27 January 2011


This morning, there are inches of snow piling up outside. Below the snow, a good deal of ice. Two hour delay cancelled the morning class that I teach, but I'll still have to trudge through it at some point to get to campus for work and my evening class. Yesterday was pretty nasty too... lots of walking through sleet and heavy snow. Uncomfortable weather... glad I don't have to drive in it.
Yesterday, while I was anticipating heavy snowfall and debating my colleagues about the potential of a delayed/cancelled classes, some of my students were receiving news of something even more worrisome: flooding along the western coast of Saudi Arabia. Many of our students are Saudis; eight students out of the fourteen on my roster are from Saudi Arabia or a neighbouring state (Kuwait, UAE). I've become used to reading journal entries about Eid celebrations and vacations to Egypt.
Yesterday, I learned about flooding in Jeddah, the hometown of many of our students. Usually, I (semi-)keep up with international news via BBC and NPR. This time, though, the news came with pictures on a student's cell phone, photos sent from family members back home in Jeddah. Photos like these. In another class, individual student presentations were postponed in favour of a less stressful group discussion - because students who haven't been able to get in touch with Jeddah family members were too upset to complete their planned speeches.
This is part of teaching: the walking with my students through unexpected aspects of life. It's a valuable part, a way of reaching out and sharing a human moment. There isn't much I can do to stop the flooding in Jeddah. But I can - and will - provide a listening ear and a supportive heart to my Jeddah students, as will the rest of my colleagues.

24 January 2011


We are in the season of dull colours, of darkness and drear, of late-rising and early-setting suns, of overcast days. The time of blankets and lamps, early morning coffee, and fresh-baked bread. There are days when you use the oven simply to add some heat, days when your hands ache from the cold of pocketless farmers' market mornings.

In this season, what joy it brings to find salad greens at the farmers' market, to receive a brightly coloured postcard, to drink coffee from a painted mug. I keep rainbow flip flops under my desk (just in case), marvel in the bliss of orange peppers and yellow bananas, and hide a pink shirt under my black button-down.

Today, take a breath, take a walk, and look for colours. Notice the reds, the greens, yellows, blues, orange and purple. Look past the greys and blacks and dull browns: see colour and hope of spring.

23 January 2011

the value of a dollar

Sometimes I forget that I'm in the U.S.

Buying a whole box of bananas from the back of a produce truck for ONE DOLLAR (yes, USD) augments that forgetfulness.

Of course, walking outside into the bitter January cold, usually in less than enough layers (yes, I'm constantly in denial of winter), goes a long way toward reminding me, though.

14 January 2011

On Writing Well.

Sometimes I write well... and sometimes, I write paragraphs for my students to edit. I should admit, however, that it took some effort to insert 25 errors into this single paragraph. We'll see how well my low-intermediate writing students do at finding - and fixing - them on Tuesday morning...

Good writing Tips

some students asked me for advice about how to become better writers We will covered many aspects of Good writing in this course, but here are a few tips to following. First, if you want to be a best writer, the most important thing you can do is to write as often as possible. Try to writing a paragraph (or more) evey day, even if she is not assigned in class. 1 great way for do this is by keeping your own personal journal. A second tips to becoming a better writer is to pay attention to simple detail. Make sure you use Punctuation capitalization, and verb tenses correctly. Use a dictionary to check the speling of new or confusing words. Third, frequent ask other people to read you're writing and offer suggestions. in this class, we will use a peer editing process to help each other become terrible writers Dont be afraid to ask the teacher or other students for help if you aren't sure about something. Together, we will worked hard this term to become better writers.

10 January 2011

Today I'm thankful for...

... the Philadelphia Fire Department.

The current scene 3 blocks west of my apartment:

News coverage:

The Associated Press
Monday, January 10, 2011; 4:43 PM

PHILADELPHIA -- A fire is ripping through a large Philadelphia apartment building, but firefighters say it has been evacuated and there are no reports of injuries.

Deputy Chief Willy Williams says light smoke was reported in the four-story building just after 2:30 p.m. Monday.

Flames have shot through the roof, and fire crew are attacking the flames from the outside. Smoke is billowing high into the air and can be seen from the city's downtown business district, about two miles away.

Williams says crews have gone through the building to get residents to safety, and there are no reports of injuries.

06 January 2011

Pop Up Insomnia.

Sometimes, when I can't sleep, it's because my mind is racing, anxious, agonising over some specific happening(s). Other times, like last night, it's more calm, less distressed, just... well, as if my thoughts were those annoying little pop ups that crowd my desktop when I choose to visit heavily advertised websites.

*pop* *pop* *pop*

One thought, to another, to another, all night long. Almost falling asleep, maybe dozing for a bit, then, *pop*, another absolutely trivial bit of information demanding my attention. Sigh.

*pop* *pop* *pop* *pop* *pop*

It feels a bit like this...

[When you cut a blueberry muffin, you have to cut it just right. Or else you get blueberry blue-ness all over your knife and plate and fingers. I wonder if you can cut it just right? *spend next few minutes envisioning blueberry muffins (with extra berries) and attempting to figure out the perfect knife angle* Why would you cut a muffin in the first place? Just eat it...]

[I wonder if I should include a proposed schedule of topics in my syllabus that I distribute the first day of class. Maybe I should instead just survey students to see what cultural topics they'd like to discuss, then create my syllabus. But I already wrote the syllabus. I think it's okay that I keep the proposed schedule. I'll just point out my prerogative to make changes. I probably shouldn't use the word "prerogative". I need to add "technology" to the schedule...]

[I have cute/professional black shoes. And I have decent walking brown shoes. Do I have any brown shoes for being cute/professional? *contemplates shoes, realising most are for warmer weather than this* I wish summer were here already...]

