Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I'm back!

Wowza, this week has been INTENSE! Monday was my first day of teaching and I was quite terrified beforehand. I didn't really enjoy the weekend as I kept thinking about the unknown territory I was about to enter :) It actually went decently well. In the mornings I teach General English - the core curriculum which includes grammar, vocabulary, listening, various exercises all out of a lovely textbook that I simply have to follow. The structure's all there so it's stress-free. My students in that class are so lovely, funny, and sweet that it's a pleasure to teach them :) The afternoon is a bit trickier as it's less structured and focuses more on conversation, and I have different students in both of the afternoon classes so it's a bit all over the place. It takes more planning to teach the afternoon lessons, but there's more freedom/room for creativity and the students get to talk a lot more (after a morning full of grammar!).

So yes, today was my third day, whew! The first couple of days I felt a bit like I was acting and pretending to do something I didn't really know how to do. Today I felt a lot better...even though I still haven't had that much experience! Hopefully now that I know what to expect and now that I feel more at ease I will keep improving as a teacher.

April starts tomorrow! How exciting! The sun was shining so brightly today, I even took off my jacket on the way home. This is the perfect time of year for big changes, the fruition of goals and dreams, and making room for new experiences and adventures!

Do you feel different when Spring rolls around? Energized, refreshed, more active perhaps?


Saturday, March 27, 2010


This is part of a mural at the San Diego Zoo. There was a whole wall of the cutest and funniest pictures of pandas and this was one of my favourite segments :) I'm looking for lots of smiles today as I am incredibly anxious about next week!!

Here's what happened: I found out earlier this week that International House (where I was doing the ESL teacher training) had hired me to teach. I was supposed to come in on Friday to find out the details. Somehow, I'd thought that I would be eased into the whole thing gradually as I pretty much have zero real experience. Instead, I was handed over a full time schedule, pointed in the direction of some useful resources, given a photocopy code, and that was pretty much it. So I'll be teaching four classes starting on Monday, from 9-3.45, and I don't really know what I'm doing. Hence the high anxiety level, agh!

It's funny, because when I was observing classes I was thinking, 'Wow, I really hope I have the opportunity to teach here, it's fantastic blah blah blah and I can totally do this" but now that I actually have to start teaching for real I'm scared. I'm hoping that after the first week I'll get into the swing of things and feel like I know what I'm doing. Anything brand new that you've never tried before is outside the comfort zone and takes time getting used to I guess, I just wish I wasn't quite this nervous :)

So this weekend will be all about lesson planning and trying to get well prepared. As prepared as possible :) Eek.

Have you ever felt anxious about jumping outside of your comfort zone?

Have a fantabulous weekend!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Drizzly Thursday

Well, it's a grey drizzly day today so I'm summoning some California sunshine...through this photo :) I actually live very close to the ocean here in Canada, but it's a protected patch so it feels more like a peaceful lake - no giant waves or ocean views that appear absolutely infinite. Even my quiet little patch is extraordinary though, I could go there every single day and still look forward to it every single time :) So peaceful, therapeutic, energizing, stimulating, and many other wondrous things :)

Today I taught my last one hour lesson, it went quite well. I'm going to miss those students, they're so incredibly lovely and funny and sweet and sincere :) I might have some exciting news on the topic of teaching, but I won't say anything just yet.

My brain feels all melt-y again. I think it needs to rest and recover after lots of mental exercise :) That, and I think I put way too much pressure on myself. Of course we can't be perfect at everything all of the time, and worrying about things doesn't improve one's performance :) I'm trying to just relax and enjoy things in the moment, but that kind of going with the flow and not obsessing over every little detail skill seems to be escaping me :) Maybe these kind of character traits are just part of our constitution and can't really be changed. I'm not sure...because my brain is melting :)

I've definitely been trying to support myself nutritionally. Besides eating possibly rancid granola bars, I've been eating salmon, walnuts, spinach, brown rice, various seeds, various fruits and veggies, oats, nut butter, etc. in good amounts. Of course it's tasty items like salmon and walnuts and flax seeds that give me boosts of brain-friendly Omega 3 EFA's - yum! I have a relatively large head too (finding hats that fit is hard) so I make sure I get good amounts of these things :) The brain also requires glucose for fuel so I eat plenty of whole grains everyday. Really, it all goes back to a healthy, balanced, whole foods diet and I'm always happy with that.

