Monday, October 31, 2005

Trick or Treat

My neighbor was treated to the sweetness of freedom this morning. He won his case of withholding deportation. He also won a chance to start a new chapter of his life.

The trick is that this is his last chance to live a clear and productive life. After being in immigration detention for almost a year, he had learned the value of his freedom and unconditional love from his family.

I hope he'll always remember his treat and not be tricked.

Good luck, Gago!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Quote of the Week (43)

"I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed."

- Booker T. Washington

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Losing My Ears

It's been many years since I'd watched a Chinese movie in Mandarin. When I found a movie playing on AZN Asian TV station tonight, I was struck with a case of "losing my ears." I noticed that I couldn't understand all the Mandarin that was spoken by the characters. I followed the subtitles. I almost went into a panic. It wasn't until about half way into the movie when I began to understand the familiar language.

I need to watch more Chinese movies to find my ears.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Message to Vietnam

It's not likely that you'll run into me jogging around Lake Merritt or working out at the 24-Hour Fitness gym in Oakland this year. Then again, miracles do happen sometimes.

I know St. Francis of Assisi is looking out for you, but do be cautious of the avian flu. Not fear, but cautious.

Please shoot me a shout out before you come back from Vietnam in the cyber world.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Life is Tiring

"Life is tiring," a Chinese detainee repeats dejectedly. "I've been working for 13 years with nothing to show for. My ex-wife and kids cheated me of my money. Then my girlfriend cheated me of my money. Life is tiring."

"Why don't you try looking within instead of projecting your feelings on what others did to you?" I sense the need to give some hope. "You can still start over as long as you can still breathe. Money comes and goes, but you only have one life to live. Life is a miracle."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Not an Act

A wise old guy said, "Excellence is not an act. It's a habit." Though my transformation is far from being excellent, it isn't an act. It comes from good habits of discipline, focus, risky changes, and compassion for others that changes the course of my life.

As I face people and actions contrary to my beliefs, I look to my good habits for strength.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Wrath of Parents

Take heed, Mother Earth and Father Sky are teaching their human inhabitants a lesson. If Asian tsunami, hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, and earthquakes are signs of disgruntled parents, we're in trouble.

The message is for everyone in the world community to love each other and be kind to the earth that sustains us.

It's time to listen to our parents.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Remembering Rosa Parks

Anyone who can live to the age of 92 has seen many historic events. However, in this world, there are those who witness history and those who make history. Rosa Parks was one of those who made history.

As more of our role models and icons who are tireless and fighting for equal rights die, the younger generation of freedom fighters have to pick up the torch.

Rosa Parks lives.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Quote of the Week (42)

"In the life of a man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his sense a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul and unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, his fame doubtful. In short, all that is body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapors."

- Marcus Aurelius

Saturday, October 22, 2005

We Are All Suspects Now

The tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the lives of Americans, especially the immigrants. We Are All Suspects Now, a book by Tram Nguyen, is a collection of investigative stories depicting how the government's post-9/11 policies on anti-terrorism have shaken and plagued the lives of immigrants.

Nguyen, an Vietnamese American, is the executive editor of Colorlines Magazine.

Everyone should buy a copy of the book because the more we know, the better we can protect ourselves and help others.

For more information, please log onto Beacon Press at or the Applied Research center at

Congratulations, Tram!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Dying is Easy, Living is Not

There is a Chinese saying: "Death can be lighter than a feather or it can be heavier than Mount Tai."

Which one would you choose when death is knocking on your door? The feather or Mount Tai?

I've heard some people say that they're willing to die for this and die for that. Obviously, they want to die for a purpose. I've felt the same way in the past.

Now, I know it's important to ask ourselves: What we are willing to live for? What do we stand for instead of against? Can we make things better?

Living is suffering.

Deal With It

"I keep praying to God to help me go to sleep. I've been thinking about my deportation hearing so much that I can't sleep at nights," a detainee shares with me.

"God can't help you go to sleep. Only you can," I say. "You should stop stressing about the things that you can't control."

"But I can't ignore it. I want to go home," he says.

"The last thing you want to do is ignore your feelings. It'll only make you depressed more," I say.

"So, I should deal with it," he exclaims.

"Yes, deal with it," I acknowledge.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

19 Going On 20

By the time I get out of immigration detention, I will have been locked up for 20 years.

