Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Brighter Day

It's true that after my last hearing my spirit was at a low. It's difficult not to feel worn down by the monotony of detention. However, I've been in worse situations dealing with parole while in prison. This is another struggle I must overcome to reach for that brighter day of freedom.

In the coming days, I will continue to face struggles being in detention. However, I know that I'm nover alone. My family, friends, supporters, and the community are behind me a hundred percent. There is no giving up.

A wise man reminds me that "there must be a brighter day."

Monday, May 30, 2005

My Last Birthday in Lockup

I celebrated my 36th birthday yesterday. That was my 20th birthday spent in lockup. I don't anticipate celebrating another birthday in lockup.

I celebrated my birthday by meditating, chanting, doing yoga, exercising, reading, and eating with a couple of Asian detainees. It was a peaceful day.

I received many birthday cards. Thank you all for thinking of me and sending me good wishes. It felt good to be thought of.

My next birthday is promised to be a blast.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Quote of the Week (22)

"The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions and to all people, experiencing everything totally without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes onto oneself."

- Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Saturday, May 28, 2005

My View on Words of Speech

Words only mean something at the moment being spoken because they invoke a certain feeling or reaction - ultimately, it's the actions behind those words that will make you shine.

I stand by my cell door for thirty minutes listening to this guy preaching up a storm about God, the power of education and knowledge, and the oppression and exploitation of the U.S. government in his broken English. It's the third time I've listened to him without making any comments until he finished his ranting.

I listen because I know he needs to vent to someone because he's stressing about his detention and because he feels good.

Each time, I speak for two minutes at the end of his tirade. I express to him that his words sound logical and have some depth. However, I emphasize to him that it's imperative to lead by example and apply what he has preached. Calling his wife a bitch and whore and having a mistress doesn't coincide with his words of wisdom.

He agrees with me and walks away dejected each time.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Childhood Toys

I read the Chinese newspaper about homemade toys and remembered the toys I used to play with in China.

Mud was one of the toys I played with my friends, preferrably red mud. We would use the mud to make icicles with chopsticks. It was a great game of pretending.

Another popular toy was the slingshot. We made it out of tree braches shaped in a "Y" or used thick wire. I still know how to make ammunition out of paper. TIt wasn't a safe toy since we'd often shoot at each other.

An active toy that most teenagers had was a metal circle with a metal stick as a guide. We used a thick metal wire and bent it into a circle. Then we make a metal stick with a hook at the end to push the circle. We would push the circle to race against each other or crash into each other to see whose circle was still rolling.

Those are some economical homemade toys I played with was a kid in Guangzhou, China. I wonder if kids are still playing with them.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Early Birthday Gift

I finally received the autographed copy of William Wong's pictorial book of Oakland's Chinatown from the publisher. The first time Bill sent it, the jail didn't allow me to have it because it wasn't from the vendor or publisher.

I browsed through the book and saw some familiar places where I used to romp around Chinatown as a kid. It brought back from pleasant memories. I look forward to reading the book. Thank you for sharing the history of Oakland's Chinatown, Bill.

I also received a gift from my Guardian Angel through Amazon.com. It's an all-new Boondocks Collection by Aaron McGruder's Public Enemy #2. I've heard of his comic strips and came across a few here and there. Now I get to indulge in a whole collection.

Good looking out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Who Discovered America?

If you don't know who Zheng He is, you should watch the PBS documentary 1421 - The Year China Discovered America.

Historian Gavin Menzies believes that Chinese went from Africa to Europe to the Caribbean and along the eastern coast of the United States.

Zheng He, the admiral of a gigantic Ming fleet, at the behest of Chinese emperor Zhu Di, went on expeditions and visited some 3,000 countries.

It's believed that the Chinese possessed the mightiest naval power at the time.

Please go check out the documentary or read the book. Then you can decide who discovered America, if anyone.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Welcomed Visits

I was expecting a friend to come visit this morning. He planned to drive in town the night before, stay in a hotel, and come visit the next day.

