The Cooked Seed

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Petti Fong is a travel writer who specializes on visiting literary places. Her blog is at www. Copyright owned or licensed by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved. To order copies of Toronto Star articles, please go to: www. Subscribe Now. Get more books in your inbox.

The Cooked Seed

Report an error. Journalistic Standards. About The Star. More Entertainment. I looked around to make sure that I was where I thought I was. I entered a stall and closed the door. I had never seen such a spacious and clean toilet room.

A roll of paper came into view. It was pure white and soft to the touch. I wondered how much it would cost. I would not use it if I had to pay. I sat down and pulled the paper a few inches.

I looked around and listened. No alarm went off. I was not sure if I was allowed to use the paper. I dragged out a foot more, and then another foot. I put the paper under my nose and smelled a lovely faint scent. Perhaps it was free, I decided. Carefully, I wiped my behind with the paper. It didn't scratch my buttocks. What an amazing feeling. I grew up with toilet paper that felt like sandpaper.

In fact, it was what I had packed in my suitcase—toilet paper made of raw straw.

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People with different colored eyes, hair, and skin confirmed that I was no longer in China. I hoped my seaweed hairstyle didn't offend anybody.

The Cooked Seed: A Memoir by Anchee Min, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

I inched forward in the line leading toward the immigration station. I heard the man behind the booth call, "Next! I forced myself to step forward. My surroundings started to spin. I was face-to-face with an immigration officer. I wanted to smile and say, "Hello! My mind's eye kept seeing one image—a group of peasants trying to haul a Buddha statue made of mud across a river.

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The Buddha statue was breaking apart and dissolving into the water. The officer was a middle-aged white man with a mustache. A big grin crossed his face as he greeted me with what I later came to learn was "Welcome to America! My mind went blank. I tried to breathe. Was the man asking me a question or was it a greeting?

Did he mean "Where are you from? I had been studying a book called English Sentences. According to the book, "How do you do? Obviously, this was not what the officer had said. How do I respond? Should I say, "I am very well, thank you, and how are you? What if it was a greeting? Did I hear "America"? I thought I did. Did he say, "Why are you in America? I could feel the officer's eyes as they bore into me. I decided to give him my prepared response. Lifting my chin, I forced a smile.

I pushed the words out of my chest the best I could: "Thank you very much! The officer took my passport and examined it. On my passport, my first name was spelled "An-Qi. The Pinyin spelling system was invented by the Communist government. If the actual name was pronounced "Anchee," the Pinyin would spell it "An-Qi. I didn't think so. But I hadn't come to America to be called an idiot. The officer spoke again. This time I failed to comprehend anything.

The officer waited for my answer. I heard him say, "Do you understand? He was losing patience. The man's smile disappeared.

The Cooked Seed: A Memoir by Anchee Min

He asked no more questions but took away my passport. He pointed behind his back at a room about twenty feet away with a door that had a large glass window. I was escorted into a brown-colored room. A lady came. She introduced herself as a translator.

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She began to speak accented Mandarin. How do you explain that, Miss Min? We need to deport you, Miss Min. I broke down. If there hadn't been so many people in the middle of the night at Huangpu River bund, I would have carried out my suicide. I wouldn't be here to bother you. My airplane ticket alone cost fifteen years of my salary. My family is in debt because of me. I am begging you for an opportunity!

Do you understand? You will become a burden on our society! I don't need much to live.