Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All the Lies They Told Along the Way

Sometime in my childhood, it was decided that I cannot draw or paint. It was also decided that my handwriting was atrocious. Thus, I hated drawing, painting, or turning in written work. I would never do it unless absolutely necessary. But in the past few years, I've discovered that, as it turns out, I actually like to do these things, as long as no one is judging me. In my non-language classes in college, I was wont to fill entire pages with doodles of little things that make me happy like starfish and hot air balloons. Yet, when my boss' husband asked me in my first few days at school if I drew, my answer was a definitive, "No." The next day, he found me in one of our miniature chairs at our short table drawing elaborately bizarre sketches for stationary. My boss, later on, requested that I paint a dinosaur on the wall of our science corner. While I recognize that it is a caricature of a dinosaur, it's still distinctly dinosaur-y. His name is Steve.

Steve looked lonely, so I painted little Tommy here.

And then I went for the tree. Granted, my branching patterns leave a lot to be desired and my owl might also be a penguin, you can at least tell what I'm going for. And does it matter that my silly paintings aren't perfect? Does it matter that I cannot for the life of me make a face, human or otherwise? If I love painting and drawing, why do I let memories from early childhood still haunt me, still tell me that I shouldn't?

I know it couldn't have been my mother who discouraged my (in)artistic abilities. So, I have to assume it was a teacher in school. It could have been either my second or third grade teacher, both of whom treated my poor handwriting as a sign of my willful disregard for their eyes rather than a sign of delayed development of fine motor skills. Why was I made to feel so guilty for my poor handwriting and my unclear illustrations?

I try to keep these questions and memories in mind as I shape the futures of my own students. It's easy for a teacher to say they encourage every child, but somewhere along the way, children become seriously discouraged. Whatever is going on in my life outside of school, once I enter that door, those kids are the only thing that matter.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When You...

A short post to remind myself that when you have friends like this...

And adventures like this...

And this...

And live in a town like this...

And this...

And when you spend your days as a human jungle gym, when your boss' husband calls to make sure that the DVD he sent you works so that he can give you more, when your co-worker invites you to climb hills on the weekends, when you get regular e-mails from your best friends, when you can get fried dough from a stand right outside your apartment, when your commute involves crossing a river and walking through a park, when you are praised for every word you learn, when you spend your Tuesday carving sugar beets like pumpkins, when you are surrounded by so much joy...

Even if you can't see Where the Wild Things Are for a few more weeks...

All is love.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Alright Wellesley Stalkers

Hey you out there at my alma mater's rival. Yeah, you. I know that you're browsing around and that you've been here more than ten times in the past 24 hours. You, in fact, tend to visit about that often daily. You have created a mystery on my sitemeter that I just can't take any more. Who are you? My curiosity is overwhelming. I just wonder what could be so interesting here to make you visit so often. My only theory is that you accidentally set this as your homepage, but that doesn't explain how I got a fan at Wellesley to begin with.

So satisfy my curiosity. Comment or email me (crheaney at gmail dot com) and introduce yourself!


Friday, October 16, 2009

The First Snow!

It's hard for me, in this blog, to not just let pictures do the talking. I take so many and that's how I documented Korea, but I am committed to actually writing this time. When people ask me my hobbies, I am so hesitant to say that I write. I don't write books, I don't write stories. I write blogs and journals and letters. But I do so with such fervor and dedication. Tweets can take me up to 20 minutes to perfect. A seven sentence LJ post might take the better part of an evening. So it's kind of ironic that in the last post, I was preaching the values of non-verbal communication when words are of such importance to me. I guess you have to find the proper balance.

Yesterday was the first snow in Kolín. I grant you that it did not accumulate, but it did snow most of the day and at times it was quite difficult to see. My camera did not capture it well because the snowflakes melted on the lens, but above was my walk to work. I cross this river every day, next to the oldest power plant in the CR. I've only lived places where I could walk to a fairly substantial body of water (the Long Island Sound, Connecticut River, Sincheon, Lake Champlain) if you don't count those few months in DeKalb. I guess it shouldn't be surprising because civilizations tend to spring up near bodies of water. But I don't understand how one could live without one.

You can kind of see the flurries in this picture of the corner near school. Since the weather hasn't been so agreeable, we've only been taking walks around the block instead of going to the park before lunch. On yesterday's walk, the little ones spent a lot of time sticking out their tongues and trying to catch snowflakes. It wasn't hard because the flakes were big globs of snow. I wished that I remembered the words to that Barney song, all I could remember was the part about rain, not the part about snow. I tried to make up my own in my head, If all the snowflakes were sugar-cubes and honey-cakes were the best I came up with. (As it turns out, it is "If all the snowflakes were candy bars and milkshakes" but I kind of like honey-cakes better, even if it doesn't fit the meter.)

Every morning, we put up the day and weather on this calendar that I designed. I'm pretty proud of it, and also the fact that it helped me learn the ever-so-useful Czech word suhízip, or Velcro. The kids love doing the weather. "Is it... sunny out?" "Nooooooo!" I had to take a picture of October 15th, the weather is snowy.

