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									 ESOL VOICES                                                                  SEPTEMBER 2005 • VOL. 13

                                           This issue of ESOL Voices is dedicated to Christine Anthony,

          Message from an Immigrant, Luis Vaillant
          Who Is Your Enemy? Ilmee Song
          Loss, Mohamed Gazali
          Life “Yaa Life, Milkyas Legesse
          How Much Does Love Mean to You? Rita Jundulaite
          An American Night, Luis Vaillant
          Storm, Samphara Fasal
          Quinceanera, Brenda Morales
          Where Does the Sun Shine? Tuyen T. Vo
          Nobody Can Help! Akil Aljaysh
          Escaping War in Sierra Leone, Orlando Bangura
          French Fried Love, Yuliya Goldman
          The Day We Crash, Mohamed Gazali
          Nightmare, Yashira Morell
          Earth to Sky, Preet Kaur
          Glowing Waters, Xiomara A. Matos
          My Boss, Mr. Wossen, Banchirga E. Wondesadik
          We All Have the Same Heart, Ilmee Song
          Scared Euphoria, Rattandeep Kaur
          Barbara’s Long Journey, Lyudmila Kurylo
          Xavier, Melinda Roman
          Real Hide-and-Seek, Nanae Imazawa
          Megumi, Akil Aljaysh
          The World Is Not Without Kind People, Anna Bulbotko
          My Wish, Jasmina Daut
          Me, Khanh T. Vu
          Little Did He Know, Mirzeta Dogo
          Siberia – Planet of Miracles, Rita Jundulaite
          My Name, Nadia Bulbotko
          A Bird Without Wings, Tuyen T. Vo
          Lviv, Valentyna Tabachuk
          A Walk to Remember, Rene Albarran

ESOL Voices is prepared by the students of English for Speakers of Other Languages at
Monroe Community College, Rochester, New York, under the supervision of Suzanne
El Rayess. This collection of articles presents the personal experiences and ideas of ESOL
students in their own words. It also presents their ability to write. We hope you will find
it interesting. We are thankful to the students and teachers who put their great efforts
to make it complete and successful.
                           We wish you success and happiness.
                                           The Staff
2        ESOL VOICES

                                             rush, andale. Let’s go. The new life is      noise. Some neighbors are watching
    Message from an                          waiting. It will appear in a blink. Then     through their windows that face the
       Immigrant                             take it all.                                 courtyard.
         By Luis Vaillant                        After your Odyssey, you are welcome        These apartment residents consist of
  It is hard to leave your country, your     to see and taste real life. Now you          low-income Americans and low-income
friends and relatives, but when you          breathe, relax, and let your body calm       immigrants. A number of foreign
run out of choices, you have to do it no     down because you have landed in the          graduate student families are included
matter what because life does not give       promised land where freedom is for           in the immigrant group because this
                                             “free.” Now, you will have to learn how      apartment is located near the university
way out, you might want to know some         to arrange yourself to the new life, where   campus. That means this housing is
of these tips:                               you will need to add some sugar to           not dangerous for bringing up children
                                             your memory because the new life             and the foreign student families are
  When emigrating, rush your steps.          might make you forget your past, your
Keep moving. Don’t look over your            family, your hopes, dreams, desires,         they are not permanent residents. Her
shoulder. Just walk, and pray, pray          adorations, even the last time you were      family is one of these foreign student
and walk and never, but never ever           kissed by Mom and hugged by Dad.             inhabitants.
ever, listen to the voice demanding to       Maybe yes, maybe no. Only you know
stay. Disguise yourself with a smile,        it.                                            “Go back to your country! Bitch.”
even though little eyes staring at you                                                    Someone shouted.
touch your soul, making your heart
                                             I had difficult and wonderful days             “Yah, go to the hell, stupid Chinese!”
saddened. Close the door. Keep going.
                                             and nights that I can’t erase so easily      Some black k ids made sarcastic
Move, move faster, one step after the
                                             and even awake, those moments chase          remarks.
other. Hurry up and don’t look over
your shoulder. Just walk, and pray, pray     me. Probably for you it will be less
                                             painful. But what am I saying? Enjoy           While she was watching outside, she
and walk.
                                             Freedomlandia. Open your heart to            felt goose bumps rise up. All yellow
                                             the new life and do not worry about the      skin seemed to them to be Chinese, just
  Bring your beliefs tied tight. Fill your
pockets with your adorations, dreams         future because it has not been written
                                             yet.                                         a European from an American, she
or desires. Carry the music performed
                                                                                          thought. She turned her eyes from the
by the sea, the aroma of your land,
                                               Luis Vaillant comes from Cuba. He is       commotion. Beyond that she stared at
                                             studying Visual Communications.              the stream of passing cars unconsciously
piece of your sky and shrink a shock
                                                                                          remembering her daughter’s wrenching
of your sun in a can. Bring all your
                                                                                          words. “Mom, kids always call me
memories, your fights, your goings
                                                          *   *   *   *   *               Chinese. I hate them.” Her daughter’s
and gone. I brought with me a picture,
                                                                                          remark broke her heart. Her daughter
my daughter in the arms of my wife, a                Who Is Your                          was just a preschooler, but she had
laugh and some tears, a Bible, a palm
                                                      Enemy?                              caught on to sarcasm. Sometimes she
                                                                                          also met people who sneered at her when
a book of Marti, a hug from Dad, and                  By Ilmee Song                       she parked among the junky cars in the
Mom’s kiss.
                                                                                          residential parking lot, even though her
                                               “Call 911!” A man shouts toward his
   But who t al ks about stopping?                                                        used car had 80,000 miles and had been
                                             wife. His accented voice cracks with
Never stop. Keep the rush. Walk faster.                                                   repaired because of vandals.
                                             rage. His wife disappears swiftly behind
This is your race for freedom and you        the building’s front door.
                                                                                            After a while, she saw two police cars
don’t want to lose. Always remember
                                                                                          and an ambulance arriving at the side
rule number one: don’t look back               “Go ahead, son of a bitch!” The
                                                                                          of the road that faced the apartment
and keep walking, one step after the
                                                                                          courtyard. That day’s happening had
other. Leave the plane, one step after       while making a step toward him. In
                                                                                          started as a trivial matter. Around four
the other. Open that door hiding the         a f lash, people gather around. The
                                                                                          o’clock, as usual, kids appeared in the
light to the new, and go through. Rush,      courtyard of the apartment is full of
                                                                                          courtyard to ride the swing set and their
                                                                                                  ESOL VOICES                     3

bicycles. Some little kids’ mothers were        A decade later, now she is living in      school I felt like I was in a dark, locked
watching them. Suddenly, a child’s cries      the suburbs. One day, she received an       room with no handle to let myself out.
attracted the public’s gaze. A little Asian   e-mail from her instructor and at the       My grades would fluxuate. The city
girl was bleeding from her nose in front      end of it she found a quote that said,      school district provided me with a stick
of the swing.                                 “Human beings are not our enemy.            to help me navigate around the school.
                                              Our enemy is not the other person. Our      I denied needing help because I was
   “Why did you push my kid? You              enemy is the violence, ignorance, and       embarrassed. I only wanted to walk
should have waited until your turn!”          injustice in us and in the other person.    with my aide. Sometimes I felt like
The girl’s mom who was famous as              When we are armed with compassion           dying because things were so closed.
a fluent English speaker among the
foreign students’ wives was scolding          other people, but against the tendency         Second, being seeing means you don’t
a small black boy. He was standing            to invade, to dominate, and to exploit.”    have to be dependent on others. You are
in silence, but that moment the boy’s         (Thich Nhat Hanh in Anger: Wisdom for       able to do as you like at the time that
mother was approaching them, rolling          Cooling the Flames)                         you like. Being seeing is like a door
up her sleeves.                                                                           with a handle and light on it. When you
                                                It reminded her of this episode which     can see, you can do a variety of things,
  “What’s wrong, honey? It’s not a big        she had observed a long time ago.           play sports and video games, and drive
deal.”                                                                                    yourself. When you can see, you don’t
                                                Ilmee Song comes from South Korea         need anyone to guide you or hold your
   “What! It’s not a big deal! Can’t you      where she earned a degree in Korean         hand. When you see, you don’t have
see all the blood? It doesn’t stop. Where     Literature. Now at MCC, she is studying     to use anyone to see for you; you can
is your common sense? All right, you are      Accounting.                                 make your own decisions. For example,
just an ignorant… You…”                                                                   when you go shopping, you see the color,
                                                                                          shape, and what it looks like and make
   The black woman grabbed the Asian                       *   *   *   *   *              your own decision. When you don’t
mom’s hair and shook her back and forth.                                                  see, someone has to describe the item
It was such a momentary happening, but                         Loss                       and they don’t always describe it fully.
the Asian woman’s husband on his way               By Mohamed Gazali                      When I’m with my friends, they’d see
home witnessed this scene.                                                                something and immediately say this is
                                                Not seeing could be very difficult        nice or bad according to their vision.
  After that day, the courtyard was           in our lives. Sometimes it feels like       On the other hand, I don’t have any
surrounded in solitude. She couldn’t see      you’re in a cage without bars, not seeing   response to what they see because there
the girls who used to play hopscotch on       through the bars, and not being able to     is no description.
the sidewalk near her unit. Sometimes         move in any direction when you want.
a little kid appeared to ride the swing,                                                    Going from independent to dependent
but there wasn’t any cheerful noise of        see when you want or move where you         will change your life. It’s very hard to
children playing together. According to       want. Seeing for yourself is better than    lose something in your life, especially
reports, the Asian family moved out to        needing someone to see for you. When        vision which will isolate you from the
another place and then this unpleasant        you are visionless, you have to depend      big picture. I began to rely on my other
incident began to fade.                       on people around you, a family member       senses to try to picture the big picture.
                                              or friend to see for you. Not seeing is     Without seeing, it is hard to live and
  A couple of months later, she heard                                                     adjust when you know how life was
every foreign student family got a letter                                                 when you were not blind.
from the management saying without              First, when I lost my vision, it was
citizenship or green card, it would be        hard to adjust to the environment I           Mohamed Gazali, from Somalia, is
impossible to rent an apartment there         was in, such as my school and friends       interested in Computers.
anymore. From that month, foreign             that lived in my neighborhood. I was
student families who finished their           constantly thinking about negative
contract started moving out on.               things. The people that I was with could                 *   *   *   *   *
                                              not understand what I was facing. Only
                                              my aide and counselors in my school
4        ESOL VOICES

                                             before she left, he heard her arguing        but Hawi was there to walk him through
       Life ‘Yaa Life                        with a young man. When he woke up            the hardship.
      By Milkyas Legesse                     the next day, she had left without him.
                                             They couldn’t provide her with the right        Sometimes, life has a surprising
  It was sunny and the day was beautiful.    papers for him to get out of the country     ending. He never did see his parents
He was walking by the beach. He could        with her so she had to leave by herself.     again; however, he never stopped
see the yellow leaves falling down                                                        looking. They both, Hawi and he, left
from far away. The water felt cold and          He found some money, a letter, and a      their country and went to the States for
the breeze was very sweet and warm.          chain. He read the letter out loud, “Son,    college. Life is an amazing journey. Life
There were people all over and little kids   I am sorry I let you down. May God be        is just like a chocolate; you never know
playing with one another. He started         with you for I am not. I left you some       what you are getting. But now sitting on
thinking about the past. His father had      money and a chain for good luck. Keep it     that bench near that beach, he realizes
been self-employed and his mother had        with you at all times. Have faith my son.    how much he misses the old days, how
worked for the government of Ethiopia.       We will meet one day, so be strong and       much he loved his family.
She was an attractive woman, sensitive,      don’t forget that I will always love you.”
and short, with a bright smile.              For a minute he thought his mother had         That little boy is me, and my name is
                                             squandered her money on him, buying          Milkyas. I will always wish for that little
  It was back in 1979 when there was a       the chain, but it meant a lot to him. He     boy to be strong and believe in himself
war between the government of Ethiopia       froze, staring at the paper. His tears wet
and the people who called themselves         the paper; he couldn’t stop crying. There    luck be with him, for he needs it!
the Ehadig or “Outlaws.” It was a            was nothing left for him in this cruel
dangerous time and the environment           world. He was scared and felt lonely.           This story is not 100% true. And it’s
was evil. He was in sixth grade when the                                                  not one person’s life. I tried to make
government seemed to lose the war.             He thought, “I never understood when       it interesting so I gathered different
                                             people talked about loving a particular      friends’ stories from Ethiopia and
  He had a loving and happy family;          object because it had a sentimental value    mixed them together.
however, their happiness started to fade     or why people were so fascinated with
away as the war got deeper. His parents,                                                    Milkyas Legesse is a Liberal Arts
who were always smiling at each other,       almost anything to keep it.” Even so,        student.
                                             somewhere in his heart he tried to draw
May 28, 1981, the government lost the        a vivid picture of what they were talking
war and everything changed. That was         about and why a piece could mean so                       *    *   *   *   *
the turning point of his life. His mother    much to them. Similarly, he had that
had to leave the country before they
formed the new government. After all,
                                             same attachment to the chain his mother        How Much Does
                                             left him.
she did work for their enemy.                                                              Love Mean to You?
                                               Two years went by, and he went back to            By Rita Jundulaite
  It was the middle of the night when        school. He worked at night and attended
his father barged into his room with a       school in the daytime. “All whom we            It is often said that love is the greatest
sad look in his eyes. “I will miss you       casually call friends are not actually       power on earth. I am a strong believer
and always love you my son!” were the        our friends but only acquaintances.”         of this statement.
last words he heard from his father. His     Even though he knew many people, his
mother packed their things; they would       true friend was Hawi. He was from a             I recently took a day trip to the
go to the rural area.                        respectable family. His father was an        Thousand Islands, with my aunt and
                                             executive in a multi-national company,       uncle. My uncle had arranged for us to
   At that time, it was very hard to get
                                             on a handsome salary. His family was         go on a boat tour of many of the islands.
out of the country. The surrounding area
                                             very loving and religious. His mother        Our trip guide told us that most of the
was awfully quiet all over. There was no
                                             was a highly educated housewife. He          islands were owned by extremely rich
one around except darkness. They had
                                                                                          families or individuals.
old-school weapons on their back. His
                                             relate to his problems. Because of his
mother was having a hard time getting
                                             parents’ background, he faced many             Around one hundred people boarded
the right paper work to leave. The night
                                             problems inside and out side of school       the tour boat. I was poorly positioned in
                                                                                                  ESOL VOICES                    5

