I do not remember how Gordy and I became friends, but I do remember that we spent a lot of time together after school. Sometimes I even want to his house for lunch. I never met his parents. His father was a fisherman and I guess his mother had a job, too. We climbed trees, wrestled, rode on bicycles and talked. But one day, Gordy suddenly changed. He started being mean to me. He would not talk to me or play with me anymore.
Worse, he began to bully me. He would get me in a headlock or pin me on the ground or punch me. I still do not know why. He did not even have a new friend to take my place.
He just suddenly became my worst enemy. I did not cry about losing Gordy as a friend, but he taught me that people can very quickly change a lot.
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Ever since then, I have worried that people I trust and rely on might someday turn and hurt me. Last week there was an earthquake while we were in school. At that time we were in our classroom on the fifth floor, so we felt it quite strongly. Earthquakes are common in Taiwan, but not everyone reacts to them in the same way.
When the earthquake hit, the doors, lights, curtains, bookshelves and television monitor started to sway. We all felt a wave going through us. An earthquake. But other people were not so calm. One girl screamed and fainted in her seat. Two boys jumped up and ran for the door. The teacher fell on her knees and started praying.follow
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A few people called their parents or grandparents to tell them they loved them. I did not think the earthquake was such a big deal, but it was obviously very frightening for some people. I have to admit I thought they were very silly to get so excited about it, but now I see that not everyone is like me. I had such an incident three years ago at Vancouver International Airport. It gave me a very negative impression of the people charged with protecting the public and enforcing the law. I was sitting near the departure gate.
My two oldest boys, aged four and three, were coloring on the floor. I was reading. My wife was coming back from a walk with my youngest boy, aged two. My wife is Taiwanese and does not know a lot of English. Big, burly customs officers had begun talking to people, asking to see their documents and even taking them into a side room for questioning and searching.
One of them walked up to my wife as she was coming back from her walk. She pointed to where I was sitting and I motioned for her and the customs officer to come over to my seat. When they arrived, the customs officers asked me whether the three children were ours, where we were going and how much money we were carrying.
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I had no trouble with the first two questions. The children were ours and we were returning to Taiwan. The third question was a lot trickier. I knew from previous travel experience that most countries do not like people to take large sums of local currency out of the country. We had given most of our left over Canadian money to my parents, so I told the customs officers we had very little, only a few dollars. His reaction alarmed me.
He asked what we were going to use for money in Taiwan and when I said we had quite a few New Taiwanese Dollars on us, he very sternly said that he was an authorized customs agent and we had better be truthful with him. I explained that I had thought he meant Canadian money. He rather rudely replied that he had only said money, never Canadian money.
I told him how much we had and he went off to question someone else. In the same airport, only a couple of weeks after this incident, a Polish man who had begun throwing things around because he was not getting help was Tasered by police and died as a result. Sometimes law enforcement officers are neither intelligent enough nor well-trained enough to distinguish between real threats such as terrorists and people who are just upset or who misinterpret a question. The death of a child is always a tragedy. One of my sisters lost her first two babies, twins, only an hour or two after they were born.
The way different members of my family dealt with this experience taught me that even members of the same family, raised with the same set of beliefs and values, can see the world in very different ways. My sister was born premature.
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She came a month earlier than she should have, so it was no surprise to us to learn that her first pregnancy would not go to term. It distressed us, however, that the babies would be coming two months early instead of just one. The chances of survival were not great, so we had little hope that they would live long. I lived several hundred kilometers away, so my involvement in the situation was very limited, but I worried and grieved along with everyone else, yet the full depth of the sorrow for my sister and the rest of my family did not hit me until a couple of years later, when I saw my sister at a family reunion.
That was when I got a greater sense of the anticipation, disappointment and bereavement that the very short lives of those two little girls had brought to us. That was when I really felt sorry for myself and truly felt sorry for my sister. Around the same time, I noticed that we were not all thinking of the event in the same way. In fact, there was a kind of polarization, with my mother at one extreme and me at the other.
My mother and I are both devout Mormons. We both believe in God, that we all lived with God before coming to Earth, that God has a plan for our salvation, and that if we live properly, we can go back to be with God.
We also believe in foreordination, which is the idea that God calls certain people to certain work on Earth. The babies were born prematurely because they inherited a stronger possibility of premature birth form their mother, not because God wanted to call their spirits home before they could even go home with their parents. Eventually it occurred to me that our differences lay in what I call system orientation.
We are both religious, but my mother is only religious, whereas I am both religious and scientific. In her system, religion, control of everything, especially the death of a baby, is the only logical and consistent explanation.
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In my system, religion and science, God can exist, but he need not control everything and many things, such as the deaths of babies, happen within his plan without being specifically called for by it. Everyone needs a break from their normal routine. Workers, students, housewives—people in any role feel better and enjoy life more if they can occasionally get away from daily life. Allowing myself to follow my internal clock is one of the best ways I know to get refreshed for another round of work. I have just come back from a Chinese New Year break that lasted nearly a week. During that time, I stayed up late most nights, slept in most mornings and some afternoons, and did not even go to bed at all one night.
I read when I wanted to read, exercised when I wanted to exercise, and spent two days and a night focused on one project. Following my natural rhythm for a week relieved almost all the stress of schedules and deadlines I experience most of the time. Now I feel refreshed and ready to go back to my workaday existence for a while.
When I was in elementary school, I had some strange ideas. One of the strangest of all came to me as I was thinking about what to do for the grade-six science fair. It taught me that imagination can be dangerous. Most of my classmates were planning on very ordinary projects about animals, the environment and basic laws of physics. As a reader and writer of science-fiction and fantasy, I wanted to do something a little more daring and original.
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My parents had bought me a rock collection a few months before. In the rock collection was a piece of pumice. I knew that pumice came from lava. I also knew that through the process of electrolysis, electricity could cause the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water to separate into separate gases. I thought I might be able to use electrolysis to turn pumice back into lava, so I filled a jar with water, dropped in the piece of pumice, stuck the two bare ends of an electrical cord in the water as well, and plugged the cable into a wall socket.
Since then, I have had several unpleasant experiences with imaginative ideas, all of which have reinforced the lesson that imagination and the human body do not always mix well. However, the most effective lesson in the dangers of making my ideas reality came in the words of my father the day I nearly killed myself in the name of elementary school science. Very often if you ask people directly for things you want, they will refuse.
This is certainly the case with my wife.
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