Monday, April 30, 2007

April Reflection

The month of April came and went. Though I've only been out in the free world for two months and three days, it felt like I've been here for a long time. I contribute my smooth transition to the support of my family, friends and community, as well as my spontaneity.

During the month I've had the privilege to be invited to many speaking engagements. I had the opportunity to speak at middle schools, high schools, recreation centers and universities. Whenever I share with people I have an idea of what I want to talk about, but I never have a script. I like to come off the cuff. That form of speaking has worked out for me so far. However, I do see the need to prepare some focused topics with different length of time along with PowerPoint demonstrations to improve my presentations. I will be working on that in the month of May.

I thought the concept of time would change from inside of prison to the gated communities. It didn't. Time is still flying by. I still feel that there is not enough time in the day for me to do all the things that I want to do. Therefore, the only change is my responsibilities.

I enjoy connecting with people wherever I go. The Chinese community has truly embrace me as someone who has transform his life. Since I've been out, whenever I go to places where there's Chinese people they would recognize me and express their support for me. I'm grateful and amazed at their acceptance of me.

One thing that I love being out here is being able to spend some quality time with my family. To be able to sit down and share a home cooked meal made by my Mom feels heavenly.

Everyday has been a beautiful day to me. I'm ready to embrace the month of May.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My First Job

Yes, for the first time in my life, I have my first job in the free world.

I'm working for the CYC Community Youth Center in San Francisco as a Case Manager/Outreach worker. The mission of CYC is to empower and strengthen high-need Asian youth and their families by providing comprehensive youth development through education, employment training, advocacy, and other support service. I'm also a part of the Community Response Network of Asian Pacific Islanders (CRN-API), which services youth in all schools and communities.

During my incarceration and transformation to become a better person, I'd longed to work for a youth organization so I can utilize my experiences to make a difference in the community. Today that longing has become a reality. I'm grateful for the opportunity to join the team of CYC staff to motivate our youth to succeed. I'm doing something that I enjoy and get pay for it. How can you beat that!?

It's time for me to start doing my part to save lives.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Cherry Blossom

Some people have lived in San Francisco for years and haven't been to a Cherry Blossom festival, but I was there today. I took Bart to the city and ended up at the plaza in front of city hall. The parade floats were getting ready as well as the participants. I saw many people wearing animated customs scattered around. Later on I found out that it was the 9th anime custom contest. Photographers were clicking away while anime contestants were striking different poses. Of course, I took some pictures. There're many Japanese women wearing their traditional clothing to celebrate the Cherry Blossom.

Later on I went to Japantown and enjoyed the street fair where people of all diverse backgrounds, young and old, having a great time on a sunny day. Peace was flowing like a river.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Big Three O

The Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) had its 30th anniversary celebration today. I had the honor of attending the special occasion and met some wonderful people. It's great to see a diverse group of people who have served the community for years to get acknowledge for their work. The field of social work is always overwork and underpaid. However, the personal gratification of making a difference in the community is not something money can buy. Of course, there're also those who are jaded from the hard work. Social work is not for everyone - only the dedicated ones can endure.

CCDC has supported my release from prison and immigration detention. Reverend Norman Fong introduced me to the CCDC staff. I was able to take that opportunity to thank everyone for their support. I felt love from all the aunties and big sisters who embraced me and encouraged me to do well.

CCDC provides many programs for the people of San Francisco, those who are interested should check out

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Other - the anthology

It totally escaped my mind to tell everyone about the published of Other: an Asian & Pacific Islander Prisoners' Anthology. The Asian Prisoner Support Committee (APSC) had the book release on the night of my homecoming event at the end of March. Twenty-two prisoners and immigration detainees contributed to the anthology. They shared their thoughts through drawings, poetry, vingettes, and essays about their struggles behind bars. I appreciate the people who had brought the book. All the money goes to disaster relief funds and support political prisoners. We had been selling and promoting the anthology independently. (Actually, the Chinese newspaper The World Journal advertise the book for us.) The first printing of the book is almost gone, so we're getting ready to print more copies. We're hoping that some publishing company will pick up the press and mass produce it.

