Category Archives: Going to School

September 1999

Tom's rose, Awakening

Awakening

In September 1999, a former adult ESL student of mine was found dead in the trunk of a car a few blocks from our school.

Today, thanks to the efforts of many, including the Arlington County (VA) Police Department’s Cold Case Unit, a suspect has been extradited from Guatemala to Arlington, Virginia.  I don’t want to to write my former student’s name here (and certainly not his), but you can find them somewhere if you want.

I just want to tell you a little bit about her.  She was young. She was sweet and funny.  When our class walked over to the park for a picnic and games, she could really belt the softball (it might have been a hardball).

It might have been for Valentine’s Day, but, anyhow, she gave me a little redbird music box that chirped Beethoven’s  “Ode to Joy.”

I took the bird off my bookshelf a few minutes ago.  I had thought the little bird stopped chirping years ago, but she chirped a few bars for me.

O friends, no more of these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
More songs full of joy!
Joy!
Joy! (taken from a translation of Schiller’s lyrics at http://classicalmusic.about.com/od/romanticperiodsymphonies/qt/Beethovenjoytxt.htm)

Joy to you somewhere, my dear.

Ode to Joy redbird

Ode to Joy redbird

 

Refugees, Part I

It probably goes without saying that I am distressed and angry about the divisive words of the extreme political right wing. I could name names, but you know those already, so I won’t sully this page. I do wonder, though, if a visit to Minidoka National Historical Site on a cold and windy day (such as when Tom and I visited) might make some ugly talkers rethink their support for a particularly ethnocentric and stupid idea. Minidoka, one of 10 relocation centers created in 1942 by FDR, had a population of approximately 10,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese. Throughout the relocation system, 120,000 people were interned.

Minidoka #3

Minidoka #3

Although some of my friends, relatives, and coworkers have long known that I stand somewhat left of center on many issues, others of you reading this may not know that. Now, I mostly want to write about music, trees, hikes, and my memories of my family. I wanted to write this post about traveling on the Going-to-the-Sun road. Not now. For weeks, I have been putting off writing about refugees, but I can’t in good conscience wait any longer. So, instead of writing about walking on mountain trails and beside blue lakes, I have to sit here and cry while I try to figure out what to say.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a refugee. The closest I ever got to being an outcast was when my students and, I guess, the school administration thought I was a communist back in Page, Arizona forty years ago.

However, I have had the great honor to work with refugees from around the world. Although  I have discarded at least a ton of books and papers these last years, I have kept much (probably most) of the writing from the adult students. When I read the students’ words now, even after many years, I still feel the beating of their hearts.

The United States did not designate the Salvadorans as refugees, That’s a long story, but the thousands my school worked with were refugees according to  definition on the website of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR): “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” Here’s what one young Salvadoran man wrote:

I want to talk about my country, it’s El Salvador. I miss my family and my friends. I want to see my mama. Also, I am missing my farm. I am missing my horse, and cows, dog, but I want to live in this country because in my country, we have war.

Mostly, the Salvadorans didn’t talk to me about war. They just moved ahead with their lives. One woman—I’ve  forgotten her name, but not her—I taught in a family literacy class at an elementary school in Arlington, Virginia. In those classes, we were all moms and dads together and so things were shared that might not have been talked about in other venues. She talked about how they all slept on the floor because of the flying bullets. This woman let me see the residual pain behind her cheerful, can-do demeanor.  She and her family prospered in Arlington, as did the young man who had missed his horse and cows.

The woman who made me the golden and ever-blooming flowers (below) told me about her flight through the Cambodian jungle. I think she was the person who told me about burying her child on that journey. Forgive me, there are so many stories, they sometimes run together. I need to share the stories to help dispel the baseless fears that demagogues spread.

flowers

flowers

At my school, the Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP), we were always working on projects of one sort or another to help figure out the best and most appropriate ways to teach adult immigrants and refugees. For one project, I interviewed a young Somali woman. She talked about how one day she went to the market and by the time she got back home, her home and her husband had been blown up.

When our school was preparing to receive a large group of Somali refugees, we were advised by human resources experts that it would be culturally inappropriate for a woman to shake hands with a Somali man. The first time a Somali man walked into our computer learning center, I walked up and enthusiastically shook his hand, as he did mine. He was in a new land and—enthusiastically—beginning to make a new life.

These refugees have lost so much and then they come here and share so much pain, yes, but  they also share their love and their hope with us.

One day I was sad in class because I was thinking of my mother and her cancer.  One young woman told me that she would “pray for your mother in the holy month of Ramadan.” Thank you.

