The kids are alright.

Last Thursday was a very meaningful day.

I played photographer at Aa’s event, Social Change in Action’s Be the Change Expo.

The SoCh team essentially comprises of individuals and interns who believe that children hold the key to a better, happier future, and run workshops that empower children to make the changes they most wish to see in the future.

It being me, I didn’t go easy on the kids at all. I love conversations and I believe being able to speak off the cuff reveals how much one knows about one’s subject matter. So I asked questions. I interrupted prepared speeches to have conversations instead. I probed. “What if it flops? Who should be responsible? What if people revolt? Do your peers hate you?” I love playing the devil’s advocate.

Most of the kids I met are amazing. They were bubbly and friendly. And were not afraid to admit that there might be flaws in their plans. They believed in goodness, in kindness. Some believed their actions can lead to great things. Others believe that small acts from individuals are what ultimately counts.

So a few kids read off their charts and Powerpoint presentations – but hey – those were beautifully done, and I say A for effort, guys! Apart from the foreseeable and understandable jitters at the start of the day; one teen who was more interested in his mobile; another who whined about everyone taking her picture (hmm)… I had such an amazing time.

The kids from Endeavour Primary, particularly, impressed me heaps. While other groups where still busy setting up, or chitchatting, waiting for more people to arrive, a young gentleman – cool as cucumbers – approached me and asked if I would like to visit his school’s booth.

Their project was simple – encouraging their peers to keep the library neat and clean. The way his team answered my questions charmed me thoroughly though. They brought up the importance of being ‘socially aware’ and ‘responsible’ when I asked them how this project is important beyond keeping the library clean. When I asked how this project would benefit students after they leave the library, they tell me that these actions ‘become habits’, and students will not stop at keeping their libraries clean – they will keep their canteens, their classrooms, their homes clean as well.

Their responses were in no way scripted at all – I threw far too many curveballs. They were sincere, honest, and they lived and breathed their projects. And it is that passion and belief that really moved me. Several groups with older students from ‘better’ schools had fantastic projects, but it almost seemed as if they felt their own projects were beneath them. They were momentarily caught off guard when I asked questions that were not expected, and sometimes, the problems in their work were so apparent, but even through leading questions, they fail to see them.

Endeavour’s teacher-in-charge as well, was a gem. She sat by her students’ booth, partially hidden by a pillar, silently supporting her kids. You can tell from her smiles that she was so, so proud of her team. At no point at all did she have to step in: not to remind them, not to coach them. Neither did she leave her spot, even though the students were brilliant on their own, and obviously needed no help from her.

And this was just one of the teams that made my day. Special shoutouts must be extended to the lovely boys and girls of Queensway Secondary and their sweet, sweet teacher; St Anthony’s Primary, Anchor Green Primary, St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary, North Vista Primary (Gorgeous booth!)…

My favourite project, “Greening for a Cause” came from a school whose identity has, regrettably, escaped me now. (Blue uniforms! Who are you guys?!) Commonwealth Secondary? I hope I got you right!

This team of teens thought that the usual song and dance items they put up when they go for community outreach projects at old folks’ homes didn’t quite connect with the elderly, and thought they’d do a bit of gardening with them instead. After pushing forward the idea, seeing through the project; the team thought that was that. Until they received a call from the homes telling them how much their elderly companions enjoyed the experience, and invited them back!

Now I’ve been on community service projects like these not too long ago myself and I could see the disconnect between the old folks and some of the activities proposed… but GARDENING? Why have I never thought of that? It involves nurturing something into maturity, and is a project that has far-reaching, long term effects. Genius!

At the risk of sounding sentimental and sappy… I walked out of the Expo with so much joy.

Now I have been in and through and around and about our education system, and I know it has many faults and areas that need major relooking. (Selection criteria for its officers, for instance.)  BUT. The naysayers who love groaning on and on about how our education system produces only robots and regurgitation… People who think ALL our kids are pampered and spoilt and self-centred… The parents who think only ‘branded’ schools can groom thinking children… Maybe… You are just hanging with the wrong crowd..?

For all the disappointments and frustrations I’ve had with people and schools; teaching and learning, I’d like to remain hopeful… Because after all, according to the lovely Kylie Minogue, “The kids are alright.”

Here we go again!

Back with a new project.

Today marks the start of a new project: fresh faces, fresh moves, fresh start.

Day one of rehearsals always gets me really nervous. How will I measure up? How will I cope? How will I fit in?

That, combined with the excitement of learning something new, is a potent mix.

