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The Gunston Gazette

                             Writer’s  Workshop  Class  of  2012   Hewlett-­‐Packard  

1St Edition    

Table of Contents A Different World by Marcus Zhang..........................3 Where the Sunrise Meets the Rising Sun by Kota Hirao .............................................................6 International Students: Gunston Survival 101 by Vicky Lao .............................................................8 A Cold Night in February by Catherine Davis.........11 From a Distance by Nick Hoxter .............................13 My Inner Weird by Brandon Walls ..........................15 A Self Made Man by Marie Maness…………………...18              



A Different World by Marcus Zhang

I have been in America for more than a year, and during this time I have seen a lot of things that are very different from China. I have also found a new way of life, tasting different foods, enjoying the different campus’ life, and finding a new idea that life needs to be enjoyed rather than being a blind pursuit of achievement. I also learned that life’s dream is created by individuals, not by the majority. This is what I have learned from my American education. On the other hand, I still admire some parts of China because the Chinese always work hard to do their best and make their dreams come true, even in the face of seemingly impossible challenges. First, let us focus on education and explain my feelings. At Gunston, some Americans treat us like study machines; in an AP Calculus class almost all of the students are Chinese except for two Americans. Really, many Chinese students are in love with mathematics and only want to study this subject. At my Chinese school, the Number 11 High School of Wuhan, some people cried or worried about their parents scolding them just because they cannot get one hundred on exam. Weekends for them are just like school days. They have to take many extra

from getting a great score. Even on weekends they will have more assignments or classes than on a regular weekday. The first goal for many Chinese students is join a wonderful college since their parents have instilled in them that great achievement and graduating from a famous college can make life better than their parents’ situation. I believe this. Many Chinese students want to go to America to study. Maybe they were influenced by some news or movies, because Chinese students treat American school like a harbor, and they think American education is very easy. In contrast to Chinese education, it like a paradise: less homework, less pressure. To be honest, the original reason why I came America to study was that. However, in my experience, I think people misunderstand American education and I even regretted my choice in the first semester because the life was totally different from my hopes. Here there is still much pressure waiting for us, and if people want to apply to a great college they have to spend a lot of energy. In China, the main way that teachers distinguish whether or not a student is a good student or a bad student is simply through looking at their grades. In America, by contrast, the teachers and the school seem to treat students like individuals, and value them for a wider variety of talents like sports or other interests. Since China has many people, the competition is fierce, and it creates a lot of pressure for every people. Ultimately, this is the biggest different between the Chinese and American education system. In America, what I miss the most is Chinese food. If people want me to compare which one is best, I will definitely say that Chinese food is the best in the world. Many people ask me to evaluate whether food tastes

“Some people cried or worried about their parents scolding them just because they cannot get one hundred on exam.” classes to complement their brain because they are worried about lacking some knowledge in class that would prevent them


good or bad this depends on each individual because everyone’s taste is not same. Now, let me explain why I say this. Making Chinese food takes much time and requires a number of steps. Some dishes are to made from picked material and through steam cooking and frying. Thus, it takes at least one hour to finish a meal for three people. So cuisine for Chinese is knowledge. I am a good cook and before I left China for America, I made a luxuriant dinner for my parents. First, I went to the supermarket to pick some material that took around an hour. Then I went home to start cooking. I almost spent the whole afternoon finishing this meal. One of the most impressive dishes to prepare is called Tangchupaigu, which is like sweet and sour pork chops. It takes many steps to make it. I put ginger oil and chops on the pan and continue to stir fry to remove the moisture from the ribs, and then put lots of water and vinegar to get the sour taste immersed in the ribs. When the water dried off, I repeated the process again at the same time, added some salt and soy sauce and continued to wait until the water dried off, then repeated the second process again. I then put sugar and other condiments when the water was about to dry up. Such a Tangchupaigu is completed after one hour. The more time it takes to make something, the higher the quality; this is why Chinese food is superior in my opinion. In America, many people do not focus on taste, instead they are focused on what is filling. To make Pizza, for instance, one just needs to put some material on the surface and put it into oven. One pizza can have a lot of people share and sometimes, Americans do not even make lunch. They just eat some oatmeal or bread to fill their stomach. So that is why I think Chinese food is the most delicious food. Many Americans do not like Chinese food because in America there are not many real Chinese food restaurants to give people a true taste. Courtesy is part of morality, and is something by which we evaluate whether a person is good or bad. So courtesy is the most important element in morality. Americans and Chinese have different ways of


