China, creative writing, films, poetry, songs, teaching, The China Chapter

诗意搞乱- A Poetic Mess

It’s a moment,
then it’s gone.
Your heart catches in your throat
and you wonder if it was ever real
just a figment of a life you could imagine for yourself.

I realize I’m not making much sense here, mostly just waxing poetic.  I had so much to say about last week, but yesterday, when I went to write, my words froze in my fingers, hovering but a breath above the keyboard.  I spent time rearranging my discombobulated mind to the tunes of Cat-Stevens-turned-Yusuf-Islam and bathed myself in the comforting knowledge that music can wrap you in a tight embrace and make you feel so magically whole despite how crazily confused you might be.

But, being as though none of you have any idea what I’m talking about, I’ll stop with the self-analysis portion of this update and move into what’s actually been happening here in Chengdu…

Well, life’s been busy.  The first week after getting back from Bali, I spent a lot of evenings just eating Chinese food (Shao Kao and Chuan Chuan) with people.  Agh, I had missed that in Indonesia!

Last week flew by, but was punctuated with a few memorial events.  Wednesday afternoon, while the kids were working with partners to turn picture books into Reader’s Theatre scripts, I felt a bit of shaking.  It was a small, but noticeable undulation, especially when I saw the Smartboard rocking back and forth. “Uh…guys, let’s go ahead and get under our desks, okay?”  The kids immediately crawled under their desks, then peered up at me.  “Um.  Ms. Hannifin?  Why are we doing this?”  I love them and love that they would follow my directions first and then question me.  “Eh, I think there’s a earthquake.  And we just need to make sure it’s not a big one.  So we’re gonna stay under our desks for a few minutes and see what happens, okay?” “Yeah!  We don’t want things to hurt our heads,” one girl called out.  After a few minutes went by, it was clear the small disturbance was over.  “Alright, kids!  I think we’re good to go back to work. But if we feel anything else, we’re gonna get back under our desks, okay?”  “Okay.”  And back to work they went as if nothing had happened.  Earthquakes here might be fairly common, but I was very happy that the first one I felt with kids around was distant and handled very well by second graders.

Last Thursday, after Girl Scouts, two parents took June and me out to dinner at a Shao Kao restaurant.  It was completely unnecessary, completely delicious, and completely appreciated.  Then on Friday, I went out with coworkers to the typical hangout: The Beer Nest.  It ended up being a late night as more people stopped by as the evening stretched on.  But I made it home safely, albeit completely tuckered out, in the wee hours of Saturday.  I didn’t accomplish anything, really, on Saturday aside from Skyping with my old flatmate, Diana, and…napping.  On Sunday, Melissa and I went to go see the movie Seventh Son, which was…a rather interesting movie going experience, primarily because I am naive and China greatly confuses me.  It was a decent flick, though, and well worth the…$6…the entire outing cost us.

So that’s been about it, save my poetic nonsense (oh, brace yourself.  more terrible poetry is heading your way soon!).  I leave you now with a song that is probably going to be stuck in my head the rest of this week:

films, holidays, teaching

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I feel like this past month has escaped from me.  There is too much to do and there are never-ever enough hours in the day.

On the job front, I’m trying to turn my students into writers.  This is hard when “if then she know” passes as an acceptable sentence in their minds.  We poured over a writing prompt for most of the month.  I think we’ll only have time to do one more before it’s time for the state writing test in March.  I am a tad bit nervous!

One of my kiddos also withdrew from school this week.  She came to my class last year, speaking very little English.  This year, she was being tested for the gifted program.  I cried Friday night after she left. I have high hopes for her though and know that she can change the world wherever she is.  This gave me a taste for how hard June was going to be, wishing goodbye to a class of kids I’ve known for two years. Oy vey.

In my personal life, many friends have been coming back into town for the holidays, meaning the last few days have been insane.  I’ve scouted out Christmas lights with Jenn, spent hours talking to Rachel and Drew, saw Lincoln (the movie, not the person) with Heather, and helped Peter move all within the past 48 hours.  Today, I’ll meet my family at church and then head to their house for the rest of Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.

