“What does your husband think about it?”

That brought me to a grinding halt, and I poked at it all evening the way you keep running your tongue over a newly broken tooth. There were so many assumptions behind the question. Aside from the fact that I don't have a husband, and I had already said I had no one to discuss it with, the tacit assumptions behind it: that my husband would know what to do, would make more sense than I did; I could go on and on. It's not the problem I started with, but it made my feminist heart beat madly. And it was a woman who asked the question.

It all began with one of my students. Once, he told me he came here to be free. Two weeks ago he said we didn't have freedom here. I thought this was connected with his work situation and just said yes, having money gives you more freedom. He seems to have had a lot of problems lately, most of them connected with money. Last week we filled out forms for his daughters' school, and he expressed concern about them possibly not being ready to move to the next grade.

This week he wanted to fill out a form for a passport. He already had completed forms (someone else did them) for his wife and kids. Again we talked about money. I asked why he needed passports, and explained that you only need them if you want to leave the country. He gave me several different reasons for needing a passport, none of which really made sense to me. I helped him fill out the form.

This is when I decided I had to speak to someone and really didn't know where to turn. (Because I have no husband?) Was I being silly? overly suspicious? had I bought into the paranoia that seems to be gripping our country?

I have been working with him under a very loose arrangement with one of the groups that help refugees here in Pittsburgh. They introduced me and left; giving me no guidance. I never hear from them unless I initiate the conversation, which I did, and got that wonderful question to mull over and no practical answers.

Where do I go from here?

Great dinner

We had a lovely, small Thanksgiving: Robin, Steve, Charna, Renee, my Chinese ESL student and wife, and me. As usual Robin made enough great food for two or three times as many people. We'll eat well for the rest of the week. It was nice having my Chinese friends; they learned about American customs and we learned a lot about Chinese customs. I think I enjoy my ESL tutoring so much because I learn at least as much as my students. Here are some pictures from yesterday's visit to the farm:


The two donkeys were the cutest.



Black Angus pets.

Renee photographing our hostess's kitchen.


Friday and Saturday were filled with my ESL students. My Somali refugee is scheduled to take the citizenship exam next month. I think he's pretty well prepared except for the writing part of the test. He seems to have all of the 100 questions and answers memorized; maybe he even understands them. I think he will be able to pass the reading exam. I'm worried about the writing component. For both reading and writing he has to get one of three sentences correct. I don't know if they count spelling; that will be the crucial point.

Friday afternoon I went shopping with my Swedish Russian friend. We do lots of talking but no obvious teaching. She's taking ESL classes at the community college so I think the best thing I can do for her is conversation practice. She's doing very well. Her grammar is good–just needs more vocabulary.

This afternoon I took my Chinese doctors, along with one of their wives, on a little tour of Frick Park and the Frick Art and Historical Center. We also stopped and looked at Chinese graves in Homewood Cemetery. Unfortunately the weather wasn't very good for all the outdoor stuff.

After all of my teaching duties Robin and I went to the Verizon store where she got a Droid phone. After she tests it for thirty days, I'll decide what I want to do. I'm still vacillating.

A long walk

Another amazing, beautiful, November day. It's hard to believe this weather. I went for another long walk with my Russian ESL student–talking and exercise at the same time. We walked around Homewood Cemetery, checking out names on the mausoleums and on some of the tombstones. Did you know that at one time you could order your mausoleum from a catalog? The model with the Greek columns on the front seems to have been very popular. I usually walk there with my neighbors, who know all the paths and how to find the hole in the fence. Without Mary and Phyllis I got lost and we walked a lot further than I wanted. I'm slightly in pain, but I think a good night's sleep will take care of it.

Dear Mage

You're right, I don't do this often. I don't think it was their mistake; they had a whole days worth of people coming. I must have read the date wrong and probably didn't double check it. I tend to have what I think of as visual hallucinations.

It was another beautiful day here–a little cooler but lots of sunshine. That's very special in Pittsburgh. I had a 9:30 class this morning. Took the bus; it was too early to think about walking. That class is Gulliver's Travels. Notice I didn't say about Gulliver's Travels. We have been sitting and taking turns reading aloud to each other. I haven't been happy with that class, but I've stuck with it. We finished the book today. In the next two weeks we'll watch a film of Gulliver's Travels.

I went home for lunch then walked part way back for a class about documentary film. Last week we watched Nanook of the North, which was really interesting. Today was a film about the Kennedy-Humphrey primary race in Wisconsin. It was the beginning of cinema verite, but I liked Nanook better.

The best thing today was my meeting this evening with my two Chinese ESL students. I really enjoy talking to them. They both have a fair command of English so it's mostly a matter of giving them someone to talk to. Both work with other Chinese so I'm their big chance to speak English.


Not so easy to post every day. It's getting late; I'm tired; I'll just give you a taste of what I've been doing. First, I'm taking a class about memoir writing. I'm not sure I want to write a memoir, but I like writing; maybe short stories. I'll tell you a story about me and Ayn Rand–tomorrow or later in the week.

I took some ESL training in September. Tonight I met my first students: two Chinese, one a medical researcher, the other a doctor. They are here to get more experience, learn about American culture and learn more English, although their English is quite good. We had a long conversation. Next week I'll try for more formal instruction. I am also working with my Somali refugee and a woman from Russia via Sweden. I really enjoy working with these people; I hope I'm helping them.