Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Parisian Memories, Part Une

How do I tell you about Paris? How can I give you an idea of what the experience was without giving you a play-by-play, that may not be all that interesting? I'm going to try, but you may have to bear with me a bit.
I'm a wanderer. One of my great joys in life is to explore, getting to know new roads and being surprised by what I find. I look forward to getting a little turned around, seeing it that way rather than "lost." (I've actually only been lost once in my life, in Verona, but that's another story). RAK is not exactly a wonderland for wanderers. Even if it weren't too hot to bear half the year, there are not that many new and surprising things to find, so after three months being stuck up here, it was not just a pleasure but a great relief to be somewhere that I could wander. And wander. And wander. Even from the top of the Eiffel Tower you couldn't see the end of streets to wander down, and corners at which to make a choice. I find myself wishing that I'd had the forethought to bring a pedometer, because it feels like I walked 500 miles (and I would walk 500 more, btw). By the end of the second day I was going to bed with worn out feet and tired legs. Worn out and tired, but happy.
During my Friday morning wander as I was working my way from the Bastille to the Seine I found myself following the strains of a violin down a side street, and found myself in the tres jolie Places des Vosges, and the notes wafting over the air added to the ambiance of the park and the building and the statue and the rain. I've been a little deprived of live music here, as well - the little Filipino musicians in the bars sing their little hearts out, but it's just not the same, and when I snuck into the secondary assembly on the last day of school to see one of my Sunday school students play her harp, it brought tears to my eyes. I don't consider myself to be a big music fan, but I AM a music lover - re: I don't get caught up in the details of who and when, but the actual music itself has a power to derail my trains of though like little else does. For example, two accordion players got on with us at Bir Hakeim, and started playing a tune that Socrates assured me was Jewish, although I knew it from Girl Scout camp, and I almost missed our transfer. I don't think I've heard that song since I was nine years old, and yet, there it was! Now normally I have to roll my eyes at buskers...there's something a little gauche (which means "left" in French, as Socrates reminded me) about street performers. However this week I was able to appreciate the musicians - or rather, most of them. One lady got on the subway as Socrates and I were heading to Gare du Nord to see him on the Eurostar, and sang to her little music-machine-on-an-ajjumma-cart, and I was not impressed. At least the violinists, accordionists, trumpet players, and other assorted musicians that accentuated my trip with music had to work to acquire their skills. People, just because God has blessed you with perfect pitch doesn't mean you sing well. On the other hand, Thursday night I made my way up to the top of Belleville Park to a little restaurant called Le Vieux Belleville, where two men - an accordionist and an organ grinder - led us in one good old French song after another. We were having a fairly broken conversation before they got things started, and I told them that I knew one of the songs, Complainte de la Butte, so they put it into their set, and as we all sang along a young couple got up and waltzed. It was warm and magical.

Last thought for tonight deals with French men. I thought getting out of the middle east I would be free of the stares of men. Non. The first few days in Paris I was shocked by how many men randomly started conversations with me. And some of them were actually tall and good looking! Maybe I'm the type that French men go for, or maybe they are just more confident and play the numbers game. After I met up with Socrates it stopped, and wasn't sure if it was because I had a man with me, or if I just didn't look like a naive tourist anymore...I'm guessing the former, since Sunday after he left I told a man, "Pardon," on the metro, and he turned around and winked at me. If it weren't for the fact that - well-brainwashed midwestern girl as I am - strangers kind of unnerve me, it would have been a nice shot of confidence, especially paired up with Socrates' compliment that I have the potential to be quite popular with men. Too bad I don't care all that much for popularity.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dem Bones

Between Evil's chat on FB and this stupid keyboard, this blog may not happen. Here's an idea: maybe I'll just type it and pretend the keys are where they are supposed to be, and all the boys and girls back home can use their secret decoder rings to unravel the message! I like this idea!!!

So this is just going to be a couple of highlights qnd todqyùs events; k? Today I saw Socrqtes bqck onto the Eurostqr to go bqck to London viq the Chunnel: ?qn Iù, jeqlous - Iùd hqve so ,uch street cred bqck ho,e if Iùd tqken the chunnel so,ezhere: From Gare du Nord I went dozn to the Latin Auqrter to see the Cqtqco,bs: I zqs vqguely qzqre of the Cqtqco,bs fro, so,ezhere; Les ?iserqbles; I think; but it took Lonely Plqnetùs suggestion of visiting the, on q rqiny dqy to jog ,y ,e,ory: Zell; I zould hqve gone even if it zerenùt rqiny; but it turns out it zqs pretty good zeqther for sqying goodbye; qnd so there zqs q little ,ore q,bience for the creepiness:

