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Alea’s graduation and summer vacation

Alea’s class had a celebration marking the end of 8th grade and middle school. And, right on schedule, the first big rain of the season fell during the evening’s events (as I predicted would happen way back on May 17)!

It was a super evening of fun and tears, made doubly special by the fact that we (and many of our friends) are leaving Mumbai this summer. Thanks to the wonders of electronic communication, we’ll be able to keep in touch, but of course that’s not quite the same as really being there.

This post also marks the beginning of our summer hiatus. We possibly will update a time or two over the summer, but look for the lion’s share of new reporting to come out of Jakarta, Indonesia starting the last week of July. As we said in our goodby email to the ASB staff:

Namaste –
To the ASB community, and all with whom we’ve had the opportunity to work and play.
Shukriya –
A special shout out to all of you who have so positively touched the lives of our children.
Silahkan –
Our doors in Jakarta will always be open, and we hope many of you will pass through them.
Auf wiedersehen –
Until we meet again, please stay in touch.

Words of Wisdom

Cleaning up the classrooms, today’s the day to take down my “Words of Wisdom.” I often make little pithy comments to students during the course of the year, and some of them come out so often that I printed out and laminated them. Here is a look at them – obviously some are specific to the math classroom, but many are pretty darn universal (as far as I’m concerned)!

Only 2-and-a-half days to go now – the school year’s getting short!

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!

3 Articles: India, Law, and Technology

I don’t usually get way into recommending online articles, but this week three very different pieces grabbed my attention. These have been hashed and discussed in various social media forums, but I found each of them powerful enough that I thought I’d re-point-them-out.

The first addressed something that we’ve definitely seen in our time here in India -the hugely growing power of the Indian middle class. At every single tourist destination that we’ve visited, there have been more Indian tourists than westerners. And while that really should not come as a surprise (after all, locals by rights should make up the majority of tourists everywhere in the world – they’ve got a shorter commute!), it certainly was not the case when we lived in Pakistan years and years ago. Then, anyone with money went to Europe for vacation, and anyone with no money didn’t travel at all.

The second article came to my attention via a Facebook “discussion” that a couple of people were having regarding the arrest of the IMF head on sexual assault charges. One noted that he was absolutely a real sleazeball (I’m paraphrasing here), and the other countered that anyone arrested should be considered innocent until proven guilty. It is interesting to look at how views on the treatment of the accused differs from continent to continent, and how what we might consider “normal” treatment might cause those from a different legal background to recoil in shock.

And the third hits square into the internet culture that seems to have taken over so many facets of our lives. It is a TED talk, an institution of which I was not aware until we started holding them last year at ASB, looking at electronic “gatekeepers,” the present-day effects, and the long-term implications. It is a ten-minute watch, but well worth it as a thought-provoker:

Festival of Nations

American FamilyWell, India pulled it off last night, and so Saturday is the big final match between them and Sri Lanka: in Mumbai – whoo hoo! For better or for worse, we will not be around, as our spring break starts Friday, and the Stutz family is off on our fourth (4th!!) trip to Rajasthan.

As is the norm, our last day before break is our school’s celebration of all the nationalities and cultures that make us a community – our Festival of Nations. And, as is the norm, we came decked out in our USA best. Here’s our picture of the day from our family, and we’ll be back blogging after the break. Adios!


Mama Mia, it’s an Eclipse of the Twilight Moon!

That was the name of one part of “Stars on Parade,” the middle school production this year. It was made up of 13 mini-plays put on by students, and included a Stutz performer (just as it had last year).

This time around, it was Breck’s turn to take part, and he worked every Thursday afternoon with his groups preparing their performances. The first bit was a play on the song (and movie) Mama Mia, where instead of the love interest being a person – it was food! Very cute, as they sang and danced their way through tales of diet woe and junk food trauma!

The second piece he was in was called “Eclipse of the Twilight Moon,” of course in mocking reference to the vampire books and movies that everyone (in the middle school, at least) has read and seen. Breck plays a zombie who convinces Bella that neither the vampire Edward nor the werewolf Jacob are the ‘man’ for her, and he lurches off arm-in-arm with her, presumably to un-live happily ever after.

