Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Reading Murakami

Ever since my guardian angel turned me onto the Japanese author Haruki Murakami, I've read six of his books and other short stories. Mr. Murakami is a creative and prolific writer.

I'm reading Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, a collection of short stories by Murakami. As I was reading, I felt inspired to write my own short stories. That's how good Murakami is with his writing. He inspires readers to think and want to write.

Of course, I haven't started to write my short stories. However, I'm thinking about it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

To Kill or Not To Kill

Just like Congresswoman Barbara Lee was the only person who refused to give Bush consent on the Iraq invasion, U.S. Army Lt. Ehren K. Watada declined to go to Iraq and fight what he believed to be an illegal and unjust war.

While Lt. Watada followed his conscience, he forgot that he was enlisted in the world's most powerful military machine that forbids any dissent. Now, he faces court martial. If found guilty, he can go to prison for 6 years.

Suddenly, I am thinking of the officer who was sentenced 18 years in prison for killing three Iraqi detainees in cold blood. He followed orders to go to war and kill. Then he killed some more and had to accept his punishment.

Lt. Watada refuses to go to war and kill. He may get one third of the 18-year prison sentence.

What's wrong with that picture?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Burn the Fat

For the first time in about two years, I got to enjoy two pieces of fried chicken. The skin was golden, crispy, and oily. I devoured a thigh and a drumstick to their bones. The gristle didn't get away either.

As I was eating the chicken, I wished there were more. I could have eaten ten pieces. I've done it. But after I finished eating, I thought if I was on the outside being able to eat all I want, I'd probably get fat. Can you believe the irony?

In the afternoon, I did a thousand push-ups to burn off the calories that I'd consumed.

My six pack is still visible.

Embrace the Love

Sometimes it is easier for me to embrace love than suffering.

Two elder friends of mine waited to come visit me in jail. They were willing to drive from San Francisco, stay overnight in a hotel to visit me.

I'd befriended that since my immigration case began. They're always around to support me, but we haven't been able to talk to each other in person. We communicated through letters.

When I finally talked with them tonight, I felt like I was talking to my parents. I asked them not to drive all the distance to visit me, but they insisted that it's something they wanted to do.

I don't feel good when I know other people have to sacrifice to show me love. It's an old habit.

I am always grateful
to know that I have os many great friends in my life.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Embrace the Love

Sometimes it is easier for me to embrace love than suffering.

Two elder friends of mine waited to come visit me in jail. They were willing to drive from San Francisco, stay overnight in a hotel to visit me.

I'd befriended that since my immigration case began. They're always around to support me, but we haven't been able to talk to each other in person. We communicated through letters.

When I finally talked with them tonight, I felt like I was talking to my parents. I asked them not to drive all the distance to visit me, but they insisted that it's something they wanted to do.

I don't feel good when I know other people have to sacrifice to show me love. It's an old habit.

I am always grateful
to know that I have os many great friends in my life.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Happenings of a Day in Detention

A cook fired a kitchen worker after watching the camera recording of the guy stealing a couple of boiled eggs.

A Chinese detainee found out from an ICE agent that he had lost his case two weeks ago. He didn't hear anything from his attorney. He doesn't know anything.

A Russian detainee has no one to help him on the outside. It took him five months to collect the information he wants from other detainees' knowledge on immigration issues.

Another Chinese detainee, who doesn't speak English, learned how to play different card games to pass time. He's good at them.

The detainees were helping each other in learning math, English, history, and geography.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Learning ABCs

When I was teaching an El Salvadorian to learn his alphabet, I noticed the common mistakes of Spanish speakers confusing the sounds a, e, i, h, and sometimes z. I enjoy teaching different people English because I get to learn from other people's learning difficulties. I also get to learn more Spanish phrases and words in communicating with Latinos.

Revision of blog entry "U.S. Veteran Deported"

October 11, 2006 entry: "U.S. Veteran Deported"

Hector Lopez can be reached at
225 E. 14th Street
Madera, CA 93638

Monday, January 22, 2007

Brighter Dream

A Chinese detainee is stressing so much about his case that he developed a bladder problem. He couldn't hold his urine. After seeking medical treatment, his condition did not change. The doctor had done tests and couldn't find anything wrong. The guy is crying all the time because of his immigration case and medical condition. I've done everything to help him stop thinking about things he has not control of. I explained to him that if he doesn't change his thinking, he could go into depression.

He is not the first person I know who had become depressed because he didn't know how to embrace the present.