It had stopped snowing for part of the day and I was sad to take a train to Prague in the rain. But as we passed the fields and small villages that cover the 50 or so miles between Kolín and Prague, the rain turned back into snow! While most people wouldn't count that as a change for the better, I relished it. I opened the window to the bitter cold and stuck my head outside to snap a photo. Rain is so dreary and depressing, but snow always feels hopeful to me. There, is of course, the nostalgia of playing in snow as a child and the thought that with snow comes Christmas, but there's more to it than that. While rain assaults you, burrowing through your layers and soaking you to the core, snow tends to just land on top and you can easily brush it off. You only end up a little damp from snow, instead of completely soaked. Also, rain adds to the noise of city life, while snow muffles the sounds. Everything is so peaceful and quiet in the snow. With the first snow in this little town, I can honestly say that I am so happy to be here. I don't want to go home. This is the first time since I graduated that I have actually liked a place I've lived, no less loved it.

I think I am going to be spending a long time looking like this. Totally content in my little compartment on the train, imagining each new day on this adventure.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Learning Languages

I am learning to live in this country where I don't speak the verbal language. I am learning to trade words for actions and emotions. I am learning to speak the language of friendly faces. I am learning to speak the language of Monday morning sighs as we wait at the cross walk for the light to change, the sigh as if to say, "While I would like a little bit more weekend, I am determined to make this week good." I am learning to speak the language of morning skyward glances and the afternoon quick step. And in school, I am learning to speak the language of wonder when we open up a rosehip to see the seeds inside. I am learning to speak the language of giggles and tambourines. I am learning to speak the language of potty dances and temper-tantrums. I am learning to speak the language of imagination at the sand table. I am learning to speak the language of spaghetti faces and dirty hands.

And I wonder, if we all stopped worrying about our words, how many languages could we speak?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

By Day/By Night

My life by day: mild mannered preschool teacher, prone to saying "goodness gracious!"

By night: after the mosh pit at a concert not fit to be written about here in any way.

This weekend, I went to Prague to visit my friend Nicole. It's amazing to have someone I have known for seven years so close by. She's one $4/45 minute train ride away, which is significantly closer than she was when we were both on Long Island many years ago. We went dancing on Friday night, got one expensive sushi lunch on Saturday afternoon, then spent Saturday night at a show. It's good to know that I don't have to do all the touristy Prague things in one go. Nevertheless, I wish I had taken a few more pictures. I kept thinking all weekend about normalization. How quickly does anything in your life become normal? In Korea, the garlic truck that woke me up every morning with it's dulcet cry through a loud speaker of what I can only assume was "garlic, garlic, get'cher garlic here!" became a party of my daily ritual in a matter of days. Here, it's things like crossing a river and following a winding path through a park as being part of my morning commute. In Prague, it was running to catch street cars. If you do things regularly, you stop thinking about them. I am determined to keep at least a slightly objective eye for these kinds of things, though I know I won't be able to keep the same level of novelty and amusement.

School started on Monday with three children--two girls (the Czech teacher's daughters) and one boy. This is important to note because the boy is not only really the only male in the school, he's also such an outsider because we're all so involved in the creation of the school. I feel bad for the little one but we are doing a good job of including him. Hopefully, we will get more and more children soon. As far as teaching goes, I'm still hesitant because they know so little English and are prone to running away when I speak. I think that as I get more confident and they become adjusted to me, it might be like an average preschool teaching job. I got sent home by my boss yesterday for having a cold and woke up today still running a fever, so I've missed two days in the first week! But again, the school is still a work in progress so it's better to be sick now than later.

I'm learning to balance the two major extremes of my personality and this version of "Daisy Bell" pretty accurately represents it. I want to sing nursery rhymes but also continue to feel comfortable in a mosh pit. But I did learn one thing this weekend, when someone you're dancing with asks you what you do and you reply, "I teach preschool" the reaction of shock and amusement is pretty much universal.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

First Week in Kolín

Welcome to Kolín's town square, where I get my internets at the moment.
This little pink villa is my wonderful school!

So my first week, as expected, has been full of ups and downs. I am moving into an apartment tomorrow and thus out of the small room in the school where I am currently staying. I'm worried about money and making friends, as usual. I can't wait for school to actually start on Monday so that I can get into a regular schedule and start to settle in. I am having the what-am-I-doing-here jitters and mourning the fact that I could not get a job in Philly or Noho. But hopefully, these fears and anxieties will subside soon enough. I think it'll be fine once I have my own apartment and access to the internet outside of the town square. I cannot exaggerate the importance of the internet for feeling connected with life at home and beyond this town. I am determined to stick it out this time! I love my school and I am excited to move into this huge apartment on the river. I also need to make plans, however tentative, for the future to remind myself that I have things to look forward to. And everyone should come visit my totally sweet, huge flat. Come onnnn... Or just move here with me. Your half will only be like $175 a month. You can totally afford that. You know you can.