Thursday, August 31, 2006

Teacher Flies Foreign Flags

I can't believe this story. This geography teacher was suspended for flying foreign flags in his classroom.

He's teaching geography. That's the study of the earth. Which has lots of different countries in it.

Yeah, it seems obvious to me.

Flight 5191

I have been reading these profiles of people who died on Flight 5191 and crying. Such a sudden, unexpected death. So many bereaved family members and friends.

Quit Looking at Me!

I come from a culture where it's rude to stare. I live in a culture where it isn't. Not only that, but I have a different skin color from the majority of the people who live here and I behave oddly - not on purpose, but just by virtue of my foreign-ness.

Once, I was walking down the street carrying my baby, and a car full of young men pulled to a halt so that the passengers could stare at me, slack-jawed, until I had walked past. Often, as I emerge from my gate, groups of schoolchildren or even adults stop and gaze.

I assure you that the reason that I draw all this attention is not my great beauty. Sometimes I feel as though I was put on this earth to entertain passers-by by my very existence.

When I'm in the States, I enjoy just walking along, blending in, not being noticed.

Just Some Random Links

Here are some things that caught my eye today.

The Norwegian police found those Munch paintings that had been stolen two years ago. Don't you get the feeling that this would be a great story if we could hear all the details? I hope some day we'll get to know more about this operation.

Deb says, "Get behind me, Mr. Clean!"

And now that I'm teaching a French class again, here's a useful site I found yesterday through an ad in my Gmail account.

Monday, August 28, 2006

First Day of School

There were some glitches in the high school schedule, and the high school class I was supposed to teach didn't happen at all, but I had a good time with my middle schoolers. It was great to see those I already know and to meet the new ones.

I always forget that by the end of the year I had them trained to do things the way I like them done. Now that I'm starting from scratch with a new batch of 7th graders, there's a lot I can't take for granted.

Prayer Before an Operation

from the Book of Common Prayer

Strengthen your servant M., O God, to do what she has to do and bear what she has to bear; that, accepting your healing gifts through the skill of surgeons and nurses, she may be restored to usefulness in your world with a thankful heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

There's Just No Job Security Any More

It's a sad world where even a planet can be demoted. Poor old Pluto.

Well, I say that being a dwarf planet is every bit as good. So there.

Here's a Q&A in case you want to know more about Pluto's disgrace.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Happier Person?

In the in-flight magazine for American Airlines, American Way, I read about a flight attendant who has founded a charity in Central and South America. (You can read more about it at her website.) It sounds like wonderful work she is doing.

I was struck by this quote: "Traveling from areas of relative wealth to the desperate poverty of children living and begging in the streets changes you. You become a more grateful, happy person."

I've been thinking about this quote for a couple of days now. Definitely this experience changes you. Definitely it makes you appreciate the amazing bounty you have, in comparison with so many in this world. But does it make you happier?

In some ways, I can see that this may be true. Being a thankful person is a good way to be a happy person in the sense of contentment, not constantly thinking you need more and more. But I think I would be a happier person, a more carefree person, if I didn't know some of what I know about the suffering on this planet. I don't think being happy in that way is necessarily a good goal to have - a sort of "ignorance is bliss" way of living - but I can certainly see the appeal of it some days. Wouldn't it be relaxing never to think about anything beyond your own comfort? Not good morally, but somehow restful.

What do you think? Many of my readers (not that "many" is really the word to describe my readership) have spent time in developing countries. Do you find you are happier as a result?

Horrifying Ordeal Involving Chocolate

This headline is one I just had to click on. I'm sure it was very unpleasant for the poor guy, but I have to admit it made me snicker a little.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


I've only been blogging four months, and this is already my hundredth post. It seems as though I should have something profound to say, but hey, why start now?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Home again, home again

Here I am, back in Tecwil. I'm trying to get things unpacked and organized at home, and next comes my first foray into my classroom of the new school year. I'm going to try to put that off until Monday. I'm very excited about starting to get the new books into my classroom library. Hooray! I love having my life organized around the school year. Who but students and teachers get to start again every August?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

School Memories

I enjoyed reading this post at Donna is sharing the school memories of her great-great-grandmother, through a letter written in 1935.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Shakespeare at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Take a look at this link about the world's wildest Shakespeare Festival. Hamlet in a bouncy castle?

Monday, August 14, 2006

More on Blogging in Lebanon

In this post, I wrote that I was looking for some of the Lebanese blogs mentioned in the AP story I read. What I found was mostly in Arabic, which I can't understand.

