Monthly Archives: January 2017

Immigrant/Expat/Guest Worker-Me


#sol17- January 31, 2017

This weekend I did what probably many of you did and tried to make sense of all that is going on politically in the US right now. I spent a lot of time crying- watching and reading stories of courage and cowardice. I donated to causes that I find important and then I did what I so often do, I turned to books.

We had no school on Monday because Malaysia as a multicultural country celebrates many holidays, this being Lunar New Year, so I was lucky enough to be a part of #titletalk “live”. This monthly gathering of readers always inspires me and with the topic “Fostering Awareness and Empathy” it spoke right to my heart. I headed out to the bookstore to buy one book afterward, The Journey, as I had seen it at the store on Saturday and now was determined to buy some more books detailing the migration/immigration experiences.

I walked to the bus stop and within a few minutes boarded a packed bus and I stood smushed up against the rail by the front window. I decided I would have more stability facing the back of the bus and as I turned I noticed the sea of people facing me. What struck me was here I was an immigrant/expat/guest worker from the US in a country that is Muslim jam packed in a bus with the diversity that is Malaysia and KL in particular. I was the only “Western” face in the crowd and although I often get curious looks while riding the bus I never feel unwelcome or unsafe. I smiled and received smiles in return. I did have twinges of guilt knowing that my “home” country was now making life and death decisions based on people’s religion.

My trip for one book ended up being with 10 books being bought, as it so often does, but I headed home feeling like I had some book friends to help me teach this real life curriculum that would no doubt come up in our classroom.

Going home by bus is always a challenge. The bus stops on the other side of the road from my apartment building and the street is a very busy 4 lane main thoroughfare. There are no crosswalks nearby and although sometimes traffic may be at a standstill due to traffic jams pedestrians have to be on alert for motorcyclists as they zigzag down the street. I managed to squish my way out the door after kind fellow passengers called out to the bus driver to open the door again after it closed before I could move. As I pressed myself against the concrete barrier on the side of the road I saw anther woman get out. She immediately headed for me, grabbed my hand, and together we crossed the busy road successfully. In that moment we were fellow explorers venturing into the great beyond. Once we were across the street we let go of each other and each went on our separate ways.

I felt so humbled and emotional- there was no reason for her to take pity on me, this “foreigner” struggling with three bags, but in the end, there did not need to be a reason. Her way forward was not hindered by giving me a helping hand. Isn’t that so often the case!

A Taste of the High Life


#sol- January 24, 2017

I love professional development but hate sub plans, so what crazy decisions this sometimes leads me to make. In November I flew to Manila for a weekend PD with my friend. We were the only ones attending from our school that did not miss a day of school on one end of the weekend or the other to make it work- we paid the price in that our flight on the way there was delayed, so we were in very late at night.

Last weekend I was back to Manila- this time most colleagues were making it in to a four day weekend, but again my stubborn side rebelled and I booked the same travel route again. Happily this time the flight there was on time. A friend convinced me since I was going to stress myself by squeezing in this PD the least I should do was cough up for the extra cost to upgrade once the airline started sending me tempting emails. On Malaysian Airlines if there is room in first class you can make an offer on an upgrade. I decided to splurge, but only within my own bounds. There was a minimum bid required (equivalent to $65), so I decided that would be my limit. Sure enough, mid week they tried to entice me to up my chances by bidding more, but I held fast. I was informed I would only find out 48 hours in advance, but when Thursday night my credit card was charged I knew I was in for a treat on Sunday night.

After a ful weekend of PD I arrived at the airport ready to be spoiled! I spent time in the lounge (I have never been in first class before, so even being in the lounge was a treat). I left to board the plane at the published time (rookie mistake I later learned- I should have waited until the lounge staff called me, since it turned out the flight was delayed and I could have stayed longer). Once on the plane I settled into the comfy seat-what, a center armrest we did not have to fight over?! My feet could not even touch the seat in front of me, so the leg room was great. The man sharing my row moved to another row once it became clear that the row was empty, so I had the row all to myself. I did not even really mind the time spent on the ground before take off. Once we were finally in the air we were given our menu and I opened my Kindle and enjoyed the time to settle my brain. I have to say the food was better, the seats were better, the thrill was fun, and I am now keeping in the back of my brain that upgrading is a viable option if the price is right.

