0

Tales From School: Drawn, Quartered, Nickeled, and Dimed

Another day, another tale from elementary school. As usual, all names changed.

In today’s Jewish Studies lesson, we talked about kehillah, or the concept of community. With the unusual amount of stress of the past week, I hadn’t been able to think of anything worthwhile to do today, but about an hour before class I was sitting on my couch, looking at the items on my coffee table when I came across my dish of spare change.

Then the idea came to me.

Fast forward an hour or two to school. We spent the first hour talking about what a community is, what it means to be a part of a community, and why community is important. At the start of the second hour of class, I asked them to name different members of the community. Early choices were money collector (for the poor), charity organizer, and event coordinator; all good ideas, but not exactly what I was going for. So then, I suggested, a town mayor, and along came suggestions of doctor, lawyer, dentist, fireman, and policeman. Then, Allison chimed in with “hairdresser,” which she wants to be when she grows up. I wrote it on the board, but in a separate column from the other jobs, explaining that hairdressing is a service and a luxury. Not all towns need or can afford to have a hairdresser, but a hairdresser can be a community member. Other people then chimed in with toy store owner, bookstore owner, restaurant owner, and musician. Back in the first column, we included construction worker, plumber, engineer, teacher, food seller and a few others. My co-worker Clara suggested truck driver, to transport goods in and out. I made a few final suggestions, with postal worker (in case our community has no Internet), garbage collector (somebody’s gotta take the trash out), and rabbi (because, Jewish.)

Then, I went over to my backpack and took out the dish of spare change that had been sitting on my coffee table earlier (I fished out all the pennies and foreign coins before class). I told the class that each of them (and Clara, my co-worker, who decided to play with us) would receive a coin. If they received a quarter, that would mean that they had a big job in the community, were important, were responsible for a lot of human lives. Students who got nickels would choose medium-size jobs, not too big or too small, but people who might be of value to the community. The dime would be the most difficult one: someone who is in the community but does not or cannot contribute as much as the other two.

The students closed their eyes and put their hands out, and I distributed the coins at random. Out of the group of 16, 4 ended up with quarters, 7 with nickels, and 5 with dimes. I told all the students with quarters to stand, and tell everyone what their role in the community would be. Shoshana wanted to be the community’s doctor; Mia, the nurse; William, the banker; and my co-worker Clara, as the teacher (creative choice there, partner.) Then, they sat down and the 7 nickel students stood up and chose roles. Jesse wanted to be a pilot, Tricia wanted to own a restaurant, of course, Allison wanted to be a hairdresser, and so on. Then, the 5 students with dimes stood up. Molly wanted to be a girl detective like Nancy Drew, which I thought was a good example; part of the purpose was to recognize that children can be part of the community too. Petunia wanted to be a rookie police officer, someone who was still in school. Pauline had trouble thinking of one, so I whispered in her ear “grandma,” and she announced to the rest of the class that she was going to be a grandma. The other kids laughed until I told them that just like kids, older people can be part of the community too, and made up a hypothetical situation; maybe Mia worked at the nursing home taking care of Grandma Pauline, but when Pauline was younger and still working, she was the nurse who delivered Mia! The class started understanding after that. Finally, David had trouble thinking of something, and someone suggested a student for the teacher to teach, which worked well.

Then, we sat back and looked at our community, comprised of the occupations written on the board. The class was proud of themselves, noting that they had a lot of different jobs and that it would be fun to be a part of this community. We had some time left, so I wanted to do a second round. This time around, 8 got quarters, 5 got nickels, and 3 got dimes. Shoshana got a quarter again, and even though I told her she could still be a doctor, she decided to go with mayor. Jesse chose doctor, and so on. Of the nickel group, both Molly and Mandy chose detectives, and then of the dimes, Petunia and Jillian chose girl detectives. So, this time around, we ended up with a few good choices, but 1/4 of the town was a detective. I brought up the fact that we had no one in the food industry, so Molly offered to be a detective and a food trader, and some others as well. And we had completely forgotten about the charity collector and event organizer from before. Some of the kids suggested that in addition to being a lawyer or an artist or a musician they could also organize charity work, which was a good idea.

