Kids Say the Darnedest Things

I hope to make this a long standing post. Unfortunately, my mind is like the wind and is easily shifted and diverted. (Look a squirrel!)

We got a message from a friend while we were on vacation. He said he was coming to Seoul the same day we were returning and he would like to see us. Travel being what it is at times, we never saw him that day. However, the next day, as I was teaching there was a commotion outside my door and I looked up to see my DH and our friend outside the door.

The gentleman, a true Spaniard,  burst in and says, “Let me just give you a kiss.”

He walks over, kisses me on the right cheek and dashes out of the room.

My little Korean cuties were left speechless. A man walks into our class and kisses her in full view? All while her husband is watching? Wha-the-what?

I spent a few minutes explaining that unlike in Korea where you greet with a bow, and unlike other places where you might shake hands, to many Europeans it is customary to kiss one or both cheeks.

“Ahhhhhh,” is the response.

But then…one little thinker still isn’t sure what the limitations on this are and asks,

“So does Mr. Gerhard kiss teachers too?”

ha.

 

35 Boxes, Pom Poms and Googly Eyes

I kid you not!

11830666_10204772916949694_785244521_n-1
Here are the first half that I emptied.

I walked into my new classroom and there were no less than 35 boxes of materials and supplies that needed to be unpacked. Turns out the high school science classes are right above my room and they were updating some of the equipment, which meant they needed to get into my ceiling. Which meant that everything in the room had to be packed and moved to a safer location in case of whatever might happen.

Regardless, boxes 1 – 6 weren’t so bad. Boxes 7 – 10 were eye openers. I will never complain about not having enough resources. There were books and games and manipulatives. But boxes 10 – 35 nearly took my sanity. Some boxes were just big candy jars like you would get a Costcos only they were filled with dominoes or buttons or the like. Those were easy. Put it on a shelf and done.

Others were painful. They were the ones that were filled with tiny little pieces that go to something that I have yet to discover. Or does it. And why are there all these coins in every single box? Seriously!

Can you see the look of frustration? Thankfully, I had a little help from my DD.
Can you see the look of frustration? Thankfully, I had a little help from my DD.

But the thing that got me was the googly eyes and the pom poms. I mean there were many. Many. MANY! of each. I am not sure that if I started on day one and used googly eyes and pom poms for every arts and crafts activity all year long that I would be able to use them all. (The devilish side of me wanted to put googly eyes and pom pom noses on every item in my class but I figured I didn’t need to frighten this group so soon. Let them meet me then they can be scared. JK. (Just kidding.))

On Friday I nearly lost it. I know that all the administrative mumbo-jumbo is necessary. Of course I do, my husband is an administrator and I have been teaching for 22 years. I know the importance of getting information out to teachers so there is no miscommunication down the line about grading, the dress codes, work hours, sick leave and the like. But somehow I was struggling on Friday.

Believe it or not. This is progress.
Believe it or not. This is progress.

All I could think about were the boxes that were yet to be unpacked. I created scenarios in my head of other teachers working on planning. Yearlong plans were in place in every grade but mine. I was sure of it. Or they socializing in the staff lounge (somehow in my head they were all holding coffee cups) while I was still struggling to unpack and put away googly eyes and pom poms. I just wanted to go back to my room and find Barbra Eden standing there and demanding to grant me some wishes.

No such luck, if you were wondering.

I ended up just sitting there looking at it all. It was just too much. I was overwhelmed and overstimulated.

Thankfully, one of the maintenance men brought me some new supplies for the class. Guess what was inside?  Were you going to say pom pom and googly eyes? Cuz’ if-in you were, you would have been right!

Pom poms
Pom poms

Medical Care in Some Parts of Asia

My new job required me to have a health check up by the establishment of my employers choosing. That statement might sound like I am about to rant about the unfairness of having my body prodded by people I didn’t choose. But that isn’t what I am here to say.

