Thursday, December 30, 2004

basic

I spent the better part of 15 hours trying to make relief packages for some of the people that have felt the devastation. Only the most basic things...toothbrush, toothpaste, rice, water, blankets, things that would require more thought to be taken for granted.

The last few days my spirit has just been non-existent, absent. Finally, yesterday a tangible way of helping...feeling it in my hands and my back that i have done something, i still feel like shit. With all the effort of the people working, we provided relief to a few thousand people for a mere few hours, while milllions of people are displaced. I am pretty sure i'm supposed to feel good about something, but i don't and i don't understand why. What's happened and what's happening is affecting me so much and I didn't personally know anyone affected directly. If I did, at least i would be able to understand how i'm feeling. I feel displaced.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

baby bird

Saturday morning i walked into class to find a bird in the classroom, ordinarily nothing even to bat an eye at, ordinary. This was a baby, however, that entered the room and couldn't get out.

I spent what seemed like hours just trying to show this baby the door and have it fly through it. It just couldn't find it and flew here and there and into windows and walls. Forever just trying to urge this scared, confused, infantile little bird through the door. Following it both hands cupped and making ridiculous bird noises getting it to cross that threshold.

Despite the many things i don't like about being a teacher, i enjoy coming in on saturdays and helping those kids who need the extra help. This week i spent more than an hour encouraging a shy girl just to speak in audible tones, just a girl who could use more attention.

I look forward to seeing the baby birds on saturday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Extra

Every day is full of things that are Extra-ordinary, as I see them anyway. Tonight I’m just thinking about the past few days and all the crazy things that have just happened as totally normal.

I’ll just tell you about a couple…Yesterday riding in a sang thaew (the back of a pick up truck) on the way home from dinner the car stopped in the usual traffic and just maybe two feet away on this one lane road was an elephant’s big but….hmmmm….Today, I attended a shameless so called fundraising carnival complete with crooked carnival games including “pin the bindi on the forehead”.

It seems that not a day goes by without the daily departure from the ordinary.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

School Spirit

This is something that still baffles me. Being a student, I can’t say that I had very much of this. Being a teacher, I see now why this can be important. The students I teach who have it take pride in their work, in their appearance and are concerned with their results. They are just all-around more pleasant to teach.
I had classmates who had a lot of school spirit at my school and friends at other schools who did as well. I didn’t understand it then and still do not. Now, however, I see it as beneficial to the kids in this school. How can one instill school spirit? Can one instill a sense of pride? It’s on my mind and if the few people who read this have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Fresh

Totally? Partially? Not at all? Shaped by all the things around us. Probably.

Sometimes it can just be overwhelming. Listening to other people, seeing their attitudes, there situations…I see it. The influence can seep in over time, sometimes it comes all at once, but it is unmistakably there. It affects how you feel about going to work, going home, going out, just about going anywhere doing anything.

Fresh. Taking stock. Just one day wake up and push all that aside. Forget about how much or little you have, just go through the day and just decide for yourself. I did that today and Monday seemed a lot less like Monday and Friday didn’t seem so far away.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Garden

Every day I see about 120 children whose name faces I know, whose names I know, and personalities I know. I hadn't realized how attatched I would become to many of them. It is something that just didn't cross my mind...I interact with these children, these little people who are so much individuals in their own way, every day. I can not really think of another profession where you might interact so often and intimately with other people.

I can really understand now why high school teachers are so happy to see their former favorites years later. It's incredible that I KNOW these 9, 10, and 11 year olds...To see them grow up in front of my eyes...In a year, in two years, in ten years. In a way it's like a parent watching their kids grow up, but rather watching hundreds grow up at so many stages of adolescence and childhood, SIMULTANEOUSLY.

Tending to a growing garden, just waiting patiently for it to flower. Waiting for the brats of 4B to become the young adults of 10B. That's rewarding.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Complacency

God Dammit people! Get off your ass and do something about it. If there's something wrong, and you know it DO SOMETHING.

