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Our readers write from Petaluma, California

(Editor's note: Viridiana is a student in Frances Frazier's ESL class at Petaluma Adult School.)

My experience being an immigrant

by Viridiana

I'm a 23 years old Mexican woman, who came here 4 months ago to learn and practice the English language and what better way than going to a country where their first language is English. I chose California because I have a lot of family living all around the state. I knew since the beginning that it wouldn't be difficult because there is a big group of Latinos living here, and probably I have spoken more Spanish than English, but I have learned so much and I'm happy with my decision.

I flew to San Francisco and lived in a lot of cities while I was visiting family. I went to cities like Lancaster, close to Los Angeles, Turlock, Union City, Hayward, Stockton, and Roh-nert Park where I have been staying most of the time.

One of the things I first noticed was the big mix of cultures of all parts of the world. It has been fascinating that you are walking on the streets and hear people talking in different lan-guages, wearing different types of clothing, having different beliefs, food, accents and everyone respecting that.

I have to say that I'm thankful for all the good treats that I've had in my visit. People have been nice, patient and supportive every time I try to figure out how to say something that I don't know how to translate. Everyone helps each other, wishes you a good day, and smiles at you. I don't know if is because I'm always happy that I get the same responses from people, but I haven't met a single bad person or had bad treatment in any way.

One thing that I dare to say is that the USA is a country of crazy people, but crazy happy people, at least in California, and don't take it in a bad way. I mean crazy because if you want to do or wear or say something, you do it, and don't mess with the craziness of others. You respect how people are. This is something that I wasn't used to seeing. From where I am from, Mexico, we attempt to point at the differences, to look at them weird and make them feel bad for being different.

You love dogs, animals, plants and anything alive, and there are rules for teaching you how to respect these things.

Since I have to tell you as much as I can about my experience being an immigrant, I have to tell you about how it has been with the elections and the new president too. Hard times have come for this beautiful country. A lot of bad comments and bad decisions have been awakening bad behavior in people against immigrants. I haven't suffered any of this. But I'm afraid if I ex-perienced it, I wouldn't know how to react. I'm afraid of what might happen when I go back to my country. Maybe the immigrant department will take my visa away just because the president says it. Then I couldn't come back to see my family or friends again. I'm afraid that the people who are not legally here who I love, could suffer something in the future.

But I admire all the strength and fighting spirit of the people. This is making them strong-er. I'm sure that Americans will never give in to racism and that this will keep on being the land of freedom and opportunities.