I can’t go into much now – Rehearsal #1 is still 3 hours away. But the buzz is certainly kicking in.

How is this experience different from starting out at Dream Country though? Well, I will not be mentored by Char for one. And that essentially means zero familiarity and maximum anxiety. Also, Bestie is out of town for this entire duration with limited to zero contact with the digital world… which just means I’ll have to pent up all the goodness and badness of my days to come until he returns.

My nights have been wrought with all sorts of bizarre dreams. Shakespeare printed onto retro rock-styled t-shirts, lost objects found, people crowded into spaces too small… Please, all of you, fingers crossed for me!

That said, I’m headed off to Koh Samui on a four-day mission with my cameras. Already, I’m beating myself up over the 4 rehearsals and 2 French classes I am missing. Again… my high school ghosts are catching up with me. “How can you skip town? How can you miss lessons? That’s truancy!” I know. I have too many voices in my head and I give them too much credit.

In the meantime though, I know I still have to lay the Berlin spirits to rest. Right on to the next post!

Bad Kitty.

Eek! How did I ever let a month (close enough) go by without posting anything?

Bad, bad kitty.

Truth is, I have still been writing constantly, albeit mainly doing lines over and over again, in French.

I’ve always loved languages – writing it, reading it, hearing it – so keeping myself motivated wasn’t hard at all.

As it happens, it is only too easy for me to get over-motivated and started banging away on French everything like a language-learning Nazi really. I have my beloved secondary school to thank for that – Diligence  is one of the school values widely extolled. Where did the fascist attitude come from? Well… we were chased from spot to spot by someone blowing on a police whistle; our hair lengths were scrutinised frequently (nothing below our cold, trembling earlobes). Read: Discipline (and Nazi-ish nitpicking). Can I just say though, I honestly LOVED that school. But that’s another story altogether.

Anyway… Not contented with just taking my tutor’s word when it comes to the prickly subject of ‘en’, ‘à’, ‘de’ and the million other split personalities these annoying lil’ buggers come in, I *had* to go research on what it means when the same word morphs and mutates into partitives, pronouns, prepositions and monsters.

Sometimes I made progress and I feel like the champion of the world. As if my legs had grown two-inches longer.

Other times… many times (Though not most times, thankfully.)… La tête just goes… vide.

Like when I figured out preposition à is for ‘going to’ and preposition de is for ‘coming from’ and then I turn a page and the article de that roughly translates to ‘some’ and ‘any’ swings by to say ‘Hi’ while swiftly being chased down by en, which can be both a preposition and also a pronoun.

Oui.

And I can’t let it go.

I. Can’t. Let. It. Go.

My school motto demands that I get to the bottom of things. And to the bottom of things I got to.

With these…

Yes. I applied a filter to make it look nicer. Hurhurhur.

So what did I discover at the bottom of the pile?

Me. Lying rather lifeless. With a very firm and fit writing arm all sinewy and Michelle Obama-y from all the copying and writing and rewriting I was doing.

Not too bad, I’d have to say. (I’m shallow. You mean you didn’t know?)

Just last night I’ve started dreaming in French… though I can’t be sure if it was actual accurate French, at least I can say that without a doubt, my subconscious recognised it as awesomely fluent French.

So now the conscious me just has to catch up with my subconscious half.

Tonight, we conquer French Gender.

Ninja! Peace out.

 

From one Dream, to another Country.

Making a splash

It’s been four days since the proverbial curtains closed on Dream Country, and I’ve only just found the time and emotional strength to talk about one of the most enriching, demanding, beautiful, and intimidating experiences of my life (thus far, … Continue reading

Dream Country, Week 2: War and Art

This post is especially for those of you who still think that my rehearsals were all prancing around on grass patches a la My Little Pony, playing with water and fairy-dancing.

Yes, yes. So I’ve reminded everyone not come expecting So You Think You Can Dance kinda backflips and babyfreeze and pirouettes, but it doesn’t mean what we have been doing is not grueling at all.

If anything at all, rehearsals get more and more intense every time; even if it’s just an additional of one activity, or a variation on something we have done. Our ten-minute push/pull, throw/catch, straight/curvy warm-ups have me drenched in sweat, heaving for air, and I love it.

I still worry. I worry that what I’m doing is not good enough. That my moves are too predictable or contrived. I worry that I am doing something too similar to someone else. I worry that I come across as superficial and amateurish. I worry non-stop.

But the moment Charlene sounds her chime and we start… I lose myself. Because I have to. Because I have to invest myself fully now, and worry later. Because if I don’t risk being silly and superficial now, I always be afraid, and always just worry, wondering what could have been.

