Christmas away from home (my holiday experience as an international student)
The time is nine o’clock in the morning and it is the third day of Christmas break at OOO university. The air in the deserted dorms stinks with the nauseating smell of construction. It is the odour of floor wax seeping under my door that wakes me up. The corridor floor is being waxed, which means I don’t have to step out of my room, avoiding messing up the floor with my footprints. I don’t mind spending a good part of my day in my room, though. There is really nothing for me to do outside in the freezing snow that has blanketed the streets of La Crosse. I just got done with my exams, and I don’t feel like reading or writing either, though that is probably the only thing I can do right now in my boring room.
Lazily, I crawl out of bed and sit by my window, wondering what I can possibly make of a day stuck in my room. As I stare out of my window at the empty streets, my mind travels back in time. The first thought that comes to me is of my classmates and friends departing on the last day of the semester. I remember many who expressed sympathy at the fact that I wouldn’t be seeing my family over the break. I told them not to worry, that I was going to be just fine. I thought they were a little over sympathetic and I told them of my earlier experiences in boarding school back in my native Cameroon. There were times when I would spend months without seeing my parents, But my friends still did not seem convinced I was going to be fine.
What some pitied me for was the legendary ‘ghost of sixth floor’. I have heard different tales of a restless ghost haunting the building in which I live. These stories frightened me last year during the Christmas break, and I remember how I paced nervously around my room the first day of the break, all alone till nightfall. It was a cold and windy night and the wide vacant corridor was scary. The night was so still that even the mild ticks of my watch in the silence sounded like heavy, menacing footsteps of the ghost approaching my room. I held my breath, expecting a knock on my door anytime; but the night came and went with no ghost traces.
There were just two of us in the whole building and he didn’t show up for such an opportunity? Probably, he too felt sorry for me staying alone on campus over Christmas break. Stories of ghosts haunting the empty corridors of boarding schools were really nothing new to me. I had heard many of such stories in my boarding school days in Cameroon. Even though they always scared us, no one had ever seen a ghost anywhere. I now realize most of the stories are merely exaggerations and the fertile imagination of students.
However, there was something fascinating about boarding school; my friends were always there with me. Together, we lived like a family and shared great moments away from our homes.
My childhood friends are not here with me right now, but I have found much joy in my new friends. I am particularly fond of my classmates, and I enjoy the crazy humour of my floor mates. All these friends left for their homes for the Christmas holiday to return only when school resumes.
That is why I prefer school periods to holidays although I sometimes still feel lonely during school periods. I come from across the seas, from far away, with a different culture, and I sometimes can’t help feeling like an outsider in the American society. When that happens I realize how much I miss my friends back home. I especially miss the days when we would play football in the rain. I miss our adventures as we climbed the majestic height of Mount Cameroon. Speaking only English all day long can be boring, and I long for French, one of the official languages of my home country. I also miss ‘Lamnso’ the language of my tribe and the informal Pidgin English. I am sick of the cold of winter, and I long for the sunny days of my country. Above all, I miss those nights when my friends and I would sit, talk, and laugh for seemingly endless hours.
In the meantime, the sun’s rays are flooding my room and I awaken from my reverie by the window. I realize I am quite hungry, and the food in the fridge is uncooked. There are times I have gone hungry just because I am too lazy to cook. It’s a pity not to have any choice of food to eat.
It is times like these that I really miss my mum. Nevertheless, I am happy I will spend Christmas with my aunt and her family in St. Paul. I am blessed with this opportunity to spend time with her loving family. My aunt is also a very good cook, and she reminds me of my mum.
There is much more about my mum that I wish to always remember. That is why I have this hobby my friends do not understand; I like to play the piano late at night, sometimes into the early hours of the mornings, because it reminds me of the nights with my mum and my sister; those nights when we would join our voices together in joyful unison, as I play the keyboard and sing for many hours.
This Christmas will be my second Christmas away from home. Although I will be with a great family, I still wish my dad, mum, my sister and my kid brother and friends were here with me. I wish I could sit again around that large Christmas table and watch my kid brother, Kiwo, as he fidgets with his new toys. I hear mama urging him to eat. I also see papa and our relatives in cheerful conversation with his friends. I take a seat at our table and everybody is in a joyful mood.
These thoughts make me feel happy. I don’t know how often my family members think about me but I think about them everyday, and I will always remember the moments we spent together. Nostalgic thoughts notwithstanding, I am having a good time with friends here in La Crosse.
Three hours have passed by since I plunged myself in this reverie. The corridor floor has been waxed, and it’s almost dry enough for me to walk out and make something better of my day. However, I have decided that I will only leave my room after I have written down all my thoughts of a period spent alone in my room on a cold winter day.