expressing courtesy. In China, if people walk on the street and see strangers, they are not going to greet, just pass. But if they meet some friends they will be passionate about expressing a greeting. In America, even when people see strangers they still give a smile or say something. This may give the other person a good impression. Whereas I think the smile is not a true smile and is not expressing from the heart, so I feel it is a little hypocritical. In this example, I think Chinese people are expressing something more authentic, because it comes from the heart and is not trying to hide the truth. However, this expression may offend many people. Therefore some people do not accept this way. Explaining courtesy, the interesting thing is that in China if friends gather to eat dinner in a restaurant, people are always scrambling to pay. This not only proves who is richer, but shows who is more generous. Sometimes, scrambling to pay may take more than ten minutes, and if children see this scene they will become confused. Contrarily, in America, people always pay their respective bills, and sometimes people ask others to check the bill. Thus, there are many differences between the habits and culture of China and America. However, besides culture, the social structure is also a radical part of the two countries. Some people say America is like a diamond that includes the top, middle, and bottom in its social structure, with the top representing the wealthy people, the middle meaning the middle class, and the bottom are the paupers. America is mostly middle class, where the difference between people is not great. Chinese social structure is dissimilar, like a triangle. That means polarization where rich people are rich, paupers are poor and we do not have a middle class. When I see American society, I think China should solve the current problem and reduce the distance between people. In spite of the great differences between China and America, I believe these two

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countries can complement each other. As humans and technology advance, the world will become smaller and smaller. Through


studying together and helping each other, people will improve and reach the pinnacle of history.

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Where the Sunrise meets the Rising Sun

by Kota Hirao Food and Clothes

play rugby for them. One thing that really has interested me while I have been here is the music. I absolutely love American music. It is way better than Japanese music in my opinion. Music is a big part of my life because I listen to it every day. It makes me happy when I am feeling sad and it can keep me from getting angry. In Japan people don’t normally listen to music; they will listen to the news or listen to a talk show. I feel that this is one of the reasons why so many people in Japan are frequently stressed. I feel as if the Japanese people would relax and take a break, there would be not so much stress. A lot of the kids in Japan never take the time to relax with their friends and they are always worried about school work and homework. That is one big difference between the cultures.

Japan and America are very different in many ways. After being in America for a year as an exchange student, I have seen many things that interest me and that would be considered strange in my home country. One thing that really interests me is the fashion style. In Japan, people normally wear darker colors, long pants and/or jeans even when it is hot outside. Here I see people all the time wearing shorts when it is winter—which is crazy. Many of the foods I eat in Japan would be considered strange in America like yakisoba which is beef and noodles in a thick sauce. This a very popular food dish in my country. Also, we eat more than three meals a day because we eat small portions whenever we are hungry instead of having a large meal to fill us up right away. In America, drive-thrus seem to be very popular because they are quick and easy.

When I first came to America as an exchange student, one thing I really liked was being able to wrestle. My host brother wrestles and I tried it for a year but decided that Rugby was my main sport and I wanted to stick strictly to that. I also tried lacrosse while I was here which is fun because they do not have it in Japan. I really like this sport because it reminds me of rugby. I get to run and hit people which I really like to do in sports.

Sports and Music Sports are a big part of my country and it is the same in America. In Japan, I play rugby which is a semi-popular sport. I have played for the past two years and it is by far my favorite sport. Also, I will be applying to the University of Maryland where I hope to


because they were afraid their English would be bad and that people wouldn’t understand them. However, their English is good, but this does not help them.

My dad is a very famous coach in Japan for rugby which is like being a professional football coach in America. In America I see that people fill the stadiums and they scream and yell for 3 hours straight. Whereas in a Japanese rugby game, fans only yell and cheer when something good is happening. This is the same for baseball. When I go to a baseball game in Japan it is always so quiet until there is a good play made or a homerun hit. Then everyone gets on their feet and is yelling and screaming. I like how in America no matter what is going on in the game everyone gets fired up.

Teachers The final thing that is a big difference between Japan and American is that teachers are very different. I really like how here in America the teachers are more involved and they help you out when you truly do not understand the material. For example, here at Gunston we have 8th period for students who need help studying but most Japanese school don’t have 8th period for students. Teachers don’t make as much time to help students. In Japan, teachers like to give a lot of work and expect students to have it turned in early or the exact second a student walks in the door. This is a big part of why so many kids In Japan are stressed all the time. If you talk to a lot of the kids in Japan they will tell you they can’t take anything else to deal with because they already have so much work piled onto them.

Transportation In Japan, people are always riding the metro no matter where they live because it is a cheap and a fast way of transport. We have one very nice train called a bullet train which travels at speeds up to 240 mph. This is a really good way of transport because it is comfortable and very safe. Many people use this when traveling to see relatives because they can sleep and take naps and do not have to worry about the stress and complications of driving. One thing that I really like about America is that I will be able to drive at 16 whereas in Japan, I can’t drive until I am 18. I really don’t like this because I can’t go anywhere with my friends unless I ride the metro. Social Life I really think that America offers a strong social life. In Japan, it is much more about work and school. A lot of the people that came over to America with me in my exchange program are not really outgoing. They have lived in Japan their entire life, and it is very hard for them to be outgoing. When they came to America, I think they were really scared to try and make friends

I really like the culture of America. I feel like it gives parents and kids more of an opportunity for success without the constant worry of work and school. Overall, I think that if I had to choose a place to live for the rest of my life it would definitely be America.