So many stories: They are pictures I keep in my heart. I think I will stop for now.

However: I want to say, these adult students were so brave and strong. Unlike the fear-mongering stories promulgated by the extreme right wing, these people didn’t want to kill me. They made food for my family and me. I loved them and they loved me.

Bits of scripture still rattle around in my agnostic brain. Refugees are not the fiends those wicked people say. Refugees—at least until they get on their feet—are  the least of our brethren:

…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ (Matthew, Chapter 25, Bible, Revised Standard Version)

Merry Christmas

Report: Flora, Fauna, Music

Although, unlike the kids in my neighborhood, I am not going back to school tomorrow, I felt the need to write a report on how I spent my summer. Here it is.

Flora

We had enough rain (more than enough for the grapes and the Italian basil) and the weather was mostly moderate. After all these years of  living in Virginia, “moderate” is my word for not so damn hot and humid for so long that I can’t stand it. Notable elements of the garden include:

  • the best crop of green beans since the early 1980s—bush and pole,
  • the best crop of green chilies in at least seven years—New Mexico style, not Anaheim,
  • crazy, prolific summer squash, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange’s “tromboncino”—the plants took over most of the garden until I finally hacked the vines back and offered the fruits to passersby,
  • tomatoes only pretty good—they suffered from being overrun by the rampaging tromboncinos,
  • Tom’s rose, “Awakening”—I had nothing to do with it, but I got to see and smell it (his moonflowers are just beginning to bloom in the night and they bring the sphinx moths, more on fauna, below)

    green ciles

    green chiles

Fauna

Sometimes I have trouble separating the fauna from the flora. I like to think that is because I am an integrative person. Maybe that’s why I always grow my herbs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables together. Whatever the reason, my jumbled gardens have worked for me and for the fauna.

  • we had first the bumblebees, and then, slow to show up, the honey bees did come,
  • cabbage butterflies, skippers, red admirals, and, now, one monarch (I’ve had a jubilant crop of native milkweed—more than in years) I’m hoping more monarchs will arise from the jumble, and
  • cardinals nested by the porch, then disappeared, later the catbirds came, some wrens and gold finches, always the sparrows, and the crows still keep watch
monarch butterfly on zinnia

monarch butterfly on zinnia

Special Sighting: Last week Tom and I camped at Loft Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. We took a short hike along the Appalachian Trail. On the trail, a long, lovely, lean timber rattlesnake crossed our path. He didn’t hurry and he didn’t rattle.

timber rattlesnake, Shenandoah National Park

timber rattlesnake, Shenandoah National Park

Music

Because I am an integrative person (so I think), I have trouble separating the fauna and the  flora from the music. This summer we had a very successful music harvest.

  • In June, we heard and saw Paul McCartney. I was amazed, no maybe about it. I kept thinking this old guy is going to need a break, but all he ever did was pause briefly to switch between guitars and the keyboard and the voice. Richer than Croesus or even Richie Rich, older even than I am, still, McCartney sang every song (some were old, some were new, some were even from video games) as if he meant them. He sang a cappella about a blackbird sitting on the edge of night. He told us that “we can work it out” and we believed him.
  • In early August, we walked to the downtown mall to hear and watch Garrison Keillor. This performance was part of his valedictory tour, “America the Beautiful.” I liked many parts of the show and, of course being an English major type myself, I am a fan. I have loved the way Garrison—may I call you Garrison? As a fellow mid-westerner I feel so close—walks slowly up and down the aisles singing songs with us. When we sang, “I’ve been working on the Railroad,” I was transported back to the car rides of my childhood and to singing with my friends in school or in lilac trees. Garrison sang, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Yes, here 70 miles north of Richmond and he sang, I do believe, all the verses. I want to mention that I knew at least parts of all of the verses. I think that comes from my latter-day abolitionist, overly righteous younger self and to my reading of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and To Kill a Mockingbird  (many times)  during my formative years. I will remember singing with you, Garrison. Thank you.
  • Last Saturday, Tom and I went up to Wintergreen Resort for the Blue Ridge Mountain Music Fest. When we are in Charlottesville, we attend every August. Each year we fall under the spell of the flowers and the butterflies, the blue hills, and the music that seems integral to the place. All the groups we heard sang and played with that wonderful precision that we’ve come to associate with old-time music and bluegrass. This year, though, it was the group, Balsam Range, that blue us away. I took a dozen photos hoping to catch the passion, the skill, the humor, and the love (sentimental, plaintive, but heartfelt) in their songs. The photos didn’t work out, so now I need to figure out what to say. In their own genre and in their own ways, the artists of Balsam Range seemed as world-class as McCartney. Like Garrison, the group sang a song about the Civil War. This time, though, the sensibility was from the Confederate side. It was a song about  a young man about to die a few miles outside of Birmingham. He pleads with the listener to tell his mother that he had been a brave soldier and that he would miss that life he would never have with his sweetheart back home. As I learned time and time again from my refugee and immigrant students, it’s the people close to the ground (on either side of the conflict) that die in war–the farmers, the storekeepers, the women, and the children.