I'm so sick of people just passively taking what comes. Passive is not even the word to describe it, as someone so aptly described a person in a bad situation, "not being passive, but actively doing nothing"

if this describes you, then i say, 'what the hell man?'

ASS-umption

Assumption makes an ass out of u and me. I’ve heard that lame joke so many times. It rings truer today. I on the other side of the teaching desk, and there is so much perspective to be had on both sides.

There are countless situations and relationships where you probably don’t know the whole story. Parents, teachers, bosses, peers, and many others. I interact with people who fall into these categories. What I think I know affects these relationships.

Consciously, I wouldn’t think I knew the whole story, but I think this experience has taken a layer of subconscious ‘ass making’ right off.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Time

I’m still thinking about complaining, more specifically what is everyone complaining about. A big one is not having enough time. For once, I feel like I have so much time, and even more fortunately for me is that I realize it and am not wasting it.

Not unlike many I imagine, work has become little more than a means for me. It’s a means to be here, to be learning about myself and giving me so much time. However difficult or frustrating a day at work can be, I’m still home (and with Zahra!) by 3:30 with the whole day stretching ahead of me. I have more time to be with Zahra, read, think, and do other things that have always been a lesser priority then ever before.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Happy

I don't understand why so many people spend all their time (or what seems like) complaining. Even if there's nothing current to complain about...just bitch and moan on and on about something that in the past or something that might happen in the future.

It's as if they've signed a contract promising to be unhappy...everyone could complain about something if they wanted. Being unhappy is as much a choice as being calm, or being angry, or being...happy.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Community

Jamaat- the simple translation would be community. Chicago is my home, and I like to think I’ll always be a part of the Chicago jamaat.

But here, in Bangkok, I belong to a new jamaat, and this one is markedly different from any I’ve been in before. First it’s not Indian. It’s 3 or 4 generations Thai. The first language here is Thai. The people are Thai. The food is Thai. From it’s inception 120 years ago, this jamaat has flowered in seeming isolation from the global community. There is a translation of the majalis in Thai, and they even pay homage to the royal family of Thailand at each function.

It’s very different, but when you walk in the masjid, it’s still unmistakably Bohra. And though it’s like any other Bohra experience I’ve had before, I’ve gotten a sense of community that I feel should be at the heart of any jamaat.

One difference is that the Amil doesn’t sit on a thakat, many feet off the ground, rather only a few inches at the audience’s level. During Vaas, the Amil asks questions, takes jamaat member’s names…talks to rather than at.

I am a new member and am not privy to many of the unspoken obligations and gossip and history and hierarchy that goes along with being a part of any social or cultural organization which is quite possibly just below the surface. From this distance, however, it feels how a community should…like a family (I know this must be a slight exaggeration, but that’s how I feel right now)

Audience?

When I started writing this, it was for myself. Though over three months, a few people, to my surprise, have told me they read my blog. Reading what I’ve written, my writing has changed from the introspective way it began.

Perhaps three people isn’t actually considered a readership. But, consciously, I want to turn inwards as when I started.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Full Moon

We were out last night and found there to be a huge flood about 1 kilometer from were we live. This was interesting because it hadn’t rained, or at least that we noticed. But there it was unmistakably, a pool of water that stretched on as far as the traffic, flooding the entire gas station and shops along the road. Not just a puddle, I’m talking 1-2 feet deep water. People walking through it and water up to their knees; we could hear the water at our feet underneath the car!

The next day this mysterious, non-rain water was explained. It was a full moon…high tide. Because Bangkok is about 1 foot above sea level, when the water is at high tide, the river rises and the drains back up. Something that seemed so bizarre was explained. It’s not even all that strange here I suppose as it happens once a month.

It’s great to experience something so…well unexpected…that’s the best word I can think of right now

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

old paper

Here's something that i dug up from a paper i had written after coming back from egypt.

