Finding Family (Australia)


This story is based on the real life of Orlando Shug (left) by his friend Jack Hogan (right).

     I. Worst Nightmare

May 7th, 2013

Life doesn’t seem real – I’m waiting to wake up and have someone tell me this is all a dream. It started out as a normal day,  just a regular Wednesday afternoon in sunny Australia. My thirteen year old sister, Oktavia, and I, only ten, were excited to go to the beach. My Mom and Dad liked the idea and we drove off to Ellies Beach, a secluded spot where we liked the coral. We got there around 3:00 pm and my parents got into the water to go snorkeling. My sister and I played in the sand for about 45 minutes. I went out to go swimming with my parents, and as I was getting close I tried calling out to them.

“Mom, Dad, look a big fish!”

I didn’t realize anything was wrong until I got really close. I called to them again, and was shocked hearing no response as their faces hung low in the water. I cried for help, nearby campers heard my screams and came to the rescue. My mom was pulled out of the water and one of the men on the beach attempted CPR.  My father was lost under the rocks and was unable to be found. By 3:50PM I became an orphan. My parents were murdered by a stupid venomous jellyfish. A cold lonely feeling overcame my entire body, my skin pale white and my thoughts were numb. I’ve never felt a feeling like this before, I can describe it as a feeling of complete isolation. I wonder what would have happened if my sister and I had gotten into the water with them, I wonder if there would have been anything I could do. That night I was taken care of by the authorities, the paramedics that took us to the hospital to spend the night were some of the kindest people I have ever met. In the morning my sister and I flew to Perth. There we met up with my Uncle Jonathan and Aunt Tam who obtained custody of us.

     II. Jonathan’s new job at Google

June 22nd, 2014

Today I heard Jonathan’s voice upstairs requesting we come meet him downstairs. He and Tam were sitting on the couch. “We have big news for you guys,” Tam said. “Your uncle’s got a job at Google, and we will be moving at the start of July”.

I do not want to go to America, all my friends are here and I like living in Australia. In America I might get into a car accident with some American dipstick driving on the wrong side of the road. Or maybe I’ll turn into the stereotypical oversized American that fiends for Big Macs and Super Gulps. My worries of course didn’t matter; in Jonathan’s mind the booming success in Silicon Valley was enough, the decision was already made, we are moving to America. I want to punch a hole in the wall but at least we’ll spend the first two weeks in America in Hawaii.

     III.   14 hours of thinking

July 12, 2014

I write this message 11 hours into the flight. I’m literally at the point where I can not think of another way to sit in this chair. I’ve probably sat in every position possible. Oh my, golly me rump is so sore. This is the first time I have flown out of the country. I am not looking forward to America, and don’t see the reason why we would want to leave. Like, who would want to leave Australia?  

Everything at the airport was a blur, it felt like life was moving twice as fast, moving through security and customs. The next thing I knew I was sitting in the seat of this airplane, looking out the window as we taxied to the runway, and ironically, time passed in slow motion seeing the place I once called home sink rapidly below me as we took off. The memories flashed before my eyes and washed away with tears. I didn’t take my gaze away from the massive island  until the clouds blocked my view.

Now I can no longer see any form of my life’s routine, everything is an unknown. What is America going to be like? What will America smell like, what will our house look like and who will our neighbors be? The future is full of excitement, I’m scared but at the same time I am looking forward to all the new possibilities and opportunities presented here.

Like Aunt Tam told me, I was very lucky because the schools that we are going to attend are some of the best schools in the nation. Now she is worrying me because schools in Australia are more relaxed and less stressful. I like the idea of having better teachers, but am not looking forward to having harder homework. I’m stressing out at the thought of being the new kid. Will people accept me and like me for who I am? In Australia our teachers used American schools as an example of bullying, and told us they are honored that they don’t have to deal with issues that American schools deal with. I fear that I’m going to be made fun of for my long hair or for my accent, and picked up and dropped in a trash can and laughed at by the entire school.

This flight is so long and probably the most miserable I have ever been, I cannot sleep because the tall dude sitting behind me is randomly kicking in his sleep and his girlfriend beside him sounds like a clogged vacuum. I was extremely hungry but unfortunately, the cat food they gave me satisfied my appetite. Now, I’m not a judge on Chopped but I can’t tell the difference between airline food and prison food.  

We’re at a cruising altitude point, the past is behind me and the future ahead.  It’s to the point where my eyes just want to close because I’m so tired. The captain says we should be landing in the next few hours, so the next time I wake up I should be in the United States. My life is about change.