My co-teacher was super impressed with this activity, and I didn’t think it was half-bad myself. Something to think about. What do you think?

9

Feminism, In Its Purimist Form

Well, after sleeping for almost 24 hours straight from Friday to Saturday, I woke up just in time to go to the Ovation Purim party last night. It was pretty enjoyable, plenty of hamantaschen to eat and a very nice megillah reading, then back home and to bed.

But this morning, I realized that us Jews and our holidays – well this one in particular – are surprisingly progressive for such an ancient religion. Allow me to explain.

Purim is a day when we celebrate the Book of Esther, and specifically, its heroine, the Queen herself. She was pretty much a bad-ass bitch, making her way into the palace to replace the dethroned queen, hiding her true identity, and then pulling off a pretty covert mission in order to uncover the wicked Haman’s plans to jettison the Jews. Long story short, Haman got hanged from a tree, the Jews of the Persian Empire were safe and happy, and in her honor, we dress up, get drunk, and eat cookies which are supposed to be shaped like three-cornered hats but sometimes end up looking like vaginas.

To me, feminism means disruption of the status quo in order to ensure a greater good, benefiting a marginalized group. And it’s no coincidence that it was a woman-led effort. I mean, what other mainstream religion has a day celebrating a woman, and only a woman?

I hear the arguments that Judaism is whatever, demeaning to women, second class, all that, but at the end of the day, without women like Esther and Ruth, we wouldn’t have some of our best holidays and our religion would lose a significant part of its meaning and importance.

I hope these inside-out hamantaschen turn out all right.

 

0

it’s a crazy beautiful life we live AKA the dream

So, today for me was one of those days that would seem insane to other people, but for me, it’s insanely energizing. Hence the reason I am typing this at 11:34 PM from Espresso Royale rather than from my couch. Anyway.

9 AM: Up and at ’em!

10 AM: Yogurt and YouTube.

10:30 AM: Arrive at Helen C. to pick up midterm exams.

10:50 AM: After fighting the wind, arrive at Bascom to proctor the midterm exam (BASCOM HILL ASCENT #1)

11:00 AM: Proctor exam.

12:00 PM: Return finished exams to office in Helen C. (BASCOM HILL DESCENT #1). Hang out in office answering emails and stuff, forgetting to eat lunch.

1:15 PM: Teach first class of the day.

2:15 PM: Upon leaving first class, realize that I do not have what I need for the third class I have to teach today. Guess I gotta run home at some point.

2:25 PM: Teach second class of the day (BASCOM HILL ASCENT #2)

3:05 PM: Dismiss second class 10 minutes early because I have to run home and get stuff I forgot (but they don’t have to know that). (BASCOM HILL DESCENT #2)

3:20 PM: Arrive home, proceed to tear up apartment. Just when about to give up, locate papers needed to give to third class. No time to celebrate: gotta run back to teach third class.

3:30 PM: Sail into third class exactly on time, almost face planting in front of the desk. Teach third class of the day.

5:00 PM: After stopping at Fresh to pick up sushi, fruit, cookies, and coffee, head to Helen C. for office hours.

6:00 PM: Office hour done, go home to drop off backpack.

7:35 PM: Arrive at salsa class in Van Vleck only 5 minutes late (but actually on time, since they started 10 minutes late today). Salsa for an hour, dance dance dance (BASCOM HILL ASCENT #3).

9:00 PM: Arrive at home, check in with parents. (BASCOM HILL DESCENT #3). Just enough time to drink some water, change my pants, and pick up my Latin shoes.

9:40 PM: Arrive at Latin dance class, 10 minutes late, but it’s a full hour so I didn’t miss that much. And today of all days is Samba stationary walks, bota fogos, and whisks, nonstop, at a dizzying pace, with a new teacher, an awesome tiny lady who threatens to kill us all if we stop dancing. Since no one wants to die, we all dance for most of the full hour. I get complimented by her on my hip movement.

10:40 PM: Walk home, but run into a friend who is heading to the library, reminding me that I have some stuff to scan there.

11:00 PM: After a short debate with myself, decide I’m on a roll, drop off shoes, pick up laptop and scripts to scan, and head to library.

