Category Archives: Writing

Writing, Teaching and Traveling

Hello Friends,

The time has just flown by since I last sat down to take stock of life and share it with you.  Since February, my last post, life has been full of good stuff.  I finally finished my second book in the Treasure Chest Mysteries titled “The Jade Serpent.”  I will be announcing when you can pre-order through Amazon soon.  Working on finishing the illustrations now.  Very excited.  It has been such a different process to write a second book in a series; full of constraints, but overall they have been fun challenges to work with.

As to the rest of life, the last half of the school year at Sacramento Country Day School was packed with history.  For the American Revolution unit the students researched the key players, learned about women spies, explored how and why the revolution happened and then, after writing papers, they performed a musical, in A Capella, that spanned the American Revolution.  It was great.  We then learned about the Constitution and Bill of Rights, before heading into the Civil War.  For this final unit the students’ main project was to research and debate in groups. They went above and beyond and I was so impressed with their debating skills.  Also, throughout the year, the kids did 10 Minute Minis.  This was their opportunity to teach the class anything (upon approval) that they were interested in, to the class.  We had the gammot: card tricks, history of dogs, turtles, elephants and video games, rugby, lacrosse and baseball strategies, how to shake and make ice-cream, create clouds in bottles, and decorate your locker, step-by-step origami, and how to speak a little Japanese… and many more.  It was amazing what we learned in ten minutes.

Learning how to attack in Rugby

Creating a cloud in a bottle. (Classroom was set up for our North vs. South debates)

History of dogs – with a live specimen

Lacrosse strategies

Earlier this summer I was given the great opportunity (from my school) to participate in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History‘s Seminar on the American Revolution in New York City.  It was a week of amazing learning.  New York City in 1789, became the first US capital under our new Constitution and therefore it was packed full of history that we explored. We walked between 7 – 13 miles each day uncovering its revolutionary history.  Some of the places we visited were:
~ Trinity Church founded in 1696. Alexander Hamilton is buried there
~ Federal Hall – where George Washington was inaugurated,  and it was the home of Congress
~ Wall Street – named so because it used to have a wall that ran east/west across the island to protect the tip from First Nation peoples
~ Bowling Green – where the Dutch would chop off the heads of dissidents and use them as bowling balls for entertainment, and where the statue of King George the Third used to be.  Also the iron surrounding the little park is the original fence, minus the little crowns that used to be on the poles – they were cut off when the Americans toppled the statue of King George.

Flying into NYC. In this photo you can imagine where the “wall” was that protected the tip from the Native Americans.

The plaque on Wall Street explaining the “wall.”

The stone block that used to be in Federal Hall that George Washington stood on when he was inaugurated as our First President.

Map of the Battle of Brooklyn – a very decisive battle in the American Revolution.

We walked from Brooklyn to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge – just a gorgeous bridge, day and views.

Alexander Hamilton’s grave at Trinity Church

Inside Trinity Church

Me having a beer with my new teacher friends in Chelsea.

We also spent our evenings exploring: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Little Italy, Alexander Hamilton’s Grange…

Arriving by ferry to Ellis Island.

Visiting the Statue of Liberty.

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Alexander Hamilton’s Grange – this used to be 9 miles outside of town in the country – now the area is called Harlem.

Inside Hamilton’s Grange – this is the room and desk that he wrote the Federalist papers. Gave me chills, it was inspiring to be there. But… is it wrong that I kept picturing Lin Manuel Miranda sitting there? 🙂

At the end of the week I took the train up to Connecticut to spend the weekend with my sister and her family.  A great seven days on the East coast.

Since returning to Sacramento I have been teaching two creative writing classes at Sacramento State University for 4th – 10th graders.  It has been really fun to help them step outside the usual, observe their surroundings and find the stories waiting to be expressed.  Such creative minds.

I’ve also been working on my house a bit here and there.  Last weekend I tore out the old carpet in my living room and refinished the hardwood floor beneath.  I’ve now repainted, put up crown molding and moved back in.  Still working on the wall paintings, but getting close to being satisfied.

