By: Thy-Lan Gale

Chapter 1 (My Name)

The backstory of my name all started when my mother was pregnant. She saw part of my name somewhere, and immediately loved it. It was the “Lan” part. I was originally going to be named “Vy-Lan”, like my big sister, Vy-Linh. I despise “Vy-Lan” as much as kids hate brussel sprouts. Thankfully, my father disliked “Vy-Lan”, and instead wanted my name to be “Thy-Lan”. The name Thy-Lan means poetic orchid and when pronounced, sounds as beautiful as a waterfall.

The only disliking of my name started at school, sitting in a rectangular room, filled with desks, chairs, and small children. The first day of school is always the worst. The teacher always comes into the room, takes role, and apologizes for mispronounced names. Once the teacher gets to my name, I know what is about to come. My name butchered, and the teacher attempting to pronounce it like a broken record, not stopping until they get it right. Of course I help them, but some teachers I take my time helping them, to see how long they can hold out. But, the worst part is my fellow peers looking at me like hawks while I pronounce my name for the teacher. Of course, after I pronounce my name for them, they still get it wrong, and the following words are always said, “I will get it later.” The irony of all of it is that my mom chose my name because it was easy to pronounce.

These experiences are the only time I have ever disliked my name, but they are improving. I am no longer embarrassed when everyone looks at me when I have to pronounce my name, since they are all used to it by now. I am honored that my name is so unique. I will never have the confusion other people with common names have, having their name called, while the speaker is actually referring to someone else with that same name.

Chapter 2 (The Day I Was Born)

Q: When is your birthday?

A: April 19th, 2000

Q: What did the moon look like on the day you were born?

A: I was born on the day after a full moon.

Q: Who are 5 people who share your birthday and what are they famous for?

A: James Franco-Actor, Joe Hart-Soccer Player, Maria Sharapova-Tennis Player, Troy Polamalu-Football Player, Kate Hudson-Actress

Q: What were ten things that happened on your birthday?

A: Fidel Castro resigns from the Communist Party of Cuba's central committee after 45 years of holding the title, Boston bombing suspects killed and captured in Boston after 4 days, 16th Space Shuttle Mission (51-D)-Discovery 4 returns to Earth, India launches 1st satellite with help of USSR, 1st all news radio station (WINS 1010 AM in NYC) begins operating, French ship explodes in Texas City harbor and kills about 522, First day of the Great Uprising in Palestine, Shirley Temple appears in her 1st movie, "Stand Up & Cheer", AAU record for a 25-foot rope climb is set in 4.7 seconds, ABC-TV network begins

Q: How much did the following items cost?


  1. a postage stamp: $0.33

  2. a luxury car: @$53,000

  3. an economy car: @$12,500

  4. a four bedroom house in Media: @$400,000

  5. a gallon of milk: @$3.00

  6. going to the movies: @$5.50

Q: Who was the president on the day you were born

A: William Jefferson Clinton

Q: What was the must have toy?

A: The Razor scooter

Q: What movies came out on the day you were born?

A: 28 Days (starring Sandra Bullock), Gladiator (starring Russell Crowe), Gone in 60 Seconds (starring Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie and Robert Duvall)

Q: Who were the biggest movie stars?

A: Sandra Bullock, Russell Crowe, Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, and Robert Duvall

Q: What were the most popular TV shows?

A: Malcom in the Middle, Dora the Explorer, and Clifford the Bog Red Dog

Q: What was the popular music?


  1. Who Let The Dogs Out - Baha Men

  2. Oops! I Did It Again - Britney Spears

  3. Bye Bye Bye - N*Sync

  4. Say My Name - Destiny's Child

  5. All The Small Things - Blink 182

Q: What sports were popular? A: 2000 Summer Olympics, Football, and Baseball

Q: What were the fashion trends? A: Camouflage, Shiny pants, and Layering tank tops

Chapter 3 (Storage Trunk)

Every family has some kind of storage for their momentos. Some have a trunk or bin reserved for their momentos, others have whole rooms or whole floors. My family has a room in our basement for our momentos, but the most important part is the bin with our many pictures that capture our memories. This bin hoards the many pictures of my childhood. Picture albums are scattered among the bin, filling it to the brim.

My first picture is of my sister and I sitting on thrones in Vietnam when we were 2 and 4. The throne was meant for a king/queen and the robes we were wearing were replicas of the original robes the king/queen would wear. I remember being scared of falling off the throne, but I was also having one of the best times sitting higher than everyone else. I loved the height difference between me and my uncles and aunts. Ironically, my wish came true, and I am taller than most of my uncles and aunts now. We saved this picture because this is the trip where we took my mom’s uncle’s ashes as his last wish to be scattered in his homeland.

My second picture also takes place in Vietnam on the same trip. My sister and I are eating crackers at a flower garden that holds significance in my mom’s life. When she was younger, her uncle would take her to the flower garden. It became her favorite place to go. The flower garden contained many exotic flowers, the garden was beautiful. Looking back at the picture, I remember my sister and me chasing each other around in the garden and getting yelled at by parent and aunts and uncles to be careful. We kept this picture to remind my mom of the times she used to spend with her uncle, and it reminds my sister and me of the many wonderful memories we had in Vietnam.
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Chapter 4 (Personalized Alphabet)

A is for Asian because my mother is asian, which makes me half Asian.

