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In the Connections New Voices project, the bonds formed between professional writers and writers who are also English learners become a source of inspiration for many of their writings. In the first piece below, the writer Sonia Araujo addresses Judith Hertog who was her Connections facilitator and writing mentor in Lebanon, NH. Although the mentor is not always named in other poems and stories here, the friendships created among writing partners is a strong force behind them. Please click on the links to see photos of the public reading celebration as well as bios of the readers.
Julie Moulton The Gift of Knowing Keene New Voices
I carry the question “why”I carry the scent of lilac, the cool air of May on my arms and faceI carry my father’s will and desire to live, and the memory of singing him home when it was no longer enoughI carry my mother’s voiceI carry the knowledge of things I was never supposed to knowI carry songs in 3-part harmony from the back seat of a 1964 Chevy wagonI carry dalmations and beagles, tabbies, tigers and coonsI carry the characters of a thousand novelsI carry the bliss and gratitude of forgivenessI carry the gift of knowing how deeply blessed I am
Sonia Araujo Home (excerpt) New Voices Lebanon
Hello dear Judith!When you asked us to close our eyes to return to the house that most moved us, I thought that would not be a good idea, because maybe I would cry in that day.
I was born on a farm. After one year I and my parents moved us to Carapicuiba in São Paulo, a big Brazilian City. I would go back to that house on the farm only on vacation, and I loved it so much, my grandfather lived there in farm.
Our home in São Paulo had only one room, with a kitchen and 2 bedrooms, and we lived together all the time. Our bathroom was out home. We lived eighteen years, also lived my uncle with my three cousins in the some Yard. We played and fought all the time. This house was so much simple, but we were so much happy. I remember how hard it was to bathe in that wooden bathroom, it was very, very cold in the winter. I was 15. I woke up at 5 o'clock to shower and go to work. Came home at midnight, tired. Then my mother bought a new house in Barueri, São Paulo where I lived only two years. Yet, my mother sold it many years after, and my parents moved again to another State, Minas Gerais, Brazil. But I stayed in São Paulo because I married and I moved in with my mother-in-law per one year. Recently we moved to Lebanon in USA. This house has 3 bedrooms, two bathrooms, living room, kitchen and garage. I like the house.
I recently lost my mother on the day of Thanksgiving and writing this text reminded me of how much my mother inspired me to never give up having a home, a united family, however simple our home might be.
In the beginning I would like to tell you something about me. I like things made by hand. When I came to the United States, I missed Iraqi decorations in my house. So I asked myself, how can I buy these things which I see on Pinterest? Oh my God it is so pretty. I want it, but I can’t buy anything. I thought and thought and said, “Why not?” I’ll try to do good work with canvas and colors. And I started drawing. It was fun and pretty. Also my family liked my new art.
Life is full of changes.Once you are a child.Close and open your eyes,and you are an adult with familyand responsibilities, the biggest,keep safe the family.
All people have a dream,to know a beautiful place is the first travel,but, what if your first travel is looking for a safe place?and you really try hard to keep away from violence, death, and guns?
One day I am going to travel for fun,Now I am on the train of learningto live with many changes, new goals,new dreams, new challenges. It’s a newlife, far away from dangerous cities.
In China, most of the kids’ names contain their parents’ many wishes. Some of them think the name is very important and could change kids’ life. So they search lots of dictionaries and even ask a knowledgeable person to give special words for their children. There is no exception with my parents.
My name is Binli (彬莉). It means courteous, graceful and independent girl. I used to be named Binli(彬丽) and I don’t like, it means courteous and beautiful and it is so common that like most of girls’ names have the word “li (丽)”. It has been changed by my grandfather’s mistake before SAT exam. I need to certify myself before the exam, then I can take the exam in our living city. My grandpa helped me with it except he made the mistake with a wrong word.
When I grew up, I got a job and met lots of friends. They thought my name’s pronunciation is same as the luxury car “Bentley”. So they called me luxury car or Bentley, and that becomes my nickname. I like the name. It makes me feel special and easier to remember.
