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!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Year 1 Class Assembly and Buddha's Birthday

My "Teaching and Travel" blog has ended up being skewed toward the travel end of things, but I honestly do teach much more than travel!  Today was a big day for my Year 1 Class, the day of our class assembly.  Here at Stocks Green, each class has one day a year to show the rest of the school what they've been learning.  For our class assembly, it just made sense to do what we do every day, sing our way through the school year.  I love to sing with my Year 1 kids, and I do have a song for just about everything, so we narrowed it down to just 20 songs, including songs about some of our science topics, religious education, literacy, math  and songs about some of the American holidays that we've celebrated. We also tossed in a few little ditties that we sing every day to help us transition from one activity to another, like our lunchtime, clean up and time-to-go-home songs and some refrains from our favorite books about our class mascot, Pete the Cat.  Four of the children were the narrators of the story of our school year and beautifully read their parts, setting up each song in turn.  As we sang, different members of the class stepped out front to share some of the art projects we've done this year to support the topics we've covered.  It all went very well, and we got great reviews from the audience.  We had LOTS of parents show up, which was kind of amazing since the assembly was at 9:00 in the morning.  It was also pretty incredible that we actually did get the show on the road by 9:00, as school starts at ten minutes to nine.  I was really proud of my class for the fine job they did at the assembly, but I think my favorite part really was after it was all over.  Typically after a class assembly, the kids go back to work and the parents gather for tea and biscuits (that's cookies to you and me, if you're American) but somehow it just didn't seem right for the kids and parents not to get a chance to connect on this rare occasion that the parents are allowed in the school.  So I decided to buck tradition and get them together for a bit of a hoedown.  For the past few weeks, the most-requested song in my class has been the "Crawdad Song", an old camp favorite.  The kids love it because it gives them a chance to get up and dance. I thought it would be nice for them to get to dance with their parents, so after the rest of the school had gone back to work and the parents were heading toward the tea, I had my kids invite their mums and dads to join us skipping around and swinging our partners as we belted out the song about the crawdads.  It was fun, and just really sweet to see the parents enjoy this time with their kids.  Then it was right back to work as usual.  Later that day, our head teacher (principal) said to me that she wished OFSTD (the dreaded school inspectors that supposedly are supposed to descend upon us at any moment) had come while we were dancing, as that's what she'd like them to see, a school filled with spirit of fun and partnership.
And speaking of assemblies, yesterday it was my turn again to lead a Key Stage 1 assembly (90 kids, ages 4-7) on the topic of Wesak Day, which is Buddha's Birthday. That's not something I'm really an expert on (to tell you the truth, I'd never heard of it before) but we all learned a lot about Buddha, did some yoga, and of course, sang a song, a catchy little tune that has been stuck in my head for 2 days, even now at 3:00 in the morning.  Once again, I'm learning more than the kids, but I think that's what this exchange is all about.  Okay, time to catch a few hours of sleep before heading back to school for more fun!  

P.S.  Sorry no photos, but I was too busy playing the guitar at the assembly to take any.  If I can get any from the parents who were at the assembly, I'll try to add some later.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Roman Roamin'

A while back my friend, Catherine, asked me to list the places I wanted to travel to while I'm living here.  One I mentioned was Rome, and she said Rome would be do-able over a bank holiday (that's what they call their rare 3 day weekends here) and she'd make all the plans for us to go.  I know I'm not going to get a lot of sympathy when I say this, but I'm so busy traveling whenever  I'm not teaching or lesson planning, that it's really hard to find time to actually plan my travels.  Poor me, right?
Anyway, Catherine's goal is to visit 40 countries before she turns 40 (which she is going to do easily, as she's already visited almost 40 countries and is not so near that number in age) and she hadn't been to Italy yet, so she got right to work doing one of the things she does best, making reservations.  

Catherine arrived in Rome a day ahead of me, but when I got there on Saturday morning, we headed off to Vatican City the first thing.  

Me and Catherine in St. Peter's Square
We joined in the throngs of tourists and queued up for a tour of the Vatican.
The Pinecone
Don't ask me why, just google it.

Courtyard of the Pinecone

I really had no idea how vast the Vatican Museums are!  I'll just show you a few of the highlights.

Giant Granite Bowl from the Home of Nero
One of the Statues in the Hall of Muses
Mars of Todi
or as I like to call him,
"Crazy Eyes"
One of the Many Maps in the Hall of Maps
Even the ceilings were amazing!

