Monday, August 30, 2010
Well played, lad. Well played.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
“And then the children saw that the house was made out of gingerbread, and the roof was made of cake, and the windows of clear sugar candy.
“Let’s eat!” cried Hansel, who reached up and broke off a piece of the roof while Gretel chewed on a wall.
Suddenly, they heard a thin screechy voice call out from inside the house.
“Nibble, nibble, like a mouse,
Who is nibbling at my house?”
The children answered.
“It’s only the air heaving a sigh.
It’s only the wind passing by.”
Sitting with my daughters at night. They are tucked beneath covers looking up at me with wide saucer-sized eyes. We finish Aesop, pause briefly at Midsummer Night for a speech by Puck, and giggle as Jesus pulls doubting Peter from the sinking sea. Before that, I turn off the nightlamp and light a candle... it's time for the Brother's Grim.
Storytime with my daughters is the best moment of my day. Here are some other moments of bliss that gave me inspiration this week.
(East meets West with these two traditional artists perform in the People's Park next to my apartment)
This afternoon I was caught in a rain shower while on an afternoon walk away from school. By some sheer coincidence of birth, I’m an Oregonian which precludes me from carrying an umbrella. So I draped a soggy shredded newspaper over my head as I stumbled toward the eaves of a large office building where upon I met a man who had a similar aversion. While the two of us hapless souls were standing there shaking off the well pellets, a third man passed by very slowly. He wore a bamboo hat which dripped around the rim with a steady stream and at his side was a donkey pulling a cart of melons.
(Construction is heavy in this city where they are hoping for Chinese immigrants to come fill up all the empty apartments... it's not happening and many are laying waiting)
Another teacher quit last week, ceremoniously throwing up his arms and giving up his educator’s ghost. He walked into our manager’s office and let out a tirade barrage of flying, zinging barbs like a howitzer then returned oddly to his desk, shoveled all his personals into a copy paper box, and stormed out the door.
When asked, Jermaine said, “All I did was ask if he wanted a cup of coffee.”
(Outside Xi'an's first grade classroom during summer camp)
Xi’an’s first grade teacher already dislikes me immensely and the school year hasn’t even started. It’s summer camp and she has stated through back channels that she finds my presence at lunch, hunckered-down on stools with my daughter in the cafeteria at the low kid table picking through spinach and radishes with a metal chopstick, to be annoying.
She tells Xi’an she looks like a little baby with her daddy hovering around, but I know my English just makes her nervous. It’s going to be an interesting year.
Laid in the grass this afternoon and watched the clouds roll by while listening to Dizzy Gillespie's "All the Things You Are." I am beside myself with joy.
An excerpt from a letter my sister sent to me:
So far, no more dead goats, but we have lost a few chickens. We are selling three roosters at the Clackamas county fair. We will take them down Monday night… My garden is a disaster. All I seem to be able to grow is weeds… Jeff wants to plow the whole thing under, but I want to see if we get some potatoes. The sunflowers are doing good too. Jeff is going to butcher the turkeys later this month… We will butcher two but keep two as pets…
Lisa, I adore you.
(Restaurants are open on the street here in the city. It's a nice place to sit and stretch your legs for a spell)
Finally, today I saw two men trying to carry a mattress up an outside flight of stairs in a tall building when a gust of wind stormed up and blew the queen sized cushion from their hands. It sailed out into the sky then plummeted twelve stories to the ground. The men just stood over the railing watching it cut through the sky in disbelief like a magic carpet before crashing in a thud of dust and relief on a rooftop below. Really, when does anyone ever see a flying bed?
This week I began planning the year. It's strange to sit in one spot and prepare for almost every minute of classtime until June 30, 2011, but I have done it. Songs, poems, stories, notes, pictures, lectures, games, tests, projects, activities, and surprises... the key is that I have to enjoy it too. If I am not re-creating it each year from scratch then I don't invest. I love what I do, and I love my life. Be well everyone. I miss you all so much.
Friday, August 13, 2010
(A poem composed during my first tango lesson)
While proctoring an algebra test this morning
I stood by the window in classroom 701
And watched a yellow Taiwanese cat
Walk across a brown tiled roof and leap
Into red berry bush. Outside the men in bamboo hats
Grimaced around a steaming engine of an
Overworked tractor scratching
As I lick my lips for
I still have the taste of
Strawberries on my tongue.
It is quiet.
The cicadas are gone, burrowed
Back in their holes
And I have Argentinean music
Ever so faint
In my ears from the night before.
Last night in dance class
We learned the tango for the first
Time in our lives.
