School was my home by the time I was removed from my alma matar in Hong Kong. GHS was renowned for its chorale of songbirds that won countless competitions.
That year I made it into the choir. I had firm friends since kindergarten and I had finally moved from being close to the bottom of the class to the middle of the pack. The year before I had repeated Year 6 in primary school. My grades and attendance were poor enough to be considered for expulsion and my mother was summoned to explain.
I remember being in the principal’s office and my mother pushing up my sleeves to expose my bony arms. They were offered as a reason for a second chance. I will never know if it was given because the nun felt pity for this skinny and unhealthy kid or she just wanted to expel the loud and angry woman from her office instead of the child from school.
So I cried the day my mother sent someone to pull me from class: I had passed the three-hour English examination and was granted a student visa to Australia.
Within days, it seems, I was on a plane over the equator to a new life. I practiced my school girl English on the air hostess and felt the power of a new language. I was given the pillow I asked for! But in my hand was a Chinese novel, part of a set that I will read over and over again. It was my connection to home.