Do you have any foods that you use to boost brain health and enhance magical brain powers?

Monday, March 22, 2010

March Monday

This is a picture from an old town by Lake Garda in's called Sirmione and it's quite stunning there! There's a castle from the 13th century and the whole town is surrounded by water so the views are gorgeous. This is actually an odd choice of photo as there are much prettier ones, but I like this one too :) Just check out the link for more lovely pictures :)

I wanted to share more, but it's another busy day today so I will post again later :)

Today's first one hour class went well for the most part and I'm looking forward to the next one...which will happen on Thursday. Plus, it's sunny - so inspiring and energizing!!

Oh, I ate a Nature's Path apricot and coconut granola bar today and it tasted oddly spicy, I hope it wasn't rancid!! I should really get on that whole 'make your own bar at home' concept :)


Friday, March 19, 2010

Last Day of Winter!

Hooray, today is the final day of Winter and tomorrow we get to experience the official beginning of Spring :) At least that's what my bus driver announced this morning :)

Today was a looong day of classes. It was so gorgeous outside, and it's Friday, and inside it was stuffy. I still enjoyed everything we got to talk about and all the great learning, but I feel like I've reached my limit for the week - a little break is needed at this point :) Thank goodness for the weekend! Do you ever feel that you just cannot take in any more information, no matter how fascinating it is? Those mental batteries need to be recharged :)

Oh, this picture is another one from Paris. Just a random gorgeous curvy old building - one of oh so many.

Tonight I'm going out for dinner to a restaurant on the beach. It's called Pearl and I don't remember going there in the past but I've heard good things. It looks a bit contemporary (I tend to prefer traditional coziness) but of course I will try it out :)

Some of my classmates are from Korea/Japan and others have visited these countries and really love them. We're all planning on going for some Japanese food next week to celebrate the (almost) end of the program, but I have only eaten this kind of cuisine a couple of times in my entire life! I feel like I should do some research or something so that I know what I'm eating :) Vancouver is bursting with all sorts of Asian cuisine and yet I am so very ignorant :) Are there any types of cuisine that you haven't tried before and wish to get a taste of? It's amazing how basic ingredients can be used so differently all around the world!

Happy almost Spring!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Catching Up Mid-March

This was taken in beautiful Paris, somewhere near Luxembourg Palace, ooh la la :)

Whew, Wednesday already!! This week has been as intense as the last, but in the best of ways :) On Monday I taught a vocabulary lesson (all about describing people) and today I taught a 45 minute reading lesson. Both were really fun and I'm immensely grateful to have such friendly, eager, lovely students to teach! It kind of eases you into it...I can only imagine how much harder it would be if the first people I tried to teach weren't very eager or responsive.

Next week I'll be teach two 1-hour long lessons and I have to choose them myself from a book I just got. I think I'm ready to try it but of course it's a bit daunting!

The film I watched last Saturday is called 'Century of the Self'. Here's a little blurb:

'This documentary shows how we have been guided towards the belief that we should all have what we want, as well as what we need.

The Era of Modernism, where we have all been entrenched in the 20th Century, has been about how the standard of living of the masses could be increased, solving a myriad of social, political, philosophical, and material problems for the governments of our time.

a) Social unrest is decreased when the population is well fed. and
b) Business is good when people spend disposable income on more goods and services than they actually need.

Then government feels more secure in its role of administrating what they politely refer to as “mass democracy”.

This film shows how the cycle of invention, production, and consumption has been enhanced in the 20th century by the discovery of how psychological processes can be manipulated to increase our desire for more, and more, and more goods and services than we need.

In this analysis Sigmund Freud, and his nephew Edward Bernays figure prominently as agents of change who made American capitalism shift into high gear, creating the consumer society we are living with today.'