For those who are interested in getting the book, you can purchase it on

There is a book reading scheduled for May 5th at the Eastwind book store in Berkeley. I'll announce the time and more information when I have more details.

I encourge everyone to buy the book or just check it out on the above link so we can learn more about APIs in prison. It is one way to stop the growing population of APIs in the prison system and minimize crimes in our community.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Let's talk about healing

The tragic murders in Virginia Tech dominated the media in every way imaginable. My heart goes out to the victims' families. It will take a long time for them to heal.

When I did an interview with the Chinese Singtao radio station this morning, the hostess asked for my thoughts on the incident in Virginia Tech. I expressed that I didn't know the details or motive of the killings besides what the authority and media wanted people to know. Therefore, I couldn't comment on it until more is revealed. However, the fact that the shooter was an Asian and a legal permanent resident of the United States was highlighted in the media. The media is having a field day with that, as well as the politicians. This incident will definitely have an effect dealing with immigration reform and race relations.

Any loss of human life is tragic, whether it happened in Virginia Tech, in Iraq or on the streets. Instead of pointing fingers, what's important is how we as a society can stop the violence and heal.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Playing with Makeup

My Mom got upset when she saw that I had two star and diamond shape earrings on my ears. She demanded that I take them off. I told her that I'd ask Dad for a second opinion. Her words were, "Your Dad will kill you. I'm only giving you a warning."

So I went to the kitchen where my Dad was sitting and showed him the earrings. He gave me a strange and no comment look. Mom was still telling me to take those earrings off.

I thought I had enough fun with them and told them that the earrings were stickers. My friend's beautiful five year old daughter had put them on me. She also put purple lipstick on my lips. She was playing makeup artist with me when I went to visit her for an hour. She told me that she gave me those earrings because she loves me and that I couldn't take them off. She dolled me up with her little makeup kit. She has potential.

My parents and I had a good laugh after I shared my little makeup session with them. My Mom will always try to keep me in line. I'm grateful for her love.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Be the Change

I paced up and down the aisle in the June Jordan School's auditorium reviewing what I wanted to say to the high school students. The theme for the day is Be the Change. I decided to recite a poem that I wrote about the importance of education and end with a song that I used to sing in prison. I did not write down any notes. I like to shoot it off the cuffs. Since I had 15 minutes to address the students, I knew I had to keep my talk focused on the theme.

I was afraid that I would forget lines from my poem so took it with me to the podium just in case. However, I didn't need to read it because I had it down. The song, surprisingly, was all right, especially when I haven't sang for a long time. I thought I would be nervous. Somehow, singing to a school of students didn't faze me at all. They even clapped with the rhythm. The morning address of the assembly went well.

However, when I started my three workshops with small group of students, I didn't feel that I'd made a big impact. I knew they were listening, but they weren't responsive. It seemed like they're so jaded or desensitized that there's nothing I could tell them. They knew everything. I used to think the same way when I was their age. Well, I had to learn the hard way. I realize that we have to reach to those kids when they're in middle school. I hope something I'd shared with them today had touched them in some ways, whether they wanted to admitted or not.

Four of my friends accompanied me to the school workshops. It's good to have some moral support.

Changes have to come from within first. We all need to be the change everyday.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cherish Your Loved Ones

I didn't have any professional or social engagements today so my Mom insisted that we
go visit my uncle. I've been meaning to visit him, but I didn't have any transportation or time since I've been out. My sister-in-law took time to drive us to visit my uncle.

Three years ago my uncle had a stroke and was left paralyzed from the waist down. He's been living in a health care home where nurses are taking care of him. He's still hoping to walk one day, but there's no progress so far.

When I was into the room where my uncle was eating lunch, my aunt was feeding him. She was surprised when she saw me and gave me a huge hug. Then I said hi to my uncle and gave him a hug. He recognized me right away and blurred out my name as tears rolled down from his eyes. It's the first time we saw each other in 22 years.

