Archives for the month of: June, 2013

The end of the semester. Or that point at which teachers start complaining about piles of grading and how much they need a break. I get that feeling. I have my own stack of ungraded work right next to me  and I am very much looking forward to the summer break BUT I am also feeling incredible sentimental as we count down the days to the end. Specially when I think of  my final years students who I wouldn’t teach next year.

Part of it is that I am a big softie, I have been known to cry during Hallmark card adverts.

The other part of it is that my final years students, who I had earlier feared where too infected with senioritis to be teachable, have been regularly making my heart explode with pride and affection these last few weeks. Here are just three of the most obvious examples.

Firstly  I watch how they looked after each other. One girl has a serious, potentially life threatening heart condition and the level of compassion and support her classmates have shown her throughout the semester has been extraordinary. Another girl had a baby before the end of the semester and the way the others looked after her and shared her excitement when she delivered a healthy baby boy made this feel like a joyful occasion instead of the tongue-clicking mistake that some of the more judgmental faculty seem to see it as.

Second during a recent conference on cultural diversity in Bhutan, a group of final year student were assigned to be guides and helpers to a group of guests from remote villages in Bhutan who had come to display cultural practices like dance, song, food and craft production. The genuine engagement and respectful curiosity of the student hosts was just heartwarming.  On the final day they helped the visitors cook  up local delicacies, set up tables to display the food and then all of them took turns explaining to the other conference attendee what the food was and how it was made. They were so excited to be able to share what they had learnt and I swear that feeling was infectious. Below is one of my shyer students explaining about a kind of wild potato that has to be cooked overnight to drain it of its natural poisons.

mishmash 279

Finally, for our very last class of the year we had some guest lecturers from a local government entity who came to  talk about GNH and sustainable development  Afterwards they asked the students if they had any comments or questions and when the students were predictable tongue-tied, the guests turned to me for help. I decided to do something I usually never do and called on a student who I knew was working on a research project on animal rights, a topic that I knew she is deeply deeply passionate about. She is  a shyer student so I worried about putting her on the spot but I also knew that she really wanted to see policy changes that took into account the suffering of domestic animals in Bhutan. She stood up flustered and blushing but she pushed through her discomfort and for about 5 or 10 minutes gave a  thoughtful, well-informed and very passionate impromptu  talk on what she saw as the relationship between GNH and animal rights. Everyone was so impressed and she looked so pleased to be taken so seriously. It was just the most wonderful way to end the semester .

The end of semester  is really the point at which you realize that you have really gotten to know your students and how invested you  really are in their success.

And I ❤ that so much.

Everything Will Be Better

Spray painted on the wall at the old NPR HQ, just before the move to the new building.

I’ve been remiss. For six months, I’ve had access to this joint blog with a really great friend, and I haven’t managed to post ONE thing that I <3. Part of it is because in a lot of ways, it’s been a tough six months. But no matter how tough it’s been, or how much I’ve been working, or how much I think I struggle with finding this to smile about, the reality is there are a lot of things in my life that I <3, and that I’m grateful for.

So in an attempt to make up for lost time, I am posting a list of things that I have <3ed in the six last months, along with a promise to myself and to Dolma that I will find and post lots more things, lots more regularly.

Springtime in DC

DC Cherry Blossoms

When I moved to DC, the thing I was least looking forward to was winter. Growing up in Arizona, I got spoiled with constant sunshine, and T-shirt weather (or for Sarah: the possibility for cute clothes weather) pretty much year round. And as it turned out, winter was just as bad as I had thought. For me, it’s cold and dark and depressing. But the thing that I wasn’t expecting was just how amazingly beautiful spring would be. (I guess when you don’t have an intense winter, you also don’t have as intense a spring.) The relief of the warmth, the beauty of the sun, the happiness that longer days bring and the incredible awe of everything blooming really is amazing. And in DC, it’s particularly spectacular. While it’s easy to scoff at people who are so enthralled by DC’s cherry blossoms, it’s also wonderful to be able to take a walk on a spring day, and enjoy them. And they’re only in bloom for a week or two, so you really appreciate them while they last. My bf and I got a chance to take a really nice walk around the Tidal Basin when they were open, and I snapped this on my freakin’ cell phone. In person they’re even more stunning.

Spending Time Outside

Great Falls

This seems like such a simple one. But I realized that I don’t do it enough. And especially when I work weekends/overnights (ESPECIALLY in the winter!), it’s so easy to wind up waking up late to an empty apartment, and spend my day inside. But I’m trying to do it more often. So I’ve gone “hiking” a few times at Great Falls. (I put hiking in quotes because it’s far less strenuous for people who are more in shape than me…mostly it’s walking around outside. But dammit there are big hills!) Great Falls is on the Maryland/Virginia border, and it’s where the Potomac River actually builds enough power to cascade into beautiful waterfalls. So gorgeous. And I’ve been lucky enough to have a few friends visit from out of town that I can share the beauty with, and won’t make fun of how easy I get out of breath.

