Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Memories of a Dead Soul" by David Barrera

Sometimes I wonder if my life is over. Other times, I wonder if I am just an illusion. Well I think that all these questions are just some forgotten memories. I hate to remember, but I can’t stop all those ghosts of my past bothering my mind every night. One of them is an unusual night like tonight when the moon leaves the land in a complete darkness. I am in a horrible prison. Nobody here understands me, although we share the same destiny. They only ignore me without talking to me, even though in their faces a deep fearful expression can be seen, and that drives me crazy. Today, I will finish with this eternal punishment with a final cut. Yes, I’m going to commit suicide. But, before I do that, I would like to talk about of my suffering.

I was born on a rainy day. Maybe you are wondering how I know that. Well, let me tell you. My father often mentioned that terrible storm of the winter of 1970. Since my birth, they had thought my life was going to be short. It would be different from my older brother’s life. He was always expected to be the best. I understood their love for him. His qualities were above mine. He was a big, strong, and a handsome boy. During his life, the whole neighborhood talked about his nice personality, without mentioning his years in school. He always got the best grades in all subjects, and his athletic skills helped him to become the most popular boy in the school. I remember the cheerleaders always flirted with him when he played and won a game. You needed just to listen for ten minutes, to be mesmerized by his words. Everybody loved him except me, me, his own brother!

We shared blood, family and life, but I never could stand living under his shadow. I hated him from the bottom of my heart. While we were growing, many times I wished he would disappear, or be kidnapped, taken away from our life, but his luck was always with him.

It was in December, when I expected the best gift a child can wish for, a bicycle.

I was counting the days to get that bicycle that never came. Instead, my brother got one. My hate increased more and more until I reached the point where I planned to break his bicycle. First, I cut the brake wires, waiting for him to suffer a little accident. After that, I hid behind a tree and just waited for the moment when I saw him. He was riding the bicycle and crossing the street. Suddenly a car came fast. He tried to stop, but the brakes didn’t respond. The car hurt him so badly that he died due to the accident, despite the fact that he was attended quickly by the paramedics. Everybody cried his about his death; my parents and relatives were very sad. Nobody took notice of my joy. My brother never did anything against me even though I never missed him. Since that day I grew up alone without anybody ruining my life. But it was no use. My parents never forgot him and always talked about him if he were alive. Over the years, I muddled along being the second son to whom nobody paid attention. Because of that, I decided to leave my home and study in a foreign country so far from my past, so far from my brother.

It was my 28th birthday when I decided to major in industrial engineering, and finally my parents gave me the attention that I had always wished for. I graduated from a good university with honors and then I got a high paying job working in the city and county of San Francisco in a prestigious design firm. Therefore, I thankfully was able to erase my brother from my world. But, one day in the office the phone rang. Normally my secretary answers the calls but unfortunately She was on her break. Well, I picked up the phone, and I said “Hello” waiting for a voice. But I heard in the most creepy voice, I’ve ever heard, “Hello, brother.”

Brother! Oh my God! I couldn’t believe my ears. Immediately I felt a terrible chill traveling in my body as soon as I hung up. I harbored so many questions that I could hardly breathe. I felt that my heart was jumping out of my chest. In that moment, my secretary came in the office and was scared to see me in such a panic state. She asked me how I felt and what had happened during her absence, but I couldn’t answer anything. My voice was broken. I was determined to keep silent for fear that somebody else would know my forgotten childhood years or worse. They would think I had gone mad. So I decided to delete the thought from my head and continue to enjoy life. However, the next day when I collected my mail, I found a strange envelope without a stamp or a return address. It simply said “To my brother from his older brother”. I was again dominated by the feeling of terror, and without realizing it, I crumpled up the envelope, then I took the car keys and I headed to the office. I opened the doors in a bad mood without greeting anyone. I sat at the desk and I turned on the computer ready to go to work, and that’s when hundreds of unread messages appeared that said, “ Hello, brother.” At first I thought it was some small joke by a colleague, and because of that, I started yelling at everyone. Because of my nerves running rampant, my boss sent me home for one month and suggested visiting a psychologist. But I refused. I didn’t have any intention of anyone knowing that I had killed my own brother, I couldn’t allow that. My brother is dead, and the dead never return. I thought this was a prankster’s trick. But I can’t believe that anyone could have seen me sabotaging bike cables that day. Moreover, I hadn’t said anything concerning the crime I had committed. The more my head kept spinning, the less I could find any logic to the strange messages which unfortunately didn’t stop coming. They appeared in letters, text messages and emails. In short, all my communication devices were with messages from him. It was so difficult to endure this nightmare that I started missing work for fear of seeing more notes from that ghost of my childhood.