One of the first few weekends I was there a new friend Max called me up and asked, “are you busy this weekend? Ok, meet me at the bus station in the morning and bring a sleeping bag.” And this was the beginning of my first adventure, and it truly was just that. In the morning I found myself at the bus station, in reality it was just a huge lot with ten different bus companies scattered around and filled with people who only speak Arabic. After much searching I found Max, and we were off to, to, to….well to be honest we weren’t sure. Armed with bread, some jelly, sleeping bags, and our handy Fodor’s Egypt guide, we took off!
Some four hours into the bus ride the bus driver let us off, strangely enough it was just the two of us who got off. It was a fork in the road, on one side was the red sea, the other desert and not a town for 3 miles in any direction! After some lunch and deliberation, we hitchhiked (not highly recommended) on an unusual overcrowded bus full of Coptic Christians; a large Egyptian man who closely resembled Santa Claus invited us on.
From there it was on to St. Paul’s Monastery, the first in the monastic tradition. Some monks gave us food and a room. Thus far everything just seemed to be happening for us, it was amazing and completely spontaneous. We stayed for a few days and hiked, just trying in vain to capture and take in all the serenity that was around us in the middle of the desert. Hiking was one of the activities of choice, and no words can describe the immense fullness of what we saw. Imagine climbing a mountain, when you reach the top you can see miles in any direction and still see no sign of life-a road, a tree, a house-nothing! Imagine climbing to a place where the wind gusts so that you can hardly stand to see the canyon that the wind has eroded away, just years of wind!
Traveling is an excellent way to meet people. We played soccer with some of the other people visiting, and it was a bonding experience despite the language and cultural gaps we connected, beyond words. At this point everything good just seemed to happen, so convenient, and when we thought about how we were going to get back to Cairo, some of our new friends offered us a ride to Cairo, a 4-hour ride! When we arrived back and tried to explain the details of our trip, the response was pure jealousy. It excites me to see a person totally enthralled by a story of something I did. OH and by the way, this 3-day excursion ended up costing around $6.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Sounds of Bangkok

Sounds of Sam Rhong actually, a suburbish place just outside Bangkok. We live on the sixth floor and have three balconies through which the surrounding sounds fill our apartment and have become welcomed sounds of home.

I say suburbish, because it’s not a city, but sounds like a city…maybe not even a city. Let me explain. Every night is like a concert of various sounds…many of which we can’t exactly explain.

First there is this xylophone (I never thought I would write that word:) music that we hear every night. A solo xylophonist practicising? Hmm…Some nights there’s karaoke, very catchy different music butchered by some wanna be singer(s). These music sounds are constantly interrupted by unitelligable yelling in thai. Domestic problems? Very excited people?

Animals. Roosters, they roost at sunrise right? WRONG, all day and all night. Dogs, they go crazy every night, like a pack of werewolves in a full moon…waking us in the night, they sound like they’re killing each other or some other very loud animal…we think to ourselves, ‘at least they won’t be making noise tommorow’, wrong again!

The strange/cool part is we’ve become accustomed to these sounds, a unique mix probably only ever to be associated with apartment 601.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Tough Job

I have a class of fifth grade boys, they practically ruin my afternoon when I step in that classroom, a group of about 30 mostly unmotivated, uninterested, and rowdy kids. I have tried everything I can think of to get them interested and to pay attention…and every day I leave their classroom exhausted, drained, and frustrated. Many of them aren’t anywhere near a fifth grade level and a handful do not speak English.

I cannot discipline them; I can barely get them to sit down quietly. Some of the teachers here hit the kids; I can confidently say I will never. I took some extra rowdy students to the mild mannered principle and to my surprise he hit them. Then they behaved…for one day.

I know now, what will happen if I send them to the principal. I have already resolved never to hit, but aren’t I doing just that if I send them again to the principal? Even the threat of the principal will keep them in line for a short period, but that’s still the threat of violence and I don’t like that.