While I was visiting my uncle, I saw many seniors who were in wheelchairs. They all seemed to be suffering from some type of illness. They didn't have any visitors. They just sat there around the tables. Some were sleeping, others were eating. One woman was playing with a doll. Another one was playing with three drinking straws. Later on, an older guy came to room and started to play music on a keyboard. It provided some entertainment, but most of the ladies just sat there with little reactions. As I looked around the room, I thought to myself how much a difference it would make if there're children or youth there to visit them. It's sad seeing all the seniors sitting there like zombies. The reality is one day all of us can end up like that.

I'm grateful that I was able to visit my uncle and aunt. At least we're having a relationship.

I just want to cherish my loved ones everyday.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My First with Ishle Yi Park

The first time I met Ishle it was in Solano State Prison on 6/28/03. She came visited me with Anmol. I had heard so much about her and read her awesome poetry. It was a humble and inspirational experience for me. She's totally down to earth.

We kept in touch on and off throughout the years. I read her poetry book and listened to her CD Work in Love whenever I wanted to get motivate or just chill. Of course, I share her works with other prisoners who appreciate her art.

Today I meet Ishle for the first time in the free world. I went to UC Berkeley and watched her perform to the class of Poetry for the People. She was as awesome as I had imagined. I witnessed the amount of emotion and passion she put into her performance. It's mesmerizing when the meditative words and songs flew out of her mouth like petals of cherry flowers flowing in the air after being hit by a strong breeze. She made performing poetry look easy. Yet, we have no ideal how much work and practice she has to put in to create that flow - like water in a gentle stream.

I wish I was able to record her performance, but my camera ran out of juice. I'm grateful to be able to watch her do her magic with spoken words for the fisrt time. I stil feel humble and inspire. She is still awesome and down to earth.

After Ishle's gig, we went to eat some delicious Indian food and kick it. I look forward to the many more first with Ishle Yi Park. You can look her out at

Life is good.

Sentenced Home

I can't believe it's Wednesday already. I thought time was flying when I was inside prison. Now that I'm out, the days are going by even faster. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to embrace and enjoy my days out here.

Last night I had the priviledge of screening the film Sentenced Home in San Francisco's public library. Sentenced Home hightlights three Cambodian refugees' struggles being caught up in the immigration deportation policy. Two of the guys were deported to Cambodia and the other awaits deportation. I was one of the panelists who spoke on the effects of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform & Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which orders the mandatory deportation and detention of any non US citizens who had committed any "aggravated felony, had on me. Because the IIRIRA is retroactive, it doesn't matter how long someone has committed a crime, she or he can be detained and deported without much due process and relief.

Everyone is effected by the injust immigration laws that target immigrants because either we're immigrants or we know someone who's an immigrant. Therefore, we need to raise awareness in our immediate communities and learn more about immigrantion laws who break up families. For more infomation on the film Sentenced Home, please log on to WWW.ITVS.ORG/OUTREACH.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

My First Skiing Trip

One of the many places my sister wants to take me to see is Lake Tahoe. However, due to my parole and immigration restrictions, I have to ask for permission whenever I go beyond 50 mile radius of my residence. Yes, my temporary freedom comes with many conditions. My handlers have been super cool. They gave me permission to go to Lake Tahoe and spend some quality time with my family.

The first night I got to the rented house in Truckee, a blanket of stars welcomed me. I don't remember the last time, if ever, I've seen so many bright stars. It's like a goddess had dumped a million stars in one spot of the sky. When I took a few deep breathes of air, the smell of trees filled my lung. What global warming?

It's the end of the ski season so there isn't much snow. The weather was great for skiing. I went to beginners slop with my nephews. Of course, they're better skiers than I am. After my brother-in-law gave me some tips on making fries and pizza, I was on my way. I spent about three hours on the baby slop practicing my turns. Then I went to try a steep slop. I was doing all right until the last couple of runs. That's when I fell. I still have problems turning. Aside from that I did well for a first timer. I enjoyed myself.

