Life is Beautiful and Pan’s Labyrinth

Recently, I watched two very interesting and touching films in my English class called Life is Beautiful and Pan’s Labyrinth. Life is Beautiful, starring Roberto Benigni, is 1997 film about an eccentric and light-hearted Italian Jew named Guido, who serendipitously finds the love of his life and persistently tries to woo her. Halfway into the film, the story takes an astonishing turn, which I do not want to spoil, that you will not expect and dramatically change the tone of the movie.

On the other hand, Pan’s Labyrinth, starring Ivana Bacquero, is a 2006 film about a young girl named Ofelia, who moves in with her wicked stepfather, Vidal, on the front lines of war in fascist Spain. Shortly after arriving at her new home, a mystical messenger from another world tells her that she is the long-lost princess of the underworld. The messenger instructs Ofelia to complete three daunting tasks so that she can return to the king of the underworld, who has been searching for her for millennia.

Both Life is Beautiful and Pan’s Labyrinth are marvellous films that I enjoyed very much. Their captivating stories and stellar actors were a pleasure to watch. If you want to watch a film that has an engaging plot and commendable acting, Life is Beautiful and Pan’s Labyrinth would be great movies for you!

Works Cited
Life Is Beautiful. Dir. Roberto Benigni. Perf. Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, and Giorgio Cantarini. Miramax Films, 1997. DVD.
Pan’s Labyrinth. Dir. Guillermo Del Toro. Perf. Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, and Sergi López. Picturehouse, 2006. DVD.

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The Hunger Pains: A Parody

While surfing the web, I came across a parody novel of The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. This parody novel is called The Hunger Pains: A Parody. The novel is written by an undergraduate humour publication at Harvard University known as The Harvard Lampoon. After reading the parody novel’s blurb, I let out a delightful chuckle.

When Kantkiss Neverclean replaces her sister as a contestant on the Hunger Games—the second-highest-rated reality TV show in Peaceland, behind Extreme Home Makeover—she has no idea what to expect. Having lived her entire life in the telemarketing district’s worst neighborhood, the Crack, Kantkiss feels unprepared to fight to the death while simultaneously winking and looking adorable for the cameras. But when her survival rests on choosing between the dreamy hunk from home, Carol Handsomestein, or the doughy klutz, Pita Malarkey, Kantkiss discovers that the toughest conflicts may not be found on the battlefield but in her own heart . . . which is unfortunately on a battlefield.

Works Cited

The Harvard Lampoon. The Hunger Pains: A Parody. Digital image. Archonia. Archonia NV – Androme Group. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://media.archonia.com/images/samples/98/66/119866_s0.jpg&gt;.

The Harvard Lampoon. The Hunger Pains: A Parody. New York: Touchstone, 2012. Print.

Lisa Simpsons Meets J.K. Rowling

In this video J.K. Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter series, appears on the well-known cartoon, The Simpsons. Lisa Simpson comments on how Rowling has influenced a generation of children to read.

(Note: This episode of The Simpsons aired a few years before J.K. Rowling completed the Harry Potter series, which explains why Lisa wants to know what happens in the end.)

 

Works Cited

Groening, Matt. “The Regina Monologues.” The Simpsons. Fox. 23 Nov. 2003. Youtube. Youtube, 8 July 2008. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTGbKbEEE8o&gt;.

Wingardium Leviosa!

This blog is named after a levitation spell in the Harry Potter novels known as Wingardium Leviosa (pronounced Win-gar-dee-um Lev-ee-o-sa). This spell is typically taught to students in the first-year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In the video that I am sharing with you, Wingardium Leviosa is being taught by Professor Flitwick to first-year students at Hogwarts, which includes Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Harry Potter.

“Oh, and enunciate! Wingardium Leviosa!”

Works Cited

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Dir. Chris Columbus. Perf. Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Daniel Radcliffe. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2001. Film. Youtube. Youtube, 16 Apr. 2009. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAQBzjE-kvI&gt;.

