Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve

I realize that people like to yell to ring in the new year. Everywhere, prisons and jails are the same. In New York's Time Square, people watch the Ball drop as the seconds tick into the new year and scream at the top of their lungs while fireworks cover the sky. In prisons and jails, you hear the rattling and banging of cell bars & shouting from those who wish they could have cherished their freedom.

I look forward to screaming my lungs out next year as I stand beneath a fireworks-decorated sky.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Small Town Benefits

When a detainee of the jail complained about having chest pain, the deputy took him to the local hospital. The jail is so small that there's no medical staff on duty during First Watch. The town is so small that it only takes about five minutes to get to the hospital.

Small towns have big benefits. You don't have to travel so far for necessities.

Friday, December 29, 2006

No Banking Education

I'd learned about the importance of critical thinking when I read Paulo Friere's book Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

A quality education requires students to think critically on subjects being taught instead of regurgitating information.

However, in this age of patriotic frenzy, critical thinking in school can earn you a label of being unpatriotic.

That's exactly what happened to a high school student in Kearny, New Jersey. When his teacher evangelized in the class that only Christians have a place in heaven and everyone else goes to hell, the student felt uncomfortable by the statement. After he recorded eight classes of his teacher's continuous Christianity propaganda and reported it to school officials, not much was done. Then when the news media picked up the story, the student received death threats and posters calling for his suspension. [To see the discussion board on this issue, go to]

It's true that thinking critically can be unpopular most of the time, but it's the best weapon against a banking education and fanatic fundamental religions.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Something to Think About

"This we have learned: with Heaven rest all things.
Heaven appoints each human to a place.
If doomed to roll in dust, we'll roll in dust;
We'll sit on high when destined for high seats.
Does Heaven ever favor anyone,
bestowing both rare talent and good luck?
In talent take no overwhelming pride,
for talent and disaster form a pair.
Our karma we must carry as our lot -
let's stop decrying Heaven's whims and quirks.
Inside ourselves there lies the roof of good:
the heart outweighs all talents on this Earth."

- Last stanza of "The Tale of Kieu"

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

No English, No Representation

When the El Salvadoran detainee pleaded with me to help him file an appeal in the Board of Immigration Appeals, I felt helpless.

The judge has denied every relief that he is qualified for. He doesn't speak English & can't afford to hire an attorney or find a pro bono one to represent him. He's afraid for his life if he goes back to El Salvador because a gang of thugs killed his brother.

I can't help him because he has no transcript of his court hearing. The only document he has is the deportation paper. Also, my very limited Spanish & hand gestures prevent me from comprehending the details of his case.

All I do is say, "I'm sorry" as he waits for deportation.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Remembering Tsunami

Happy Kwanza! It's the second anniversary of the tsunami disaster that devastated some of the Southeast Asian countries. Some of the victims of that natural disaster are still recovering.

I remembering the fund drive in prison to donate money to tsunami victims. Even though some prisoners make 17 cents an hour, they donated what they could afford to lend a hand.

As a matter of fact, whenever there are big disasters at home or abroad, prisoners are always donating money to help people. They're doing their part as human beings.

As Anne Frank says, "Despite everything, I believe that all people are good at heart."

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Last Xmas

"Last Christmas I gave you my heart, but the very next day, you gave it away." I always like to hear George Michael's classic Christmas song.

The biggest gift that I've received this Xmas is knowing that it is my last one spent behind bars. I don't know where I'll be spending Xmas next year, but it will be in the free world

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Nothing Special

The guys in the kitchen assembled about 400 lunches in the afternoon. We're preparing for the holiday dinner for Christmas. Instead of a hot meal, the prisoners will receive a cold bag lunch for dinner. During lunch, everyone will get a meal that consists of sliced ham, candied yam, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, a dinner roll, salad, and blackberry pie.

As for the holiday spirit, there is none. It's just another day in lock-up separated from loved ones.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Skipping Youth

Do you remember the time when you were skipping on the street or across the hall in school? Those were the carefree days for boys and girls.

It was a pleasant surprised when I saw my 23-year-old neighbor skipping across the hall of the cells. Of course, he though no one was looking at him.

The last time I did some skipping in public was when I was working out my leg. I did some knee to chest kips.

It's fun to be young.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Love and War

I haven't had a chance to read the classic Love and War. However, when I was watching the movie Gone with the Wind, I thought about the love stories that many not be happening in the Iraq War. I wonder how many Iraqi people are thinking about love. What kinds of stories are they telling and when can they live a normal life?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Stories from Laos

Thanks to the Eastwind Bookstore, I read my first book of Laotian short stories. The book Mother's Beloved Stories from Laos is a the first collection of short stories published in English. It's good to learn about a culture that has been subjected to constant colonizations and destruction from wars.

