December 24, 2011

Crater Climbing, a Seven Mile Walk, and a Sunset: Diamond Head with Five Kids

**We are traveling and writing again, and blogging about it at "Are We There Yet"**

On Thursday, we ventured out after lunch to climb Diamond Head Crater. Several websites and guidebooks warned that the climb would be strenuous, so we wore our tennis shoes, comfortable gear, and packed water and snacks. It is great we went prepared, as we walked a lot throughout the day.

We hopped on the Number 23 Bus, which let us off right at the foot of the Crater. We had to walk about 15 minutes to get to the entrance. I asked my brother, Ian, to turn on his Runkeeper App to see how many miles we would clock during the day.

We paid the admission fee of $1 each and began our trek up the crater. The trail is 0.8 miles up and another 0.8 down. The kids (aged 8 to 10) had no trouble going up, although we did stop at least once to catch our breath. The 99 stairs at the top was the most strenuous part, but overall, I’d say the warnings about this being a very difficult trail were overblown.
The view to Waikiki from Diamond Head Crater

The views from the top were amazing. You can see all of Waikiki Beach, most of the city of Honolulu, and way out to the Koko Crater that borders Hanauma Bay. The top also had a lovely, refreshing breeze.

A bit breezy at the top!

The trek up and down, with plenty of rest, took us about two hours. I really wanted to go to the beach afterwards, but the kids wanted to go home. I decided to play a little trick on them and tell them that we had to walk to the bus stop. My nephew, Dante, who is quite clever, pointed to the bus stop, and said “The 23 stops here,” as he knew the 23 goes to Kahala. I told him we were going to take a different bus. The kids complained, but kept walking.

One of my tricks for when the kids begin to complain about walking is to tell them stories. I told Dante and Raymi funny stories about stuff I had seen riding buses, and Dante had a few stories of his own. The walk to Kapiolani Beach Park was a bit farther than I had anticipated. It turned out to be two miles from Diamond Head. However, the kids made it. We just kept telling them at each turn that it was “just down the road.”

When we finally made it to Kapiolani Beach Park, and the bus stop I had been talking about all along, the kids spotted a few ducks waddling around a small lake, and asked if they could play with the ducks. We let them, and then coaxed the kids across the street to a huge banyan tree. Once they saw the beach, they asked if they could go for a swim. Of course, I knew that once they saw the ocean they would want to get in. Mission accomplished: I got the kids to walk to the beach, and could watch the amazing Pacific sunset.

Waikiki Sunset

Watching the sun drop like a flaming ball into the Pacific Ocean is one of my favorite sights.

Sunset swimming

Once the sun set, I looked up a restaurant on Yelp! and found this place: Gyoza No Ohsho, which was just five blocks away. The food there was awesome! The kids loved the gyozas and the ramen, and it was a great deal. The ramen soups are about $9.00 and the gyozas are $4.50 for six.

Once we finished eating, we walked another five blocks back to the Number 14 bus stop, and took it all the way to Kahala Mall. Before getting on the bus, I asked my brother how long we had walked. He told me 7 miles. The kids were excited to hear they had broken their previous record of 5 miles. I was happy to have convinced them to walk that much.

On Friday morning, I asked Tatiana, Soraya, and Raymi to each write 100 words about their day. Here are their reports:


I walked 70 blocks yesterday up on the mountains. I whined some of the time. It was so not worth it when I got to the top. We ate crackers and cuties (mandarin oranges) at the top. Going down was way shorter. At the bottom, we ate shaved ice. It was good. My cousin Assata and I got lemon-lime and strawberry. Soraya and Tatiana shared watermelon and strawberry. Ian and Dante shared lemon-lime and watermelon. After eating, we walked to the bus stop. Man, that bus stop took long. We got on bus number 14. We got off the bus and saw a dog and I did cartwheels.