Bestie discovered a million bruises on me yesterday. And that’s excluding the abrasions that are out of public sight (thank god!). And the skin that got ripped off which I keep covered up for fear of infection.

Coincidentally, the frame I was given to work with this week was “Warrior”.

And so I shall wear these with pride.

Welcome to Dream Country, everybody!

Three Month Mark

It’s been three months since I left work and I have…

Gone for a music festival – St Jerome’ Laneway Festival (Does Coachella over Youtube count as a second one? =D)

Gone for a concert – toe, Mosaic (I see me =D)

Attended a Butoh Workshop with Alb and Kai

Watched a play

Ironed all my darn clothes

Studied French

Watched movies – 300, Amélie, Any Given Sunday, Delicatessen, Fight Club, Infernal Affairs, L’Auberge Espagnole, La Combe Lucien, Les Petits Mouchoirs, Lost in Translation, Machuca, Melancholia, The Descendants, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish and English Versions), The Godfather I, II and III, The Iron Lady, The Lady

Read – Olivia (in French), Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Great Frustration, There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Worked out (almost) every day

Made crème brúlée (got my own blow torch), made pasta, bread, jam.

Picked up driving

Visited the museum – Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

Organised the wardrobe and accessories …

Supported Soccer games…

Made new friends…

Most importantly…

Reconnected with loved ones I’ve neglected – Momo, Sis-es, Melb, K, Hui, Xiu, Shus, Bestie, SQ, B

Three months have passed.

And that feeling that time is running out sneaks up on me and teases that panic button ever so often. But it is also that sense of the inevitable end; those limits, that force us to get out there and push ourselves further and harder, so I am thankful.

No time to lament or feel sorry. Not today at least.

Loads more I’ve yet to accomplish, and loads more to come – driving examination, Arts Festival performance, N’s wedding and my long-awaited Berlin visit. (Tokyo soon, I hope!)

And oh yes. I’ve started this humble little blog. This is my 80th post.

The French Withdrawal.

Yup. My French term has officially ended and I’m feeling so lost, so grumpy, and so terribly unhappy.

For eight weeks, I looked forward to waking up at 7am every Tuesday and Thursday morning for French Class. Even if that meant an hour-long journey. Even if that meant train rides with too many grumpy (sometimes sweaty) commuters. I fight for room to stand most of the time, and sometimes I fight for air to breathe. But always… I’ll be revising my French.

I met an old friend a month back, who was shocked that I had left work.

“To do what?” he asked. (Demanded, almost.)

“Study French.”

“What the heck for? Who are you going to speak French to? Go back to work!”

I smiled and changed the subject. How can I explain the joy that language… that learning brings? I would fail miserably. Besides, if he couldn’t see the reason behind exploring something new, how would he be able to accept my explanation… or any explanation for that matter.

Three months into my self-imposed sabbatical, I realised nothing gave me more pleasure than when I am learning, experimenting and doing something new and challenging. My days were filled with driving and French. (And I had initially intended to take either Swedish or German at the same time. Multi-tasker alert.)

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had people shudder in disgust on the train when I attempted the French ‘R’ sound. Know that awful sound some people make when they are hacking up phlegm? Yea. That’s the one.

I almost cried in frustration at home – twice – because homework was difficult. (Yes. When I told B I wanted to be the top student, I was only half-joking. What to do? NYG Syndrome.)

I am convinced that the lesson Guillaume had with us on Numbers: Seventy to One million etched permanent frown lines on my forehead.  I went home and ‘screamed’ on my Facebook status “I THOUGHT I WAS LEARNING FRENCH, NOT MATH!”

But to have the freedom to do whatever I want and learn whatever I like is such a treat… and luxury. So how can I not be thankful?

Now that the term is over, I still find myself waking up early on Thursday, all ready to go. Only now, there is technically nowhere to go to.

I’m not sure when I’ll be able to register for the next term – an important journey in June will interfere with French plans. I’m going to miss Guillaume – who is everything I want my teacher to be: attentive, meticulous, and so generous with his time and knowledge… I’m going to miss my supportive classmates…

In the meantime, I’m learning phrases and sentences on my own, twice a week. I scroll through my friends’ numbers on my phone so I can practise reciting their numéros de téléphone in French. It’s an uphill battle, not knowing if I got the nuances correct; missing out on the much needed interaction.

But when I started on this journey, I had a goal: to be fluent enough to watch French movies without the aid of subtitles. By hook or by crook, I’m going to get there.