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First day of (Alea’s last year of) school

Alea and Breck start off the school year – for the last time together! She’s a senior and he’s in 10th grade at JIS.

Alea and Breck - 2014

Just a typical day at school…

Cool class happening today: gave an assignment that kids had to present to their parents. One of them and his mom got on Skype to show it and get feedback from dad – who’s stationed in Afghanistan. Kind of a neat little thing…

Closure

JIS Farewell Dragon

I think one of the most underrated benefits of being a teacher is the summer. Not because of the time off, although that certainly is fantastic. The truth of the matter is, however, that most teachers actually do work during summers. Maybe they aren’t in paid positions, but they take graduate courses, design curriculum, and plan lessons for the upcoming year.

(In my job as an international teacher, there is the added summer responsibility every 3 or 4 years of packing everything, shipping all belongings to another continent/country, arranging visas and work permits, finding a home, acclimating to a different culture, figuring out a new school climate, and getting ready for a set of kids who have no inclination of what I or my classes are like.)

No, the really redeeming feature of summer is the fact that it provides closure to a chapter. At the end of the school year, the school year is over.  Sounds intuitively obvious, but there you go.

That’s it.

Done.

Finito.

When you start over again in the fall, you are truly starting over. You have a new group of kids, a whole year full of possibilities and opportunities, with nothing left over from the past. Your previous students are not yours any more; they have moved on and are someone else’s projects. Oh you’ll see them, and say “hi” to them, and hug them, but they are no longer “yours.” And yes, that’s kinda sad, but it also puts a clean break into our working lives, something that we are truly blessed to enjoy.

How many other careers can point to having a constant, expected, planned “end to all projects?” I truly can’t think of any. Maybe something like a pilot, where you land a flight, and then it is over, but not really – because you have the very same thing to look forward to the next day, and the next, off until retirement. If you work in a factory, or an office, or retail, or a bank, then things just keep going, day in and day out, whether you show up for work or not. There is no “end,” just a continuation of everything, on and on and on.

No wonder cartoons, movies, and tv shows about office workers always emphasize how dreary their lives are. There is never an end point to shoot for, no goal to attain, no finish line to cross other than retirement. The high point seems to be deciding whether to hit Applebee’s or TGI Fridays for the cheddar-potato-skins-and-strawberry-margarita special next week.

As a teacher, though, you know that school starts in August and is over in June. You’ve got 10 months. And then, BLAM, the door shuts. Turn out the lights, this party’s over.

There’s a set deadline, after which everything is finished. Everything – all the classes, all the sports, all the clubs, all the socials – is wrapped up and put away for good. Fall comes, and things start again, but they are all new things. You might carry some lessons forward from “last time,” but now you’re working with a whole new group, and you once again begin the process of helping shape young learners. It is a brand new project.

I like the closure. I like being able to say, “Today is our last Friday.” I like knowing that all accounts will be closed next Wednesday, and the grand project of school year 2012-13 will be tucked away. I like knowing that after I back up my files, recycle the final papers, clean up the debris from the last days’ craziness, and lock the door, everything is done for good. And yes, I’ll say goodbye to colleagues and students who I will never see again. But that also is part of the cycle. I’ve known this day is coming, and they’ve known this day is coming, and we’re ready for it. We’ll make a clean break, move on, end this chapter in our professional lives on a high note, and close the book on the year.

And I’ll be totally ready to start anew in August…

Into the firestorm

Well, hopefully not, but we leave tomorrow for a week in Bali. We plan on visiting Tulamben, a place we stopped at during our trip a few years back, but this time we will go as certified divers!

Our week here has been a bit crazy, with course selections for next year’s classes, end-of-term exams and projects, volleyball tournaments, Family Fun Fairs, and all sorts of social events (including a Bollywood party!). Poor Breck also came down with a nasty cold that kept him home for 2 days, so hopefully he’ll be recovered enough to enjoy the water.

If all that isn’t enough, today we got an email from our administrative team, pointing out this little tidbit of news. Then when we opened up the news here at home, we saw that this had happened and hope the events aren’t related. Oh well, maybe it is a good thing that we are landing in time for Nyepi and won’t be able to do anything anyways!

