English 9, Lesson 35 – How Kourdakov’s Use of Contrasts Strengthened His Narrative

This week I read four more chapters of The Persecutor by Sergei Kourdakov.  This week’s chapters were a little more graphic than past chapters and were honestly a little harder to read because of the things Kourdakov described.  In this essay I am going to talk about how Kourdakov uses contrasts to strengthen his narrative.

In one chapter Kourdakov and his team were sent to break up a meeting of Believers who were planning to baptize new members.  The baptism was meant to happen in the late afternoon, but Kourdakov and his men were already at the location in the early morning.  They decided to turn the day into a picnic.  They brought sandwiches and vodka, as well as their guitars so they could sing songs and such.  Kourdakov described how it was a nice day, perfect for a picnic.  One page later and there are bloody and graphic descriptions of what he did to the Believers.

He does this in another chapter where he gets invited to a banquet with other cadets from his naval academy and high ranking officials.  All of the officials get their own private rooms with fancier food and drinks.  While wandering, Kourdakov gets invited into one of these private rooms, which led to him seeing the not so pretty side of Communism.  All of the officials were black out drunk.  Most, if not all of them, were passed out.  Orlov, the man who invited Kourdakov in, started to bash Communism and the government in his drunken state.  No one was there to stop him because everyone was drunk.  This appalled Kourdakov and he ran out.  To him, Communism was his religion, his only belief since childhood.  To hear these high ranking officials bash his religion, the one they are supposed to support, was world shattering for him.  In this chapter we really saw how deeply Kourdakov believed in Communism and how much he believed in it.   

Kourdakov is a very gifted writer.  The way he words his sentences and uses contrasts to describe situations is very unique and addictive.  I may not like certain things that he does and describes, but I am enjoying the book and cannot wait to continue next week.

English 9, Lesson 30 – What Choices Led Kourdakov to His Failed Assignment?

This week in class I read more of Sergei Kourdakov’s autobiography “The Persecutor.”  In this essay I’m going to talk about decisions Kourdakov made that led to his failed assignment.

If you have not read the book here is some background.  Kourdakov joined the Soviet Union Navy at the age of 18 and immediately starting climbing in rank.  He had self-motivation and had developed a good reputation for himself.  One day a man from the Secret Police came to Kourdakov and recruited him.  Kourdakov, and 14 of his friends, became a unit working for the Secret Police.  They were only called in to do small jobs like breaking up bar fights.  These small assignments were actually training for something bigger, breaking up the Believer’s (God worshipping people) meetings.  The first raid against the Believers did not go the way Kourdakov’s superior wanted it to go and the men were sent back to bar fights.

Honestly there are quite a few things that led him to fail the assignment.  If he never joined the Navy he might have never been recruited for the Secret Police and never would have an assignment to fail.  Even if he had joined the Army, he probably would have gotten recruited.  With Kourdakov’s motivation and reputation he would have risen in ranks, like in the Navy, and would become known by the Secret Police. 

If his reputation and motivation is the reason he became well-known by the higher commanders, what choices did he make that gave him the motivation?  His motivation to always get to the top stemmed from an incident that happened to him as a child.  Kourdakov, an orphan, was placed in a children’s home with other orphans and children who were taken from their parents.  When Kourdakov was young a famine struck the Soviet Union.  One of his closest friends, Sasha, died because of the famine.  That was the day Kourdakov learnt that in this world only the strongest survived.  This drove Kourdakov to always be the best and strongest.  He was determined to survive.

He started to throw himself into schoolwork and eventually got noticed by his teachers.  The head of his school placed him in charge of the Communist Youth Group of his town.  After that Kourdakov, still determined to be the best, worked hard to make his youth group the best in the district.  In the book Kourdakov talks about how ambitious this goal was since the district he was in was rather large.  But when you are motivated you can do anything.  He won the award of best youth group in the district.  With this reputation, it was no wonder he started to rise in rank after joining the Navy.

The only way Kourdakov would not have been noticed by the Secret Police is if he joined his friend’s crime syndicate or if he became a normal civilian.  I personally think that if he joined civilian life he would excel at whatever he was doing, but he would not be happy.  With his ambition he would not be satisfied until he was at the top.  Knowing this, I would assume he would have joined his friends’ crime syndicate and become the head of a gang.

As you can see, there are multiple choices that led to the failed assignment.  It is funny to think that so many things happened because of one event that impacted Kourdakov as a child.  I wonder what would Kourdakov done with his life if he never met poor Sasha.  Would he have turned out as motivated and hardworking?  Or would he have turned to drugs and vodka like his friends? 

I suppose we will never know.