Qnd it zqs creepy: Let ,e tell you: You zqlk dozn: Qnd dozn: Qnd dozn so,e ,ore: Then you zqlk through tunnel qfter tunnel qfter tunnel: For so,e reqson people get spqced qpqrt qs they descend; so you find yourself zqlking qlone; through se,i-dqrk tunnels; knozing thqt eventuqlly you're going to find yourself in q room full of bones: Zhen you get there; you donùt reqliwe zhqt youùre looking qt inituqlly: The bones excqvqted in the lqte 18th qnd eqrly 19th centuries fro, overcrozded Pqrisiqn ce,eteries qnd ,oved here qre stqcked up so neqtly thqt qt first you think the skulls hqve been set in textured ce,ent: Qnd then you look qgqin qnd reqliwe thqt texture is qctuqlly ,qde up of the interlocking femurs: Lots qnd lots of the,: Qnd this pqrt of the cqtqco,bs goes on qnd on qs zell: Itùs q,qwing to think of qll those bodies; qll those people; gone: Qnd so,e of the, since longer thqn ,y country hqs been qn independent nqtion:
I cqnùt deny thqt I zqs definitely creeped out: I knez I zould be; but it zqsnùt so,ething I zqs going to pqss on just becquse it zqs q little ,qcqbre:::qnd the logicql side of ,y brqin tells ,e thqt old bones cqnùt do q thing in the zorld to ,e: But I zqs ,ore hesitqnt thqn I zqs qt the vqlley of the kings in luxor; qnd zhen the first drip fro, the ceiling hit ,e on the heqd; it DID ,qke ,e ju,p: Reqlly:

Zell; it looks like this is qll youùre getting todqy: Stqy tuned:::this ti,e to,orroz Iùll be bqck in RQK qnd Iùll put so,e pictures up; too:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

There's a very small chance typing this on Giancarlo will be less annoying than using a French keyboard. However, this way I get to do it for free at Macca's.

This is my fifth day in Paris. I feel as though I'm in my own personal Wonderland. There's art. There are landmarks and history I've wanted to experience for more than half my life. There are flowers and trees and spring weather and waterways that don't smell of the sea. Hills. Good food...it's kinda been a walk down memory lane as I've eaten Korean, Vietnamese,Indian, and Thai (don't worry, I ate French at a restaurant with chansons last night, belting out tunes I didn't know - and one I did, although I'm glad they didn't ask me HOW I knew it, because I would've been embarassed to admit it was because of Moulin Rouge.)
I've seen the Eiffel tower. I took the stairs to le deuxieme etage and the elevator from there to the top. I've stood in a very long line to get into the Musee d'Orsay, and was second in line to get into the Louvre. You should probably be aware by now that when left to my own devices I can become very...interesting...and if I get around to it, I kept track of my random thoughts at the Louvre, just for your entertainment (that's just the kind of friend I am). Saw the inside of Notre Dame, but not the towers (yet), and the Arc de Triomphe. Yesterday it rained, but I explored a little, read in a cafe, and had that dinner, and when I left, the view across the city of lights from the top of the hill was enough to take your breath away.
There's still quite a few things I need to do, but Socrates arrives in a few hours for the next two days, and it will be nice to have a partner in crime. Stay tuned for part deux.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Show Must Go On

"Inside my heart is breaking,
My makeup may be flaking,
but my smile still stays on..."

It doesn't seem right to me that while my own little egocentric universe is falling apart that the world is filled with butterflies and skies clear enough to see the mountains. My last couple of times leaving Korea it pissed rain, and that seems more like it. Socrates has left the building. It has been a couple of very long days, and they weren't exactly pleasant, fun times, but on the other hand, I've lost my best friend, and I'd rather spend my last day with him in tedium than not at all. However, I do wish it hadn't come to this, wish the school hadn't driven him to the point where he felt like the townsfolk were after him with pitchforks.

I'm pleased to report that I'm pretty much through with the hyperventilating stage of my grief, but I still gotta say that this is the part of the mercenary educator lifestyle that I hate. How many of you have I stayed up with in a cleaning/packing vigil? How many of you have stayed up with me? Saying goodbye time and time again sucks the big one - but Bronte had a saying about how the fact that it hurts is just a testament to how much the friendship means, and I'm glad to say that I've had the kind of friendships I've had, even when it rips my guts out to let you go (yes, you...Sara, Wilmarie, Bronte, John, Belinda, Tori, and probably a few that are skipping my mind right now). You mean the world to me, literally, because without you the world wouldn't have had meaning these last five years.