Yesterday we went to the mountains. Before we went up, I drank some water, used the bathroom, and drank some more water to get ready. Then we started walking up the mountain. On the way up, Raymi started to hang onto my dad’s arm. So Raymi and dad got way far behind. The rest of us kept on going. We saw some stairs. Then we found benches and rested for a while. Next to the benches were other stairs. We thought that those stairs went the wrong way. So when we were done resting, we went up the long stairs. After those stairs, there were some other stairs that went around in circles that led to the top. At the top, we were able to see the big crater – Diamond Head Crater. When I saw the crater, I saw a big circle that kind of looked like a sting ray with a tail. It was cool.


Yesterday we went to the mountain. We walked. I don’t like walking sometimes. We walked to the top of the mountain. And ran down. Dante got ahead of us but we caught up with him. After that we walked to the bus stop. It was like 70 blocks overall. We stopped for a while because we saw some ducks. There was a baby duckling. It was so cute! After that we went to the beach that was across the street. We stayed there until the sun went down. Then we went to a Japanese restaurant. I ate soup. It was delicious. Then we went home on the bus.

August 30, 2010

Tatiana's letter to Grandma about Our 14 Months Abroad

As the last assignment in their home schooling for the year, I asked my three daughters to write a letter to Grandma telling her about their fourteen months abroad. I wanted to see what they found most interesting about the year. I asked Tatiana if I could post hers online. She agreed. This is the letter from Tatiana, one of my nine-year old twins, to Grandma.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dear Grandma,

We are on a vacation. We traveled in 5 countries. First Jamaica then Guatemala then Dominican republic then brazil then the last is Jamaica. The name of this place is called Chucky’s island. In this place there is a man named Lasco. He has seven goats. Two of the goats had babies. One of the goats named Isabelle had 1 baby. Another goat named Sara had 2 babies. Chuck had 2 dogs and they each had 4 babies. In a few days we are going back to Kansas. I can’t wait!

When we were at Guatemala we had 14 pets. We had 3 bunnies, 8 puppies, 1 dog and 2 turtles. One of the puppies knew how to shake hands. One of the bunnies that was white was named Violet. One of the puppies was named Mr. stomach. We named him that name because he was a fat little puppy.

In the Dominican republic we had two friends. One was a girl and the other was a boy. The boy had a PSP. it’s a type of DS. We loved it when they came to are house to play. They were really good friends.

In Brazil we borrowed a house to stay in. in school I didn’t have any real friends. But there is one boy that is in artist and he is nice to me. His name is Andrew. He never did anything mean to me. When we had our birthday it was really fun. The cake was really delicious, and now I am nine. But I still miss Kansas a lot like really a lot.

Last summer in Kingston, Jamaica I didn’t have a school. I was in summer camp. In summer camp I got to beat up boys. The boys were also scared of me. Almost every boy in summer camp was scared of me. Can you believe that a bunch of boys would be afraid of one girl? I liked it a lot when a bunch of boys are afraid of me.

Right now I am in Negril, Jamaica. There is this boy named Jayim and he is 5 years old. He has a sister who is three years old and her name is Nikaya. Here in Negril, there is a place called Xtabi. It is fun and once my sister Raymi said they saw an octopus coming up on the side of the wall from the water. Xtabi is really beautiful and you can take a really good look at the sunset. Xtabi has a cliff that I can jump off. I am not scared to jump off. Raymi is scared, and Soraya only jumps from like one inch lower than me. There is this guy here. His name is Deano and he taught us how to fish. He said that when you feel the fish biting, you don’t pull. You have to wait until the fish pulls. Then, you have to pull. One day we caught three fish. We mostly catch squirrel fish. The rest of the family eats them except for me, because I don’t like fish.