International Students: Gunston Survival 101 By Vicky Lao Introduction!

Gunston students, because you need to be welcomed by the different, amazing, and memorable new tradition. You are sitting in a small, white boat which will take you to the port of the school. During the time sitting in the boat, you enjoy the landscape of two different sides of hills, mountains, and waterfront. You are amazed by the natural beauty; I was surprised by the view, at least. And then, you are welcomed by all Gunston students and teachers by shaking hands and introducing each other, which is the most wonderful and heart-warming part of the rite of welcoming new students. It is hearttouching for everybody to get to know each other on the first day of the school, but it is not limited to communicating with people who are only in your grade. You guys need to line up one by one and shake hands with old Gunston students. A fun thing from shaking hands and introducing hands with you guys is that you change your names like, “Hi, my name is Jake.” “Hi, I am Mark,” but my real name is Vicky. And the next time, when the new student meets you and says “Hi, Mark”, and you don’t answer him because you know Mark is not your name, you ignore her for you don’t think he is calling you. This is a really funny game between all students and we have so much fun.

Boys and girls, you are carrying your luggage on your own, comparing your airline tickets to your friends’, saying goodbye to your family, and then, stepping into the airplane, excited and curious to reach your destination. During the plane trip, you might get lost in the huge airport while transferring from flight to flight. Furthermore, when you are going though the US Customs, you might, I guess, be too nervous to answer questions from officer accurately, and you might not answer the question they are asking. When the officer asks, “How are you today?”, you misheard that he is asking, “How old are you,” and then you will answer him: “I am 16 now.” However, having gone through blunders you are now clapping hands for yourself, because you made it!!!! You have taken at least one significant step in your lives and I am so proud of you guys!

Mrs. Shepardson She is a respectful, beautiful, interesting, and funny female teacher at Gunston. Everyone loves her so much that students love to talk about Mrs. Shep. Also, there are a lot of interesting conversations with her. “Ms. Shep,I love you.” “…..” “Ms. Shep, I love you. Do you love me?” “No.” “Ms. Shep, are you mad at me?” “No.”

First day of the school Look at you, I bet you did not sleep well or sleep at all before the night of the first day of school. This is fine, for nervousness is good thing which means you care about something and it is important for you. At the very beginning of today, you will not walk into the classroom and have your class first. You are separated from the returning


“Ms. Shep, you don’t love me?” “Mr. Shep, could I give you a hug?” .”….” “Mr. Shep, don’t you love me?” “….” (You are actually driving me crazy!) “Mr. Shep.”

reason to be scared is that you absolutely know you need to start your new life here as a zero, which is so hard for you and you fear to face the unknown future. Everything disappears back at home but you have to build it up again here in the USA. For instance, when you are staring at an American girl for a second and you finally remember that she is the girl who is sitting next to you in the science or math class. You are about to say her name and say hi to her. She, however, is chatting with her friends and does not listen to you. At this moment, you might feel a little bit heartbroken, but trust me, you can make friends here and enjoy your friendship. However, you have to smile at everyone you know or you don’t know and say hi to them. Being polite is essential and showing your politeness is more essential.

Vacation Coming to the US, you find there are a lot of holidays celebrated during one year, such as Spring Break, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Columbus Day. More excitedly, we count snow days into vacation. We don’t have to go school on these days. Also, sometimes we have foggy days where we will have a two-hour delay, so you can sleep two hours more or engage in some other entertainment. Snow days are the happiest days for us as we can stay all day at home and relax. Like last year, we did not have to take the first day of exams on a snow day because the road was too slippery to drive the car on. Therefore, the exam day was delayed and rescheduled onto the test makeup day three days after the snow day. Two Christmases before, we had no school for ten continuous days but school did not make it up. Gunston might make it up but it was during the summer when we international students were back home which meant we had a little “vacation” before Christmas. And last year, we had almost a week of no school days which was not continuous, and we did not make it up this year, although school talked about making up but they did not finally. You can yell “hurray” when you don’t have school on snowy days, but nevertheless be careful, you might have to make these days up in the end of the school. I guess, you might rather to go to school on snow days rather than sleep at home.

“you absolutely know you need to start your new life here as a zero, which is so hard for you and you fear to face the unknown future” As the time goes by, a lot of people at Gunston know you and you will chat with them. The more time they talk with you, the more intimate you and your friends will be. Recollecting my first year at Gunston, I did not talk a lot with my American classmates for I did not feel I had interesting things to chat about and I was afraid students here did not understand my poor oral English. However, after one month, students who had the same classes with me found that I am talkative and asked me why I did not talk with them, also they thought at first I did not want to chat with them. But the truth is that I was too shy and not heart-opening enough. This works the same with friends you meet outside of Gunston. You need to talk to others first which shows you are interested in talking to them. Remember, don’t be shy so others will see you don’t like them or you just don’t have interest chatting with them.

