Sunday, July 29, 2018

farewell to india

I’m a stubborn and somewhat arbitrary person, so when I decided that I wouldn’t post anything about our new life in Philadelphia, PA until after I posted something about leaving Woodstock, I stuck to it. This means nearly eight long weeks have passed by not only due to some legitimate distractions (unpacking, buying, building, job-searching) but also some old-fashioned writer’s block. How do I sum up our six years in Mussoorie? How do I say goodbye to such an experience, to all the people who shaped it?

It still feels surreal to write this, sitting here in a fancy hipster coffee shop, drinking cold brew, with the prospect of another four weeks of break -- all while my former colleagues at Woodstock leap into another school year. It still feels like I should be puttering around my windowless, damp classroom with those hilarious and wonderful (and sometimes infuriating) WS students. But here we are. I just have a few reflections, which I’ll intersperse with some photos from our last few months.

One of Chloe's favorite play areas!

We celebrated Chloe's first birthday with our advisees - here's her first cake!

Teaching. Though I began teaching at Woodstock with several years of experience, it was college-level. WS was my first full-time, high school teaching job, and I was lucky to have some great mentors and colleagues help me come into my own as a teacher. My fellow English teachers were passionate, funny, and dedicated practitioners with unique styles. And the school generally gave us a lot of freedom to experiment and push boundaries. I couldn’t ask for a better place to begin my career!

Bindi baby
Chloe's first drawing, circa April 2018 (?)

Traveling. Working abroad cemented our love of travel. Though our paychecks at WS were fairly small, day-to-day expenses were so low that we were able to travel all over India and the world. It helped Chris and I see that we want to avoid spending all our extra money on fancy electronics, big houses, or cars and instead funnel it into more travel. The past year showed us just how difficult it is to travel (especially internationally) with our strong-willed child, so we’ll slow down for a few years. But I know we’ll be itching to explore a new culture soon enough. 

Chris's sweet mother's day gift!
How Chloe spends most of her time.

America. There’s a lot to feel ashamed about as an American these days. Trump is an embarrassment, and he’s firing up the pocket of the U.S. population that leaves me slack-jawed with astonishment. Still, living abroad helped me think more deeply about what I do value and love about my nation -- mainly because I constantly compared America to the places we visited. I found myself newly proud of something like America’s birthright citizenship after realizing Chloe would receive no special rights for being born in and living in India. It’s hard to put this concept into words, but as Chris said, going abroad just made us feel our American-ness more as well. We realized that lots of practices and beliefs we took for granted were merely results of our American upbringing. This seems like a “duh” lesson, but it’s one I had to experience to truly understand.

There’s more I can say, but I know people don’t read these days. I’ll end with a quick listicle of what we miss about India now that we’ve officially left…
**delicious hot chai
**my students, and a student culture I know and can navigate
**the mountains -- always so stunning!
**delicious and cheap and simple Indian food
**Anil’s at chardukan
**walks around the chakkar
**my colleagues
**the best neighbors I could have asked for (thanks, Mount Hermon!)
**my weekly massages, and my amazing ayah
**not having a smart phone

Have a lovely week, everyone.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

i need a vacation....

When I was a young thing, my mom and her extended family introduced me to the musical Pump Boys and Dinettes. It was love at first listen, and though I haven’t actively sought it out in a while, I still sometimes lapse into “Farmer tan on my neck and arms, farmer tan the secret of my charms…” or “Tune ups, tune ups, gas for less…” randomly as I traipse around this mountainside. Chris hates it.

But one of my favorite songs -- one I rely upon and that becomes my mantra nearly every Friday is “I Need a Vacation.” From its first plaintive cries, you can tell the singer is desperate to leave behind her job, if only temporarily, for something more exciting and relaxing. (Please please check out this video of the Tony Awards performance, and you’ll see how much fun this musical is.)

Working at Woodstock is often joyful, particularly the actual teaching part, but man is it exhausting. By December last year, everyone was drained and thinking something akin to: “If I could only do something different, somewhere else, oh what a joy -- a mighty joy! -- that would be!”

Thankfully, Woodstock does grant us a hefty break from mid-December until early February, a necessity in a school that lacks real heating. Chris, Chloe and I spent our break in America and in South India.

