Our Lives, Our Stories

Student Publication 1997

My Life by Maribel Ortiz

Sweet Potato Pie by Joyce Penick

The Special Holidays in Colombia by Anais Gutierrez

My Job by Zulma E. Gomez

Eric's Life by Eric Kachanovskiy

Moped Maintenance by Michael Mcknew

Taking Care of the Elderly by an Anonymous Basic Literacy Student

My House by Florence Peter

My Life by Mervat Sarwat

How My Life Was In Sudan by Samia Elimam

My Story by Gulali Ullah

My Grandson Christopher by Anny Chang

My Life

My life has really changed since I have been with the Literacy Council. I was lost and I didn't know what to do. I had lost hope and did not likethe person I was pretending to be. I needed to admit that learning wasmy problem.

I came here to the United States when I was eleven years old. I did notlike school. Somehow, I made it to high school. I took cosmetology soI did not have to take math and science. This was only hurting me. Eventually,I graduated from high school, but I could not read or write. The diplomameans nothing to me, so it sits in a box at home.

I called many places for help but no one would help me because I had ahigh school diploma. Mary Hollingshead was the first person I spoke toat the Literacy Council. I did not tell Mary that I had graduated fromhigh school.

The Literacy Council gave me a chance to change my life. They found mea wonderful teacher and a friend, Catherine Timmeny. She has given me confidenceand hope. She is extremely patient with me and makes learning very interesting. Ever since I started with her, I have not wanted to stop learning. Sheis the best teacher I have ever had.

After a year, Catherine noticed that there was a problem. She called theLiteracy Council and they discovered that I had a learning disability. Now I know why I had difficulty learning and how to deal with it. I feelcomfortable with my disability and I want everyone to know there is helpout there.

Now, I can read stories to my daughter, Monique, every night. She is themost important person in my life. She is the best thing my husband andI have. I used to be nervous reading to Monique in front of my
husband, but now I don't mind.

One day I will make my family proud of me. My goal is to become a nurse.Right now I work at Fairfax Hospital with moms and infants as a nurse'saide.

I dedicate this to all the people who are learning how to read and write. We can do it no matter what problems we have. I am very grateful to the Literacy Council. I want to thank all the staff members who have helped me.


Sweet Potato Pie

by Joyce Penick

2 lbs. sweet potatoes (about 6 medium)
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
3 tbs. flour
1 tbs. nutmeg
1 tbs. cinnamon
1 tbs. vanilla
1 tbs. baking powder
2 1/2 sticks butter

2 c. milk

Boil sweet potatoes until done. Beat hot sweet potatoes with eggs, sugar, flour, spices, baking powder and butter. Add milk last. Pour into 2 or 3 shells and bake about 45 minutes at 350.

The Special Holidays in Colombia

by Anais Gutierrez

The special holidays in my country are Christmas and New Year's.

My country is Colombia. I remember when I was a little girl my mothergave me a present, but she put it under my pillow to surprise me.

My mother prepared the meal for the family. We have tamales and lechon(pig). This is traditional food among natives from Colombia. On December16th we go to an early morning mass called "Misa de Aguinaldo,"and after that we have a special party for the children called "Noche Buena."

The next day everybody stays home and we open our presents. My present from my mother was a little doll.

For New Year's Eve, we have a custom in Colombia that, beginning at twelve seconds before midnight, if we eat one grape for each second, we will get our wishes for the New Year.

After midnight, we have dinner, drink wine or aguardiente, dance and sing. All the people are very happy and we go out into the street and watch the fireworks.


My Job

by Zulma E. Gomez


In April I started a new job. I work at Lee's Market in Alexandria. I am the cashier and also I work in the Deli. I work seven hours a day, six days a week. I ride the bus to work. I like my job, because the Lees are nice and the customers like me and I get paid well. I need to work, because I am a single mother with two children.


Eric's Life

by Eric Kachanovskiy

Hi! My name is Eric Kachanovskiy. I am twenty-five years old. I leftmy country, Byelorussia, two months ago. I came to the United States tomy aunt's home. Her name is Luda. She is working in a big Safeway store.

I lived at home with my mom, dad, and younger sister. My mom's name isValia, my dad's name is Jan, and my little sister's name is Natalie.

I like the United States. I like the people that live in this country, so I decided to study English. As soon as I came to the United StatesI went to learn English at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
Learning Center at the Mark Center Club in Alexandria. This Learning Center is very helpful to me. I shall go on studying English until I know it well.

Then I shall be able to read English books in the original and speak English very well. I will know more about this beautiful country and the people that live here.


Moped Maintenance

by Michael Mcknew

I fix my moped. I change the spark plug about every four months. This is the part of the cylinder that sparks so the engine will run. I change the petals and petal-arms. The petals help the bike get going fast so that the clutch will not wear out. I also clean the pipes, change the oil and adjust the chain. Now my moped will run better and I will have reliable transportation for getting to work.

