Winter Writing Contest Winners
This Week We feature the 2nd Place Winner
April 4, 2019
The Culver City Observer believes that a fundamental part of life is learning how to write. Last week we featured the first-place winner. This week we feature the 2nd place winner Andrew Oda. We will be featuring the writing of other winners in the upcoming weeks. The ASB sponsored this year's contest. The first-place winner received a $50 Amazon gift card and the 2nd and 3rd place winners received $25 Amazon gift cards.
Students were encouraged to write a piece of fiction or poetry that shows a unique perspective of the world, including what it means to interact with others with different viewpoints. We are grateful to Kathleen Rowley a NBPTS Certified English Teacher at Culver City High School.
We hope you enjoy these unique stories from our middle school students.
by Andrew Oda
The mines today are particularly stuffy and stale. I can't honestly say I like working in the mines. Actually, I can't stand it. Doing cheap labor is a generally enjoyable and soul-sucking experience, repeating the same repetitive action, in the same general area, fourteen hours a day, six days a week (Sunday is of for church), twenty-five days a month, all for wages disproportionate to what we do. Dozens of other men work in the min, most of them from the home land, and one of them is a close friend of mine. He and I grew up in the same providence, we grew up with each other, studied together, and ultimately, we both decided to immigrate to California. Everyone here has a reason to be doing a grueling job for a small wage: some were hopefuls and thought they could get rich from all the gold here, while others pooled their money and came here to start a new life in a land of opportunities. But for now, it's back to work.
I sit outside in the hot desert sun thinking about why I'm here. I work a terrible job with low wages, inhaling dust and smoke by the lungfull, and I know that I won't be able to do this work forever. I hate it. I really hate it all, I think I would be better off without it, but I persist. I do what I do all for one reason: Every week, I take $4 of my $5 paycheck and seal it in an envelope addressed for home. I know that she's coming soon. I receive letters on occasion, but the ones I do get help me remind myself why I still swing the pickaxe. Dear James, she writes (the immigration officer gave me this name after he couldn't pronounce my "weird" name) I hope you are doing well. I am healthy and doing my best to find a way to get to where you are. I am happy to tell you that the delivery of my baby girl went smoothly. I know you told me you wanted a boy, but I promise that I will see you soon. Love, I fold up the letter and carefully put it back in my pocket. For now, it's back to work.
Lee (the name a different immigration officer gave my friend) and I were mining for coal as usual when one of the younger men (no more than sixteen) ran into the mine with a panicked look and told everyone to get to the radio. I know that the pale-skinned men who had lots of power did not necessarily....approve of our employment, and I looked at the drawings in my bosses newspaper once, to find a less than flattering cartoon. We gathered around the radio, and the news jingle played. Breaking News, the man on the other side said, The Page Act has been put into effect by the president today. The law now bans Chinese Women from immigrating into these United States of America. In other news, two days ago the Civil Rights act was passed in congress, a law which- the radio dial was shut off. "Well, shi-"
I find myself in the local bar. Not the main one in town, the little one that is in the outskirts that allows us to drink there. I don't usually drink, but I think an exception is necessary today. Lee enters the bar with me. I speak to him in our native tongue.
"What do I do? I know that you have a son and he can come over here in a few years, but I only have a newborn daughter."
"Maybe you should go back and return. You still have money that you were going to send to your wife. Spend that on a ticket back to the homeland. You can tell the officers that it's a 'family emergency'. I don't know- just do something."
He switches back to English and asks the barkeep for some drinks.
A few years later
I am back in the mines. I am still happy as my five year old son is growing up back at home with my wife and daughter. Lee's son came to help out a few months back. Both seem happier, but loneliness is my constant companion. I hope for the best, but the white men seem to be more hostile, with more propaganda and resistance to our workforce. The letters from home are still coming, and it seems to be that the boy is already wanting to go. I was starting to write a reply letter when Lee called me into his room to listen to some news. The news reporter's monotone voice echoes throughout the room. This just in, he says as dread creeps through my spine, The Chinese Exclusion Act has been passed by Congress. All immigration from China has been banned in the United States of America. The radio is shut off and Lee turns towards me. I avoid eye contact and return to my room. The first reply is thrown in the trash, as I start a new letter. On the new sheet of paper goes the date:
May 6th, 1882
To my dear wife and children.
Please stop saving money for a steam boat ticket. It will be a while before I can return.