Spring Break 2018

The strong Vancouver sun rays shone again this afternoon, second time only, since my return from my 4 day visit in mostly sunny Calgary.  I am joyous to be back here with M. as we live and navigate our lives together.

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This is Hosta beginning to sprout again. She’s about 15 years old now and came originally from Ann and Terrill’s in Richmond, B.C.

I am grateful that M. has taken on home management duties when I am at work.  He is extremely organized and the opposite of me.  Our home is adorned with fresh flowers weekly.  Each week M. puts on his dinner chef hat at least 2 or 3 times a week and likes to make wild salmon sizzling in garlic butter, potatoes, asparagus or green beans or a green vegetable + a salad of fresh sliced tomatoes, avocados, white sweet onions, and a French vinaigrette of olive oil, black ground pepper and Maille Dijon whole grain mustard and a hearty red wine…classical music and surprise desserts often…and his Mom’s favourite Spanish?-Haitian?-Mexican?African? rice recipe:  onions, garlic, variety of olives, tomatoes, mushrooms, black peppercorns…I am so blessed by his daily attentiveness.

Learning to live an integral life in the here and now but each time I leave my family I become wistful as I think of and miss my parents especially hanging out together:  cooking, watching Chinese tv programs and their favourite National Geographic and travel shows on cable, going out for 3:00 coffee daily, speaking my Hoi Ping dialect and Chinglish, taking walks on Crescent Hill down to Prince’s Island, meeting Dad at the YMCA, hugging them both and just being together.

I like seeing my sibs and hanging out with them and their families.  As we are all in our 50’s now it has been lovely to see how they’ve flourished with their life choices.  As they set good boundaries with me, I am no longer seen as the ‘bossy big sister’ and we are careful to respect one another, respect the choices we’ve made and the directions we’ve taken

Between Mom’s daily gourmet meals of Chinese origin and other cuisines she usually likes to make my favourites when I come home.  Examples are 2 confinement soups (generally given to women after giving birth):  One soup is made of black vinegar, boiled eggs, pigs’ trotters, and ginger.  Another one is made of boiled pieces of chicken, wood ear fungus, ginger, raw peanuts with their skins removed.   Over the years it has been recommended by the Chinese to eat less salt fish but I love steamed salt fish, minced pork, julienned ginger and raw peanuts with skins removed then steamed together.  I like to pour the juices when cooked onto my rice…and Mom’s preserves, such as, dried lean pork jerky that has to be steamed.  From her 2 or 3 annual harvests of Chinese vegetables from her garden she will make her preserved mustard cabbage in glass jars julienned and then cut into tiny pieces and fried with garlic, ginger, pork, She also dries bok choy yearly…yes, they are lovingly hung on poles on the back of their stuccoed house…when cats sometimes squeezed under the fence they would try to climb up to grab the waxed ducks she dried in the sun or the lean pork…that she rehydrates to make delicious soups in the winter months…

Since my parents retired 21 years ago at age 62 my Mom has Dad as a helper and it’s lovely to watch this different type of domestic partnership as he was always at work during the day and my Mom somehow managed the household with 4 kids and a mother-in-law who mostly baby-sat…

I also miss just being able to hop over to my sibs’ homes and just hang out…They all have excellent culinary skills. I miss my friends with whom I’ve chummed around with for more than 30 years.  I always like to spend ‘catch-up time’ with J and H next door…they’ve known me since I was 3.

Synchronicity and Serendipity: I enjoy spending quality time with my gal pals (even if it’s grocery shopping, running errands, coffee dates, preparing meals and eating in their homes with their families…) A few summers ago, on my annual summer visit, I bought some lovely gladiolas to pay respect’s to J’s parents at Queen’s Park Cemetery…it was ? bittersweet…and it reminded me of when I first met the whole family at a late night mahjong party at age 13…and how we became instant friends, how our spiritual lives connected and intertwined with the Saturday night gatherings of yummy food, music, talks, and later art lessons as J. was studying at Alberta College of Art. She had-has magic fingers still, profound ideas, and I learned to draw blind drawings, even at 2 a.m. waiting for our parents to finish their mahjong games…parents played after they closed their own businesses.

With one gal pal, L., our friendship was instant since I was aged 22. I was working at City of Calgary for TESA on a 7 month contract on a special project. I was a secretary for 6 planners and one female planner doing her Master’s Degree. I had seen L. daily surrounded by bevies of men during coffee time at the City of Calgary Coffee Shop. I had graduated in 1981 at 21 and was working as a secretary of TESA awaiting the news that I was chosen to go to Taipei to study Mandarin for 6 weeks. I did not feel invigorated to even apply for a teaching job as my view back then is that I would become ‘chained’ to a classroom. I wanted more than that. My outstanding moments at U. of C. were my 2nd year French courses, with from 4 – 12 students and with excellent profs from France, The French Centre where I hung out a lot, my 4th year Education Foundation courses, and doing volunteer work with the Chinese Student’s Society (CSS) doing cultural activities and dancing a lot. But I really felt like an outsider. Long story…I felt ‘ME’ and much more comfortable on all of the French Immersion studies I did. I suppose now at age 59 I became a francophile in the days I watched CBC’s ‘Chez Hélène’…unfortunately not much in the archives except for audio tapes…better than nothing.