I closed my eyes and still feel you
In my arms. Clumsy me,
I had to look at your feet so as not to step
On your tail, my little feline,
But you lifted my face to see your eyes
Making me laugh.
You said, “Want some gum?”
And I opened my mouth as you
Popped a strawberry bubble
Right on my nose.
(Cockroach in my room. Later I accidentily stepped on this and it squished through my toes.)
Teaching a summer school unit on poetry in the stifling heat of Republic of Chinese Taiwan ain’t no picnic. Still, some of my students surprise me. Here’s the pop-off comment of the week.
“I think Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken is about a man having to choose between sex with two women. The poet writes, ‘Long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth. Then took the other…’ which was ‘grassy and wanted wear.’” -Stanly, 9th grader
Well played, Stanley. You are sick and demented.
Xian graduated last month and now she is an official big kid first grader. She has begun classes in the building next to mine and so I can wander over in my spare time and see her sitting in class studying. She takes classes in math, science, global studies, health, P.E. music, art, and English and Chinese. She is learning to write Chinese characters and to diagram sentences in English. As a parent, I am faced with the Asian workload issue of how much homework do you need to give a six year old? I’ll keep you posted.
The other day we headed over to Vitaly’s to make homemade bread. He is a big Russian I plan on writing about at further length in an upcoming blog. He has a son Xian’s age and his parents owned an actual windmill in Siberia. We kneaded the dough, watched it bake and rise and cool on the outside window sill, then ate it with homemade jam and butter.
Rebekah had so much fun getting messy.
(Disgusting, yes... I actually ate at McDonalds this month. I know... I'm still sick.)
Random notes from students on Poetry Unit Assessment:
“Poetry has such wonderful effects on our lives. Poetry makes us feel happy, sad, remember, cherish, and it keeps us living. I quote John Keating from Dead Poets Society, ‘We live for poetry!’” -Winnie, 8th grader
“Poetry is used for people’s imagination. An example of this is when an author wants to say something about romance, but he doesn’t just say love, he says, like in Robbie Burns’ poem, ‘My love is like a red, red rose.’ That is so much more imaginative.” -Margaret, 8th grader
(Hartenstein grooms new 7th graders during summer camp on how to have some fun.)
“Poetry lets us know the stories of other people and it leaves us hollow and barren with space to imagine ourselves in the depths of the universe so we can climb out and discover what everything is about.” - Vivian, 8th grader
As Kinu just grows and grows and gets bigger, speaking so much English and Chinese, I thought I would dedicate some of my student’s Haiku’s to her. She is my little bundle of poetry.
Cold wind blows today
The leaves turn red and gold here
Wind blows my heart cold -Reece, 9th grader
The longest distance
Your best friend standing in front
Not knowing your thoughts -Alan, 8th grader
Through the dark forest
Gorilla is there waiting
For his own true love -Amy, 8th grader
The time I saw you
You were laughing so lovely
Years past, nothing changed -Julie, 8th grader
Homework and low scores
Boring class and sad teachers
Can you disappear? -Rebecca, 9th grader
Thursday, August 12, 2010
See the link to the Radio Free Asia article or read the entire article posted here.
World Cup Team Shamed, Reprimanded
North Korean players grieve after giving up a goal to Portugal during the 2010 World Cup, June 21, 2010.
SEOUL—North Korea’s soccer team got an official reprimand for losing all three of its World Cup matches, and the national coach could now be in danger for “betraying” the Stalinist country’s heir apparent, knowledgeable sources have said.The players were summoned on July 2, on returning to Pyongyang, to a large auditorium at the Working People’s Culture Palace and subjected to a “grand debate” and criticism that they failed in the “ideological struggle,” according to a Chinese businessman.Players “who participated in the World Cup were subjected to a session of harsh ideological criticism, with the exception of [Korean-Japanese players] Jung Tae Se and An Yong Hak,” the businessman said, citing senior North Korean officials.They took the stage before more than 400 people, including the sports minister Park Myoung Chul and a deputy director of the Workers’ Party Organization and Guidance Department. Players were then criticized by other athletes and a sports commentator and required to criticize head coach Kim Jong Hun.The Chinese trader said in an interview that how the players were reprimanded and what kind of punishment they received wasn’t known.‘Betraying Gen. Kim’“There were about 400 participants at this closed-door meeting, including athletes from various organizations under the umbrella of the Ministry of Sports, and students from Pyongyang University, Kim Il Sung University, and Kim Hyong Jik School of Education,” he said.According to another source in Shinuiju, the meeting lasted six hours and coach Kim Jung Hun’s safety could be in jeopardy, as he was publicly accused of “betraying the Young Gen. Kim Jong Un,” North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s anointed heir.“There are rumors that coach Kim Jung Hun has been expelled from the Workers’ Party, or that he has been sent to perform forced labor at a residential building construction site in Pyongyang, but such rumors are hard to verify,” the source said.According to the same sources, the sports commentator who covered World Cup games was present, and noted sports commentator Ri Dong Kyu was tasked to point out the shortcomings of each of the players, and subsequently criticize them. According to multiple sources in North Korea, as soon as the North Korean soccer team qualified to the World Cup, Workers’ Party meetings and lectures for students were organized to celebrate “Young Gen. Kim Jong Un’s accomplishment.”Forty-four years after its first World Cup appearance, North Korea made it to a World Cup again, just to be demolished in a painful 7-0 loss to Portugal.The top two teams in each Asian group automatically qualify for the 32-team final tournament, while the top third-place teams play off for a chance at another spot.Original reporting by Moon Sung-hui for RFA’s Korean service. Korean service director: Max Kwak. Written for the Web by Sarah Jackson-Han.