B is for Brown because I have brown hair and eyes.

C is for Clumsy because I tripped over my desk while going to present my poem.

D is for Determined because I am determined to do my best for anything I try to do.

E is for Embarrassing because I embarrass myself very often.

F is for Family because family is very important to me, super big, and I love them very much.

G is for Gale because my family name is Gale.

H is for Helpful because many of my friends ask me for help on homework.

I is for Irish because my father is half Irish, which makes me a quarter Irish.

J is for Jumpy because I am scared easily.

K is for Kids because I have a lot of cousins who are little kids and they are really cute.

L is for Lime Green because it is my favorite color.

M is for Mystique because mystique is the volleyball club I play for.

N is for Nguyen because it is my mother's maiden name and my middle name.

O is for Outside Hitter because it is the position I play on my club volleyball team.

P is for Paintball because my family and I plan on going paint balling soon.

Q is for Quick-witted because my mom always accuses me of being a smart Alec.

R is for Reading because I enjoy it a lot, but only books that I find interesting.

S is for Sister because I have an older sister named Vy-Linh.

T is for Turtle because turtles are my favorite animal.

U is for Understanding because my friends come to me for advice and I help them the best I can.

V is for Volleyball because I play volleyball and it is my favorite sport.

W is for White Water Rafting because my family and I enjoy going white water rafting and have been going every summer.

X is for Xenophobic because I am scared of strangers.

Y is for Young because I'm only a freshman in high school.

Z is for Zippy because some days I can be bouncing off walls.

Chapter 5 (Thanksgiving Dinner)

Part 1:

My intermediate family consists of my mom, my dad, my sister (Vy-Linh), and me. On Thanksgiving, many of my aunts, uncles, and grandparents come to my house to celebrate. There is a small table set aside for the elders, and they get their food first. This year, we were able to set up one huge table to fit everyone else. My sister, my cousins, and I sat at one end of the table, my aunts and uncles sat in the middle, and my other younger cousins

Part 2:

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Chapter 5 Part 3 by user562281433


Chapter 5 Part 4 by user562281433


Chapter 5 Part 5 by user562281433


Chapter 5 Part 6 by user562281433

Chapter 7 (Unfinished Sentences)

  1. I usually worry about… all of the tests/quizzes my teachers assign me. Having to study for hours, for a test that can change your grade is nerve racking. I worry more about it, when the time for the test comes closer.

  2. I feel angry when… I am told that I am unable to do something, or not allowed to do something that I could easily do. Many times, my father struggles to use technology, but he refuses to let me show him, and instead takes hours to figure it out by himself.

  3. I’m moody when… I’m at school. One class may be fun because we play a review game, or are able to talk with our friends. Then the next class may be very boring, like watching a bad documentary, having to listen to a lecture, or reading out of a textbook.

  4. I’m happiest when… I spend time with my whole family. One of my favorite times of the year is Christmas and summer. Both of these times, my whole family flies into one place to spend a week together. Even though it is extremely loud and there are fights, this is my happiest because I am surrounded by the people I care most about.

  5. I feel confident when… I know I have done something 100% correctly. Checking a test in HAC before getting the test back, and knowing I got a great score boosts my confidence for the rest of the day, until something else brings it down.

  6. I feel frustrated when… my volleyball team does not execute. We will be in a tournament, and one player gets down on themselves, then everyone else does too. This same girl complains about being tired every tournament, before we even start to play. After this, we fall apart and end up losing to a team we shouldn’t have lost to.

  7. I feel depressed when… I am at funerals. Whether I know the person who has passed away or not, I still feel depressed. I feel depressed for those whose loved one has passed, since they will not be able to see them anymore.

  8. I am comfortable when… I stay at home, wearing sweatpants, and a t-shirt. I am able to relax in comfy clothes, and watch my favorite shows all day. I am able to snack, and just get away from all of the world’s responsibilities. Although, these days become very rare.

  9. I feel nervous when… I am about to try something new, that looks scary. This spring break, I tried indoor skydiving. Before trying it, I was extremely nervous, but once I tried it, it was a lot of fun.

  10. I feel sentimental when… I look through old photographs, or find something from my childhood. These items remind me of the good memories from the past. I recently found a stuffed animal that I used to love.

Chapter 9 (Are You Hungry?)

My favorite dish would have to be Pho. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup. It is served with rice noodles, herbs, and either beef or chicken. Beef is more commonly eaten. Personally, I like both beef and chicken, but each are different and delicious in their own way. My grandma, aunt, and mom make the best pho. Homemade is always better than at the restaurants here in the U.S. because of the broth, which does not use MSG at home. Other than beef and chicken, the meats still differ. In the beef, they may add pork, or different parts of the cow, which are more chewy, fatty, or tender. They also add tripe or Vietnamese beef balls. The chicken and beef have different broths, but both take time to cook. Pho is eaten with many herbs. Some herbs are scallions, cilantro, basil, mint, and bean sprouts. Many people also put in a little lime juice. For a kick of flavor, people also put in Sriracha or Hoisin sauce.