This week I am home to focus on my writing.  As I have been wrapping up “The Jade Serpent,” I have outlined a nonfiction book about my time in Myanmar full of photos of that beautiful country.  After those are off to the presses, the next big writing project is to continue developing a fiction story for young adults that I started a few years ago.  It is centered around a stolen antiquity, moves between centuries and across continents… an adventure mystery: mysture? adventery?

I have also decided that the next Treasure Chest Mystery will take place in Vietnam – one of my most favorite countries I have visited.

So lots to keep my mind engaged.

Next year I am teaching fifth grade again.  I will be coaching one volleyball team (instead of 3 like last year!) and tutoring a 6th and an 8th grader as my extracurriculars.  I’m excited also, to be piloting a year-long service learning program for my school with my fifth graders.  The focus is on hunger but I’ll be tying in issues around water as well.  My school also has a “sister school” in Rulindo, Rwanda and I am hoping to tie in the local service with the global learning.  Should be a fun year.

These cubist paintings were created by my students last year – arent’ they awesome? I love them altogether.

On that bright note, have a great August!

~ Gretchen

 

 

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Filed under Education, Fifth Grade, Fourth Grade, Summer, Super Creative, Travel, Writing

Oregon Gardens

A deep breath infuses my body with the rich perfumes of pine, fir, lush soil, cut grass, and blossoming plants.  Every time, it nearly knocks me over with its power.  The abundance of nature in all its glory is here in Oregon.  I love being here with my mom at her beautiful house just off the hustle and bustle of the University of Oregon campus.

Over the last few months we have been chatting over the phone (me – from the desert terrain of Gallup, NM) about re-creating her small patch of garden on the south side of her house that gets full sun, and therefore has the great potential to be a vegetable garden.  When I arrived a couple of weeks ago we started plotting in earnest.  After a rather painless trip to Jerry’s (a local version of a Home Depot) we returned home with a plan and lots of supplies.

First, we weeded the over-grown area and laid out what I like to call “weed destroyer” – black landscape material that blocks light.  Then we mulched and started hauling in the concrete blocks.  A few six foot, 12″x 2″ cedar boards, soil and voila; raised beds and a tidy little garden. Super fun and quite easy.  Here are the before and after shots:

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The next day I took a trip up to Portland to visit some friends and one was my dear friend Patty Cassidy.  She is an amazing gardener and such an inspiration.  She is a grand master gardener and has turned her expertise to helping seniors continue to garden and explore the wonders of plants in all shapes, colors, smells and forms.  She has written a wonderful gardening book, aptly titled “Gardening for Seniors” that I was happy to learn has been translated into four different languages.  She is also the president of the Portland Memory Garden which has been “especially designed for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems: the site is relatively flat and is away from other park activity and significant traffic noise. The garden was dedicated in May 2002 and is one of eight memory gardens in the U.S., and one of only two built on public land. The garden is a national demonstration garden project, created as part of the 100 Parks, 100 Years centennial celebration of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).”   If you are looking for wonderful advice about your garden – Patty should be your go-to gal.

It was a gorgeous Oregon afternoon of filtered sun.  I had such fun chatting in Patty’s beautiful back yard with her husband Gary, who, like me, is diving into the world of children’s literature.  No worries – I’ll be shamelessly promoting his book when it comes out too.

In three short weeks I’ll be moving to Sacramento, California.  I am really looking forward to a little space of my own to dig into some earth and help cultivate a bit of life.  Moving to Sacramento not only means I can garden again, but as the winter season is so mild – I’ll get to garden all year round!  I can’t wait.  And I have so many wonderful gardening experts in my life to help me.  Such fun.

I’ll write again from California.  Have a great end of your June!

~ Gretchen

 

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Filed under DIY, Education, Gardening / Outdoors, Writing

2016 Has Ushered in… Fun and Creativity

Such fun I have been having!  And thus, I have not been good at staying in touch, sorry.

The weeks have simply zoomed by since a lovely Christmas seeing and holding my adorable great (grand?) nephew in sunny California.  Sweet, adorable, with tiny little hands and feet…Koen.

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And I was so excited to give the adventure book I had written for Koen to his parents, my nephew Calvin and his great wife, Abbey.

