The Feather history: Award-winning trips, Pt. 2

While those interested in The Feather Online history can read about the staff, advisers, awards, etc. in the About usThe Feather Online history and/or Achievement sections, the following article is the second article, part 2 in the series, which attempts to recount The Feather Online history under current advisers Greg Stobbe and Kori Friesen. For part one, read The Feather: Digital transformation, Pt. 1 or The Feather Online returns with new design

The Feather staff meets once a month in the publications lab to train, plan, review and organize the newspaper expectations. Advisers Greg Stobbe, seated left, and Kori Friesen, right, help lead but rely on the editors to run the meetings.

The Feather staff meets once a month in the publications lab to train, plan, review and organize the newspaper expectations. Advisers Greg Stobbe, seated left, and Kori Friesen, right, help lead but rely on the editors to run the meetings.

This year, The Feather Online won it’s sixth Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA)‘s Digital News Gold Crown award in March 2018 and the eighth since 2010. The Feather was one of only three digital newspapers in the U.S. to earn a Digital News Gold Crown, while 60 schools qualified for this category. However, while The Feather did not win the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA)‘s Pacemaker, they came back with a 4th place Best of Show award in hand.

The Feather has been submitting to the CSPA for print and online for 17 years. The staff and adviser Greg Stobbe has been attending the CSPA national convention at Columbia University since March 1998, often presenting and attending sessions. Stobbe has taken staff members to New York to attend CSPA conference every year since 2003, and once in 2001. Also in June of 2002, Stobbe lead a group of non-Feather on a 17-day tour of Switzerland and Germany.

In hopes of exposing the students to arguably one of the strongest journalism programs in the country, Stobbe believes that a trip to a journalism conference will help them to become more proficient writers and competent journalists.

According to Stobbe, his main focus was to enhance his student’s journalistic skills by attending class at Columbia University.

“The experience not only opened up their eyes to media and journalistic opportunities, but it also expanded my vision for journalism on campus,” Stobbe Said. “It became much more than just university classes. We learned about New York Culture, daily life, and how one can use public transportation to enhance his or her daily plans. Columbia University had a large array of talented and well-educated professors.”

“Students love to see the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of New York,” Stobbe continues. “ The conference solidifies previous student learning and gives them confidence that the things they were previously taught are accurate and can apply to the professional world.”

Feather adviser Greg Stobbe in his 2017 Feather staff photo.

Feather adviser Greg Stobbe in his 2017 Feather staff photo.

Anne Hierholzer, former Feather editor-in-chief from 2004 to 2005, who traveled with Stobbe to NYC in 2005, also attended the CSPA’s 80th annual journalism convention, March 13-18.

“We got to take classes from professional writers at the New York Times and meet journalism students from all over the country,” Hierholzer said. “The conference really improved my writing skills.”

According to another staff member, Randy Hill, ’04, he thought the conference reaffirmed what Stobbe had been cramming them. During Feather’s NYC trip in 2005, Feather students had opportunities to learn from the editors of national publications such as New York Times and Washington Post.

Former Feather staff, Benjamin Dang, ’08, talks about his experience of learning form professionals.

“There were a lot of professional people there,” Benjamin Dang, said. “And the one person I will never forget about is Robert Greenman, a well-known writer for the New York Times. It was a great experience for the student to learn from Robert Greenman, and education consultant for the New York Times, at the journalism conference at Columbia University.”

“He has a lot of experience in the field of publications,” Dang continues. “He taught me to really tell a story with my articles. I also learned that what adviser Greg Stobbe has instructed us: Focus on people in stories. It is actually true.”

In this April 2013 video, The Feather editors not only attended, taught sessions but also won an Online Pacemaker and won the NSPA Best of Show in San Francisco.

In 2006, The Feather Online won its first Online Pacemaker award and Print Award, in San Francisco, CA. According to adviser Stobbe, after The Feather won the Pacemaker, the team was almost starting from scratch because a lot of Feather members graduated.

Thus, Stobbe thought he needed to get the new students to New York and expose them to the highest quality editors and reporters. His strategy worked and The Feather received a CPSA’s Silver Crown in 2007, and a second NSAP Online Pacemaker on April 19, 2008, in Anaheim, CA.

“I was actually surprised that we scored as well as we did,” Stobbe said. “We focus so much of our attention on the internet paper, that the print edition took a backseat.”

Feather staff’s have been attending the CSPA journalism conference at Columbia University in NYC since 1998. The staff won the 2016 Digital Gold News Crown and celebrated in front of the Low Library in March.

Feather staff’s have been attending the CSPA journalism conference at Columbia University in NYC since 1998. The staff won the 2016 Digital Gold News Crown and celebrated in front of the Low Library in March.

Notwithstanding a focus on The Feather Online, Columbia University honored the print version, as well as Layout and Design Editor Ryan Martens, ’09. Despite the prestige of the award, Martens most appreciated the progress he made during the year.

“I do appreciate the fact that my time was paid for in the end, but the awards themselves were definitely not the goal,” Martens, said. “The main thing is that I learned something valuable through the class. The best part of the award was how I got there.”

Although Columbia bestowed their highest high school journalism honor to The Feather, the judges provided critique and advice for improvement. The examiners praised the crisp, clean layout of the paper and a commitment to its audience, but called the headlines “misleading at times” and “not always focused enough to highlight the articles”.

“There were a lot of things that the judges want us to work on this year, such as highlighting community events,” Chelsea Joy,’ 09, editor-in-chief from 2008 to 2009, said. “I think that we definitely meet these requirements and event went beyond even Columbia’s expectations. The more critiques The Feather received, the more I was driven to better the paper.”

Former Feather webmaster Andrew Rurik, ’08, older brother to the 2017-18 editor-in-chief, explained how important it was for the staff to earn a CSPA Crown but also to travel to journalism conferences.

“We were up for a Gold Crown, the trip itself was phenomenal, but we didn’t win in 2009,” Rurik, said. “After an insane amount of hours on my part, my senior year we relaunched The Feather with its new design and headed down to Anaheim to see if we would win an Online Pacemaker in 2010. There was a buzz amongst the staff. We had lost out the prior year but had strengthened our resolve to earn it the next. When we were announced as a winner, it was a fantastic moment. All that work paid off.”

One of the first things The Feather staffers do in New York City each year is to pause to take in Times Square, including this 2016 group.

One of the first things The Feather staffers do in New York City each year is to pause to take in Times Square, including this 2016 group.

Mary Kneefel, ’08, led The Feather as editor-in-chief along with Jennifer Sherfield, ’08, for two years (2006-07-2007-08)

“I was excited when Mr. Stobbe called to tell me about results of the other evaluations and contests,” Kneefel said. “After winning the Online Pacemaker, I anticipated us to also do well with our hardcopy but didn’t want to expect a Gold Crown. It was encouraging to still hear about our hard work and success of The Feather even after I graduated and left for college.”

With Kneefel, Martens and Sherfield graduated, the responsibility falls to the next group to lead The Feather as it does each year.

“I think the staff of 2008-09 was be able to recreate and possibly exceed our accomplishments from the previous year,” Kneefel said. “They showed potential and commitment to their work, and I know they made Stobbe and Fresno Christian proud. I know they fell just short but they are still a part of our legacy. But year after year, The Feather staff continues to be an award-winning paper.”

The team did not let Kneefel down; the paper was named a finalist in the 2009 NSPA Online Pacemaker contest. Meanwhile, The CSPA honored The Feather Online with a Silver Crown during its annual spring convention in New York City, March 18, 2009. This is the first time the CSPA gave this award.

In 2010, The CSPA gave The Feather Online its first Gold Crown at Columbia University in New York City on March 19. Later, The NSPA awarded a third Online Pacemaker on April 17, 2010, in Portland, OR. The Feather was the only California school to earn one. On March 18, 2011, CSPA honored The Feather Online a Gold Crown, it was The Feather’s second–one of only two awarded to California high schools.

While Feather students attend three day of sessions at conferences at Columbia University each year at the CSPA convention, they always take time to take in the sights of the city, including the blizzard of March 2017.

While Feather students attend three day of sessions at conferences at Columbia University each year at the CSPA convention, they always take time to take in the sights of the city, including the blizzard of March 2017.

Moreover, in 2012, CSPA honored The Feather with a second Silver Crown. Later, NSPA awarded The Feather Online its fourth Pacemaker, and Best of Show for the first time on April 14, in Seattle, WA.

The Feather editor-in-chief from 2011 to 2012, Mary Hierholzer, ’12, (sister of Anne Hierholzer) talked about her feeling when The Feather won its fourth NSPA Pacemaker.

“Winning the Pacemaker in Seattle was such a proud moment for us, and a huge comeback after only getting a Silver Crown at Columbia University the year before,” Hierholzer said. “It was rewarding to know that our hard work was recognized. Seattle is a beautiful city, and it was uncharacteristically sunny when we were there.”

Mary Hierholzer recalled her memory in 2012 when she was traveling with The Feather to the CSPA conference in 2012. She remembers at the very moment when the announcer said “Silver.” According to Hierholzer, she was not satisfied with Silver.

“We laugh about it now, but we were crushed and shocked, and it hurt my pride,” Mary Hierholzer said. 
“As they say, pride comes before the fall. Since then, I have reflected on our ‘second place’ status and have learned to make the best of criticism, and how to value my work, and how to be proud of the effort I put into it. And in the scheme of things, a Silver Crown was a huge honor!”

For editor-in-chief Tynin Fries, ’14, the one that sticks out the most was when The Feather staff won Best of Show in San Francisco at the end of her junior year in April 2013.

“The Feather had never won a best of show award,” Fries said. “And being the high achieving student that I was, I decided that we were going to compete. A Gold Crown and Pacemaker weren’t good enough for me. I wanted to win the whole conference award, too. So we stayed up until 3 a.m. editing and publishing stories, more than we normally would back at school. So we had worked so hard, and we truly didn’t know if we were going to get it if it was enough. And when they called our name, Stobbe and I both burst into tears. That was The Feather’s winningest year ever, and that felt so good.”

Editor-in-chief Tynin Fries, ’14, (center right) and The Feather editors and adviser Greg Stobbe, right, earned a Gold Crown at the 2013 CSPA convention.

Editor-in-chief Tynin Fries, ’14, (center right) and The Feather editors and adviser Greg Stobbe, right, earned a Gold Crown at the 2013 CSPA convention.

Former multimedia master, Brooke Stobbe, ’12, also talked about her experience of working in the midnight when she was in New York competing for a CSPA Gold Crown.

“I would work while I was there too, I and the other students would all come into my room in evenings and work until like 2 o’clock in the morning,” Brooke Stobbe said. “We were trying to write articles and do videos and podcast and photos and trying to get everything up every day so we could still be publishing and then between classes. We would all find a couch and sit and try to work and write do stuff, and it was crazy getting everything done, but when you have a kind of crazy times, it just ends up being fun a lot of work, and it brings people together, so it’s fun.”

During the CSPA conference, Brooke Stobbe became the first one to teach on podcasting at the seminars at Columbia University. According to Mary Hierholzer, presenting to high school journalism students and advisors at Columbia University was inspiring, and was a rare opportunity.

“It was a ‘pinch me’ moment,” Mary Hierholzer said. “But sharing our experience and knowledge was humbling because it reminded us that we benefitted from a strong legacy built before our time by Mr. Stobbe and previous staffs. We inherited an already excellent publication, and it was a large responsibility to keep up that high caliber. It provided a great perspective to share that knowledge with others seeking to improve their own newspapers.”

While blizzard conditions are not uncommon, the March 2015 snow limited the celebrations outside Learner Hall at Columbia University after The Feather won the Digital Gold News Crown.

While blizzard conditions are not uncommon, the March 2015 snow limited the celebrations outside Learner Hall at Columbia University after The Feather won the Digital Gold News Crown.

The Feather received its 3rd CSPA Gold Crown for the fifth year in a row in 2013. However, The Feather did not win the Pacemaker. Senior editor Ryan King was elated after hearing the news and motivated by the staff to keep up the momentum while facing the challenges this year has offered.

“I am really proud of our staff this year,” King said. “We have worked hard, and I am excited to see what is to come. With an inexperienced staff, it may seem difficult to produce as much as past years, but the challenge has proven to be an opportunity for staffers to work harder through the obstacles in front of us.”

As The Feather’s legendary continued, The CSPA awarded The Feather it’s fourth Gold Crown in March 2014, as one of only four Gold Crown awarded at the 90th CSPA convention.

In 2015, adviser Stobbe and staffs came together and transformed The Feather into a new modern design, in hopes of making the paper more competitive at the national level. For the third year in a row, The Feather earned its 5th Gold Crown at the 91st CSPA convention in March 2015. However, this was the second year that the paper did not qualified for an NSPA Pacemaker, in part due to the outdated site and the lack of digital media. The new design will provide more streamlined access to school news and innovative media for the FC community.

However, as the team continued to work hard, the Feather Online earned its 6th online NSPA Pacemaker, April 16, 2016. Moreover, the team won its sixth Gold Digital News Crown during the 92nd annual CSPA convention in New York City, March 18, 2016.

For years The Feather staff holds a Christmas party and many of those have been at adviser Greg Stobbe’s home on Cindy Lane in Clovis, including this 2014 version. Not only does the staff enjoy dinner but exchange gifts and walk the brightly lit streets.

For years The Feather staff holds a Christmas party and many of those have been at adviser Greg Stobbe’s home on Cindy Lane in Clovis, including this 2014 version. Not only does the staff enjoy dinner but exchange gifts and walk the brightly lit streets.

As of March 17, 2017, The Feather Online earned its fifth straight and seventh overall CSPA Gold Digital News Crown, during the 93rd annual CSPA Journalism convention at Columbia University, March 15-17, 2017. While The Feather did not earn a Pacemaker nomination in 2017, the online paper earned an NSPA First Class with Three Marks of Distinction during the annual critique in December 2016.

Kamryn Schultz, who joined The Feather in her freshman year, talked about her experience traveling to New York City with The Feather in 2017 and 2018.

“Last year when we won the Gold Crown, we all got so excited,” Schultz said. “It was really fun to receive it and take pictures outside and enjoy that moment. It was my first time to NY last year, so when I went, I had so much fun. I got to see Broadway shows, stay in Times Square, and ice skate in Central Park. I had a lot of fun.”

With another publications year nearing an end, The Feather Online earned its sixth straight (eighth overall) CSPA Gold Digital News Crown, during the 94th annual CSPA Spring Scholastic Convention, March 14-16, 2018. The Feather was further honored when the CSPA published a Feather video on its website: CSPA Spring Convention 2018 Recap.

Editor-in-chief Mariana Fikse, ‘18, appreciates the hard work staff members put into The Feather all year long.