Here in Negril, we have a friend named Mia. Mia was our bestest friend we ever met in Negril. She has a DSI that takes pictures. Mia is not mean to us. She liked Raymi for a little while, then she noticed Raymi was annoying, then she didn’t like her any more. Mia is like two days older than us. Mia is like Soraya and me. She likes to beat up boys like us. And, also she bit a boy and he was bleeding. She loves insects. We also do too. That’s why we like Mia so much. One day Mia got hurt on the leg and we thought we would never see her again. Then, one day, her father came and said that Mia was going to come and visit us. We were really happy we got to play with her. She forgot to bring her Nintendo DSI but we still had fun.

This letter is closed just for you.


Fourteen months in four countries - from a nine-year-old's perspective

This is a letter from Soraya, my nine-year-old twin daughter to her grandmother, telling all about our fourteen months in four countries. She told me I could post it online.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dear Grandma,

We went to lots of countries. First we went to Jamaica. Then, to Guatemala, then,  Dominican Republic then we went to Brazil. We rode on the horse all the time in Brazil. After Brazil, we went back to Jamaica. I had lots of fun. my favorite one was Jamaica. I met the owner of Chucky’s Island, he had 4 dogs, then there were these goats. There were 7 goats. Lasco  is the owner of the goats. Every day I help Lasco feed the goat. 2 goats had babies. 2 dogs had puppies. We live in a cottage . We have a secret door. We have 3 fans. We have lots of friends. Mia was are favorite friend. We borrowed lots of her games for the computer. The mouse of our computer got broken, but we bought a new one. We have a black mouse now. 

In Guatemala, we lived in the city. In the city we lived in an apartment. In the apartment lived an old lady. The old lady had a dog named Cuchi. I liked Cuchi and Cuchi liked me. Cuchi is still a kid. Did you know that in Guatemala they let dogs in the bus? We took Cuchi to school! But then we moved to another part of Guatemala. We stayed at our friend’s house. In the house they had 6 pets. They had 2 turtles, 3 bunnies and 1 dog. The dog had 8 puppies. And then they had 14 pets. We made friends. We made a collection. It was fun. 

Next we went to the Dominican Republic. It was fun. We went to Jumbo. Jumbo is a very fun place. There was bumper cars. I went on a merry go round. We went on a thing that goes up and down. It was fun. Remember that you came to the Dominican Republic? I had fun with you. Thank you for all the presents. I always wanted a DS. Are you going to come to Jamaica or Kansas to visit us? I hope you do.

Next we went to Brazil. In Brazil, we had so much fun. We had a school and I made a lot of fake friends. Once when I cried, they started being my friend. Sometimes they are my fake friends. Sometimes they are my real friends.

Once we took our dog to school. And, did I forget to tell you about our pets? We had three ducks, three chicks, and one dog. But, then things started to change. First, one of the chicks got robbed by the cat. Then, another chick died because our dog ate the chick. It was chasing it. Then, the ducklings. First of all, one of the dogs was tortured by our friends. Well, they weren’t fake friends. Then, we met a kitten. It was annoying our neighbors. They said, “please get that kitten off of your roof.” We kept it; its name was Michi. Then, we found a dog on the street. We found his owner. He said we could keep him and his name was Nick. We called him Nick. We had to tie him on a leash because he did not behave so well. Then, there was a man that let us ride the horse. But, we had to pay. When we left Brazil, we gave our pets to our friend, Peruca. In Brazil, they speak Portuguese. It is like Spanish a little bit, but some words are confusing. “Oi” means “Ola” or “Hi.”

Next, we moved to Negril, Jamaica. It was so much fun in Negril. It took very long for the car to get there. Finally, we got there. Then, we met Chuck, the guy I told you about. He is a very nice old man. He owns Chucky’s Island. He also had two puppies. One was named Gateway. The other was named Pinky. But, one day, one of the puppies, Gateway, died because he didn’t give him shots.  Then, Pinky got lost. I felt sad and I almost cried when Gateway died. But, things started to get luckier - baby goats! First, the goat called Isabelle had one baby goat. Then, the goat named Sara had two babies. They are so cute. We only got to pet the baby Isabelle made. That baby goat is called Brownie, because it is brown. There is a rule with the baby goats: You cannot touch its tail because the mother will not feed it and you will have to feed it. Then, the dog named Blondie and the dog named Sally had puppies at the same time. They are so cute, but we can’t touch them.