How many 20 years does a person has in a lifetime?

My scheduled hearing on October 24th has been postponed because I'm still waiting for my visa petition to get approved. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has received my application and it'll take 90 days to process.

My new hearing date is on February 6, 2006.

For those who had requested a day off from work to attend my October hearing, sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for your support.

I don't like the continued delay of my freedom, but it's necessary. I have my moments of struggle. However, I'm mentally prepared for the uncertainties of my future.

Your continual support is always appreciated.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Losing a Loved One Behind Bars

What's more difficult than losing a loved one? Losing a loved one behind bars.

I remember when my grandfather died a little over 10 years ago. I was in San Quentin. I felt sad because I didn't get an opportunity to know him as an adult. I wasn't devastated because we had never had a chance to become close. On the day of his funeral, I was able to get three incense sticks from a Protestant chaplain to pay my respect. I held the lit incense in my hands, got on my knees, kowtowed three times, and said a prayer to the open sky. Then I stuck the incense in the dirt. A couple of years later, my grandmother passed away. I'll always regret not knowing my grandparents.

My friend Marc lost his grandfather recently. He wished he could've said the things he wanted to say to him. Marc's behind bars. He's in mourning.

That's just another heavy price to pay for those who have committed crimes and are incarcerated. We never stop paying.

My deepest condolences goes out to Marc's family.

Please always cherish your loved ones.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Remembering June Jordan

The last time I saw the poet June Jordan, she was wearing a yellow sweater. She was on PBS talking about her book. Not long after that, cancer took her away from the divided world she had lived in.

The first time I almost met her was the night I'd organized the first ever poetry slam in San Quentin. She couldn't come because it was the same night of her scheduled book signing in the City. Instead, she sent her students from Poetry for the People. She promised me that she'd be there at the second poetry slam if I would invite her.

The second time I almost met her was the night of the second night of the poetry slam in San Quentin. I'd invited her. She didn't make it. Cancer had denied her inspiring presence.

I often regret not being able to meet June Jordan. Then I realize we had met many times through her poetry and the personal legacy that she had created.

You too can meet her through Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Quote of the Week (41)

"In this endeavor to wed the vision of the Old World with that of the New, it is the writer, not the statesman, who is our strongest arm. Though we do not wholly believe it yet, the interior life is a real life, and the intangible dreams of people have a tangible effect on the world."

- James Baldwin

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Millions More

As thousands of people gathered in the nation's capital to raise awareness on poverty, health, family, and education, a curfew was activated in Toledo, Ohio, due to violence between the Nazis and African Americans.

Whenever people are gathered to talk about ideas to eliminate racism, classism, sexism, capitalism, and imperialism, they're promoting equality for all.

We can always use millions more of such gatherings wherever human beings are dwelling on this earth. With breathing comes great responsibility.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Peaceful Heart

The poet Hafiz once wrote that if he wants to touch God, he lifts his hand and kisses it.

When I want to maintain a peaceful heart, I think of the possibility of losing my ability to keeping my mind free. After all, freedom of mind supercedes physical freedom.

My heart is at peace.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Good Representation

The quality of legal representation depends on the quantity of money a client can afford to pay.

From talking to different immigration detainees, I'd heard stories of mediocre attorneys who preyed on those who hoped to stay in this country. Examples of some unethical practices by attorneys include refusing to accept collect calls from clients, lying about mailing copies of important documents to clients, taking money to represent a client knowing that he's not qualified for any relief, and making contradictory statements in court against clients.

Legal representation for those facing immigration deportation and seeking asylum is a big money business, especially after 9/11. When there is big money involved, there will always be corruption.

Beware of predators.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Sweet 72

On Saturday, the 15th my dad will turn 72. Year after year I long for the day I can be home to celebrate his birthday with the entire family and I'm still waiting.

I wished him an early happy birthday on the phone today. I heard the joy in his voice when he thanked me and praised me for always remembering every family member's birthday. It's good to know that I can provide a little happiness to my dad. He definitely deserves more.

I told him that I would be there for his next birthday.

I will.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Desperately Needing Dental Work

I was chewing on some chili beans and nacho chips during lunch when I felt something sharp scratching my tongue. After I swallowed my food, the rawness of my tongue intensified. I rushed to the restroom mirror and looked inside my mouth. To my horror, I had swallowed a part of my molar. The molar with the filling was broken with a quarter of it in my stomach.

