Category Archives: Personal Experience



by Daiane Tamanaha

A person’s name is one of his or her most important identities. After all, your name is you in a written way.  Even though there may be other people with the same name and, sometimes, the same last name as yours, you still think of your name as unique because it’s *your* name. Therefore, many parents spend months searching for ideal names for their children.

Choosing the best name is so important that in Japan and South Korea there are professionals who specialize in names. It’s true! In Japan, that kind of professional helps parents to choose the best Chinese character (Kanji) that will form the child’s name. In South Korea, the name professional analyses lots of information, such as the day, time and year where the baby was born to create an appropriate name. In both these countries the main goal is to choose a name that has a good meaning, such as wisdom, beauty, generosity and so on.

In the United States,  some parents pay tribute to a member of the family, by giving that member’s name to their son or daughter. The name is the same, but the child has an ordinal number at the end, for example, John Smith II. It’s maybe a bit pompous!

And what should we say about creative parents? In Brazil, a couple that got to know each other on the Internet, named their child “Facebookson”. In Japan, there are children called “Pikachu” or “Panda”. In China, a couple caused controversy for naming their son “Prince of China”.

In the future, some of those children might want to change their names. In that case, no matter what country they are in, the process is bureaucratic. However, it’s worth waiting some months, or even years, to have your ID be Sarah, instead of Sanity or J’Adore or Sesame, isn’t it?

=> This article was reviewed by Alison

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Diet – A Little Talk by a Couple


by Toshiko Shimizu

Eddie: Hey, I’m home. Ahhh….I should diet from today.

Tracy: What is it with you suddenly?

Eddie: Well,  don’t get mad and listen to me.

Tracy: Meaning what?

Eddie: Yeah. In fact, a button of my pants is about to come off because of getting tighter in size.

Tracy: Oh, again? So which pair of pants are you taking about?

Eddie: Perhaps it is quite a few years ago.

Tracy: The pairs of pants which you bought long before are already too tight to put on, aren’t they?

Eddie: Maybe it would be recent one.

Tracy: How many times in the world are you going to replace the new-sized clothes? It’s uneconomical! Are you still growing up?

Eddie: Yes! That’s why I look so young!

Tracy: Ahhh…Ok. Then I’ll cut down the volume of meals from now on.

Eddie: All right. But, please, serve me delicious food.

Tracy: Well, why don’t you resume to exercise because you have a stepping machine.

Eddie: Hum. I don’t like exercising so much, and I need to relax after work.

Tracy: Come one!

Eddie: Got it! I’ll do it.

Tracy: Indeed, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the word of  “diet” from you.

Eddie: OK. I’m starting from now.

Tracy: Good for you!

(20 minutes later)

Eddie: Phew, I sweat buckets, and I get thirsty. May I drink beer?

Tracy: Huh? You’ve just started to diet, haven’t you?

Eddie: I’m going to start from tomorrow.

Tracy: Oh, God! You repeat the same thing over and over in this way, and as a result, put on 20 pounds weight…

=> This article was reviewed by Yvette Mintzer. She is a tutor at YWCA Princeton.

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Celebrating Chinese New Year With My Family


by Lijie Wang

Chinese New Year is a very important holiday for my family and me. I was always very excited about helping my mother  prepare for the holiday when I was in China.

The job usually started on the lunar calendar, Dec. 23rd, which we call “小年”; this means “The old year is ended”. That day, I would follow my mother to a candy store to buy some maltose. Because that day is also a holiday for the stove god, he leaves earth to go to Heaven to report the whole year’s happenings  in my home. We hoped the god would be kind to us when he brought his report to the empire of the heavens. The maltose would be put on an altar for him to eat before he returns to the heavens.

The next day, we cleaned the house and yard. All the curtains were washed and replaced by new ones. Also, the sheets, the cover of the bed, and the pillow cases were all washed. We cleaned the whole house until it was spotless. The yard was also made very neat.

From the Lunar calendar date of Dec. 25th, to the 27th, we spent a lot of time shopping for the holiday. We selected many foods such as pork, beef, chicken, seafood, tofu and vegetables. The outdoor market was very crowded and noisy. The sellers wanted to sell all of their produce. The buyers wanted to buy everything they needed for the holiday.