Copyright © 1998-2010 Radio Free Asia. All rights reserved.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Thanks, Bali. See you next time.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight…” -Elizabeth Barrett Browning
“Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!” - There is another sky, Emily Dickinson
“And then the day came
When the risk
To remain tight
In a bud
Was more painful
Than the risk
To blossom.” - Risk, Anais Nin
“I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)” - Mad Girl’s Love Song, Sylvia Plath
“Then my black-eyed rival came.
The lady of water, rising on the beach,
A piano at her fingertips, shame
On her lips and a flute’s speech.
And I was the knock-kneed broom instead.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.” -Anne Sexton
“What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning, but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply…” -Edna St. Vincent Millay
“As I would free the white almond from the green husk
So I would strip your trappings off,
And fingering the smooth and polished kernel
I should see that in my hands glittered a gem beyond counting.” -Aubade, Amy Lowell
(Of course, I'm far from perfect... but at least I know two things: how to keep my clothes on at the beach and good poems when I see 'em.)
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
The following pictures were taken on the corner of the Nusa Dua village market at 3:15 in the afternoon in rapid succession just before Hartenstein channeled his inner Walt Whitman.
“Oh, to live to be the ruler of life, not a slave.” -Whitman
“O to make the most jubilant poems!” -Whitman
“O to be on the sea! The wind, the wide waters around.” -Whitman
“O the joy of my spirit! It is uncaged! It darts like lightning!” -Whitman
“To dance, clap hands, exalt, shout, skip, roll, float on." -Whitman
“To mount the scaffolds. To advance to the muzzle of guns with perfect nonchalance.” -Whitman
“It is not enough to have this globe – I will have thousands of globes, and all times.” -Whitman
“O to struggle against great odds to meet enemies undaunted.” -Whitman
Just remember, that while you are sitting here reading this, going through your daily chores, walking through your life, that I am a madman. A lunatic. I am a deranged beast standing on street corners screaming poetry at the top of my lungs. Screaming for everything. Every person who ever betrayed me, every lie I ever believed, every stupid rule I followed, every regret I never made. Screaming for all of it. Then holding my breath, waiting to hear for your scream too.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Not me exactly, I shower after working out and days spent running around sun-up to sun-down with my girls I’m more likely to reek of pool chorine and play-dough. No, it was my t-shirts.
Believe me, it’s tragic all right because clothes are nostalgic.
Choo choo train jammies with the bunny feet grandma stitched on her old sewing machine or a beat-up pair of jeans you’ve patched up and just can’t throw away. They have meaning. Memories associated with them. I used to have this Star Wars pillow case I slept on for almost ten years, and I loved that thing like an adopted child, but tragically, most relationships, even those with the clothes we love, must all come to an end.
And so, my beloved brown Powell’s City of Books, blue George Fox Track & Field, and green Nike “Pre-Lives” tee’s had to go. I left them in the trash at the Westin Resort room and never looked back.
Suddenly I was in the market for a new tee. But the Fort Lauderdale shops around Kuda and Nusa Dua offered little in the category of class.
Here were some examples of t-shirt slogans:
1. Butt Wiser: The King of Rears
2. Sex Instructor: First Lesson for Free
3. I “upsidedown hear with g-string” Big Butts
4. Panda Smoking a blunt: WWF (World Weed Federation)
5. Blink if You’re Horny!
Let’s just say… letting go might be easy, but finding a replacement… that’s the trick.
