Monthly Archives: September 2010

Happy Bow Tie Thursday!!

I can’t believe it’s been 15 days since I have blogged (what a dumb word that is as a verb). It’s a bit ironic that my last post was about how many different roles I would be playing this year and how exhausted I was just thinking about it – well it turns out that trying to fulfill these roles was even more exhausting. Today, during my very last period of the week, my nose started bleeding profusely during a quiz. I didn’t want to leave because there was a quiz going on, but I didn’t want to touch anything or let go of my nose… Awkwardness ensued, which involved me juggling quizzes and tissues in my hand while a student cleaned drops of blood up off the floor. That’s when I took a 5 minute break. I guess you are only allowed to make it through 19 classes in a week while dehydrated and exhausted without breaking down… can’t wait to see what happens next Thursday.

But today was actually incredibly exciting and invigorating – it was the first Bow Tie Thursday where students participated! My dream has finally been realized (read about the saga here and here), but it sure took a while – I began this project last October. I was sitting at dinner one night, and someone mentioned that they had seen school bow ties in the school store. All I could do was gasp in shock and a bit of annoyance (after almost a year, how could the bow ties arrive without anyone telling me???). Sure enough, I went to the school store and there they were, radiating sexy in a bag behind the counter, with a nice school-color-themed variety – marvelous red and black stripe, striking navy blue with our flower shaped logo, and kind-of-ugly-tan. I happily purchased two for 15 JD (about $21) each, with my handy 20% faculty discount.

Equipped with this newfound treasure, I began preaching the gospel of bow ties in an attempt to get others on board. Other Thursdays, I had to carry around bow ties to lend to other faculty members, but now people could wear their very own. Actually fairly surprisingly to me, the excitement was palpable. Students popped up throughout the day to tell me that they had purchased one and had no clue how to tie it, and were going to wear it on Thursday. On Monday, one kid showed up at my classroom and asked me to tie his. Okay, three days early my friend, but I will indulge… and then on Tuesday a few more were seen wearing them around campus, one of whom told me he learned how to tie it from YouTube (just like me!). The funny part about this is that we have relaxed dress code this week – they didn’t even need to be wearing a tie at all!

And then today, the very first bow tie Thursday with students, was absolutely glorious. Only about a dozen students ended up wearing them because no one could tie them and didn’t want to show up early to breakfast to have me teach them, but it was a glorious start, and just what I needed for a grueling end-of-the-week, nosebleed-inducing day. I am estimating that at least 50-60 people bought bow ties at the school store, so I have high expectations for future Thursdays, especially when we will be back in dress code, required to wear a tie. I hope I have started something that can’t be stopped…

I’m pretty sure that life is hilarious.

The Many Faces of Exhaustion

I recently got a note from a former student whom I had a particularly close relationship with thanking me for “everything you did for me last year, as a teacher, advisor, resident director and mostly as a friend. As you can imagine, I was very much touched by this, and it made me realize in how many realms we interacted. And then I had a mild panic attack. Perhaps it was bad timing as I’m getting ready for the year and attempting to get everything in order, while not used to waking up early and being “on” all day long, but it made acutely aware right now of the ridiculous myriad of roles we all play here.

The students come tomorrow, and I resume or begin my many (old and new) roles as a boarding school faculty, a tough transition for anyone who just had a 3-month summer: physics teacher… calculus teacher… dorm parent… bow tie enthusiast… advisor… avid movie watcher… newspaper advisor… disciplinarian… swim coach… 2 am roamer of the dorm halls… mentor for a new teacher… lunchroom vigilante… community service trip organizer… participant in the social life with the other faculty… weekend trip chaperone… person trying to keep in touch with people 10,000 miles away… and I’m supposed to be a friend too!?

My Car – Shim Hates Me

I think my car hates me. I would probably hate me too if I were my car. I got in an accident when I was 16, a few months after I got my license, but then never touched another car again with my car in the states (his name is Webster, I miss him dearly)… But then I started driving here in Jordan. Within two months I managed to send our currently nameless car to the shop twice. Shim (also haven’t even determined its gender identity) has two brand new doors, a brand new front bumper, and has it’s SECOND brand new front-right-over-the-wheel-panel-thing in two months. Also, it has a new Jordanian flag because the first time it went in someone stole my flag (why, people?? jealous of my patriotism?). I know, I’m spoiling shim with all these new parts, right?

When my parents visited in March they had a wonderful visit, but one of the only things they didn’t like here was the crazy no-blinker, change-lanes, honk-and-flash-your-lights, people-walk-in-your-path driving. Sadly though, I can’t even blame my driving blunders on the crazy driving here, because both incidents happened with parked cars or stationary objects. The first time, I thought shim was skinnier that it was and scraped the entire right side from front wheel to back (see earlier post Jordanian Driving Fail for a picture). Fail. And then the next time, I whipped out of my parking spot at school slamming the front right side of my car into a sturdy concrete trash can that was, out of fairness to me and my driving skillz, too low for me to see it out of the window from the drivers seat. I hopped out to realize that the incredibly heavy trash can was knocked over, at which point I wasn’t even mad, I was impressed, even more so when I tried to right the trash can, and realized it was almost too heavy for me to pick up. Shim is strong.

