Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Another one?!

But Mr. Ben, it's only been two days!

Over and over again I learn that lazy time breeds more lazy time: if I have a half hour, or four hours, of freedom (which totally happens when you only teach 2 classes), the initial thrill of an unstructured stretch of time usually gives way to utter, useless lethargy. There's so much I can pack into the 45 minutes between classes, but give me a free afternoon and I turn into an internet zombie. Usually it's food TV shows that get me.

So after an inspiring conversation with Peter (Yale 2012; second-year teacher here) last night, I decided to pack today with Stuff. During my free class periods, I powered through handouts for the next few days and observed an awesome 9th grade history class, and in between times, I caught up on emails and prepared for Glee Club rehearsal. And honestly, it felt really good. And I think productive time often breeds productive time: if I spend a school day getting things done, the momentum carries through into the evening. So I'm writing this post!

By request, a few specific updates:

I can't speak Arabic, but I can read all the letters, and write full sentences on an extremely limited set of subjects, and I am gradually building an arsenal of vocabulary loaded with such indispensable ammo as "the United Nations" and "lonely." Fortunately, I also know "good morning" (and, as of today, "good evening"!!). Despite the fact that English is the lingua franca of the school, plenty of Arabic gets thrown around, and those little doses of practice throughout the day definitely help strengthen my pronunciation and conversation. I kind of thought I'd never get to be the polyglot I've always wanted to be, but it seems that at the end of this year, I might be conversationally capable in four languages. Definitely not fluent, but hopefully capable. It's a start.

(Also, a plug for Duolingo, which has kept my French and Portuguese alive in the desert. Try it!)

Continues to surprise me. They are so much better at remembering their parts than they should be, given that most of them have never sung in parts before or never sung at all before. We are not a prizewinning ensemble, but boy are they dedicated - to be honest, I began the year feeling like I could do no wrong by them because they knew so little, but now I stress about every rehearsal because I don't want to let them down. I feel like we can't move fast enough; they're ready for a challenge, and fortunately there's a big one coming their way.

Our first performance is next week, at the Parents' Weekend Arts Showcase. Families and friends will make up the majority of the audience, and most of these kids have never sung for an audience before. Fortunately, there's strength in numbers, and they seem admirably excited to put themselves out there. I think it might sound terrible, but that's not the point. I am really proud of how far they've already come, and really excited to continue polishing them both as individual singers and as a group. I'm staying positive about next week's performance, however it turns out, because it's pretty awesome for 55 kids to be up there singing at all. Tonight's rehearsal was very productive and energetic; there's so much more to work on, but they've already taken big steps forward.

(If you're curious, we're singing my own 3-part arrangement of this musical masterpiece. Click now and you could be the 221,371,339th viewer!)


OK yes so a while ago I went to Jordan's finest tourist destinations, Wadi Rum and Petra. The former is a beautiful desert; the latter is a beautiful archaeological site in a desert. What follows is a photographical journey through them both:

1. The end of the walk down the siq, which is the path that traders once took to Petra down a long and forbidding canyon. Or something like that. Imagine traveling for miles and miles and days and days on camelback, and then getting a glimpse of this:

2. And then emerging from the canyon and it looks like this:

That's Ben and Chase in front of the Treasury! Indiana Jones fans rejoice.

3. Darien and his visiting cousin Aidan in front of the Monastery, which takes an hour's decent climb to reach from the base of the trail. Inside is a smallish, totally empty room with great acoustics. I will admit to singing a song in there, but I will not admit to taking video of it.

4. Wadi Rum in the evening. We were actually in a town called Disa, a little outside the official Wadi Rum reservation, but by all accounts it's exactly the same.

5. Sunrise over our camp entrance, Wadi Rum.

6. Camels! I rode one for a while. Check out how blue the sky is.

7. I think this one's the winner. If you need a poster for your movie about the desert, you know who to call. Wadi Rum, midway through our desert jeep tour.

I think that's more than enough for now. See what happens when you get too productive? Thanks for wading your way down here; hope you enjoyed the scenery. I'm going to go try to do something productive. Clearing my RSS feed by reading food reviews counts as productive, right?

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