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Today is Teachers' Day, We are very grateful to be given a day off from work. I'm one of the few old-timers in the staff who remember a time when there was no Teachers' Day. Next week is the one week term break, so in effect, our term break has begun one day earlier. I hit town for lunch and afterwards, went to my favourite book store, one of the very few who survive the ridiculously high rents in town. Others have been forced out of town and some even out of the country. We're glad this one stays.
It's a nice dinner. The restaurant is cosy, the food is good and the company just great. I've not seen them in twenty years! The last time I did, they were sixteen! Now they have successful careers and even businesses. They showed me their kids' pictures in their smartphones. All through the evening, we talked as though nothing has changed. The years between melt away. I remember their names and their faces. They look the same and even sound the same. Thanks, fellas, for remembering your old teacher, this Teachers' Day. I shall not forget your love and the memories.
Life is not meant to be easy. If we don't have physical exertion, we've all kinds of health problems- diabetes, arthritis, obesity, heart problems... Hard work is good for us. The same goes for the brain. If we don't want to learn new things, we dumb down. We need mental stimulation. We need physical exertion. The body is as complex as the universe. It is not made this way for an easy life. So I welcome hard work. I read, I paint, I solve problems. I don't merely stay alive. I actually live. Now, writing this is the easy part.
In the book "The Orphan Master's Son", a doctor explains that in North Korea, 'stories are factual. If a farmer is declared a music virtuoso by the state, everyone had better start calling him a maestro... The story is more important than the person. If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change... In America, people's stories change all the time. It is the man who matters.' I've never thought of a person and his story as separate. I wonder if the story I tell of myself is all factual, or part fiction.
There were nine of us at the lunch gathering today. They were colleagues from my first school 40 years ago. We've kept in touch, and now seven of them are retired and four of us are grandparents. I've always wondered what kept us together. We don't always agree, our interests are different, and there were times during those early years when we had serious problems working together. But today, as we ate and reminisced about those days, we seemed to remember only the good times. The long years fade away and we see one another only as we are today.
I do have a lot of things to do, and the last thing I should be doing now is to get on the Internet and write a hundred words. But this is more productive compared to the aimless surfing on the Net, especially news bits that make no difference to me since most of what's happening are happening for away from my physical realm. No wonder someone calls the Internet a weapon of mass distraction. We have a new cure for boredom, but also a new disease of being constantly in need of distraction, and an addiction to info bits.
I finished the first half of the book I'm reading, the one set in N Korea. A few chapters into the second half - Book II - I begin to wonder when all the interrogations will end. The hero - that's really what he is at one time or another - is always being released, caught, interrogated, released, caught, tortured... It was difficult to read the details of his interrogations. So I stole a peek at the ending. He was killed! That's it? The hero died at the hands of his tormentors? What kind of a story is that? I put the book down.
The brochure says dementia is more than just typical forgetfulness. It is the loss of brain function that causes rapid memory loss, impaired cognition, intellectual and physical malfunction and personality change.
Modern medicine has increased our life expectancy. But as we age, our organs age with us. Our excellent health care system only means we see more doctors than in the past.
My elderly father-in-law sees four specialists. Now it looks like he also has dementia and that means one more specialist. Longevity is only a blessing if you remain healthy to the end.
I'm quite sure there's global warming, and human activities are responsible for part of it. Greenhouse gas emissions have increased dramatically in the past fifty years partly because of increase in industrialisation, food production and transportation, driven by rapid increase in human population. But I don't think I'll see the full impact within my lifetime. That's it, isn't it? Most people are really not worried because life will continue as it is for them. The effects are not the same for all people, and not the same everywhere. So, I'll worry when it changes the way I live and work.
I wish I havea more concrete plan for retiring in that country than this notion that we will run a language school to help the people acquire skills that will lift them out of poverty. You see? That's not a business plan. It is a purpose. To be a viable business plan I will need to work out the logistics - start up costs, documentation for legal purposes, running costs and the minimum business transaction that I need to have to pay for expenses. Sure. I'm not there to make pots of money. But we should be able to feed ourselves.
