Category Archives: People

No frills English learning: a Chinese nurse in the USA

Some years ago I worked with a Chinese nurse who I came to admire very much.
This is her story. She had a difficult family and living situation in China, where she was a doctor in a rural community, so she decided to go to the U.S.A. When she arrived in the U.S.A she knew only a few basic phrases and the alphabet.

She entered the U.S.A. illegally but eventually got her citizenship and became a nurse.( This would be impossible nowadays because now if you ever stay illegally in the U.S.A nowadays you never get your legal residency, much less citizenship). When she arrived in Chinatown in N.Y.C. she got a job in an art gallery in the Chinese community . She bought three books, a Chinese English dictionary, a Chinese English medical dictionary, and a practice book for taking the NCLEX ,which is the official test to become a nurse in the United States. She looked at the nursing test questions and translated them word by word. She was teaching herself English at the same time she was preparing for the U.S.A nursing exam. For three years, after work, in any spare moment she had, she kept learning English and studying to become a nurse , word by word, on her own.

After three years she wanted to give up. It was so hard, she lived in such a small room, and she missed her daughter terribly. So for two months she stopped studying. Then after some time had passed she began to change her mind; she thought , ¨I have spent a lot money on the three books and most of all I want to do this for my family and daughter in China¨, so she started studying again.

About a years she was able to pass all the tests required to become a U.S.A nurse and a U.S.A. citizen, and you can be sure that doing all of that is not simple. Some years later she was able to bring her daughter live with her  in Queens , N.Y.C.

She is someone I will always remember , because despite many supposed barriers, she was persistent , and after much hard work was able to create a nice life for herself and her daughter. Congratulations to you Ms.W. !!!


Marbles. A birthday rememberance.


“That guy is as sharp as a marble.¨

That´s the kind of wisecrack my late brother Nemo (Tom) used to make.

If someone asked him a personal question, he would quip back  “Are you writing a book?¨ If you answered “Yes” he would say ¨Well, leave that chapter out.” Remarks  like these were his style and although he  acted like a tough guy construction worker, he was very kind hearted. For example , no matter how he was feeling , when elderly neighbors would call him in the middle of the night to help them get up  after they had fallen, and he would go right over.

He loved riding his bike on the boardwalk and cast fishing on the beach . Some years ago he liked to go out on the fishing boats that leave from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn and he loved taking his niece and nephews to  Great Adventure in the summer when they came to visit. He was proud to be a member of a chapter of the NYC carpenters union. He was sharp as a tack , almost to the end. I was grateful to be at his bedside as he took his last breath.

Happy 50th Birthday Tommy!!  September 25th!!  You are always in my heart.