I've always been interested in psychology, especially when it comes to explaining group behaviour, so this was an intriguing film to watch. Some parts that really stuck out included how people's subconscious drives were tapped into and exploited during Hitler's time (surprisingly, the focus was on people's need to love and to feel loved). Another huge issue was how due to increased production of goods as a result of the industrial revolution, companies needed a way to make people keep buying things, even when they already had all that they needed. While in previous times people based their purchases on factors such as good quality, durability, their need for the item, etc., suddenly products became something that you had an irrational desire for. How did companies achieve this? They hired psychologists to figure out how to make people want these things. The answer seems pretty obvious - to link the product with people's emotions. It wasn't the thing itself that mattered, but what it symbolized. For example, they got women to smoke by linking cigarettes with power and independence (plus, this was at a time when men had a lot more agency than women).

Yikes, this is getting long. I just have to mention one more theme. In the 50s, psychoanalysis became really popular and fashionable. At the time, psychoanalysts believed that people would be happy if they could just follow social norms and conform as much as possible. This segment of the film was really disturbing. This was the time when people were given electroshock "therapy" and lobotomies. Even if they weren't subjected to that, they tried to perform the whole happy suburban nuclear family routine, which left so many people depressed and miserable and, ironically, the very opposite of happy and mentally healthy. There was a great clip of Arthur Miller at this point, and I have to sure his quote with you:

‘My argument with so much of psychoanalysis, is the preconception that suffering is a mistake, or a sign of weakness, or a sign even of illness. When in fact, possibly the greatest truths we know, have come out of people’s suffering. The problem is not to undo suffering, or to wipe it off the face of the earth, but to make it inform our lives, instead of trying to “cure” ourselves of it constantly, and avoid it, and avoid anything but that lobotomized sense of what they call “happiness”. There’s too much of an attempt, it seems to me, to think in terms of controlling man, rather than freeing him – of defining him, rather than letting him go! It’s part of the whole ideology of this age, which is power-mad!’

I absolutely love this quote!

Sorry for the length of this post - there was a lot to fit in :)


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Midway through March

Alrighty, let's continue with the whole European theme. This is a picture of the cathedral Sacre Coeur in lovely old famous Montmartre. I climbed all the steps to the top, and when I turned around the view was absolutely incredible. That day was quite misty, so the view of the city was, for want of a better word, almost fluid. Kind of glimmering and melting rather than solid and clear.

The weekend's pretty much over, yikes! I've been doing lots of homework and lesson planning, but I did fit in a film at the Social Justice Film Festival (I'll try to write about it later, it was very thought-provoking and interesting), made a giant pot of red pepper soup (with lots of other veggies thrown in as well), and caught up with a friend I hadn't seen in ages. We had lunch at a brand new Whole Foods that recently opened in Vancouver. I can't really afford to do much food shopping there - Vancouver is expensive as it is, and Whole Foods especially targets a particular segment of the population rather than a diverse crowd (unlike the Whole Foods I went to in California - it was always bustling, all sorts of people of all ages and professions shopped there, and it was affordable). But it's still fun to visit and enjoy the brand new sparkliness of the store - it's huge, has tons of seating space, and has a pleasant atmosphere :) And of course lunch is always tasty at WF :)

In other news, on Friday I switched over to the Intermediate class. That day we just did some fun icebreakers to get to know each other and I already love my new students. Tomorrow I'm teaching a 40 minute lesson (yikes!) and I'm hoping that the material will be challenging enough for them. Oh, on Friday I tried a pretty tasty feta veggie flax roll, I've had other flavours before - these babies can be found in coffee shops all over Vancouver - and they've all been pretty decent though nothing worth calling home about :)

Do you have a favourite snack that you treat yourself to when hunger strikes unexpectedly?


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Teacher Training Continues...

What's in this picture? Why, it's Juliet's balcony of course :) This was taken a few months ago when I was visiting Verona - such a beautiful, sparkling, historic city! I quite enjoyed it. Huge crowds of people flocked to this balcony, it was quite funny...I mean romantic :) It wasn't actually Juliet's balcony, but we're all so romantic and enthralled by the story we can't help but be swept away anyway :)

So I'm just relaxing after a big day of classes (and teaching a grammar lesson, woohoo!), listening to Devendra Banhart and looking forward to a warm, nourishing dinner :)

Quick school update: On Friday the group of trainees I'm with is switching to teaching a different class. We're going from Elementary to Intermediate level, so our lessons will be more challenging. I already miss the lovely students I've gotten to know these past couple of weeks - they're so sweet and friendly! One day they brought us cookies and candy :)

Oh, I've been eating more bars than usual since I'm in school all day. I love having a Lara Bar (apple and pecan are the flavours I usually go for) and that's what I usually have. Yesterday I tried a Nature's Path granola bar...I think it was something like flax and pumpkin...and it was sooo sweet! I've not a fan of overly sweet things. It made me want to somehow make my own (less overpoweringly sugary) granola bar, but I've never tried cooking one up before :) That's an idea to experiment with later...

