Sunday, 16 September 2001, Language School Year, Warminster, England

I met our housemistress for the first time this evening when she came back from her weekend leave. Everyone in the boarding house was delighted to see her and it was easy to see why: her kindness filled the way she walked, talked, smiled and even the way she handed out the treats she got for everyone from her trip.

While I became a fan of hers since that very first day, I was never sure what her first impression of mine was. When she saw there were a couple of new faces in the house, she warmly greeted us and invited us to her study for a chat. She sat us down and poured us a glass of water each from a big bottle. I was so excited to see some water—since I finished the bottled water I bought at Heathrow, I had not found anything to drink. My room only had some furniture and I didn’t find any kitchen in the house neither. So I took a large sip…

…and regretted immediately. The transparent liquid was definitely not water as it jumped around in my mouth like explosives. Why was everything in this country so weird? We were in 21st century but people here still lived in houses that built with stones. Without the electricity, I would have thought I had travelled back in time. Or maybe I had already, otherwise, why was there no air conditioning or even a fan in the house at all? The last time I had a summer like that must be 10 years ago. Even back then, at least I could open the window and also have a paper fan, but now I had none. Why would the windows here could only be lifted up by a few centimetres? Did someone already know we would be so disappointed and might try to escape? But the school was in a tiny village and there was absolutely nothing outside, no public transport, no taxi or even pedestrians. How far can we go even if we jumped out of the window. And now the water here tasted like medicine. Oh my God, what have I put myself into and why did I send myself here? This was like a prison.

I had to apply my best effort not to spit it out. My effort clearly showed itself and our housemistress asked concernedly: “Do you not like sparkling water? Would you like some still?” Whatever “Still” was, I had no desire to try, there were enough for me to digest already. Later that day, I was finally saved when I went to find somewhere to get rid of the rest of the sparkling water. I had the genius thought of tasting the tap water in the toilet. At last, I found something that was normal here in England. But just as I drank the water like there was no tomorrow, one boy asked puzzledly, “Hi, are you from somewhere that had no water to drink?”