“There is no way we could have won the Gold Crown without all of the support, dedication and hard work put in by the staffers,” Fikse said. “It is an amazing honor to represent the staff this year as an editor. I also want to thank all of the staff members who did not come with us to New York as well. there did a great job keeping up with school events while we were away and had done amazing work all year long.”

While long days in the lab, evening homework on articles via the internet, Christmas and pizza parties, The Feather is more than just a campus class. Going forward, seniors Sam Cross, Kamryn Schultz and Alexander Rurik are the 2018-19 Feather Online editor-in-chiefs. Look for more articles as August 2018.

The Feather: Digital transformation, Pt. 1

Building a campus newspaper legacy

Adviser Greg Stobbe has led The Feather staff since 1995.

Adviser Greg Stobbe has led The Feather staff since 1995.

While those interested in The Feather Online history can read about the staff, advisers, awards, etc. in the About usThe Feather Online history and/or Achievement sections, the following article is the second article, part 2 in the series, which attempts to recount The Feather Online history under current advisers Greg Stobbe and Kori Friesen. For part one, read The Feather history: Award-winning trips, Pt. 2 or The Feather Online returns with new design

The NSPA Pacemaker and CSPA Gold Crown winner and nationally ranked online campus newspaper, The Feather Online, has been one of the elite teams in Fresno Christian students’ life.

Before the 21st century, The Feather was only a campus print newspaper. The print edition of The Feather began in 1982, five years after Fresno Christian Schools opened in 1977. The print edition was published 6-8 times a year. Current adviser Greg Stobbe took over The Feather in 1995 and helped direct The Feather print edition until it ceased operations in May 2010, when it solely became a online daily newspaper.

“I accepted the honor of developing The Feather print edition from former adviser Molly Sargent, never thinking campus students would move their paper to the internet,” Stobbe said. “I am a part of the cut and paste throwback crowd and evolved with the advent of web-based journalism. However, newspapers around the country were already posting online by then, and in many cases, as hybrid newspapers.”

The online newspaper actually began in 1997–1998 school year, when adviser Stobbe started to pass the idea around to the print editor-in-chief then, Nate Warkentin.

“After a conversation with then-Superintendent Tim Wilkins in 1996, he convinced me to look for a way to begin publishing The Feather via the internet,” Stobbe said. “Major news corporations were already co-publishing some news on both print and web, and he showed me it would just be a matter of time before education would follow suit. I liked the idea that The Feather might be one of the first student newspapers in the country to have an online edition.”

By 1998, Feather students were publishing a portion of their print newspaper articles online, weekly on a template-based website: Highwired.com. The Feather staff saw this as another way to get the school news out to a growing audience online. Then, after the turn of the century, adviser Stobbe reached out to talented students to be webmasters, working with the IT department and they rebuilt The Feather to a custom site in 2001.

After that, it was only a matter of time before they published articles each week to augment their print edition. It took time though for students to go to the web version on a regular basis because Feather staff were not publishing every day. — Greg Stobbe, The Feather Online adviser

To gradually move the paper to the internet, The Feather staff had been published both in print and digitally. As the generation moved on, staffers believed in the process; The Feather became solely a daily online newspaper in the fall of 2010.

The assistant professor in Mass Communication and Journalism at California State University, FresnoBradley Hart, was The Feather editor-in-chief from 2001 to 2003, spoke about his experience of working on The Feather in the early 2000s, when The Feather was transforming from print to digital.

“We had some late nights when we needed to put the newspaper out,” Hart said. “We had to be at the printer by a certain time; we had to formate the photograph and set color balance in a certain way, made it all look great when they came out. So those considerations don’t exist anymore; it is totally a new world now. I think that is the biggest thing changes as I see it. The newsroom can now run on a very different path; there are much less pressure and the overhead the cost of the paper is much less than it was.

“Certainly, we were expanding the online product dramatically,” Hart continued. “It was the really early 2000s; there weren’t even a lot of college papers went online. Remember, there were no social media in these days. Facebook did not exist yet. There was no Instagram, no Twitter, so we were pretty much on the cutting edge then.”

With then-superintendent Wilkinsbacking the idea, adviser Stobbe went ahead and began enlisting Warkentin to put Feather articles on the Highwired.com website. While they did not put every article on the web, the site did give Feather students a way to publish online for a worldwide audience. Unfortunately, Highwired.com only was funded for three years, and The Feather articles disappeared with their demise in the summer of 2000.

“Obviously, technical issues associated are with that,” professor Hart said. “The basic was about how does the web even work? How do you formate out do you write HTML? How do you actually keep those things online? How do you form out the photo correctly? So that was pretty much the undiscovered territory; we had to learn those stuff. We really taught ourselves.

“I think all of us from the advisers, administrations down to myself were really learning curve like how does this stuff even work at Fresno Christian,” Hart continued. “Nobody really knew what the future would be. So I think it is a really interesting transition because we were still producing printed products, investing a lot of time still seemed like our primary focus, and we had the online things going on too. But out patience really paid off, because we won a bunch of online awards.”

The Feather editors, Stobbe and then IT director David Martens spent the next 18 months starting a new Feather built on a FileMaker Pro format. It was ready for daily publication in October of 2001. While FileMaker Pro was never designed for a web-based site, it provided a way for online publishing for three years.

Andrew Rurik now is a professional filmmaker and photographer.

Andrew Rurik now is a professional filmmaker and photographer.

The Feather Online, since its inception in 2001, is a product of student innovation and design. While Feather advisers are an integral part of that, each version is designed and created using Feather staff and its web team.

The first reformatted version of The Feather Online originated in the summer of 2004 when adviser Greg Stobbe charged senior Doug DenHartog to rewrite the code and redesign the paper into an HTML format. The editors wanted to make better use of the newer technology available since the original online design created using FileMaker Pro in 2001. The tricky part was not the creation of the first new Feather, but the linking of articles from one format to another was tricky and it caused some of The Feather history to be jumbled or lost.

The next rewrite was handed off to junior Matthew Shattuck in June 2005 and continued through the 2006-07 school year. Shattuck added new sections and expanded the capabilities of The Feather Online to include the first videos. However, after Shattuck graduated, the staff determined The Feather Online needed the third revision in order to restructure the PHP scripting using a more modular design.

Stobbe reached student Andrew Rurik, taking over Shattuck’s job as a webmaster as Shattuck was preparing for graduation. Rurik chose to change the HTML structure from table-based design to a layers base. This version of The Feather Online launched in January 2008. Rurik, ’09, former editor and webmaster of The Feather, explains methods used to grow the cite.

“I was approached by Stobbe and (then technology advisor) David Martens to join The Feather staff as the assistant webmaster,” Rurik said. “Current webmaster Matthew Shattuck was preparing to graduate, and we knew that we were going to re-design the website the following year. I learned how to write, how to shoot photos, and how the code for the site worked.

“My first year as webmaster, we underwent a massive revision of the site, in which we wrote some 20,000 lines of code by hand,” Rurik continued. “It was like having a full-time job while attending school – I would work an additional two-four hours after school  most days.”

The new generation needs newly designed website, newly designed website needs the multimedia piece to support. The Feather stuffers realized this theory, then started building the multimedia department around 2008.

Brooke Stobbe, ’12, daughter of adviser Stobbe, the international studentcoordinator for AmeriStudent at Fresno Christian Schools, joined The Feather in 2008 as a multimedia staffer, talks about her experience working on The Feather at the multimedia department.

“I was working in the multimedia department while the webmaster was building it,” Brooke said. “So there was a lot going on, and some going on with The Feather at the time with the multimedia, videos and podcast. I don’t think there were audio and slides at the time.

“It was just starting to develop,” Brooke continued. “There were two guys, Mitchel Callisch and Andrew Rurik, who were making videos for the Feather out of their own interest. That’s what they continue to pursue right now in their careers. And there was a girl named Claire Kister who was doing some podcasts when I got there. That’s what was happening multimedia-wise on The Feather. There were photos that were taken, a couple of photos were posted every week, but everything else was writing. I enjoyed writing, and I had a blog while I was on The Feather staff. I was still writing articles, but my main focus was trying to build a multimedia department and have it be more interactive and creative and more digitally enhanced.”

The Photojournalism Team of 2017-2018.

The Photojournalism Team of 2017-2018.

Right after webmaster Rurik graduated in May 2009. David Casugaaccepted the position of the webmaster, added new features including audio and visual slideshows, expanded comic and podcasting sections and new media capabilities to The Feather Online. Casuga graduated in May 2012. As the generation progress, online news requires multimedia as a basic need.

After teacher Kori Friesen‘s first-year teaching full-time at Fresno Christian in 2013, Friesen saw a need at The Feather that she was able to fill. Thus The Feather staff welcomed Friesen as their first photojournalism adviser.

“I had a deep respect for the program that Stobbe had created and was super impressed with The Feather and all that they did,” Friesen said. “Looking at the online visual representation, I felt I could help. Many students knew that I was a photographer and were asking me to teach them photography skills. My schedule allowed for me to jump in the following year and teach the first official photojournalism class.

“During my first year with The Feather, I was able to take students who really did not have experience in photography and create photojournalists out of them,” Friesen continued. “The first team consisted of five students who were eager to learn and quickly developed their photography skills. It was exciting, fun, and stressful all at the same time. Out of that first team, two have gone on to continue their photography skills in the professional world. We had a team of eight in 2015-2016 and 12 students in 2016-2017, with five of those being the first video journalism team The Feather ever had. Eight have gone on to utilize these skills and make money in a professional capacity.”

Friesen continues to advise the photojournalism and videojournalism staffers; she helped overcome the challenges while The Feather was consummating its multimedia department. Meanwhile, the Old Feather website did not have the capabilities to showcase quality photography and was literally dying. Since the website died at the end of 2015, Friesen saw it as an opportunity to build a new site that was a combination of Greg Stobbe’s vision for The Feather and her use website design skills.

Having a website where every story has a feature image adds pressure to the photojournalism team to stay on top of it and create imagery worthy of the website. The pictures now take the lead on the website. In today’s culture majority of people (62% of adults) get their news from a social media site and the image is the hook that draws people in. Photos play a bigger role then ever in the world of news because of social media.  – Kori Friesen, The Feather co-adviser

While designing the new website, adviser Friesen was inspired by the world of photography. She started working alongside new technology director Robert Hyatt and campus alumnus Justin Pierce; the three of them were able to create the extensive vision and requirements that Stobbe shared. The process was very detailed and took the summer meeting regularly and many long hours. The new website was built and customized from a template with every click thought through.

With the brand new design of the website created with a multimedia system in mind, The Feather editors continue their work on the new website with the WordPress template, archiving past articles with adviser Stobbe, photojournalism and co-adviser Friesen and new IT director Hyatt. The total switch from a proprietary website to a modern WordPress design continues since the old Feather Online was shut down April 15, 2015, and retired. The new Feather Online began publishing again, Sept. 8, 2015, after being shuttled for five months. Be sure to look for past Feather article via the Archive button on the left menu bar.

Since October 2015, there is no official student webmaster. The Feather’s website has successfully become a modern digital daily newspaper in the Central Valley. While past webmasters played a significant role, the 2017/18 website is a collaboration between Feather editors, staff and their advisers, Stobbe, Friesen and IT director Hyatt.

Breaking Through: Chapter 3, Part Two

Father (Lies on the Sickbed), Part Two, The Start (2013-2016)

By the time journalist Keith Zhu, ’18, was 18 years old, he decided to write a short serialized novel, Breaking Through, reflecting on his life experience. Zhu wants to show his background and his dream through this novel, the unique points of his life and also the depression he experienced on the road to achieving his goal. 


Zhu’s family shot their first ever family portrait Sept. 2014.

Zhu’s family shot their first ever family portrait Sept. 2014.

My father quit his job and moved to stay with me and my mom at the beginning of 2014. I was 14 years old, in my last semester of junior high. In the first couple weeks, I was always wondering when should he leave, but soon I became used to living with him. Every day he drove me to and from school until I finished junior high. 

After I graduated, father supported me enrolled with one of the best high schools in the city. Yet  I quit in just two weeks.I I realized I was tired of the high academic pressure, and decided to study in the U.S.

I asked my father to talk to an education placement agency and paid a tuition fee so I could enrol with their language program to prepare for the Toefl Junior Test. At the study-abroad agent’s request, we shot our first ever family portrait since I was born. We did frame it; it was just a regular picture.

Father kept telling me to study hard for the test, to earn  800 out of 900 so I could get into a good high school. I have never been a master of academic. I got my highest Toefl Junior score in the third time I’ve taken it, it was 780. It was a standard score, good enough for getting into a standard high school in the U.S. 

Mother’s education on me had always been an anti-exam-oriented method, I believed a good personality and leadership skill weighs way more than the paper of score report. But father insisted on the idea that an over-800 score would help me to get into a good school. I remember once I communicated my high school application with my academic advisor, she complained about my father’s obstination. 

“I think Keith’s father’s ideology is solidified,” Dai Yan, my academic advisor complained. “He thinks if Keith can get an 800 then he can get into a good school, but that is not how the American high school application process works. It is not about the higher score you get the better school you are in, the school would consider each applicaticants as a whole person.”

I spent five months finishing my pre-study course, I got accepted by the majority of the schools which I applied. I chose a 3,000 people big school, in Philadelphia. Then, to follow the agenda I made at the beginning of the crouse, I started taking my break, from the April 2015 until my school started in September. 

I came out with the idea of traveling with a couple of my friends to Maldives, my dream destination. I remember once I watched a commercial on the big screen at a mall in Beijing. There was a coral island; the sand was white, reflecting the sunshine through the crystal ocean. A girl sat on the balcony of the water villa, watching a baby tiger shark roaming in the shoal. 

Zhu enjoyed the world-first undersea restaurant with his friends in Maldives.

Zhu enjoyed the world-first undersea restaurant with his friends in Maldives.

Father supported my trip. When I was on that wonderland, I snorkeled with crowds of transparent fishes and couple baby sharks. I drove a motorboat to chase dolphins under the sunset. I had a French dinner with fishes in the world-first underwater restaurant. And dived with a couple 30-foot-long whale sharks. 

After I came back, father took me to the city immigration health department, took my physical exam in preparation for studying in the United States. 

While I was waiting for my turn to take a shot, an old lady in a white gown from the lab came to me, asked me to draw my blood again. She was puzzled, wondering if there were any sections she miscalculated.

After ten minutes, the results came out, the old lady asked me to call my father. 

“Your son’s blood platelet account is 14 thousand, I have never seen anybody with that low of a number,” the old lady said to my father. “Normal people have around 100 thousand to 300 thousand, but your son’s is 14.” 

The next morning, mother took me to the best hospital in central China, which is just across the street from my school. After I got my blood drawn, I walked straight to class. 

