Category Archives: Art

Memory

Peristence of Memory DaliTime melts.

Is it shocking to anyone else that it is almost mid-August? Did spring and early summer even happen? Does anyone feel rested? I feel like I’m in a time vortex and living inside Salvador Dali’s landscape, The Persistence of Memory. When I moved to India two years ago, I became aware of how much I relied on the seasonal changes to understand time. Months would fly by and when I’d see teachers’ classrooms decorated with jack-o-lanterns and Christmas stockings, I would do a double take because it is always summer in Chennai. Now I’m back in the USA and I have experienced two seasons: spring and summer, yet time has no meaning anymore. The days and months melt together.

On a rare venture into the “outside world” I went to Target last week with my daughter. We were equipped with masks and hand sanitizer as we walked the aisles. When we walked past the “Back To School” section I thought of all the loss and all the loss that is yet to come. I miss not returning to school this year and I’m sure I’m not alone. Keeping a pulse on the job market through various apps, I am aware of many vacant teaching jobs. This likely means some/many teachers are leaving their careers, like me, at least for awhile. Because of COVID19, many educators cannot continue to work and also support their own children. They may also be afraid to return to work for fear of being exposed to the virus and then bringing it home to their own family. Some international teachers are not able to get back to their employment in various countries around the world because of continued visa restrictions. I have so much empathy for teachers who have no choice but to return to schools that are/will open and be a front-line worker. You are heroic.

I am considering moving my 16 years of art teaching to a virtual world, but this time, I may concentrate on adult student artists. In every school I’ve ever taught at, the parents of my students wished I could teach them. Maybe this is the time to do so. If you have the time, would you help me by answering eleven questions? I need your help in forging ahead in this new world.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for taking my survey. Thank you for your comments. Thank you for following and subscribing to my blog. Your comments and truthful responses will help me determine my direction.

What do you need help with?

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Changing Roles.

Change Image by Sean MacEntee and marked with a CC BY 2.o license from creative commons

Everyone has a COVID19 story. Do I tell mine? What do I leave out; what do I share? What do I want to remember? Who even cares? Is there anything I can say that will inspire others?

On March 20, I emergency evacuated out of Chennai, India, where I taught Art for two years. I bought the last available ticket on an Emirates flight, bound for the USA, which would leave in 6 hours. That flight was their last flight into/out of India at that time. As I left and locked my apartment, I realized I might not be back, I might not ever see my friends again, and I might not get my possessions back. I cried all the way to the airport.

Some big things have happened to me during this pandemic. I’ve been in quarantine two different times, for 14 days each. I’ve lost my teaching job in India. My brother and I had to move our mother into a memory care facility and empty her home.  I lived with married friends for two months. I taught my Indian Art classes, and zoomed into faculty meetings, on India Standard Time until the end of the school year. To do this meant I stayed up all night long for 11 long weeks. I’ve moved to a new-to-me city in the USA. I’ve lived with my adult daughter and her family for two months. I’ve loved learning how to be a Grandma. I’ve made a decision to not go back into the classroom full time, for now.

Some little things have happened to me also. I’ve noticed the plants in my neighborhood and I’ve tried to learn their names. I’ve become interested in USA history after watching Hamilton, on Broadway, three times on the Disney channel. I’ve gained weight, although I do 100 lunges each morning when I take my grandson on a walk in his stroller. I’ve learned to appreciate and enjoy ordinary things like leaving the house to go to the grocery store. I’ve delighted in re-learning childhood songs to sing out loud. I’ve joined some virtual Meetups. I’ve been a student in a live art class which was broadcast from London. And I’ve decided to write more.

I’m exploring possibilities that I’ve never had time to explore before. What is available in this new world? How might I participate in ways that are unique, include family and friends, and allow for art-making while earning income? How can I change and adapt to the new?

What new ideas are you exploring?

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Change image by Sean MacEntee and marked with a CC BY 2.0 license from Creative Commons.

