Three Things Thursday: The New Year

three-things-thursday-widget-badgeI’ve had a lovely three weeks with my husband and his sister here in Iowa. That makes me smile, even though getting on the plane to head back to Michigan does not. Well, that’s not entirely true. I am looking forward to getting back and seeing my daughter and grandson and my parents. I am even looking forward to getting started with the new semester and meeting my new students. So even though it will be hard to leave David behind, I can smile about all the great memories from our time together.

On a related note, the second thing that makes me smile is that I got to play a part in helping the sorting and de-cluttering process here at his sister’s house. Yesterday was the day Salvation Army came to pick up the first load of stuff that she’s been wanting to get rid of. With all the furniture from the basement and the bags of clothes, and the stuffed animals, and boxes of video tapes, they pretty much filled the van. Whether or not she ultimately moves is immaterial; the place is now beginning to become more her own. After Salvation Army left, Dave and I wrestled the sofa from downstairs up to the living room. With the bulky furniture out, and the streamlined versions in, we got to surprise her when she came home from work. Well, she knew that Salvation Army was coming, and she had told us what she wanted to go and about wanting the sofa brought up, but while we were the ones making it happen step-by-step, she was able to come home and just see the results. I couldn’t wait! And the smile on her face was worth all the little aches and pains we felt this morning.

The third smile is that because of #2 above, we have shaved some time off of how long Dave will need to stay in Iowa. Dave will still need to have Salvation Army back one more time (I know it’s hard to believe with everything that went yesterday), but he aims to get that done next week. But with any luck, he’ll be home by mid-February or even sooner! And that’s definitely something to smile about!

This post is part of JusJoJan and Three Things Thursday.

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It’s All Relative: SofCS

socs-badgeJust Fooling Around with Bee – a month-long blog-hop is going on in recognition of Love, called Love Is In Da Blog is a month-long blog-hop from Just Fooling Around with Be. The week 3 prompt is Family Love. During February, Linda collaborates to make the Stream of Consciousness prompt cover both events. So here is the prompt for this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday: “relative/relativity”. It can pertain to a person, a thing, a theory, or a concept. Play with it and have fun!

Having spent the last 5 1/2 years in a foreign country, the idea  of family has become a blurry concept. Of course, I have my parents, my siblings, my children on the other side of the world. I miss them terribly, and although I’ve visited 4 of the summers during my teaching position in Taiwan, I am eager to return to them next summer. During the last four years, I’ve been blessed to have my husband here with me, but the first two years I lived and worked here, I was on my own.

taiwan-mapStill, I had a few people that I knew (including the one who invited me to consider teaching here), and from those early beginnings, I’ve grown another family here in Taiwan. We may not be officially related, but it hasn’t stopped the friendship and caring that are part of so many relationships I have here. I’m going to share a few of them, but the list is not exhaustive. But you’ll be finding out about some of these (and other) people and the ways they’ve touched my life, as I plan to focus on posting about these people and events as I wind down my time in Taiwan.

In all kinds of ways, big and small, there are people who’ve made me feel like I belong, even though I’m living in a foreign country, where I still can’t speak the language. People are very kind and giving. From the first day, I arrived here, Amy met me at the airport and helped me find a place to live.

Diane and her family were my anchor during the Christmas and New Year holidays. Several times, I was invited to their home over the two years we both lived in Taiwan. When my children were half a world away, I felt privileged that she was willing to let me be part of their family and spend time with their children.

Through Diane’s husband, Erik, I also met Mei-Hung, who has been our adventure lady, both before and after Dave arrived in Taiwan. I have written about some of our adventures, and there are more write-ups to come. She has been such a dear friend over the years here.

When I had my knee surgery in my second year, Jessica C. was the one who came early and stayed through the day with me. Steve and Patrick helped me change apartments just weeks after the surgery.

Mac, the taxi driver, took me under his wing and was as close as a phone-call away. He and his wife invited me to dinner at a Japanese restaurant. Another time, they invited me to their home. After Dave moved here in my third year, he took us to a meal to welcome Dave to Taiwan. On another occasion, he took us to the ceramics museum in Yingee.