Friendship You must be lonely here, I guess, for you don’t know anybody and you don’t have any friends or family here which causes you to be a little bit panicked and scared. The


tell your friends, host family, or Ms. Vooris, and one solution is that they can take you on the days they are going to shopping, and the other solution is that you can pay the gas fee for the person who you ask to go to the mall.

Chinese New Year/Homesickness/International day No kidding here, on the day of Chinese New Year, we international students gather together to have a Chinese meal with their host families in Mr. Lewis’ house. Also, we will watch the Chinese show especially for the Chinese New Year. The reason I think we were having Chinese food and watching Chinese shows is that the number of Chinese students is the highest. You might want to cry or miss home because on the Chinese New Year’s Eve, you are supposed to have a wonderful dinner if you are at home. You are welcome to call home (on your phone). We did it last year which was so memorable (although the lunch was not as delicious as at your home, it is made with love.) Last year’s Chinese New Year we had Chinese fried rice cooked by Ms, Shep and lots of Chinese snacks provided by Hongyi. I ate lots of oranges, and Mrs. Lewis let me bring some of them home with me. Moreover, International day is the day when International students show their skills and interesting events with their American friends. Some students danced, played erhu or other instruments. The most fantastic thing on the International Day is that students are asked to bring a dish from their homes to Gunston. Therefore, we could try different dishes from different places without travelling.


You are getting used to it here, starting your new life here and oh, soon, one year passes and you are flying back to China but you wait excitedly to come back.

Entertainment Entertainment and activities are different between your home country and here. The main reason for this is the differences of status of where people live. International students are mostly from urban areas. Gunston is rural, which is so different that you might not get used to it at the beginning. Here you actually live a rural life, and you cannot go to the big cities unless you have a car, or you have to ask your host family to take you to wherever you want to go, which frustrates you. So, if you really want to go somewhere, let’s say the Mall in Annapolis,


A Cold Night in February by Catherine Davis

It was one of those dry, cold nights. Crisp and clear outside. The type of night an astronomer would love; the stars were doing what they do best. Never mind the cold though, I was nice and snuggly warm inside watching Law and Order: SVU. Alongside that entertaining television was a television of a different kind, a television hooked up to a live video feed of very, very pregnant animals of the equine species. This is my grandfather’s business. He is a vet, who specializes in equine reproduction. For a number of years my family has been involved in the horse racing industry. My grandfather helped found a number of thoroughbred racing farms, and he is an expert on helping to make mares more fertile. Some of these horses carry a pretty hefty price tag, anywhere from one thousand to over one million dollars in that swollen abdomen of theirs. Sitting in the lazy boy, I flit my eyes back and forth from one TV to the other. Christopher Meloni. Four black and gray horses just standing there. Mariska Hargitay. More standing horses. Police busting in an apartment. One, two... three standing horses. The fourth mare was my mother’s own, All the Words was her name,

and I knew she was carrying a highly potential racing star. I grabbed my grandfather’s coat off the hook and slipped on some two sizes too big muck shoes. Grabbing a flashlight out the door, I remembered being a little kid in this situation

“I had to deliver this foal by myself, right now.” and always checking on whether a mare was no longer standing--a sure sign of labor. The only difference now was that I was alone, and sprinting to the barn out of worry rather than the fear of what might get me in the dark. As soon as I looked in the stall I could see the steam rising from her sweaty, dirty side. She was in labor. Right now. Her water had already broken and she lay on her side slightly straining. I raced into the office and called my mom and grandfather. Neither answered. The second time I called I got news that they were half an hour away. There was no possible way they could get back on time. I had to deliver this foal by myself, right now.


Having lived on the farm, I knew exactly what to do. I got the foaling kit, a bucket of warm water and clean cotton out, along with some elbow-length sleeves. I brought this all out to the stall. That was when I started to get a little anxious. I had witnessed some pretty terrible, graphic births before, from broken legs to cesarean sections. Every year at least two foals and one mare died. Something as little as the wrong positioning of a foal can transform a routine procedure to an emergency in which not just one, but two lives are at stake. I put on a sleeve and felt the tiny muzzle in between two hooves; the baby was in the proper position for birth. She had already started pushing, so I threw off my jacket and grabbed the straps and pole. The straps are placed on the foal’s pasterns which are basically where the ankles are. The head and two front feet where already out, so I tore open the placenta. It made a slight tearing sound, but I thought nothing of it. I put the straps on and started to pull with every push she had to help her along. In a matter of minutes, the foal slipped out easily. I pulled the placenta further off of the foal to let it breathe, and squeezed any