Andrew Sullivan called Twittering blogging microthoughts. I don't twitter and I don't blog. 100words is about all I do in cyberspace. It allows me to think through what I want to write. These may also be microthoughts. Microthoughts are not always disjointed, flighty and spurious. On the contrary, When we are required to keep to a word limit, we have to make every word count, to say as much as possible in a few words. Oh, it just occurs to me that "big" thoughts (macrothoughts?) can also be packed into a few words. Sometimes, all it takes is one word!
A happy thing happened tonight. I had just set the alarm to ring at 5.50 am, and was dreading the first day of school the next day, when I suddenly recall that we were told we can report at 11.30, instead of 7.20. I sent a text to my colleague and her reply was instantaneous: Affirmative. Report at 11.30 tomorrow. You cannot imagine how happy I was. I sent two text messages to my colleagues and then one to my daughter-in-law: Kiss my little grand-daughter goodnight and tell her grandma is very happy.
I brought assignments home to grade but instead, I sat down to watch "The Martian" on cable. Actually, I watched the beginning and the end. In between, I showered and did stuff. I went back about an hour later for the rescue. That's the thing about watching movies at home. You don't usually sit through the entire show. With the internet, I skip over parts I think are dull. With TV, I walk away and come back again later. But then, what I get is not the whole experience. I control what I want to see and may miss something.
We are born free, they say. We have freedom to choose to live life the way we want. Actually, no. In the first place, we cannot choose where we are born into - the parents, the place, the country. The circumstances into which we are born determine how much choice we have. It is only those in developed economies who can claim to have choices about what they do with their lives. And even then, not everyone chooses wisely. Some make themselves slaves to unhealthy desires, pleasures and substance abuse. Those who wrest back control of their lives make right choices.
I bumped into him when I was going into the Staff Room. I heard he had taken leave again the past two days. So, I just blurted out, "Heard you were sick. Feeling better?" To be honest, I wasn't really concerned. Just want to let him know I noticed, but I know it wouldn't make any difference. He had availed himself of every kind of leave each year over and above all the term breaks. "I had the flu," he said. How often does a grown man catch the flu in a year? The bosses knew but couldn't do anything.
I was actually quite scared this morning when the gale force wind came howling and screaming through passages between buildings, rattling windows, snapping trees and sweeping away everything in its path. I'm thankful that we live in concrete homes with a solid roof over our heads. Still the sound of destruction and the deadly force of the invisible wind tearing a path across the human world, allowing nothing to stand in its way is very frightening. I pushed the earplugs deep into my ears to muffle the terrifying sounds and tried to sleep. It was only four in the morning.
I took a long time to fall asleep last night. I went to bed about 10.30 but got up more than four times to go to the bathroom. It must have been past midnight by the time I drifted off. I didn't want to know the time. I made it a point not to look at the clock because if I did, I would process the number of hours left before I have to get up to go to work. That brings on anxiety, and anxiety, sleeplessness. Maybe I should have written this stuff and bore myself to sleep.
We went down twice to town today, but I only bought two Uniball black gel pens. The first trip was for lunch after church. We went to our usual foodcourt, had the usual hawker fare, and spent the rest of the time at our favourite mega-bookstore. My husband bought some books and we went home. Well, it happened again; he already had one of those books. So at dinner-time, we hit town again, had our meal at the same foodcourt and went back to the store to exchange the book for another. Not much fuss, really. It's Sunday.
I was happy when I went to bed last evening. I managed to do a small 9" by 12" watercolor, following a Youtube tutorial. I'm happy with what I did, took a pic and whatsapped that to Sandy. She was quick to point out that the colors were different - "happier", in her words - than my previous works. Clever girl. I told her I was following another series by another watercolorist. I think I like his style and he's easy to follow. I have one set of exam scripts to clear, but I just didn't feel like grading scripts last night.
"Pen and Ink Drawing - A Simple Guide" has finally arrived. I ordered this book a few weeks ago from Book Depository, and have waited anxiously, and patiently, for it. Now that I have the physical object right here on my table next to me, the anticipation gone, it doesn't feel so great to own it as I imagined it would. That's the thing, right? Getting something is the best way to diminish its value. Once you own it, it doesn't seem as good as it was when we were waiting for it. That's probably why we will never be satisfied.