I got fired and my bad luck continued. The bank froze my accounts, due to the fact that I had overdrawn all my credit cards. After that, I lost my house and ended up begging in the streets. Even so, the messages kept coming. Strange children passed to my left leaving messages, then disappearing without explanation. One of these many notes made me shiver to the bone. It was a warning that told me to get ready for a visit because we had accounts to settle. The warning note indicated precisely the date of his death anniversary: December 25th.

In my childhood, I had always looked forward to Christmas, but instead of joy, I was dying of fear. So I stole some fruit for the purpose of getting arrested and thereby avoiding the awful encounter with the ghost.

No one else was in the cell. The cops on duty regarded my presence as unimportant and ignored me. Despite my loneliness, however, I felt safe behind the thick bars. But the chiming clock warned that the twenty-fifth day of month 12 was approaching when my brother would soon appear. A sudden cold began to invade the premises. The light bulb began to flash unleashing a huge fear in me. I closed my eyes and I collapsed into a corner. Then, I heard a few steps approaching at a slow pace and the unmistakable voice of my brother echoed in the halls of the prison house. I had hardly opened my eyes to see what was happening around of me when I found the ghostly figure of my brother with me in my cell. So I looked up to view his face and that was when I ran into the worst nightmare I ever imagined. His eyes were intensely colored dark, protruding from the pale skin of his face. But what shocked me most was his mouth which was sewn with a wire that I instantly recognized. It was the same blue wire that I had intentionally cut in order to hurt my brother and which then ultimately led to his death. I wanted his forgiveness and to explain that it wasn’t my intention to kill him. but it was impossible. Each time I tried to speak a word, I only offered strained whistles and gurgles. My tongue was made of knots. My brother said nothing either, just looked at me and cracked a wicked smile as if thrilled to see me petrified. I didn’t know what to do or where to go because my muscles didn’t respond to any commands, and in my helpless situation. I resigned myself to pay for my sins or rather die once and for all. However, he placed his head on mine and for a moment the fear was gone. It was then I felt his hand. It had a small knife and with cruel violence he began to cut me leaving serious wounds on my arms and face. I blacked out and didn’t remember how long this hard ruthless punishment had lasted. I woke to find myself in Saint Luke’s Emergency Ward.

While I was still in critical condition, the police interrogated me about the bloody incident looking for a logical response, because no police recalled seeing anything unusual. They just found a knife and an envelope addressed to me. And when I related with details that my brother had returned from beyond to torture me, that explanation only served to convince them to send me to a mental hospital. There was no witness to attest to the validity of my version. So, it ends here, living with the community of the forgotten. According to the letter that I’m writing now, tonight will be the last visit. Tonight he is destined to take me. and it's one minute before his arrival. I have only this knife to defend myself, I know I must lose this final bloody battle. Therefore, I’ve decided to take away my own life before he comes through those doors. At this moment there is the first sound of twelve strokes, and again the lights begin to fail. Oh my God, my brother is here, help me God, please help someone there, nooo....

One hour later, his corpse was found and covered with wounds from all sides. A coroner doesn’t take much thought about it and stuffed the corpse into a black bag. Then the ambulance took him to the morgue.

Currently a nurse gives him the record of decease and reads quickly. She discovered that the patient suffered from schizophrenia caused by childhood trauma after the loss of his older brother whom as an adult, he claimed to see and hear, even receive messages of all kinds. She explained that his mental breakdown over time developed into depression and paranoia which led to a suicide attempt. She wrote in her report about this death that the evidence is a letter with a strange written message in his own blood that says “Goodbye everyone, I’m happy that my older brother is now by my side. Greetings from hell,” your forgotten brother.

The perspective in the nurse’s analysis did not adequately explain the contents of this last manuscript. The writing was inconsistent with the disastrous death of the patient. However, the coroner acted as a professional and only noted the strange phenomenon in his book.

No more doubt remained to disturb his reasoning intelligence. He ruled that it was just another case of suicide.