They showed the plays 5 times in the span of 2 days, so the cast really got a feeling for what it was like to put on a production multiple times. While cameras and video were not allowed at the performance (“No real theater allows recordings, and we won’t here either. A play should be remembered in the head and in the heart”), I was able to snag a few pictures that the yearbook photographer took during a practice run through!

Breck in basketball

Breck has been participating in an intramural basketball program this spring at school, and the teams held their internal tournament this weekend. He was one of only 2 6th graders to play, so going up against all those big 8th graders gave him a chance to “toughen up” a bit.

His team wore black, and ended up winning 2 out of their 3 games. He scored a bit, made some good defensive plays, and had a very good showing for his first ever experience with a basketball team. Good time!!

Christmas Concert

The Middle and High School bands and choirs held their Christmas Concert this evening, and we had kids playing twice tonight! Breck’s 6th grade band got things going with an especially rousing rendition of the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th! See him in the back row on his trombone with the other low brass?

Alea demonstrated beautiful embrasure as her band rocked out to “Legends of the Ghost Dance.” OK, while not really a Christmasy song, it was still pretty cool, with all the thumping percussion and swinging saxophones!

Both kids have worked really hard this year and made huge growth as musicians. Maybe we’ll have to invest in instruments for the family this summer!

And what kind of concert would end without a Stutz wave to the audience? 

Christmas tree lighting ceremony

Tree lighting ceremony 2010Facing what is probably our last Christmas season in Mumbai, we took another step down that holiday road last night with what has become our favorite yearly community event. The elementary school choir sings at the local Grand Hyatt hotel, the tree’s lights are lit, Santa appears, and we all eat ’til we burst courtesy of the best buffet in town.

Although there is a little something disconcerting about celebrating winter and snow as we all stand around sweating in shorts, the evening still manages to convey the best of the season. Throw in the singing voices of a bunch of elementary school kids (and the shuffle-shuffle-shuffle of their parents jockeying for the best spot from which to get that perfect video/picture), and you have the makings of a fun evening.

Last night Susan was not feeling well, so Dad, Alea, and Breck made the Stutz family appearance, and boy did we have a great time! See the pictures and read the rest of the story over on the webpage!

Breck and the circus arts

Here’s the latest thing Breck has been spending time on: in PE, they are doing a unit on ‘circus arts,’ encompassing everything from unicycles to juggling to flicking around those sticks you see people playing with on the beach (obviously there is a more accurate name, but it is Friday afternoon and I just can’t think of it).

In any case, he has spent a lot of time practicing his juggling (and is getting good at it!), but decided to show off his stick skills in the school presentation. Because the theme was the circus and clowns, he put on a wig and had makeup on his face – and really did a spectacular show!

Breck with the sticks #1Breck with the sticks #2Breck with the sticks #3

2010 school photos

Well here they are – the official portraits of this school year. You can enjoy them all here and pop over to the webpage for a look back at all the kids’ (and parents’) school shots over the years.

Alea the xylophonist

and there’s another word I never really expected to use. Those little red squiggly lines didn’t appear under ‘xylophonist,’ so I guess that is the correct spelling.

Our school had its annual “Embracing India” celebration, an evening of showcasing culture and raising money for worthy causes. What had started as an effort to help get relief aid to flood-ravaged Bihar has transformed this year into support for the One Laptop Per Child initiative, focused on a village close to Mumbai.

Alea is part of the “World Music Ensemble,” and they welcomed guests to the event. It is pretty cool to see her grow as a musician, stretching out from the saxophone to this percussion instrument as well. If you’re interested, there are a few other pictures of faculty and staff performers over on facebook.

Alea playing the xylophone at Embracing India 2010Alea playing the xylophone at Embracing India 2010

Bollywood Bigshots

Bollywoood/Hollywood glam coupleYeah, that’s us, baby. We got all dressed up for the PTA “Hollywood/Bollywood” dinner and dance last night, and Alea took this nice shot of us.

I actually went shopping yesterday and bought a glitzy Indian outfit so that I could look like the movie stars here – but it was really the accessories that made everything work. Throwing on the sunglasses and topping up with the Rajasthani wedding turban really brought out the haughty glamor.

