freedom

September 29, 2012


Though it was done on impulse, I was aware of the irony of it as soon as I had begun shouting “Freedom!” during my mad dash through the back yard. We were playing the most normal sort of childhood games: “Capture the Flag.” Only it lost a bit of its normalcy; we were thoroughly involved in, and enjoying it, but I kept feeling the strangeness of it here, now.
At one point the children’s mother poked her head out the back door and, visibly relieved, commented, “Oh, it’s just a game.” The 2 boys had been in jail with me and were calling out for help. I had almost told them not to call out, actually, but had reconsidered. For one, I thought, this was non-teacher time: the last thing the kids needed was for their library teacher to be “Shushing” them at their own home, on a Friday night. Secondly, I had displayed my own fair share of goofiness, so it would have been a bit hypocritical for me to call them out on it. And finally, I was quite simply relishing the joy of child-like pleasures while we played.
I also braved the same slide that had re-fractured my foot back in the spring. A bit reckless of me, perhaps. But sometimes a little bit of recklessness is healthy, I think . . . necessary at certain times in any given life.
One more note of the day [no pun intended]: as she checked out her library book, one of the 2nd graders asked me if she could write a note on my stick note pad. Sure, I said. Later, as I looked at what she had written, I smiled and thought Me too. “I love your Mama” is what she wrote :-)

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pickin’ out . . .

September 25, 2012


Happy work moment of the day: listening to the 1st graders singing one of the songs I do with them when they come in for class. I can hear them outside the screen door as they head here for afternoon check-out. I’m goin’ down to the library. Pickin’ out a book, check it in, check it out. Gonna say hi to the dictionary. Pickin’ out a book, check it in, check it out . . .
Not-so-happy work moment: having to fine a 4th grader for a damaged book
Happy non-work moment: practicing the chords I’m learning from my guitar teacher. Who also happens to be my former student. Last year I taught him study skills and, as part of the class, we tested learning styles. As he teaches me the chords, being all official and instructor-ly, he mentions that he should probably draw the chords for me to refer to. “Being a visual learner, like I am,” he explains, “this helps a great deal . . .” I smile and agree that yes, it will help a great deal for me as well. Though of course I’m actually a kinetic learner, not a visual one. But no matter: the important thing, for me, is that I am getting my first-ever, long-desired, guitar lessons. And that in doing so, I am getting to, I hope, encourage a young musician in his own future. I am also, incidentally, developing a respect for the fortified fingers that guitar players are apparently blessed with. My own fingers feel woefully inadequate when faced with a set of steel strings!

a gun of a different sort

September 23, 2012


It was with no small measure of excitement this morning that I discovered a virtual treasure box of book-repair supplies. I was looking at a damaged book returned this morning and thought I should check my supplies and see if I had a glue that might work to fix the spine. I knew I had materials for repair but didn’t expect it to be such a thrilling find. White cotton gloves for the procedure, no less!
I think my excitement over this, however, is do more to the recent state of frustration I’ve grown accustomed to in my daily life plans. Best-laid plans run amuck.
So to be able to tackle something tangibly fruitful, to fix one well-used book, to provide one well-loved item for one child, is a highly gratifying thing to do at this point. There may be little time for this portion of my one-person library in any given day; but for now, in the pocket of time between one group of students and the next, it is a blessing.

forward

September 20, 2012


This is how we do it. Women, that is. Playing basketball, that is. Here, where we live. Or at least this is how we did it today; I was laughing at my own choice of attire so thought we should photographically document our fashion-forward “layered look.”
Incidentally, our team won. When we were splitting into teams, we noticed that there were a lot of tall basketball players potentially on the same team. I told them that I should be on their team, as their handicap . . . guess I wasn’t too terribly bad of a handicap :-)