I was looking forward to visit. However, when I arrived at the visiting area, a different friend was waiting for me. He had the morning off from work and decided to check on me. It was a surprise treat.

Since I'm allowed to visit for two hours only, I spent some quality time with my friends separately.

Though we had to visit behind plexiglass and through telephones, I enjoyed the company of my friends. Their presence helped break the monotony of the days in detention.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Cherish the Grandparents

I was reading the local newspaper and came across a story that made me think about my grandma. The story talked about a teenage girl who baked a cake with her blind grandma. The girl didn't think that they could bake a cake since her grandma couldn't see. Grandma taught her how to feel, taste, and smell the ingredients. The moral of the story: Don't be blind-sighted by what you don't have and utilize what you do have.

I can't recall anything memorable that I did with my grandma when she was alive before I was incarcerated. I missed out on all the history and lessons only a grandma could teach me. That is one thing I will always regret.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Quote of the Week (21)

"From time to time, we can set aside some time for a retreat or day of mindfulness so we can sit, walk slowly, smile, eat lunch with friends and enjoy being together as though we are the happiest people in Earth. This is not just a treat, it is a retreat."

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Caliente

Every Saturday at 2pm, the detainees are glued to the Spanish show Caliente. The show plays music while numerous women clad in different color bikinis dance on the beach. The majority of people on the one-hour show are beautiful young women. I'm sure they're hand-picked to show their skin.

So once a week for an hour, the guys can lust after the women on Caliente. Some of the guys yell like hyenas at the sight of the women's body parts at a certain camera angle. That's one way for them to release their pent up hormones.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Dialogue Over Hyphen

"Hey, is that a porno magazine? Can I check it out?" A detainee in his early fifties asks when he sees the summer the issue of Hyphen Magazine lying on my bed.

"No. It's an Asian American magazine," I answer with disgust. I don't even know the dude. He walks by my cell, sees the cover of Hyphen, where an Asian woman leans over tattooing a bare back and assumes it's sexual. Therefore, it must be a porno magazine.

"Are you Vietnamese?" He changes the subject since I don't make any move to show him the magazine.

"No." I am shooting daggers at him with my eyes.

"You look like a Vietnamese," he continues without thinking.

"That's what happens when you assume." I don't feel like talking to this dude anymore.

"Oh. I'm Iranian. Do you mind telling me where you're from?" He's not getting the hint.

"I'm from China." I am done talking to the dude.

"Wow, your English is very good. You don't have the Asian accent too much." He is ignorantly surprised.

"Thank you. Have a nice day." I don't want to be too rude.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Nine of Edinburgh

During my incarceration, I received letters from strangers who felt compelled to write to me when they heard about my story. Some of them read about me in newspapers, others heard about me through word of mouth.. Most of the time, I was able to forge friendships with them. I always cherish those occasional special connections.

Today I was pleasantly surprised to receive a card from Scotland. Nine who lives in Edinburgh came across my blog while browsing on the Internet. Not only did she send me a card to introduce herself, she shared her first zine with me. How lucky am I?!

Welcome to my life, Nine.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Rain or Shine

Maybe it was because I was in solitary confinement for 11 months once that caused me to appreciate the outdoors. There's nothing fun about being locked up in a cell for 23 hours a day. That's why I jum at every chance to go to the exercise yard. As long as I can get some fresh air, I am there.

It was rainy and cold this morning. Where was I? On the roof of the jail doing yoga while everyone else slept. I enjoyed the sound of raindrops hitting the ground, birds chirping, the sounding off of the bell, the roaring of the train and the occasional silence.

There is no time like the present time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Turning Wheel

I received the Spring 2005 issue of Turning Wheel, the Journal of Socially Engaged Buddhism today.

The journal features essays, poems, drawings, photos, book reviews, and interviews of Buddhist practitioners who believe in peace. It's a publication of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

It's been awhile since I've read the Turning Wheel. I'm grateful for my friends in the BPF Prison Project for sending me the journal. I'm grateful for their support and prayers throughout the years.