Yesterday I found this blog, courtesy of Blogger, which lists "Blogs of Note." The author of this one was in Lebanon for a class, left on a boat during the evacuation, and then felt he had made a huge mistake and found a way to get back in to Beirut.

He's not Lebanese, but he's there, and he's posting in English. I couldn't stop reading it.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Here's another blog I just found, Doorways Around the World. Beautiful photos! There is a link to submit some of your own photos, if you have a great doorway picture you'd like to show off.

More on Buying Clothes for Children

Well, not surprisingly, some people have rather different ideas on buying children's clothes from the way I do it.

Just point me to those people's yard sales! (Though I wouldn't buy cashmere for an infant or toddler even if it were second hand!)

Air Conditioning

The greatest risk in an American summer is of freezing to death. Air conditioners everywhere keep the temperature indoors at painful levels. I breathe a sigh of relief when I leave church, stores, or offices and feel my body begin to thaw.

Here's an interesting article on the American obsession with air conditioning.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Blog from Japan

I wanted to share this blog that I just found on a teacher site (Adventures in Educational Blogging, a blog by a woman working at an international school in Singapore). It is a fascinating look at little details about Japan and what you see and hear and experience there. It's billed as "a blog for kids about life in Japan."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lebanese Bloggers

Here's an article about bloggers in Lebanon. I've been trying to find some of the blogs mentioned in the article (none are linked) but almost everything I've found so far has been in Arabic, which I unfortunately can't read.

I feel so sad for both sides in this conflict. Most of the people getting hurt, as always, are people who aren't political at all - they just want to live their lives, raise their children, be at peace. That's true in conflicts around the world.

Yesterday at the church I was attending, someone said, "We need to be sure to pray for Israel." I waited for him to add "...and Lebanon" but he didn't. (This wasn't the pastor - it was someone giving prayer requests during the time allotted for that.) I don't understand this. Ten times as many people have died in Lebanon. PEOPLE. What difference does it make what their nationality is? They are human beings.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Clothes with a History

I enjoy shopping at yard sales, thrift stores, and Goodwill. Sure, you have to hunt for quality, and you have to wash stuff well when you get it home, but you can't beat the prices. With my babies, I pretty well dressed them that way. Why should I spend $25 for the outfit new when I can get it for $1 after another baby drooled on it a few times? It's harder to do with older children, who have more defined tastes, but I still find something here and there. And I even find things for myself sometimes. Some of the clothes I get the most compliments on are things I picked up second-hand. Often the tags are still on the clothes.

One benefit of buying used clothes is that you get the better brands that way. The clothes that survive long enough to make it to hand-me-down status are often the better quality ones to start with. Cheaper clothes wear out on the first kid.

Some of my friends think this is nasty. One used the word "disgusting" about the maternity clothes stash that I maintain at my house and loan out to pregnant women I know. But maternity clothes are expensive, and as I told my friend, "We wash them first." I really don't see the problem.

In Tecwil, most of the people you see on the street are dressed in second-hand clothes that are imported into the country in huge bundles and bought by street merchants. This often leads to interesting sights as people wear T-shirts with English on them that they can't read or understand. But it's a cheap and easy way to get dressed.

I've been collecting links on this subject for a while, and here are some of them:

Some people think that sending used clothes to Africa is actually harming African economies. They argue that the local textile industries have been severely damaged by this practice. Here's another point of view, written by a woman who sells second-hand clothes. And here's what Oxfam's report has to say about it.

Here's a thought-provoking post on Osama bin Laden in Burkina Faso. Where do these clothes come from, and what can we conclude about the people wearing them?

And here's something on Kennedy clothes in Haiti.


This is the time of year when teachers start having workmares. (Look at the posts for July 31st and August 1st - for some reason I'm having trouble linking directly to those.)

I had one last night about the internet connection at school being completely destroyed. Whew, that was a bad one.

Why the First Week of August?

Why is World Breastfeeding Week the first week of August?

Here's an answer from La Leche League International:

"Sixteen years ago, during the first week of August, there was a meeting of WHO/UNICEF policymakers in Florence, Italy, where the important Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding was produced. The Declaration, adopted by all WHO and UNICEF Member States, has been a key strategy on improving health of infants and young children through optimal nutrition. Many places around the world now use August 1-7 as an opportunity to raise awareness about breastfeeding."

Friday, August 04, 2006

Happy Planet Index

One more thing in the "how did I miss this?" category, and then I have to get off the computer!