There's a need for schools and universities to offer more courses on Southeast Asian history and literature.

I'm also reading an English translation of a Vietnamese narrative poem "The Tale of Kieu." It's supposed to be a classic.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The More the Merrier

It's always a pleasant surprise whenever I receive blog comments or greetings from people who have been following my blog. I'm grateful to those who found me worthy to link my blog to theirs. That's one way that we can learn and grow in life. I've made many friends through the Internet. That's without my having direct access to a computer. Can you imagine how many more friends I can make after I'm back in the free world?

I just want to thank those of you who are reading my blog, rooting for me, and considering me as your friend. I'm a better person because of you.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Self-Discipline in Sports

When it comes to playing sports, I lack self-discipline. I'm too active and competitive. When I play any sport, I play hard. I many not have all the skills, but I make it up by hustling and doing my best.

However, I need to discipline myself from playing any sport with people who don't know how to play. Too many times, I get hurt because I couldn't resist the temptation to exercise and compete. My aching joints can attest to my lack of discipline.

Like any negative thing that is tempting, I need to know when to be disciplined and make the wise decision.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Political Artists

There are many political artists in and out of prison. People choose to use their talents to express their ideas and feelings about the political system they live in.

A couple of well-known political artists inside prison are Mumia Abu-Jamal and Hyung-Rae Tarselli. Mumia is a death row prisoner who was railroaded by a political system. Hyung-Rae is a Korean American adoptee who is a prisoner at the S.C.I. Breene Prison. He draws cartoons to highlight injustice in the system. Both of the artists' works have been published in books and magazine.

Recently, I was informed that a friend has created a website to share his art with people on societal values, race, class, and identity. When you have a chance, please check out

Saturday, December 16, 2006

TAB Apology

A friend's comment on my Traveling Affirmation Book reminded me how inconsiderate I was. I forgot to inform people that they have a choice not to write in the TAB if they feel uncomfortable in any way. I forgot that some people want to keep their lives private.

I want to let everyone know that you don't have to write in my TAB when it reaches you. Please pass it on.

I apologize for putting anyone in an uncomfortable position due to my oversight.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Practice What You Preach

I was disturbed today when I read about comedian Rosie O'Donnell making fun of the Chinese language on the national television show The View (S.F. Chronicle, 12/14/06, A5).

She justified her remark as doing her "best impression" of what Chinese sounded like. Somehow, it seems like whenever people decide to do an "impression" of the Chinese language, they all use the word "ching chong" repeatedly. Is there a universal school that teaches the racist "impression" that we don't know about?

The thing is, whether O'Donnell had meant to insult anyone on purpose or not, her "impression" had hurt people everywhere, especially the Chinese.

If O'Donnell doesn't apologize for her remark, then she should have not right to complain about any derogoratory remarks being thrown toward her as a gay person.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Way Home

After waiting for 29 days, my Chinese neighbor finally got what he had wished for: going back to China. He didn't want to wait in custody while his appeal was pending. Once he's in China, he'll be free. If he wins the appeal, he can come back to the U.S. If not, he'll have no chance to come back.

However, before he can be totally free, he'll have to wait until he's on Chinese soil. Because his case involved an aggravated felony, two ICE agents are required to escort him to fly to China.

That's the way he has to go home.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Agony of Waiting

Two of the detainees have been on pins and needles as they approach the last week of appeal deadlines.

They would have won their cases, but the government has 30 days to appeal the judge's decision. Sometimes, the prosecuting attorney will wait until the last day to appeal. Then the detainee can wait up to six months for the decision from the appeal board. However, if the government chooses not to the appeal, the detainees will be released.

Even though they have won their cases, they can't be too happy until they're out of custody.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


The Iranian government denies that the Holocaust ever happened.

The Japanese government denies that the Rape of Nanking ever happened.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the two Holocausts, there are people who continue to deny the truth.

Fortunately, there are documentaries so that people can learn the truth for themselves.

Recently, Dr. Rhawn Joseph completed a film on the Rape of Nanking inspired by Iris Chang's novel. Anyone can view the film on

Let us hold those who are accountable for the genocide of hundreds of thousands of people by learning and preserving the truth.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Welfare Kit

Because of a mistake, the immigration agency has not returned my money to the account in Yuba. Therefore, I have been without money to purchase food items and writing materials. For over two weeks, I've written two requests to ICE agents asking it to forward my money, but I have received no response.

When the jail delivered commisary this afternoon, I received my basic welfare kit. People without money in jail can request a welfare kit that consists of a cherry-sized razor, and index-finger-sized tube of toothpaste, a 0.34oz bag of shampoo, a miniature bar of soap, two pieces of lined paper, and a small envelope. If you want a thumb-sized toothbrush, that's in a different welfare kit.