I lived in a traditional village where I spent a happy and indelible childhood before I was twelve. The habitations of all the villagers were linked together like a warm mother opening her arms. It looked so wonderful that you can hardly imagine a one-building village. The colossus faced south, head connected tail, one by one, combined into a unclosed ring. The main parts of the building and its symmetrical two wings were interlinked. The huge building like a kind mother provides more than ten families to enjoy her warm livelihood. Each of us can walk from the east to the west without leaving mother’s warm embrace. All the people in this big family lived like an authentic one family. In my memorable impression, the most happy cozy time was in summer evening. When the adults came out in the courtyard to enjoy the cool, the children gathered around the elder to listen to their old stories. The sky was studded with twinkling stars, the moon was bright and clear. Children always chased to and fro in the moonlight, playing hide and seek, sometimes catching fireflies. Boys always played tricks on girls, they picked the seeds of Xanthium, rubbed them into girls’ hair. The big family left me with many happy childhood memories.
Now my family lives in Norwich. My husband applied for a visiting scholar in Dartmouth College for one year, my two children and I came here with my husband in March this year. We rented a house near the Connecticut River, the house is big enough for our family. Our house has a big yard and grass growing around it and there is a fence around the backyard. We opened up a field to plant vegetables in the backyard. In the summer, we planted tomato, summer squash, capsicum and scallion. We have harvested the fruits of our labor in the whole summer. I love the house and where I lived. The neighbors are friendly and the village is peaceful. It is completely in conformity with all my expectations for a household.
I don’t care where I live. Wherever I live with my family, there is home. To me, home is more than a house, it’s a feeling. It’s a feeling of contentment, happiness and grief that we share with one another. It’s also a place we make memories with each other.
Jie Jhou's Childhood
The town is built 1500 years ago and now about 100,000 people live there. On the east of the town, a river called Seven Miles runs quietly. There left my memories about the childhood. On its west is the Qingling Mountain which turns out to be a large barrier for the communication of the town with big city. However, to some extent, this also protected the town and the town now becomes a famous tourist attraction because of well-preserved ancient buildings.
My family is just one of the millions ordinary families in China. Father is bad-tempered who worked in a local chemical fertilizer plant as a truck driver. Mother is a homemaker taking care of our family. With my older sister, we four-member family lived in a small earth house with three rooms, in which the middle one is living room, the right one is kitchen and the left one is our bedroom. When I was child life was tough. Father shouldered all the burden of the family. He worked hard while earned little which can not afford enough food for the family. As a helper, mother raised a female goat which can produce milk. Milk was sold and the earnings was used to buy daily necessities. I myself seldom had the chance to taste the milk because all the milk (not so much, just one bottle each day) has to be sold. Even in difficult situation, parents always tried their best to provide our children relatively cozy shelter. Mother taught us to be a righteous person. With the care from parents, life seems to be bearable.
2015, Rochester, NY
I arrived at Rochester New York at April 1, 2015. When I got off the plane and walk into the airport lobby, I saw many American. I listened, but I can barely understand what they are talking about. I am extremely excited and a little bit worried with my English. Though I have learned 20 years English, I have never used it to talk with other people. Maybe my English is still not good enough? I thought. My wife and 7-years-old son took another plane and arrived at the next day. So I spent one night in the nearby hotel to wait them. It was still cold in Rochester in April and the snow is piled everywhere. In the next morning, they arrived without delay. Two adults, one child, with 4 big hefty suitcases, walked slowly towards the one-mile-away hotel. Along the way we did not see anyone except a lot of fast-driving cars. A couple of drivers stopped to ask us if we need help. I declined the offerings.
With the help of a local Chinese pastor, we finally settled down in Rochester. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment which was a semi-basement. Compared to the normal two-bedroom apartment, this apartment can save us $100 a month. However, even if it is half-underground, compared to our two-bedroom apartment in Xi’an, this one is already much bigger and brighter with beautiful grass land around the building. That is the most beautiful place we have ever lived. I’ve got to say that the clean sky in Rochester is impressive for a person from China. I have used to see the gray sky and breathe the air in the smog. The air in Rochester often make me even a little confused. Is it the real sky? How can it be so blue?
The Family God will be in a distance, still closer.Journey begins when the sun, “a red flower is streaming upwards on its heavenly oils.”Travelling to visit the power, with the whole family, is an immense pleasure.Lots of chatting, sleeping and eating along the way are memories. Greeting the Gods and praying to them gives the strong feelings of your duty and responsibility.Resting on the powerful floor chills you with an easy feeling and relaxed.When you wash your hands, legs, and face in the pond alongside, it calms you down completely.At the end of your journey, you are no longer empty-handed.