the back of the boat, unable to hear all       This miracle was supposed to be seen         “Oh,Dios mio,que es esto! Do not
the stories clearly. Suddenly, everyone      on February 14th, which was Valentine’s      open that door. Please, y tu niña, go to
around me started to talk about one          Day and also his wife’s birthday. This is    your room. Don’t worry; everything is
particular island. It belonged to a rich     where their love took a twist of fate. A     going to be all right. Just take the baby
woman who couldn’t decide what island        couple weeks before, it happened very        with you and stay in the bedroom.”
she liked the most, so she built her own,    fast and suddenly, his wife died. Since
the way she liked. That second I thought     that moment the husband’s foot never           I didn’t open the door of my small
to myself, “How strange people act           stepped on this island again.                a nd hu mble apa r t me nt. I wa sn’t
when they have so much wealth.”                                                           feeling any fear, not even pain about
                                               He wrote a note saying that the castle     what had just happened. That night, I had
  The boat kept traveling from island        of love could never be used as anything      only an unpleasant, empty feeling in my
to island, each having its own story.        else, just as a remembrance of his
We even passed into Canadian waters. I       everlasting love for his family.             then that I found myself in a different
witnessed the shortest bridge connecting                                                  but a very familiar place. It wasn’t the
the U.S.A. and Canada. This view                Looking at the island, I know that love   small apartment of East Main St. any
grabbed my attention, so I saved it in       has been there in the past, it is here in    more. I was back in the place that I had
one of the pictures: two small houses,       the present, and it will always be there
                                             in the future.                               my mother.

  The whole trip I had been anticipating       Rita Jundulaite comes from Lithuania.        “Hijo,mio.” She started saying and
one particular island, which I could see     She is interested in a career in the         her voice sounded desolate and sad. “I
from a distance. It looked very different                                                 let you go because that was always your
from all the others. Probably it was                                                      dream, but I know that you have found
the huge castle, which reminded me                                                        that your dreamed America is not what
of an old English castle from medieval                    *   *   *   *   *               you thought...You thought that your
times. When our boat got closer to this                                                   country was noisy, meddlesome, abusive
mysterious looking place, the tour guide
began to tell the story that I would never
                                              An American Night                           and uncaring. Now you have found that
                                                                                          there is not a lot of difference between
forget!!!                                             By Luis Vaillant                    this one and that one.”

  About a hundred years ago, a young           Bam!!! The deafening noise coming            “But, Mom. You know that...”
immigrant came to America from               from the next door apartment chilled
Europe. He started his life here very        my skin. “Daddy, Daddy. I know                 “Let me continue, mijo,por favor. You
poor and alone. He was working very          what that noise was. It was a shot.”         are far from your language, your people
hard to make a little money. This is         “Shhhhh!!! Be quiet and go back to           and your identity, trying honestly to
when he met his one and only love, who       your...” Bammm!!! once again, but this       assure a better future for your family,
changed his life forever. The couple got     time closer and louder. “Hurry, go back      but has it been worth the price that you
married and worked together as one,          to your room.”                               have had to pay?”
slowly building their future. In this time
                                               “No, Daddy. I am afraid. I want to
they also raised two children, a boy and
                                             stay with you. What will happen if           mother any more, neither the feeling
a girl. Love kept on growing. As years
                                             somebody tries to shoot at me and you        of being again in my home living
passed, working hard they became one
                                             can’t see it?” “Babe, do what I said.        room. I visualized my whole life in
of the richest families in New York.
                                             Go back to your room and don’t worry.        colored memories that I thought I had
  To show his love for his wife and          You will be safe in there with your mom.     erased. For a few seconds a rainbow
kids, the father bought one of the           Go, please.”                                 of pictures danced in front of me,
Thousand Islands. He made the island                                                      as if alive. I saw the bad times chasing
                                                “Honey, what’s going on?” “I don’t        the good ones and I thought that my
the shape of a heart to symbolize his
                                             know. I guess that somebody...” I paused     life as an immigrant has but advantages
love for them. On this ground he built
                                             and then whispered, “...killed our           over the one that I had carried in my
                                             neighbor.” “It was a shot, Mami, I heard     own country.
shaped decorations. The island was
                                             it before on a TV cartoon.”
named “Island of Love.”
6        ESOL VOICES

  “Mom, I want to believe that all           violet, resembling a massive misshapen,    splitting the sky about me, sounding
this is not a mistake. Anyway I can’t        mushroom. I ran back to my house.          very loud as if I was in a bombarding
run back. I never did it before and I        My brothers and sisters were on their      zone. “It’s only a matter of electrons;
won’t do it now.” My thoughts were           way to the shelter under our house, the    don’t be afraid,” I thought.
suddenly interrupted by the voices of        safest spot to stay whenever a storm
my wife and daughter demanding my            was approaching. We sat there waiting         When the storm had almost cleared
presence in the bedroom.                     for the storm; it became a show. Slow      up, the bulging cloud crept away from
                                             moving shadows crept by until the wind     over the town. The sky was lighter;
  We couldn’t sleep that night, and          suddenly picked up again with a roar.      the lightning and thunder sounded
neither could the neighborhood. But I        It blew strong, bending mango trees        less frightening. The rain came hard;
believe that at least our prayers brought    halfway to the ground and their fruits     it damaged too many crops, trees and
some peace to the night.                                                                property. The storm was over faster
                                             same angry wind sent us scampering to      than it came. It left behind a lot of water
  Luis Vallant, from Cuba, is majoring       our cold, damp hiding place, to safety.    for the trees, the mountain and the
in Visual Communications.                                                               earth to absorb, and also small ponds
                                                                                        and puddles for the birds and animals
                                               In this province, the wind was the       to enjoy.
             *   *   *   *   *               messenger of the summer storm, only a
                                             warning. When the cold wind built up,       The town was torn down by this angry
                                                                                        monster, which had left many houses
              Storm                          when there were no birds or animals out,
                                             this meant that a storm was approaching.   with damaged walls and missing roofs.
      By Samphara Fasal                      I was curious; I climbed out of the
                                             hiding place and went up to the kitchen    were scattered everywhere. People
   When I was nine years old, I was                                                     came out from hiding places, to try to
                                             for a better look at the storm over God
living in Northeast Cambodia, near a big
                                             Mountain to the west. I peered through
river and a high mountain. Behind was                                                   mess. Many were hurt by falling trees
                                             a gap in the wall. Over the mountain,
an endless bamboo forest, home to many
                                             the clouds willingly joined, forming
animals. Rice was growing in fresh                                                      brother. During the clean up, a shingle
                                             a gigantic black umbrella, and heavy
water. After the harvest, rice patties                                                  fell and hit his head. His scalp was cut
                                             rain started from the west. Lightning
were full of cows and buffalos grazing                                                  open. Mom took him to get his wound
                                             and thunder exploded at the same time
in green grass all day long. In my big,                                                 stitched back up.
                                             all about me; the force and vibrating
long yard where mango trees, bananas,
                                             sound of this orchestra made me jump.
sugar cane, pineapples, papayas and                                                       After the storm was over, the town
                                             The streaks of lightning zigzagged from
potatoes grew, the monkeys usually                                                      took time to get back to normal, but the
                                             cloud to cloud and from the clouds to
came to steal the fruits, while the robins                                              land was greener because of the extra
                                             the earth.
picked worms in the mud. The monkeys                                                    water and the river that was swelling
were adorable, smart animals. Mother           The bushy tree behind the kitchen,
monkeys were playing with their babies,      which was always a safe home for the       again; the birds were also looking for
hanging them from their necks; it was a      birds, squirrels, chipmunks and ants,      dry grasses to build their nests. My back
beautiful sight.                             was no longer a home for them. Broken      yard wasn’t lovely looking anymore.
                                             branches lay all over the ground; some     There were tree branches and the plants
  Suddenly, the animals vanished. My                                                    that needed to be cleaned up, but I was
                                             branches covered plants. Damaged
day seemed boring and quiet without                                                     so happy to see that the monkeys had
                                             bird nests and ant colonies were lying
the animals around, so I went to play                                                   come back.
                                             everywhere. Squirrels and chipmunks,
with my neighbor’s kids. In a matter
                                             nervous and frightened, were leaving the
of minutes, there were cumulus clouds                                                     Samphara Fazal is a Liberal Arts
                                             broken trees, looking for safe places.
beginning to roll in, meshing and                                                       student.
building up. The wind stopped. I looked        The storm consumed the sky, leaving
over the mountain; it was covered by         a thick blackness that was torn open
a black-purple cloud. In one hour the        only by the lightning. It was hard to                   *   *   *    *   *
clouds to the south-west were enormous,      remember. Crouching down on the
an angry combination of black and            kitchen f loor, I heard the lightning
                                                                                                 ESOL VOICES                     7

                                                                                         year old girl married to a 50 year old
       Quinceanera                           compared to now. In that time they          man?” I could not imagine how it would
      By Brenda Morales                      didn’t have expenses like today. They       be. According to her, her family was a
                                             didn’t have such a big celebration.         traditional family, affected heavily by
   A quinceanera is a coming of age          Instead they had a simple birthday          Vietnamese customs and habits. Most
ceremony, much like the American             party. It wasn’t pompous as it is today.    girls who were born into this kind of
Sweet Sixteen, but it is only for Hispanic   Many parents at that time didn’t have       family must obey their parents’ words,
girls when they turn 15. Today families      jobs. They couldn’t afford to give a big    even let them pick their husband. My
often start to save up for this day when     celebration. Economy was a problem,         friend is a victim of this tradition. Her
their daughters are born. It has become      but at least they celebrated their 15th     family cannot afford to let her continue
very important and very complex. There       birthday, in a small way.                   her dream to become an English teacher
is a very big difference between today’s                                                 because their life was getting harder.
celebration of a quinceanero from that         In conclusion, the quinceanera is         Her dad had lost his job, and her
of the past.                                 probably the most important event in        mom had been in bed for years with
                                             a young Hispanic girl’s youth. Even         some incurable disease. She is the
  This tradition dates back to ancient       though the past celebration and the         oldest child who has to take care of
times when the natives of Mexico and         present celebration of this special event   everything. She could not stand there
South America would present their 15         were different in style, the important      and do nothing. Giving up her last year
year old females as women ready to           thing is that the quinceanera herself       of high school, moving away from her
marry. Quince, meaning 15, developed         remembers it as a special occasion and      childhood, unable to wear her uniform
into quinceanera, the name for this          important transition in her life.           to school, to hang out with her friends,
event, referring both to the girl and the
                                                                                         she was going to change her lifestyle, to
event.                                         Brenda Morales is of Puerto Rican         live with someone whose age was the
                                             heritage. She is planning to work in the    same as her dad’s. The hardest thing for
   The event starts with a ceremony
                                                                                         her was breaking up with her boyfriend.
where the priest talks about when a
                                                                                         She had to swallow her tears inside to
young girl is becoming an adult. “You
                                                                                         say the word “good bye.”
are a woman to God now.” The father of                    *   *   *   *   *
the quinceanera accompanies her to the
                                                                                           “It is a nightmare. Every night, I
altar. After the service there is a large
reception with music, dancing, singing           Where Does the                          cannot sleep; his miserable face always
                                                                                         appears when I close my eyes.” From
in a hall or another big space.
                                                  Sun Shine?                             her words, I realized that her boyfriend
                                                      By Tuyen T. Vo                     was a part of her life, but her family was
  Her court of honor traditionally
                                                                                         the main source of her living. It was
consists of fourteen couples and then
                                               “Hey, how long have you been              like a hard math problem which needed
she and her chamberlane de honor or
                                             online?” I typed the questions to ask       a smart solution. As we’ve always said,
                                             my new friend; I had just known her         “Money can solve any problem.” It
representing a year in her life. The
                                             about a week. “Hello, Mina, do you          might be right in this situation.
damas, or ladies, all wear the same
dress, usually a color complimenting         have free time now? I’m feeling so down
                                             and really need someone to talk to.”           Finding a rich husband for her is the
the quinceanera’s dress.
                                             From the image of the webcam, I could       only thing they can do, without asking
                                                                                         her idea. They think this solution will
  There is also the changing of shoes
                                             tears. “Sure,” I said. We began to talk     change their life in a better way as well
                                             as good friends and at this moment, I       as bring happiness to her. But they
her father changes them to heels. Next
                                             understood more about her background,       did not know that they were wrong.
her father also puts on a crown with
                                             how many problems she had to face.          “Everyone has the right to choose what
a number 15 on her. Both of these
                                                                                         to do, especially an important thing
symbolize that the father accepts her
                                               “My parents want to marry me to a         like marriage. Obviously, the difference
transition to womanhood. She can get
                                             man who’s older than me 30 years.”          about age cannot put them into one
relatives or her godparents to help her
                                             Overwhelmed with surprise, I gasped,        world. A marriage without love will
and the family pay for the event. This
                                             not knowing what to say. “A nineteen        not endure for long,” I tried to console
Hispanic celebration is like a wedding.
8        ESOL VOICES