The American dream is not for everyone.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Big Excitement in a Small Town

Someone was house hunting and found a box of dynamite in an empty house in Marysville. The local authorities were on top of keeping the area secure and safe. In conclusion, the authorities poured motor oil on the dynamite and burned it. Everything is back to normal.

However, there is one thing the local newspaper forgot to mention. The authorities got about 15 county jail inmates to make hundreds of sandbags to secure the house before they burned the dynamite.

I just thought they deserve some credit.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Step Closer to History

When I heard that Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton are going to run for president, I remembered a joke by comedian Chris Rock.

He said that the reason that Colin Powell can't become vice president because some people would try to assassinate the president, so Powell would be the first black president. Pretty funny?

Is America ready for a woman president of a black president?

I want to see it happen, but I don't think so. It is a step closer to creating history.

Friday, January 19, 2007


The first time I skated on ice was in Berkeley's Iceland rink. Some schoolmates took me to that place. I was 14 or 15.

I remember the fun I had with my schoolmates. We scraped ice from the rink and stuffed them in each other's backs. The girls screamed, of course. We chased each other with music playing. We played video games during breaks. Though we weren't skilled skaters, we laughed all the time. I especially liked the feeling of walking on air after I took the skates off.

I didn't know Iceland has been in business for 66 years. When I read in the newspaper that it is closing for business, it brought back some good memories.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

No Spanking

I believe that all parents have spanked their kids at one time of another. Whether they did it playfully or seriously, it's still called spanking. However, there's a difference between spanking and abusing.

A lawmaker wants to make it illegal for parents to spank kids who are three years old or younger. It has started a national debate on the topic. That's a good thing because it helps the voters decide whether they want to pass such a law.

My take is, what happens to the four, five, or six year olds being spanked? Is it okay for parents to spank them because they're older? Where do you draw the line?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mindful Effort

A punch was thrown and two kitchen workers were fired. I could have resolved the conflict had I been aware of the situation. However, when anger supersedes reason, all avenues of communication go out the door. Then regrets fill their minds. That would be a good thing if they learned from their experience. But the truth is, it takes each individual's mindful effort in order to make the necessary changes.

It takes time to be mindful of our defects of character.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Finding Alternatives

I watched the movie Gridiron Gang tonight an enjoyed it tremendously. The movie is based on a true story about a youth counselor who starts a football team for some incarcerated youth to show that they can be somebody.

There are a few tear-jerking moments in the movie. I was thinking to myself that I didn't need a script to express the same sentiment to the youth. I know it from the heart.

Watching how much of a positive impact one counselor had made in those kids' lives by providing them with an alternative, I hurt for the loss of opportunity to do the same. At the same time, I realize that I can make a difference as long as there are youth in the world.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Celebrating MLK Jr.

In honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I'm sharing three of his quotations with everyone. Let's all strive to give peace a chance to blossom in our lives.

On society: "The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined non-conformists who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood."

On law: "I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law."

On righteousness: "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Must Read Blogs

In today's S.F. Chronicle Insight section, it features an article on Iraqis blogging about their lives in the war zone of Baghdad. Their blogs allow people around the world to get a glimpse of what their lives are like without censorship.

Please log onto their blogs when you want to get a different perspective of the war:

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Can't Stand Being Alone

Some people are so used to staying busy or being around others all the time that they are afraid to be alone.

My fellow kitchen worker had his first day off after working for two weeks. However, during lunch time, he went to work. When I asked him why he wasn't resting, he said he was bored and stressed out. He couldn't stop thinking about his case. He said he didn't want another day off.

He hasn't learned to be comfortable being by himself. It's not easy to do nothing.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Believe in Yourself

When I heard that my younger brother Lazy went back to prison for DUI for the second time, I couldn't help but feel a sense of disappointment. How much more must he suffer before he end his cycle of incarceration?!

I know he's kicking himself for going back to prison again. He's more critical of himself than anyone. However, he couldn't let go of trying to make up for lost time.

Though I'm disappointed at his actions, I haven't given up on him. If I didn't know that Lazy was a good person, I wouldn't call him my brother. I have faith that he is going to change and lead a successful life.

Just believe in yourself, Lazy. I got your back.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


I watched Jet Li's Fearless today. It was supposed to be his last martial arts movie.

I remember Jet Li's first movie Shaolin Temple in one of Oakland's theaters around 1983. I loved it. All the actors in the movie were martial arts experts. Jet Li was awesome because he was the National Wushu Champion.

Throughout his acting career and as a martial artist, Jet Li has conquered his nemesis - himself. He has reached his plateau so he's able to let go.