Mother called me in the middle of the class, I picked up the phone and heard mother’s voice, “Hey son, your dad is on his way to get you to the hospital. We are taking you to the Children’s Hospital. Your issue is not a big problem. Don’t worry.”

My teacher and I searched my disease online, and found out its high death rate. My academic advisor Dai Yan came into the classroom, sat down and ask me how am I feeling right now, she said my mom asked her to calm me down. 

After 15 minutes, father arrived. e had no expression on his face. He just looked forward and drove his car, and muttered.

“Your disease is not a big issue, it is curable but you are in a little dangerous right now. I know you can go the hospital by yourself but I am driving you just to avoid any accidents  happen on the way.”

I was diagnosed with an acute thrombocytopenia. Four or five doctors stood around me and asked me questions continually. Mother held my right hand during the whole interview; she kept feeling my hair and saying: “Baby, it’s okay.”

“I took the paper to the doctor, he looked at the paper and screamed, ‘Where is the kid?’” Mother muttered. I did not know she was talking to herself or me. Her pupils dilated, gazing at the outside tree through the window.

“I said my son is in the school,” Mother continued. The doctor screamed again, he said: “He is still in the school?! Now?! Get him out and send him to the hospital! Right now! Your son’s platelet account is five thousands right now, almost like zero. He could be internally hemorrhaging even if he is lying on the bed and nobody touches him. If he bleeds, I can tell you that nobody can stop it!”

I was listening to Mother tell the story which just happened one hour ago and looked at her wondering eyes. She turned her head to look at me and said, “The doctor said they don’t have room in the Union Hospital now, so he wanted me to check if there was any room available in the Children’s Hospital. When I came out from the hospital, I could not see anything. I felt like my soul was out of my body, and I did not even know how I got here.”

The hematology department was on the 10th floor. There was a quarantined area which was packed with children with leukemia. The rooms were all full, so the hospital made a lot of folding beds line the walls in the hallway. They used screens to delimit temporary wards at every corner. I came out of the doctor’s office, and father came to me and led me to the last available hallway bed, which was near the valve.

Zhu stayed at the City Children Hospital. Since the building was crowded, he stayed in a bed in the hallway.

Zhu stayed at the City Children Hospital. Since the building was crowded, he stayed in a bed in the hallway.

Father went to doctors, management and the dean of the hospital, and called every specialist he knew, trying to figure out my disease and see if it was possible to coordinate me with a ward.

The Children’s Hospital was just a couple streets away from the house. Every day for a week I was in the hospital. Father left the hospital once I finished my daily blood test. He made noodle soup and congeeand walked back. He communicated with doctors every two hours. He ran to the laboratory building several times, checking if the results of my bone-marrow sample extraction were released, and also urged the hospital to prioritize my lab assay.

On the fourth day of staying in the hospital, Father ran to me and laughed. He said, “Son! The result came out, your hematopoietic function is okay, it is not leukemia!” I was relieved. Father ran to the doctors and told them the news. Since the house was so close to the hospital, doctors allowed Father to put me out of the hospital earlier. Father bought a basket of fruits to the old lady, he said he was going to appreciate that old lady for several times during my stay in the hospital. 

I rescheduled my trip to Australia right after I got home. And I decided to redecorate my room a little bit, just to make it comfortable since I was going to stay home for a while. I ordered blankets, carpets, airbed and a couple of bolsters. Couple days after, a typical conversation between father and mother during lunch started getting serious. Father was holding his rice bowl in his left hand, his right hand was holding chopsticks and tapped twice on the bowl.

“What should we do now?” Father looked at his bowl and said in dialect. “My saving account only has a little left.”

“Honey! Honey!” Mother’s voice started shaking and her face distorted. “Your face nerves are twitching, you have hypertension, you need to calm down. Everything is gonna be okay!”

Father muttered for a little while. He talked about how his recent business was wrecked in a swindle which almost hollowed out all of my family’s saving. His eyes were wandering, his words were spoken on and off, and desperation had shown on his face. I vaguely remember Father abreacted about his pressure from the house loan, car loan, counsel fee, and new house’s decoration.

“Hum, it is better for me just to die, I don’t want to worry about those things anymore.” For a moment he mentioned suicide and Mother just kept saying, “Shut up, don’t say that kind of things. We are going to walk through it together.”

Father shook his head and said, “Who knows.” Then he suddenly turned his head to me and looked at my eyes and said, “Don’t worry about your high school tuition, I had already talked to one of my friends and she is going to pay for you.”

Zhu traveled to Australia in June 2015 by himself

Zhu traveled to Australia in June 2015 by himself

Mother warned me to get prepared for the worst situation, we may have to sell our house and live off a narrow margin again. She also said It was also impossible to pay for my solo trip to Australia. 

I walked into my room after lunch, I sat on the chair which I recently just wiped for my new upcoming blanket. I prayed for my family’s financial situation to get better. Couple drops of tear fell from my eyes, I went on my online shopping account, canceled all the orders I made, and my air ticket and hotel booking. But after a few seconds, I called every one of my friends to see if I could borrow some money from them so I could still travel to Australia. 

Father was running for the court case and seeking new business opportunities so we could still have foods on the table. I remember one day father took me to the lawyer’s office, when we were walking, father simply explained the case too me. In short, a guy borrowed money from father’s business mortgaged something that does not belong to him. A very simple idea just came out of my mouth.

“According to the law, A sells B’s stuff to C, this stuff actually belongs to C in law.” I said, father all at a sudden clapped on his head and yell “Right!” And started laughing. 

At the lawyer’s office, I saw millionaire Liu sitting on a couch in the hallway. He seemed exhausted. When he saw us, he stood up and moved his mouth a little bit to make a smile. He could not even stand straight, he talked about the case with my father in a faint voice. 

I did not have a birthday cake for my 16th birthday, nor a celebration. But with my own savings, as well as support from my friends and father, I traveled on my first-ever solo trip four days after my birthday, and came back home after 17 days. I could never forget the smile on my parents’ faces when I came from the airport. It was the first time I saw Father and Mother standing together and waiting for me. Father took my luggage and drove us home, and Mother started asking about my trip to Australia.

We came home, I went to my room to put away my luggage, and Father sat on the couch in the living room and yelled: “Son! Come here!”

“The court decision ruled his (defendant’s) house to me, should I take it?” Father held his cup and took a sip of tea, then he looked at me.

“Why not?” I responded decidedly,  amazement showing on my face.

“This house belongs to his son, he left it for his son’s marriage. If I take it, this family have no place to live.” Father gazed at his cup and trying to pick out some tea residues.

“Look what they have done, that’s what they deserve!” I yelled.

“But it is not his son’s fault,” Father said as he continued to gaze at his teacup.

“Like father, like son, his son can’t be any good ones” I firmly responded.

“You are like me,” Father laughed.

Coop Book Store is Zhu’s favorite place to have coffee on the Harvard campus.

Coop Book Store is Zhu’s favorite place to have coffee on the Harvard campus.

I did not know if Father had taken their house or not. Two months after I came back from Australia, I took off to Philadelphia to start my high schooljourney. I communicated my life with Mother most of the time. Father never talked about his business with Mother, but sometime he would like to speak with me. He appreciated me and said, “Son, you really have the gift of doing business.”

My life seemed to be much more comfortable when I came to the United States. I no longer heard Father grumbling about his business ever since. In my second academic semester of 10th grade, I traveled to a lot of major cities in the United States, and I made up my mind to get into Harvard when I traveled to Boston. Of course, I told all of these to my mother. Every time Father texted me, he always began with “Hey son, which part of the earth are you at now?” and ended with, “Remember to do your blood test!”

During the whole year of my 10th grade, I FaceTimed Father once. It was April 2016. The subject was about my trip to the South Pole. After I finished my 10th grade in Philadelphia in 2016, I met my father in Shanghai. He seemed to have lost over 20 pounds from the last time I saw him during Christmas. I then texted Mother and said, “How often can you guys have meat in meals?”

“Shut up son! We are not that poor yet.” Mother replied with a laughing emoji.

Father said it was because he started doing exercise, but all of us could tell his weight loss was caused by exhaustion. His beer belly was gone, and his shirt and pants seemed too big for him as they slacked naturally. I remember the words our friend Danny Wong said to me when she treated me a dinner on the top of the world’s second-highest skyscraper in Shanghai.

“Keithy, you saw how thin and emaciated your dad was right?” Danny was sitting next to me, her best friend was sitting in front of me. We all put down our tablewares in the middle of the dinner. “He is really exhausted right now, I can tell. And you see, we are fellows from the same town, so of course, I hope your family’s situation will get better.” 

Father’s hard work had made the family’s financial state stable, but as a  consequence, he was more stressed and desperate. Father took out all his emotions on Mother. Fighting was their daily routine and it seemed to be the way they kept their marriage intact.

When I was in that house, I ate breakfast at home and went outside to hang out with my friends for most of those days. Every day I came back to the house before Mother came back from her job at 5 p.m. Father was always in the living room, lying on the sofa on his left side, watching Sino-Japanese War dramas with that pair of laziness and glassy eyes.

This image reminds Zhu of his father watching Anti-Japanese dramas.

This image reminds Zhu of his father watching Anti-Japanese dramas.

He supported his head with his left arm, his rough face was stiff and blank. Every time I saw this scene, it always reminded me of a picture of opiumaddicts from the early 1800s who drained their life away in smoky dens. 

Mother grumbled, “Look at the woman in other houses, look at our neighbors and their wives. They all have time to do their hair, do their nails, go to salons, hang out and go shopping. Wish one of them would wake up and do breakfast, then go to work, come back home and start making dinner, clean up dinner and wash the dishes, then mop the floor and wash the clothes. I serve 24/7, and I don’t even have time to do my own things!”

Father would turn his head away, and continue watching the Sino-Japanese War TV.

Breaking Through: Chapter 3, Part 1

Father (Lies on the Sickbed),  Part one, Early Life (1999-2013)

By the time, journalist Keith Zhu is 18 years old, he decides to write a short serialized novel, Breaking Through, reflecting on his life experience. Zhu wants to show his background and his dream through this novel, the unique points of his life and also the depression he had on the road to achieving his goal. For Keith’s first chapter, read Chapter One: Road Trace . For Keith’s second chapter, read The old man on Waikiki Beach.


I have never seen a family portrait in any of the five houses that my family has stayed. Inthe 18 years since my birth, there has never been a single one. My mother has said that we don’t have this kind of family tradition, and every time she tried to put her lens toward me, I just pushed her away. Now, when I look at those scattered old pictures that mother texted me, I could not even piece together a single moment of my childhood.

1999-2006

My father’s house, or the house in my town of birth, was just across the street from his workplace. It was a company-assigned house. We moved in when I was about two years old. This marble-floored house ended my life of living in a 484-square-foot flat.

Aunt Liao (right) took care of Zhu for much of his childhood.

Aunt Liao (right) took care of Zhu for much of his childhood.

I have barely stayed in that grandiose house. Mother raised me with a lot of people since I was born: her friends, father’s sisters and his ex-wife. I had been sending back and forth during my early life. Mother’s best friend in town, Aunt Liao, was a civilian journalist at the local radio station. I stayed with her the most time.

She loved telling me the story of me yelling at father. “When you were about one or two years old, there was an evening your dad called home and asked you to speak to him. You just grabbed the phone and yelled at him: ’you just never come back home,’ and then you threw the phone away.”

I did not have a clear memory of what she was talking about, as I was too young to remember what happened to me. However, I remember the story, from when I was about three years old. Father took me to his business place, and I wet my pants. He took all my clothes off and put me in his car, turned on the air conditioner and called Aunt Liao to take me home.

“You always being a shirker! Remember once your son stumbled on the balcony? Instead of helping him stand up, you yelled at us to come and get him up!” Aunt Liao always used this story to tease my father. She would support my mom when father was grumbling about mother failing to take care of me. But actually, they are good friends too.

Although father’s workplace and the great house were face-to-face, he still left before I woke and came home after I slept. He had work in the day, and feast in the night. In my few recollections of the great house, I could only see father when he was negotiating business on the first floor meeting room, where the atmosphere was always infused with the pungent smell of cigarette and white liqueur like his car, and loud yelling voices after father and his guests all got drunk.

Chinese New Year’s Eve was supposed to be the time for Chinese families to gather and hang the cerise-red Chinese lantern on the wall. But I dreamed a monster showed up from the droplight above me; his hand was trying to reach me and choke me, inhibiting my chest. I woke up from the nightmare in a cold sweat. I walked outside and saw my father was dining with some friends on the first floor.

They were yelling so loudly, drenched in alcohol, seemingly enjoyed the last day of the Chinese New Year week. Mother, the only woman in the house, was in the kitchen. The boiling hot-pot on the table was spouting the steam out, I was hungry, but instead of saying anything I went back to sleep.

Zhu (center) with his parents pose for a photo in their home country of China.

Zhu (center) with his parents pose for a photo in their home country of China.

I remember that Aunt Liao took me to visit my father twice at the same hospital The door of the ward was open, but somehow we did not walk into the room, just stood by the door and looked inside. I saw a man wearing the hospital gown; a couple IV bottles were hanging over his head, a tube dropped down to his left hand.

Aunt Liao told me that the man on the sickbed by the window was my father; he overdrank. I gazed at him for a couple of seconds; I did not know if he was looking at me too or not, I did not see he was wake or not, we stepped away.

Father has thousands of friends and relatives. Sometimes father took me to his place—Zhu Jia Nao. That’s a small village named for our family, Zhu, where father was born. Every time we arrived at the village, all of father’s relatives would come out and appreciate me and him. I always hid in the room on the upper floor until father finished his business.

There was a small factory which was founded under father’s support right by the train station of that village. Two of father’s friends were in charge; I’d only known their surnames since father only called them Stupid Huang and Stupid Yan.

Stupid Huang was a quiet person and dressed somewhat appropriately, but I did not get to know him very well like I knew Stupid Yan. For a long time, I thought Stupid Yan was father’s best friend since I could see him everywhere. He kept the short beard, always had a cigarette behind his ear, had never spoken without foul language, and teased me with dirty jokes all the time.

2006-2013

When I was seven, father moved mother and me to Wuhan. It was a global city 30 miles away from my birth town. Father put me into the best local elementary school where I wanted to go, he then stayed alone in my birth town and continued working at his company. We also took our housemaid to Wuhan to take care of housekeeping since mother had a job. Mother put me in an after-school center to take care of my homework and took me home after she finished her work.

Father called home every day after some daily routine, mother would ask me to speak to my dad. He only had one thing to say to me, “Son, I miss you. Do you miss me?” Sometimes I could almost smell the alcohol spreading to me from the other side of the phone; he yelled the way like he used to do after got drunk: “Son! Miss me? I do all of that business for you, all of those money belongs to you when you grow up!”