I found out that I have a twin brother I didn’t know about. Well, maybe Joe isn’t really my brother, but once we connected as colleagues, we discovered we thought so much alike on so many things that we tell people we are twins who were separated at birth. We are both from the US, but Taiwan is where we finally met.

Mina and I have been good friends even though we have a very small shared vocabulary. Between friends, Google translate, guesswork, and body language, we’ve done quite well over the last three years. I first met her at the coffee shop around the corner, and when she moved to work at another restaurant, I still visit her, even though it’s not nearly often enough.

I am surprised at the things that came out in this post. The people I’ve introduced here are only the beginning of the people who have become my family here in Taiwan. Future posts will mention others and provide some details of the activities and events that we shared. So if you’re part of my Taiwanese family, and you don’t see your name listed above, check back. There’s more to come.

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http://lindaghill.com/2015/02/20/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-february-2115/

 

Sharing My World from Last Week!

Thanks to Cee for keeping Share Your World challenge going. I always discover something unexpected when answering these random questions. That’s why I’m answering this quickly before this week’s questions are delivered to my mailbox. On to the questions.

taiwan-mapDo you believe in ghosts? 

I live in a country where Ghost Month just ended. I have to admit though, I didn’t personally see any ghosts at any time during the month.

Irregardless of your physical fitness, coordination or agility:  If you could play any sport professionally what would it be?  Or if you can’t picture yourself playing sports, what is your favorite sport?

Figure skating or gymnastics. Or swimming. Or diving.

Do you prefer long hair or short hair for yourself?

I prefer Goldilocks hair. Not too short, not too long, just right.  🙂

If you were on an small island, who would you want to be with? And where is it?  How big is it?

Although it’s not very small, I actually already live in an island. And even though there are lots of people here, including my awesome husband, Dave, and many friends I’ve made over the past 5 years, there are many people that aren’t here. They live half a world away. So if I could add a few more people to this island (or get an island closer to them), I’d like my parents, my children, and my grandson Logan to be on the island.  But for me, it’s all in the timing.

I will return to the US next year, and then it will be the people on this island that I’m leaving behind. My husband will still be with me, but all of the people I’ve met here, the people who have become my family on the other side of the world, will be on the island, and I’ll be back home. It’s odd having a home on both sides of the world, but I feel pretty darn lucky to have this kind of oddity in my life.

 

266 Days til 60

 

Time to Think about Time

Our Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “time.”

Lately, time and I have an uneasy relationship. I keep trying to plan it, manage it, rearrange the plans, and it just keeps on going, as if I don’t matter. When we are in synch, I feel productive, fulfilled, sometimes even invigorated or hopeful. But other times, I feel overwhelmed. Then I realize that it isn’t really time’s fault. It isn’t the fickle one, changing moods and priorities at every turn. Time is so consistent, annoyingly so sometimes. I want it to be a little more flexible, a little more willing to go with the flow. Enjoy the spontaneity of our relationship. But no, just the same old answer every time I ask: tick tock, tick tock, or some variation of it, with a few chimes or bird calls thrown in for good measure. How is one to maintain a good relationship with such limited conversational options?

Time knows me though. It knows that if it weren’t consistent, I’d complain about that. I’d be asking how am I supposed to get anything done when I can’t depend on you? Geez, Time, if you’re going to change the details of our relationship without giving me enough information, how can I trust you? Time just looks at me with a knowing half-smile. Damn, maybe I’m the one with the problem!

I guess, if the truth be told, I’m a little jealous of Time’s consistency. I think I’d like to be consistent–maybe not in a regimented way, but in a way that allows me to walk in better step with time. It would be nice not to be out of synch so often.

I keep trying things, dividing time into blocks, compartments that I can use to have at least small pieces of success with the way I use time. I try to play matchmaker between these time blocks and the tasks on my to-do list. Sometimes it works, but not consistently. So I try other ideas.