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Then a huge surprise, I was whisked away to NYC for a fabulous weekend with my sisters and mom – girls camp, as mom called it.  So much fun.

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It was seriously freezing and then the wind!  But we had a ball.  We checked out the Highline (converted, old, elevated rail track into a lovely walking promenade…if it hadn’t been so windy!).  We hit the Chelsea Market, a bit of Greenwich village, uptown, midtown, soho, Ground Zero…The Whitney Museum… We survived the Blue Man Group and ended our wonderful weekend with Kinky Boots – an absolute must see if you’re in NYC – hysterically funny and so clever – Loved! It!

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No idea what we were getting into – PRE – Blue Man Group

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Post Blue Man – see, we survived!

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Chillin’ on the Highline.

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Ground Zero Memorial

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Amazing Kinky Boots!

But don’t think the fun stopped when I left NYC – oh no!  🙂

Just last weekend I headed up into Utah to Canyonlands National Park for a fun, challenging trail run and great hikes.

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IMG_4838 Corona Arch which was really fun to get to; climbing over big rocks, using ladders to get up impassable areas and then arriving and feeling really, really small.  If you look at the photo below, people are standing under the arch.  Its huge.

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IMG_4848I loved the colors – rich oranges, reds, greens and yellows.  It was really beautiful.

IMG_4864In between all this gallivanting I have been practicing my illustration skills and continuing to write the second book in the Treasure Chest Mysteries series.  Writing this second book has proved much more challenging.  I think it is due to wanting to make it better, deeper, more robust.  I am currently working my way through the book “The Plot Whisperer Workbook” by Martha Alderson.  She is helping me understand how to build a character that has more emotion, more rise and fall and more empathy.  I hope you’ll notice the difference in the next book.

I am also exited to say that my friend Ivy Newport, through her wonderful blog, has introduced me to my next exciting online adventure: A Storyteller’s Art.   This class by Robin Laws looks like so much fun.  I can’t wait to get started on March 14th.Storyteller's Art

Oh, and then of course, I have been teaching – the day-to-day job.  It has continued to be fun, super frustrating, challenging, empowering, painful and eye-opening.  My sixth graders are still my wonderful little stars, so eager to learn, curiosity abounds, full of smiles and giggles.  My seventh graders are more moody, more tired, over-the-top fidgety and dead in their seats – Ahh the wonders of puberty!  The eighth graders are a whole other ball of anger, apathy, rolling eyes, shy smiles, loud and aggressive chatter, more touchy or afraid to be even looked at.  Every day these students walk into my classroom and I do not know what I am going to get.  On a good day, it just doesn’t get better than teaching;  Spirits are high, curiosity rules, high-level discussions, students wanting more, which translates into: I am challenged and excited to explore new avenues with them.  On a bad day, its bad.  Grumpy, won’t do anything, talking back, refuse to participate, angry at being forced to sit in a seat and learn…  I rarely get a day that is strictly one or the other.  My days are full of emotion, highs and lows, smiles and angry, teenage stares.  Teaching is amazingly exhausting, but for the most part rewarding.  I only have three months left here in Gallup, NM.  I have learned a lot about what I need in life being here.  It has been very interesting learning a small bit about the Navajo Nation and the life that many lead.  But I am a tree and green person.  I need to see diversity in color, texture and foliage.  I didn’t realize how much I needed that until I came here.  It is very monotone in color.  Beautiful in its own right, but my eye needs color and diversity.

Where to next?  Not sure yet.  I have some irons in the fire that I am pursuing.  I’ll let you know where life plans on taking me next as soon as I know.  Until next time, Happy Spring!!!

Gretchen

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Filed under Adventure, Education, New Mexico, Photography, Travel, Writing

Snow Day!

So the big storms that have been predicted for this winter here in Gallup, New Mexico have yet to materialize.  But yesterday we did get the storm that has been battering the northwest.  We didn’t get rain, what came down was a wet snow, and since the temperature outside quickly went down to the upper 20’s, everything froze.  While it was exciting at first, the reality of departing from a school that was on a steep hill, quickly became stressful.