liquid I could get out of it’s nostrils to help the airways form. I stepped out of the stall momentarily to let the mare and her new foal catch their breath. All the Words was covered in sweat, making her look even darker then she already was. Her foal was a glistening chocolate brown, just like its mother and father. I got the normal first born medicines out to give to the foal and mare. I checked the sex, wrote down the time, washed my hands, and noted, “Easy birth. Slight straining. Routine.” When I came back in the stall I pulled the filly further out of her mom and put a clamp on the umbilical cord to stop the bleeding. After making the new pair as comfortable as possible, I pulled the baby close to her mother. The mare got up and nickered to her foal, the filly responding with little, highpitched whinnys. I smiled big. I just simply felt so grown up. When my grandfather and mother came home, they checked everything out and complimented me on a job well done. My mom smiled and thanked me for taking care of her mare. My grandfather smiled, squeezed me tight and said, “Good job Little C”.


From a Distance By Nick Hoxter controlling my breath, assessing the problems that I face in my head, and watching every small movement that can come across the surface of my eyes. I hold my .22-caliber rifle close to my right shoulder canceling out any movement of the barrel that I can. Typically from a distance of 385 from a .22, a bullet goes through an enormous change in its direction and altitude. Three main things affect the bullet’s flight path from a long shot. One: gravity effects the drop of the bullet at this distance like it would with any other object with mass. 385 yards is almost 4 football fields, causing the bullet to drop nearly a food, depending on the bullet, gun, and distance. Two: strong winds can cause the bullet to drop more, curve to the left, curve to the right or push it faster. Depending on the strength of the wind and the range of the shot and the caliber of the bullet, that bullet can be curved up to a steady 6 inches or more during its flight, or if the wind changes during flight, the bullet will do what a knuckle ball would do in baseball and move in various different directions making the path of the bullet completely unpredictable and risk hitting something else other than the intended target. Three: the spin of the earth. It is a proven scientific fact that the spin of the earth can affect the intended path of the bullet. This theory can only come into affect with shots taken from over a mile in distance which is around 1800 meters. I lay in the prone position looking down my scope at the front of that book that reads “Ancient History” with Cleopatra

As a boy, I dreamed of having one superpower: Invisibility. Can something like that become true? I found a way of making that dream a reality. On the Military Channel one day, I learned that I could do such a thing, and seeing the things that U.S. Marine snipers could do amazed me. A ghillie suit is a full body suit made from camouflaged clothing and is specially designed to make a man Invisible without completely disappearing. To an untrained human eye the person that wears the ghillie suit does not look like they are actually there in time even though they can be right in front of them. I made my own ghille suit, and when I use it, I sometimes find myself wanting to laugh because people get close to me, but do not know I am there. It feels both powerful and funny. -----------------------------------------------------Ancient History… a five hundred page textbook that means nothing to me. It is propped up on the ground in the middle of a barren field surrounded by nothing but the leftovers of the corn that was devoured by a big green combine. The air is cold from the beginning of a long winter. Leaves fall slowly to the ground and birds race across the sky and cars drive by on the near back road. Nothing seems to notice this fairly large, out-of-the-ordinary blue, gold textbook lying in the middle of a rich brown empty field. I am the only one who knows that the book is out there in the middle of that field. I am the one that put it there, 385 yards from where I am laying in a brown hedgerow which matches my ghillie suit and gives me the ideal blend of colors to make me invisible. I feel like I have complete control over the whole situation. The Ancient History book is my mission, my key to achievement and confidence in myself to do something close to impossible. I lay there in the steadiest position for shooting, prone. I am

“Everything going on around me turns into darkness. I see nothing but that book, my target. Boom”


managing to sneak out a smile out. I read the wind, take account of the distance, cancel out the spin of the earth due to the distance and do the trig problem on the fly. The time that it takes to tell everything needed to take a shot from a distance can take hours, but I have trained myself to learn and configure everything on the fly. It takes a long 45 seconds until I am ready to pull the trigger. Taking account of everything I need for a shot from this far, I put it all together and figure out where I need to be aiming: 3 dots to the right for curve and 4 up for drop. Everything going on around me turns into darkness. I see nothing but that book, my target. Boom. The bullet flies off. It is out of my control and relying only on everything I did to prep for the shot. Two seconds later, it hits the top right-hand corner of the book. With the silence around me and the sky above me, I sprint the four football fields to inspect my


accomplishment. I pick up the book, turn through centuries and centuries of history-war, peace, and civilizations--until I find the core of the lead bullet. I pry it out, put it in my pocket, and bring the book back to my room. It still sits on my bookshelf.