The complicating factor this second time was that I was planning on driving a few students into Amman, so they were standing about 100 feet away. After hoisting the trash can I hopped in, and pretended like nothing had happened. I didn’t know if they had seen or not because we got distracted when one bizarrely tried to let the air out of someone’s tires in front of me (no, you did not drop your cell phone under a car in the faculty parking lot, and no, that’s not a “prank”), but later they revealed that they had in fact seen me smash the trash can (and had heard the loud crack that it made). They confessed they were nervous to get in the car with me, but I was their last resort. I thought they were just giving me a hard time but no, they were actually nervous. After I dropped them off I went a couple of hundred yards up the street before deciding I needed to use my cell phone. Like the responsible, GOOD driver that I am, I pulled off to the side to talk. No more than a minute later, I see one of my gangly friends sprinting up to the side of my car. He looked in and saw me talking on the phone. “Oh, phew, I thought you had hit something!! Okay, bye Mr. Bowman!” Part of me thought it was very nice that he reacted like that, but that part of me was trying to convince the other parts of me that I’m not a failure of a vehicle operator. I have street smarts.

So my car hates me and probably thinks I’m about as good of a driver as those forced to ride with me do. Maybe it’s time I show some affection and give shim a name…

It’s Time to Re-Learn Calculus

Days to re-learn Calculus: 8.

To clear up a myth that you might have believed in when you were in school, teachers are not all-knowing magical creatures. Magical creatures, perhaps, yes, but not all-knowing.

Heading Back to Jordan (and just in time)

I’m headed back to Jordan today and am almost as excited today as when I boarded the plane about a year ago to come for the first time. I had a wonderful visit, but I’m happy that I am leaving before Pastor Terry Jones commemorates the anniversary of September 11th with “Burn a Koran Day.” If you haven’t been following the media-storm around this one, an obscure pastor from Florida, who believes Islam is Of the Devil, is leading his 50-member congregation in a psychotic ritualistic burning of the Holy Book of Islam to, quote, “bring to awareness to the dangers of Islam and that the Koran is leading people to hell. Eternal fire is the only destination the Koran can lead people to so we want to put the Koran in it’s place – the fire!” With the vitriolic debate surrounding the NYC mosque culminating in this hateful event, I don’t think I’ve ever been more frustrated with the growing Islamophobia in our country.

Many might rightfully point out that this guy does not represent the majority, or even a sizable minority in our county, but his voice is out there, is getting attention, and is being broadcast all over the world. Whether it’s fair or not, we will be judged by people like this. What’s that? It’s not right that a religious zealot with weird facial hair, twisting an otherwise peaceful religion to make hateful, condemning comments, via a face-to-camera video proclamation, backed by a small extremist band of followers, should come to represent millions and millions of people – the vast majority of whom completely disagree with him?

Well, I agree. It’s not right. But we should certainly know from first-hand experience that this is what happens. My frustrations for the past few weeks have stemmed not from people’s opinions on the NYC mosque itself, but from the rhetoric surrounding it and the dangerous, uninformed illogical leaps that people make to support their opinions. Terry Jones: is as representative of American views on Islam (and Christianity) as the violent jihadists: who took part in the attacks on 9/11 are representative of Muslim views on the West (and Islam itself). Terry Jones: Christianity as Violent Jihadists: Islam. The mass public in the US makes negative associations with Islam because of extremist images we see in the mass media, just as the mass public in the Muslim world will be affected by the images of their Holy Book being set aflame on US soil, by Americans – there have already been protests all over the world, from the streets of Afghanistan to the US Embassy in Indonesia, and General Petraeus himself has urged the pastor not to go through with the plans as “It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort.” We should be able to see how misinformation and negative images of Islam have been poisoning a nation like ours, with a strong rule of law and smart, capable leaders. Imagine what kind of damage the same kind of filth could do to a nation as volatile as Afghanistan.

So before we condemn Terry Jones (which we obviously should) or worry that he’s spreading the wrong message (which we obviously should), we need to take a look at ourselves and wonder if we have been receiving the wrong message, from the wrong sources ourselves.

[For these same thoughts expressed with a sense of humor, check out this incredibly poignant must-read article from the Onion, the hilarious fake news source, titled Man Already Knows Everything He Needs to Know about Muslims.]

Texcapade: Whiskey’s New Friend Rocky

Whiskey absolutely loves toys, mostly stuffed animals. He came from his previous owner with a whole bin of toys, his favorites being the pink lamb (whom he slowly dismantled and consumed) and a stuffed football (which has impressively survived). He uses his toys to greet guests – whenever someone comes in the house he goes to his bin and picks out a toy to show the visitor – and as bedtime companions – he always has something in his mouth on his way to bed.

But the joke is on us for buying stuffed animals for him, because Whiskey’s new friend Rocky was free, he found it himself and even has the added benefit of being environmentally friendly. Rocky is a rock. And Whiskey treats Rocky like he would any of his other toys. He awkwardly tries to pick shim up (Rocky is a little bit too big to fit comfortably in his mouth) gingerly carries shim around in his mouth, gently nibbles on shim, brings shim to the door to show me when I come in the house and takes shim to bed to cuddle for the night.

There’s a John Stuart Mill quote that basically says “It is better to be [Socrates] dissatisfied than a pig satisfied?” but I think Whiskey has proved him completely wrong. I would be much more popular if I could make friends with inanimate objects