English 9, Lesson 25 – Major Turning Points in My Life

This week I have been reading Sergei Kourdakov’s autobiography titled The Persecutor.  After reading about eight chapters of the book I realized that Sergei had some major turning points in his life as a child.  Between the disappearance of his Father and the death of his Mother and the adventures he had in the various children’s homes he lived in.  In this essay I am going to talk about some major turning points in my life.

I Moved Countries

If you have been following my blog for a while or if you have read previous essays, you probably already know this story since I have written multiple essays about this topic already.  If that is the case, feel free to move onto the next section.

I was born and raised in Stamford, Connecticut and up until my 10th birthday, I had my life planned around the fact that I would be staying in the US.  Boy was I wrong.  A month before my 10th birthday my parents told me we would be moving across the world to Singapore, the country where my Mom was born and raised. 

For a 9 (almost 10) year old kid who had planned my whole life in Connecticut, this was world shattering.  But after a while I got excited about the move and started counting down the days until we would pack up and leave.

I celebrated my 10th birthday with close family friends and two weeks later my parents and I left Connecticut for Singapore.

Despite my initial sadness about leaving my old home, I settled in quickly and made a ton of new friends.  If I never left Connecticut I never would have met my amazing homeschool community and made friends with other children who homeschool.

Covid-19

I am pretty sure the Covid-19 pandemic was a turning point for everyone.  Covid was, and still is, a huge bummer.  At the time that I am writing this the Singapore government has implemented new regulations to try to lessen the sudden spike in cases.  These regulations have basically put everyone back in lockdown.

Last year, when Covid first started, and Singapore entered our lockdown (aka circuit breaker or CB), all of my extracurricular activities were cancelled.  My swimming and dance classes halted and it was impossible for me to meet up with my friends.

But despite Covid ruining everything, I am sort of thankful for Covid (NOT COMPLETELY! DO NOT THINK I LIKE ALL OF THIS! I DON’T!).  If I never went into lockdown I never would have bonded with my two best friends.  I bonded with a lot of other kids too, who, like me, were going insane because of being stuck inside for two months.

None of my lockdown friendships lasted after we went back to our somewhat normal routines.  None of my friendships except two.  The two that survived are now my two best friends who I love and cannot live without.

Conclusion

As you can see, in the past three years I have two major turning points in my life, each one resulting in new friends.

Thanks for reading!

English 9, Lesson 20 – The Most Memorable Stories From A Bus of My Own by Jim Lehrer

For the past four weeks I have been reading Jim Lehrer’s autobiography A Bus of My Own.  In this essay I am going to talk about the two stories from the book that I consider memorable.

The Pinball Machine

If you have read this book, I am sure you read the caption and immediately know what the story is. 

I do not remember the exact of Lehrer at the time of this story, but for arguments sake, let’s say he was under ten years old.  Lehrer’s father had a meeting with a friend and gave Lehrer some money to play with the pinball machine.  Lehrer had never beaten this certain machine before and expected to lose like he always did.  He had felt the urge to go to the bathroom and figured he would play a round, lose, and then go to the bathroom.

Turns out, he won the first round, and the second, and the third, and fourth and every other turn after that.  The more games he won the more he needed to use the bathroom, but he did not want to leave the game, especially since he finally beat it.  Finally, Lehrer could not hold it in anymore and, in crude terms, peed his pants.  Only then did he leave the game to run to the bathroom to hide from the embarrassment.

The Loss of Betsy’s Brakes

When Lehrer was a child his parents owned a bus company known as the Kansas Central Lines.  Business was not very good, which eventually forced Lehrer’s parents to go bankrupt, but this story is from before then. 

Business was not good meaning the bus line did not have much money, meaning the Lehrer’s were not able to get new buses and experienced frequent maintenance problems.  One of the buses, known as Betsy, had a problem with its brakes. 

One day, when Lehrer was only 12 years old, he was helping the driver, Cameron, by being his “assistant driver.”  Halfway through the ride Betsy’s brakes gave out and became completely unusable.  Somehow, Cameron managed to control a brakeless bus through traffic and delivered all of the passengers to their final destination unharmed.

Lehrer and Cameron had not told the passengers about the ‘small’ problem with the brakes so they would not be scared.  It was a good plan, until Lehrer yelled that the brakes were out as soon as he saw his parents.  The passengers heard, and it is safe to say they went ballistic.  Some were angry while others were grateful that Cameron managed to not crash the bus. 

Fred, Lehrer’s brother, gave him the nickname “Mr. Big Mouth”, which stuck for a very long time.