Taking Care of the Elderly

by an Anonymous Basic Literacy Student

Taking care of the elderly is very important to me. I think people should help the elderly more often. When someone gets older or gets sick it is very hard for them to do things. That is why I think helping the elderly is worth doing. When I see someone who can't help
themselves, I feel very bad. When we are younger we never think about these things. That is why everyone must think about old age. Some people are lucky to see their old age. Some people are not. Because of that we have to be careful. No one knows how one's life is going to end That is how I feel.

My House

by Florence Peter

I built a house in India. It is big and beautiful. In the front yard, there are lots of flowers: roses, jasmine, and many more. In the backyard there are lots of trees: banana, coconut and mango. My house is pink and white. Houses in India are more colorful than houses here. I can't wait to retire to go back to my house.


My Life

by Mervat Sarwat

I was born in Egypt. I finished high school there. When I graduated from high school, I went to work for the government. I worked there for two years.

When I got married, I came with my husband to the United States. We lived in Burke, VA, for two years. I had my first daughter while I lived there. Later, we moved to Annandale and I had my second daughter.

After my children were born, I tried to help my husband with his job. I used to help him in our restaurant. Sometimes I would go to the restaurant and work with him. I would clean or do accounting work.

My oldest daughter began school last year. She will go into second grade this year, and my youngest daughter will be in kindergarten. Now I have time to learn English with my tutor at home, and I just learned how to drive. This should help me to get work in the future. I hope to go to school to learn how to cut hair, because I would like to be a hair stylist.


by Faiza Farah

My native country is Sudan. I want to talk about Sudan to those who have no idea about it.

Sudan is the biggest country in Africa. Khartoum is the capital.

Sudan is an agricultural country. We have the land and the water, so most of the people of the villages work in agriculture.

We have small industries in the towns. They make cloth and Sudanese clothes and dresses. We also export cotton to other countries.

Because gas has been discovered in many places, Sudan will become the greatest country in Africa.

Wild Birds

by Mousa Abusbitan

February 1, 1997, I moved into a new home facing a park. In the spring I started to see some birds flying to my balcony. I wondered, "If I buy a nest, will the birds make it their home?" When I bought the nest, I also purchased two flowering plants. I hung the nest and plants on my balcony. I started to watch the nest when I came home every day from work.

One day while I was sitting on the balcony, I saw a bird fly into one of my plants. I looked in the plant and saw a nest. I wondered if the birds were going to mate. Two weeks later I saw some eggs, and I smiled. Now I am waiting for the eggs to hatch.

My History

by Patricia Lopez

My name is Patricia Lopez. I come from Chile. I'm married. I have two daughters.

I am sad my mother, sister, brother, and nice grandmother are all in Chile. I think about my family every day. It is so hard, it is so difficult for me.

On April 22, 1997, I started with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. Since that time I have been learning to read and write English. My teachers, Merige and Roger, have been very helpful to me.

Now I can read and write English. In the future I will go to work at the ESL public school program. I hope to read and write better.

A Lovely Picnic

by Bahman Niakan

Last week, on Thursday, June 12, was the monthly Senior Citizen Day Program designed by the Mark Center Club for senior citizens.

I went at 11:30 a. m. to the Center and met several friends there. Miss Saini, our guide, was there too.

We went together to Mark Center Park by car and walked about one hour and saw beautiful trees and flowers.

We also saw a rather big pool full of water that had a lot of fish and some frogs in it.

After that we sat at the table, ate our lunches together, then said goodbye and went home.

Miss Saini, our guide, was very kind, and I enjoyed being there very much and had a lovely day.

I went to the Carnival

by Debbie Lee

I went to the carnival at Ocean City.
I went with Petura and Ed and my sisters.
First we walked to buy tickets for the rides.
Our first ride was on the orange roller coaster.
Then Jillian and I went on the blue roller coaster.
We had fun!

Next I went on the ferris wheel that went up in the sky.
I saw the clouds, and the people on the ground were small.
We spent two nights at the beach house and came home on Sunday.

Friends for the Fourth

by John Healy

I and my roommate and his friend took the subway to the Smithsonian station. We walked to the Air and Space Museum to buy tickets for the 5:15 show. The show was "Cosmic Voyage." Before the show we went to get something to eat.

After the show we walked around before the fireworks went off. We walked to the Washington Monument to watch the fireworks go off at 9:10 p.m.. After the fireworks we took the subway back home. It was fun being with friends on the Fourth of July.

Cecilia's Story

by Cecilia Rodriquez

My name is Cecilia. I come from a large family like other families in Peru. I have two brothers and four sisters.

I am a dressmaker, and sometimes I make fine dresses for friends.

I was married in 1985. My husband is very special to me and our four children.

