I wrote in 6th grade on the 'Migrant Experience' (Typed quickly; so there may b mistakes)
|The wide eyed fragile looking boy with funny baggy shorts and an unpronounceable name started hard at me.
I stared back.
I was not ready to be defeated again in a staring contest.
He opened his eyes really wide, mocking my Caucasian eyes.
I laughed, forcing my eyes to blink repeatedly.
We were friends, and i had just lost again.
Naftali Ashkenazin had migrated to Australia from Israel ten years ago due to war and his parents believing that children should not have to see such things when they are young.
We are as young as we were when he first came, and he has kept his accent.
As the saying goes, first impressions never lie. But here they did. My first impression of Naftali was scary. A tall, shy looking boy who knew little of English, ate unusual food and smelt funny. You would never have guessed that now. Now we are great friends, the best of friends.
* * *
Having a friend from a different country, i grew up in two cultures. Australian and Israeli, their culture was so nice and tidy. Weird way to put it, i know, but their ways of doing things were so different. If i went to Naftali's home we would eat lentils and cous cous and cheese, with many spices and herbs. The sports we played were the same, our love for the game, soccer. We would play all afternoon before praying, as their family was jewish, then retiring to bed.
At my house Naftali would be right out of place. Instead of a luxurious 3 course dinner we would have a roast lamb dinner with roast veggies, and instead of praying we would watch a strange box with moving pictures called television. Naftali's family never bought a TV as there was no real need to. Watch a box with rotating images instead of running around outside? I don't think so!
One day at school, close to the summer holidays our class was asked to write about our plans for Christmas and what we would be getting from Santa. When Naftali was asked these questions he replied, "What is Christmas and Santa?".
Naftali's family celebrated Hanukkah, an eight day Jewish festival of lights. They didn't do Christmas like us. They don't even give presents during Hanukkah, just feast a lot. I couldn't imagine this time of the year without Christmas, going to church, decorating the house with trees, cards, lights, decoratins and presants, eating turkey and other specialties, singing carols and last but not least, Santa Claus. Naftali had not even heard of Santa before, let alone left out cookies milk and carrots for him.
Soon we were getting older and I was invited to attend a ceremony with Naftali called a bar mitzvah, which was to be held on his 13th birthday. Once this ceremony was done Naftali was finally considered an adult.
When this time finally arrived we were packed into a synagogue where a rabbi blessed everybody. There was a lot of singing and incense. Everybody seemed to be wearing an unusual hat.
From then on our lives didn't really change, Naftali and myself stayed the same. He was now considered as a man and i wished i was too.
* * *
"Rematch!" I challenge, poking Naftali in the arm.
"No thank" he replies in his broken Hebrew-English accent.
Ten years and he still hasn't picked up proper English yet.
We decide that it's about time to go home now and leave the park, myself carrying the markers and Naftali, bouncing the soccer ball on different parts of his body.
"Skill!" he cries, heading the ball perfectly.
That is my migrant friend. Different some may say, skilled he would say, annoying i would say, but all the same he is Naftali, who came to Australia as a tall, shy looking boy who knew little of English, ate unusual food and smelt funny.