Remember Again

File:Triples-ma-jiang.JPG - Wikimedia Commons

Here’s another story from Remember, a collection of student writing from our Advanced Writing Class taught by NYU Gallatin Professor June Foley:

Crazy Family Time

Qiao Zhuang (Grace) Zhang

       When my husband came back from work at night, I felt like I was facing a formidable enemy. I put on gloves, wore my mask, carried my two-percent diluted bleach water, and sprayed it on his hands, hat, coat, pants, shoes, lunch bag, etc. And then as he entered the house and went to take a shower, I sprayed everything he could possibly have touched. I alerted my kids to keep a social distance from him. I doubted if it would be okay for him to eat at the table, or if he should just stay in his room without coming out. As time went by, I accepted this new normal. If things happen, they happen. I can’t be like a crazy spinning top, sanitizing all day.

       According to my sixth sense, I got a mahjong set before our quarantine. I taught Jason to play; he picked it up quickly. Irene was like a scholar; she asked too many questions to learn. Mahjong is usually played by four people. As my husband was blessed to have shortened his business hours, I asked him to join us last night. He said he wanted to sleep after eating. Jason was watching his screen on the couch. I told Jason that his father was lying; he wanted to lie in bed watching TV and his phone simultaneously. I asked Jason to set up the cushion carpet on the table, and I poured out mahjong cards from a box. I said we would play four games, so each one of us could possibly win once. Three of us sat down and started to stack the cards in front of us. Irene was still on her Apple computer while texting on her phone. Father said she studied hard to get into the Ivy League. I said two Apples would kick her doctor’s degree away. She finally joined us.

       Father won the first game. I won the second. Irene won the third game. So we hoped Jason would win the fourth, and everybody could switch back to their own screen time. Father put down his cards and claimed he won again. I examined his cards, and found he had too many twos. According to my knowledge, he didn’t win. But he insisted. I took a picture, and shared it with my friend groups. Immediately, they responded that he didn’t win. We continued the game, and I won. I said we wouldn’t stop the game until Jason could win once. Irene won the fifth game. I asked Jason if he didn’t win because he didn’t get the special card. He said he didn’t. I said we would change the rule for him. We would change the special card until he got one. I drank a little. I joked a lot. I observed I had less self-repression after drinking. I enjoyed the freedom of being half-drunk. Jason said, “You’re high.” I believe all of us will remember this special family time, as I don’t recall many four-people moments in my married life. I wish we could create more love moments in our future.

To read more, click here.

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Remember

Every couple years we publish a collection of writing from our Advanced Writing Class taught by NYU Gallatin Professor June Foley. Our latest collection is called Remember, and it’s full of stories and poems about NYC, technology, family, art, and the pandemic. Here’s a sample for you:

Counting Hours
Mariana Lemos Duarte

I am not sure why this memory returned.
Maybe because of the silence in the street,
Or because of the fear dancing in the air,
Or because of the sun that insistently
       invades the floor of my kitchen.

When I was a girl, I used to count the hours.

I used to wake up early just to have more hours to do nothing.
I used to sit on the top of my bunk bed just to have
       a different point of view of things.
I used to look out the window to find the Cristo Redentor.
I used to stop whatever I was doing just to see the sunset.

Now, I always have an unfinished task on my to-do list.
And these billions of incomplete to-do tasks grow in a way so
       fast and deep that I lose the joy of doing nothing,
And these billions of incomplete to-do tasks grow in a way
       so fast and deep that I forget to look at things from a
       different perspective.
And these billions of incomplete to-do tasks grow in a way
       so fast and deep that I find myself thinking: Why does
       the sunset take so long?

Suddenly the time goes so fast that I lose
       the ability to count it.

Stop! The world has stopped
To remind me of those days
When I used to count the hours.

To read more, click here.

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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.

Click here to read more.

 

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