Tuesday, July 31, 2007

motivational speaker

I have been listening to motivational speakers spew forth all of the buzzwords that I have forgotten how much I do not miss. They each begin by mentioning their trendly predecessors and explaining why their idea is not just a trend, but an enduring principle that is the new wave of education.

The workshops so far have discussed a holistic approach to focus issue objectives through collaborative learning communities, which basically means that we will do everything better all the time. Last year it was about some trend, whose name escapes me but whose acronym was PMS, which is based on a fantastic idea to do everything better while collaborating holistically on comfort zones and objective initiatives. Now we are learning how to make institution wide goals that are attainable and measurable and, of course, holistic.

NB: Any permutation of the words in that paragraph would mean the same thing.

Holistic is a word that has been chosen for its length, novelty, and Greekness. It is also chosen because it does not carry the same sting of daunting reality that we find in a phrase like "every aspect of this child's life". When I hear the word holistic in reference to teaching, I feel myself becoming unable to listen. It is very similar to the way my brain shuts down when I hear the phrase comfort zone. What they really mean by using such words as holistic, is that they would rather chase down a sophisticated corporate image than address the everyday actions that define the education process. It is a shame to see such a respectable word "twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools" (Kipling, 1910). Keep it too abstract to mean anything, and I guess we will all feel better about it.

I keep expecting someone to run to the front and tell us all we are on candid camera and don't we feel stupid for listening to computer-generated gibberish as though it were meaningful.

Boy, what a negative and offensive entry.

Monday, July 30, 2007

us men

Joie just returned from a weekend in Delhi, leaving Will and I to fend for ourselves in the wilds of Redwood Cottage. Will was a handful. We walked into the bazaar, where he was happy to find plenty of horses, dogs (gogs), and motorcycles (hykols) to identify. There are many difficult decisions to make in the education of a young child. For example, these critters that we call motorcycles are actually a pretty good mix of motorcycles and scooters, but from where Will is coming from, it is hardly worthwhile to make a distinction. Furthermore, he can say "horse" and "donkey" beautifully, but when push comes to shove, Mussoorie's equines are generally mules, and it simply does not seem fair to be overly pedantic when the kid only knows a few words. He calls himself "Gull" for cryin' out loud.

Since Joie was gone, we watched man movies, sometimes with our shirts off, and always with food. Will watched "The Magnificent Seven" and "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", and was delighted to point out every horse he saw. When The Man with No Name blew up the bridge, Will said, "Ooh, wow!" with wide-eyed appreciation.

The cinematic gem that I first noticed in this most recent viewing of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly": when Blondie (Clint Eastwood) gives Tuco (Eli Wallach) a cigar for the first time, Tuco eats it. What a fine film...

Friday, July 27, 2007

mumbai waves

This is a picture that I took near the 'Gateway of India' monument in Mumbai. I took very few pictures of Mumbai, but I found this particular scene positively compelling. Mumbai is surrounded and permeated by a particularly filthy piece of the Arabian Sea. Following a barrage of heavy rain, I was intrigued to see a large crowd of Indians standing near the sea wall, waiting in ecstatic abandon for the warm waves to wash over them. I think the spontaneity and freedom of it epitomizes something I very much love about the Indians. Where I come from, I am used to people rushing about grumbling and swearing and worrying about their hair when it rains. In India, they do not seem to complain about the weather, and I often see people drenched and given over to the sensual pleasures of a thick monsoon storm. I naturally missed the best of the pictures, and I was drenched to my chest before it was over.

Monday, July 23, 2007

monsoon monday

School is starting again already. I had hoped to write about Singapore, Manali and Dharamsala, but I never really got around to it. I also considered writing about Amritsar, but I can not think of anything nice to say about that particular city so I might not say anything at all.

When we got back from our recent trip through Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, I learned that one of my students was killed in a car accident in the mountains of Nepal. I was pretty stunned, to say the least. I think that teachers usually feel as though they are watching people begin life, prepare for careers, and muster their potential for a burst into the future. Apparently sometimes we are watching the final details being engraved in a mature life. I guess mostly I am failing to comprehend it.

Friday, July 6, 2007


I am really far too tired to be writing this. I have been sinking into the fern-fringed depths and heights of a mountain monsoon. The past week has been impressively quiet after the madness of my first year of teaching.

Following the merciful cessation of school, Joie and I packed up the kid and hopped on a taxi down the hill to catch a train. Will threw up three times on the long and winding road to the train station, which we reached about 5 minutes before our train left. Actually, he did not throw up on the long and winding road, he threw up on the floor of a taxi which was no stranger to such. Thirty hours later, we arrived in Mumbai.

Mumbai is the same as Bombay, if you were wondering. According to the almanacs, Mumbai is the largest city in the world, with 11.9 million souls. I have no idea how they presume to estimate this number, but it is indeed big. Mumbai possesses a certain grandeur that Delhi seems to have escaped. As the ancient nation swallows up the memories of its conquerors, the British designs on India are slowly crumbling, slowly becoming curious ruins blatantly foreign to Hindustan. Parts of Mumbai felt very European, but nonetheless rumbled with the thrashing wild of Indian traffic. The stately buildings and boulevards echoed of princely goings on, but more loudly reverberated with raw and unmuffled noise.

Being in an Indian city is like staring at a Where's Waldo picture. The sheer variety of the people makes the whole scene feel like an elaborate hoax. Your twenty-five-year old taxi might pull up between a shining new Mercedes and an ox pulling a cart of melons. For Indians, I suppose that this is not ironic, and I am beginning to see why. Here culture does not progress, but rather, it accumulates. In years to come, when the wealthiest Indians are zipping around town at the speed of light and living lives of heretofore unimagined pleasures, there will still be someone driving an oxcart full of melons, and he will not be the poorest.

The scorpions are more these days. I have killed 8 so far, and Joie has killed 6.