Oh Red, you are so beautiful!You are the color of eternal love,that lets my heart soar like a beautiful white Dove,You are dynamic, you are passionate,You symbolize the emotions of rage and courage,You are the pride of an Indian married woman as her “Sindoor”Oh Red, you are so beautiful!You are the color of Christmas,You are Rudolph’s nose,You are the forever-lovely red red rose,Which makes us happy, sometimes,Blush, with red cheeks,A glass of red wine, cheers!Oh Red, you are so beautiful!You are the color of health,As red as cherries and strawberries,How can we forget apple pie?We say you are the apple of our eye,Oh Red, you are so beautiful!But it’s not always the same,You are the sign of alertness, angerAnd sometimes failure, of being wrong,You show us when and where to stop and be strong,You are the red blood that flows, keeping us alive,You are inside us, as LIFEAnd that’s what makes you the most Beautiful!!
Home is where I lived in Hilla, Iraq.Home is the love I have for watching my grandpa plant the beautiful Iraqi roses.Home is the great smell of my grandma, Bebe, cooking dolme for lunch.
Home is the silhouette of the alps and the peak of Mount Viso out my windowHome is a little hill in the middle of a flat landHome is an apple orchardHome is the shadow of a chestnut treeHome is to climb on a cherry treeHome is sweet memories
Home is snowdrops piercing through the frozen ground; red poppies in the field and hedgehogs disappearing into brush.
Home is a flashing tail of fox; his skittish heart leaping through the fields extracting presence into homes I know nothing about.
Home is the pastHome is the desertHome is the heat
Home is my father’s voice calling us back to the house,and it is my mother facing away from usas she looks out a window towards Boston.
Home—sweetness of Dad’s honeyHome—resounding mom’s singingher quiet lullabies her concerns and flowers
Home is the feeling of jealousy of my father preferring work over family.Home is my mother’s consistency of visiting her mother before coming home.Home is being prideful of my uncle buying me stories instead of his own kids.
Home is the warmth of a wood stoveHome is a steaming potHome is the smell of roastHome is laurel and rosemary flavorHome is oregano and basil aromaHome is family traditions
Home is fava beans; sturdy oak; storks that nest on highways like messengers and migrantsHome is my grandmother’s scarf and honey-combs Home is the Black Madonna.
Home is Ahmed IghayidHome is dolmehHome is family
Home is the large elm from a childhood homethat will be cut down when I am six,and the large stump that remained, crumbling under the weight of us.
Home—strong father’s arms,his firm embrace, cherish and loveHome—my haven to pray, to laugh and to cry,
Home is my aunt loving me more than her life.Home is my little brother playing soccer before going home.Home is my sister crying before starting a test.Home is the love of my aunt putting me above all others.Home is the soccer field that me and my little brother played on.Home is when I get the worst feeling watching my sister cry before starting a test.
Home is homemade agnolottiHome is all around the tableHome is Piedmontese voicesHome is a screamed song with my sisterHome is a silly game with my brotherHome is a never ending siblings' fightHome is an always opened doorHome is reliable armsHome is a warm and safe hug
Home is gingko leaves which remember Permian Oceans
Home is hoopoes with sacred crest and secrets.Home is the milk from St. Mary’s breast.Home is glistening snow in Tatra MountainsMountains like inverted cathedrals.
Home is friendsHome is painHome is all the secrets
Home is somewhere else.It is a throwing away of cardboard boxes without first looking in,and home is the moving back and forth between what I cannot name,cannot find and what has been lost.
Home—provisionary vehicleReal home is still waiting for us.
Oh América Terra que tem TornadoE Furacão Terra sonhada por muitosTocada por poucosOh América Terra que te transforma Como Alquimia Ou somenteComo um simples camaleão Oh América Terra que te dá esperança De mãos dadas com a solidão
Oh America The land has tornadosAnd hurricanes Dream for many people Touched by few people Oh America The land transforms youLike an alchemist Or aloneOne simple chameleonOh America The land makes hopeTake hands with loneliness
We have the whole universe
of hopes We all have someone that is
our universe But what we don’t realize
Is that We are the universe to
someone And the same way you can’t
live without them They
Can’t live without you!
New Hampshire Humanities programs are made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this these programs do not necessarily represent those of the NEH or New Hampshire Humanities.