Monthly Archives: March 2013

She Remembers- SOL #31

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She Remembers

She remembers caring for him,
pretending he was her baby.
She remembers him following her around
like a shadow, a copy cat.
She remembers him pestering,
annoying,
bothering,
tattling,
fighting.
She remembers being enemies,
destined to never be friends.
She remembers joining forces,
combining efforts,
making peace–
if just for a moment.
She remembers laughing,
hugging,
playing,
talking.
She remembers waking up and
realizing he’d grown up,
matured,
become a man.
She remembers his wedding,
crying tears of joy and pride.
She remembers him becoming
a daddy.
She remembers being proud
of her little brother.
Loving him despite the differences,
Loving him because of them.

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Cairo- SOL #30

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Today begins my Spring Break, but more importantly, my trip to Cairo, Egypt! I can’t tell you how excited I am about this trip! I’ve always wanted to see the pyramids, so when the opportunity to see this amazing wonder came about, I bought my ticket straight away. Well, the time has finally arrived. Today’s slice is a list of all the things I’m looking forward to on this trip.

  • Standing in awe of the pyramids, particularly the Great Sphinx of Giza.
  • Riding a camel…I know, I know, so cliche, but hey, I’m only in Egypt once, right?
  • Shopping at the old bazaars and street markets. I’m really looking forward to finding a piece of Egyptian art and some beautiful tapestries to bring back home.
  • Taking a boat trip down the Nile.
  • Going horseback riding at sunset near the pyramids. Is this really my life?
  • Visiting the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities to see the mummies and catch a glimpse of King Tut and his artifacts.
  • Marveling at the world’s largest temple (over 70 acres!), the Temple of Karnack in Luxor, the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes.
  • Traveling to Aswan on the overnight sleeper train (a first!) and taking a felucca ride around the surrounding islands.
  • Exploring the Valley of the Kings, located on the West bank of the Nile and known to contain 63 tombs and chambers, as well as the Valley of the Queens, a similar place except for housing the wives of pharaohs.
  • Trying some typical Egyptian food. I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m looking forward to tasting new dishes!
  • Being in the sun! The winter has lingered a little too long in Shanghai, and I’m looking forward to feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin and not having to wear my heavy coat. Oh, and a tan would be nice, too!
  • The two 10+ hour plane rides. This past month has been so busy that I’m looking forward to many uninterrupted hours of reading!
  • Lastly, I’m looking forward to making new memories and writing in my writer’s notebook.

Where I’m From…-SOL #29

For months, I’ve been working on my version of “Where I’m From”. I hadn’t been able to get it quite right, and I’m not sure I have even now, but I’m finally willing to share it. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Where I’m From

I’m from the country,
shellin’ peas on the front porch swing,
listening to Mamaw and Grandaddy spin stories,
the smell of warm banana puddin’ wafting out of the kitchen.
I’m from pecan trees big enough to climb,
whose branches held the promise of adventure.

I’m from stayin’ out ’til dark,
and bedtime stories with one Poky Little Puppy.
I’m from cousins who are best friends
and grandmas who are secret keepers.
From yes ma’ams and no sirs,
from spankings and “Go to your room!”

I’m from playhouses and slumber parties,
passing notes and whispering secrets.
From Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow,
Punky Brewster and Bill Nye.
I’m from Trapper Keepers and spelling bees,
from school cafeterias that smelled like PB & J.

I’m from pick-up trucks caked with mud,
Aggie bonfires and cross-town rivalries.
From Carebears and My Little Ponies,
from first kisses and broken hearts.
I am from those moments–
growing up in a small town–
destined to see the world.

I’ve Learned- SOL #28

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On my ride home from work today, I was reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom and came across a really interesting section of the text that I decided to use as a mentor text. In the section on pages 62-63, when the author is describing the things Eddie learned while at war, he begins each sentence with “He learned…”. I thought I could write a slice about what I’ve learned while living in Shanghai. Here goes.

I’ve learned to tune out the incessant honking. I’ve learned that, contrary to what I previously believed, the sky is not always blue. I’ve learned enough Chinese to make people think I know more than I do. I’ve learned that bikes, even when locked up, can and will disappear. I’ve learned that life with an ayi is pretty rad, and I plan on having one as long as possible. I’ve learned to let things go more. I’ve learned there is more than one right way to do things. I’ve learned that the struggle, even when it seems so impossibly difficult that you want to give up, is worth it. I’ve learned to use chopsticks with ease. I’ve learned that fortune cookies aren’t really a Chinese thing. Oh, and neither is General Tsao’s chicken.

I’ve learned that I don’t need a car, and that I don’t actually miss it all that much. I’ve learned to deal with crazy taxi drivers. I’ve learned that a green flashing man at a crosswalk doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to cross. I’ve learned that brunch is an essential part of my weekend. I’ve learned how to appreciate life more. I’ve learned that friends, especially when you live halfway around the world, can and do become your family. I’ve learned how to survive in a city of 24 million people. I’ve learned to be a vegetarian. I’ve learned to be more tolerant of others. I’ve learned that we pay way too much for DVDs in America. I’ve learned the world isn’t as big as it seems. I’ve learned about the Chinese culture, but I realize I want to know more. I’ve learned that stinky tofu is one of the worst smells to ever assault my nose. I’ve learned the art of bargaining. I’ve learned that Shanghai can be both the best and worst city to live in, even in the span of one day. I’ve learned, as one year turned to two and two years turns to three, that I will forever be different because of this experience.