I always said some rituals and passed the phone to mom, then they start talking about the family business, and I could still hear mom occasionally mention my name on the phone.

Father only came to our house and stayed over the weekend, but I stayed outside with my friends all day during the weekend. As the king of kids, I used to bring my friends to my house. But since once when my father yelled at one of my friends for disassembling my air-soft gun, every time my friends discussed hanging out in my house, they all would ask: “Is your father home?” For an occasion, I even asked father when he arrived on Friday: “Why do you come to my house again? (This house was bought under my name)” He just laughed and teased me: “This is my house too!”

Zhu blows out the candles on his cake at his 10th birthday party.

Zhu blows out the candles on his cake at his 10th birthday party.

When I was in elementary school, father would take me back to my birth town every summer vacation. But instead of staying in that great house, I stayed with Aunt Liao. Father brought me back to Wuhan when the summer vacation wa over. My birthday was in the summer, so I spent my 10th birthday in my birth town. I used to dream to have an illuminating candle on the four-layer cake in my birthday party, and those all came true on my 10th birthday.

But none of my friends were invited to the party. This big ceremony was filled with father’s friends or business partners. I knew nobody there except father and mother. Nobody sang Happy Birthday. I did not receive any gifts either: all I had was a strangers’ toasts

On a raining day in that summer, at the age of ten, Aunt Liao and I found a dying rural dog on the street. We bought some milk and dog food and took her home. We made her a warm dog crate, and turned the heater on to raise her body temperature. After a whole afternoon’s campaigning, she went back to live, then became my first dog. Since she was shaking when we first found her; thus a proper appellation was given: Shaky Shaky.

After hearing that I picked up a rural dog from the street, father brought me a purebred German Shepherd. He wanted the German Shepherd to replace Shaky; he said that dirty homeless dog must have a lot of bacteria and contagions in her body. I insisted on keeping both Shaky and the German Shepherd, Aunt Liao started a tug of war with my father for me but eventually lost.

Father took Shaky Shaky to the Stupid Yan’s factory. When I saw her the next time, the factory had already marked half of her body white. When the summer was over, father did not allow me to bring the Shepherd to Wuhan, he then put him in my best friend’s grandfather’s factory.

Zhu (right) waves to the camera with his father (left).

Zhu (right) waves to the camera with his father (left).

Father had brought Shepherd to Wuhan for couple times when he visited us. The next summer, I went back to my birth town again. I went to my best friend’s grandpa’s factory and met my Shepherd. He had already grown up to a massive course, and he could still recognize me, but he could not run to me and hug me since he was chained in a corner in the middle of nowhere. I asked people where my Shaky Shaky was; I remembered that somebody said the factory people made her into a dog hotpot and ate her.

Somehow I was not surprised.

All I had learned about “what is a Father” was through reading the textbooks or novels. I had read several poems and articles that appreciate the paternal love in the elementary school. I liked it when father came home on the weekends, and we competed in gun-shooting, that was the game between father and son; I liked it when we were experimenting with smoke-bombs, and we almost burned up the house; I liked it when we stayed together a whole afternoon, cracked the code of gift cards by using hexadecimal calculation.

In the year when I was a 4th grader, I had the first family trip in my memory. We traveled with our best friend family, the Liu family, to Huangshan (Yellow Mountain). The son of family Liu was one of my best friends, who was 4 years younger than me, we call his father Millionaire Liu due to his imaginary business success.

The first night we arrived, we went outside together, the air was cold, we roamed in the ancient architectural complex. When we walked to a small bridge, Millionaire Liu suddenly grabbed his son, put him on his shoulder and rushing to the bridge.

Father looked at me and asked: “Son, do you want to do that too?” I looked at father with my questioning eyes, then he grabbed me, put me on his shoulder and chasing Millionaire Liu and his son.

We did not reach Millionaire Liu, but whenever Millionaire Liu accelerated, father accelerated too. When the two fathers were accelerating, they both made the sound “ho ho ho,” simulating the noise of a running train. Son Liu kept screaming and cheering “Let’s go, dad!” But I just kept silent. After the game, mother came to me and said: “Did you see you father’s face turned ashen?”

Son Liu used to be the one that I had been jealous of. He had an electric golf car and drove it everywhere. Millionaire Liu brought a lot of materials for his son to transform his car. The first time I saw this car, it was a cab with a taximeter. Couple weeks later it became a police car with an alarm lamp and whistle. Son Liu also had an assault boat; he called me to hang out in the East Lake almost every weekend. And they family traveled abroad twice a year, and I had never travelled outside of China once.

Keith Zhu (right) sits with his parents when he was a child.

Keith Zhu (right) sits with his parents when he was a child.

Mother always used Millionaire Liu as an example to criticize my father when he was basking on the sofa and watching TV.

“Hey, Millionaire Liu always takes his son outside and does some exercises with his son, so why can’t you just take your son do some exercises? And look at yourself, you do need some exercises!” Mother stood with her arms akimbo and said while gazing at father. “Do you know what Millionaire Liu said that touched me? He said: ‘You see I am fifty plus right now but my son is only an elementary kid, I cannot be weak and lie on the sick bed before he turns to an adult.’”

Breaking Through: Chapter Two

The old man on Waikiki Beach

By the time, Journalist Keith Yunxi Zhu is 18 years old, he decides to write a short serialized novel, Breaking Through, reflecting on his life experience. Zhu wants to show his background and his dream through this novel, the unique points of his life and also the depression he had on the road to achieving his goal. For Keith’s first chapter, read Chapter One: Road Trace .

It was an ordinary miserable and magical dusk in Hawaii, as the sunset glow stretching the crevice between the distant cumulonimbus and the Pacific Ocean, tinting the hazy horizon fuchsia. Twilight spilled out, illuminating the rest cirrostratus to whitish gold. Fuchsia was the sky fire; gold was the hazy dusk, which backgrounded the atmosphere. The sky remained arctic blue mixed with light orchid purple, extending up to the endless cosmos.

Roaming the Waikiki Beach under the spreading sunshine, I sat down by a dugout canoe with my Swiss friend Brian, facing to the ocean. Brian was talented at music, he grabbed the Ukulele from his back, then strummed the chords of Rihanna’s Four Five Seconds. I sang along with the chords in that night of the faint sea breeze gentling my face and the waves lapping on the shoreline, orchestrated and embellished my singing melodiously.

Our play ended, I cheered for the beauty of life that I immersed. We both laughed to appreciate this gorgeous memory that we shared, maybe years later we would look back at this very moment, this ocean, this beach and this night.

“My mom died,” a man’s voice caught my attention, as I was gazing the clustered seagulls soaring and musing over a sense of happiness, I then turned my head to where the voice was from. An old man stood pine-straight with his arms folded, he did not look at us but gazed into the ocean. Bronze and aged skin indicated that he was Hawaiian descent.

“Oh, I am sorry for you,” I responded subconsciously as my brain wasoverwhelmed, wondering what he wanted to do, and why he told us that. “My mom died, I wanna sing a song,” the man said one more time, then turned his head and looked down to us. I gave him the Ukulele, he grabbed it without a “thanks,” then walked to the front of us.

While visiting Waikiki, journalist Keith Zhu climbed the Diamond Head Volcano.

While visiting Waikiki, journalist Keith Zhu climbed the Diamond Head Volcano.

“Sir, have a seat,” I said. The old man went “Oh, thank you,” then sat down and faced to us, “just imagine if your mom dead…” “I am a musician here in Hawaii… I am gonna sing a famous song,” the old man looked at the guitar instead of us, as he started tuning the instrument. I didn’t quite remember the name of the song, just knew the name was composed of four words and the last word was “tears,” but the old man did not cry while singing like I expected.

I could not hear the old man’s voice since it was hoarse and only a whisper of sound escaped his lips. However, I could feel the sturdy spreading to me from his breath, it made me realized this old man was mature enough to control his emotions, and look forward. I remained silent and listened to his Ukulele play, along with the waves lapping on the shoreline. 

Brian knew this song, so he sang along with the old man. I then moved closer to the old man, wondering if a sorrowful person would not be lonely if someone were beside him. I remember a couple of lines of lyrics that he sang when his voice was loud enough to be heard: “I will lie for you, I will die for you… I love you.” His eyes never wavered from the instrument, except for an occasional glance to the sea. A red wreath of hibiscus adorned around his neck, that seemed to be a dirge for his mother’s passing.

His eyes never wavered from the instrument, except for an occasional glance to the sea. I remember a couple lines of lyrics that he sang when his voice was loud enough to be heard: “I will lie for you, I will die for you… I love you.”

I gave him a hug after the old man finished his singing, Brian came up and shook his hand. I let Brian talked about Hawaiian music with the old man, they both revealed the homely smile of contentment on their faces, showing a degree of felicity. The old man then stood up and strummed the Ukulele again, sang another song for his daughter, a traditional Hawaiian song calledSomewhere Over the Rainbow.

“Blue birds fly, and the dreams that you dreamed of, dreams really do come true ooh oh… I hear babies cry and I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more than we’ll know and I think to myself. What a wonderful world.” – Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Zhu attended an English class for foreign exchange students while visiting Hawaii.

Zhu attended an English class for foreign exchange students while visiting Hawaii.

We watched the old man leave, I turned to my friend and said “We gave him a good night right?” We then headed homeward. I did not say a single word, wondering if I could linger a gossamer of mildness on the old man’s heart that could keep silent in the bustle of Waikiki.

The next day, conceitedly, I roamed with my other friends around Waikiki once again. I checked out the place where I met the old man as I was walking the same way as before. I liked walking on the beach with the waves lapping on the sands and making the melodious and sonorous sound. Along with the reflection of the starry sky on the shallow water, it supposed to be the time for me to mull over the miracle encounter that just happened yesterday.

I ruminate the last sentence the old man told us over and over again. On the Waikiki Beach, an old stranger feverishly told me “everybody could be all amazing one day.” That was an ordinary old man’s ordinary belief. This belief was secular as it reminded me of a wish that I made four months ago in my article Road Trace, in which I wrote “Not so, I am meant to be amazing” at the end.

I suddenly turned to my friends and told them the story of my miraculous encounter, and I muttered one more time: “We gave him a good night right?” The old man on the Waikiki Beach never told me his name or his age, but the wonder of the story was that we had a night enjoying each other’s music, and this stranger’s words reminding me of own myself: I have left a lot on the road I have trodden, more than just a gossamer-like trace. An epiphany suddenly flashed through my mind, the wish I wrote in Road Trace four months ago had already come true.

Now I wished the old man would make his dream come true one day, and I too wished his mother who was in the heaven would see how amazing her son is. I then looked around, I got beautiful friends with me walking on the great Waikiki, I was not alone, under the firmament.

I thought it should be the time to jump to the next step, to the dream, which is treated by the earthlings as a boorish topic. I then looked up to the firmament, asked my friend to turn on his speaker. I looked up to the sky not just the floor of the beach, as a line of the song Airplanes played, “Airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars, I could really use a wish right now.” I muttered to myself, making a simple wish to one of those shooting airplanes which were shining like crystals: “I hope for a day in the future, where one of those airplanes is mine.”

Zhu also skydived, scuba dived, swam with sharks and surfed during his two week trip to the state.

Zhu also skydived, scuba dived, swam with sharks and surfed during his two week trip to the state.

“I had this wildest dream which I had since I was 11,” I told my friends, then suddenly I realized that I am a very fortunate expresser. People have given me the confidence to express my wildest dream, and more is that people believe I could make it happen. As I remembered distinctly, when I first told her what I want to do in the future, the coordinator of my Spanish study-abroad programme extolled:

“If somebody else tells me that he wants to start an airline company in the future, I would tell him to stop daydreaming, be realistic. But seriously, for you, I just fell like you can definitely do it.”

What else could be better than “everybody believes in you?” I wondered “has my life been too good? How many peers could travel to 22 countries within three years? How many of my peers have experienced an encounter like mine of the Waikiki Beach? How many peers have friends from 19 countries all around the world?”

I wondered if I have been through too much for my age: How many high-school students could travel to 23 countries within three years? How many teens could ever experience a jeremiad that wreathed my feeling on Waikiki Beach? How many people have friends from 19 different countries?

However, just like what I acknowledged in my article, Road Trace. Besides appreciating my destiny, I more appreciated that I could guide myself to attain the untrammeled and cosmopolitan life I wanted, and I was having it. I lived with a sense of pride and my heart wide opened. 

IRAN: INNOCENCE. My discovery in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Journalist Keith Zhu Yunxi shares behind-the-scene opinion of Iranians

The amethystine asterism in the night, bewitching like diamonds, shined the cosmos on the Persian Gulf. Milky Way stretched away to meet the ocean, together the full-moon submerged the skyline, endless like a nihility world of mystery. The night, the emerald-colored, cannot be found in any other place other than the Arabian world. My mind calmed, this fairytale of Arabian Nights finally stretched my mind to sleep. I praised it, and said “good night.”

The capital of Iran, Tehran at nightfall during his Thanksgiving holiday break, Nov. 2017.

The capital of Iran, Tehran at nightfall during his Thanksgiving holiday break, Nov. 2017.

I was afraid. It was my first time fancied flinching; anxieties came from realizing it was the last-hour joy in this journey, because later once this airplane berthed on the isolated of turmoil, in a Persian desert, I musted to explore it with eyes wide open.

“Do not take any American stuff; do not speak English; please be safe…” It did not surprise me to see people’s reactions since worldwide media demonizes Iran continually since its nuclear crisis and Iranian Hostage Crisis. Moreover that George W. Bush listed Iran along with Iraq and North Korea as the “Axis of Evil.” But their words made me recalculate the risk and value of this trip. However, I never allow myself looking back.

I started remembering my confidence when I decided this adventure to keep inside calm, — I always seek similarities in cultures rather than differences while in traveling. Whether we had impediments to language, race, religion, nationality or even political tendency, one thing besides all of those obstacles is we are human. Thus there should always be a fundamental base to establish the possibility for any communication, since we all have the common sense of kindness, evil, happiness, fear, and pain. Consequently, it surprised me when people next to warned me not to be naive and that Iranians would do everything to me since they are poor.

Really? I yet firmly believed people are born innocent in any environment.

The City of Tehran’s miracle of tawny illuminating the night sky along with the Persian moon made me forget all my curiousness until my airplane’s landing, I had a calmed sleep. On this desert of ancient civilization, an isolated nation seemed not fearing people away —at least, here is civilized to lighting up.

The propaganda painted on the outer wall of the former U.S. Embassy at Tehran, Iran.

The propaganda painted on the outer wall of the former U.S. Embassy at Tehran, Iran.