In any case, this is our “farewell” for a bit, as we head off into internet-access-unknown locales. We’ll post stories and pictures when we get back (and I’ll find out how my NCAA brackets are holding up – KY, MSU, OSU, KS – MSU to win in one bracket and KY in the other). Until then, here are a few shots – mostly stolen from Susan’s Facebook page – to tide you over.

You know you went to an international school when…

This is an old post that I found in my “drafts” folder. It dates from way back in 2009, when I first joined Facebook. I wrote it in India, but never posted it. It is cute and still timely, and I figured that it deserves to see the light of day! So here goes:

My students are all into Facebook, and so they convinced me to sign up for it. While I don’t really spend all that much time exploring it (there are plenty of other time-wasters on the internet, thank you very much), it has been kind of fun to run into old acquaintances in the virtual world.

One of the other things a person can do on Facebook is join any number of different groups, and one of the first that I saw was called “You know you went to an international school when…” There follows a list of more than 80 ‘indicators’ of someone with an international school background – some of which I agreed with, and some of which I didn’t.

In any case, here is my personal list of those criteria that best fit my experiences:

You know you went to an international school when:

  • It is hard to answer the question “Where are you from?”
  • Your life story uses the phrase “Then we went to…” five (or six, or seven) times…
  • Your school memories include those days that classes were canceled due to tear gas, riots, demonstrations, or bomb threats.
  • Police guarded your school…carrying machine guns
  • School trips meant going to a different country
  • You could walk into a bar and order a drink without being questioned
  • You got excited when someone sent a video tape of regular TV with commercials.. in ENGLISH!
  • You never had a job until you reached college
  • Class reunions are not at your school – not even on the same continent!
  • You run into someone you know at every airport
  • You don’t think its strange that you haven’t talked to a friend in a couple years, but you know you will always have a unique bond
  • You have a time zone map next to your telephone
  • You know the geography of the rest of the world better than that of your own country
  • You speak in many broken languages when you are drunk
  • You go home for vacation.

Goodbye to and from our students

One of the tough things about teaching is saying “goodbye” at the end of each year. Even if we see the kids after summer, they will no longer be ‘ours’ and we (usually) don’t have another opportunity to interact with them in the classroom.

This process is doubly difficult in our international setting, because we are often also saying “goodbye” for the foreseeable future – not just the summer vacation – due to the transient nature of students and teachers. Our family is no exception to this series of routines, and this year it is our turn to bid farewell to everyone with whom we’ve worked, played, socialized, and interacted over the past 4 years.

Recognizing the need for a sense of closure, our school always has a goodbye assembly at the end of each term (since many families choose either the winter or summer break times to move). One of the cool things that takes place is a student says goodbye to each teacher with a little speech in front of the student body. I really appreciated the thought and effort that went into this talk, put on by my adopted niece (long story), and thought I’d share it here:

In my three years at ASB, Mr. Stutz has been my best friend’s dad, my teacher for a year, my volleyball coach for three years, and always a cause for my laughter. Mr. Stutz is amazing in the way that he’s incredibly funny – funky music, pranking students and all, as well as a great volleyball coach (who just so happens to demand 20 pushups for every missed serve). He’s contributed his time to show me and other students that he cares about us, is encouraging, and knows how to make a good joke to make us laugh…or even a bad joke…but either way the end result is laughter – whether it’s with him or at him it doesn’t really matter. Go Mr. Stutz!

Perfect teachers

We all certainly try to be, but sometimes kids’ expectations are a little unrealistic.

Doing some homework with Breck last night, he started wishing out loud that Einstein was his math teacher. I found this interesting, and asked if he had any other preferred teachers for his subjects.

Here is his list of who he’d want to be his teacher for each class:

Some of them are obvious “experts in the field”

  • Math: Einstein
  • Science: Newton
  • Music: Beethoven
  • Art: Leonardo da Vinci
  • English: William Shakespeare

Others are people who might not immediately leap to mind

  • French: Joan of Arc or Napoleon
  • Drama: Harrison Ford or George Lucas
  • PE: Carl Lewis

And my two personal favorites –

  • Social Studies: Genghis Khan
  • Tech: that guy who invented computers – Michael Soft

Ouch!