The second official day of work, all the new teachers were loaded on a bus and shipped across town. A nice young man in bright blue scrubs comes on the bus to address us and break us into groups to get our physicals done. We are each handed a brochure type paper with a wristband that resembles something like a fancy sports watch without all the fancy digital stuff. We were lead down a very IKEA/contemporary corridor to our changing room. Turns out your wrist band also locks your locker where you have kept your belongings. Next, you are escorted to a room number that is listed on your personalized brochure. Outside the door you scan your fancy wristband and you instantly see where you are in the queue. My blood work was complete in less than five minutes. Efficiency is the name of the game. On to the next room to scan my wrist so I can queue for my next exam. In all, 13 of us were in and out in less than an hour. The returning staff like to refer to it as a visit to the spa.

In other countries we have left with a full medical report after speaking to a doctor about all of our results. But that will cost you another hour or so of your day.

Another benefit we found in parts of Asia is the idea of Saturday and Sunday (oh and did I mention evening?) hours. How f*ing civilized is that? You mean I don’t have to miss work to get medical attention? How f*ing civilized is that? Plus, you walk out of the appointment with any and all of the medicine you were prescribed. Say it with me, how f*ing civilized is that? And you say you want to see a dermatologist? Oh, you are going to have to wait…until later today or early tomorrow or later in the week AT THE LATEST. No, I didn’t say weeks or months, literally days.

I am a happy camper when it comes to medical treatment here in Asia. Do I mean every place is like this? No. Does this mean that medical care is readily and equally available for the masses? No. And I am sure there is a back-story I am not aware of. But for now I am going to relish in the lovely spa-like care I can get.

Starting Over Again

Ah, here we go again! Another new country. Thankfully this one is in Asia, my favorite of all continents.

Moving to a new country means new housing. New housing means setting up a new house. And so it becomes a kind of attachment to any greeting, “Hi, nice to meet you. Are you settling in?” We are now in our sixth country and the fourth in as many years. We are not stressing about things like bedside lamps (but I will soon when I find a good book to hold), matching plates (but I never did care about that stuff), a silverware holder (eh, kind of a luxury item, right?), and the like. All in due time. All in due time.

Oh, that is, until I get to IKEA! Then it is GAME ON!

We Made It Safe And Sound

Sometimes travel can be just awful. But this time it was smooth as glass. Bags were checked all the way through. Gates were where they were supposed to be. Flights left on time. It was one of the easiest travels we have done.

And now we are here.

Our apartment? Tiny. The amenities? Minimal.

People keep welcoming us and asking if we have everything we need. All we can say it, “It will all come in due time. We are in no rush.” Okay we were in a rush to find a blanket for our niece to use. That is right. We had a visitor 5 days into living in our new environ. But I generally respond that we are aware of the three weeks of awkwardness it takes just to find the basics to feel comfortable in a place. We will get there.

If you ever want to dive right into the big tourist attractions in a new location, have a guest come the first week you move in. We had to learn buses and subways so we could get places. We had to find restaurants and tourists sights, immediately. It was actually a really good thing. It got us away from the mix of new teachers. (There is nothing wrong with new teachers. They just need to experience to learn. We are old hand at this. Especially after moving four times in as many years. Folks, don’t try this at home.)

So we are in our new tiny place with our unlimited hot water and our heated floors. We have a shower in our bathroom that is not a separate space from the other pieces. The shower head hangs directly over the sink and gets the entire bathroom floor wet. But it is our new space and we are learning to love it already.

I Can’t Wait To Work

Seriously, having too much time on your hands doesn’t make me more productive. Having things that need to get done and being around inspiring people, that gets me going.

I have had the honor and privilege of not having to work for a full school year. It was H-E-double hockey sticks it terms of me getting my back end moving. Now I did get back my love of sewing. I did get through plenty of seasons of my favorite shows but did I get anything really done? Eh.

I am so ready to work. This morning I got up and combed through my Atlas site. Talk about your bored individual. Actually, it was for the love of the work. I can’t wait to get back into it. I want to have a purpose and do what I love to do. I want to engage. I want to teach. I want to observe. I want to inspire. I want to guide. I want to see those little light bulbs go off when the learning clicks.

I even look forward to talking to other adults.

Though the next two weeks as we close up house and move to our new location is going to be code level red, I am ready to move and shake in my new teaching surroundings.

Ants In the Air Con

I wrote the following while living in Myanmar. It was a glorious time but it was not without its challenges. This was the first story I ever wrote that just came out of me. It was the story that just had to be written. It isn’t great literature. It isn’t any great epiphany. For some it might not be that entertaining. But it was there and it needed to get out.