Here propagandas line the walls. A manipulation of the “Statue of Liberty” is doodled as the “Statue of Evil” on the outer wall of the Former U.S. Embassy at Tehran, which now the Iranian government has made it the “Anti arrogance Aban 13th museum”, an “Anti-United States museum” as not exaggerated.

That was where the Iranian Hostage Crisis fired up, Nov 4, 1979. Iranian university students were supported officially, ring-fenced and broke into the U.S. Embassy, took it over and held 52 American diplomats and citizens as hostages for 444 days until Jan 20, 1981.

Mahdi Farahani, a member of the management at the Anti Arrogance 13th Museum (former U.S. Embassy in Tehran), explained the situation.

“There were 400 students(this number each medias reported differently, range: 300-2,000),” Farahani said. “Three hundred boys and 100 girls, by the time they arrived they wanted to take over the embassy, based on two reasons: 1, pressurizing the U.S. government to return Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to Iran. 2, Students wanted to prevent another coup time in Iran.”

The historical delinquent in the Iranians’ mind, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who usurped the throne of Iran from Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini by the result of the Coup of 1953, which was officially conspired by the United States and the United Kingdom. Westernizing Iran, violating the traditional Islamic faith and indulging corruption, made citizens came to live in poverty and famine. Years later, the former Iranian leader Sayyid Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini led the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, supported by various Islamist, leftist organizations and secretly the Soviet Union, became the leader of Iran again.

Islamic Revolution exiled Pahlavi to the outside world, founded the new Islamic Republic of Iran as a theocracy country, ended Pahlavi’s westernizing, brought the conservative Islamic faith back. Students were roused due to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi having treatment in an attempt to recover from lymphoma in the United States, Iranian Hostage Crisis transpired. They hold hostages to menaced the U.S., stop inferencing Iran’s internal affairs and return Pahlavi, the history sinner. Current U.S. President Jimmy Carter called the hostages “victims of terrorism and anarchy” and announced that the United States would not yield to blackmail.

For me, Iran is genuinely the sacrificial lamb of the Cold War that entirely happened inevitably due to multi-international politics — Leninism just found an excellent chance to defend the western Capitalism. By this visit to the “Anti-United States Museum,” I realized the once Iran and America’s honeymoon period may not appear again until a possible World War III or another coup.

Propaganda slogans such as “Down with U.S.A” are still painted, stretching a full side wall of buildings in the city of Tehran. A picture of Donald Trump is painted on a giant board, stands on the yard of the embassy and states, “The American elite feel ashamed of having such a president.” Brochures of criticizing what the west has done in Iran “In the Name of God” were distributed “to the youth of western countries” from the “Anti-United States Museum,” all in English.

Do they really hate Americans? I wondered. Political propaganda of “Anti-United States” are seen everywhere in the City of Tehran. However, meanwhile Pepsi and Coca-Cola are favorite in Iran, iPhones are fashionable, just like anywhere else.

“American people? We are friends,” Farahani said. “We are friends, we are not having any problem. The only problem is the government and the politics. … The U.S. government appears intent to distribute fake media, so the reality is not shown to the public, so they (the Iranian government) decided to open this (the former U.S. Embassy at Tehran) as a museum. The propaganda there then shows the world, especially the tourists there, to understand the reality of here… Like the movie Argo, they were just trying to show the thing they want, not the reality.”

The CIA facilities left some of their equipment in the Former U.S. Embassy.

The CIA facilities left some of their equipment in the Former U.S. Embassy.

The movie Argo documents by the project “Argo,” the CIA operation which rescued six American diplomatics during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. It is undeniable that Argo only represents U.S. government’s version to the public; in the museum of the former U.S. Embassy, the CIA’s machines are displayed. Boards state these are the evidence of American’s spying on Iran. Iranians wanted to point out the interference imperialism which the western countries had done in Iran, especially the U.S., to the world.

I felt strange, it is no longer a secret that every single consulate in the world must have some spying facilities inside, but why do they need to prove it to the public? “Oh, of course,” I muttered. “History is written by the victor, distributed by its authority, but remembered by all innocent people.”

Farahani’s answer to my question showed me that he believes humans are innocent too. His words made me remember Wendy Sherman’s speeching at a class of Harvard Kennedy School of Government, in October 2015. That was three months after the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or Iran nuclear deal)” had been agreed.

The United States was leading a negotiation of limiting Iran having nuclear technology. This 18-day negotiation was excruciating and chained countries’ negotiators around the meeting room in Vienna Marriott Hotel, frozen. Representatives of countries’ negotiators had been modifying the deal again and again, whatever requirements they proposed the Iranian had been rejecting. Since the Iranian government was holding tons of centurial grudges against the western nations, this negotiation was definitely not based on a fundamental trust. They were almost desperate, this negotiation was destined for failure.

The Iranians were real trouble, I would never ever want to negotiate with them again.  — Wendy Sherman, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

At the moment this negotiation was almost decided to be waived, both Sherman and Mohammad Javad Zarif (Iranian negotiator in chief, Minister of Foreign Affairs) were told of their grandchildren’s births, coincidentally. They both became grandma and grandpa in that 18 days. Happiness made both them cannot help themselves to share the surprise with each other. Thus, during the coldest international negotiation, when both of them were saddled with their own country’s benefits, but at one moment they both offed guard, and snooped the other’s phone and praised “So Cute!”

This was brilliant! It dissolved everybody’s tension at that very moment. We all are today’s children and tomorrow’s parents, after realized this, negotiators endeavored again for the best. The result of this endeavoring was that in July 2015, the Iran Nuclear Deal was officially agreed, the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was maintained again.

Modern underground metro system in Esfahan, Iran.

Modern underground metro system in Esfahan, Iran.

As the exchange for Iranian giving up their nuclear development, the international society started ending the “Sanctions Against Iran.” Iran’s economy has been reborn. This country is now opening its door to the world, spreading the atmosphere of its civilized Persian charm. Although, this changing has just started.

In the CBD of Tehran, some people are staying at the money exchange shops, copying down and reporting the currency rates from boards. Banks in Iran are not connected with the international financial system, so foreign credit cards are not available for using inside of Iran. Moreover, a majority of currency exchange agencies outside of Iran do not accept or offer the Iranian Rial, so international visitors travel to Iran brought major currency and exchange once arrive.

Though there are so many obstacles for Iranian people trading internationally, they started developing economic domestically, catching up with the international to modernize public facilities everywhere inside of their country. In some lagging cities such as Shiraz, I even saw a thorough modern metro system, which only builds in world’s most modernized countries such as UAE, China, Singapore, and Japan. In some major cities such as Esfahan and Tehran, BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), a new type of bus transportation, has become a major mode of travel in citizens’ life. In public parks, there are marbled geysers, and uniformed staffs irrigating floras. Moreover, classified garbage cans are on streets.

Citizens enjoy an afternoon at Naqsh-E Jahan Square, Isfahan Province, Isfahan.

Citizens enjoy an afternoon at Naqsh-E Jahan Square, Isfahan Province, Isfahan.

On the Naqsh-E Jahan Square, one of the most popular sights in the city of Esfahan, citizens enjoy their free time, chatting, bicycling, dating, just like everywhere. Some students were assigned English assessments, they video interviewed the rare foreigners about their opinions of Iran: Do they like here? How do they think the safety in Iran is? Also, What’s the most remarkable thing in their countries? Foreigners’ visiting is still a novelty for Iranian people, so much so that I was always asked to join in selfies with local people, at least twice a day. Iranians care about the outside world’s opinions, they want the world to know their country more an more, they want their country to grow stronger and stronger, just like everybody else.

Those students’ naïveté reminded me of, a genuine changing of ideology biases on “North Korean people lie so often and easily,” by recognizing their instinctive emotion when it shined innocence in the darkness of militarism. Suki Kim, a woman who went undercover posing as an English teacher, taught students who were expected to be the future leader of the nation.

“They lie so often and so easily,” Kim addressed at Ted Talk. “Whether about the mythical accomplishments of their Great Leader, or the strange claim that they cloned a rabbit as fifth graders… They lie to shield their system from the world, or they were taught lies, and were just regurgitating them. Or, at moments, they lied out of habit. But if all they have ever known were lies, how could we expect them to be otherwise?”

Formatted education bans critical thinking, brainwashes the ideal that the DPRK is the world’s most powerful and prosperous nation andthe activity of honoring their Great Leader fulfilled all of their free time. All of those happened on the heavily guarded campus of Pyongyang University of Since & Technology, which forbids reaching others included their families and everywhere is bugged.

A revealing of sincere emotion showed on student’s personal letter, touched Kim’s soul and made her give up the idea of expecting to tell students the truth and open their mind. She came to adore her students after really searched their hearts, she just realized how dangerous it is to change others recklessly:

“They wrote that they were fed up with the sameness of everything, they were worried about their future. In those letters, they rarely ever mentioned their Great Leader,” Kim said. “During those months of living in their world, I often wondered if the truth would, in fact, improve their lives. I wanted so much to tell them the truth… But for them, the truth was dangerous. By encouraging them to run after it, I was putting them at risk –of persecution, of heartbreak… My dear gentlemen(her students), I don’t want you to lead a revolution, let some other young people do it. The rest of the world might casually encourage or even expect some sort of North Korean Spring, but I don’t want you to do anything risky, because I know in your world, someone is always watching. I don’t want to imagine what might happen to you if my attempts to reach you have inspired something new in you. I would rather you forget me and become soldiers of your Great Leader, and live long, safe lives.”

On the Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam) Square, a needle on compass points at a mosque, simblizes a token of reminder, that Muslim people should always focus on the pure faith

On the Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam) Square, a needle on compass points at a mosque, simblizes a token of reminder, that Muslim people should always focus on the pure faith

Due to incomprehension, misunderstanding and misguided media, the outside world treats Iran as a mystery country of chaos. Of course, Iranian’s national condition is different to the North Korea’s. However, interference in others lives, forcing them to change in case of everything is unknown, would put those innocent people in danger just what Kim had almost done on her students, that means another revolution or coup.

Iranians, their ideology accepts neither westernizing nor ‘easternizing,’ but only Islamism. Nowadays people would like to call it a theocracy, or some would call it a dictatorship. Intellectuals do have the right to criticize, but you and I, we, never ever have the right to rule what should Iran be and how the Iranians should live. Iranians have their own logic of managing their country since only Iranians know what Iranians want. I understand their logic, and I recognize it. And I heartfeltly hope that we, as the outside world, can just stand by, leave them alone and watch, innocent Iranians people can one day make their country beautiful.

My discoveries in Iran continually refreshed my opinion of this “third-world country.” Although I met tourists from The Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden, I had not seen anybody from Canada, the U.S. or the U.K., I knew they are afraid of visiting Iran. Since Iran is a theocracy, rigid religion takes the role of leading people’s faith, Iranians smile so naturally, it made me never feel being in danger as what media distributes. At the end of my journey, I did not even want to call it an adventure, as Iran is much safer than I’ve ever imagined. Poverty does not lead Iranians to guilty, and Iran is not desperately like everybody thinks it would be.

My past experiences structure my ideology of seeing the world. During my last Thanksgiving trip to Sri Lanka, I realized that innocence could be emphasized once it is apart from ostentatious vanity. Of course, we all have the same feeling of being afraid of the unknown, but I believe the unknown is the only thing we’ve ever been afraid of.

Thus every time I take a step to start a new journey, my mind is always very peaceful. I want to see how we are the same, how we can still be the same as we live in different cultures or event in another land which is isolated. I heartfeltly hope I could always keep this traveling style and the real world would not one day force me to change what I believe now: That we all are born innocent.

Local re-enactment provides insight into historical conflict

Community, students attend 28th annual Civil War Revisited

The American Civil War Association along with the Fresno Historical Society, brought back the largest Civil War re-enactment in the western United States to Kearney Park as the 28th annual Civil War Revisited, Oct. 21 and 22. Thousands of musicians, performers and period leaders participated in the annual re-enactment. According to the Fresno Historical Society, around 10,000 people have attend the show.

People voluntary dressed up as soldiers, musicians, civilians and artists during the re-enactment, Oct. 21.

People voluntary dressed up as soldiers, musicians, civilians and artists during the re-enactment, Oct. 21.

Civil War Revisited, is described as a “living history event,” which is designed for educational purposes. The re-enactment provides an opportunity to engage history and remember a time in American history. Organizers hope this live, historical event hopes to immerse audiences into life of the 1860s, through volunteers dressing up as historic figures, soldiers, crafts people and civilians during the Civil War period and various well-known historical scenes.

Many community history teachers, professors, from elementary to university, consider the Civil War Re-enactment (CWR) as a precious opportunity to learn about the Civil War’s time period. Some educators offered extra-credit to encourage students to attend, hoping the CWR could encourage their students to learn more about American histo

Campus history teacher Kori Friesen offers extra credit to students who go and proved their attendance with an informational paper and two selfies with re-enactors.

AP U.S. history (APUSH) student, Connor Jens, ‘19, attended the re-enactment for extra credit. Jens questions the absence of slaves during the re-enactment for historical accuracy. 

“I needed the extra credit in all honesty,” Jens said. “I thought that it (the re-enactment) was really cool, but I was also intrigued on why they didn’t have some slaves in there because, in that time period there was. Right now, (in APUSH) we’re learning on how to write documents from the 18th century. We just passed learning about the Civil War.”

Union soldier, John Moreno speaks to visitors, sharing his knowledge of American Civil War, Oct.21.

Union soldier, John Moreno speaks to visitors, sharing his knowledge of American Civil War, Oct.21.

Union soldier, John Moreno is a second year volunteer for the re-enactment. Moreno emphasizes the importance of large scale battles. 

“I don’t think you can take 20 or 30 men that are brave, saying that they can shoot them and end the war,” Moreno said. “You need a whole brigade and that’s what we’re trying to recreate here to the best of our ability. That you can’t fight battles, that hold a lot of history, alone.”

Nearly 2,000 Union, Confederate and civilian re-enactors from the American Civil War Association, brought various live shows which immersed visitors in the atmosphere of 1860s. Many re-enactors answered visitors’ questions about Civil War history and gave real accounts of Civil War combatants and witnesses. Confederate re-enactor, James Downs discusses why he participates in the mock battles. He encourages students to understand history.

“I have families from the Civil War from both sides, mainly on the Confederate side,” Downs said. “If you don’t know where you came from, you don’t know where you are going.” 

Presenter Brian Clague became interested in the Civil War era while he was in college. As a local retired physician, Clague enjoys studying the period’s medicinal practices. 

“I’ve been interested in the Civil War since college and also interested in botanical medicine which is the basis for most of the medicines at the time of the Civil War,” Clague said. “My role is to pass some of that information onto the touring public so they get a sense of what the medical department was doing to treat soldiers what they did to try and improve the status of medicine and what some of the long time consequences of the those advances are.”

