Sunday, November 29, 2009
In South Africa, they often speak of ubuntu, which in essence means, "I am because you are, and you are because of me; we could not exist without one another."
That is how I am feeling about my country right now. It may sound ridiculous, but for the first time in my life, I see that America is not simply a place filled with people - it is those people. And we have the power to define our country, to build it and shape it any way we want. In doing so, we also define and create ourselves. It doesn't get much more powerful than that.
It's sort of like a church - yes, there's a building we call "church," but the real church is made up of the hearts and minds that gather together in that building.
You could've told me all this in the past, and I probably would've agreed (heck, there has to be an Obama speech somewhere with a similar message). But understanding with your head is one thing; to have something truly resonate in your heart is quite another.
I've been pretty sick these past few days, tucked up in bed sipping veggie broth, so I'm having trouble articulating exactly what I'm feeling. At the same time, it's such an intense feeling that I don't think I could ever fully put it into words. It's gratitude, it's love. It's idealism and activism and passion and hope. It's everything I think America can be. And, in her more transcendent moments, everything America already is.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Yesterday I was a big ol', I-come-from-the-U-S-of-A-with-camera-and-wallet-in-hand tourist.
I know. I can't believe it, either.
Friday, November 13, 2009
SURE YOU CAN ASK ME A PERSONAL QUESTION
How do you do?
No, I am not Chinese.
No, not Spanish.
No, I am American Indi-uh, Native American.
No, not from India.
No, not Apache.
No, not Navajo.
No, not Sioux.
No, we are not extinct.
So, that's where you got those high cheekbones.
Your great grandmother, huh?
An Indian Princess, huh?
Hair down to there?
Let me guess. Cherokee?
Oh, so you've had an Indian friend?
Oh, so you've had an Indian lover?
Oh, so you've had an Indian servant?
Yeah, it was awful what you guys did to us.
It's real decent of you to apologize.
No, I don't know where you can get peyote.
No, I don't know where you can get Navajo rugs real cheap.
No, I didn't make this. I bought it at Bloomingdales.
Thank you. I like your hair too.
I don't know if anyone knows whether or not Cher is really Indian.
No, I didn't make it rain tonight.
Yeah. Uh-huh. Spirituality.
Uh-huh. Yeah. Spirituality. Uh-huh. Mother
Earth. Yeah. Uh'huh. Uh-huh. Spirituality.
No, I didn't major in archery.
Yeah, a lot of us drink too much.
Some of us can't drink enough.
This ain't no stoic look.
This is my face.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
SONG OF THE OPEN ROAD
Allons! The road is before us!
It is safe – I have tried it – my own feet have tried it well – be not detain'd!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the
Let the tools remain in the workshop! Let the money remain unearn'd!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! Let the lawyer plead in the
court, and the judge expound the law.
Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
folding paper cranes
even when your hands get cramped
and your eyes tired,
working past blisters and
simply because something inside you
opening its wings.
THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS
When despair for the world grows in me
Sunday, November 8, 2009
I should probably stop comparing myself to Rafe Esquith.
It's hard to quit a lifelong habit, so ingrained that it frequently threatens to define who I am. I mean being a perfectionist, of course, which is probably why my expectations are too high. Seeing as this is starting to seriously inhibit my teaching, it's a problem. Oddly enough, the more I aim for perfection, the crappier life seems to become.
Mostly I just need some babies to cuddle, I think. If I can't get someone else to hold me, I may as well do the holding. (For now, I've decided to replace hugs with the Hamam.) (Though there's really no substitute for baby-cuddling.) (I can be such a girl sometimes.)
At least there's a little laughter in the classroom. It comes suddenly at times, in between reminders that, "You only have five minutes, and I WILL be marking this, so you'd better do less talking and more writing."
We begin lessons by zipping our lips, opening our ears, and putting our thinking caps on. The other day, a little boy just sitting down to start his maths worksheet said, "Oh wait, I don't have my thinking cap on!" and proceeded to mime pulling a hat over his head. I laughed to myself at that one, which eased some of the tightness building up around my heart, as well as the knot that has made itself a permanent fixture in my stomach.
Oy and vey.
I try to remind myself that I already have a job lined up. (In case you didn't get the memo, I'll be starting a short-term post at BBS in January as a Year 3 Classroom Teacher.) But that's kind of stupid, because it generally makes me feel worse: "OH NO! They hired someone completely inept, and they'll probably change their minds at any minute!"
Also, I do not want to live my entire life telling myself, "I can do anything short term, I can do anything short term," over and over again. Multiple years of "getting through" have robbed that coping mechanism of its power.
Maybe I'll replace it with a line from Ani: "I've got myself a new mantra/It says: Don't forget to have a good time!"
Speaking of good times, ask me to recreate Miss K's Magic Maths Shop for you the next time we're together. Explaining it here won't do the hilarity justice. What a ridiculous person I am. Those poor children don't know what's hit them.