her. “No, Mina, sometimes, you don’t        image of a 50 year old man, wearing a          His looks were far and deep. The man
have a chance to choose what you want       black suit with glasses on. He held her     was suffering. There were no tears in
to do because one person cannot go in       hand and they both left the computer        his eyes, but his face was weeping. He
two ways. Even though I extremely hate      table, moved toward the main door, and      was not a friend of mine. I met him in
being born into a traditional family,       disappeared instantly.                      the street. He was walking and talking
I cannot make my parents feel great                                                     to nobody. I don’t know why I liked this
anguish about me. A good daughter                                                       man. When I got close to him, I said,
would not do that. I think you would        better. She understood her family’s         “Salaam alaikm, man. Are you all right?
also do the same thing if you were me. If   situation and prepared willing to do        You look sad. What’s going on, man?
this marriage can solve my family’s         whatever it takes. Her fate did not         Can I help you?”
                                            belong to her anymore, only dependence
the chance to pursue his dream, I would     and complying with orders. She was so         The man looked at my face well and
                                            pious and generous when making this         said, “No, thank you. Nobody can help
words with a sigh; her face was still wet   decision. From two different places, I      me. Nobody can help. Nobody can
with tears.                                 had the opportunity to be there with        help…” Then he continued, “Thanks for
                                            her and listen to her story. She was not    asking. You are a good man.”
    “Don’t cry, my friend. Things will      a lucky girl, but she had a sweet heart,
get better. So, have you met that man                                                      I really wanted to know what was
yet?” I asked. She changed her sitting      accepted her fate with resignation. I       going on with him. He was a stranger;
position, with her chin propped up in       admired her action and felt pity for what   it seemed to me he had a problem. I
one hand. “No, but my dad told me that      she was passing through. Hopefully,         didn’t know if I could help him. Let’s
he is a director of a popular company.      her life will change for the better with    try.
He’s around 50 and divorced.” She           her husband. She might not be happy         your problem with someone you don’t
added, “He’ll be here soon to take          compared with her past life because         know, but maybe he would be the one
me out for dinner.” I looked at her         everything would not be the same again.     who’s going to help you,” I said.
from the webcam, trying to give her         But at least, she has done some positive
some courage. “Don’t care about his         things for her family.                         “It’s very kind of you, but…” I
past too much. Maybe he’s not bad at                                                    entrapped him. “What? Come on. Share
all. Remember, if God closes all the          Looking out the window, I could see       it with me.”
doors in your house, he will open a         the sky was covered with darkness. It
window for you.” “I hope you’re right,”     was a quiet street with a couple cars         “I will tell you one part of my long
she said sadly.                             passing by. Suddenly, it rained hard.       story if you would like to hear it.” He
                                            How long would it last?                     took a deep breath, and said, “ I have a
  “So, what is the most important thing                                                 family. My father lives in Gaza. He is
to you, love or money? Do you think          Tuyen T. Vo is majoring in Business        old, he is blind, and he has no money
money can control one’s life?” There was    Administration.                             either. I can’t send him any because I
a pause between us. “With me, love is                                                   have none. My mother is a weak, old
some precious thing that you cannot see                                                 woman. She lives in Haifa, where we
or touch even if it exists around us. If                 *   *   *   *   *              had a house in the golden days. We were
                                                                                        a very rich family. Also I have a sister
                                                                                        named Aminah. She was a child of two
happy, and not worry about what we will
do tomorrow to survive, I will choose
                                             Nobody Can Help!                           years when I left her. She is nineteen
love. Unfortunately, love is not that               By Akil Aljaysh                     now, so the government has asked her
powerful and it cannot win money. And                                                   to join the army. My mother didn’t want
                                              Writing this story brought back a lot     her to go, but Aminah was taken by
yes, my life is controlled by money.
                                            of memories for me. I can remember          force. She is a soldier at Beer- Sheba at
There is no question about it. The truth
                                            a lot of the things that I did. However,    present.”
is always the truth.”
                                            some of the things I’ve forgotten. But I
  After two hours of talking, we said       wasn’t making up anything in this story.       A tear ran down his cheek. He wiped
goodbye to each other. It was also the      This story was inspired by the truth in     it off and then went on. “My friend, you
time that her future husband arrived.       1998.                                       are a man; you have a family; you enjoy
From the webcam, I could see the                                                        the love of a country, but I am nothing.
                                                                                                 ESOL VOICES                     9

I have pictures of a family and a map         people were singing, and dancing; we
of a country.”                                all were happy and excited to be leaving
                                                                                           French Fried Love
                                              Sierra Leone. This was June 27, 1997             By Yuliya Goldman
  Then suddenly this man cried, “Man,         when we left our homeland headed
you don’t know me. I’m … I’m homeless.        for Ghana, another country in western        Are you still sleeping? Wake up then,
I’m Palestinian.”                             Africa.                                    because St. Valentine’s Day is coming
                                                                                         soon. It’s time to go and buy all those
  Akil Aljaysh is from Iraq. He is
interested in Radiology.                      in the Liberia Sea, the ship began to      and be loved. It’s time to talk about love
                                              roll. People started to cry, others were   and do all for love. It’s time to do the
                                              vomiting, and at the end many people       craziest things and never regret them.
             *   *   *    *   *               fell sick. I was around ten years old; I
                                              knew everything that was going on, on        I never regret what I did on February

    Escaping War in                           the ship because I moved around a lot.
                                              Then a terrible thing happened in the      of the wildest things I’ve ever done.
     Sierra Leone                             middle of the sea; the ship stopped. We
                                                                                           I was sixteen. I was crazy and I was
     By Orlando Bangura                       couldn’t see any other ship except ours,
                                                                                         in love. All my friends said that my
                                              and we lost connection with the outside
                                                                                         crush liked me too, but he never asked
  In Sierra Leone, we heard on the radio      world. We stayed one and a half days
                                                                                         me out. This boy was (and still is)
the President of Ghana’s voice. “I’m          without moving. I thought it was the end
                                                                                         totally amazing. However, he was one
sending a ship to collect all my people       of our lives. But God helped us and at
                                                                                         of the shyest people that I’d ever met.
to bring you back home.” “What a great        last the ship started up again.
                                                                                         He always gave me his smiles and very
opportunity God has sent for us,” we                                                     special looks, but he never talked to me
cried. We used this opportunity to free         We arrived at the second border called
our lives.                                    Abidjan (Ivory Coast). This time we
                                              didn’t face any problem. Soon when         had mutual friends, but we never hung
                                              we saw the lights of Abidjan, people       out together. It made me crazy! “How
   We took the little things we had with us
                                              thought that we had arrived until they     can he be so stupid?” I asked myself, but
and left for the harbor where we stayed
                                              realized that the the lights got dimmer    couldn’t answer.
for one good night. The next day the
ship arrived, very late. Unfortunately,       and dimmer. No, we were not yet in
                                                                                           Once I understood, I couldn’t wait
it started to rain, and became windy          Ghana. After we passed Abidjan, the
                                                                                         anymore. I knew where he lived, so I
and stormy with lightning. The harbor         Ghanaian people who brought the ship,
                                                                                         put my best stubborn face on and just
was very cold. In our minds we knew           gave us some food and sugar, because
                                                                                         knocked on his door. He seemed really
that the ship was really coming for           they knew we were about to arrive. At
                                                                                         nervous, so I tried to ease the situation
the Ghanaians in the country, not for         night time, we reached the border, and
                                                                                         by asking him about his new eyebrow
us. The Ghanaians began to enter the          we slept till the next day.
                                                                                         piercing. He just kept answering my
ship, by showing their ID cards, while                                                   questions, not even trying to keep this
we were standing under the cold rain.           Finally, we were at the Ghanaian
                                              harbor. Many people had fallen sick        conversation going. I couldn’t help
After all the Ghanaians were on board,                                                   myself, I had to ask him. “Actually...
that’s when they felt sorry for us, after     after seven days at sea without proper
                                              food or medicines, but we thanked God      how to say it… I mean…” I took a deep
all the disaster we had gone through.                                                    breath. “Do you want to go out with
We boarded.                                   for letting us reach safety.
                                                                                         me tonight?” He looked surprised.
                                                Orlando Bangura is hoping to become      “Yes, sure… I mean… no, I can’t. I’m
  The condition of the ship was terrible,
                                              a Nurse.                                   sorry. I have something to do.” “OK…
but people didn’t notice it because
                                                                                         whatever” I said. “See you sometime.”
everyone was happy, and running for
their lives. On the ship, we, the Sierra                                                   I was killed. I was so dead at this
Leoneans, were about five hundred,                        *   *   *   *   *
                                                                                         moment. I was walking down the street,
and the Ghanaians, about three to                                                        crying like a baby. All my dreams and
four hundred. There was no food or                                                       hopes were destroyed; I was humiliated.
medicines, yet on our way to Ghana,                                                      Lord, I just wanted to die!
10         ESOL VOICES

  This happened on February 13. St.                                                       Amin! I could feel the trees on my right
Valentine’s Day was coming, but I was
                                              The Day We Crash                            side; we were leaving them behind
upset, unhappy and single. I decided              By Mohamed Gazali                       so rapidly. Less than a minute later,
to spend the rest of my life at home,                                                     I heard a loud boom noise and all the
crying, eating and sleeping. But my            One day my friend Amin came over           automobiles came to a halt.
mom didn’t think so. She woke me up          to our apartment in the Mt. Hope project
the next morning and advised me to           to talk and listen to music from TV with
go to the school or start looking for        me. After a little while my other friend     handle, landing on the road with my
different parents.                           Addi came with his broken bike. He
                                             said, “Let’s go to the bike shop.” At that   and passed out.
  On my way to school, I met my best         time it was around two o’clock in the
guy friend and told him what had             afternoon and it was nice outside.             After I collected myself, I started
happened the other day. I was ready to                                                    walking in the road. “Are you okay,”
cry again, but he said suddenly, “Listen       We started going up the street, up the     a guy asked me. “Yes,” I answered
to me, Yuliya. I’m not supposed to let       hill, Amin and I riding my tandem bike       weakly. Three minutes later the lady
you know, but I can’t see these tears in     and Addi riding his broken cycle behind      driver whose car we had run into came
your eyes anymore. I’m going to tell you     us. We kept pushing on faster and faster.    over and asked me the same thing. “Are
something, but you have got to promise       We were leaving Amin in the dust. I          you okay? I’m sorry.” Five minutes
me…” I interrupted him, “Yes, I’ve           felt uncomfortable going so quickly; I       later the police showed up to question
already forgotten your name…”                am visually impaired and couldn’t see        me and the witnesses. Overall, it was
                                             what was in front of us. On the way,         her fault for taking a left turn in front
  My friend told me that the “man of         ten minutes later, we found my other         of us without looking. Amin could have
my dreams” was working part-time at          friend Muhammad. We told him where           avoided hitting her if he had looked in
McDonald’s so he could get a nicer car       we were traveling to and he decided to
before he asked me out. How could he         come with us.                                Sadly, an ambulance took both of us to
be so stupid?!                                                                            the Strong emergency room. “Luckily,
                                               Now there were four of us demanding        you have only a few bruises and they
  Instead of waiting, I went to his work,    to go the bike shop. As we proceeded, it     will heal,” the doctor said.
and walked right up to his cash register.    rained a little bit. Now guess what? We
There was a long line, but I ignored it. I   came to the top of the hill and began to       Amin didn’t listen when I told him to
looked at his eyes and said, “Hi, I need a   race down the hill. The tandem bike          slow down. I learned that if someone
large order of fries, a medium coke and      did not have good brakes, only on the        is doing something for you – he was
a BOYFRIEND!” He just jumped right           front wheel. When we tried to stop, the      the driver – you don’t have the control.
over the counter and kissed me…              tandem wouldn’t stop immediately. It         You don’t really have a choice to have
                                             would take time. “Be careful, Amin, or       things the way you want them. I always
  I broke up with this guy almost two        we might crash!” I yelled. “I got this.      try to do things for myself. Don’t rely
years ago, but we are still friends. He      Don’t worry, Mohamed,” he replied.           on others!
always says he will never forget that        As we tore down the hill, the bike was
Valentine’s Day. And I’m glad it’s so        moving faster. The sidewalk was bumpy          Mohamed Gazali comes from Somalia.
because it was just one of those wild,       and missing pieces. I could feel the wind
stupid and crazy things that people do       and the light shower blowing on my
in the name of LOVE.                         face. Addi and Muhammad were about
                                             ten minutes behind us; we couldn’t see                    *    *   *   *   *
 Yuliya Goldman is a student from            them at all.
Russia, studying Fine Arts.
                                               “Come on, Mohamed. Let’s pedal
                                             faster because I’m trying to catch the
             *   *   *   *   *
                                             light. Don’t go any faster.” When I felt
                                             that we were moving too fast, I took
                                             my feet off the pedal. He kept pedaling,
                                             harder and harder. “Oh no, slow down
                                                                                                    ESOL VOICES                    11