In Negril, we play with our bestest friends - Nikaya and Jayim. They are little. Nikaya is four, and Jayim is five, I think. Then, we had our other friend named Mia. She is so awesome, I tell you! She even lent us her games for the computer. Then, she let us play her DS game. Once, my little sister lost her DS game, but Mia found it thrown outside on the floor. In Negril, we went to the beach and a really cool place called Xtabi. There is also a really cool place called Rick’s Café, but my mom likes Xtabi better because there are not so many people. At Rick’s Café, there are lots of Rasta men that do flips off of the cliffs. They do lots of cool stuff. One of them did a flip over another person. There is also a place called Margaritaville where they have big nachos - like six inches high.

My favorite parts of Negril are when we rode the horses, when we had nachos and when we met two twin girls that look like me and Tatiana from behind. Thank you for listening to my story. I love you Grandma. Say to Grandpa that I love him too. 


Letter from Raymi to Grandma about our 14-month trip

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dear Grandma,
I am in Jamaica. Here in Jamaica, we met Chucky. He is a nice guy. Chucky has a dog that is named Blondie. She had four puppies. Sally, the other dog, had four puppies. We only get to pet Blondie and Sally. The puppies are too little to pet. Whitey, the other dog, had four puppies before we got here. Chuck gave two away. One of the other two died, and the other disappeared. We don’t know what happened to her. It is a mystery.

First we went to Jamaica, then we went to Guatemala, then we went to the Dominican Republic, then we went to Brazil, then we went back to Jamaica. We had a cool vacation.. Soon we are going back to Kansas. When we go back to Kansas, my birthday is almost coming. Today, we are going to the water park.

In the Dominican Republic, I went to school. At school, you could buy stuff in this place called the coffee shop. There wasn’t any coffee there. There was one thing that all of the class liked - pica piedras - (Fred Flintstone) it has candy inside. My favorite thing from the coffee shop was Fred Flintstone candy.

I am so happy we are in Jamaica. I have two friends here named Nikaya and Jayim. But, I don’t really play with Nikaya; sometimes she is a little mean. She likes my sister Soraya but she likes me too. Jayim, yeah, he plays with me. Sometimes I go to his house. Sometimes he comes to my house. He has a friend named Kayim. We really play a lot inside my house.

Grandma, are you going to visit us in Kansas? 

In Guatemala, I had lots of friends. I had eight puppies, one dog, two turtles, and two rabbits. At first, we couldn’t pet the puppies. Then, the other day, she let me pet them. Then, we could take them outside. When we were first in Guatemala, I had school. Then, we moved and I didn’t have school anymore.

Our other cousins who live in Miami have a playground at their house. We visited them on the way back from Guatemala.

In Brazil, we had school and I talked Portuguese there. Now, I know how to Portuguese and I never forget: “eu pode falar portugues.” My teacher is named Renata. She was my best teacher. I had my best friend there, her name was Isabelle, well Isadora in Portuguese. In Brazil, I only had one friend. In Brazil, I had six pets - two dogs, one cat, one chick and one duckling. One duckling died because our friend dropped it when we first got it. It wasn’t running from me anymore because it was sick. We put a blanket on it and buried it. One chick died because the cat got it. The other chick died because Manchas, Spots, the dog, he ate it. We thought they were going to grow, and the chick and duckling that didn’t die did grow. The chicken grew bigger than the duck. The chicken was very fat. The chicken was Soraya’s and the duck was Tatiana’s.

Grandma, are you going to send me a message?

I love you Grandma, bye.


July 14, 2010

How I ended up at Margaritaville, Negril

The ideal beach for me has clear sea water, white sands, plenty of greenery in view, and is isolated. I like to relax on the beach and contemplate its beauty, so I prefer empty beaches.

