Monthly Archives: October 2011

A funny sort of week

It’s been a funny week on the whole. Trooper suddenly came down with something rather nasty and had a day off school. Then once she was up and running Princess fell with a fever that kept her home for two days. It is to be expected. We have hit the 6 week mark and that means major assessments at school, added pressure and lots of weariness. We have one week left and then a whole week off. I am calling it half term, here it is called Eid.

With Princess home. I had to stay home too, at least for the first day and that had me spinning webs of order around my house. I had not had time, the most precious commodity of all, to organize drawers, clean shoes, do some sorting and catch up with the minutia of home life.  Playing house made me feel domesticated, a feeling rather rare and strange as I normally feel anything but.

Hitting the 6 week mark at school also led to the Day of Angst that must hit teachers everywhere. The questions fly like curve balls: ” Am I actually teaching them anything? Do they understand? Am I going to make it on time? Will they be ready? Have I done it properly?” We close the door and teach in a self enclosed bubble and sometimes we have our moments of self doubt. Often it is all cleared up with a simple prescription: assign an essay and see if they can do it. If the majority wins, you win. But there is always a taste of doubt left sitting on the tongue.

But now it is the weekend and I can put Camus down, brush off the bikini, suck in the stomach ( ask whether I really should be wearing a bikini) and head to the beach. Trooper is swimming in an open sea competition. She is determined to come last and swim lazy strokes beside her new good friend. Best of all my mother has flown in for a sweeping 4 day visit. So there will be restaurants and visits to places and a chance to see Bahrain with visitor’s eyes. She is our very first visitor so we have plumped pillows, laid out fresh towels, arranged roses and planned a fun weekend.

So I must push away the lurking feeling that I, too,may be getting sick, banish those worries and self doubt, stop thinking and go out and Have Fun. It is just what the doctor ordered.

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creative people full body walking

Doesn’t this sound fun?

Someone actually typed this into their preferred search engine and found 3limes. I think it is fabulous, a) that someone actually had the poetic inclination to type such a concept at all and b) that it found 3limes, quite obviously the temple of creative full body walking.

And it got me thinking.

Because I am doing a whole lot of thinking at the moment; what with living on an Arab Desert Isle and teaching TOK ( Theory of Knowledge) ( google it, it is the most awesome part of the IB course and the reason I love IB), and teaching Media to a bunch of kids whose eyes visibly open with empowered recognition in class. And because I am teaching Camus and Kafka to 17 year olds who are actually getting it.

We need to open our eyes. And we need to walk with our full bodies, not just the little feet that take small steps. We need to be creative people, not just painters and singers, no, but creative with everything we do, whether it be brushing our teeth, choosing our outfit in the morning, making toast, or having a heart to heart with the teenager who finally put down the phone to listen. Creativity is about having eyes open and being awake.

So if life is a conveyor belt that you are just riding on, get off and take some full body steps.

As part of my intent to stop, listen, watch and take notice I have created a Tumblr account ( yes bandwagon, a bit) to drop off lots of juicy morsels that I see and want to share. This is not a place where I will ever put something I create. Rather, it is a glorious depository of things I find. Think of it as a magic chest of treasures. There are words and small films, poems and photos, quotes and links.

I have huntered and gathered for ages but finally now I have a place to put the things I find. And I realize how it could be a full time job, this finding and storing, and how I don’t have enough minutes in this life to read and watch all the things I want.

But I can try. Small steps towards full body walking.

http://extraplums.tumblr.com/

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Filed under I have no idea where to put this

What I am learning

Having taught in International schools with their diverse populations for some time, and before that in Montreal with its gentle mix of cultures I have never, until now taught in a school with single ideology. Now my class is full of students of one faith, one culture, one nationality and one common background.  At times it unnerves me, sometimes I am surprised but most often I am quietly jealous of their sense of belonging.

There are things that are certain. Every Friday they will gather with their whole family at the grandparents’ house for a lunch time meal.  Every summer they will leave Bahrain and visit London or the States. Every weekend they will see the same friends and family that they have been seeing for all the weekends of their lives. Each school day they will come and sit beside a friend they have known since kindergarten. They will probably leave for university but then almost definitely return to live close to family. They will marry someone they know, or who is at least known through association.  Each day, at some point, maybe for some during school in the prayer room, maybe for others later in the privacy of their home, they will pray. But for all religion is not only a quiet focus in their lives but a central source of purpose.  During one of my outside duties I observe a number of students, certainly not the majority, but a handful, walk over to the prayer room, remove their shoes and enter for about 5 minutes. And I am always surprised. That they take time away from their already short lunch break, that they find comfort and solace in the simple act of homage and that religion shapes the structure of their days.

My own prejudice led me to believe that living amongst a singular ideology would cause single
mindedness, therefore closed mindedness. But in the majority of cases that is not true. Of course there are some who live with a naïveté that borders on precious. In the words of one student:  “for the high class women bringing up children and cooking are not their tasks, they are the jobs of housemaids”. They are all comfortable; struggle is not in their vocabulary. They have sense of us vs. them, they are deeply proud and protective of their Arab culture and hate the way the Western media portrays them and ‘gets it wrong.’