I know I need to get along with time, but some of my other regular companions don’t always play nice. Motivation is totally fickle, and I wish it would learn a few things from Time. But if I’m honest, the one that really messes things up pretty regular is Depression. It comes and drains all the Excitement and Vision from Motivation, snubs its nose at Time, and is totally comfortable with the misery it leave behind.

Therein lies my real problem with time, but I need to be careful not to use depression as a reason to give up on my other friends. They deserve more. Time, Motivation, Excitement, Vision, and Well-Being are the ones who make life worthwhile and who keep in touch with my human friends. Without them, Depression has a tendency to be a little possessive and get in the way of all my friendships.

Somewhere along the way, several years ago, I read something about making friends with Depression, or at least, don’t spend so much time actively resisting it. I’m not quite so sure how I feel about that, but I do know that ignoring it isn’t the way to go. Maybe Time and I will need to give a little, and at least help Depression feel a little less like an outcast. Maybe a listening ear is just is needed. It’s worth a try.

 

This post is part of SofCS: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-1614/

 

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So Amazing to HEAR: Stream of Conscious Saturday (Part 2)

Linda’s Friday prompt for Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness post is “hear/here.” Part 1 was about the “HERE” part of this prompt. Now, I’m going to do one for “HEAR.”

logan 23 monthsThis little guy is Logan when he was 23 months old in late 2012. Logan was born during my second year in Taiwan. So during January of 2011, while I was recovering from knee replacement surgery in Taiwan, my daughter Kate gave birth to this sweet little guy back in Michigan. Had I known Logan was going to come along in 2011, my time in Taiwan might have played out differently, but this is the story of how it had played out and how hear has become an important part of that story.

Logan is now 3 1/2, and I love the stories I hear my daughter about all of Logan’s milestones and the events of his life. My direct involvement can be summed up (unfortunately) in the few paragraphs below.

2011

The first time I got to hold Logan was in the summer of 2011, when he was five months old. It was such a delight. The summer went quickly, but I had lots of chances to spend time with him during those two months. When it was time for me to go back to Taiwan, he was seven months old. When I left him that summer, I had no idea that I would ultimately be in Taiwan for six years — I just completed my fifth.

2012

In the summer of 2012, Logan was very mobile when I visited. He was 17 months old when I arrived that summer. It was a delight to see him moving around. He had become quite a “dancer,” and he was quite entertaining. I brought a quilt I made for him, and he did some posing with it. You can see him (and the quilt) in the upper right section of my blog. That summer, it didn’t take Logan long to warm up to me.

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2013

It took Logan a little time to warm up to me again, but it was a lovely summer. I had to be patient as he was very much his own person. The 2 1/2 year old Logan had a mind of his own, but he was such a delight. When my oldest son was visiting Michigan that summer (from Florida), he and I went with Kate and Logan to see Despicable Me 2 at the theater. Logan was so much fun! And by the end of the summer, he would hug me. He was saying a few words, and it was so much fun to watch him learning and trying things.

2014

For a variety of reasons, I am not in the US this summer. This is the first summer since Logan has been around (and since I’ve lived in Taiwan) that I haven’t gone for a summer visit. The thing that makes this tolerable is that my family is totally behind me 100 percent. If I stay in Taiwan this summer and focus on the tasks I need to finish, I will be able to move back to the US next summer — a goal my husband and I are ready to tackle.

Of course, Logan talks a LOT now. He picks up things that are funny as heck, and it’s fun to hear about them, even if I can’t hear them from him. See explanation below.

Logan as Captain Hook, Halloween 2013 (33 months)

Logan as Captain Hook, Halloween 2013 (33 months)

When Technology Fails

One of the things that has made it possible for me to be in Taiwan for this long (including the first two years without my husband) is that technology allows us to stay connected on opposite sides of the world. As recently as 2004 when I visited Asia for the first time, it was difficult to maintain contact through email and internet connections for those 2 1/2 weeks. What a difference 5 years made. When I came here to live (in 2009), Skype was well established, and I was able to communicate regularly (sometimes daily) with my parents and my husband. My mother joked during my first year here that she talked to me more with me in Taiwan than she did when I was in the States.