Pictures soon, cross my heart. I just have to take some first. . . . xx
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I need a hug.
But despite feeling a bit like a headless chicken most days (one with its heart on its sleeve, no less), it helps to remember the roomful of reasons that makes it all worth it. That's all it's ever really about, anyway.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I met Laura in 2004 when I was living in Tuebingen (I actually lived with her family for a short time). She is one of the kindest, most genuine people I've ever met, and she happens to be studying law in Berlin at the moment. It's amazing to have a good friend so close. We went to her place in Kreuzberg for brunch today, and it was as cozy and chaotic as ever - exactly the things I love about her.
There are very few people in my life that have ever been in the running for kindred spirit (much as I may have wished otherwise, especially in my early teens), but Laura would certainly be one of them. I'm completely blessed to know her.
The palace at Koepnick
With another Laura - my flatmate and fellow teacher from the States
Monday, September 28, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
The path leading to my aforementioned lunch spot.
Turns out there's Bikram yoga studio 20 minutes from my house. Ten days for ten euros. Glorious.
Lovely daisies and gourds from my lovely roommate. I bought her a giant (and I mean GIANT) hydrangea as a congrats/stay positive present in her first week of student teaching. Today I came home from yoga to find my own wonderful surprise waiting in my room.
Aren't they beautiful? Yes, yes they are.
Yep. It was the perfect day.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Since we were already there, we figured we'd get a better look.
As Eloise might say: Ooooh, I absolutely LOVE this place!
Friday, September 18, 2009
My favorite part of my bedroom - the shelf by the window, complete with a recently purchased plant the florist said was "winter hearty."
Been having trouble sleeping the past couple nights. My eyes get heavy and I'm physically exhausted, but my mind just won't settle down enough for me to actually drift off. I can feel this ball of excitement in the pit of my stomach; I seriously can't wait for the next day to start. Thoughts of exploring my neighborhood and new parts of the city, sitting at an outdoor cafe drinking coffee, visiting the kids in my class again....These are the things that keep me up at night. It's like the positive version of anxiety, if that makes sense. I'm even excited at the thought of breakfast!! But who wouldn't be when it involves Nutella-smeared, fresh-from-the-bakery goodness? (Ok, so I admit to getting excited for breakfast a lot, even in the States. Usually it's the hot cup of coffee I drink first thing, while still lounging in bed. Yep, I'm that dorky. Or Zen. It's a matter of perspective.)
On a bench in the gardens at Schloss Charlottenburg.
Today was a glorious day. Not only was breakfast fab (I ate in bed, naturally), but so was lunch. A German(ish) meal, cooked by moi. SO satisfying.
Creamed spinach, potato dumplings, and a (veggie) bratling. ::Sigh:: AND I ate it on the balcony. AND there were leftovers. Cook once, eat at least three times, that's what I say. Er, at least, now I do, because we don't have a microwave, so cooking actually takes time. Who knew? (Though BBS - the Berlin British School - happens to have one in the staff room, which should make reheating leftovers quite convenient...!)
Speaking of BBS, yesterday I visited the Middle School (where I'll be working) for the first time. "Middle School" is British for "Year 1 to Year 5," which is British for "Kindergarten to Grade 4."
I know. It's confusing. I'm certainly confused. Or I was, but I think I'm getting there. Years 1 and 2 comprise Key Stage One, while Years 3 through 5 fall under Key Stage Two. So I'm working in Key Stage One, Year 2, made up of 6- and 7-year-olds. But I don't work with students - I work with pupils (yes, that'd be the British version of students), many of whom are German. This means English is not their first language, so a few are designated EAL: English as an Additonal Language. (Whereas in the US we obviously have ELLs, English Language Learners. The education gods do love their acronyms, don't they?)
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The trails go through the prairie, marsh, and forest, and they are really very beautiful. My camera died before I came to a grove of young birch trees - kinda disappointing, since it was probably the most gorgeous/surreal part of the whole excursion.
Did manage to snap one of the bajillion toads hopping around, though. Seriously, they were EVERYWHERE. At one point, I basically had to hike in slow-mo and on tiptoe to avoid crushing any.
Now, I may be blurry in the above shot, but it's the background that's important. What do you notice? That's right - hills! What? You didn't see 'em? Welcome to Grand Forks, where even the slightest sign of rolling terrain becomes a big deal.
Besides twisiting my ankle when I slipped on a rock while coming down one of the aforementioned hills, I'd say it was a successful adventure. Satisfying, too - everything's better outside, especially on beautiful blue-sky days.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
In short: I love this book. I find it entirely fascinating. It took just a few pages for me to begin scrawling out choice quotes on whatever scrap paper I had available. Here's one, from the preface:
"[H]ow many geniuses had been born - had been given the creative nature - but were unable to realize their gifts for lack of nurture[?] Half of the human beings in history are women, for example, but we have had so few women recognized for their genius. How many were held back by societal influences[?]...I cannot believe that women are innately less creative than men. But the problem goes beyond gender. It includes racism, prejudice, poverty, wars, lack of education, and a host of other forces that prevent the seeds of human creativity from sprouting. We cannot afford to waste human gifts" (xii-xiii).