Unfortunately, my three daughters do not share this preference. In Negril, they shun the secluded, empty beaches, and prefer places such as Margaritaville and Rick’s Café - tourist traps full of people and loud music. They like the fact that there are a lot of people because it ensures that they will find a playmate. At Rick’s café the other day, they met a few teenage girls who chased them around the pool. At Margaritaville, they met three young men who helped the girls arrange a chicken wrestling match. Each girl got on the shoulders of a boy and tried to knock one another off. Fun was had by all.

Thus, although I prefer the secluded spots, I often have to entice the children with the offer of Margaritaville or Rick’s Café to get them out of the house. This is how I found myself at Margaritaville last Saturday afternoon, eating nachos and sipping on margaritas. The beach itself at Margaritaville is stunning - with a turquoise sea and white, powdery sand. But, so is the rest of Seven Mile Beach.

One advantage to Margaritaville is that it has plenty of shelter. So, when the thunderstorms came pounding down, as they often do, we could wait out the storm under shelter. Well, I sought shelter while the girls danced in the rain. There is also a little playground at the Negril Margaritaville, which, it seems, is more fun in the rain.

Once the rain passed, at least I had a table, chairs, and a good view of the beach. I addition, I could observe with fascination the groups of tourists who happened upon Margaritaville that afternoon. I soon tired of that, however. Fortunately, my husband arrived not too long afterwards and I could leave them at Margaritaville and take a long walk along Seven Mile Beach and linger in the more isolated parts.

July 8, 2010

A Hook, a Fish Line and an Air Mattress: Improvised fishing with the kids in Negril

I am very happy with my daily routine in Negril this summer. For me, this routine involves happy writing each weekday morning, then having lunch with the family, and going to the beach in the afternoons. Being able to swim in transparent waters every afternoon is blissful for me. I have not missed a day at the beach in the six weeks we have been in Negril. Even when it rains, I will at least go for a long walk by the sea when the rain clears.

My three kids, however, have decided that they need more entertainment than simply going to the beach. Their morning routine starts with home schooling for two hours with their tutor, then playing in the yard with their friends until lunch is ready. There are two small children who live in front of us and they often catch butterflies or other small creatures together. My daughters also love to help our neighbor herd his goats and take them out for grass each morning. After lunch, they play video games, read, or play outside or inside. When I ask if they are ready to go to the beach, they often claim they do not want to go. Without exception, they have fun when we get to the beach; so, often the trick lies in getting them there.

Our latest “trick” is the promise of going fishing. The first time the girls went fishing, it was with some friends who invited them to go on a boat early in the morning. That boat trip costs US$50, so that was the only time they did that. Instead, now we rely on my husband, Fernando’s ingenuity, and the kids can go fishing whenever they want, practically for free. This is how it works.

Fernando buys some hooks and fish line for a few cents at the hardware store. They go to the nearby beach and look for sand crabs and snails for bait. Nando sets up the rudimentary hook, line and sinker. Then, he paddles the girls out on our air mattress to where the fish are. We have one of those inflatable air mattresses, and it works great as a raft! (You can see our fishing equipment in the photo behind us!)

The girls put on their face masks which allow them to see the fish underwater. Tatiana and Soraya – my nine year old twin daughters – love fishing like this. You can see when the fish begin to nibble at the bait. When you see them nibbling, you just pull a bit, and there you have a fish. When the girls catch a fish, they yell out in excitement. Nando pulls in the line and puts the fish into a plastic bag that he keeps on the raft. Then, the girls go back in for another fish.

The other day, they caught sixteen little fish, giving us plenty of fresh fish for dinner. The fish are small – so it is quite a bit of work to clean and de-scale all of them. But, it is definitely worth it to have the tasty, fresh fish. Plus, it is our best way to get the kids out of the house - for now, at least. I am sure that soon they will become bored with this and we will have to find a new way to entertain them soon.

