Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Keep You, Emily Dickinson, Always In My Heart

I never saw a moor, I never saw the sea;
- Emily D.

(The following are lessons learned by my 6 ½ year old this last week set to Dickinson’s : I Never Saw A Moor)

Lesson 1: Sometimes the free kite we made at the arts and crafts table in the park is pure crap.

It started at 2:30 on a sunny Saturday afternoon while strolling through the park. You have no idea how stressful a Saturday afternoon can be until you have to entertain a gaggle of little kiddos from sunup to sundown. So…we stumbled upon a little Hakka festival and sat down at the booth to assemble and color our cool little free kite. Xian and her sisters were so excited…. but, about an hour later… you guessed it, the little cheap-o paper kite wouldn’t get off the ground.
Although her younger sisters were still happy to be just playing with paper and string, Xian was in total dejection. She just lay in the middle of the park and felt like dirt. Yes, my darling, sometimes kites suck!

Lesson 2: Don’t threaten to cut off your sisters head with a pair of scissors, people will think you are a sociopath.

Of course, still licking her kite wounds, later during a bathtime flair up, Xian made some outrageous threats. I never thought I would have to discuss passive aggressiveness to a first grader. Yes, my sweetpea, sticks and stones… but words land you in hot water as well.
Yet know I how the heather looks, And what a wave must be.
- Emily D.

Lesson 3: Boys are dummies and do dummy things to sweet girls.

I really can’t stand when boys on the playground are mean to my daughters. Later when we get back home, I show them self-defense techniques. How, I don’t care how big and fat that bully boy is, you hit him square in the nose and he will tear up and back down. But sometimes, when one of Xian’s classmates teases her for hugging her Daddy at the class door, I just want to whisper in the boy’s ear…”Hey kid, last night I had a dream that both your parents died in a car accident. I saw their bodies burning… and it was YOUR fault. Sorry buddy. Have a nice day!”
End result: Yes, my little muddpie, boys at his age don’t have a clue.

Lesson 4: Sometimes you get punished for being in Asia.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of homework Xian is given here in Taiwan. Dictation, vocabulary, Chinese calligraphy, mathematics, English reading, Science worksheets… it’s endless. Her teacher stands in front of the class with a microphone and barks orders all day. There are a lot of tears at the kitchen table each night trying to get everything finished. I tell her, yes little love, homework and testing is a part of life here, but I will always show you the correct way.
I never spoke with God, Nor visited in heaven;
- Emily D.

Lesson 5: Don’t steal stickers off the teacher’s desk.

Xian had her first taste of school discipline the other day as well. She was passing around a book of mysterious stickers and made up a couple of elaborate stories as to where she got it. But I pinned her down. She’s a curious kid, precocious and sly-clever as a fox, but rules are rules… and you’re going to have to return the stickers tomorrow morning, confess to your teacher, and write a letter of apology. I’m sorry, little lemonpie, but this spanking also hurts me more than it is hurting you.

Lesson 6: Don’t tell a lie when caught red handed.

Oh the lies… the lies have already started… do you think I’m going to put up with… Dad, I was over at a friend’s house… or… I don’t know why there is a big scratch on the side of the car…? Really? The lying has started already? This problem ain’t getting solved anytime soon. All I can do is pray. Give me strength. I’m dying here. I’m dying and feel completely and absolutely hopelessly alone. Help. Please!
Yet certain am I of the spot As if the chart were given.
- Emily D.

Lesson 7: Don’t take scissors and cut holes in your clothes.

