Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Lost in Space

No I am not in danger, nor have I met someone named Will Robinson. I am however in a state of abstract conciousness.

So many things seem to be happening so quickly. I feel like I accomplish nothing during the day, but so much gets done all the same. I have tried to keep myself moving for multiple reasons - not the least of which is that for some reason my nose is less stuffed up when I am walking around. There is so much in my head.

So much....
I haven't said to all of the fabulous people I've met here.
Haven't done (ridden the slides at the community pool, played laser tag with the kids, been to the Ardennes Museum in town, taken pictures of the daily things like the Rue des Pietons, etc.)
I still haven't packed or distributed to all of the appropriate places.
Written here in my blog about my life here.

I want so much to share everything with you, because it has just been so moving. Tonight there was a stellar turnout for volleyball, I mean really excellent. And I had to say goodbye to Julia, who told me I was like her big sister and she didn't know what she would do with out me. And of course there were the dozen other people there I had to say goodbye to as well - Carine, Grazoo, and Lahcen from volleyball, the guys from the Thursday night league, Arnaud and Mr. Drumel, Joelle. With all this I find myself in a weird state of disappointed, happy, excited, loved, sad, and lonely. I don't know if there is a solution.

I messed up the cookies I made today with Hélène (although they were all gone in 20 minutes, so I didn't do a horrendous job) and I haven't finished making the presents for everyone else... I don't know what to say. Perhaps the best thing to do sometimes is to say nothing at all. But anyone who knows me knows that really isn't in my personality. As a matter of fact, I think saying nothing is one of the absolute last things I would do. But I find myself doing it now.

As I slowly slip back into English phrases and feeling lost I am reminded of the circle of life. This is an end and there is a new beginning coming soon. To a theater near me. Time to hyper drive (or whatever they did in that Robinson family show). Going to be productive. Love always, ~Heather

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sick and Moo

I will not miss being sick all the time. I hate being sick. It drains my energy, especially when I need it. And here I am, sick again. Ugh. It is gross and snotty and horrible. And I am really glad I have that Lysol so I can spray everything as it goes in the suitcase so I don't bring any of these nasty germs home with me.

Did I tell you our tent was next to a cow field? It was pretty cool. Sleeping in the tent is what did this - drastic weather changes of 40° in day when sleeping outdoors is really not the ideal situaion for staying healthy.

I mention the cow field because Marco and I were just talking about conversations or situations being mute (or moo as he put it, stealing from Joey on Friends). I make disaterously ridiculous links in my head between things.

And I have run out of regular tissues and cannot bear to buy more considering I will surely not use all of them before leaving. But resorting to toilet tissue has made my nose sore and so, in general I am insufferable at hte moment. Maybe the fresh air will do me good. Gotta run. Love always, ~Heather

Monday, April 24, 2006

Taizé (the experience)

WARNING: Religious ideas to follow, so those disinclined to read about my Christian principles or experiences are encouraged to read Taizé (the basics) or wait for my next blog. Sorry for the possible inconvenience.

I don't have the words I need to explain exactly what happened the five days I was on Taizé hill. I don't think it was necessarily a defining moment in my life where everything will now change because of it. I mean, it isn't like I am going to become a member of a religious order now because I have been transformed. But, I don't think I'll ever be the same again. I think that no one is ever the same as they were after having ANY experience, so the statement would always be true. However, I think I am just outwardly recognizing the change.

For one thing, I understand the gospel of Mark for the very first time. I see it not just for its stories and history but for the little details that make the story. It is the first time I have spent alot of time asking myself questions about a reading. I think I better understand the resurrection now and have viable enough proof to Mary's virginity at the conception of Jesus. I never really blamed Pilate for what happened, but never understood how the crowd could have treated Jesus that way. I don't think I understand that yet. But I am not done trying.

During each of the prayer services everyday there is 7-10 minutes of silence for personal prayer. The first few days I didn't understand this at all. Actually, I found it annoying and even fell asleep once. The third day I started thinking about the part in the gospel where Jesus asks the disciples, "Can you not pass even one hour with me in prayer?" Then I tried to concentrate on my prayer for the whole ten minutes. Yeah, no such luck. So I went to a themed workshop on prayer, where I learned that it isn't necessarily bad that I always get distracted thinking about other things when I am praying - in fact it is pretty normal. Those ideas are valid, but, like yoga, you have to push your mind to concentrate on nothing so you can think about everything. A very strange but calming principle.

Then on one of the last nights, I was waiting to talk with one of the brothers and without even looking at my watch realized that I had just been having a conversation with God for over 45 minutes. It was strange. The next night, I didn't look at my watch either. I realized later I had stayed for an hour and a half after the service. I had spent some time talking to a Brother who comes from Long Island, and alot of time praying for the three girls I was with. They were all crying, each having had a personal issue to deal with - and each realizing the pain of their situation. I prayed with, for, and on them. Yes - this note goes especially to Carl and perhaps even Bloomer (as you were my accomplice in escaping "the hands") - I took the hands of each of the girls one at a time and prayed for them. I don't know why I had to touch them to pray for them, but I felt like I needed to send them my energy - I had to ciphon their pain from them and send them my peace - and direct contact was necessary for that.

