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The Dreamland

For Miss Strom, without whom I would not be able
to write this kind of essay.

By Momoko Iwata ('93-Japan), for "My Woodstock"

My first semester in Woodstock was full of rain, dampness, darkness and coldness. There was not brightness, fun or any positive aspects in memories I can recall, except the ESL room the place where I spent the most time, and the only place I felt secure. The ESL room was a vast, dumpy and dark room away from the most of other middle school class rooms. It had a big table with six chairs around it, and the far end seat was where Miss Strom always sat. No matter how early I arrived, her bag was always on the shelf behind the seat, and her notebook and a little pencil case of a red flowered cross-stitch were on the table, neatly arranged, all indicating that she was already at school. I then put by bag on my seat, the oppo- site of her seat, getting my pencil case and a notebook out to put on the table like hers. The room was filled with silence and the sounds of the band and students seemed that of a different world to which I did not belong. The room and I remained together. I felt reassured of myself-I am OK, I am here. When the day started (that is when the classes begin), usually all five of the ESL students came back to the room. After twenty minutes of homeroorn where I could never feel quite a hold of my own being, the ESL room appeared as the right place to go--the only shelter and die protector. In this room, I was aware of my own presence; I existed. Then the study began, most often with the revision of homework given the night before. Miss Strom never gave a lot of it; rather too little. Now I can see this as her intention to give us more time to spend time with people -- another important part of learning a language. Yet being impatient and as frightened as I was, and having a background as mine, it was not satis4ing. We did a lot of writing and speaking exercises from the picture books; that is Miss Strom holding a picture, and we giving as much description and explanation as we could both in speaking and writing. I never liked this exercise for I was always too conscious about the way I spoke English even among the ESL students. I preferred the other exercise, for that was what I was used to from home-the reading comprehension and vocabulary sheets-and also because it involved no one besides myself. There were many other activities and lessons we did as ESL students. Simply to have time for spontaneous talk like in reality Ms. Strom took us on walks. During such time, we talked as a whole group, individually with each other and with her. Through these talks, I got to see the neighborhood of Mussoorie. Everyone seemed to be free, true and enjoying what was happening, and I liked such atmosphere which J barely felt since I left home. The other lessons we all liked were classes with high school tutors or other teachers. With tutors, we usually had talk sessions in which we discussed from the gossip in school to the countries we each came from. I liked these lessons for I appreciated the way they treated us--as one of them-and maybe because it gave me a chance to touch reality and good feeling that I could speak English to other students. With teachers, we did reading comprehension, especially from newspapers and magazines. There were quite a few of them willing to teach us, including Mr. Bradby, and it was very nice to feel their interest in students, who seemed to be unnoticed among other students. The ESL room remained our Dreamland, where we all pretended that we were the only ones in the school, where we all longed for home together, where all felt belonging and important, and where we all hoped to leave (to join the reality). The air began to get crisp, the sky became clear, and our breath crystallized; it was winter. It was time to go home, and it was time to leave the Dreamland (for we all were to join the classes next semester).

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