Nicolas's Site
Clarkston, Georgia was a regular southern town, until several global refugee organizations decided to relocate people fleeing war-torn countries there. Clarkston soon became one of the United States’ most culturally diverse cities, but with the refugees also came a set of new obstacles and hardships for the old residents of Clarkston as well as the newcomers. The author traveled to Clarkston to document a story about the Fugees, a soccer team founded by Luma Mufleh, who is a Jordanian immigrant, designed specifically for refugee boys living in Clarkston. The book tells of the many obstacles that this team faced throughout their first two seasons in 2005 and 2006, and how they overcame these obstacles together as a team. Another author who had to travel to a different part of the country in order to write a story was Barbara Bradley Hagerty. She went to Berkeley, California to write about Zaytuna College; a college designed specifically for people of the Islamic faith. There she found that the perseverance and dedication of a few people brought joy and a sense of belonging to many others. Both St. John and Bradley expressed through their works, Outcasts United and New College Teaches Young American Muslims, that all people regardless of race, religion, or economic status can achieve success.  
Success is the overcoming of obstacles to reach a predetermined goal in life. For example, I have the goals of studying medicine at the University of Alberta and moving to Seattle, Washington. I will have to overcome several obstacles before I can succeed at my goals, they include not having enough money, being away from home, enduring the cold climates of Edmonton and Seattle, and not knowing anyone in those places. The main character in the book experienced a similar obstacle to mine. Luma had to start her soccer program from scratch, but because the parents of the boys had just immigrated into the U.S., they didn’t have money to pay Luma. She really wanted to start the program, but she “couldn’t fund” it and “hardly had time to spare”(St. John 51). Luma went on to work together with the YMCA and the Clarkston Community Center in order to start her soccer academy. Zaytuna College students want to succeed in life, but they have a huge obstacle ahead of them, and that is how the rest of the world views them as a Muslim college. As one of the students put it, “Anything can be misconstrued”(Bradley). The students are trepid that anything out of the ordinary that they do in their college might cause other people in the country to worry about the purpose Zaytuna College. Even though both texts displayed the obstacles of two very different groups of people, they inspired me, as an immigrant, to continue pursuing my goals and overcoming my obstacles regardless of my race, religion, or economic status.

I liked how the book Outcasts United was written. It was like watching a documentary made by one person, because it was written in first person, chronological order, and contained several flashbacks and interviews. It started off slow, talking only about Luma and her life before starting the soccer team. As time passed more and more characters began to appear as they immigrated into the U.S., each character brought a new story with them, which only caused the plot to thicken more and more. In the end everything is tied up, from Luma’s background as a player and a young coach, to the players’ life, and the formation and structure of the Fugees. The author sometimes used complex and smart words, but other times he used slang, which caused the text to have different connotations at different places throughout the book. This was evident when describing a man in one of the fields where the Fugees played as having a “joint in his hand” (St. John 114). The use of such a word indicates that the man was young and informal. Instead of that word the author could have used the term marijuana cigarette. The use of slang and curse words made this book less cogent, however the plot made it an interesting and vehement piece of literature.

As I read both texts I learned more things than just lessons about success. From Outcasts United I learned about a soccer team from the area where one of my parents works, as well as several new soccer tactics, which I have never thought about but in the book they worked. I even learned some Swahili when Grace and Bien were talking. “Yes” in Swahili is “Ndiyo” and “Do you speak Swahili?” is “Unasema Kiswahili?”(St. John 74). From the article about Zaytuna College I learned about Hamza Yusuf, a popular Muslim preacher who I have never heard of before but who supports the idea of the founding of Zaytuna College. The lessons that I learned from both works can be used as future references in other things that I will do later on in my life.

Both texts are well constructed and well put together. I thought that the author of Outcasts United was great, and I will definitely read other books by him. I loved how he introduced every character and did not focus on any single character, which prevented it from being tedious. I also liked the way both raconteurs used facts about their topics to add to their writing. What really enhanced their texts was the way they presented the obstacles faced by people in their books: those students in Zaytuna College, and the newcomers to Clarkston, Georgia.