One lunch hour, we found each other as we waited at the LRT Station at Calgary City Hall. With L. it was almost an ‘instant’ friendship that continues to grow for the past 37 years. L. also was the only engineering draftswoman in her department and was always surrounded by bevies of men during the coffee times when I first saw her. At the LRT Station When I invited her over to my parents place where I still lived, L. It’s also so good to speak to some of them only in Cantonese as I get to navigate another part of who I am. As I explained in my Master’s studies…integrating all the subject positions together-tomboy (meaning that I did not become the ‘Good Little Chinese Girl’ that my parents hoped for but a gregarious running around or cycling around the neighbourhood (and beyond with S. also named F.M. labelled by my dear paternal grandmother, hanging out with the all-occidental neighbourhood kids, Canadian of Chinese origin, Francophile, French Immersion teacher.  One of them is a Chinese calligraphy expert and pens modern Chinese characters.  My parents said that I am getting more proficient at writing but it’s very difficult for me to recognize the words as I don’t make enough time to practice.

…Spring weather here in Vancouver means that we can once again dine on our balcony…it’s like being in the country…and our  view of P’s backyard when I am cooking in our kitchen…

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This is my view from the kitchen. Giant white magnolias are nestled in the tree on the right.

The giant magnolia tree which I see from our Mt. Pleasant kitchen daily is starting to bloom again…loyally she blossoms yearly, probably more than 20 years.  Akebono III, out front, is about to burst her pink buds.  She’s been happy in her new location for 2 years now.  However, so many people let their dogs spray her.  We have to put up another kind of fence.  My eyes avert to all the other buds bursting in this city.  Lavender-coloured crocuses, snow drop crocuses, narcissus poke out their bright yellow bonnets…what lovely creations…it’s as if some ‘painter’ splashed them all over this neighbourhood and I can ‘drink them with my eyes’ on the way to school on my bike.  The new bike lane in front of VGH is probably completed and it is a joy to ride adjacent to the cars…

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On our balcony…a new table cloth I sewed…a Thai Cookbook published many moons ago…love the hot pink…

M and I noshed another meal on our front balcony: atta whole wheat flour roti (instead of a mandarin pancake or a roti canai), a layer of hoisin sauce and some chilis which wrapped a mu shu vegetarian mixture:  mung bean vermicelli, shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, julienned carrots, dried tofu sheets sliced,  suey choy, ginger, garlic, white onions, scallions mixed, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and roasted black sesame seeds.  We finished off PL’s carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and a bergamot tea.  It was so freeing to put on my shorts and a tank top to soak in some rays.  Taking Vitamin D pills is not the same as absorbing rays of sunshine on my skin that used to be tanned since France 2017 in Sète.

School finished well March 16…we return April 3rd.  Some students shared their Spring Break plans and Easter celebrations…Joyeuses Pâques, Shabbat, Peter Rabbit, Prince of Egypt stories, Happy Nowruz…our worms from our ‘vermicompostage box’  were welcomed into P.S.’s home.  On their second day in our class, when we lifted the lid, worms were starting to crawl out of their new home.  Several students clamoured and said that we had to add more moisture to their home.

I am finally starting to let go of my work and learning to leave it at school.  To balance my brain and my penchant to create today I sewed an infinity scarf made with bamboo knit striped magenta and turquoise for new mom, A.D. in Montreal.  The scarf changes into a cover when she breast feeds.  It’s really cute.  With the same bamboo knit fabric I also sewed a pair of booties with a turquoise woven ribbon for ties and a pointy hat for the new babe, Z.A.  We’ll get to see her in July as well meet M.A. flying over from Singapore.  By then M.A. will be 7 months old by then.  She has already flown to England 2x, Dubai and will be in Montreal for one month.

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Bambou knit hat, booties and infinity scarf for Z.A. made by Tati D.

M. is getting ready for another walk on the Camino, starting from Le Puy-en-Velais.  He’ll be away for 6 weeks.  He is so organized and is really an expert trip planner.  He just amazes me.  I think he ought to publish his blog into book form.

 

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I’m the “Teacher I Never Had”…unfinished story…

It’s June 16, 2017 today, Friday.  Am counting the days until the 29th when I’ll be freer and the students, too.  Last night I finally felt liberated (and perhaps gaining more balance, finally) to see where I left off on my blog posts.  I am a bit confused as I think I lost some bits and pieces of writing along the way.  I am sure I was writing one when M and I were in Gabriola Island during March Spring Break but I cannot find it due to this new wordpress format or I just did not save it properly.   I also did not publish because I was unable to download pictures of the following:  1. our lovely cabin and front grassy area with a wild look, each natural element glistened with raindrops when the sun shone, robins busily collecting their worms for their newborns…this cabin became like a secret refuge hidden behind the big rambling house + Friday night jam sessions where musically talented blended family members gathered to sing and nosh-when you live on an island you become a Jack and Jill of all trades…lesson:  never judge a book by its cover;  2. the rainy and blustery weather that gave us more permission to sit, to sip, and to languish in our books, our writing and dreaming; the colourful and aromatic meals mostly Indian especially after M’s visit earlier this year to Southern India-Kerala, Munnar, and then Sri Lanka and of course, Asian;  3. watching the lovely west coast arbutus trees start new growth again after the long west coast winters 4. the lovely hikes we did and visiting our old stomping grounds.  I am so proud that M. was able to cycle all around the island in about one hour.  That’s great stuff.  Can’t believe he’ll be 61 this year.  The 6 day sojournwas exhilarating. It seems so long ago.  Je suis désolée d’écrire tout ce message en anglais.

