I was born on July 31st 1995 at Mills-Peninsula Hospital in San Mateo, California. We lived in Millbrae at the moment of my birth and for the first 3 years of my life. At home and everywhere we go Russian was the only language being spoken. I didn’t even hear English until we moved to Hillsborough and I started going to Montessori. We end up living in Hillsborough for 2 years and in that time my 2 twin brothers are born and I finish Montessori school. My dad reconstructs the second floor of our house to make space for my brothers.
I remember my first days in Montessori were rough: not being able to say anything or understand anything being said didn’t help in making friends. I couldn’t even say or spell my name, Alexander or my nickname Alex, so I told everyone I was Sasha, which was my nickname in Russian. For the first two weeks my dad would always find me alone by the gate waiting to be picked up while the other kids would be playing games together. After what seemed like an eternity, I got settled in and starting interacting and communicating with the other kids like an average American would. This was the starting point where English would become the dominant language in my mind and everyday life. My Montessori teacher was Hispanic, so she even taught us a verb words in Spanish. You can say my first few years were jam packed with languages. I’m very grateful for my Montessori teacher and the kids I met there even though I don’t show it for it was here that my adventure had started. How can you forget your roots? This is what starting forming the person I am today and without that experience I wouldn’t be the person I am. Only when do you get older can you understand the true meaning of the things in your life.
So we move to Foster City, a gated community built to unload the two major cities, San Francisco and San Jose, of the overflowing population. It was built on a landfill in the 1960’s and is considered to be one of the ten best cities to live at one point of its existence. We live on Shearwater Isle on one of the streets in the city. Since most of the city is on water, we end up buying two boats: 1 paddle, the other one’s a row. I start kindergarten that year at Audubon Elementary School where I meet a lot of new people and make some new friends. There’s a girl who lives down the street from me and we’re always hanging out, spending time together. She was really one of my first real friends that I had. I don’t remember exactly what we’d talk about, but we had a great time before she had to move to San Francisco, if I’m not mistaken. Gul Park, located near Audubon was the place where I spent my kindergarten and 1st grade years at: swinging on the swings, the monkey bars or just running with the birds in the water. It was a blast as a kid and I’d relive it all over again if I had the chance to. By this time English completely dominates over my Russian and it’s like I’m a real American boy. Nobody can tell the difference.
After 2 years living on Shearwater we move to another part of Foster City, Waterbury Lane, where we spend most of life living at. Here I meet my best friend G. who ends up having a big influence and impact on my life. He lives 2 doors down and at first I was shy to talk to anyone who lived on my block. Everyone already knew each other and I was sort of the new kid there, but everyone greeted me well and we ended up being real close friends. G. also had a sister who was in the same grade as me and who would later be in one of classes during my middle school years. She also played a big role in my life because I’d always be at Chris’s house or all of us on the street would meet up and play games. Our curfew would be the streetlights and our parents yelling for us to come home. I read a lot as a kid and each night would fall asleep reading some book which was great because it helped in forming a strong, vivid, and vibrant imagination.
My mom signed me up to play soccer when I was old enough to play and my dad put me in karate, so I was always playing sports and staying physically fit. This would later conflict with my life because it gets harder to combine school, my social life and 2 sports. There’s this league called AYSO, American Youth Soccer Organization, that any person can sign up and play. I’m that good when I start off playing, but I’m having a lot of fun, so I stick to it. Karate wasn’t easy: my Sensei always was pushing me, even to the point where’d I cry. I thank him for everything that he taught me now, but back then it was torture and I didn’t understand why I needed it. I was a kid, what more can I say?
My childhood became amazing when we moved to Waterbury Lane: my dad would take me everywhere on all his trips, I’d play for endless hours outside with my friends without a care in the world, school was easy and I didn’t even sweat it. Everything was like a dream. That mindset would have a great influence on my teenage years because I’d have a hard time differentiating reality from dreams. To me everything was just one big dream that had no ending.