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My Inner Weird by Brandon Walls but so that I may better understand myself more. One would expect a common two year old to be speaking some very simple words like ‘Momma’ or ‘Dadda’. However, I couldn’t speak a single word at age two. Let me give you an example. I am in the back of a shopping cart with my mother pushing the cart through the row that had the diapers in them. Suddenly, I feel my body shift to the left and my Mother turns down the aisle that has the newest chairs with the little rattles on the edge. My mind couldn’t think of a way to get my Mom’s attention except by doing the same thing I did when my diaper suddenly gets full: cry. My Mom lifts me out of the strange steel stroller with odd, sideways wheels in the front. It is full of food. She checks my diaper and realizes nothing is wrong. She places me back in the cart and slowly the chair with the noisy things I enjoy go out of my view. Without words, it was hard to be understood. Another incident: My parents take me to my local doctor to see if there’s anything wrong for I haven’t spoken a word. He tells them to go see a psychologist to see if I have ADHD. The psychologist at first agrees with the doctor’s thoughts, but decides to dig deeper. Thus, at age six I am diagnosed with autism; at age nine I am given the final diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome; but it wasn’t until I was eleven I realized I had autism. I don’t know if my parents decided to wait for me to mature some more until they told me or until they decided not to tell me until it felt like that it was necessary to let me in on my ‘problem’. Recently, I talked to my parents about this and I asked, “Did they say I needed to take any pills or medication?” My Mom responded with, “Yes. They wanted you to take Ritalin (a non-stimulant medication) originally, but when they found out that you were autistic, they decided that you didn’t need the pills; you only needed to see a speech therapist and a psychologist.” I

Sitting in my room, I am watching T.V. with my younger brother. He and I are watching a show on Nick about a talking sponge and his friends. We are enjoying the program when I hear from the bottom of our steps calling, “Brandon, come here.” I recognize that it is my mother’s voice, so I get up and proceed down the steps. “Sit down,” my mother says. I sit on the chair that is on the far left in our living room; my parents are on the sofa to my right. They tell me, “Brandon, do you know what autism is?” I shake my head in response to this new word. “Well, it’s something that makes you different.” “Okay.” “It’s actually called Asperger’s Syndrome.” I begin to giggle to myself at the strange and funny sounding word. “Do you understand?” I nod in assurance so that my parents feel like that they have explained enough. I run back upstairs, hoping to see how the sponge did in his journey. That was when I was eleven years old. While I didn’t know the whole context in general of what this ‘autism’ was, I did know what the words “It’s something that makes you different” meant. But how different was I? I didn’t know and, on some level, I still don’t know. There are few people who truly understand what autism is and I am certainly not a part of that group. But I wish to understand it better, so I may not only understand this thing that I have,


personally don’t like the pills that doctors prescribe because they say that they help hide the ‘problems’ that come along with ADHD or autism. Another day recently, I asked my Mom on my cell phone that if I had to take medication, would she have made me? She answered, “No, I wouldn’t have.” Now I have a relative has ADHD and he takes medication on a daily basis. When the pill is working, he is very calm and collected and not very active. However, when he’s not on the pill he is very, very active, is hyperactive and can’t stand in one place at a time. In fact, he’s usually gives himself a tour of my house before I even leave my room. He’s a couple years younger than I am and he and I get along very well. And when the pill is working, it’s working: too well. Personally, I like the more active side of him because it’s who he is and he can actually be very cool, but when the pill is working, he just doesn’t want to do anything else but play Call of Duty on his Xbox 360. While he is a little hyper when he hasn’t taken his medicine, I don’t mind it, but I believe the medication he takes hides the real him and doesn’t let him show who he really is. There are also some people who have to take medication because they have trouble controlling their emotions. I used to be that way and at times I sometimes struggle with that. However, I don’t need a ‘magic pill’ to help me do that; I learnt to do that over time. Another example: I am twelve years old and in the seventh grade. I am standing on the dirt-covered first base on the school kickball field and there is another kid who is smaller than I am, but the same age. The ground is soggier than normal due to a storm and there are large mud patches around the field. The small, red, rubber ball leaves the hand of the pitcher and becomes even faster when the ball goes into the air. I run immediately to second and halfway through, my left shoe is suddenly higher and browner than the one on my right foot. One

“I accept it as who I am and because autism has helped shape me to become the person I am” second later, my face meets the wet mud and my body does so as well. The kids’ natural reaction is to laugh at the funny event. My reaction is to take it seriously and begin to storm inside to the school because my clothes are dirty and I thought the kids were picking on me. My question is why? Why was I mad at them? First, if that were to happen to me now, I’d be a little upset that my clothes were dirty, but I would walk it off with a smile because I knew that it was funny. Second, the thought ‘They are picking on me’ didn’t come up just there, that thought came up on a daily basis because I was bullied in middle school, a lot. I thought that they were trying to pick at me. As crazy as that sounds, the reason I reacted like that was because I didn’t know how to react to the kids laughing at me during this somewhat unfortunate time in my life. However, as time went on and more situations like that happened (like my backpack falling over my head when I tripped once, making me fall head first into a thorn bush) I began to laugh more at those situations. Even looking back at the situation involving the mud, I laugh at it now. The reason I tell people about myself and the reason I tell people that I have autism is because I’m happy with it and I accept it as who I am and because autism has helped shape me to become the person I am and the person I eventually will become. Sometimes though, when I tell someone I am autistic, they say back to me, “Really? Wow, you seem normal.” I reply back to the person “Thank you.” because I know that they’re trying to give a compliment. But, that word ‘normal’ is very strange to me. There is ‘common’ in my opinion, but there is no set normal in life. What everyone thinks is normal is opinionated. For example, say someone has a day job and that job requires