It was also when I found out from Voisine (who’s free from teaching year 2 now)that Papa slipped on black ice (after a Chinook) March 16 which resulted in a concussion.   I was not told as the worry wart of the family.  (Trusting in God is not always easy for me.)  This eventually turned out to be a slow bleed in his brain.  Now 27 days later after going to Emergency at Foothils on a Wednesday, Papa had a May 20 operation, and lots of prayer, love and his own desire to be mobile, after removal of blood clot on his brain, neurosurgeon JK said it was a minor operation, Papa has been healing well.  Although he was a bit dizzy he was up and walking a few hours after the operation.  NOW:  At home he is using his cane less and loves washing dishes after each lovely meal Mom has cooked. With a cane he was able to walk to the little shopping centre down the street with Mom by his side.  Bit by bit he is strong enough to do his morning walk about 4 long blocks to Macdonalds and see his Chinese buddies all in their 80’s. He has resumed YMCA activities-only steam room, whirlpool, no Health Club activities yet and he walks there from the bus.  He has resumed his Saturday coffee buddy meets.  Some of his friends date back to childhood from Bok Keen Elementary School in Bok Keen county in Canton or Guangzhou or Kaiping?  (the school published an amazing yearbook recently to commemorate the school but it’s all written in Chinese-my now deceased 4th Uncle, former red guard was active in the publishing) I remember Uncle and Auntie G. most as Uncle G. came out to work when he left his family in Carbon, Alberta to stay with us.  It’s amazing to see how their longtime friends have created a lovely nest of support and companionship.

I’m reading the title above and see that my information does not pertain to that title.  SORRY.  So much on my brain.  My mind is on getting to Paris.   I’m looking forward to Marché Belleville and staying in Ménilmontant.  Annie m’a appelé hier soir.  On va discuter mon trajet de CDG jusqu’à l’appartement.  Comme Sherry dit, “Put on your big girl’s underwear.”

M, I know you’re enjoying southern Sicily with A. since you left Vancouver May 23 and that we’ll reunite in July when you attend the Sorbonne…Hopefully I’ll be good shape to travel for 6 weeks with you after this year on the ‘battlegrounds’.  I am blessed to have a STIBS worker for the month of June 3 days a week, actually she’s my GUARDIAN ANGEL in my class to deter the tantrums and flinging of chairs and objects.  I can’t believe that I am experiencing this in my FI class with these 2 young lads.  Learning to understand them…as Dr. Parker J. Palmer said in his article:  ‘The Heart and Integrity of a Teacher”…such an excellent commentary on being a teacher in this school.  I have never seen this in my entire teaching career.  CYCLING to school each day is my FREEDOM and JOY TIME, 50 minutes a day is enough.

BELOW IS an OLD POST…I feel that ‘breaking free’ is imminent after this year…we shall see the steps I need to take…

Finally, M., we have been discussing this for so many years.  There are times I think you’ve convinced me to go for it.  One day I say, ‘Maybe’, the next week I say, ‘Yes’.  The following week I say, ‘I’m not sure, I’m only 56, ACTUALLY 57 now, what else am I gonna do?’  I know you’re tired of hearing me waffle back and forth.  Thank you for letting me be and rolling with the many punches and dealing with a fatigued spouse.  With you, I want to go out and have fun, seek the world, laugh more, play more, mellow out more and get off this ‘teaching treadmill’…but I’m not ready yet.

I know you are really enjoying being retired.

As you’ve been trekking in Paris, Nice, Marseille, Cassis, Manosque, Annot, I now know why I have not yet retired.  My colleague, JT, said it so succinctly one day after a tough day…  (despite the mental and physical fatigue, the angst, the tension of having to deal with parents, the physical hard work of keeping my class organized because we do SO MANY interesting projects, we have so many interesting conversations, I see growth over a period of time-theirs and mostly mine, and my heart is filled with joy as I am, for now, still a PHARE in this community.  In short, I am the ‘Teacher I Never Had’.

Also, as you’ve been away, I have really enjoyed, yes, with precision, caulking around the downstair’s bathroom splashboard, and around the kitchen counter tiles…I loved painting the baseboards…the sewing…gardening for hours so that the garden no longer looks like a jungle…coming into to sew a project, knit and purl a few rows just because I love cotton and the rich royal blue colour, crochet a few rows for a wool blanket that looks like a Hudson’s Bay Blanket.  I have been reading the history of that.  SO INTERESTING.

Our district, grâce à BR, who has become a VP, introduced to us Zones of Regulation Book:

When we first introduced to this program, deep down I was scoffing that day. Another band-aid for our school…to cover up the real need for aware and RESPECTFUL PARENTING…(perhaps that is where the real problem lies…people keep blaming the government for kids’ problems…) AND AM LEARNING THAT SOME ANXIOUS PARENTS CREATE ANXIOUS KIDS…no wonder…

June 2017: Am learning lots in SUPERFLEX ME and ‘DÉTECTIVE SOCIAL” and what SOCIAL LAGGING SKILLS ARE…they are new in my vocabulary and teacher learning…

My immediate thoughts were numerous and I became overwhelmed:

1.“Oh, no, another distraction to my me being able to teach my curriculum…something else administrative that I needed to implement in my class…

2.So tired of so many interruptions that throw me off from meeting my teacher and parental needs for academic success…

3.Each of my students has a plethora of intelligences…multiple intelligences…kudos to Dr. Howard Gardner…AND I AM LEARNING NOW IN 2017 THAT SOME KIDS HAVE MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES THAT HAVE NEVER BEEN ADDRESSED AT HOME and THEY ARE NOW 9 YEARS OLD

And I need to daily manage several distracted students in my class…

#1=power struggles, not listening, low self-esteem, afraid to talk to the other class members and only wants to listen to me or to not listen…

#2=wants to be babied; learned helplessness; prefers to work hard in maternal language; wanders off when I do not check in on every 15 minutes and continues to walk over to talk to another child.

