Writing Class in the Time of Coronavirus

Like our other classes, the Advanced Writing Class taught by NYU Gallatin Professor June Foley continued online this spring and recently had their final class of the school year, a screen shot of which is above. Thank you to June, her student assistants Kristi and James, and her students for persisting through these tough times. Below is a story by Afroza Yasmin about her experience with coronavirus which will be included in the upcoming writing class collection:

My Days of Coronavirus

Afroza Yasmin

From the beginning, we were very alert about Covid-19. When people couldn’t find masks, gloves, or hand sanitizers in the grocery store in my neighborhood, I had already collected these necessary items, including disinfecting wipes, alcohol, hand soaps, etc.

In early March, my daughter came home from medical school in Pennsylvania during spring break. One day, she started reading online about the coronavirus. At that time, the first few cases had started in the Bronx, Harlem, and Westchester. She told me that this virus would go into every household. So she advised that I go shopping right away, to buy those kinds of things. I realized that maybe two years ago, Jon, my teacher at University Settlement, showed the film Contagion in class. So I thought this virus was going to spread like the pandemic in the movie. I was shocked and fearful, so I ran to the supermarket, bought those items and also bought some groceries from the grocery store.

Then we stayed home as much as possible. Sometimes, my husband would take some of the food and give it to his family, friends, and our neighbors though drive-in. When he went outside, he always wore a mask and gloves. At that time, our daughter had exams, so she went back to Pennsylvania.

A few days later, in the middle of March, my husband was sick. He had a high fever, coughing, and a light breathing problem. Then, after a few days, our two sons and I were also sick. We didn’t take a test, but we looked online, and we had symptoms of the coronavirus, so we made some video calls with our doctors. They gave us cough medicines and antibiotics and also advised us that we had to stay home for two weeks. We took the medicines. My sons and I felt a little better, but my husband didn’t recover; his symptoms kept coming back.

I know these kinds of symptoms. Sometimes the medicine doesn’t work, so we decided that we would do some homemade therapy, like warm water with lemon and honey, clove powder and black seed powder, and also some ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black seeds, and cardamom, made into a drink, like tea. We drank this at least two times a day. Also, I put a pot of steaming water into my bed and we covered ourselves with blankets at least three times a day. This type of treatment uses breathing exercises of inhaling and exhaling with hot boiling water. In addition, we gargled three times a day, with some salt or alcohol in a glass of hot water. After those kinds of treatments, everybody was recovering.

Now it is the month of Ramadan. We are fasting and enjoying it. Now we stay home as much as possible. We have to be grateful that we are all still breathing and active. Every now and then, I go outside my apartment, and I hear the sound of sirens coming from the ambulances on every corner. But there is still hope. I hope everybody enjoys a happy and healthy life at this moment. Stay safe and be strong in this crisis.

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Still More from An Imaginary Trip Around the World

Here’s yet another story from  An Imaginary Trip Around the World, the brand-new writing collection from the University Settlement Adult Literacy Program and the NYU Gallatin Writing Program. The following story, along with the other stories in the collection, comes from the Advanced Writing Class taught by Prof. June Foley of NYU Gallatin with the help of undergraduate student-teachers. Enjoy!

Let’s Talk about Coffee
Fernanda Siqueira

Before I began to travel, there was nothing I thought was more Brazilian than coffee. With time, I learned that the beverage is an international passion, as many countries appreciate it their own way. But just the smell of it reminds me a lot of my childhood house.

Every afternoon, my mother would send someone to bring the recently baked bread from the “padaria” or she would bake a cake herself so she could sit at the small table we had in the kitchen and enjoy one of them with some cups of coffee. I couldn’t understand how coffee could smell so good and taste so bad. My mother would drink it in spite of the weather (most of the time, excruciating heat), and she would always drink it very hot.

For us, it’s like part of a ritual. Every time you get to a Brazilian house, someone offers you coffee right away. It’s almost like a serum that everybody needs to drink before they are able to talk about anything. Business is done over it. Family matters are discussed over it. Nobody leaves a restaurant table before most of the people have had their coffee.
It took me a while to get used to the taste, but I felt I had to. (I’m Brazilian, right?) But again, I gave it a meaning; it became to me a way of pausing during work. I was always running up and down like crazy, but I would stop for some minutes to drink a cup of joe and talk a little bit with a friend.

Today, coffee is one of my habits. I drink it every day without thinking much about it. But every time I enter a coffee shop, the smell brings something back to me. I can still see the old kitchen and the odd little table. And I smile, sure that the taste I’m about to try is never going to be as good as that smell.

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Even More from an Imaginary Trip Around the World

Here’s another story from  An Imaginary Trip Around the World, the brand-new writing collection from the University Settlement Adult Literacy Program and the NYU Gallatin Writing Program. The following story, along with the other stories in the collection, comes from the Advanced Writing Class taught by Prof. June Foley of NYU Gallatin with the help of undergraduate student-teachers. Enjoy!

