On the rainy Saturday afternoon in June, we have a lesson on leguminous plants. It comes as a surprise that there are more children than expected on such a wet day. Our special guest is the 12-year-old Po-huei. When he came two years ago, he was still a child, and now he has graduated from elementary school. I feel he's coming this time to say goodbye not only to us but also to his childhood.
The golden shower trees are in bloom now, and though the yellow flowers are commonly seen, the structure of the flowers is actually amazing. It's nice to see the kids learn with such enthusiasm.
There are three sizes for the stamens. Even the curving lines of the filaments and the style are the design of nature to help the plant reproduce.
I am amused by how the big boy wears the flower behind his ear. More interestingly, some boys take notes today, which greatly moves me!
Next we observe the flame flowers. However, because of the continuous torrential rain, Guei-mei finds only three to four intact flowers to show to everybody.
I see the golden shower flowers and flame flowers only from far away, but without close observations, I would miss the mysteries of their flowers and fruits.
Even the ordinary-looking mung bean and soy bean sprouts are a lot of fun. The latter smell like farts!
We play the brainstorming game: Each group has to think of as many soy bean products as possible. See how devoted everyone is!
We top off the day with the folk beanbag game. The kids enjoy it so much!
This year we have cut down on the times of the activities. On the Saturdays when there are workshops, I sometimes grumble and wonder how great it would be if there were no such thing on my way to the herbarium. But at the end of these Saturday afternoons, I feel there is always a small flame lit up in my heart, a glow of light that warms me and pushes me to continue. When I don't feel like defining the significance of education, these Saturday afternoons always prove to me that education can be fun and enjoyable.
Before the end of the day, an eight-year-old boy asks me to watch his specially-prepared show. He keeps failing, so I tell him, "All it takes is practice. I believe you can do much better when you come next time." Before he leaves, he says to me, "Thank you for encouraging me." One day we might not go on with the activity, and it certainly won't kill me. Perhaps I might feel thankful for the decision, but I will certainly, definitely miss those lovely and innocent children and whatever they have said to me.
This year I started to have some reflection on my pattern of making a picture book. For the past few years I have written the text first, but the danger is that sometimes part of the text doesn't conjure up any visual image, which I might not be aware of.
Since I've always wanted to include too much in my stories, I fail to express the themes successfully. Also, they are too abstract for children to understand. My teacher said that I can try starting from drawing pictures because that way I can give concrete images to abstract ideas. Then a story can be developed by connecting the images I have.
Even if the drafts are a failure, I don't mind begin anew. As long as I can learn to tell a good story, every effort is worth it.
Ray asks me, "Auntie Wanda, did you have a dream when you were in first grade?" Unfortunately, I didn't. I felt pity for not being able to give a more creative answer.
Ray goes on to say, "I want to be a singer."
Mimi encourages Ray to sing, and thus starts our late-night mini-concert.
Mimi tells me more anecdotes about the two brothers. For example, as the other kids panicked, the boys got so carried away when experiencing farming that they started to chase after the ducks.
As the sky darkens, the wharf becomes a performing stage for local singers. They can be seen on the square, next to the temples or under the banyan trees. Rows of empty plastic chairs wave to the passers-by, inviting them to be part of the show. Moreover, the music is accompanied by the sophisticated dance of middle-aged men. What a splendid way to spend an evening in Taipei!
In the picture-book class last week, the teacher kept asking if we had any work to share with one another. Even so, my cowardice held me back, finally blowing away the last whiff of courage I had. In the end, I walked back to my seat quietly without saying or showing anything.
That day in class I happened to run into Ada, a friend I'd met years ago. Before leaving, she told me not to be afraid. Her words of encouragement made me take a huge leap. As she had predicted, I got so much helpful feedback after showing the work to the teacher and classmates. After that day, though my life appears to be the same on the outside, it has, in fact, become very different.
We race on the winding road along the sea, finally arriving at Pitouchiao. The scenery is so breathtaking that I can't help taking up my pens. The car is filled with the sounds of my brushes stroking on the paper. After finishing the sketch, I get off the car to take a closer look at the seacoast. The salty smell of the sea fills my nostrils, which is the best gift of the day, apart from the fantastic sea waves.
Afterwards we visit Nanya rocks. What an absolutely poetic combination of rocks, waves, and rain!
We top off the outing with a photo shot at the super romantic Hoping Island.
It's not my birthday, but it's definitely a day much better than a birthday!
Since I haven't sketched for a long while, my whole being is packed with longings that scream for an outlet. So I decide to play the sketchy sketch game even when taking the short bus ride. Be it thirty seconds or twenty minutes, I know there are countless possibilities in the game.
In my eyes, every detail is so charming and nothing, not even a gigantic bus in front of me, can stop me from recording their beauty.
Life is always beautiful, but we are often blind to it.
Nike's Women's Run was my first marathon race. Though I had practiced running for ten kilometers twice before the run, it felt very different to run in a race. I was kind of skeptical when Irma told me that I would feel the excitement on the spot, but the loud music and hyper coaches really turned me on on the spot. I couldn't wait to begin!
In the beginning I had to worm my way out of the crowds, but little by little, the runners began to thin out into long lines. It was indeed much more fun to run with others than practicing alone on the university campus. Along the way, the staff kept rooting for us, and I had to admit, their words were really uplifting. As I progressed at my speed, I gradually ran past some runners. I didn't feel I was running faster. Instead, I couldn't help wondering if they had slowed down. To me, a marathon race is more about competing with myself than with others.
We ran along Renai Rd. and then went on the Jianguo Expressway. It felt weird, in a good way, to run on the roads normally for cars. I had neither a watch nor a a timer with me, so I couldn't tell how far I had gone. It was not until I saw the sign that indicates the distance we had covered that I got a clue. When I had run for eight kilometers, I felt I was about to hit the wall, but experienced runners know better than stop to walk because then it will be hard to start again. The legs will feel so heavy that it will require more determination than ever to break into a run again. At this moment a runner next to me said, "You are amazing!" I looked at the runners ahead of me, puzzled by her words. I asked her why. She replied, "I've been running behind you." Upon hearing her words, I couldn't help pushing forward as if my legs were equipped with propellers.
In the end I finished the race within 63.5 minutes, ranking 216th out of 6,051 runners. I always thought of myself as a super slow runner, so low that I had no chance to run in a relay race in my life, but I found my talent at the age of 40!