A Children’s Story: Cycling
Away the Day
ADAM BEN SIMCHA
immigrant experience is a wonderful opportunity for children to
understand the complexities of intergenerational relationships,
to become part of a new society, and to learn how different cultures
can complement each other. In the school environment, building
lessons around short stories and authentic literature underscores
phonics skills in a whole language setting while bringing life
to the language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science
curricula. Most importantly, reading helps build a more informed
society. [Ed: Modern Languages section]
Diego was young, he lived in Colombia. Diego lived in coffee-growing
country, where there are beautiful tall mountains and deep tropical
valleys. Few people could ride bicycles because there was very
little flat land and the roads had many cars.
Diego always dreamt of riding a bicycle like his hero, Lucho Herrera.
Lucho Herrera was a famous cyclist from Colombia.
Lucho was famous inside and outside of Colombia. Diego and other
people who lived near the places where Lucho trained watched him
practice climbing up and speeding down the steep and curvy roads
of the Andes Mountains.
In far-away places, Lucho rode in many races. Diego read about
him in the newspaper and listened to people talk about him on
Lucho didn’t win every time, but Diego knew that Lucho tried his
hardest. Lucho rode all over the world in races, including the
Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.
Diego is 70 years old now. He moved to the United States to be
with his daughter. He learned how to ride a bicycle. Diego loves
to see the neighborhood on his bicycle. He rides four hours each
day. In the morning, he rides his bike to school, where he studies
Diego’s wife, Dora, also studies English at the school. She goes
with Diego on her tricycle. They help each other. When Dora gets
a flat tire, Diego fixes it with a patch. If they stop at the
market, Dora places the items they bought in her tricycle’s basket.
When Dora and Diego come home from school, they eat lunch and
relax. Sometimes they eat sancocho, a hearty soup made
with chicken, fish, or oxtail and yucca, potato, onion, green
plantain, corn on the cob, and cilantro. Other days they eat beans
and rice, accompanied by cabbage and tomato salad with a pinch
of salt and the juice squeezed from a lemon or lime.
Dora’s favorite dish is arroz con pollo. Dora and Diego
work together to boil and shred the chicken, season and steam
the rice, throw in green beans, yellow onions, scallions, red
and green peppers, capers, and carrots, and add a touch of tomato
After they eat lunch, Diego loves to take a siesta. While Diego
sleeps, Dora does her homework or sews colorful quilts.
Late in the afternoon, Diego takes care of the plants in the garden.
He talks to his oak tree, makes sure his star fruit tree is watered,
and fertilizes his majestic palm.
During the summer, Diego mows the lawn often. He places the grass
clippings in a compost pile and uses a shovel to turn the pile
over. The compost makes the best fertilizer because it doesn’t
harm the environment. The fruits and vegetables Diego grows are
sweeter and bigger than the ones he and Dora buy at the market.
In little pots, Diego has bonsai trees of many types: royal poincianas,
dahoon hollies, gumbo limbos, lychees, junipers, ferns, and ficuses.
He also takes great care of his other plants, like the fragrant
snowy gardenia, the golden marigolds, the pink carnations, and
the burgundy tis that adorn the ground, as well as the fiery bougainvilleas
that hang over the fence.
Late each afternoon, Diego rides his bike through the neighborhood’s
alleys. Sometimes his canine friend Rover runs alongside.
Diego rides his bike 20 blocks to his favorite store to meet his
friends. He locks his bike to a lamp post, buys a cup of coffee,
practices speaking English with the store clerk, and plays chess
or cards with some friends. Then he unlocks his bike and starts
to return home.
On his way home, he rides through alleys to look for interesting
plants that people don’t want to keep. He takes the plant cuttings
and pots them. His neighbors and friends ask Diego if they can
buy his plants. Although Diego says no, he usually gives his plants
Sometimes Diego sells his plants to landscapers. Landscapers need
to buy dozens of plants to make their customers’ yards very attractive.
The landscapers can buy their plants from Diego at a much lower
price than from nurseries.
Diego divides the money he earns from selling his plants between
his son who still lives in Colombia and the school where he studies
English. This way he knows that he helps other people learn English.
And late every Friday night, he tip-toes quietly into his daughter’s
room. He places freshly cut miniature red, yellow, violet, and
pink roses, whose flowers are the size no larger than a quarter,
into a delicate little glass vase. Beaming from ear to ear, he
whispers gently that he is thankful for all she has done for him.
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