Difference in Opportunities
“I have lived on Columbia Pike since 4th grade. For my freshman year of high-school I went to Wakefield but then transferred to Washington-Liberty to get better opportunities. There are more things W-L does, for example, the Virginia Junior Academy Science or VJAS. At Wakefield we didn’t have much support from teachers, no one talked about it or even knew what it was but I did VJAS since 7th grade so I was really good at that. I was the only freshman who did VJAS at Wakefield. In 10th grade, I asked to be transferred. When I moved here, it was so different. There were three teachers sponsoring VJAS and so many posters all over. They had more outreach. My friend Afrin and I just did a project on this problem. It’s a part of the systemic racism and how people of color first get lacking education, because of that, not the best jobs and don’t make much money. Those families then end up living in poorer neighborhoods and their kids grow up there and they get the same lacking education. It’s a never-ending cycle. It was a project for French class and the assignment was to make a news video. We three decided to ask students of color about Systemic Racism. We talked to a Black student, an Asian student, a Hispanic student, a White student and got their input on the issue. It was after I transferred to W-L I noticed all this.
Stories of Childhood
I really liked my childhood on The Pike. I went to Randolph Elementary as I live near there. All the kids from Barcroft Apartments, Quebec Apartments, Westmont Apartments, and Oakland Apartments go there. We had no busses—we all walked to school. In 5th grade I was in the gifted program, and we did most of our classes on the stairs because it is such a small school and there was no space. But there was a lot of love in the school, and they spent a lot of money on field trips—at least one every month, sometimes two or three. I loved that very much. One field trip we went on was the Outdoor Lab. I remember I didn’t bring a coat and it was so cold. My tent-mate farted, and I peed my pants! And we found someone’s underwear in our tent, and it wasn’t any of ours! It was so chaotic and so funny!
From when I was a baby to age 7, we lived in Alexandria. After that we moved to three different buildings on The Pike. Me and my family we joke about how we moved 7 times in 7 years—for financial reasons perhaps. Me and my sister would talk at night about how small our house was getting and how it was getting more homier, as there was too little space to be independent. The Alexandria house was a bigger house and I only talked to my sister there. But when we moved to The Pike, we also had a baby sister so now there were three of us. Then we moved to a smaller apartment, and we were all devastated but now grateful for it as it brought my entire family and I closer. I remember being sad, though, as I stood in a corner of the empty apartment. It was smaller than our older place and my baby sister was really, really sad. Sometimes when you constantly move around, you don’t feel like you live anywhere and don’t want to get attached to your current living space.
My dad said he came here from Bangladesh by winning a lottery. He then brought my mom over a few years later after he built a life here. He was roommates with my friend Afrin’s dad. He and a lot of other immigrants from Bangladesh lived in Westmont Apartments on The Pike. You know the rule how four people can live in a two-bedroom apartment and six people in a three-bedroom apartment, but there were many immigrants illegally living together in a one room apartment.
I don’t really have any idea of what I want to do after school, but I know I want to work with kids. My mom was a babysitter all my life and she couldn’t do that after I was in 6th grade. I am the middle child of three sisters and am really close with my baby sister. I enjoy being around kids. I don’t really know what I want to do but I want to live life. I don’t want to be disappointed by having too many expectations. I’ll just go with the flow. I don’t have a passion job or anything, but I want an education because that helps you go places. My parents are very much like “Be a Doctor, Be an Engineer!” Sometimes it can be stressful.
When I go to W-L, I stay more in the Ballston area than The Pike. I don’t really like that. The Pike feels more like home, more people look like you there. Here the people give off the vibe of click-click, do this, get this done, quick. The Pike is more calming, like take your time, and it’s so different. The downside is that other students think The Pike is like “ghetto.” One student just told me that he was once lost, his phone was dead, he was scared and telling me he was in danger. I thought he was in another country where he didn’t know anyone or maybe another state. But he was in South Arlington, one mile from his home! I was pissed off that people had that perception on my neighborhood.
I used to hate being Bengali/Bangladeshi. In W-L I’m in social anthropology class and the teacher really emphasizes culture and languages and I started enjoying it because so many of the other students, who are white, don’t have any of that. So, I started to embrace it."
Project Mother Tongue: April 12, 2022
I tried to write it but when I got stuck on certain letters, I put in into Google Translate and saw the Bengali translation. The words weren’t the same as Nabela’s but we found key spellings and adjusted the sentence to be hers.
আমার সাদা মানুষ er accent আছে
Then she wanted to write her name. I typed it, Nabela, into Google Translate and it asked: Did you mean Nabila? I ignored that as she spelled it Nabela. As she wrote it out, I asked her how her parents say her name. “They say it like it has two “e”s,” she said. “Uh oh. That changes the spelling,” I said. “Really?” she was surprised.
Nabila: a girl's name of Arabic origin meaning "honorable, noble, excellence".
After that we looked for another funny bit in her interview. She picked the line where she says how she and her tent-mate found someone’s underwear in their tent in the Outdoor Lab. “My mom says Undie,” Nabela said. She couldn’t make the proper Bangla sentence, but I told her I didn’t care. We were just having fun. What she wrote was We Didn’t Have Undies. She made it colorful, the Bangla letters rolling off the end of her water-soluble crayons easily now. She had let go of her need to be perfect, something many good students—young or old—struggle with. “Our language and script are our heritage,” I told her. “It’s all somewhere inside us whether we use it or not.” “Yeah,” she said. “This is who I am, Bangladeshi, no matter what language I speak or what clothes I wear,” she said.