You

Larysa Frankiv

Boom, boom, boom—again and again. The sound grows stronger, faster. Boom, boom, boom. She closes her eyes. Tears cover her face and fall to the floor. The floor is gray and old, with small holes in it. There is a strange smell that surrounds her. She does not understand what is going on. Cords and wires are everywhere. Again, the sound: boom, boom, boom. She cannot concentrate, and loses control. The room has a huge window without a view; no sunlight, only a brick wall. This darkness creeps inside of her. She is scared. Boom, boom, boom. She grows dizzy. She is weak and strong at the same time. The sound bothers her. She tries to be calm and focused, but again: boom, boom, boom. She cannot control it. She is not hearing, she is feeling. This sound is a part of her. She is me.

It was a summer day. That day, I had decided to stay at home because it was so warm outside. My intuition told me it was the right thing to do. I spent the whole day eating watermelon and doing chores. I was excited because I was waiting for you. I went to sleep as usual. I did not know that the night would be special. In the middle of the night, I awoke. I called Mom. She told me it was time. I was not prepared for you. I had nothing packed. But I left.

I returned to the familiar room. I knew the smell and the walls, too. Cords were everywhere. My body was shaking, and then I was unconscious, but I do not remember for how long. Suddenly, I felt pain. I was screaming and crying, “Why does it hurt?” My body did not belong to me. I did not understand the people around me. I begged for help, but they ignored me.

A room. A table. Cords. Instruments. The same smell. The same people. I was conscious and unconscious. I did not know how long it was. I saw you. It was a nightmare that became a miracle. Sunlight shot in, and the room became warm and cozy. It was really you. You were mine. I had waited for you for eight long months. I forgot the pain that cut me apart when I saw you: a red miracle. You were crying, so I did, too. We had different reasons for our tears, but it did not matter.

Boom. Boom. I am crying. I am happy and scared. This is my miracle. It was the first time that I heard you. It was the first time I knew you were inside of me. Now I know you are real. You are alive. You are part of us. I cannot explain what I feel. I love you so much. I waited for you for so long. You.

 

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More from An Imaginary Trip Around the World

Here’s another story from  An Imaginary Trip Around the World, the brand-new writing collection from the University Settlement Adult Literacy Program and the NYU Gallatin Writing Program. The following story, along with the other stories in the collection, comes from the Advanced Writing Class taught by Prof. June Foley of NYU Gallatin with the help of undergraduate student-teachers. Enjoy!

Wednesday

Alex Gheciu

This Wednesday, I was walking on the street with a friend of mine, then we went inside a coffee shop to get a warm drink. While we waited in line, a young lady, looking to me like 30 years old, started talking to us in a very positive manner. She said a couple of interesting things.

“Sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, and try to walk or move as much as you can! That’s what my mom always said to me, and she asked me to spread this message to others any time I get the chance,” she said.

She asked us how old we thought she was, and we said, “Thirty-something?”

Wrong. She said she was 51 years old. Then she said, “You guys are like 26 years old, right?”

**********

Yes, she was right because my friend is turning 26 in two weeks, and I’m also young, 36 years old.

“Okay, then you definitely know some secrets too!” she said to me. We all started to laugh. It was a funny and pleasant moment at the same time.

I actually have my own explanation for those 10 “extra” years on my ID card. I think my youthfulness is how life pays me back for loving it so much. Or maybe that’s just God paying me back for all of those days (years) I was praying to him when I was a kid. Or maybe that’s how I look after shaving my beard and getting a nice haircut? Or maybe she couldn’t see my wrinkles? Or maybe that young lady just decided to make someone happy by saying that. Or maybe. . .

**********

One fact is clear to me—she tried to share her positive thoughts to others in a nice manner. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

 

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An Imaginary Trip Around the World

Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly present to you  An Imaginary Trip Around the World, the brand-new writing collection from the University Settlement Adult Literacy Program and the NYU Gallatin Writing Program. The following story/poem, along with the other stories in the collection, comes from the Advanced Writing Class taught by Prof. June Foley of NYU Gallatin with the help of undergraduate student-teachers. Enjoy!

I Remember

Lisa Szeto

I remember when I was a child. My mom had five children, including me.

I remember my mom holding my hand. That was over 50 years ago.

I remember my parents smiling at us when we did better than before.

I remember my parents beating us when we did the wrong thing.

I remember when we turned on our first TV. It was black and white.

I remember the first time I noticed wrinkles on my mom’s face.

I remember when I first noticed the spots of brown on my father’s face.

I remember the day I came to New York. The city was heavy with rain.

I remember the first time I saw snow falling, and they were little flurries. I cried from excitement.

I remember when I first heard William call me “Mom.”

I remember all the good and the bad. I like to remember the good most of all.

 

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