Friday, September 30, 2005

Lusty Looks

"Okay, you can put your tongue back in your mouth and eyes in your socket," the female deputy said to a male detainee who was standing next to her.

Whenever there are females doing time or working in the institutions with males, they'll be targeted and subjected to lusty looks and unsolicited sexual remarks from men. It's sexism at its worst. It's wrong. I'm guilty of that at times.

At the same time, I find it interesting that there is no discrimination in the gargets of those lusty looks. As long as you're female, someone is lusting after you. Female deprivation and cultural indoctrination are the culprits of such sexism.

It's a disease that needs to be rid of.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


I woke up this morning to check the time. It was 3:40am. I'm training my internal clock to wake up at 4:30am to do yoga and meditate.

I looked into the sink and found a cockroach inside. It was a scary sight because I didn't know where the cockroach came from. Then I remembered that some cockroaches could fly. I recalled those flying cockroaches in China when I was a kid. I got goosebumps just thinking about it.

I splashed some water on the cockroach. It was trying to climb out of the sink. I don't know why I didn't kill it. I used some toilet paper to grab it and flush it down the toilet.

The thought of finding a cockroah on my face while I'm sleeping terrifies.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dental Floss - A Security Threat

The gum surrounding my bottom right molar is swollen. I don't know what caused it. I can't chew with the molar because it hurts. I filled out a request slip to see the dentist. Hopefully, there's no abscess in the gums.

It's been over 6 months since I was able to floss my teeth. Due to security reason the jail does not sell dental floss. Obviously, health care is not a priority in comparison to security.

I'll see what the dentist has say to help alleviate my swollen gum.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Another Missed Birthday

It's my sister's birthday and she's sometwhere in Atlanta working. This is nothing new. Over the years, she has missed many birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays due to her demanding career. If she had it her way, she would rather spend more time with the family.

I'm grateful to have a big sister who takes care of the family and supports me unconditionally.

I love you, Sis! Happy Birthday!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Quote of the Week (38)

"The highest art of a human's life is the ability to empathize with the joys and sorrows of others. But compassion goes beyond empathy, for it accompanies painful vicarious thoughts with a deep desire to alleviate the pain and remove its cause."

- Dale Turner

Saturday, September 24, 2005

How Do You Know?

That's the phrase an Asian youngster uses whenever he wats to joke around. Nobody likes him because he doesn't know how to respect himself. He just thinks that people are hating on him. He has the I-know-everything-you-can't-tell-me-anything attitude. That's a clear sign of insecurity and ignorance.

I hate to admit that I was like that once. That's why I had to learn the hard way. I'm still learning.

The free world has countless youth with the I-know-it-all attitude. I want to be there to change that attitude because I've been there.

Soul Train

I watched a few minutes of Soul Train, a dance and music show that's been around since I can remember. I was exposed to the show when I was in the San Francisco's Youth Guidance Center in 1986.

Soul Train was something every kid looked forward to every Saturday at ten o'clock. Everyone got to come out of his cell and watch the show. There was no talking. If someone had to go to the restroom, he had to raise his hand and ask for permission. Anyone who violated that rule got sent back to the cell. Therefore, all the kids were well bahved. No one wanted to miss Soul Train.

It's 2005 and the train is still rolling strong. What a ride it's been.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Elizabeth of Oakland

Though I cannot receive your gift of Connection power. Your kindness is internalized. Thank you.

I want to respond, but your address was cut from the envelope. Please write again and include the address on paper. You'll hear from me soon.

Happy new day!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Sunflower

I have had the pleasure of reading The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal many years ago in a class led by Dr. Biael. We learned and discussed the genocide carried out by Nazis against the Jewish people. Most importantly, we focused on the issue of forgiveness. Mr. Wiesenthal's dialogue with a Nazi soldier who had lost his eyesight inspired the discussion of forgiveness.

Mr. Wiesenthal's principle of "justice, not vengeance" in seeking restitution and exposing the truth of the Holocaust had inspired the world not to forget the history of genocides.

Just like Victor Frankl, Mr. Wiesenthal was able to survive the Holocaust in the face of death and become a champion in preventing history from repeating itself.

As Mr. Wiesenthal rests in peace, his legacy remains. We all have the duty to speak out against injustice and remember history.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Learning ABCs

I tutored a Hispanic guy who doesn't know the English alphabet. He knows the Spanish alphabet, so I thought that would help. We ended up spending 20 minutes just on pronunciating the alphabets B & V. Because B & V in Spanish sound the same, he couldn't pronounce the V sound in English. I asked him to put a finger across his upper lip to stop himself from closing his lips to form a B. He looked around the room to see if anyone was looking because he felt embarrassed. I did it along with him for awhile, but he couldn't seem to do it without the finger on his upper lip.