Easy answer is not to do that….but I’m still stuck with a group of kids and without the one tool, hopefully not the only, of discipline they respond to. Help.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Me Nam Chao Praya

That’s the name of this river that runs through Bangkok, south and on to the gulf of Thailand. Also, we’re fortunate enough to live near the river.

It feels like the moon, it follows you wherever you go. Every time we go out, it’s appearing and disappearing on the side of the road…in the city, the riverfront is spectacular, lined with tall buildings and nice hotels, and restaurants….filled with many river taxis and boat traffic, and at night, it’s filled with boats that are lit up taking passengers on cruises. At night you can see large, lit up boats floating down the river from our window.

And the sun sets over the river, as it’s usually to the west. Maybe it’s the pollution, but the sun is red about an hour before the sunset, so there’s a beautiful show of red and purple lights with the river. Just as most Chicagoans share a strong bond with the lake, Me Nam Chao Praya has the same effect on me here.

Compass

3$, that’s what I spent on a compass. I think it may be the best 3 bucks I’ve spent in a long time. I’ve been to three different countries with it already and it’s helped me to find Kiblah in so many different situations. I used to feel uncomfortable putting my masela down and doing namaz anywhere when the time comes.

This compass has been liberating, it’s been something physical, tangible that is letting me overcome that feeling of awkwardness. I’m being myself all the time, even in Thailand, in the strangest of places…a zoo, a train station, a temple, a parking lot, a mall….

Friday, September 03, 2004

36

36 years.

36 years have seen a war in vietnam, korea, two in iraq and so much more.
36 years have seen 4 passport renewals, 36 tax returns, 3 states, and 7 different houses
36 years have seen 3 kids, 3 marriages, and 2 grandkids
36 years have seen 4 parents, 3 sisters, and 3 brothers pass away

i could probably continue down this list for another 36 years

My parents, god bless them, celebrated their 36th anniversary of being married this last week. And it makes me feel in awe of them. I'm just recently married and learning the meaning of the word "giving". For perhaps the first time, us children have finally been able to give back something, albeit nothing in comparison to what each of us has recieved as a result of their 36 years together.

Thank you for giving me a wonderful home to grow up. From the bottom of my heart, I want to wish them not only a happy anniversary, but another happy 36 more years. I love you mom and dad.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

cadence

Every Friday morning, the students at this school as a group perform these ridiculous exercises as a group. While wearing their uniforms, in dress shoes, and in the morning heat (which is slightly less than the midday heat and slightly more than the evening heat) they perform group jumping jacks and arm raises, quite literally to the beating of a drum.

This is as silly as I am trying to make it sound, maybe even more so....and the kids know it. My job is to stand and "supervise", whatever that means. I can only stand think how ridiculous is this? for 30 minutes! But is it only the students out there in the heat marching and performing the prescribed exercises? You may not hear that drum, but are you listening for it?

For whom the drum.....Tolls?

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Colorama

My first real saturday here.

We set out, camera in hand determined to go somewhere, directionless...but certian of one thing, it would be new to us. We found our way to the river and took a river taxi for what seemed like a very long time. I found myself thankful for the direct sunlight for the first time in two weeks as the boat bounced up and down in the river. Over the last few months, being in the amazon, the waterfalls, the rivers, and the daily torrential rains I have developed this great affinity for water. It's almost as if I have become one more part water than I was before...the idea of water, the powerful symbolism of water has begun to make it self apparent.

In search of some "sights", we rested our feet at one of the, literally, hundreds of wats. A wat is a buddhist temple. To give you an idea, these are fantastic buildings with red and gold roofs, spotless and reflecting all light, with walls encrusted with red, gold, blue, and green tiny pieces of hand placed mosiac stone and tile. These wats are surrounded by walls, that somehow seem to block out all sound of the busy streets, and all that you can here are the few monks adorning the traditional orange robs chanting a mantra.