I also started a new workout routine.  I tore a ligament in my right knee in November and haven’t spent too much time at the gym since then.  But I found a great 12-week program that concentrates on lifting weights the first 4 weeks before really introducing cardio.  It sounds like just what my knee needs.  Today I concentrated on my triceps…and man, I ache!

Okay, I’m off to prepare for tonight!  Merry Christmas, everyone!

books, films

Summer Log: Day 12

I spent this morning reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, crying a bit, and contemplating a lot.  It’s a work of young adult fiction that delves into discussing why we are here and what will happen when we’re not here anymore: pure, utter, wretched oblivion.

We’ll surely be remembered when we die because, barring some catastrophe, there will still be people alive who remember and, hopefully, miss us.  But what about when they die and when those that loved and mourned for them die?  When our names are on headstones and we are only found in the databases of, will our lives matter?  John Green’s characters debate the necessity of leaving a legacy or leaving this earth quietly, hurting as few as possible with your departure from personhood.  But does it really matter?  The love ones will mourn then the loved one, too, will die.  And it’s a chain of screaming and gnashing of teeth that will carry from generation to generation.  Even those that leave legacies, good or bad, will some day be forgotten.  Someday, the human race will extinguish itself like a flame doused in water.  The birds and the beasts (or, perhaps, just the cockroaches) won’t remember Joan of Arc, Anne Frank, Hitler, Churchill.  Will it matter that we do now?

I end with a quote from Dead Poets’ Society:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute.
We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.
And the human race is filled with passion.
And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.
But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!
…of the questions of these recurring;
of the endless trains of the faithless…
of cities filled with the foolish;
what good amid these, O me, O life?”
Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity;
that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse.
What will your verse be?

Further question: What happens when the play ends?

books, celebrations, films, random, travel

Summer Log: Day 2

Two days into summer vacation and I couldn’t be more relaxed.  Oh, how I wish I was roaming the streets of some foreign country or setting out on a safari across the grasslands.  But, as much as I fight it, I’m a practical girl who likes traveling with company.  And noone these days seems to want to go anywhere that my wallet doesn’t rail against.  Jamie and I have tentative plans to go to Ireland next summer, but we had also talked about a Paris trip that never happened.  So I will continue hoarding away nickels and hoping.

That’s not to say that I haven’t been enjoying summer thus far.  It’s just been very, very relaxing.  Moreso than I usually like.  I’ve gone to classes at the gym both days and have a gym date set up for tomorrow too.  I watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Chronicle.  I read the better half of The Lucky One.  I bought most of Jenn’s baby shower gift, spent time with my roommates, my mates from teaching last year, and good friends from this year.  I’ve cleaned the bathroom, straightened my room, and unpacked some of the stuff from my classroom that I brought home on Friday.  I’ve been busy.  Yet I still have time for naps.  I still have time to read blogs written by my friends who are getting married, having babies, moving halfway across the country, basically living a life entirely worth writing about.  As much as I like having downtime, I would really love something meaningful to do.  Maybe even a weekend getaway would do the trick?  For now, I’m just biding my time until my Connecticut Volunteer Adventure happens.

films, songs, travel

sunday’s records: all the things you are

today we are greeted by another charming post from jamie:

charlie parker once said that this old jazz standard’s lyrics were his favorite. here in a smoky parlor, serge gainsbourg’s fingers croon “you are the breathless hush of evening that trembles on the brink of a lovely song”.

and hopefully coming soon to a theater near you is gainsbourg, je t’aime … moi non plus, very loosely based on director joann sfar’s graphic novel. it takes a dreamlike approach to gainsbourg’s life, told through immersive performances, animation, and yes, puppets.

