Four Questions.

Today I spent the afternoon away from school at a meeting with other district colleagues. It was a meeting of the Professional Growth Council, a group which consists of representatives from the different schools in the district. These meetings are used to discuss different initiatives, to plan, and to have discussion opportunities across the different levels and schools. Today’s meeting was quite different than any other Pro Growth meeting I have attended and I feel very fortunate to have been able to be there and to have been a witness to the sharing that took place.

As our assistant superintendent introduced the premise of the meeting he told all of us gathered that the day’s meeting would be different from what we may have come expecting based on previous meetings. He told us that for the next couple of hours we should attempt to quiet the to-do lists in our minds, to set technology aside, and to simply be present. He introduced three individuals who would be leading us through the first part of the meeting… a principal from a school in the district and two teachers, who also happen to be two of my very good friends (the same two friends, in fact, who encouraged me to start this blog way back when as I prepared for my 10 months in Salta).

These three educators attended a conference in the Fall entitled Indspire, a national gathering for Indigenous Education with a focus on reconciliation and moving forward together. While at a day led by Niigaan Sinclair they were inspired by a process that was shared. A process that is deeply personal, courageous, and one that is instrumental to the work of reconciliation. The process consisted of the asking of four questions. Questions that on one hand may seem pretty basic, but, on the other, so incredibly deep. One is meant to take these questions and reflect on them as an individual and then to share his or her own answers.

Today, these three educators did just that. They sat at the front of the room and answered the four questions in a deeply personal and authentic way. And I did what was asked of me, I sat and listened. I sat with the others gathered and bared witness to these courageous and inspiring individuals who were sharing their stories with respect to their own journey of reconciliation.

I left this meeting feeling inspired, wishing that all educators (and all people, for that matter), could take part in such a process. To bare witness to the vulnerability these individuals demonstrated and to then take the time to reflect on the four questions in order that we may, as a community and as a country, continue to move forward together in our journey towards reconciliation.

In my own effort to spend time reflecting on these questions I will, over the next few weeks, attempt to do my best to answer the four questions here. While sharing in writing is not the same as the sharing the individuals did today it will be a way for me to reflect in my own way, something I feel inspired to do after listening to my colleagues today. I encourage you to also consider these questions for yourself.

Who am I? – Why am I here? – Who can help me? – Where am I going? 

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair said, “We don’t need more eggshell walking. We need bravery to do this work.” Thank you to the bravery of the presenters today, may this bravery spread to all you have touched with your words so that we may do the work necessary to make true reconciliation a reality in our schools, communities, and in our country.

 

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Birthday Books.

I got books from a few people for my birthday this past week. Each one different and yet oddly, not totally unrelated. I haven’t had the chance to really start reading them yet though and honestly, I do not know if I will be able to in the next two crazy weeks (parent/teacher meetings, report cards, inquiry museum at school, the list goes on…) but if I make it through this insanity then I will have made it to spring break. Two glorious weeks of relative freedom and hopefully plenty of time to read.

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You might be wondering how I could find a common thread connecting all four of these books. You are probably especially skeptical abut how the brunch book connects but trust me, it does… at least for me.

After a trip to Bolen Books today my Spring Break reading list grew and now, not only do I have my birthday books to read, but all of these others I saw that caught my attention too…

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I now have holds on all these books at the library… hoping at least some will be ready for me by spring break.

I do not fail to see the irony (and hypocrisy perhaps) in the fact that I am a teacher-librarian who doesn’t actually read all that often… at least not lately. I have been finding it difficult to find the time to devote to it, there always seems to be something else that take precedent. And, in all honesty, I am often just too tired at the end of the day and find myself watching some mindless Netflix show instead. I do hope to make time for it in spring break though. Time to allow myself the chance to become lost in the pages of a story.

What are you reading lately? Have your read any of the books pictured above? If so, what did you think? I’ll try and share my own thoughts here once I get reading… if only spring break was already here.