I am presently sitting with a 7th grade student who is trying to turn create an extra credit assignment. She wants to change the words of a song to something about math, and is having a tough time deciding on a song to use.

She says that she doesn’t want to use anything that is popular right now, and so turned to me for advice. Her question was, quote, “Do you know any really, really old songs – like from the 80’s or 90’s?”

Where is my Geritol.

And we are moving to…

Jakarta Family - we've got our Bintang and Batik, our SLR and Snorkel, and are all very excited about our impending move to Indonesia!Jakarta, Indonesia!

We accepted positions today teaching first grade and middle school math next year at Jakarta International School. We are thrilled and cannot wait to share all the exciting prospects of this move.

We are pleased that the kids will be graduating from a World IB school, that we are in a country where we can explore everything from mountains to jungles to beaches, where we can meet orangutans and Komodo dragons face-to-face, where we can get our scuba diving certificates, and where we can easily travel to Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, and Thailand (to name but a few).

We are SO fortunate and look forward to many visitors 🙂

Diwali celebration

The Stutz's at Diwali 2010Last night we carved Halloween pumpkins, and today we are celebrating the festival of lights (no, not the same one Adam Sandler sang about. I already wrote about that a few years ago…).

We have a big Diwali assembly, and so everyone dresses up. Susan loved this particular shade of pink on an outfit she saw, and so asked our maid to have a sari sewn from fabric of that color. Costing literally five dollars, this is her first official sari, and boy does she look good in it!

Of course, wrapping something like that is an acquired skill, so we had to wait until we were at school and some of the ladies here could help her, but now she is all good to go!

Anyways, this is what we wear today, until we get changed for the Halloween party, and then tomorrow it is lederhosen for Oktoberfest, and on Monday we put on our hiking duds for Week Without Walls. Like I said, a busy few days!

Breck’s Band Bonanza

ASB 6th grade bandThe 6th grade held their “informance” today – part ‘performance’ part ‘information’ – for parents to check out the new sound. Breck’s been working really hard on learning to play the trombone, as our neighbors will attest! The trombone is tricky, as there are no valves to push or holes to cover. Instead, he has to figure out how far his slide should be sticking out from the instrument, an ‘eyeball’ method at best.

Breck on the trombone!But today, when the “lower brass” part of the band opened up, they sounded great! They provide the foundation for all of the other instruments, and their rhythm and intonation were fantastic. And to top things off, Breck got to introduce one of the songs – he is a natural emcee!

What a super afternoon get together – a perfect break in the daily routine.

The Low Brass section

Breck the Bonemeister

Breck playing his first notes on the tromboneAh, yes, the start of middle school and the beginning of another musical career. Alea joined band in 6th grade and took up the saxophone and was given a guitar by her friends this last birthday! Breck decided to pick band as well, but he was interested in a more, shall we say, ‘expressive’ instrument.

He got to bring the trombone home with him the other day, and we were all made suddenly aware of just how much power there is in it (and how LOUD IT REALLY CAN BE). Our poor little apartment will certainly rock and roll to the competing sounds of woodwind and brass this year!

Breck’s graduation – and the last day of school!

Breck and Susan at his 5th grade graduationIt is official! Breck finished elementary school and is no longer (sniff) a little kid – he is a Middle Schooler! That means both Stutz kids will be in the ASB middle school next year (although neither of them will have their father for a teacher!)

Breck’s graduation ceremony went awesome, with the teachers saying little blurbs about each student. The word that he said describe our boy was “Enthusiasm,” which Breck exemplified by his enthusiastic walk across the stage afterwards.

And now today is our last day. People are busy signing yearbooks, saying goodbye, and getting ready for summer travel plans. As is tradition, we took an “end of school” picture – which I had to bark at the kids to pose for – and add it here so all can see what great young people Alea and Breck are. (To see them in other years, check out our “school pix” archive!) Have a great summer one and all – we are off to the USA tomorrow night for family, fun, and fishing!

Alea and Breck on the last day of school, June 2010

How good is your school?

So I’m back from a long weekend in the extreme India city of Varanasi, and instead of concentrating on posting pictures and the travelogue from that fascinating city (and finishing up the still-undone pages from our Jodhpur trip), I’m posting a few funny pictures. I did put some shots up on Facebook, so if you are my friend you can see them here.