A List of Must-Read Books

Are you looking for a novel to read, but don’t not which book to choose? I will help you find the right novel by giving you a list of books that you must read. In no particular order, here is my list of must-read books:

 

Eragon, by Christopher Paolini

During one of his travels through the woods of Alagaesia, Eragon, a teenage boy, stumbles upon an interesting looking stone. He takes the stone, hoping that it will sell for some money, but soon learns that it is not a stone at all after a dragon hatches from it. Many years prior, King Galbatorix, the leader of Alagaesia, was a dragon rider. Dragon riders were powerful peacekeepers of the land. But after King Galbortorix’s dragon died, he became mad and killed all the dragons in Alagaesia. Over time, Eragon builds a supernatural bond with his dragon, who he names Saphira. Eragon fears that Saphira would be taken away from him by King Galbatorix, so Eragon keeps the dragon a secret. However, King Galbatorix somehow learns about Eragon’s dragon and sends people to arrest him. Eragon must flee his home and find a safe haven for him and Saphira.

 

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

An Afghan boy, named Amir, lives with his rich father, and their poor servants, Ali and Hassan. Though they are Amir and his father’s servants, Ali and Hassan are treated like family. However, not all people see Ali and Hassan as equals. Ali and Hassan are Hazaras, an ethnic minority in Afganistan, and are looked down upon by Pashtuns, who make up the majority of Afganistan’s population. Hassan is Ali’s son, and is Amir’s closest and most loyal friend. However, Amir does something very terrible that causes his only true friend, Hassan, to suffer through a horrific incident, and lives the rest of his life in painful guilt.

 

Heir to the Empire, by Timothy Zahn

Five years after defeating Darth Vader and Palpatine, and ending the evil Galactic Empire, the New Republic has been established, Han Solo and Princess Leia are married, and Luke Skywalker becomes the first Jedi Knight of the New Jedi Order. But thousands of light-years away, the last of Emperor Palpatine’s generals have taken command of the extremely damaged Imperial fleet, and plan to take on the New Republic. But this time, an evil admiral has made two vital discoveries that could destroy everything that the Rebel Alliance has fought so hard to build.

 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling

During his stay at the Dursley house for the summer, Harry Potter receives an unexpected guest, named Dobby. Dobby warns Harry not to return to Hogwarts, explaining that terrible things are going to happen. Despite this warning, Harry goes to Hogwarts anyway to attend his second year at the school of witchcraft and wizardry. As Dobby had said, terrible things are indeed happening at Hogwarts. Throughout the year, students of muggle descent are found mysteriously petrified and messages written in blood are written on the walls warning that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened.

 

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

A rich, cruel city known as the Captiol rules the nation of Panem, which is made of the ruins of what was once North America. The nation is divided into twelve districts. As a punishment for past uprisings from the districts against the Capitol, the Capitol holds the annual Hunger Games. Each district must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The tributes are imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena where they must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins. The entire event is televised for the whole nation to see. The protagonist of this novel is Katniss Everdeen, a poor sixteen year old girl from the poorest district, District 12. Against all odds, Katniss’ little sister Prim is chosen to be a tribute. But, Katniss saves her sister by volunteering to take her place in the Games.

Works Cited

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Series #1). Digital image. Barnes & Noble. Barnesandnoble.com LLC, 6 Dec. 2008. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/imageviewer.asp?ean=9780439023481&imId=27358626&gt;.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, 2008. Print.

Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. New York: Riverhead, 2003. Print.

Palencar, John Jude. Eragon Book Cover. Digital image. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 14 July 2008. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eragon_book_cover.png&gt;.

Paolini, Christopher. Eragon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. Print.

Rowling, J. K., and Mary GrandPré. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, 2000. Print.

Werner, Honi. Kite Runner. Digital image. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 Feb. 2011. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kite_runner.jpg&gt;.

Wright, Cliff. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Digital image. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 13 July 2007. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Harry_Potter_and_the_Chamber_of_Secrets.jpg&gt;.

Zahn, Timothy. Heir to the Empire. New York: Bantam, 1991. Print.

Zahn, Timothy. HeirToTheEmpire. Digital image. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 15 July 2008. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HeirToTheEmpire.jpg&gt;.

