2nd Place 2015 YWA (Grade 7) – Audrey Liang from SWIS


Define Your Orange Tree

by Audrey Liang

In China, there is an old saying- if you plant oranges by the north of Huai river, you will get trifoliate oranges. They are only used as medicine because of their sour flavor. However, if you replant oranges by the south of Huai river, a tree of fresh, ripe oranges will mature and bloom in peace. What makes the difference? The north and south of Huai river have different types of soil. The north has alkaline soil, while the south has acidic soil. The type of soil determines the effect on a plant’s growth. From this, one can infer that the environment plays a significant role in the development of a person’s identity.

I am an American-Born Chinese or an “ABC”. I was born in West Windsor, New Jersey, and lived there for nine years. English as my mother tongue is like a river, which will flow smoothly at times of peace; but there will always be high and low tides. The petals with the smell of fresh-bloomed roses are like the myriad number of vocabulary and grammar accumulated, drifting elegantly on the river. In West Windsor, I always spoke English and only read English books. At that time, speaking Chinese regularly was basically impossible for me, almost like torture. In addition, even writing a small paragraph using Chinese characters was a tormenting challenge. Many Chinese characters would become mixed up in my mind, such as 已and己. This part of learning Chinese was unpalatable- like the trifoliate orange. After all, I had almost never heard anyone speak Chinese in school. Every time I spoke, a river of English flowed out; even when speaking with my parents, who are both from China.

After 4th grade I moved to Shenzhen, China. I started my new education as an international student. To my surprise, my Chinese level improved tremendously in just one year. Of course, the most important factor which helped me was everyone around me spoke Chinese. Although in class, many students generally spoke English, they would normally speak Chinese as soon as they got out of the classroom.  This meant I had to improve my second language in order to be able to socialize with my peers. Therefore, I realized learning the same language in a different environment impacted my learning greatly. I can now speak fluent Chinese, write vivid Chinese characters, and read with ease, plus I can even memorize classical Chinese poems. Right then, I realized that if I was to learn Chinese, the best place would be the south of Huai River, in other words: China.

Personality can also be altered by the environment. In New Jersey, I lived in a rural, quiet township. In my neighborhood, privacy was emphasized so the distance between homes had many gaps. I rarely communicated with others because I didn’t meet people often. This probably led to the development of my reserved personality. Every weekend, I could sit on my veranda and quietly read a novel, blending into the laid-back, relaxed environment around me. Whereas now in China, we live in an urban area – the economic city of Shenzhen. There are more people around here than I was accustomed to. Shenzhen is a populated area, but Chinese people tend to be caring so a conversation happens easily. Thus, I became more outgoing. These days, whenever I am on the elevator, I meet a variety of people such as repairmen, housekeepers, cleaners, and neighbors. I have often struck up a conversation with many of them.

Lastly, the environment effects one’s lifestyle and culture inclination. Western and Eastern holidays are distinct. In the States, I always looked forward to holidays like Christmas and Halloween because of the excitement of giving out gifts and trick or treating at Halloween. I paid little attention to food at that time.  Today, I have truly experienced the charm of Chinese cultural holidays which are associated with specific gourmet such as dumplings for Chinese New Year, mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival, and rice dumplings for the Dragon Boat Festival. The variation in holiday celebrations changed my lifestyle, making me enjoy Chinese food more and appreciate the differences that life offers.

There are no two identical orange trees in the world, just as everyone’s life is unique. When our life begins, we are like an orange seed. If we want to grow into a fruitful orange tree, we must find our own south bank of Huai river in order to flourish in the most suitable soil. Go out and experience new places – discover your ‘acidic soil’ and you will harvest a basket of plump, sweet oranges.

The End.

Congratulations to Audrey Liang who has won a PowerBeats 2 Wireless Earphones sponsored by YH Global.

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