So instead of going up the hill towards home, which I observed others trying and spinning out, I went down to find a more slopping upward hill.  Eventually I circuitously found a path and since most of the roads still had a dusting of snow on them, with enough speed my little Volkswagen Jetta chugged up the hills (just like the Little Engine that Could one of my favorite books) without too much side sliding and I made it home safe to my two furry friends.

The snow fell more throughout the night and the frozen streets remained solid ice, so…no school today!  Beautiful sunshine out, but only 16 degrees.

So today I continue writing on Book 2 of The Treasure Chest Mysteries.  What a great day!

Gretchen

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My First Book, The Launch

Hi All,

A few months ago my mom found a really fun, wooden chest.  It was covered in a circus motif and painted by a local artist in her town.  With my nephew’s baby on the way, she snatched it up and sent me a picture of it.  Seeing the chest sparked an idea and I started writing a story with the thought of giving it to the parents, my nephew and his wife, at Christmas.  So I have been working on the story and attempting my first illustrations.  With the great encouragement of friends, family and my current 6th graders that I am teaching, I decided to not only give it to my nephew, but to publish it.

I decided to self-publish through Amazon’s Create Space.  It was a fairly painless experience and now my book is listed on Amazon!  I am beyond excited.  I am finally coming down from my initial high and working on promoting the book, as well as writing the next one, as it is to be a series.  But I have to be careful not to over publicize right now as my nephew might see the PR blitz!  That would ruin the fun for Christmas.

So as soon as my nephew has the book in hand, I’ll launch my Facebook page etc. and let you know.  I did take the plunge and set up a Twitter account as well.  I have also created a website for the book which you can view here.  But for now, if you know of anyone that has a child reading at the 1st – 3rd grade level – I would really appreciate it if you would pass the word on about my book – it ships internationally!

You can see one of the main characters on the side bar to the right with a light blue background – Titanus McDuff.  Below is the cover of the book.

Cover Trade

Thanks and have a happy, creative day!

Gretchen

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Filed under Adventure, Animals, Fourth Grade, Third Grade, Writing

A Bit of Fun in Mexico

Hello again.  I know it has been ages.  As with all of us, life has filled up so quickly and time has flown by.  My bucket has been filled with a bit of fun and lots of studying.  I have been taking two, 4 credit graduate classes this winter term (online) along with working full time and I have to say, I do NOT recommend it.  One class ok, not two.  But then again, they are done and spring break is next week!  So enough about that and on to the ‘bit of fun’ part.

I truly haven’t done much for the last three months, besides work and then come home and study.  So last weekend when I finally turned in my final projects I had a glorious, entire day to do, well, anything but be on my computer.  So I left my apartment.  It was big.  I almost felt tentative.  I’m serious.  But by the first step beyond the threshold I was in heaven.  It has been interesting weather here: rain, big thunder, sun, clouds and then start all over again.  But last weekend it was perfect.  Just because I had finished my classes. :-).

Since I hadn’t known I would be done and have a whole day to be frivolous with, I didn’t have any plans. Not that you really need them here, there is so much going on.  So I started walking.  And walking.  After an hour I ended up in the zocalo (Plaza de la Constitucion) – the big, huge plaza in front of a big, huge ornate cathedral.  The zocalo or parque central is found in all Mexican (and I can vouch for Guatemala too) villages on up to metropolises. Most, if not all are anchored by a church and usually government buildings.  Some are stunning with beautiful gardens within.  Mexico City’s zocalo is all stone and it is gigantic.  This is where many of the protests assemble as it fits thousands of people.

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Yes, I know. You are wondering why I didn’t just simply step two feet to the right to get the darn flag pole to the left of the church. Well, I was maneuvering through traffic and decided impromptu to take this and didn’t position well. Sorry.

IMG_3347_2 The flag was huge and the wind was perfect to just keep it flapping gracefully.

The cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana), built in 1573 has had numerous face lifts and is quite impressive to wander through.

ChurchThen after a bite of lunch over looking the square, I wandered down the side streets.  I found the tourists.  Wow.  Packed.  Lots of local music, large costumed, animated characters, vendors etc.  But it was so lovely out and everyone seemed in the stroll mode, so it was actually pleasant.