Well this one is just a no brainer, isn’t it? Sort of like these… don’t bathe your Barbies in the toilet, and don’t put rocks in your mouth, and Band-Aids are not used to hang pictures on walls, and don’t stick pennies up your nostrils, and don’t put milk in the freezer, and don’t leave orange peels under your pillow, and don’t hide my house keys under the piano, and don’t fly paper airplanes out the 19th floor window, and please don’t stick yourself with forks in the bottom, and don’t tear pages out of library books, and don’t take the tv remote control to school for show and tell, and an entire bottle of shampoo is not used for bubble bath, and iPod’s don’t float, vinyl albums are not Frisbees, and finally, and most importantly, my lovely pumpkin… my beautiful little goofball, please… don’t roll your eyes at your Dad.
I used to think, it didn’t matter, whatever came up, my girls would be okay because they had me. They didn’t need to see me or feel me or hear me, as long as I was just close. I would always take care of them… but as they grow now, I see they have to take care of themselves. And the thought scares me to death.

Flickr Pics People...

Oh yes, this was taken during sports day at our school, and you could basically swap this photo with the exact same one I took of this local politico last year... but don't let that stop ya... new pics are in. Take a look on flickr photostream to the right.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

ep 22 Rock N Roll Romeo and Juliet part three: "Holy Palmer's Kiss"

Just some random thoughts on my favorite passage from the play... rehearsals are going well, the kids are memorizing lines, costumes and staging next week... show date set: Dec 17th.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hartenstein's Book Available Now

Buy Brian Hartenstein's Novel: Me Gook
I’d like to formally announce the sale of my first book, Me Gook, an expatriate memoir of life, death, marriage and childbirth in Asia, available also through Amazon and iUniverse.
$12.99 plus international shipping.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'd Fight You, Sam Peckinpah

Tyler Durden: Ok: any historic figure?
Narrator: I’d fight Ghandi.
Tyler Durden: Good answer.
Narrator: How about you?
Tyler Durden: Lincoln.
-Fight Club

The news said only 4.6
Epicenter in Haluien about 200 km down the road
Woke me up with little Kinu
Snuggled beside me purring
Like a distant bus engine starting up in the snow
Called it a jumper-quake
Could hear the rebar scratching in the walls
I don’t like those, worse than the swinger-swayers
Later the kids told me
During an earthquake in Taiwan
Want to open the front apartment doors
Case the concrete roof split
And your trapped 3o floors up
Wouldn’t have thought of that
Nice one
Later I couldn’t sleep, heart racing like a
Buckshot mare
Sat on the floor with little Kinu in my lap
Watching Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch
While the cracks in the walls settled and
My hands stopped shaking
Look me dead in the eye, Pike Bishop
That blood ain’t real, is it?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Old Man

(A special thanks to all of you who sent birthday wishes. Believe me, a fun time was had by all.)
That being said... today while standing in the crosswalk I was clipped by a racing scooter, just the mirror mind you, as I slalomed in a standstill dodge, but it hastened my heart enough to elicit an eruption of Chinese curses. There is a law in the Taiwan books that if one person disparages another, he can be sued for mental damage. A year ago a foreigner was fined almost a million NT dollars for screaming the F-word at a driver who ran him off the road. The driver claimed disability and mental suffering from being called a dirty word in an alternate language.
So… just one more reason to stick to studying Mandarin.
(A little stroll out in the rain)

At the sports day this week, during the tug of war, I got a great laugh out of the anchor of each team’s insistence that he wear a crash helmet. You know, just some big fat kid at the end of a twenty man team stuffing his bulbous melon head into a dummy dome.
I tried to laugh with my students about it, but they were so upset.
“Teacher, International Tug of War regulations state that all members of a team must wear a helmet!”
They looked at me like I was an idiot.
“No… you don’t wear a helmet in tug of war.”
But then I got lectured how last year at a political rally, a local gubernatorial candidate got his arm torn off in a charity tug of war match.
Seriously, when did the world become a bunch of pansies? No more Red Rover, Red Rover? No more merry-go-rounds? No more Dodge Ball? Not that getting your arm ripped off is for the faint of heart, but… seriously?
The next day I came to class wearing a bike helmet. I told the class one of my students had fallen out of his desk and cracked his head on the floor and everyone needed to wear a helmet to school from now on. It didn’t really go over well.
(Hartenstein during the morning coffee rush.)