So now I have a day to catch up on my sleep and clean up the APT before going to Paris. Time to put on some of that really gay 80's music Socrates loaded onto Giancarlo Wednesday night and rock the house.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's the End of the World As We Know It...

...except that I don't feel fine.

My Partner in Crime here has gone and shot off his mouth at the wrong time in the wrong way to the wrong person, and he is not long for this world (by this world, of course, I mean the Twilight Zone world that is RAK). I'm more than a little bit upset, which my friend, who I am officially nicknaming (retroactively) Socrates (for his propensity towards pissing people off with his honesty, stubborness, and inquisitiveness), assures me is unnecessary. Luckily I had already had the, "I'm kinda feeling restless," conversation with my Dark Lord and Master, who has told me I have to finish out my contract, and since he still holds the lease on my soul, I sort of have to do what he tells me. Otherwise I can't promise I wouldn't cut and run. Here's why: I don't really like people, and I don't like going through that awkward period in which you are stuck with each other, but it's out of necessity, rather than genuine liking. And I especially dislike getting to know people when if we're on unequal footing (ie, one of us is more knowledgeable about the territory...that just doesn't seem like friendship to me, at least not for a good long while). Have I been on that rant before? Well, anyways, I figure if I have to get used to a whole new bunch of jackasses anyway...

No. My Dark Lord told me no.

This could be good for me. I will probably have far fewer late Thursday nights in places that are not conducive to being a good little Mormon girl. I will probably be better at keeping the Sabbath, staying til the end of church. I might actually get some work done towards an illustration portfolio, or spend more time dancing. I might try to be a better friend to some people here that I haven't been motivated to spend much time with. But you know what? I don't care how good it turns out to be for me. One day will become the next, one sand dune will melt into the other, because there isn't anything waiting in it for me except more work, more anklebiters, more friends that I only bother with because my best friend is gone.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

You Turn the Screws

I don't really suffer from stress...I'm more of a carrier...but now I'm stressed. Sheikh Rattlen Roll wants to know that we are spending his money wisely, so he has called in the Grand Inquisition - an audit team led by this harpy who last time she came around got the old principal sacked.

I bet she eats art teachers for breakfast.

Anyways, my stress level over this visit has been mounting throughout the last month. That sick day I took last week? It wasn't a total sick day...I actually went in for a couple of hours because my head of school had a brainwave about my schedule and I was supposed to discuss it with her. This is the person responsible for pulling me out of the KG classes after three months, and who, a month later, informed me that I needed a certain number of contact hours in my schedule...a number I was no longer achieving because I was no longer teaching KG and didn't want to take any more time away from the classroom teachers. And this individual told me pretty much point blank that if I didn't make up the hours and the auditors wanted to know why they needed a lower primary art teacher, she would have to concede that they didn't. Well, my Head's brainwave was this: I'm going to be teaching KG again. Both year groups. Every week.


So in addition to trying to get my classroom sorted out and my schedule sorted out I've been trying to figure out what the hell I'm going to do with them and trying to make it look good enough so that if the Harpy stops in while I'm teaching, she goes, "Oooh! Aaah!" And I have not been entirely sure that was going to happen. So I went in today - a SATURDAY, for the second week in a row, what is to become of me??? - to try and figure things out. And this is what I came up with:

I'm going to do something that looks cool. F*ck the PYP. The Harpy doesn't give a rat's ass about PYP.

Not that I actually feel much better. I've still got the Sunday Night Panic in a pretty bad way, and am hoping Socrates will actually follow through and go on a walk with me tonight, because I need my mind taken off this. He did a pretty good job of talking me down before I left the school. Here's something that I sometimes forget - there are two kinds of people in the world: those that blame themselves, and those that blame others. He reminded me of this by telling me to turn it back on my Head if my teaching is brought into question, and tell the Harpy that I have been messed around quite a bit in the last couple of months. See, I am one of those that always blames themselves. I feel like I have yet to become comfortable with the PYP, and I am not satisfied with the work my students have done this year. I like to have control, I like things to look good, and I have had to give up a large portion of my control because the PYP is supposed to be student-driven. Meh. But there are other factors that go into the equation, and that's something I need to remember.

More to the point, as my friend Poonam has pointed out, "It is in Lord's hands." I need to have a little more faith here. It would not be the end of the world if RAKESS decided my services were no longer needed. It is a great big world out there, and if I can't get a job with an international school, I can always get a job teaching English, or I can go back to the states, and in a couple of years, I'd have the experience I'd need to move up to a DODDS school. Whatever happens in the next two weeks, I know that my Heavenly Father will take care of me.