There were so many amazing small things, like learning to do the "Frog Dance" from Sweden, and an Irish jig, and clapping hands games and chase games with the Italians and the Spanish, and squatting (Lavencia?) games with the Germans. I taught the Hokie Pokie one night. It sounds stupid, all these late high school - late twenties people dancing around and playing games until all hours of the night ... using whatever common language we could muster, hearing translations from translations until everyone had gotten the instructions in a language they knew ... I was overwhelmed.

There were no Protestant/Catholic boundary lines. There were no age or nationality lines. Language barriers were conquered by, quite literally, grabbing the closest available person and asking for help. I played volleyball with a group of kids from eastern Germany and one girl did all the translating that was needed for us. She was fifteen. Can you imagine being fluent enough to translate at 15? But openness in language was notthe only thing. It was a feeling of having no restrictions, you needed no mask. Make-up, hair, even clothes were just senseless objects. As it turns out, forks are overrated and everything can indeed be eaten with a spoon. You didn't have to be or do anything you weren't. If you didn't want to go to something, no one was going to make you. If you wanted to do everything, you just squished it into your day. But even if you filled your day from top to bottom with things to do, you didn't feel overwhelmed and you still had plenty of time to think and feel and reflect and relax.

It was like stepping into and out of another universe. But, you still brought your world with you. Because I am, indeed, a girl, I do stupid girl like things. For example, thinking. My lovely girlfriends know exactly what I mean in this sense. You twirl something around in your mind imagining the best possible scenarios and the worst possible scenarios and trying to figure out what you would say or do, and in what order. So I did this the first few days, and fell asleep thinking the next few nights, but by the last day I had almost forgotten. Not brainwashed forgotten, but realized the futility of all this irrational imagining of something that would probably never happen anyway. Then I got on the bus.

Brother Cyril told us that some people say the most important moment of Taizé is when you get off the bus at home. It is taking the simplicity you have learned with you and applying your new knowledge in the outside world. The issues I brought with me to Taizé still exist - they don't disappear because I have been on retreat. And I have new questions to think about and answer, questions like:
What is my vulnerability?
What role can I play in international peace?
How does my faith effect the outside world?
What do I hide from others? Am I hiding this from God?

I am probably still going to beat myself up for making "stupid mistakes" (like taping things to windows for example or forgetting to do something until the deadline has passed) - but I can't change that I already did it. I just have to see what happens now.

Maybe it isn't so much that Taizé taught me these things as that I just had time to really find them in my own head. I know it is stuff I advise others to do all the time. Sit, relax, reflect, everything is going to work out fine. But I have a hard time telling myself that. That might be my personal challenge for the next few weeks. More importantly though, I think it was a good way to sum up my time here in France. Learning to live in simplicity (or the Stone Age in some cases) and to relax. In America, I go-go-go all the time. I hardly ever just sit back and do things for me. When I came here I had less to do and felt bad about doing things for myself. I discovered that although you have to take time for yourself you don't have to stop helping others. Helping yourself sometimes helps others.

I found in myself a need to serve others. I have to - it is what keeps me going. I can run if I am encouraging someone else to do it. I can not be afraid of blood, or spiders, or anything if I am protecting a child or anyone for that matter. I could pray without distraction when it was for others. I don't know what that means, my need to do stuff for other people. It annoys some people, like Hélène who told me it was outrageous the way I made sure everyone had enough food before I served myself - that I needed and deserved to eat to. (She even made me serve myself first on Easter, and it felt so strange.) It is probably the same reason I always tell people how I feel about them (the good, the bad, and the ugly (sorry, can't help it)) I have this (for Marco) egotistical fascination with the idea that what I have to tell people could help them, change them, or otherwise affect them. I just don't know. But I am not going to change this about myself. I think it helps make me who I am. The weird person that I am.

So now you have hung in there with me through a really long blog that was religious, journal-like, introspective, and full of subtle and blatant hints at things going on with me right now. Thanks. I know it was difficult. I can promise you this - when the blogs start being in French, they will be an awful lot shorter! Love always, ~Heather

Taizé (the basics)

The Taizé adventure started Tuesday morning as I hauled two tents, three foam matresses (matelats), a sleeping bag, my winter coat, a small rolling suitcase, and my backpack (lunch, journal, medicine) about six blocks. In one trip. I am so cool. And was also exhausted when I got there.

