The next morning I was immediately put to work. I was shown how to clean the kitchen stove and mop the floor with a mop, and I learned to use the vacuum cleaner. These were all new, and the novelty of the task cancelled the hardship of the labor -- for a while. Then, for two days, I joined the family on their camping trip to Clear Lake, some 30 miles north, which I found more a chore than a vacation. Back home, I was taught how to start a mower and mow the lawn, how to clean the windows, and there were days of painting the walls inside and out as though the house waited years for my arrival. Everything was new. On 3 September, I washed a car for the first time in my life. I was braced for challenges.
The next two months were heavily eventful; my diary had long entries -- so much that I had forgotten. On 6 September, I received the very first letter from Mother, and reading it I broke down in tears; for the first time since leaving home I felt desolately alone. There was no respite, however; two days later school started. The work in and around the house continued regardless. The schoolwork was easy; a few weeks into Spanish 1 I was elected president of the Spanish Club.
Being fluent enough in English should have made adjusting to the new physical and social environment relatively easy, certainly easier than if I had been less prepared linguistically. Yet, much was new in sight and sound and social intercourse -- the semiotic world; subtle and hard to pinpoint, it nonetheless demanded from me more effort than I had imagined.
Louis Napier was very kind; he had a shortwave radio in the garage and he set up an antenna so that I can catch some broadcasting from Japan even though the reception was not quite satisfactory. One day he brought down from the attic an old zither (though I don’t remember what it looked like and the diary does not describe it) which produced sounds a little bit like
On 28 September, I overheard Rae complaining to her husband in my earshot that I neglected washing the kitchen floor, that I left dirty patches on the wall, that I didn’t clean the bathroom for a whole week, that I use too much hot water when washing the dishes, and that the vegetable peeler is missing. I advised myself to be patient but also wrote that I should perhaps look for another place to live after one year. But before the middle of October, Rae’s volatility reached the peak. On 16 October she got into a violent argument with Louis and I heard her speaking of me as a lazy useless sitting servant who should be dismissed. The following day, she even shouted at me that she had no use for me and that I could go. Louis was in a difficult situation since he signed the affidavit of sponsorship; he was defensive but protective of me. He explained to me that Rae is difficult and even admitted that she is rather unstable and alienated the relatives on his side. On 19 October I fell sick from overwork. I finally mustered up a courage to seek help from the College. I went to talk with the Dean of Women, Mrs. Margaret Trussell; she listened to my story sympathetically and arranged for me a small supplement to the scholarship and a dormitory room of my own in exchange for the bathroom chore. In the meantime, Louis found me a part-time job at the printer shop of his relative, where I would be paid for cleaning the place everyday -- the mess in the shop and the latrine. It felt good to be paid for my labor. The dormitory room in one of the Quonset huts left from the war years was filthy and smelled awful; but I moved in immediately and the sense of relief outweighed the discomfort of the room. Louis brought me some kitchen utensils and groceries. The crisis was over.
I don’t remember what I wrote home but certainly not the whole truth; I knew that if I did I would be told to pack up and come home, and that was the last thing I wanted. The rest of the year in Santa Rosa was happy enough. The teachers loved me, and I made friends, and I did well in classes, except the American History for which I had no preparation as did Americans from their grade school years. Two professors stand out in my memory: Prof. Frank Schneider, originally from Czechoslovakia, who taught Algebra,, and Prof. Florence Rhodehamel, who taught philosophy and initiated me into the world of Plato and Aristotle and the Pre-Socratics and led me to read medieval philosophers -- Augustine, Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas. I kept correspondence with them long after leaving Santa Rosa. In December I started writing to architectural schools for scholarship opportunities with discouraging replies. But the College increased my scholarship to $500. In the Spring, I took up Piano and joined the percussion section in the orchestra and also the marching band. Life was good.
With the end of the Spring semester, 1953, I worried how to survive the summer months. The family aided me with a $100 remittance which they somehow managed. Bob Mauser, a fellow student on a GI Bill, and his wife Flo found a house to rent and asked me if I am willing to join them with a room-and-board for $40 a months and some chores, which would help them defray their $70 rent, and I accepted. It was a luxury after a year of dormitory life. In June, Florence Rhodehamel, who knew my plight, offered me a job of working on her garden; she also agreed to be my legal sponsor as Louis Napier’s affidavit was for one year and will run out at the end of the summer. In August I sent out letters of to a dozen school of architecture about scholarships and admission requirements. Though my finances were tight, I was able to accompany a dear friend, Sidney Honigman, in his Volkswagen to San Francisco for a day trip in order to look at architecture and to attend the New York City Ballet which was performing at the War Memorial; this was 14 August, the same day I left Japan a year earlier. The ballet was a bliss; Tanaquil LeClercq and Maria Tall chief danced
Something spectacular happened in the middle of the third semester at Santa Rosa. On 7 October, Edward Kent, the Dean of Men, called me to his office and told me that he had talked with the Dean of the Architecture School of the University of California, Berkeley, and was able to get a pledge for a scholarship of $375 and a possibility of a room-and-board with a professor. A month later, 17 November, Mr. Kent personally drove me to Berkeley and spent a day meeting the Dean of Architecture and firming up on my admission. The road to my education in architecture was now paved. On 2 January 1954, I was invited to stay at the home of Mrs. Trussell until my departure for Berkeley. My diary ended on the last day in Santa Rosa. The life thereafter, for all the hardships that had to be dealt with, was all contentment. My American dream was set in motion. I had it made.