57 days to 60: Week 2 at the Coffee Shop

heinz_57_sauceI probably should have resisted, but with today being 57 days to 60, I just couldn’t bring myself to ignore the obvious. Anyone who knows me isn’t really surprised anyway.

The poll results are in. This was the picture that readers could vote about:

casting spells

The results:

Three choices were given about what I’m doing in this photo from my last day of teaching the Japanese students.

21 people voted as follows:

  • Teaching a class   – 48%  (10 votes)

NOTE:  OK, you are right. But did you have fun being right?  🙂


  • Casting a spell – 38% (8 votes)

NOTE:  I have to admit, it was the first thing I thought of when I saw this picture. My favorite comment was from Emmely, who had this to say: 

Definitely casting a spell! You’re bewitching those students to love writing as much as you do.

  • Getting over caffeine overdose – 14% (3 votes)

NOTE:  I admit to setting the three of you up. When it comes to me and coffee, there is no such thing as too much.  😉


57 days to 60!


58 days to 60: If We Were Having Coffee with the Japanese Students

58If we were having coffee, I would tell you:

Today marks 58 days to 60. And since the Japanese students left last week, I thought I’d feature them in this week’s IF WE WERE HAVING COFFEE.

There is so much I could say about my time with the students from Japan. Teaching them was a special treat, and while I enjoy this program every time I do it, this year’s group especially touched my heart. I’d tell you that even though, I’m grateful to be able to catch up on rest and simple tasks like thinking, I really miss them already.

I’d tell you that in addition to the 14 hours of instruction that each of the two groups of Japanese students received from me, I had designed an extra activity for them before they even arrived in Taiwan. The idea was that I would take each group of ten students to the Tuesday night writing group at the coffee shop that hosts us. Ten students each night with a few of our regulars, and it would make for a nice group.

The plan:  Week 1 – Group B; Week 2 – Group B; Week 3 (just the regulars again)

The reality:  Week 1

Week 1-1Yeah, you might say my estimate was a bit conservative. What happened is that some of the students in Group B wanted to have their friends from Group A with them. I knew we could pull it off just barely, but then their English speaking TA’s ALL decided to come along. As you can see, the results were rather overwhelming for the space.

week 1-3I’d tell you that we survived it, and much fun was had by all. It took a long time to get drinks ordered and even more to take dumpling and noodle orders for the place two doors down that would deliver the food to us in the meeting room.

I’d also tell you that I knew with that many people (we had a total of over 30), we couldn’t actually do any writing activities. So I announced that the English TA’s could have dinner with us, but then they would have to leave except for the TA’s who were already assisting me. I told the departing students they could join the group in three weeks when the Japanese students were back home, but that the time was for them right now.

Whew! After dinner, eight people left. It may not seem like much, but it opened up just enough space at the tables that we could have some actual writing activities. By the end of the evening, we had agreed that now that we had the bugs out, maybe we’d do it again for week 2 with both groups. No point bringing Group A alone, when Group B didn’t want to come without their friends. Tomorrow, we’ll move on to week 2. Stay tuned.  🙂

58 days to 60!



60 days to 60! (And a Poll!)

Photo credit: balloonpower.com.au/

Photo credit: balloonpower.com.au/

Today is important for several reasons. First, after 540 days of counting, I am now 60 days away from my 60th birthday. I am making plans for a rather unusual celebration that coincides with a chance to say good-bye to friends, colleagues, and students. You will learn more about the plans as they progress, but I will tell you this: I’m working on a bilingual invitation.  🙂

I’m not going to be fanatical about this (famous last words), but my goal is to post something every day for these last 60 days, leading up to the big festivities. I will revisit some types of posts that I’ve done before, as well as a few unusual things. And there are a few fun announcements I plan to make.

My first post is going to be related to the second reason this is a special day. After three weeks of classes and other activities, the students from Tottori University in Japan boarded their plane back home. Even though the teaching load during those three weeks is rather exhausting, I miss them already. But having them on top of my regular teaching load is the reason I’ve been gone for a while.

One of the interesting things that happens during those three weeks, is that our classes are photographed more than a first grandchild. It would be no exaggeration to say that in the last three weeks, there are at least 100 new photographs of me. Sometimes, they’re posed with various combinations of students for various group photos, but there are many candid shots taken of me in various stages of “teaching.” As often happens with candid photos, some are decent, but many of them are kind of duds–as you will see over the next few days.