One other book-related gift I have to share… is this not one of the the most wonderful mugs you’ve ever seen?! Check out more here… @idealbookshelf

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Same Blog – New Name

I last wrote in this space from the airport in Buenos Aires in December 2016. I was on my way home from my 10 months of living in Salta and I was reflecting on my experience, one that was more challenging than I had expected, but also so important. An experience I would not change. One of the things that will forever be associated with that time in Salta is this blog itself. Writing here was a release. A place of reflection and connection. I enjoyed the act of writing and being able to share some of the joys and challenges I was experiencing.

When I got home though, the writing stopped. I didn’t know what I could possibly have to share now that I was back to the routine of life at home. And so I slipped back into the same space I had left behind and life continued on.

And now, almost 15 months have gone by, and as I read over my last blog post I realize that I have not totally been living by the intentions I set forth at that time. Specifically the intention to live the questions…

Questions can be good. Questions can help propel us to learn new things as we search to find answers to our wonderings. Questions can also be overwhelming. When we dwell on questions, especially those related to the future, we can become stuck because in many cases the questions are impossible to answer especially when we look to others to try and answer them for us. I read something recently by poet Ranier Maria Rilke on this subject that really resonated with me.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/06/01/rilke-on-questions/

I found that his writing challenged me to view my questions in a new way. He writes about the importance of not letting our need for answers prevent us from living. He encourages one to instead live the questions and when we live the questions we will find that the answers will reveal themselves as they should and when they should just through this act of living. If, instead, we focus all our attention on finding the answers themselves we will miss out on the living that could have happened along the way and I am beginning to understand that without living our search for answers will be forever fruitless. While I think I have a ways to go before I will really be able to live and love the questions it is, I believe, a practice worth pursuing.

So, that brings me to where I am today. Over the last couple of weeks I have begun making some plans. Plans that have given me direction, something to work towards. Plans that are full of uncertainty and questions, but questions that I am determined to live. Because I do not want to miss the living that could happen by always just doing the ‘smart’ or responsible thing. I want to take advantage of the time I have now to live the questions – because I can.

I sometimes feel older than I am. I have, it seems, always been surrounded by people older than myself. People who are settled in their lives and families. People I admire and look up to. I do think, however, that I have let this mess with my head a bit in that it sometimes leaves me feeling like I too should be where they are in life.

But it is ok that I am not settled yet (at least that is what I keep trying to tell myself). I should be taking advantage of this time as opposed to wasting it wishing I was somewhere else. If I just spend this time wishing instead of living then I will probably find myself forever stuck in that state.

So, instead of wishing I was already somewhere else in my life I need to try to embrace where I am at and live this time fully. Because that is probably the only way to move on anyway, you can’t just jump from one thing to another, you cannot force it. You have to live through it.

Only through living can we get from one place to another.

So, here I am, finding myself drawn back to this space… same blog, new name. A name inspired by a reflection during my time in Salta. Living without recipes was the only option during my 10 months in Salta but how easily those recipes can slip their way back in when you return to the regular routine.

So with my return to this space I bring with me two intentions:

 the intention to live the questions & the intention to live without a recipe.

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Snow in Victoria on the 22nd of February… Victoria weather, a prime example of what it means to operate without a recipe.

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Learning to Live (and Love) the Questions

Well, here I am in Buenos Aires. I am 10 hours into my trip and have many many hours to go… my flight that was supposed to leave here at 5:30pm has been delayed until 8:00pm and so it has been a long wait here at Ezezia so far. With the delay I will miss my connection in Toronto making the 36 hour trip even longer… But in any case I am on my way. Me and my 3 slightly overweight pieces of luggage… (I blame it on the dulce de leche!)

Going home. Wow. 10 months ago I was just beginning this adventure. I was leaving the comfortable little corner of the world that I have called home since I was born and embarking on something new. I was excited. I was nervous. I was filled with questions about what these 10 months would bring.

I was thinking today about a moment at Brentwood that happened back in January. Something that I wrote about here in my first post. I had been talking to a Grade 2 class about what I was going to be doing and one little boy raised his hand to ask a question. This little boy is one who is near and dear to my heart. He was in my kindergarten class a couple years before and he has taught me so much. Anyways, he raised his hand and he asked me “are you scared?” And I told him that yes, I was scared. I was scared to be leaving my home, my family, my friends, and all that is familiar to me. I also told him that I think it is ok to feel a little bit scared when we are about to do something new and that we cannot let that fear serve as a road block. We must let it serve, instead, as a guiding post. Because if we wait for the fear to go away then we will never try anything new.

