You are nine years old. Your life is normal, well at least you believe it to be. Your biggest problems are where you want to put your favourite teddy bear and which Barbie movie to watch after supper. You don’t know how much your life can change in such a short time.
Terminal 3. As you step out of the airplane, an icy wind engulfs you. The sky is enclosed by soft charcoal clouds. You take a deep breath in and the bitterly cold air hits the back of your throat. The wind swerves between the leaves on oak trees that are placed in an orderly line. The condensation on the windows along the walkway have crystallised into minuscule patterns. You analyse every crystal structure as you meander along the hallway, your purple hand luggage drags along behind you. Each crystal is unique, not one crystal is like the last. It fascinates you, although they may be similar, there are still minute details that make them different. The stark contrast between this wintery environment and the hot, sunny, dry place you have always called home is overwhelming.
As you wait for your London taxi cab with all your worldly possessions stacked up in six suitcases, your mind again flicks back to all that you’ve left behind. Family, friends, school, pets and so many memories. Why did your parents make this drastic decision? The enormity of what has just happened and where you are now hits you.
You are used to hot, dry weather. Christmas is in summer as opposed to winter, so when the Christmas music was about winter wonderlands, you never experienced what that was like.
What you thought was normal is surprising to other people. You have to live in an estate, otherwise it’s too dangerous. If you didn’t live in an estate, you would have six and a half foot high walls with electric fencing surrounding your house. Police with AK47’s instead of regular pistols roam around the shopping malls. They wave them about as if they are a toy. You bag has to be shoved under your chair when in a car to avoid people smashing your window.
The best way you would describe a majority of the people is careless and dangerous. Ramping pavements and running red lights, the roads are manic. But it’s your home. It’s were you learned to ride a bike, had your first crush, took your first steps, said your first words. It’s home. It’s where you grew up for nine years. Although you have moved, it will always be your home. The mountains worth of memories you’ve made there will never fade away.
As you gaze out of the pine needle scented taxi cab, you realise that the roads are quiet except from the engine noise. No honking, no banging of metal, just subtle engine noise. Nothing like what you’re used to. There are no street vendors knocking on your window and trying to convince you to buy an illegal copy of a dvd. It surprises you, but you’re also relieved.
The lights of London illuminate your face. People wander along the city streets, window shopping in the expensive stores. It seems safe, no one is looking over their shoulder to see if anyone is following them. This confuses you but also makes you feel comfortable. Your life has been full of precautions to ensure that you stayed safe. This was never weird to you because it was something you did naturally, you did every time you got in the car. You had an escape plan if anyone was ever to break into the car, if someone grabbed you, you would need to scream. You never realised that this wasn’t normal.
You don’t know what to expect when it comes to school. Things are so different. As time has passed, you have felt anxious about making new friends. As you walk into the school reception you feel the gaze of your soon to be class mates. You are the new kid, the one that everyone will talk about, the one that everyone wants to know about but is too scared to talk to. A tall smiley woman strides out of the office. She seems to be the head teacher, she starts to talk to your parents. You don’t pay attention, you are too interested in the class rooms that you can peer into from where you're standing. There are words in a different language written across the walls. A large “Bonjour” is slapped on the front of the door. You assume it’s French. The woman calls over an assistant.
“Can you grab Katherine for me please, she’s in 4G”. She continues to talk to your parents, she’s talking about some relatives who lives in the same neighbourhood as we used to.
A small girl rushes through. Her hair is just as long as yours. Her eyes seem to twinkle as she looks you up and down. Her presence lights up the room. She’s a teacher's pet. The head teacher turns around and a wide grin appears on her face.
“This is Erin, she is joining the school today and you are going to be her buddy” she says gesturing to you “Erin, this is Katherine. She will show you everything you need to see.”
A friend. Well maybe we will be friends. A sense of reassurance, she can introduce you to more people and maybe this won’t be as bad as you assumed. You have always been friendly and never been afraid to put yourself out there but after moving country and school, that sense of confidence is less than it previously was.
As you wave your parents goodbye, Katherine energetically grabs your bag and rushes down the hallway.
“Hi! I’m Katherine but you already know that, it’s nice to meet you!” Her excitement confuses you. why is she so comfortable around a person she’s never met before?
“It’s nice to meet you too.” You say cautiously, knowing your accent will draw attention to yourself. As you walk through the school, you realise that the classes are very small, the whole school is very small. Your old school goes from grade triple nought to matric. The oldest people you can see can’t be over the age of eleven. You are confused as to why the school is so small. There is no assembly hall, there is no outdoor swimming pool and there is only one small field.
“Your accent is weird, where are you from?” She asks you with a puzzled expression. You look back at her with mixed emotions.
“I’m from South Africa”.