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Monday, November 4, 2013

I'm working on a Kensington Postcard, so have dug up below photo, taken in 5/7/2010. The accompanying note is from that date:



Today, I visited pro bono a 6th grade class at Visitation School in Kensington, one of the rougher neighborhoods in Philly. The kids were all well-behaved and happy. I really had a great time. On the far right is Bryana Martinez, an aspiring writer. She gave me three chapters to read. On the far left is Frank Thai, an ex student dropping in to hear me talk. Emily Diefendorf, in yellow sweater, is the teacher. Before my talk, we had lunch at Thang Long, a Vietnamese restaurant in the neighborhood. That's why there's a kid at the front holding a pair of chopsticks. It's the first time he had ever used chopsticks, and he was quite giddy with the experience. He told me about a Dominican dish that for the life of me, I can't recall the name of right now.

Kids being kids, they did ask me some goofy questions. My favorite, "You told us you can't sing and you can't dance, and you weren't any good at sports, so, ah, what are you good at?"

I also talked to Mr. Tung Nguyen, a handyman at the school. A Vietnamese immigrant, he came to the States in 1982, after escaping Vietnam by boat and spending a year at a refugee camp in Indonesia. He found work on a oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, not far from New Orleans. Three weeks on the rig, then one at home, so he saved much, though the pay wasn't that great. The 27 men on the rig ate really well, but they weren't allowed to drink. After working hours, they fished. When this company went out business, he went to Spokane, Seattle and Kansas City, looking for work, before arriving in Philadelphia and hooking up with a steel processing plant. He remained there for 13 years before it shut down. All four of his kids have attended or are at the Visitation School, with the oldest ready to go to college. She is being offered a full, eight-year scholarship to four different schools, including Temple and Penn. Tuition at the Visitation School is $2,200 a year, with a discount for additional children from the same family.


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