#3=fidgets non-stop; ants in pants? Loves to do seatwork, paper and pencil to do math but when it comes to writing reflective thoughts… gets up constantly and moves or flails arms and legs and accidentally brushes up against others…EACH TEACHER WAS GIVEN $200. worth of FIDGETS (plastic items made in China for those fidgety students who could not focus…)

#4=needs a designation? Sweeter than pie; is often lost in the class and I could not intervene so much when best friend and child would chat it up every time I left them to work with someone else…best friend moved to an English school in March…now this student is alone. Whenever we talk about science or anything else, student (verbal intelligence) becomes totally engaged so I have spent much more time sharing science and social studies texts to share with the class…that all fits into my teaching plan, too.

Then I have #5, #6, #7, #8 who work SO SLOW no matter the amount of time I give them plus extensions…and their spelling is atrocious.

Over time ZONES of REGULATION BOOK has provided me a practical structure, a script to use in almost any situation when needed: Reading the book, photocopying the templates and hung them up, and using the vocabulary about my moods, feelings and emotions with the students I have learned that in my stream of consciousness way of writing, my multi-tasking, my random-abstract, non-concrete sequential way of being, I have finally found the EXECUTIVE FUNCTION aide I have needed all of my life. All the moods I have had and experienced as a HIGHLY-SENSITIVE person, not being able to think ‘properly’ and simply react to events with abandon and often slumping into the RED ZONE with sibling rivalry…I have now learned a way to bring more peace and calm to my whole being. As I teach the Zones of Regulation to my students I am learning it, too, next to them and it has given me often a PRACTICAL way to relieve my stress, to question my thoughts before reacting and brought me more peace as I learn to deflate my own anxieties during the course of a school day. The Zones has given me a foundation to re-learn HOW TO BE. It was meant for me even though I am now almost ready for retirement.

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L’été 2016…Vancouver, C.-B.

Couldn’t wait for le 30 juin 2016…youpie!

What had become of ‘me’?  I am discovering this Monday, July 25, that perhaps I’m finally giving myself permission to be the ‘REAL ME’ after 199 days of teaching?…and that I’m realizing that my  identity does not lie in ‘being the teacher I never had’…My retired partner and retired friends remind me of this often…Please ‘release the perpetual furrow in your brow…and live for you, not for school’…CARPE DIEM for you…

I have been following a Parisian blog…sometimes at home when I’m writing report cards or planning, I get distracted and read French cooking blogs…CD asked for some feedback.  Below is what I wrote as I condensed my ideas…

Chère CD,

J’aime vous lire pour plusieurs raisons…
1. car je vis ma vie ici, une partie de mon coeur est en France avec vous et je peux me raffoler dans la francophonie…
2. je suis trop occupée dans ma tête, ou plutôt, ma liste d’emplettes est trop pleine…donc quand je lis votre blog cela me donne la permission de me ralentir…?
3. cuisiner en suivant vos recettes; un passe-temps où je deviens HERMITE et personne me parle…et je suis dans la gloire si j’avais bien dormi la veille…Cela fait du bon sens? Autrement je n’ai pas de FACEBOOK, FACE TIME, INSTAGRAM, etc…

En vacances où je prends soin de moi…

BUT REALLY BELOW IS WHAT I WROTE to her which was a RED ALERT that I am not seeing my friends, in person, in this city, in my neighbourhood, and instead I’m getting inspiration from a cooking blog author…HELLO, it’s time to make time for myself:

Voici ce que je vous ai écrit la semaine dernière…rambling, stream-of-consciousness…your blog helps me to reflect on my own life, to take care of me…excuse the mistakes…

Dimanche le 3 juillet 2016, le premier weekend après la fin de cette année scolaire dans le système public de Vancouver,

C’est avec beaucoup de plaisir,  en mangeant un bol de granola que j’ai fait à 6h ce matin (fait avec de l’huile de noix de coco, du tahina, des noix de pécan, des graines de sésame noir, des graines de tournesol, du sirop d’érable du Québec, un peu de sucre brun, de la cannelle, + des bleuets frais de la C.-B. et du yaourt probiotique), que je viens de vous lire en paix (sans penser à l’école)…vous avez toujours des nouvelles intéressantes ce qui me gardent dans la francophonie…et j’adore le livre C&Z…et vos commentaires de la vie quotidienne…

Félicitations pour votre fils! Qu’il ait toujours la passion d’apprendre, comme vous…et je n’ai pas encore pris ma retraite car je viens d’entendre dans mon âme que, ‘je suis la maîtresse à l’école que je n’ai jamais eu’…I TEACH WHO I AM…heureusement j’ai beaucoup appris de mes parents immigrants, pleines de talents, le goût et surtout la nécessité d’apprendre (really to live and learn outside of the ‘China’ box), pleine de passion pour s’assimiler dans leur nouvelle culture au Canada, dans notre jardin, dans notre épicerie, dans notre vie quotidienne, etc….