But the topic of today’s post is schooling in India. While visiting Varanasi, I noticed that there are several different ‘levels’ of schooling available. Let’s look at them, shall we (and please note that this entire post is firmly tongue in cheek).

At the top of the heap, the "persnolity" developing ApexAcademy

At the very top of the heap is the Apex school, of course. Notice the emphasis on “Persnolity” development; extremely handy to perfect.

At the second tier, the Bright school

The second tier of learning is for the Bright kids – they may not be at the very top of the heap, but they’ve got some things going for them.

Standard Public School

And if you set your sights just a little bit lower, you can attend the Standard Public School. The horizons might be closer, but, you know, it is…standard.

Make your child indifferent

And, down at the bottom, I love this particular school. They are so very proud of their slogan – it is repeated on many signs around town. So now you know where all the slouch-shouldered, sullen Indian kids get their education.

Indifferent children of the world, unite!!

Mathcounts 2010

So another year, another Mathcounts.

Unfortunately this time around, we didn’t have any schools come in for the tournament, but we still had a good in-house competition.

The kids worked hard – well, at least on the tests. I’m thinking that many of the practices during the year were more of an excuse to get free popcorn than to study math 🙂

But they were tearing their hair out on the tougher problems and put on a fantastic show for the elementary students who came to watch the countdown round.

Of course, I think the highlight of the weekend was seeing the kids’ expressions when we pulled out the team t-shirts: they absolutely loved them! And it was also funny to see the reactions on the many adults’ faces (cough* Susan *cough) who don’t understand what they say.

Dave, on the other hand, is so cool as a middle school teacher that he came up with the slogan and thinks it is a pretty darn good one for a math team:

(ask a middle schooler if you need a translation…)

Not quite clear on the concept (plus a few other things)

Actual quote from a story in today’s Bombay Times:

Jai Ho choreographer Longinus Fernandes…has been invited to Miami to perform at the 2010 Orange Bowl Games of America. “This is a convention of various colleges playing football where they have a half-time in between the games which is taken over by entertainment performances….This is the first time an Indian’s performing at this convention so it is a proud moment for me.”

Enjoy that convention there at the Games of America, with various colleges in attendance!

And speaking of football – oh hey, my fantasy football team has now won 6 straight games, thank you very much!

Alea in the mangrovesAnd speaking of cleaning up, Alea and dad had a very productive day in the mangroves. We had a bit of an informative tour and then proceeded to get all dirty and muddy cleaning up some trash! Alea was going gangbusters in finding all sorts of living creatures (snails, bugs, slimy things), picking up garbage, and then thoughtfully reflecting on the day’s activities.

And speaking of living and dead creatures, out Thanksgiving festivities will be pretty low-key. Breck and Alea have playdates Thursday after school, Friday is a day off, so we are going to the dentist (!), and at some point during the weekend we’ll break out that box of Stove Top Stuffing that we brought back with us this summer just for this occasion! As I told my dear Aunt Susan over on Facebook the other day, tandoori chicken and minced goat meat is how the sub-continent Pilgrims roll, baby!

Teaching your own child – part 1

We finally got back to school after the swine flu scare, and Alea is in one of my math classes – poor kid. As is typical, one of the first day’s activities is handing out textbooks, and our school is lucky enough to have plenty – each student gets a ‘take-home’ book for homework. That text goes to the house, and stays there until the end of the year.

So I’m passing out books to a different class, and one of the students says, “Mr. Stutz, someone left their take-home book here.” And of course I jump right into the teacher lecture on responsibility, diligence, and respect of school materials. Picture (if you can picture a sound) the teacher voice from Peanuts – in case you need help, I added a link to the sound.

Several blah blah blahs later, I ask the 64,000 dollar question: “Whose book is it?” The girl opens it, reads the front cover, and starts laughing.

Yep, it was Alea’s.

She’s probably thinking that 7th grade is gonna be a looooong year…

First Day of School = Cancelled!

Swine flu reared its ugly head in India, as the city government of Mumbai closes all schools for seven days.