My family had hot pot for dinner and took plenty of pictures. I love the family time.

Given the opportunity, I'd definitely come back for another skiing trip. Hopefully there will be plenty of snow.

Being in such a serene and secluded environment, it's easily to forget that there're so much chaos in the world. It's good to get away from it all once in awhile.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Where are the good Samaritans?

I wasn't able to pay my phone bill on the phone so my service was cutted off for a few hours. I had an interview with the Chinese Singtao radio station this morning. A friend offered to pick me up at the Bart station and drive me to the radio station located in Brisbane. I didn't know where she'd be waiting for me and I couldn't call her. I asked a guy who was holding a cell phone in his whether I could use his phone to make a local call. He regused. I thanked him for his time.I explained to another guy my delimma, but he refused me by saying he didn't have a cell phone. But he didn't realized I saw him talking on the phone a minute ago when I crossed the street. I thanked him for his time. I walked into a store and asked the clerk, "Excuse me, I need some help. Do you think you can help me?" He responded, "No. I can't help you." He didn't even give me a chance to tell him what kind of help I needed. He just flatly denied me. I thanked him for his time.

Without being able to find help, I walked back to the Bart station to look for my friend. Luckily, she saw me walking and called out to me. I was able to get to my destination on time.

Have people gotten so scared that they won't assist someone in need of help or did I just have a bad day?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Fresh Eyes

I was sitting in the restaurant Skates on the bay in Berkeley with a couple of friends tonight. We're seated by the window. There's a strong wind blowing. The water was making a soothing splashing sound. As I looked out the window, I thought about how quickly things have changed. One day I was in immigration detention awaiting deportation, the next day I was out in the free world. What a difference a day made!

How fresh are my eyes? It seems like I've had a pair of fresh eyes ever since I became educated. Life is definitely different being out here than being inside. Once thing remains the same - I don't have enough time in a day to do all the things that I want to do.

I was walking on University Avenue in Berkeley when Rodney called out my name. He's a student in UC Berkeley Boalt Hall Law School. I gave a talk in his class. Therefore, he remembered me. It's one thing that many Chinese people recognize me on the street because the Chinese media has been generous in covering my story. It's refreshing to be recognize by a law student. Since I've been out, I haven't received any negative
comments from anyone. I'm grateful that people have been so kind to me. How can I ever do bad!?

The journey continues...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

He's gone ... for now

After spending a week with me, my guardian angel went back to his intensive Ph. D program at Havard. This is the first time we're able to spend time together in the free world since we met about six years ago. Time went by way too fast. I wish he's here in the Bay Area, but the dude has to define his legacy. I'm cool with that. I'm just happy that I was able to hang out with him.

The internet and cell phone are handy tools for us to communicate. No more collect calls or time limits on the phone, no more letters that take days or weeks to reach me. The down fall of the technology is we don't write letters to each other anymore. (come to think of it, I have only written one letter to a friend and two greeting cards since I've been out.) That's not cool.

Well, I guess I can't have it my way all the time.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Dream Came True

Yesterday was my welcome home event. It took place at Space 180 in San Francisco. When I was incarcerated, I dreamed of one day being able to invite all of my friends to come together and have a party. That dream finally came true for me.

Many of my friends showed up for the special event, some even came from out of town. It's such a blessing to be in the presence of so many wonderful people who have been supporting over the years. Though not everyone of my friends was able to make it, the turn out was great. I still hope that one day I will be able to arrange a time and a place where all of my friends can come together for a celebration of life.

There are so much I want to share with everyone that I don't even know where to start. I'll share some pictures with everyone when I figure out how to put it on line. For now, I just want to check in with all of you to let you know that I intent to keep up my blog daily or as much as I can. I had been relying my Blogger way too much over the years. I have to do this on my own now.

Thank you so much for your patience. I'll chat with all of you tomorrow.