Also we bought some new kitchen wear, new clothes, and firecrackers. Hand-written Chinese New Year’s poetry or drawings were also purchased. They will be pasted on the sides of doors leading into people’s homes, or on the walls. We wanted to stay at home to cook, because some foods needed to be cooked before the holiday. We raised some flours or rice flour’s dough and steam them to big bones. The live chicken needed to be killed and cleaned. Sweet rice cake needed to be cut.

Every day, we were so busy in the kitchen and living room that we didn’t have time to rest. My father said: “What is that good smell?  ”  when he came back from work. “Can I try some of the food?” But my mother smiled and refused: “These are for the Chinese New Year!”

By the Lunar calendar date of Dec, 31st, the New Year’s eve, we were finally ready for the holiday. The whole family took a shower and changed our old clothes to the new clothes. There was a feast that night and the whole family reunited and celebrated the holiday together!

Although it was a lot of work to prepare, I still liked to help my mother to get ready for the Chinese New Year!

=> This article was reviewed by Brian Zack and Peggy Kiraly (*).

(*) Peggy is a tutor at  YWCA Princeton.


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My Favorite Place in Princeton


by Daiane Tamanaha

Even if you don’t like studying at libraries, you might still love Chancellor Green Library at Princeton University. The symmetrical building is considered one of the most important examples of Gothic architecture on the campus. The exterior area has exuberant Gothic ornamentation, but the highlight of the building is the fantastic octagonal rotunda. The stained glass windows are decorated with blue, red and yellow geometric shapes, which filter all the light that enters the library. This creates a surreal atmosphere.

As you can imagine, Chancellor Green Library is not an ordinary place to study. The wood walls, which date from 1871, make all “visitors” time travelers. The floor has diagonal wood strips that remind us of a marvelous and rich salon of the 18th  or 19th centuries. The library can hold more than 150 thousand books, however nowadays there are just a few of them in there.

You might be thinking what kind of weird library is that? Not many books, not well lit. But it’s a perfect place to study! It’s totally quiet, as all good libraries have to be, and there are individual lights on the tables upstairs. So everyone can read their books in a leisurely way. When you are tired of reading a book or studying, you can relax on some wonderfully cozy chairs that are placed around the building. Also, spending some minutes looking at the rotunda might be relaxing. Probably you will start thinking about the history behind the bricks and might get some inspiration to write a text about it.

=> This article was reviewed by Ivette Mintzer (*), Brian Zack and Alison.

(*) Ivette is a tutor at YWCA Princeton.

Note from Ivette: Believe it or not, it used to be a coffee shop and that was even better!



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Letter to an Imaginary Friend

Giorgio has written this clever and creative message to an imaginary friend.  He has employed “tongue-in-cheek” style, which is a figure of speech implying that his statements are humorously or otherwise not seriously intended, and they should not be taken at face value.


Hello Carlos,

You are not a lucky person!  In the class lottery, I selected you as the person who has to read my boring letter. My letter is about my most important skills and abilities.  First of all, I would like to let you know that I don’t have one primary skill or ability.  I’m smart in every way!

I have excellent verbal/linguistic skills.  As a matter of fact, I can easily read a thousand page book of philosophy in a couple of hours, and then lecture college students about my interpretation of what the author wanted to say. Logic and mathematics are my best skills.  In one of my works, I demonstrated that the “Theory of Relativity” is a fake and that Albert Einstein would have been of more use to humanity working as a cashier at Walmart.

I also love music.  My most recent at Madison Square Garden was an extraordinary success. Sometimes, I play two different instruments at the same time.  A couple of weeks ago, I astonished my audience by playing the guitar with my right hand, and the violin with my left hand.  If I remember correctly, I played The Rolling Stones song on the guitar and a Bach composition on the violin.

I’m also a famous painter.  There are many of my art works in the Louvre Museum in Paris.  One day when I visited the gallery in the Louvre where the Mona Lisa and some of my paintings (although not the best ones), are displayed, I heard some visitors arguing about an unknown topic.  Finally, one of the visitors asked me, “Giorgio, do you know who painted the portrait of the smiling woman (the Mona Lisa) next to your masterpieces?”