When I was preparing to come to Salta I was filled with questions about how the experience would unfold. It was a challenge for me to handle all those unknowns as I am the kind of person who likes to know. I like to have answers. I like to know what to expect. And because I didn’t have the answers I developed certain ideas in my mind about how my time here might be to try and fill the need of knowing. It is natural, I think, to build up certain expectations when we are anticipating something new in our lives. We use our imaginations to paint a picture of what the experience will be like in order to fill in the unknowns. My experience did not totally match that picture I drew in my mind. My experience was, for the most part, much different. But my experience here has been so important and one that I would not change. I have met some amazing people, I have had the opportunity to love so many little ones, and I have faced challenges that have helped me grow. My experience did not match that original picture in my mind but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good experience. On the contrary, I think it was exactly what it needed to be.

Just as I was filled with questions when I was preparing to come here I find myself now, on my way home, filled with questions once again. Because while yes, I am going home to a comfortable and familiar environment there is a lot I wonder about. I wonder when I will find an apartment, I wonder what it will be like teaching Grade One for the first time, I wonder what it will be like to go back to Brentwood after being away, I wonder if it will feel as if I never left… and these are just a few of the many questions that I find whirling around in my thoughts on a regular basis.

Questions can be good. Questions can help propel us to learn new things as we search to find answers to our wonderings. Questions can also be overwhelming. When we dwell on questions, especially those related to the future, we can become stuck because in many cases the questions are impossible to answer especially when we look to others to try and answer them for us. I read something recently by poet Ranier Maria Rilke on this subject that really resonated with me.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/06/01/rilke-on-questions/

I found that his writing challenged me to view my questions in a new way. He writes about the importance of not letting our need for answers prevent us from living. He encourages one to instead live the questions and when we live the questions we will find that the answers will reveal themselves as they should and when they should just through this act of living. If, instead, we focus all our attention on finding the answers themselves we will miss out on the living that could have happened along the way and I am beginning to understand that without living our search for answers will be forever fruitless. While I think I have a ways to go before I will really be able to live and love the questions it is, I believe, a practice worth pursuing.

10 months ago I was embarking on a new journey that would take me out of my comfort zone. A journey that would stretch me and challenge me in ways I never would have expected. And now, here I am, 10 months later, ready to return home again. I am bringing much home with me. I am bringing memories of all the people who I have met and who have been so kind and welcoming to me. I am bringing home a heart full of 110 little ones who I had the opportunity to get to know and work with both at the Jardincito and in the three Kinder 5 classes at Santa María. I am leaving Salta with new understandings, new perspectives, and also the determination to continue to grow and challenge myself in new ways. I am coming home with the desire to “be patient toward all that is unsolved” and to “try to learn to love the questions themselves.”

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Thank you to all those who played a part in my Salta experience. I am forever grateful to you all and I cannot wait to see you again in Salta, Canada, or somewhere in between!

Thank you also to all of you back home who have been so supportive from afar. I cannot wait to see you again (as soon as this 39 hour marathon of a trip comes to an end!)

And so it goes

* Can I just start by saying I strongly dislike packing. I don’t actually think it is humanly possible to expect the last bits and pieces that I need to fit into my suitcases to actually fit. Which probably means taking everything out and starting again in hopes that the results will be different if I can somehow manage to squeeze things in just a little bit tighter. In any case, I strongly dislike packing.

Well, now that I have got that packing rant out of the way I can begin. This week has been an extremely busy week… and it was only 3 days long. I barely slept for three nights in a row just because my mind was so full of all the different things going on (which is probably why yesterday, when I finally had some time, I couldn’t do much other than sleep). Not only was it a busy week with so many different things happening but it was also a busy week emotionally… many goodbyes to be said and with those goodbyes came lots of reflecting on my time here, time that is now very soon coming to an end.

