Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier


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AWP2016: A Quick Report

I believe I was a step closer to reaching my dream when I showed up at this year’s AWP, held for the first time in LA, barely 30 miles from my home. Although I dreaded to have to navigate the chocked freeway to downtown LA, it was this “now or never” thought that gave me the needed push to register for the conference. At least, I wouldn’t have to fly and live in a strange city all by myself. It turned out ideal that I had to commute back and forth over the three days instead of staying in a hotel room. I had not only conquered one of the biggest and most academic-oriented writers’ conference but also overcome my fear of driving the most crowded and vicious freeways and the part of town to me too wild, too noisy, too bewildered to visit unaccompanied.

I was immediately rewarded for my bravery the minute I walked into the first panel of my personalized schedule, “Book Launch Confidential: Marketing Made Smarter, Not Harder.” The slideshow had started. I was sitting too far away from the screen but technology came to my rescue. Several screen shots later using my cellphone camera, I could read what were displayed to follow the conversation. I began learning. Terms like “campaign” and “PR expert” popped like corns and made me almost “feel the Bern” of a presidential campaign. On one slide were two columns, one labeled “Qualitative” and the other “Quantitative.” The panel moderator encouraged us to list our objectives under each one. What does an author want to achieve for herself and her book: connection, recognition, book deals, sale numbers, etc.? List them out and prioritize. See what activities you can do to achieve some or all of your goals without feeling depleted, drained, joyless. When overwhelmed, ask yourself: “What activities align with your campaign? What energizes you?”

She went on to say, “There are millions of things you can do to promote your book, from speaking/reading tour to radio talk to interview, but remember to schedule yourself.” In essence, I noted, do not let yourself be burned out (not “BERNed” out).

https://ithetiger.smugmug.com/photos/swfpopup.mg?AlbumKey=jFqwZn

“Social media have changed the world in a number of gigantic ways that shouldn’t be sneezed at,” said one panelist. “Publication is the creation of a new public,” said another.  We were reminded that the written world would come full circle to return back to its oral beginning and give voice to the people who do not know how to read nor write. In a way that’s how movies function, transforming script to sound and images.

The above were only my impressions and note from attending one of the many, many AWP sessions. I had about 30 pages of notes to review and digest and can only give you a glimpse into this wonderful, soul-affirming, craft-enhancing AWP experience. I returned humble but hopeful. The ambition for AWP to be more inclusive and diversified has kick-started. I was counted in the first Asian American writer caucus. During the conference I spoke up. I asked questions. I exchanged business cards. I breathed in inspiration and breathe out aspiration. I wondered how so many women could raise a family and write prolifically, just like I marveled at the way many of them could walk around the conference in skirts and high heels, when I could hardly manage to survive the day toddling around in my well broken-in sneakers.

To the next AWP,

 

 

PS. Below are a few BIG bullet points from the notes I took.

The myth busters:

  • Big 6: for work geared to the mainstream & mass market. Not easy to get in for lit fictions. Need agent to represent you, negotiate contracts, and champion your work. Agent’s style, personality, mode of communication need to fit those of an author for the relationship to last. Referral’s a PLUS for debut authors to get noticed.
  • Indie Press: prefer no agents. Partnership with author for publicity. In some cases, support authors better.
  • Platform: a must for nonfiction (except memoir)
  • YA: no e-books. Need print copies
  • Get on Twitter to connect with other writers, agents, authors and participate in insiders’ discussions. Learn about those special hashtags. More here: http://www.authormedia.com/44-essential-twitter-hashtags-every-author-should-know/ Keep Googling to discover & mine for treasured tags. Just now I discover you can pitch directly to agents via pitch contests on Twitter.

Tips: Authors with potential book series a plus. Suggested language in query letters: this is a standalone book with series potential. (Sounds like something you will find on Match.com, doesn’t it?)

 

…and much, much more. If you have more questions, ask me in the comment section of this blog and I’ll get back to you.

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First Tankas

2016 Feb HB Tanka

With Hiroko Falkenstein (my tanka teacher)

1.

Is it music or

math—I am counting on my

fingers like a child

My thought runs away it runs

free from the too strict counting.

2.

Tanka is tango

lulls me into a rhythm

tap tap side side step

paper and pen sashaying

to the music of my thought.

3.

It’ll be natural

to breathe in 5 7 5

7 7 stop

Morse-like, smoke signals, heart beats

silent then sound then sound then…

4.

