Sunday, April 30

More Snippets

There are 2 parks I have the blessing of visiting periodically - the one at People's Square:

and Zhongshang Park:

This week is my first vacation - one whole week! So all of us at NewBeat went out to Karaoke - and the danio LOVES karaoke!

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Friday, April 21

That's Right...

Just in case you were wondering what cool cats look like...

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Did you know I actually have two sisters? Most likely you didn't, because I always say I only have one. In the last few weeks, this has changed.

I have two sisters: Charlotte and Tricia. They are twins. Tricia was stillborn.

I remember when I was growing up with Charlotte, she would talk about Tricia some times, and would speak of their relationship - an unfathomable relationship between this world and the next. I guess I never made much of it, because I have never really thought about Tricia much.

This has changed recently. It began to dawn on me a few weeks ago that I should also feel a connection to my late sister, even though she had already long died by the time I was born. The strength of blood relationships is truly amazing. Maybe Tricia was somehow molded with Charlotte in my mind at some point, but there is a reawakening in me. I was teaching about twins and genetics last week, and I told the class that I have two sisters. I again said so a couple of times since. Obviously, this only works if I maybe already know the person, we are comfortable together, and there is time to explain how I only have one living sister on this earthly plane.

Today I mourned Tricia, and decided I should pray again for her and write about her. Thank you for sharing this precious moment with us.

More Colors

I bought this painting a couple of weeks ago as the main wall piece in my living room. I am extremely happy with it.

Here are some pictures of the park where I do Tai Chi in the morning a few times per week - viewed from my apartment window:

This is one of the schools where I teach - we're all getting off from class here:

These are some students from one of my classes:

This is from this morning, as Michelle, Jacqui and I were walking to school. This is one of my favorite streets, where I buy my fruits and vegetables, and where they have tasty street food (see previous post!) Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 18

Twice the Joy!

Two things that might bring you joy:

You know you love your job when:

You go to school to teach, find out that classes have been cancelled, so you can go home early, and you get upset that you can't teach!

That's what happened to me! Walking away from that school, I felt very sad that I could not see the children - such wonderfully bright souls as Yang, Wanda, Rose, Howard, Dima, Heidi, Georgia, Tristy, Kenny, Baron, Lisa, or Vicky. I was very sad... Although you owe to that this very weblo entry...

This next picture is the addition to the joy:

I see you smiling too!!

Elena had been living in Shanghai for many months. I met her while traveling before coming to Shanghai, then I got to meet her sister and mother when they were in town, and now they're all three gone - but not without leaving me some great pictures!

Below are a couple of pictures of the world-famous Shanghai city skyline:

There's a million different kinds of street food in Shanghai, so at any moment, one might stop and get a snack, or a whole meal. The lady below is making my favorite: simply dough, one egg, some veggies, spices, a sweet paste, and a crunchy bread-type thing for texture, delivered in what might look like a wrap. So tasty!

About my job, here are some pictures from the school we went to this afternoon without being able to teach (that bright big smile is Michelle's)

Doesn't my team look awesome!?!!

This last weekend I went to Fudan University, where Peter will be going in the Fall. I've already made some great friends there, so it will be great when he comes to town!

We went to a Japanese restaurant

I am surrounded by goddesses! Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 7

Stuck on Zen

Yesterday the people from whom I was buying my new phone cover asked me where I am from. Meiguo (US) is usually my shortest answer (when I can, I say US & Caribbean). The guy starting gesturing as if he had a gun, saying things I couldn't understand. Then the girl wrote, "war". The conversation continued until they had made it clear that I was a representation of a country that wars with other countries, where everyone has a "gun", including children in "school". I did my best to express that not everybody has a gun, that I certainly don't, that I love both the US and China, and that people are the same everywhere... I left with a most sour taste in my mouth. What could I say? There are so many horrors in this darkened world. Such despair. What else should they think? So much confusion. I weep for the sorrows of the human family, for whom hope seems so out of reach, unfathomable even... I guess that's why I'm here, to bring whatever light I can upon my path.

Today I yet again received the highest praise from the director of my school. She said she visited two schools. She said after less than two months, it's still too early for the schools to give reliable feedback on my performance, but teachers and school directors are most impressed with my teaching. She said she spoke to one person who has seen NewBeat teachers come and go for the last five years, and he said my teaching is exceptional. My director has shown that she is deeply grateful for my work. The truth is, I myself feel most grateful for my work! I have never loved a job like I love this job! I have never been so happy with the way I spend the bulk of my days! And interestingly enough, I am not at all flattered by her and others' praises. I gracefully acknowledge it, of course, but I am learning to not be susceptible to the praise and the scorn of people, except inasmuch as it espresses approval or disapproval from God. God alone is the master of my heart.