                                               daughters will never be happy again.”
          Nightmare                                                                                  Earth to Sky
        By Yashira Morell                        Since that day he became a nightmare.                  By Preet Kaur
                                               Two years later we moved to a small
                                               house. I was little bit bigger, and I helped     It was a few minutes past 11:00 in the
   “Please let her go. Don’t you               my mother with almost everything, but          morning. I went outside to get my mail
understand that she does not want you          wait. We were missing somebody in the          from the mail box, never thinking that
any more?” “Shut up you little girl!”          story, “the nightmare.” By that time my        this would change all our lives. Has this
                                               mother was twenty-six years old and            ever happened to you? Do you believe in
   Those were the last words I told the                                                       destiny? Back inside the next thing was
man that was destroying my mother’s                                                           to explore what could be in the envelope.
life. Alberto was a tall, skinny, light-         One afternoon my stepfather went to          The minute I opened the letter I found
skinned man; he was also a famous              work at eleven o’clock. My mother and          myself in a pool of happiness. It was
baseball player. When he did not have          her friend decided to play a game with         an interview call from the American
games, he dressed in a black suit with         us, in which everybody chose a place           Embassy. God, can you ever measure the
a pair of black shiny shoes and a silky        to hide while somebody was counting            depth of your joy, your happiness?
tie that matched the suit. He looked like
Michael Jackson. He loved my mother            playing when “ka boom,” there was                 Soon I heard a voice from the back
a lot, but I think it was more obsession       our nightmare! “Did you think that you         of the room. “What’s in your hand,
than love because he didn’t want her to        could get away from me so easily?” “I          Preet?” I turned to see. It was coming
do anything without asking him and he          told you to leave me alone; I’m a married      from my dad. “An appointment letter
was not my mother’s husband. I didn’t          woman now.” “I don’t give a damn if you        for an interview,” I replied. “Interview,
want him as my father either. Alberto          are married or not.” My mother was a           from where?” he asked me.” “From the
was kind of crazy.                             little drunk, and he was also drinking         American Embassy,” I said. “You lie,”
                                               Heineken. She drank the rest of the beer       he replied, making a face at me. “No,”
   One day he came to the big old house                                                       I said with a smile. A smile was on my
                                               while he was talking to her; when she
that we used to have in Puerto Rico. He                                                       face no matter whatever I was doing
saw that my mother was talking to my                                                          that day!
                                               his head. “You will pay for this. Did you
sister’s biological father. “Oh hell no, she
                                               hear me, bastard?”
is not doing this to me, not her,” he said                                                      Now, the next step was to wait for
out loud. “Hey you little bastard, what          He didn’t know that we had called the        that big day, “the interview day.” Would
are you doing with my girl?” “She is not       police. We stopped him from leaving by         everything be all right? Will they pass
your girl, and I came to see my daughter       making conversation until the police           me? What if anything goes wrong?
so you better calm down.” I was ten            arrived. When they came, they arrested         What would I do then? As the day was
years old, but I could still hear them         him and took him to jail. He promised          coming near, I felt myself surrounded
cursing and shouting. “Baby, get in your       to come back, but he didn’t because in         by a wall of painful thoughts.
bedroom,” my mom told me. “Mami,               jail somebody stabbed him and he died.
I’m scared.” “Don’t worry. Everything          They did the job for us even though we           America is a big, beautiful and
is going to be okay.”                          didn’t want to get our hands dirty with        rich country but these aren’t the most
                                               a jerk like him. Finally our nightmare         important reasons for going there, I
  Suddenly I heard my mom throwing                                                            thought. The adventure is a much bigger
                                               was over.
things and saying, “Get out of my house;                                                      pull. Have you ever been apart from
you don’t have anything to do here.”             Yashira Morrell is planning a career         your mom and dad or from the person
“Baby, I love you and I need you; please       as a Massage Therapist.                        you love the most ? How would you
give a chance. You just want to be with                                                       react if you met them again after four
him, right? Tell me, does he have more
chances because he has a child with                          *   *   *   *   *
you, ah?” “What if I say yes, would you                                                         March 31, 2003, the perfect day had
leave me alone?” “I would never leave                                                         come. At 8:10 I heard “Daljeet Singh,
you alone, and you know that.” He was                                                         Rattandeep and Preet, please come to
so mad that he tried to hit my mom,
and he also had a knife. “You and your
12         ESOL VOICES

began with his list of questions for the     glowing waters?” “What are you talking       seen in Puerto Rico. I confessed that at
                                             about, what glowing waters?” I asked.
counselor asked us to come back around       “The ones in Las Pargueras. You should       believing that water could glow like
4:30 in the evening, but he didn’t say if    go see them”                                 that, but when I was over there seeing
we had passed the interview or not.                                                       that amazing phenomenon, the beauty
                                               “Silence!” Ms. Baez looked at us           of nature, I thought that if it hadn’t been
  Back home, I tried to keep myself          with eyes of shame for breaking the          for her, I would’ve never seen it.
busy so I wouldn’t think about what was      silence. Eve had me thinking about
going to happen. At 4:30 sharp we were                                                      I did a little research after I got back
inside the embassy. Around 5 o’clock I       minutes that were left of class.
heard our names again from the same                                                       water shine. It is a form of microscopic
window. There I saw a man holding              When the period ended, I immediately
three packets. He called my name again.      asked her all about these waters that        water to shine in the dark, like a sky full
“Yes, my name is Preet,” I replied. “Oh,     seemed to be so interesting to her that      of stars in the sea. Parguera is one of the
congratulations, Preet. You have got a       she would interrupt the class. She told      few places in the world, and one of two
permanent visa.” “Oh......, God...........   me that she had seen them in Puerto          in Puerto Rico. The other one is located
Thanks........Thanks a lot.”                 Rico, an act of nature that only happens     in Vieques where this phenomenon is
                                             on tropical beaches in Puerto Rico and       always visible.
  Getting a visa was like having the key     two other parts of the world. She knew
to a locked door. Can you wait to open       I was going to Puerto Rico in a week,          Wouldn’t you like to see it some day,
the door if you have the key?                so she wanted me not to miss it.             yourself?

  Soon I was on the land of the United         The day I arrived, I felt like I was        Xiomara A. Matos is a Visual
States, to meet with my mom. The next        inside an airplane engine. I immediately     Communication major interested in
day, when I opened my eyes I found           started to sweat. I took my jacket off. As   Graphic Arts.
myself in a beautiful room with a soft       I was walking out of the airport to meet
                                             my uncle, it felt like I was walking into
ears. “Wake up, sweetie.” It seemed          an oven. Now we would be in Ponce,                        *   *   *    *   *
softer and warmer than anything I had        my hometown, in about three hours, but
                                             on our way, I asked my Uncle Adolfo
with your family is the best thing, no       to take me to Las Pargueras one day
                                                                                                   My Boss,
matter wherever in the world you go.         during my visit, and he immediately told              Mr.Wossen
                                             me that he would be happy to.                            By
  Preet Kaur comes from India. She is
planning to become a Nurse.                    It was Christmas time and we were           Banchirga E. Wondesadik
                                             so busy those two weeks, but my uncle
                                             surprised me, and one day we set out to
             *   *   *   *   *                                                              I first met Mr.Wossen two months
                                             see this phenomenon. I had heard that
                                                                                          after I arrived in the USA. I was looking
                                             in order for the water particles to glow
                                                                                          for a job so that I could survive in a
                                             there couldn’t be a moon, but that day
     Glowing Waters                          the moon came out half full. When I
                                                                                          country where every minute of life is
     By Xiomara A. Matos                                                                  connected to money. It was my fourth
                                                                                          job application when I went to one of
                                             was made of glass. If you looked down
   Deep soundless states controlled                                                       Mr.Wossen’s gas stations and asked one
                                             into the water, you could see the water
the students in the class room. I didn’t                                                  of his employees, ”Are you hiring?”
                                             shine. Earlier, I had doubted myself
like it when it was this quiet. It always                                                 “What pump number did you say?”
                                             that the water could just glow, but as
happened when we were taking a test,                                                      The cashier did not understand me, so I
                                             I watched it glow I was amazed at the
but it was the way it was supposed to                                                     repeated, “Are you hiring?” She smiled
                                             beauty that nature has, a beauty that you
be, so peaceful that you could hear a                                                     and pointed to the owner. Since then,
bee soar across the room from end to                                                      I was very eager to know more about
end. Suddenly, Eve, my friend, burst the       When I got back to Rochester, I            this man.
silence to ask me, “Have you seen the        couldn’t wait to tell Eve what I had just
                                                                                              ESOL VOICES                    13

  My new boss, a hard working, strong,      could earn after a college degree, he       her scholarship, but that day I was truly
and kind man about forty, immigrated        prefers his. However, he supports           overwhelmed by the enormous number
from Ethiopia thirteen years ago with       immigrants who are going to school. “I      of books. Her library was full, from
his two daughters and wife. According       like a person who goes to school because    the bottom shelf to the ceiling. All her
to Mr.Wossen, it was not as hard to         you spend the money anyway, but your        books had tags and they were arranged
immigrate in the 80’s as it is now.         degree stays with you in that you can be    in alphabetical order.
Thirteen years ago he was here visiting     employed wherever you go.”
his older sister when he applied for
permanent residency permission that he        His advice to the new immigrants          Literacy Volunteers. I still don’t know
got two years later!                        is “have a clear future regarding your      exactly how old she is. I would guess
                                            career development. If you have the
  Mr.Wossen has been driving a taxi at      potential to change yourself by academic
night and working in a gas station for      work, please do not give up. If you         was leaning on a cane as she walked.
more than eight years while his wife has    have the potential in labor work, work
been staying at home with the children.     hard. This is America. You can change       inches tall with a surprisingly energetic
He has been working sixteen hours a         yourself in every aspect of life, if you    voice, bright blue eyes and a warm,
day, seven days a week. He worked hard      are really a person who would like to       affectionate smile. We usually met at
                                            be changed.”                                the public library once a week.
Now he has two.
                                                                                          A couple of months later, Barbara had
  Mr.Wossen learned English here in         me that he enjoyed being with me. He        knee surgery. About a month after her
the USA. Although he went to school         smiled, “I say again, be strong and do      surgery, she mailed me a postcard of
when he was in Ethiopia, he did not         not give up!”
have a chance to speak English. When                                                    “Four legs are good; two legs are bad.
I asked him whether the language              Banchirga E. Woldesadik comes from        I returned from the hospital with just
                                            Ethiopia. She is interested in a career     two legs. Luckily, I kept my cane in my
said, “Not at all. My job was not the                                                   closet.” I laughed a lot. At that time,
kind of job that requires clear speaking                                                during our meeting we had been reading
of the language.” However, as he worked                                                 George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Her wit
towards his goal, he needed more                         *   *   *   *   *              and knowledge of literature made me
English to communicate.                                                                 more interested in reading even though

  He thinks that life by itself is a kind
                                                We All Have the                         my English still wasn’t very good. At
                                                                                        the end of the postcard she wrote, “from
of college in which one can learn                Same Heart                             your teacher and friend.”
everything from the society you live                 By Ilmee Song
with. “You do not have to go to college                                                   Barbara wanted to have our next
to learn the language that is spoken by       “I am really overwhelmed by the           meeting at her home the following week.
the community in which you live. Listen     roses. I have never received this kind      The day I visited her, I baked a dozen
to them, speak with them and then at        of treatment in all my life. Thank          apple turnovers early in the morning.
least you will be able to communicate       you!” Barbara exclaimed, gazing at the      On the way I bought a bouquet of yellow
                                            bouquet of yellow roses she had just        roses. When we sat at the kitchen table
speaker.”                                   placed on her old grand piano in the        with tea and the turnovers, I asked her
                                            family room. The combination of black       how she became involved with Literacy
  How did he become successful, I           and yellow gave a cozy feeling to the       Volunteers. “I just wanted to share my
wondered. He breathed a long sigh and       room. I looked around, following behind     ability with others.” That day I would
said, “It is a long story. I was like you   her, as we walked through her 100-year-     hear about her life.
when I came to America. In short, hard      old house. She led me to her sunroom
work and a clear goal helped me to reach    which faced the backyard. On one side,        She and her younger sister had grown
where I am now.” He likes working for       a wisteria sofa set was placed and on the   up in Philadelphia with well-educated
himself rather than being employed          other, her desk, which was surrounded       parents. She studied History and Arts
by someone else. When he compared           by bookshelves. I already knew about        at Yale University where she met her
his business with the income that one                                                   husband when she was a senior. Her
14          ESOL VOICES