Tutoring people like that reminds me that there is no shame in learning.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A Kiss is Just a Kiss

A couple of guys and I were talking about how a person's posture can be interpreted as feminine or gay in American culture.

An Armenian guy said that when he sat cross-legged, someone had called him gay. Sometimes when he stood with his wrist bent on his hip, some people had called him feminine. He said in his culture, it was normal to greet a friend or relative with kisses on the cheek.

As I remember, it's common in China for men to out their arms on each other's shoulders while walking or kicking back. Females would hold each other's hand in public. No one would give those gestures a second thought because they were signs of affection.

But in America, such gestures would often draw stares and comments or get labeled gay. It's a cultural thing.

I like it when I see some guys squirm after I put my arms on their shoulders or give him a long hug.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Quote of the Week (37)

Why some people be mad at me sometimes

they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and I keep on remembering

- Lucille Clifton

R is for Religion

I had an opportunity to watch The Passion of the Christ last night during the showing of the jail's weekly movie. A movie is what it is: the story of Jesus sacrificing himself for all sinners on earth.

What caught my attention was that the movie was rated R. As incarcerated people, we are forbidden to watch R-rated movies, I can only attribute the exception to the holy power of Jesus's gospel. Some detainees who had served time in state prisons said they'd watch the movie in church. Who says the rules can't be broken?

When it comes to Christianity, there is always an exception to the rule.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Information Needed

I received a request from a prisoner who's facing deportation after he finishes his state prison term. He wanted me to share whatever information I had concerning immigration deportation so he would be prepared. I sent him the information packet API Force had generated last year. It has some useful tips to help potential deportees.

Since then, API Force has folded and more new laws have passed to restrict reliefs. People in the community who are affected by the new laws aren't aware that they could be victims of deportation. However, those who are incarcerated face an immediate threat.

People need to be informed. Please help them.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Forgotten Victims of Katrina

The topic of race and class associated with Katrina and the added suffering caused by the government in its aftermath permeates the world media. The group that suffered the most is the African Americans due to its stark poverty. My heart goes out to them.

However, one specific group of Katrina victims was conveniently forgotten - the Vietnamese Americans. About 35,000 of the Vietnamese Americans lived in the now destroyed areas caused by Katrina. To some of the war refugees who fled Vietnam, displacement and being uprooted of their homes is nothing new. As they did in the past, they will persevere and rebuild their homes. What they need is to be acknowledged of their suffering and receive relief as everyone else.

As Katrina destroys indiscriminately, I implore everyone to help the victims indiscriminately. A natural disasters is one of humans' greatest teachers.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Asian Pacific Council

I want to give a shoutout to the Asian Pacific Council of UC Berkeley for giving me your support and expressing your solidarity. I'm encouraged by your message to keep faith.

As Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist, we all have our "personal legend." Let's help each other achieve it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Finally, another website is up for the world to get access to more creative works and thoughts from prisoners. The site may need to be fine-tuned. It's a project in progress. The important thing is information. With over 2 million people locked up in the United States' prisons, the more society understands those prisoners and the penal system, the quicker it can find solutions to decrease incarceration.

You're only a few key strokes away from being a part of the solution. Please log onto

I'm proud of my friend Marc for taking the initiative to launch the website.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Questions from a Laotian ICE Detainee

"If it is indeed true that it takes a whole village to raise one child, then what village is ultimately responsible for rehabilitating its wayward youth?

How can I be expected to survive in a country where I am illiterate and am all by myself?

The authoritarian regime that tried to extreminate my family is still entrenched in power. The very same government that America saved us from is now the one it wants to deliver me to."

The above is an excerpt from the essay "Adopted American" by Xuliyah Potong, a Latoian waiting for deportation.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Latest Readings

Recently I finished reading three books. I want to recommend two books that educated me about the culture, religion, tradition, friendship, and struggle in the middle eastern countries of Iran and Afghanistan. If you haven't read them, you should.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Asar Natisi

I also read From the Palace to the Prison by Sherman Manning. I was turned off by the self-promotion of the book and those filthy rich CEOs and celebrities from Hollywood. I speed read the book since my friend paid $30 for it. There is a littlt bit of of valuable information in the book on prison and societal issues. Even my brother Mike Ngo was mentionedin the book. Mr. Manning's book didn't catch my interest.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Quote of the Week (36)

"We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art."

