Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Short, Sharp, Shocked

There has been a blow to my solar plexus. The wind has been taken out of my sails. I feel the United Kingdom is rapidly becoming the Untied Kingdom and I am saddened and disappointed and a bit scared, if I am honest.

The referendum.

Oh my.

I did not in any of my wildest dreams see this coming. None of us did.

Well some of us did because they voted that way. To leave. To end it all.

I don't quite know where the country that I dearly love is going. No one does. Not even the folks in charge.

It has come about that those in charge do not seem to have a plan as if somehow they hadn't thought this far ahead.

After the referendum, there were scores of people interviewed on radio and television who seemed genuinely shocked as the pound began to drop in value and the stone, cold reality hit of what it would mean to not be able to easily live, work, travel to or trade freely with Europe  anymore. They pleaded with us us, wide eyed and terrified with phrases like, "I didn't know! I didn't understand this would happen when I voted to leave!"

How could they *not* know?

There was lots of misinformation out there on the Brexit side. Talk of national pride and money we wouldn't have to waste on filthy foreigners but could spend on ourselves to better the country.  The day after the referendum it was stated that of course we have that money, it just wouldn't be spend on the NHS as had been implied before the vote. There was also a considerable amount of scaremongering especially from more racist parties like UKIP headed by the duplicitous Nigel Farage. Lots of talk of US vs THEM. European immigrants coming over stealing our (fill in the blank) jobs...houses...womenfolk.

The referendum was during the European Football Championship 2016 and national pride was at at an all time high. It is OUR country vs THEIR country and we are more flag waving, God Save the Queen patriotic than we are at other times of the year. I think some of this feeling helped to sway people into not looking at the issues but the feeling of WE are better than THEM--WE don't need THEM.

I truly believe this closing ourselves off and going back to being a small island is a huge step backwards. One of the reasons we left the United States twelve years ago was to live in a country that wasn't so insular and self centred with its battle cry of  It's all about ME, ME, ME. We wanted one that was part of a larger community that said it's about all of US together. It's about being a part of a larger world community. Not just what's in your own back yard, but seeing the world. Global thinking.

This is the country I love. She is my country and I will stick by her. We must, as the Phoenix from the ashes, rise above this and figure out what we can do to make it better. If this truly is what we have to work with then what can we do to make it workable?

Colleen Patrick Goudreau said in a recent podcast something like Everything we do changes the world--we have to decide whether we want to change things to make it better or change things to make it worse.

The worst has happened. Now what are we going to do about it?

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Something to read that's not a book

Oh my days.

I got a parcel in the post yesterday from my Mum. She had hinted to me that there was a wee treat winging it's way to Wales from the US. Her clue was It is something to read that's not a book.

What could it be? She also said that in no uncertain terms that I would love it.

She was right. I opened it on my way to work and laughed out loud the whole way to the shop. Not just a titter, but a loud guffaw like this:

Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Admittedly, several people stopped and stared and looked upon me most curiously, but I could not stop myself.

So what was it, you ask? Oh best beloved it was this:

Do I love Doctor Who? Hells yeah. Do I love Mad Libs? A resounding HELLS YEAH!

I had not thought about Mad Libs for years--decades even. They were a huge staple of my childhood. Do you remember Scholastic? If you grew up in the States then you probably got a leaflet full of enticing, reasonably priced books sent home from school on a Friday and if you were lucky you got to bring it back on Monday with some money and order some books. Then came the delicious anticipation of waiting two weeks until the Scholastic box arrived in your classroom and you waiting impatiently for your teacher to find a moment to sort the right books to the right person. Would they manage it by the end of the day or would you have to agonisingly wait the whole night before your new books were put into your hot sweaty hands the following day? They never would give you the new books first thing as they (rightly) knew little sods like me would be sneaking a peek under their desk rather than paying attention to the lesson at hand. You had to wait until right before the bell. It was exquisite agony!

I was always blessed. My parents always, without fail let me order books from the leaflet of dreams any time it was ever sent home. I still have a few books that I ordered as a child such as my copy of Clifford the Big Red Dog which includes my name in a childish pencil scrawl.

When I was teaching in Louisiana we got several leaflets from Scholastic and various other companies which I dutifully sorted out all the $1 books and photocopied them onto one page so my kids could choose good quality books at affordable prices and not be tempted into sadness by books they could not afford. They could pay in instalments if needed. A few pennies here and there, a quarter every once in a while and soon they had the money. I also paid the difference if they were a few pennies short of their goal as I know the value of having books to read that belong to you.

But I digress.

Mad Libs. I ordered one every single time Scholastic had them in the leaflet. Every. Single.Time. I found them hysterical. I loved the randomness of the way they came out--sometimes silly, sometimes hilarious, sometimes dumb, sometimes weird.

