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Painting or Cleaning?

Decided to put off cleaning a bit longer and play with paints instead ūüėä. Family isn’t coming until tomorrow.

Happy Turkey Day Everyone.

~ Gretchen

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Back Up and For Sale

Phew!¬† My book is once again available on Amazon!¬† With the addition of a few photos of myself when I re-habituated two baby Howler monkeys back into the northern rain forest of Guatemala, my book has enough pages to have info on the spine!¬† Oh so important.¬† Thanks for your patience and enjoy!¬† And PLEASE write a review on Amazon!¬† ūüôā

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Happy New Year!

Here is to another year of getting to create worlds in our minds and share them with world!  Happy writing everyone.

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A New Beginning…Again

I am excited to announce that I have just accepted a teaching position at the Sacramento Country Day School.  I will be teaching humanities (combo of language arts and social studies) to 5th graders in Sacramento, California.

SacCDS

Last month I flew out to interview Р5 hours! Рand explored the extensive campus.  The school houses K Р12 with amazing art, science, music and athletic programs.  I had the opportunity to teach a 45 minute class to the current 5th graders and it was such a joy.  They were full of curiosity, eager to participate, good listeners and thinkers.  Really fun.  The administration bent over backwards to welcome me and share all the amazing-ness of their school.  It felt great and I flew back to Gallup pretty high on the possibilities.

This summer I will be teaching a one week class for the incoming 5th graders: Fast Pass to Fifth Grade and hopefully a class I have designed called Adventures in Writing – focused on how to craft a creative fiction piece.

And it looks like I will have the opportunity to coach the  5th/6th volleyball team this fall Рcrossing my fingers.

So home to Oregon in three short weeks for the month of June.  Then down to Sacramento on July 1st.

Bonus – my nephew, his wife and newborn baby are 30 minutes away in Davis and my oldest sister is 2 hours away in Santa Rosa – Can’t wait to be around family again.

Oh – and I can’t believe I forgot to mention this – but… Sacramento is green, full of trees and sunshine – what could be better?

Have a great May everyone!

Gretchen

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Finally!

So happy that the US is finally seeing the right path that love is love is love.¬† Couldn’t be happier.

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New Life, New School

Grand Opening is just three days away! The¬†Yew Wah International Education School officially opens its doors to students on September 18. ¬†But since the campus isn’t really ready for us to occupy it, we will be hosting an activity camp at the Sheraton resort just down the road for the first two days. ¬†Here is a rendering of what the school will look like when completed:

YWIES DrawingOnly 6 of those buildings are in progress, but phase II starts this fall.  Eventually this school will have 2000 students from K Р12.  The tall buildings in the back (right) will be staff accommodations and student housing.  This year we are starting with 150 students from K Р10.  My classes have the following numbers of students:

6th: 25
7th: 9
8th: 4
9th: 9
10th: 10

So the challenge will be how to best teach such small groups. ¬†I’m used to 30 in a class.

We still have not been able to get into our classrooms and we are all anxious to get started. ¬†It has been a long month working out of a conference room. ¬†There have been many hiccups, last minute changes, complete gaffs etc. ¬†But I am so happy to say that this new staff has taken everything in stride. ¬†Yes, we are sick of the conference room. ¬†Yes, we are sick of sitting and not teaching. ¬†But, we know each other really well now. ¬†ūüôā

I have planned my first three units for each class and created the daily lessons for the first unit for each class. ¬†I’m feeling well prepared on my end. ¬†I have purposefully not gone any further as I do not know the level of students I am getting. ¬†I don’t know their English level, nor if they have had any humanities or geography. ¬†So the first week will be very much centered around understanding the knowledge and skill base¬†the kids are starting the year with.

On Friday a few of us went shopping for items for our classrooms.  We had placed our requests the week before and someone was to have scouted out where we could find our items.  Then we were told we would go to two or three stores, check the products and make orders.  The gals would then pay for them and they would arrive at the school by Monday (tomorrow).

Instead, we jumped off the van in old town Huadu and spent three sticky and exhausting hours trying to find anything that might work in the dust filled piles of warehouse type shops.

Shopping Collage

Photos taken with my iPhone 4s

Needless to say there was very little for humanities.  I did find one, very dusty globe in a stationary store.  So I have resorted to ordering online and crossing my fingers that my atlases etc. arrive before Monday, September 22 Рthe day we really start school.

Tomorrow we start rehearsing, at the school, the opening day celebrations.  At least we get to be on campus.

Besides school preparations, I have been riding my bike around town.  Cruised around Huadu lake.  It is quite huge and full of statues and leisure stations (snack bars).

Huadu Lake 2 Huadu Lake Sun Statue

I have now ventured via the train, into Guangzhou.  It took us an hour to get there.  But the trains are really clean and efficient  and thankfully air conditioned.

There is construction going on everywhere.  Huge buildings with at least 50 stories.

TV Tower & Dwntown

The pointed building in the distance is the TV tower that lights up in lots of colors at night.

 

Street Music Man Metro Map

 

The days are flying by.  I am really excited to meet my students.  And I am excited about my crazy classes.  I had to align the Chinese national curriculum with the national curriculum of the UK.  There was a basic outline for what the Chinese felt I should cover.  Other than that, it was up to me to cover all the required standards and create classes that made some sort of sense.

