More than two years ago, William Hernandez, a 14-year old from Hidalgo, Mexico, arrived with his younger brother, Riccardo, to join a cousin already living here. Left behind at home were their parents and all their friends from school.
From the beginning, the boys were sent to the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center (SBOC, now the Seattle World School), where they would begin their American education.
Now 16, William is on the school’s soccer team, the Internationals, and he as plans to study automotive mechanics when he finishes high school.
This poem by William is about one of his earliest experiences in this country.
“On First Eating American Food”
I am in my room to watch outside,
and remember my life back home. I miss my mom and dad and my grandmother
Then I want to play drums to try to forget them.
My cousin comes in and says,
“Let’s go to eat something.”
OK - I am really hungry
so I go with him, and my cousin drives.
I see many cars and many different people.
I’m confused because I didn’t
see so many different people in Mexico.
My cousin takes me
to an American restaurant,
but I get a big surprise
because there are more
white and black people.
My cousin goes to the restroom.
The waitress comes and asks me,
“Are you ready to order?”
So I said five times, “??What??”
I didn’t understand her.
But I am really hungry.
The waitress leaves because
I don’t answer her,
I don’t understand the menu.
I just see many letters so I try
to read it, but I don’t understand.
Finally, I order soup and a hamburger.
I think it will be delicious.
When the waitress comes with the soup
I say, “Que es esto?” My cousin is laughing because I don’t know what I ordered.
When the waitress brings the hamburger,
it looks like many pieces of plastic, and I say to myself, “Voy a comer plastic,”
but I am scared to say aloud
because maybe my cousin will laugh at me again.
I don’t want to eat it, but I am hungry
So I have to eat it. I make faces that I don’t like it.
Finally, we finish, we leave the restaurant, and
we go home. I am thinking, “I ate plastic. Where is all the wonderful food I miss so much?”
• • •
Students at the SBOC/Seattle World School will perform their own version of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” with a Vietnamese twist. The public is invited to this very colorful performance.
Please come to watch these English Language Learners at the school, 301 21st Ave. E., at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25. There is no charge.