Chapter 11 (Lessons I Learned After It Was Too Late)

  • Choosing to play the violin: I really regret choosing to play the violin because now I want to play the cello. The cello has a much more soothing and warm sound than the violin. The violin can be squeaky and is too high-pitched. I also would be able to use the school cello and practice on my own cello at home. With my violin, I have to bring it to class and back home when I want to practice.

  • Not choosing to play the setter position in volleyball

  • People can take things you say differently than what you actually mean

  • Losing friendships because we don't talk anymore

  • Not learning more Vietnamese when I was younger: I wish I had learned more Vietnamese when I was younger because now, my sister knows more than me. I would be able to understand more of what my grandparents say. It would also help me communicate with them better, so I don't speak in broken Vietnamese. It also brings me closer to my culture and family background.

  • Not putting on enough sunscreen and getting burned

  • Missing a concert because I did not know the band was in town

Chapter 12 (A Year In Reading)

Throughout this year, I have read many books and from all different genres. If left on my own, I would've continued to read the same genres, but having to do independent reading and reading in class has made me expand my options to hundreds of new books.

Normally, I would avoid reading any historical fiction books, but in class we were had to read To Kill A Mockingbird and I surprisingly enjoyed it. The book was about Scout, Jem, and Dill, three kids who use their summers hanging out and trying to make Boo Radley, a neighborhood legend, come out of his house. Atticus, Scout and Jem's father, is assigned to Tom Robinson's case of raping Mayella, and the outcome is that Tom is guilty. Bob Ewell, Mayella's father, holds a grudge against Atticus for making him look like a fool, and attacks Scout and Jem, but is killed by Boo who saves Scout and Jem. I gave the book a rating of: really good. It did not feel like a forced school book that everyone hates.

Another book I surprisingly enjoyed was Night. Night was a memoir about Elie Weisel's life during the Holocaust. Elie is taught by Moshe the Beadle until Moshe is deported; luckily, Moshe was able to escape and told the rest of the community about the horrible experience, but they did not believe him. Eventually, the rest of the community is deported, Elie is separated from his family, except for his father, and they see the horrible scenes Moshe had described. Elie and his father make it through numerous labor and concentration camps, almost both making it through the end until Elie's father dies of dysyntary, and Elie is the only one from his family to survive when the Americans liberate their camp. I gave the book a rating of: pretty good because although it was a memoir, it was written very nicely and every word was filled with meaning.

Chapter 13 (Friendship)

I am very thankful to have such good friends in my life. Each one of them has made an impact, and I am very grateful. My friends are very important to me, and I don’t know what I would do without them.

All of the girls on my club volleyball team, Mystique, are great friends even though we do not go to the same school. Maria, Bridget, Maddie, Avery, Lauren, Breanna, Katie, Kylie, Cammi, Zoe, Emma G., Emma K., Gina, Lainie, Hailey, Sophie, Molly, Morgan, and Kira are all great volleyball players and super funny. Although club season is ending, school season will start soon. Kira plays on both Mystique and Penncrest. Our Penncrest volleyball team, Kira, Carly, Vy-Linh, Diana, Madi, Annie, Meg, Emily, Taylor, Michael Ann, Bridget, Sammy, Jordan, Andrea, Keely, Gianna, and Nicki, is super nice and we have a great time playing together on the court.

Recently, our Penncrest orchestra had a trip to Washington D.C. to perform. Our two ensembles won almost everything for the orchestra category. On the time we were not performing, Helen, Sophia, Jonah, Logan, Emma, Anna D., Anna B., Mason, Chris, Katharine, Matt, Analiese, Caitlyn, Jack, and I explored D.C. On this day, it was my birthday and all of my friends made it one of the best birthdays. We even got to ride on a carousel.

Another recent competition occurred at Ridley Creek State Park. Our Envirothon team competed at counties. The red team, which included Abby S., Cole, Rachel, Dennis, and I, received second and the gold team, which included Dan, Abby P., Lucy, Justin, and Vy-Linh received first. The gold team also got first in the state competition and will be competing in nationals this summer. The day after counties, we hosted envirochallenge for 5th graders. Each person from the gold team and red team worked together to work their own topic’s station; Justin and I worked together at the forestry station, Lucy and Dennis at soils, Vy-Linh and Abby S, at alternative energies, Abby P and Rachel at aquatics, and Dan and Cole at wildlife.

Every person is a part of a friend group, people they hang out with the most. My friend group includes: Emma, Anna, Logan, Grace, Helen, Katharine, Abby K., Annie, Teva, Evan, Dan, Garrett, Mason, Charles, Liam, Chase, and Matt. These are some of my closest friends, and I wouldn’t trade any one of them. But even my closest friends can not compare to my sister. Vy-Linh is my best friend. She and I have gone through everything together, she is the only one who really understands me because we are so alike. An even though she will make fun of me for some of the stuff I tell her, as much as I hate to admit it, I will miss her when she goes away for college.