Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Whose world I am living in anyway?

Handsome Husband has left. He left his three sad girls in a Kampala house on a rainy day and flew off into the skies over to a country that is up in arms, cross, angry and full of hatred, fear and the expectation of change. I have no opinion on the troubles in Bahrain, I am not equipped to judge. I do know one thing though, a visit to Uganda would throw some perspective into the mix. They might realize that their lives aren’t that bad, that protesting and halting an economy might damage the good they don’t know they have. Just a thought.

So since I am here and he is there I am going to focus on what I am here to do. Teach. After all I am only staying here, husbandless for the next three months, honing my survivior skills, selling a car, lovely handmade and personally designed furniture ( I thought I was staying longer so I invested….) so that my self and my two girls may finish up the school year.

So time for a Miss Teacher post.

Look what delightful reading matter I am teaching, all at the same time. It is a wonder I don’t get very confused or at least have some very odd dreams.

Madame Bovary

Midsummer’s Night Dream

Much Ado About Nothing

Romeo and Juliet

Medea

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Quite the mixed bag, I say. And when I am not swimming in the seas of Alabama, Rouen, Athens or Verona I have my head stuck in the sand and the sand is all full of Mad Men. I am actually living many worlds, my days are spent with the above, I particularly like having conversations in my head with Emma, ( come on pull yourself together! ) or Hero ( don’t take him back! He called you a “stale!”) or Medea ( you go girl! He ripped you off! He ripped out your heart!) or Romeo ( Don’t do it! Don’t kill Tybalt it won’t end well!) or young Maya ( sit up straight and be quiet. It will all be fine in the end.)

My nights are spent with Don Draper.

I live in many a world.

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A week in the life of 3limes

My week in review:

Let’s start at the end. Saturday morning is always the same. There is something comforting about a routine that doesn’t change whether it be Montreal, Trinidad or Uganda. I wake up, drink coffee and read the on line edition of the FT.  This is my key hole into the week’s events as they unfolded in the arts or through the eyes of my favourite columnists. No matter where I am I can still read about Susie Boyt’s week, Tyler Brule’s travels, Simon Schama’s opinions and the reviews of all the films and books that will never come here. It keeps me up to date, keeps in me in the loop, keeps me inspired and sometimes keeps me frustrated. Keeping up with the Great Shiny West through the internets.

Friday was ‘dress up as a book character’ day at school, topping off our annual book week. I wanted to please/surprise my IB class so I dressed in top to toe white, removed all my jewelry and floated into class like a spirit. Who was I? Clara from the House of Spirits, our current book. They all got it, thank God, so I must be doing something right. Friday also saw Trooper win best short story in the annual competition despite the fact that her story was about a serial killer. Should I be worried or just curb her current fascination with all things Horror?

Thursday I went to another school in Kampala to see a fine production of The Merchant of Venice. Sadly only a few students accompanied us on the small field trip but I am proud of those who did since any chance to see Shakespeare performed is a chance worth taking. And it must be so hard to pull themselves away from a night of Facebook and tv. I was impressed by some of the young actors performing and it was pleasant to sit on the grass and hear Shakespeare’s words ring out in a Kampala night.

Wednesday I devoted an entire class of Argumentative writing to the revolution in Egypt. The question I posed was thus: Is Revolution a necessary means of change?” It was one of the best classes taught in some time. The students lapped it all up, finally thinking about revolution, what it is, what it means and after some debate and stimulating conversation they came to the conclusion that no great change could arise without bloodshed. That class was what teaching is all about.

Tuesday was a happy day as this little blog was nominated for a Bloggie! Best Blog in Africa! Happy smiles all round. Vote here if you haven’t!  I also hosted a small dinner party on Tuesday and cooked delicious fish cakes and a Mexican Chocolate cake. Pat on the back for Tuesday please.

Monday.  Mondays are hard. It is a full spread of teaching, no breaks at all, but this Monday introduced a bit of sunshine and fun into the proceedings. As the teacher at the helm of Student Council I proposed a spot of fun, a humourous auction to choose a lunch date who would provide a picnic. We raised a lot of money, there were a great many smiling faces and there were many students who had lunch with people they didn’t know that well. School spirit abounded and that is what I am all about. Bring on the Spirit! And lunch with yours truly went for a pretty sum so that all turned out for the best. My egg salad pita sandwiches were much appreciated. Although the Toblerone was stale. Oh, well.