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This was a church along one of the streets. I like all the tile work.

After an ice cream, I began wandering back towards my part of town.  This took me by the Palacio de Belles Artes building which unfortunately wasn’t open.  But apparently is filled with tributes to famous musicians.  The building itself is gorgeous.

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I made it home about an hour later and I was pooped.  My body is used to sitting in a chair looking at a computer screen.  What a great change.

This last weekend I had another couple mini-outings.  Nothing spectacular, but it has been fun to explore what is within walking distance.

Saturday I walked through a neighborhood that I usually just walk straight through to, to get to the big Chapultepec park.  But this time I turned left.  I wandered the vast neighborhood of San Miguel for two hours.  The streets were small and full of flowers.  The Jacaranda (vibrant, purple trees), Hibiscus, Bougainvillea, in all its array of colors… are in full bloom right now.  The hummingbirds are going crazy!  I see them everywhere.

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IMG_3415A dreamy walk.  I had my headphones one.  I usually do not do that as I like to hear the sounds of the city, the people, the birds.  But I wanted to be in my own world and just see.  Of course I was playing Latin jazz, so I was at least appropriate.

Sunday I jumped on a “free” (you pay $35 for the year) ecobici bike and followed the flow of thousands. Every Sunday since 2007, Mexico City has closed its main arteries and allowed only bicycles (and runners, roller-bladers, strollers).  Its heaven.  Well, the roads are still rough and pot-holed, but there aren’t any cars and you can ride on these small, quaint streets and large boulevards for miles and miles.  There are two loops; 20 miles – open once a month and 14 miles all the other Sundays.  It was great.  Me and my three speed went the distance.  Weaving in and out of children on tricycles, dogs running by their humans, runners, walkers… in the main downtown and then all the way out to where only the serious bikers go (yep, that’s me) and back again.  I saw so much of the city in all its various forms.  Really felt freeing.  I didn’t take any photos – but here is one I took when I first arrived of the bikes and some riders near my apartment:

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So I’ll leave you with these last photos of fun art I have come across in my walks.

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This is an office building. There are offices inside the artwork as well.

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It has been truly lovely here.  I have to say I haven’t felt such a calm for a long time.  Have a great week.

~ Gretchen

PS. All photos taken with my iPhone 6.  Not all great, especially when you zoom in as far as it will let you – but not bad.

 

 

 

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Cambodia Remembered

Ah the final day.  I did not want to leave Cambodia.  Instead I wanted to head into the interior and explore the whole.  But alas, I had to get back to China and work.  On this final day, Mr. Kong and I headed to Roluos Group.  Bakong was our first stop and it was impressive with its largess yet I must say a bit hard to capture in photos.

Bakong Entrance

Bakong Lion

Bakong Carving

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Bakong GirlsThere was a Buddhist temple next to the ruins with a full monastery attached, surrounded by a moat with boats.

Bakong Buddhist Temple

Buddha & Bodhi Tree Painting

 

Bakong Boats

 

We then headed to Lolei – a small temple being refurbished.  The surrounding area was lush with tall Bodhi trees.  There was also a working monastery next to the ruin.

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Lolei Monk

Before exploring Preah Ko, I wandered through the craft stalls across the streets.  There was a group helping orphans.  The orphans were making art out of buffalo skins and weaving.  It was a bit odd, as the orphans were mostly young kids who should be in school, but instead were laboring at making products for sale.  Didn’t seem as ‘charitable’ as the signs said.

Lolei Orphans Weaving

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Preah Ko Orphans

I also spoke with Dr. Praeung.  He had been painstakingly creating replicas of the temples at Angkor Wat for decades.  He would start out by counting steps and rows and spires… then drawing it all exactly.  Then building molds that ultimately created a miniature of the original temple(s).  Some of his replications took over a year to create.  He was a man that believed in preserving history and sharing it with future generations.