Having Friends Close By That I Can Be Silly With

Groucho Marxes

One of the things that’s hardest for me right now is having my closest friends scattered so far across the globe. I’m finding that not only is it hard to make new friends as we get older, but I’m reminded that it takes a long time, often years and years, to feel the kind of closeness that you do in a deep friendship. And while I’ve had a tough time with this in DC, I’m really grateful that I’m developing that kind of bond with a few incredible women. This is a picture of me and two of my closest DC friends. Sadly for me, one of them is getting ready to move to Minnesota for a fantastic job. But before she leaves, the other friend in this picture threw her a Marx-themed going away party. (Marx brothers, not Karl… The Marx Brothers have always been her favorites.) They asked everyone to come as their favorite Marx brother. I didn’t actually dress the part, but when I got there, the two of them had the Groucho face paint on. They asked me as I was coming through the door if I would do it too, and I said, “Sure! I’m in!” Then they told me that they had also asked everyone else who had come, and everyone else declined… So when I see this picture, it makes me really happy. It’s been a while since I’ve had so much fun at a party, and since I felt like I could just be myself in public enough to be this silly and unpretentious. I love it. (Extra note for Dolma: As we were driving home through a pretty cool part of town, we were stopped at a stop light and a woman crossing the street caught a glimpse of me. She immediately looked at her friend and screamed, “What the FUCK is that?!?”)

Going To Good Shows With Good People

The Black SparksPartly because my work schedule is as unpredictable and irregular as it is, I don’t get to (or feel like) going out to shows nearly as much as I used to, which is kind of a bummer because that used to be something that I did at least two to three times a week, if not four or five. (And half the time I had the luxury of my job “requiring” me to go!!) But making myself get out of the apartment even when I’m tired has been a good thing, and it totally pays off in the case of most shows. This blurry picture was taken at a Bethesda Youth Show. Their motto on Facebook is, “Teens providing other teens with a safe community and artistic opportunities.” This is a killer teenage punk band called The Black Sparks. They’re amazing and high energy, and totally encapsulate the spirit of punk rock. And when I was at this show, I noticed a group of teenage girls in the very front of the crowd. And I thought about how twenty years ago, girls in the front of a punk show was rare. And the girls and women of the riot grrrl movement pushed forward and carved out a place for themselves, and for all of us. And also at this show was another teenage band I love called Ladle Fight, who I brought in to NPR to play a “Tinier Desk Concert.” So this night made me happy for so, so many reasons. And even though I had been up for 23 hours when I went, it was worth it.

Amazing Food, Amazing Friends And A Night in New York

NY Noodles

It’s easy to become disenchanted with New York when everyone rattles on and on about how fantastic it is, and living in Brooklyn somehow mysteriously raises your cool quotient. But I had a chance to hang out on Manhattan’s Lower East Side with a very close friend who now lives in…yes…Brooklyn. And it was awesome! It reminded me of all the reasons why I loved New York to begin with. We basically ate our way through the neighborhood, and this is a picture of our first stop — an incredible western Chinese restaurant called Xi’an Famous Foods that had fresh made noodles. And where else besides New York could we get that, Venezuelan arepas, gourmet ice cream and European style fries (with mayo) all within a few blocks of each other?

Knowing That Other People Need Reminders Of Things They ❤ Too

What Makes You Smile

Ironically, this was outside the momo restaurant in the area where I live. I noticed that they had left green tags for people to fill in whatever it was that made them smile. What a beautiful thing it was to be able to see what all kinds of strangers find joyful. Looking at the cards, and knowing that sometimes we all need a reminder, somehow made me feel comforted and a little less lonely.

All this, I <3.

shoes  On Friday the shoes I wear to work almost everyday finally started to fall apart and I had to admit that I needed a new pair. Now when I lived in Arizona, I had an assortment of people who were fun to shop with for shoes and clothes. Bhutan has been a different story.  And even thought I adore shoes and shopping for shoes I have really put it off  and put it off and put it off because in my head it feels like shoe shopping should be social activity. But these were my last decent pair of work shoes that were not high heels ( I walk part of the way to work so heels are out).  I reluctantly realized I had to get a new pair.

At the end of the work day  I remembered that actually my oldest shopping buddy lived in town, actually lived in the same house as me. Obviously I am talking about my younger sister. And despite being very busy, she quickly agreed to meet me in town and we had a fun, relaxed afternoon wandering from shop to shop trying on shoes, advising each other and of course spending too much money.

I think sometime I spend so much time moaning about my lack of friends that I forget how lucky I am to live so close to my family who are almost always the best company in town.

And of course I really really ❤ my cute new shoes!