In "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", which I just finished reading, there was a striking concept (many many, actually, so we'll just look at one): if you different "One"s, then you have Many. In other words, if you look at Plato's "Good", Aristotle's "Truth", the Judeo-Christian God, or Lao Tsu's Tao, since they each the Essence and the Source of all things, of all of creation, they have to be the same. This is not a new concept, since many philosophies and religions claim that philosophies and religions essentially agree, but this new context made the claim seem more pragmatic, or logical. The author refers to it as "Quality", all-encompassing, undefinable. I highly recommend this book to your careful reading, by the way.

I just realized Tori Amos has a most beautiful song called "China", on her "Little Earthquakes" album. Very moving and thought-provoking.

I guess I'm not done talking about "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". I want to talk about "stuckness". We are all familiar with the practice of meditation, of clearing one's mind to find peace, to gain better perspective, and to be able to better solve problems. If nothing else, we counsel each other to "sleep over it". If we just stop, think clearly, we'll make better decisions. Some of us also know that essential to meditation is the ability to calmly welcome unwanted thoughts as natural parts of our mind, allowing them to quietly move along to a resting place where they will not bother us. Some people envision these unwanted thoughts as screen shots or movie snippets, which sort of scroll across their field of vision. This practice is imperative, for if we try to battle these thoughts, we are at war with our own selves, so whichever side wins (the bad thought or the "controlling" "self"), we lose.

This practice is so crucial that for many of us, the bulk of our meditation is simply the practice of saying hello and goodbye to these endless stray thoughts, enjoying the few moments of clarity or nothingness or "bliss" in between. What Pirsig brings to the picture is an understanding of the beauty of "stuckness". Sometimes there'll be this ugly image, or maybe some Freudian invasion, which takes for ever to get rid of, or welcome, as it were. This can be very frustrating. This is very much the same if we're trying to fix a broken necklace, but our fingers can never get the right angle to close the gap, or if we're trying to fall asleep while stressed that we won't be getting enough sleep, or slaving over a weblo entry that won't come out right and is already way too long. The lesson is that the moment stuckness is the most propicious for growing, learning something new, changing our lives and becoming happier. Those moments of stuckness are more than just isolated annoyances - they are manifestations of our greatest need and potential for transformation. So when they occur, we can rejoyce, knowing what power lies in these moments.

This appreciation of stuckness, combined with a new integration of various other Writings surrounding my research on living a New Life, has truly changed my life, so that I much more frequently step back from the situation I am in for better perspective, instilling greater peace of mind and superior ability for problem-solving.

This better perspective is a big part of my goal to truly change my life as I integrate my new life in China. Everything has been so different here in Shanghai. What a home I have found! Praise be to God!

I watched Jim Hensons Company's "Mirrormask", knowing I would find a key for my life therein. I did, of course. This key, partially represented by an actual key in the story, is wonderful, but I haven't exactly found where to fit it. By the time I do, I fear the story of this key will have been lost to all but God, and maybe Javad, if I tell him the story, because it's a long road through the mazes in which I found it.

I hope that the meanderings of this entry reflect the simple fact that I am happy, and enjoying the new lessons in my life.

Take a Walk with me!

Let's take a little tour on my daily walk from NewBeat English school to my home! As I walk out, I'm on S. Shanxi Rd. On this picture, we're looking left/north. I walk down this street and cross at some point, then take a right on Yong Jia Rd. at the first light.

This is a peek back at NewBeat:

Now we're on Yong Jia Rd. We can walk down this road a few paces:

...passing this large building and turning right just after passing it:

This is a look across the street from the gate. Fang's cafe is my favorite - good coffee, and, more importantly, fabulously chill atmorphere!

There are many buildings in this area, and this is the type of entrance you might see anywhere in Shanghai - city blocks are huge, so when you walk in, there's still streets and turns, just less traffic:

Looking back on the entrance:

Looking to the right - this is the awesome clock I always see in the morning as I go to school or to Tai Chi:

Looking to the left, toward my home:

As we walk, we can look up at the tall building to the left:

This is the next entrance, area 6 of 39 Yong Jia Rd.:

Turn a little to the right,

Another peek back at the entrance:

Up the stairs

(whith another peek back)

To the first floor up, looking out from my apartment door:

I thought I'd also show one of the many schools where I teach. Look, a climbing wall! I've seen this in several schools - how awesome is that?!?

Playground. Classic.

Classroom. Classic.

Rainbow reading her magazine. Classic. Posted by Picasa