The re-enactment allowed guests to partake in activities to provide insight into the conflict and era. Tents were set up where period characters answered historical questions. The battle re-enactments took place Oct. 21 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., Oct. 22 at 1:30 p.m.

Shelley Sanders, was one of the visitors that visited the park, Oct 21. She has been going to the Civil War re-enactment since its inception.

“This is not my first time going,” Sanders said. “I’ve been going since it began–about 25 years. I get excited seeing the people

relive history, so I attend a battle every time I come. They’re (the cannons) very loud, and the less you know about Civil War history the more it just looks like a whole bunch of people running around and making a lot of noise. It’s still just cool seeing people being interested d in history. I like looking at the settlers at the stores and seeing what they have for sale and that kind of stuff. I’ve listened to the people in medical tents quite a bit, I’ve talked to Abe Lincoln a couple times and Sojourner Truth.”

Re-enactment soldiers load and fire blank canon rounds to simulate a Civil War engagement.

Re-enactment soldiers load and fire blank canon rounds to simulate a Civil War engagement.

Irish dances entertained civilians during  the hardships of the Civil War. The California Arts Academy brought the Civil War’s Irish dances to Kearney Park’s stage during the re-enactment. Director of California Arts Academy, Hannah Anderson 

“A lot Irish came up into the north part of America, and many came to Canada,” Anderson said. “During the Civil War, there were a group of Irish people who were trying to fight rebellion against England. So they came to Canada actually, right north of Maine, and started an Irish rebellion army, which then send regiments down to help the Civil War on the side of the Union. So there were a lot of Irish mingling. One of the way you can get out of the property in those days, if you could dance, you could put a company together and kind of get an act going.”\

Katie Montejano, a dancer from Califonria Arts Academy, performs at hte Civil War Re-enactment, Oct.21.

Katie Montejano, a dancer from Califonria Arts Academy, performs at hte Civil War Re-enactment, Oct.21.

I think a lot of people just don’t realize how public dancing was during the Civil War,” Anderson continued. “We think about the dance before the Civil War, we talk about the dance after the Civil War. And everyone kind of forgets that during this time period, people were still living their life, that was not just about the war. I think it is important for people to realize that the 1860s were not just about the Civil War, that the war affected everything but the war was not everything. So I think it is important to remind people that there were cultures there were dance, you could still see shows, that was a very important part of life.”

Dancing immersed visitors in the period cultures during last weekend. The re-enactment also hosted a Soldier’s Camp Dinner, 7 p.m., Oct 21, on the Kearney Mansion veranda, Oct. 20. The camp dinner featured food, music, dancing and a live battle. While visitors ate their rations, shots rang out and musicians performed. The scene reminded many people that even in the time of war, life goes on.

COLUMN: The Old-Dog.

Journalist seeks to build connections with elders

Keith Zhu urges engagement with elders through story of neglect 

“Pong, pong, pong .…” The sound is quite muffled as the Old-Dog desperately scratches on the glass slide door. Since the first time I moved to the house in the fall of 2016, I could always see the Old-Dog standing in the backyard, scratching at the door in a frenzy.

She longs to get inside; the pair of dull eyes shows me her desperation. She only scratches three times then stops, as soon as she realizes that nobody cares about her behavior, as everybody is accustomed to this sound.

The Mom opened the sliding door and let the other younger dog pass the Old-Dog to come inside. While the door was not closed yet, the Old-Dog stood by the edge of the sill, with one side of her body clanged on the glass door. Her oblong head attempted to turn, face inside of the house, as her leading nose and mouth crossed the sill border inside the house. Then she suddenly turned back right away. Finally, she plucked up, walked fast inside.

“What are you doing here,” yelled the mother. Then the Old-Dog stopped and turned to face where the yelling was from.

The Old Dog stays in the backyard.

The Old Dog stays in the backyard.

“Get out of here grandma,” the mother continued as she pulled the Old Dog’s collar, dragging her out of the house. The Old-Dog then turned around faced to the house, looked inside, as her oblong mouth still crossed the border of the doorframe. Then the Mom closed the door, forcing the Old-Dog’s head to turn back as the glass door was sliding closed. The Old-Dog then stepped away, ensconcing herself on a cozy cushion and lazed around in the sunshine.

She has been an outside-dog since 12 years ago when the mom of the house found herself pregnant, then had couple decided to keep this dog outside, away from the pregnant woman and children. Since then, whenever she sees her masters, she would start pawing the door.

This annoys the family and nobody understands her actions. In my memories, whenever the Old Dog is scratching at the door making noise, her desperate attempts for attention are returned not with warming care but a cold shoulder and impatience.

“What’s that? What is that? ” the father said as he looked at the frenzied Old Dog, grumbled with his left index finger pointing at head and circling, “you are crazy, crazy!”

The younger pet dog came to this family seven years after their second boy‘s birth. The couple likes younger dog and so does their kids, since she grew up with those boys inside of the house.  She is a vivacious Boxer, who can relax in the house. Maybe the Boxer is smarter than the Old Dog, and tamer, since the family taught the Boxer how to sit and shake hands with specific gestures. Every night, after the boys change into their pajamas, I always hear the younger son yelling the Boxer’s name and orders her to sit down and shake hands. He praises the dog by saying, “Good girl, good girl!”  Then he continues, “Come on girl,” inviting the Boxer to join him to sleep together on his bed.

Compared to the Old Dog, the Old Dog may be the better to just keep outside, because she always wants to get inside, but once she comes inside she wants to go back outside right after she comes in. All she does is just annoy the family.

The Old Dog always lays on the cushion.

The Old Dog always lays on the cushion.

The Boxer is really a family dog. Once the winter comes, glacial wind blows and chills the bone. We would hide ourselves inside of the house and ignite fireplace. The Boxer splays her large body across our legs and naps while we watch TV. We fall into sleep with the family dog, with the snaps of the burning wood. The fragrance of burning wood fills the house with a warm and cozy family atmosphere. And we can feel her chest heaving as she takes deep breaths breathing in the aromas while she slept.

How sweet is this Boxer? People like this kind of lovely dog, don’t they? In the last whole year, I realized the Old Dog existed only when she was scratching the door, making noises to attract my attention. I sometimes forget that the Old Dog exists.

The Old Dog quieted since I returned to the house from Switzerland in the August of 2017. Since my return, I hardly hear her scratching at the glass slide door for just a few times. Even though the lengthening days and 110+ ºF wilting days, and the scorching sunshine filled everyone with restlessness, the Old Dog just laid on the cushion and basked in the sun for the most of the time I saw her; she never bothered looking into of the house anymore.

It seems she had already become adjusted, the summer smeltery in the past 12 years, and had forgotten that the house, the escape of torridity. With no scratching to remind me of her, my memory of the Old Dog began fading and her existence ceasing in my mind.

But a while back, the Old Dog showed up before my eyes while I was absorbing the sunset glow one afternoon. I saw her and she came to me, sat down. I touched her head and my hand slipped down to her back; she always raised her head up a little bit trying to reach my falling hand as I felt her again and again. I could see her strain her face as her eyelids downed and squinted while my hand was on her head. “I might be the only person stroking this Old Dog,” I muttered to myself.

Her eye’s color dulls, that pair of eyes used to have circles of dynamic aquamarine now had turned to gray, dark and turbid.

Her eye’s color dulls, that pair of eyes used to have circles of dynamic aquamarine now had turned to gray, dark and turbid.

As a 14-year-old Weimaraner, she has already taken the step into the dusk time of her life, every movement she takes has always been with shaking and feeble gasp, gerontic and exhausted. Nevertheless, she still tried her best to catch my pace, tried to be like a puppy dog. I then walked forward and stopped, waited for her catching me, and walked forward when she almost reached me, on and on.

Maybe her solitude walks to the extreme so that she just wants to feel being by somebody. I gazed this Old Dog, feeling her hairs, it was sparse and coarse. She had lost her eyes’ color already, that pair of eyes used to have circles of dynamic aquamarine now had turned to fully gray, dark and turbid. That pair of muscular hind legs born for hunting, now could not even stand steadily.

I am always wondering if I share enough love to everyone, especially those elders who are ignored. Maybe sometimes giving a feel or an embrace would satisfy them with lonely and solitude. I try getting close to elders around in my life, then feel and hug, cling on their chests, I could hear the familiar sound once again, it sounds quite muffled but with full of vitality:

“Pong, Pong, Pong… Pong, Pong, Pong…”


I went back to that family in November 2018, the family told me she was too old so they had to put her to sleep.

Operations rally around Texas during Hurricane Harvey

Disaster in Texas

The hurricane caused major damage to southern Texas with winds gusts observed up to 132 mph and entire blocks flooded.

The hurricane caused major damage to southern Texas with winds gusts observed up to 132 mph and entire blocks flooded.

The worst flooding disaster in U.S. history, Hurricane Harvey, struck Texas. The first major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane seasonflooded more than 50 inches of rainfall and caused more than 30,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Harvey grew in strength from a tropical wave in the Lesser Antilles. It reached tropical storm status, Aug. 17. The cyclone then moved into the Caribbean Sea, weakening and downsizing into a tropical wave, Aug. 19. The remaining parts remained monitored as it moved towards the west across the Caribbean, before redeveloping in the Bay of Campeche

Harvey then rapidly intensified on Aug. 24, regaining storm status and becoming a hurricane. It became a Category 4 hurricane, Aug. 25 and landed in Texas at peak intensity. 

The hurricane caused major damage to southern Texas with winds gusts observed up to 132 mph and entire blocks flooded. Preliminary FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) estimates as many as 67,000 homes in Texas may be damaged.

Throughout Texas, more than 300,000 people were left without electricity and communication systems went out, including landline, cellular, internet, and mass media platforms. More than 725,000 people are currently under mandatory evacuation orders, while over a million face voluntary evacuation orders.

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) stated they had never seen anything like this before. The area of Texas that rests underwater is equivalent to the size of Lake Michigan.

Alumna Elizabeth Baker, ’17, stayed in Texas for a couple of weeks to attend the University of the Incarnate Word. Although the hurricane did not affect her, the weather drastically changed in her area. 

“It was kind of scary at first, but San Antonio didn’t really get hit very hard,” Baker said. “It did rain hard for a few days straight, and the wind was really strong. A lot of people at my school have family members in the affected areas, so I’m just hoping they will receive help.”

According to the National Hurricane Center, Harvey is moving northeastward toward the Ohio Valley and weakening into Saturday. Flash flood warnings are in effect from parts of Mississippi across western Tennessee and southwest Ohio.

As of August 30, the death toll has tragically risen to 39.

American Red Cross sends aid

American Red Cross is an organization that prevents human suffering in emergencies by encouraging the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. They assist everywhere they can, including the affected area of Texas.

American Red Cross has sent over 80 tractor-trailer loads of supplies to southern Texas. The supplies support six kitchens, each able to produce 10,000 meals per day, totaling to 60,000 meals a day. Furthermore, over 73,000 ready-to-eat meals are currently on the ground with an additional 43,000 on its way. 

Along with their partners, they have already served nearly 30,000 meals and snacks since the storm began. Nearly half of their emergency response fleet — 200 emergency response vehicles – have been activated for the supply operation.

The organization has pre-positioned additional blood products in Houston ahead of the storm, along with more blood product inventory in Dallas. They are closely working with local and federal authorities to continue the distribution of blood products to the needed areas.

August 28, 2017. George R. Brown Convention Center, Red Cross Mega Shelter Houston, Texas. Shelter residents in communal sleeping quarters.

August 28, 2017. George R. Brown Convention Center, Red Cross Mega Shelter Houston, Texas. Shelter residents in communal sleeping quarters.

“Once we heard that Harvey was going to hit, we started putting shelters on standby last Thursday,” said Taylor Poisall, the Business Operation Coordinator at American Red Cross. “We had about 100 shelters on standby, ready to be open once they were needed. So that meant we needed to start shipping all of our supplies some of these houses we had opened, getting them ready with comfort kits.” 

ARC is partnering with the United States Coast Guard and the Texas National Guard to move supplies and volunteers. They are working day and night to get help, doing all that they can.

Water rescues are ongoing, and evacuation orders are in still effect throughout the region. The American Red Cross has trained numbers of volunteers are ready to go. 

In Texas, more than 1,800 ARC volunteers took refuge from the storm on Aug, 26 night, in 34 Red Cross and community shelters. But in Louisiana, the American Red Cross expects more volunteers to help, and additional shelters could open. 

ARC initially estimates that over 17,000 people sought refuge in more than 45 shelters across Texas. This number includes over 8,000 evacuees at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston

“By Aug. 29, there were over 32,000 people staying in Red Cross shelters and partner shelters.” Taylor Poisall said. “The American Red Cross has enough shelter supplies in Texas, can support 28,000 people and supplies for an additional 22,000 people are being sent in now. And there are 1,000 volunteers will be joined in a highly-skilled group from the Mexican Red Cross, help support shelters, distribute aid, and connect with Spanish speaking victims.”

The American Red Cross is also going participate in the damage assessment, to assist victims of recovery plan once they are able to go back home. 

How to be involved

Hundreds of volunteers are already on the ground working long hours to take care of Americans in need.

Hundreds of volunteers are already on the ground working long hours to take care of Americans in need.

Rain continues to fall as thousands of people have already been forced to abandon their homes, leaving everything they own behind. It is anticipated that many more families will be impacted as rain continues to fall and flooding persists.

Hundreds of Red Cross employees are already on the ground working long hours to take care of Americans in need, and this will continue for weeks.  They are doing an amazing job, but they will get tired and they will need relief.

Hurricane Harvey creates more needs than any one organization can meet on their own. ARC is working very hard with the entire response community, such as government agencies and other non-profit groups. 

Fresno Christian is also planning on cooperating with Convoy of Hope. Students and parents can donate to the cause during football games or by visiting the office.

The senior class also plans on raising money for the Red Cross during homecoming week. Senior Erin Wilson hopes to raise awareness and support for the cause.

“We are cooperating with the Red Cross for our homecoming float,” Wilson said. “This means we will be working to gather money all through homecoming week and even the night of to donate to them.”

This is a time for communities to come together and support the outside world. The best way for them to support is with a financial donation, rather than sending food and clothes. The American Red Cross is the biggest non-profit organization in the nation and relies solely on donations. 

Donate to Harricane Harvey through American Red Cross.

The ARC chapter in Fresno area is the Central Valley Chapter. This chapter is sending supplies and volunteers to the disaster and partnering with the local media to be able to directly help victims. The ARC Central Valley Chapter also supports local disaster victims such as those affected by the recent wildfires.