Next we discovered the flower market in Pak Khlong, pronounced as two very stacatto syllables...actually who am i kidding my pronounciation sucks. I felt as if i was floating a sea of orchids, walking until i was tired, my eyes exhausted from seeing what felt like the whole range of visible light and still not reaching the end of the market. I can see myself walking and turning this way and that, almost round, noticing flowers and colors to my right to my left, just behind me...

I remember very carefully seeing the people walk by NOT noticing. How routine can life get, people walking by this sea, no ocean, of flowers, these gorgeous wats and not noticing. How can I say this when I am fully aware that this is me too, not noticing...sometimes not really noticing this beautiful person I am waking up next to every day, the family I have that is missing me every minute I am gone, my friends, and the many innocent, wonderful children with their eyes fixed on me during class.

Good thing I have my camera!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Rise To The Occasion

Our sleeping habits have been off a little bit since we’ve been here, and fortunately for us they haven’t resumed normally with sleeping late and what seems like all the time.

Nope! It’s been 11 days, and every day I’ve been up, I’ve been outside, I’ve been wide awake, before the sun has come up. Every day, I’ve seen the sunrise from the field where I’m exercising or my balcony. It’s exhilarating! To be up, to be alert, to see that purplish-reddish haze in the sky, to see those fantastical few first rays of light fighting through, over the horizon.

‘Big Deal’, you might say. The sun rises every day. It sure does….and until these last several days, seeing the sun rise was only on a special occasion, only under an unusual circumstance. Now my everyday starts with a bright colorful light show, it starts with appreciation….magic. Maybe there’s something to that saying, how does it go? Early to something…early to rise makes a man something, something, and something else.

When was the last time you saw the sunrise?

Friday, August 13, 2004

“Doo-doo” rian

Actually it’s spelled durian, It’s a tropical fruit, like no other I’ve ever seen. And I had the misfortune of mistaking durian flavored ice cream with mango, the most unpleasant experience of recent memory. Just horrible.

To my surprise, people like this? Acquired taste wouldn’t tell the half…it’s a coconut sized fruit covered with hard brown spikes. Imagine a 20 foot tall porcupine laying a brown egg (pretending porcupines laid eggs) or the meanest blowfish and you’d have a durian.

They smell so bad, they’re forbidden to take on public transportation. In the train station they have signs with a picture of a durian with a red circle and a line through it, like a no smoking sign!!! Don’t believe me? Look it up on the web.

Durian the outlaw of the fruits!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

one night in bangkok

it'd be a shame if i didn't use this title as a post title...and as i thought of this song while i was here the last few days, i realized...other than this song i'm mostly ignorant of what is, Thai and Bangkok...this song and some wholly unauthentic restaraunts i've discovered. Thai food, thai markets, has this smell of food and seasoning that just permeates everything. I don't like and have yet to become accustomed to it, i don't think i will...other than that one small difficulty this country is great, bustling and beautiful so far...like a huge metropolis with green fighting to break through.

I've again started to notice the things around me, appreciate the things around me good and bad....the stores, the taxis everywhere, the smells...both smell of flowers everywhere and the offensive smell of fish, the monsoon rain, the scores of people and the horrendous traffic.

It's sad, very sad that i had, after so short a time, become oblivious to the world, allowed myself to be broken down by the 9-5 desk job...I'm certain that there are so many things at home, as here, that deserve to be appreciated, noticed, and worthwhile. It's sad i had to come 12 time zones away and be shocked into noticing. When i come home i will hold on to this thought for as long as i can, for dear life...otherwise what's the point?

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

antsy

In 36 hours i'll be on a plane, heading towards bangkok. I'll get to see what i'm made of, if i have what it takes to be a teacher. This may be the most challenging thing that i have yet to undertake, and i'm thrilled. I want to write down what i'm feeling right now so i can remember it, read it and help encourage myself to be a better teacher if i find it overwhelming.

