Friday, September 05, 2008

" a tiny o in the sky"

My Language Arts classes are reading "Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros -- a story about a girl who experiences an extremely humiliating day. At the end she says she wants "today to be far away already, far away like a runaway balloon, like a tiny o in the sky, so tiny-tiny you have to close your eyes to see it.

I couldn't say it any better. During my taxi ride home in the monsoon yesterday, I considered telling the driver (who was listening to Metallica and who showed the first sign of road rage in this city that should be showing road rage for every thousand close calls during every drive home) to take me straight to the airport. No one would know what happened to me...I could just disappear like that runaway balloon.

Then I went to bed at seven and slept for ten hours. Today I feel happy. My mood had nothing to do with the students...I really like them. I think I feel this way after every first week of I can't possibly do this job. This week, though, moving into a castle that isn't quite finished and trying to figure out where to start this curriculum with kids whose English levels are all over the place and working from 7 to 4--it's rough. Thank goodness the sixth graders were entertained by my presentation about Otzi the Iceman and "Eleven." More about them later.
I still just want to tell you about my neighborhood and my castle. Tonight we walk outside to find dinner and stop in to see the seamstress two doors down. She doesn't speak any English but through pantomime and writing down many figures, I know that Sweetie's shop over by the hotel is way overpriced-- fortunately I was too busy to go back. My alley seamstress points to a stack of catalogues for Katherine and me and then to one for Tarn. We point at dresses and blouses and skirts and ask how much? She writes figures ranging from $3 for a shirt for Tarn to $8 for a dress for me. I ask her if she can make "anything" and she nods a definite yes. All we do is pick the style and they measure us. Then I point at the material for the clothes hanging on the wall. Where do we find that? Again she nods and grabs my hand and pretends we are going out for a walk. She points down the street. I make a little walking gesture with my fingers...yes, she takes us shopping for the material, brings it back and makes it.
Katherine and I are ecstatic. We want to browse through all of the catalogues, but we are so hungry. We tell her we'll be back SOON and walk down another alley where two guys are making fried chicken and fried rice. One is stir frying a huge wok full of rice and vegetables; the other is tending a portable deep fryer. The chicken looks great, so I place an order. And...let me think about this for one second...yes, it is in the top five best fried chicken pieces I've ever had. Juicy on the inside with just enough crispy exterior. This meal cost $1.20.
Katherine and I also find a noodle soup guy on the main street that connects to our alley. He is Chinese and has three kinds of hand-cut noodles and a stack of wontons on his cart. You pick the noodles and he drops them into broth to boil them. His pork is carefully sliced without a trace of fat. His partner stands next to the cart to collect money. He is also Chinese, and he speaks enough English to let us know that here, at his cart, he will charge us only $15,000 dong (90 cents) but that most places would charge tourists so much more than that. He is a talker and distracts me from watching the soup man. OH. Is it tasty.

I haven't even mentioned the ubiquitous Bahn Mi stands. Bahn Mi are Vietnamese sandwiches that come with all kinds of veges and your choice of meat. In Seattle's International District (go to either Seattle Deli or Saigon Deli, both off of 12th and Jackson--little Vietnam), you can get tofu or pork or chicken with cucumber, daikon, cilantro, peppers. The stands here, three to a corner in some cases, serve the sandwiches with the above mentioned options plus pate, fried eggs and crispy onions. This morning I find the best one yet, just a few blocks from our alley (our neighborhood is on a grid of five wide alleys and five narrow alleys) and have a shredded chicken sandwich made for lunch (about fifty cents).

AND...almost every day I get an avocado shake at the corner (60 cents). You've got to try one!

Tomorrow the three of us are going shopping to make our castle somewhat cozy. Priorities: deck hammocks, deck plants, a deck strobe light, speakers (for my DJ's), pillows, floor mats, Chinese lanterns, pans. We are very excited...we think we might go to Chinatown and get rides on "Cyclos" --kind of like pedicabs (And here is another view from the deck- the other way). We have so much to buy. Also, Alice and her mother are going to take me to their seamstress, who is also in District One. Alice's mother is a very classy French woman and I can't believe my luck that she is sharing her seamstress with me~

I told you I would write more about school, but, well, I'm tired. Maybe tomorrow?


Carol said...

There is no tired quite like the tired of a teacher the Friday of the first week of school. Many times I have gone to sleep at the dinner table that night. Guess that's the one negative of having 2 months off -- adjusting to the schedule again.


Amy T said...

" whose English levels are all over the place" Oh, Marjj, that's the beauty of EFL, everything you do gets the language into their heads! Songs, games, wiffle ball, plays, magazines, pen pals, movies ... all you have to do is train their brains to absorb more English. Keep it dynamic and all levels will learn. Just watch out for Past Perfect Continuous, that one's tricky to explain...

Brian Bowker said...

I want to hear more about how Otzi came up. And eleven. I'm very interested in eleven.

Anonymous said...

Oh Carol-how right you are! M-your description of the balloon and the O in the sky is too perfect. Sounds like the perfect book for your kids-you always know which ones to pick! A sign of a natural teacher-who can teach anywhere to anyone and create magic. Yum is all I can say-i want an avocado shake right now! (...and everything else you are describing!)Love and miss u-Jaci

The Norris Clan said...

So sorry to have been delinquent in responding! Just got back from a girl's weekend at Whistler. I am SO excited to see what you buy for your house! I want to go eat now after your amazing description of the food. Can you Fed-Ex some?!