On Tuesday morning we had the end of year Parent’s Meeting at Santa Maria. On Monday I spent a great deal of time stressing about it as I needed to prepare a little something to say about the year (in Spanish) and that sort of thing always makes me nervous. So I put it off until midnight and then figured I had better get started. I must say though, I was pleasantly surprised by how it went once I started writing (even at that late hour!) I found that the words were there (mostly) and I was able to write and express most of what I wanted to say in Spanish without relying on Google Translate or anything. Of course it was definitely not perfect but it made me feel good that I was able to do that. I guess it shows my Spanish must have improved at least somewhat over these last 10 months.

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The parents meeting went well, we were fortunate to have such a great group of parents in the class. And they surprised me with a video they had made with little messages from each of the kids. It was the sweetest thing a class has ever done for me and something I will keep forever. They also gave me a pair of pyjamas on which they had all drawn little pictures. I love them (and I love those kids!)

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My new pyjamas and all the pictures that can be found on the front and back drawn by my kiddies.

Wednesday was another big day. The morning started off with the Preschool end of year “show” and I must say it went so well. Each of the classes (1 year olds, 2 year olds, and 3 year olds) did one song/dance in English and one in Spanish and then we ended with singing a Christmas song all together. It was amazing seeing these little ones sing and dance. Even the one year olds. It makes you realize how capable children are (even such young ones) if you only give them the chance. What was most amazing though was seeing one of our little 3 year olds participate with such pride and happiness. This little boy has grown SO much over the year. When he began he barely talked and resorted to hitting his classmates on a regular basis, not out of menace but I think, for him, it was the only way he could find to communicate. He has grown so much from those early days though. He is probably the best in the class at his numbers in English and he always participates when we sing songs (sometimes sitting right in the centre of the circle as opposed to in the circle with the others but you know what, that is ok!) He has also grown in his ability to play and relate with others and this is reflected in the desire of the other kids to stand next to him in line or sit with him at snack time. When we had a presentation for parents a couple months ago it was so sad because he refused to participate (even though in class he participates so much) and we were worried that would happen again. Much to our amazement though he sang and danced with a huge smile on his face the whole time. It brought tears to my eyes. And his parents (who have been worrying about him this year) were so happy too. Having the opportunity to witness these little successes is one of the things that makes working with children so incredibly rewarding.

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Some of the teachers and kids (there are about 50 all together so this is just a small portion!)

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El Jardincito Equipo! I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this team. We had lots of fun together… and mate in the mornings was a nice addition to our routine these last couple of months 🙂

I remember at the beginning of the year I was very overwhelmed with things at the Jardincito. My desire to be very organized and structured along with my very Canadian perspective on teacher/kid ratios made it all a bit much for me. There were just so many kids, and so many who were just so young. As the year went on though things came together in amazing ways. We gained a couple more teachers, and we settled into a good routine. It is crazy to see how much the children grew and changed over the course of 10 months… such as Salum, who started out not even walking and who now roams the place as if he is the king of the place. I will miss the Jardincito very much.

Wednesday continued with more goodbyes at the Kindergarten Graduation. It was a beautiful evening. The children sang a song I had taught them at the beginning of the year and was one of their favourites (Peace Like a River), they received their certificates, Virginia (the director) spoke some beautiful words and there was a slideshow. I didn’t expect to cry quite as much as I did but it began when the kids were singing and then just didn’t stop throughout the whole slideshow. The tears came from a mix of things. Partly from the thought of saying goodbye to my beautiful students. And partly just from thinking about this whole experience here. Reflecting on the challenges but also on all that I have learned and all the memories I have made. Then it came time to say goodbye to each child and family. The tears were still falling at this point but it was nice to say goodbye to everyone and give my little ones one last hug. I remember before I came here I couldn’t imagine leaving the Brentwood kids and now that I am leaving here it is these kids I cannot imagine leaving. I guess it goes to show that no matter where you are the kids we work with will always leave an imprint on our hearts.

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Each class had their own t-shirts that they wore with pictures they had drawn.

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(most of) The Wonderful Kindergarten/Nivel Inicial Team at Santa Maria. Another group I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to work with and get to know this year. They are amazing educators and people.

After the emotional evening (on my part at least!) we got together at one of the teacher’s houses for dinner and then went for ice cream in the rain.