Taizé is a small village in south central France. In the 1940's Brother Roger founded the monastery as a place to pray and worship with a specific focus on understanding differences in culture. The message veered towards becoming a welcoming place for young people not long after. The monastery sits on top of Taizé hill and includes a number of buildings of various ages and a large camping ground. The slopes of the hill are either covered in pastures, the workshops, or walking paths. There are gardens, fields, and a natural source all reserved as "silent places" for reflection and prayer.

The first important thing to note about the community is that it is inter-denominational. I always thought that monasteries were Catholic, but this one has people from a multitude of religious sects. The next thing is the fashion of prayer. Prayer is done in song, reading of psalms and the gospel, and silence. Community prayer, such as recitations, are not included as a practice - that is taken care of in the songs. The songs are between 3 and 10 stanzas each and are repeated multiple times. Songs are usually made to be sung in at least three or four languages and there are over 27 languages represented in the everyday song book including Thai, Swahili, Korean, Swedish, Russian, Greek (old and new), and then almost anything else you can think of.

A day in Taizé is pretty simple. There is morning mass at 7:15 for the Catholics who want to go. Morning prayer is held at 8:15. Breakfast is served immediately afterwards and consists of a mini-baguette (about the size of 2 rolls pushed together) and a bowl of hot chocolate or tea and a small stick of chocolate. An introduction session on the theme of your choice starts at 10 and is led by a brother. Afterwards, you have about an hour to kind of chill out and do whatever before the 12:15 midday prayer.

Prayer is followed by lunch (more about meals later). At 2pm there is the repetition of songs (this is kind of like a mass chorus of people learning the voice parts to the songs). At 3:30 there are small breakout group discussions from the morning group. At five there is snack (a bowl of strange iced tea and a slice of fruit or spiced bread. At 5:45 there are themed workshops which change every day. 7 o'clock is dinner and then 8:15 is evening prayer again. Afterwards, everything is supposed to be silent, except for Oyak, a little area covered with some pavillions and outside umbrella tables where you can buy ice cream or drinks and such. They have competitions between the pavilions to see which ones can create the most noise, it is fantastic.

If you want to volunteer, you would have a different daily set-up without as much time in big and small groups dicussions so you could do your "work." Work is everything from cleaning up to watching kids, to shushing people in the church to replacing used candles. You can also work the buffet lines, which feed about 4,000 people in 30 minutes. I used to wait in a line of 10 for 15 minutes, so talk about fast service.

Lodging is either in tents, tent style cabins, or actual barracks. We slept in tents. This was fun, except that it was about 40°F at night. In general, this wouldn't be bad, except it was about 85° during the day so you were going through drastic changes in temperature all the time. It was especially bad when you had gotten a sunburn, because your skin was burning up and the rest of you was freezing cold. The bathrooms had interesting water troubles - meaning that the shower didn't know how to stay warm. But, they were clean and usually available, which was really good.

Lunch and dinner were quite interesting. You get a tray with a plate on it (like a stew plate), a ladel full of something, a nugget or cold cut slice of meat, a piece of cheese or spreadable cheese, a slice or two of bread, a piece of fresh fruit, two cracker like cookies, and a bowl. The bowl is used in place of a cup. At first, you don't think you are going to be full at all, but it is enough food to get you through until the next meal, and then after that it is enough food to get you to the meal after. The only bad thing is if they serve something you don't like - like peas for example and cooked carrots (the meal the first night) - but in the end you either eat it or trade around. So, anytime they gave us yogurt, I just traded it for fruit from someone else and ate that instead. It works pretty well.

Inside the church there are no chairs, everyone sits on the floor. There are few decorations and the walls have all been sponge-painted. There are walkways marked out in duct tape and benches for those who need them around the edges. It was originally pretty small, and they have expanded it now to hold about 3-4,000 people. If they all don't fit, there is a tent on the side where the extra people can go. The brothers sit in the middle front, and we are led in song by a keyboard set to guitar sound (it is not at all obvious it is a keyboard until after you go up to the very front). Everything is read and sung in different languages. This past week about 3 or the 4 thousand people were German, so instead of everything being done in at least English and French it was done in a rotation of the three. But it certainly wasn't limited to that. One evening, after the prayer Brother Alois talked and they did simultaneous translation into 6 languages and then had recorded translation in two other languages.

And while we are talking about after service specials, Friday evening, there is adoration of the cross - even if it isn't Good Friday. In our case, it was Orthodox Good Friday so it was still very important. One Saturday, they celebrate the resurrection of Christ - every Saturday throughout the year. They do this by having the children use lit candles to light the candles of the people around them. Then the light spreads throughout the church. Christ's light comes to you from the hands of children through the hands of others. It is a fabulous symbol. And the church lights up like it was still midday service. It is so incredible.

OKay that is the basic format and technicalities of the experience. Read the other Taizé blog for more information about my personal experience there and all the gooey ooey stuff that I usually write about. Love always, ~Heather

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Long Time No See

This is in reference to two things:

First, that I have not blogged in a significantly long time for me (yes, nine whole days without words from your inspirational master herself).