It prevents you to

think too rashly, force you to

ralentissimo

think! Absorb! Soak in, drink deep!

become a tanka itself.

 

 


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Thanksgiving is…

 

…fighting over2014 HB iPhone 849 the Holiday’s menu.

He wants to preserve the traditional dinner menu: turkey and roast beef, corn bread, pumpkin bread, green bean casserole, nut-berries salad, yam and mash potato, brownies, and three kinds of pies. It was well-rehearsed and fool proofed, mind you.

I want to try a brand new line of homemade concoctions that I recently assemble, inspired by a dozen cooking sites and Pinterest photos which I successfully “clipped”, incorporated into a three-course menu, complete with a comprehensive shopping list through the use of a cool site, Plan To Eat.

I imagine myself the successful hostess presiding over half a dozen long tables in coordinated tablecloths and skirts, each with a child-height center piece made from the flowers and grasses cut from our yard, each lavishly decorated and sumptuously decked with gourmet foods that not only look gorgeous and appetizing but also tasting delicious and surely generating a collective “Oooh” and “Ahhs” when the first bites are taken.

My side dishes will be pieces of arts, with artistically carved pieces of vegetable and fruits that are low salt and glucose-free, and no fat. No preservatives. No dyes. No artificial anything. All lovingly assembled by hand and if cooking is required, it will be done on the stove top or baked in traditional oven, not the microwave. No zapping. No zinging. Only licking with sanitized, oily but germ-free fingers.

My main dishes will be the same as his: turkey and beef, without which Thanksgiving would not be Thanksgiving. The vulgar-looking bird: big as a little pig, plain- and coarse feathered as the corpse devouring vultures doesn’t even sing or soar. It did not even originate from the New World; hence the name, I was once told. So what’s the big deal? I guess history is always filled with obscure deals like our turkey tradition. My turkey tradition? Since when do I have a turkey tradition? You see, it’s confusing!

Yet Thanksgiving is the season for loving couples to fight over dinner menus. The turkey is sure to get its central place, and the beef. Besides that, it’s war time. He wants to add tamales. “Made from scratch?” She immediately retorts. “Oh no, you don’t! Over my dead body.”

He isn’t going to lose points. “Carved appetizers for over fifty guests, some of them Indians, the majority of them Vietnamese who eat nothing but catered homeland foods from Little Saigon, and some of them a mixture of half this and that, hardened American souls who would not know the difference between cilantro and parsley, a salad fork from a pickax, and laugh if you call for chutney masala to put on your roast beef?”

Thanksgiving is that tender moment when they will all sit down together as one family. Many will say Our Father to ask for grace. Some will murmur “Bismillah….” Yet many others can’t wait to start in a defiant silence, believers and nonbelievers notwithstanding. And the dinner will consist of a hotchpotch of dishes from recipes collected over past seasons and Pin-ned recently, brought by relativesor store bought.

Peace out and Happy Thanksgiving!


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Haunting Memories

FullSizeRender (32)

Maid’s quarter in the background

It’s funny how your mind works, how it opens up to the, supposedly, triviality of life. A water pump, per example. Yesterday I wrote about my grandpa’s death and my father’s old water pump came up. It used to sit on a raised concrete platform that later, our housemaids turned into their day bed, a sleeping place large enough for three, topped with a bamboo mat, and overlooking a wall-sized window to a tiny inner courtyard that linked the kitchen and the maid’s quarter. It was an ideal place to take a nap, where your back against the concrete cement was cooled, and the platform itself was always chilled by the deep well below it with ten feet or so of cool air.

The pump was operated on and off during my toddler years. Rat ta ta, rat ta ta it went, like a motorcycle, rat ta ta against the whirring of a foot-pedaled sewing machine, black in color, emblazoned with the word Singer in gold letters. During its busy days the pump was a joy for me to look at. How its leather bell turned. How it shook on its four curved legs, like a hog wanting food. It sat high on the well platform that later was the maids’ bed, then, it turned silent and purposeless, only sputtered to life occasionally when my father wanted to show us how a pump worked. It needed engine oil in one of its hole—dark, sticky oil that looked like molasses.