Literature Circles

In my English class, I have participated in literature circles, which is an activity where a small group of people read a particular novel, and discussions about the novel take place periodically among the group. This year, I have completed two novels from taking part in literature circles. The two books that I read are The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, and The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Both books are fantastic and I highly recommend them to everyone.

The Kite Runner is a novel about an Afghan boy named Amir, who lives with his rich father, and their poor servants, Ali and Hassan. Though they are Amir and his father’s servants, Ali and Hassan are treated like family. However, not all people see Ali and Hassan as equals. Ali and Hassan are Hazaras, an ethnic minority in Afganistan, and are looked down upon by Pashtuns, who make up the majority of Afganistan’s population. Hassan is Ali’s son, and is Amir’s closest and most loyal friend. However, Amir does something very terrible that causes his only true friend, Hassan, to suffer through a horrific incident, and lives the rest of his life in painful guilt.

I took pleasure in reading The Kite Runner. One thing that stood out for me in this book is how I grew to hate the novel’s protagonist, Amir. I have felt pity, praise, sorrow, and happiness for the main characters of books before, but never before had I felt hatred towards a protagonist. After learning how Amir allows his lifelong companion to suffer a horrible fate, I felt absolutely shocked and disgusted. But strangely, this made me enjoy reading the novel. I may not have liked the main character, but I definitely enjoyed the shock value. The ability to provoke such strong emotions is commendable. If you are looking for a book that will surprise you, you should read The Kite Runner.

The other book that I read for literature circles was The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. The novel takes place sometime in the future in Panem, which is made of the ruins of what was once North America. Panem is divided into twelve districts and is ruled by a rich, harsh, and cruel city known as the Capitol. As a punishment for past uprisings from the districts against the Capitol, the Capitol holds the Hunger Games every year. Each district must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The tributes are imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena where they must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins. The entire event is televised for the whole nation to see. The protagonist of this novel is Katniss Everdeen, a poor sixteen year old girl from the poorest district, District 12. Against all odds, Katniss’ little sister Prim is chosen to be a tribute. But, Katniss saves her and volunteers to take her sister’s place in the Games.

I absolutely loved reading The Hunger Games. This novel is one of the most enjoyable novels that I have read in a long time. Full of thrilling action, intriguing twists, and constant suspense, The Hunger Games is a novel that is very satisfying. For me, it was a novel that I hated to put down. I never wanted to stop reading it. I liked the novel so much that I completed the book long before my literature circle group was planning to finish it. After I finished reading The Hunger Games, I craved the suspense and excitement that I felt while reading the amazing book, so I decided to read the other novels in the series, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. If you have never read The Hunger Games, it is definitely a book that you should consider reading.

As for the process of the literature circles, I thought that they were interesting. I enjoyed being able to discuss novels with others. In our little group, each of us must do certain jobs, such as identify themes, symbols, and traits of characters. During the periodic discussions, I learned new things about the novels that I did not pick up on my own. Learning new things about the novels made me draw deeper meaning from them and made me appreciate the books more. If you ever have the opportunity to participate in a literature circle, I would recommend that you try it.

Works Cited

Book Club. Digital image. Northport Community Book Club. Webs, Inc. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://nptbookjunkies.webs.com/bookclub.jpg&gt;.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Series #1). Digital image. Barnes & Noble. Barnesandnoble.com LLC, 6 Dec. 2008. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/imageviewer.asp?ean=9780439023481&imId=27358626&gt;.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, 2008. Print.

Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. New York: Riverhead, 2003. Print.

Werner, Honi. Kite Runner. Digital image. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 Feb. 2011. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kite_runner.jpg&gt;.

How to Write Different Kinds of Letters

Today, there are a variety of different letters for different purposes. Depending on the purpose of the letter and the recipient, I think that a letter should be written a certain way. I will show you how to write a friendly letter to a friend or family member, a memo for someone within a company, a medical report, a diary entry, and a magazine article.

Friendly Letter

Here is a template for a friendly letter:

 

[First Name Last Name]
[Street Address]
[City, Province, Postal Code]

Date

Dear [Recipient’s name],

In the opening of your friendly letter, you should ask the recipient how they are doing and what they have been up to.

