A photo call parade

3 08 2012

Whatever a photo call parade is, a picture showed up on my Facebook newsfeed this afternoon:

The caption was “Abercrombie & Fitch the Hottest guys photo call parade” 當一眾火辣男模現身時,過百市民尖叫聲震遍整個中環!

The promotional activity just struck me as being very superficial, and very typical of Hong Kong, where appearance is everything, with the city’s deep-seated mentality of how anything that originates from a huge conglomerate that may or may not be the socially-conscious, societally-responsible corporation it makes itself out to be, must be good, because it’s foreign, and different.

Being more socially- and environmentally aware has meant some lifestyle changes for me, and knowing that it would defeat the purpose of change, I have elected not to throw clothes away that I purchased from a corporation before knowing about their practices. Reading blogs about green lifestyles and other topics about conservation has been a productive and very engaging use of my summer. I feel motivated and more educated about how I can leave the world a better place by doing the work of one person.


Switching the mindset

29 11 2011

Last week, there was a situation in one of my classes, which really upset me. It wasn’t what the student said so much as how I reacted, and how quickly I lost my cool.

This morning, I went back into that class with that student, with a completely, intentionally positive mindset that I was going to be nice to the students today, because I got to teach them, and I got to have the pleasure of watching them grow, and learn, and mature.

Total change.

I came out of the class feeling like I had really achieved something quantifiable, although I would be the first to say that teaching cannot be measured: a good teacher, who cares about their students, and watches out for them, and tries to meet their needs in and out of the classroom, making use of technology and Differentiated Instruction, cannot be assessed for what they do, exactly. No, good teaching is much more non-linear than that.

And it’s something I’m always working towards, because it’s impossible to glean from books, or even from good mentors.

I went through some of the photos of me on Facebook, to find one of me teaching, and spent a while smiling at the pictures students took of me. Can’t decide on one that shows me teaching ‘well’ though; so here is one that is most recent:


Cannot help myself

30 08 2011

The work that is expected of a counselling teacher, I would imagine, should not be vastly different from that of a counsellor or a teacher, albeit the job description itself would produce some sort of amalgamation of the two. The duties, however, would remain the same.

At least, that is the impression that I am getting from the school I am teaching at.

The current heartache I am feeling is a result of one of the conversations I had with a student today. This particular student is close to my heart, and I see in them a helplessness that is so reminiscent of us all: in our need for help, we become desperate, and long for… something more than this. Hearing the student’s difficulties, with myself feeling entirely inadequate at providing any sort of guidance or relief, this afternoon has felt very much like the following video, in which Dane Cook talks about those days when nothing will suffice but a good cry:

The thought that I am pondering right now, then, is what to do with the gratitude of “passion and compassion” that I feel for this student’s situation, but, more importantly, how I can fully know that I “did my best”… something to pray about then.

Just a quick one tonight

22 08 2011

This afternoon, ny Novel and Creative Writing class were assigned Of Mice and Men as their first novel to study, and one student has already finished it.

He and I are texting back and forth about his thoughts and insights into the novel. This is why I love my job!

Can’t move on

23 06 2011

The burdensome choice that I made a few weeks ago after having made the real decision six months ago was a result of the even bigger change that began the whole cycle of what is going on now, and I still can’t move on.

In a paraphrase, Lewis B. Smeades may have said that forgiveness is setting a prisoner free and finding that the prisoner was yourself all along, but perhaps my heart is not ready for that yet. I will be one day, I pray.

If moving on is what needs to happen, and it can’t happen until I’ve let go, then I may be stuck with this particular heartbreak for a while more. Lord, give me strength.

Habitat for the Simanjuntaks

29 05 2011

16 ICS students from Grades 10-12 and 3 chaperones flew out to Singapore on Sunday May 15, and took a ferry across to Batam, Indonesia, for our week-long build with Habitat For Humanity. The work, as expected, was hard, but ultimately very inspiring. The pictures below were all taken by one of the students – Stephanie Widjaja, a very talented artist and photographer.

Working together to build a home for a family

The work during the week consisted of making rebars (twisting wire around metal brackets that hold long metal cables together for the base of the walls of a house), mixing cement with rocks, sand, and water, moving bricks from their storing place to where they can easily be accessed by the bricklayer, digging a hole for the septic tank, laying bricks to support the tank, and breaking the foundation in trenches to make room for the rebars. All of this was done in the scorching sun, and occasional thunderstorm, in the midst of curious villagers and amused and excited/excitable children.

The tedious task of bending iron to enable the rebars

Breaking the foundation to prepare for building

Kimberley digging deeper

Sam Wong, the leader, straightening one of the rebar rods

All of this was done in the midst of green fields and open horizon, and periodically, we would hear the Muslim call to prayer and various worship songs in Arabic via booming loudspeakers as we laboured in the heat that pounded relentlessly on our backs, and caused sun blisters on some and farmers’ tan on others.

During the day, we would take water breaks, but our work would be interrupted when we had lunch. After eating, we would spend the rest of our time joking around, sharing anecdotes, laughing at one of the team over something they’d done during the work, and massaging each other’s sore shoulders.

Sitting and sharing after the delicious local food

I worked on one house that would ultimately be inhabited by the Simanjuntak family, and to have  contributed to something so permanent and challenging is an experience I will be hard-pressed to forget.

The people of the country that we interacted with, and the Habitat For Humanity staff were endlessly friendly and indulgent of our team’s requests and wishes, working alongside us and arranging for wonderful local meals every night, making a very physically taxing week much more enjoyable than it could have been. The country, and the experience, has touched my heart deeply. Working with Habitat on someone’s home was something I had wanted to do for some time, and this week has taught me many life and practical lessons. The week of May 15-21 in Batam, Indonesia will remain in my team’s collective experience for some time, I am sure. There is something about laughing, sweating, eating, and sharing sunscreen together that brings a group closer.

The team at the end of the week, surrounded by the community

Something to believe in

3 05 2011

When I read the prompt for today, to write about something I used to believe in, the thing that came to mind was the no doubt scores of people who would post about the loss of their faith in God, Jesus, or, more likely, the institution of the church. A lump formed in my chest when this thought came to mind, that when the faith is not rooted in truth, it can be washed away with so much tribulation.

News over the past day or so has revolved around events in Pakistan, and I have felt very convoluted about what I’ve been reading, hearing, and seeing. I don’t understand how a people, who have taken it upon themselves to be deemed the world’s police, and the poster child for freedom, could so openly and jubilantly celebrate another death to add to the scores of lives already lost in this current fight.

The question from this comforting blog post by Brian McLaren articulates it for me:

Joyfully celebrating the killing of a killer who joyfully celebrated killing carries an irony that I hope will not be lost on us. Are we learning anything, or simply spinning harder in the cycle of violence?

Premonition Of The Night“The Night” by Max Beckmann 1918-19, Kunstsammlung Düsseldorf, Germany

And thus, although these days are hard, and things happening in and around me are confusing at the best of times, there is light, and understanding.