We are part of the flora and the fauna, the music, and the blue and rocky hills.  We are integrative types, you and I, and, perhaps we are lucky to be here. We were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Mary's Rock Shenandoah National Park

Mary’s Rock Shenandoah National Park

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới

National Garden, U.S. Botanic Garden

National Garden, U.S. Botanic Garden

Last Tuesday Tom and I took Amtrak to D.C. In our day and a half in the city, we enjoyed many activities including dinner with two children, two museums (The National Museum of the American Indian  and The National Gallery), four gardens (Enid A. Haupt, Mary Livingston Ripley, National Garden and Bartholdi Park of the U.S. Botanic Garden), and several big city meals. One of these meals was lunch at PHO 75 on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia.

PHO 75, Arlington, VA

PHO 75, Arlington, VA

Wilson School

Wilson School

 

I think I might have mentioned before about my good fortune in teaching at the Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP). Before you think, oh no (!) she’s becoming too elliptical again, let me explain the connection. One part of that REEP good fortune was all the great food that was associated with it. PHO 75 itself was in the strip mall just the other side of the gas station from Wilson School where we taught.

Phở is beef and rice noodle soup with a variety of fresh vegetables (and lime) added to it.

Phở

Phở

When it’s made in the traditional way (e.g. with real beef stock, no cutting up the noodles) phở is a delicious soup.

What I am remembering today though is not so much the taste of the soup, but the happy times doing good work with my friends. Sometimes we’d get the phở carry out so we could go back to school and slurp through interminable meetings. The slurping and the switching between chopsticks and spoon kept one awake and also (in my case, at least) kept my mouth full so I wasn’t always making comments, which sometimes annoyed a program coordinator or two.

The reason I am writing this post: It is the beginning of Vietnamese New Year (Tết). I remember my friends and my students—I counted once, all told I taught people about 85 countries—with love and respect.

The real reason I am writing this post: As a follower of the Gregorian calendar, I made my New Year’s resolution a little over six weeks ago. I resolved to be a kinder person. I’m working on it, but it’s surprising to me how often a nice enough person (like me) has to remind herself to be kind. I am happy that another New Year has come around so soon to help me to remember my resolution. Hot soup and warm memories also help in my resolve.

We had a snowstorm yesterday. It was nothing like the Northeast or the Midwest, but we did get several inches. Still, under a laurel bush, I saw a crocus in bud through the snow. A new year and spring waiting in the wings.

crocus

crocus

Veterans: A Friend Shares Her Story and a Man Gives Up His Hat

For over twelve years in the 1980s and 1990s, I taught English to adult immigrants and refugees at the Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP) in Arlington, Virginia. REEP began in 1975 as a 90-day demonstration program to serve refugees from the Southeast Asian conflicts, but it has continued through the years and, so far, has served over 90,000 students from around the world. In my early years of teaching at REEP, I was lucky enough to get to know many Vietnamese refugees. Some of the students I worked with were the part of the family unification program. The middle-aged men had worked with the Americans in Vietnam and had been re-educated, that is, imprisoned and tortured, by the winners of that conflict. The  men came to our school with their wives and children. The wives and the children mostly prospered. The trajectory for the adult children I knew usually seemed to be: ESL program, community college and, then, degree at George Mason University. I always guessed that the men must have felt so happy to have accomplished the feat of getting their families here to safety. The few middle-aged men I met (I knew their wives and children more) seemed to get over here, then fall ill, perhaps because of the effects of the imprisonment and torture.

One woman, Linh (not her real name), seemed to be here only with her young child; there was no husband in evidence. She appeared to be well respected within the Vietnamese group in our school. I later found out that Linh had an older son, probably with an American soldier from back in the day. I was her teacher, but we became friends, too. We were the same age exactly, and, like her, I also had a young child and two older ones. Linh had not been to school much in Vietnam. How could she; she lived in Da Nang, back in the day. I taught the beginning-level English class and Vietnamese accents are hard for Americans (at least for me) to understand. Linh mumbled and kept her hand in front of her mouth. Nonetheless, she somehow communicated very well, and we had a strong bond between us.