In the middle of your letter, you should tell the recipient how you yourself are doing and what you have been doing lately. The real purpose for writing the letter will also be stated. This can be about a situation that has occurred that has affected you or the recipient of the letter, news, or anything that you would like the person to know.

At the end of your letter, say a goodbye statement and state whether you expect the person to send a letter back to you.

[Salutation]

[Your name]

Here is an example of a letter:

Jane Parabola
4200 Lakeshore Drive
Ostagar, BC, V5L 3T4

March 13, 2012

Dear Alistair:

How are you doing, brother? I hope you and your wife, Anora, are doing well in Fereldan. I have been thinking about you a lot lately and miss you very much. How is little David doing? Did you enjoy your trip to Orlais this summer? I would love to hear from you.

Over here in Ostagar, life has not been very easy for me. Joe has been acting very odd lately.  We don’t have that chemistry and connection that we used to have 10 years ago. When I talk to him, it’s like I’m talking to a complete stranger. Maybe he is having an affair! I have a feeling that he is sleeping with one of maids behind my back. Who knows? And on top that, I caught Jimmy smoking cigarettes with the Bacon Brothers last week! If he keeps hanging around those criminals, I fear that he is going to turn into a hoodlum.

I feel like you are the only person I can talk to. I’ve just been so depressed lately. Please tell me what I should do about Joe and Jimmy. I’m concerned for the both of them. I hope you and your family are doing well. Please send my regards to them and reply to me soon.

Love,

Jane Parabola

Memo

Here is a template for a memo:

[Company name]

Memo

To: [First and last name] (email address)

From: [First and last name] (email address)

CC: [First and last name] (email address)

Date:

Re: [Title]

The contents of the memo are short, concise, and tell the recipient information.

Here is an example of a memo:

Parabola Inc.

Memo

To: George Carver (george482@yahoo.com)

From: King Joseph Parabola (j.parabola@parabola.com)

CC: James Shepherd (j.shepherd @parabola.com)

Date: March 13, 2012

Re: Bethany Carver Incident

Bethany Carver was attacked by a bird on March 12, 2012. Unfortunately, she lost her nose in the incident. She was sent to Ostagar General Hospital shortly after and emergency surgery took place to repair her nose. Due to the need for immediate surgery, Parabola Inc. paid for the expenses. You now owe Parabola Inc. $10000.

Medical Report

Here is a template for a medical report:

Date:

Patient Name: [First and last name]

Reporting Physician’s Name: Dr. [First and last name]

OVERVIEW

This is a brief summary that tells the reader what the report is about. The most important features are stated, as well as the main conclusion.

BACKGROUND

This introduces the subject and explains the reason for the report. The who, what, when, where, and why should be included.

DISCUSSION

This section presents the findings of the physician in and organized and logical fashion.

CONCLUSION

Major points that can be drawn from the discussion are briefly stated. If there is more than one conclusion, state the main conclusion first, and the remaining conclusions in decreasing order of importance.

Here is an example of a medical report:

Date: March 13, 2012

Patient Name: Bethany Carver

Reporting Physician’s Name: Dr. James Shepherd

OVERVIEW

Bethany Carver is a young woman whose nose was removed by a bird. Her nose has been replaced through surgery and is expected to make a full recovery.

BACKGROUND

Bethany Carver was attacked by a bird on March 12, 2012 at 10:38 AM, which resulted in the mutilation of her nose. Carver’s nose was bitten off completely, which created a large wound that bled heavily. When paramedics arrived at the scene at 12:04 PM, Carver was administered Tylenol by mouth to temporarily stop the bleeding. Upon arrival at Ostagar General Hospital at 12:20 PM, Carver was immediately taken to the operating room, where emergency nose replacement surgery took place to replace her nose. Surgery was successfully completed at 5:30 PM.

DISCUSSION

Before the surgical procedure, initial inspection showed that the wound was located on the middle of the patient’s face; the nose was gone completely. In order to repair the patient’s nose, 500 mL of Robitussin was poured onto the wound. Robitussin promotes the growth and regeneration of body cells, which was perfect for this situation. Instant regeneration occurred after the administration of Robitussin and the patient was fully healed.