- Henry James

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Heartbeat of Struggle

If I were in the free world today, I would have been at the Heller Lounge in the Martin Luther King, Jr., Student Union Building on the UC Berkeley campus because Yuri Kochiyama and Professor Diane Fujino were there. I would have been waiting in line to buy the book Yuri Kochiyama, Heartbeat of Struggle and have it autographed.

I look forward to reading Prfoessor Fujino's account of Yuri's lifetime of compassion and activism because it'll be more detailed without censorship.

Though Yuri's autobiography Passing It On is powerful and inspiring, it does not fully depict the extraordinary person that she is. She's always too humble.

I implore everyone to buy a copy of Yuri Kochiyama, Heartbeat of Struggle by Diane Fujino. I guarantee you will get inspired.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Live All You Can

In the book Reading Lolita in Tehran, the author quoted a passage from Henry James's book The Ambassadors.

"Live all you can; it's a mistake not to. It doesn't so much matter what you do in particular so long as you have your life. If you haven't had that what have you had? I'm too old - too old at any rate for what I see, what one loses one loses, make no mistake about that. Still, we have the illusion of freedom; therefore don't, like me today, be without the memory of that illusion, I was either, at the right time, too stupid of too intelligent to have it, and now I'm a case of reaction against mistake. For it was a mistake. Live, live!"

It reminds me to live life to the fullest.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Deportation for Laotians

I was shocked to find out from a Laotian that he'll be deported. Until recent months, Laotians, like Vietnamese refugees, could not be deported.

My friend, who finished his prison term, is waiting for deportation to Laos, a country he'd never set foot on. His parents feld to Laos during the war and stayed in a Thailand refugee camp. He was born and Thailand before he came to the U.S. Because he had committed a crime, he'll be deported.

I didn't read any news on the new treaty the Laos government signed with the U.S. to accept people back to Laos.

I wonder how many families will be broken by this new treaty of deportation.

If you're not a U.S. citizen, it's wise to keep up with the immigration laws. You could be deported next.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Eva Marie

Welcome to the world, Eva Marie!

It will be a few years before you get to read this, but I want you to know that your family and friends are overjoyed at your arrival.

Your mom was the happiest person in the world the moment you had entered the world. You sure took your time. So get ready for an amazing life.

Congratulations, Eva Marie's mom and happy birthday to you!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Missing Moon Cake

It looks like I'm going to miss the chance of eating some moon cakes again this year.

The annual moon festival reminds me of the time my family and I had spent on the roof of our apartment in Guangzhou, China. We would sit on the roof, eat moon cakes and sunflower seeds, and enjoy the full moon. Sometimes, I would see a beautiful lady in the moon; other times it was an old man washing his feet. Those were happy times.

Out of all the variety of moon cakes, I like the double egg yolk with sweet white lotus seed paste the best. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Happy moon festival!

Monday, September 05, 2005

To Right Wing Nut

I don't know who you are, but I forgive you.

I don't know what trauma or suffering you have endured, but I'm sorry.

I don't know why you are so cynical and angry, but I wish you find peace.

I have love for you because first and foremost you are a human being.

May God bless you.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Quote of the Week (35)

"I have no protection at home, or resting-place abroad...I am an outcast from the society of my childhood, and an outlaw in the land of my birth. I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner as my fathers were."

- Frederick Douglass

Saturday, September 03, 2005

It's a Lie

We're all living a lie, from time to time. No matter how people may sugarcoat the lie, it's still a lie. Big lie, little lie, white lie, it's all dishonesty.

Many times I would lie to myself that things were going to get better. Sometimes it worked. Other times, it didn't. It's a part of survival.

People often lie to themselves because they don't want to face reality at the time. Eventually, they'll have to face the music.

Bill Clinton and George Bush told a little lie, but it was called a mistake.

Everyone has his or her justification for lying. Let those without sin throw the first stone.

Have you ever told a lie? Was it okay? Will you ever lie again?

Let's face it - we're all liars.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Age Check

I was tutoring two Chinese detainees in GED class this afternoon and learned a startling fact: in a part of Fujian, China, it is illegal for men to marry before the age of 25.

Then I read that in Kansas, United States, it's legal for children as young as 12 to marry.

I guess the laws are different according to the geography.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Walking in Circles

When I was in prison, people would walk in circles counterclockwise on the yard. it's a symbolic way to defy the flow of time or the natural order.

Here I am in jail, and the detainees are also walking counterclockwise.

It's a universal defiant gesture to stay sane.