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New York City
August 2001

A Children’s Story: Cycling Away the Day

The 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]

When 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 the radio.

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 Espańa.

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 English.

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 sauce.

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 to them.

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.


Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2001.


A Children’s Story: Cycling Away the Day

Learning English with English Jump Start at IS 119