Mon époux vient de passer 5 semaines à Paris Ménilmontant-Marseille-Nice (il a heureusement manqué l’horreur), sans moi, bou hou…mais il m’a acheté une copie du livre, “BELLE ET SÉBASTIEN-Le document secret” par Cécile Aubry, 1966, trouvé dans le vieux quartier du panier à Marseille…j’ai vu cette émission sur la chaîne CBC quand j’avais 7-8-9 ans à Calgary. C’est là, je pense, où j’ai eu le plaisir d’entendre une autre langue que l’anglais et le cantonais ? J’ai aussi acheté le dvd de Belle et Sébastien, 2014, pour montrer à mes élèves…

Elijah Wood, l’acteur, a travaillé deux fois dans mon quartier récemment dans le film, “OPUS”.   J’ai essayé de lire “Les Seigneurs des anneaux” quand j’avais douze ans car mes frères et ma soeur ont adoré ce livre, + “Le Hobbit” + “Les Garennes de Watership Down” mais ils n’étaient pas poignants pour moi. Mais quand je me suis promenée avec mon voisin-père et son fils, FR, après la kermesse mercredi passé, j’ai vu EJ assis sur un banc à côté du trottoir…C’est là que j’ai eu la compulsion de demander à Monsieur Wood de prendre une photo avec lui pour montrer à mes élèves…il était très gentil…FR lui a beaucoup ressemblé…ils auraient pu être ‘frères’ avec leurs grands yeux bleus…

Portez-vous bien. Nous serons à Montréal cet été…mon ancienne collègue viendra la semaine prochaine de Vernon, France avec sa famille et on va faire un pique-nique avec mes amis profs francophones à la plage Locarno…et les enfants adultes de mon autre copine viendront de Malmo en Swède.

Cordialement,…

In the past few weeks I’ve been moving in rhythm of a connected heart, soul, body and mind… and have made some delicious meals for the people for whom I care…just wish I saw more of my bro and his family.  He’s an incredible chef and we seem to eat more gourmet meals at his place with the magnificent view.

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We also dined on perfectly spiced Ethiopian food at AXUM on East Hastings.  The enjera is fresh and supple…the beef and the fish come in good portions as do the cabbage, carrots, split peas, lentils and spinach accompaniments.  We went with Clark with D and N…D. is a brainy screenwriter and knitter of incredibly complex items…and N. is an illustrator who is ‘always’ working…the food at AXUM is excellent (my 4th time) and the owner is incredibly friendly.  We enjoyed ourselves very much.  We ate recently at another Ethiopian eatery on Commercial Drive.  The chef was very skilled but the portions for the shared plate for about $30.00 were miniscule…LITTLE VALUE for one’s money…right, 1 meager chicken drumstick.  When I told the waitress this she said nothing. I can’t believe the ethics of some Vancouver restaurants…Having only been to Morocco I cannot compare African food elsewhere.

 

I took an 8 hour class and wrote the BC Food Safe Level 1 course (a 5 minute walk to the class) and passed with flying colours.  We bought a new kitchen range hood, had plumber come to auger the drains, gardening, saw some friends whom I had not seen for 2 years, sewed baby paraphernalia, read a French kid’s novels…one of them is Belle et Sébastien: le document secret…there’s also a dvd…used to watch Belle et Sébatien en CBC in 1965???; saw a former colleague who moved back to France to be closer to family but misses the school system here very much; met my friends’ newlywed kids who now live in Malmo,Sweden…they had a destination wedding on Koh Samui Island d

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Je suis le professeur que je n’ai jamais eu…

Retrieve memories that make me calm

Retrieve memories that make me calm…Mazunte

Stream-of-consciousness thoughts on my journey from skeptism to doing meditation; other happenings; another week completed…bring the boat home by June 30.

I was told today, June 9, that I am an Indigo Child…will find out what that means…I don’t like to label…76 year old Grand-mère G. came a few days ago from Montréal.  She came to visit her petit fils’s class today…She’s from Dollard-des-ormeaux.  Within 20 minutes, after the students interviewed her and then went on to do a Water Filtration activity with UBC’S Let Talk Science, A., physicist and will receive his Ph.D at the end of this year, Grand-mère m’a dit:  J’aurais aimé être dans votre classe si j’étais dans la 3ème année.  Les élèves sont si joyeux et ils sont si intéressés et engagés dans leur activité…le but de créer la meilleure façon à filtrer l’eau sale.  Grand-mère a dit que la 3ème année à Montréal était pénible.  Elle est devenue professeur de 8ème, 9ème et 10ème année dans sa carrière.

June 2, 2016:  I was so skeptical when Senora  mentioned it to me many months ago… “What, meditation for teachers in a public school?” Didn’t ask questions. Too busy. “Oh, that’s nice. Thanks for telling me.”

More skeptical.

 

I need time for me. I keep forgetting about me.  When do I plan? Weekends? In the middle of the night? SBT meetings to discuss students’ needs and strategies to learn the best way…digging in family stories…where did these behaviours originate? How can the classroom teacher help? What outside support does the student require? How can parents respond differently to their child?  Can he or she learn more strategies to more independent at home, then at school?  Hovering parents who are too afraid to let the kids be.

I need to stop judging lest I be judged.

Why is it so hard to take better care of my personal life needs? Balancing time with my partner. Manage the home, my creative interests-sewing, knitting, crocheting, art, making baby items for new-baby-to-arrive in MTL, groceries, dinner parties and seeing friends, cycling trips, hiking trips, out-of-town visitors, bbq.