July 2, 2010

Do the crime, pay the time, … and, then you get deported?

On the beach the other day in Negril, I met a young man, Horatio. My husband, who was chatting with him, introduced us and told me that Horatio had been deported from the United States. Horatio, a tall man in his early twenties with a deep scar on his forehead, explained to me that he moved to the United States when he was eleven years old. When he was 18, he was caught with drugs and deported.

Deported for an aggravated felony – possession of crack cocaine – Horatio will never be able to return to the United States. Horatio has no immediate family in Jamaica. His grandparents, his parents, his brothers and sisters and his three children all live in the United States. I know there are many people who have no sympathy for Horatio. As an immigrant, he is a guest of the United States. He broke the law, and there are plenty of other, law-abiding people who would like the opportunity to live in the United States.

As I listened to his story, however, I became increasingly convinced that Horatio’s deportation was unjust. Many of the circumstances that led to his deportation were beyond his control. His decision to sell drugs was only one of many other factors that got him deported.

Horatio was born in Jamaica. When he was born, his grandparents lived in the United States. When he was one year old, his mother traveled to the United States as a legal permanent resident to join her parents, leaving him behind. Had Horatio’s mother gotten her green card one year earlier, Horatio likely would have been born in the United States, and would have been a U.S. citizen like his younger brothers and sisters.

When she arrived in the United States, Horatio’s mother intended to bring her Horatio and his brother to the United States as soon as possible. However, she began to have trouble with her husband. He verbally and physically abused her and made it difficult for her to file the paperwork for Horatio and his brother to travel to the United States. For these reasons, Horatio was not able to travel until he was eleven years old.

Horatio’s mother qualified for citizenship in the United States when Horatio was five years old. She did not, however, ever go and apply for citizenship. Had she done so, Horatio and his siblings would have become citizens automatically and Horatio would not have been deported.

Horatio qualified for citizenship on his own account when he was 16 years old. He never went to apply. Horatio had no idea that he could be deported for a drug conviction. He thought he was a legal permanent resident, and did not know that deportation was possible.

Horatio was caught with crack cocaine when he was 18 years old – his first criminal charge. Had this happened a few months before, when he was 17, he may have been able to avoid deportation because of his juvenile status.

When faced with drug charges, Horatio’s lawyer advised him that he plead guilty. The judge offered him less than a year in jail, and it seemed like a good deal. No one told Horatio that a guilty plea would not only get him a few months in jail, but also deportation. He was not fully aware of the consequences of this plea. His lawyer, a public defender, did not inform him of the immigration consequences of his plea.

When Horatio was arrested, he was 18 years old. He grew up in public housing on the South Side of Chicago. In these circumstances, the likelihood of Horatio not ever getting a criminal conviction was very low. Had his mother known how likely it was that he would end up in trouble and that any conviction could lead to his deportation, perhaps she would have applied for citizenship.

For me, Horatio’s deportation is an undeserved punishment for making bad decisions as a teenager. I will be the first to admit that I succumbed to peer pressure and did stupid things as a teenager. Lucky for me, I am no longer paying for those youthful indiscretions. In addition, I know personally many people who sold drugs as teenagers, yet who have moved on and are now valuable members of their communities. You see, I don’t think you should have to pay for the rest of your life for a crime you committed when you were 18. I also don’t think that children should have to suffer because of the decisions of their parents. For whatever reason, Horatio’s mother decided not to become a citizen. Now, Horatio has to pay for that decision.

Not only does Horatio have to pay, but, so does his family. His mother lost a son who could have helped her to move out of poverty. His three children will grow up without a father present. His younger siblings will lose the benefit of his guidance as they struggle to grow up in the inner city of Chicago. The losers are clear. The winners, much less so.

crossposted at: Stop Deportations Now!