11:25 PM: Leave library having scanned script to email (only 11 pages) and decide to reward myself with some snacks.

11:40 PM: Arrive at Espresso Royale, which is the only coffee place on State that is open until midnight to enjoy coffee, jellybeans, fruit, and Goldfish crackers and type this post.

It’s a good thing that the gym is closed or else I might have ended up there too. Call me crazy but I love days like this.

1

Cleaning 100!

So, ever since my birthday, my life has basically devolved into grading, doing massive amounts of forgotten laundry, stressing about my writing, sleeping too little, waking up again, and doing it all over.

Today I decided to take a break from it all – well, most of it.

Since I was off from school today, I spent only a small part of my day grading, and most of it catching up on emails, getting some pleasure reading done, and in a moment of inspiration, did a 100 clean.

This is a game which I invented some time ago to get myself to just get up and clean. It can be done anywhere, but basically, my floor was getting to the point where I couldn’t walk in my apartment without tripping over something or other, and something needed to be done about it.

How does the game work? You count each time you pick an object, or handful of objects up off the floor. It can be as large as a pile of clothes or as small as a pen or a coin. Once you have placed said object either in a drawer, on a table/counter, in the trash, or anywhere other than the floor, you repeat, with the next number. I went through my kitchen, hallway, living room, and part of my bedroom, and ended up, by 76 or 77, picking up small pieces of lint. So I basically just rearranged things, and got some things further back in my bedroom off the floor. Now, I have a lovely, clean carpet.

Of course, there is stuff on counter tops, but that’s for another day.

53

My First Post as a 29-Year-Old

Kind of felt apt to follow up the previous post with this title. So how are you?

Today was a busy day, if anything. I woke up at about 8, stayed in bed until 9. Took a shower, then treated myself to a birthday breakfast of pancakes, eggs, greens, biscuit, and ice coffee at Short Stack, then went to see a panel at the South Asia Conference at the Concourse. Then headed across campus to my office to meet up with Jenna to talk about APO stuff, and after that, to the Semi-Annual Library Book Sale where $16.50 got me a brand new pile for my apartment. Once home, I checked my blog stats, read some blog posts, replied to a bunch of emails, and watched some YouTube videos. Following that, I had planned to run a few errands but ended up only getting to Metcalfe’s for groceries. Had no time for gym, so I went over to Hanna’s for a dinner she was preparing for me.

And let me just say, I was not expecting this.

I get to Hanna’s place, there’s a ton of people there, and even more show up, until we’re roughly 20. 20 people! We ate out back in her sukkah, and then sang and danced around the campfire. Hanna played keyboard, with Edi on sax, Ken on guitar, and Jennifer on the drums. I sang along with Baobei, Esty, Gidon, Bonnie, Bobbie, Jessica, and Andrea, while Haruki watched from the side, and Mohamed, Roger, Judy, David, and Larry watched from the sukkah (I think that’s everyone!). Andrea cooked most of the dinner, which was fabulous: chicken and rice, edamame, lentils, and veggies. And for dessert, Hanna brought out not one but TWO birthday cakes, an orange-and-lemon cake made by Judy, and a tangy, zesty tangerine cake by la Andrea. Judy’s cake was moist and warm, while Andrea’s was juicier, with a little kick to it. After hanging around the remnants of the fire with Baobei, Haruki, Bobbie, Roger, Jennifer, and Raimund (who showed up out of the blue), it was time to go home.

So now I’m sitting on my couch at 11:30 PM on my 29th birthday, Friday, October 21st, 2016.

Jameson invited me out to Plan B, but I might just call it a night, since I have to be up tomorrow around 7 and my bed is covered in books.

Thank you to everyone who made this normally anxiety-inducing day into an amazing one for me.

And for the last time until 2017…

Happy birthday to me. 🙂

5

Tales From Elementary School: To Vladivostok and Beyond…

Day two of Tuesdays at the elementary school, check. I also led a lesson on Thursday, but today’s turned out to be pretty epic.