My 80 year old parents visited recently for 10 days.  Active, active, active with clear minds, lots of energy, time to explore, etc.  Dad had a great time at CRAFT recently with Mom, uncle G. and auntie G.  They’ve hung out since they all came to Canada back in the 1950’s.  Why do I not have their genes of joy, relaxation, laughter, smiles and carpe diem?

Struggled with the word MEDITATION in the media: in yoga classes…there so many types of yoga…attended one class with a friend.  Chanting the mantras was not for me…I hear about Buddhist meditation and weekend retreats…Vietnamese, Japanese…Christian meditation weekends…go to Lourdes in Spain? Do the Camino starting in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France?

Over the years I’ve learned that I have an Executive Function that does not function well…hence, scattered thoughts, scattered classroom…parents who expect me to put organization into training their child in class because their children are also messy and disorganized in their own home lives…As a result I have learned to COMPARTMENTALIZE all that I do and create STRUCTURE…THERE’S A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING…that’s all I heard while I was growing up as a child…the only child of the family who was not concrete-sequential-creative but abstract-random-creative…

To get to the point: When I finally asked Senora to come to my class, with a quick message in passing as I was running, yes, running to do another teaching task, “YES, I’m ready to have you in my class, when would you be available, if you are still available?” while she was standing in the hallway talking to other parents.

Now I realize that I was very afraid of this meditation moment with the students. I was afraid that I would cry from my constant state of being overwhelmed, especially when I have not clearly written out my day plan…when I still have so much to do.

So I let Senora do her Meditation activity. Control freak, guilt freak that I am when parents or anyone, I feel, judges my teaching expertise or my ‘Class as laboratory’ (that’s what Canadian astronaut, Dr. D. St-Jacques said a few years ago when he came to our school and into my class for brief moments).  I felt led like a child into the activity.

Cotton plants soaking up the sun in Mazunte.

PEACEFUL:  Cotton plants soaking up the sun in Mazunte.  Have not forgotten the peace I felt here.

What it did for me: Gave me permission to take a few moments of the day to calm my mind, my spirit, and to be quiet…One adult per class is often times hard in spite of my 27 years of teaching. I get so hyper and excited about what I am doing that I lose myself as if I am the child in the class doing, I think, exciting activities.

Senora’s teaching of stretches, her calm voice, the words she used evoked many emotions in me, the metaphors through her visuals, the meditation itself, and the ‘permission’ I felt to just be, I felt soothed, an unruffling of my feathers, letting go of my tension… probably the only 45 minutes I had had all day to be mindful and hear my own heart. I was in tears. Many of her metaphors reached into my own heart of my own journey…reminders of how I used to respond and how I better respond now to people who cross my path…and the many lessons I’ve learned that have shaped all of my multiple subject positions…

Right after that my class was engaged in the following from 2-3 p.m.

  1. in a BIKE OBSTACLE COURSE…the students each designed on paper, an obstacle course, (Bike to Work Week)
  2. saying “ADIEU” to a student who was leaving the school for the summer holidays in a France home exchange.

3.Welcomed a dad of J. who sees his child 2 times a year to show the animation he and his daughter created

4. Drank juice provided by a parent after the obstacle race.

At 3:35, leaving school, I was in severe pain and felt nausea. I hung my heavy book bag on the left shoulder blade and I felt dizzy for a moment. I stretched a bit on the sidewalk. For some years now I have to release all the tension I carry in my poor left shoulder blade and abductors that pull on my neck. I had to see an osteopath last summer in SJPDP because I was so congested on my left side. I did not ride to school. Am grateful that my collegue came to pick me up in the morning and drove me back. I quickly reminded myself that I needed to lie down, stretch and breathe out the pain…and that’s what I did instead of moving on to my next activity…My parents are visiting from out-of-town. My partner, retired, is coming back after being away for 35 days…clean house…rest…bake some bread…rest…we have visitors most of June…

I am going to do meditation, breathe and slow down in order to release the tension in my core.

I highly recommend this meditation activity to be implemented into a student’s day…it’s recognizing what is going on in the students’ spirits…and gave permission for the teacher to do the same…it’s a whole body listening activity…they see where they are at…they can find calm…calm to find solutions to their problems…calm to just BE.  It focuses on developing the ‘virtues’ in each and every one of us…the students take a moment to breathe…it’s a great addition to Mindful Education as one observes emotions, and helps in defining which Zones of Regulation one is in and the many reasons for certain moods. It’s interactive as students can share their feelings and Senora I. is an empathic and compassionate and active listener as she facilitates the meditation.

Author Susan Cain:  QUIET REVOLUTION-introverts.  I am so blessed to have some introverted students who are totally engaged in school.  I saw a mom (engineer) still on maternity leave today after school.  She told me how excited she was to see the progress her introverted daughter has made this year in Gr. 3.  She told me that her daughter often goes into her room after school, closes the door and sings or reads the song lyrics of some songs and poems or Lecture à la maison I’ve given them:    La mélodie de bonheur, Écrit sur les murs, Gens du pays, les petits bonheurs, etc…I ‘need’ these students in my class to help me balance…and sometimes my partner is introverted, too.  I’ve suggested that they also practice public speaking and singing in front of a mirror to quash any fears…just like I did as a kid.

Thank you, Senora I. for enlightening me.