Second, that I never knew how much of the Bible I was overlooking, how much of my life I was missing, how much simplicity could not only be pleasant and relaxing, but comforting as well.

The past five days at Taizé have probably been the most transforming days of my entire experience in France. I met people from all over the world, got to go to church three times a day, danced and sang all sorts of songs in something like 13 languages, and managed all of this while sleeping in a tent covered in spiders.

(You know if there were lots of spiders and I still had a good time, it must have been something really big, because I HATE spiders. (Internal note: I do not hate spiders in general, because hating is very mean and also because ther would be alot more bugs and hungry birds if it weren't for spiders. All I'm really saying is, I don't want them in my sleeping bag or hair. (Another note: I didn't even scream about the one in my hair - go me. Mrs. Hussein would have been proud.)))

I cannot even place into words the entire experience as I am just now begining to feel the biggest waves from the experience. I do promise however a whole dialogue tomorrow though, because I have to tell you all about it. There is no way I couldn't share this. In that respect, I'll stop talking about that for a moment (see tomorrow's blog) and move on to messages, notes, and other extras.

Messages: My phone has run out of batteries and for the moment I cannot view what numbers have called me. Therefore, if you attempted to call me in the past few days, I have no clue, and won't be able to call you back for this reason. I will just assume all of you called me, internationally, this week when I wouldn't be able to find out who it was.

I was super thrilled to see the commentary you guys left me, and I will definitely try going to the Capitol at night and for sure we will see each other (and any other USC alums in the DC area (or anyone for that matter) next year. [Noting especially the people who are interested in learning some really cool songs and prayers and reflexions that I am dying to share with a group!!!!]

Notes: I have now given out this blog address to most of my french friends and upon my return to the United States, this blog may become entirely written in French - and or, you can look for a new link to a French (or English) site of similar style and format in translation (these may not be exactly the same as we all benefit from different stories this way).

Quand je rentre je vais essayer de faire ce blog en français pour les gens qui envie. S'il vous plait attends-moi avec patience pendant le transition de anglais à français parce que mon français oralment est beaucoup mieux après mon séjour, mais c'est sûr que j'ai manqué l'écriture (pour example, tous les fautes que j'avais déjà fait dans ce petit paragraphe).

Extras: As it turns out, I look pretty silly with a sunglasses tan.

Hey and Hey-do mean hello and goodbye in Swedish.

Making a daisy or daffodil chain is much easier than I thought.

Sitting Indian style for too long will give you bruises.

Ketchup should not be used as a replacement for tomato sauce on pasta.

People who leave messages should respond to the messages left for them. (If you aren't sure if this means you, but you think it could mean you, it probably does. So respond you sad, sad, slow people!) (Typed in all smiling happiness and jest, but still meant seriously.)

The crypts are nothing like I expected them to be. They aren't scary at all.

Walking home at night is scary, and I have to do that now, in the dark, alone.

I'm thinking about you and missing you already (too, in your case).

Honey helps your throat feel better.

My honey is in my room.

I must therefore go to my room in search of honey.

Hugs and kisses until tomorrow, love always, ~Heather

Friday, April 14, 2006

And then there were none ...

I taught my last class today. I don't even know how to feel about it. I know that it is probably not the last time I'll ever teach, but for sure one of the last times I'll teach in a foreign language. I am going to miss the students. I am going to miss watching them learn and better understand English. There are students who understood nothing at the beginning of the year who are bilingual now. I don't even remember when it happened; when they started being able to understand everything I was saying.

Mind you, there are still some groups that I have to repeat everything for, and some groups were already really well off when I got here, but this is different. I hope they write. It is obviously hard to take all of their addresses so I can write to them - which ones would want letters anyway? But it will be good to see who took advantage of my address and then correspond with them.

I think the hardest part about teaching is probably the end of the year. You let the students go into a vacation of whatever and hope that what you have given them sticks. I'd like to imagine that none of them would forget anything, but that is a little unrealistic. I say this because there are sure to be things I forget too. But I don't ever want to forget this feeling, this idea, this emotion: I have done my absolute best to present myself, my education, and my country to high school students and staff for seven months. I hope they feel like I've done a good job. I hope they remember just that.

I guess you never really want to say goodbye to something that you love, but you have to - you have to make room for the new and exciting thing that is coming next. In my case, I am exceptionally lucky to know that what is coming next is going to be another big thing. Moving away and moving on are a part of life ... an important part. So why is it so hard to do?

"It's the hard that makes it good. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it."
~Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) in A League of Their Own

Too bad there isn't going to be a fairytale ending. But I guess the good news is that if it isn't a fairytale yet, it must not be the end.