2nd grade comes and I’ve now transferred to Foster City Elementary School. G. I believe is 3rd grade at this time and the rest of the kids on the block go to private schools. This is the year I meet my friend L. who moves from Denmark with his family. He also starts playing soccer and I see him playing it during at lunch at school, so I join in sometimes. He’s a really good player and I always thought to myself that I want to play like that. Before L. had moved, I had played the position of a midfielder who would just pass and for some odd reason never shoot. I’d practice long days shooting against my garage door trying to get better, but it wasn’t until L. appeared in my life that I stepped my game up. He motivated me to be better and we started competing against one another, but he was always better. I also believe that was the year I meet Cameron and I also meet him playing soccer. He’s also going to Foster City School with me, but we don’t talk much.
Can’t really say what I did those summers, but I know for a fact that I would always be going to summer school no matter how well I’d study that year. My parents didn’t want me doing nothing or just watching TV on the couch at home, so they’d send me to summer school and camp. Sometimes camp would be chill, but school was never fun. Not that it was hard, but who wants to go to school during the summer?
In my 3rd grade year the school decides to try an experiment where they have a class that’s filled with 3/4 4th graders and 1/4 3rd graders. I was put into that class and I remember my teacher was Ms. W. I liked the class a lot and there would be this activity that we’d have happen every week, if I recall where we’d go to Ms. T’s class to read or work on something with the students in her class. C. was in that class, so we’d talk sometimes since we knew each other from the year before.
One thing I just remembered is that I used to play wallball and tetherball a lot as a kid, especially during my years at Foster City school. This was also the reason why I didn’t really get the chance to know C. too well because he’d be chilling with his friends. There was this time, I believe 4th grade, when I’m already good friends with C. that I get him to play wallball and tetherball, games that he’d walk past before.
One of the things that I do remember from my 3rd grade year was that the 4th graders were so much taller than us and the time I fell asleep reading a book during silent reading. It didn’t feel like they were a year older, more like 2 or 3. The story with the book was that one day after a long night of reading at home and coming to school half awake, also having had exerted all my energy during lunch playing soccer, we had silent reading time, where’d we read for like 20 minutes after lunch any book we want. I was too lazy to read, so I just got a random book and thought 20 minutes would fly by, but these 20 minutes were lasting a whole decade and I end up falling asleep. I remember waking up to see the whole class just staring at me. The teacher didn’t even continue with teaching the next subject until I woke up.
At that age falling asleep at school wasn’t something that would normally happen. This isn’t high school where anyone is looking for a chance to fall asleep during class: whether it’s just the teacher doesn’t care, the teacher finishes early or you just have a really good relationship with the teacher in the sense that you do your homework and have a good grade in class. I know my math teacher in high school even let us listen to music while taking tests or just in class just as long as we were quiet and did our work.
Come 4th grade, I go towards the end of the summer to see in which I’m put in and I see that C.’s in my class. Back then I didn’t have a cell phone, so there was no way to call him to tell him that we’d be in studying in the same class, but I think he knew. When it finally came time to go to school in August, I go to class, see C. and we start talking about our summers. By this time G. is a 5th grader and 5th graders were considered sort of the kings of the school, but C. and I start up our own little gang, if you can call it that. We grew up on the West Coast where hip hop was a big influence on everybody living there, we were no exception. K. and R. are in class and all 4 of us slowly start to become the leaders of the school or so we think it to be like that. We stopped listening to any of the teachers and a visit to the principal’s office starts to become a daily routine. I can’t even count the number of times we were ‘benched’. Benched meant that while the rest of the kids went to recess or lunch, you’d have to sit on a bench just watching as everyone gets to play. It was the worst, especially if it was just you who got in trouble. 4th grade was also the best because of the awesome field trips we got to go on and the cool activities we got to do in class. I remember the Gold Rush was amazing! Earning gold for your group in class and then going on a field trip to really pan for gold like they did in middle of the 19th century.
Another field trip we went on was called Outdoor Ed(Education). It’s a program that usually is done for 4th graders where you go to live in the woods for a week. It’s sort of like summer camp, except in the woods. You wake up early in the morning and go to take a shower that are outside, brush your teeth, and go to breakfast. There you get just enough food, so that you don’t have any leftovers. You’re split into cabin groups and each group has their own table in the cafeteria. After breakfast, lunch, and dinner the group with no the least leftovers get points. The point of living in the woods was to minimize waste and compost. It was a great time and I got to make a lot of new friends who had come from other parts of the state. It was a great year despite the fact that we got into so much trouble!