having to clean porta-potties everyday. Now, it’s not normal to others, but is it normal to him only because it’s something common he does on a daily basis. I sing everyday and that is a very common thing for me to do, along with going to Church Hill Theatre every day. My knowledge of autism is not very well developed, but I wish to grow in my understanding of it. However, the experiences I’ve had being autistic has changed my view in life and how I view others. I try and treat people with more

respect because I was bullied. People thought I was ‘retarded’ in a way. Autism and mental retardation are two different things, but regardless, ‘I was bullied’ still sends the same message. I never want to make anyone feel the way I felt just because I was different from all the other kids. I’ve met and gotten to know people who have ADHD, who have autism, and they are all nice people and I have learned from that to always be nice. It may be strange or weird to other people, but I accept it as who I am and I embrace my inner weird. I always will.


A Self Made Man By Marie Maness to church every Sunday, “And if we got into trouble you could be sure to see us in church on Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and Sunday nights, too” Joel said in his deep southern drawl. Not only did his parents believe in the value of education and moral values, but they also believed in the value of hard work. Living on a farm, Joel had to work hard everyday in order to help his father to support the family. Every morning at around two or three in the morning, Esker Maness would come into the room that the four boys shared. He would choose one of the boys to help him milk the cows that morning, before going to school at around eight AM. “Those were the best memories I have with daddy. We would talk all mornin’ long. He would share his views and I would share mine. When he died later in life that's what I missed the most; someone to talk to at two AM.” Joel’s high school career started off well. He worked on the farm with his dad and then attended school and earned mostly A’s. However, one day in his senior year, Joel’s father was on a silage chopper, which is a machine with blades that chop up forage. As Esker Maness hopped off the chopper to remove a clog in the machine, his jacket became engaged in the power shaft from the tractor that drove the machine. He was thrown into the blades and received serious injuries all over his body. Even with these horrible injuries, Esker drove the tractor back home to get help. Kathryn Maness sent a message to Joel’s school and Joel immediately drove to the hospital. Esker had multiple broken bones and needed one thousand stitches. He was unable to work for six months. While Joel and his three brothers were scared that their father would not survive his injuries, “Mom was the rock in our family. No matter how bad things were she always told us that with faith in God everything will be okay, and everything turned out to be

Joel Hoskins Maness was born on a farm, October 26, 1950. He lived in the small town of Nacogdoches, Texas, which is one of those towns that needs to be pronounced with an accent, and where a two story house was considered a sign of being wealthy. Joel did not live in a two story house. “We had a one story house, but we felt fortunate that our house didn’t have wheels under it,” Joel explained, regarding their living conditions growing up. He was the second oldest of four boys and he loved to farm. Farming was all that Joel wanted to do for the rest of his life, but his father believed that Joel could do better things than than farming with his life. Growing up, both Kathryn and Esker Maness, Joel’s parents, felt strongly about the value of a good education. While Esker never graduated high school, Kathryn received a college education at Rice and was incredibly welleducated, especially for a woman of her time. Living in the Bible Belt of Texas, his parents also saw to it that they raised children with good moral values. They went


okay.” Since Joel’s older brother, Carvel, was in the army, Joel had to take over the work on the family farm until his father recovered. During his senior year in high school, he toiled hard on the farm before school and often left school in the middle of the day to finish his farm work. With the help of his school, which supported him in his situation, Joel managed to graduate at the end of the year with good grades. That summer the situation in the Maness household seemed to be getting better as Esker Maness recovered from his injuries. Sadly, the worst was yet to come. Right before Joel went off to college, his older brother, Carvel, shot himself in the head. Esker Maness was the person who went to Carvel’s house to clean up the mess. Both Esker and Kathryn were strongly religious people, and they believed that suicide was an unforgivable sin in God’s eyes. “While I could accept what my brother had done, my parents never could, and I don't think they were ever the same after that. The only time I ever saw my daddy cry was at my brother’s funeral, which was awful. He was always so strong. I had never cried in my life up until then, but that day I learned that it’s okay to cry sometimes. Although only once in a while.” Joel said. On top of that, the next year Joel’s youngest brother, Nels, got struck by lightning. He was dead for several minutes before the ambulance came and resuscitated him, and when Nels was brought to the hospital the doctors speculated that his brain could be impacted by the lack of oxygen. Luckily, Nels was fine and even went on the become a Ph.D. in Bioengineering at Oklahoma State. Joel views these tough times as a learning experience and even says; “I believe that while those were hard times, I learned a lot about myself. Character is built from adversity. People don’t learn anything when things always go right.” Joel never wanted to be a chemical engineer. When his father told him that he needed to get an education in some field other than agriculture, Joel planned on getting a degree in something else and then