Outcasts United 09/09/2010
"They were barefoot but they were having such a good time!" This was the first thought that ran across Luma al Mufleh's mind when she saw a couple of Sudanese boys playing soccer in a parking lot of an old apartment complex in Clarkston, GA. She is the main character in the book I am reading, which is titled "Outcasts United" by Warren St. John. This is the story of Luma, a Lebanese immigrant who lives in Clarkston. She founded a soccer program for young boys living in Clarkston; they happened to be refugees from these war-torn countries: Sudan, Afghanistan, Congo, Liberia, and Iraq. Within the program, the boys made new friends with other boys who were congenial with them. I have enjoyed the seven chapters that I have read so far, primarily because I like soccer, and this book is about a soccer program. Since the characters in the story are immigrants, I like how the story doesn't focus as much on one single character, but rather different characters because even though they are all immigrants, they have different ethnic backgrounds and different reasons to come to the U.S. 

People come from different countries and ethnic backgrounds, and have different races and religions; nevertheless, they should come as one when doing something they all enjoy. When placing the boys in groups for practice drills, Luma would say, "I need a Liberian there, with a Congolese, an Afghan, and an Iraqi." This type of grouping allowed the boys to make new friends of other religions and races, and kept them from siding with people who just speak their language, or come from the same place as them. "We're all foreigners, and this is a team where everybody unites," said an Ethiopian player when interviewed by the book's author. The boys understood what Luma was trying to do, and they soon made new friends with people who were so different from them ethnically, yet so similar on the pitch (field).
The film “Il Postino” summarized all that Pablo Neruda was about. He wrote his poetry with rich figurative language. Neruda is known for his metaphors, because they sound real passionate, and that’s the way he felt about life. He treasured life, and he treasured what he had. The film displays Neruda as a loving and passionate man, who cared not only about his lover, but also about his friends, family, and the nature that surrounded him. With extremely descriptive words, Neruda could make anything seem beautiful and sensual. In his poetry, Pablo Neruda also displayed his political and moral views indirectly. His communist stance was interpreted whenever he talked about a lower class person, describing him or her as an arduous worker who was nothing less than the wealthiest person.

When dealing with long-distance relationships, communication between the two parties can be the difference between abandonment and remembrance. When Pablo left for Chile, he sent a letter to Mario via his secretary. The failure to communicate directly from Pablo caused Mario to believe that his relationship with Pablo was strictly professional, and nothing personal. Also, Beatrice’s aunt told Mario, “The bird that has eaten flies away.” This quote represents what everyone thought Pablo had done. They thought that he had taken as much advantage of the island’s natives as possible, and then had forgotten them.

Higher classed people will often overlook people in lower classes. Pablo was amazed at how the people living in the island never revolted or protested against the government for the lack of water. Pablo wanted to spread his communist ideas to Mario, and get him and the other people in the island to overlook class, and focus more on the basic needs of a person and their rights. When the politician’s finally decided to take action on the island’s water problem, they left and never finished the original project. Beatrice and her aunt however did complete their part of the deal, which was to feed the workers while they worked on the water issue. This demonstrates how the higher classes usually take advantage of the lower classes.

Anyone with a pen and an open mind can write poetry. It doesn’t take much to be a poet, and that’s what Mario understood when he said, “The whole world is the metaphor to something else.” To write poetry, one must have an open mind, and see the natural comparisons in the real world. By doing so Mario wrote excellent poems, even though he wasn’t a renowned poet; he was just a fisherman. Mario told Pablo, “Poetry doesn’t belong to those who write it, but to those who need it.” What he meant to say was that anyone could use poetry to fix the problems in their life, but that poetry doesn’t have to be thought by the individual who is in need. Again he states that not only can anyone write poetry, but everyone could also use it in his or her daily lives.

S- Summary:
Tomatoes are awesome, for at harvest time there is nothing better to eat than a tomato. In a deeper sense, it represents what normal things mean to people in need of them.