July 1, 2010

Sundays at the public beach in Negril

If you are looking for the “real Jamaica,” you will have a hard time finding it in Negril – a touristy town on the westernmost end of Jamaica. That said, there is one beach in Negril where you will find more Jamaicans than foreign tourists – the public beach at the south-westernmost tip of Seven-Mile Beach.

It is quite remarkable that most tourists in Negril tend to stay within a 100-meter radius of their hotels. There are the adventurous few who take it upon themselves to walk up and down Seven-Mile Beach. Some of these tourists make it to the end where the public beach is, but almost none of them swim in this part of the beach. Because of this self-segregation, the public beach almost always has only Jamaicans. People who are not Jamaican at the public beach are almost always expatriates who are living in Negril – usually North American and English women with Jamaican boyfriends.

The public beach is about 200 meters from the closest hotel, thus making it beyond the normal radius of most tourists. It is the closest beach to the Negril River, which, at times, can make the water quite unpleasant. However, most days the water at the public beach is crystal clear, just like the water in the rest of Seven-Mile Beach. Unlike much of the rest of Seven-Mile Beach, the public beach has several trees which offer ample shade.

On Sundays, the public beach is a lively place where local DJs set up enormous speakers that blast out dancehall tunes for the listening pleasure of beachgoers and anyone close enough to hear. Families sit beneath one of the many trees and picnic. Kids jump and play in the water and teenagers show off their gymnastic abilities on the sand.

There is a restaurant/bar on the beach, currently operated by Sanchez, who is from Sav-la-Mar. Sanchez’s place serves up delicious food and ice-cold beverages at a fraction of the price of most places on the beach. You also can try the conch soup which is served by a local man right off of his bicycle. He has a gas tank on the back of the bicycle and a burner on the front, which ensures that the tasty soup is steaming hot all afternoon long.

Last Sunday, we spent a couple of hours at the beach with my kids. They had a great time running around with all of the other children there. This was a nice change, as we often go to the beach in Negril and there are few if any children around.

June 24, 2010

Should Untenured Professors Facebook?

Why would an untenured professor open up and actively use a Facebook account? There seems to be a lot of buzz going around about the pitfalls of Facebook for junior faculty. So, I will dedicate this blog entry to why I have chosen to join the ranks of the Facebook users.

Staying Connected
One of my main reasons for using Facebook is that, like many college professors, I live in the middle of nowhere, far from most people who are important to me. Lawrence, Kansas does have its charm as a college town. Nevertheless, I am a city girl at heart. And, if I can’t be in my hometown, Washington, DC, at least I can vicariously experience urban life through the status updates of my friends and family who still live there. Through this virtual portal, I feel a sense of connection to the city I am from. For me, feeling rooted in DC is important, even though I haven’t lived in DC in nearly a decade.

Writing Accountability
I also can use Facebook to get through the somewhat isolating work of academics. One way I do this is through online writing challenges. I post as my status update: “I am about to shoot for three hours of writing today… Anyone care to join me?” Within minutes, I might have a colleague from Texas, another from Kansas, and yet another from Chicago or DC join me. Later in the day, we can compare our accomplishments. Accountability is one of the best ways to get writing done, so this is a great strategy for me.

Sharing Pictures with Family and Friends
Although Facebook has its merits as a procrastination tool, I also can use it to save time. For example, when I wish to share a picture of my family, I don’t have to go through my email contact list and make a decision about who wants to see yet another picture of me and the kids. Instead, I post the pics on Facebook and whoever wishes to see them is free to do so, or not. I also don’t feel the need to email my Facebook “friends” to tell them I am still alive, as they are quite aware of that via my status updates.

Access to Expertise

Facebook also gives me constant access to a world of expertise. If I want to know which technological device can save me time, I post a request to Facebook. Within hours, I will have a slew of suggestions. If I am looking for a movie to show to my class on hip-hop and sexuality, I can post a request for advice, and, shortly, I will have a laundry list of suggestions. If I want to know if I need an iphone or a Blackberry, I post the question to my status and soon will have a variety of suggestions.