In going along with our theme of Russia for social studies, I began where I left off last week, at the end of the Czars and the beginning of the Soviet Union. However, I wanted the kids to get some perspective on just how large Russia really was, so I introduced them to the Trans-Siberian Railway. I know that these kids love anything that has to do with transportation, so it was perfect. We went around the room and made guesses on a) how many miles of train tracks there were, and b) how much time it would take to get from end to end, Moscow to Vladivostok. Some of the guesses were silly, but most were pretty on target. Miranda (again, all names for privacy), one of the youngest students, guessed that the train was 6,000 miles long, which was the closest of anyone; the actual distance, according to my source, was 5,772 miles, but I checked a few more places, and the number seems to be closer to 6,152. Still, in the ballpark. The actual time it takes to travel the whole way is 8 days, and two students got extremely close in their guesses, choosing 7.5 days. Those two? Kate, and…Miranda. I don’t know about you, but if it involves guessing numbers, I want to be on Miranda’s team.

Next, I wondered aloud how long of a trip that would be, so it was time for a class trip. We all lined up in a train, and I used my phone’s stopwatch to time how long it took all of us to march around the block and back to the school, and then see how long it took, and then see how many trips around the school it would take to equal a one-way trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway. The answer? 1,152. That’s a lot of walking for little legs.

After a quick break, we headed into the Multi-Purpose Room for Part II of the lecture. We left behind the train and fast-forwarded to the 1950s/1960s, the birth of the Soviet Union, the Cold War, and the Space Race. Crystal surprised me by knowing what the Cold War was, and explained it to the rest of the class. We then talked a little about the first people to go to space, and the first to land on the moon. Then, it was time to do…a space dance!

First, I instructed everyone to find their own space in the room, and crouch into a ball. Then, I turned on “Cold War” by Janelle Monae – a perfect backdrop song for this activity – and we went through the stages of space flight. We built our rockets, attached our engines, put on our seatbelts, flew through space, landed on the moon, experienced zero-G, re-entered our pods, strapped in, and flew back to Earth, landing just as the final drumbeats hit on the song.

Then, we reconvened in the classroom to talk about the breakup of the Soviet Union, and I broke the kids up into five groups of three, and each group got a packet of info about a country which came from the Soviet Union, and were assigned to make a poster about it, following the diagramming plan (a satellite diagram) that I did on the board about Russia. For this project, I did research on five interesting countries: Azerbaijan, Latvia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Each group got an info packet and an iPad to look up pictures of things like national symbols and flags. Marla helped the Ukraine group with their poster, which included horses and the Chernobyl disaster. The Azerbaijan group worked on their own to draw an incredibly detailed Azeri flag, and made a border of flames, and a cup of tea. I flitted between the three other groups – the Latvia group had a slow start, I think they ended up with a flag and a few other shapes; the Kazakhstan group, consisting of three kids who I wasn’t sure would work together well, came up with a cool poster full of apples and eagles; and the Kyrgyzstan group drew flags, airplanes, snow, tulips, and their national animal, the snow leopard. We only had enough time for Azerbaijan and Ukraine to present, but we’ll finish it up next week.

As for me, I learned a lot today as well. Dealing with the train game taught me to handle outdoor activities with care, and that I need to figure out more about how rocket ships work. Also, when doing guessing games, everyone gets one shot, no answer-changing. And of course, make sure the kids know why Azerbaijan is the Land of Fire, and not just what it is.

Oh, and someone in the class wants to be me when they grow up. So that’s kind of a big deal.

2

The Long-Awaited ATHE Recap

Now that I’ve recovered from what was an insane week of travel, here’s a recap of this year’s ATHE conference, my 7th and the 30th to occur, overall.

Day 1 – Thursday

Caught the 10:30 AM bus down to Chicago, and once there, waded through the heat to the Palmer House. Within minutes of stepping into the hotel, I saw Iris and her daughter, Angela, who had just flown from Taiwan and were trying to caffeinate. I checked in, rode up to the 14th floor, put my stuff wherever I could find a spot, and changed outfits for the Dramaturgy Business meeting. So many regulars were there, and a few new faces. Bryan and Carrie led the meeting, and I sat between Natalie and Martine. After, I went upstairs to change clothes again for the keynote and opening reception. Lydia Diamond, the playwright, spoke very well, and they had FREE WINE AND PIZZA at the opening reception, where I got so many hugs from so many folks I hadn’t seen in forever, and of course Iris and I got our conference selfie with red wine, which we’ve been doing since before the word selfie was invented. Also at the reception, I finally met my roommates for the weekend, Kate, Carrie, and Rebecca. I made it an early-ish night to get some writing done, along with Rebecca, while Kate and Carrie went out to a social.