We got back in town late last week after a super summer vacation: we’ll certainly write more about it here. How surprised were we to hit the airport and find all sorts of medical checks established at the border! We had to fill in forms, have our temperature taken by a ‘thermal scanner,’ and have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor (or at least some guy wearing a white lab coat) before being allowed to enter the country. But even this craziness was nothing compared to the panic that we’ve felt over the past few days.

As one of our coworkers noted, “I wish people had a grasp of basic statistics.” In a city of 25 million people, there have been 2 confirmed deaths from swine flu! 5 times as many people die every day falling off trains here! In all of India, there have been 18 fatalities – how many are there from starvation, polluted water, car wrecks, etc I wonder? In other words, the realistic threat of swine flu is really, really low.

But, as tends to be the case, hysteria often overrides reality, and so all Mumbai schools have to close. Which brings us to the current curious situation. Instead of meeting friends and jumping back into the swing of a school year, our students will be spending Monday through Wednesday of next week staring at computer screens. All teachers are preparing on-line lessons, so that the missed days are not really ‘missed’ in terms of learning lessons.

Of course, some classes adapt easier to this new format than others. My math lessons, for example, are probably easier to do electronically than Susan’s first grade “welcome to school” activities. Our drama teacher was lamenting his lot in life, but at the same time not unhappy at all that he was not the PE instructor who has to help kids learn to swim via the internet!

Alea and Breck have adapted to the change in plans with amazing resilience. They are looking forward to seeing their friends, of course, but understand that there is not much we can do (since they experienced the medical check at the airport and have seen the new “thermal scanner” in place at school). They get to take their on-line courses at the school itself (lucky them!) starting Monday: much faster internet, the fact that they get to hang out with other kids and have care provided, and their teachers get to keep an eye on how effective those lessons are! We’ll keep you posted as to how things go…

Darth Vader, substitute teacher

Going over the Pythagorean theorem in class the other day, I thought I’d sneak onto YouTube to find a quick and simple video to show. Little did I know that the Dark Lord of the Sith was, in fact, a master of algebra. He doesn’t explain much, but does work through an example of it in action. Plus, did I mention that it is Darth Vader?

Of course, after seeing that, I just had to have another look at his Darkness. What follows is, hands down, Breck’s favorite Darth Vader short clip on You Tube. It is pretty funny – you’ll watch it more than once!

Breck, guns, and Christmas movies – oh my!

So I might have made a mistake in my conversations with Breck the other day. We were talking about Christmas movies, and I happened to have a brain flash about one of my favorite Christmas movies – Die Hard.

[Don’t believe me, that Die Hard is a real Christmas movie? Read the rest of the story below, after the tale of today.]

Now, you might think, “Even if Die Hard is a Christmas movie, why tell your kid about it?” Good question, one to which I have no answer.

In any case, Breck was asking what made it a Christmas movie and I was explaining it to him – you know, the lights, the music, the Christmas trees, all that good stuff – when I happened to mention that there was a guy in a Santa suit. Certainly you remember: Bruce Willis sends one of the bad guys down in an elevator with a Santa cap on and wearing a sign that says ‘Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho.’

Admittedly another pretty questionable call according to the “What you should tell your kids as a father” handbook.

Well, I got my comeuppance. With all of the beefed up security at our school, guess what the guards are now carrying around? That’s right.

And guess what Breck shouted out in front of all the teachers and parents as we were coming into school today: “Hey dad, it is just like your favorite Christmas movie – Now I have a machine gun, ho ho ho!”

Yes, I got some looks from people. Ah, the joys of parenthood.

(that’s the end of the main post; if you’re not interested in Die Hard (an action movie) then you can quit here)
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Now for what makes Die Hard a Christmas classic. I’ve had the thought before, but this blog put it much more eloquently than I could ever hope to to do. Enjoy:

Here it is, the single greatest Christmas movie of all time — no joke, no doubt, no question, it’s Die Hard. And before any quibbling begins, can we agree, in general, that it’s a good movie? Seriously. Step back from the Christmas assertion for just a moment and consider the film as a whole. Die Hard is a classic.

Die Hard ranks 39th on AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Thrills list. Die Hard turned Bruce Willis from a television star into an A-list movie star. Die Hard spawned three sequels. Die Hard spawned countless imitators and wannabes.  And, Die Hard takes place during Christmas.