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Well, and so it goes… 10  months is coming to a close. I have 3 days left here in Salta and I have lots to do in those 3 days… mostly related to the seemingly impossible task of packing. I know, that it will get done though, it always does. I just hope it doesn’t overwhelm me too much in the  process. I am going to spend the last couple of nights with Jose and her family which will be nice so that means I have one more day to get my bags organized! Wish me luck 🙂

Can’t wait to see all of you back home again so soon (and save some snow for me please!)

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December is Here

Today was my last afternoon with my class at Santa Maria. It does not actually feel real though. I keep thinking that I should be going back again tomorrow and next week and so on and so forth. Maybe it is because I know I will still see them next week on Tuesday morning at the end of year parents’ meeting and then on Wednesday at the Kinder Graduation. Probably after that the reality will actually settle in. I also still have preschool until Wednesday so I think that is contributing to the fact that this doesn’t feel real yet, it doesn’t feel ‘over.’

Today, on our last day, we made wishes for Christmas. Of course the first wishes were all about the toys (they are kindergarteners after all) but then we moved the conversation away from material things and thought about wishes for our lives, our families, and the world.

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Some of the other wishes included: to make new friends, to give lots of hugs, to send kisses to God, to be a good friend, and for our families to be well.

Today as we had our last lunch together in the cafeteria I was thinking back to those first few lunch times back in March. Today the pop music was blaring, coke was being served (to celebrate the last day), and energy was high. I remember the first time I experienced this and how it was quite foreign (and overwhelming!) to me and yet today it felt normal. I know I will miss the music. I will miss all the kids joining in to sing along. I will miss the energy. Yes, it can be crazy at times. Yes it is (very) loud. But, the kids are happy. Lunchtime is going to seem quiet once I go back to having lunch in the staff room at Brentwood again in January.

I am also going to miss the love of the children here. It is seldom that I walk anywhere without at least 3 children holding my hands/fingers (today I think I had 5 attached to me somehow on the walk to the cafeteria). Yes, sometimes I long to have my hands free but then I remember the fact that these children really are so young still. They just want to feel loved and as a teacher that is my job, a part of my job that I believe is so crucial. I love my little students and for me it is of utmost importance that they know that. If not, no real learning can take place.

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Relax Time. It turns out a teacher can make a pretty good pillow during Friday Movies.

So, classes with my little ones are officially over. Even though I don’t quite believe it yet. Because really, how has a whole school year actually gone by? Yes, I will admit that sometimes it did feel like it was moving slowly but this last bit pasó volando. And considering that in fact a whole school year has gone by I keep thinking I should now be heading into summer break… but instead, once I am home, I will just have a short 2.5 weeks off before heading back to Brentwood again. I wonder what it will be like to be back again, will it feel like I never left? Don’t get me wrong, I am very excited to be heading back to the Brentwood community again, it is one that I love very much. I just wonder if it will seem at all different now that I have had this experience here? I suppose only time will tell.

img_7053Well, in addition to school, I have had some really nice days with friends here in the last little while. I enjoyed some pool time last weekend with Jose’s family. Including some good chats with Panchito (Jose’s son and one of my little students). I think at the moment this photo was taken we were discussing the difference between the words “bird” and “bear” two English words which are confusingly similar! He is always so eager to learn and we have had lots of great chats about English words, letter sounds, etc 😊

Last weekend I also spent a day with Virginia (the kindergarten director) and her family at her family’s farm – a beautiful place.

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It was quite a cloudy Spring day but during a pause from the rain we did some plum and peach picking. So delicious.

Ok, well, somehow it is 10:30 already and I am exhausted! Tomorrow I have preschool in the morning and we are busy preparing for next week’s little end of year “show” (which is guaranteed to be very cute… I mean how could it not be when it involves 1, 2, and 3 year olds singing little songs and dancing too!) Preschool has been extra exciting lately with the addition of a new pet turtle. And today I was surprised to see that a second turtle had joined the preschool gang… life is never dull at the Jardincito!

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Sometimes the turtle can be found inside, sometimes outside. Today, with the appearance of turtle #2 we had one out and one in. I am unsure as to if they were separated on purpose… 🙂

Well, I can’t believe I will be on my way in just 11 days, it really doesn’t seem possible. But I think the timing is just right as my last jar of peanut  butter is ALMOST empty after all 🙂

Goodnight and Happy December 1st to you all!