To check out the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, please go to www.bpf.org.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Last Chinatown

Did you know that Marysville had the third largest Chinese population in California?

Yes, before there were Oakland Chinatown and International Boulevard, Marysville was considered the third Chinatown behind San Francisco and Sacramento.

You see, during the Gold Rush of the mid-nineteenth century, many Chinese settled in the rural town of Marysville. However, over the years, the lure of city life drained most of its Chinese population and rich culture.

Now, some Chinese Americans are returning to the town of Marysville to revive and preserve what's left of some historical structures and culture. Renovation plans are underway to build a Chinese museum.

We have a responsibility to preserve and promote our history.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Quote of the Week (20)

"Give a [person] a fish and you will feed [that person] for one day. Teach [that person] to fish and you will feed [that person] for a lifetime."

- Chinese proverb

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Blogging in Lockup

"The U.S. military has no rules that specifically apply to what troops can or cannot say in their blogs," the USA Today reports (5/12/05).

Soldiers are writing about their daily lives in war zones. Blogging helps them communicate with their loved ones easier and share stories about their experiences.

Of course, it's common sense that they don't share their military strategy or intelligence on their blogs.

I'm blogging because I want to share my experience with my loved ones and the world. It's easier for me to stay connected with my numerous friends around the country. It's also one way for me to be a part of society.

I know my rights and the law. After being locked up for almost two decades, I will not jeopardize my freedom. On the same token, I will stand up for my rights.

Happy blogging.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Tell Me, Show Me, Involve Me

Recently, California Assemblyman and Chairman of the Public Safety Committee Mark Leno held a conference with 70 high school students in San Francisco's government building.

The name of the youth conference was called "Tell Me, Show Me, Involve Me." Topics discussed at the conference included dialogue, music as teaching tools, alternatives in dealing with community violence, societal pressure, education, job opportunities, and participation in community services.

That was the second year that Mr. Leno initiated the youth conference to promote the importance of education and encourage mentorship among high school students, especially for minority youth.

I applaud Mr. Leno's efforts to focus on the education of today's youth and raise awareness in the community. We need more politicians to following Mr. Leno's lead.

The youth are the future.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Brother's Love

Throughout the years, my older brother Peter and I haven't talked or written to each other. He has been busy working and providing for his family, and I have been busy learning and transforming myself. Yet, we have an unspoken love for each other. Whenever I need him, he's always there to support me unconditionally - visa versa.

When I talked to my mom today, I found out that my big brother cried for me after the hearing. Tears rolled down his cheeks when he saw me handcuffed and escorted by the armed ICE agents. I felt loved.

I love my big brother.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Final Settlement

After two years of court proceedings, I finally signed off on the civil rights lawsuit against San Quentin Prison officials for violating my First Amendment right. Once the Attorney General and my attorney signed the finalized settlement agreement, certain payment and actions to fully settle all claims will be executed.

It was a lengthy battle, but with the help of my attorneys we were able to win the settlement. The truth and the law were on my side.

I want to thank Peter Kang, his law firm, Sipley, Austin, Brown, and Wood, LLP, and his assistant for representing me pro bono and working tirelessly on the lawsuit. I also want to thank Victor Hwang from API Legal Outreach for being co-counsel and the "professor" for his input in the case. They are lawyers with compassion.

Everyone of us is protected by constitutional rights, even prisoners and detainees. When someone violates your rights because he or she doesn't not like your looks or your beliefs or what you have to say, that is committing a crime against what the United States proclaims to represent.

You have a right to defend yourself.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Battle Continues...

I went to my scheduled hearing today. The judge denied my bond and scheduled my merit hearing for July 26, 2005.

As always, I was encouraged by the presence of all my supporters. Some of them I haven't seen in years were at the hearing. It was superawesome that I was able to say a few words to everyone as the armed agents escorted me to the holding tank.