Lolei Mr. Praeung

Lolei Reproductions

Lolei Heads

Preah Ko was my last stop.  It was really petite and pretty.  A tight group of temples that gave a sense of calm and wonder.  It was a nice ending to an amazingly full three days of temple hopping.  Although I was tired, I still very much wanted to learn more about the country and continue my explorations.

Preah Ko

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Lolei Lions

 

We then headed back to Siem Reap.  I said goodbye to my wonderful Mr. Kong and walked into the town center where I had my final diner on the second floor terrace of the wine bar called “Sunshine.”  It was a perfect spot to watch the town come alive as the pink dusk settled into darkness.Mr. Kong Final Meal Siem Reap

I do hope some of the photos have enticed you to visit this wonderful place.  The people were soft and warm and the beauty of the country was never-ending.

Gretchen

 

 

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Where In the World is Gretchen… Grad School!

I’m Alive – Really!

One month ago to the day I left wonderful Nigeria.

And two weeks ago it felt like I dove off the high dive and landed with a big, overwhelming splash into grad school at the University of Oregon.

It is a crazy, intense program of 15 months with the bulk of the work in the summers (16 credits in 4 weeks, each summer) so that we only have to take a couple of online research classes during the year while we teach full time.

The program is in Geography Education, and I am focusing on global health.

Its a big, broad term, I know.

Disease Migration!

 Famine and Drought!

No Toilets!
Where Does All the Poop Go?

Not a Drip to Drink!

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Yes, all that is incredible and overwhelming and worthy of researching.

But I want to focus on educating the individual.  In my research, I have found that although we have health education in many of our US schools, it is not as prevalent (I’m being generous here) in developing countries where reading and writing are deemed the most important academic subjects.  And I agree, they are vital.  But without understanding basic sanitation and nutrition to name just two areas, students easily fall ill to preventable diseases that keep them out of school so that no learning of reading and writing happens.  I want to focus on that word ‘prevention’ to keep students in school and learning.

Over the last few years I have been reading amazing books like Polio; An American Story by David Oshinsky and The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, on how diseases have moved and evolved within societies.  And following movements like World Toilet Day and the UN’s World Water Day that are shedding a light on the lack of basic rights for people all over the world.

Now in grad school, researching what efforts are being made to educate people, I have found a huge void in health ed globally.  So I have decided to combine my interests in international development and global health and start to work on a K-12 Geo-Health Education curriculum that will focus on the health of: the person, the community and the planet – for developing country schools.  This curriculum will be a multifaceted way of learning about health through geography, language arts, and social studies.

This summer I am focusing on outlining the whole program and then zooming in on the 10th grade and developing the 12 week unit.  My plan is to implement (test drive!) this Geo-Health curriculum in my 10th grade Global Perspectives class in China next winter.  I know it won’t be the  type of school that I am focusing on, but it will be an opportunity to try it out and have the students help me fine tune it.

Thinking of how to further test the curriculum, I met with the Fulbright rep here on campus today to discuss the realities of a proposal for a Fulbright.  My proposal is to take the 10th grade Geo-Health curriculum to two schools; one in Tanzania and one in Mexico, train the local teachers on the curriculum and then have them implement it.  I would be training and documenting (video-tapping, photographing, interviewing students, teachers, parents, community members and blogging) as well as being the assistant teacher.

He really liked my idea – yay!

So now to apply by October.  One big worry is that last year over 800 people applied for the 5 fellowships.  He suggested I find other funding agencies to apply to as well… just in case.  Good idea!

So, that is where I have been this last month.  Sorry I disappeared.  It has been a bit of a plunge, but I am so excited about moving forward that I am dreaming at night about how this might help people all over the world.  Vital knowledge that needs to be shared.

Want to help?

*  Know of an artist to help make fun drawings for my curriculum worksheets?

*  Have an idea for a great name for the project or the curriculum?

*  Know of any funders that might be interested in the bigger plan (development and testing of the entire K-12 geo-health curriculum)?

*  Know of any schools around the world that might be interested in talking to me about future implementation?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

I’ll update again soon.

Have a great weekend!

