MOROCCO


Classic

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I had chickened out of an AP English class during the first week of my Junior year, scared off by the prospect of having to use literary devices like syntax and diction in my compositions. Instead, I was moved into an Honors English class where we read novels, took chapter tests, and weekly vocab quizzes just like my previous English classes. But the class was unlike any English class I had taken before. 

This was because our teacher, Mrs. Meadows was anything but typical. She would stand in the middle of her classroom as if it were a stage with nothing but an ancient, tattered paperback edition of the novel we were reading in one hand. Then she was lurch about as she recited a synopsis of a chapter, her blue eyes widening and narrowing, her free hand waving about and then clasping the side of her face for dramatic effect. 

She had taught at our poorly funded high school since the 60s and when someone had drudged up an yearbook from her first years of teaching we stared in amazement at the younger version of our teacher with her hair coiffed to an impressive height and the thick black-rimmed glasses that framed her yet unwrinkled face. But we loved the current Mrs. Meadows whose every hair follicle gleamed white and whose back was now hunched, because her heart was as big as her laugh. She loved us even though we were nothing like her mostly caucasian students of the 60s, and we loved her all the more for it. 

She had introduced me to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Arthur Miller, and Scott Fitzgerald (ie. dead white guys), and like a masterful hostess, she came up with the most interesting conversation topics for our imaginary conversations. She branded me with her fervor against big monopolies as she read aloud from The Grapes of Wrath, she encouraged to use words like “crumby” and “bastard” as she assigned us to write a letter in the style of The Catcher in the Rye, and she allowed us to write our own love songs after T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. 

We were the last class that she taught before she retired. And all I did for her was bake cookies for her when it was her birthday to spell out “Happy Birthday” in crooked frosting letters. I wish I could’ve done more for her. I wish I could’ve done a fraction of what she had done for me which was to help me throughout the darkest part of my adolescence with her passion and zeal for life. 

I hope she knows that she has given me gifts that keep on giving as it was she who had inspired me to become a teacher, and that every time I reread one of the great classics she has introduced me to, I think of her and thank her. 


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"I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around-nobody big, I mean-except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff-I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye…"


Thicker than Water

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My grandma had a health scare recently so it was with trepidation that I dialed her number, fearing the frailty I might hear in her voice. 

But true to form, she was snacking away at Japanese sweets and conducting spoken poetry as she began comparing me to a young flower. She even made up a little ditty about it and being her progeny, I stepped right in and began belting an improvised song comparing her to a white rose. Then my dad rudely intercepted and told me that grandma had to go see the priest, breaking my crescendo. 

So we said goodbye with her parting words being, “I love you, and to me you’ll always be that little girl who would sing and dance around the living room”. 

That made me want to simultaneously cry and laugh. It’s amazing how many of her traits I’ve inherited-from her love of sweets, to a penchant for song, dance, and most of all reading. Whenever I visit her, she’ll whisk me off to her bookshelf where she picks out a book she’s currently reading, and describes the plot and characters, gesticulating all the while as if the story is unravelling before our very eyes. I’d love for my grandchildren to remember me the way I’ll remember her-with something sweet always stored in my purse, breaking out into song every so often, and eyes twinkling with the love of stories and characters.  

I gulped down a lump of emotion as I told her that I loved her too. 


It’s funny how the answer to the future may lie in the past. 
I’ve been thinking about the future a lot as I prepare to leave England and teaching this summer. I knew what I didn’t want but I hadn’t quite figured out what it is that I did want. 
That’s when I started digging through my childhood trying to think of what I loved doing ever since I was a kid, and pursue that for a living. 
And then the answer was staring right at me-reading. I was introduced to reading by the best babysitter in the world-Amelia Bedelia who got more things wrong than right, but earned my childhood adoration as a result of it. It didn’t matter that I lacked a passport or a driver’s license, I could hop on over to Klickitat Street to see the Quimby sisters, pretend that I was going to Wayside School in the morning rather than my real school, and even cross over to England to meet James, Matilda, and the BFG. My first part-time job was being part of the Babysitter’s Club, and I got into running while coon hunting with Little Ann and Old Dan. As a teen, my wild romantic notions were fueled by Nicholas Sparks novels. Then my heart broke for Holden Caulfield, Tom Joad, and Jay Gatsby. As an adult, I have discovered the art of audiobooks and had my long commutes soothed by the story-telling of great writers. More nights than not, I have fallen asleep in arms of an open book. 
As a child I had dreamt of having a library in my house. There would be shelves and shelves of books, a fireplace, cozy rug, and squashy armchairs. The only thing that could make that childhood dream even better for me now is to share it with other kids who find escape, adventure, and love in those books. Working as a literacy specialist, a librarian, a member of a storytelling troupe (does such a thing exist?), or anything that allows me to work with reading and kids everyday sounds like dream job to me. No standardized tests and no grades, just reading for the magic of it. 