America was loads of fun because we got to see Chloe interacting with her extended family, and that means we got a bit more of a break too! Here’s a sampling of those photos (all except the first two are from Grandma Kathy)… 

Chloe's first Christmas! (photo credit: Uncle Michael)
She loved the wrapping! (photo credit: Uncle Michael)
Chloe-bear playing with my old bear
Hanging at the mall
Chloe stayed up late the day Chris came back from Philly
Chloe's first haircut!
Chloe and Grandma
South India was quite the contrast, particularly after spending time in snowy Rochester. The weather was balmy and the ocean was too. We rented a nice airbnb apartment that had a kitchen and allowed us to take a relaxed approach to getting out and about, something that I realize is key with a baby. Chloe had her first interactions with the beach and the ocean waves, and she seemed to enjoy herself thoroughly. Unfortunately I don’t have many photos from Goa, but here are a few of Chloe in the water.
Yay sand!
Yay waves!
Now we’re back in the rising workload of trimester 3. It's bittersweet to think we're only here for three more months. We can’t wait to begin a new adventure, but it will be hard to say goodbye to this place and these people. I’ve been derelict in my documentation of the past few weeks, as Chloe was pretty sick and things were chaotic, but now my goal is to be better about taking photos and posting every week or so. I wish Chloe could remember this place, but she’s too young, so few photos will need to suffice.

Have a great week,
love, mel

Sunday, November 12, 2017

OMY: 13 October - 12 November (W14-17)

After a lovely and lazy fall break in mid-October, we settled back into our hectic schedule of Chloe care and work. Several times throughout this month I've thought, "I should take a photo of this [insert event or activity here]." Almost every time I thought this, I forgot to follow through. Oh well.

Sat 14 October
Our poor, neglected Sadie. Weekends and breaks bring not love and affection, but brushing! I can barely keep up with the shedding, which is why all of us ingest about a kilo of dog fur each year...

Sun 13 October
At the end of Activity Week, all the kids and teachers took home a sweet paper lantern in honor of Chinese culture (thanks, Soneyaa and Tanya!). While inspecting it over the weekend, I noticed that it has just about the best "English" instructions ever.

Sun 13 October
Check out this writing -- especially #3.

Thur 19 October
My workout studio, thanks to I vowed over break that I would work out three times per week. Yup, that lasted about a week...

Wed 25 October
Chloe developed so much strength over this past four weeks. She loves planking (and of course now she's a crawling machine).
Wed 25 October
More outdoor antics.

Wed 8 November
We have new desks in the English office (thanks, Andrzej!), and it finally feels like a nice space.

Thur 9 November
Sadie's always lazing, and Chloe's always moving.

Fri 10 November
Now that Chloe crawls, you'll notice that we need to barricade off all of our electric wires behind a bunch of random crap.

Sat 11 November
I took this so I could remember how sweet she looks while she naps.

Sat 12 November
Nobody puts baby in a box!

Have a great week,
love, mel

Saturday, October 14, 2017

OMY: 1 September - 12 October (W8-13)

So my weekly blogs became bi-weekly blogs and have now become monthly. Such is the life of a working mom, toward the end of the first trimester of the school year. September was a complete blur, but now we're ensconced in a beautiful fall break. Anything seems possible! More on that for the next post. Below are just a few images from the last six weeks. Most of these are of Chloe -- apologies in advance. 

Sat 2 September

Sometimes monsoon is quite beautiful. I'll really miss this view.

Mon 4 September

Taking a selfie. Chloe's really good at looking possessed, apparently.

Tue 5 September 

Chloe's so advanced -- she's already *digesting* good literature at six months. (I couldn't resist.)

Wed 6 September

This was my last WS Cross Country Day. I ran with the Grade 11 / 12 girls for the last time, representing the Merlins (red shirts). It had been forever since I ran, because of Chloe, so it was good to find out I could still do it.

Thur 7 September

We gave Chloe her first solid food after she turned six months. She was very skeptical of this new taste and texture -- banana. Now she loves them and eats with abandon!

Fri 8 September

It's hard to see in this photo, but this tree was a sign that monsoon was on its way out. Many of the ferns growing on the trunk are yellow.

Mon 11 September

Where's that baby?

Wed 13 September

More first foods -- apples!

Sat 16 September

It's really difficult to keep anything tidy with a baby. I admit I'm a bit OCD about putting things back in their rightful places, so it's been tough to deal with all the physical stuff that goes along with parenting.

