James Villiers, Grade 9, Clairvaux MacKillop College -
She had one last look at her reflection, took a deep breath and said, “perhaps this will be a better day”, after all her mum did say they were in Australia for a better life. She quickly washed her eyes. She knew she looked exhausted. The nightmares had been particularly bad last night. The mere thought of Khmer Rouge disturbed her but Panha knew there would be a different enemy to face today. Panhas mum had just woken up and began to yell, “Panha, I hope you have a good first day of school, keep your head up”.
Panha sighed and whispered, “I always keep my head up mum.” Suddenly, she was greeted by the sound of screaming children. Panha quickly grabbed her things and raced towards the opened doors. She greeted her bus driver with a faint smile and followed the beckoning path to the back seat.
The glares were already starting to appear, and an arrogant voice proclaimed,
“oi, you don’t belong here”.
Panha continued to ignore the comments that followed, her mother had explained its best to leave it alone. As Panha hopped off the bus and straightened her uniform for the hot day ahead, a young boy, who appeared to be in year 8, due to his stripe less uniform, mumbles,
“I hope you’re not in my class.”
Once again, she wished she wasn’t different, however, at this point she knew she wasn’t going to fit in.
The sound of the school bell signals the start of the new welcome ceremony for all grade eight students. “Sarah”,” here miss”, “Jason”, “here miss!”, “Pahna?”, “it’s pronounced Pan-ha”, she anxiously informs with a quiver in her voice. “oh, that’s an unusual name”, Panha hesitantly smiles and nods.
Abruptly The teacher dismisses the class as they grab their books for the first period of English. After being invited into the class Mrs smith politely greets her class, “Hey class, I will be your English teacher this year”. The students replied, “good morning Mrs Smith”. The teacher then instructed the class to share two interesting facts about themselves. Mrs smith points at a young blonde girl sitting two seats away from Panha and says, “hi what’s your name”, “hey Mrs Smith my name is Sarah and I love to involve myself with all sporting activities”, she replied.
Mrs Smith then points at Panha and invited her to share with the class, Panha stared into blank space when suddenly she hears a boy yell from the other side of the class “speak up rice field worker”, Panha hid her face in her arms as her cheeks started to go red and she rubbed her blurry eyes. The teacher walked over, pointed and sent the student to the principals’ office. Panha finally felt safe, her tears were gone and a smile emerged.