5th grade rolls by and now we’re officially the kings of the school! R. and I are in the same class, but C. and K. are in separate classes. I also get this teacher, Ms. V. if I’m not mistaken, who had her own way of teaching. The tables in the classroom were organized in a circle manner and we would all sit on the floor, rarely even using the tables. I remember I was in charge of checking the homework and reading logs. Reading logs are something that a lot of kids got to fill out as a kid in elementary school. They consist of a table for each day where you have to fill out how minutes you read that day and the grand total for the week. Then you have to get your parents to sign it. At first I actually did read and even got my parents to legitimately sign it, but as the year went on I stopped filling it out, but I didn’t stop reading. I could read for months at a time and then just suddenly stop just because there weren’t any interesting books to read. I would be able to finish 400 page books in a night or two, so for me anything they gave at school would be seem like a walk in the park.
Our class was chaotic and crazy: we had some of the ‘baddest’ kids in our class. This made the class just so much more authentic. Not only did our teacher sit on the floor, but she even had Abacuses to teach us math. I straight up started to love math just because of the Abacus. We also had a lot of class pets, some of which that had been living there for 10-12 years. Our class in about half a year managed to kill of them. Someone ended up chocking the snake, a girl that took the bird home on the holidays knocked the cage down and squashed the bird, the fish were fried to death because someone put the temperature up in the aquarium, and after buying a second bird some kid flung a rubber band at someone, missed and killed it.
Sadly, I don’t really remember graduation. All I remember is that either that day or that night when I was playing ‘tag’ with my friends, I tripped and fell and broke my front tooth. I remember being sad and even crying a bit carrying the tooth in my hand on my way home. It was all cool though because in like a week we went to the dentist and they fixed it.
It’s now my 6th grade year and I’m going to Bowditch Middle School. All of us except K. go here. He’s going to a private school and we don’t even talk anymore after graduation. This year is the toughest because it’s a new school, new school system, and all the subjects seem alien to me. There’s an informational meeting that the school provides like a week before school starts where they talk about all the new changes: how to get from one class to another, how to open and close your locker, changing for P.E., and etc. It doesn’t really help me sort of flow into the system and new schedule. I now have 6 different teachers and 7 periods. A period is a timeframe in which your classes are organized into. 1st period would start at 8:20 on regular days and 7th period would end at 3:00. Lunch would be fitted in the middle of day and lasts for about an hour. Wednesday’s would our ‘shortened’ days or ‘minimum’ days as they’re called. 1st period starts at 8:20, but this time 7th period ends at 1:40 instead of 3:00 like on regular days.
The hardest part was getting used to waking up and either walking or riding my bike to school. Only when I would oversleep would my parents ever even drive me to school. L. and C. would sometimes ride with me to school. In middle school we meet another friend J. who joins our ‘gang’. We aren’t kings anymore because we are failing at even trying to get our schoolwork done, so the first half of the year we spend sorting out everything. We try to lay low and not bring any attention to us. We also meet two other guys, I. and M. who we play football(American) with during lunch and P.E.
We used to have silent reading time after lunch just like we did in elementary school and this is time that I use for the next 3 years to read any books assigned to read for English. Never did I ever read the books required for school at home. It was always during silent reading time and I would reread the books over and over again sometimes to the point that I’d even memorize some pages. I even remember my 6th grade Reading and Language Arts teacher telling me that I had talent, but just was too lazy to do anything to develop it and put it into practice.
The troublemaking days hadn’t ended with graduation, they’d gotten worse. Detentions, beautifications, and Saturday School were something we had to do on a daily basis. Sometimes we’d just get banned from the blacktop, having to sit in the library or the food court area during lunch. Beautifications are a form of punishment where you have to clean the school during lunch while the rest of the kids play and have a good time. Saturday School is a 4 hour detention where you show up at around 8, 8:30 and end at around 12, 12:30. I hated this because you can’t talk and if you need to go to the bathroom, you get like 15 minutes added on, so instead of leaving in 4 hours, you’d leave in 4 hours and 15 minutes.
