Dana and the Butterfly Part 2 When Dana Meets Oona -Kazi Falguni Eshita
“Children, I have a special announcement, I need you all to listen very carefully”. Shahina Zaman declared, thumping the white-board-eraser on her desk.
Thirty- two pairs of curious little eyes were fixed on Shahina, eager to know what the teacher had to say:
“Dear students, over the next one month, each of you will be given a Pen Pal, from a different country. Your pen friend will be of your age. You’ll get to know each other through your written words only. No telephone conversations or other type of correspondence allowed. You may send tangible gifts if you wish. All the participants will get prizes at the end of this activity.”
“Duh, who wants to write? I’d like to draw pictures instead.” Zarif mumbled, doodling in his new drawing book. Many other students began talking among themselves.
“Children, QUIET please!” Shahina thumped her eraser once again. Many of the students put their heads down on their desks. Some asked for a quick visit to the restroom.
Writing didn’t sound so much fun to third graders. Shahina, a mother of two pre-teen daughters, already knew that. However, she still wanted to think a little out of the box. She wanted an activity that did not require kids to be glued to screens all the time.
Dana clapped slowly on her desk, creating a sweet rhythm. The marble floor felt slippery under her booted feet.
“Teacher, whom will we write to?” She enquired.
“I know you love to read books, and you write well too! Don’t worry, you’ll do well.” Shahina assured, kissing Dana’s forehead.
That evening, after her homework, Dana decided to summon her friend, whom she hadn’t seen for a long time. She tied her special red ribbon around her waist. Soon, fluttering of wings could be heard nearby.
“Me hungry, Dana. Any rose petals?”
Pinky the magic butterfly, always fed on flower petals. Dana led her friend to her little garden. Between bites, Pinky listened attentively as Dana talked about her day at school.
Pinky closed her eyes, and a beautiful, multi-colored Pegasus appeared out of nowhere. Dana was speechless for a while, running her fingers through the horse’s silky mane.
“Dana, she’s my good friend, Rainbow Dash. She’ll hide in your notebook. Every time you begin writing to your pal, she’ll appear. If you ever want to go visit your friend in person, she’ll take you there.”
“YAYYYY! That sounds cool. Hi, Rainbow!”
Munch! Rainbow bowed down to enjoy the little apple Dana held to her mouth.
The next day, Shahina got busy assigning pen pals to the third-graders. The enchanting fragrance of freshly bloomed roses wafted through the open window. Sparrows chirped nearby. Street vendors called out at the top of their voice to attract customers.
“Dana and Zarif, you both will get the same person. A little girl called Oona, from California, USA.”
“But teacher, I’m a boy…” Zarif whined.
“It’s okay, Zarif. Girls and boys can be very good friends, you know. Besides, you will get to know something about one of the most beautiful states in America. Won’t that be fun?”
“Humph, fun! I hope she’s good enough.” The little boy mumbled out of his teacher’s audible range.
Zarif seemed a little reluctant, but Dana was already writing:
I’m Dana, from Bangladesh. My Amma (mother) is a homemaker and Abba (father) is a Math teacher. We have plenty of pigeons at home. I enjoy reading, writing and helping Amma around the house. I am an only child. Do you have siblings? My friend Zarif will also write to you. Hope you’ll enjoy our letters.
Your new friend
“Hey, Dana, that is a nice one. Go ahead, put it in the mailbox. I’ll send all the letters after you finish.”
“Thanks, teacher, I’ll be looking forward to the reply.” Dana left her classroom with a smile.
Oona was getting ready for school. She combed through her well-groomed golden locks one more time and checked through her backpack to see if all the books were in place.
“Oona, five more minutes!” A soft, polite voice broke the quietness of the atmosphere.
“Mommy, I’m ready.” Oona replied in an equally polite tone.
Angela secured her only daughter’s tiny hand into her own palm, and began walking towards their car. The mailman stopped them:
“Hi there, looks like your little lady got a special mail today.”
Twigs and branches cracked under Oona’s feet. Her eyes shone. “Yes Mommy, it must be from my new pen pal.”
Angela had heard about the school activity. It’s uniqueness made her curious too:
“Wow, Oona, Bangladesh? Your friend lives 3200 miles away from here. That’s far…far away!”
That evening, Oona sat down at her reading desk, carefully picking each word as she wrote. She knew her new pen friend did not speak English:
I am also an only child like you. I love to read, draw and dance. My Mommy’s a librarian; she works at college libraries here. Hey, pigeons? That sounds fun! I have a little pet puppy; she plays a lot with me. I love to eat pistachios. Do you like nuts? Zarif didn’t write any letter, but he made me a nice card. J
Oona stapled a little photograph with her letter, because Dana also included a photo. Dana’s skin was a little darker than Oona’s, but she had a very bright smile.
A few days later, Dana opened the notebook where Rainbow was hiding. The colorful horse trotted in front of her. Dana already had a bowl of minced apples ready. Rainbow ate that hungrily.
In the meantime, Dana put on the jewelry set Pinky had given her on the very first day they met. She also tied the magic ribbon. Soon after, the pink butterfly joined them.
Rainbow Dash sped through the clouds for what seemed like forever. Dana and Pinky both fell asleep. The loud ticking from a clock woke them up:
“So, Dana, this is California. Shall we take a look around?” Pinky whispered.
Dana found herself standing in the middle of a lovely garden. There were flowers of all sorts, and the house looked like the ones Dana had only seen in movies before. Oona was playing with her puppy; she had her mouth open wide when their eyes met:
“You…how did you get here? M…MOMMY!”
Angela raced out of her room. “What happened, honey?”
“D… DANA!” Oona managed to stammer after a long time. Dana gave them a brief summary of their adventure. When the initial shock had subsided a little, Oona took her guests in, for a quick tour of her home. Rainbow trotted around, Pinky fluttered her wings, admiring the decorations.
After Brunch, (because it was a Sunday), Angela took them all out for a drive. Dana loved the 6- inch Subway Tuna sandwich. Oona was a strict vegan, so she took Vegetable instead. Then they looked through other stores: 7-Eleven, Dollar Tree, Target…
“We also have stores like Dollar Tree in Bangladesh. Those are called 1 to 99. You’ll get everything within 1 to 99 Taka over there.”
“Taka? What on earth is that?” Oona asked.
“That’s the Bangladeshi currency. One dollar is equivalent to 80 taka.”
The conversation continued this way. Dana talked about the way her Amma raises pigeons to sell, both as pets and as food. Oona also wondered why Zarif wasn’t there with them.
“Oh, Zarif’s down with a flu, out of the blue! Hope he gets well soon.”
“Oh, sorry about that, hope he feels better.”
Their traveling and talking continued for a few more hours. They painted pictures together, shared a pack of mixed nuts, did a bit of shopping. At dusk, Dana mounted on Rainbow Dash:
“Goodbye everyone! This day was better than any other reward. I’ll write to you soon, Oona!”
“Say hi to Zarif for us please, tell him we missed him.” Both mother and daughter
Uttered in unison.
Rainbow began cutting through the California clouds. Dana sat still, tired but happy. “I’m sure Amma-Abba would love to hear about this. Do I need that activity prize any more, Pinky? I don’t think so!”
“Prize? No thanks! Memories are enough for us.” Pinky chimed.