Great

After the US election, Ailsa at Where’s my backpack wrote Great, a poem. I read it out loud (no one was listening) and heard myself almost rapping… It’s a two-part verse, beginning in darkness, ending in light.

Encouraging bloggers to add some goodness to the dish on the other side of the scale, she has challenged us to do something GREAT:

Create something beautiful and share it with the world. Write something true from the depths of your humanity and share it with the world. Do something kind for someone in need. Embrace a different culture. Volunteer. Plant a tree. Tell someone how much they mean to you. Reach out to someone in your community you’ve never even noticed before. Try to understand someone else’s point of view. Learn something new. Teach your kids something new. Stand up to bullies. Protect those being victimized. Be brave. Be gentle. Be vulnerable. Nurture. Encourage. Forgive. Love. Shine.

The word Volunteer leapt out at me with its capital V. It’s what I do. I’ve done voluntary English tutoring for years, but previously only once a week. This year, it has been five days a week, a few hours each day. The rewards for the students are free language instruction and friendship, but for me the rewards are many and varied. They buy me flowers, plants, perfume from France, skin products from New Zealand, clothes from China (!), crockery and meals. But mostly, it’s coffee.

We meet in local cafés, where the owners have come to know me and my students. They even know what we’ll order, each student ordering the same thing every week.

This week I combined the great thing that is Ailsa’s poem with my volunteering: I used her poem in a lesson. I asked my student to read it out loud, tell me what poetic devices were used, and tell me what it all meant. Here she is expressing her feelings about the negative half, words about words that are ‘meant to shock, intimidate, demean and mock’, followed by the positive half, words about words that ‘serve to heal, unite, encourage and appeal’.Now, I doubt that any great act on my part will counteract the new US president’s policies, but one day at a time, one person at a time, is a policy that’s working to make life better for me and my students in this part of the world.

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Weekly photo challenge: Tiny

Yesterday I was quietly translating a fairy tale about dragonflies and damselflies when a couple of stuck bugs walked over my window. Tiny stuck bugs, one walking forwards, the other dragged behind, backwards. Unlike my fictional insects, flying didn’t seem to be an option. I needed an excuse to procrastinate, unable to decide whether the story would be as much fun for others as for me, so this tiny event suddenly seemed like something I should record for posterity.

I tried to pick them off the window with a sheet of paper but they tumbled onto my monitor and walked quickly and unceasingly over every surface on and near my desk, across the laptop, over the Cruzer memory stick and down the power cord…

… over my diary page where Alice is dancing with the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon, and looking very much like painted bugs…

…and around my mother’s portrait.

I thought: you two need to be doing this outside with other tiny things. And as they marched across the books piled beside my keyboard, making their way blindly along the edge of a fairy tale collection where tiny bugs are friends of fairies…

… I took my chance, picked up the book, and… oops! They flipped upside down! You’d think this would have kept them still for a moment, but no. Together they flipped right way up (undoubtedly not in a united effort) and I hurried out the door while they were running in a frenzy over the book. And yet, when I held them next to my potted pansies they refused to get off without some shoving and shaking.

This is the story of a tiny procrastination. It was all the break I needed to give me strength to go and read two fairy tales and translate one.

Thanks Daily Post for this tiny photo challenge.

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