This weekend I'm hoping to go the White Rock Social Justice Film Festival. Looks like there are some very interesting films to see!


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Is The Weekend Almost Finished?!

My goodness, this week is really flying by! Like a bird, like a plane, like...Superman himself :) Mostly because of school of course, and lesson planning and assignments and all these things I've never heard of before :) But also because it's almost, sort of Springtime and there's lots to do :) I love this time of year, including all of the chocolate eggs, lots of pastel colours, and bunnies galore! The cherry blossoms are blossoming super early (as in now!) which makes it feel as though Summer's around the corner (it's not). I wish I had a picture of the gorgeous purple cherry blossoms, but I don't :)

This weekend I managed to squeeze in some fun as well. I played tennis bright and early in the morning on both days (hooray! fresh air is priceless!) and yesterday some friends showed me a wonderful new bakery that I had never visited before. It's called A Bread Affair and it's sensational. I'm sort of obsessed with bakeries and have been a bread lover since I was...born :) There was a time when I went gluten-free and did not eat bread, but thankfully those dark days are over. I do make sure to only eat high quality, wholesome (as in whole grain and preferably seedy), freshly made, usually organic bread though. Only the best indeed :) It does make a difference though, and this way it serves a purpose besides providing a home for my sandwich fillings :) All those B-vitamins, all that magnesium, manganese, and fibre is definitely cause for celebration :)

Yesterday I made red bell pepper soup, which also contained onion, celery, carrots, and seasoning. I was just given some gorgeous broccoli so today I will make that into another yummy soup - that way I'll be able to eat lots of veggies next week and very easily too, school and all!

Do you have any special ways of fitting veggies into your diet even when there's little time to chop and cook?


Thursday, March 4, 2010

More ESL Fun!

This week is going by sooo quickly! Today was my fourth day in class, and it included my second attempt at teaching a proper lesson. I was a bit more nervous before this one as it included some tricky-ish vocabulary and, really, I didn't know what to expect! The lovely students we're teaching are full of surprises, and at this point it's hard to predict what they already know and what they have not learned yet. Thankfully, the lesson went very well and I think everybody had a fun time, including me :) It's so great to work together as a group and experience something collectively even though everyone's native language is different.

In other news, the sun has been peeking out lately and the view of the mountains has been absolutely gorgeous - so crisp and grand :) I've been spending pretty much all of my time indoors, but I am loving the view :)

This photo is of a ship that I saw when visiting San Diego Bay. It's part of the Marine Museum or something like that. I love old ships like this one, they're so romantic and Old-World-y :)

And now it's time for dinner - tonight it's rice and beans with onion, red bell peppers, and some tomato & portobello mushroom sauce...after soup of course - I am head over heels in love with soup :)


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

ESL Training

Wow, today was my second day of teacher training and it is INTENSE! Thankfully, it's intense in a good way - in an interesting, action-packed, hands-on, start-teaching-on-your-very-first-day, flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-and-surprisingly-enjoying it kind of way :)

To practise teaching, we have a lovely group of older Korean ladies coming in every day. They get these lessons for free, and also get to socialize and have an amusing time.

I love taking a closer look at different cultures, and learning about other languages and points of view is always so eye-opening!

The less fun but still somewhat fascinating aspect of the program is learning lots and lots of grammar...yay (?)! I must confess, I've always been a bit of a grammar geek and actually enjoy doing grammar exercises. I think it must be because I did have to learn English as a second language myself when I was younger...or maybe it's just one of those quirks :)

And now it's time for some porcini mushroom chicken stew with sweet potato mash :) There's nothing like a delicious, warming dinner after a hard day's work :)

Oh, and I'm thinking of switching to this font because it's a bit easier to read...this can be a test run :)