My children are all pretty tech savvy, but when it comes to Kate, we could not get her microphone to work. So when we Skyped (which had its own challenges), she and Logan could hear me, but she would have to type messages to me. I know about the cute things Logan says because Kate tells me (either in Skype texting or in Facebook messages). Don’t get me wrong! I love those messages from her, but especially this summer with no in-person visit, it’s rough not to be able to “hear” him when I can see him and see his mouth moving.

Good News

So this is my long-winded way of telling you that after all this time, I can finally hear Logan. My oldest son came up with a plan and enlisted my help so that he could surprise his sister with a new laptop computer while he visited this last month. Now when my daughter Skypes, I can hear them. It’s awesome. Our schedules haven’t allowed for very much contact yet, but hearing him is no longer limited to the summer visits. So even though I am not in the US this summer, I can still hear the little guy from time to time and see his world through his eyes.

This post is part of SoCS: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-214/ 

An Alternate Route to the Construction Site (Building Rome)

Sm Steve n Menu at DebbiesBuilding Rome is a mini-challenge hosted by Bradley at Green Embers. Participants set weekly goals, then report in the next week, and cheer each other on along the way. You might want to join in the fun.

I’ve come up with a general format for these: (1) Report my progress for the previous week; (2) Provide commentary that explains shifts in progress and understanding and future goals–with the hope it doesn’t bore you to tears; and 3) the goals for the upcoming week. Then, me being me, I added a final note at the end.  It seems to work. Preparing these posts really gets me focused for the time ahead.

REPORT FOR THE PAST WEEKEND

 

1. Complete 18 one-hour blocks. The tasks for those blocks include:  Only completed about 6 blocks during the week.

  • editing project (3 sections) — COMPLETED
  • writing project (finalize template, begin introductory material) MINOR PROGRESS (need more)
  • complete a project spreadsheet (PRIORITY) NO
  • preparing for fall classes — type notes for two lessons NO
  • Writing 201 — read post, choose piece for revision, and spend at least 2 hours on said revision  NO

2. Maintain walking three times this week (in spite of the heat).  DID THIS FIVE TIMES

3. Start piecing possible designs for quilted postcards. NO

4. Visit more of my fellow builders and comment on their posts. I visited everyone. I left some comments.

5. Make a plan for my blog. I gave some serious thought to this and have a general idea. Will pursue it more this week. However, extra points for posting every day last week!

6. Catch up on my unanswered comments. Made some progress. Need more.

THIS WEEK’S COMMENTARY

I love Bradley’s theme for this week: SETBACKS ARE NOT ROADBLOCKS! Truer words were never spoken. It’s so easy to use setbacks as an excuse to stop moving forward. As some of you know, I didn’t have a great week, and it shows in my unfinished business above. But I am gradually becoming more and more like my normal self, and I expect this week to be better. In addition, I’m still pleased with the fact that I still made some progress in many areas. Plus, I did something that wasn’t on the list. I read a book! I can’t tell you the last time I read a book just for the enjoyment of reading. So that’s a bonus. I think it’s something we should remember in our reports–that sometimes things we didn’t think of when we were planning come up. If we take care of those things, or if we accomplish something that wasn’t on the list, it’s still an accomplishment. So it’s good to report the extras too.  🙂 

For example, I had three! unexpected social events this week. In other words, none of them were planned when I set my plan for the week. They were real opportunities — and with my current moods, it really made sense to embrace the opportunities rather than stay holed up at home trying to meet goals for the sake of goals, while ignoring relationships. So on Friday, I went to the ceramic museum with two friends. On Saturday, we attended a good-bye dinner for my colleague, Steve. (That’s Steve in the thumbnail above.) That evening, another colleague came to spend the night, and we spent Sunday morning together, before she headed back to Taipei. Those three events may have done more to help my spirits start returning to a normal level than any amount of work I might have gotten done.