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Continued Transitions

Every week I think about writing a new blog post and every week I get so overwhelmed with all my new experiences, I can’t decide which one to write about, so I don’t write at all. I’m reasonably relaxed now, a week into my Winter Holiday break from school, and decided to put words onto digital paper.

I’m excited with my choice to live and work in India, but the transition stages of culture shock seem to be taking longer to process through, as compared to when I moved to Istanbul in 2013. In Turkey, I remember feeling invigorated to be living in a new-to-me Muslim country and experiencing life in a historically rich, city with new tastes, languages, sights and sounds. As I reflect, there were many things that were familiar to me already.

Turkey is a European country and I’ve traveled to Europe many times. Istanbul has four seasons, just like in Texas. I had been a tourist in Istanbul two years prior to moving there. Western fashion brands are common. Surprisingly, there were Victoria’s Secret billboards up on the main roads. There was a clean and modern metro to get you around from place to place. The city of Istanbul has city services in place, such as trash removal and recycling. Metro and bus cards were easily topped up. I could always find a relatively clean public toilet if I needed one. Although Turkish foods were new to me, fruits and vegetables were the sizes and shapes that I knew and had used in the USA. There were so many dogs and cats on the streets and these animals were common to me. I knew at least something about several of the great civilizations in historical Turkey: Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. Islam is different from Christianity but because Islam, Judaism and Christianity all recognize Abraham as their first prophet, they have a lot in common.

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In contrast, there is very little here in Chennai that seems familiar to my western understanding of the world. It is both bewildering and exciting. My local, Indian friends have said there are 3 seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest. It is tropical here and I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a tropical environment before. The trees, plants and flowers are so different. There are some fruits and vegetables that I know, but there are many more that I don’t know and have never even seen pictures of. And the foods here are prepared with an understanding of the medicinal effects of each food and spice. I had never traveled to India before moving here to live. Chennai, with a population of approximately 10 million, has limited city planning. There are very few city services available in the way that I’m used to. There is public transportation that the locals use but I don’t (yet) feel comfortable using the buses and trains by myself. There are many new forms of transportation to me including tuktuks, or autoricks, and so many, many motorbikes. The rules of the road are completely different to me and I can’t begin to imagine driving here. There are dogs and cats that live on the street, but also cows, donkeys and goats, monkeys, tropical birds, bats, lizards and strange insects. In north India there are also camels and elephants roaming on the street. Tigers, half-horse-half-cow sort of animal called a blue bull nilgai and so many more exotic-to-me animals live in this country. The beautiful clothes that most women wear are certainly not western. Cotton and silk are the preferred fabrics. In most cases, the recipes for cooking are completely new to me, including the spices. For many years in Dallas there were only a few Indian restaurants. The food here in Chennai is not like anything I’ve ever had or tasted in the USA. Thankfully, many Indian people have immigrated to Dallas and new, authentic Indian restaurants are now opening. Although Christians, Muslims and Buddhists live here, the Hindu religion is the most noticeable, and certainly the most different, to me. There are temples and alters on every block. Flower, fruit and oil lamp offerings are made daily and small businesses exist on the street to provide the commodities needed for these daily rituals. The smells and sounds coming from these holy places do not connect to any memory in my life experiences. There are 30 MILLION gods. Hard, manual labor exists and you see it everyday. An American friend said, “Although I’ve worked all my life, as an American, I’ve never really worked a day in my life.” And, for good or for bad, the ugly is not hidden away.

After living here for two months, I consciously passed through a new phase of transition when I received my bank debit card, figured out how to order groceries online and figured out how to take a tuktuk to/from school everyday. These three things caused my transition to blossom into positive possibilities.

After living here for four months, I recognized the amazing difference it made to befriend Indian people as they held the secrets to understanding this new way of life. Within these friendships, I could ask questions without offending. They see that I am truly curious and am eager to learn. I am so grateful for these people that have shown up in my life as they are making all the difference in my transition.

Are you aware of the transitions of your own life?