It’s funny how the answer to the future may lie in the past. 

I’ve been thinking about the future a lot as I prepare to leave England and teaching this summer. I knew what I didn’t want but I hadn’t quite figured out what it is that I did want. 

That’s when I started digging through my childhood trying to think of what I loved doing ever since I was a kid, and pursue that for a living. 

And then the answer was staring right at me-reading. I was introduced to reading by the best babysitter in the world-Amelia Bedelia who got more things wrong than right, but earned my childhood adoration as a result of it. It didn’t matter that I lacked a passport or a driver’s license, I could hop on over to Klickitat Street to see the Quimby sisters, pretend that I was going to Wayside School in the morning rather than my real school, and even cross over to England to meet James, Matilda, and the BFG. My first part-time job was being part of the Babysitter’s Club, and I got into running while coon hunting with Little Ann and Old Dan. As a teen, my wild romantic notions were fueled by Nicholas Sparks novels. Then my heart broke for Holden Caulfield, Tom Joad, and Jay Gatsby. As an adult, I have discovered the art of audiobooks and had my long commutes soothed by the story-telling of great writers. More nights than not, I have fallen asleep in arms of an open book. 

As a child I had dreamt of having a library in my house. There would be shelves and shelves of books, a fireplace, cozy rug, and squashy armchairs. The only thing that could make that childhood dream even better for me now is to share it with other kids who find escape, adventure, and love in those books. Working as a literacy specialist, a librarian, a member of a storytelling troupe (does such a thing exist?), or anything that allows me to work with reading and kids everyday sounds like dream job to me. No standardized tests and no grades, just reading for the magic of it. 


Stuck in the Middle

Can you feel:

present and disconnected?

busy and bored?

confident and insecure?

happy and sad?

lucky and ungrateful?

homesick for a home you’ve never had? 

Or am I just nuts?


No mistake is irreversible, except death. 
I think about this as I find myself in a baby changing room in a cardigan and sheer tights, drying my sodden pink skirt with flimsy paper towels. 
Minutes ago I was enjoying my 15th cup of tea of the day, trying to warm up on a snowy day. I was about to squat down on a comfy cafe couch when my finger inadvertently flicked the teabag upwards and onto my skirt. 
I would’ve cursed aloud if I wasn’t desensitized from making mistakes like these on a daily basis. 
As I resignedly put my damp skirt back on and buttoned up my coat to hide the continent sized splotch of wetness, I felt better and thought to myself, “As long as I’m alive I can rectify any mistake. I can dry clean this skirt tomorrow. I can even buy myself my 16th cup of tea!”
Not only does this mantra apply to random acts of klutziness, but it can be used throughout all aspects of life. Because as much as I’d like to portray my time in England as one pleasant afternoon tea party thrown by the queen, there have been times when it felt more like one thrown by the mad hatter. There have even been moments when it felt like a mistake (e.g. Why had I torn myself away from wonderful friends at home to spend time alone in a dorm room?). 
But then there are moments like tonight when I’m walking through the artery of the Thames with my visiting American friend whom I met in Africa and I just can’t believe my luck. It’s as if a giant claw of fate had picked me up and plopped me right in front of the Tower Bridge during wintertime. Walking through the enigmatic, entrancing city of London with my heart full of African memories, I stop believing in mistakes. 

No mistake is irreversible, except death. 

I think about this as I find myself in a baby changing room in a cardigan and sheer tights, drying my sodden pink skirt with flimsy paper towels. 

Minutes ago I was enjoying my 15th cup of tea of the day, trying to warm up on a snowy day. I was about to squat down on a comfy cafe couch when my finger inadvertently flicked the teabag upwards and onto my skirt. 

I would’ve cursed aloud if I wasn’t desensitized from making mistakes like these on a daily basis. 

As I resignedly put my damp skirt back on and buttoned up my coat to hide the continent sized splotch of wetness, I felt better and thought to myself, “As long as I’m alive I can rectify any mistake. I can dry clean this skirt tomorrow. I can even buy myself my 16th cup of tea!”