In my teen years the pump was moved to the floor, next to the maids’ large wooden bed, a bed with wooden slats and larger than any other beds in the house, topped with two frayed bamboo mats. Three maids could sleep comfortably on it, and sometimes with me in their midst, when I wanted to change scenery and experience the life of helping maids. The squarish raised platform, with a squarish wooden lid in its middle, as I mentioned, would be another sleeping place. Now and then I would lift the lid up and looked down into the dark below. I sent my voice into it and heard it echoed back mysteriously, like another person’s answering teasingly, by imitating me, like I used to annoy my little brother, repeating words he said, on and on, until he was fed up and burst into tears. Sometimes I stepped down to the first few rungs of an iron ladder that led straight into the brimming dark surface, but never had enough courage to descend completely, not even dared to let my head disappeared inside the opening. It was this haunting idea: someone might close the lid and I would perish below unbeknownst to anybody else. They would not find me, and when they would, a few days later, I would be floating at the top of the dark surface like the cat I had seen, swollen and ugly.

Even with the well lid close, I could not bring myself to sleep on the platform alone. Somehow I was consumed by this idea that the bottomless hole beneath would one day swallow me live, lid or no lid. A skeleton’s hand would grab me.

“Dearly departed ghosts love to take little girls with them as brides,” my maid used to say. And they said that the ground on which my parents’ property sat used to be a cemetery, although before that it was swampland, with groves of bamboos and roaming cows. A bamboo thicket still remained by the red gate to prove their words. In my wild imagination I saw crosses where the trees stood, and in many moonless nights, the white kite stuck on the tall mango did wave its eyeless head and fleshless arms. And in my ears rang the echoing words from the well bottom, “Helloooo, hell Oooo….”


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Death Came A-knocking

Coffin3I was only five when my paternal grandpa passed away. His death was the first human death I encountered. Before that I mostly experienced the smell of death and a few times its ungainly sight on animals—of dead mice when the cats left them decapitated behind some cupboards or inside closets, of the cat itself, one of the strays who roamed the rooftop and screamed morbidly many nights. My maids said that some toms were having cats and no one could ever catch them at the act. I vaguely understood that some cats eat fellow cats besides mice, rats, birds, and lizards.

The stench was horrendous. Then they found him, her, waterlogged and thrice its normal size, after it had been down to the bottom of the cistern as tall as the wall that supported the kitchen roof and up again, floating on the surface of the water that my father pumped up daily from our own well. It was years ago. I remember the sound of the pump going like I remember the cats’ fighting sound, their nightly screams, the chirping of mice behind some holes and their footsteps running on tiles. I cannot erase the smell of death from my memory.

The violent fragrance of the white tuberoses, the brown tea leaves that covered Grandpa’s dead body so he would not smell—I remember them all. For three days he lay in that coffin, and someone was always present so that no black cat would jump over him. Or else he would rise with the cat.

On the third day I was walking down the stairs of Grandparents’ house with my cousin when we heard a hammering sound. We both froze. It was getting dark outside and shadows dance inside the stairwell. On one wall was a deer head with two marble eyes. Next to it was a large painting of the last supper. My cousin flopped down on the stair step, pulling me after her.

“Grandpa,” we both said, stricken. The hammering became louder and urgent. In my mind I saw him trying to get out. Soon he would call like he used to bellow after me, “Hong-My. Come.”

My cousin covered both her ears and started howling. And I did the same, trying to block out Grandpa’s rapping on the wood of his coffin. Combined in force, our scream might have risen above the loud knocking and drowned them out. Or they stopped. To me, the sudden ceasing of the hammering sound was even more terrifying than their loud knocking. It meant only one thing: Grandpa was done fighting with the lid that held him inside. He had freed himself from the container. And he was about to come after two little girls.

My hysterical howling surpassed my shyer cousin’s. I screamed now for my life with all my might. Ah, ah…tongue knocking against teeth, teeth chattering inside skull, eyes closed to avoid seeing Grandpa walking up to us.

Cold hands wrapped my shoulders. Ah, ah. I was beyond myself. I tried to run away but my feet was two useless lumps of heavy rubber, which would collapse under me like a string-through toy snake.  Then my Grandma’s concerned voice, “Hong-My, what’s the matter? Why are you girls screaming like a possessed train?”

No, it wasn’t Grandpa, we were told. The undertakers were the ones’ hammering. They were nailing shut the coffin to take Grandpa to his final rest.

“Wipe your tears,” said Grandma softly. “Don’t be sad, Grandpa is in God’s hands.”