New Bike- SOL #27

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As mentioned in another slice, I bought a custom-made bicycle a few weeks ago. I was finally able to pick it up, and I love it! I love that there’s not another one just like it in Shanghai. I love that it’s “me”– bright, colorful, and fun! I love that it’s very lightweight and easy to ride. I love that I will be able to exercise again in a fun way, because, let’s face it, if I’m not having fun doing it, I’m not going to exercise.

Riding home on my new bike filled my heart with joy. Maneuvering between the other bikes, scooters, cars, and pedestrians got my adrenalin pumping. Listening to my music and pedaling to the beat, I was able to drown out everything else and enjoy the ride. The feeling of sweat on my skin was a pleasant reminder that I need to do this more often. The high I felt when I returned home from my ride got me through the night. I’m so excited to have a bike again, and I hope that I can keep this one for a long time!

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Mmmm….Mercato- SOL #26

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Tonight was girl’s night at one of my favorite restaurants in Shanghai, Mercato. Mercato is situated on the Bund and since we were seated near a window, we had a perfect view of the city skyline all lit up at night. We decided to go to Mercato since they won Restaurant Week, and had extended their tasting menu deal through this week. This meant we had an insane amount of food for the low price of 248 RMB ($40) per person. Considering that each main is normally about 200 RMB, this was a great deal! I thought I’d tell today’s slice of life through pictures so that you could see all the yummy foods we ate.

IMG_2783Melissa and I got to the Bund early to walk around and take a few pictures. Here’s my favorite one. I asked a local Chinese lady to take our picture. Of the three she took, this is the best one. I’m serious…even with the random Chinese guy and me not looking at the camera!

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I love the beautiful wall of flowers on the Bund!

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Our view of the Bund from our table. How pretty is that skyline?

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Course One- Kingfish Carpaccio, Crushed Olives, and Dill; Housemade Ricotta with Strawberry, Olive Oil, and Grilled Bread (my absolute favorite!); Warm Seafood Salad with Avocado, Lemon, and Parsley

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A close up of my favorite dish on the menu- Ricotta and Strawberry!!

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Course Two- Kale and Pecorino Pizza; Not pictured- Rigatoni and Meatballs with Smoked Chili-Tomato Ragu

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Course Three- Wood-Oven Roasted Whole 7 Star Seabass; Veal Milanese, Arugula and Citrus Dressing; Porcini-Crusted Salmon with Warm Leek Vinaigrette and Herbs (The salmon was my favorite! I couldn’t get over the head on the seabass. I generally don’t eat things with eyes staring at me.)

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Course Four- Autumn Apple Crisp with Cinnamon Honey Gelato; Bittersweet Chocolate Bundino with Salted Carmel Powder (Both were equally amazing!)

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A picture of all the girls at the end of the night. Funny how color-coordinated we all were. 🙂

I’d say tonight was a success! If you are ever in Shanghai, you have got to try Mercato. You will not be disappointed!

I Miss Them- SOL #25

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Today would have been my grandparent’s sixty-third wedding anniversary; March 25, 1950 was the day my Mamaw and Grandaddy said “I do.” They were both incredible people who loved one another until the very end. Mamaw passed away on August 2, 2009, and Grandaddy just over a year later, on August 7, 2010. I miss them dearly, and think of them often. In honor of my grandparents and their love for one another, I’d like to share a tribute to them both.

img081Mamaw and Grandaddy in their younger days. How cute were they?

Mamaw

img086Mamaw and me on January 30, 1985, the day my little brother was born.

My first best friend and the best secret-keeper around,
she loved me more than anyone ever could.
Her contagious laugh and loving smile
caused everyone to turn their heads
whenever she entered a room.
Raised in the country, she knew just how to
sew and quilt, cook from scratch, tend to a garden,
milk a cow, drive a tractor, and build a fort.
I can remember attending the annual Chili Day with her
eating chili and crackers, sweet tea, and chocolate sheet cake,
bidding on the auction items with her by my side,
caught up in the excitement of the auctioneer’s fast-paced voice.
Mamaw was the best cook in the whole world–
everyone said so.
She could make a ‘nanner puddin’
better than anything you ever tasted!
Andrew and I, the official taste testers,
eagerly awaited that first bite,
warm from the oven.
It was always just right.
With a listening ear and a heart of gold,
Mamaw made everything ok.

Grandaddy

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This picture embodies our relationship– always teasing one another!