Sure, it’s not a “traditional” Christmas movie. But it takes place during Christmas, has Christmas carols, and has a number of standard defining characteristics of Christmas films.

First, let’s look at John McClane (Bruce Willis’s character) and who he is. To start with, there’s his name, John McClane. In Irish the prefix “Mc” means “son of,” making him John son of Clane, or J son of C, or, to shorten it further, JC. McClane is therefore a stand-in for Jesus Christ, something the “son of” portion only aids in, as he, Jesus, is the son of God.

And, certainly, McClane is a Christ-like figure. Where do we find him at the beginning of the movie?  In an airplane, returning to Earth. It’s as though he were descending from the Heavens, being sent, as it were, by God back to Earth. And, in Die Hard, it’s on Christmas that John McClane is reborn.

Additionally, this night also represents McClane’s walk in the wilderness, which was a crucially important time in the life of Jesus. Nakatomi Plaza (the building in which the movie takes place) is a perfect stand-in for the wilderness, and it is only after McClane leaves Nakatomi, exiting the wilderness, that he is a changed man. McClane has faced his nightmarish opposite in the form of Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). Gruber is everything that McClane is not; he is the anti-McClane, much as the Devil is often referred to as the anti-Christ. McClane, like Jesus, has been tempted, and has passed his trials.

One could say that JC has been ‘baptized in blood,’ and then comes back to life. In fact, when the ‘resurrection’ scene begins, John is shown bloody and backlit with radiant light. As he confronts Hans, who is holding his wife hostage, her response on seeing him appear is “Jesus.” Of course, as he gives himself up to Hans, McClane has an ace up his sleeve, but then so too did the son of God.

Putting aside this blatant analogy, the plot of the film as a whole is unquestionably Christmas movie-themed. Outside of their ornamentation, Christmas movies are all notable for having several common principles. Often there is a love story element to these movies (It’s A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol serve as two perfect examples); these love stories always have the couple overcome their difficulties to be stronger in the end.  Check. McClane and his wife are estranged when the film starts, but by the end are together again.

Another similarity that the truly great Christmas movies all share is that they create phrases that enter our popular culture. Examples include “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings;” “God bless us, every one;” and “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Die Hard actually contains one of the most well-known entries into this category: “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf***er.”

It is also essential to note that the film itself is quite clearly trying to be a Christmas movie. It understands that it is not a typical Christmas movie, but it still wishes to be counted in the genre. Remember McClane’s discussion with his limo driver, Argyle, once he gets in the car? Upon hearing the up-beat rap music Argyle has on the radio, McClane asks Argyle about Christmas music, and if there are no carols on. Argyle laughs at McClane and says they are listening to Christmas music and turns up the volume. Sure enough, once the lyrics to the song start, they’re all about Christmas. True, it’s not your traditional Christmas carol, it’s updated, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing

So, to recap, Die Hard is a great movie and Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Is there anything then that separates a great movie that happens to take place during Christmas from being a great Christmas movie? Any number of criteria would push a movie from the former to the latter; chief among these criteria is that the movie should promote the spirit of Christmas and the holidays.

Die Hard, as a film, does just this. It is a movie about the triumph of good over evil; more importantly however, it is a movie the throws into stark relief the importance of family, particularly during the holidays. McClane makes his family, during the holidays, the most important thing in the world. He goes through hell in order to rebuild his family and strengthen those bonds. And McClane certainly makes Christmas morning one of the happiest days ever for those he saves.

It’s not easy to believe, but it’s undeniable. Die Hard just may be one of the greatest Christmas movies ever made.

The new school pictures are here!

Check ’em out – Alea and Breck ready to take on the world:

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(you can also see the pictures from last year, as well as those from even earlier grades…)

Mangrove mania

As part of our school mission, ASB is in the process of developing relationships with various non-governmental agencies (NGOs) in Mumbai. There are certainly many areas where we have the opportunity to “enhance the lives of others” in this sprawling city, and in the middle school we’ve targeted three sectors for the different grade levels: 6th grade focuses on animal welfare, 7th grade on the environment, and 8th grade on education.

