Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Fun Run

These are the promised pictures from the Fun Run a few weeks ago. They have been sitting in my camera, waiting for me to release them upon the world. It was a wet day, a half-rain in the air, but comfortably cool for a five kilometre run. People in red shirts milled about on the green grass and the clouds rose notoriously dark along the horizon.

Elissa looks

 Joseph holds my umbrella

 My seventh grade boys before the race

 Shirtless Andrew and Zach lead the race

 Jason making a face

The first to start, first to finish: from left to right Bailey, Andrew, Zach, Benedict 

 Yuka and I were timekeepers and did not participate in the race itself. 
But we amused ourselves in other ways.

 My darling boys after the finish. I would show you a picture of my darling girls as well, but they are, as middle schoole girls are wont to be, terribly camera shy. Bailey (top left) took fourth place, coming in after Benedict, a high schooler, and Zach and Andrew, two experienced runners. I am still so proud of him.  

"I was yelling for you when you came in, Bailey!" I told him afterwards. "I don't know if you could hear me."
"Yeah," he said with a sheepish grin. "I'm pretty sure I did."

The Shang sisters 

Gentle Hannah with her dog Dash


Teaching requires that I be both actor and comedian; it brings out the vanity in me, that slow creeping self-importance that I grow secretly in some quiet corner of my mind. But who am I kidding? It's barely beneath the skin and needs little encouragement to burst from my chest like some alien parasite.

I like to lecture, to stand at the front of the room and lean out, eyeing my audience, the world my stage; to teach, to move about the room with a certain sense of power, to see those poor, hapless babes trembling at my every last inflection. They prove to be a fantastic (if captive) audience, eager to listen, ready to forgive my sometimes tripping tongue, to laugh when I pretend to be mortally wounded by their morning silence and fall to the floor, clutching my side, aghast that I should be so cruelly struck down in the prime of my youth. I suppose it helps that our interests converge on several levels--superheroes and K-pop and Chuck Norris, even the odd video game.

For my sixth grade class I find myself donning a variety of hats and accents in an effort to bring to life the fictional characters on the page. As we worked our way through The Cay by Theodore Taylor, a book about a white boy and an old, black man who overcome their differences to survive on a deserted cay in the Caribbean, I was in the ridiculous position of having to speak in a velvety, musical calypso. "Dat be true, young bahss. Dat be true." 

The whole idea is laughable. What do I know of the Caribbean anyway, let alone its voice? I'm Swedish, I grew up in Singapore, I attended an international school with nary a Central American islander in sight. Despite these odds, I was not deterred. Heartily dared, half won, I always say. And so I thought of Sebastian the Crab and pushed on. 

Again, my time has come to shine. As we only have a month left of class, I am reading through C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew, and so far I have done the voices for Digory Kirke, Polly Plummer, Uncle Andrew, and Aunt Letty. Queen Jadis comes most naturally to me, of course, as it is closest to my own speech: "Now; slave, how long am I to wait for my chariot?"
I shake my fist in the air and challenge little Lucas Agnir in the front row with a stare. He looks away.

The only real challenge lies in the the collection of voices of the irate Londoner who have stopped to view the curious scene of Queen Jadis and the crashed carriage; but as a highly talented actor I find only grim satisfaction in conquering Lewis's fine work:

     "That's the woman, that's the woman," cried the fat man, pointing at Jadis. "Do your duty, Constable. Hundreds and thousands of pounds' worth she's taken out of my shop. Look at that rope of pearls round her neck. That's mine. And she's given me a black eye too, what's more."

     "That she 'as, guv'nor," said one of the crowd. "And as lovely a black eye as I'd wish to see. Beautiful bit of work that must 'ave been. Gor! ain't she strong then!"

     "You ought to put a nice raw beefsteak on it, Mister, that's what it wants," said a butcher's boy.

You can just imagine the beauty of it all--me manhandling my way through the best English accent this side of Cheapside. I knew watching all those episodes of Inspector George Gently would pay off eventually. Hats off to you, John Bacchus.

Yes, Guv?

Friday, 19 April 2013


Tomorrow is my birthday. These past twelve months have been very productive and a remarkable time of change, and in honour of the day, I thought it was only appropriate that I should list the my most significant events of the year to help me remember and thank God.

1. Visited Nepal for the first time. (In fact, I turned twenty-five in Kathmandu, and my fellow team members surprised me with party hats and a song when I was in the middle of brushing my teeth.)

2. Became facebook friends with Kollywood superstar Resh Marhatta.

3. Attended my first Nepalese football game.

4. Met the goalie for Nepal's national team.

5. Visited India.

6. Had the pleasure of Natalie's company in the winter.

7. Bought hamsters.

8. Sewed a skirt.

9. (Unexpectedly) became an English teacher in Singapore.