return to the farm after college. Still, Joel found himself wondering what he wanted to study. One day during lunch in his senior year of high school Joel was listening to the popular talk radio host, Paul Harvey. During his show, Harvey mentioned that chemical engineers were being paid the highest starting salary out of college, “That’s when I knew I wanted to get a degree in chemical engineering. If I’m going to study something other than agriculture it should be this. I’ll at least have the option to make good money”. Straight out of high school Joel got married to Brenda Boatman, his high school girlfriend, and they moved to College Station at Texas A&M so that he could get his degree as a chemical engineer. Because he didn’t come from money, Joel had to work his way through college and also make enough money to support his his wife. This got exponentially more difficult once they had their first child, Stephanie. Joel had to attend class, go to work, take care of his family, and study, which left no time for himself. Even through all of the obstacles and difficult classes, after four years at Texas A&M, Joel earned a degree in chemical engineering and was even on the dean’s list. Once he got out of college, he was hired by Mobil in the Beaumont, Texas refinery. He learned how the oil and gas refineries ran and how to fix things when they broke. After a very short amount of time in the Beaumont refinery, Joel was transferred to New York where he first began to work in “retail investment”, a branch of Mobil that bought and sold businesses for a profit. Joel never enjoyed working in retail investment; he was used to working in refineries, so in buying and selling businesses he was out of his element. When he was transferred to Fairfax, Virginia and had to be a shareholder representative at Montgomery Ward, he hated it. “I was used to fixing broken things,” Joel remembered, “so it was very difficult when Mobil asked me to be a lingerie expert” Joel moved back and forth from Virginia to New York working retail investment around eight times and that took


a toll on his marriage, especially since he now had three children. After a few years he and Brenda decided to divorce. A few years later Joel moved into Mobil’s marketing ward in Virginia and met Debi Lynch, a woman who worked in his office. They fell in love and were married shortly after. In the 90’s Joel and Debi Maness were transferred to Torrance, California. Joel was told to “solve the problems” in a Mobil refinery there that was corrupted with criminal workers. “It was a mess,” he said,

career. He was now the president of Mobil de Venezuela. “Venezuela was an entirely dysfunctional country,” he said, “The national mantra was ‘If God wanted us to work, he wouldn’t have given us oil.” Joel did not enjoy working in Venezuela for many reasons, including having to deal with the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Chavez did not like having Mobil in Venezuela. He believed that the Americans were stealing Venezuelan resources, therefore taking their money. One day Chavez invited Joel to his house for dinner. He began to tell my dad that he did not enjoy his presence in Venezuela and even said “You don’t think I don’t know where you live and where your children go to school?” In a city where kidnapping was routine, Joel knew that he needed to leave at the first chance he had. When Mobil offered to transfer him back to Fairfax after two and a half years in Venezuela, he quickly accepted. After only six months in Viginia, Joel left Mobil to work as the Executive Vice President of Sunoco for eight years in Philadelphia. While in Philadelphia Joel said that his favorite pastimes were “building tree houses for Marie and Bo, and offending union officials”. Finally, at the age of fifty six, he retired to a farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Joel Hoskins Maness still lives on his farm, and now shares it with his wife, his youngest daughter, a dog, two cats, a horse, a mini donkey, two (hopefully pregnant) cows, and a bird. He loves to plant hundreds of tomatoes every year, farm an extensive vegetable garden, and bail hay. He was born and raised on a farm in Texas, and all he ever wanted to do was farm. Finally, after 35 years of working in the oil industry, Joel Hoskins Maness was able to return to the farm, and he could not be any happier about it.

“You don’t think I don’t know where you live and where your children go to school?”

“the people that ran the refinery in the past were being held for criminal charges, and were being defended by the same person that headed OJ Simpson’s dream team. When I was sent there my VP told me that he didn’t want any calls, any letters, or any e-mails regarding what was going on in our refinery because he was so concerned about his own legal liability. Those were some of the best years of my life. All I had to do was do the right thing, make the plant reliable, and regain our reputation in the community.” In a few short years Joel fixed this “broken” refinery and turned it into one of the most profitable refineries that Mobil owned, all while helping to raise his two new children, Bo and Marie. After a short stint in Fairfax, Virginia, Joel was moved out of the country for the first (and last) time in his professional


The Gunston Gazette, Volume 1  

The first volume from Gunston's 12th grade writing workshop