My first girl, Denise, is ten years old and is a good learner in school. She was born in Peru. A girl, Paola, is six years old and is in 
kindergarten. She and Christian, four years old, were born in Germany, because my husband did his advanced studies there for six years.

We came to the United States in July 1996, and in December then baby Ricardo was born here. I'm very happy with them.

Learning How to Read

by Selina Moore

All these years I wanted to learn how to read. Now I am learning. Now I am doing better. I am learning the sounds of letters. It is good to learn how to read. I feel happy.

My Story

by Julio Reyes

My name is Julio Reyes. I came to the United States in 1994. I graduated from high school in Peru in the year 1978. I lived in New York for two years. Now I live in Alexandria, Virginia, with my brother and sister-in-law and niece, Paulita.

My wife is Emma Flores. She is in Peru. I have four children--two daughters and two sons.

My father's name is Julio. My mother's name is Paula. My grandfather's name is Julio Lurita. My grandmother's name is Lucia Pizarro.

Aberham's Essay on Democracy

by Aberham Melaku

My name is Aberham Melaku. I was born in Ethiopia. Now I am 29 years old. I have five brothers and sisters.

I arrived in the U.S.A. one month and two weeks ago. I don't have a job. I am looking for a job.

The reason I came to the U.S.A. is because it is a democracy. In my opinion there is no other country better than America about democracy.

How My Life Was In Sudan

by Samia Elimam

I was raised in Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan. I went to school in Omdurman. I came to the U.S.A. a year and a half ago.

I have two boys and two girls. My oldest child is fourteen years old. She is in the eighth grade. My oldest son is twelve. He is in the seventh grade. My youngest daughter is in kindergarten. My second youngest child is nine years old. He is in fourth grade.

In Sudan I lived in a very large house with my friends. My friends are very nice. They live right next to us.

One of my friends is a teacher in Sudan. She teaches Arabic. She taught my daughter and her daughter. They had dinner with us every day, and on the weekends we all went out together. Sometimes we went to an amusement park. Sometimes we just stayed home and had a big dinner. On holidays we went on a vacation to a place that is six hours from Khartoum. It is very lovely there.

My Story

by Gulali Ullah

My name is Gulali. I am from Kandahar, Afghanistan. I came to the United States in 1988 because my country was at war. There was much bombing and many people were killed. My father was shot.

My husband, Nyamat, and I left Afghanistan one month after we were married. We lived three years in Pakistan and then we came to Virginia. We have two children: a girl, Malali, who is 16 years old, and a boy, Asad, 12years old.

I am a housewife. I enjoy cooking, sewing and studying English.

I like the people, the food, the doctors and the homes in Afghanistan. I don't like the army taking boys to war because they will die. I like the USA because there is not war.

I am happy that my children can go to school. I don't like some things about the American way of life.

My Grandson Christopher

by Anny Chang

Time flies! My grandson Christopher is already 15 months and 3 weeks old. Many interesting things have happened since the day he was born. Although he is still a baby, he is very alert, intelligent, and clever. For example:

Most children will touch anything in sight, but Christopher listens tome and is very careful. From the beginning, I told him not to touch the china dolls that I have in my home because they were fragile and breakable. Unlike some other households, where they have to rearrange their furniture and decorations to prevent babies from hurting
themselves, in my house I don't have to rearrange anything.

Christopher can identify pictures of animals, fruits, cars, trains, ships, and electric appliances. He can understand both Chinese and English. While watching a volleyball tournament this past weekend, Christopher said, "Tata ball." "Ta ta" in Chinese means to hit. Amazingly, he taught that to himself.

My next door neighbors have four cats. When Christopher visits the cats, he knows if one is missing. Ironically, Christopher was born in the Chinese Year of the Rat. Technically, he should be afraid of cats, but the cats like Christopher and Christopher loves visiting the cats every day.

Christopher is very playful. He likes going to the malls, especially Fair Oaks Mall, because it has a playground. He is very friendly and loves to say "Hi" to everyone, including the other children. I said he was clever, because when he sees another child with a toy he says "Hi" and then he plays with the toy. Normally, I let him play for an hour. Then we head towards the ice cream shop. Christopher loves eating pretzels and ice cream. When we walk by the store, he will ask me to buy him a cone. He also likes going to the park to slide down the slide; but most of all, he loves to be in the swing. He is not afraid of heights. When I gently push him on the swing, he wants me to push him higher.

When he does something wrong, he knows right away by the look that I give him. Quickly, he will say "sorry" and give me a kiss before I
even ask him to apologize.

Before Christopher turned one year old, he used to float in the
Fitness Club's pool with me. Now he has gained his balance and knows how to kick the water. He also moves his arms by himself on the floater.

I am so lucky to have such a smart, healthy and handsome
grandson. He makes me happy every day.


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