I have no idea what I did last Sunday. My brain doesn’t work that far back. So we shall stop there. Overall a good week, don’t you think?

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Content thee in thy many worlds

It is very easy to forget I am living in Kampala when I am in the classroom. It is as if I was in a tiny enclosed capsule, far removed from the world; in a fairy land encrusted with apostrophes and garlands of vocabulary. I am teaching three works of Shakespeare simultaneously to three different classes and I could easily be in Elizabethan London for the words that are uttered unto thee whilst I speak in dainty riddles. One work is the always delightful Midsummer Night’s Dream. When I first presented it to the class there were cries of derision, stamps of protest! “No Miss! Shakespeare is boring and hard! We won’t understand that funny way he talks! Come on!”

Now they beg me each class for more. “Please Miss can we read today?”

They are eager to read more about Puck’s magic gone wrong, Oberon and Titania’s fight over a sweet little Indian boy and the saga of Helena and her unrequited love.

On the other hand Romeo has just met Juliet and in proving himself to be either love struck or ridiculously fickle, has dropped all thoughts of Rosaline and is head over heels in love with sweet Juliet who “seems she hangs upon the cheek of night As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear.”

I have both Indian boys and Ethiopians in my classes. The conversations are most intriguing.

And finally I have discovered that Much Ado about Nothing was really pronounced Noting back in the day so that changes everything from Nothing to Something after all. There is some discussion over why Hero would take back any man who had slandered her so; actually what was she thinking marrying some guy she barely knew?  They girls in my class are shocked, the boys sneer.

The conversations are most intriguing.

Then I leave the building and drive up the road past a line of girls wrapped in colour walking in the sun, yellow Jerry Cans atop their heads as they carry water home for the night. They practically skip down the hill tossing the plastic yellow can to and fro, laughing and holding hands, while their burden is light. The youngest carry the smallest cans; the oldest often carry two or three. Up the hill, with their cans filled to brimming they seem not to struggle at all. Their smiles never betray a grimace behind the truth of their day, their load is never questioned. Smile on; climb high, day by day the same.

How many worlds do I live day by day?

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Rupert Everett, Argentinians, Germans and Glitter-all in one post.

July 4th and while a nation celebrates by cooking raw meat over a flame and blowing up stuff we are making thank you cards for teachers by candle night and everyone is rather cross about the sad looking craft box, a poor relative of the glitter factory that used to occupy a cupboard in my Montreal basement.

The end of a school year is a mixture of relief, excitement, satisfaction and a touch of sadness. There are a few goodbyes and a lot of reflection. The kids look a whole lot older than they did 9 months ago and the teachers a lot more weary. As school books get returned to the library and classrooms get dusted, reports get handed out and awards nights are hosted. It has to be the most tiring week in a teacher’s life. They all wear the same “Is it OVER ALREADY?!?!” expression beneath their fixed on smiles. The last week of school is a perfect opportunity to show some films, considering exams are over and seriously no one is going to allow teaching to go on. I did some swooning while showing Shakespeare in Love to my year 9 students. Even the tougher of the lads melted a touch when Will and Violet had to say goodbye for the last time. The Year 8s were treated to a viewing of Midsummer’s Night Dream; a movie featuring Calista Flockhart as an indignant Helena and Michele Pfeiffer as a super sparkly Titania. Imaginative casting. I was happy as I got a double bill of Rupert Everett. Is that man a veritable Adonis or what exactly? I managed to get the year7s hopelessly hooked on Glee. A job well done, I thought. The Pilot is an excellent example of how to listen to your inner voice and resist the urge to bully a wheel chair bound boy by sticking him in a porta-loo. A lesson well taught.

I had more than my share of proud mother moments in the past week. Both Trooper and Princess got awards and stella reports, proving to us all, once again what a good school year they have both had.

The World Cup has been a welcome distraction in the midst of the flurry of end of year excitement. Yesterday I sat with 200 Germans ( who knew there were so many Germans in Kampala?) and watched Germany swiftly and neatly destroy any hope of an Argentinean Victory in South Africa. We then moved onto the Latino bar where we observed the Spanish continue the Latin exodus as they dispatched the Paraguayan team back to their corner of South America.  The distance of a few potholed roads and we crossed from one Germanic side of Northern Europe to a hot headed Spain. It is one of the finer facts about living this expat life.