Still, I’m an optimist, and for everything sort of crummy we go through, I know beauty abounds ten-fold right around the corner. So today I got off the beaten path a little and followed a sandy trail through the jungle finding an old tire swing hanging from a palm tree atop this hill. I could hear the sea through the dense tree branches and rode back and forth with sand between my toes kicking at the air and laughing quietly to myself. The sun’s heat emanated from my skin and I thought about all the things I’ve let go of this year, sort of a mental check list of discarded things I used to hold dear. Just swinging along in the rectangles of sunlight through the palm leaves. Laughing, because they hold no more power over me, and I don’t miss them at all.
Farther down the path there is an old man in a rainbow bamboo hat trying to sell me his wares at this tent at the edge of the beach. He uses words like Bintang, Barong, Bilabong and Bennie Ben. I don’t understand him and try to smile my way out. Smiles are so important in life. They tell us everything we need to know about the person and ourselves.
The old man is shirtless and wearing a traditional skirt. His chest sags in mounds of gray hair and flesh as he squares up my shoulders and points to my heart. Points a finger right at my heart. My heart. Then lets me go on my way.
One-hundred meters away I look back and he is still standing in the middle of the road watching me go. Why am I so tender to these moments? Why do I let these memories stay with me? Why do I think, life is not the memories we make but how we remember the things that happen to us along the way? Let it go. It’s just a memory. I’m right. And it’s gone.
I cross the grass and head out to the cliffs overlooking the ocean. There are a group of boys playing soccer dangerously close to the edge. I drop my pack and kick the ball with them, laughing, a shirtless forty-year old man rough-housing with ten-year-old boys. They think nothing of it, but rather hone their skills, trying to take me on individually as if the cliff’s lip is the goal and the net the sky beyond. There is nothing between us but grass and whipping wind. One after another they try to kick the ball into the vast abyss behind me but I block it.
It makes me so nervous that I quit, patting them on the heads and giving high fives. They look confident as if they have bested a giant, run off a wild wolf, but I am just so relieved the ball was not lost. It reminds me I am not a child anymore. I have too many worries, too many concerns. Let them go. Leave them here at the edge of this cliff for them to fall into the sea.
That night the wind whistles and blows the sand up in small furies. SungJoo and I put the girls down and go out. It is good to talk to her. We speak about dreams we have, places we wish to go, and how we must merely live the days in between. Lately we’ve been talking a great deal about her returning to Korea. I know she misses her family so immensely and it would be good for the girls to live there for a few years. There are stars, brilliant stars, poking their heads out from among the silvery clouds in the dark sky. We lay down on the cold sand and look up, feeling we are on the edge of the world, feeling we have come to the end, and must jump. Are we holding on too tightly to let go? Won’t someone come and give us a gentle nudge or should we just bend our legs and scream, “Geronimo…!”
The next morning I realize I’ve lost Rebekah’s white blanket.
She’s four now and still sucks her thumb. Everybody tries to make her stop, I do too, but it’s how she gets through tough times and that makes sense to me, so I don’t bug her too much about it. She's so sweet though. I mean, if the first thing out of Xian’s mouth is, “I did it the best.” The first thing Rebekah says is, “Daddy, can I give half my cookie to Kinu?”
She is my heart’s delight.
So when I remembered I’d left her blanket in the hotel room, wrapped up right on top of the bedding where I meant to snag it before we headed out the door, I was so upset at myself. This is the blanket she has slept with every night of her life. The one I bought before she was born and laid in her crib while SungJoo was pregnant and I was reading Lewis Carroll to her swollen belly. The one Bekah curls up with when she runs a high fever, and has been taken on countless airplanes, trains, and bus rides in six different countries as a pillow, confidant, and shelter from the cold.
My heart broke at the thought of losing it.
And little Rebekah didn’t say a word until bedtime, curled up beside me with drowsy eyes, “Daddy, where’s my white blankie?”
I mean, I couldn’t keep my eyes dry while I sang her to sleep.
The next day I called the Westin Resort and wouldn’t you know it, they had it. We paid almost fifty dollars for a driver to go and collect it and two days later it was hand delivered back.
But the best part, wrapped up beside the white blanket, all cleaned and pressed, were my three grubby and disgusting stinky t-shirts I had thrown out in the trash.
Is the past always there? Can I never rid myself of it exactly? Is it what we are made of, what we carry with us, what makes us who we are?
Nah… it’s just a t-shirt, and I’m too wise to care about nostalgia anymore.
I threw those gross shirts in the trash again and hugged my four year old, who hugged me back, happy she had another day before growing up and turning her back on everything that used to be important and moving on.