 

 

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Winding Down

Collection of memories.

I’ve been a founding member of the Nasher Sculpture Center Teacher Advisory Board since its inception in 2010. I fondly remember being asked to join months after my daughter moved to California to attend university, all those years ago. Because of her move out of state, I chose to delay moving overseas for another 4 years. When I joyfully accepted this position on the Board, it gave me a renewed interest in teaching, art and conceptual conversations around contemporary subjects of education.

 

 

The Nasher Sculpture website reads, “The Nasher Sculpture Center’s Teacher Advisory Board was formed in 2010 to help the education department better serve the needs of North Texas educators. Since then, teachers in this group have provided valuable feedback on programming and curriculum—from tours and workshops to online teaching materials and family days. The Advisory Board is comprised of educators who teach a variety of disciplines to students of all ages. The group has been instrumental in the creation of self-guided tour materials for school groups and new teaching resources focused on Materials and Process in sculpture.”

 

I suspended my Board membership when I moved to Istanbul (2013-2015), but when I returned to Dallas in 2016, the Nasher Education staff welcomed me back with open arms. I was grateful, as I’d been suffering from reverse culture shock and had found it difficult to make my way back into American culture. Since then, I’ve regularly participated in meetings and events with this strong team of art educator friends. I will miss this monthly gathering of friends as I venture away from Dallas on my next international educational experience this summer.

Our last meeting of the 2018 school year was held at The Warehouse, an exhibition, storage and library building in North Dallas, in which the Howard Rachofsky and the late Vernon Faulconer’s contemporary art collection is housed. What a delight! Thomas Feulmer, Director, gave us a private tour of the new exhibition and I was happy to see that many foreign artists were on display in this unimaginable private art collection.

I arrived early and upon entering the industrial type building, I needed to wash my hands. Stepping into the Women’s Restroom, just beside the uncluttered, white and pristine entryway, I was in for a shock! The black and white patterned markings of Japanese artist, Shuji Mukai, surrounded me in every direction. I felt as thought I had walked into a painting; I was a part of my surroundings in an unfamiliar way. It was magical to see myself reflected in the big mirror amid the powerful pictographic signs. After washing my hands, I lightly touched the paper, hand towel. I was careful because I wanted to take it with me! I couldn’t bear tossing it in the bin because it was also adorned with the artist’s markings. After photographing each of the stalls, and leaving the room, I knocked on the Men’s Restroom door and spoke, “Is anyone in here?” With no answer, I opened the Men’s door. Not feeling 100% I was alone, I chose to NOT walk into the space, but from the doorway I clicked my camera, focusing on one urinal.

Afterward, I drove home and crawled into bed feeling grateful for the Nasher Sculpture Center and Warehouse staff and my NTAB friends. Each of them have deepened my understanding of contemporary art. The relationships that have grown out of this connection cannot be duplicated. I will miss all of you. I reflected upon how it felt to be surrounded in an environment so different from what I was used to. I will soon experience this feeling again as I take my new job in Chennai, India this summer.

What new experience, or environment, will you put yourself in this week?

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Hello. It’s Been Awhile.

Hello.

It’s Me.

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet,
To go over everything.
They say that time’s supposed to heal ya
But I ain’t done much healing . . .
(Song lyrics by Adele)

This month is my two year anniversary of being back in Dallas, my home. I’ve spent these last two years in deep reflection, trying to mend my broken, homesick-for-Istanbul, repatriating heart. Some days have been full of love and laughter, but many others were filled with deep sadness and longing. I’ve turned over every rock hoping to re-discover my identity and to make peace with who I became in Turkey.

Looking back at photos over the last two years, I made a list of all the good things that I’ve experienced. I don’t want to forget my time here because 2018 will be a year of extraordinary change for me.