That night while taking the garbage out, a big rat jumped out of the bin and barked at me. I fell over onto my back and banged my head on the cement as the rat strutted away. I think he was listening to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack on his iPhone.
From Kinu’s Teacher’s Note:
“Our class is courtesy class at October, Kinu is a politeness girl, every time will say hello when we meet uncle, auntie, and teachers… remember clap hand for King.”
- this comes from a woman who last week was wearing a t-shirt that read: “Little Miss Jail Bait.
Later that day, while walking with my girls in the park, I spotted a group of invalids sunning themselves under blankets in their wheelchairs surrounded by a gaggle of Indonesian house servants chattering away. Normally I wouldn’t notice a wheelchair brand name, but this one caught my eye: Karma.
This is a paper cut out sent from America by my nephew Nate. His school assignment was for me to take a picture of it and send it back. Here you go, Buddy!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

ep 21 "The Queen Mab Debate"

This is the second episode backstage as our class prepares for the Rock N Roll Romeo and Juliet performance in December. Here, I discuss the omission of the Queen Mab speech and offer insight into being a foil character for other teachers. I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

ep 20 "Rock N Roll Romeo and Juliet: A Beatles Musical" -The Prologue

In this episode, Hartenstein introduces his newest Shakespeare adaption: Rock N Roll Romeo and Juliet (A Beatles Musical) while reciting the play's prologue and introducing the main student characters. Enjoy.

Friday, November 5, 2010

hartensteinabroad episode 18 "Happy Halloween Asia!"

I couldn't upload this to youtube due to using The Misfits' "Monster Mash," so here is a grainy version of last weekend's Halloween Party. Hope you all were safe and sound... Have Fun!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Flickr Pics...!

Check out the latest flickr pics including: Halloween Trick O' Treat, School Haunted House with Teacher Monsters, the Taichung Jazz Festival, and Student Life

episode 17: "Pol Pot and The Killing Fields"

During the late 1970's, Pol Pot turned Cambodia into The Killing Fields. This movie is a small attempt at offering a discussion of modern day Cambodia and their recent, yet every so painful past. This is my last movie about traveling through Cambodia and Vietnam. Bring on Shakespeare and autumn in Taiwan!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween Everybody!

(The Hartenstein Girls Ready Themselves for Trick O' Treat)

The following are just examples of some of the strange converstions I got into this week...
It’s amusing that you are surprised by the fact we’re both forty. I think, as a Japanese person, you should understand that we’ve both reached the age of irrelevance. It’s irrelevant to me, if it’s irrelevant to you. But yes, I feel the novels of Haruki Murakami are wordy and banal. I much prefer Yukio Mishima. I think Kyoto is probably the seventh most important city in the world to visit. My favorite first lady is Eleanor Roosevelt because she carried a loaded revolver, and in the Caribbean, there are oysters that climb trees. That’s my definition of cool. A tree climbing oyster.
Bummer that you can’t read me in China and must find me in Hong Kong. Thank you for sending the link to your pictures. They’re amazing. I like the underwater ones. The crap part of China is that they monitor the internet, the cool thing is they still use deep sea diving gear from the 60’s.
I didn’t know that the youngest parents in the world were 8 and 9 and lived in China in 1910. I think that is preposterous. I once saw a stack of square watermelons in Japan that were $200 US dollars each. I was told they stacked better. That was pretty amazing. Also, I love that the Japanese have a word for ‘death from overwork.” KAROSHI! Ariel,
The song I was singing in the elevator the other day was by the American poet Robert Zimmerman, and the line was:
“And every one of them words rang true and glowed like burning coal, pouring off of every page like it was written in my soul from me to you.”
Yes, Mark Twain did not graduate from elementary school, but he did write the first American novel on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer. It’s a story about a kid who hates going to school. What a novel thought.