Field trips become scarce, but the electives are pretty fun especially in 6th grade where you get sort of a crash course of all of them. I think there’re about 7 electives that you can choose from and you spend about 6 weeks in each. You get to choose from art, drama, foreign language, cooking, woodshop, and some others that I just don’t remember. I loved drama, cooking, and woodshop. Drama because you just get to clown around with your friends, cooking because of the free food, and woodshop just because you get to play around with the power tools. I think in 6th grade I end up creating a gumball machine which was pretty cool.
Also 6th grade was the only year that I actually really tried to get good grades. I believe I ended up getting a 3.5 GPA which if translated into the Russian grading system would be like having three 5’s and four 4’s out of the 7 subjects that you have. Not too bad.
I’m still playing soccer and L. finds a team in Belmont that needs some players because they’re starting a team. L. and I go to try out and we make it. We play for about a year for that team which consists of really good players and really bad. We didn’t really have a choice as to who to play with because our city’s team had just too many players and you’d get almost no playtime whatsoever. The field that we practiced at in Belmont was one of the worst fields ever. It had holes, some the size of soccer balls just in random spots on the field. The ball would just bounce around like in basketball and sometimes it’d be practically impossible to predict where the ball would bounce too, but it was a lot of fun. There was another team that would practice there on Thursday’s with us and we’d sometimes scrimmage them. We’d lose most of the time, but it was fun and after a year of playing, they invite me and L. to play for them with a couple of other good players that were on the team.
By this time I’ve already cemented my position as striker and the new season begins. I’m number 5 and we our coach to save money buys our jersey’s from some unknown place and when the jersey’s do come, some of them are missing letters and some are missing numbers. I remember someone had wanted the number 99, but ended up getting 29 because the store ran out of 9’s. Each jersey cost like $10, but it didn’t really matter. Each practice we wouldn’t even practice, we’d just shoot and scrimmage each other and sometimes other teams. We were kids and having the time of our lives. Our head coach was Brazilian and our assistant coach was English and each had their own techniques of playing that they taught us. For the first year of us playing together I played more of a chance creator: passing the ball to get assists or just making the defenders open up by marking me while the other striker would be open to score goals. I think I only scored like 3 goals that season, but the next year everything was completely different. We went up in a division and we were undefeated, only tying one game.
This year we’ve already gotten used to each other playing styles and know exactly where to find each other on the pitch. I’ve developed more of an aggressive playing style and now it’s me who’s up front scoring the goals. I’ve changed my mind set to be the first defender and I’m fouling defenders and stealing the ball to start attacking as fast as possible. That season I think I ended up scoring more than 30 goals and gathering a couple of assists. Then I think I got like 4 or 5 yellow cards, but I’d never gotten a red. This year I’m also playing AYSO with L., but we’re split into 2 different teams. The first game of that year ironically is my team VS his. Both of us come earlier to the AYSO game days just so if any other team doesn’t have enough players, we can sub in for them and help out. That particular day we’re kicking the ball around when all of a sudden the ball flies into the lagoon and L. volunteers to get it. It’s a hot day, so he just jumps in with his clothes on and gets the ball. As he’s trying to get back onto the field, he gets stuck in some bush, but manages to get out safely.
In AYSO at that age you play four 20 minute halves. The game starts with him scoring the first goal and then I equalize right after. The whole game persists of one scoring and then the other equalizing right after. At the start of the last half, the score’s 7-7 and I’ve scored 6 goals and he’s scored 5. He ends up scoring and making it 7-8, but I quickly equalize again and make it 8-8. On the last minute of the game I just end up kicking the ball up field and somehow one of my teammates snatches it and ends up scoring right as the whistle blows for the end of the match.
That year ends with our Belmont team being undefeated, but the team itself ends up breaking up because a lot of people leave to play another sport or just move in general to a different city or state. That year in AYSO I end up setting a record of goals scored: I believe it was 36 or 37. It was great year if L. wouldn’t of have had to move back to his hometown at the end of the summer.