CONCLUSION

Bethany Carver’s surgery was successful. Her nose is fully healed and intact. However, she may feel pain in her nose in the first month after surgery. To relieve the pain, she may take Aspirin up to 4 times a day. If the pain persists after one month, she must see a doctor for an examination.

Diary Entry

Diaries are personal reflections that are kept private and only the writer may read them. Entries are usually informal. The way that diary entries are written is entirely up to the writer, but the date should always be noted to easily remember when you wrote an entry. They can be long or short, be used to reflect on situations, and include photos or mementos.

Here is an example of a diary entry:

March 12, 2012

Dear Diary,

The strangest thing happened at work today! While I was watering the daffodils for King Joseph, Bethany got her nose bit off by bird. You don’t see things like that every day, that’s for sure. Serves that girl right! She has been way too touchy with the King. I always see her coming out of the King’s quarters late at night. I’m shocked that the Queen hasn’t noticed that her husband has been having an affair for nine years now. What a blind lady!

Other than Bethany’s incident, nothing special happened today. It was just another day today. After work, I felt pretty pooped, so I went home and watched Jersey Shore for four hours. Jersey Shore is great! Well, that’s it for now. Talk to you later, Diary.

Magazine Article

Magazine articles are written in an inverted pyramid form from most to least important information. The lead paragraph tells the reader the who, what, when, where, and why of the article. After the lead paragraph, the writer must anticipate what other information regarding the article that the reader will want to know and answer any questions that readers may have. In addition, include quotes from witnesses or bystanders after the lead paragraph. In the conclusion of the article, the information is the least important. You may include information about a similar event or challenge, a salutation, or speculations.

Here is a template of a magazine article:

[Title]

[Picture]

By [Author’s first and last name]● [Leading paragraph]

[Explanation of article from most to least important information]

[Conclusion]

Here is an example of a magazine article:

Killer Bird Mutilates Woman

Blackbird

By Leon Lai ● On March 12, 2012, Bethany Carver was doing her regular morning routine of doing laundry for the King of Ostagar. As she was hanging the King’s garments to dry, seemingly out of thin air, a rabid blackbird came swooping down on her. This ferocious animal dived down from the sky and assaulted Carver, leaving the scene with her nose in its mouth.

Carver was in agonizing pain during this horrific encounter. Blood was gushing everywhere from the area where her nose used to be. Luckily, Tom Flower, one of the King’s gardeners, was nearby when the catastrophe occurred and called for an ambulance. Carver was taken to Ostagar General Hospital, shortly after, where emergency nose replacement surgery took place. Carver is still in hospital recovering from her trauma and is going to make a full recovery.

“[The procedure] went very smoothly,” stated Dr. James Shepherd, Carver’s surgeon, “A full recovery is expected.”

“It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” said Tom Flower, “It all just happened in an instant!”

The vicious bird is still yet to be found. A rumour has arisen, stating that the bird escaped from the Ostagar Asylum for Animals. We went to the facility to ask some questions, but they refused to comment on the matter.

Thank you for reading my long post on how to write different kinds of letters. I hope that after reading this, you will be able to write better friendly letters, diary entries, memos, and maybe even better medical reports and magazine articles.

Works Cited

Emilio, Juan. A Common Blackbird in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 12 Feb. 2011. Web. 14 Mar. 2012. <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Turdus_merula_-Gran_Canaria,_Canary_Islands,_Spain-8_(2).jpg>.

KONY 2012

About one week ago, on March 5, a film called KONY 2012 was released on YouTube by Invisible Children Inc. The purpose of the film is to raise global awareness of Joseph Kony, the most wanted man on the International Criminal Court’s list for crimes against humanity, including murder, abduction, mutilation, and child rape.

KONY 2012 has become a viral video on YouTube. After eight days, it has already been viewed over 76 million times worldwide. What has helped spread this video to millions of viewers all over the world is social media. I first learned about KONY 2012 through my news feed on Facebook. Usually, whenever my friends share YouTube videos on Facebook, I never look at them. However, a huge number of my friends were sharing KONY 2012 on Facebook. This sparked some curiosity in me, so I decided to watch the video. Soon after, I felt compelled to share the video as well. The film moved me, and I think that the KONY 2012 campaign is a righteous movement that will hopefully bring justice to Joseph Kony.

