Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I can let go / 捨得


I have been racing against the clock in the past few months. Granny loses her abilities day by day, while she suffers from more and more physical pain. I figure that if I visit her more often, I won't lose her at such a fast speed. Last month, we had ten-minute afternoon tea one day with Granny reminiscing how to go from Chi-du to our place in Taipei. However, one month later, she couldn't sit up anymore.


     On the last day of 2014, Granny is hospitalized again. We whiz by the crowds that are celebrating the new year everywhere in the city. Though she is currently in a coma because of the painkiller, looking so thin and withered, all I remember is her glowing face with a beautiful smile. This morning she told Meili that it is time for her to go, but now she is trapped in her degenerate body. None of us can stop shedding tears upon seeing her. 


     On our way home, I can't help wowing at the fascinating night view of Taipei city outside the car window. If Granny is freed, she can enjoy it all. Though I am still learning to let go of her without feeling sad, I would like to say to her, "This is all yours my beautiful. I want you to embark on a care-less and pain-less journey with everyone's best wishes!"

Sunday, December 28, 2014

the gift I can give / 給得起的禮物


This past week the school was literally inundated with chocolates and sweets. The fact that we had six school days this week made Christmas endless. Luckily, my colleague Emily introduced an extremely meaningful activity--everyone brings a secondhand object with them to school, shares its story and trades it with another person. 


      I have two classes. When I first announced the activity, my class voiced their opinions strongly. They argued that if it's an object they cherish, they won't be able to give it away. It'd be preferable if we changed it to "Show and Tell." However, I really wanted to see how far everyone could go, so I insisted on the exchange part. The girls in the other class also shared similar ideas, but they didn't protest so vehemently.  


     On the gift-giving day, a lot of girls in the other class started their stories this way: The object reminds me of something really negative, so I don't want to keep it. I had explained that the activity is to give best wishes. Instead, this turned out to be a healing camp for many traumatized kids. Still, I am glad because I go to hear many stories I wouldn't have known. 


     In the past two years, I've had some chances to have heart-baring group talks with my own students, but I kind of shunned away. To my surprise, today the girls were so frank that they didn't hesitate to share stories about their heartaches, disappointment, and growth. More importantly, the objects they offered might be the only memorabilia from an important relative or friend. Their generosity really impressed me. 


     The story-tellers shed tears as they narrated their stories, while tears rolled in the listeners' eyes. I can never stop finding fault with people whenever their talks are incoherent, but I relaxed today. In the quiet building, the other classes were busy studying, but I insisted on exchanging stories on the last weekend of 2014. 


     Having been touched by stories full of emotions, those who hadn't talked yet were worried if they could move the audience. Maggie was so anxious that she couldn't help inviting the girls that sat next to her to make up stories for her object, which made the whole class burst into laughter. We cried and laughed at the same time. 


     After the activity, Enci came to me saying how wonderful it was. I agreed, but what came to mind was the change of this kid within two and half years. She's' come so far after all those ups and downs, which is a fantastic period to end year 2014. 


     Though I've been teaching for more than a dozen years, I still have to remind myself to open my heart every day. Santa gave me a perfect gift in return--the girls' honesty. I often wondered if my words had evaporated into the air, but now I know they are of some use. 


     Every day at work it is not the same because of the different chemistry between me and the girls. I'd thought this would be an extremely tiring Saturday. However, I was so moved that the rest of the day I could feel the good will. 


     We are approaching the last semester together. Looking back on the past two and half years, I am happy to have come so far, but meanwhile, I know it's not easy to let go when we say goodbye. 

後記:照片中的練習取自Keri Smith的Living Out Loud。 

P.S.: The exercise sheet is excerpted from Keri Smith's Living Out Loud

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Weekend Children's Museums 2 / 假日兒童博物館 2


In the last workshop of the weekend children's museums, our group task is piecing puzzles. I choose the fruits and seeds of three kinds of trees--small-leaved Barringtonia, the mahogany tree and Taiwan Hemlock (Tsuga chinensis). 

   In the workshops before, children don't need much of their parents' assistance. However, this time, the adults can't help taking part in the game. Some groups work fast, while others take much more time. In the beginning, I forget to remind the groups if the pictures are landscape or portrait, so in the end, some of them have to start all over again. 


   It looks like the moms are going to get it right, but the image is landscape. Surprisingly, I get to see the interaction between kids and their parents because of teamwork. Some mothers are more involved than their children. One extremely beautiful mom who looks like a mix seems to love my pictures, plants and the herbarium! 


   This is the finished piece, but this boy is from another different group than the moms and children in the photos above. 


   We have some small-leaved Barringtonia trees right outside in the garden. Isn't it nice to see with our eyes what we have learned? The tree is also called Powerpuff Mangrove. 


   Small-leaved Barringtonia trees grow near the sea, so the fruits are carried off with the tide. They are waterproof. 


   The fruits are rather light! 


   Our next star is the mahogany tree. 


   These two boys are very committed. Their mom standing behind them is a teacher. She's the first adult that asks me if she can draw as well. 


   The tree trunks of a mahogany tree is symmetrical, growing from the single sturdy stem. I was in a hurry to finish the picture during the week, so it is not until I walk by the row of mahogany trees on the campus of NTU on Saturday that I realize I didn't draw very precisely. 


   The fruits, which look like reddish-brown capsules, split along five seams on sunny days in around March. Then the propeller-like seeds will be carried far away from their mother tree by the wind. 


   Our last star today is the fruit and seeds of Taiwan Hemlock. 


   Taiwan Hemlocks are found above the altitude of 2,000 m in Taiwan. The male pine cone disperses the pollen, which lands on the purple female cones. They are then tightly closed in to protect the eggs. The purple color will gradually change into brown. The cones of Taiwan Hemlocks are about 1.5 cm to 2.5 cm. 


   When the seeds are ready, the hemlock tree will cut off its supply of water to the pine cone. This causes it to dry up and open up, allowing the seeds found at the base of the scales to fall or be blown out of the cone.  


   It always brings me much delight to look at children drawing. 


   I adore a group of adults and children so much that I can't help mailing their postcards for them. 


   The tour of the outdoor gardens are super enriching. The guide James can talk on and on when it comes to plants. 


   You can't miss the common tree fern outside the herbarium. It is our special feature. 


   I really thank the staff and volunteers of the herbarium for making all this possible, also, for giving me so much freedom to plan what to do. I seem to have spent much time and effort preparing the teaching materials, but Saturday afternoons are my favorite. I never leave the herbarium without feeling fulfilled during these weeks. What more can I ask for when I am  blessed with a life with children and plants? 

Monday, December 01, 2014

A room with a view / 窗外有樹景


I used to sketch students when they were sitting for monthly exams. Now I realize there are various views outside the windows. The 12th graders live in a building which is surrounded by trees on the two sides. The views of classrooms on different floors differ. I had planned to sketch the Alexander Palm from the bottom to the top on the day of the midterm, but it didn't occur to me that I was assigned to go to a classroom on the other side. In the morning I sketched the leaves, but when I went back there in the afternoon, I noticed that the tree had blossomed. Best of all, I found the name of my new friend on the same day by asking my colleague, which is the mango tree. 


   My class lives on the top floor, which gives me opportunities to observe the top of the Alexander Palm trees every day. Now I always look at the rounded bright red fruits with amazement. I wonder if the girls, who are buried in books, also notice the beauty of the real world. 


   We are counting down our days together. I say, "This classroom is the closest place to my dreams. I went to London from here. I am reaching my dream of being a book writer and illustrator from here too." I so hope the room has the same significance for them too. 


   I want to say, "Thank you for your company!" to the trees and the girls!