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Unsung Hero: The taste of African Chinese Food

Joined: 1/10/2015
Posts: 1
The summer after my freshman year of high school, my family relocated to the coast of Northern Africa. I was suddenly thrust into the terrifying environment of a politically unstable city, where I had no friends and did not understand or speak the local dialect. I was to be enrolled into the region's "best school," an international academy that would cost thousands of dollars a year.

Up until that point, I had been all my life straight A student. I worked hard in school, and I did so with dreams of attending a top-class college in the future. That summer, I was leaving America adorned with several writing awards, multiple club leadership positions, a spotless GPA, and a pretty impressive work ethic.

Over-confidently, and perhaps even pompously, I expected to coast by in my new International school. I believed that the American and British exported teachers that I would find in my new desert home would provide me the same quality of education that I was used to, and that I depended on for my future imaginary enrollment in an Ivy League school.

Perhaps predictably, my envisioned academic success and popularity crumbled within weeks of my arrival. Bogged down by the pressures of the culture shock, my lack of friends, the bullies I found in my new school, and a terrible internet connection that cut me off from my lifelong friends back in Atlanta, I began to feel depressed. My worsening depression, coupled with the crippling realization that my status as an international student would narrow even further my chances of Ivy League acceptance, caused my prided work ethic to wither and die pitifully.

I felt isolated and alone, literally trapped in the middle of nowhere, with nobody to care about who I was, what I did, or what happened to me. My teachers, too, after a few days of instruction, began to slack off, due to a lack of administrative guidance. I began to feel self-satisfied with simply surviving each day, and no longer strived to set myself apart or achieve much of anything.

A few months into the school year, however, a new teacher arrived. He was American- a familiar friend in the foreign atmosphere- and he came late in the school year due to border difficulties in obtaining a visa. That teacher, Mr. Stuart*, I can say with complete and unexaggerated honesty, changed my life.

No authority forced him to, or would have withheld his paycheck if he hadn’t. Nobody cared if he gave lesson plans, or even picked up a pencil all day long, but he still went out of his way to actually help me and my classmates with our studying. He went out of his way to befriend every student, including the outcasts, like me. He brought me homemade Chinese food, on one occasion, because I felt homesick- that fried rice and sesame chicken, embarrassingly, nearly brought me to tears.

I’ll never forget his kindness, or the taste of that homemade Chinese food.

It is not mentioned in my story, but Mr. Stuart passed away a year after my move, after being targeting while going for a jog in a politically/religiously unstable neighborhood. It was then, after his death, that my family decided to move back to America, where I live now and am finishing out my junior year of high school.

He deserves still mentions of his exceptional character and heart.
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