S- Shifts:
Shifts from talking about tomatoes to talking about other foods, such as onions, oil, pepper, parsley, and potatoes.

T- Title:
It is a dedication to the humble tomato, which even though is depreciated by common people, it is treasured by others.

T- Theme:
People must esteem everything in life, as insignificant as it may seem.

I- Imagery:
"Summer light is halved like a tomato" = Day parted in half, it is noon.
"Tomato invades the kitchen" = Tomatoes are everywhere.
"It sheds its own light" = Tomatoes radiate with beauty.
"We must murder it" = Exaggerating the slicing of tomatoes.
"It is wed to the clear onion" = It complements the taste of onions nicely.

C- Connotations:
"Red viscera" = Guts (Violent).
"Fiery color" = Vibrant, passionate.
"Bubble vigorously" = Bubble aggressively.
"Hemispheres" = Makes a tomato seem large and monumental.

C- Conflict:
Man vs. Nature - Pablo expresses his love towards tomatoes.
Man vs. Man - In this poem, tomatoes indirectly represent the common man, causing Pablo to indirectly have a conflict with man.
Original Poem II 08/31/2010
By Nicolas V. 

We are sitting on these railroad tracks, 
in the outskirts of Vancouver. 
It's winter, and we're freezing, 
but we have each other to keep us warm. 

Surrounded by a white a blanket of snow, 
we look up at a billion stars. 
It's dark, 
and the only light that helps me see your face
is contributed by the moon. 

Then nature took the sky, and used it as a canvas. 
It painted the most beautiful picture 
that I have ever seen.

A stroke of green, 
some red, 
some white was added, 
as well as a touch of blue.

The wind whispered into our ears, 
as we witnessed how
the aurora borealis faded 
into the darkness of the night.

Original Poem I 08/31/2010
By Nicolas V.

Like a citrus fruit,
you are sweet and acrid at the same time.
Some people find it difficult,
to deal with you,
but like a stick shift car,
some don't know how to work with you,
however, I do.

You are a mermaid encountered by Odysseus,
for when you sing, you put a spell on me.
You capture me, and you don't want me to go,
But what I want you to know is
that I don't want to go.

Photo Poem 08/31/2010
By Nicolas V. 

We trickled down together, 
We landed with a big splash, 
And mother nature decided to 
Separate us. 

I wish we were back together, 
Like those nights in the blue ocean, 
But when the sky turned grey, 
These memories went away.

I must now be intrepid,
and jump from my leaf to yours,
because even though we're next to each other,
there is a gap in between us.

We used to be one drop,
but now we are torn apart.
By Nicolas V.

I wish I had known you better,
You had an acumen for singing, however,
Your mouth is a secret love letter,
Sealed forever.

I can see you, even though you're not here.
I can hear you, even though you're not talking anywhere near.
I can feel you, even though you're gone now, dear.

People made fun of you, so you used to hide,
But to me, you are a watermelon,
Rough and ugly on the outside,
But on the inside sweet and nice, not a felon.

I thank you for the things you taught me,
Especially, how to dance.
When I dance like you I feel free
I wish you were here, I wish life gave you a second chance.

I thought the media was just trying to confuse,
To spread gossip during a hot and sticky day in June,
But later came the terrible news,
That you had passed away at noon.

Your daughter's words at your funeral touched me,
Like Michelangelo made Adam touch God,
I felt a connection to you through the TV,
It was rather strange and odd.

I will continue dancing for as long as I am able to,
I understand that life is a cycle,
And your death, we cannot undo,
Oh, dear Michael.

Of all the poems by Pablo Neruda that I read, "Ode To My Socks" was by far the best one. It talks about a benevolent woman who gave the speaker a pair of socks. Because it was winter, and the speaker had no socks, he treasures them, and writes vehemently about them in this poem. I like the deep meaning of this poem. Some people don't realize how fortunate they are to have so many things. Something as insignificant as a pair of socks can mean a lot to someone who doesn't have any. This poem makes me want to give thanks for all that I have.
By Pablo Neruda

Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself with her sheepherder's hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as if they were two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin,
Violent socks,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.

Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.