1. One Christmas, the narrator was disappointed because _________________________ .
a: his brother received a bicycle for a present, but he didn't
b: he received a bicycle, but it was damaged
c: his father promised to teach him to ride a bicycle, but didn't
d: his brother didn't lend him his bicycle

2. The narrator went to jail because he _____________________________ .
a: murdered his brother
b: left his parents
c: stole some fruit
d: stole money from his firm

3. The narrator's parents expected ____________________________ .
a: him to be the best
b: his brother to be the best
c: both of their children to be successes in life
d: neither of their children to succeed

4. The narrator's brother died in a bike accident because _____________________
a: he rode too fast
b: he rode in heavy traffic
c: the brakes were damaged, so he couldn't stop
d: he rode his bike over a cliff

5. Schizophrenia is ________________________________________ .
a: a stomach illness
b: a serious mental disease
c: an inability to control thoughts and feelings
d: a form of insomnia

6. After the narrator's death, the police _______________________________ .
a: apprehended the brother's ghost
b: found a note written in blood by the narrator
c: found the gun used by the murderer
d: found a broken bicycle next to the dead man

7. When the brother's ghost visited the narrator in prison, his mouth was _____________________
a: larger than his face
b: sewn with blue wires
c: missing all of its teeth
d: constantly moving, but with no words coming out

8. As a child, the narrator was extremely _____________________________ .
a: jealous of his brother
b: happy for his brother
c: full of admiration for his brother
d: interested in the same things as his brother

9. The Narrator was fired from his job because ______________________ .
a: he began acting strangely
b: he didn't show up for work
c: he became angry with his co-workers
d: his email was flooded with messages from his dead brother

10. The narrator was a successful engineer until ___________________________ .
a: he began to receive messages from his deceased brother
b: younger engineers competed successfully against him
c: he made a major error in a construction design
d: he met a woman who distracted him from his job

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Think Positive" by Andrea Coto

“Everything you can imagine is real”
Pablo Picasso.
Thinking about what is important to me, I noticed that I want to transmit to other people something that changed my life completely: the secret of thinking positive.

When I was eighteen years old, a book and a movie came to me that changed my life completely: "The Secret". This book was written by Rhonda Byrne. There is a movie of the book. The book is a compilation of different experiences from people who believe in the power of the mind and how people can attract the things they want, based on their thoughts and the idea that the universe makes a response in favor of people. When I watched the movie for the first time, I did not believe in what they were saying. After that I read the book, and I understood so many things about the movie, and I started to practice The Secret.

I always think that a positive attitude can change a lot of things. Examples of people who dreamed to have a better world are: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein, Lao Tse, and Monsieur Romero. I believe that these people knew something that made them different from others and that difference is the famous secret: they had the courage to defend their thoughts and what they wanted by focusing on their goals with positivism. The experiences, knowledge, and the possibility to help other people based on those things make us stronger in this life.

Something that I learned from that book is that you have to create your own space of dreams. There is an exercise to create a mural with the things and goals that you aspire to get. If you want to finish a career, you have to cut something from the newspaper or magazine that represents that, and paste it on your mural. Also, if you want to get married, have children or even if you are planning a travel you should put these dreams in that space. With this exercise you are attracting every particle of the universe and you are focusing on what is going to happen in the future. For example, I created a check with an amount of money for my future, and I got a job that is helping me to save money for my present and my future.

The best gift that God could give us is to dream and the opportunity to be better day after day. I consider myself as a huge-realistic dreamer and the person who transmitted this to me is my mother: “Never give up” and “always be focused on what you want”, are two of many lessons that my mother told me before I came to the U.S. these lessons always echo in my mind and cause me to make progress.

I would like other people to get into their minds that if you are holding God’s hands, everything is possible. Our minds are powerful, and they are built to change our environment by attracting the positive things that we want.

The decision to be a different person is in your hands. Think positive. Just try it and you will realize the difference between the life you had before and the life that you really want to live.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"Mariachi" by Victor Ortiz Romo

Mariachi or Mariachis is one of the most famous things from Mexico. This musical group started in the states of Jalisco, Michoacan, and Nayarit. The mariachi clothes normally come in dark blue, black, dark green, and white not forgetting the big hat and boots. Their music and vestment are very popular all over the world. If you are thinking of traveling to any country in the world, do not be surprised if you see one of these groups singing at events or parties. Remember that if they do not have a big hat or boots, that means they are not real mariachi.