The party itself was a blast – teachers and parents mingling and enjoying the evening with very little shop talk taking place. There were several dance performances, ranging from traditional Indian folk songs to Bollywood movie hits and hip hop mashups. After the open bar had a bit of business, the dance floor was filled up by members of the school community shaking their groove thangs.

And to top off the evening, the powers-that-be decided that I had the best Bollywood outfit, so now Susan and I get a dinner at the ritzy hotel just down the road from the school! Kind of a fun bonus to top off a great night.

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

Alea’s award

Alea and the award for "Enhancing the Lives of Others"Our school mission here in Mumbai is as follows:

We inspire all of our students to continuous inquiry, empowering them with the skills, courage, optimism, and integrity to pursue their dreams and enhance the lives of others.

As part of the celebration and promotion of these ideals, teachers nominate students who they feel exemplify one or more of the parts of that statement. Describing the reasons behind their nominations, they submit those student names to the faculty for further discussion and approval. Of course, this being a tech school, all this ‘conversation’ takes place electronically via Google docs!

The faculty votes on the student nominations, and the awards were announced at an assembly this afternoon. Alea had been nominated and recognized for her outstanding ‘giving’ and for “Enhancing the lives of others.”

Of special note was her selfless attitude during all our community service activities, her caring for those in the community around her, and the strong, supportive bonds she helps create and maintain among students here: these qualities were recognized by the faculty and she was one of the award recipients for this year!

We are so proud of her great work this year, but even more excited about the mature “thinking of others” traits that she exhibits. Way to go, Alea!!

Mangroves, trash, and our fantastic daughter

Alea and Dave had another Community, Service, and Responsibility day at school today, and we again headed up to some local mangroves. We have sort of ‘adopted’ one stretch of lakeshore, and so we were curious what we would find after our cleanup in November.

Sadly, there was all sorts of new plastic strewn about, but most of the kids rolled up their sleeves and got right to work. We were joined by some guys from a group called Sprouts, a local NGO dedicated to attacking various environmental problems around Bombay while educating people about these issues. They were extraordinarily enthusiastic and a lot of fun to clean up garbage with!

The most incredible “teaching moment” came, however, at the tail end of all our efforts. We were wrapping up, discussing as a group the day’s events, in front of 35 dripping bags full of stinky plastic and garbage pulled from the lake, when a motorcycle roared up behind us. A man, woman, and little girl got off, walked around us, went to the lake, took out a plastic bag full of garbage, and dumped it in.

The kids were horrified and the adults were livid. The guys from Sprouts read the man the riot act, my cooperating teacher told him that apparently she loved his country more than he did, and the students simply looked on in shock. He mumbled something about ‘returning nature to nature,’ but when we pointed out that the plastic didn’t belong there at all, he sheepishly shrugged his shoulders and bobbled his head. But at least he did pick up his trash and put it in the nearby bin.

What a poignant reminder of just how big the job is here in India. People talk about ‘the white man’s burden,’ but in this case I really have a tough time understanding any other way to get the point across other than by throttling the population here and shouting, “Stopping throwing all this crap all over your own country!!”


But on a more positive note, I do have to say that I am so incredibly proud of Alea. She was the single most hardest working person out there, getting all muddy and sweaty, leading by example, and really just making my heart swell with love and pride. Her efforts were commented on by her peers as well as the adults, and it was just a joy to see her out there, working so hard for the sheer pleasure of doing good.

So on the way home, I bought her a Baskin Robbins Oreo shake!!

ASB Unplugged 2010

Our honkin’ huge ASB Unplugged conference finished this evening, and we are ready to take a deep breath and relax. Things wrapped up after a nutso period of preparation and a crazy few days of people in and out and about and around and under and over and between and beyond and every other preposition your 7th grade teacher made you memorize. The number I heard this afternoon was that we had over 300 people from 64 countries visiting; I suppose you could peg it as a pretty darn successful event.

Susan and I presented a workshop about creating and posting videos online which was well received, we both opened up our classrooms to visitors to come in and interact with the kids,we each hosted a job alike for our respective fields,  and we both set up “student showcases” involving them demonstrating and explaining the tech that we use on a daily basis (Alea was part of the demonstration crew for DyKnow), so I’d say the Stutz family was pretty darn well represented!