Gretchen

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Filed under Education, Global Health, Grad School, Photography, Travel, Writing

Aung San Suu Kyi at the Irrawady Literary Festival

A fantastic weekend I just had.  Mandalay hosted its second Irrawaddy Literary Festival.  The three days were filled with high profile authors, agents and the amazing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  I had to work on Friday, but Saturday and Sunday I immersed myself in the musings of talented minds and stories of those dedicated to Burma and their excited return after being blacklisted for over 20 years. Saturday started off with the arrival of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of General Aung San who, due to his clever interplay with the Japanese during World War II, brokered independence from Britain for Burma.  In her own right, Daw Suu is the founder of the National League of Democracy and has been imprisoned (house arrest) for her courage to stand up for her people.  It was exciting to even be near her…  Men in white shirts interlocking arms, pushing and shoving, making way for the great lady as she maneuvered her way to the presentation room.  I was in the crowd, not 2 feet from her at her arrival.  Something thrilling I must say.  Unfortunately the venue where she spoke was quite small and didn’t offer many seats, so I made it right up to the door as they were being shut.  But never mind, I went out to the stunning pool of the Mandalay Hill Hotel where a large screen had been set up and had, more than likely, a better view of this heroine. At this talk she was being interviewed about her life and her thoughts on literature.  She is famous for her work of trying to bring public libraries to all the cities of Myanmar.  Blocked consistently, she remains a champion of the written word and that her people should have free access to it.Aung-San-Suu-Kyi She spoke again later that day on a panel of authors that included Jung Chang, author of one of my favorite books “Wild Swans”, and Louis de Bernieres author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.  They discussed heroes and heroines and what makes people and characters into one. I then listened to a wonderful list of authors talk about inspiration, music and writing, their lives and why they write.

My three favorite talks were: 1. A panel with Duncan Jepson (All the Flowers of Shanghai), Pascal Khoo Thwe (From the Land of Green Ghosts) and Louis de Bernieres (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and many, many more).  All three were full of laughter, great insight into their writing processes and thoroughly enjoyable to listen to.Jepson.Khoo Twe.de Bernier Panel 2. A conversation with Pascal Khoo Thwe – he has written only one book that I am eager to read after listening to him: “From the Land of Green Ghosts.” He is from the Karen tribe and as a young university student the military cracked down one day, deciding students at university were inciting too much trouble, so they stormed the Mandalay University campus and simply shot them.  10,000 students ran frantically into the forests.  According to Mr. Thwe,  he thought he would return shortly, but that wasn’t possible.  He found himself on the Thai Burma border and wrote to a British professor that had visited Mandalay long before and Thwe had waited on him at a restaurant.  He told Dr. John Casey what had happened and to shorten the amazing story – he went to Oxford to study.  There is so much more – I highly recommend you read it – the parts I have scanned so far are heart-wrenching.  Another amazing story of survival and triumph.Pascal-Khoo-Thwe 3. A conversation with Louis de Bernieres.  What a wonderful soul.  His wit and banter were more than charming.  His intellect and turn of phrase were delightful to listen to.  He writes in a wide range of styles and enjoys exploring the world and creating stories from what he sees.  A Brit through-in-through, and a lover of the world and what it offers up.Louis de BernierI apologize for the blurry photos, but I used my iPhone – all zoomed from afar. Outside they were selling their books and of course I couldn’t resist – so I now have another wonderful stack to enjoy.  I also bought the biography of Aung San Suu Kyi which I am already thoroughly enjoying.  And, I had the great pleasure of getting de Bernieres and Khoo Thwe’s signatures in my books.Books A wonderful weekend that infused me with inspiration to keep writing and keep submitting. Two weeks left of the school year.  Can’t believe it is almost over.  Have a great week!  Gretchen

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The Coming

Apparently I am in my happy place as the juices are flowing for writing creatively.  At Trifecta this weekend, the photo prompt had my mind immediately creating the following piece.  I hope you find it intriguing.

The rules for Trifecta weekend contests are a max of 33 words related to the photo.  So here we go…

Photo credit: Bérenger ZYLA / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

The Coming

The moment the mist encircled the people, everyone froze.

Paulo knew it was his time; he was the chosen one.

He skipped through the immobile people and
contemplated the power he now held.

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