Giraffes Can’t Dance

Well, it has been a couple weeks since I have written and honestly life has been so busy I just haven’t really had many spare moments. It is funny because it feels SO much like June in my mind as we are winding down the school year and in the throws of all the crazy end of year busyness and yet it is November, almost December… almost Christmas!

On Friday we had our big Kinder 5 End of Year production of Giraffes Can’t Dance. While it was a lot of work and I spent much time stressing over my meerkats (I kept envisioning on stage collisions/meerkats flying off the stage) it all came together so well. The children had been counting down the days to the show for weeks beforehand and the excitement level was high the night of the show! What was most amazing was seeing our little 5 and 6 year olds perform in English with such big smiles on their faces. You could tell how proud of themselves they were (and I was sure proud of them too!)  While there were times when I felt like the rehearsing etc. was too much, especially at the end of the year when everyone is tired, it was, I now believe, all worth it. It will undoubtedly be a memory that the children will fondly remember and a great way to put their English learning in a different context.

The students were not only the stars of the show but they also contributed to the backdrop decorating. It was a pretty fun (and messy!) afternoon when we had all 60 kids painting with their hands and sponges to create our jungle scene. I think we ended up with just as much paint on all of us as there was on the paper, but of course, the kids thought it was the best thing ever. And wow, it sure did make the most amazing of backdrops!

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Backdrop painting in progress…

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The result! Some people said it reminded them of a piece of Monet artwork and I must say they are on to something… it has quite the impressionist look!

Some more of the decorations to help set the scene for the African jungle party!

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I wish I could show you a picture of the children and their AMAZING costumes but I don’t feel right posting the children’s pictures here so instead you’ll have to make due with a picture of us teachers 😊

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Virginia (Kindergarten Director), Rochi (the teacher I have been replacing this year while she has been on maternity leave but she has been back working on other things for the last two months – she was the brains behind many of the wonderful decoration ideas!), me (obviously), and Sole and Lili (the two other English Kinder 5 teachers)

After the show we went out to celebrate with some picadas. It was a fun end to a busy day/week/month!

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Well, that is about all for tonight I think. Hard to believe that tomorrow is the 21st of November. We only have 8 more days of English classes… how did that happen?! Also hard to believe that in 3 weeks tomorrow I will be on my way home. Have 10 months really gone by? The first part of my time here in Salta went by more slowly but these last weeks are flying by at lighting speed. I am so excited to be going home to my family and friends (and a limitless supply of peanut butter at the grocery store 😊) and it almost feels unbelievable when I think about how close it is now. I am also, of course, going to miss my little students and the wonderful friends I have made here. One such friend posted this today and I think it is so true. My time here in Salta has been filled with many different experiences and when I look back on my time here it won’t be the geographical place itself that will be most important. It will be the wonderful people met, the challenges faced, the memories made, and the things I have learned that will remain with me forever.

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“When you miss a place, what you are really missing is the time in your life that corresponds with that place; we don’t miss the sites, but the times.”

Walking with the Purpose of Seeing

I went for a walk this morning with a purpose and a specific destination in mind. But as I stepped out of my apartment and began walking down the street I decided I was going to walk differently today. I decided to try walking with the purpose of seeing. So often we walk with the purpose of arriving (especially when walking is your main means of transportation as it is mine) but how often do we walk with the purpose of seeing? Yes, sometimes maybe we will go for a walk by the ocean and that is our purpose, to take in its beauty. Or walk through the woods with no other purpose but to wander. But in the day to day busyness of life we often get stuck walking with the purpose of arriving. Our eyes are focused straight ahead and we walk quickly (in my case at least) and with purpose. What happens though when we change the focus to a walk of seeing? I walked a route I’ve walked many times before, a route through city streets; some busy, some quiet. But as I walked I focused on what I was seeing. I noticed my pace slow and my gaze was no longer straight ahead but free to go where it was drawn. I noticed that I was not thinking so much about other things but instead I was noticing things I’ve walked by hundreds of times before but never really seen, at least not consciously. I also noticed my breath which was an interesting side affect. I found myself breathing a little more deeply once in awhile. It turns out I was doing such a good job of walking with the purpose of seeing that I found I had ended up on the wrong street and several blocks past my original destination. But that was ok because my purpose was to see, so really, by missing my destination at first, I was able to see more than I would have had I gone directly there as planned.