At the beginning of the my fight against my deportation, I was fully aware of the difficulties I would face. As the court proceedings moved forward, I'd experienced my share of joy and sadness. Yet, I have been able to remain calm, sometimes too calm. The support from all my family and friends continues to provide me with the strength to carry on and be patient.

At the end of the day, I was feeling tired and down. However, I was able to talk to my guardian angel. I always feel better afterward.

The battle continues with my fight to get out of immigration detention. I'll be in detention for a minute. Please feel free to write.

Thank you, my friends.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Quote of the Week (19)

"Great things are not something accidental, but must certainly be willed."

- Vincent Van Gogh

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Homework

My homework this week is to memorize 56 prepositions of the English language. How many prepositions can you write out?

I don't remember memorizing all the prepositions when I went to school. I use them every day. However, when the GED teacher asked me to write all the prepositions on the blackboard, I couldn't do it. I didn't feel good about that.

To avoid being caught off guard in the future, I'm learning my prepositions.

Friday, May 06, 2005

No Racial Segregation in ICE

Racial segregation is a violation of the 14th Amendment right in the U.S. Constitution.

California State Prison System has an unwritten policy of segregating its prisoners by race. Prisoners are always separated and assigned to live by racial basis.

There is no racial segregation in the immigration detention since we are all immigrants waiting for deportation proceedings.

There are no white folks, black folks, or other folds. When asked where you're from, you state the country of your origin. We're all foreigners.

We're all detainees.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Month of Rememberance and Celebration

I love the month of May because of its pleasant weather. Not. I love it because it's the month of my birth.

I want to share with you some of the events I consider important.

Celebrations:

Happy International Workers' Day!
Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Happy Mother's Day!
Happy life day for Perry who beat cancer!

Happy birthday to Shelly S., Fr. Peter, Ishle, Yuri Kochiyama, who will be turning 84 on the 19th, Malcolm X, Momo, and me.

Rememberances:

5/4/70 National Guard killed four students during a peaceful demonstration at Kent State University in Ohio.

5/15/70 State troopers killed three Black students during a peaceful demonstration at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Showers of Letters

My attorney sent me a witness list of 14 people and the exhibit list of all people who had written support letters. I didn't ask for a copy of all the documents because they were a few inches thick.

I was flabberghasted to see that 90 people wrote individual support letters and 121 people signed letters of support.

With a supporting cast like that, how can I not be the luckiest man in the world?! How can I not do extraordinary things in life?! How can I do any wrong to harm anyone?! How can I not share the same unconditional love that my friends, supporters, family, and community have given me?!

Actions speak louder than words. Just give me a chance.

Thank you for your love.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Response to Andrea Kao

Hello, Andrea. My friend sent me the article on Hiroshi Kashiwaga. Thank you for sharing it with me. I learned move on the No-no boys. We all need to be reminded of important historical events sometimes. The older generation is slowly moving on. We must remember their struggles and pass it down to the future generations. Yuri Kochiyama is turning 84 this month. She is a true revolutionary. Let's keep on learning about our elders. Thank you for checking in.

Sweet Tooth

I love eating sweets. I remember when I was a kid in China, I would always look for a fix of sugar.

I must admit that I was spoiled as a child because I was the youngest of three children. I would often wake up in the morning with candy in my mouth. Of course, I didn't like to brush my teeth. How I regret not taking care of my teeth!!

As I reminisce about my childhood, I think of how my two five-year-old nephews are being spoiled by their parents and grandparents. They too love sweets. I just hope that they're brushing and flossing their teeth.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Quote of the Week (18)

"The ball at the courthouse on Thursday night last, given to their majesties the King and Queen by the Chinese merchants of Honolulu and Lahaina, was the most splendid affair of its kind ever held in Honolulu...We have heard but one opinion expressed by those present (which includes all Honolulu and his wife), and that was that the celestials have outshone the 'outside barbarians' in the fete-making for the throne."

- The Polynesian, November 15, 1856