Student writing, retell a story you know (students’ choice)

20150511 Write for Success writing

Turkey, an Interesting and Paradoxical Country

In the spring of 2009, I was in bed. It was about 2:30 am when the phone rang. I had a long distance call from Turkey! What an unexpected event for a Cuban, who was not supposed to know anybody from abroad, and even more, from a country so geographically distant.

In order to make a living in Havana, I was working as a musician at that time. One of my former bandmates had already been sent by the government to Turkey to work there under a contract. So, he contacted me that night to find out if I was interested in joining his band on a tour throughout the south of Turkey and Istanbul for five months. I didn’t think twice. Of course, no Cuban that I know would hesitate either.

The sensation of freedom that I experienced after arriving in a foreign country’s airport was overwhelming, considering that for Cubans, being able to travel abroad is not even a possibility. Firstly, Cubans don’t earn enough money to buy a plane ticket. Secondly, you need a visa to visit almost any country, and last but not least, is that at that time you had to have permission from the government to leave the country.
In addition to all of this excitement and my desire of being abroad for the first time, my expectations were exceeded once I started to discover an interesting and different new culture.

The first thing that really impressed me was the combination of old traditions and modern life throughout the country. In spite of the fact that Turkey was at one time considered to be a socialist country, Turks had indeed embraced capitalism.

If you travel across the country you notice right away the differences between small villages and big modern cities. Both have become tourist destinations for thousands of visitors a year. Small hamlets are often ancient. Their people still embrace traditions like weaving fascinating rugs, and if you are an enthusiast of eating well, you can get really addicted to their cuisine. Villages also look very clean although their houses are in disrepair, reflecting in my opinion, their pride and hard-working spirit. Big cities are in different ways always fascinating too. Places like Marmaris, Bodrum and Kucadaci have now become tourist destinations because of their beaches and active nightlife. But you can still experience the real life of an average Turk. These places have plenty of humble restaurants, markets and other attractions where interacting with nationals is very easy.

Istanbul is a unique city. About 20 million people live there. Its main streets are packed most of the time, mostly at night. Turks like going out for dinner, drinks and listening to music all the time, as you can see on Istiklal Kadeci, one of the most popular downtown streets in Istanbul. There are hundreds of restaurants in the neighbourhood, but it is difficult to find a table on a Saturday night. One example that illustrates how dynamic life is in the city is a bank employee who I met through a friend of mine one night at a pub. He and my friend spent the whole night drinking and eating until sunrise and they both went directly to their jobs that morning.

Turkey is an interesting place to discover. There is a mixture of the orthodox Muslim traditions and the new westernized country. Turks are still very nationalistic, proud of their origins and traditions, but they are taking the risk of building a modern and prosperous country.

Drawing a snake and adding feet (superfluous details)

This is an ancient Chinese story. There was a sacrificial activity that had just finished. Many people had come to help the employer. For appreciation, the employer had prepared some food and a pot of wine as a gift. But only one pot was not enough for everyone.

Everyone quieted down, and then someone suggested, “How about we have a drawing competition? We can paint on the ground, and the person who finishes a snake the first, will win the wine!” Everyone thought that was a brilliant idea, and they all agreed. So they started to draw.

A man drew very quickly, and he finished in an instant. He took the pot of wine and got ready to drink it, but he stopped and looked at the others who had not finished yet. And He thought, “They are so slow, let me show them what else I can do!” So he held the wine in his left hand, and started to use his right hand to draw feet for his snake. He said triumphantly:” You guys are so slow, look at me, I have even given the snake a few feet! It’s not too late yet!”

While he was drawing it and talking, another person had just finished his snake. Suddenly, the second person snatched the wine from the first person’s left hand immediately. The second person told the first person: “I won the competition. Have you ever met any snake with feet? I drew a snake, but you did not.” After that the second man started to enjoy the wine.

After this story, people comment based on the story, “Drawing a snake and adding feet”. This idiom means, “superfluous”. People try to be smart, and often do extra things, which even make things worse sometimes.

-From a Chinese idiom story

My story is fiction:

One morning, a five-year-old girl looked at the sky and wondered how it became so beautiful. She thought, “Can I touch this wonderful world?” After that, she ran home and asked her brother to go outside with her. When they came out, he didn’t ask any questions, and they walked and walked, until they were tired. Her brother asked where they were going, and she told him today we are going to touch that beautiful world. Her brother was older than her, so he understood what she wanted. He said, “My sister, we must go back home and ask our father to drive us there”. When they got home, she went to her father and asked for his help to get what she wanted. Her father couldn’t believe what his daughter was saying. He said, “My Honey, you must wait until you grow up, and if you still want to go at that time, you will go there.


Dear Ellen,

What a very enthusiastic class we have! Thank you for being there for us. You always come to teach us in Write for Success class with 100% full energy!

English Writing is the most daunting task for me! I have to face the music if I want to get a higher mark on my TOEFL or IELTS test. As you know, I have limitations in my English, especially in Academic Writing.

After my second class, I am going to make a list of what I have to improve in a very short time in order to improve my writing skill. Firstly, reading more, to become familiar with more words and their applications. I am going to read magazines, especially those magazines that relate to history, nature, sports, people and other things that interest me. By reading those magazines, I will get two benefits. Magazines are always entertaining to me and they only contain short stories, so I will not get bored easily. For the next step, I would like to read more novels. Actually, I prefer reading non-fiction stories, rather than fiction ones. Nowadays, people like watching television or movies more than reading! That includes myself!