My last bit of news has to do with a couple of meetings today that have the potential to change my life dramatically. This is particularly significant in light of the fact that I’m planning to return to the US in a year or so. The meetings have helped me think of alternative ways of meeting my objectives. I have a new perspective on a couple of things, and I have someone who wants to collaborate with me on a new research project. Doing something with a collaborator is going to be an added impetus to get it done.

So there are some adjustments to my to-do list for this week. Some things that didn’t happen last week will indeed carry through, but I’m going to step back a bit and do some longer range planning so that my goals in future weeks are more in line with this new perspective.

 

GOALS FOR THE WEEK of July 28)

1. Complete 18 12 one-hour blocks. The tasks for those blocks include:

  • editing project (3 sections)
  • writing project (finalize template, begin introductory material)
  • complete a project spreadsheet (PRIORITY)
  • write an abstract draft and other preliminary materials for new research project
  • make a rough schedule for the coming year — determine which projects are really the priority in order to set appropriate course for return to US

2. Maintain walking three times this week (in spite of the heat).

3. Start piecing possible designs for quilted postcards.

4. Visit more of my fellow builders and comment on their posts.

5. Make a plan for my blog.

6. Catch up on my unanswered comments.

As I made the new list, I realized not that much really changes. I cut down the number of one-hour blocks, and make them more focused to leave other time for the other things that I want to pursue (quilting, blogging, and decluttering). It turns out the non-work items (#2-6) really don’t change much at all. I’m just focusing the “work” time differently. It will be interesting to see what next week’s goals look like after I spend some time this week looking at the big picture.

Good luck to everyone on meeting your goals this week!

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This post is part of the Building Rome Project. http://greenembe.rs/2014/07/28/building-rome-week-31-setbacks-are-not-roadblocks/

Emoting about Emotions: SofC Saturday

I was reluctant to even start writing about this prompt. It’s a sensitive subject for me. Maybe it’s because I emote. I emote with feeling–with emotion. However, I’m not the only one who does it. Yet, there are many times when some of the people around me act as if I’m the only one that does. Sometimes, the people who most seem to go over the deep end about my emoting are the ones I’d just as soon avoid when something strikes them as significant.

The thing about my emotions is they are reactive. Something happens, I react, and then I move rather quickly into thinking mode. I come up with potential solutions or possibilities. I calm down. I don’t carry things with me for very long–at least, not in general. There is no one who wants to solve the dilemmas that brought about that emoting more than I do. I would prefer to have fewer feelings or to at least experience them less intensely.

I try to save the negative emoting for things that are important–people being disrespectful or demanding, for example. I am frustrated by people who call me emotional at the times when I am standing up for myself. Because the reality is, most of the time, I go along with things. I adjust, I adapt, I go with the flow. Sometimes, I do those things even after I’ve emoted a little about how I would appreciate some appreciation. Unfortunately, it seems the more I go with the flow, the more disrespect I encounter.

Not too many people complain about the positive emoting I do. Well, that’s not entirely true. People often appreciate my enthusiasm, my sense of humor, my optimistic attitude. But I think what the real “problem” is that I’m a little intense. When I’m enthusiastic, it’s contagious–usually. And if you feel like joining in, it takes a lot of energy. This isn’t always too much of a problem when the emoting is positive, but I think that maybe when it’s negative, some people are a little intimidated. Maybe, it’s a little scary. (Hopefully, not as scary as the photo on the right.)

Unfortunately, the times when I’m negatively emoting are the times when I most need people on my side. And well, you can imagine how well that goes. But after writing this post this morning, something happened this afternoon that kind of got me going. But I walked away. Totally. I mapped out how I would handle it. I emoted to myself. I didn’t bottle it up so much. I allowed myself to feel the things. I just didn’t share the feelings. And a moment came when I could let it go. I may not even emote to anyone else. I know that the person who triggered the feelings didn’t do it intentionally. By giving myself private emoting time, I came to a new discovery. Also, it helps knowing that this person always has my best interests at heart. Which is more than I can say about some of the other things that sometimes trigger my feelings.