The emphasis on that last sentence is mine. The whole passage really struck me as I first sat reading it (while sipping coffee in Dinkytown - what else?). What occurs to me now, however, is that it could sum up one of the main reasons I'm going into education. This is why I want to teach, and why I am so committed to helping children that may otherwise be ignored and underserved. That might mean impoverished children in high-need schools or the exceptionally gifted child bored in the back of the room. Having money doesn't excuse someone from being misunderstood, something I'm learning more and more.
So, here I come, teaching profession. We'll see how it goes.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
In the meantime, I found the full quote from Harriet the Spy mentioned in my previous post.
Everything’s the same as when Golly was here.
It looks the same...
it smells the same...
but there’s this tiny hole inside me that wasn’t there before.
like a splinter in your finger...
only this one’s right above my stomach.
I love how she describes it as a splinter right above her stomach. It seems to me that's just about right.
There's also a poem I wrote way back when, probably six or more years ago, that keeps popping into my head. Will try and dig it out this afternoon. Until then, then.....
Sunday, July 5, 2009
good things (aka, stuff i'm grateful for at present)
-new sheets, soft and stain-free
-chloe sunglasses for a mere fraction of the original cost (thank you, tj maxx)
-that i love what i'm reading, even the stuff for school
-no work tomorrow morning -- getting to sleep in, at least a little bit
-a wonderful weekend with andy, full of good food and conversation -- having a best friend like andy in the first place
-the pillow i made this morning -- that the materials cost me all of three bucks
-that i'm moving to berlin soon
-peanut butter m&m's
-a strong, tight-knit family
my aunt passed away tragically and very unexpectedly this weekend. while i've been attempting to focus on the positive (see above) and give my mind a reprieve, it seems to wander back to the same old questions, trying to piece together the incomprehensible. but even amidst the messiness of it all, i know i will remember:
-her handwriting in birthday cards
-the fact that my birthday was remembered each year
-teacher supplies, handed down or bought just because (whether for me or for the kids i happened to be working with at a particular time)
-superior organization skills, especially as evidenced at the time of g'ma miller's death and in putting together the "girls' weekend" at lake geneva
-soap operas on the t.v. in the kitchen during summer weeks in springfield when i was a kid
-receiving my very first weeble, along with an explanation of what it was, one christmas
...among numerous other flashes and feelings.
when ol' golly leaves in the film version of harriet the spy, harriet says, "there's this tiny hole inside me that wasn't there before." my heart goes out to everyone my aunt loved, especially her girls (baby included) and husband. i'm sure for them, it's a big, gaping hole that will never quite be filled as it once was. everything and nothing is the same. and i can't help but shrug and shake my head and think: all we can do is love - life, each other - and keep putting one foot in front of the other. eventually we'll walk ourselves back into a time for dancing.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
A lot of us go into teaching because we want to give - to give back in some way. We're the pleasers and do-gooders of the world. However, what I'm slowly realizing is that a truly gifted teacher has instead mastered the art of receiving. Yes, we can offer our students knowledge, help, etc., but more importantly, we can offer them our ears and an open mind - we can hear them. Receiveing another person's ideas, dreams, stories, laughter - well, therein lies true grace. So maybe it's not so much about what we tell our students (what we have to give) as it is about really listening. After all, everyone wants (and needs) to be heard.
Anyway. Just thinking.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Stories and photos from Angels and Starfish Educare in Mandela Park Township, South Africa, can be found here. (Just click the link and you'll be taken to the archives.) Enjoy!
Monday, April 27, 2009
COLOR POEM: BROWN
Brown is a handful of earth
Branches in winter and
Dry leaves in fall
Brown is chocolate – chocolate-y
The comfort of cocoa or
My cousin’s candy-coated laugh
Brown is rich, full, and warm
The soulful eyes of a friend and
A hand that complements mine
Sunday, April 26, 2009
IF I WERE IN CHARGE OF THE WORLD
If I were in charge of the world
I’d cancel poverty,
Term papers, and also
If I were in charge of the world
There’d be days of endless dancing,
Plenty of just-because champagne drinking, and
(Always) enough food to go around.
If I were in charge of the world
You wouldn’t have small talk.
You wouldn’t have whiners.
You wouldn’t have hair clogging the bathtub drain.
Or “I just don’t think that’s in the budget right now.”
You wouldn’t even have budgets.
If I were in charge of the world
A messy desk would be recognized as a sign of genius.
All men would be great communicators.
And a person who sometimes forgot to say thank you
And other times had trouble holding her tongue
Would still be allowed to be
In charge of the world.
Hopefully this is the start of more regular updates. I'd really like to get back in the habit of writing here, as I'll be student teaching in Germany soon and plan to blog about the experience. More to come, then. (Fingers crossed, anyway.)