Welcome Friends! I hope you enjoy tasting these teaching and travel tidbits.
Come along with me as I attempt to navigate my way through a new country, school system, and life for a year!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

John Denver and Driving

I worked throughout most of this weekend, but since I wrapped things up by 7:00 Sunday night, I rewarded myself with a trip to a neighboring village to see a John Denver tribute.  It felt so American, singing along with "Rocky Mountain High" and "Country Roads"  No one else seemed to be singing along, but "John" (a.k.a  Ivor George)  said we could, and not just on the chorus either, so I took him at his word and belted out every tune (except for one about Earth Day--I'd never heard that one before; not sure how that happened.)    So much fun!  But speaking of country roads, driving here is really a challenge.  I am not exaggerating when I say that many of the country roads here are no wider than bike paths at home, most with embankments or trees that come right up to the edge (although I've never seen the trees being trimmed, so I don't know how they do that; are they just whacked off by the cars whizzing past?)  and some bordered by stone walls.  Now I'm not known for slow driving at home, but here I had to pull over twice tonight to let cars get by me, as the speed limit on these bike paths is 50 miles per hour, and no one really wants to be behind some scared-stiff American going 40.   So far I've never had to back up to let a car come the other way, but I'm sure my day is coming.  There are a few road markings that still mystify me, like the zig-zag lines on either side of the zebra (rhymes with Debra) crossings (which I though meant you can't stop there, but I see people stopped there all the time, so that can't be right) or the curvy arrows that come toward you across the middle lane.  Do those mean someone may drive straight at you at any moment?  Could be, as there are no yellow lines between any lanes, just white lines so there is no way to tell if a road is a two-way road or a one way road as far as I can tell.  Tonight I noticed a sign that really has me wondering. 

What can this possibly mean?  I took this in the dark, but basically it's a white circle with a line through it.  I believe a circle with a line though it means, "Don't do This", but there isn't anything in the circle, so don't do what?  And they are pretty serious about it, as these signs always come in pairs, one on each side of the road, so you better be certain you're not doing whatever you aren't supposed to do.  But there is nothing in the circle, so does it mean "Don't do Nothing" which I guess would mean "Do Something!"  But what should I do?   Maybe it means "No Full Moon Allowed"?  No, that can't be it, it's a full moon tonight.  I'm so confused!  Does anyone out there in Blogland know? 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fulbright Weekend in London

This weekend was our long-awaited chance for the US Fulbrighters teaching in the UK to come together in London.  On Friday night we, along with our head teachers and mentors and the UK teachers who have recently returned from the US, were invited to a reception at the US Embassy.  Since there were protests going on in front of the embassy, they had us sneak through the back door, which was rather interesting.  It was great to get a chance to talk to others who have been through the process, and just wonderful to see those going through it now.   I even met a UK teacher who had done an exchange in my hometown of Auburn, California about 20 years ago who is friends with my friend and former co-worker, Ann Fulweiler.  Small world!   On Saturday we had meetings most of the day where we all got to share how things are going with our exchanges.  Everyone is very glad to be here and embracing the opportunity to teach abroad whole-heartedly, although we are all dealing with different challenges.  It was comforting to know we are not alone in our challenges, and that we will get through the tough times with the support of our fellow Fulbrighters and even more than that, enjoy the good times!  One of the good times for me was going with some of my Fulbright colleagues to see Lion King at the Lyceum Theater.  It was awesome!!!!  I loved it from the very first note!  It is going on my list of all-time favorite musicals.
I loved how the actors were both human and animal.

This morning a group of us went to tour the State Rooms of Buckingham palace, including a special exhibit of the Queen's diamonds on display in honor of her diamond jubilee year.   I'm a girl with simple tastes, but it it was pretty darn cool to have a peek into the Queen's digs and bling!  And I think it was very nice of her to let us stop by since she wasn't using the place today.  After the tour, some of us continued on for lunch at Covent Gardens.  After about an hour on the train, I was back in my little village of Leigh.   I'll be up until the wee hours of the morning doing lesson plans, but it was worth it to have such a great weekend!

(In the spirit of full-disclosure, must admit that I didn't actually take these photos, as photos were not allowed during the play or in the palace, but I really did see these things!)

The White Drawing Room.
There is a "secret" entrance for the Queen behind the mirror on the left.
 Shh... dont' tell anyone!

The Diamond Diadem.
 The Queen wears this to the opening of Parliament  each year.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Another Day, Another Castle

At Chiddingstone Castle

Fly Fishing at the Castle Pond
Castle Interior

This morning I went to church in nearby Tonbridge, and along the way I saw a sign that there was a Country Fair at Chiddingstone Castle today, so of course, that's where I headed after the service. Chiddingstone is less than 5 miles from my house (still not the closest castle!) The castle can be traced back to the early 16th century. From 1955 it was the home of Denys Eyre Bower, who was a passionate collector of art and artefacts, many of which are on display in the castle today. There is a Japanese Collection, an Anciect Egyptian Collection, a Royal Stuart and Jacobite Collection (I'm starting to piece together the Stuart thing, still a little muddled on that one) and a Buddhist Collection. There are lovely gardens and a fishing pond on the property as well. The Country Fair seems to be mainly focused on different categories of dog shows. And falconry--the British seem to have a thing for falconry.
Dog Show at the Castle

I've seen Shawshank Redemption at least 50 times (it's my scrap-booking movie) so I kept thinking of this quote from Morgan Freeman, as Red,  "I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream."
Cricket on the Village Green

On my way home I drove past the Village Green where there was a cricket game going on.  I stopped by and got a rudimentary cricket lesson.  I like the part about knocking the bales off the wicket and think maybe that could jazz up baseball a little.  When I heard how long a cricket games goes, however, perhaps we had better keep baseball the way it is.