News Filter
Facebook also works as a news filter. Why sift through the news about the uprising in Honduras, when my Facebook friends who are area experts post links to news articles with the heading: “A must-read about the Honduran coup.” Others might post links with the heading: “Best article I have read on the Sotomayor hearing.” There’s the article to read on that one! And, I can return the favor when I come across articles in my areas of expertise.

Facebook is also a networking tool, and any academic should know the importance of strong and weak ties. Facebook works great for discovering “weak ties.” Recently, I wanted to meet the author of a successful book to ask her some questions about publishing. I looked her up on Facebook and discovered that we had two friends in common. I emailed one of them and asked for an introduction. Two days later, we were in direct email contact. If I have an article published in a scholarly journal or a political blog, I can post a link to it, and the 200-plus academics who I count among my “friends” have access to my latest work. I also advertise this blog on Facebook. More than half of the people who access this website access it through Facebook.

Of course, if you, like me, use Facebook for professional as well as personal purposes, it is wise to be judicious about what you post. So, I have a few rules I abide by.

1) No disparaging students on Facebook.
2) No allusions to illegal or unethical activity, even as a joke.
3) No direct attacks on my place of employment or those people who employ me.
4) No personal attacks.
5) No posting anything I wouldn’t be comfortable with the whole world seeing.
6) Delete comments from “friends” that I find distasteful.

Overall, I find Facebook to be a useful tool to keep me connected to my friends and family, whether I am in Lawrence, Kansas, Kingston, Jamaica, or Washington, DC.

June 18, 2010

Supreme Court Decision Points Toward the Need for Immigration Reform

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision that immigrants who are legally in the United States do not face automatic deportation for a minor drug offense. They still can be deported, but also can apply for cancellation of removal which would allow them to plead their case and argue that they merit staying in the United States.

This decision is an improvement over a punitive system where long-term residents of the United States have been deported for possession of small amounts of marijuana and prescription drugs. Nevertheless, the fact that Supreme Court justices have to determine that someone like Jose Angel Carachuri-Rosendo deserves a fair trial points to the need for a serious overhaul of the deportation regime.

Mr. Carachuri-Rosendo was brought to the United States from Mexico by his parents as a legal permanent resident when he was five years old. In 2004, he was sentenced to 20 days in jail for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. The next year, he was sentenced to ten days in jail for having a single tablet of Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, without a prescription. Because this amounts to two drug offenses, Mr. Carachuri-Rosendo was deemed an aggravated felon and faced mandatory detention and deportation. This means that he would not be allowed to argue that his crimes were fairly minor, that he has lived in the United States since he was five, that his mother, his common-law wife and four children are US citizens, and that he has few ties to Mexico. It still is not clear whether or not he will be deported, but at least now he has the chance to apply for cancellation of removal.

If Mr. Carachuri-Rosendo is granted relief from deportation, he will be allowed to remain in the United States with his family. If his request is denied, he will be one of the over 1,000 people that are deported each day. About one-third of deportees are deported for criminal offenses. Many are deported for relatively minor crimes, especially for drug violations.

According to ICE’s 2009 Immigration Enforcement Actions Report, 35.9 percent of people deported on criminal grounds in FY 2008 were deported for drug offenses. This amounts for 34,882 people deported for possession, selling, or smuggling drugs. A 2009 Human Rights Watch Report provides more detail and indicates that between 1997 and 2007, over 50,000 people were deported for simple drug or paraphernalia possession - 28,885 people were deported for the possession of cocaine, 11,063 for possession of marijuana, 6,492 for possessing amphetamines, 3,476 for possessing heroin, and 1,889 for possessing narcotic equipment.

Hopefully Mr. Carachuri-Rosendo’s case will set a precedent and families will not be torn apart because of minor drug convictions. More importantly, however, this case points to the need to overhaul current deportation policy to allow all deportees to have a fair trial.

Cross-posted at Counterpunch