A Foreign Country

I am four years old in this memory. One day, my mother tells me that one of my close playmates and her family are going to somewhere called America.

“America?” I repeat blankly.

I have heard of America before. In the English program for kids that I watch every day on TV. But it has never occurred to me that it is a place where we could actually go to.

“When will they come back?”

“Next year.”

“Next year?”

That sounds like a long time from now that I do not know how to wrap my head around it. My friend is going to America and she will come back next year. I repeat that to myself silently, wondering what it really means.

Before I know it, the day of their departure arrives, and all my friends and their parents from our community of tiny half-dilapidated apartments are standing near the community’s entrance. An orange cab arrives, and my friend’s family get inside. My friend takes the furthest seat, so I cannot really see her anymore.

The cab starts moving and my friend’s mother and father wave their hands at us from the open window. It feels like a big scene, for all of us to be gathering and seeing my friend off.

The meaning of the grand farewell slowly becomes clear as the day goes by and we play without her. The next year is still far away, but I already miss her. And I keep wondering to myself where on earth this place called America is.