Normally you will see from twelve to fourteen people playing musical instruments. The truth is, out of the group, only two or one are the main voices. Guitar, trumpet, viola, violins, and sometimes flutes and harps are added. All these instruments together are what make people stand up from their seats and go to the dance floor and start dancing. Sometimes they could be a little bit noisy. The louder they are, the more happiness and joy they bring to the people.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"The Two Volcanoes" by Esperanza Villanueva

My Childhood

I remember when I was a 5 year old child, I took a trip. This trip was a vacation and a special event. The trip was by car, and also by train. When I remember my grandparents, Magdalena and Jose, I always feel happy,

We lived in Mexico City, but they had some property in the state of Morelos. It took about three hours to get there from Mexico City because the road wasn’t very good. We could also get there by train, and I remember when taking this form transportation, it was very interesting and amusing. I loved looking out of the window of the train and seeing many squares different green fields, and far away, small trees, the rivers, and mountains. I remember how the train moved with the same sound and the rhythm of the wheels.

But the most beautiful view we passed were the volcanoes: “IZTACCIHUATL and POPOCATEPETL”. My grandmother told me the legend about these mountains. Our ancestors told the story that one of the volcanoes was a beautiful princess, and the other was her lover, The Warrior.

Iztaccihautl's father sent Popocatepetl to Oaxaca to do battle. The father promised his daughter's hand in marriage if the warrior returned. But probably, he thought, his daughter's lover would die in battle. So, the father lied to the daughter and told her Popocatepetl had already died in battle. Istaccihuatl died of grief. When Popocatepetl returned and saw that his love was dead, he stabbed himself with a dagger. The gods changed them both into beautiful snow capped volcanoes.

Actually this view was beautiful. I wanted to continue looking at the mountains, but soon, as the train continued on, the beautiful mountains grew smaller and smaller. I have great memories of my childhood.

Also by Esperanza Villanueva, read "Our Curandera (Healer)"

"Financial Progress (Progreso Financiero)" by Claudia Herrera

A "Progreso Financiero" booth in a
grocery store in Houston, Texas
Hello Everybody!

I’m going to tell you about one day at my job. I would like to describe what kind of job I do. I work as a customer service representative at Financial Progress. Its central office is located in Menlo Park, California, but there are many branches throughout California such as San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward, San Jose, Sacramento, and Los Angeles. There are also offices in the state of Texas. We are a Latin-American Company. We make personal loans to Hispanic people, and we also help them to build credit. In general, we help them have a better quality of life in the United States.

Once the customer applies for the loan, we send all documents to the credit department at the central office where a credit analyst will study the application and make a timely decision. As a requirement, we ask for the following::

Valid Identification Card
Income Proof
Address Proof

When the process is completed, the Credit Department Official will contact the customer by phone. If the customer agrees with the amount approved, he/she will be given an appointment at the nearest branch for their convenience. Once the customer arrives at the office, my job begins. I explain further our products and services and, in general, begin our relationship with the client, hoping to continue this relationship into the future. It’s a very good opportunity for our expanding U.S. Hispanic population.

Check out Progreso Financiero here.

Also by Claudia Herrera, read "One Day With My Son"

"Our Curandera (Healer)" Esperanza Villanueva

I remember a beautiful, special lady. She was my aunt. Her name was Andrea. She was the healer (curandera ) in small community. She was a special Indigenous person. She had white skin and hair, and her eyes were blue. Her clothes were a typical costume of a small village in Mexico: a long “futa” or shawl in my country called a rebozo, and a, hat., She was always accompanied by a donkey.

She was the official healer of the small village. She was an expert midwife, chiropractor, and dispenser of remedies for infections.. She used the different plants and she made different combinations of herbs.

She was famous and never refused to go to different places and she received patients in her home on specific days of the week. When she was finished the treatment in her home, she made a sauna (temascal). This was a sort of igloo made of clay. It was divided in two parts, one had small branches and the other was like a chimney. In it there was a container of water and different kinds of plants.

Her clients always paid her with corn, cereal, eggs, or different kinds of animals. I have a good memory of my childhood at this time. It was about this village and how she diagnosed adult and child illness and how and how she cured everything.

Also by Esperanza Villanueva, read "Two Volcanoes"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"A Roofing Accident" by Eugenio Ramirez

I used to work as a roofer for several different companies. I had been repairing roofs for 8 years, until April 11, 2011, when accidentally I fell from the second floor. I was working right on the edge of the roof fixing some wood, when suddenly I heard some strange noises. There were five plywood boards that slid down, right in the place where I was working, and they pushed me and I fell down onto the house’s garage from 28 feet high.

I fractured my back and broke my left leg. It was terrible and painful too. I couldn’t move my body until the ambulance and paramedics arrived there and gave me first aid. They took me to the hospital. I had x-rays over my whole body. I had to wait for two days to get the results to see if the fracture in my back could get better.