Ants in the Air Con

So let’s start at the beginning. The beginning being when we moved to the Dominican Republic (DR). In the DR there were ants. And when I say ants I mean the, “Oops, I dropped the tiniest, bittiest little bit of chicken (substitute any food that attracts ants) and now there are 200 ants surrounding it and calling all the neighboring colonies within a 20 meter radius to join in the pickins’.” I have lived with ants. I know ants.

In the DR I picked up this wonderful product from China called Zebra Chalk…Non-Toxic it said in nice friendly letters, which of course, I have come to realize means it might kill you or it just might work. Thankfully, as far as I know, it was the latter. You would take this chalk and lay a line down where you knew the ants were coming in and you would have a slaughter on your hands within the hour. One time I put it in a hole in our bathroom (to rid your house of termites you must drill holes down through the tile into the ground below the foundation. This makes for a great entrance for ants once the termites have been killed off.) Within 45 minutes the floor went from pure white to speckled with black dots: the dead remains of some 2 or 3 hundred ants that had built a home in this hole and were looking for a great escape. Thankfully, although not for the minor Buddhist in me, that was the end of that nest of ants. I bought this product by the case and shared it with everyone I knew. Please, don’t let me return as an ant in my next life. We also learned that the father from My Big Fat Greek Wedding was right. Windex works wonders and is an instant ant killer. It was our ‘go to’ attack method. The ants came from everywhere. We would sometimes follow trails of ants out of our apartment, up stairs and right to the door frame of our neighbor’s apartment, leaving a wake of dead ants in our path. Love the Windex.

So now you have a little prospective of where my obsession with ants comes from. We spent hours ridding the house of them and making our home safe for falling food. (I will digress and say that the mice soon found a way into our home to pick up the slack. I considered getting a Chihuahua to chase them off but heard it from reliable sources that they just stick their noses up at them and won’t even bark and let you know the mice are there. Hence, we still have no dog.)

So now we are in Myanmar. The ants here are like the melding pot of the United States. You have the itty-bitty ants that seem so harmless, but will swarm anything that is dropped nearly before it actually hits the floor. They are also notorious for being everywhere in the house; couches, bedrooms, sinks, on toothbrushes, etc. Most mornings during my morning infusion of coffee I need to swipe a few that are working their way around the couch and up my arm– thank you Maeve for you inability to get the crumbs into your mouth but rather around the general seating area we commonly share. Ants everywhere.

You have the mid-sized ant. It is usually found near the kitchen sink and is looking for that one dish that wasn’t pre-rinsed enough to sit in the sink for more than ten minutes. They usually run or are usually around at the time of year when water is scarce. They create long lines of, “Hey, look what I got. Quick, call the troops. Let’s make good work of this, “ sort. Hello, Windex!

But there are also these larger red ants. Normally, red ants are of the kind that you run from rather than be attacked by them, but those aren’t the ones that are seeking free handouts and living conditions in my house. These are the celery of ants; mostly made of water. They, kind of, pop when you kill them. But thankfully, these are not the ones we are finding presently in our humble home.

Lastly, there are the big, black ants. They are very similar to ones we find up at the cottage. They are big. They are looking for food and they are easily stomped on although they’re rather resilient. These are the ants that are the main characters in the story I am about to share.

So it is hot in Myanmar now. Not like the one week we get in central New York where you wish you had air-conditioning but know it is really not all that cost effective and you are going to rip it out of your window after using it four times all summer, hot. This is a constant flow of humid heat that sends you running for cooler air. It makes me fully forget the ozone, global warming and the cost of natural gas, altogether. As yet another digression, Myanmar gets lots of energy from its hydroelectric plants, but since we haven’t seen rain since late October, I hope you can grasp magnitude of how precious power is right now. Hence, the ants come to visit to see if we will provide them with the water they so desire.

Why are you talking about hydroelectric plants and ants, you ask? I will tell you why. I live with guilt. I do. I feel guilty that we run two air conditioners in our house to cool down three people so we might all have a restful nights sleep. Damn, I am a selfish, electricity-sucking bitch. So on occasion, to help alleviate a bit of the guilt, we will pull the extra mattress into our room and have Miss M sleep at the end of our bed. There, one less energy-consuming appliance to deal with.