husband, whose major was English,             good person for my grandchildren and         family. I enjoyed tricking my friends,
was two years younger, but he was             a hard worker as a taxi-driver in New        but my parents were really royalty to
very mature and smart. Even though            York City, there is something making         me.” I understood what she meant.
different majors, they had a lot of similar   her life hard. I don’t know if you can
interests. They married when he was           understand my point. There are some            This is one of my old memories, one
still an undergraduate.                       big differences between my son-in-           of the most wonderful conversations I
                                              law and my daughter,” she added. Her         have had in my life. I will always thank
 After his graduation, they went to           daughter’s life was hard for Barbara, but    Barbara for treating me as a friend even
England to study more. While there,           she wasn’t sad about it because it was her   though I was a young foreigner who
                                              daughter’s choice, one which Barbara         came from a small country. She taught
three years apart. Seven years after their    had to accept as her mother.                 me we all have the same heart, so we can
departure from the USA, they returned                                                      always understand each other.
to New Haven, Connecticut where each            “My real sorrow was my younger
started their teaching career at Yale.        son’s sudden death. It pained me more          Ilmee Song, from Korea, is studying
Within a couple of years their daughter       than losing my husband.” Barbara was         Accounting.
was born and they bought this home.
                                              younger son was in university, he met
  “It was a perfect life, one which I had     a lovely French girl. He went to France                   *   *   *   *   *
expected,” she said with a smile. Soon        with her and lived as a farmer. He had
her smile was covered with clouds. One
day she received a call from the police
                                              always wanted to live a totally different
                                              life. One day her daughter-in-law called
                                                                                              Scared Euphoria
to notify of her husband’s death in a car     to tell Barbara that her son had been             By Rattandeep Kaur
accident. Her two sons were teenagers         crushed under a large tractor. “I lost
and her daughter was in primary school                                                       “WOW, Mama, is it true or are you
                                              my words. He was just twenty-seven
at that time. She did her best between                                                     kidding me? I don’t believe it! How
                                              years old. Can you believe that? It was
her job and children. “My husband’s                                                        could Daddy agree to spend our vacation
                                              like the earth turned in the opposite
death showed me another side of life.                                                      in Shimla?” I hugged my mom tight. I
                                              direction.” Her daughter-in-law, a
I became cynical toward life.” Barbara                                                     was feeling so warm and happy. It was
                                              teacher of middle school, is raising their
made a bitter smile.                                                                       like I had won the lottery! After a long
                                              two college daughters by herself without
                                              remarrying. Barbara has kept in touch
  She had a hard time with her daughter                                                    vacation together.
                                              with her French granddaughters often
when she became a teenager. She was           and both girls have visited every couple
very smart, but rebellious, and never                                                        I was seven years old when my mom
                                              of years. “Without me, how can they
interested in boys smarter that herself.                                                   came to my playroom and told me,
                                              connect to their father’s roots? They
After her college graduation, she left                                                     “Pack your bag, Beta. We are going
                                              are my responsibility and my love,” she
home to travel and fell in love with                                                       to Shimla on Saturday of this week.” I
a Turk she met on a cruise. “It was                                                        was astonished. My mouth fell open. I
                                                                                           smiled, but I didn’t utter a word.
                                                Her older son’s family is living in
a lot of obstacles living together. Now       California. Sometimes Barbara goes
                                                                                             My mom, sister Preet, Daddy and I
they have lived separately for almost         there to see them and her younger sister.
                                                                                           left the house at six that Saturday, in
one year, but my daughter is thinking         However, she didn’t want to move from
                                                                                           the early morning, but before going, we
of reuniting for their children’s sake.       New Haven because she has created
                                                                                           prayed to God for a successful trip.
Do you remember my granddaughter,             wonderful memories with her husband,
                                              her children and her career there.             We took a bus to the railway station,
girl who had curly, brown hair and blue
                                                                                           half an hour away from my house. The
eyes. One day Barbara had brought her           As I got up to go, Barbara pointed out
                                                                                           train took eight hours to get to Shimla in
to our meeting at the library. I never        a black and white picture on the wall in
                                                                                           the mountains, but in the meanwhile, we
imagined her as a mixed child because of      the hallway. “They are my parents, my
                                                                                           sang songs, played games and puzzles.
her perfect big blue eyes until now, when     younger sister and me when I was about
                                                                                           We approached Shimla in the evening.
Barbara told me about her daughter. “I        seven years old. I have always showed
                                                                                           My parents booked two rooms, one for
don’t want my daughter’s reconciliation       this picture to my friends. Then they
                                                                                           them and the other for my sister and me.
with my son-in-law. Even though he is a       would envy me as if I came from a royal
                                                                                                 ESOL VOICES                     15

The rooms were so cozy and peaceful.            The monkey opened his jaws, making           Barbara is a widow. She is almost 85
                                              horrible scary noises. He was showing        years old. When I asked her where she
  Around nine at night, we had a              his sharp teeth and angry eyes. He was       was born, Barbara answered me with
delicious vegetarian dinner of saag and       making bigger eyes and approaching           delight in her dim eyes, “I am from
kari. We had a little chat after the dinner   me. I was so anxious. As long as he          Poltava, the center of Ukraine. We lived
and then went to sleep.                       was coming toward me, my heart was           in a village as beautiful as the Garden of
                                              beating faster and faster. Suddenly, he      Eden.” It doesn’t matter how beautiful
  The next morning, I woke up from my         snatched the banana from my hands            her homeland could be. The time when
bed and opened the curtain to look at         and went away. I was still scared. Then,     she grew up was very difficult and
the weather. It was an incredible day; I      I rushed to my mom and hugged her            unstable.
was feeling so relaxed, and calm. Then,       tightly as if she were one of my stuffed
I rushed to my parents’ room. “Good           animals.                                       “Until the year 1928, life was very
morning Mama. How are you? Have you                                                        good. People had their own land and
looked at the bright sun outside?”              “Weren’t you afraid, Mama, when I          could sell their goods or use bartering,”
                                              was standing far away from you and           Barbara told me. Then disaster started.
   Happily, we decided to go shopping         the monkey was making scary noises           The government took away lands from
that morning for Rajasthani dresses and       and faces at me?” “Yes Beta, we were         people who were good owners and had
dishes. The shops were near the hotel. It     worried for you, and for a second, I         more wealth. They became so poor
took us ten minutes to get to the market      thought that monkey would bite you.          and many were sent to Siberia. They
place. We bought dresses in pink, blue        Thank God, he didn’t harm you,” she
and gray. We bought Rajasthani shirts         answered softly.                             and children. Then they decided to form
and skirts. There were different shops                                                     collectives and created propaganda to
for different cultures. In the meanwhile,        I was so grateful to my parents for       encourage people to work together: How
I heard some Chinese, Arabic and Hindi        protecting me and making me feel safe.       good their lives would be! Everybody
music from the loud speakers in the           The moment sticks out in my mind and         would have equal rights. “They made
street. Next, we moved to a toy shop          never leaves it. I learned a lot from this   the beds good, but it was hard to sleep.”
beside the music shop.                        incident. A dangerous situation can          Barbara described their false promise.
                                              occur at any place, at any time, just as     Luckily, Barbara wasn’t sent to Siberia
  As I entered the shop, I saw a huge,        I faced it.                                  because her mother was a widow with
                                                                                           three kids and she didn’t have a large
bear. Look at his big, blue and shining         Rattandeep Kaur, from India, is            property.
                                              studying Nursing.
big, white, fuzzy bear.” I thought he                                                        Disasters didn’t stop. When Barbara
was looking at me and wanted to play                                                       was 12, the Russians started a holocaust
with me.                                                   *   *   *   *   *               to kill Ukrainians. That year was good
                                                                                           for crops and people gathered a good
  When we were ready to leave, outside
I saw a monkey and suddenly started                Barbara’s Long                          harvest. But the Russian government
                                                                                           forced the heads of collectives to take
crying. My tone changed into sadness.                 Journey                              all the provisions from the people.
“Mama, save me. It’s going to bite me.                                                     Now everyone in the East and Central
OH NO, it’s coming to get me.” My
                                                    By Lyudmila Kurylo
                                                                                           Ukraine was starving to death. West
heart was pounding like a running                                                          Ukraine at that time was under Poland
                                                 When she appears at the corner of my
horse. The monkey was acting like a                                                        who was trying to help. They gathered
                                              house, I can check the time. It’s exactly
monster.                                                                                   food and wanted to send it to Ukraine,
                                              nine o’clock. She walks with a cane, but
                                              you would be surprised to see how fast       but nobody allowed them to do that.
  I said “DADDY, save me. It will kill
                                              and how big her steps are. She is not
me.” My dad said, “Don’t cry, Beta.                                                            “Russia wanted Ukraine destroyed,”
                                              young, but I could get jealous because
We’ll get you. I am coming to you, but                                                     was Barbara’s comment. The statistics
                                              of her energy. Every morning she goes
you have to hold my hand softly and                                                        say that in the Holocaust in Ukraine
                                              by my house to shop in Wegmans, which
gently. Take care. Don’t try to rush to                                                    more people died than during World
                                              is close to my street.
me.” “Okay, Daddy…. I’ll do whatever                                                       War II. Barbara was a live witness of
you say.”                                                                                  it. People were more than starved; they
16         ESOL VOICES

tried to eat everything that could keep     couldn’t be recognized.                        Lyudmila Kurylo, from Ukraine, is
them alive. When it was spring, they                                                     planning to major in Nursing.
started to eat like animals. They ate          “You wouldn’t believe it,” Barbara
leaves, grasses, and roots. Whoever had     said with a smile on her face, “They
                                            were 15km from my house and I didn’t                      *   *   *    *   *
                                            even expect him back.” Because she
it was named gallety. She remembers         hadn’t had any news from him during
how skinny she was and her mother was       the war, when he came home Barbara
swollen. People became insane from the      cried for a long time and very loudly.             By Melinda Roman
hopeless situation. Some of them killed     She had buried him in her thoughts and
their children and themselves. Some of      now he appeared as an angel.
                                                                                           His face was very dirty. He smelled
them were buried alive.
                                              Barbara’s husband was against Russia       like he hadn’t taken a shower for days or
  Barbara said, “It was a miracle that      and the war. He told Barbara that they       maybe for weeks. His clothes were dirty
we survived.” She had a stepfather                                                       and his shoes too. When I looked for him
who was a shoemaker. He was sent to         better life. When the Germans asked          on Ave. D, he asked me if I was going
different places to work. People paid       who wanted to go to Germany, with
him with goods which he brought home.       her husband Barbara took her two small
At that time the value of food was gold,    children, and together they took the train
                                            to Berlin.                                     His life has been so hard. At fourteen,
and the stepfather told her mother to
                                                                                         his family found out he was a drug
exchange all of their gold for food.
                                               Life in Berlin wasn’t easier because      addict, and left him behind when they
After two horrible years of hunger, the
                                            that city had been bombed by Russian         moved away from Rochester. That was
government let people plant again to
                                            soldiers. They found jobs on a farm and      when he chose the life that he is living
have some food.
                                            lived there for 7 years. The people were     today, sleeping in abandoned houses,
    When Barbara was 18, after three        friendly and helped them in their needs.     stealing to go to jail to have a place to
months of dating, she got married, but      Barbara’s husband wanted really badly        sleep when it is cold.
their happiness didn’t last long. Her       to go to the USA. When people were
                                            evacuated to Australia and Brasilia, he        If you go to the city, you will see him
husband Nick went into the military
                                            still waited for America. Barbara had        with a shopping cart full of metal cans
when World War II started, leaving
                                            never thought about the USA, but her         and bottles to exchange for money for
Barbara alone with two kids at home. A
                                            husband was very determined to be            drugs. He has been living this life for
few years into the war, Nick was trapped
                                            here.                                        thirty years. He has been in jail more
by German soldiers. They kept him in
                                                                                         than twenty times for stealing. “The
captivity, but he knew what they were
                                               In 1951 on the “Captain Black” they       only family that I have is the drugs.”
going to do with him. He couldn’t even
                                            sailed 8 days and nights, and after          People know him around. Sometimes
sleep, thinking about how to escape.
                                            many years of roving, Barbara and            they offer him food, but he asks for
With a friend, he decided to run away at
                                            Nick arrived in the country of their         money instead. Years ago he almost
night. They dug under the barbed wire.
                                            dreams. “God bless these people, who         died from an overdose. He is more
                                            accepted us and gave us everything that      and more dependent on drugs until the
swollen, but in their hearts there was a
                                            we needed. We were poor, hungry, and         point where he needs the drug just to
spark of hope. Fortunately, the ground
                                            barefoot. We were as animals in a cage.      get through the day. “It’s easy to start
was of sand, which made it easier to dig.
Hiding from the Germans, they crawled       In the America we found a happy life
                                            for us and our children.”                    quit. Believe me I know it well. Your
about a mile until they found a stack of
                                                                                         life will never be the same again’” He
hay. They dug under it, making a hole
                                             The next day when I saw her from my         has tried to quit, but it is impossible for
for a place to sleep. When the sun rose,
                                            window, I wondered again about what          him. To go to a rehabilitation place he
                                                                                         needs papers and he doesn’t even have
village. An old woman opened the door
                                            the circumstances that didn’t break her      his social security card, or any of his
and asked them, “Oh, my dear sons, are
                                            spirit. She is still walking lively and      important papers.
you hungry?” They were grateful to her.
She also gave them clothes, so that they    looking forward, not turning back.
                                                                                                 ESOL VOICES                    17