This is the summer where C. visits and we celebrate for the last time together. As kids growing up we had a subject called Storytelling. It was my favorite subject as a kid and now when I’m 17 years old and in university. It consists of having to use your imagination to create stories that can be based on true events that happened in your life or someone else’s. Since I read a lot as a kid, I had a lot of material to work with when it came to telling stories. That year was when I started writing and telling stories on Friday nights. With L. leaving, we celebrated like never before. That celebration would be the foundation of the story that would happen and be told in the next years to come.
After L. leaving for good and 7th grade year starting, a lot of things have changed are different. I don’t really talk to C. anymore and I’ve started to skip school and soccer doesn’t give me the same feelings anymore. I only try at school because my history teacher Mr. W. every summer arranges trips to different countries and only takes those who have a good grade in his class and a decent GPA in general. I think I ended up getting an A- in his class and a 3.2 GPA overall. It didn’t really matter what I got in the other classes because I was only interested in getting the grade in history. In 7th grade you have to pick an elective, one of those that you got to preview in the year before. I end up taking cooking just for the easy A. It wasn’t as easy I thought I would be when in order to get the grade you had to write down recipes and even memorize some of them. The cooking teacher hated me. She’d always look for an excuse to get me in trouble and I couldn’t afford that because then I wouldn’t be eligible to go on the trip that summer. Halfway through the year I talk to my history teacher, explaining the situation and he turns out to be really understanding and tells me that it’s ok and my grade in cooking wouldn’t really matter.
The summer rolls by and we get the plan for the summer. We’re going to be going to 4 different countries: England, France, Switzerland, and Spain. Our first stop is Madrid, Spain and we’d be staying for 3 days. Everyone gets matched up with 1 or more people in the hotel rooms and my roommates were actually pretty chill. As soon as the card keys were handed we got into the elevator to go to our floor. I had the cardkey, so I got to open the door and right away I pull off the door handle on accident. From there on when the other kids find out about this accident, there’re constantly stealing our door handle. We’re forced to hide it in the emergency fire extinguisher. Then on the 2 day of being there we were just fighting and I end up tripping and falling onto a chair and breaking it.
My whole life has been full of crazy stuff. Something’s always happening to me that doesn’t happen to normal people. At first I was trying to escape it, but now I embrace it. There are of course times where I’m looking up at the sky, thinking God why? But those times are far and few between.
Our next stop is Barcelona and what I forgot to mention is that while we were in Madrid, I put a soccer(football) ball to play with the locals. So everywhere I go, I have it with me and we just use our backpacks as goalposts, playing on the streets. We spend one day in Barcelona and I enjoyed the soccer sessions with the locals the most in Spain.
We visit Paris, France next. We go to Louvre museum and the Eiffel tower. I get to see the Mona Lisa, but to be honest it wasn’t too amazing. The Eiffel tower was cool though and on the square beneath it we set up a soccer session.
From there we fly to Switzerland and from the airport we go on a 2 hour bus ride, then a 30 minute train ride to the city in the mountains that we’d be staying at. First thing we do is leave our stuff in the hotel lobby and go to the soccer field that we saw while walking to the hotel. The air was so fresh and clean. After a 2 hour soccer session we go back to the hotel to eat and then get on the Gondola to go up onto the mountain. It’s summer time, but there’s still snow on the mountain tops! It was such a beautiful scene that left me with only fond memories of Switzerland and its culture.
From here we go back to France and take Channel Tunnel to England. From there we take a bus to London and the weather’s pretty much like how it’s like in Moscow: dark and gloomy and always raining. The weather’s isn’t the best, but we visit Big Ben, Tower Bridge, and Hyde Park before leaving back to California. I end up buying some cleats here as a birthday present for myself. Sadly, I don’t have them anymore, but the all the memories are still running through my mind.
My 8th grade year is the year that C. and I sort of reunite and a new friend, B., moves from a different city to join the story of my life. Coming back from an intense summer of imagining and storytelling, I haven’t yet returned to reality when school starts in August. I pick cooking as my elective, but soon get kicked out because I don’t really do anything, but eat the food. I was lucky enough to be paired up in a group full of girls who actually cared about their grades.