The home team has a lot of catching up to do, the opposing teacm has 185 points!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Kids and Castles

I survived my first week of teaching in England!   The kids continue to be just great, but boy, do these British teachers work hard!!!  A lot is expected of these very young students, as well as from this not so young teacher!  I did manage to squeeze a bit of fun into the week with our study of light and dark.  I thought these photos of our shadow puppet theater would be okay to post, as they don't show the kids' faces.  They loved making puppets and experimenting with which kinds of materials light would pass through and which shadows would show up in color.  I also learned a lot about what kind of paper made the best shadow puppet screens, as I had to experiment with that since my "especially made for shadow puppetry" screen is back in California.   I found that thin tissue paper worked the best. 

My Darling Class Doing Shadow Puppetry

Today, after a trip to a new farmers' market, I decided to enjoy the sunny day at Hever Castle.  This childhood home of Anne Boleyn is only 7 miles from my home.  (There are other castles even closer, but let's stick with this one for the time being.)  I learned quite a bit about Anne and all 6 wives of Henry VIII. ("Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived") A later owner of the castle was the American, William Waldorf Astor, who did a lot of restoration and added many of the gardens.  It's really gorgeous, with lovely rose gardens, Italian gardens, a yew maze, a lake, and a water maze on on the grounds.  Today was the "Country Life Celebration" on the grounds as well, that featured a quilt show, woodturners, and my favorite, felters!  I picked up a few new felting techniques that I look forward to trying. 

Me at Hever Castle
Castle Gardens
Woodturning Demonstration

Another View
Quilted Kites

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Day of School!

The big day finally arrived--my first day with the pupils!  (I'm trying to remember to use the word "pupils" not "students" as I normally do, as here "students" refers to university learners, not primary school learners.)  I have the biggest class I  have ever had in my entire career, 30 little darlings!  So far they really are a lovely class.  We had a fun day singing, writing, playing, learning poems and chants and learning the rules of the classroom.  We read about "Pete the Cat" rocking in his new school shoes and toured the school following clues Pete left us until we finally found him back in our own classroom!  They were so excited to find him!  The kids here had never heard of "Pete the Cat" books, which are favorites of my California classes, so it was fun to introduce these books to them for the first time.  The children all wrote about what they wanted to learn in Year 1 and we posted them on a bulletin board featuring our friend, Pete the Cat, where he proclaimed "It's all good!" as he so often does. The children all know the refrains from the first Pete book now, and it was fun to see that at free time some of them chose to write about Pete and included these refrains in their writing.  Visitors to our classroom were impressed that we already have learned a class poem, as we recited it to everyone who stopped by.  The feedback I have from the parents so far is that they are pleased to see their children come home so excited about school.  That was the first day.  I hope the next 194 go as well!

Monday, September 3, 2012


Penshurst Market 

William Shakespeare's Birthplace

I was locked out of school over the weekend, so there was only one thing to do:  travel!  I decided on the spur-of-the moment to drive to Stratford-upon-Avon.  Thanks to the internet, I got play tickets and hostel reservations, so after the farmer's market on Saturday morning (okay, I love my Auburn market by the scenic courthouse, but the Penshurst market is by a castle!)  I headed off to the land of Shakespeare.  First stop, Shakespeare's birthplace.  It's right in the cute part of Stratford.  I got a pass to see 5 historic places in Stratford, which is good for a year, but I got to all of them in 2 days.  That first evening I went to a fun performance of A Midsummer Nights Dream in a small attic theater.  The next day I started off at Anne Hathaway's Cottage.  It's a lovely place with beautiful gardens, including an enchanted woods that my Niwana friends will liken to our Fairy Forest.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Fairy Forest
Me at Anne's Cottage

Then I went to Mary Arden's Farm.  Mary Arden was Shakespeare's mother, and he spent much of his time here as a boy.  It's a fun place with lots of animals and activities,such as a falconry show and archery.  
Cooking at Mary Arden's Farm
Putting my archery skills to the test.
I did get an "A" in archery in college, not that I was accurate,
but my teacher said she graded on spirit,
 and evidently I have the spirit for archery!
Falconry Show

Then I went to New Place, Shakespeare's adult home, Hall's Croft, the home of one of Shakespeare's daughters, and Nash's House, the home of one of his granddaughters.  After following the Shakespeare trail this far, of course I had to go to Trinity Church to see William's and Anne's burial places.    
Shakespeare's Burial Place at Holy Trinity Church

I ended my trip by going to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform The Comedy of Errors, which was fabulous!  I sat in the very front row and had an awesome view of the stage which was set on a giant aquarium of sorts, and at times when the actors ran near me the water would splash over the sides and onto my feet.  Let me conclude with a line from this play:

I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself. (1.2.36)