  Xavier has two children and no clue         see them because of the leaves. I thought
where they are. He would like to see
them but how? Sometimes he thinks             I waited for ten minutes, but nobody                  By Akil Aljaysh
he would rather not meet them again           found me and then I couldn’t even hear
because he doesn’t want them to see           their voices. It was almost 5:00 pm. I had     I was standing behind her, silent. I
him like that.                                to go back home, so I tried to get down      was thinking about what she was going
                                              from the tree.                               to tell me about her life. She was a
   This poor man gave me sorrow when                                                       small young woman, short and straight-
he talked to me. His face sometimes              “Oh my God! I don’t know how to           waisted like a child. Her forehead was
looked like he wanted to cry.                 get down from this tree.” I shouted my       shining though the smooth curves of
                                              friends’ names, but nobody answered. I       black hair. She was sitting in her comfy
  Melinda Roman is from Puerto Rico.          tried to jump down, but I was too high       chair, holding a cup of coffee in her
She is a Human Services major.                up. I felt so lonely, and didn’t know what
                                              to do. It was getting dark and cold. I had   window. As she looked at the beautiful
                                              been in the tree a long time and was         sky outside, she took a deep breath. She
             *   *   *    *   *               almost crying.                               was so relaxed; I just let her enjoy her
                                                                                           coffee for a while.
Real Hide-and-Seek                            called my name. It was my mother and            “Hi Megumi! How are you doing? I
      By Nanae Imazawa                        brother. “Nana, where are you?” “I am        am so sorry I’m late,” I said. “Oh no,
                                              here! In the tree!” I said, shaking the      It’s okay. I have nothing to do today. So
  I used to go to the park to play with my    branches and the leaves. My mother           how’s your day?” she replied. “Not too
neighborhood friends when I was child.        and Hiroki ran up to me and helped me
One day, my friends, Yuka, Kanako,            get down.                                    You know I have a lot to do this week.”
Megumi, Kosuke, Yumi, Shun and I
went to the park as usual. It was shiny         “Your friends told me they couldn’t        always do.” Then we started talking
spring day. First, we played with the                                                      about her life in Tokyo and how she
sand and made a tunnel and a castle. It       you. Don’t ever do that again, OK? If        became a professional skier.
was a very good job and we had a feeling      you want to climb a tree, you have to be
of satisfaction. Then we played tag.          with me, Dad or Brother.” “I am sorry.         Megumi is a Japanese girl, who was
After a while, we got tired of running        I didn’t expect that I couldn’t get down     born in Tokyo in 1979. She lived with her
and we discussed what to do next. At          from here. I’ll never do that again.” “You   mom. Her father left when she was two.
the age of six, we had to go back home        should call your friends; they are also      Megumi grew up in an Asian society
at 5:00 pm. We had thirty minutes left        worried about you,” she answered.            where they gave more respect to men
at that time.                                                                              than to women, which made her mom
                                                On the way home, I decided to stop at      worry about her more than usual. She
  “Let’s play hide and seek! All of us        my friend Megumi’s house. She said, “I       would never let Megumi play outside
agreed, so we did “paper, stone and           thought you had gone back home, so I         alone. Her mom was a ski instructor. She
scissors” to choose the seeker. I looked      went to your house to make sure that you     used to work in a different city because
for the place to hide while the loser         were there, but you weren’t. We really       there was no snow in the city where
counted to thirty. The best place where       worried about you.”                          they lived. Every day she would leave
                                                                                           Megumi with her grandma.
thought. The tree which I found had lots        After I got home, I wrote in my diary
of the leaves, and I could climb it easily.   because it was really scary. My mother          When Megumi was four years old,
Then the seeker said, “I am coming to         made curry rice, my favorite dish. I         her mom decided to teach her how to
                                              never went up that tree again and I
                                              always hid in a safe place whenever we       I saw snow.” The pretty girl’s face,
  When he approached me, I held my            played hide and seek again!
breath. He found my friends one after                                                      so surprised when she saw the heavy
another, but he was not able to find           Nanae Imazawa comes from Japan.             snow for the first time. She was six
me. After a while, I heard my friends         Her career plan is to become a Music         years old when her mom took her to
talking about something, but I couldn’t       Therapist.                                   the Nagano Olympic games. Here the
18         ESOL VOICES

snow was about eight feet high. The                                                          “Oh God, I am just at the middle of
beautiful place was crowded with people
                                               The World Is Not                            the line”— my heart started to beat so
from the entire world. When she saw             Without Kind                               quickly. I knew that they wouldn’t wait
                                                                                           for late passengers. I decided to get in
snow, it made her so excited that she              People                                  without a ticket. Of course, there were
was there. From that day, Megumi put               By Anna Bulbotko                        not any empty seats, so I stood like
in her mind she had to practice skiing                                                     many other passengers. I knew if the
every day. Her mom was so happy that          “The world is not without kind               controller came to check our tickets,
her only daughter started to love her       people”— words from a song I had               he would kick me off; he would never
favorite sport.                             heard not just one time on the radio,          give me a chance to buy one inside the
                                            but I had never seriously thought              train (this is possible only for passengers
  When Megumi saw her mom so                about what it meant. The author of this        whose town does not have a place to
proud of her, she started working out       song probably wrote it from his own
every single day, and at the same time,     experience. Maybe he had experienced           head and in that very moment I heard
she followed her mom’s suggestions.         a hard situation in his life and at the last   the voice I was scared of. It was the
Although it was hard for her, she never     moment somebody had offered him a              controller. I shuddered, but tried to be
gave up.                                    helping hand. Was this his reason for          calm. “What am I going to say if he asks
                                            writing this song?                             me to show my ticket?” I asked myself
                                                                                           again and again.
in Japan’s speed skiing competition.          “Hurry up! It is 11 o’clock already! Do
She had the chance to become one of         you want to be late for your train?”— my          “Can I see your ticket please” the
the national team. Besides that, she was    thoughts sounded in my head. I had             controller asked a man who was reading
also a great student, graduating from the   rushed off quickly from college; I             the newspaper. The man took out his
University of Tokyo in 2002.                                                               ticket from his packet and showed it
                                            train station. I could have taken a bus        to him. “Thank you.” “And yours,
  I wondered how she felt when she          to the station, but I didn’t because it        young lady,” he asked me next. A lot
was skiing. She said. “I can’t describe     went very slowly. I thought walking            of horrible thoughts filled my head.
the great feeling. I think there is an      I would be there quicker. On my way            My heard thumped like I was running.
air tunnel from me to the goal area.”       I kept thinking, “Hope there is not a          “What am I going to say? ”I asked
When Megumi is skiing, she feels like       huge line for the tickets.” At the station     myself again. “Can I see your ticket?”
she is operating a spacecraft, moving       I began to search, to see if there was         he asked me once more. “I don’t have
instantly by supernatural power, the        one of my relatives already in line. But       one. I didn’t get to the train station on
view radiating out in all directions.       there wasn’t, just a huge, huge line and       time because of my classes. I am so
                                            nobody I knew. It was three days before        sorry… Can I buy the ticket from the
   Megumi is a Monroe Community             the Easter holiday. A lot of students were     lady who sells them on the train? ”I
College student studying English. She       trying to get home as soon as possible so      asked him in a shivering voice. “Let me
is waiting for the competition of 2005.     the trains were always full. Sometimes         see your ticket!” he almost yelled at me.
She thinks she has a good chance to take    one train couldn’t hold everybody. The         “I don’t have one.” I took out my student
the championship in 2005.                   town, where I was studying had a lot           ID and showed it to him. “I’m a student.
                                            of different colleges, universities and        I don’t have enough money to buy a
  Akil Aljaysh is from Iraq and planning    institutes and students from all over          ticket at the original price. Can I…”
to become a Radiologist.                    Ukraine came there to study. “What
                                            am I going to do? I didn’t have enough            “This is not an answer,” he interrupted
                                            money to take a private mini-bus.” I           me. “You have just two choices: buy the
             *   *   *   *   *              looked at my watch, took a deep breath,        ticket at the original price, without your
                                            took out my student ID and stood in            student ID or…” His eyes were fearful
                                            line. I always took a train because the        and huge, “GET OUT OF HERE!”
                                                                                           and the horrible man indicated with
                                            student ID card. Suddenly I heard an
                                            announcement about a train which was           have a…” I tried to say something, but
                                            arriving.                                      he interrupted me again. “I told you
                                                                                                ESOL VOICES                     19

already: I do not care. You are a liar.”     help me contact the band, but I was not      arrived with her mom and her manager;
He stood behind me, yelling. I knew he       successful. I tried to watch the music       the director of the school showed them
was serious because I had seen before        television show “Bravo,” which gave          the way to my class. As they were
when controllers put out old people and      information about Tic Tac Toe’s tour,        quietly approaching the class, they
students who didn’t have tickets, even       but I missed it because my parents           called my teacher out. I thought I heard
in winter.                                   were watching another program. A             somebody mentioning my name and I
                                             few months later, I found out through        became very nervous. My teacher came
  Across from me was sitting an old          a friend that they would be having a         back and said, “There is someone here
lady. She heard my situation and felt                                                     for Jasmina.” It was Ricky. She came in
sorry for me. She took out some money        to get the tickets and go to the concert.
from her purse and held out her hand to      It was fantastic. Even though I was not      The rest of the day we had fun together.
me. “Take it and go buy the ticket.” Her     able to visually see them, I still had       I was so happy.
voice was calm and pleasant. My eyes         more fun than ever. However, my wish
                                             to meet them did not come true. The line       I succeeded in reaching this goal. And
“Thank you very much, dear. How can          to meet the band was too long and my         I will continue trying to succeed in my
I give it back to you? Where are you         sister who was with me did not want to       future goals. Sometimes it may seem
from?” “I don’t need it back. I know how     wait for me.                                 impossible, but if I try to work on it, it
you feel. Just take it,” she smiled at me.                                                will happen.
“Thank you again. I’ll never forget you.”      Several months later I had to go to
I found the lady who sold tickets, bought    the hospital because I became very             Jasmina Daut, from Bosnia, is
one and showed it to the controller. He      sick. When a child is in a hospital for      planning to study Psychology.
said nothing.                                a prolonged period of time and they
                                             cannot attend their normal schooling,
                                             the hospital provides educational                         *   *   *   *   *
I cannot forget the lady who saved me on     classrooms for them. Soon, I became
that day. Now I know that “the world is
not without kind people.”
                                             very close to my teacher, Mrs. Weiss.                         Me
                                               One day she told me about the “Make-                By Khanh T. Vu
  Anna Bulbotko, from Ukraine, is            a-Wish Foundation.” I said to her, “Yeah
planning a career in Nursing.                right, there is no such organization.”
                                             She said, “I will send a representative to
                                             your room.” One day I was in the room
              *   *   *   *   *              with Frau Keöning, who was reading a
                                             book to me. All of the sudden someone
                                                                                          two letters gives this word a more
            My Wish                          was knocking at the door. When the
                                             door opened, there was Andrea from
        By Jasmina Daut                      the Make-a-Wish Foundation. I just
                                             could not believe what I heard. She told     When evoked, it revives in each of
  When I lived in Germany, there was a                                                    us memories, regrets, thankfulness,
                                             me that I needed to write a letter about
pop group called “Tic Tac Toe.” I always                                                  and affection. Combining with the
                                             my wish.
a way to meet them. In the group were           I wrote my letter in Braille, and Frau    motherland. All Vietnamese yearn to
three singers all girls. Their names are     Keöning helped me handwrite it. I
Lee, Ricky, and Jessie. Their style of       had to wait about six months to get an       born, and grew up. Our land contains all
music was rap, but the things they sang      answer. The Make-a-Wish Foundation           the feeling of our hearts.
about were non-violent. They would           said that Tic Tac Toe had broken apart
                                             as a group. It would be up to me whom
experience.                                  I would get a chance to meet. I decided      mom getting weaker, thinner, my heart
                                             on Ricky.                                    felt down. All of her lifetime she not
  I tried everything I could to make my                                                   only took care of my father and us, but
wish come true. I tried calling radio          Months and months went by. When            also of my father’s parents. That is the
stations and music stores that could                                                      obligation of a married Vietnamese
20         ESOL VOICES

woman.                                     was crying because of the hard life born
                                           upon my mom’s shoulders.
   It was a hot summer day. Mother and                                                      Following the sweet melody, with
I were on the way home after she picked                                                  all the hopes, and wishes of my mom.
me up from school. Mom led the bicycle                     *    *    *
with one hand holding the bucket on the                                                  the risks and perils of life. Nothing can
saddle behind. With two small hands, I        The sunset had already disappeared,        stop me because I have my mom, my
tried to reach it as I wanted to help my   but the sky was still pinkish. I was          whole world.
mom hold the bucket still.                 sitting on the chair, looking outside,
                                           thinking of one thing which I always            Khanh T. Vu’s career plan is to
   “The pigs are hungry!” my mom said,     thought of every evening, the time my         become a Pharmacist.
her feet were making longer steps. I was   mom would sew. I wanted to learn how
silent and trying to take longer steps     to sew.
too. I knew the pigs were hungry, but                                                                 *   *   *    *   *
the smell of their food bucket made me       Coming a little closer to my mom’s
feel sick. We usually got the waste food   chair. I murmured into her ears, “I’m
from the restaurant for the pigs. Mrs.     wondering if you teach me how to sew
                                                                                          Little Did He Know
                                           clothes, I can help you even just a little            By Mirzeta Dogo
owner of this restaurant.                  part. For example, I can sew the bottom
                                           of a skirt. Don’t you think I can do that?”     This last weekend I was invited to
   My feet were getting tired. I wanted    I stopped a while and talked in a loud        charity dinner organized by the Bosnian
to tell my mom, but I could not. She was   voice. “I’m going to sew tonight.”            community in order to raise some
in a hurry. Besides raising pigs, my mom                                                 money for families in Bosnia that are
had to sew clothes to sell at the market      My mom looked at me with tears on          still having a hard time trying to live a
tomorrow. Her skin was a little thicker.   her face. As each tear dropped, each of       decent life as a result of the war between
Under the sunshine, the wrinkles on her    my breaths became heavier. My face            1992 and 1995.
forehead seemed to become deeper with      turned cold, wet from my own tears.
the worries of life.                       My mom hugged me tightly and talked             When I got there, the room was three
                                                                                         quarters full. There were a lot of people
   Suddenly I hit a rock. My toes          a poor life.” Wiping off my tears, she        that I knew from previous gatherings,
began bleeding, I started to cry without   continued, “All the things I do are for all   but also some new faces and one that
thinking about my mom who was in a                                                       caught my eye was a young man in a
hurry. “Are you ok?” she was saying,       to make a better life. Whatever will          wheelchair. I asked one of my friends
                                           happen, just remember one thing - that        about him. She grabbed my hand and
a house on the way. She looked around      I always have faith in you.”                  pulled me towards him in order to
                                                                                         introduce us. As I got close, I noticed his
crying although it still really hurt.        She held me tight, and let my head          eyes were light brown, nearly the same
                                           lean against her chest. I could hear the      color as his thick hair. When he noticed
  “Mom,” said I. “I’m ok, but I can’t      beating of her heart sending me the           us, he smiled. He had wide shoulders
walk anymore for now. We need to           messages of love. With all my power I         and was wearing a t-shirt. One could not
get home soon to feed the pigs.” Blood     said out loud, “I will do all the things      but notice his long, muscular arms and
kept coming out. She looked at me and      that you want me to do.” Tears were
                                           dropping fast, each one sealing my            be about 6 feet tall. His story is one of
come back to get their food.” I nodded     promise.                                      the most amazing I’ve ever heard.
instead of saying sorry to her. After
asking permission to leave the waste         “Ok. Are you ready? We will begin             Mujo Skiljan was born on May10,
food there, she gave me a ride home.                                                     1970 in a little city in central Bosnia
I sat behind her, leaning my head on       is spinning the thread and threading a        called Jajce. This is where he grew
her back.                                  needle.” Smiling with happy faces, we         up, went to school and met most of his
                                           worked and my mom sang a song, which
   My tears were coming out one more                                                     children; he thought his life was going
time. I wasn’t crying from the pain. I                                                   in a good direction and that he had a
                                                                                         beautiful future. Little did he know?
                                                                                                  ESOL VOICES                     21

