I tried to cry but I couldn’t do it. It was 5 AM and the bus rolled slowly by the neighborhood – I wouldn’t see this place again for another 12 years. We passed by houses of friends I would leave behind. And I tried really hard to cry but I couldn’t do it. I suppose I was too young to realize what was really going on. We arrived at the airport and the rest was a blur.

That first day in America was especially hard, from what I can remember anyway. Imposing skyscrapers, roads that seem to defy gravity, and other cars zooming by scared me. I rolled up in a ball like a frightened kitty in the space between the seats, too scared to sit properly. That night, relatives poured in from all over the Bay Area to see us. It was too much for my little feeble brain to handle. Children ran around the house, screaming, laughing, having a good old time, and once in a while would glance my way, wondering who that unkempt, alien looking boy was. I tried to cry then but I couldn’t do it.

A month later, I started school – 4th grade a few weeks before summer. I couldn’t understand anything so I was placed in ESL class. One day, as we were lining up after recess to go back in, a rogue football hit me in the head. At that moment, everything around me disappeared and I was all alone. I sat down and started to cry. And I cried and cried. I suppose I finally realized where I was – how lonely I felt. And at that point, I said to myself, I will NEVER cry again. I will not let this language barrier be the wall before me. 

That summer I walked to the library every day and tried to read every Goosebumps on the shelves. Before the night fell, I would borrow 2-3 books and under the blanket’s cover, read them and obsessed over them until they were finished so that I could return them and borrow more the next morning.

It took a week at the start of 5th grade for the teachers to realize I no longer needed ESL class. Holding that certificate was the happiest moment in my young life. I haven’t looked back since.

As I reminisce, I wonder how many little boys and girls out there are realizing their place in life. And I wonder how many of them would have the opportunity to dedicate their summers to read every book at the library or if they have to work in the streets to help their family, as I’ve seen so many times during my travels. I wonder where I would be if it wasn’t for that summer.

I started Project Alpha with the hope of giving that young boy/girl somewhere out there the opportunity to change his/her life. Will you join me?

To learn more about this charitable book project, please visit Project Alpha.

Travel on my friends.