Sunday, September 27, 2009

Euphoria is a synonym of chocolate

The birds outside my window are hosting the Singapore National Bird Squawking Contest. It is the semi-finals, and no one is giving up easily. It is also 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I had planned to sleep-in until 8:30. By the way, when 8:30 became sleeping in, I’m not sure. But these birds, they had different plans when they chose the location of their special little contest. I think about thirty have entered. Each with his or her own unique squawking sounds, high and low pitched, slow and fast tempos, some a little off key but all trying their hardest to out do one another in the volume category. It’s like an orchestra out there. An orchestra of fifth and sixth grade students who are all learning to play their trombones, trumpets, bassoons, flutes, clarinets, tubas, French horns, and, who could forget, didgeridoos for the first time, but an orchestra none-the-less.

And it is exactly because of this little performance that I’ve got some time to kill before my jazz class this morning. So, I’ll sit here, sipping my cup of tea and watch the sun slowly crawl across the dewy morning lawn, caressing each blade of grass individually before it moves on to the next. Despite my initial annoyance, I do have my personal orchestra to thank for the wake-up call that lead me to observe this moment of peaceful, though not exactly silent, morning awakening. In the very rare and brief silences, while the colorful, busy little birds take a simultaneous breath before they belt out their next note, there exists a sort of constant buzzing undertone of the plants, insects, and other creatures stretching before they begin their daily chores. The smell of tropical flowers is floating past my nose on the warm breeze, and the sun is painting the sky a sort of pink, yellow color, alerting God’s creatures of morning’s arrival. My skin is moist to the touch as if the sun is plucking the dew drops off the grass and laying them gently upon my shoulders. And the air is hanging thick and smooth like honey so when I open my mouth I can almost bite into it. Slowly the birds flutter off the trees, cutting through the honey air with the quick little flappity flap of their wings and leaving the branches from which they had alighted swaying momentarily before they come to rest once again in their rightful stillness.

Suddenly, as quickly as it had begun, I think the contest is over. One egg-yolk yellow bird with a black chest that he is proudly projecting to the world as he sings his triumphant song remains. He is the winner. The others have gone home to practice. I suppose it is now time for me to go too. Before I turn to walk inside though, I take one last glance at the proud golden fellow; he looks at me briefly, silently. apologetically, and I smile, hopefully portraying that I really didn’t mind this time, but if he and his friends do it again next Saturday, I may throw something very hard and large at them. Then he smirks and goes right on singing.

I suppose I didn’t mind the little birds’ songs so much. Friday had been a relaxing evening anyways, sitting in the back garden of a quaint Turkish restaurant on Arab street, sipping Turkish coffee (literally sipping, you have to, it is so strong), and simply enjoying the company of friends. It is interesting and sad in a way how much more you appreciate the simple everyday happenings of your life, your family and friends, your experiences, and the exact moment in which you’re living when something bad happens. My friend Will’s college roommate passed away this week in a tragic accident while climbing in the Tetons of Wyoming. When someone so young and close to you or someone you know passes away, your own mortality becomes even more tangible. I think we could all feel this mortality sort-of floating in the air like those clouds of rain that follow cartoon characters around on Saturday mornings as we sat sharing our own stories of tragedy, ecstasy and everything in between that composes our individual lives. And while we all have had very different experiences, we also felt very connected, tied together by the common thread of sadness and loss. Will commented at one point in the evening, “This is what Eliot did…he brought people together.” (The link for the article about Eliot Kalmbach is

After my own reflections, and simple, yet complex enjoyment of the Saturday morning, I attended a two and a half hour long jazz class. It was definitely a love-hate relationship experience with my body and mind. It felt so good to be dancing, escaping, moving, pushing my body, and feeling the shear exhilaration and joy that comes with accomplishing a particularly challenging pirouette combination or jump sequence, but my mind, the nosy, annoying being that it is, couldn’t help but remind me how sore I was going to be after having had such a long spell without a jazz class. And, of course, my mind was right, as I was struggling to even walk down the four flights of stairs when I left the studio. But no amount of soreness will ever deter me from allowing my body the pure pleasure of dancing, escaping the harsh realities of the world for a few hours to a place of happiness, joy, and movement.

Saturday afternoon, I tried to beat the potential soreness that Sunday morning would surely bring with a $25 massage in Chinatown. However, this plan backfired as the masseuse informed me that my body contained several knots she would have to rub out. I’m sorry did I say rub them out? I meant she said, in not so many words, she would have to dig the knots out with her knuckles and force them to unwind. I’ve never really understood the phrase “hurt so good” until now. I’m not going to claim that Sunday morning wasn’t painful, but now that it is Monday morning, I’m singing my masseuse’s praises.

Saturday evening, Stephanie and I went to Little India for an Indian feast comprised of, among the lot, curries, thosa, chutneys, dal, cucumbers and yogurt. I’m pretty sure we ate a meal for four between the two of us. But, undeterred by our bulging stomachs and after-Thanksgiving-meal-like lethargy, we proceeded to walk just over a mile to an Irish Pub to meet Merriam, Lauren, Katie and Nick for a cider beer. India and Ireland in one evening…welcome to Singapore.

Weekends always pass by too quickly. But this weekend it may have been because I spent most of Sunday afternoon napping by our neighborhood public pool. Yep, that kind of public pool...screaming kids, men in Speedos trying to pick up chicks, diving boards, swimming lessons, a $1 entry fee, and vending machines. And, yes, I did say napping. And except for the fact that I feel asleep on my back, allowing for a rather uneven tan between the front and back of my body, it was a lovely, undisturbed afternoon spent basking in the sun near several strategically placed palm trees at a pool only minutes from my apartment. Such is the life I live.

So today I’m back in school, and without the least bit of Monday blues. I’m thrilled to be here, and looking forward to my two observations and one more meeting this afternoon. (My lack of Monday blues is probably, in part, because I really do love my school and also, in part, because of the large piece of homemade chocolate pie that was just given to me by one of the more motherly teachers. Is euphoria a synonym of chocolate? I may consult a thesaurus this afternoon.)

We had a departmental meeting this morning and discussed ways to encourage the students to read outside the classroom and a new addition to the English curriculum…public speaking. Reading for fun and chatting away to groups of people…now that I can do…bring it on.

Cheers, TIA and Happy Monday,

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