Conclusion

In all honesty, I am not sure why these two stories are the ones that I find memorable.  Maybe because they were the first two stories in the book or maybe it is because I am around the age Lehrer was when these things happened.  Or maybe I just find the stories comical and it stuck in my brain.  Either way, these are the two, very entertaining stories, I find memorable from A Bus of My Own.

Thanks for reading!

English 9, Lesson 15 – The Four Good Things That Came as A Result of Jim Lehrer’s Heart Attack

For the past few weeks I have been reading Jim Lehrer’s autobiography “A Bus of My Own”.  This week I have read the chapters entailing details about Lehrer’s heart attack and recovery.  In this essay I am going to talk about the good things that came as a result of the heart attack.

After the heart attack Lehrer made big changes in his lifestyle.  In earlier chapters he stated he was a big smoker, so much so that he had stashes of cigarettes in his office and under his car seat.  He also said his eating habits was that of a “pimply faced teenager.”  After the heart attack he quit smoking and started eating healthier things like turkey sandwiches, fruits, and vegetables. 

Having the heart attack also helped Lehrer get over his not so irrational fear of hospitals.  The fear came about after his Father died because of a heart attack in a hospital and only solidified when his Mother died from a failed surgery.  As he said in one of the chapters “Lehrers always die in hospitals.”  Because of this fear Lehrer put off going to the hospital when he was feeling the symptoms of a heart attack.  After having the heart attack and going into a hospital, not once, but twice and coming out alive both times, he overcame his fear of hospitals.

After his recovery, Lehrer went back to work.  At first it was just sitting in on meetings and pitching ideas, but eventually he made it back on screen.  One of the things he did onscreen was make a small special about his experience with the heart attack called “My Heart, Your Heart.”  At first he was hesitant to air the special.  He did not want to be known as “The Guy on TV Who Had a Heart Attack.”  Despite his reservations, he went through with it, and thank goodness.  After the special aired Lehrer were getting calls from viewers who had saved their own lives and others around them because of what he said.

One woman called saying her co-worker asked her to drive after feeling chest tightness.  The woman said her co-worker said “that Lehrer guy on TV said not to fool around.”  The woman continues the story and says as soon as they got to the emergency room her co-worker had a heart attack.  Lehrer got many other calls like this, but none of them were as extraordinary as this particular one.

As you can see, many good things came out of a life threatening experience.  Not only did Lehrer improve his own life, but took his experience and shared it to the world, saving many peoples’ lives.

Thanks for reading!

English 9, Lesson 10 – Two Stories in My Life That I Would Have to Include in My Autobiography

This week I have been reading “A Bus of My Own”, Jim Lehrer’s autobiography.  In this essay I am going to talk about three stories in my life that I would have to include in my own autobiography.

At the time that I am writing this I am only 12 years old (one month away from my 13th birthday), and I do not have many stories that are very significant to my life.  But after a lot of thinking, I have come up with two stories that I would have to add to my autobiography.

The Moment of Realization

The first story happened when I was very young, if I am being honest I do not remember it happening, but I have heard this story multiple times.  I was born and raised in Stamford, Connecticut, USA and one summer when I was three or fourmy parents took me and friend to a street fair in Norwalk (a town in Connecticut).  There was a lady on a small stage performing a show for young children, The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  The lady was asking for participates from the audience to act in her show, and being the energetic, extroverted child I was, I raised my hand.  The woman chose me to be Billy Goat #3.  My parents said it was at the moment that they realized I had a talent for acting.  My Dad said it was my stage presence.  I was not shy like the other kids.

I was put in acting, singing, and dancing classes, and a few years after that I landed my first role in a local production of the musical Annie as Molly.  If I never went to that street fair who knows when I would find my passion for acting?

The Life Changing Decision

This second story would have to be included in my autobiography.  When I was 10 years old my parents made the hard decision to move from our home in Stamford, Connecticut, to Singapore, where my Mom was born and raised.  When I lived in the Connecticut I moved neighborhoods a lot, but I had never moved to a different country.

I celebrated my 10th birthday with close friends, and two weeks later my parents and I were on a plane ready to start a new life in a new country.

Looking back I wish I had done some research about Singapore.  If I had known that gum is a illegal I would have bought more before my time was up.  I also wish that I had thought about what moving meant.  To my 10 year old mind, moving countries just meant a setting change.  I never thought about how things besides setting would change, like culture and food (I’m a very picky eater, so the adjustment to Asian food was quite difficult). 

Conclusion

As you can see, these two stories are very important in my life.  If I never went to that street fair in Norwalk I probably would not have had the opportunity to find my passion and start training at a young age.  And moving countries enabled me to find my four amazing best friends.

Thanks for reading!