Inescapable Homework (by Ari, age 16)
Each winter trip to Laos and Vietnam takes my brother and me out of school for several weeks. This sounds like every kids’ fantasy, but in addition to day-long bus trips, uncomfortable beds, and controversial cuisine, completing required school work has been challenging.
Since I entered South Eugene High School, the workload has grown exponentially and simply not doing the work is not a possibility. So I have had to actually communicate with my teachers to find suitable alternatives to being in the classroom. Inevitably, my teachers require that I do all missed homework and projects while I am traveling, and that I make up any missed exams upon return.
Often, while sitting on what might be a 10-hour bus ride, I would try to do my assigned reading. The buses there are not like the buses that you see tooling around town in Eugene. They are disproportionately large for the road, extremely rickety, have no shocks and a bumpy terrain to follow, and have more puking people on them than anyone wishes to imagine. I guess I’m fortunate in that I do not get queasy when reading in a vehicle, but it is difficult to concentrate on To Kill a Mockingbird when the woman sitting next to me discretely vomits – for the fourth time – into a plastic bag and then leans over me to toss the bag out the window onto the shoulder. And while they call some of the roads “sealed,” the endlessly windy routes have potholes that effectively, and repeatedly, jar my butt a foot off the seat. By force of will I have learned to narrowly concentrate on text and blank out the chaos around me.
If I had a favorite time to do homework, it would be during a homestay. On the first night of a two-night trek near Sapa, Vietnam, we found ourselves in a dusty local home that was filled with more smoke than air and one of the kindest families that I have ever not been able to talk with. I sat down at their unlit, uneven wooden table, next to the family’s ten-year-old son, and began to chug away at my geometry. I hated proofs, so the assignment was taking a long time. However, the line drawings and English text of the photocopied text delighted the schoolboy who leaned closely over my shoulder slurping a 7-Up (such an odd combination of “primitive” and “modern”). Never again will I see someone so excited about geometry! He later showed me the reading and writing homework he had copied into his thin, stapled notebook. The burden of homework was our common bond.
Though the work was sometimes tedious and the conditions were… well… not horribly accommodating, I have always been able to finish and submit it all upon return (not that mom and dad leave me any choice). My teachers may have been pleased I completed my work while away, but they have had no idea, until now, of what it really took.