, the school system was so completely different also. It could be seen as something not so important, but for a schoolgirl, it was a big part of life.

Firstly, it was funny that students moved around to go to different classes. And the amount of respect shown to the teachers was very minimal, compared to Guatemala, where it was strongly emphasized. I developed habit of wondering off in thought in class because I did not understand what was going on in class. Whereas utmost respect was enforced in Guatemala, it seemed like it was okay for me to digress from classroom topic. I rested my head on my hand leaning a little to one side and started thinking about things that were totally unrelated to class. I do not really remember what I was thinking about, but I was bored of sitting in a class where I understood nothing.

In my other hand was a liquid lip gloss which had a ball applicator. In a state of half-day dream, I started to roll the gloss over the desk back and forth over and over again. In the repeated actions, I was not aware that not only was I not paying attention to the class, but was making a scratchy noise which was disturbing the class. Without my knowing it, everyone was giggling at me, including the teacher. He had stopped teaching and was speaking directly to me. At the time, the reason the class did not grab my attention was because I did not understand what the teacher was saying. So, of course, I did not know that he was talking to me. Although everyone else was silent, my friend, who was sitting behind me spoke out and explained the situation to me. I was incredibly embarrassed. It made me miss home even more. I felt as if everyone was laughing at me. It made me realize once again that I was alone and the loneliness was there again.

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