seasons

September 19, 2012


I stole a moment of beauty at the end of the work day. As I walked up the stairs of my house, I paused and, instead of continuing on with the business of the evening, I stood to watch the sunset. It occurred to me that I have not really documented a sunset lately. Guess I’ve been more inclined to posts about activity than to posts about reflection. But that is no indication of the amount of reflection I’ve been indulging in. No matter how much we fill our days with teaching, meeting, socializing, and the like, there is an aspect to compound life that is a bit inescapable, for me at least: when we are on lock-down, for extended periods of time, a sort of melancholy grows in spite of the will to keep spirits up. The melancholy of limited perspective. The melancholy of a vision that is drawn inwards, to smaller scopes and dimmer sights. The melancholy of future uncertainties.
But this sort of experience is creating in my a deeper awareness of the sorts of things that sooth my spirit.
Speaking lines from favorite poems or songs to myself. I found myself quoting A.A. Milne’s “Buttercup Days” to a high schooler in the library the other day, for instance.
Remembering favorite places and people from my past. Even describing my favourite autumn weather is comforting to me now, as I miss that season.
And of course, watching the setting sun. As I watched this one, I realized that the speck I first mistook for a bird was, in fact, a kite. Yes, the kites I tend to photograph when suspended do soar freely through the air as well. Time for both. Time for everything.

still here

September 16, 2012


Oh, to have a spirit like that of Mother Theresa! I have been reading her biography, Come be my light lately, mulling over the intensity of her life . . . of her love. I long to have such a faith, and such a life. I long to be able to admit openly one’s own darkness of the soul, and to carry right on with selfless service in the midst of it. To wonder, as she writes, “what J will take from me for them since He has already taken all for the sisters. I am ready to accept whatever He gives and to take whatever He takes with a big smile.”
I have nothing of the sort. I have finger-tapping, jittery impatience when it comes to what seems right to me: the work I need to get done, the place I need to be . . . the person I need to be, ironically enough. I long to be saintly in my service, and yet I am infuriatingly impatient in that desire!
So tonight I wanted to be where it seemed right to be. How could it be wrong to want to be singing me heart out in praise? But, once again, the place in which I live makes that a not-to-be longing. I am home. Glad to be finished with a tiring work day, but wishing to be somewhere I am not.
If I had the soul of a Mother Theresa, I would be grateful for the fullness of the day.
I would be content in the little 3-year-olds I had to contort into “criss cross applesauce” positions because they did not speak a lick of English and just smiled broadly and nodded when I attempted any sort of instruction.
I would be thankful for the 7-year olds who got to see themselves today–the completed video of their International Dot Day performance–and who were so clearly ecstatic at the sight of their own singing selves.
I would be glad that I got to dance with a roomful of beautiful women, joining together in a place of refuge from the hardships of life as we know it . . .
So maybe, just maybe, I am glad: the truth is that I relished the escape of that hour, appreciating it intensely for the “dance therapy” that it was for the restless state of my soul. And I couldn’t help but notice that same kite I saw a week ago when, in the same position as today, I was wanting to be somewhere I was not.
That kite is still there, still hanging on. And, Lord willing, so am I.

this is our dot

September 11, 2012


I get pretty jazzed about opportunities to get children excited about other kids around the world. Maybe because of my own upbringing, to a certain extent; but regardless, I think it’s important for children of any nationality to understand that others around the world have different cultures, languages, and backgrounds, but the same basic experience of a human life.
As such, this has been an exciting week in the library, since I’ve been using it to prepare for, and participate in International Dot Day. We came up with a simple song and have been singing it, with a bit of an acting routine to go along with it. The most exciting part is getting to tell the kids that the video we made of them is going to join acts from all over the world with the day is celebrated, on the 15th.
Incidentally, when marking the date this morning, I had a bit of a shock when I wrote 9/11. It is a striking thing to be here, now, on this day. Striking anywhere but I feel it particularly intensely since living here . . .

