The Cooked Seed

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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.

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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.