Day 2 – Friday

Early rise for 8 AM panels. We managed to get ready for the day without getting in each other’s way, and I started off what would become the motif of this conference, choosing the wrong panel to go to. I started off at a panel on theatre of the Middle East, which ended up being not so interesting, so I stole out for an Asian theatre panel and just missed Jasmine’s paper. At least I got to say hello to her and meet her new baby. Then, I saw Jill Dolan in the hall, and she asked if I was going to the panel on Pulse, but I decided to go to a directing panel on Brecht instead.

Note to future self: always listen to Jill Dolan.

I got lunch on my own over at Freshii, and then headed to the All-Conference Plenary. I could only stay about half the time though because I needed a break. I ended up skipping the next round of sessions, which in hindsight was a good thing because the one I was planning on going to ended up getting cancelled. So, at 4 PM, I went to the Debs Panel (where I was actually on time for once, go me!) and saw three wonderful dramaturgy presentations. Cindy and co. really do a great job at picking quality panelists – after all, they chose me 7 years ago 😉 Next, I went to a panel on food and performance led by 3 alums of my department, Niccole, Kristen, and Megan, and had a great time there. It ended up being another pack-it-in night. I can’t remember where I had dinner (or if I even had it).

Day 3 – Saturday

Panels started at 8:15, but I was fully attentive at Natalie’s panel, “Babies R Us: Laboring Bodies in Academia,” in which female professors and grad students talked about being a mother and academic at the same time. It was a really warm atmosphere in the room, and it was great to hear personal stories that you wouldn’t normally hear on the day-to-day. After the panel, Natalie was officially finished with her duties at the conference, so we escaped the premises and took a walk to the Chicago Cultural Center, where we saw some really cool art exhibits, and then had lunch at Peach and Green. It was so nice to be able to catch up with her; we talk online all the time, but I hadn’t really gotten to sit down with her since probably Orlando, which was 3 years ago. We got back in time for the 30th anniversary celebration, and I sat with Bryan, Carrie, Cindy, and Rachel as we toasted ATHE with champagne and a delicious layer cake. The rest of the panels that day were a blur – dramaturgy follow up meeting, a panel on theatre and TV, and then a quick lie-down before one of the best parts of every ATHE, DNO (Dramaturg’s Night Out). It was huge this year, and we practically took over Berghoff. The food was really good, and our waiter was hilarious. Thanks to our table pic, I now know who all was there: me, LaRonika, Annalisa, Cindy, Jim, Bryan, Karen Jean, Martine, Brad, two faces I can’t quite make out, and newcomers Jessica, Rachel, and Alex. I sat between Annalisa and Alex and got to know them better over salmon and spaetzle.

Most importantly, that night I sat down and resolved to finish my prelim writing. At 1 AM, in a corner of the 4th floor of the hotel, I passed the 20 page mark, and hit save on my final draft at 1:30 AM. I didn’t carve my name anywhere, but I did take a picture of the spot, which is why there is a random photo of a table on my phone.

So that’s done now.

Day 4 – Sunday

I woke up refreshed, knowing that my prelims were done, and as a reward, skipped the first session of the day for a nice breakfast. We checked out of our room, and then I headed to some acting panels, just for fun. At the first one, we played some games I already knew, plus a few I didn’t (Hi-5 or Death and Move Me). The second acting panel was a little less interactive than the first, but it was led by Margie who is just this electric ball of energy. I capped off my conference with lunch at Le Pain Quotidien with Iris and Angela – a nice bookend to the trip.

There were so many people who were there that I didn’t get to say hi to, but there’s always next year in Vegas.

Just when I was retrieving my bag from the hotel and contemplating whether it had been a successful ATHE or not, THE Holly Hughes (!) appeared out of nowhere and we had a big hug before I stepped out of the Palmer House.

So I think that pretty much cemented the weekend as a successful ATHE.