Saturday, September 22, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things...HK style

For winter vacation this past year, I got to spend time in Hong Kong and mainland China with my sister, brother-in-law, and our parents. It was absolutely a blast.

As I jetted around Hong Kong, I took note of the things that made the city fantastic. Though these photos are not mine, I feel they successfully help express 5 of my favorite things...HK style:

1. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. Clean. Reliable. Easy to manage. Everything I want in a boyfriend minus the lack of conversation.

2. THE YAM LADY on Nathan Road. She stood there cooking purple and yellow yams over a large steel dome basin on the sidewalk, dishing out the real Hong Kong street food to passersby. There are some of the CUTEST old people in HK. Their faces are fixed in a permanent frown, furrow, or smirk, telling the long, hard story of their life.

3. BABY BUNDLES. Hong Kong baby-mamas and daddies take their role of parenting seriously. It drops below 80 degrees: wear a sweater. It drops below 60, and it's time for the parka. There are tons of babies rolling around HK bundled up like it's blizzarding in their stroller. These sprouts resemble the Michelin Man, which keeps their uncontrollable limbs safely immobile.

4. EGG WAFFLES: another classic street food in Hong Kong. As a quick, on-the-go snack, we got two of these treats while on our way to the Christmas Eve service. The taste and texture could be likened to a cross between a funnel cake and an ice cream cone (minus the ice cream)?? Something like that. Read more about the egg waffle.

5. Getting my haircut at the "THE HAIR INN." The way HK and other cities like to structure their community living arrangements is unsurprisingly efficient (HK to me seems to be the trailblazer of all efficiency, or at least in comparison to India). Below the 30+ floor apartment highrises are the shops and services residents patronize. At the bottom of my sister's apartment is a salon called "The Hair Inn." Naturally, I was charmed by the shop's hilarious name and kind, really wanted to check the place out.

The salon atmosphere was taken straight from a scene in South Pacific, complete with tiki huts and hair washing. What blew its cover were the super-mod Asian hipsters slicing and dicing in the trendiest of hair-cutting form. The man who cut my hair was named Joey (a good choice for an easy-to-pronounce English name, and probably not his real one), and Joey meant business. Looking out from behind his black square thick-rimmed glasses, he was the John Wayne of the Asian West. Joey wore a legitimate holster to carry his tools and handled them like a pro. Not only that, but he wore his expertise on his head in what's called the bowl cut undercut (it's back!). What completed Joey's badass persona was the scar that started at the corner of his mouth and led up the side of his cheek, like the Joker from Batman. This place couldn't get any cooler.

After surrendering each hair on my head to the special attention of Joey's meticulous snip, I left my home-away-from-Hawaii ready to reconnect with the city on the cutting edge.

What goes around comes back around the mulberry bush

All around the mulberry bush
The monkey chased the weasel
The monkey thought 'twas all in fun
Pop! goes the weasel

Over the course of first semester 2011, I had about 4-5 (it's hard to know for sure) monkey breaking-and-enterings into my classroom. Each was unique in it's own special way--boys screaming, monkeys stealing and saws flying for a few anecdotes. You really cannot do much in their aftermaths except squeeze the only drops of sanity out of the experiences: their hilarity. And like much of life, the semester ended ironically by coming full-circle in monkey stories.

Once upon an early November afternoon, four boys were working on their art projects diligently after school while their teacher was out. Nothing in the day was out of the ordinary, and there was nothing foreseen to the contrary.

Until a monkey entered the room.

One of the boys saw the monkey peak its head in the room, apparently scoping out the scene. Since it left shortly upon coming, this student thought nothing of it and continued working. What he did not know was that the solo monkey was going back to get his gangbuster buddies to stage a surprise attack on the art room.

All of a sudden the four boys found themselves screaming in the corner of my classroom while monkeys went wild on my desk, the sinks, and my teacher chair.

They stomped prints on my papers. They scattered trashed all over my floor. They even had the gall to open my tuperware container and munch down the few remaining crackers.

As you can imagine, I returned to my classroom in a stew with four traumatized boys trying to mend their unraveled wits.

Perhaps the most intriguing piece of evidence denoting my students had not been hallucinating (besides the fact that we were in the Indian Himalaya) was the styrofoam pumpkin that once perched happily on my desk. As we cleaned up the mess, we found this decoration lying maimed on the floor. Not one, but two chomps had been taken out of the pumpkin: the first greedily devoured while the second was left intact for good reason. A monkey had tried to eat my styrofoam pumpkin, and I was pissed.

Days passed from the roaring upheaval like styrofoam through a monkey's innards. The only memory of the event remained as a trophy to survival in a world as intense as Indian spices. The pumpkin rested peacefully on my desk.

All seemed to fare well until a group of brutes planned and perpetrated the final ambush of Ms. E's art room.

Once again I was absent from the room while only one lonely art student quietly worked. The photo below of my whiteboard tells it all.