Still, I’m trying to focus on the positive things, and bring all the feelings–the negative and the positive–into a better balance, to conserve my energy for the things that matter more than these moments of unexpected emoting.

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This is part of a weekly prompt from: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-2814/

Lost, Not Found: Day 4 of the Writing 101 Blogging Challenge

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2Prompt for June 5

Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

The process of moving out of the house where my children were finally raised and launched did not happen all at once. I left for graduate school after my daughter (the youngest) graduated from high school.  That was the first stage of moving. What we didn’t take to South Bend with us ended up in storage–with friends and relatives. My husband was a collector of sorts, and he was able to find storage homes for much of his stuff.

Not that I didn’t have stuff, I did. But after a few yard sales, I had scaled some stuff back. It was at that point in my life that I even thought I was going to “give up” quilting. Some lucky fabric lovers got deals on my fabric and my quilting books. We all know that quilting wasn’t lost forever at that point, so this post is about the loss of something else.

Somewhere in the process, however, I lost a black metal 3×5 file box–the extra long kind was nowhere to be found. It probably could hold at least 500 cards–not that it ever did, but the potential was there. If you haven’t noticed elsewhere, I really like index cards and their attendant paraphernalia. If you haven’t noticed, I’m better at hiding it than I realized.

As you might suspect, it wasn’t the loss of the file box itself that was terribly disappointing; such things can be easily replaced. But what was inside cannot be replaced. At least not in the form that held so much meaning. That card file was home to my collection of recipe cards. And while it’s true that I very rarely use recipe cards (or cookbooks anymore), that recipe file held something more precious than simple recipes–it held memories.

Let me give you a few examples:

  • When my sister, Cindy, and I were in high school, we started doing some baking. And we had a few recipes that were pretty standard. A killer brownie recipe, no-bake cookies, never-fail cake, and maybe something else. (You might notice I have no trouble remember the items with chocolate as the featured ingredient.) We had a typewriter in our bedroom, and we decided that we needed to have these recipes typed up for easy access. So she typed them.
  • My mother-in-law, Ann, was well known for her cooking. But two of my favorites were her home-made bread and her 1-2-3-4 cake. And yes, I can find those recipes in other places, I know. But at one point in time, she gave me those two recipes. They were written on sheets of white paper with blue lines from a writing tablet. The recipes continued on both sides of the page. They didn’t fit in the file box without folding, but I folded them both in quarters, and they fit just fine.
    My maternal grandmother

    My maternal grandmother

     

  • My maternal grandmother made awesome date nut bread. Luckily, she also gave several of us the recipe on an actual recipe card with some little artistic thing in the upper left hand corner. I can almost see the handwriting and the little orange-colored thing in the corner, but not enough to make out what it was up there. And who can forget the most important part of the instructions: START WITH A COLD OVEN!

These three people are no longer part of my life, but the recipes in that file box were one of the ways I continued to feel connected to them after their deaths. Of course, I have other memories, and–in each of these three cases–I have something else from them.

  • There are other stories from that recipe box. Marie, our long-time neighbor and friend, gave me her recipe for hamburger soup. She had made it for me a couple of times, once after I had surgery. I loved that soup. It is not something I would typically make, but her soup was magical. And even though, I made it from her recipe, it was never as good as hers.

When I thought about writing about the loss of my recipe file, I knew some of the stories I would include. I hadn’t originally planned to put Marie’s story here. But I’m so glad I did. Our 22 years as neighbors didn’t end there. Every summer that I’ve gone back to Michigan, I’ve always included a visit to Marie’s kitchen, just like the old days when I went across the alley to visit. Writing this post reminds me that it’s time to check in with Marie. It’s crazy, because I really do think of her often, but she rarely hears from me. I am surprised how a simple thing like a recipe file holds so much more than recipes. Apparently, the loss of the file itself is not as tragic as it sometime seems; after all, I still have these memories even without the actual file. I still have the memories of the friendships, the connections, and the laughter that come with the preparation and sharing of food.

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As for the twist, I don’t know how this will fit into a serial post, but I’ll see how it goes when I get there.

