Laura says she’s in fourth grade. She says she is 8 years old.
Laura tells me her mother is from England. Her father is from Malaysia.
“So where do you think you’re from then?”
She feels more Malaysian than English she says. That’s because she lived in Malaysia for some time. But before that, she was born in Jordan. She had been to China also to visit her grandparents, and a few other countries. I forget where. I was too taken in by her gentle charm and quiet intelligence.
Laura seems to have been to a lot of places.
However, Laura says she can’t remember them. Because most of the places she’s visited were when she was very small.
She does understand Malay. But she doesn’t practice it. She knows 1 to 10 in Mandarin but it’s been long since she’s said it. So she wouldn’t remember it now, to tell it to me. No she doesn’t speak to her father in Malay. It’s English that she speaks in everywhere.
Laura says when she’s free, she watches TV, goes on the internet and runs around.
She used to have two kids her age before, in her compound to play with. They’ve left now. There’s just this one other girl who’s her age. But she always has studies to do.
No. Laura doesn’t mean that that girl wants to study. It’s the girl’s mother. She makes her stay home and do school work. And she has exams at school all the time. So she doesn’t come out to play when Laura calls her.
Yes. This neighbour girl also happens to be Indian.
She uses the internet for school stuff. They just finished learing about Vietnam. And now they’re studying about some English tribe. Laura says her teacher told them that they’re going to study about India soon. Yes, they study world history and geography.
Laura says she used to use Google to search for information. But her sister tells her to use “Wuki…weki…”
“Yes Wikipedia! My sister told me to use Wikipedia now.” Her sister knows a lot about these things. She studies about it in school.
“Because when we use Google, we kids find these things that we don’t know and we say “Oooh! What’s that?” and then we try and find out about those things and find out about some other things and we go “what’s that now?“” Laura says, as she points in various directions to make emphasis.
Imagining the pretty thing is talking more about finding a bulk of information and being unable to deal with it, I say “That’s right. With Wikipedia you can’t go wrong. You’ll find exactly the kind of information you need for school.”
Laura says she goes out only on Fridays, weekends and holidays.
On Fridays she meets her friends from gymnastic classes. On weekends she meets her other friends. On holidays she can go anywhere.
Yes gymnastic classes. They are teaching her to do a one hand cartwheel now. Then they’ll do it with no hands.
“Yes it’s like this”
“It’s really hard.”
Oh and they first had to learn to do it with two hands.
Laura says she used to learn the piano. But that teacher quit. Her sister used to learn too from the same teacher. The teacher used to come home. She was a really nice teacher. So now Laura doesn’t want to learn form any other teacher.
“Well don’t stop learning just because your teacher left. There are plenty of teachers here. It’s a good thing to learn an instrument, especially the piano.”
“Oh no. I’d like to continue really. But my mother says she can’t send me for both gymnastics and piano. We can’t afford it. So I had to choose one. I like gymnastics now. I thought it would be hard but its fun.”
Laura says she has a sister and a brother who are both older than her. Her sister is 17 and her brother is 14.
She gets along with her sister. But her brother keeps blaming her for taking his stuff. Of course she doesn’t take it! It’s always under his bed. Every time her mom tells him to clean his room, he just stuffs everything under there. The two of them used to share a room. He’s moved out now, into a room they have outside their house.
Her mother calls her. She skips away to talk to her. The sun glints off her straight soft hair as it bounces. She returns with a pram. There’s a baby in it. Laura’s mother was talking to the baby’s mother while having lunch, under a large umbrella by the pool, not too far from the low wall on which the two of us were swinging our legs from. The two ladies had just decided to go inside to get some desert. They wanted Laura to keep an eye on the baby. Little Laura is responsible. She strolls the pram over to me. The baby has interesting features. I’d noticed that her mother looked South East Asian. But the baby didn’t entirely. I asked Laura about it.
Turns out the baby’s mother is Korean. Her dad’s from the middle east.
Just like Laura. An exotic mix.
Laura asks me if I wanted to know something funny about the baby. She says this baby always insists on wearing a hat indoors. And whenever she’s outside, like she was then, she wont wear her hat. Strange kid.
“I’m going to get some more food myself Laura. Do you want to come with me? I think they’re also giving gifts to the kids your age. Maybe you can come in and collect them?”
“No I think I’d rather stay here.”
“Okay. I’ll be right back”
“Oh wait then! I might as well come with you.”