Friday, April 30, 2010

Constantly Learning

For whatever it is worth, I am the most educated person in my family, with two masters degrees. I have also taken other classes along the way, such as language classes. I have always enjoyed taking classes and it has always made me feel as though I am improving myself, because I am learning. But I don't have to take classes. It isn't as if I didn't know this and yet for some reason just lately I feel as though I have finally learned this particular lesson.

I have been attending many professional development workshops/webinars/conferences lately and have a couple more coming up. Some are librarian related, some are more related to being a faculty member in an academic institution and then I have had a few teaching and ESOL one. There has been some overlap, which is nice and hopefully some of this will lead to a better defined research agenda for me.

And then there is my volunteering. At Early Morning Reading, I have worked alot with this one particular young girl and to be honest I doubt she can read. She is smart and seems to be able to read ... but only certain books which makes me think she has them memorized. Any time I propose a book that she hasn't chosen she wants me to read to her. Is this how kids can go for years not learning basic skills? Some kids really get thrown if you correct them while they are reading or even interrupt them to ask a question, such as a prediction question and some really like it. One little girl usually points at what she is struggling with, repeats it after I say it a couple of times, says thank you and moves on. Which I find very amusing because in casual conversation she has such an attitude--she reminds me of Rosie Perez in one of her more exaggerated roles sometimes. But while reading, she is very serious and polite.

At English Conversation (which I don't go to as often) I read with an adult ELL for the first time and every verb contraction she came across she read in the full form. I only corrected her once, when the main character said "I'll say" in a short dialogue. I explained to her that is one is more of an idiomatic saying and if you change it to "I will say" it doesn't make sense. She is a very good reader, mechanically but it wasn't clear to me how much she was comprehending. Afterwards we talked a little about how she consistently avoided the contractions and she was aware of the problem and she said she found them really difficult. I told her she would get more comfortable with them over time, as she hears them and as she continues to come across them in her reading. It is a small thing in comparison to comprehension which she is clearly working on.

I am also learning a lot about creating a new language and cultural program because I am on the Advisory Board of one. I originally took classes via a small organization that only taught Cantonese, taught by volunteer enthusiastic but untrained teachers. The teachers pretty much ran the organization for years but in the Fall the founder came back on the scene and wanted to make significant changes which made the main 4 teachers uncomfortable but also seemed to exclude some of the senior students. So with the encouragement of the many of the students a new organization was started and I was asked to be an advisor.

Mandarin is now part of our program and it is intensely popular with our students and it has challenged some of the leadership's perception of what our mission is. Teaching Cantonese for free was what made the previous program unique (which as far as I know is being run by the founder but on a much smaller scale). What will make this program unique? I am learning a lot about leadership, about the politics of alliances and the tricky nature of trying to improve the curriculum when you have volunteer teachers who are long on enthusiasm but short on training and experience.

Of course this is nothing in comparison to what I will be learning on my trip to Hong Kong, which is a mere 3 weeks and 6 days away now. :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Personal Shopper

I have been doing the shopping thing lately. I am not an experienced shopper. I tend to buy the same things over and over because I am comfortable with those products or because I know where to find them. So this has been challenging for me. Especially when it comes to clothes.

My upcoming trip to Hong Kong has forced me to look at my summer clothes much earlier than I normally would. I had some things from last summer, but not much plus I have lost weight so even what I did have some of it is too loose. I am set for sandals, last year I bought several pairs and I will of course have my sneakers with me.

So I have been shopping. Online, in stores. And then I went to a "personal shopper." Macy's has this free service and I decided to try it out. I shop alot at Macy's. I know exactly where to find my size and the store brand is in my comfortable spending bracket. I think I have bought a designer label all of twice. I thought this would be good for me, expand my mind on what to wear.

My appointment was on thursday evening and it was interesting. She is primarily a saleswoman but she comfortable enough with her product to say, "that does nothing for you." She tried a couple of colors for me that I never wear-yellow, fuschia. Yellow somehow makes me look like a totally different person. My favorite color when I was a child was yellow. My family discouraged this and I didn't understand for a long time. It was only after not recognizing myself in an old family photo that I understood. Fuschia is a beautiful color but I have to be in the right mood to wear it. So even though I told her I was looking to expand my horizons on how I dress, I clearly had my limitations. I wear a lot of blue, I like the way it looks on me.

She brought out some suits and some dresses. I did try a few on but I didn't see the need for them for my trip. I do have a couple of casual dresses that I plan to bring. I honestly don't expect to go to any fancy restaurants or events. And rarely do that here either. But they were nice to try on. This one dress was beautiful on me. I felt like I had just stepped out of a Joan Crawford film. She brought out some tank tops. Eek, expose my arms? But I love the cut on them, not the usual ones where I feel exposed in every which way. And I bought some lightweight blouses/jackets to put over them so that I can wear my tank and still hide my arms.

Despite my limitations on her I still walked out with 12 items. And quite a few are Jones NY, a designer I like but rarely buy because they are usually out of my budget. But somehow I caught some special sale and got an extra $25 off of everything. I had walked in there with a dollar amount in my head. I overspent it by $27. Now some of the things I am still iffy about, will I wear it? Is it me? My personal shopper was very practical about this--pack it with the tags still on it. I can return it for up to six months.

Personal shoppers are a free service, tipping is not allowed. It was a positive experience overall and I plan to do it again in August for work clothes. As I become more of a "player" at my job, I am feeling the need to dress the part a bit more. Of course now I will want to be timing this for another one of those 25% off sales. I have told 3 of my friends about this and they all reacted much more positively than I would thought. Even my one friend who almost always shops at Goodwill was fascinated by this. I wonder if I am starting a trend :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What am I doing?

What am I doing? I am freaking out. Or at least I was. I think I am past the worst of it. At some point I lost confidence in myself and the whole idea of learning Cantonese and going to Hong Kong alone for 5 weeks seemed absolutely absurd. I have been avoiding studying Cantonese and even went back to my roots so to speak and was studying Italian again--probably not that usefull in Hong Kong, LOL Just the fact that I am writing about this tells me that I am coming out of it. And it isn't absurd, it is an adventure. An adventure I have wanted to take for years but couldn't for various reasons. As soon as my freak out is completely over, I will get excited about that again I am sure.

One thing I did do in this time was to decide finally where I am going to take classes in Hong Kong. The 3 week intensive class at CUHK intimidated me and I was worried that I would be spending too much of my trip alone in my room doing homework. I am sure it is a great class, but not really for me, not this trip anyway. So I am going with the classes via The description of the classes seem like something I could comfortably do and still hopefully learn a lot of Cantonese. They actually have a homestay component which sounds appealing on one level and stressful on the other--I haven't lived with anyone in decades so right there that would be quite an adjustment but then to have to only communicate Cantonese with them ... that is for a future trip, not this one.

Now that that is settled, my trip is planned. Which is why it has been frustrating to me that I have been freaking out versus getting excited. And I am getting excited, this is my biggest trip ever. And hopefully it will answer a question I have had about myself for a long time--am I flexible enough to live overseas? In my mind if I can't do it in a big international city like Hong Kong, I won't be able to do it anywhere.

Meanwhile I am planning on doing a lot of vocabulary review in the next few weeks as well as listening to some CDs and mp3s that I have, mostly Pimsleur and those from I have been exposed to a lot of vocabulary, some I know really well, some not so well, the rest I have been exposed to only once or twice and haven't retained. Another blogger advised to focus on vocabulary in a recent post which makes sense to me right now. I have been focused on grammar and word order lately and maybe that has been a factor in loss of confidence.