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Life in the Orange Prison

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Life in the Orange Prison I never really liked that eerie-looking building that always stood towering over me. Its orange walls and antique framework did not give me an comfortable feeling, although my imagination of a 5 year old told me that it did try to present a fa�ade of spurious geniality with those wide welcoming staircases leading to the front door and the colourful flowers skirting the yard. My inner self sent a shiver down the spine as I reluctantly followed my parents through Hell's gates. I sincerely believed that the building, which was to be my school for the next six years, was not much better than an internment camp. So, on the first day of school, I was directed to my cell. The classroom was filled with a group of children of my size sitting on a circular carpet. The sight was peculiar - the collection of boys and girls from all over the world gathered in a room no bigger than my flat back in Hong Kong. It was like a tossed salad, with potatoes from Japan, cabbage from Australia, lettuce from Canada, tomatoes from Europe, and now there's me - rice from China. I sat on the floor among the other fidgety bodies. In front of us sat a tall woman with blond hair and a pointy nose. She pointed at a board with apples and numbers on it and asked a question, which I identified because of the raised pitch towards the end of the phrase. ...read more.


Once a week we would have dictation of the chapter we learned the previous class. The teacher would simply read out a paragraph while we tried to write down each word perfectly. To put it bluntly, we were to learn the chapter verbatim. As pointless as it may sound, it was not an easy thing for me to do. In fact, it was painful. Absolutely flesh pinching. Each night before the dictation, I'd be sitting at my crowded desk with a lamp shining precisely over my head, and staring at the jumble of words. Sitting there, I would circle all the words that I didn't know how to write, and copy it over and over again until I could trace the word with my eyes closed. It was a tedious task for me because the chapter usually ended up with circles around every other word, if not every word. Worse yet, my mom would be sitting right next to me. With each mistake I made, either forgetting a simply word or missing a dot on the line, she would scorn at me. Of course, with that kind of chaperoning, I only became more frustrated and angry - both at myself for being dumb, and my mom for being impatient. Now, looking back I don't blame her; it took me over one hour to learn one single paragraph. ...read more.


I was indebted to her. As life in that confinement became easier, an unsettling sense of guilt started to stir inside me. Once every year, the Chinese school principle would organize a dinner party at the school cafeteria. There were lots of fun at those parties; there was a magician pulling ribbons from hat, gift exchanges between anonymous people, long tables of homemade spaghetti, chicken wings, sausages, cookies, and pudding. However, no matter how hard I tried, I could never fully enjoy myself at the party. Throughout the party I would be worrying about the closing speech that the principle would make. I was tormented by the fear that he might expose my cheating to my fellow classmates and most importantly, to my mom. A part of me really anticipated this humiliation or devastation. Each time the principle spoke my stomach flinched as a natural reflex, but of course, not once did he mention my name or the notion of cheating on tests. Call me gullible, na�ve or whatever you want, but that instinctive feeling of being exposed really haunted me. At the end of the six years spent in Van Horne Elementary School, now head overlooking other heads, voice overcoming other voices, I once again stepped through the gates of Hell. Only this time, I stepped into the blinding sunlight and the honking of cars. I no longer felt the building towering over me. ...read more.

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