So here is what I created – don’t laugh or groan. ¬†I know they don’t seem to flow, but it was hard to get everything required into these classes.

Units Y6 - Y10

EOTC stands for Education Outside the Classroom. ¬†We’ll be heading to a village community and doing a community project. ¬†In Y6 Ancient Civilization was given only 3 weeks in the Chinese curriculum. ¬†I gave it 14 weeks. ¬†Its going to be challenging to cover everything, but the projects they’ll be working on will hopefully lend to broader understanding.

It continues to be super hot and sticky here.  I almost stepped on this guy as I was walking through the forest part of our apartment complex.  He was about 5 inches long and moving fast!

 

Slug

 

I ventured back into RT Mart.  This time, 9am on a Saturday morning.  This is definitely the preferred time to shop, for me that is.  Easy and relaxed.  I had a chuckle when I came across an aisle dedicated to instant noodles.

Instant Noodle Aisle

But then I headed over to my wonderful covered, outdoor market.  Such happy, smiling people.  They love teaching me how to say the numbers (ie. cost of items).  Although hot and sticky, so much more enjoyable.

Market

Crabs

Crabs! Some were still twitching.

So another week has flown by.  I am so excited for what is about to begin.  I promise to take loads of photos.  We have been warned against posting any photos of our students, so I will try to capture the essence of the events without exposing the kids.

Also, sorry about the lack of quality of the photos, in this post all have been taken with my iPhone 4s.  The ones of Huadu Lake were as I was pedaling along.

Have a great week!

Gretchen

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Clean Water for Everyone!

After half a year of opening the eyes of my third graders to the plight of people less fortunate than them, they decided it would be really great to give back some how.  I was thrilled.

I introduced them to brainstorming and we came up with tons of wonderful ideas.  Then narrowing it down, they decided that clean water was something that everyone needs and where they wanted to put all their effort.

So I did some research and found a bunch of organizations that work around the globe bringing clean water to folks in need.  We reviewed the sites and decided on Water.org.

Then we brainstormed a fun team name and voila, the Spinning Tornadoes were born:

Spinning Tornadoes;

Spinning around the world filling buckets with fresh water for those in need.

Next came how to raise funds.  And my super creative third graders came up with a Water Bucket Carrying Contest.  Then we added a walk-a-thon (absolutely foreign concept here in Myanmar) and bake sales.  Our goal is to raise US $2,500.00 by the end of January.

Of course it has not helped that I have been sick for the last 8 weeks – but I was alive enough a couple months ago to explain it all to the other teachers and send letters home explaining what we were doing and what in the world a walk-a-thon is.¬† I’m still not sure the concept is completely getting through, but I think we’ll have a decent showing.

Our bake sales turned out to be donation from bakeries, sales.¬† The kids themselves have so many “helpers” (maids, nannies, drivers etc.) that they simply couldn’t comprehend actually baking something at home and bringing it in.¬† Odd I know, but I haven’t been able to get any of them to do it.

The walk-a-thon is in two weeks.  The water bucket carrying competition is in January.  Our bake sales revenue (3 weeks worth) so far has brought in at bout US $50.00.  So we have a long way to go.

Water Project Poster Making

Working hard creating our Spinning Tornadoes poster for the hallway.

I started a fundraising site on the Water.org website.  If you have any interest in helping us out simply go here and you can make a donation with a credit card. And please, spread the word Рwe need all the help we can get!  Thanks!

Water Project Group Photo

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Adios Dengue and Typhoid Fevers!

So just as I was thinking I was on the mend a few weeks ago – Wham, I’m punched in the chest and thrown backwards in pain.¬† My miserable body-mate, Dengue fever, had not moved out.¬† Every joint and muscle screamed in pain.

But this time I knew my body was too weak from trying to overcome this evil that lived inside me the last six weeks.  So I crawled out of my darkened torture room and put out a distress call.  Next thing I knew I was at a clinic getting my blood drawn.  Ended up I had not only a devilish case of Dengue Fever, but in my weakened state had also caught Typhoid Fever.

My blood was declared “sticky” and I soon became a twice daily inhabitant of the “drip room.”¬† I tapped into a four hour drip of electrolights, in a small room full of outdoor lounge chairs and people in various states of unrest, all connected to drip lines.¬† After four days of this, the pain was finally dulled.¬† Unfortunately I had a mandatory Visa Run, so off I went to Bangkok.¬† Basically an expensive five days of sleeping and shuffling to find food.

I returned on a Wednesday and the shakes set in.¬† My vision was blurred and I couldn’t concentrate on anything.¬† So to my darkened room and sleep for another four days.

Monday I emerged, hopeful that I could actually make it through a day of teaching.¬† Although weak and shaky, my mind was clear and I managed to survive the day.¬† It really helped that as the day began and the kids started arriving they would see me and with big smiles on their faces yell “Teacher Gretchen is back!”¬† This filled me up and bolstered my energy.