After 2 days my back got better and better, so I didn’t get surgery there, but my leg unfortunately, was totally broken so I needed surgery. After that, It was so difficult to get better because for the first 3 months I couldn’t do anything. I mean, I couldn’t dress myself, I couldn’t take a shower, I couldn't even go to the restroom by myself.

But now it's really different because I can do many things. For example, I can come to school, go to the hospital, I can even do physical therapy, and the doctors say I‘ll be the same person as I was, all I need is time and patience. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get better and go back to work.

I've been thinking about what kind of job I'm going to do because after this, I won’t work in the same job, definitely not. That’s why I'm coming to school and getting some skills. Well, at least I’m alive. I’m so thankful to God for giving me a second chance.

If you're thinking of doing this kind of job, I want to suggest that you think about this and think twice before applying for this job or trying to get some training, because believe me, we can make a very good money in this job, but money isn’t evething the life. Life is beautiful and we just have one, and if we have a nice family waiting for us at home or in our country like me, you don't want to throw it away in a dangerous job like that.

You know after 8 years living here in San Francisco California, I just want to get better and go back to my country and tell to my family how much I love them, because they are everything to me. I think all you guys know what I mean. The most important thing is your life, not making a lot of money in a dangerous job that could kill you. And by the way, I think the city should do a better job of regulating roofing companies that don't make safe working conditions for their workers.

Maria Teresa Anaya "The Mary Kay Company and Me"

I was born in Los Angeles, California, but I was raised in Union de Tula, Jalisco, Mexico. I have been married for 23 years,`and I have four gorgeous children, who mean everything to my family. My husband and I own a beauty salon and a jewelry store in San Francisco. I am a hard worker and go-getter when I set my mind to I achieve my goal.

Ever since I was child I was taught to work hard. My Dad owned a farm, and I was expected to know everything about hard labor. I have incorporated that knowledge of my childhood in my everyday life. On the other hand, I make good use of both my hard work and my time. In these last two years, I have joined the Mary Kay Company. I have been privileged to travel to Dallas, Texas, Ontario, Canada, and Atlanta, Georgia. These were nice vacations. Through Mary Kay I have won the use of a new car for my business, and also my monthly checks are fabulous. Last year I made $ 57,000.00. Wow! that was an impact for me and my kids' lives also.

I can't ask for more in life. I have a beautiful, supportive, and dedicated family that is there with me no matter what. I love my life. If you asked me a questions about what I could change about my past, I would say, well I love school, and in the past, the school was far from where I used to live, so it was impossible for me to be a full time student. That's why right now I am coming back to school to finish something that I did not complete in my past, and I really enjoy being relaxed and enjoying myself.

I thank God for my health and my second opportunity for education in my present life. I love my present class that I have with Mr. John Robinson. I’ve been learning a lot, about writing, especially when I enjoy reading and listening to articles from Voice of America and Edcon Publishing about all the most important people from U. S. A . It is incredible how individuals impact the life-style from any country.

I love also San Francisco. The weather is one of the best on the Country. The the architectural style. It is beautiful and elegant. The economy was terrible for the last past two years, but right now it is getting better and better. I hope better years are coming back. I am really happy now because my next trip that I will have will be on August 1 through 5th in Dallas, Texas. The Mary Kay company will reward again like every year.

"The Bride of California" by Yasmeen al Hbaishy

My name is Yasmeen .I was born in Yemen . I am 28 years old. I finished high school in my country.I studied only one year in college .After that I got married, so I quit my college. I am sad about that, but I have two children now: one boy and one girl. The boy’s name is Mustafa.He is seven years old.He is in first grade now. My girl’s name is Maria. She is almost four. She is in pre school. I love them so much. My children are all my life. When I moved to the .U.S.A with my husband and my son, I had lived in my country for 23 years. In the first year in the U.S.A, I lived in Daly city. I lived there for three years and half, but I hated it so much because it has bad weather. It is always foggy and so cold. So I moved to Pacifica, but I hated that place too. I lived there in a beautiful and a big apartment, but I didn’t find what I wanted. So I decided to visit my country . I went back to my country to see my family and my friends because I missed them so much. I was there for only six months . After that I came back to U.S.A ., but this time I decided to live in San Francisco. Because I knew a lot about it. It is a beautiful place. It has a good weather. It is better than Daly city and Pacifica. It has a comfortable and available transportation. It has a lot of colleges. One of them is Mission Campus . I like everything in it. So I like it so much. I have been in it for one year and four months. It is so nice so nice like sugar and spice. People in it are so kind too. Once a day my uncle told me San Francisco is a Bride of california. When I lived in it, I believed him.