Add in social events on each night of the conference and a full few days of (usually) inspiring workshops, and we are wiped out. Luckily, Monday is the holiday of Holi, so we end up having 2 days off anyways. Playdates for the kids tomorrow and colored water the next day: prime elements of a rock and roll weekend!

ASB Aquathon

Today was the 5th annual aquathon at school – a fundraiser that includes swimming and running events. One of Breck’s buddies invited him to participate and ‘share the wealth’ in terms of the work, so Breck agreed to be the runner.

The Splash and Dash portion consisted of a 150m swim and 1.5km run (as opposed to the longer main Aquathon 300m-4km-300m event), which was just perfect for the guys. They had a great time, got a certificate and t-shirt, and had some fun on a Sunday morning!

There are more pictures posted on the main webpage – check out Breck’s eventful day!

ASB on the front page

Our school had an interesting start to the school year, in that the H1N1 pandemic prompted city officials to close down all schools. As a ‘technology-rich’ institution, we decided to proceed with a program of providing distance learning for the first week.

Our director wrote up a review of his observations and community reactions for his blog, and the article was expanded on and reprinted in one of the professional journals for international educators. It provides an interesting ‘big picture’ view of some of the successes and challenges we experienced. It also gives anyone interested in teaching overseas an idea of the resources available. ISS is one of the big names in recruiting, as is Search, and the University of Northern Iowa‘s job fair gives an idea of the breadth of positions and countries available!

Weekend update – Alea’s play and the family fun day

Whew. Susan is off on her girls’ night chick flick thing, Alea is at the play cast party, Breck and dad just finished up a Star Wars movie: a pretty typical Saturday night – welcome to parenthood! We’ve had a pretty cool couple of days recently, and there are a few pictures posted from the events. Not many, but enough to pop on over and see briefly. Check out Alea’s play production and our school Family Fun Day pages on the website. Happy last week of school before winter break, too!!!

Free verse Friday – Take your child to snow day

Alea on Winter Day
There is no snow in Bombay
I know this much is true
But for spirit week, which is this week
Alea’s clothes had wintry hue.

All dressed in icicle-y silver and blue
With Santa’s elves on her ears
Wrapped in a scarf of fine white mesh
She’s pretty beyond her years.

Breck "Take your child to work" DayAnd speaking today of growing up
Breck shadowed dad and mom
As grade 5’s “Take your child to work day”
At long last was finally on.

He got to see mom teaching,
Little faces bright with glee
But since dad had no classes then
We just went and got coffee.

So much fun, on a warm Friday
Before a big weekend –
The play tonight, the fair next morn
Welcome to the festive season!

Tis the season

Alea on the sax - winter 2009We have a slow moving family this morning, as we all nurse the excesses from this ‘start of the holiday season’ weekend. The events began on Wednesday, with Alea’s band concert, and things will just get ever more crazy from that point on.

This weekend is chock a block with doings: Friday night was an impromptu rooftop gathering in celebration of a colleague’s new job in Bucharest, Saturday night was the school’s Christmas party at Aurus, a swanky beachside club (open bar and all, thus the quiet music and dim lights this morning), today is an art show followed by holiday sing-a-long, and Monday is the Grand Hyatt’s tree-lighting ceremony showcasing the ASB elementary schoolers and also including copious amounts of first-class food and drink (unfortunately on a school night!).

Alea’s play practices – the show is called “Online – An Internet Fantasy” – are revving up in intensity, as her performances are Friday afternoon and evening, Susan has a chick-flick movie night organized on Saturday, our White Elephant party is Thursday evening, and then we are outta here for Bali. Whew. I’m glad we got our tree up as early as we did, ’cause there’s no time to do it now!

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!

Band concert


Alea warming up on the saxophone

Alea playingAlea’s band played for the school last week, and did a bang up job. It is so fun to hear her grow as a musician (and a little scary how fast she is doing it!).

She has gotten herself involved in the on-going middle school drama production, and is spending lots of time after school practicing with that club. She is growing into such a mature young lady!!

Plus she’s doing ok in her math class, but I think that’s because she’s got a great teacher!