A Lens Through Which to View the World

By: Gisela Camba

I first remember viewing the world through a child’s eyes. At that time a street full of family members encompassed my whole world. My mother, sister, brother, and I lived in a section of a house that was divided by eleven families all related to each other. My father had immigrated to America four years earlier right after I was born, and he would send us knick-knacks from America. My brother and I would use whatever business skills we had in making a bit of a profit from some of those knick knacks. My mom likes to recall when my brother had sold little pieces of lottery paper that would either be blank or say “You win!” Of course there was no million dollar prize, but that didn’t stop the kids from buying for the sheer joy of being a winner. My mom found it even more amusing when I sold just a pinch of clay for one peso. We were making a killing in profits since all the kids loved the random American goodies. It was a bit of a game, and at the end of the day we would give whatever we earned to our mom, and then keep on playing with the other kids. Through a child’s eyes I was living a good and fun life. I enjoyed going through the narrow alleys, playing with other kids, and going where I pleased to explore. That street, those alleys, it seemed like such a big world to me.

But I soon came to understand that there were other worlds out there. At the age of five, I came home one day to find my mom packing late into the night, putting all our belongings into suitcases. As I understood it, we were going on a long trip. That trip was my family’s migration to America from the Philippines. Though I did not know it at that time, that one plane ride across the Pacific would have profound consequences for my future. All I knew was that this new country was confusing and I missed my familiar old street. I was no longer in a homogenous society where everyone was Filipino and there was just a sea of black hair. There were people of different races I hadn’t ever seen in person and various colors of hair-yellow, orange, and red. People spoke a language I didn’t understand. I had a father now. We kept moving from my grandma’s house to renting with a friend to our own apartment and finally to a house. Like many immigrant families it wasn’t going to be a smooth transition in regards to culture, family dynamics, and finances.  There was a lot to get used to. Everything was so new and different and just hard.

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