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Unfinished Poem

All my life I straddle

Between light and shadow

Right and wrong

Vietnamese French

Gujarati English

Yin yang, boy girl

Mom dad

I straddle East-West

Tea coffee

Rice roti

Christianity Buddhism

Teeter tote Catholicism Islam

Saddle love on pointed hatred

Spanning the valley of indifference

Between you me

What could be that were left in the void

Between here and there

tall nose as forbidden as the summit of Himalaya

Skin too white or dark

Food too bland or too spicy

But come to think of it

Your chanting prayers heals deeply

And my singing halleluia gives wings to hope and forever love

You kneel with your forehead on the ground

And I with my upturned grace

That moment we are two spirits united with the Supreme

I am between logic and madness

Formulaic and spontaneously chaotic

I calculate my number of words

Aiming for the cold effectiveness of sentences

to the point

I die every day as I’m living

As I breathe air steadily polluted

My lungs declining with age

I kill in cold blood as I dismiss the Other

Unaware of their need for space, food, love, human connection

I lie as I’m telling the truth

So dark it’s unbelievable

As when I told her

Mom, let go, and die in peace.

I do not know how to draw

But with the alphabets I sketch

I release my balloons of thoughts in clusters

And hope that they carry a message to the wilderness above

I guide them, my children, like kites

sometimes they float so high and travel places

And dance and dip and flutter in the wind above people watching

But sometimes they got caught in tree branches

 dive straight down like a bird shot dead


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Teach Old Dogs

learnHow many times have you heard of this phrase “teach old dog new tricks” as a deterrent to learning something new? My husband uses this as an excuse each time I ask him to join me in ballroom dancing. Many writers in my club refuse to look at blogging and OMG, micro-blogging, as serious writing. Time spent composing Facebook or Twitter posts is time wasted. PERIOD! And blogging? You’ve got to be kidding. Who has the time to doodle aimless thoughts? “I can hardly manage to turn on my computer,” some say. “Why would I want more complications? Facebook? Twitter? Blogging? Thank you very much!”

Yet in my life, I’ve seen that given the circumstance, when forced to learn—to re-adapt to a new life, to advance a career or transition to a new job, to cope with technology changes, to live in a new country, to communicate with the younger generations, so on and so forth—people (old dogs too) can always acquire new knowledge. Some learn faster than others. But no one fails to pick up enough new tricks to keep life going in the right direction.

Immigrants do it all the time. When I first arrived in the U.S., I possessed merely fifty English words. I just smiled a lot to people, and that seemed to do the trick for a while. My first American contact was our landlord, a Chinese American divorcee who spent his time plotting against his ex-wife. My verbal exchanges with him consisted of “thank you” and “good morning” or “good night.” I took care to not let his heavily-accented English contaminate my new language in its vulnerable and impressionable stage.

Then we found a job almost instantly, one that did not require much talking, only doing. This time our language teacher was a black lady with a largest butts endowment I had ever seen up until then, and now I have a name and quick description for: Kardashian. Me and my younger brother showed up at her home as instructed (and translated by my English fluent dad) and were shown two bathrooms and given a bottle of Ajax each. She pointed at the bathtubs, sinks, and toilets. We understood perfectly. But except for a set of rags and sponges, she did not give us any tools to work with. I managed to say, “How,” pointing at the urine-ringed bowls. She smiled. Big, white teeth. And showed me my hands. Then made quick, vigorous scrubbing motions with hers, saying “Scrub hard. Make it clean.”

I nodded. Understood.

Learning demands good attitude. And hope. You learn with the desire to be better, to get over the hump, to be in a better position with time.

PS: Thanks to Rubin Johnsons, I recently learned to type an m-dash by pressing simultaneously Alt 0151.


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State of Suspension

Letter D

ear

Know that I’m supposed to be cleaning

There are ants in the kitchen

Lines of tiny, moving black dots

Moving around my counter top

Under the baseboard

Inside the sink

But I’d rather write

And feel my fingers moving across the keyboard

let lines of black words forming

Across the white screen

Know that I’m supposed to continue that chapter eight of my novel

And move the plot along

Build some tension and climb toward a climax

But I’m stuck in the act

And want to escape into poetry

Know that I want to achieve so many things

That my little business of maintaining life is an impediment

I’d rather muse on what to do

To control—or permit my protagonist to go where she’s heading

What she wants out of life

how she can move from here to there

Without leaping off the pages

and leave the readers aghast and confounding

At her disappearing act.