Vanuatu is the happiest place in the world, according to a new index. (I got this information while browsing Porta Vila Today, a Daily Photo blog from Porta Vila, Vanuatu's largest city.)

Here's the full list. This whole site is well worth a visit - it's a fascinating way to measure the success of a country - it uses three factors, ecological footprint, life-satisfaction and life-expectancy. By this measure, no country does fantastically well, but the happiest people are not the ones you'd expect. The United States is in 150th place out of 178!

And this is interesting, if rather idealistic: "Island nations score well above average in the Index: They have higher life satisfaction, higher life expectancy and marginally lower Footprints than other states. Yet incomes (by GDP per capita) are roughly equal to the world average. Even within regions, islands do well. Malta tops the Western world with Cyprus in seventh place (out of 24); the top five HPI nations in Africa are all islands; as well as two of the top four in Asia. Perhaps a more acute awareness of environmental limits has sometimes helped their societies to bond better and to adapt to get more from less. Combined with the enhanced well-being that stems from close contact with nature, the world as a whole stands to learn much from the experience of islands." (From What the Happy Planet Index Reveals.)

The enhanced well-being that stems from close contact with nature? Hmm.

Obviously this organization has some ecological axes to grind. But I have to say it is kind of nice to see Tecwil listed as happier than so many other countries, even if I can't quite believe it's true. If people there are so very happy, it's hard to understand why they are constantly trying to emigrate.

Saddest of all is poor Zimbabwe, in last place.

Don't Know Much About Current Events

You know, I really try to keep up on the news. But somehow, I can never do well on the BBC's weekly quiz.

Here, you try it.

The Code

Here's a link to The Code itself. No, not the Da Vinci Code - the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Brits in Florida

I'm fascinated by stories about people living in a culture different from their own, and this one is interesting. You wouldn't think there would be a big cultural divide between two countries like the UK and the US, but I know from experience that the differences are there, and perhaps more difficult for being a bit unexpected.

My favorite comment was the one from the Englishman who complained that you can't get a decent cup of tea in Florida. Too true!

Breastfeeding Reduces Anxiety

Just in time for WBW, here's an article about how breastfeeding reduces anxiety in the breastfed child - even years after weaning.

Breastfeeding reduces anxiety in the mother, too, though this article doesn't go into that. Once you get past the stressful early weeks, it's very soothing to know that you have everything your baby needs nutritionally for the first six months. And then there's the hormonal cocktail of prolactin and oxytocin, which has been shown to calm down the breastfeeding mother.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

World Breastfeeding Week

It's World Breastfeeding Week! This year the theme is a very activist one, Code Watch: 25 Years of Protecting Breastfeeding.

"The Code" is the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. (Here's some information.) That's just what formula is, a breastmilk substitute, meant for those rather rare cases when a mother can't breastfeed. But have you looked at a baby magazine lately? They are all stuffed with formula ads. Doesn't look as though formula is rarely used, but instead as though every baby has to have it. Here are some ways breastfeeding is undermined by marketing.

Today, most women in this country are sent home from the hospital with a bag full of formula samples "in case breastfeeding doesn't work out." The message is that formula is just as good as breastmilk, and also that it's fairly likely breastfeeding won't work out. With encouragement like that, it's no wonder that breastfeeding rates drop off quickly. Because it CAN be very tough at first. You're exhausted. You just produced a new human being! You and your baby both have a lot of learning to do in those early weeks.

Call La Leche League! (1-800-LALECHE to find a Leader near you in the United States, or check out this list to find groups and Leaders around the world.) There's also lots of great breastfeeding information on the web now. Here are some of my favorite links. Talk to someone who breastfed successfully and ignore the horror stories. Why do people want to tell you their terrible labor tales right before you give birth and regale you with dreadful breastfeeding anecdotes when you're desperately trying to latch on your newborn? Surround yourself with encouraging people!

Tulip Girl posted a list of people blogging about WBW yesterday. I'm a day late and a dollar short on this one.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

August - already?

All the teacher blogs are talking about back-to-school plans. My curriculum guide is all ready to go. Only just under four weeks until the first day of school.

A recent discussion on a mailing list I read became heated when someone asked, "Why do people only care about the Middle East? What about crises everywhere else?" While I don't think anyone could accuse me of only caring about one part of the globe (check out my archives for evidence), here are a few other things going on.

"Don't kill Harry Potter!" beg John Irving and Stephen King.

There is a crisis in Britain over people's inability to boil eggs.

And a real crisis to end my flippancy, elections in Congo.