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Oh, shit,” I said to myself, thinking a solid cuss would be a great way to start a book. The bells of my new school in China had just rung, and my stomach was twisting into a knot at the sound of noisy Chinese children running down the hall.

The other three foreign teachers didn’t seem as nervous as I was while we waited in our opening room—a prison-like box with barred windows, broken lights, and black footprints all over the walls—but then I think this was all a game to them. It had been a game to me, too, until I realized I was actually going to have to teach. Too bad it took this long for the realization to finally set in. Thanks, Mr. Realization. Why didn’t you come earlier so I could have had time to prepare?! The moment that first mass of nine-year olds spewed through the door, I knew I was in way over my head.

Teacha’! Teacha’!” they called, waving to us and forming nice, orderly lines.

I smiled at first, because they were all so cute, while I tried to forget the fact that I was only 21 and had no prior teaching experience. Those were thoughts I needed to keep in the back of my mind, back with the other useless information I stored there, like how often you should change the box of baking soda that sits in the refrigerator. Wait… how often are you supposed to change it? Ah, who cares. That information wasn’t going to help me now. Nothing could help me now.

One of the girls stood in front of me, held my hand, and said, “My want be in your class!”

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