Breaking Through, Chapter One

Road Trace

By the time, Journalist Keith Yunxi Zhu is 18 years old, he decides to write a short serialized novel, Breaking Through, reflecting on his life experience. Zhu wants to show his background and his dream through this novel, the unique points of his life and also the depression he had on the road to achieving his goal.

The show ends and the opera actors come up to stage, step forward and take a bow. The finely dressed audience stands up while their claps reverberate inside the hall adorned with those golden Renaissance-era decorations. The giant chandelier, hand-carved reliefs and innumerable oil paintings down each side wall diffuse the atmosphere filling Her Majesty’s Theatre in downtown London.

Feather staff Keith Zhu reminisces his time spent in London over the course of the summer.

Feather staff Keith Zhu reminisces his time spent in London over the course of the summer.

It was long-expected to enjoy The Phantom Of The Opera. The story of this musical is more about knowing whether one should let go when someone they love finds more than someone’s possessiveness of beloved. As the opera phantom releases Kristin, he fades back into his underground maze, leaving with a mask and a cloak left on Kristin’s hands.

The phantom’s appearance reflects my own self. On the road I have trodden and I too wish to leave something, even if it is only a gossamer-like trace that would propitiate me with the musical, incarnated as reality. And it empathizes everyone’s life. The minutiae of the play have suffused in our whole life, as does Kristin’s sentimental line rendered: “That voice which calls to me, and speaks my name.” At such moment, tears geyser.

The show never ceases to impress, as people leave Her Majesty’s Theatre, walking slowly, still tasting, chewing, mulling over each piece of this musical. We feel a degree of felicity, which has been shown on our homely smile of contentment and musing over life.

This is a scene meant to take place on London’s streets at night. The style matches: England is this place where gives people the feeling of the ambivalence between relief and depression, existing simultaneously.

We leave the theatre, exposed under the glorious canopied sky beneath which the tawny fog stretches. I like being in the city when the air is so thick and opaque, with a drizzle of rain that wets the hair, but that we scarcely notice, as soaking and drenching in our memories and feelings of tonight. A black vintage car turns and passed us, I can see its brassy beam, looming out from the rain, I can see the trace of the wheel left on the road as I turn my head while it passes by me. I leave my footprints on the ground as we are walk forward.

“It is sad to leave London,” I said. Even walking down a brightly light street of the most pulsating nightlife in the town could not propitiate me or allow to forget that I am only staying here for one more week. Somehow I’ve learned peace exists here, right by the carnival because it is about knowing how to be content and to relax.

Taking National Rail to London Blackfriars is Zhu’s daily routine.

Taking National Rail to London Blackfriars is Zhu’s daily routine.

Once upon a time, an epiphany flashed through the mind of my friend Robin while he was sitting under a tree in Hyde Park; this flipped the magnet within him to the right pole for him to attach himself to London. My memories here are fresh, as hypnotic as Adele’s songs, captivating and genuine; the tranquility of Londoncannot find itself in any other place.

Every morning, taking the national rail from King’s Cross St.Pancrasvia Farringdon and City Thameslink to London Blackfriars is my daily routine. I can see the Shard and the Tower Bridge from the bridge station once out of the train. A sense of happiness washes over, from the matinal breath of the Thames Riverunder feet, it fills with tons of the motivation to learn and improve, to start a brand new day. Later, immersed in the friendship, laughing, sitting outside a pub in a bustling alley, yelling cheers, for health, let the 9 p.m.’s sunset glow wave goodbye to this another day.

“We just don’t want to leave this kind of life.” My Italian friend Even shows me I am an emotional wreck. Even was right. An Italian from Milan would say that London is a place that makes people want to stay and come back again; even more, so that I live in the countryside of California’s Central Valley.

“She Sitteth In The Tawny Vapour

Ineffable’s Art To The Minutiae

Hath Much Of Me Not Been Devoured

Recollection’s Art The Tableau Vivant

Fare Thee Well

Shall We Meet Again”

She here refers to London, the city of fog; the buildings are built in tawny-colored. Robin wrote this poem to make the promise that he will come back again, predestinate, setting an appointment with himself and the city. Then his plane took off and flew away, with its jet tail remaining in the endless blue sky.

Where is my trace I have left behind? Robin left this fallen, beloved city with a promise: to come back again. The phantom of the opera left his beloved Kristin with a mask as a token of remembrance. Even left London, but Even has a place to belong, unlike me, I am a gypsy. On the road I have trodden on, I wished to leave something, even one single gossamer-like trace would propitiate me, satisfy me with the approaching of the end of summer, convince me that I had done something beyond wasting time.

I am more than fortunate in taking a step into this imaginary land now, with my understanding of the world fully developed; I don’t want to forget any of the moments I’ve spent here; those moments are the most remarkable and incredible of the summer of my most ornate, youthful age — 18.

Eventually, I left London and proceeded to my next challenge – Wharton‘s summer course. Where is the trace I have left there? Is it diffused in the sky? What do I, an 18-year-old, have left in the world?  How many memorable moments remain in my head? How many people I have met would remember my face years later? How much have I learned? And by how much have I improved?

I was searching for those answers. After I finished my courses at Wharton, I traveled to Paris, but the moment the airplane touched down on the runway at Charles de Gaulle, a message from the heaven seemed to place in my head: “Go back.”

I stepped onto a Eurostar to London on my second day of being in Paris, and returned back to Paris at the end of the same day.

I walked the same way as I have done before. This town still kept up its medieval countenance, exuding a vintage atmosphere, sprawling out to every corner. This elegance makes me want to drench in London all over again at this very moment. My memories were fresh. I repeated my daily routine once, allowing my soul to be permeated with London as I walked again.

I like it in the city when two worlds collide

That day, the need to stay passed. The meaning of an ending is getting ready for the next journey. I realized that things never change but people are always changing. Just like having a different feeling in the same town as I went back again.

Zhu watches the sunset retreat behind the Shard(left tallest), tower bridge(middle), Thames River(middle).

Zhu watches the sunset retreat behind the Shard(left tallest), tower bridge(middle), Thames River(middle).

Looking around, I saw that London was still flourishing, the way the sun is still above the British Empire. I appreciate that my experiences can successfully guide me to attain the life I want, untrammeled and cosmopolitan, and I am having it now, living with happiness and my eyes wide open.

I remember the boy who kept repeating Adele’s “When We Were Young” on his last night as a seventeen-year-old. The minutiae of The Phantom of the Operasaturated his trite life, as did Adele’s sentimental line — “I’m so mad I’m getting old, it makes me reckless. It was just like a movie; it was just like a song.”

I don’t know how many days I am entitled to altogether, and it may be that becoming an adult came so fast that I was not even ready for it, but in any case, my quota of days is undoubtedly wearing away. I came to this world stark naked, will I go back as stark naked as ever, I wondered.

Not so, I am meant to be amazing.

Student visits moonscape in Eurasia

Zhu Yunxi embarks on adventure to Turkey 

In Istanbul, strong aromas of Persian and Arabian culture overwhelmed me like falling into the scene of the Thousand and One Nights.

In Istanbul, strong aromas of Persian and Arabian culture overwhelmed me like falling into the scene of the Thousand and One Nights.

I found that I did not know how to understand and appreciate pulchritude and its essence. The four-day experience in Istanbul during the spring break amazed me. I thought I knew everything about Turkish culture before I visited the country, but I was wrong.

People from the Middle East are always distinguished as Arabians, but the chauffeur who picked me up at Atatürk Airport was a typical meridional. This encounter made me realize Turkey, a country which stretches across Eurasia, blends cultures, race and history.

Turkey was founded on the ruins of Ottoman Empire. In Istanbul, strong aromas of Persian and Arabian culture overwhelmed me like falling into the scene of the Thousand and One Nights.

By the bay of the Propontis, people bask by the bay, while others pick Egyptian spice or Persian cloth from marketplaces. During the afternoon I spent in Propontis, Muslims began their chanting of Quran during the Maghrib. Afterward, the moon rose from the Asian side of Istanbul and the fiery sky stretches and shone radiance on the tributary of Propontis.

Muslims began heading into mosques during this time of day to begin their prayers to Allah. However, the market vendors said their prayers in the marketplace besides their stalls. This bustling seaside bazaar began to quiet down, and all that could be heard was prayer, seagulls and the crash of waves against the shoreline.

Everything looked leisurely. Teenagers in Turkey are proud of imitating European’s lifestyle. Turks enjoy Cay (Turkish Tea) and smell its fragrance, sitting on the rooftops of many flats, overlooking dense and antique buildings perched on the hill. Moreover, looking across the tributary, forward to those three mosques on the top of the hill, life in the city of Istanbul never stops. Lounging on the rooftop and taking life; this enjoyment reminds me of the feast of the amazing area of Cappadocia.

Some of Cappadocia’s troglodyte dwellings serve as homes and others as hotels, which offer a truly unique experience to visitors. Sitting on the rooftop of a rocky cave hotel, people ate breakfast and Turkish Cay, while watching the launch of hundreds of hot-air balloons. The balloons rose from bizarre rock mounts during daybreak as the sun peaked across the skyline of Goreme valley.

Cappadocia, here is known as the most likely of the lunar surface in the world by its bizarre physiognomy. Hundreds of hot air balloons are all launched before dawn, every single morning being inside of one of the hot air balloons felt like a pink dream come true.

It was a cloudy morning and mother earth looked dull without the sun shining, but as soon as the balloons launched, a streak of rosy crepuscular rays started breaking the darkness. The gray land started turning luminous red as the sun lighted up on this morning to begin another fabulous day in Cappadocia.

Erosion shaped these incredible landscapes of cones, pillars, pinnacles, mushrooms, and chimneys located inside of the Goreme Valley of Cappadocia.

Erosion shaped these incredible landscapes of cones, pillars, pinnacles, mushrooms, and chimneys located inside of the Goreme Valley of Cappadocia.

Hot air balloons did not move fast. Those who were hidden by those mushroom-shape tuffs fluttered out smoothly, offering passengers the fun of hide-and-seek. The balloon flew up and down and as I looked from the balloon’s basket, I imagined living among the clouds. Moreover, as low as few inches from the ground, looking around those quirky landscapes hiding with haze, no sound could be heard but the intermittent burning of my balloon, just like a visit to the underworld.

This happens every single morning.

Erosion shaped these incredible landscapes of cones, pillars, pinnacles, mushrooms, and chimneys located inside of the Goreme Valley of Cappadocia. Ancient volcanic eruptions formed these fantastic forms to create this rocky wonderland that is honeycombed with a network of human-created caves; places of worship, stables, and storehouses.

Cappadocian was founded as White Syrians by Persians. Goreme sat uncomfortably on the boundary between rival empires — the Roman Empire and the Persian Empire. This precarious political position meant that residents — White Syrian needed hiding places, and their hands performed equally incredible works here to avoid war.

We had a celebration after landing, and then my friends and I drove the UTV to explore the rocky wonderland. After we came back, I sat in my room of the cave hotel, reminiscing Byzantine histories that had taken place in this beautiful valley.

Those White Syrian dug those amazing caves to avoid war, but what about the Syrian refugee crisis?  There are about 2,973,890 Syrian refugees in Turkey and 366,000 in Istanbul.

Turkey is a developed country, but when I visited Istanbul, I thought that parts of the city did not look like a developed country. Something that confused me is that some people are still doing some very traditional and low-income jobs such as selling balloons by the bay, selling bottled water and napkins to drivers on the road.

But, when I went through the northwest corner of Tarlabaşı, the Istanbul’s oldest slum, I knew why. There are a lot of children and even some adults try to get drivers’ attention by selling bottled water and napkins. And Tarlabaşı is the famous Syrian Gypsy community in Istanbul.

As I look from the balloon’s basket, I imagine living among the clouds.

As I look from the balloon’s basket, I imagine living among the clouds.

The locals told me there always some Turks who beat these people and even the children because the Syrian refugees are shaking Turkey’s social stability. From what I saw in Turkey, I think that’s true, there are cops everywhere in Istanbul because of those terrorist attacks carried out by groups like ISIS.

How does war torture people? I don’t know, and I want to know. And I put Syria on my list.

Chinatown: Late New Year’s Celebration Brought Vitality Back to Chinatown

Festivities and parade headline important day

The Fresno Chinatowncelebrates the 17th annual Chinese New Year annually on the first Saturday in March in downtown Fresno, March 4, this year. Festivities, which ran from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., attracted over 2,000 visitors from scattered towns in the Central Valley.

Chinatown just celebrated its 17 annual Chinese New Year.

Chinatown just celebrated its 17 annual Chinese New Year.

“We get many calls every year enquiring why our celebration is conducted so late—after the actual Chinese New Year,” Jeremy Brownstein, Board Member of Fresno Chinatown, said. “The reason is that the weather tends to be much too cold and wet for a parade during the actual time of the Chinese New Year; thus, we have it later in hopes of warmer, sunnier weather. We also celebrate it on the first Saturday of March for the convenience of our participants and attendees; they know that the celebration is always the first Saturday in March.”

The Chinese have a very specific way of celebrating the New Year. They use a different calendar (Chinese calendar) to determine the date of the traditional festival. Therefore, the dates of Chinese festivals change every year.

During the Chinese New Year (also called “Spring Festival,”), different people from Asian culture walk down the street of the Fresno Chinatown (East & Fresno streets). Visitors see various kinds of demonstrations of ancient traditions, such as the display of red banners and performances of the lion dance, spreading revelry in the streets.

The parade started at noon and included the Lion DancerBig Head Doll, and Dragon Dancer. The “Gods of Wealth” followed on their heels and handed out hong bao to participants. A hong bao is a red rectangular envelope to put money in as a gift, and it is a customary practice during the Chinese New Year to give and receive hong bao.

The lion dance was the focus on the street, and is a familiar sight during the celebration of the Chinese New Year. The Chinese believe that this lively traditional dance combines art history and culture with the rigor of Chinese art movements.

Two dancers form the lion—one holds the lion’s head, performing movements forming the front part of the lion’s body; the other forms the body and tail of the lion through movements. They dance to the rhythm of drums and cymbals. According to traditional Chinese belief, the loud music that the lion dances to can scare away evil spirits and the ancient beast “Nian.”

Atlantis

This late New Year celebration brought prosperity to the 132-year-old Fresno Chinatown with the accompaniment of gongs and drums. People soaked up the merrymaking with eagerness and zest. However, a sleeping relic that lies beneath the Fresno Chinatown has been forgotten, much like downtown Fresno.

In 2007, an archaeologists team discovered a basement with tunnel systems under the Fresno Chinatown.

Those tunnels are rumored to have been used to enable people to travel underground. One tunnel extended underneath the dividing railway tracks so that people could reach Chinatown’s speakeasies undetected and can even escape when necessary.

