For international students at ACA, taking a trip to Huntington Beach in the first month of school has become an annual tradition. New students get to visit a beach in California for the first time, and returning students get to count the years they have left at ACA.
The International Student Government got together ahead of time to plan the trip, and tried hard to come up with fun games to play, such as a chopstick relay, dodge ball tournament, and other games that, unfortunately, we ran out of time to play. But we didn’t go just for the games - there was still time for shopping, biking, swimming, or playing cards. And, of course, there’s the dinner, grilled by Mr. Han himself. The bonfire was still a must, and the whole experience wouldn’t be complete without s'mores and sore eyes from the smoke. But by the time we were ready to head home, smokey eyes were the least of our troubles.
Friends Are For Life
After dinner, the seniors got together to take group pictures at the best spot for snapping photos, both goofy and serious, to remember their last trip under the golden sunlight. Everyone was ready, but senior Ryan Chao was nowhere to be found.
"He was in the bathroom, looking like he was about to die," senior Wallace Li said after going out to look for him. Senior Susan Wang explained to those who didn’t know what happened. "Acute gastroenteritis,” she said, “I know how it feels. I just had it a few days before I came to America this year. It's like you are about to pass out at any time.”
Junior Urica Ju sent away the people who tried to circle up around him. Ryan’s cousin, sophomore Reinette Chao, cried on freshman Veronica Zhang’s shoulder. Finally, Mr. Han and his previous roommate/current buddy, senior Richard Yang, took him to the hospital.
When he finally felt better, Ryan’s only complaint was, “Mr. Han wouldn’t let me eat the leftover fried chicken. Anybody want some? There’s still plenty in Mr. Han’s truck." We knew for sure he was feeling better when he started worrying about other people (and singing songs from “Frozen”).
"It’s better to have horror stories than zero stories."
Ryan’s stomach was not the only thing that stopped working properly. So did the bus. After everybody had boarded the bus and contacted host families to tell them our ETA, the bus refused to start. That explained why they returned from the hospital so quickly: not to bring Ryan back, but to save the bus using Mr. Han’s truck.
“There is something wrong with the battery,” the bus driver said while trying to fix the problem. The good news was that no one was complaining that much. It’s the 21st century, so we all have phones. And external batteries.
Right then, there was news breaking out saying that the China Women’s Volleyball Team won a gold medal in the Rio Olympic Games! At least the sports fans among us wouldn’t be bored anymore. Queenie, Eric, Zach, Jason, Gary, Krystian, Tyler, played a group video game on their phone. Winnie and Owen tried to pick up a song that they learned long time ago on Eric’s guitar. Simon sang along to the music in his earbuds (How we miss those graduated friends who brought speakers on every single trip!).
Finally, after a long wait, Mr. Han came and connected his truck’s battery to the bus’s. After a few tries, it still would not work. Mr. Han called another school bus company trying to get another bus to rescue us. People who got tired of waiting for two hours came out of the bus to feel the fresh ocean breeze. Some were FaceTiming their friends all the way on the other side of the earth. For once, phones were an acceptable distraction our teachers’ eyes.
The beach radio was announcing that the beach was closed. The few people remaining on the beach started to clean up. The parking lot was almost empty. Several senior guys, including Ryan, started handing out water bottles. Freshmen Tori and Shirley came up to Mr. Han to ask for food using Korean they just looked up on a translating app, trying to make him at least a little bit happier. “Gentleman! I need muscles!” Mr. Han shouted to the crowd. The new bus was on its way, so they removed all the luggage and supplies from the bus piece by piece.
Just when the bus was completely empty, the engine started! Finally, at 10:30 PM, we were on our way home.
“Well, this trip turned out to be more of a horror story,” Mr. Prior said, closing up the book he had been reading, “but I’ve heard it’s better to have horror stories than zero stories.”
What were the rules for the beach games again? Who won the games anyway? How much chicken did we eat? How many marshmallows did we burn? What exactly happened to the bus? How many phone calls did Mr. Han make that night? What time did we actually get home?
Why did they matter? Memories were made. Mission accomplished.