I just love sunsets, especially in those ten or fifteen minutes just before dark. That resplendent display of brilliant colors - shades of red, orange and blue - and the last sharp splinters of light as the sun goes down is breathtakingly dramatic. I love sunrise also. Just as dawn breaks, the sun rises with an equally dramatic display of light bursting through the darkness. Wherever I go on my travels, the sky is always the same, even when the landscape and people change. The daily rhythm of night and day is constant. When I look up at the sky, I'm home.
I am glad to know that there are people who watch some of those Korean dramas that I watch who feel the same way I do about them. The past few episodes of this drama that I have begun watching only after about the fiftieth episode have been painfully boring. I read comments from viewers like, "The characters are stereotyped and not fleshed out." The best was "The scriptwriters don't know where they are going with the story." There is also no chemistry between the two characters and an annoying and needy third party who tries to break them up.
This evening someone mooted the idea of our group taking a holiday together next June. The plan at this stage is to fly to Vancouver and take an Alaskan cruise and then do a road trip to some National Parks. An Alaskan cruise! The last time I heard that was at the hospital with my sister last November. She was very sick. I had asked her what she wanted to do with the time that she had left. Take a cruise in Alaska! I did not reply. She was too sick by then. She didn't make it through that week.
My colleague passed away early this morning. He had been fighting cancer for several years now, and though somewhere at the bottom of my heart, I feel he has been relieved of his sufferings, we feel for his family. I heard his wife passed out several times this morning. His young son is one of our students. We can only imagine what this must be for them. Some of us will be at the wake this afternoon just to be with them. It's easy for us to say his sufferings are over, but that is little comfort to the living.
I've just returned from picking my grand-daughter and her mother from her maternal grandparents' and sending them home. Yes, I am a grandmother, have not retired and still happily married. My son has to work late, so my husband and I gladly fill in for him. The four-year old was on my smartphone the journey home. She took selfies, checked the Gallery for the pictures taken, and complained they're too dark because, she assumed, I've used my phone too long without charging. The rest of the time she watched Youtube videos. She made my own childhood look deprived.
My son turned forty three days ago. I never regretted marrying and having kids young. By the time I was thirty, he was already six and his brother was one. Those who difficult years. My husband and I did not agree on how to parent the two boys. If there's any downside to marrying young it is raising kids while we were still trying to find our own footing in our career and our marriage. It was very hard, but I thank God I made it through those years. Now, they are both married and facing problems of their own.
He snores loudly in his sleep, but after thirty years, it struck me one day, ten years ago, that maybe earplugs might help. Now, I don't go to bed without earplugs. Although I could still hear snoring, the sound is muffled quite a bit. If I am tired enough, I drift off to sleep before the snoring bothers me. It was a problem for which there is a simple solution. Yet, I spent thirty years being miserable because of it. Sleep did not come easy in those early years. Problems at work and at home kept me awake at night.
James, from the class of 2014, had asked to see me today at 12 for lunch. I dropped unsubtle hints that I was busy, I wasn't thrilled about canteen food, and if he wanted me to sign some university application forms, just give me the stuff and we'll both get about our own business. He seemed oblivious to my protestations and turned up anyway. With two of my most favourite students from his class! Surprise! And for lunch, he brought me to a swanky Italian restaurant in town! In his Lexus! And no forms to sign! What can I say!
I finally cleared out the big tub - or 'pond' -in the balcony. I was afraid of what I would find in the murky water, so I dug into the roots of the lily patch with a huge fork trying to break up the plants. It came up in one heavy mass of four different types of aquatic plants with roots firmly intertwined in some pieces of wood. Then, twitching in the now shallow murky water, I saw this big 5 inch long tilapia! It must be one of those that survived being eaten by the catfish that are now dead.
This is the end of yet another month. The days whoosh by like a gust of wind. Only the years flow like a river. Remember the song, Sunrise, Sunset, from Fiddler on the Roof? Oh, I forgot. I am from the Stone Age. I remember saying to one of my students, "He's like Obi-won Kenobi." He said, "Who?" and I said, "Obi-won BEN Kenobi. Nevermind." So, that's another aspect of time; time in relation to where we are now: the past, the present and the future. I need to keep journaling for a faithful record of my life.
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