I was back home at 11:10 PM and the next morning back at school the luxurious flight was but a distant memory. I think I could get used to flying that way.

Think Globally, Act Locally


#sol17- January 17, 2017

It all started with a Facebook event posting. One of the teachers at school had the idea to gather a group of her friends to begin 2017 as a year where we act to make the world a kinder more loving place. The plan was simple, she would provide the coffee, tea, and juice on Sunday morning and we would bring some food to share. We were also to bring our laptops and our ideas of “links to petitions, apps, phone numbers, websites etc. that have ACTION items to do, such as calling our Senators, buying a gift from a site that donates profits to refugees, donating directly to an environmental organization, or signing petitions…anything that is a concrete step. We share these ideas with each other and WE JUST DO IT – we call, we sign, we donate, we purchase. We eat, drink and laugh as well, cuz that is what this is all about – more love.”

Last Sunday we gathered and did just this. It was a morning filled with hope and despair. We had a Google doc going and added ideas to share with each other. There was much laughter and commiseration as we shared the causes close to our hearts. There was lots of concrete action taken in the form of organizations joined, petitions signed, money donated and more. We shared local ideas and more global ones. It was inspiring to be in the room and feel the energy and we vowed to gather again soon for a similar session. It was great to see that we also made plans for ongoing work. The Picha Project  is a local organization that is working to empower refugee women here. Each woman cooks food from her country of origin and the organization delivers it- we are going to have a lunch soon at school and will try to use them to cater some events. It will be easy to order from them regularly. A few of us want to get involved with a local soup kitchen. On a more global vein, I learned about the app, Buycott, where I can choose the issues that matter the most to me and then shop in better accordance with my beliefs by scanning UPC codes before I buy.

People made donations in honor of others (admittedly sometimes knowingly to a cause that person may not support on their own) and shared ideas for more actions to come. I was tired Sunday morning, but this session really was a great way to begin the day. It was great to see such a diverse group come together to act. At a time when so many of us are feeling frustrated with politics “at home”, it was heartwarming to see the ways we can act to make change.

Checking In


#sol17- January 10, 2017

Yikes, I missed the first slicing date of 2017, so sad, but wifi was an impossibility where I was, so…

My #olw for 2017 is brave and I have now lived with it for 10 days and it has already served me well, so I thought I would write about a time I had to be brave already this year. Some of my need for brave is knowing I need to be more brave about doing things alone. Last week I was visiting South Korea for the first time, to visit with my son who is teaching English there. We spent some time together on the 31st and 1st in Seoul, but then he returned to Suwon and I met him there on the 2nd. I won’t even tell you about the adventure I had meeting up with him in Suwon, but know I was brave!

On the 3rd I was set to have an adventure at the Hwaseong Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My son walked me as far as his turn off for work and said, “Keep going straight. For me, it is a 20-minute walk, which means for you, it will take about 30 minutes.” With that he was off and I was meant to meet him 6 1/2 hours later.

As I walked I kept an eye out for a place to eat- I had not had anything yet. Eventually, I found a sweet looking coffee shop and managed to order tea and spend a cozy half hour writing, but left still hungry.


A bit further down the road, I noticed a sign that said “Apple Kimbap”. Kimbap is seaweed wrapped rice with various fillings (which I love) and since the sign was in English I decided that the menu might have English too, so I hurried inside. Well, I was wrong. This tiny mom and pop cafe had a menu on the wall all in Korean. The server was washing tables, so I slid into an empty seat. A few minutes she came to me and I said, Kimbap,”

She responded, “Mumbledy, mumbledy kimbap?” and I nodded. Really, what choice did I have? I had to take my chances.

As luck would have it a few minutes later I was served a small bowl of broth some of the side dishes that accompany all Korean meals and a freshly rolled kimbap, which I happily devoured.


I was two for two with my brave dining adventures.

I eventually made it to the fortress and spent a lovely afternoon exploring, but got soooooo lost on the way back to meet my son! It turns out my sense of direction is not any better in a new country and not having a map or knowing the name of the street I was looking for (never mind not being able to read the signs) matter. Brave came to my rescue again when I happened to eventually see a tourist information booth. After a very long bus ride we eventually met up.

Brave is having an impact back at home and work too and I am really trying to use this word to help me challenge myself. So far, so good.