This past Friday was our first full day of working with the various groups, and both Dave and Alea had the chance to go ‘into the field’ to get some hands on experience. Alea’s group went to an animal shelter affiliated with the one we visited in Udaipur at the end of October (sigh – those pages are still not created or posted. Patience, patience) where they got a crash course in some of the issues and treatment options for city animals at risk. (Rumor has it that she also fell in love with a beautiful black kitten, which Susan will not let her bring home.)

Dave’s 7th grade class went to visit a patch of mangroves on the eastern side of the city. Mangroves are trees that grow in brackish water, where outflowing rivers and streams meet the sea and get ‘backflooded’ when the tides rise. Providing shelter for many types of sea and land life, protecting coastlines from erosion, and scrubbing a disproportionate amount of carbon dioxide out of the air, these important coastal features are threatened by development. Most of the original groves around Mumbai have been destroyed, and construction by both the fabulously wealthy (who want seaside views and golf courses) and the desperately poor (who want shantytown shelter in any place they can find it) continues to this day.

There are a number of organizations dedicated to working to halt the encroachment of population centers on the mangroves, and our school has partnered with the Mangrove Society of India, which works in Mumbai to explore the issue. With Rishi Aggarwaal as our guide and mentor, we headed to the mangrove sanctuary sponsored by Godrej, a manufacturing company that has set aside a huge swath of land outside their factories.

Lionfish with kids in the backgroundThe kids spent some time learning about the mangroves and their importance, seeing some of the different fish that make their home or spawn there (including the cool-looking but deadly lionfish), and going to a local school that runs a mangrove awareness program. It was quite an experience (despite getting devoured by mosquitoes!) that we look forward to building on when we return later in the year. We’ll probably get more engaged in “doing” things in the mangroves – this trip was more of a getting acquainted with the issues visit.

Of course, ask any of the kids for the highlight of the day, and getting into the mud would be your hands (or feet) down winner! The kids schlopped and schlepped through the thick goo, and anyone who did not have shoes that went over the ankle became a prime candidate for being a shoe-loser. Few things in life are more fun than a school day that includes playing in the mud!!

Diwali celebrations

Our school held its observation/celebration of Diwali yesterday, and the entire campus was decorated in colors, flowers, and streamers. Our family was no exception, as we put on our finest Indian gear and posed around the rangoli that graced the cafeteria floor.

The holiday itself is not for another few weeks, but with the middle and high school basically emptying out next week for the week without walls trips and everyone leaving the next week for the Diwali break, we all got an early start on the holiday.

Shops around town are just starting to gear up – stringing lights, putting candles on sale, getting lanterns out for people to see – so for once I feel ‘ahead of the curve.’ We are headed to Udaipur for the the real holiday, so we’ll let everyone know how they celebrate it in Rajasthan!

But for now, zip on over to our regular webpage to see more images from the kids, the activities, and the sights of the day.

I must be on the front page

ASB's front page with Alea on it!

ASB front page with Alea on it!

Cruising through our school’s web site, we’d noticed that the webmasters have replaced some of the “Welcome to ASB” pictures that grace the front page. As the images cycled in and out, we suddenly got a glimpse of a familiar face – there was Alea!!!

If you want to check out the real school page and see all the rotating images, come to the main site.

Of course, the other funny thing is that you can still find our pictures on the Belgrade school’s site, which the kids last attended 3 years ago: Alea as a witch, Breck as a Christmas cowboyBreck’s tummy with a batman logo , or other pictures of them (and Dave) in the student gallery.

First day of school

Alea and Breck get ready for classes at ASB this morning

Alea and Breck get ready for classes at ASB this morning

Today is the big day!

After all the pre-in-service and the getting-over-jet-lag and the reacquainting-ourselves-with-friends sessions have drawn to a close, school starts again today.

We all slept rather badly two nights ago, and so got to bed early and slept soundly, all prepared for our classes. We rushed a bit for the bus (there was even family member who did not get his or her pair of shoes put on as we hurried out!), but made it in and were off to a great day.

Wish us all luck as we get things going with a first grade teacher, a fourth grade student, a sixth grade student, and a seventh/eighth grade teacher. What a mix!