Next week is jam packed with leaving parties, school functions, packing and goodbyes.

So here is the recipe to complete this week before we set off for the Great Shiny West.

  1. Five days to watch to last 6 episodes of Glee. My most recent obsession.
  2. Four suitcases to pack.
  3. Three school functions
  4. Two more football matches to watch.
  5. One cast to remove

And then we leave and there will be no more cows to watch out for on the roads and no more power cuts to swear about just as we are about to start cooking dinner. There will be less chaos and less flavour. Things might even seem a little bland after the crazy streets of Kampala.

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Who let the kids in?

I suppose the time has come to write a bit about teaching.

Teaching in Trinidad I have a sense that my students are way more innocent than back in Montreal. By innocent I mean both in terms of picking up on innuendo and in a more practical, or should I say horizontal sense.

Last week while teaching Shakespeare, I mentioned one academic theory, that Macbeth may be impotent. 95% did not know what impotent meant and once they found out squirmed in their seats in embarrassment. These kids are 15-16 years old. Meanwhile on Facebook I noticed that some of my ex pupils in Montreal were having a wall discussion about fellating a donkey. Obviously some kind of inside joke, but one that proves my point.  The kids I teach may be worldly and well travelled but they are also cocooned into a small and safe expat world. They spend all their time with like minded friends who share a similar existence and in my particular school many of the families are conservative, Republican, Texan, Catholic or Venezuelan. The latter tend to be the most “open”.

The teachers, on the other hand, are generally open minded, well travelled folks who live a life outside the box. Perhaps this is all just a gross generalization. However despite the overtly sexualized nature of Carnival and the lustful Whining Dance, teenagers here seem to be less sexually active at a young age.  Of course there is still the march of rampant hormones that can wreak havoc through school corridors and those moments in the middle of the class when the boys get glazed eyes and switch off. One of the things I love the most about teaching high school is the fact that they are on the cusp of adult hood and as obsessed as they are about leaping in, they are simultaneously terrified.

I have the best job in the world because I am not dealing with numbers and graphs, with test tubes or lab reports, but with literature and writing. So much is revealed through the study of books. So much comes out in their writing. It is an outlet but at the same time a safe place to discuss many issues that they are dying to talk about.  When we discuss Macbeth and why he is so weak before his wife, they all collectively despair at how “whipped” he is. They have little patience for characters that whine and don’t act.  Holden Caulfield, while a hero to some, was an annoyance to the majority. They live in a world of action not words. They are an impatient bunch and often very conservative in their thinking.  Like many adolescents they are very anti-gay and yet I have a rare few who openly discuss how sexuality deserves freedom of thought and action, like anything else. No one dares to step forward and “come out”. No one dares to rock the boat so as to be too different to their peers. 

My husband sometimes questions if I am too outspoken and biased in my classes. I have a picture of Obama on my wall because it was given to me. I would put one up of McCain if a student requested it, but I am not hiding where my allegiances lie.  I try to encourage a climate of open minded and tolerant thought but I the only thing I impose is the requirement to listen. I tread very carefully over questions of religion but I ask them to question themselves when they see an image, read a book or hear a song that jolts them out of their comfort zone. 

They must like me because moments ago I was offered a crepe made in French class. A young man with sticky fingers who had crept out of Spanish to eat a crepe came begging me to help find him an excuse to get him back in.  This is the same person who shows me his diaries and talks books with me.  Another student always had lunch in my room, probably more comfortable in my space than in the jungle of the cafeteria. He is the same student who is writing a book in his spare time and comes to show me the installments.  I hear their love stories, their despair when two girls like the same boy; I hear their anger when some injustice occurs in the school or at home.  One of my kids confided in me when her parents made her break up with a boy they thought unsuitable. Many show me their college application essays to edit before they apply. I have amazing singers, actors, dancers, writers and one star viola player. One boy has a music studio in his bedroom and shares his rap creations with me. Homeroom is a veritable nightclub with music blaring until I just can’t take it anymore!

  I love these kids. I can’t help it. I just do.

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