2004- More than 250 miles away from home at the age of 11, I set my foot on a new school. I was driven to a big cottage which was supposed to be my home while i studied there. It was surrounded by huge trees, gardens full of flowers supposedly it looked like heaven. Even in Autumn, there wasn’t even a single dried leaf on the grassland and together, the grass seemed so green.
I entered inside the cottage holding my mum’s hands with my heavy luggage looking like a scared puppy. Even after Twelve years, the smell of that cottage lingers in my nose- very antique wood smell. They had managed to keep the timber shining like a brand new house which was impressive.
A big fat figured lady with round glasses stepped down the stairs with extra large pink and white dress layered with navy blue cardigan. She welcomed us with a big smile. Peculiar, she had a high pitched tone which took me by surprise- I imagined her voice to be more fat and meaty tone, just like her. Behind her healthy body, a lean, dark lady wearing faded straight blue jeans stepped down. She second surprised me- she had a hoarse, more like a fat lady voice. I secretly giggled inside my head.
While i was secretly laughing in my head my mum had already pulled herself away from me ready to leave. The lean dark lady, who was an in-charge of the cottage took my luggage and asked me to bid goodbye to mum. I was too scared to say anything so i looked at my mum while she consoled me by saying “You’ll be fine, I have heaps of food for you in your luggage, if you get hungry grab them and nibble onto them”. She left after that and i wondered whether she was going to miss me like i was already missing her. She must have cried after she left, like i did. I feel sad to say that i did not have a camera to capture my sadness and my fears but I’m pleased that my mind captured the moment.
The two ladies asked me to take out one pair of clothing, shoes and my school uniform from the luggage with a dull face. I did what was asked and my luggage was taken away from me and was kept locked. I did not have access to it after that day.
Later, I found out they weren’t as jolly as they appeared on my first day. I got beaten, pinched and yelled for tiny mistakes. I got punished for not waking up straight after the alarm went on at 4 o’clock in the morning. The alarm wasn’t a ticking alarm but loud clapping hands “Clap Clap, Wake up!”.
Remember when i said the place looked like heaven, full of green grass and luminous timber floor. I found out that it was only because the dried fallen leaves had to be picked up every morning at 4 am, the grass had to be swept as well as watered and the timber floors had to be polished vigorously early at 4am until it out-shined the sun.
The food that my mum packed for me disappeared from my luggage. Maybe they took all my grubs and ate them silently. Maybe they gave it to their kids but not me.
I wore one pair of clothing for almost a week everyday. It noticeably appeared filthy also friends at school teased me for wearing filthy clothes. I was embarrassed so i would sprinkled white body powder over my clothing to make it look white and clean.
Showers were not too classy. I had to strip off and wait for the lady to pour water from a small jug. She would pour once at the start and twice afterwards, to rinse the soap from my body. No wonder I started getting rashes on my body. No body lotions provided. On winter my body would go dry and flaky.
I always thought ‘for me, time has gone back to 1940’s’. Traumatic event which will always remain in my mind as it has captured the moment like a permanent photobook which will never be erased.