Although I support the effort to raise awareness of Joseph Kony, I am skeptical of the organization behind the movement, Invisible Children Inc. There have been speculations about Invisible Children Inc., regarding how they spend their money, which I came across on social media. According to one of the organizations financial statements, only 31% of the funds that they receive go towards actually helping people, while the rest goes in the pockets of the people in charge of the organization, travel expenses, and filmmaking. If you are thinking about donating to Invisible Children Inc., I would recommend that you do additional research before you do so or reconsider donating to a different organization that uses more than 31% of its fund to help the people it aims to help.

To conclude, I think social media is a great tool to help spread awareness on big issues in the world. The amount of awareness of Joseph Kony has grown immensely in the past week with the help of social media, and I think it’s great. But, it shouldn’t end at just trying to stop Joseph Kony. Awareness of other issues in the world should be raised as well. Social media can be a great tool to do that, which has already been proved by the KONY 2012 movement.

I will end off with a quote of a Facebook status from one of my friends, who will remain anonymous.

“On the subject of KONY 2012, yes, absolutely spread word. It’s important to have this kind of thing stopped around the world. But, don’t forget that this is one of many atrocities occurring in a few of many, many countries. There are many “liberation armies” all over Africa. There are many, many, many injustices all over the world. Don’t forget about the rest of the world, no matter how terrible this particular situation may be.”

Works Cited
Considine & Considine. Invisible Children, Inc. Financial Statements June 30, 2011 and 2010. San Diego: Considine & Considine, 22 Sept. 2011. PDF.
KONY 2012. Dir. Jason Russell. Perf. Jason Russell. YouTube. YouTube, 5 Mar. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2012. .
Stiles, Sarah. “Ugandan Leader Made Famous through KONY 2012 Campaign.” The Parthenon. Marshall University, 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2012. .

My First Team

            As I change into a t-shirt and shorts in the boys’ changing room, I feel a mixture of excitement and sleepiness. Right now, it is 7:00 AM. Today is the first day of tryouts for the Bantam Boys Volleyball team. It’s the first time that I’ve ever been to a tryout for a high school sports team. Basketball, soccer, and badminton are sports that are really popular among many students here at Britannia Secondary School. I was never interested in those sports. However, the one sport that I love is volleyball. Volleyball has always been my favourite sport. Back at Seymour Elementary School, I was a strong volleyball player on the Senior Boys Volleyball team during my grade seven year. I was never good at playing most sports, but I was decent at volleyball.

            After I change into my gym strip, I go to the gym and sit on the bench with the rest of the guys who are trying out for the team. A young man stands in front of us with a stern look on his face and his arms crossed. He looks like he is in his early thirties. “My name is David Ng,” says the intimidating looking man. “I am going to be your volleyball coach this season. I’d like to get you boys started right away. Everybody grab a partner and a ball to share between the two of you. Then, start underhand passing to each other.”

            I get up from the bench and look at my friend, Jian, who is sitting on the end of the bench. “Hey,” I say. “Want to be partners, Jian?” Jian sits next to me in my math and science classes. He is my partner for many projects in the classes that we share, so we work well together. And since I don’t know anybody else, Jian is an ideal partner.

            “Sure,” Jian replies. “I’ll go get a ball.” Jian goes to the basket of volleyballs in the corner of the gym, picks one up, and returns with a ball. Jian points to an area across the gym. “Let’s go over there,” Jian says. “There’s more room there.”

            “Alright,” I say. We go to the area that Jian suggests and stand about three metres away from each other. Jian tosses the ball to me and we begin underhand passing to each other. Whenever I attempt to pass the ball to him, Jian has to work hard to receive it because the ball always goes in different directions. But whenever Jian passes to me, the ball goes straight to me and I hardly have to move. I begin to feel frustrated because of my poor passing. I look around the gym and see that everybody is passing to each other really well. I seem to be the only one who is struggling.