Until I get my money back, I'll be on welfare.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Breaking the Quote

In the past one hundred weeks, I've chosen one quote for each week from a diverse pool of wise people to share with the world. I draw inspiration from those quotes to overcome my challenges and strive to be a better person.

The wisdom from people of the past and present lives forever. It continues to influence our lives. That's how important right speech can be.

I will share more quotes with everyone when I find them. For now, the "quote of the week" is taking a break.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

First Christmas Card

I received my first Christmas card today from Deacon George. It's good to know that I'm always in his prayers.

When I was in prison, the church would pass out Christmas cards to prisoners so we could send them to our loved ones. Though we didn't like Christmas spent in confinement, we still embraced the Christmas spirit. Receiving Christmas cards, letters, or visits were our gifts.

In jail, we don't have any greeting cards to send to people on special occasions or holiday seasons. Yet, I still receive many gifts all year long.

Friday, December 08, 2006

TAB Check

It's been over a month since a friend had informed me of the location of my Traveling Affirmation Book. I know the TAB is still in the Bay Area. Can the friend who has the TAB drop me a few lines to give me its status? Thank you.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Any Day Now

Any day now my Chinese neighbor could be getting on a plane flying back to China. He has been waiting for about two weeks since he gave up his fight to stay in this country. His mind has gone back to China since he had decided to leave. Therefore, each day has been dragging for him. However, once he recalled his mind back to the present, the wait has become more bearable.

After all, any day now he shall be released.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I heard about Bo Lozoff when I came across a book he wrote called We are All Doing Time. Later on, I had the pleasure of meeting him and listening to his talks in prison.

Bo Lozoff is a dharma teacher who promotes non-violence and love for his fellow human beings. He especially focuses in helping prisoners by offering them support and teaching them to o vercome their struggles.

Bo and his family started the human kindness foundation as a base to spread love and peace to the world.

Everyone should log into the human kindness website. It could change your life.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Where is "The Boondocks"?

Whenever I read the San Francisco Chronicle's "Datebook" section, the first thing I read is The Boondocks comic by Aaron McGruder. His alternative comic makes me laugh and think at the same time.

So when I read the advertisement in the paper that the artist has discontinued The Boondocks, I thought it was a joke. However, when I didn't see the comic in a few days, I knew it was serious.

Now I have no reason to read the comic section in the "Datebook".

Luckily, I still have two of Aaron McGruder's books. I can get my fix whenever I feel the need. I hope he's moved onto doing bigger and better things.

Monday, December 04, 2006

No Confusion Here

As the usage of the n-word becomes a national controversy once again, many people are confused on who is allowed to say the word or when it's appropriate to use it.

Many years ago when I was talking to a group of youth inside prison, an African American kid used the n-word while talking to me. I remember how I'd gotten up to his face and scolded him for disrespecting himself and his people by using the word. Everyone in the room was surprised at how upset I was since I rarely yelled at people.

I was upset because I understand the origin of the word and its derogatory meaning. I don't use it.

On the other hand, I know that some African Americans use the n-word in a different context that doesn't mean the same as other racial groups.

However, as the era changes, I've heard people of all racial backgrounds use the n-word as regular as saying "What's up?" I would wince every time I heard it. That's just me.

I believe in freedom of speech and its consequences.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Quote of the Week (100)

"These things could happen when there is no support; when no one even knows what is happening; and when people are afraid to even know you because they might be found guilty by association...If we don't support one another, and stand by one another, it will be easy for those in power to pick off one group at a time, as they have done so successfully in the past."

- Yuri Kochiyama

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Embracing Pain

What does pain feel like? Does it feel like a paper cut on your finger, a toothache or a stroke? What's the difference between physical pain and emotional pain? How much pain can a person endure?

A friend suggested that I've known enough pain. I appreciate her compassion for me, but I have to disagree with her. I have not known enough pain nor would I want to do without pain. After all, pain is one of the components that keeps me alive. It's because I know pain intimately that I can imagine how much more pain others are suffering.

What's important is knowing how to embrace pain! Once you're able to become one with the pain, pain disappears. Otherwise, pain is in control of your life.

Let's ease our pain by embracing it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Being in the Moment

For about 45 minutes this afternoon, I was feeling alive. I went to the roof to get some fresh air and played basketball. That's all I was thinking about - playing basketball. It helped when most of my shots went in the basket and I didn't feel any pain in my joints or body. I was enjoying the high of feeling that I could do anything. I was happy.

I realize I can have joy of feeling alive at anytime as long as I am being mindful.