  On March 13, 1992 the part of the            worked here for about a year and a half,
town where he lived was attacked by            really enjoying it. “Maybe I’ll open up
                                                                                              Siberia –Planet of
the enemy army. All of his family              my own place,” he thought. After all the           Miracles
managed to escape, but a couple young          bad things that had happened to him, he
men decided to go back to help an                                                              twelve months
injured friend that had been shot by a
sniper. When they got there, the enemy
                                               a happy future.                                  winter, others
army surrounded them and they had to             Then one day, in March of 2000, when             summer
give up. There were four of them plus          he was coming from work, he was at an               By Rita Jundulaite
                                               intersection, about three hundred yards
a POW. For twenty-two months they              from where he lived. As the light turned
made him do everything in the camp:            green, Mujo started going forward,             It was nice Sunday morning. My aunt
chop wood, dig trenches, work the land         but when he got to the center of the         and I woke up early and left for church.
and anything else that they could think        intersection, another car, driven by a       We have our own Lithuanian church
of - all that on a little piece of bread and   nineteen year old who was under the          here in Rochester. In our Lithuanian
some water. One day, digging trenches                                                       community there are around two
on the front line, he stepped on a land        red light and struck Mujo’s car. Mujo        hundred people. After church everybody
mine which tore into the right side of         was taken to St. Elizabeth Hospital, and     goes for a small breakfast, just to talk
his body, from his foot to his neck. In        was in critical condition for two-three      and see how everybody is doing. I came
                                               weeks. Surgery was done on his spine         to the US a little bit more than two years
aid, and struggled for about several                                                        ago, and after me just one more family
months until his body started healing.         he was paralyzed from the waist down.        followed. So, in these two years I got
He thought he would never see the light        After the hospital he spent six months in    to know everyone from Rochester’s
of freedom again. Like all the others,         a rehab center, to get better and to learn   Lithuanian community pretty well. But
he was just waiting for the day when           how to live in that condition.               a couple of weeks ago, when I went to
he could die because no day would go                                                        church with my aunt, a new face caught
by without somebody being killed on              Now he lives with his brother, who         my eye.
the front lines or beaten to death in the      was brought to the US after the accident
camp.                                          to take care of him. Mujo says there           She was an elderly lady, very shy,
                                               are two sides of him now. One side is        standing in the corner, like me the
  At the end of ’93 the camp was               when he is around people; he tries to
discovered and registered by the Red           stay funny and talkative like he’s always    introduced her to us. She was her
Cross. His prayers were answered in            been. The other side is when he’s alone;     mother. The family invited us for dinner,
a prisoner exchange with the Serbs on          he thinks a lot about things he did before   to know each other better, so that this
January 13, ’94.                               and is not able to do now. It hurts him      mom would not be so scared and shy.
                                               really bad when he sees people do things
  The war stopped in ’95, but there were       which are bad for their health or quality      Onute Milusauskaite was born in 1927
still too many refugees and unemployed         of life. They don’t appreciate the healthy   into a rich farmer’s family. There were
people because the Bosnian economy             body God has given them. He says about       three daughters and three sons. She was
had been crushed. In the spring of ’96         them, “A waste of a perfectly good pair      the fourth child.
some hope emerged out of nowhere.              of legs.” Mujo believes in God and he
By chance he learned about a special           understands that life has to go on. He         In 1945, December 31st, early in the
program for former POW’s which sent            will keep praying to God and hoping          morning, Russian soldiers occupied
people to western countries.                                                                their house. Onute’s father and two
                                               point that they can help people like         brothers were arrested. Onute, her
  In October of ’97 he came to Utica,          him walk again.. That’s Mujo, always         mother, two sisters, and her six year old
NY. For about thirty days he studied           hopeful and never wanting to give up.        brother were locked up in the house. The
English at the Refugee Center, and then                                                     threshing-barn, where they kept forage,
he got a job at a curtain factory. After         Mirzeta Dogo is interested in a Health
                                               related career.
days later he found work at a small                                                          One month later, on New Year’s
Italian restaurant called Joe’s. Mujo                                                       Day, three trucks full of soldiers came
22         ESOL VOICES

back. They took all the family’s wealth,      The end of December, Onute was put            In 1951 Onute met her future husband.
butchered all the pigs, harnessed the       on an old military boat, for an 18 day trip   He, like Onute, was a political refugee.
horses, and took all the cows with them.    to Macadam, Siberia. The temperature          She moved with him into their own
But this was not enough; Onute and the      at that time was -30 to -40 degrees           small house, and a daughter, Victoria,
rest of her family were arrested too.                                                     was born after a few years. 1955 they
                                            there she developed a severe case of          moved into a bigger house. They were
  After a couple hours of driving in        pneumonia. Then she was hospitalized          happy to move into a new place, but bad
                                            for two months. Because of the extreme        fortune followed them. The next year
military camp. From there Onute and         weather conditions, she developed joint       Victoria died because of terrible weather
her mom were sent on in the same            problems, back and heart ailments.            conditions and a lack of proper medical
truck, but her brother and two sisters                                                    attention. The family was crushed,
were left behind. After some time, the        Then she was sent to a central hospital,    but Onute soon realized that she was
nineteen year old girl was put in a jail    thirty kilometers away, for special care.     pregnant again. The same year another
cell, separate from her mother. Here        Throughout a one year period she saw          daughter was born, Larissa, and then
they were treated worst than animals.       death in front of her eyes again and          another two years later, Tatiana.
Nobody could fall asleep. Soldiers          again. Eventually she recovered. After
always were around to make sure that        she got better, nobody let her rest for a       During this period, the whole family
everybody stayed awake. They wanted         while. She was placed in an all female        was kept as political refugees, never
the prisoners to be exhausted and then      colony to do forestry work, which was         allowed to go back to Lithuania.
they would hold an inquest.                 so hard that it should have been done by      Thousands of these families were kept
                                            males, instead.                               in Siberia, all very close to each other.
 Three months later, Onute’s family
was punished by a military tribunal.          In 1950, September, Onute received
                                            a notice that she would be set free.          to leave. It had been 24 years of mostly
years of reformatory work without           The same day she was transferred to a         misery in a God awful place. When
any personal rights and her parents,        male colony where they placed her in          the family moved back to Lithuania,
ten years. That day all the family was      the laundry room. Onute didn’t know           they had to start from the ground up,
together; the tribunal let them stay in     how long she was going to stay there.         with nothing. Then in 1980, Onute’s
one cell just for one week, and after       That night freedom was not going to be        husband died, leaving her in charge of
this everybody was moved to different       easy. Threats of rape and harassments         the family.
places.                                     followed. She pleaded with them not to
                                            harm her.                                       While Onute was telling her story,
  September 1946, hundreds of prisoners,                                                  tears never left her eyes, not even for
political and criminal together, were         The following day, in the morning,          one minute, the same as mine. Nobody
pushed into big, dark trucks without        she was brought to the camp supervisor.       could tell that this shy and scared face
any windows or seats. After one month       He told her all the rules of her new          would hide such a strong and frightful
of driving, they got to a military colony   “Freedom.” She was allowed to have            person. She had come to the US to
in the north east of Lithuania. Refugees,   family, have her own living space but         visit her daughter’s family, to see her
the same as criminals, were treated         she could not leave Siberia. Twice a          grandchildren. Onute knew about
very badly. The food was very poor,         month she had to register in the camp         America just from pictures and her
                                                                                          kids’ letters. She never even dreamed
and distributed all week long without       for 20 years, with all her family.            that one day her foot would step into
                                                                                          this big country. When I asked her how
brought to them, the people went crazy        The beginning of her new life was           she feels here, she answered, “Like in
for it. Security guards were needed so      very hard. Onute didn’t know anybody.         heaven.”
the prisoners would not take more than      She was walking in the streets, looking
their share. If you dared to take too       for jobs. One day she went into a barber        Rita Jundulaite plans to work in the
much, you could be killed on the spot!      shop. The barber didn’t need help in the
Onute until this day remembers every        shop, but he took her to his house to
small detail.                               work as a housemaid for his family.
                                                                                                       *   *   *   *   *
                                                                                               ESOL VOICES                     23

                                                Nadia Bulbotko is preparing for a        an easy job, as I recall. Watering made
           My Name                            career in Nursing.                         the soil wet and slippery. I had to be
         By Nadia Bulbotko                                                               really careful where I walked. If not, I
                                                                                         might fall over the carrots. And I knew
   “I hate my name!” I cried. I was                       *   *   *   *   *              my mom wouldn’t be happy to see that
sitting on my father’s knees while he                                                    happen.
started a fire in the fireplace. “You
picked the worse name on the earth and             A Bird Without                          After watering the vegetables, we

inside and sought a chance to pour it
                                                       Wings                             went to the coffee field. This field
                                                                                         was immense compared to the others.
out on my father. But it didn’t make                   By Tuyen T. Vo
                                                                                         Because coffee was a long-term crop, it
him angry. He just smiled and put more                                                   could live for more than twenty years.
                                                 Have you ever worked on a farm?
                                              Just close your eyes and imagine how       We picked coffee beans every year and
                                              it feels when you spend your childhood     so the size of each bean grew bigger.
 He had named me Nadia. In Ukrainian,                                                    Walking along these coffee trees, I could
Russian and English it has the same           raising vegetables instead of playing as
                                              other kids. That was what I did since I    see the red-ripened beans hanging on the
meaning -- hope. I wanted to have a                                                      tree, waiting for pickers. The sunshine
more romantic name, like Lilya -- the         was 11 years old. It marked in my life
                                              an unforgettable time.                     sparkled on their sides, making their
                                                                                         skins smooth and bright. The branches
sea gull in English. It was a pleasure to                                                were swinging every time the wind blew
smell the aroma of the beautiful lilies in       It was a sunny day of June, when
                                              the sun was still hiding behind the        by. The smell of fresh beans was good
our garden or to see the pretty sea gulls                                                as it mixed with the wind around us. We
                                              mountains. My small town was covered
                                              with darkness. My alarm had wakened        started to pick the beans and put them
the water. But ...Nadia and hope... What                                                 into the basket I carried in front.
does that mean and how could I see it?        me. Forcing my eyes to open, I tried
My child’s intellect couldn’t understand      to reach the alarm. I turned it off and
                                              headed to the bathroom, still yawning.       When the sun reached the highest
the meaning of my name.
                                              It was only 6:00 am. “Mina, are you
                                              up yet? We’d better go!” It was my         had become red and all wet with sweat
   The warm air from the fireplace                                                       because of the heat. Tired, I lowered
touched my cheeks, and they turned to         mother’s voice. Running downstairs, I
                                              smiled at her, “I’m ready to go, Mom.”     my body to the grass under one of the
                                                                                         coffee tree shadows, took off my hat and
house.                                                                                   began to fan myself. At this moment, I
                                              out, checking all the windows and
                                              doors to make sure they were locked.       understood how hard my parents had
  “I always wanted to have good luck
                                              Then, she beckoned me and we began         tried and how much sweat and tears they
in my life. And I have. Every time I got
                                              to walk to our farm. It took us an hour    had used to provide a better life for us.
sick, I hoped to get better. Planting the
apple tree, I hoped to eat the fruit. And I   to get there.
                                                                                         that they were all planted with vegetables
did. I hoped to get a good job. I hoped to
                                                From far away, our farm appeared         and fruits. “It took them years to have
get married and start my family. Every
person has hope because our life is           slowly and it looked small. But when I