10. Visited Memphis, Tennessee, and had barbecued ribs.

11. Attended my first Major League baseball game -- The Orioles versus the Isotopes.

12. Attended my first ever American July Fourth in America

13. Moved into my first real flat all by myself.

14. Fostered a cat for five weeks.

15. Bought my first Christmas tree.

15. Passed the 40,000 word mark on my story.

16. Started the highly successful Writers' Club as an extracurricular activity for my middle schoolers.

17. Planned and executed my very first school field trip.

18. Was featured as an evil sorceress in more than one of my students' stories.

19. Became Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper.

20. Snorkeled at the Coral Island (twice).

21. Had one of my photos featured in a calendar for the Cat Welfare Society.

22. Visited Penang, Malaysia with my parents.

23. Bought my own roll-top desk.

24. Made new friends

Overall I am very pleased with this year. I visited three continents and met many firsts with style. This year I am already looking forward to finishing up my book and traveling to Durham (to see Natalie) and to London (to see sister Sofia) and to Sweden (to see my family and friends). Planning for the future has always satisfied some deep-set desire in me; it is in the human condition to make plans and long for their fruition. It is good and hopeful for the quality of the heart.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Men, Men Everywhere

On Saturday I was stopped by a man on the escalator. "I saw you," he mumbled, "and I really like your hair colour, and I thought I should talk to you. Where are you from? Oh, Sweden. You don't look Swedish because you don't have blonde hair. I thought you were part Indian." He stops for breath and holds up his hands. "Give me ten seconds. You can start counting down. " He fixes me with a look. "Are you interested in me or not?"
I admire him for his tenacity.

Today another man ran after me. "Miss!" He had come to divulge his romantic overtures as well. "I must see your receipt."
It was the cashier from Cold Storage. I find the receipt in my wallet, and he inspects it. My card had been declined. He says something very polite about going back to the store, sorry to trouble me for the inconvenience and that he'll carry the bags--and then I have to interrupt and I say I haven't any money and awkwardly hand him the groceries--he stares, for a moment disbelieving, then embarrassed of having to rob me of my daily sustenance, and we part ways, equally sheepish.

In class little David Han asked me why I was still in school by four thirty. (Nevermind that he himself had been running around with his cardboard armour up until that point and at that particular moment he was securing the strap of his shield with tape from my room.)
"I am grading," I replied. "Sometimes I go to Starbucks to write on my story."
"Don't people stare at your hair?"
"I suppose they do."
"Do they like it?"
"I guess?" I say, "Someone paid me a compliment just the other day."
"Are you going to be here next year?"
"Yes. I'll be here."
"That's a relief. Then I can still do stuff like this."

By 'this' I can only assume he meant making armour out of cut cardboard and hanging around my air conditioned classroom until his mother arrived to pick him up, and maybe, just maybe it was a thank you and a see you later.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Summer Is Necessary

I have pink eye. What? What is happening to my immune system? First infected sandfly bites, then a week of headaches and almost fevers, and now bleary conjunctivitis? I reported to school today for work, but they told me to go away. Preferably to a doctor's office. But as none was open so early in the morning I had to go to Starbucks and wait for half an hour. Before I left work I told them I would go to this favorite of their haunts and run my hands up and down the counter and finger all the condiments by the cash register out of revenge. That's what you get for shuddering and calling me 'unclean, unclean!' I'm looking at you, Scot Byrd.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Fund Run, Part I

Today I attended my school's annual Fund Run, which raises funds for the school year to come. I took lots of pictures, but I haven't had the time to go through them yet, and it is much too late to do so now. This picture of me and my seventh grade boys makes me indescribably happy. Just before it was taken, Joseph held my umbrella for me to let me take pictures of the milling crowds and Bryan asked me if I could keep his charger in my bag (out of the rain) while he went running. I am so pleased to have not only earned their trust but also their kindness.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

My Desk

My roll-top desk is a beauty and wonderful for writing letters and other creative endeavours. All writers should have a place of peace for this selfish business we call art. 

Trixia's Pix

Here are two of the pictures Trixia took during our time about Singapore. She takes all her pictures with manual cameras--braver than digital where a picture can be taken and deleted in a mere moment--and if you're even remotely interested in photography, I think you would like her tidy little blog Green Sea Blue.

I like these pictures mostly because they help (falsely) cement my status as a legitimate photographer.

This was taken outside of Vivo City, by the harbour as the sun was beginning to set. 

Monday, 1 April 2013


On the Coral Isle, I found some time for poetry, and though I am not feeling particularly poetic at the moment, I can look back on my glory days and recall the genius that was Sanna Gabriel. The first poem I wrote for the Rebel Shang because she wanted a poem. The second one we wrote together, with the final line being hers, and the one titled Wayward I wrote without outside interference. Now read my iambic pentameter and weep.

The Lady

The lovely lady waits for sleep,
Half in slumber,
listens to the seething surf outside,
filled with wonder
that a night, so still and starry bright,
exists at all and she is here to hear it.


I want to be free,
You can’t make me dress!
I won’t wear that sweater
Or that shirt that you’ve pressed.
No clothes for me!
I refuse to comply
to your itchy instructions
and your civilized Lie.

I wish to be me,
as nude as can be.
I strip, I tear!
I’m all-over bare!

Now there are only clothes
over there.


I said,
“I tell you they cry out in anguish, souls
a-flame, afflicted by my tortuous sin
of pretense. O my pride has brought me low!
I flew false flag, professed a faith not mine,
and donned the sandals of a liar’s gospel.
My feet have walked a weary path and paid
the price of such ill-fitting garb. Now I
repent after the sin has claimed its tax.”

Said Mother,
“Oh, stop it. You’re being dramatic.
They’re just blisters.”