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This post if part of the WordPress Writing 101 Blogging Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/writing-101-day-four/

 

 

 

 

 

REUNION (AtoZAprilChallenge)

a-zchallengeAlthough I currently face many frustrations in my work, I love the teaching that I do. I get great joy from helping people express themselves. In my current position, that often means encouraging students to discover ways to express themselves in English, even when they lack the confidence to try. For example, I often hear students say, “Teacher, my English is poor.” I finally realized that I heard it far too often, and many of the students who said it actually had English speaking ability that was quite good. So I finally challenged them to change what they said, AND I made them rehearse it with me before they got away. Now, I have them say, “My English is pretty good, and it’s going to keep getting better because I will keep practicing.” It’s great to see their faces light up when they go through rehearsing that response.
One of the biggest joys of teaching is when a former student goes out of their way to visit me. This was the case last Friday when I had a reunion with Jessica, a bio-technology student I had in a required English class three years ago. She was a junior at that time. She is now completing her Master’s degree doing work in cell biology. She will graduate in June and has just completed the oral interview for continuing for her PhD.
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What is especially touching about these photos is that she brought her graduation garb from home because she wanted pictures of me with her. She told me, “I didn’t get any pictures with you when I graduated from Ming Chuan, so I want to have a graduation picture with you now.”
When she posted the above picture on Facebook, she wrote the following:
Last Friday, I visited my favorite teacher, Deb Kraklow.
We haven’t seen for a long time.
We prepared pasta salad for our dinner together.
I am very pleased to be able to see her again because she always gave me encouragement and gave me a chance to speak English.
We chatted about our lives and I explained what I studied in my graduate school totally in English.
I was afraid to speak English before.
But now, although only in simple sentences, I can tell her what my research is.
If I had not met her, I’m still a girl who afraid to speak English.
I really appreciate her.
 

And I really appreciate Jessica. I couldn’t believe it when she told me during dinner that she wanted to try to explain her research to me in English. Jessica’s research examines the link between type I diabetes and osteoporosis and explores alternative treatments methods that could someday help treat both diseases. As you can imagine, explaining all of that in English is quite a challenge, but we worked together to piece it all together, and it turned out great. She was excited about it, and I encouraged her to think about trying to pursue writing her research in English as well to get even more exposure. I can’t wait to see if she tries. Of course, I’ll be willing to help her if she does.

One more fun fact. Because of her Facebook post, a couple other students have approached me about a reunion. I only taught English to the biotechnology majors here for two years, but it’s a special group to me. In a few days, I may be sharing another reunion experience I had a year and a half ago, with a group of biotechnology students from my first year here. In addition, I have a couple posts planned for next month that tell about my birthday celebrations in Taiwan. Two of them feature biotechnology students. AND Jessica is already working on a plan for my birthday next month.

Even without the birthday plan, I will always have the lovely memories of a week ago when Jessica visited me and shared an evening of reminiscing and research. There are many students who will always be part of my life, and Jessica is definitely one who will always have a special place in my heart.

 

 

Joyful Jessica: AtoZ April Challenge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few months ago, a new coffee shop opened a couple blocks from our apartment. It was intriguing to watch as it came into being. It wasn’t easy to tell at first what it was, but the back counter had some suspicious looking things that led me to believe that it was a coffee shop. The shop is located on the route that David and I take to the bus in the morning. When we walked by, we noticed lovely potted flowers in front of tables full of a variety of packaged food items, like crackers, cookies, snacks, and the like. Eventually, it was clear even to me that coffee was certainly a part of this blossoming business. So one day I stopped in. My ability to sniff out new coffee haunts had not failed me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI know very little spoken Chinese, and my ability to recognize written Chinese is so limited as to be almost non-existent. Still, Jessica (the proprietor) knew enough English that I could go in and order coffee. And it wasn’t long before I was a regular, taking my netbook and a few work projects to her shop two or three times a week. She and her niece, Polly, were very friendly, and I felt very welcome in the shop. Since Jessica had left school several years ago, she was unable to keep up with her spoken English as much as she would have liked, as most of her friends from school had moved away, some of them abroad. Still, Jessica wanted to practice her spoken English, and I enjoyed giving her that opportunity while learning more about our common passion–coffee.