"To live will be an awfully big adventure."
~Peter Pan (Robin Williams)

I'm going out in the courtyard to spend as much time as I can soaking it in. Why don't you ever think to do that before the last few days? Love always, ~Heather

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Plan

The plan for next year, as it stands now, is American University. But what does that mean? Where am I really going? What will I do when I get there? Hehe, I'm just joking. But, I did run across this link to Fodor's Guide to DC where you can read about most things online. So, if you haven't recently been to the nation's capitol, or you are planning on visiting me in my new digs (currently roommate less and apartmentless, anyone gonna be in the area next year?) you'll already know all about the city.

However, I think we should start with the present and work our way out....

I am going to finish teaching tomorrow and then spend Easter weekend here with my French family. I have Monday (packing day) and then a whole week in a tent (okay, 5 days). I am going to Taizé, which is a monastery in the middle of France. It is an international prayer and music retreat for young people from all around the world. 3,000 high schoolers and university students are expected to be attending from Europe to Japan. Anyone from France has to sleep in a tent. I would like to note that I am American. Darn me coming from Charleville, the foreigners get to sleep indoors!

After that I am heading back here for a day or two. I haven't got that entirely figured out yet. I will however be visiting the bank to officially close the checking account (savings closed today) and fitting in one more volleyball practice in that time. Oh yeah, and finishing packing obviously. Oh, and getting the phone line cut off. I am also hoping to spend a day in Reims with one of the English teachers. If I had to be a teacher, I would want to be like her.

Moving on to the last few days, I'll be attending the Champanules retreat (same chorus group I was with in November). I am really looking forward to this journey for multiple reasons, the least of which is being able to comparitively relate an experience a month in and one at the very end of the trip. The retreat lasts until Monday and then it is back to Paris for Tuesday, and Wednesday I catch US Airways Flight 27 home.

I'm not getting sad about it now. [Talking to self in an encouraging manner.] Also, I am telling you all about these other things that I'll be doing as a preview, because I don't know how much of it I'll actually get to blog about until I get home.

But for tonight the plan is to finish my lesson plans for tomorrow, make address cards to give everyone, get my letters into envelopes, and throw in a load of wash. It doesn't seem like too much, but considering I probably won't get my lazy butt off this computer until 10, it is alot to fit into a few hours.

I should get moving. Love always, ~Heather

P.S. - Could my back porch view be the Astronomy Picture of the Day please??

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Shocked and Wowed

As opposed to appalled, WOWed was all I could think of. I went to turn in my attendence book today (a whopping 3/9 came to class) and the aide stopped me. "There are some students that want to talk to you." Two of my kids came in and asked if we could have a double class tomorrow so that they could learn the long lesson in dance I am planning on teaching on Friday. They want to spend an extra hour in class. I mean, I know it is something ... I was exceptionally happy and ... proud? It was a surprise and an honor and all sorts of wonderful things.

I am off to get things going for the session on Friday ... I have to borrow the projector from the physics department so I can show a bit of the film in the gym later this week. The camp guy got back to me this morning - I felt kind of bad (I was getting rather annoyed about the lack of contact) because they took awhile to get back to me due to some serious family things, including a new baby that arrived early! And last night I worked out why boys are stupid with a friend, who, being a boy, is also rather slack in the emotional availability department with his significant other; at least his issues helped me figure out some of my own.

Well off to work. I am really going to miss this place, especially the students. I always feel like I've kind of adopted them in a way when I go ... I hate to leave the kids behind. I hope they write. Love always, ~Heather

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Rameaux and More

Friday night was quite relaxing. I played volleyball with the kids after dinner and then went for a walk by the river (thank you Ben Franklin and President Roosevelt for Daylight Savings Time - extra hours of light!) then I spent my entire evening on the internet. I am sure you can see the fruits of my labor on my other site and in my much enhanced intelligence. (haha)

Saturday I slept late, got up and did a little of nothing (scrapbooking, shopping, cleaning, laundry) and then went to hang out with Alice for a bit. We talked and walked and then I ran home trying very hard to not be late for my last volleyball game with the team. Well, I was usccesful only because my ride was late (thank goodness). Anyway, as usual, we lost. It would have been alot better if I had had fun losing, but that didn't happen either.

Afterwards, the whole team took the coach and I out to dinner (him for coaching, me for my last game in France) and it was alot of fun. We had pizza followed by ice cream and it was an absolute blast. I say this not because we talked about everyone's toddlers all evening (yawn) but because they are all such incredible women (except Lahcen, who is, of course, male). I got home pretty late and watched a movie before bed.

Up and at 'em early for Palm Sunday mass where I was shocked to discover there were no palms. Here they use rameaux, a plant that is green year round as a substitute. Also, we had the whole first part of the mass outside - that was really good too. It was excellent to have the entire community out there on the steps listening to the Gospel. Hurray God!

