When I turned sixteen, I realized that I was dying of an incurable disease, called Boredom. Well, at least it was incurable while I was stuck living in my grandparents’ village in China. I did not fit in there – despite my family’s efforts to transform me into their idea of the perfect Chinese girl, complete with unstylish clothes and the World’s Worst Haircut.
I could not deal with the culture – the strict rules, the dull T’ai Chi Ch’uan meditative stuff my family was into, and the bizarre traditions, like visiting our ancestors’ graves to pay homage to them.
“This is stupid,” I would groan during those visits, rolling my eyes and checking the time every few minutes.
That always angered Nai Nai. “Be respectful, Xifeng,” she said. “Your negative attitude toward our ancestors may spread bad chi.”
To pass the time, I practiced chess a lot, daydreamed about exploring outer space, and taught myself languages that I would probably never speak, like Russian and Norwegian. Okay, well, those are the things I did when I was being the Good Xifeng. But sometimes, I was the Naughty Xifeng. That’s when I relieved my dreadful boredom by sneaking around the village, playing pranks on people. Sometimes I played Ding-Dong-Ditch. That’s when you ring someone’s doorbell (if they had one, which a lot of people here didn’t) and run away. Other times, I threw eggs at houses, or, when I was feeling really mischievous, I would gather up cow poop from the countryside, stuff it into paper sacks, and leave a stinky, flaming surprise on the neighbors’ front porches.
Yeah, I was a brat. But what else was I supposed to do?
I know I deserved at least half of the scoldings and tongue-lashings I got from my parents and grandparents. But the other half were, in my opinion, an excessive waste of hot air. I quickly learned to tune them out, which only made everyone madder.
“Your parents should send you away to a discipline school,” said Huian, a sour-faced girl who I was forced to study with, because her mother and my mother were good friends. “Maybe one far away from here, like Korea or Japan.”
I know she was just being nasty, but the truth is, Huian’s words had given me the best idea I had ever had.