I practice many sports, but I really don’t excel at any of them.  During the 1960 Olympic Games, I only won the silver medal in the 100 meter race.  Armin Hary of Germany was too fast for me.  Would you like to compete against me in a 100 meter race?  It will be a competition between a turtle and a rabbit, and the turtle will not be me.

My interpersonal skills are well known.  I have been involved in many disputes and have always found the perfect solution to any problem.  By listening and talking, I’m always able to convince others that my point of view is the correct one.  If I had been a signer of the Declaration of Independence, I would have convinced the other signers that it was not only right to declare independence from Great Britain, but also to conquer the island nation and make it a U.S. territory.

 Sometimes, I need to be alone and think about ways to save humanity.  On this issue I have two or three good ideas.  I also like to write poems and am currently writing a new version of the “Divine Comedy” which I may title “Divine Comedies.”  I have a feeling that Italian high school students would appreciate this title.  I’m proud of my back yard which I consider a haven.  I have a big garden with many plants, flowers and vegetables which I grow not only for myself but for my relatives as well as neighbors and friends in Lawrence Township.  I really have a green thumb and like to experiment.  I’m trying to grow a Joshua tree but it’s hard to do and the outcome is unclear.
    As you can tell, I’m a very smart person, even though I don’t like to talk about it.  It will be a secret between you and me because I’m a very modest and shy person.  One day, during a conversation with God, he told me that I was a very smart and a very good person.  I answered that he was not bad either!
    Good bye from the shy guy,
=> This article was reviewed by Linda Sipprelle.

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My Favorite Sport


by Tahereh Barazesli, Ercan Cicek, Sissi Pinto and Tomoko Sugrue

     A recent lesson in the Group Conversation Program focused on places in the Princeton area where jogging, biking, family walks and cultural learning could take place.  This topic prompted our group to discuss their favorite forms of exercise.

Tahereh enjoys walking and also doing laps in the swimming pools in her homes, both in Princeton and Tehran.  Ercan likes to go canoeing in his hometown in Turkey where there are many rivers.  He also finds parachuting very exciting.  Sissi liked to jog before she injured her knee.  Now, she and her husband do a great deal of biking.  They are trying to bike the 70-mile Delaware and Raritan State Park covering a portion every weekend.  They drive to a particular spot and then bike for one or two hours.  Sissi explained that they are biking through historic New Jersey towns such as Frenchtown, Stockton, Lambertville, Kingston and New Brunswick.  Tomoko has a trampoline in her back yard and she and her two children love to jump on the trampoline.  When they become tired they lie back and relax and enjoy the beautiful weather and being together.

=> This article was reviewed by Linda Sipprelle.

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The Crazy Towtruck Driver

EPSON scanner image

by Giorgio Quochi

Tuuu…tuuu…the train is coming. I am sitting on the carpet of the bedroom, with my back against the wardrobe and my legs bent to form an arch (i.e. the bridge). I am waiting for the train, which has to pass under the bridge. The bridge is an old and crumbling bridge.

Tuuu…tuuu…a little human being (the train) is approaching, crawling like a snake, whistling like a train and laughing, knowing what will happen next. While the train is passing under the bridge, a huge disaster occurs. The old bridge falls down, and the train is stuck. Loud laughter comes from the train. Luckily, a big tow truck is nearby.

Put…put…put…clank…clank…clank…the noisy tow truck slowly tries to lift the bridge with his big arm (my arm), but the crazy driver makes one mistake after another. The big arm, instead of the bridge, grabs the train, again and again, and happy laughs come from the train. Finally, the crazy tow truck driver grabs the bridge and lifts it up. The train is free to leave, and it does.

Tuuu…tuuu…the train is coming, again and again, as long as there is coal in the tender.

Thirty-three years later, in an unforgettable day, the experience playing with the train came to my mind again in a flash when I hugged the bride, my daughter (the train).

The time of playing with the train play may be over, but the memory of the train is not.

Now…she flies.

=> This article was reviewed by Dan Ethe’

Giorgio and his daughter


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