Is it a plot twist?

A gaff?

The author’s craft not fully developed?

Or is it simply the process of life?

As disorganized and compulsive as the heart and mind a living person allows

Free to wipe her sweaty brow

And execute a closing bow

The curtain falls

The end.

Time to clean up!


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Globalization and Women

2015 TerzianIt took me only thirty minutes to get to Armenia from California. How? The Concorde is no longer available, agreed! And Scotty didn’t beam me up, nor did I teleport; though I believe we are in an age when this technology will soon be available.

Do you give up guessing yet? It was very simple. Mary Terzian, the author of two books, The Immigrants’ Daughter and Politically Homeless, invited me to AGBU Hye Geen’s presentation of Globalization and Challenges with Armenian Women in Pasadena, California, and I went. The topic intrigued me. What has globalization to do with the Armenian females, and if it has, then it must surely affect me too, though I carry zero Armenian blood.

As soon as I was through the doorway I swam in a sea of Armenians—tiny ones, large ones, tall and short ones, and bearded ones, though they were vastly outnumbered by their bustier counterparts. Armenian language floated in the crowded auditorium. I wouldn’t have been more startled had someone greeted me with “Welcome to Armenia” and demanded to see my passport. The only indication that I was at the right place was a table manned—or more correctly womanned—by two Armenians, its surface decked with Mary’s books.

I was swiftly delivered to Mary, who assured me that English would be the language of use in the presentation.

I sat down and soaked it all in. There were about a dozen round tables filled with mostly women, totaling around 60 – 80 women heads. Three or four men dotted the room. One, like a butterfly, stopped at different tables to dip his hand in the grasping hands of women, making them feel welcome and beautiful. One man sat morosely in a group of women, most probably to prevent his wife from disclosing all the family’s secrets in her high-spirited socialization. Another man busied himself around with the video equipment. The fourth and last one helped adjust Mary’s microphone when she came up.

She opened the hot topic with her measured speech, beginning by defining the meaning of globalization, and confirmed its reach in the modern age. To emphasize her points, Mary rolled her tongue and delivered a long sentence in her native language. I could see the effect of this string of Armenian words on her audience, for people began to let out a collective hum and laughter erupted in different corners of the auditorium. Whatever she just said had won approval. People clapped. So I clapped too, wondering at the meaning of the foreign words that carried the power to move her audience, to break the silence, words that unravel feelings in the women who so far remained subdued, even after they were reminded to take responsibility for their own lives—to be outspoken and take their identities seriously so that they should never again be addressed as their father’s daughter or husband’s wife.

The second and last speaker of the day was Dr. Nelly Kazman. She commanded the room with a microphone in hand. Behind her was a large screen illuminated with a PowerPoint presentation synchronized to her talk. It made following her thought much easier, for I took rapid notes, musing on several points and sometimes losing myself in the process.

Dr. Kazman approached her topic with a genuine enthusiasm. “Globalization is here to stay,” she repeated what Mary and the woman who introduced the talk before her had said. She built upon Mary’s idea of globalization—how it helped remove the barriers of commerce like tariffs and across border good exchanges—to embark first on the positives of globalization’s impacts, namely the need for a global language, cooperation between countries, political integration, and higher learning standards and competence. However, she warned, with globalization, one would soon lose all national identities, ethnic cultures, and sense of selves, etc.

She raised three questions—What, So What, and Now What—and used them to navigate her presentation, bringing into focus her topic and driving it home to her audience. She brought up the differences among the generations of Armenian women–from the traditional to the Baby Boomers and the Millennials—and their challenges, namely how to preserve their national identity against the mainstream’s, itself would be more and more globalized and all-encompassing to the point of complete dilution then evaporation. The future would no longer wear any set identity nor have any cultural variation.

I took copious notes, omitting the word “Armenian” for my own application. Her analyses of the impacts of globalization on today’s women and her suggestions on how to be prepared for the challenge of our time were all based on sound logic and thorough studies. She briefly mentioned the upcoming Gen Z and threw up her hands, laughed, and said, “I won’t go there. Stay tuned!”