Our school was about five blocks away from Arlington National Cemetery. So, every Memorial Day and Veterans Day, some of the teachers would walk with the students over to the cemetery. Field trips were always prepped in advance: new language was learned and cultural aspects were discussed before we left the classroom. Once we were on a journey, however, I usually moved back a little to let the students have their own interaction with the museum, the park, the garden, or the store. The students and I were walking around a memorial in honor of the American war dead. As students were ranging around the statue, Linh came up to me. She began talking to me about her young girlhood in Da Nang Province. She talked about how the American soldiers were everywhere in town during the day, but how every night the Viet Cong would come into town. Linh was explaining how it was—the chaos and trauma of her growing up; no peace, and bombs day and night, and, I guess, the baby that came when she was so young. I hope telling me her story in that big rush of words helped Linh exorcise some demons, and I think I understood more of how it might have been.

Several minutes later, the students and I walked up to the JFK gravesite. There was a low railing around the grave and the eternal flame. As usual, tourists thronged around it. As we got closer, I saw a figure step over the rail and bend toward the flame. I jumped into schoolteacher mode, ready to scold the person for breaking the rules and being disrespectful to the memorial. Before I could do that, the person straightened up. He was a stocky, bearded middle-aged man (AKA Harley-Davidson guy) who got up and quickly walked away. Then, I saw that he had left a green beret beside the flame.

Again and again, I’ve thought of that morning—many years ago now—that coincidence, that karmic happening, and that expiation. I don’t know what to make of it or how to describe it accurately, so you and I can understand it. I wish I could. At 17 I was rallying against the Vietnam War—Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, NLF is Gonna Win. I am still against the Vietnam War, but now I know men who were tortured by the people I thought were freedom fighters, a girl who was traumatized day and night, and a mother who would not smile in my class for the first five months she sat there. There are so many demons to exorcise.

Along with the Vietnamese and Cambodians, our school worked with the Ethiopians and Eritreans, the Afghans, the Peruvians, the Salvadorans, the Bolivians, and many other groups. Later, the Somalis came and so did the Iraqis, Iraqi Kurds, the Sudanese, and many more. I recently corresponded with one of my friends who still works at REEP. She says there are more Guatemalans and Hondurans coming now. There seem to be more than enough stories and more than enough demons to exorcise.

JFK gravesite, Arlington National Cemetery

JFK gravesite, Arlington National Cemetery (originally from http://bensguide.gpo.gov/3-5/symbols/print/flame.html)

(adapted from Losing It: Deconstructing a Life, unpublished work © Lynda Terrill, all rights reserved)

Book Report

I read Wallace Stegner’s Mormon Country (for the first time) in the spring of 1970. That book ignited my passion for reading/almost reading/meaning-to-read books about the Colorado Plateau. Recently, in fact, I have accelerated my reading on this and related topics. This past year, in the camper on the road or in my chair at home dreaming of the red rocks, I’ve read:

  • Stone House Lands: The San Rafael Reef by Joseph M. Bauman
  • The Exploration of the Colorado and Its Canyons by J. W. Powell
  • A Canyon Voyage: The Narrative of the Second Powell Expedition by Frederick S. Dellenbaugh
  • William Lewis Manly’s Death Valley in ’49 published by Lakeside Press
  • Utah Road and Recreation Atlas by Benchmark Maps
  • The Geology of the Parks, Monuments, and Wildlands of Southern Utah: Including Road Logs of Highways and Major Backroads through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by Robert FillmoreGeology
  • Hole in the Rock: An Epic in the Colonization of the Great American West by David E. MillerHole in the Rock
  • The Boy with the U.S. Survey by Francis Rolt-WheelerBoy with the U.S.
  • Roads in the Wilderness: Conflict in Canyon Country by Jedediah S. Rogers (I just started this one)Road in the Wilderness

A relic from before they messed up Glen Canyon: The Glen Canyon Archeological Survey, Anthropological Papers #39 May, 1959 (Glen Canyon Series Number 6), Part 1 by Don D. Fowler, James H. Gunnerson, Jesse D. Jennings, Robert H. Lister, Dee Ann Suhm, Ted Weller. Tom bought me this used from Sam Weller’s Books in Salt Lake City, in 1972—the year I taught school in Page, Arizona.Glen Canyon

I do read other kinds of books: I just finished Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt, the latest in my quest to read all of the Newbery Medal and Honor Books. I also finally read and loved Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens and Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.