let go

September 8, 2012


I’m not an avid basketball player. Really, not at all. In fact, today, I was the last pick in the team lineup . . . made me sympathize with that stereotypical childhood dread of team player-choosing that I somehow didn’t really understand when I had my own childhood. But today, I actually felt sheepishly insecure, and embarrassed by how undesirable of a player I surely would be. To be fair, I have never made any pretense of athletic ability, in a team sport sort of way. But for whatever reason, I’ve been thinking lately of sports more often, and have been more gung-ho about joining in.
I think I know why. Whether or not I can paint a broad stroke with this statement, I do at least know it to be true for me: there is a natural cycle of one’s needs for stress-relieving outlets, corresponding to different seasons of life.
So today, when I found out about a student/staff game, I ignored those normal insecurities and joined right in. I didn’t even score any goals in this game, but thoroughly enjoyed the simple “running around a bit,” as another teacher and I called it, drinking water on the sidelines at the end of the game.
For this season, in this time, my normal, more independent leisuring self is trumped by a part of me longing for inclusion and company. But I know better than to think I’m any less of an inner bubbling sort of person simply because I’ve been focused on present events and people. That inner self works its way up from time to time. Last weekend, for instance: I didn’t hear the rumor mill about possible alarm testings so when I heard it sound, all I knew was “Danger!” I called for my housemates and headed for the safe room. Within a few minutes someone offhandedly called to me that they didn’t think anything was wrong, and not to worry about it. My immediate reaction was a flood of tears, and I didn’t know whether to feel silly or angry. At any rate, it was a good reminder to me that there is always, in this sort of life, an undercurrent that I cannot afford to forget, or take lightly: an undercurrent of uncertainty.
What else can we do but live the daily, though, when it comes down to it? Even in the “controlled” Western world, you never really know, do you? So today, I try to let go of my plans and intentions, sucking up the disappointment of not being allowed to do the things I’d like to do, thanks to the issues involved in living in this sort of setting. Resolving to trust that my own best laid plans are not His best laid plans.

So after writing the original part of this post, I saw this kite, suspended from the roof of one of the buildings on our compound. I couldn’t help but stare at it and remember one I wrote about in “aftermath,” one year ago, back when this place, and this life, were new to me. It seemed fitting to take another photo and add this one to the post . . .

Coach J?

September 4, 2012


So I learned a bit more about basketball. This time we were shooting, and practicing proper form. And this time I knew for a fact that I was sorely unprepared to display any semblance of good showmanship. But I used my best coaching voice, and I berated the girls when they clearly lost patience and got sloppy with the form their coach [their real coach!] had demonstrated to them. At one point I called one girl on her glaringly sloppy air ball, telling her it was “pitiful.” She shot right back with, “What was that you said? Beautiful?”
I laughed, and figured I deserved it a bit later when I had my own air ball and heard from the sidelines, “Pitiful, Miss J!”
Though lighthearted as a whole, the experience did make me miss one of my former housemates. One of the girls announced to me that she knew a “trick,” that Miss D had taught her last year; she then proceeded to demonstrate a truly impressive spinning-on-the-finger [I tried to think of a better way to describe that just now, but my housemates could offer no other phrase than that, so I stuck with it :-)].
Considering how much I’ve been musing on my past coaching experiences lately, I had to wonder about this morning’s conversation. As I greeted the arriving children at the school gate, one of the other teachers walked in. He passed at a brisk, to-business pace, but then looked back over his shoulder at me and off-handedly mentioned that he’d been telling students that I was going to be the new soccer coach this year. I couldn’t hold back a rather loud burst of laughter at the idea. Yet the more I think about it, the more I like the thought . . . highly unlikely, perhaps, but a fun concept, all the same :-)

more about the moon

September 1, 2012


One thing I love about working for a school is that there’s always something to do. So occasionally that gets a bit extreme sometimes, but for the most part I enjoy the challenge. But you don’t get bored here, that’s for sure!
This morning, for instance, was another chance to jump in with the middle school p.e. class. Today’s lesson was dribbling, which I happen to enjoy. So I happily joined the girls, confidently dribbling my way along. “Confidently” until one of them called out to me, “Hey Miss J–you’re supposed to have your head up; coach said not to look down at the ball!” Oops. Guess I should stick with being a librarian :-)
Relatedly [not obviously, but in my mind, at least], I had a conversation last night about the word “moon.” I was on my way to music practice and was talking to the driver about the “blue moon” we were having that night. After what I wrote about in my last post, the irony was palpable to me when the driver commented on the significance of the word “moon” in the two local languages here. He told me that it is common to use the word “moon” if one wants to refer to a thing [or person] of beauty; the standard of beauty, it seems, is to compare it to the moon’s beauty. So I sat there listening to him, musing on the irony of my last “moon” reference, and thinking to myself A girl named moon . . . named “beauty.”
Indeed, the moon is beautiful. And yes, I am surrounded by women of beauty.