Secondly, I would like to use more idioms or more advanced words in my academic writing. I have to build some vocabulary, including synonyms, and antonyms. I will get started from now on.

Thirdly, I will try to write everything, about any subject that matters to me in my everyday life. This is a writing activity that I have never done, only when I was at school, of course. I don’t know why, but somehow, I have done more reading than writing in my life.

I am eager to see the outcome of my writing class in four weeks time. Hopefully there will be progress in my learning curve. Can I do that? What’s a big challenge to myself!

Yours sincerely,

Name On The Red Paper

P is the only son of mine. He has played computer games since he was thirteen years old. He was knowledgeable in science. He read a lot, including books about finances, war, politics, and life in New York.

One day, he requested a flight ticket to New York from me. He wanted a one-way ticket. He wanted to stay in New York, and he did not want to come back to Edmonton again. He thought that he could make a good life there, because there are many casinos there. If he were smart enough and lucky, he could become a billionaire. He would be rich.

I was shocked by this request. I was going to lose him. He was in danger. I couldn’t imagine what kind of life would be in his future. I worried and worried, and I thought about how to stop him, and how to change his mind. After a couple days of thinking, I phoned a fortune-teller to discuss this situation. He gave me advice. He wanted me to write my son’s name and birthday on a red paper, put it into a small box, and then seal it. Never open it again. I did this. This took some days to make it work. By the way, I postponed buying a ticket for him. I was trying to show him how good it would be if he stayed in Canada, as well as how much love we shared. The days slowly passed on. Finally, he forgot the ticket to New York.

He went to U of A and listened to me about studying in our country to become a dentist. I never opened the box.

I am getting older now. I started to think about what would happen, if one day I passed away, and nobody opened the envelope for me. After discussing it with my husband, I decided to open it. I opened it last week. I prayed to Buddha, “Please protect P; please give him a peaceful life”. I’ve lifted a heavy weight from my shoulders now. It was my secret, and I didn’t want to keep it for my full life.

My story: I worked in Brooks, for the company called Lakeside in Alberta. It’s a meat company, and there was a time that I left at 2:30 in the morning to come to Edmonton. This was on January 22, 2001. It was very cold, the weather was bad, and my car was making some noise while I was driving. Suddenly the car stopped on the road. I got out of the car, and then waved at every car. However, the first car that stopped was my neighbour. What can I say? I am a lucky woman, and that’s my story. Thank you.

A popular narrative story I used to hear

This tale, all parents have told it since long ago, to small kids, usually in the evening after dinner. At my earlier age, all fellows like me were very fascinated to hear about it, and we never missed the nightly get-togethers, which never bored anyone. Even nowadays, adults from my tribe have shared and reported this story to children, grandchildren, and it still is popular forever.

The tale is about animals who lived in the community. One of them was very smart with a strong bond to his widowed mother. He was called “KABUNDGI” a small and smart animal. One day, the younger animals decided to kill their parents because of lack of food in the community. Everyone followed this decision and killed his parents. Only Kabundgi didn’t do so.

Life kept going in the same way, which means it became worse and worse, and there was no chance of getting food. Crime increased in the community, and most of the animals became scrawny, starving, and sick. After all this, the community figured out that Kabundgi was the only one in good shape, and wasn’t affected, and they wanted to know how come?

Elephant, the chief, made an investigative group after the small fellow, Mr. Kabundgi. They learned that he had escaped in the forest many times, after checking to see that no one was around him. The investigation revealed that Kabundgi had a secret, which was, after he was a long way into the wilderness, he stopped, and started singing further up a high and huge tree. The song was to call someone, please him, and beg him. The others hid in the bush and Kabundgi never saw them.

The song with a specific melody was a sign to be identified before gaining access to the tree. He had to sing it three times in this way, “You are the lovely mother for everybody, the others killed and ate their mothers, instead of doing that I hid you very far in a secret tree where nobody could find you, and you are the special one”.

He had seen his mother many times, and he ate what his mother cooked. After a short rest, Kabundgi went back to the community without any clue that his secret was already revealed. One day, the chief sent three of the others to kill Kabundgi’s mother. Upon arriving under the high tree, they tried 3 times to sing like Kabundgi but they couldn’t get it. The fourth time, one of them perfectly imitated Kabundgi’s voice and his mother opened the access. They ate Kabundgi’s food and killed his mother. After this, they made some nice meat from Kabundgi’s mother’s body, and they left the place.

Kabundgi showed up late, tried several times to be identified and never got any response from his mother. Therefore, he decided to enter, and he was surprised that his mother was absent but left him a nice dinner. Without any suspicion about the meat, he took a short rest as a routine. When he wanted to leave, something fell from above, and it was his mother’s head. He realized that his dinner had been made from his mother’s body, and he started crying. It was very horrible for him.

It took a while to recover from what had happened. One day, he apologized to everyone about what he had done by not killing his mother at the same time as the others. He invited everybody to a big party he would soon organize, and the entire community accepted the invitation he gave. The day of the event, no one missed the party, and they enjoyed the big fiesta. But, earlier, the smart Kabundgi prepared fire pits surrounding the area, and later, during the time of the celebration, he started the fire in the pits, and everyone died. That was the way Kabundgi avenged his mother’s death. This tale pushes kids like myself to be close to their mothers.


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