“what are you eating? asked Patti
“An apple” I replied
“You are healthy” said Patti
I shrugged it off. Ate my apple and ran to the bathroom. The water had been turned off, and the toilets were clogged. It was 2 days into my new school. I looked at my watch, 12:30, ugh, 2 more hours until the ride from hell on a big yellow bus, to go back to the house.
I ran to my English class, my teacher was new too, a young American who didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, he had a thick twang, and was always bursting with excitement about literature. I sat down, no one was speaking English, it was between Spanish and Portuguese. I sat silently wanting to melt into the floor. My stomach started to rumble, I didn’t eat enough for lunch. We were beginning the year with Chaucer, the classroom got warmer, which made me feel so drowsy and slightly sick. I ran to the bathroom, no water, and the toilets were now overflowing, I guess using the bathroom was out of the question.
For two weeks, my routine was the same. This day was different, Diego and Patti sat down at my outdoor table at lunch. Diego looked at me, and asked:
“Are you o.k?”
“Yes” I replied
“No, I mean you don’t eat.” Diego said
“Yes I do, I am eating an apple.”
“Um, yes, but that is all you eat.”
I just looked down at my apple, I didn’t think anyone would notice. I want to jump up and run to the bathroom, but the thought made me sick too.
Diego leaned in “I am so sorry, if you don’t want to talk about it, we don’t have to.”
I looked at him with curiosity, wasn’t sure what he was getting at, I was just stunned. He looked at me, patted my hand as he ate his amazing plate of plantains, shredded beef and rice. My stomach rumbled, I was starving.
Diego then asked “You need to put some meat on those bones.”
I just smiled then teared up. I had to run to the bathroom. I couldn’t help but burst into tears. Patti and Diego saw the tears, I was trembling.
Patti ran after me, cornered me. She had a lovely thick Spanish accent when she spoke English. My stomach gave me away, it was so loud.
She looked at me and said “If you are so hungry, why don’t you eat?”
It all came out in one sputter “I only know Agua and Manzana in Spanish, and everything is in Spanish, I don’t know what I am ordering.”
And there it is, something that no parent ever thinks of. Cafeteria and Cafeteria staff in International schools don’t speak English, and menus are all in native languages. In the 2 1/2 weeks in my new school, I dropped 10 pounds because I couldn’t order anything, and was terrified to ask.
Patti and Diego took it upon themselves to start tutoring me in Spanish, it didn’t take long for me to start order various food, and I didn’t have to survive on an apple and water anymore.