(serge and jane in the throes of love as drawn by joann sfar)

books, films, travel

l’amour du chocolat

beynac-et-cazenac (from wikipedia commons)

i saw the movie chocolat years ago and found johnny depp to be simply delightful in it. but reading the novel by the same name, i became completely enamored with the stubborn, proud roux. i was not prepared for the ending, which left me less fulfilled and more wistful than anything else. art imitating life, i suppose.

i loved the idea of visiting lansquenet-sous-tannes, the city in which the book takes place. but as it is completely fictional, i found it necessary to dig a little deeper. the film was shot in a variety of locations. the river and indoor scenes were all filmed in england, but since france is our destination, we shall overlook this fact. the remaining portions of the film were apparently shot in flavigny-sur-ozerain (in burgundy) and in beynac-et-cazenac (see above).

flavigny-sur-ozerain is (was?) home to a benedictine abbey in the 700s. in the 800s, after france experienced viking raids, st. regina’s (a martyr who wouldn’t renounce her faith to marry her betrothed) remains found their way there. pilgrims came to visit the remains and a town developed around the abbey. less than 350 people (the size of my graduating high school class) live in flavigny year round. today they are, appropriately enough (considering our book), known for the little pastilles they sell around the world.

beynac-et-cazenac is slightly larger with just over 500 residents. i don’t know much about the area save that the communes of beynac and cazenac combined to form this commune (just a municipality in the government). but the château de beynac is a well-preserved castle there. it is the highest building in the picture above. in 1962, lucien grosso bought and restored the château. since then, quite a number of films such as les visiteurs, ever after, jeanne d’arc (not to mention chocolat using the village below!) have been filmed there.

since travel is our aim, i located these cities on a map. since i don’t know the exact route we hope to take, i’m crossing my fingers that we can at least fit one of these into our travels! on to the next book, count of monte cristo!
films, songs, travel

chansons de paris

amateur travelers we are, but amateur dreamers we are not. the excitement of france looms over me, like a tempting mirage, toying with my emotions in my daily life. to travel, to cast off this monotony if only for a brief moment in time. and to prepare, even though our trip is nearly a year away, i find myself trying to soak up as much of france as possible.

two movies seen of late are highly recommended: paris, je t’aime and les choristes, which i have admittedly seen half a dozen times now. from the latter, i present jean-baptiste maunier singing a short melody. i would tell you what he is singing, but i throw my hands up at my inability to speak or understand french. i simply appreciate and find that i have a much greater love for singers who convey emotion beyond language than those who rely so fully on words. a simple search of les choristes in youtube pulls up a great many more songs both from the movie and the concerts that came about as the public rallied for more.

so tonight belongs to maunier, but i’ll be back with edith piaf and other lovely voices to sate the romantic soul.
films, travel


today’s guest post by jamie:

this week, new york’s film forum will be playing a restored print of jean-luc godard’s breathless.

jean seberg plays patricia, first seen wandering the champs-élsyées, selling copies of the new york herald tribune. there, patricia revists a romance with a handsome ne’er-do-well. he, a small-time gangster, and she, a free-spirited american student, are briefly, beautifully suspended in the space of patricia’s apartment. but this is the movies and when the police come a-knocking, things go awry. love or hate patricia’s choices, she still stirs admiration for her swagger and cool.

this begs the question: what lessons can a couple of americans in paris glean from patricia?

striped shirts, fedoras, and dark eyeliner are timeless.

keep your trysts with gangsters short and sweet.

and never underestimate chance meetings.

books, films, songs, travel

je m’appelle …

today’s guest post is brought to you by my good friend, jamie:

we’re three amateur travellers, on a mission to map the curious spaces where reality and fiction intersect. our first destination is france.

en route, we’ll devour books, movies, and songs from, inspired by, and/or set in france. after planning our route, we’ll trek through the fictional geography that we studied. naturally, along the way we’ll try (however ridiculously) to recreate some of our favorite heart-wrenching scenes and tecnhnicolor moments.

and so we begin!