So in honor of the completion of the Japanese program, today’s post is going to be one of the photos that was taken last week. This was one of those candid shots taken of me teaching. Now I KNOW that everything thinks that learning about compare and contrast essays is one of the most exciting topics known to humanity, but I was rather impressed with this photo sent directly to me by my TA, with a comment on how dramatic I look. My response to her is what I am now going to turn into a poll for all of my readers. I’ve never done a poll before, but I thought it would be a good thing to start off these 60 days.

Here’s how it works. I’ll post the picture. Underneath is the poll where you get to guess what I’m doing in that picture. You have three options, but feel free to add others in the comments below. Your rationale for your choice is also welcome.

casting spells

Thanks for playing along.  Answer revealed tomorrow!


60 days to 60!


The Lie is Revealed!

We come to the end of a journey. I have strung you along for nearly a week with this game of intrigue and mystery, and now the time has come to reveal which of the final three statements is the lie.

A brief recap:

#1:  I broke my toe in Taipei. TRUE (no one doubted this one)

#2: I got married in a Chinese restaurant. TRUE (and there were pictures to prove it). This was one of the two with the most guesses. But lots of people believing it is a lie doesn’t make it a lie.  😀

#3: I had lunch with Sergei Khrushchev. TRUE (I posted this just yesterday).


#4. I attended a Klingon convention in costume.

Fans dressed as Klingons in a Star Trek Conven...
Fans dressed as Klingons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5. I volunteered to assist with a 6-week quilting class for beginners.

Rosie Chan quilting class
quilting class (Photo credit: _Jill_)

6. I climbed the Great Wall of China.

Great Wall of China near Jinshanling

Great Wall of China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my post yesterday, I mentioned that I had lunch with Sergei Khrushchev as part of an academic program I was part of, The Roberts Fellows. As a Fellow, I had many amazing experiences and opportunities, including a two-week trip to Asia. During that time, the 12 Fellows from that year’s program visited Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Tokushima. While in Beijing, we made several stops, one of which was at the Great Wall.

One of the interesting things about climbing the Great Wall is that even though there are stairs to assist you, you have to remember that these stairs were done many years ago. There was no code for how many stairs there would be, how steep they would be, or even a common stair height. So you could have a couple steps that were only a couple inches, and then have one that was nearly 10 inches. No predictability: you have to watch.

One of the traditions among the Roberts Fellows is that there is a record for how fast someone makes it to the top. As you might imagine, I am not one of the record setters, but the year I was there, someone from our group did break the record. Alas, it’s been broken a few times since then. (We were the group from the program’s fifth year, and now the RF 15’s will make their trip in May of 2014.)

Anyway, that’s my long way of saying that #6 is TRUE!

And while I do not have the photos with me in Taiwan, I did attend a Klingon Convention, known as the Camp Dover Peace Conference in Dover, Ohio in 1996..My then husband was VERY heavy into Klingon fandom, and was the leader of an international Klingon fan club. He used the name Kris and the Klingon honorific of Thought Admiral. He went to many Klingon conventions, while the 1996 one is the only one I went to. He stayed home and I went with one of our mutual friends, who was also high-ranking in the Klingon organization.

Now, while I helped (albeit somewhat reluctantly) with the newsletter (Mindscanner) and helped create one of his costumes, I was not that interested in the club. I enjoyed the original Star Trek series and eventually came to like some of the later series as well. As for the convention, I was happy to have the chance to dress-up and go do some role-playing and spend some time with my friend. Anyway, while I did not do the Klingon forehead (I preferred to be a rather non-descript species), I did have fun with my costume. My outfit of black and gold looked pretty good, if I do say so myself, and the shoes had amazing heels that I could probably not even stand in today.

As the Thought Admiral’s Consort (wife), I was a bit of a celebrity, but apparently not for one particular Klingon who engaged me in an innocent bit of hand kissing. Since I don’t have a photo to share with you, here is a post that another Klingon wrote after the Thought Admiral reprimanded him for the hand-kissing incident. I don’t remember his name, but that’s nothing: I don’t even remember my own Klingon name. And so you know I didn’t make up this quote below, here is the link.