After promptly being kicked out, I put into this module tech class where you get to build engines and learn how to use programs to build models. I get paired up with a couple of friends and the first station in the class is the engine and we manage to build it quite fast and getting an A on it. After that I just go to class to screw around and play with the different legos. I only start doing something when we start working on the rockets. I don’t get to send mine into orbit, but I get to watch as the rest of the kids do. It didn’t really matter to me because I was just having a good time. I got to help draw the designs on some of them, so my work didn’t go unnoticed. I did fail the class though and became a teacher aide for the counselor. I would just show up at the library and talk to people. On rare occasions, I’d deliver a paper to some teacher or go get a kid to talk to the counselor about something.
I even got to have this anger management class, but I didn’t really have any problems with anger. I just wanted to skip algebra some days, so I talked the counselor into getting me into it. All my friends were in that class because they too wanted to skip classes some days. We’d meet twice a week for a period and just talk, eat, and just play games together.
That year I got a 1.3 or 1.2 GPA which I believe 1 ‘A’ as a teacher aide and the rest were ‘F’s and D’s’. I failed Algebra for sure and History. I think I managed a ‘D’ in Science and English. These grades didn’t really matter. What mattered was the test we had to determine whether or not we’d have Reading in High School and I passed it easily. The grades I was getting wasn’t an accurate representation of how well I studied.
I remember my PE teacher hated me because I would never listen to him. I never ran the mile or even changed into my PE clothes. I’d always leave during his class to the Levi to look at the bay and just dream. Then I’d come back because 6th period I’d be in the library and after that I’d have Algebra where I would just screw around with my friends. We’d always be doing something stupid like seeing how many fruits we can stuff in our mouth or who could get kicked out for a stupid reason.
Graduation comes and they don’t want to give me a diploma and T-shirt. I take the T-shirt anyways. The diploma doesn’t do anything though. All it says is that you finished middle school. You can go to high school without it, so I wasn’t even worried about not getting it.
The summer rolls around and I go to Russia for my birthday and after coming back for like the last 2 or 3 weeks of the summer before high school, I just spend it outside and storytelling.
When school starts I tell myself that I’m going to study and get good grades because this is what’s going to determine my future. For the first 3 or 4 months I’m getting nothing but A’s and B’s. I’m doing better than what I expected and life is close to perfect, but then at one point in time my mom’s not satisfied with my accomplishments, so I decide to forget all about school. I start going on adventures to find the true of life. Some days I’d only go to school to talk to some people and then leave after lunch to go on adventures. I’d sit at different parks daydreaming and then I’d get on the bus and travel to different cities. Sometimes I’d take the train. I really enjoyed the look from the second floor of the train. I’d imagine myself travelling across the country even though I’d only be going for a 7 minute ride to the next city.
My friend G. would sometimes visit me on Friday’s and we go on adventures together. All my other friends couldn’t allow themselves to do this, but I could. I knew there was always a way out of this situation, so I kept on going on adventures, skipping school and letting my grades slip. I was a really smart guy. I knew what and how to get my work done for all my subjects, I just chose not to.
After 2 months go by, I’m starting to have trouble with the law. I start spending time in libraries and book stores to avoid the police. When everything gets out of control, I ask my dad to help me out and he takes me to live with him in Moscow.
I spend the first 3 months just talking to people and not going to school. I meet one person who speaks English and so we start talking and he ends up becoming my best friend. When school starts I’m put in 9th grade where every day I study Russian and Algebra only. In a year I take all the tests needed and pass. I get my middle school diploma and transfer schools to finish 10th and 11th grade on a special externship program. There I meet a lot of cool new people and in the end take all the required exams and then send my documents to university.
That summer I spend philosophizing a lot about life. I don’t really write any stories. After the summer’s over and university starts, I notice I have a lot more free time. I start using it to go on adventures and exploring the city that I live in.
Now it’s been a couple of months and I’m starting to write new stories and it’s all thanks to the people I meet in University. I’ve been able to clear my mind and just write. It feels great and hopefully this is only the beginning.