But there are many who struggle with the daily injustice they see before them, who are thinking and critical young adults, more aware than many I taught back in Montreal. They have an awareness of their culture that rests within the certainty off all it offers them.

Often I feel I am the student. But isn’t that the way real teaching should be?

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Lost and busy in the sandy isle, but walking on sunshine.

I am not sure I have ever been so busy. I barely have time to breath and there is another onslaught of things to mark, to do, to cook, to fold, to find. I don’t remember this happening before.

I am squeezing in a few solid procrastination minutes here away from marking to write this down, dear readers. Since I am so sure that you are interested and wondering how life is going on my sandy isle now that the glow of Berlin is worn and I have just finished week 6 of term 1.

The ground is moving faster than I. It is a giant conveyor belt that is simply zipping along too fast and I fear I might trip. I wake, I run, I return, I sleep.

Princess is being terribly clever and sparkly and brave. She has made it the finals of her school’s IDOL. It is not American Idol, nor is it the X Factor, but in our house it is even bigger and more important than either of those silly competitions. She will be spinning, dancing and singing up a storm  on a stage before 100 people. And she will be Walking on Sunshine.

Meanwhile Trooper has her nose pointed downwards towards her phone where her real life lies. She will soon have carpel tunnel of the thumb. We are monitoring the situation and sitting somewhere on a fence between “ she is 14 and it’s her right to be anti social” and “ she needs to be a human if she wants to live in my house.”Parenting Teens 101.

And finally in other news I am tired of not knowing where I am going. I fear I may need to purchase a GPS as navigating a car around my sandy isle is proving difficult. The thought of veering off the well worn highways worries me. I may get lost, or never get back, or….  It is somewhat akin to the fear of falling off a map. So I am slowing exploring; when I need my shoes re heeled and I haven’t a clue where to go I ask a fellow teacher to draw me a map and off I try.

There is one other tiny but rather exciting tidbit. We are now the proud owners of a dishwasher.
The last time a non human device washed our dishes, it was June 2009. Getting the dishwasher, finding one that fit, having it delivered, installed and ready to go was no easy task.  Finding a garden shop off a certain highway on a certain sandy isle was only slightly less difficult.

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Velvet and chocolate

I miss Europe. The ‘other’ world, Third, Second, Developing, what ever you want to call it doesn’t always fit so well. And of course it is that unease, that ill fitting life that makes me wide eyed ( though not so bushy tailed) most of the time. We grow by leaping, or falling, through the hoops out of our comfort zone. But every now and then, I long for the Great Shiny West. And it is not all about shiny shoe shops and the perfect cappucino, nor is it a longing only for order and tameness. No. I think it is a yearning for a beauty that feels familiar.

I come from both a literature and history of art background. So keep me a way from a museum, a film house, a gallery or a good second hand book shop for too long and I start to show symptoms. Like wise I need interesting architecture, a sense of history that seeps out of bricks and monuments, alley ways and cobbled roads. Like a nun who I presume does not miss sex, having never had it, I am fine for a while without it. But then I get a taste for it, as I did in Berlin and I am all lust filled once again, with nothing to press against a wall.

So I turn and look around  for a different beauty to satisfy me.

I found a cafe that is a delicious cross between Toulouse Lutrec Paris and Arabia.  It’s all velvet and tinkling crystal and chocolate.

It helps.

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West, personal, Photography

From here to there and back again.

How odd the journey is. One minute you have sand on your shoes and the next it shuffles through fallen leaves. Long ago we had time to process and feel the passing of time and place; the long boat journey with head leant over sea, salt in the hair and on the tongue, or body swaying in time with a train as most of Europe passes as a mere smudge against a window. I love the train and was thrilled by any trips taken across countries and landscapes. I remember falling asleep somewhere outside Miton Keynes and pushing up the blind of my sleeper to see the moon scape that is the Scottish moor. Listening to some teachers say they had a train to catch home to Holland, I felt the pangs of jealousy.  And I have always wanted to take a boat from Southampton to New York, the other direction wouldn’t satisfy my romantic grasp of the situation; I want to see the Statue of Liberty looming like a beacon of hope out of the fog. But who has time to travel? We need to get there as fast as we possibly can, forget about the journey.

The airplane is too fast, my mind arrives behind, dragging along like some lost luggage.

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Filed under Bahrain, Great Big Shiny West

Last look at Berlin

We stumbled across the most extraordinary jumble sale/rummage sale/garage sale while lost some where in the East. We saw two mannequins propped against a most gracious old building. They looked as if they had been tossed off the set of a horror movie and indeed their pasts turned out to have been equally dramatic. Turns out we had walked into the sale of the Opera House. Sets including fabulous chandeliers, fake harps, velvet chaise longues and even a large ship were for sale alongside lace, tuile and chiffon ball dresses. They entire sale was housed in a slightly crumbling but romantic space complete with spiral staircase, velvet rouched curtain and yellow walls. It was like walking into a Lars Von Trier meets Versailles set.  In my mind it summed up Berlin. Under the skin of practicality and organized decorum lies an artistic soul that burns and trembles. I wondered if it was because of or despite the fanatical order that such creativity is allowed to ferment.

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West