Here I sat, a stranger among Armenians, thinking how odd I must look and how alien in a homogeneous group of people. I felt acutely out of place when some of the debates were reverted back to Armenian, their language of choice which aptitude they had mastered and nuances they fully grasped. However, this was not the first time I had subjected myself to a crowd like this. I had been among Vietnamese and felt totally lost, unable to associate. I had taken meal in a group of Indians and was left invisible because I did not look and talk the same way as the majority. I had been to writers’ conference and struggled to participate because I was definitely an odd sample among Caucasians and veteran writers. I had learned not to let being outnumbered bother me. I had in me this sadistic pleasure to be a dog among cats. Completely ignored and left alone, I was free to use all my senses to observe and listen when all around me, people forgot themselves in active socialization.

Didn’t Dr. Kazman just remind her audience to keep an open mind and be adaptive and flexible in all situations while juggling the Me identity with the Other identity, whether it be American, Armenian, Vietnamese, Indian, or woman?

I was deep in that frame of mind, so enthusiastic to learn and discover about this Armenian world around me and globalization, when the presentation ended with a Q&A session. I was about to tiptoe out when the first question was asked.

“I was born in Georgia. When someone asked what I am, I always said I am American. Then when I said my parents are Armenian I was told, ‘Then you’re not American, but Armenian American.’ I beg to differ. I am an American of Armenian descent but I am not an Armenian American.”

The room grew quiet for a few minutes then hands shot up. One woman replied. “I know why you say you are not Armenian American. Because once upon a time, being Armenian in America is a bad thing. Like being black. People changed their names.”

The Georgian-born responded. “That’s not it. I totally disagree. This concept of African American, Latin American, all that was started after the Civil War. To me, you either are American or you are not.”

Someone else stood up. “American is a mindset. There is no American ethnicity. What’s so unique about America is it’s a melting pot of multitude ethnicities. But you have to come from somewhere, and you are not being disloyal when you say you are Armenian American.”

Mary, who sat next to me, leaned over. “Do you experience the same with Vietnamese?”

I grinned. I was glad to find that I wasn’t the only one to suffer an identity crisis and feel alienated at times among my own people. And let’s not bring politics or religions in the discussion.

Globalization.

It will be a steep climb uphill. But it is here to stay.


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Be All You Can Be

FullSizeRender (29)The future is in my hands. I am the maker of my own destiny, and it is up to me to realize it. There are the doors, and I have the master key.

Summer 1986. Vietnam was far behind–its horror, its close borders, our life on hold. I had been in the US for two years, a sophomore in college averaging 18-24 quarter units, holding a part-time job, and dating and partying. I embraced life with every breath and burned with impatience to make more of myself. At 24 years old, I knew full well I had a late start. In my mind was this constant warning that time was running out, and I’d better hurry in this order of urgency: by all means get my career going—a bachelor degree, then immediately a job so that I could have that needed health insurance to fix my cavities, then locate a suitable man to start a family. Meanwhile, I should grab as much fun as I could while discovering myself and reaching the two urgent goals above.

That summer I desperately wanted to travel out of California. The summer before an appendectomy had kept me homebound before the summer quarter started. Then school. Then work. Then school again.

With no money to begin with, I had to be creative. One day, on my way to class I walked by a sign. It said, “Be All You Can Be.” I was fascinated by what I read. That was exactly what I had been wanting. Below the sign was this picture of a soldier dressed in a camo fatigue uniform. Hmm! That wasn’t in my plan, but…, it wouldn’t hurt to inquire. I pushed in the glass door to sit down across a desk from a black man in army uniform. He flashed his teeth and extended his hand, a very American gesture that I wasn’t yet comfortable with, but we shook hands nonetheless, or he shook mine. After the mutual introduction and I was to call him as Sergeant X (I can no longer recall his name), he described to me in length what the program was all about. It was called ROTC, and it trained college students for later recruitment into the US army. As of immediately, I could sign up for the summer basic training, and the US Army would give me a free medical evaluation and if I qualified, would send me all expenses paid to Fort Knox, Kentucky for a six-week stay. Afterward, I could choose to return straight home, or go on to another destination of my choice, and the ticket would be provided.

I didn’t share it with him my ulterior motive—it wouldn’t be wise to do so, but the sergeant has just described my summer travel plan. In my mind it was an excellent opportunity to travel, live among “real’ Americans, earn some money as I would be getting a stipend, and to top it off, being given six full weeks of free workout. Sergeant X could call it an army training if he wanted. For me, it was a dream vacation. I walked out of the ROTC office elated.