What goes around comes back around the mulberry bush.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The End

Here in the hills of Hong Kong (where my blog has actually been hijacked by Chinese characters--ah!) I finally get to catch you up on school with an end-of-semester picture tour. Here's to the grades in the book, the monkeys OUT of my classroom, and my body off of that mountain for a few venturesome weeks. :)

In this class exercise, as you can see, we were studying the ancient Egyptian practice of mummific.....just kidding, your eyes deceive you. While a great sculpture project idea was going tediously too long, I resolved to mix things up for a day. We were working on an animorphs wire project in which students blended the human skeleton with an animal skeleton, and to give the plodding new pizzazz, I had my students turn themselves into the animorphs they were creating. With toilet paper. I told these non-Americans that in the States, women do this exact activity at bridal showers and then have someone judge the best "dress." They thought it was pretty crazy...just like their teacher...

Welcome to Woodstock culture. These ninth graders had the blissful opportunity of dressing as cartoon characters and corpse brides for school, but not of their own accord. On a doleful day in September, the current seniors with lipstick and face paint in hand, got to dress up the freshman, tie a bow on it and call it Friendship Day. You call it hazing, we call it friendship, and it all starts with a parade at morning assembly in front of the 7-12 grades. Besides, who ever got hurt wearing a cardboard box covered in tinfoil on their head?

Just like at Hogwarts, our school has Sports Day, too!

On a cross-curricular field trip with the ninth graders, a Religious Education teacher and myself took 56 students + chaperones to a place called Happy Valley on the other side of Mussoorie. This haven is home to some 5,000 Tibetan refugees who have escaped through the mountains from Tibet, one of whom (for a time) was the 14th Dalai Lama back in the late '50s early '60s. We got to visit their exquisite painting center and Buddhist temple where one of the monks there answered questions and taught us about right living.

What do you get with a handful of Indian kids, two Americans, one Australian, and a ripe-and-ready pigskin? Let me tell you, it is not a game of cricket! On a retreat for the 7-9 graders, an American student decided to bring his football (American that is) out to play, and boy did he decide right. I had not touched one of those things since powderpuff in college so I was pretty excited to run for a few downs. After playing catch for a bit we kicked off a small game of 2-hand-touch by first explaining the rules to the outsiders. It was a grand ole nostalgic time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Close Communion with Critters and Things

3. association; fellowship.
4. interchange or sharing of thoughts or emotions; intimate communication: communion with nature.
5. the act of sharing, or holding in common; participation.

Mussoorie is looking quite pretty these days. We have lots of sun and the temperature bumpers between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime. It is the gift northern India is given after the swamping rains. October is a month of partying for Indians and it all culminates to today, October 26, which happens to be Diwali. Comparable to Christmas in the West, kids get presents, homes are dressed with lights, and crackers (FIRE crackers) go off anytime
day OR night.

In the spirit of celebration, I decided to dress up in my finest silky Arabic pants that just scream, "PAAARTTYYYY!!" They are too much fun to wear due to their numerous variations of display. A person almost must walk around all day like she is a high-stepping militia woman while enthusiastically doing star jumps at random. This all comes on the tag above the washing instructions.

Our furry little friends the monkeys have only gotten crazier, bolder, and friskier as the seasons have changed. When is the mating season? Who knows!! But there seem to be quite a few moms with babies clinging to their chests around our campus. These pictures tell the story of my mornings, ripe with monkey-sightings while I change in the girls vistor's locker room at our gymnasium. In this instance the little baby was hanging on to mama's belly as she lazily made her way along the ridge 5 meters directly across from my window. They were a cute pair. However, the couple I did not take a photo of were the ones getting busy in plain sight at 8 in the morning. They certainly were not photo worthy and most definitely NOT cute.

"You want to make a run to JUNK STATION??? Man, I wonder what they sell there!!" Literally. This is one of the local shops in the bazaar.

Just in case you were wondering, we do have a pet that shows up at our house infrequently, but especially at nighttime. His name is Sting and, well, doesn't this photo just say it all?! He's a scorpion. I don't even flinch at happenings like this anymore. Although he's not illegal to eat (as cows are thus the beef run to Delhi...which actually only leads to more questions; in reality it's not illegal, just unfavorable in the Hindu faith) he definitely would not be substantial enough to satisfy. Rats. My encounters with creatures of all kinds have increased by 250% by living in India. As the monkeys swinging above my head and across my path can attest, sometimes I wonder if I am not living in a zoo.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Delhi or Death!

It's fall break.
The monsoon's done and cabin fever is pandemic.

Below are shots from the adventures of four Americans
and Anwar,
the best Indian friend we girls could ask for.

With our packs on our backs, we were ready to burst this Woodstock bubble and take on the capital city. With my new shades from Mom and Dad, I was not only looking fly but my game face was fixed and focused. After our pre-planned taxi decided to take another group instead, I bargained 100 rupees off the next driver's price and it was smooth riding down the mountain to the train station.

Hello Taj Mahal. Here, Indians tend to call it the "Taj Mahale." After reaching Delhi around 10:30 at night, we woke bright and early to catch a train to Agra where we would behold one of the 7 wonders of the world. It is named so in good reason.

On the right we have one of those classic photos of a few of my friends and the average Indian guy who wants a picture with some white girls. Sure I'll pose with you, hold your baby, and be in your holiday card.