Mon 18 September

I swear this is the last "Chloe eating..." photo. But I had to document just how Indian this baby is -- she's munching on chapati here.

Wed 4 October

After a rough night, it was good to see a happy baby. I think she's saying, "Hey mom and dad, I'm seven months old now!"

Mon 9 October

This past week was Activity Week. I'm usually with the older kids, trekking or on a cultural trip, but this year I had to stay closer to home so I could feed Chloe. I was assigned to work with the ECP (like preschool) and Kindergarten kids, and we had a blast. Here we are learning about Korean culture at the Juns' house. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

OMY: 19-31 August (W6&7)

We somehow made it to September, tripping through the first seven weeks of this academic year! Monsoon is still raging, though the ferns are yellowing -- a sign, I hope, of the waning rains. I wasn't super consistent about taking photos this week... too much sleep deprivation.

Wed 23 August
I call this one "Aftermath of Co-sleeping." Chloe's been sleeping poorly for a bit now, so out of necessity I've returned to co-sleeping with her so I can easily feed her in bed and allow Chris to get some good sleep.

Sat 26 August
At least she's cute -- and getting stronger by the day! Chloe often does these Pilates-style lifts during playtime now.

Sun 27 August
Chris and I toasted the end of his last day at Proofreading Pal with some nice gin and tonics. No more Sat/Sun work shifts!

Tue 29 August
This is a tired momma, getting ready for another night of (maybe) sleep. I'm clinging to the "this too shall pass" comment I hear so often.

Wed 30 August
Chloe is getting better at taking milk from a bottle -- finally! What this means for me, though, is more pumping... Not my favorite, but I'm getting into a rhythm.

Thur 31 August
It was a big football week at WS... We had Interhouse competitions in the AMs twice this week, and Goalathon (a charity tourney) this weekend. More to come...


Also, here's a poem I've been tinkering with for a few weeks. Not "finished," perhaps, but a fairly firm draft...

Seeing you --
your skin tightly tired,
the slight thumbprint bruises
beneath each eye --

I grasp for words, pull at “diminished,”
“less than.” You seem a scanty echo
of your previous self.  

But this picture misses out:

the tender gaze you offer your daughter
as she stalks that painted alligator across the room,
clumsy, but determined.

your growing smile as she
pounds indiscriminately on your beat-up piano,
making something only she could call “music.”

that thrill of recognition you feel as she
wraps her plastic doll deep in her arms --

whispering “I love you, baby.”


Have a beautiful Labor Day weekend, America-friends!
love, mel

Saturday, August 19, 2017

OMY: 5-18 August (W4&5)

Due to some technological issues, I couldn't post last week. Here's what we've been up to!

Sat 5 August
Chris spends most of his weekend days proofreading, so this is a common sight on a Saturday. However, soon he'll be all done with his required editing shifts, so we'll have more fun family time on the weekend. Yay!

Sun 6 August
Monsoon days... At least I didn't have to go to school...

Mon 7 August
I go a little nuts on, especially since we now have a baby. What a random order this was: toy box for Chloe's growing pile of crap, real vinegar, and chocolate-flavored creamer.

Tue 8 August

We've been cleaning out some drawers with a look to the future, but for some reason every time I find these temporary tattoos of our friends' faces, I can't throw them out... :)

Wed 9 August
One perk of coming home to feed Chloe midday is access to fresh food from our ayah, Shanti. Here are some of her amazing aloo paranthe. So yum.
Thur 10 August
Now that she's into month 5, Chloe's been rolling from back to front like a boss. Unfortunately she still often gets stuck in this position and begins to cry, but she's getting better at rolling out of it.

Sat 12 August
Chloe's been more and more interested in Sadie these days. It's pretty cute.

Tue 15 August
It's my last Indian (and Korean) Independence Day, and Chloe's first. We got dressed up for a day on the town...

Tue 15 August
I spent a lot of the ceremony pacing around with Chloe near the table tennis area; parenting certainly changes my perspective on different events - literally and figuratively.

Tue 15 August
In honor of Korean Independence, our Korean staff/students shared this terrifying but fun game!

Tue 15 August
An unfortunately blurry photo of Grade 11, the class I advise.

Wed 16 August
Character diagramming with A Passage to India with my Grade 12 students. I have a lot of fun unpacking literature with these guys and gals.


Some other stuff happened, but I clearly didn't document it. It's amazing how quickly this school year is going...

Have a beautiful week,
love, mel