He's in grade four. Short for his age, with deep telling eyes and warm brown skin. He hasn't lived here long - this isn't home. Life in Burma feels like a world away, and in most ways, it is.
He's on the transit bus by 7 to make his way to the suburban private school he goes to every day. That place isn't home either. The west-end is. And in most ways, it is a world away too.
One transfer, and over an hour later, he makes his way across the parking lot in the frigid cold. The winds whip around him as he walks around the huge building. Mostly he's surrounded by moms driving mini-vans, though he might also dodge a a high end SUV as he trudges through the snow. Whatever "container" they've arrived in, the kids inside those vehicles are warm and were only thinking about getting up when he got on the bus.
They've got their homework neatly placed in their backpacks by a parent who helped them the night before. "It was easy", the say. It always is when your mom and dad have always spoken English and can understand everything on the paper forwards and backwards. Would it be easy, he wonders, if those kids lived with only one parent who is only learning to make the letters and the words make sense? Of course it's easy, he thinks. How could it not be when you have everything at your disposal.
And he's right.
Computers, books, sharpened pencils, reams of paper and rides to the library. Grandparents to carry the load. Language skills and University degrees. Dads with a 9-5 and six figures behind their names. When your greatest problem is how you're going to fit your hockey game in between the birthday parties and Sunday School you know you've got it made.
And he knows that they really don't know much...
...about his world and how he got here.
They'll never know what it takes for him to get to this expansive building in suburbia every day. What it feels like to translate the forms she's supposed to sign after explaining something he's not sure he even understands. How it feels to look at the overflowing lunch kits filled with food as he takes out his solitary package of ramen noodles and crunches away. Funny thing is, those kids ask him for some of his noodles. (Their turkey and cheese cut into four perfect little squares just doesn't cut it, I guess.) In amongst the choir that unravels tales of acquisitions and gifts, gadgets and devices, name brand clothes and hundred-dollar shoes he knows his story is different.
And he's reminded of it every single day...
...as he walks past the luxury cars in the parking lot picking up their kids at 3:30.
They're on their way to dance class
and he's on his way to the bus stop.
More than an hour, one transfer, and a -40 windchill walk later he's home.
And he wonders where he belongs.