As I was walking with the purpose of seeing I began thinking about how not only do we often walk with the purpose of arriving but we live with this same purpose. We live with a need or sense of pressure to get to the next thing. Always waiting to arrive at our next destination, to fulfill our next goal, or check off the next thing on our ‘life plan.’ What would happen if, instead, we were able to live with the purpose of seeing? Letting our pace relax and our gaze be drawn by the beauty around us. What would happen if we lived with the purpose of noticing the present moment, letting our breath slow down to the pace of today instead of it always trying to catch up with tomorrow? And if we lived with the purpose of seeing we might sometimes stray from the destination we have in mind (as happened on my walk today) but this would not be a mistake because it would mean we would be seeing and experiencing things we wouldn’t have had our path been the direct one we originally had planned.

When you walk with the purpose of seeing you must get over the feeling of self consciousness that comes from walking alone with a wandering gaze. When I stopped to take pictures of the beauty I was drawn to I felt like people must be looking at me and wondering why I was stopping to snap a picture of a random sidewalk, wall, or wrought iron gate. But then I tried to keep in mind that probably most people around me were walking with the purpose of arriving and not even noticing what I was doing or what anyone around them was doing for that matter. And, even if they did, what did it matter? Walking with the purpose of seeing, and living with the purpose of seeing, means letting go of the self consciousness that may come from moving at one’s own pace – not necessarily the pace of those around you.

So, I encourage you to try this exercise. Take a route you’ve taken before but let your gaze be drawn by whatever captures its attention. Take pictures. Breathe a little more deeply. Walk with the purpose of seeing.


And here is what I saw today on my walk through the colourful streets of Salta.

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“Don’t look at your feet to see if you’re doing it right. Just Dance.”

14711034_10209386138624170_8477925694890299729_oAs I have mentioned before, I started taking Folklore dance classes in September. I decided to try it out on a whim after seeing a posting about it on the Centro Cultural Facebook page. The class was on Saturdays and I, needing something to do on the weekends, thought it would be worth checking out especially since I love the music and it is such a big part of the culture here in the north of Argentina. Also it is not like it is something I can very easily learn back at home so I figured I might as well take advantage of the opportunity. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made here in Salta.

Unfortunately yesterday was the last class, at least for now, as the teacher, Belen (who is a dancer with the Ballet Folklórico de la Provincia de Salta), was selected to be a contestant in a dance contest called ‘Argentina Baila’ that will be broadcast on TV here starting in November. From what I gather it is a kind of dance competition such as Dancing with the Stars, however based on Argentinean Folklore Dancing. It starts with 50 participants (some individuals others who were chosen as pairs) from all across the country and then week by week dancers will be eliminated until the winner is chosen in December. It is pretty exciting that our teacher will be part of this and yesterday’s class was one of mixed emotions because of course we are sad to have classes on hold for now but we are also very excited to be able to be part of the excitement and I am very much looking forward to watching the program on TV  (finally the TV I have here in my apartment will come in handy… I rarely ever turn it on as TV here isn’t exactly very good usually).

I think what most struck me yesterday was how I felt a sense of belonging in this little group, even though it has been less than two months. In a funny way it almost felt like a little family. Everyone was so kind and we had lots of laughs as we fumbled our way through the dances together. And yesterday was especially neat as during the last part of the class Belen’s dance partner came and they showed us some of their dances, including the dance that they did for the audition that got them into the contest. It was beautiful. img_6529

So, while my Saturdays are now back to being quite empty I am so grateful to have been a part of this group, it is a part of my Salta experience that I will never forget.

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I got home from dance last night and saw this very fitting quote on Twitter. It is so true. Dance, move, smile, feel the music… and whatever your feet do will be ok.


