Human beings tend to believe that we are all more or less the same even though we are actually as different as animals of different species, which is even true within the same family.
I am a pretty smart girl and, thanks to my good school results in high school, I am hoping to get a scholarship to study botany at the university in Siem Reap, the Cambodian city where I live.
Anyway, I am not the only one in my family who is interested in culture, as my mother is a pharmacist and my father a doctor. The two met while studying at the University of Hanoi shortly after the Vietnamese army invaded our country and drove Pol Pot and his henchmen from power. Completing that list of graduates, my two maternal aunts and a paternal uncle also went through university and are currently successful in their professions.
Culture has always been at the forefront of our intelligent family, but as we are finding out every day, none of us reaches the level needed to deal with a genius. I mentioned earlier that human beings can be as different as certain species of animals, and as for geniuses I think they are mutants. Einstein confessed that brilliant ideas fell from the sky without the slightest effort: suddenly they were there, between his eyebrows, and that was it.
The charming genius we face daily is my little sister, a doll with an angel’s face and mischievous eyes whom my mother gave birth to with the gift of investigating and learning anything as easily as others, say, play football. I will define it in a few words by saying that you always know everything. And if there’s anything that outweighs her because of her young age, she’ll still aptly refute you using logic.
Less than three years old, he asked me to teach him the alphabet. It only took him a couple of hours to memorize all the letters. While I was pointing them out to her in a book, this is the a and this is the b, she was already writing them down in a notebook. Then she thanked me for my help, saying that she would be on her own from now on. And so he did, for he learned to write and read on his own.
The same thing happened with the numbers, but, apart from the fact that he was already adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying in a flash, he then devoted himself to doing it mentally. His games have always had two facets: physical and mental. You’ll see her cooing a doll like all the girls do, and you can’t imagine that she’s adding up columns of five-digit numbers at the same time.
However, the most extraordinary thing about her is precisely that in the other aspects she is a normal, happy and friendly girl, who does not suffer from any complex, as it would be to feel superior to others.
On her first day of school at the age of five, the teacher guessed that this little girl would bring her trouble. Every time she asked her students a question, my little sister would immediately raise her hand and say that she knew the answer. Alone and at home, she had browsed through our parents’ extensive library, especially the general encyclopedia, and now she stored in her tender little head as much or more culture than that poor teacher who was only qualified to teach young children! The school principal made the wise decision to move my sister out of the classroom and put her with children who were two years older than she was. But the new teacher was faced with the same dilemma: that sweet little girl had too much knowledge and was constantly putting her in trouble.
That afternoon the director summoned our parents and, as if reproached, asked them if they were responsible for their daughter knowing so many things and, moreover, exposing them just like an adult. My parents smiled sympathetically and were astonished to explain to her that she had learned everything she knew at her own risk.
The teachers’ council agreed that it would be best to give my sister an assessment test to determine what level she was at. The result surprised everyone, and she ended up sharing the classroom with eleven-year-old students.
Another girl in the same situation, being the new one among older children who were not exactly sympathetic, might have had trouble getting by. But, of course, that would not be the case with my sister, who quickly gained general appreciation. Although she no longer stood out so much, she still raised her hand most often and even sometimes rebelled against the astonished teacher. This could have earned her antipathy, or given her the nickname of “wise woman,” if it had not been that her charm and sympathies swept away all antagonisms toward her.
Today my sister turned nine and is already preparing to study at the institute. We went with the rest of the family to burn some incense sticks at the Buddhist temple near our house. Later, while I was chatting with her in the temple garden, she confessed to me her future plans. He calculates that shortly before the age of eleven he will be able to start studying at the university; but don’t think that he plans to do only one career, because there will be several, and he will also combine those studies with yoga, music and dance.
Oh, yeah, and he wants to see the world too! I warned him that to study and also to travel he would need a lot of money. He replied that, as he could see, getting rich within the capitalist system was quite easy. And if they had succeeded, for example, several of our relatives who were real nincompoops, for a girl as smart as she was, it would be a piece of cake.
My little sister’s fame has even crossed borders, and today we are expecting a visit from some psychologists from Cambridge who want to meet her because there has never been a similar case in anyone suffering from Down’s Syndrome.
DIVERGENT STORY, by Nando Baba