Not only does this mantra apply to random acts of klutziness, but it can be used throughout all aspects of life. Because as much as I’d like to portray my time in England as one pleasant afternoon tea party thrown by the queen, there have been times when it felt more like one thrown by the mad hatter. There have even been moments when it felt like a mistake (e.g. Why had I torn myself away from wonderful friends at home to spend time alone in a dorm room?). 

But then there are moments like tonight when I’m walking through the artery of the Thames with my visiting American friend whom I met in Africa and I just can’t believe my luck. It’s as if a giant claw of fate had picked me up and plopped me right in front of the Tower Bridge during wintertime. Walking through the enigmatic, entrancing city of London with my heart full of African memories, I stop believing in mistakes. 


Bloopers

I buy DVDs in eager anticipation of watching the blooper reel. I LOVE blooper reels! Having the maturity of a 5 year old, I gleefully cackle over people tripping, messing up their lines, and making funny faces at the camera. I just love the unplanned moments of reality that hilariously get captured on camera. 

I thought about this in class today as I entered my third period to find one student sprawled out over three desks, asking with one arm dramatically placed over her eyes, “Can we please have a chill day today in class?”. I got her take her teeny tiny teenage butt off the desks and back to her seat and managed to wrangle three other students who followed her lead and were sitting atop desks with the legs dangling to their seats also. I should’ve known that the day’s lesson wouldn’t go exactly as planned. 

We did manage to get through most of the lesson without any mishap until we somehow got to talking about dorm life-specifically why I, a 29 year old grown woman, would choose to live in a dormitory with 100 teenagers. The questions started flowing-do you have a roommate? Do you have a bathtub? Do you have a boyfriend? At which point I animatedly told them if I had a boyfriend I would make sure that everyone from here to Timbuktu would know it. And then I had verbal diarrhea and told them that instead of a boyfriend I had a ukulele. Instead of a car I have a red bike. Instead of friends I have students. I’m kidding about the last one. I hope they know that.

But it just hit me that these are the moments I’ll remember most about teaching. I won’t remember all the lessons that were planned to the tee but I’ll remember when things veered off course…when things got real. I’ll always remember kids who told me what was happening with their family. I’ll remember moments of laughter (like when my Swedish student said today, “Whenever I watch a 3D movie, I get carsick!”). I’ll remember the kids who broke out into tears during class and how I felt completely powerless to help them. I’ll remember the ones who I hated to manage as a student but loved as a person. I’ll remember the ones with a burning passion to be a writer, director, or activist and always wonder if they’ve achieved their dreams. 

I just wish these moments had been captured on film. 


A WINTER’S WALK

Going for a walk during the dead of winter can be surprisingly invigorating. 

What seemed initially like inadequate layers of clothing starts insulating the heat generated from within. Then passing bursts of sunlight illuminate the scenery which is teeming with tiny pinpricks of life amidst the brown. Overexcited dogs yip around uncontrollably like well like dogs who’ve been let out of the house. The blustering wind stimulates rather than stings and life is an adventure once more. 


Telling it like it is

My best friend jokingly (I hope) threatens to write another blog called 2.0 that’s based on my blog but reveals the truth that lies under the fanciful veil I tend to enshroud events in. I’m sure upon reading my last blog about my rather dreamy Christmas break her fingers were just itching to tell her version of the story. 

The truth is that although going home was wonderful and beautiful, it was also a nerve-wrecking time of realizations. Returning after a year’s absence, I found myself surrounded by married friends, married-with-a-baby friends, engaged friends, or soon-to-be engaged friends. What happened was that I was soon approaching thirty and this was a natural wave of news you expect to hear upon reaching my age bracket. 

But I wasn’t ready for it. When did the grace period for “figuring out who you are in your twenties” end? I was under the impression that along with extended life expectancy, the period of youthful self discovery would be equally lengthened. Maybe I was wrong.  

And as happy as I am for my friends who have found their significant others, it made me feel insecure. Here I am, alone in England and questioning my career path, feeling like I’m 0 for 2 on the two most important steps one can take in their twenties. 

I was burdening this thought onto my dinner companions today (I really should’ve picked up the tab) but my friend put it simply. “Live for the passion,” she said, “don’t give up or tone down who you are. Keep pursuing your passions because that’s when you’re your best self.”

Man, if I could eloquently tell it like it is as she does I wouldn’t have to endure threats of a 2.0 blog!