I bought a baguette and headed home. Saturday I prepared pork chops with olive and cream sauce and Sunday I had French onion soup. Last night I made chocolate chip banana bread - I think I am getting into this cooking thing! Bref, back to the story.

Sunday was relatively uneventful. I was super productive in my room (except the folding of my clothes - still not done. Then I went to Alice's for a bit to help with the baby and such. I also got some addresses and things off of the computer there and showed Hugues my website. We exchanged blog addresses and there should be some new links for you to explore on the side soon. (Gonna be in French though, so grab a dictionary or just enjoy the pictures.)

I came home and did, well, nothing. I made phone calls, read, watched a little something on the computer. Oh, I discovered that after all this time of not borrowing videos because my computer wouldn't read them that the program was the problem and not the computer. I have been watching borrowed films for three days now, trying to catch up. At least I know I can watch my stuff at home now!

Sunday night I was also bummed to discover that my Zaxby's sauce (mailed all the way from the states) had gone bad. I mean, it was still okay, but it had an overly vineagary taste and there are egg yolks in the sauce, so I decided my potential food poisoning case wasn't worth it. I'll just have to wait now. The chicken wasn't as good with ketchup.

Monday was a thrill. Up super early to go to the grocery store. Watched the baby and helped Alice out (baby on the way = fatigue, etc), though mostly I screwed around on the computer. I also learned to knit. How about that?!? I am pretty excited. Unfortunately, I started with size 3.5 needles, and it is killer. The smaller the needle, the more precise and closer the stitches. My problem is that I work for hours and feel like I have achieved nothing because 1.) There are so few inches of finished product and 2.) I am still making mistakes, like missing loops occasionally. I blame this on my inability to go quickly and my newness to the exercise. 1.5x5 inches isn't bad for my first day!

Today not much has happened so far except that I am trying to finish up all the spare worksheets I have by teaching random lessons all week long. It should be fun. Plus, for the classes that have already done all the activities, I created a new one where I teach all about Easter. The history of the Easter Bunny and Egg and also the Bunny Hop. That should be super fun. There are also some interesting statistics about the candy we eat on Easter - I'll post about it.

Anyway, I am off now to add a few new things to the site and then to maybe take care of business at the bank and the telephone company. Woohoo, what a blast. Look for the updates soon. Love always, ~Heather

A few hours later....
The phone company won't let me have them cut off my phone line until right before I leave.

The bank says I have to be there to close my account and I can't talk to the substitute man, I have to talk to M. Taton, so I have an appointment Thursday.

The summer camp is out of the office until next week when I leave for Taizé.

I still have not heard from the OMB or Smithsonian and definitely won't before Easter.

My advisor at American was not in his office.

The room I need to teach musical theater on Friday is reserved by a group that isn't sure they are are going to need it. Hence, I have to find a projector to throw the film up on the wall in the gym and teach in there.

My entire class for this afternoon was cancelled so they could go see the school psychologist. As a group.

Yeah, things are really going my way right now. Tonight I have: end of the year teacher/assistant meeting/reception thing; badminton (last practice); and then dinner with Sebastian, where we will hopefully figure out a travel plan for the second week of my vacation so I can finally tell you all what I'll be doing. Odds are against things working out today. Then again, I am not a statistician.

Friday, April 07, 2006

As it turns out...

I will not be a Latin teacher.

I have the tendency to be funny at inopportune and usually inappropriate moments.

I am, nonetheless, funny.

All the students in the school opening their umbrellas at the same time is considered art.

Red Rover is not a game played in Europe.

They sound pretty funny trying to pronounce the command to "send 'someone' over."

Someone in Mexico has recently read this blog.

So has someone in Ireland.

Nancy Drew does not have the same international acclaim as Harry Potter.

Neither does Anne of Green Gables.

This computer doesn't allow access to the internet through Explorer, but can through Mozilla.

One of of my students is half-American and knew the answers to most of the US History questions I posed this morning.

A huge portion of the class I was working on National Treasure with thought the whole thing was fiction. They did not figure out that all the clues were actual historical facts.

They thought I was lying about the invisible ink.

I am not allowed to teach my students how to make chocolate-chip cookies in my regular classroom. I am however allowed to teach them how to make them in the room next to the cafeteria and then bring them to the oven to bake.

The guidance office feared I might poison the students otherwise.

I still might, since nothing has changed except my location in respect to the oven.

I love my life here and am really going to miss it.

I can't wait to come home.

Love always, ~Heather

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

College Admissions

I know it is two in a row of things that aren't journal related, but I really feel passionate about this. And thanks to Melissa for bringing it up. Here is the article in question.

First, yay! to the reference about American not being biased. I think that is really important. Check out the Melissa's blog and her interpretation of this catastrophic change in sexual discrimination. I would suggest clicking on the link for the feminine point of view, but it is not well argued, so prepare for disappointment.

