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1st Prize Winner - Group I - Angela with Straight Black Hair

March, 2015
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Angela with Straight Black Hair

It was the first day of my new school year. Our family moved to a remote American town. I missed my old friends and was anxious about making new friends.

When I stepped into my grade four classroom, I had a hundred butterflies in the stomach. In the roomful of classmates with blond, kinky, wavy, and curly hair, my eyes caught sight of a single girl with straight black hair and brown eyes, just like me. Unlike other anxious classmates mingling in groups, she sat alone.

“Good morning boys and girls, I am Ms. Curtis, and I will be your fourth grade homeroom teacher this year,” a lady with blond hair and blue eyes greeted us.

“To make new friends, please pair up in twos, and introduce yourselves to your partner. You can use any method you want.” Ms. Curtis announced.

I turned to watch the other Asian girl and coincidently, she did as well. So I walked over to her and said, “Hello, my name is Elena Jiang. What’s yours?”

Now that I was closer to her, I could see her clearly. Her straight, black hair dangling around her shoulders revealed a dejected look on her face. Her washed jeans and cropped hoodie made one think of an American girl, but the hairband and clips with bamboo and panda design reminded me of China.

She hesitated for a moment and then said with her eyes looking down, “Just call me Angela.”

“I’m Chinese born in San Francisco. How about you?” I asked.

“I am Chinese too.” she answered and then kept silent.

To break the ice, I suggested, “Drawing is the common language, so how about we draw to introduce ourselves?”

She nodded. We set up a table, opened a box of crayons and began drawing.

“How about we draw our families?” I proposed, “I will draw first.”

I drew my family on vacation at EMei Mountain in Sichuan province, our parents’ hometown in China.  Surrounded by a sea of clouds in the drawing, dad shot pictures of the wonderful landscape, and my younger sister and I ran while mom was videoing us. 

“Can you draw your family?” I asked Angela after I finished mine.

She paused, and then nodded her head slowly.

First, she drew a rippling wave of bamboo on a mountain.

“My hometown is in Bamboo Sea in Sichuan,” she said as she portrayed an adult man, both his sleeves and trousers rolled up.  He bent down with a bunch of bamboo on his shoulder. I was flabbergasted by Angela’s drawings! 

“My father,” she said, with a slightly sorrowful tone in her voice.

Then, she illustrated a lady wearing an apron, piggybacking a young boy. Both the boy and the lady had straight, black hair like Angela. The lady had a tired look on her face, but the boy seemed very cheerful.

“My mother and younger brother,” she said, still in a melancholy tone.

Finally, she drew herself, lifting the bamboo at the other end.

“What a close knit family,” I responded, still gaping at the sketches.

“I miss my family,” she said with a bittersweet smile across her lips.

I was bewildered, but I didn’t ask the reason.


After school, Angela and I walked side by side down the corridor, where parents were waiting for pickup. Many children passed us, running into their parents’ arms. However, Angela walked slowly. To be affable, I stayed right beside her.

When we got to the end of the corridor, I tried to spot Angela’s parents in the crowd but failed to find anyone with black hair other than my parents.

So I asked Angela, “Where are your parents?”

She paused with an awkward look on her face and pointed, “There.”

“Them?” I asked, pointing at an American couple with fair hair and blue eyes, trying not to sound surprised.

She agreed with a slow nod of her head, starting to get red in the cheeks.

“Oh, …” I was hardly able to comfort her when she walked away.

As soon as I jumped into my parents’ car, I told them all about Angela.

“I’m glad to hear that you already made friends. Is she nice?” my mom asked.

“Yes, she is but her parents look Caucasian,” I replied.

“Do you want to know why?”

“Yes, certainly.”

“Well, Mr. and Mrs. Schuster, Angela’s parents, are my friends when we worked in China. They adopted Angela when her family had suffered from an accident. Like our family, they moved back to the States one month ago.” she said politely.

I was tongue-tied all the way back home.

At dinner, I asked my mom, “Can I invite Angela to our house for a play date?”

“It sounds great. I will contact Mrs. Schuster tomorrow,” she smiled as she refilled my bowl with rice.

Finally, the play date came. Angela entered my room, her face radiant with a smile. We spoke Chinese, drew a panda family, and watched the movie Gong Fu Panda. My mom prepared spicy Sichuan food for us. Even though the pepper bit Angela’s tongue, she still kept on eating.

The day flew by, and Angela’s parents came to pick her up. When she left my room, she whispered to me, “It really is a red letter day. Can I tell you a secret? My Chinese name is Mei Mei.  Whenever I miss my Chinese family, I will come to your house.”

Since then, we have become best friends. At school, I call her Angela. At my house, she will always be Mei Mei.

By Elena Jiang

International School of Beijing



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