Then mid-way through the day a cake arrived to celebrate… me!¬† Although my birthday is tomorrow, it was a lovely gesture and the sugar high kept me going for the rest of the day.

Today is now Wednesday and although I still have a bit of the shakes, I am happy to report that I feel I am on the road to full recovery this time.  So adios my evil passengers.  Gretchen is back!

Gretchen's Bday

A little pale and shaky, but love the cake!

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Sick As a Dog!

It started a couple of weeks ago.  The weather started raging Рrain-wise and the pressure in my head started tightening.  It was as if my head were in a vice and someone was cranking down hard.  Then I had trouble breathing, or rather, filling my lungs completely.  I stopped working out in the hopes that more sleep and less physical stress would help me overcome.

I started snapping at everyone and was generally in ill humor and I felt like the students were taking me to my whits end.

Then I went home right after school one day and layed down.¬† I didn’t get back out of bed for 3 days.¬† My body ached, I writhed back and forth, I was a bit delirious.¬† The next day the Admin at my school knocked on my door and said I should go to the doctor.¬† I went, half knowing what I was doing.¬† The taxi dropped me off at a clinic with 30 people waiting – outside, with no place to sit, no receptionist and no sign of a doctor.¬† Then it started to rain.¬† My body was having trouble standing there and the rain drops pushed me over the edge.¬† I got back in the taxi and went home.

Three more days passed and I was able to rally in the late afternoon for my Newspaper Club.¬† The issue had to go out.¬† I met my team, we folded and delivered it and successfully planned the next months’ issue before I collapsed.

The next day was Halloween and although I was physically present in the classroom, I was in a complete fog.  I floated through the day appropriately like a ghost.  It was as if my chest had been scrapped out (from all the deep chest coughing I had been doing) and felt as if I had consumed copious amounts of caffeine as I was so shaky.

By Friday I was coherent again and the sun came out, the temperatures dropped, humidity was gone and the vice had un-screwed.

I have no idea what I had but as I have had Dengue Fever and Giardia before, it felt similar in pain and disorientation combined with the aches, chills, fever and cough of the flu.  Yuck is all I can say.

My head is still a bit foggy and I am not 100% but a solid 90%.  I can work with that.

So, this is all to say that I will write a proper blog soon with updates on life here in Myanmar.

Here’s to health!

Gretchen

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Laughter Echoes Amongst the Stupas

Four days of relaxation, lots of laughing, bicycling through ancient pagodas, spurts of torrential rain and thousands of stupas.  I just returned from a fantastic trip to the ancient city of Bagan.  Founded in the 9th century, Bagan has gone through many metamorphoses leaving it full of rich architecture and stunning panoramas.Stuppa landscape 2

As we pedaled out of the city of Nyaung U, we entered into a mystical world of primordial brick structures that numbered over 2000.¬†Originally perhaps a cairn, the stupa soon acquired cosmic symbolism of “Buddhahood.” Many temples also were built to honor a notable person, or even bring lasting remembrance to an important family.¬† There are also much larger multi-storied buildings that were/are places of worship that include frescoed corridors and Buddhist shrines.¬† The larger Bagan temples included a variety of other buildings such as living quarters for monks and ordination and assembly halls. These temples have massively built square or oblong bases with outer terraces representing Mount Meru, the symbolic home of the gods, and surrounded by a thick wall to separate its realm of the sacred from the outside world.Stuppa Vista

But let me back up.  The trip began on an early morning in the rain.  We launched our trip with a leisurely trip down the Ayeyarwaddy river on a three story boat.  Our ten hour trip was relaxing with intermittent rain and sun, a warm breeze and moments of interest.

Buddha on AyeyarwaddyApologies regarding some of the photos.  It was such a misty and humid weekend that my camera lens kept fogging up and therefore some of the photos are bit unclear.

Fishermen 3jpg

Bagan - First Glimpse from AyeyarwaddyNext morning we rented bicycles and pedaled our way into a quiet and contemplative valley.

Bagan Sign FullThe freedom that the bikes offered was great.  We would dart off the main road and head down trails whenever something caught our eye.

Biking in BaganWe also found my two favorite Buddha images so far.¬† The gilded one was inside a 2000 year old pagoda that still had one of the original carved lintels in one of the archways.¬† The non-adorned Buddha below, I just loved as it felt more ‘real,’ more accessible.

Buddha in Stuppa

Buddha in Stuppa 2

Gretchen Stuppa

The next day, my friend went off to play a round of golf, so I hoped on a bike and went out to wander.  The sun was shining a bit more and it got hot fast.  My first stop was a the Shwezigon Pagoda Рmassive and gilded.  Reminded me of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

Shezigon PagodaThe small detailed artwork caught my eye the most.

Shwezigon Pagoda Carving

Shezigon Pagoda Carving 3

Then I pedaled through more pagodas, zedis and stupas and came across this wonderful scene.¬†¬† Don’t you just love her ashtray?

Old Woman 2

Old Woman 1

We biked through puddles, dashed out of the pouring rain into small cafes for ice-cream and lassi’s, ate fantastic Tibetan, Indian and Italian food and generally felt relaxed and happy.¬† I highly suggest everyone visit Bagan!

Have a great week.  Gretchen

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