My complaint is that there are three direct references to women being happy about this later, and not complaining now, and we've gotten this in the past, etc. They say it could upset the blanace of the country. They're on drugs. These horrificly sexist arguments do not take into consideration the most valuable point - they aren't qualified. We chastise colleges (not enough obviously) for taking in classroom-stupid students so they can play on sports teams. So, yeah, Title IX has obviously done something in that arena too. Balancing the playing field in sports has admitted more women. At most universities, the women's teams have the highest grade point averages.

If using racial rulers is illegal so should using gender rulers. And if the problem isn't corrected, they could try fixing it in primary and secondary schools. More than that, look at the gender differential in the workplace. Men still dominate the country. Women might be more educated in this generation, but they are still staying at home with the kids and being housewives. No, not as much as in the 50's, but hello, blame it on the economy - not women - that you need two incomes to get it done.

Also, I think it is time to consider that it is possible that underqualified candidates were being accepted before as a means of "filling the class." Now, there are an exceptional number of candidates. High schools prepare students for university and vocational schools have more or less fallen by the wayside.

On a different level, the standards to get into college have fallen across the board. You don't need a foreign language to get in. SAT and ACT exams are getting easier and easier. Some schools do not even require an essay. University students upon graduation cannot all answer basic history, science, or english language questions - like the ones asked on eighth grade exit exams, the US Citizenship test, or the elementary school essay contest. And forget about math. Shouldn't we consider making schools more challenging and weeding out the students who aren't earning it? If we do that, and get rid of unqualified girls and boys, then there will be more space for the students who have been working their tails off for the previous 13 years.

Form your own opinion on the subject, and let me know how you feel. Love always, ~Heather

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Being Catholic

Read all of the Ways to Know you are Catholic on Gashwin's Blog. Here are the ones I thought were representative of my life.

You know you're Catholic when...

2. ...guilt is your best friend, and you feel obligated to share it with others.

4. ....if you only crave hamburgers and steaks on Fridays during lent and you crave fish every other day in Lent...just never on Fridays.

6. ...you can only recite the Creed when around large groups of people. [Isn't that strange?]

10. ...you have an overwhelming compulsion to say, "And also with you," when Yoda says, "May the Force be with you." [Travis, we should do this next time we watch the movies]

17. ...you pray a Hail Mary when you hear a fire truck or ambulance siren. [Thanks to good solid, parental training]

18. ...all your children [family members] have saint names instead of names chosen from celebrities.

19. ...You have a rosary hanging from your dash. [Mom]

20. ...you have a holy water fountain at your door and a religious picture and [or] crucifix in every room.

22. …one of your crucifixes has five years worth of dried out palms stuck behind it.

25. …after making the Sign of the Cross at the start of the Rosary, you say "Bless us O Lord and these Thy gifts..." [It's habit!]

26. ...you spend the first five minutes of the day untangling your scapular from your Miraculous Medal. [for Mom]

28. …you know more than 15 recipes for preparing tuna fish. [pasta, with celery, in a quiche, etc.]

29. …you refer to other religions as "Non-Catholic".

30. ...you carry prayer cards in your purse or wallet.

31. ...You know a family whose every daughter has Mary, or every son has John Paul either as the first or middle name. [Lorien]

32. ...your coworkers point out that you have something on your face and as they go to wipe it off for you, you duck and scream, "No, they’re my ashes!!" [And then have to explain to everyone what is it about - if you live in the Bible belt.]

33. ...you know when Advent and Lent begin and what day is Easter.

44. ...you heard older people talking about a "Baltimore Catechism", but you never actually saw one.

47. ...you've heard the words "Benediction" and "Vespers" but aren't really sure what they mean. But you can sing the sappy “Kumbaya” and “On Eagle’s Wings” with no problem.

Oh, I am sure other ones will mean more to you than me, but no matter what, I love my faith and all it has taught me. Love always and God bless, ~Heather

Declaration and Thomas Jefferson

I have been working on teaching the film National Treasure to one of my classes. Then, gettnig all excited as you know I do, I decided to teach American History to all of my classes this week. I start them off with a picture of the Louisiana Purchase.

Napolean I sold it to America in 1803 because he was fighting a fierce war with Spain (among others) and couldn't afford to lose the European battle. He also couldn't defend his non-continental land masses. So, he sold it to the US to gain money for his wars at home and save himself a possible defeat against the better prepared Spanish military in the western hemisphere.

This was an important purchase for the US (about $1,800 an acre by modern standards) because it doubled the size of the country overnight. The president who made all of that possible was Thomas Jefferson.

Then we move on to how Jefferson was a founding father (someone who figuratively found the country by helping to start it). Jefferson also had one other great achievement. What was it? It was this.