We went to the Sistine Chapel, which was super crowded and the guards kept loudly shushing people. It was beautiful, however, and a delight to stand below Michelangelo's famous artwork.  
Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel).jpg (1707×775)
Photos were not allowed in the Sistine Chapel, so I had to
get this image off the internet.  

After dealing with the crowds in the museums, we ended up inside St. Peter's Basilica.  It is  huge inside, and even with lots of people felt wonderfully spacious.  St. Peter's is filled with almost countless pieces of art, but I was on a mission to find what I really wanted to see here, the Pieta.  I'd seen a copy of it before and really loved that, so I wanted to see the real thing.

Interior of St. Peter's

The Pieta was even more beautiful that I had hoped.
That Michelangelo was pretty darn good. 

One of the Swiss Guards
Now that's my kind of uniform!

As unlikely as this might seem, friends of mine from California just happened to be in Rome while I was there.  Rick and Karen Neal, who are some of the wonderful parents at my school in Meadow Vista, invited Catherine and me to join them for dinner in the Jewish Ghetto.  If you think Ghetto Food sounds anything but delightful, you would be wrong.  We ate at a lovely place at an outdoor table so we could enjoy the sights as we sipped our wine, ate our meal, and chatted.  I'm a seafood girl, and that might have been the best tuna I have ever tasted!  And getting a chance to talk about what's been happening  back home was a fabulous treat!

To get to the Jewish Ghetto from the Vatican, we walked across
 the scenic Ponte Sant'Angelo lined with angel statues. 

A Delightful Dinner with US and UK Friends!

On our way back to our hotel we walked by the Roman Colosseum
all light up for the night!   

We did get a sneak peek that night, but the next day was the day we were really focused on Ancient Rome.  So bright and early we got up and walked across town to one of the world's most iconic buildings and largest amphitheatre, the Roman Colosseum.  It's incredible to me that this gigantic ancient site is right in the midst of modern Rome!  The Colosseum was built between 70 and 80 AD, and could seat up to 50,000 spectators who gathered there to watch gladiators or other public spectacles.
Outside the Roman Colosseum, also known as
the Flavian Amphitheatre
We learned that below the level of the floor, which would have rested
on the supports you can see in this photo, was the space that the
gladiators and animals occupied before the contests began.

We also learned that the lower tier seats with the best view
were for the Emperor, Senators and Vestal Virgins.
The next tier up was reserved for nobles and knights,
 the next for ordinary Roman citizens
and the top tier, furthest from the action was for slaves and women. 
These two women seemed to have infiltrated the good seats!

There is a small museum within the Colosseum
walls.  We thought this ancient Roman looked
a lot like Sylvester Stallone.  Maybe his great, great,
great, great granddaddy?
Another view of the Colosseum

Flight Risk

                                                   "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"
Maybe not, but I couldn't help but use that line. Those of you who have traveled with me before know I am a bit of a flight risk.  I have a bad habit of wandering off to see what's around the corner and snap a few photos.  Well, we entered the Colosseum with one guide and were supposed to meet a different guide upon our exit, but I didn't spot the new guide, so I went to take a few exterior shots.  In the meantime, the new guide left with the group.  Oops!  That meant that Catherine and I were on our own at our next stop, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum.  We might have learned more with a guide, but it was nice to be away from the crowds and wander a bit at our own pace.  (Here's where I would apologize to Catherine, but she doesn't like me to apologize, so I will refrain.)   
Now I don't really understand where the Roman Forum leaves off and Palatine Hill begins (I suppose I would if I hadn't lost the tour guide) but I'll do my best to identify the photos below.  
The Roman Forum

Site of the Stadium

This is where the Vestal Virgins lived near the
Temple of Vesta.  

Statues of some of the Vestal Virgins
The Vestal Virgins were priestesses of the
Goddess, Vesta, and committed 30 years of their lives to her service.
They  had the task of making sure the  sacred fire did not go out.

Arch of Titus

Temple of Venus and Rome

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

Temple of Castor and Pollux and Column of Phocas

Empress Wannabe?
Emperor Augustus

After leaving the Forum, there were still more places to see that day, like the Bocca della Verita, the "Mouth of Truth".  No one really knows if this was part of a fountain or just an ancient manhole cover, but is is supposedly the world's first lie detector.  It is believed that if you put your hand in the mouth of the sculpture and tell the truth, your hand will remain attached to your arm.  If you lie, however, your hand will be bitten off at the wrist.  I decided to play dangerously and said that I would rather be at a baseball game than touring Rome, the most blatant lie I could come up with at the moment.  I still have two hands.  I think that whoever said this man of marble can detect a lie should have a hand bitten off.  Maybe both.

Telling a Lie to the Bocca della Verita.