I had special, favourite ways of doing certain clues.

A liquid was always pee or nitro glycerine (because bodily functions and blowing stuff up is funny) and a female's name was always Farrah Fawcett (because I was obsessed with Charlie's Angels. C'mon--it was the 70's) and a male's name was always Shaun Cassidy(because I was in lurve with him. Again--it was the 70's--although a few years later I decorated his album cover with a green marker giving him green measles and snot because I was showing my distain for him and all he stood for!) A number when I was alone was always a google because my dad told me it was the biggest number--a 1 followed by 100 zeros. We used to say to each other I love you a google. Other less educated friends used to say I was making it up so I just used to say a billion or a trillion when playing with others to avoid being beat up.

Now, as an educator, I can really see that they are sneakily educational. I mean--you have to know the parts of speech to fill one out properly.

If after all my rhapsodising you are thinking--what in the world is she talking about--then I will explain. Basically, they take a mundane passage and leave out words. you randomly fill in the missing parts of speech (no peeking!) and read it out and pee your pants laughing.

So you might get something like this:
One of the Doctor's oldest foes are the depraved jaguars known as the Daleks. The Doctor has chased these terrible and curly creatures from the North Pole to Wales.

This Doctor Who themed one is particularly funny with titles like The Ood One Out (geddit?) and Judoon Platoon.

Thanks Mum! This has made me relive my childhood--all the best bits--not the being beaten up by people who couldn't understand my genius bits.

Now all I need is a blue raspberry slushie while I do my Mad Libs and I am transported back to the days of my childhood.

Who needs a TARDIS when you have these?  

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Hooray for Bollywood

There are many things that I have dreamed about doing over the years, but this was certainly not one of them. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be teaching a dance class.

A dance class.
Me with two left feet and no sense of balance.
And not just any dance class.
A bhangra dance class.

photo credit srijan.de
For those of you who might not know--bhangra is a type of Punjabi folk dance (but bhangra also refers to the type of music that you folk dance to). You often see this type of dancing (albeit with a bit more razz-a-ma-tazz) in Bollywood films. It is great because it is as much a dance for men as it is for women.

So how did this white girl from Louisiana end up teaching Punjabi folk dancing in west Wales?
photo credit: thelovelyplanet.net

It's not like I have never done bhangra dancing before. When we lived in England I worked at a very multi-racial school and so we celebrated not only Christian holidays but also Muslim holidays. We always had an Eid party to celebrate the end of fasting for Ramadan. Someone also had a CD of bhangra and would teach some basic moves and we would boogie. But I never thought I would one day be leading a class teaching these moves myself.

Enter my friend Priya. We jokingly call her the great delegator. She gets a new idea and then makes it happen by getting other people to make it happen, if you know what I mean. She saw that there was a Bollywood dance class in Pembrokeshire was so taken by the bouncy music and joyful leaping about of the dancers she decided we needed to have a class here in Carmarthen. She wanted a class run by vegans to show that we were not all weak and sickly from lack of protein.

Then she decided that I should be the teacher. She badgered me for months and finally wore me down. I agreed I would look on youtube and see if there were some basic moves I could learn to copy. There were loads of great tutorials with beginner moves and my confidence grew. Then I found this fantastic app and I *knew* I could do it.

I practiced in our bedroom for a week or two trying to learn the moves and be able to coordinate my upper body and lower body. Then I listened to countless bhangra and Bollywood songs to find ones I liked in a variety of tempos. Next I practiced forming a routine and counting out loud and shouting out what the next move would be. This is NOT as easy as it looks when you see a fitness instructor do it. Priya's husband Tony burned us a CD and we were ready.

Our original plan was to offer it free in the park on a summer evening while there was plenty of light outside. This did not go as well as we had hoped because during our "opening night" we were harassed by a group of yobs (backwards slang for a rowdy, aggressive, violent young male) and then there was an incident. The yobs ran away, we called the police and one of our dancers went to hospital.

It was not what we expected.

But this did not deter us. We knew we had a good thing, we just needed to find an indoor venue that was safer. The very next night we were at an event watching the documentary Cowspiracy about the role of factory farming in greenhouse emissions (more on this soon) and we found the perfect venue.

So this week we tried again--with a renewed vigour and enthusiasm, not seen by many (to quote Henry Rollins of Black Flag) and it was bloody brilliant.

We had an even mix of male and female dancers attend (and no--before you ask--Spiderman was NOT one of them) and we had a blast. We were all a bit wonky with left and right issues and we did a lot of laughing. But we really raised our heart rates and sweated and danced joyfully to some bouncy music.

It was a boatload of fun.

So who knows--maybe I will get a qualification in exercise to music so I can be a proper teacher. We will see how it progressed, but until then we will just dance and have fun.
source: wikipedia