Warning from On High, May 1996

I receive a warning handwritten on this month’s issue of “Mindscanner” from the Thought Admiral. If I ever please his consort again he will have my head on his battle standard. Thick skulled as I am, I take days to come to the realization that the object of my hand-kissing lesson at Dover was none other than Kris’s consort. Kishin even sent me an implicating photograph.

So this is long way of saying #4 is true.

Which means that:

#5 is the lie!

While I love quilting and do a lot of teaching, I have never mixed the two. I take quilting classes, I don’t teach them. Sometimes the most obvious “truth” is not what it seems.

If you enjoyed this came, check back in a couple of weeks when I will launch another, with an interesting twist.

Thanks for playing along!

A Three-Week Container

Visitors from Totorri University (Japan)

japanese students 1From February 20 through March 13, I was one of seven teachers who taught in a three-week intensive English program hosted by our Taiwanese university. Our students were 20 students from Totorri University in Japan. My part of the program was to teach them Writing Skills. With each group of ten students, I had six two-hour sessions.

The students also had some field trips to the Yingge Pottery Museum that I wrote about a few weeks ago (see Containers of Surprise below), as well as some sites in Taipei.

On Wednesday of this week, we had our closing activities with the students before they boarded the plane heading back to Japan on Thursday. In many ways, their three weeks here were a whirlwind for me, because the rest of my schedule didn’t stop. In addition to the 8 hours of teaching I did with them each week, my regular teaching hours continued. And as mentioned in my last post (see the Busiest Week(s) below), the other tasks on my to-do list were all doing their best to make their voices heard.

In spite of it all (and the unexpected events that turned up last week), I found myself thoroughly engaged in every moment of those classes. I was excited to be with these students. They were unsure about whether they even wanted to be in a writing class, but over the 12 hours with each group, a transformation started happening. They began exploring ideas, digging deeper to uncover memories and thoughts, and began to write papers that showed their interest and their growth. They embraced the writing process and discovered writing isn’t so bad when they had a few tools to work with.

Too Much Diversification?

The reason I bring all of this up (other than to celebrate three weeks with a great group of students) is that I noticed that while I was totally immersed in this project, there were still other things that got done. I started comparing the things we juggle in the short-term with those we do in the long-term. According to a variety of research, multi-tasking in the short-term has questionable benefits, but it’s long-term counterpart (planning, time management, whatever we name it) is necessary.

While it is possible and desirable to focus our attention on a limited number of tasks in the short-term, we don’t have that luxury over larger periods of time. We all have a variety of domains in which we must function. What surprised me about these three weeks were overly full in general, specifically it wasn’t as stressful as I had anticipated. My immersion in the Japanese student program was like a block of time that was superimposed over the regular schedule. From one day to the next, it could seem arduous, but as I adjusted to the pace AND as I got to know the students, this added activity began to energize me even with the added demands on my time.

A Different Experience of Time

As a result, something happened to my experience of time during these three weeks. Not only the sense of being totally engaged, but the way that time seemed to flow differently. Even though my calendar showed blocks of times marked out for various activities, the boundaries between those activities blurred. It may be that these three weeks allowed me to nearly totally be a teacher. That my attention wasn’t as divided. That having a large number of things to shift to and from over a longer period of time can be just as difficult to manage effectively as multi-tasking in the present moment.

On the other hand, it seems at this moment that I have more time. That time seems a lot more spacious, even though the to-do list is still long. Yes, this program and a few other items have passed during the last three weeks, but the hours aren’t as tightly packed. I felt like I experienced both the expansion and contraction of time during this week that was based on my perception of the tasks at hand. I may have learned a few things in these weeks that will make my approach to the next few weeks more productive while less stressful at the same time.

Japanese students 2In the meantime, I’ll fondly remember the new Japanese friends I’ve made and look forward to our continued conversations made possible by technology. The opportunity to spend time with these 20 wonderful young people is just one more example of how small the world has become.

One of the things I love about teaching is that no matter how much I share with my students, I always seem to learn something myself. I want to thank my students from Totorri University for your enthusiasm, your humor, your willingness to learn, and for helping me to learn more about myself. Keep in touch!