But, because many of them are a little rough on their American history, we start with a picture. (A little out of proportion, sorry). The Declaration of Independence (1776), the Articles of Confederation (1781), and the Constitution (1787) were all signed or ratified here in Independence Hall. It was also the home of the Liberty Bell for 200 years. So then we look at the Declaration and do a comparison between Jefferson's rough draft (also in the Archives) and the one that was editted by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin before being changed again and then agreed upon by the Continental Congress. It is interesting to see how some phrases were broadened, while others were made more specific in the transition.

Still working with the constitution, we use an Ottendorf cipher (couldn't find real link there - it is possible that Ottendorf was more well known for his messages in invisible ink) to find the message: Human rights is the foundation of government. Which leads to a discussion of the Bill of Rights in the US and Les Droits De l'Homme in France. Following that, we do some interesting research on the Great Seal of the United States - there is an amazing occurrence of the number thirteen and symbols from Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome, medieval knights, and jewish tradition to name a few.


Thomas Jefferson was the first Secretary of State, and therefore responsible for the Seal for a good number of years. So, I guess the lesson is more about Thomas Jefferson than anything else. Which doesn't really explain why I have a biography of Benjamin Franklin included in the packet. I think I am going to have to change that to Jefferson for tomorrow. But, Franklin was one of the people asked to design the Seal, so I guess I kind of just slide into his importance. So far, we haven't really gotten to the part of the lesson about Ben Franklin, but I haven't had any of my fast-talking good classes yet. We'll see.

I hope this is worth the reading. (Also, I should note, that I am well aware that this is not very French, but I am teaching it to French students who have never done it before and I am learning so much myself (like all those TJ connections and the stuff about the Great Seal).)

Hope you have enjoyed this recent dose of US History. Enjoy your day/night and remember all those who have fought for our freedom - even if it meant possibly losing their lives (you know, by becoming "traitors" and signing the Declaration or going off to war to fight for what they believed in). From your dedicated fellow citizen, ~Heather

Monday, April 03, 2006

Tidbits

Here are some tidbits I have received lately that bring a light to my eyes and a smile to my face.

This is credited to my Aunt Barbara who sent this out as a "brighten your day message."

On Wednesday of next week, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06. That won't ever happen again in our lifetime.

However, if you do some quick calculations, I think you can find some other fun dates and times.

From my Aunt Rosemary, Proof that Global Warming Exists:


How about that for sad but true?

And this is significant proof that they need new analysts.

"There is a lot of dissatisfaction with the state of communications, the daily communication from the podium, the congressional communications and strategic communications from both in and outside the White House," said one White House insider.

Firing the Press Secretary because the leader of the country can't open his mouth without tripping over something. Yeah. Quite reasonable.

Then, this from TIME Europe: A Strange Type of Revolution:
Forget the spirit of 1789 — France has lost the ability to adapt to a changing world

In Strange Defeat, a superb essay written in the aftershock of France's capitulation in 1940, the historian Marc Bloch wrote: "Let us have the courage to admit what has just been vanquished in ourselves: it is our cherished small-town ways. The languid passage of the days, the slowness of the buses, the sleepy authorities, the shortsighted political bickering, the unambitious artisans, our taste for déjà vu and distrust of anything unexpected which could disturb our cozy habits. All that succumbed to the dynamic energy of Germany and its buzzing hives." Today, it is no longer a warlike Germany that buzzes but an industrious China, and soon India. As in previous ruptures, France today faces a major choice. It can refuse to fight in the global competition, indulge its cozy habit of the 35-hour week, defend its privileges tooth and nail, and watch its talented youth go abroad. Or it can shake up the well-protected to give more opportunity to the more vulnerable, slash public spending and reduce debt and modernize its social pact to allow French people — particularly its youth — to believe in the future.

Well, it is certainly going to be difficult to do that if we keep telling kids they should stop dreaming.

Then more proof that I should not join the raging number of people who have cellphones.

This email just came in:

Thank you, Heather! Welcome to American University. Your enrollment deposit of $250.00 for Fall 2006 has been received.

For Harry Potter and outer space fanatics everywhere:

Nemiroff said his favorite April Fools' Day Astronomy Picture of the Day was posted in 2001. The image shows two space shuttle astronauts on a space walk. The two were described as playing the historic first "Space Quidditch" match. Quidditch is a fictional game played by wizards in the popular J.K. Rowling's popular Harry Potter novels.


In addition, I would like to link you to my other web page in case you are still bored and looking for interesting things to read. Gotta run, but I love you all. Hugs and kisses, ~Heather

Arc en Ciel

Otherwise known as a rainbow.

This weekend, though full of rain was also full of beauty and fun.

Friday night - Hugues birthday party

Saturday - Walking, movies, lots of phone time, time in the park, church, dinner with friends, Narnia

Sunday - Volleyball, lunch with friends, walk along a different river, snacks, neighborhood chat, movie delivery, an evening of Will & Grace, sleep.

Oh yeah, and I decided on my plans for next year. I'm going to American.

Love always, ~Heather