I admire Jet Li's fearlessness. I will miss his action movies.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back to School

Four Chinese detainees came to GED class today. They don't speak any English. One guy has been living in S.F. Chinatown for about ten years, but he never learned English. He said he worked with people who only spoke Chinese in the restaurant.

Another guy couldn't believe that he was meeting me in person. He said he'd seen me on TV and knew about my case. He's going back to China. He offered to host me if I go back to China.

All of them are older than I am for a change. They're also fathers and grandfathers.

I will be teaching them English and learning about their lives.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Where's the Ethics?

A Latino guy pulled me aside at work and asked me what he should do about his attorney. He had hired an attorney to fight against his deportation, but the attorney hasn't done anything for him after five months.

When the attorney took the case, he said it was an easy one. After he got paid, he said the case was difficult and asked the Latino guy to provide documents and information he would have gotten from the file. The attorney didn't show up on scheduled court dates and postponed court dates without consulting his client.

The Latino guy wants to sign his deportation papers becaudse he's frustrated with his attorney's non-actions.

I've heard too many stories about attorneys taking their clients' money and not doing the work, or they promise great results and end up losing the case.

That's why people say immigration is a money maker.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Poem 66*

For one month I was imprisoned; my slippers never moved forward.
I came on the Manchuria and will return on the Mongolia.
But if I could make the trip to Nanyang, I would.
Why should America be the only place to seek a living.

*Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Twenty One

It takes 21 years for a person to become an adult.

As of today, I've spent 21 years of my life in lock up. Finally, I'm about the leave this confinement of my body and get ready to embrace freedom. However, payment for the crimes I've committed against my victims and society does not stop until I draw my last breath.

That is the price I have to pay because of my past actions.

Is it worthy to commit a crime that creates suffering for so many and for so long?!

Look at who I am what I have accomplished so far - there's not answer to that question until I draw my last breath.

You can tell me about it one day.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

It's a Habit

I overslept this morning because I went to bed late. I spent three and a half hours talking to a gang member who wants to change his life but doesn't know how.

I explained my philosophy on making changes as someone who has been there, done that and still doing it. Contemplation, internalization, and direct action are keys to self-transformation. We have to change out thinking before we change our actions. The importance of setting short-term and long-term goals, taking things one step and one day at a time are a must. Being honest with ourselves can lead to the beginning of internal revolution.

It's good to hear myself talk about the techniques I had learned and applied to transform myself. As Aristotle says, "Excellence is not an art, it's a habit." Making changes for the betterment of self or others takes good habits.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Change Course

Change Course is the new theme for the Black Congressional Caucus and the Democrats' House and Senate majority.

I was able to catch a few minutes of the Black Congressional Caucus swearing in ceremony and felt excited about the changes.

The new chairwoman Kalpatrick for the Black Congressional Caucus preached Change Course, speak out, be a leader and give children hope.

Everyone is expecting better changes for the country once the Democrats are in power. Let's hope it's not going to be the same story with different authors.

One Time is Too Many

I don't know how many times in the past 20 years prison guards have gone into my cell & ransacked my personal property. Each time it happened, I felt violated. Though it's a part of life in prison, I've never gotten used to it. The only consolation I got was when I thought how violated my victims felt when I did the same thing to them 20 years ago. Once is one time too many.

When I came back to my cell after work tonight and found the cell ransacked, I thought about my consolation.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Just Wonder

I saw a woman crying on TV when she spoke about some cattle being stranded in the snow without food for a week. She said she felt so scared for the cattle's not having food to eat. She was glad that the National Guards and other rescue teams went to help free the cattle.

When I saw the image of that woman's crying, somehow I immediately wondered if she'd shed any tears for all the people who are dying in Iraq daily.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Shut Up & Sing


The country music band Dixie Chicks had to learn the hard way the true meaning of freedom of speech.

After band member Natalie Maines made the comment, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas" during a concert, the country music industry and other freedom-loving people boycotted the band. That was in 2003, before the U.S. attacked Iraq.

To date, the Dixie Chicks continues to stick by its principle and make beautiful music. I admire the band's solidarity and its spirit to fight for what it believes in.

Everyone can learn more about the Dixie Chick's story in the documentary Shut Up and Sing.
Go to

Monday, January 01, 2007

Freedom Year

Out of the eight resolutions I made last new year, I was able to keep one. I started a traveling affirmation book. I couldn't keep the rest because I didn't win my deportation case.

Therefore, I will only have one resolution this year: cherish my freedom. That'll start as soon as I am free.

Happy New Year!