[*imagines a disordered pile of multi-coloured, multi-sized pieces of paper* *imagines organising paper by size, smallest in front* *imagines knocking pile of paper against desk to align bottom and right edges* Sigh...]

[Dr. H. sent us the booklist last night. I already bought the books, though not the coursepack. I wonder if we have to read anything before the first class. But the syllabus isn't posted yet. Maybe I should just keep reading for Dr. S.'s class at this point...]

[It's almost 7. If I get up at 7, I can see the sunrise through the front (eastern) window. I think I'll get up now...]

*pop* *pop* *pop* *pop*

That was your brief sampling of my mind in intense insomnia mode. Time to do some work before I need a nap.

16 December 2010

Scattered Thoughts.

It's snowing outside. And by "snowing," I mean that all surfaces appear to be white. It wasn't snowing this morning when I decided to bike to work and school. It is snowing now. And it does appear that the snowing will continue through my class and commute (walking my bike) home. I'm trying to convince myself to appreciate the beauty which is softly falling snow.
A few hours from now, I'll have completed the last class of my first semester as a graduate student. About that, I feel ... meh? I've enjoyed one of my three classes this semester, felt a bit disappointed by the other two (including the one that still claims this evening). I'll keep writing and reading and working over the "break," so as nice as it will be to take a couple weeks off from attending classes, my life won't be that much different. I'm looking forward to next semester, though: I've got some really interesting (for me) classes potentially lined up.
I'm facilitating a holiday party tomorrow afternoon. At the library where I work on Friday afternoons. With the members of my conversation group, "Let's Speak English!" Good people, good group. I'm looking forward to the party - and potential cornucopia of tasty ethnic treats (although my Russian friends are disappointed by my "no vodka at the library" rule). I admit: I'll miss my LSE group over the holiday season, and I'm looking forward to starting up again at some point in January.
Also starting in January: I've been officially hired as an "Intern Lecturer" at a university-level English language program. I'll be teaching an elective class entitled "American Culture & Conversation." To be honest, it was an exhilarating feeling to write my own syllabus a few days ago! How's that for the resume?
Goal for tonight: finish preparing Christmas cookies for tomorrow's party.
Goal for the next couple weeks: lots of background reading for my spring courses (and for my academic discipline in general), figuring out how to balance (potentially) four part-time jobs and a full-time course load, and submitting a book review for publication.
Oh, and talking myself into enjoying the snow.
That last one might take the most work of all...

14 December 2010

28th november 2009.

in this city of never-quite-dark,
night has fallen,
but my mind will not rest.
slipping not into sleep,
returning instead to that night.

that night.

it fills my thoughts too often,
spilled water,
whispered words,
light kisses,
too-tight hugs,
reddened eyes,
six escalators past security,
and time to board.

that night -
so sure i was doing the right thing,
it had to be right,
it had been right,
how couldn't it be?
- shattering my own heart
and some others.

tear-streaked journal pages,
that catch in my throat,
a punch to the gut,
so much was lost,
like sand thrown into the wind -

i live with few regrets,
that night
cannot be reclaimed.


a year has passed
and more,
yet still
that night
haunts my nights.

07 December 2010

Reverse Chronology.

some nights, you just have to dress up...

(new) worm bin!

orchid for the teacher.

blueberry walnut salad!

pesto from scratch.

kristina ~ morgan.


AT morning.

rock fall.
(AT - Sept 2010)

valley view.
(AT - Sept 2010)

Jersey beach wind.


yogurt garden.


cute shoes.


DC spring.

easter sibs.

too-cute-to-work-in work boots.

my hair grows...




london. (Feb 2010)

gloria learns to use a simu.

farewell party. (gulu - Jan 2010)

maple blueberry scones! (lira - jan 2010)

water. (atiak - jan 2010)

travel garb.

laundry with joy.

[income generation project]

mac fun.



pure sugar.

market. (masaka - dec 2009)


aron's mango.

06 December 2010


Winter is not my favourite season. By far.

When I was younger, I loved autumn, especially as it transitioned to winter. I didn't mind the chill and I loved playing in the snow. It sent a certain thrill through me to smell the crispness of the air which came right before snow.

Sigh. Those days are no more.

These days, I cringe at the sight of snow flurries spinning through the air. I become cold right about the moment I close the door of my building in the morning... and I seem to stay cold all day. I wear long-sleeves, a sweater, and sometimes gloves all day; I drink coffee to stay warm. To no avail, however. I sometimes feel almost warm when I study in the Graduate Student Center (which also offers the perk of free coffee!), but never in the Graduate School of Education. GSE knows not the nature of warmth, I do believe.

But, oh well, it is winter, and I suppose I must resign myself to the nature of being cold.

It's been a few years since I survived a northern hemisphere winter: both my body and psyche prefer to spend these months much closer to the equator. Coming back from Uganda in February of this year, in the midst of one of the snowiest winters in recent history, was shock enough to my system.

And here I am, at the beginning of December, staring down another long, cold winter in Pennsylvania. It's already so cold (weather . com currently suggests that the outside temperature "feels like" 24F) that I shiver at the mere thought of walking the 8.5 blocks from my apartment to GSE - and so windy that I sometimes have to bow my head and talk myself through it ("keep walking. one step after another. you can go inside soon.). Twice now I've seen snow in the air: first on my birthday/Thanksgiving, then again this afternoon.

Winter is arriving in this part of the world where I have chosen to locate myself. Hibernation seems not to be an option (I can neither pass my classes nor faithfully complete my employment duties if I just stay in my apartment until April), though it is a very tempting contemplation. I guess I'll just have to figure out a way to survive - and be glad of the fact that I can come home to hot tea, a stifling apartment, and some good old-fashioned cuddling.