This weekend was also made special (and a bit more social than usual!) by another gathering of people who I am so lucky to have become friends with here in Salta, my kinder colleagues from Santa Maria. As you may remember we won the costume contest at the Día del Maestro party back in September and the prize was gift certificates for meat (and lots of it!) so on Friday we got together to enjoy our winnings. It was a delicious meal but, more importantly, a night of wonderful company and lots of laughs 🙂

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8 Weeks Today

It is Tuesday morning. Not usually a time I spend writing here but I just finished my course discussion question for the week and while I should be going on to think about choreography for my meerkats (for our end of year show at school) I am not quite feeling it at the moment so I figured I would take a moment to write as it has been awhile. I also wanted to write as I was just realizing how in exactly 8 weeks today I will be stepping off the plane in Victoria after many many hours of travel. I will be stepping off the plane into winter after 10 months away from the place I have always called home. I will be stepping back into the arms of my family and friends and different familiar communities such as Brentwood Elementary and St. Philip Church. I will be stepping back into a life where I can speak without wondering if I am making sense and where I can cross the street at a corner with the comfort that cars will stop for me (well, usually at least). Back into a life where peanut butter fills the shelves at the grocery store and where little old Cleo the Corolla is waiting for me to get behind the wheel again. It is very exciting to think of all of this. To think of being home after so long.

But I must admit I also feel a small sense of apprehension. What will it be like being home again after so long? Will it be different after having been away for so long? Or will life go on as if I had never left? I am very good at asking unanswerable questions such as these.

This year has been a very different year for me, a year that has taken me away from the place I’ve called home since I was born, away from my family and friends, away from all that is comfortable and familiar. It has been a very different year and also a difficult year and yet if I were given the chance to change it I wouldn’t. Because yes, it’s been difficult but it has also been perfect. Perfect because it has challenged me, shaped me, and is teaching me so much. Not perfect because it’s been all sunshine and rainbows. But nothing ever is.

The last few years at home weren’t perfect either. I was starting to feel stuck. Yes, I lived in a beautiful city and had a wonderful job at a great school. I had my family by my side, wonderful friends and beautiful goddaughters who I love with all of my heart. And yet I was consumed by a lot of anxiety, something that I have dealt with for a long time. I tried to get help for the anxiety in the last couple of years but it didn’t really help. When I came here I think that I thought the change was what I needed. I think that on some level I thought I would completely embrace the newness and love every minute. I thought I’d make a ton of friends and become a social outgoing person and have lots of amazing adventures… well those were quite the high expectations I had for myself in retrospect. Because it is true what they say, you can’t just change your physical environment and expect everything to all of a sudden fix itself. Life doesn’t work like that. And yet, I think I was hoping that maybe it would.

So yes, I came here thinking/hoping things would magically change and I would lose the anxiety and figure things out by myself, however, quite the opposite happened, the anxiety just intensified. So, I started getting some help for that here. Something I never in a million years thought would be a part of this experience here in Salta. And yet, it has been and it has been so important. When you are far away from home and struggling it is very valuable (and almost necessary I have realized) to have someone you can talk to. And yes, my family and friends have been there for me, and I love you all so much for that, but it is different than having someone here who really understands the context I am living in and can just listen. Going to therapy here in Salta has been something I have been doing for myself and so haven’t talked about it and I don’t really plan on discussing it much more but I also felt like it was something that I cannot just leave out of my story here because it has been important to me. I am not doing this all by myself. I am not as brave as maybe I sound when I talk about the challenges. I have been getting help. I want you to know that because I want you to know that it is ok, and maybe I want to remind myself that it is ok too. It is ok that I have not been able to handle things all by myself. I am trying to figure things out and I am thankful that I have someone helping me do that. I am trying to loosen the anxiety that likes to take hold of me and I am trying to let go of my need to find answers to all of the unanswerable questions that sometime feel almost suffocating.

Maybe that is why I am here in Salta. Maybe this is exactly what was meant to happen. Maybe these 10 months were not meant to be about forgetting the anxiety in order to become someone else but maybe they have been about figuring out that anxiety so that I can find myself. I don’t think I will go home and be exactly who I was because I am not who I was when I left. Experiences change us, not always in the ways we expect, but in the ways they were meant to change us.

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