In 2007, tunnels were discovered underneath Chinatown.

In 2007, tunnels were discovered underneath Chinatown.

The first Chinese group who arrived in the San Joaquin Valley, came there seeking to Gold Mountain. They settled along the “sinks of Dry Creek” when the railroad was established with “Fresno station.”

Their dreams of gold soon became reality. Chinese started on building the railroad tracks and creating other businesses such as laundries, saloons, stores, temples and churches, they also built Chinese and Japanese schools; in this manner, a small community grew.

Chinatown had the most vibrant nightlife in Fresno before World War II. Nobody could see from the streets that the tunnel system had once stretched beyond the railroad tracks into the traditionally white part of town, allowing white residents access to the illicit activity of Chinatown.

Restaurants were open whole day as were the gambling dens and bars. Some say these businesses were dismantled during Prohibition.

However, Chinatown was still thriving until the late 1950s, despite the “anti-suspender laws” and the redevelopment of the 1960s.

“Many of Chinatown’s buildings were torn down for new development or freeways,” Brownstein said, ”and much of its history was buried.”

Chinatown’s legends concern underground criminals, brothels, and opium dens. But, the truth is equally fascinating, and there is a lot of history underneath our feet. Just about every good deed or vice one can imagine has happened underground.

OK Corral

I had never traveled to downtown Fresno before this 17th parade, the yesterday prosperous of Fresno chinatown drenched me in its vitality. Therefore, after I participated in this Chinese New Year’s celebration, I decided to experience normal life in downtown Fresno and also the Chinatown there.

When I walked around the Fresno Chinatown again, though, yesterday’s vitality was already gone. The normal downtown felt like a scene from Western movies:

Nobody was on the streets. There were just cars parked there and homeless people on the sidewalks. Abandoned buildings were everywhere, with pieces of brick falling off. Most businesses were closed, and posters were stuck sporadically on walls.

Those remnants reflected some of the infamy of Fresno’s Chinatown. Chinatown was rumored that if someone was murdered in Chinatown, no police officer would investigate. What happened in Chinatown just stayed within Chinatown.

As I visited more and more places here, those fearful incidents reminded me of memories of all of the brilliant Chinatowns I had ever visited: Melbourne’s fancy; New York Flushing’s crowd, and Singapore’s genteel culture.

Before WWII, Chinatown was very popular at night

Before WWII, Chinatown was very popular at night

On East Street in Fresno, behind a thick iron door, there is a Chinese restaurant called Little Hong Kong. This is a small restaurant with six tables. The owners are Chinese-Indonesian, and they settled in Fresno seven years ago.

“There maybe used to be a crowd 20 years ago,” the owner said, “but now, most businesses have moved out.”

Yes, what is left to discover here in Fresno today is just remnants of unused basements and sealed windowsills. There are stories that maybe one of those sealed foundations is covering up a mysterious passage to a gambling den or an escape route for the notorious characters of Chinatown.

Renaissance

Fresno Chinatown dated back to the early 1800s and flourished until urban sprawl [occurred] following World War II,” said Brownstein.

Jeremy Brownstein is a member of Chinatown Revitalization Inc., which represents Fresno’s historic Chinatown. The Chinese New Year celebration is not only intended to mark the Chinese New Year but also to display the diversity and uniqueness of this community both past and present.

[ The organization’s mission is to secure the history of our community through the establishment of a Fresno Chinatown cultural museum and learning center. In addition, this organization hopes to work with the city to open up our underground tunnels as an unrestricted tourist attraction and share the rich history and diversity of Chinatown.

Historically, Chinatown was established in 1885 and was the central hub of Fresno for years. In fact, a lot of Fresno’s cultural and ethnic communities treated Chinatown as their original home.

Throughout the early 1960s and up to the start of the 1990s, the years and the economic times were very hard in Chinatown, and many of the historic buildings deteriorated so that there are only treasured memories now.

However, in 1994, new business and social service organizations, residents, and past members of the West Fresno Merchants Association established Chinatown Revitalization Inc. to reinvigorate this truly unique area.

“We continue to work hard to preserve our history,” Brownstein said, “but face many barriers due to high-speed rail, the lack of political will, and an unaddressed homelessness issue in our community.”

Today, Fresno’s Chinatown is mostly run-down and is populated by homeless people.

When I got in an Uber to head home, the driver pointed to those homeless people standing on the side of the road and said,

“When I got the ride message, I really hoped I was not picking up those guys.”

I hope someday downtown Fresno will not be a place that many people hate to visit. One day, Chinatown and its underground tunnels might become a heritage tourism destination, bringing some income to the now impoverished area. And I hope the Fresno Chinatown will flourish again.

COLUMN: My Thanksgiving trip to Sri Lanka

Day One
November 24
Colombo, Sri Lanka

Sitting at a table in front of a large French window in Colombo, Sri Lanka, it is only when the waiter passes me the Long Black (black coffee) that I return from my thoughts. I start to write this journal to conclude my five day Galle volunteer trip. Nobody understands why I flew half across the Earth from America to Sri Lanka during the Thanksgiving break.

In fact, I did a lot of good things such as helping some school teachers with disabled preschool students.

When traveling through Sri Lanka, the railways and train cars were packed with people with each stop.

When traveling through Sri Lanka, the railways and train cars were packed with people with each stop.

Half an hour previously, I jumped off a train at the Colombo Fort Railway Station. My Galle trip ended. The Galle-Colombo railway sits southwest to the Indian Ocean. It is, at its nearest, only five meters away from the ocean. At this side, visitors could see the fantastic sunset. Acknowledged as one of the world’s most beautiful railways, it inspires the sea train in the Japanese master Miyazaki Hayao’s comic work Spirited Away (one famous Japanese cartoon).

The Galle Railway Station was already packed at 6 a.m. Most passengers had briefcases for work, but there was neither a foreigner nor a tourist. It seemed like I was the only foreign one here. Visitors could not see the magnificence of the sunset when the sun splutters on the waters of the Indian Ocean; its rays like red wine which reflects on this drop of tear on the train that departs at dawn.

I was stupefied after I got into the train. The carriage was fully packed without an open seat. I was obliged to stand by the door. They move fast as if they were trained.

I was totally shocked when I got on the train. People everywhere. No vacancy at all. I had to stand near the door. Then, I planned to place my 28-inch suitcase against the nearest chair back as my seat. It is supposed to guarantee me a comfortable way throughout the next two and half an hours. Wheels, however, made the suitcase move out of place easily. Out of fear to fall off the train, I firmly held the suitcase for the rest of the time.

As the only foreigner in this carriage, it made me a special eye-catcher to natives on this trip to the capital.  The carriage grew crowded as the train stopped on more platforms for more passengers. From time to time, nearly every passenger gave me an occasional glance and smiled at me, and their faces never turn back. I, always a restrained person, being introverted in nature, I started to act shyly.

As more and more people got on the train, it became even more crowded. I was gradually irritated by this. People inside the compartment started to rub against my body. I was infuriated by this behavior, but I had to keep silent. 

However, their behavior became more annoying and I was pushed to the middle of the compartment. I felt like a hot dog being wrapped by two pieces of bread and I had no choice but let those people move me. Everyone has a bottom line, and I’m never a person with good temper, so I decided to fight back. 

Suddenly, I stood up to put my suitcase between the handrail and my left leg, and I propped up the suitcase with my knee to make sure that I won’t fall in my combat with enemies. I held that steel handrail with two hands and exerted my strength to start fighting. What is even more annoying is that they still smiled at me. My anger wanted to kick them all out of this train.

Yunxi captures the sunrise on the Unawatuna beach.

Yunxi captures the sunrise on the Unawatuna beach.

Yet, Sri Lankans are actually quite nice. The first morning arriving in Galle impressed me the most. The jet lag woke me up 4 o’clock in the morning. After being idle for a while with nothing to do, I decided to set off for Unawatuna Beach, to shoot sunrise photos on the beach with the antique camera my mom lent me.

That dawn, the seawater was blue like a moonstone and was gently touching the banana-shaped Unawatuna shore. Just when I was absorbed in such charm, a lad came straight to me. He was only in a sport suit and shorts. The dry black hair and bronze skin told me easily that he is certainly a local fisherman.

But with empty hands, I reckoned he must be a canteen staff going out to drum up the business or a tea vendor. Everything went the way I expected it to be. When the chap walked over to me, I pretended that I was too engrossed in the photograph to notice.

Then in typical Indian English with curry-taste (scoff of Indian English), he greeted me.

“Hi, are you Chinese,” came to my ears.

“Yes,” I briefly replied. We shook hands. Then he turned around, facing the sea and pulling out his phone and took photos. I continued my pretending, wondering when will he start to sell his fish.

A few uncomfortable minutes later, he ran the BeautyCam and slowly came closer. He raised the phone slowly at a 45-degree angle the classic selfie way over his head, saying something I didn’t quite catch. But apparently, he wanted a photo with me. Flattered. 

While I may have an attractive face, it was absolutely the first time I have met such a devoted and complaisant person. Overwhelmed by his unexpected request, I just made a perfunctory “peace” sign and smiled. He then just walked away.

In his next diary post, Keith Zhu will write about his trip to the Elephant Orphanage in the city of Pinnawala. Stay tuned as he shares his scary experience in Colombo. Zhu will also share some Sri Lanka students’ pictures and their stories.

Hunan restaurant seeks to incorporate traditional flavors

Chef Liu strives to create homestyle Chinese dishes

Main chef David Luu  prepares a dish for Chinese restaurant, Hunan.

Main chef David Luu  prepares a dish for Chinese restaurant, Hunan.

China has a diverse natural culture across its land. As a result, Chinese people live in different areas and enjoy rich staple food. From the south to the north, the diverse staple food provides energy for human bodies. Moreover, they influence people’s feelings towards the change of four seasons and enrich the lives of the Chinese.

China has a lot of great and profound food cultures. The “Eight Cuisines” of China are Anhui, Cantonese/HongKong, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan, and Zhejiang cuisines.

Hunan has a long history in Fresno located in one of the small alleys in Fresno. During the early morning they clean up the front, set up the tables and chairs, and turn the “CLOSED” board to “OPEN.”

Spirit of Immigrants

Six years ago, Pan sisters came from Taiwan and settled in Fresno. Like most immigrants, they saw their life full of hope.

“All beginnings are hard.” Chinese people’s tastes are totally different than American. In the first three months they arrived in Fresno, the sisters could not only subject themselves to just eating a burger and fries. Moreover, they could not find any Chinese restaurants to solve their food problem.

Throughout the next three months without their usual homestyle flavor, the sisters started to search and visit every Chinese restaurant in Fresno.

On this search for a Chinese cultural restaurant, the sisters found their favorite, Hunan. From there they met owner of Hunan Chef Liu. Chef Liu has owned the restaurant since 2004 and befriended the eager sisters.

Shortly after the sisters became friends with owner Chef Liu, he decided to return back to Beijing, China, selling the restaurant to the two sisters. However, before he decided to leave, he was begged to stay by these new owners. The Pan sisters did not know much about restaurant cooking, so the restaurant could not run without him.

Now the former Chef Liu serves as a gourmet advisor at Hunan Restaurant, in charge of researching and developing foods.

About 85% of the customers who dined at Hunan were American. But in the last few years, more and more Chinese people have visited and settled in Fresno. The sisters decided to rebuild this restaurant with more Chinese elements.

Western-style restaurants like to dim their lights making the environment warm and sweet, meanwhile customers often feel they are in a ceremonial environment. This is not like the Chinese style. In China, the restaurants are overwhelmed with brightness; the bright lights drive the customers to eat and drink more.

Bringing Chinese culture to America is one of the things that the Chinese immigrants are proud of in Fresno.

In Taiwan, the sisters use to work on marketing designs for shops and companies. This is one of their fortes. They tried to build the restaurant between Chinese and American and make the decor western-style but consider Chinese-style as well.

This half-half solution seems to capture the differences; the sisters mix not only the brightness that the traditional Chinese like, but consider the light shape and sofa style Americans prefer.

The sisters bought chandeliers here in the U.S with the style as American. However, it mixed the elements of a Chinese lantern. They chose the classic “Chinese Red” cover.

Pan sisters along with Chef Liu run the restaurant.

Pan sisters along with Chef Liu run the restaurant.

Sometimes it is too hard to accept a brand new culture. The sisters found that some Chinese foods are hard to be accepted by American customers because of their unfamiliarity. Even so, more and more kinds of Chinese food had been accepted over the years, for example, “pan-fried dumpling” and “chow mein.”

This restaurant came out with an ingenious idea to separate two different cultures on two menus. They hand out the American-Chinese menu to American customers and traditional Chinese menu to Asian customers. The sisters hope that American customers would start to accept the real Chinese food so that one day they won’t have to hand out two different menus.

In the early history of China, when President Mao was still in power, President Nixon visited China. President Mao is from Hunan, so there are a lot of Hunan restaurants in the United States.

Homestyle Flavor

Taste is more important than anything else as far as food is concerned. The Chinese have never restricted themselves to a certain tedious food list. With their understanding of food, the Chinese are always looking for new dishes.

From the crack of dawn, the sisters come, each of their hands with two bags with fresh Taiwan style bread. Every week, those sisters drive their car all the way to San Jose, to buy the freshest Taiwan style bread to sell at their restaurant.

“Pineapple bread,” “scallions bread,” “Pork floss bread,” etc. Those are all kinds of bread that the sisters used to have when they were very young. Taiwan-style bread is very hard to make. The no-preservatives bread only stays fresh for two days so the chef has to quickly make the bread.

International travelers sometimes miss their traditional home cooked meals. Hunan’s spicy cooking style is completely different to the Taiwan cooking style. Experienced and accomplished Chef Liu helps the sisters to incorporate the Taiwanese food.

Fresno’s location in the Central California basin is rich in agriculture products. Although this is a good place for fruit and vegetables in the spring and summer, it is scarce in its vegetable varieties. Every autumn and winter, Fresno’s vegetables output is greatly reduced. During this time, the restaurant’s staff drives all the way to Los Angles for fresh vegetables with more coming from Mexico.

This restaurant spends a lot of time with its ingredients. Except for the homestyle bread and breakfast, the original dishes are also worth a try. The “stir-fried rice noodles with beef” is a big test of a chef’s basic skills, and it is also one of the most popular choices in the restaurant.

If you never seat down and experience every details of Hunan, you would miss the ingenuity. You would never know the stories behind this brilliant restaurant and never have this truly the feast for your eyes and palate.

If you want to visit Hunan it is located at the SE corner of Herndon and Cedar avenues. The address is : 6716 N. Cedar Ave.Fresno, CA, 93710. It is open from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5 – 9 p.m everyday.