Soggy days and end-of-year thoughts

Sidewalk chalk drawing – my friend’s photo

The day groweth hotter

It’s a soggy June, with days and nights of rain. However, the dog days approach. As we say in the Midwest, “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humidity,” and the same holds true here in Chengdu. Situated in a basin, with its own cloudy micro-climate and rainy summers, the humidity is almost sub-tropical. Even the winters, which don’t get super-cold, are wet. Thank goodness for air conditioning….

School’s out!

I survived my second full year as a teacher, completing the semester this past Thursday, with my students’ final oral presentations. The end-of-semester scores are done, and will be submitted to the School of Foreign Languages on Monday. The last week of classes was filled with sadness and depression – not because of any lingering regrets, but simply the result of a shift in my energies and stress levels. Thursday evening I mysteriously came down with a cold, maybe also a natural reaction to the year’s end.


Mystery building beside my apartment complex: what is it, and why is it so high?

While some relaxation may be in store this summer, I’m also planning to work. I’ve got a couple of possible teaching gigs in the works, as well as some part-time tutoring. Beginning July 15 I’ll be taking an online class through UCLA in “Materials Design for English as a Second or Foreign Language.” I’ll take the final “Practicum” course in the fall, and be done once and for all with my TESOL certificate.


Looking Within

My brother emailed me a fascinating article about one of my favorite cartoonists, Abner Dean, whose book What Am I Doing Here? has been one of my favorites since childhood. This illustration from the book sums up its lonely and slightly dark mood.



I’m in a period of introspection. When I was a child, my mother once found me sitting in the back yard, probably under the row of tall poplar trees my parents had planted. When she asked what I was doing, I answered “I’m thinking about my future.” Fast-forward 40-something years, and here I am again, although there seems to be far less of the future left.

At the end of the academic year, I’ve re-read some of my own work from my teaching courses in Los Angeles. Here are a couple of excerpts from my learning journals from two classes I took in 2003. They reflect my state of mind, and also my changing goals and concerns throughout my life:



Journal for Applied Methods in Teaching English Language Development course – June-July2003


This is the beginning of Week 5. We are really into it now. I have kind of kept track of my self-doubt, fears, and worries. I hope to have this program … completed by summer 2004. I am also concerned about finding another job, now. Saturday (yesterday) I took a class in becoming a teacher of adults. I was slightly overwhelmed.… Oh yes, then there is CBEST [standard qualifying test for teachers in California]. Is this what I want? Is it realistic? Am I compromising my other goals of being an architectural historian, researcher, writer, and artist? Am I copping out? The hard part is to just release and practice Step 7. All is happening as it should. I also have a new-found respect for myself and a plan of action and can actually see a direction in my life. This is another crossroads.

…Can I handle 3 classes this fall???? More will be revealed.


“A Recurring Journal Theme” (A writing assignment for class)

September 5, 2003

If I were to pick a recurring theme from my journal entries, it would be “commitment” or “perseverance.” The two online classes this summer, Applied Methods and Cultural Diversity, have opened my eyes to a wide range of issues. It has been a daunting process, because virtually every topic covered has been new to me. I started thinking about studying toward TESOL certification about a year and a half ago, then put off acting on my goal. My decision this past June to begin classes was motivated by several factors: a renewed desire to teach based on my experiences as a volunteer trainer; my desire for a “direction” in my life different from the nonprofit arts world; and my desire to do something to “make a difference” following the invasion of Iraq and the oppressive policies of the Bush administration.

Once I make a commitment, I generally follow through with it, no matter how long it takes. I spent 10 years working towards an M.A. in art history, virtually starting over as an undergraduate, and working my way through graduate school. I have been “gun shy” about starting another educational program.


Higher grocery prices, more cynicism: I hope this isn’t how I’ll look in a few years. – from the internet

And finally….

Back to the present: one of my current fears is that, once I finally complete the preparations and am firmly established as a teacher, I will be disappointed. Will I ask the immortal refrain sung by Miss Peggy Lee:  “Is that all there is….?”

If that’s all there is, my friend,
Then let’s keep dancing,
Let’s break out the booze
And have a ball….


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