Here's a street performer holding up a meditating man
with one hand.   No, I don't mean the meditator lost his
hand in a manhole cover, I mean he is being held up
on a pole with one hand.   No, the pole doesn't have one hand!
You know what I mean!
It's getting late.

So next we went off in search of the Trevi Fountain.  I'd heard of the fountain before, most likely from a movie or a book, but I really had no idea what was in store.  It was nothing like I imagined!!!  I pictured your basic roundish fountain in the middle of a plaza or something, but oh no, this is much, much more!  This is 86 feet high and 161 feet wide and dominates the Piazza de Trevi.  It's humongous, people.  And not only is it huge, it's amazingly beautiful!

Beautiful Trevi Fountain
Me and Catherine at Trevi Fountain

I'm tossing a coin in the fountain to assure my return.  This photo was taken at the same time as the other photos, but Catherine's camera that has a better flash. 

From Trevi Fountain we headed to another of Rome's most celebrated locations, the Spanish Steps.  Like Trevi Fountain, they were swarming with people, but we found a spot to stop and sit for a while amid the many flower pots on one of the 135 steps.  It's really a fun place to be at night;  lots going on.  I I had wondered what was Spanish about the steps, and learned that the name comes from the fact that they are a link to the Spanish Embassy which is located nearby.  Adjacent to the steps (on the right side of the photo on the left) is the house where the poet John Keats lived when he moved to Rome in hopes that the climate would improve this health.  It didn't.  Keats died of tuberculosis at the age of 25 in this house. The house is now a museum with memorabilia related to not only Keats, but also other Romantic poets.

The Portico of the Pantheon

We had tried earlier in the day to go to the Pantheon, but it closed before we got there.  We still enjoyed looking at it from the outside and taking a few photos by the fountain.  This was a site that Catherine really wanted to see, and she had to leave early the next day, so we decided to call it a night after our time on the steps so we could  get up at daybreak and head back to the Pantheon in the morning for a look inside.  It's a good thing we did, it's pretty impressive.  Built almost 2000 years ago as a temple to all gods, it is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.  It is in incredibly good condition for such an old structure!  Most of the light enters the building through the oculus, the opening at the top of the dome.  The height of the dome to the oculus is the same as the measurement of the interior circle, 142 feet.

Inside the Pantheon--it's huge.
My head kept blocking the oculus when I tried to get a shot
of us below the dome by putting my camera on the floor.
You can see a bit of it behind me.   
After our visit to the Pantheon, Catherine had to rush to the catch the train to the airport.  Since she was the only one of us with any sense of direction, she handed me a map with a few places circled on it that looked like they might possibly be close enough for me to manage to get to without getting desperately  lost.  I knew I would miss my friend and navigator terribly, but I still had a few hours left before I had to catch my train, so map in hand, I set off.  Not too far from the Pantheon is San Luigi dei Francesi, a church which is home to many beautiful paintings and frescos.  I really liked the Caravaggios, especially "The Calling of St. Matthew".  I think I identify with the "Who me?" look on Matthew's face.

Another nearby church known for it's artwork is Sant'Ignazio Church.  The ceiling of this church is really cool.  The church really does not have a dome or an arched ceiling, but Andrea Pozzo, a Jesuit brother, painted it too look like it does. It is very convincing, in fact if I hadn't read about this, I would have assumed that the windows, arches and domes were real.

A Small Portion of the Ceiling of Sant'Ignazio Church.
I loved Trevi Fountain so much the night before, and it was pretty close by, so I decided to go back for a daytime look.  Still as fabulous.

Trevi by Day
Oceanus in his Shell Chariot

The coin I tossed in last night worked!
 I'm back already!

Numerous times over the past two days we had passed by this very big, very white building and kept trying to figure out what it was.  Eventually we found it was the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, built to honor the first king of a unified Italy.  It houses a museum that wasn't open on a Monday, but that was okay with me, as what I wanted to do there was to go to the top, up where you see those winged statues.  There is a glass elevator that takes you up for a fabulous 360 degree view of Rome.  So up I went!

This building is not popular with Romans, who find it a bit garish...

....but the view from the top is great!

I had time for one more stop before leaving Rome.  What to do?  I decided to have a final pizza in the Piazza Navona.
Piazza Navona

View of One of the Fountains from my Cafe Table

My Farewell Pizza

After what might have been the best Margherita Pizza of all time, my  "Roman (Bank) Holiday" had come to an end; time to catch the train to the airport.   It's been crazy-crowded and often rainy, but I've loved every minute.  Arrivederci, Roma!