 

 

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Reflections…here, there, France, Vancouver…

Notre petite terrasse à St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, l'été 2015

Notre petite terrasse à St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, l’été 2015

It has been many moons since I’ve written.  It was an adventure-filled summer 2015 with love, laughter, good food, good company, celebrations, etc.:  Belleville, Paris, St-Jean-Pied-de-Port

On raffole à St-Jean-Pied de Port...Merci, Mme Soline et sa famille!!

On raffole à St-Jean-Pied de Port…Merci, Mme Soline et sa famille!!

Strasbourg-a wedding, Calgary, 80th BD of my parents… December was fairly wet but mild, no snow on the streets, days and nights strewn with bits of sun, wind and higher temperatures than normal…biked to school on an average of 3 to 4 times and always felt invigorated…most of my colleagues and many students caught cold or flu bugs and I none which is so rare…must be doing something right…

We had a ‘Pineapple Express’, huge rain storm, in August 2015 which meant the ‘bassins’ (watershed)  were being filled again.  A few weeks the power lines were down in many places around B.C.  Thank God for Mother Nature after the hot weather-canicules this summer.  We received a lovely message from our SJPDP neighbours A. and P.  and Monsieur and Madame L. sent us a video about the group of Pays Basque mycologists celebrating their found gems, edible and non-edible; natural treasures they spent hours collectively foraging…it was like mobile mushroom party.  This was a reminder of the August unforgettable meal prepared by the loving heart and hands of Mme L. and Dr. L.’s conviviality and hospitality in their home filled with beautiful hand-made antique furniture and Dr. L.’s mom’s art masterpieces.  We dined on appetizers and a local exquisite wine on the balcony with a spectacular view of the vineyards above Ispoure and their magnificent lush potager plus the yard was littered with home-made woven baskets. The main meal was composed of a superb hen and chanterelle mushroom bathed in butter, white asparagus spears, buttery potatoes and her Basque Cake home-made family recipe.  Madame was born and raised in this quaint French market town on the Camino trail.

I jot with a burdened heart of the November 13, 2015 events in Paris… My mind transports me to the Paris I know best:  rue Julien Lacroix and rue de Belleville…the street sounds of the day, the café owner from Pays-Basque,  Paris Store, my coiffure Chinese-Cambodian with whom I converse in French and Cantonese + heavy anglophone accent, my favourite Middle Eastern butchers heading up rue Belleville with smiling faces and who make magnifcent merguez, excellent rotisserie chickens, potatoes and peppers delicioso…meat is always so fresh and handled with TLC, the corner bakeries we love, the Chinese greengrocers and the Marché Belleville on Tuesdays and Fridays…and the lovely music that emanates from the church on my street where we’ve ‘lived temporarily’ 5 times.  Walking to Place de la République is very close…and this week, March 18, 2016, there was finally the discovery of the perpetrators. Youpi and relief…

May 2016-M. is away in France for 5 weeks exploring and soaking up the French culture and in the midst of the French in ‘recovery mode’.  He’ll be home to Vancouver soon.  My life is very banal without him.  Elijah Wood, et al, will be filming in OPUS in our neighbourhood for a week…interesting…School will be finished in June…needed vacation…

I hope and pray for peace and wellness in our world; for travellers and their safety…

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Au parc de la Butte du Chapeau-Rouge grows a passion fruit vine and flowers

Passion flower vine in Parc Butte-du-Chapeau Rouge, le 6 juillet 2015

Passion Flower vine? in Parc de la Butte du Chapeau-Rouge, le 6 juillet 2015

Green water spouts from Statue Eve on Boulevard d'Algérie.

Green water spouts from Statue Eve on Boulevard d’Algérie.

Walked 2 hours east of rue Julien Lacroix to another green space.  It is another of our favourite gardens and a place of ‘refuge’ from busy Belleville.  I need doses of silence daily.  As avid walkers and cyclists in Vancouver we need to spend time near large green spaces.  We’ve decided to not rent bikes to ride around here especially around here so running up stairs 2 x 2 (as often as I can find stairs) is a ‘baume’ on my muscles as I learn to de-rotate and get out those kinks.

So we walk, and walk some more, to explore.  It’s easier to walk everywhere, most of the time.  It’s quicker sometimes.  M. walked about an hour  to the Sorbonne every day for a week.  One never knows who one will meet.  We met a very authentic Parisian while walking in an untouristy spot.  She was a poet named Mariel Sigogneau who writes from her heart and spends time in Guadeloupe.  She recently self-published her second book of poems for all ages.  She is a night writer as she wakes up and writes in the middle of the night when her words are most vivid…La petite fée does the writing…

The other day we walked to Telegraph area…highest point of Paris?  We peeked in le cimetière de Belleville.  I need to refrain from ‘judging books by their cover’.   The bald headed bespectacled guardian sitting behind his desk was dressed in grey.  When we entered he looked up from his reading.  He wore a boring morose look.  He answered one of our questions and we left.  Then we had another question.  We re-entered the office. Then as M. continued to talk the guardian surprised us.  He told us about his fabulous trip to northern Quebec with his wife…and he was surprised that we Vancouverites who actually knew how to speak French…his face was overcome with a little joy.  We left, heartful…it’s always easier to communicate when you know similar words…

As we exited we read the plaques on the wall.  This cemetery was smaller than the one at Père Lachaise.  Standing there was a short and husky man in a suit and a woman about 30ish?  Malgache? Sri Lankan? both dressed in black outside the entrance.  The woman was texting and seemed upset.  A conversation started with us as they were told to meet a group of friends to bury their childhood friend, now a young doctor in Paris.  Apparently the man in the black suit had flown in from Nanjing where he was studying Hotel Management in English and simultaneously learning Mandarin.  Seeing that I am Asian he addressed me in Mandarin.  We found out that they were both from Madagascar and obviously not happy to meet in Paris on this occasion.  The guardian had told us that there was no more room for burials at this cemetery.  We told them we were sorry.