To the left, the five of us are reenacting the event of our lives which happened right before reaching the Taj Mahal. We were riding the train to Agra and it was making its normal stops. One was particularly long and there was some confusion in our group as to where we were. Was this our stop? Should we get off here? I was along for the ride, thus took no part in finding an answer. When we finally figured out we were at our stop, the train was beginning to move. Time for action. We grabbed our things, bolted down the aisle, and were standing in the open doorway of the train, contemplating our next move. Acting on instincts, we followed each other over the edge like little sheep, thankfully not plummeting to our stony deaths. Never thought I'd live in India; never thought I'd jump off a moving train on vacation. And NEVER thought I'd live to tell.

Takin it down at Hard Rock Cafe! Living up on a mountain there are many things you cannot get simply because of your location. Living in India, beef is almost nonexistent... except in the Western hubs.
So when we went to Delhi we knew one place we were going to and just WHAT we were getting. One was sushi, the other a hamburger. It. Was. Glorious.

Who wouldn't want to shop at Awesome??? Anything you could buy there would most definitely be nothing less than the store's namesake. I got to buy beautiful fabrics for all sorts of projects for about $2.50 a yard. Not bad, not bad.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Profile of a Student

Girls wearing their home country's traditional dress on Indian Independence Day

Students in Model UN

I think it's time you entered into the life of a student here at Woodstock. Here's a glimpse (by no means comprehensive!) at the student you may find hiking to school or playing their satyr on campus.

1. Profile of a student. So what kind of a student attends Woodstock?
Students who want (or whose parents want) top education for their child. Most students that go to Woodstock are Indian nationals or from nearby countries. All over SE Asia (not to mention the world, modestly) this school is known for its caliber in education. Take a look at these accolades:
  • Top International School in India, 2011
Woodstock website's article
Education World Online's article
  • Top 10 International Schools in the World, 2010 (according to the Asian Correspondent)
Asian Correspondent's article

These stats would make me want to send my child to this school.

Students whose parent or aunt or grandma have all gone here. They want this family member to experience the magic as well. Or maybe she just wants them to understand WHAT she means when she says, "Back when I lived through the monsoon......."

Students on scholarship, like a tenth grade girl I just met from Afghanistan. She won an award that gave her the opportunity to go to school at Woodstock. She firmly believes and understands her purpose is to get an education so she can go back and help in the healing work of her country.

Exchange students. SAGEs as they are called (Studies Abroad for Global Education). Students hear about this place through this program. Plus, Woodstock alumni are all over the world; thus the connections are simply endless.

2. A day in their life...a day in mine.
  • This school takes Marie Antoinette's rumored comment from the 18th century seriously: "Let them eat cake." Since these students LIVE here (most of them), there are snacks provided twice in the school day. I would have to say the snack that makes an appearance in the cafeteria bins most frequently is CAKE. No frosting on top, just cake. Chocolate, chocolate orange, pink, white, pineapple, no birthday, just CAKE.
  • In my 9th grade art class we just finished a unit on photography. Naturally we also learned how to edit our photos and had to work on computers. I'm walking around answering questions and solving the problems of the world when I look over at a few of my students and see them participating in an activity far from cropping and exposure alterations. Students, sitting RIGHT NEXT to each other, were SKYPING each other in my class. Right in front of me. During class time. Skyping. EXCUSE ME???!! I walk over and stand in front of one of their computers, being caught by the camera, and it's all over their screen. Needless to say, they didn't need to turn around to know who was looking sternly over their shoulder, VERY unamused.
  • All, let me tell you, ALL of their life is directed by bells. I can hear the slightly out of pitch sound of music "sol, mi, do" around 8:30 every night, probably signifying some sort of "last call to freedom" before the students are wrangled for bed.
  • WORK WORK WORK. Students here can be involved in SO many things without their mothers saying, "NO. You are NOT taking part in the de-worming stray dogs programme." So much of their life is filled with studying, being involved on campus, FILLING OUT COLLEGE APPS (everyone FREAK OUT!!), and being an all-around cool kid. Seriously, these students are pretty amazing and classroom management is almost nil. But I think it's extreme when your child is waking up at 4 am to finish h/w.

3. Stats.
Here are some stats from 2 years ago (2009-10). I believe last year they had about 523 students total.

Student Body Breakdown:
Elementary (PreK-5) 59
Middle School (6-8) 125
High School (9-12) 280
Students out on Exchange 4
Total 468
Boarders 401
Day Scholars 67
Boys 255
Girls 213

Passport Nationality:
SAARC Countries (256)
Afghanistan 1
Bhutan 12
India 193
Nepal 50

Rest of Asia (117)
Japan 11
Myanmar 1
South Korea 68
Taiwan, ROC 2
Thailand 23
Tibet 3
Vietnam 9

Rest of the World (95)
Australia 3
Canada 7
France 3
Germany 2
Italy 1
Mexico 1
Netherlands 1
Russia 1
South Africa 3
UK 5
USA 68

Religious Affiliation:
Christian 197
Buddhist 69
Hindu 121
Jain 2
Muslim 4
Sikh 11
Zoroastrian 1
Mixed 32
None stated 31