I'm still waiting for my dentist appointment. It's important to take care of your teeth.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Indigenous Peoples Day

Even in jail the propaganda of how Columbus had discovered America is being perpetuated in the classroom. The teacher called him the world's greatest business man because he was able to accumulate wealth for his descendants.

So the message for the students: it's okay to lie, exploit, enslave, and colonize poeple in the pursuit of personal wealth. Because 500 years later he still gets honored.

Thank goodness for historian and author Howard Zinn who depicts the often neglected facts of American history in his book A People's History of the United States!

No doubt Columbus was a historical figure, but let's teach all the facts.

Let's honor those generous native people who are often forgotten.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Quote of the Week (40)

"In a time when there is so much cruelty in this world, we must generate the oxygen of love to keep the soul of the world still breathing."

- Dale Turner

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Soul of Justice

"I hope young people will get a chance to see this and realize that there are people who lived up to their commitment and their consciences." The words of U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel refered to to the film Soul of Justice: Thelton Henderson's American Journey.

Thelton Henderson, a San Francisco federal judge whose controversial decisions to strike down Prop 209 and order the takeover of the state prison system due to its human rights violations, prompted some lawmakers call him an activist judge.

You can watch the film and judge for yourself who Judge Henderson is.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Flu Alert

The topic of the day among the kitchen workers has been the 1918 Spanish flu that killed 50 million people.

The possible spred of the avian virus in the U.S. and the shortage of vaccines are the cause for preparation and education. It's a life and death situation, especially for the elderly.

For those people who have been too busy to catch the news on the upcoming flu, please take time to be aware.

Stay safe.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Burnt Out

"Teacher, teacher. What does prevalent mean?" the Cambodian youngster yells out in frustration.

"Eddy, explain to him what the word means," the teachers refers to me.

I use five different examples to explain the meaning of prevalent to him. He just doesn't get it. I figure he is just be difficult.

Later on, he shares with me that his brain is burnt out from doing too many drungs. At 24, he can't retain too much information. His long term memory is shot. He regrets doin all the drugs. He thought that he could quit anytime he wanted to, but the drugs dictated his life.

The mentality of invincibility in dealing with drugs among teenagers is prevalent in society. It's wise to say no to drugs.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Shooting to Relax

I read in the newspaper that a couple of people were shot while driving on the freway in Oakland. There's no lead on the shooter. The police suggested it was not a random shooting.

The incident made me think of some guys who told me that when they would get angry they would pull out their guns and shoot in the air or at cars. They said the firing of the gun relaxed them. They were animated when they shared their stories with me. I was terrified inside. I wondered how many people felt the same way they did. The fact that anyone can be a victim of such senseless random shootings is a reality in society. That's a scary fact that cannot be ignored.

Heads up.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Beans or Beans?

Beans are a good source of protein and fiber. For institutions, most importantly, it's economical. When you have to feed hundreds or thousands of people, provide them with enough protein to meet FDAs dietary requirement and save money. You too would find it attractive.

That's why beans are served at least four days a week if not more. However, people don't feel full of beans in here.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Cultural Ignorance

"Are you ready, Chinaman" My Armenian workout partner asked me. We were getting warmed up to do our exercise.

I stopped him right away and explained to him that calling me a Chinaman is like calling an African American the n-word, a Mexican the w-word, or a white person the h-word.

He aplogized and I let it go because I knew that he meant no harm. He thought that since I am a man from CHina, I could be called a Chinaman. As a matter of fact, most Chinese immigrants have no problem with being called a Chinaman. They thought the same way as my Armenian friend. They didn't know any better.

That's why it's so important for everyone to learn each other's culture because Chinaman, like Oriental, is another derogatory word.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Quote of the Week [39]

"Character cannot be devloped in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

- Helen Keller

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Internet Police

According to a recent Associated Press report, about 100 million Chinese have access to the Internet. The Chinese government has imposed more restrictions to limit information available to Internet users. It's another powerful measure that surpresses the freedom of speech.

Therefore, it's not shocking to know that Internet users in China cannot access my blog. However, one may access my website.

I wonder how freely bloggers in China can communicate with the international community.