Daily walking is necessary for me;  for our 3 week stay in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port.    Hopefully we’ll walk, God willing, a few hours per day.  It might be interesting to meet up with other ‘promeneurs of the Camino’.  If I can ride up UBC hill from Spanish Banks without sans cesse on my Japanese 6 speed bicycle I can surely walk a bit, and stretch while I am moving, more than 20 km per day.

Parc de la Butte du Chapeau-Rouge was conceived in the 1930’s.  It is our secret green space from the hustle and bustle.  We saw a Monkey tree, cedar bushes, maple trees, etc.  I am in perpetual flora identification when I walk outside anywhere I am.  I have not yet memorized even a portion of the book:  “Plants of Southern British Colombia” or my numerous plant guides.  We went to Librarie Gilbert Jeune, Place St-Michel, near Musée Louvre today.  Oh, my, I  could barely contain my joy, flora identification books in French.  We went to Louvre’s Apple Store today because in my cleaning frenzy yesterday, my damp cloth was too damp wiping out 2 keys on my MacBook keyboard: u and 7.  Bless Xavier at Apple Store.  He conjured up SHOW KEYBOARD VIEWER.  Another site showed how to remove keys and clean them as he had spilled rootbeer on his clavier

Meanwhile back at this park in Paris you find yourself on the periphery of the city and on the horizon you have a panoramic view of the outskirts, so I am told, of communities #93 (Seine-Saint-Denis) and #94 (Val-de-Marne).  On this day around 11h30 there were only 3 sets of families playing in the park, a couple of men in slumber under the trees, a few joggers, a group of young boys dressed in denim shirts and jeans intensely into their ‘match du soccer’, a few young mothers and their babies sitting on park benches while keeping watchful eye on their toddlers,  and some men scattered around the park deep into reading their novels.  No frenzy here.  Just silence.

To find a passion fruit flower vine growing in this place was something special. I took a close-up picture of it but it is a bit blurry.

Paris Park:  Au parc de la Butte-du-Chapeau-Rouge

Paris Park: Au parc de la Butte-du-Chapeau-Rouge

This park is a serene space away from the chaos of Belleville. The townhouses near la Rue de Mouzaïa on some of the cobblestone walking paths are reminiscent of a Paris ages ago…homey looking ‘cottages’ with private patios and flora galore SANS any panoramic or mountain views. A couple of years ago we tried to help an elderly woman hobble up the cobblestone path with her chariot in tow.  She could barely walk but mustered away like the “LITTLE TRAIN THAT COULD”.  She thanked us and told us she was becoming more and fragile but she insisted on the walk up the hill to go buy her groceries.

Silence

Silence…it will be more beautiful…yes, I just noticed the reflection of myself taking the photo…

This park has a very different ambiance from the ancient ‘bare hill’,  le Parc des Buttes- Chaumont.  It became a public park in 1864 after many transformations:  quarry, area for hangings of criminals,  abattoir for horses, city sewage dump, etc.  Over the years an artificial lake below was installed.  It is a our ‘go-to’ park when we’re in Paris or Parc Belleville where there is a little vignoble.  We passed through recently under the scorching heatwave, “canicule”,  to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.  It was packed full of people strewn out on the grass in little pods trying to stay cool.  In spite of the densely populated park people seemed relatively quiet and respectful of each one’s ‘space’.  Perpetual renovations reign in this park so some paths are closed.  We’ve seen City of Paris workers there over the past 7 years since we’ve been coming to Paris.  We’re all ‘works in progress’…

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La Liberté, de L’Égalité et La Fraternité…Place de la République…

Place de la République, June 29, 2015...First walk of the day after 12 hour flight

Place de la République, June 29, 2015…First walk of the day after 12 hour flight

DSC00015I walk some mornings for about an hour (return) with M (on his way to the Sorbonne-Engagements et Résistances) on rue du Faubourg-du-Temple (au nord-est) and mosey along the streets où je fais du lèche vitrines.

We walk down to le Monument et la Statue de la République where the Charlie Hebdo manifestation took place after the attack.  In my stream-of-consciousness thinking, place-time-culture-people, my thoughts become somber and gloomy about that incident although I was 7 945 km away. Watching TV5 back then this place was packed like sardines. I think of all the manifestations and the protests that have happened on this plaza with the Statue looking on. If she were a living statue, how would she respond to all the events Parisians have experienced? This place has absorbed a multitude of tears, rampages, anger, grief, and despondency…is there space for hope, too? How ironic. The statue represents La Liberté, de L’Égalité et La Fraternité.

Today they removed all the bleachers for the Pride Parade the other day. What an organized mess of litter underneath the bleachers.  City of Paris workers have made it look pristine.  It is now sparse and clean except for the piles of ditched mégots, cigarette butts, food wrappers, bottles and tin cans all over the place.

The statue has added graffiti daily. So many voices that need expression.  That is freedom.  That is Paris, too, for me.

 

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