I'm giddy with the thought of having many pairs of eager eyes fixed on me, waiting for me to tell them about what I'm most interested in. I hope they are eager, I was eager, with the right teacher anyway...i hope to be that 'right' teacher.

I can remember countless times sitting in class listening to a teacher lecture about something, something that i got. I can remember thinking, "just say it like this...", i know that would make it clear to me, and i think it would help out my friend sitting next to me. I wanna be that teacher that says it like "this" for all the students, i want to read this post and remember how motivated i am to reach, or at least understand my students.

I've tutored before, but never had students...there's a different, a person comes for tutoring and needs help, a student comes to class and is a sponge. I have to realize that each one is probably at least as complex a little person as i was...only then can i understand...only then can i make a difference.

So before i start, i wish myself luck, and when i'm reading this in the future...in my nervousness, i remind myself, "never give up, being part of peoples lives is the most important occupation. Failure is not acceptable."

Thursday, July 29, 2004

history

I've been doing some reading lately, and after a long time i've been thinking about what i learned in history class, one of my least favorite subjects...there's a theory i came across, "cognitive dissonance", big words that i'll just tell you how i take it to mean and use it thus.  To me it means, simply, interpreting the events of the past using the standards, morals, and acceptableness of today.

In school, I learned to admire, people like thomas jefferson, george washington, or woodrow wilson.  We look back on things like slavery, segregation and if you care to look closer, many other effects of racism that were institutionalized.  Today, looking back, we call those events and institutions dispicable, as they certainly are, but many of the signers of the declaration of independence were slaveowners.  My point is that that was "ok" then.

What will my generation be remembered as?  Why is it not shocking to me to know that when i look for a job, I'll be more likely to get that job and hire paid than if i were a woman.  Today, the door of opportunity opens wider and faster for men than it does for women.  I read what i just wrote and am not shocked, because that's the way it is.  Why am i not shocked and appauled?  Are you?  Will this sentiment be thought of as dispicable?  Why isn't it now?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

5 minutes from the edge

everyone around me has a different way to manage stress, handle anger, deal with criticism, etc...
 
and they seem to work for everyone in their own way.  for me, lately, i've been try to wait 5 minutes, it does wonders.  It's amazing that as a general rule, 5 minutes from now things are better than they were 5 minutes ago...
just knowing if things aren't well, in 5 minutes they'll be better makes me appreciate just how much i have. 

take 5.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

For me to poop on!

Or to be pooped on rather.  That was my thanks for playing with a baby recently, great!  I later would help change the diaper, and by help i mean distract the baby while someone else changed her, thinking to myself the whole while, man it smells like well...crap in here.  Everyday this baby's parents, and everyone else who raises their kids in the world stand down wind and wipe off mountains of crap...they wash, clean, soothe, listen, instruct, play with, and raise their children everyday.

Why do they do that thing...oh yeah, love...their children so much.  Something a new mother said to me recently gave me a little perspective.  She went to see a movie for the first time after having a baby and she freaked out a little, in my closed-mind i thought, "what's your problem?  it's only 2 hours!"... She said, "i haven't been away from this kid since it was..." and i was expecting her to say born, but she finished the sentence "concieved"...never really thought of it that way before, i can more understand why parents love their children, but I probably only have the slightest inkling.

I appreciate parents, mine own and yours, in a new light as a child, an uncle, a new husband, and someday a father.  YOU have someone who has put up with a whole lot of your crap...and quite literally too.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Fad?

Well, I'm officially on the bandwagon...I have a blog.
 
why?  i don't know, i don't really consider myself a writer.  From time to time i have things on my mind that i want to get out.  why not? 
 
i think i'll give this writing business a try because i am thinking it doesn't have to really be that good to write it down.
 
for that matter
it doesn't have to be that profound to make you think, or
it doesn't have to be that kind to be appreciated, or
it doesn't have to be much to make a difference.
 
 
and so it begins...