Speaking of Books and the Colorado Plateau: Did you know that, according to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (http://www.suwa.org/multimedia/map/book-cliffsdesolation-canyon-region/), the Book Cliffs (from East Central Utah into Western Colorado) is “the longest continuous escarpment in the world?”

For my friends from back in the day: an excerpt from The Exploration of the Colorado and Its Canyons:

Still farther east is the Kaibab Plateau, culminating table-land of the region. It is covered with a beautiful forest, and in the forest charming parks are found. Its southern extremity is a portion of the wall of the Grand Canyon….Here antelope feed and many a deer goes bounding over the fallen timber. In winter deep snows lie here, but the plateau has four months of the sweetest summer man has ever known. (p. 102)

Exploration

55 Perforated Index Cards (6 x 4 ruled) 49¢

Index cardsToday I am trying to discard a packet of notes I wrote for a paper on James Madison and his ideas of faction, separation in government, and related topics.  I believe I wrote the paper in 1973, so you might wonder why I have retained the notes.  Actually, there are several possible reasons.  First, I remember liking the format of the packet: all the cards in the Wire-in-dex COLORCARDS (blue) are bound together like a mini spiral notebook.  I admired this index card innovation and I hoped that it would keep my notes and my thoughts in order for a change. Second, until recently, James Madison was one of my heroes and so I have had a goodly pile of Madison paraphernalia to sort through and toss out.  Other than this packet, all I have left is a (mostly unread) copy of James Madison: A Biography by Ralph Ketcham tucked away somewhere in our temperature controlled storage unit.  From what I understood of him, Madison and I shared ideas about the nature of humankind. I admired the way he used these ideas to plan a government structure that could develop a strong (and, over time, increasingly democratic) society. Third, I think these notes reminded me of happy, idealistic times in Salt Lake City.

I wrote the paper for a year-long survey course called Main Currents in American Thought. I think I learned a great deal in this class, but I’m not sure because I’ve forgotten most of whatever it might have been.  I took this class before computers had spread out into the world and even before photocopying documents became ubiquitous.  Because of this, we students spent time reading various books and papers in a little room we called the Don D. Walker reading room (after our professor). I read lots of books in that room including, presumably, at least part of Main Currents in American Thought by Vernon L. Parrington. What I remember most and liked the most was reading Jefferson and Madison’s letters to each other where they talked about philosophy and politics, but also shared gardening information. You can now find Jefferson’s letters to Madison and others online at the Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library at http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/JefLett.html . One example is Abjuring the Presidency at http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=JefLett.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=111&division=div1  You can also access a variety of Madison’s papers from the Library of Congress’s American Memory project at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/madison_papers/mjmser.html

I guess I should tell you that back in the day it seemed like I was always trying to write papers on Madison.  What I mean to say is that I was trying to write at least one good paper on Madison.  I wanted to write a paper that clearly explained Madison’s well-reasoned, realistic, crafty, and humane ideas.  That didn’t happen, but now with the ubiquity of original sources available on the Internet, Madison’s own words are widely available, so no one needs my somewhat tortured and ineffectual explications.

For years I was miffed that at least a segment of the populace American populace seemed to be aware of Thomas Jefferson, but didn’t seem to know anything about James Madison. Also, from my own experience, I think some people conflate the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and, furthermore, I am not sure if anyone remembers about the Articles of Confederation and all the trouble they caused.  I think I am in danger of jumping on a soapbox about the lack of information, misinformation, and dissing of my hero, so I think I will stop soon.

I need to tell you that it is the slavery thing that has finally made me disappointed in Madison.  Of course, I always knew that Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Monroe and others were slave owners. I only understood this fact in my gut, however, when I moved five miles from Monticello and 25 miles from James Madison’s Montpelier.  Okay, I still admire Madison in so many ways, but I have to distance myself from him for at least a while.

Here’s a quote from Madison from my notes (without, alas, clear bibliographic reference):

As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust…so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence.

I’ve just skimmed the notes one final time.  Now I am going to stand right up and dispose of them in the recycling bag.  I can’t even say good riddance. I think I am going to miss these cards, but, if I ever decide to write a good paper on Madison, I know I that I can find the resources online.

James Madison

James Madison

Note: So far in my new blog, I have gotten the most reader response about cookies. So, next entry, I plan on writing about Grandma in Idaho’s filled raisin cookies.  See you then.