Saturday, September 28, 2013
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
This semester we read Tuesdays with Morrie together. Knowing that the girls are having quite a hard time dealing with loads of homework, this week I asked everyone to think about their previous and afterlife. I would like to be inspired by their creativity with the art paper sponsored by Huei.
I had planned to play British pop, but the Internet connection was off. So we listened to the idiosyncratic Hungarian folk music. It might be my illusion that whenever I make kids do handicrafts, it feels so peaceful and pleasant in the classroom.
When we use language to tackle a problem, it feels naked. Yet, with an image, it becomes much more poetic.
I was a tree in my previous life, and in my afterlife, I will be a happy artist. Luckily, I think I can be both in my current life.
And in this life I will evolve into an English teacher teaching with the help of art. What's better, there will be neither tests nor homework!
The first question that comes to mind when I see a new herbarium specimen is: What were its colors? The main color themes after plants are dried are very different from those when they were alive. The dried pea pods have a red copper hue, which I admit look very beautiful. But the light green color of the fresh pod is quite lovely too.
On my way home, I picked an Elephant Apple that had fallen on the ground. Wanting to find out what it is, I returned to the herbarium. It was an amazing sight to hear everyone tell me the name in unison. What if my students were such highly-motivated learners ... Then Guei-mei went on to share more information about the fruit with me. The fruit can be cooked to make jam, but there isn't much flesh inside. I love being in this place because as long as I show interest and desire to learn, my colleagues are too willing to show me the fantastic world of plants.
In order to show me the three-leaf calabash, Guei mei took a short walk with me. I felt very lucky to have a botany tutor. Though I had heard about the plant for a while, I was surprised to see it in person. The leaf is shaped like a cross, and what's more, it's hard to find in Taiwan.
My next task is to learn how to draw plants so that people who have never seen them before can immediately grasp their features.
弟弟送我去聽Chris Botti的音樂會，我坐在第三排正中央的位置，Botti帥氣的全身完全收入眼底，還有美麗的小提琴家Caroline Campbell和才華洋溢的黑人女歌手Sy Smith當特別來賓，聽完之後簡直就像在艾佛勒斯峰上看世界，視野都不同了。
Jun treated me to the concert of Chris Botti. Seated in the third row, I was only a few steps away from the handsome musician. Also, we were blessed to have the super beautiful violinist Caroline Campbell and super talented singer Sy Smith. I felt like being in seventh heaven after the concert.
I used to follow the blog of a French bande dessinee illustrator. I envied him for doing live sketches during concerts. I just had to focus on the fabulous performance, and it took me days afterwards to practice drawing Botti because I did not want to ruin his good looks. I wonder if he rehearsed the standing pose too....
Saturday, September 21, 2013
During the Moon Festival reunion, I doodle as everyone else chats over tea. As I lose myself to the act of drawing, I wish I could conjure up a box of colored pens with Doraemon's magic. Wanting to color my sketches badly, I think of my lipstick. It not only livens up my images but also makes my day.
Friday, September 20, 2013
TAI Herbarium was established in 1929, and it is one of the oldest buildings in National Taiwan University. Every day retired volunteers come and go here. From time to time, really old used-to-be professors come for a chat. I glimpse the room before getting down to work. Even decorative flowers in the vase are dried. The main color tones here are withered-leaf yellow, ochre and brown.
The yet-to-be-made herbarium specimens are wrapped in old newspapers from different countries. First, I take a quick look at the year when the plant sample was collected, where it came from and the headlines in the papers. Next it takes time to figure out the layout, i.e., how the specimen can be best seen by researchers. This reminds me that if human bodies could be dealt with in a similar way, I'd hope to be beautifully displayed. My experienced colleagues teach me the importance of visual balance when I fix the specimen onto the paper with tape and threads. Also, the tape should be applied parallel to the veins. It turns out that life and death share much in common.
When I told Meichien I was learning to make herbarium specimens, she mistook me for a green thumb. I admitted in shame that I had killed all the bonsais on my office desk. Still, she gave me a small bonsai as a gift. I decided it would be a brand-new beginning for me, so I make efforts to take care of it on a daily basis.
Coming home from the herbarium, I am still obsessed with the thought about death. However, the visible growth of my plants pulls me back to the reality, and I feel the joy of life rising in me.
Why do I have a thing for plants? Because life and death are played out in seeming subtlety while they can be so overwhelming deep down.
Sunday, September 08, 2013
I turned 37 today. Asked what I'd like as birthday gifts, I couldn't think of anything I want. I guess as long as I am accompanied by children, my days will be full of light.
So as usual we draw and play in the study.
We read the dinosaurs' stories until our eyes are brimmed with tears.
Then the boys' simple and sincere best wishes make me believe that my following year will be so wonderful as today.
Even the birthday afternoon tea party is very low-key. However, see what a lovely time we have had by looking at the almost-empty plates.
Wherever I go, I have the fabulous company of children. Well, I come near to believing that I enjoy high popularity among kids.
Though I am one year older, I feel like a rose in bloom inside. What I see in front of my eyes is more and more beautiful.
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
I don't like to quote myself, but today there are two stories revolving around two old drawings of mine. No new image can replace them in this post.
This past spring I did the drawing of the Bryant Park for a reason that no longer matters. Afterward I put it up on my locker in the office. Yuri loved to look at my drawings whenever she came for a chat. At the end of the semester, she asked me where the drawings would eventually go. Since she was going to transfer to a new class, I wanted to give her a drawing as a souvenir. She chose the Bryant Park piece. Knowing that she would visit New York City in summer, I asked her to go for a visit and compare the real Bryant Park and that in my picture.
After the summer break, she came back as lively as usual. Today she left a card and a gift on my desk, telling me that she had put up my drawing on the wall in the dorm room. I had told my colleague this morning how difficult it is to change a person's life in a year's time, but Yuri's change contradicts my words. I am not always right.
Last week I sent a letter to Croc, who would be a new class this year too. I tore off the drawing from my journal book and attached in the letter, hoping that she will remember certain things. I am always sending letters to which I know there will be no responses. I have grown used to that. But today when I saw Croc, I couldn't help asking, "Did you receive my mail?" She replied, "Yes I did. When you were drawing the picture, I was with you, praying that you will give it to me." So she had waited for this picture for eight months. And I got to know one kind of reply I might have to all those unanswered letters.
I then told the girls still in my class: Let's open our arms and welcome the old girls to come back when they need us, but we have to encourage them to make new friends too. Personally the latter is much more difficult than the former. It's way easier to keep those we love by our side than letting them go, but letting go doesn't mean losing them.
I am neither an achieved or a famous illustrator, but what I draw every day has come to change some people's lives. In the end, I am changed as well.
Sunday, September 01, 2013
When I am writing the postcard of the day, it occurs to me that if an adult needs company to make learning interesting, companionship will be even more important for children or teenagers. Suppose what we learn every day can be part of the mail in the form of a story or a question to a friend, we will learn it better because we impose personal significance on the knowledge that originally didn't mean a thing to us. I am definitely going to adopt the concept in my classes.