Grandaddy could build anything with his hands,
from a barn to a playhouse,
a fence to a chicken coop,
you name it, he could build it.
Frugal, even to the very end,
he wouldn’t wear a new pair of pants
until his old ones were worn out.
From school-bus bananas
and peas and cornbread
to Nilla Wafers and Tootsie Rolls.
Riding around in his old Dodge pickup,
his hand on my knee,
finding that tickle spot that drove me crazy!
He could make a friend wherever he went,
and he always had a story to tell,
even if you didn’t have time to listen to it.
Loyal as the day is long,
you could count on him no matter what.

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Grandaddy and me just after Mamaw passed away. He was such a loving man.

Rainy Days- SOL #24

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What is it about the rain that makes me so sleepy? So lazy? The gray, gloomy skies coupled with the soft sound of the rain just outside my window lulls me into a trance. I want to be productive, to get all the things done that I’ve been putting off, but something about the rain makes me want to stay in my pajamas, read a book, order in, and watch a movie. I can’t be the only one that feels this way, right? I’ll try my hand at some poetry. That’s productive-ish.

Rain

gray-blue skies
no sun in sight
damp, dark, dreary
then I hear
sprinkles against my window
the soft pitter patter
forming background noise
begging me to stay indoors
where it’s warm and dry
I can always go out tomorrow

The Power of Context- SOL #23

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I’m currently reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, a book about how little things can make a big difference when causing an epidemic or movement to start. Today I read about the “Power of Context,” which is the understanding that context matters and “specific and relatively small elements in the environment can serve as Tipping Points” (p. 167). The example given about the New York City subway system was about how elements in an environment that convey disorder or a feeling of chaos or apathy can actually be the tipping point for violence or vandalism. This got me thinking about the “power of context” in relation to classroom design and set up.

Imagine a class that values collaboration and teamwork. How would that classroom be designed? Perhaps the desks would be arranged in table groups. There might be areas set up in the room for collaboration such as a reading table, a carpet space to gather as a class, or small work tables scattered around. Now imagine a class that values collaboration, yet all the desks are all in rows facing the front of the room. What message does that send if all the desks are in rows? How are the students supposed to work together when they are all facing one direction? The way in which you set up your classroom should reflect your values and be set up in a way that the context of the room supports those beliefs. Having the desks in rows can send the message that all eyes should be on the teacher, the giver of knowledge. A subtle change in classroom desk arrangement and design can make a big difference and be the tipping point for getting collaboration going in your classroom.

I recently volunteered at a local Chinese school, and upon entering the classroom, was taken aback by the design of the classroom. The small room was filled to the brim with 40+ children, all in rows, facing the front of the class. There was hardly any room to maneuver around the room, and it was evident to me that there couldn’t possibly be much collaboration happening in this room. The walls were bare, except for a few permanent fixtures on the wall– Chinese posters displaying rules and procedures, a TV in the corner of the room, and a blackboard at either end of the classroom– and a display of student stickers which seemed to be some sort of incentive program. The front of the room contained a teacher’s desk/podium from which to teach. The context of this classroom tells me that its values are that the teacher is the one in charge, the one who gives information, and the children are receivers of knowledge. While there may be other factors at play, I don’t speak enough Chinese to ascertain if there is anything else happening to suggest otherwise. The walls, free of anchor charts and student work, also conveyed a message that work was done in their notebooks, but not shared. While the children didn’t seem unhappy at all, my Western-style teaching beliefs and methods were definitely challenged and I felt myself feeling sad for these children who have to learn in this way.

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IMG_0503Like I said, they don’t seem unhappy, but this room is definitely cramped.

In addition to classroom design, the decor of your classroom also conveys a message, and the students pick up on that message, even if its on a subconscious level. Do your displays reflect the learning going on in your classroom today or do you have the same posters up year-round? Is student work valued and displayed on the walls in and outside of your classroom? Are there anchor charts of lessons hung on the walls so that children can refer to them if they have a question or need help? What you choose to put on your walls should reflect your beliefs and values about education and set up a context for learning.

How do you use the “power of context” in your classroom design and set up?

Getting My Hair ‘Did’- SOL #22

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One of the many perks of living in Shanghai is being able to go to the salon for a wash and blow out on a regular basis. I love getting my hair done before going out so it has that nice fresh look to it. I can remember the first time I experienced a shampoo in Shanghai. I was so freaked out and thought they were doing it all wrong! Now I love it!

First of all, they sit you down in the chair, and with your hair dry, they plop a big dollop of shampoo right on top of your head. Then they proceed to wash your hair by adding little bit of water at a time by spraying your hair with this tube of water. Gradually they add more and more of your dry hair until your entire head is one big lather of hair and soap suds. Once the soap suds become too much, they squeeze them into their hands and throw them in the trashcan. Then they add more shampoo and water and start the process again.

IMG_2729Here’s me with my soapy hair 🙂

The best part of this process is that they massage your head while they wash your hair. It’s so relaxing! After two “washes,” they take you to the sink to rinse and condition your hair. During the conditioning phase, you also get more massages. After that, it’s back to the chair for a blow out. They’ll blow it straight or curly, whatever you want. My favorite part is that the entire thing costs 38 RMB, which is equivalent to $6 USD. Yep, you heard that right. An hour of pampering for six bucks! I’d say that’s a deal!

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The finished product