                                              it became huge, surrounded by all the        At the end of the day, my mother and
many diseases. We hope there is no
war. How great to have hope! Hope for         my mom to take care of the carrots.
a good life and a happy future. Until         She held the hose and started to water
there is life, there is hope. There is a      the young carrots. I followed her when
                                              she moved around, trying not to let the    so happy with all the work I had done
Nadia.                                                                                   for my mom. At 5:00 pm, we packed up
                                              hose hit the carrots.
                                                                                         and were home at six. That night, I had
  “I gave you the most beautiful name
                                                The temperature was high during          the best sleep ever.
on the earth,” smiled my father as he
                                              the summer, so we needed to water
agree with him.                               these crops every day which was not
                                                                                         the farm, I was clumsy, making many
24         ESOL VOICES

mistakes. But my mom gave me a chance        have it, hah?” “I would feel, probably,
to accomplish something, my first            bad. However, you are old enough             regular price is $50.”
important experience in my childhood.        to understand things like if I had the
                                             money I would buy you a piano right            “Okay, I’ll do it,” I interrupted the
education affects human beings. There        away.                                        man. “You know the rules, right? Only
were some people who had to work on
a farm to survive because they lacked           Unfor t u nately pianos are ver y
education. My mom always told me, “A         expensive, and I can’t afford to. I am         you get a piano.” “Yes, I know.” “Are
person without education is just a bird      very sorry. You know, Valya, I want to       you ready? How many letters are there
                                             tell you something. When I was a child,      in the word Lviv?” “Four!!!” I screamed.
as they are able.” Whatever I do, she is     I didn’t even have a toy, and I never        “U-h-h-h, you are fast, girl, very fast.
the one who pushes me into studying.         complained to your grandmother…”             Here you go. Congratulations. It is yours
She always hopes education can help me       My mother stopped talking and started        now.” He took the electronic piano, a
                                             to cry. I felt ashamed. I turned my          “Yamaha,” and handed it to me.
with farm work.                              body. “Look, a-h-h-h, Mom I didn’t
                                             mean to hurt your feeling, I am very           I was astonished, speechless. Looking
 Tuyen T. Vo comes from Vietnam. Her         sorry,” I hugged my mother. “Daughter,       at the piano, I couldn’t believe it.
major is Business Administration.            I love you and I promise that one day        I remembered my mother’s words,
                                             your dreams will come true.” With            “Valya, I promise you that one day your
                                             my mother’s words I ref lected and           dream will come true.” I realized it was
             *   *   *   *   *               comforted myself.                            a gift from God, “Oh Lord, Thank You
                                                                                          very much.” My mouth barely moved.
                                               “Valya,” my dad called me. “Come
                 Lviv                        here my girl. Would you like to go with        It was the happiest day in my life. Here
   By Valentyna Tabachuk                     me and visit Lviv?” “Sure daddy, I           in Lviv, my dream came true. “Thank
                                             would love to, I think we will have a nice   you Daddy for taking me to Lviv.”
   “Probably you don’t love me enough.”      time together. When are we leaving?”
I lay on my bed and started to cry.          “Tomorrow in the morning.” “Okay,             Valentyna Tabachuk comes from
“Mom, why can’t you afford to buy a          Dad, I’ll be ready.”                         Ukraine. She is planning to become a
piano for me? Why can’t you make my                                                       Nurse.
dreams come true? I don’t understand           At 11 the next day we were in the old
why I can’t have the things that I want.     city of Lviv. My dad parked the car in
I am probably the unhappiest, ten year       front of a food store, because we were                    *   *   *   *   *
old child, in the world!” My mother was      hungry. “Valya, what do you want to
sitting next to my bed on a chair, without
saying a word. I stopped talking too.
                                             eat?” “Buy me a mashed potato with                    A Walk to
                                             chicken and apple juice, okay?” My
Immediately, I felt my mother’s warm         dad opened the car door. “Look Dad.                   Remember
hand on my head. “What do you want,          There are two guys behind our car. It               By Rene Albarran
Mom? I don’t want to talk to you.”           seems like they want to talk to us. Don’t
                                             you think so?” Thirty seconds later the         Last week while eating in a Mexican
   “Valya,” my mother’s soft voice           two guys were standing beside our car        restaurant when the busboy came to
                                             holding a big bag and showing us some        the table with chips and salsa I told
my baby. I am your mother, and I want        papers.                                      my wife, “I bet he is from Mexico.”
to talk to you.” “About what do you want                                                  It was a surprise to me because if you
to talk with me?” “You are my daughter,        “Hello, sir. We were just walking here     haven’t noticed, in Rochester, Mexican
and I love you with all my heart. You are    and saw your girl in the car. I think we     restaurants don’t have Mexican people
the most important person in my life,        have a present for her.” I opened my eyes    working for them. I introduced myself
and I don’t want you to feel sad about       wide, “What?” “You know, today we            and we started talking. He told me that
the piano.”                                  have a special day in honor of our city,     his name is Ricardo that he is thirty
                                             which is a100 years old today. We are        years old, and that he just moved to
   “Mom!!! How would you feel if             advertising a little electronic piano, and   Rochester. I asked him a few questions
you wanted something and you didn’t          everyone who will answer our question
                                                                                                   ESOL VOICES                      25

like how he came to the US, what he           village where I would call somebody            me to the 0.5 star hotel across the street
thought about the country, and it turned      to pick me up.” “Just like that?” I said       where I had to share a room with another
out into a full conversation. I asked         surprised how calm he was, talking
him if he could tell me more about his        about it. “Yeah, just like that. My brother    to us. They offered to get drinks, food,
stories another time and he agreed and        had said that the walking wouldn’t take        and cigarettes, so we wouldn’t have to
two days later, I picked Ricardo up after     more than four hours, so I thought it          leave the room for any reason.” “Any
his shift. We went to a café to talk more                                                    women?” I asked with a cynical smile.
about his life.                               Sonora, as he told me, and then I took a       “That would’ve been nice, but we needed
                                              bus to Agua Prieta, Sonora where I was         to save our energy for our journey.”
  “Ricardo, how did you decide to come        supposed to meet el coyote. From there
to the US?” “When I was in Mexico, I          he would take me to Phoenix, AZ.                 “How long did you stay in the hotel
had heard that the US is a country full of                                                   before you crossed the border?” “Just for
opportunities and working hard I could          “I was doing as my brother and I             one night. The next morning, los coyotes
save a lot of money. I was also curious       had planned when a guy at the bus
about how it would be to live in another      station approached me saying: “Guero,          morning.” “Orale muchachos, parence
place away from home, plus people were        guero, tu eres el que viene de la capital      que se nos hace tarde.” “They were
always talking about how much money           verdad?” Ricardo spoke with a heavy            rushing with so much excitement as if
could be made. I was twenty-eight years       Mexican northern accent. “You are the          we were going out for a party.”
old at the time, and I felt that I needed     one that is coming from the city, right?
to start saving money, which I could not      Good, we have been waiting for you.              “Were you afraid?” I said. “I’m not
do in Mexico. My brother and friends          Come this way; we are going to take you        going to lie to you, I was. After we left
were already in the US and they were          to your hotel,” he said. “Which hotel?”        the hotel, we got into a truck where they
inviting me to come all the time.”            My brother had never said anything             took us to a very small village in the
                                              about staying in a hotel. Without a            middle of nowhere. At this place was our
  I was wondering if he came legally or       chance to say a word, these guys were          last stop. They fed us some huevos con
like many other Mexicans, so I popped         taking my bags, and walking towards            salchicha. I will never forget the taste of
the question. “How did you come to the        the hotel across from the bus station.         the scrambled eggs and sausage. Then
United States?” “Ha! It was not easy!         “Wait, wait, wait. Who are you?” I said        we all got a bag with a couple cans of
First I tried to do it the right way by       to the guys as I gripped my bags.” “We         beans, tuna, mango juice and a gallon
getting a tourist visa, but of course, it     came to pick you up,” they answered.           of water. The guides got theirs too, but
was denied, so my next option was to                                                         theirs was a little bit different. They
come as all my friends; running across        Claudia” I said, immediately pulling my        got two bottles of tequila and a kilo of
the border!”                                  cell phone out of my pocket.”                  cocaine!” “For just four hours, this is
                                                                                             a lot of food! I thought.” “What do you
                                                “You don’t trust us. Here, use mine;         mean just four hours?” I said “Yes, my
                                              you don’t have to waste your minutes.          brother had said that the walking after
second and shaking his head he said,          You are going to need them later.” And         the last stop wouldn’t take more than
“yes, but I had in my mind that I would       he started dialing a number from his           four hours.” “That’s right, you already
do whatever it took to come to the            cell phone. “La senora Claudia right?”         told me this,” I said.
United States.”                               “Yes,” I answered without even realizing
                                              that I answered a question, information          “After eight hours of walking, I started
  “How did you cross the border?”             that he didn’t have. “Claudia, here is         talking to the other guys in the group
“My brother made a couple of calls to         the guy from Mexico City that wants            about how long they had been told that
our family in New Mexico, and they            to talk to you,” he said with a very           the walking was going to take and we
provided him with the information to          convincing voice. “Hello, senora, this         all had been told different things, so we
contact “ un coyote.” Coyote is a nick        is Ricardo, Raul’s brother,” I told her.       started asking questions to the coyotes.”
name for the person who helps smuggle         “Ok. Ricardo right? Go with them and           “Hey, how much longer do we have to
Mexicans across the border. “He called        we’ll talk later,” she replied to me. I felt   walk?” he asked one of the guides. “Just
me back with the name and phone               a slight tone of hesitation in her voice.      keep walking. We’ll let you know when
number of el coyote and told me to take       “I went with those guys, even though I         we are close,” the guide answered him,
a plane to Hermosillo, Sonora. From           had my doubts about them. They took            not very friendly. The walk seemed
there, I had to take a bus to another small                                                  endless, so the group dared to ask again.
26         ESOL VOICES

“Are we almost there?” Immediately he        I stopped for a moment, and the group        me vale madre, yo me voy a parar, no
saw one of the coyotes stop drinking         kept walking without me. I did not take      me importa.” How bad he wanted to
from his bottle of tequila, turn around      long. I got back on my way as soon as        stand up and he could care less about
and say in a very mean way: “Listen          I could. It was really dark and I could      any consequences. Immediately, one of
to me hijos de la chingada. We are not       not see anything. I needed to catch up       the coyotes said: “If you stand up, I will
even half way there, so you better shut      with the group, so I started running. I      leave you right here, so the migra can
up and keep walking. Let me make this        was keeping a pretty fast pace when all      send you back to Mexico.” “I was trying
clear if you haven’t noticed. All of you     of a sudden I felt a whipping pain across    to comfort the guy by sharing his pain
were kidnapped at the bus station. I paid    my face, chest, and legs. I had run into     and reminding him of how much we had
one hundred dollars per head and when        a wire fence. I did not see that damn        been through and a couple more hours
we get to Phoenix, I am expecting to get     thing. I stood up as fast as I could and I   were worth it.”
one thousand dollars back from each of       jumped over it this time. When I caught
you. That’s the deal, so you better keep     up with the group, they were entering a        “How long was the ride in the trucks?”
walking or you’ll never see gringo land.”    huge drainage pipe. They were walking
Ricardo repeated the guide’s words with      very softly because apparently there was     it to Phoenix by seven in the morning.”
pain in his face.                            la migra or “a border patrol” if you want    “Who picked you up?” “My brother
                                             to call it like that, right on top of the    was already in Arizona waiting for me.
  “I wanted to kill that guy, I swear. The   tunnel. My heart was beating so hard         One of the smugglers called him on his
only thing in my mind was revenge. I         that I was afraid that the border patrol     cell phone and said, “mire jefe, aqui le
needed to be smart and continue with         would hear it. El coyote immediately         tengo a su pariente, trigame el dinero y
them to the end. Let me explain it better    pulled out his Nextel and started making     yo se lo entrego.” My brother had the
to you. We started walking on Thursday       a call to some body.”                        one thousand dollars as el coyote had
                                                                                          requested and I was free to go.
a break until Friday at nine, for two          “Ok. Chamacos don’t panic. This
hours. Then we kept walking for another      guy should be leaving in about seven            “It has been two years since then, and
couple hours until we started to say that    minutes. After he is gone, on my count       it seems as if it was yesterday” “Are you
we needed to get some sleep in order to      you start running as fast as you can to      happy to be here?” “What! Of course
keep going.”                                 the other side of the hill. There, there     I’m happy! I’m pursuing my dream,
                                             are a couple trucks waiting for us to        I’m working hard and saving money, so
  “Around 3 pm the sun was drilling          take us to our last place.” It was easy      when the time to go back to Mexico has
                                             for him to say. He was high on cocaine       come, I will have enough money saved
a spot to stop and get some rest. Finally,   and I bet feeling like Superman, but         and I will open a business and be my
we found some bushes on the bank of          some of the guys from the group were         own boss.”
a dry river that provided enough shade.      barely walking because of the blisters
I thanked God for the shelter and I lay      on their feet and one of the guys had          Rene Albarran is from Mexico. He is
                                             twisted his ankle,” he said reliving the     studying International Business.
that was more comfortable than the bed       events. “It was not easy, but we ran as
that I have right now. Six hours later, I    fast as we could, making it to the trucks
woke up and when I opened my eyes, I         in record time. I thought, we were going                  *   *   *   *   *
couldn’t believe how many stars were         to get some rest, but I was wrong. Once
in the sky that night. It made me think      we got in the trucks, we were folded in
about how great God is. We started our       half, and then in another half as if we
journey again. Los coyotes loaded up
their noses with cocaine and washed it       in the trucks in such way that from the
down with some more tequila.”                outside the trucks nobody would see
                                             us. That trip was painful; I don’t know
  “Finally, after forty-eight hours of       what was worst, walking for 53 hours
walking, we saw the glow of the city.        or not feeling my legs for two hours.
This gave us hope and strength to keep       We all were in such a position that one
walking. Everybody was excited and           of the guys was saying “hay, hay, hijo
so much excitement made me want to           de la chingada ya no siento mis piernas,
go into the bushes to do my business.

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