     IV. Airport immigration smells like ass

July 13, 2014

After being on the plane for so long, staying in the immigration center line was the last thing I wanted to do. Today there were so many people waiting in line it looked like we were at Bondi Beach. The majority of people were old and from many different places around the globe. I must have felt homesick or got sick from the time in the plane, because I got the blues and threw up while we were in line. The room was so hot and humid that I poured water on my face to cool off. I watched the hour hand spin in circles on the clock and grew impatient. I had so much energy I was getting the jitters, my arms and legs randomly spazzing out. I needed to escape this room.

Now this is exactly the start I was hoping for entering America, walking out of the airport doors and smelling the still humid but soft and refreshing air. The Pacific islands are beautiful, the gorgeous green veiny mountains with waterfalls and bright sandy beaches. I definitely could call this home. The hotel we stayed in is really nice, right on the beach of the Big Island in Hawaii. The water is so warm. Today Oktavia and I played a game where we stand in the ocean and then run away from the big wave as it comes crashing down on the sand. The vacation is bringing us together as a family. Jonathan and Tam are starting to feel more like parents, than they do my Aunt and Uncle. I even called Tam Mom for the first time today, we were playing in the waves and when I called her to watch me swim in a wave it just came out. “Mom look–” It felt normal as I said it. The look on her face was just as surprised as mine, she told me that she was ok with it as long as I was comfortable. We as a family all enjoy it here and I wish we could stay here longer.

     V. Time flies when you’re having fun

August 1st, 2014

The two weeks we spent in Hawaii were so fun. We flew from Hawaii to San Jose Airport. I walked out the doors and was expecting to feel the same tropical air that I experienced in Hawaii. The air was not like the Hawaiian air, it was less humid but still carried heat. The air with a slight breeze was refreshing and cleansing, marking a new beginning in a new country.

We moved into an apartment complex in the heart of Silicon Valley, Palo Alto.

I got my own room and Mom let me design it by deciding where I wanted the furniture to go and where I wanted my posters. She was particular that I had to have the Australian flag in my room, I asked her why and she said “Be proud of who you are and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise”. Those words stuck with me and inspired me to have confidence and pride in my identity.

     VI. I am not a citizen here

August 4th, 2014

Dad’s work allowed him to have a working visa permit. This means he is allowed to work for Google, the company that employed him for a certain amount of time. As his family we are legally allowed to live here, but I guess we aren’t given all the American freedoms that US citizens have. I am not allowed to work here or allowed to drive a car. At the moment this doesn’t affect me because of my age, so I’m choosing not to worry about it, but when I get older I can’t see myself liking this.

     VII.  My first Day of school

August 19th, 2014

I woke up this morning and was not hungry. Mom encouraged me to eat so I forced some of the eggs and bacon she made down. I blamed my lack of appetite on being nervous since I was afraid to be the new kid. I wasn’t sure what class to go to, I didn’t know anyone to talk to, or to eat lunch with. Mom told me to make lots of new friends at school and reminded me that first impressions are important. As it turned out, walking into school I didn’t get the looks that I thought I was going to get, everyone just kinda was doing their own thing and minding their own business. I was confused where my class was. I knew I had first period PE which meant I needed to find the gym. I walked into this big open room that had a stage at one end, I was lost and had no clue where to go. The bell had rung which meant I was late and shyly I eventually asked a teacher where the gym was and was shown the right direction. I walked into class and the teacher immediately said, “…And here is our new student! Why don’t you introduce yourself to us?”

I was a little nervous and paused before I spoke. I didn’t want people to laugh at me because of my accent. I remembered my mom’s voice saying Be proud of who you are, and spoke out loud, “My name is Orlando Shugg, and I’m from Australia”. I was surprised when everyone responded, “Hi Orlando”. Then I was assigned a buddy to show me around the school. His name was Jack Hogan. He was a nice guy that introduced me to his friends.

I think I’m starting to become part of what they call a squad here. I’m learning a lot of new American slang, but they also seem very interested in my slang and the way I speak. They still made fun of me for my accent, but it was in a joking manner and it didn’t make me feel bad like I thought. The girls also seemed to enjoy my accent which was nice too, and that made all the other guys wish they had my accent. When I got home today I told my Mom everything that happened at school and about all the new people I met. I am excited to go to school tomorrow, and to meet new people.

This story is based on an interview by Jack Hogan, a student at Palo Alto High School.


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