            Without me realizing it, Jian passes the ball to me and the ball drops to the floor right in front of me. “Come on, Leon,” Jian says. “Focus!”

            Before I could pick the ball up from the ground, David blows his whistle. “Alright boys,” says David, in a loud, assertive voice. “Time for the next drill. With the same partner, I want you to set the ball to each other.”

            I pick up the volleyball, toss it to Jian, and we begin setting the ball to each other. He sets the ball into the air and the volleyball is beautifully placed right in front of me. I attempt to set the ball to Jian, but he has to hustle for it because I’m not able to push the ball far enough for it to reach him. “Come on, Leon. Focus!” Jian says, for the second time.

            “I’m trying!” I respond. I really am trying. Every time I try to set the ball, no matter how hard I try, the ball does not reach my partner. This is terrible. I look around the gym once again and realize that I’m the only one who is struggling again. I feel like a fish out of water.  Maybe I don’t belong on the volleyball team. How can I expect to get on the team if I can’t even pass or set the ball?  I have to step my game up.

            The sound of a whistle signals us to stop what we’re doing. “Alright, boys,” shouts David. “Let’s do some spiking. Give me all the balls and line up single-file behind the attack line. When I toss the ball, I want you to spike it over the net. Then, fetch the ball, put it on the ground beside me, and go back in line.”

            I line up behind the attack line with the other boys. I don’t feel very eager to spike after executing such poor sets and passes, so I stand at the very back of the line, behind Jian. David tosses the ball up in the air. The first boy approaches the net, jumps up two feet in the air and savagely pounds the ball over the net. The ball lands in the corner of the court with incredible force.

            “Holy cow,” I say to Jian. “That spike was nuts!” I am in total awe. The ball went down so fast that I thought that a trail of smoke was behind it. “Who is that guy?” I ask Jian.

            “His name is Jake.” Jian responds. “He was the captain of the volleyball team at my elementary school in grade seven.”

            David tosses another ball in the air and the next boy spikes the volleyball. The ball goes over the net, but it is nowhere near as impressive as Jake’s hit. As the other boys in front of me in the line-up get their turn to spike, I continue thinking about Jake’s amazing spike. I think about how the ball was hit with such unbelievable force and killer accuracy. If I’m going to be on this team, I’m going to have to perform a massive spike. My passes and sets earlier were absolutely awful, so this is my last opportunity to impress David.

            When it is finally my turn to spike, I position myself on the attack line. “Come on, Leon,” I say to myself under my breath. “Focus! You can do this!” David tosses the ball in the air. While keeping my eyes on the ball, I approach the net, and jump up as high as I can. I use my left hand to point at the target and pull back my right hand beside my ear, like an archer readying his bow. Then, I ferociously strike the ball over the net as hard as I can. The ball lands on the centre of the other side of the court with great force.

            As I run to the other side of the court to fetch the ball, I am full of joy. I can’t believe that I spiked the ball so well. I place the ball on the ground beside David, and run back to the line-up.

            “Nice spike, Leon,” Jian says. “I wasn’t expecting that from you!”

            “Yeah,” says Jake, as he lines up behind me. “That was pretty sick, man!”

            I feel flattered. “Thanks, guys,” I reply. “It was probably just a fluke.”

            When it is my turn to spike again, I’m able to spike the volleyball just as impressively and with as much force as I did previously. I’m ecstatic. “Maybe it wasn’t a fluke after all.” I say to myself, as I fetch the ball. We do a few more rounds of spiking and I continue to spike the ball well.

            “Alright, boys,” David says. “Since this is only the first day of tryouts, I think that’s enough for today. Hit the showers, and I will see you all tomorrow morning for day two of tryouts.” David points his finger to me. “Hey, I want to talk to you for a second.”

            I nervously walk over to David and wonder what he wants to say to me. Everybody else is in the change room, so only David and I are in the gym.

            “I was watching you a lot today,” David says. “You need to work on your passing and setting skills, but you can do some killer spikes! I was really impressed. I think that you can be a great offensive player on the team.”

“Thanks a lot, coach!”

“Now, hit the showers. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

            I turn around and walk towards the change room. I begin to feel really good about myself. Maybe I do belong here after all.