So this is where our story starts. On a Friday night, Miss M is invited to spend the night at a friend’s house. Hallelujah, a little alone time for Tonya since Dr. J is off in Bali suffering through a conference about how to plan for next year’s sports programs. The pains he goes through… NOT! Plus, one less air conditioner to run. Saturday night, Miss M’s friend spends the night at our house. They decide they need to sleep in my room with me because…who knows. They are little girls and get scared by the wind. Sunday night Dr. J is home and Miss M is missing her father so the mattress is once again at the foot of the bed. Before she finally falls off into a deep slumber I let Miss M know that Mommy and Daddy will be sleeping alone tomorrow and she will be back in her own room.

“No, Mommy, I have dibs on sleeping in your room for the rest of the school year.”

“No.”

So Monday night finally rolls around. We go through the usual battle of getting pajamas on, brushing teeth, finding a book, closing closet doors and underwear drawers and finally settle down to read in Miss M’s bed.

The air conditioner in Miss M’s room is connected to a power converter that protects it from power surges. Once you turn the surge protector on there is a two-minute lag time before the actual air conditioner turns on.

Miss M got her book. I had my Kindle. We were both part way into our reading when the air conditioner kicks in. At first it sounds like tiny pebbles are being raked through the air con’s ‘whirly-thing’ that shoots the cool freshness that we delight in. I shake if off as it has not been used on a few days. It will balance itself out in a minute.

Wrong.

The pebbles going through a fan sound continues. Hmmm? Curious.

Now I feel something on my leg.

Shit, it is one of those big ants from the kitchen. What the heck is it doing up here? I swipe him away and go back to reading my book and think nothing of it.

Twenty seconds later I feel another one crawling on me. This time it has my attention and I am annoyed. I sit up and look down where I feel this creepy crawler and notice that not only is there another ant crawling on my leg, there are now twenty or so other ants just passed my feet at the end of the bed.

Huh?

Being the brilliant person you are, you see where this is going. THERE ARE ANTS IN THE AIR CONDITIONER. And now that I have turned it on they are being catapulted out of the air con, with a cute little ‘ping’ sound and landing at the foot of Miss M’s bed.

Did I mention that 8-year-old girls can be scared by the wind? Well, ants flying out of their air conditioner is like that multiplied by a gah-jillion. So she gets shuffled off to sit in Mom’s bed while mom works out how to clean these critters up.

I must mention that these ants are not of the garden variety that you give them a little smack and they die. No these are the ones that you smash, they seem dead and then they are like something out the terminator and restructure their exoskeletons and keep moving.

Windex. Broom. Dust pan. Tissue paper. I have my tools of destruction and I am ready to take on this task.

Wrong.

Twenty-five minutes and four toilet flushes later the ants are still popping out of the air con at a rate of twenty or thirty a minute. You have the big ones, the winged ones and, of course, the eggs pelting out of the projectile air conditioning unit that used to give such joy. I give up. I turn the AC off and head to my own room to let Miss M know she can sleep with us again. I have been defeated by ants.

Epilogue

The following day our housekeeper attempted to do what I was unable to do…rid the air con of the ants. She, too, is met by defeat.

We call in the resources of the maintenance workers at school. They use their manly wiles to release the air con from its hole in the wall and take it outside for inspection. Some hours later they are awed and frustrated by the opportunism of these stealthily creatures. It takes them a good part of the day to rid the air con of the final ants and the eggs.

Miss M is once again restored in her room with an air conditioner that will allow her to sleep in her own bed in peace.

But the story doesn’t end there. After two full nights of sleeping in her own bed, disaster of another sort strikes. An underground, grounding wire for our neighborhood’s electrical supply has been severed and we are living by generator power alone. Hello, Guilt. Miss M is back at the end of the bed. The generator has been living on a three hours on-one hour off cycle four over 24 hours now and I just know that the ants are working their way back into the vacate space that is…Miss M’s air conditioner.

Epilogue to the Epilogue

I will never fear ants again! I, with the help of Pinterest, have found the cure to all my ant problems. I know I am still in trouble with the Buddhist ways, but since I don’t see the carnage, I try not to think about it.