Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday Love List

because you can list things you love any day of the week (and its like therapy)

1. My Dad (Happy Birthday!)

2. Havi Brooks: she blogs about habits and fear (way more fun than it sounds) and she's brilliant (and she parenthesizes her thoughts - like me)

3. Spending time by myself

4. Getting clarity on something I've been wondering and worrying about

5. Joshua Radin's album Be Here Now

6. Scrubs (I just bought a season 1-6 DVD pack for $8)

7. SE Asia and it's lack of copyright laws (which also allows me to get entire books photocopied and bound so they look exactly like the original)

8. The Artist's Way

9. The smell of jasmine

10. Realizing that I'm good at my job

11. Talking to someone who really understands me

12. Spending all afternoon in a coffee shop

13. Watching the sunset

14. Love (yeah I know its cheesy to put 'love' in a love list - get over it)

Creativity: Part II

So I mentioned that I've been very interested in creativity lately. It stems mostly from the fact that I'm working through The Artist's Way book and course right now.

The Artist's Way is a book with essays and writing/thinking exercises that help you "discover and recover" your creativity.

I have been working with it for 10 weeks and it has had amazing impacts on my life. 

I suggested it to a friend the other day, and he said something to the effect of "I don't need to focus on creativity right now, I need to get other things in my life in order."

To me, that seemed like a classic example of "I can't stop to sharpen my saw, I'm too busy cutting down this tree!"

Like really, when do you have time to make your life better? well you never really do, but you really can't afford not to.

I realized that yes, the course is about creativity, but really its about fear and habits, and getting clarity on who you are and what you are doing with your life (and what you'd rather be doing) including topics like perfectionism, procrastination, time, and money. 

So yes, its a course for artists, but only in the sense that everyone is an artist, because creativity is the natural order of life. 

In case you can't tell, I highly recommend it (7 friends have started it since I have, and love it too). 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On the Uselessness of Dictionaries

I have my first year students keep a 'vocabulary notebook' where they write any new words that they learn or ones they don't know that they want to find out about. I have found this to be a very effective strategy in my own language learning, but like any practice, you need to make the effort, and make it work for you.

I was grading them for completion today and came across this gem:

Migraine (n.): an extremely severe paroxysmal headache

I would bet my salary that the only word he understood in that definition was 'an'

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Creativity: Part I

I've been really into learning about and encouraging creativity lately (I'll explain why in Part II), and it has extended to my teaching.

If you've been reading since I started, you'll remember that my students go nuts for role-plays and skits. It is the most they care about English all semester. This time around, I really encouraged them to be creative and funny, and to use props and costumes.

I got a lot of top-notch skits with details about the Alternative Medicine (our current unit) they were supposed to have researched and then this:

Student 1: Hi, How are you?

Student 2: I'm very sad. I cannot eat, cannot sleep

1: Why that?

2: Because I fall in love with one woman

1: What is her name?

2: Alison

1: Really, is she beautiful?

2: She is so beauty, tall slim smart perfect every thing

1: Oh! So you're hurt a lot

2: Yes

1: Okay you must try aromatherapy. It so good for you

... this with straight faces (to their credit) - can't say the same for myself (or the rest of the class)

I gave them 5/5 for performance/creativity (aka balls)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and all the other winter holidays that I would probably spell wrong if I wrote them out. I love you all.

I'm in 2552 now, what year are you in? Whoa, back in the single digits, eh? 

Although I missed you all, I did have a pretty good time here. Jordan stayed for the holidays and it was nice to have someone around who I've known so long - like family.

It was interesting to be in a place that doesn't really celebrate Christmas. The international corporations (grocery stores, Starbucks, etc.) capitalized on it of course, but other than that I didn't see any decorations or hear any music and this is the first year that I didn't buy a single present. 

I still wanted to celebrate a little though and I'm friends with a lot of foreigners, so the yoga community had a Christmas potluck and it was nice to be with people I care about here - also kinda like a family. We had grilled squid, papaya salad, spicy prawns and other traditional Christmas dishes. 

Jordan and I made pumpkin dump cake (thanks to Aunt Lulu for this family recipe) which was a big hit, and we all ate, drank and be-ed merry. 

For New Year's Eve, we went up to You Sabai/Pun Pun (the organic farm where I did my cooking course), and stayed in a bungalow with a view. 

There was a small party in the outdoor cafe there with music, dancing and homemade passion fruit wine - delicious! The countdown was pretty anti-climactic, mostly because there wasn't one. All of sudden somebody announced it was after midnight (nobody had noticed apparently, since we'd been eating and drinking since about 6:30) and I lit off some fireworks. I spent a good deal of time staring at the stars that night; an excellent way to bring in the New Year. 

Oh! and we played with baby tigers - cool!

16 people, 16 hours, 1 songtaew

In case you're wondering, a songtaew is a covered pickup truck with benches down the sides of the truckbed

and yes, we crammed 16 people into one and rode in it for 8 hours to get to the mountains (trippies, you got it easy!) It was epic.

As always though, it was worth it

I went with Jordan (visiting friend from Canada), April & Dave, two friends from yoga, and some Thai university students I met through one of my Thai tutors

We got there in time to run around and take pictures

(that's Laos behind us, with the Mekong river running below)

before we settled down to watch the sunset.

It was cold, and we paid a group of little boys 40 baht (~$1) to build us a big fire, which was awesome because gathering wood is my least favorite campsite chore.

The next morning we drove to Pucheefa, a famous cliff with gorgeous views

and cute children

and dangerous children with whiskey

overall, a breath of fresh air (yeah, literally and figuratively)