» 2011

Colds & Christmas Crackers

I woke up in Wales on Monday morning, looked out the window, and went back to sleep. Here’s the thing about working in a school library: whenever a new super-strain of bacteria or virus emerges after circling happily through the kindergartners, it’s only a matter of time. Every teacher around you can be hacking and coughing and sneezing and sniffling, but you always think to yourself, “I’ll be okay. I wash my hands. I have a giant bottle of hand sanitizer that lives on my desk. If I see a child sneeze on a book, I wipe that book down with germ-killing alcohol. And then spray it with pure ozone. While wearing a biohazard suit. Besides, I have excellent immunity from constant exposure to these things. I eat about ten clementines a day.”

Well, readers, there comes a point when even the best precautions can no longer protect you from five to ten different versions of the common cold all vying, like tiny gladiators, to battle against your immune system in the grand stadium of your body. One of them is bound to get in.… Read More

Morocco, Weeks Seventeen Through Twenty-One

My last month has been remarkably uneventful and, at times, crushingly boring. Work, work, and then–for good measure–some more work. The weather here has been gorgeous (sunny and warm nearly every day) but sometimes I go several days at a time without feeling the sun on my face for more than five minutes.

I arrive at work just after sunrise, and often leave after dark. Go home, eat, fall asleep. Repeat. Haven’t written. Haven’t drawn. Haven’t picked up my mandolin. My camera has been sitting in a desk drawer for three weeks.… Read More

Morocco, Weeks Fifteen and Sixteen

On Saturday afternoon I was off to Spain. You might remember from my last post that Eid al-Adha, the Muslim festival which includes sheep sacrifice, was coming up. Well, rather than listen to thousands of dismayed sheep bleating across the city (and smelling them roasting later on) I opted to travel to northern Spain. My goal, San Sebastián, (Donostia in Basque) was only two flights and a three-hour bus ride away.

On the first flight I sat next to a young man who had never flown before. Through him, I remembered the wonder of seeing the tops of clouds for the first time. It was great seeing the look in his eyes in the moment when the plane lifted off the runway.… Read More

Morocco, Week Fourteen

Week fourteen began with Austrians and ended with Germans. I had two delightful Austrian house guests, Sabine and Hans-Peter, who kept me entertained on Monday and Tuesday. Both of them had quit their jobs, bought motorcycles, and embarked on an around-the-world journey. (They took crash courses in motorcycle repair before leaving.)

Next up: traveling down the western coast of Africa. Their trip ends, I suppose, when they get tired of traveling and move on to the next thing in their lives. We ate delectable Moroccan food, played with Loki, and had a long, fascinating conversation about the attitude toward the film The Sound of Music in Austria and why most Austrians have never seen it.… Read More

Morocco, Week Thirteen

I began this post on Sunday morning, sitting in my underwear typing it up. Because, really, being able to lounge around the house in your underwear is one of the nicest perks of living alone. I had woken up an hour earlier, with early-morning sunlight glinting in through my window.

Partially because I was rejuvenated from a relaxing weekend in Chefchaouen, and partially because my work week was only four days long, my week started out great. Got lots done in the library, and even managed to begin the planning stages of a new, exciting project in the community.… Read More

Morocco, Week Twelve

“The only things they trust are the racing ships
Posiedon gave, to sail the deep blue sea
like white wings in the sky, or a flashing thought.” (The Odyssey)

One of the perks of working in a school is getting to hear children say all sorts of silly things. Students at AST (especially the kindergartners) are fond of exclaiming, “Oh my God!” at the drop of a hat, for instance. Talking about volcanoes? “Oh my God!” Finding out that a dinosaur in a book is too tall to fit on the page? “Oh my God!” Explaining that a tomato is a fruit? “Oh my God!” I suppose our students just have a flair for the dramatic.… Read More

Morocco, Week Eleven

Another slow week, which means a short blog post this time. After a long work day on Monday, I took a spontaneous trip to the school swimming pool with a couple kids in tow.

We practiced swimming, splashed, and even had a spirited game of marco polo, then headed to Wafae’s house for soup and Moroccan pastries. (I have been specifying the type of pastry every time because I am aware that you, my readers, are extremely discerning and absolutely need to know whether each pastry is Moroccan-style or French-style.)… Read More

Morocco, Week Ten

My tenth week in Morocco was challenging. I had one of those workweeks where the few rewarding moments are swept away in a deluge of minor catastrophes. Despite all of that, this week I put the finishing touches on a school reading contest (with the help of my intrepid student volunteers, of course), fleshed out ideas for a few library fundraisers, and got paid.

And, of course, read one of my other favorite childhood books to the kindergarteners, In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. Loved the amazed faces when Micky flies his dough-y airplane to get milk for the bakers. Still in store for the kindergarteners: Pierre, Just A Dream, Cautionary Tales for Children, The Adventures of Isabel, Amos & Boris, The Paper Bag Princess, Two Bad Ants.… Read More

Morocco, Week Nine

I’m sorry to say, dear readers, that week nine will be a bit of a letdown. One of the downsides of working so much is that by the time I get around to blogging, I’ve already forgotten everything I did the previous week. Most of my waking hours last week were spent at work, and most of the things I did there are wildly exciting to only a select few people.

I supervised the creation of a middle school book club. Made a publication timeline for the student literary journal. Read more books to tiny children. Created a fabulous dinosaur-themed corner in the library, complete with illustrations of various species and a memorable pun.… Read More

Morocco, Week Eight

At the beginning of week eight, I acquired a new roommate. One with spindly legs, abundant whiskers, and a very pink nose. Like the old nursery rhyme, he followed me to school one day. And though it was against the rules, I have to admit that it was difficult to resist scooping him up and installing him in the library. I shouldn’t have worried, however, because he was still sitting on the front steps waiting for me when I left school that afternoon.

Shortly thereafter, Loki was installed in his own little room in my apartment, complete with armchair, big cushy pillow-bed, and plenty of toys. I’m thoroughly convinced that out of all the kittens in Tangier, I’ve got the very best one.… Read More

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