Over the weeks since her shop has been open, she and I have become friends. She can practice English, and I can have her delicious latte. Until recently, I was always having hot latte, but as the weather has warmed up in the last couple of weeks, I had the pleasure of having her iced lattes as well. So refreshing!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut one day, a really great conversation took place. I mentioned the writing group to Jessica–the one with the college students that I mentioned a couple days ago for the letter G. The group had met in a couple of other coffee shops in the area, but we hadn’t really found a home that was comfortable. Jessica was thrilled to have our group come on Tuesday evenings. Even more exciting, she wanted to join the group herself and work on her English writing. It was a match made in heaven.

The first thing Jessica wrote for our writing group was a short piece about her coffee shop. She wanted to post it on her Facebook page. I include it below to show you how her shop has changed since the flowers and packaged food that she started with.

My name is Jessica. I love coffee, so three years ago I got a shop to sell coffee and brunch. I bought a coffee machine, because I hope that good coffee would make my guests happy in the morning. My dream came true; my business got better and better, but I started having trouble with my machine. The side that made the steam stopped working, and the parts needed to be changed. I was so sad because I didn’t know how to solve it. At the same time, the lease on my store expired, and I needed to find a new store to rent. 

Without a coffee machine, I’m using paper drip to make coffee. Although paper drip is a good way to make coffee, it can’t make crema. Obviously I need a small coffee machine. That’s why I’m learning about coffee machines now. When I get a new coffee machine, the coffee will have a deeper flavor, and I will get perfect crema. 

I’ve also decided to sell different merchandise. Instead of brunch, I will just offer coffee and clothes. I invite you to visit me at my new shop to have a cup of coffee or tea. You can also see a variety of fashionable clothes that can suit your life.

I had never heard about crema before, and Jessica did her best to explained it to me in English. It was great because it was clear to me that our regular conversations were making her more confident about expressing herself in English. If you are interested in learning more about crema, I found this interesting page.

https://www.sweetmarias.com/library/content/espresso-almighty-crema

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy husband, David, took the pictures above that show the coffee shop in its early days. So tonight while I was writing part of this post at the coffee shop, he came along with me to get some updated pictures showing the coffee shop with its new focus: a selection of clothing and accessories.

I love the cute handbags that look like foxes and owls. The other thing I like is that there are a couple partial mannequins that “model” a couple outfits. I’m impressed with how often Jessica changes their “look,” and the lovely bright colored scarfs and necklaces she uses to accessorize them. Coffee and clothing isn’t a common combination, but Jessica makes it work, and I enjoy all the color and texture that the clothing brings to her coffee shop.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJessica told me that her friends often ask her why she’s so happy. She tells them it’s because “I don’t have time to be sad.” She looks on the bright side of life. But that doesn’t stop her from being a compassionate and generous person. I have been so touched by the way she has opened her shop every Tuesday evening to the writing group, including free tea to everyone. Those who order coffee get a discount. Jessica works hard to improve her writing. She also continues to expand her vocabulary. Sometimes, when she and I are having a conversation, she will use her phone to look up a new word in English. One of her customers has also joined the writing group. It’s become a great place where students and community come together around the desire to improve their written and spoken English, and I am honored to be part of it.

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10246575_237262193144357_4338164945583312658_nThis morning, when I finished my class, I checked Facebook, and saw the picture you see at the right. I sent her a message right away! “Did you make that?” She responded, “Yes, I have a machine.” Tonight when I was there, she told me that she was so happy to have this for her breakfast this morning.

She is also delighted to have the opportunity to improve her English. She never dreamed she would have an American friend with whom she could practice. And I have to say, I’m pretty happy to have a Taiwanese friend who shares my passions of writing and coffee.

Thanks, Jessica! I’m so happy to count you among my friends!