  • Just after moving back, I participated in a 4-hour long historic tour of Dallas. It started at Lee Harvey’s and ended at Clyde Barrow’s grave.
  • I’ve wandered through historic Fair Park and marveled at the beautiful Art Deco monuments and architecture. I’ve also explored the Butterfly Gardens.
  • I’ve had two different apartment leases in two very different historic neighborhoods of Dallas: Oak Cliff, near the Bishop Arts District and Uptown, near Downtown’s Arts District.
  • I’ve been able to visit my daughter and her husband in San Diego, CA numerous times and they’ve visited me in Dallas. I’ve enjoyed spending the weekend with friends in Austin, Texas, and was able to see young friends tie the knot in Palm Springs, CA. I’ve travelled internationally to London, Switzerland and Mexico.
  • I’ve been able to spend holidays and birthdays with family and I’ve enjoyed watching my niece and nephew grow up. I’ve been able to care for my elderly mom and help her with many things.
  • I’ve experienced rapid population growth and expansion of Dallas in the last two years. I’ve personally observed skyscrapers, apartments and corporate offices being built all over the metroplex as more and more companies move to Texas.
  • I’ve been proud to help my brother and my sis-in-law expand their family business and learn new skills. I’ve been able to learn about an entire new industry.
  • Out of personal loneliness I created two new communities in Dallas. I started a Mah Jong group in Oak Cliff and I started a Global Education Group within InterNations Dallas. Both groups provided me much needed friendships and both groups continue to thrive.
  • As a member of InterNations Dallas, I’ve been able to participate in international experiences through a variety of cultural activities. Highlights include a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, a Thailand and an Armenian festival, a Middle Eastern Iftar dinner during Ramadan, a Polish book club meeting and a group trip to San Miguel Allende for Dia de las Muertas.
  • I’ve been able to help others through HRI (Human Rights Initiative of North Texas), deliver food on Thanksgiving with Operation Turkey Dallas and help with the Hurricane Harvey relief effort.
  • After a terror attack on my city, I experienced shock and mourning when five police officers were shot and killed in 2016 less than 3 miles from my home. In 2017 I participated in a prayer vigil at Dallas’ Thanksgiving Square for the Las Vegas victims following another domestic terror attack and I’ve just marched with thousands of my neighbors in the 2018 Dallas Women’s March.
  • I’ve played tennis regularly and have explored my city on foot in my Uptown neighborhood. I have loved having access to Klyde Warren Park, Griggs Park and the Katy Trail.
  • I’ve been fortunate to see many wonderful art exhibitions at my favorite place, The Nasher Sculpture Center, where I still participate as a member on the Nasher Teacher Advisory Board.

Most of all, I’ve made so many new friends, many from other nations. Dallas has indeed become an international city seemingly overnight. I frequently pass people speaking other languages on my daily walks. After two years, I’m beginning to feel at home again.

And yet, my heart continues to be unsettled; yearning.

I want to go.

So I looked to see what else there might be and there it was. Again I have been given a great opportunity to live inside a new culture and teach children from many nations.

And so, I go. I am so grateful. Thank you everyone. Thank you, Dallas.

Will 2018 be a year of change for you too?

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Playing The Game

img_5973Bam. Dot. Crak.

One of the things I miss the most about living overseas is having global friends from many countries. I’ve searched to find international connections in Dallas but it has been difficult. Although Dallas is a large city with a multinational population, many live in the suburban areas surrounding the metroplex and I live near downtown. I’ve found that these populations segregate themselves together in neighborhoods of people like themselves. This is so different from Istanbul. Every kind of person lived together, in close proximity, inside the crowded city. It was common to walk everywhere, so you saw, and heard, foreign people constantly on the sidewalk beside you. Here in Dallas, there are many miles between us – in more ways than one. I’ve participated in several Meetup groups hoping to find friends who have lived overseas but for one reason or another, I haven’t made the connections I’ve hoped for.

When I moved back to Dallas earlier this year, I moved to an area of town I was unfamiliar with. Hoping to find new friends close to home, an out-of-state friend mentioned that I might like to learn how to play American MahJong. This popular game has a Chinese history and is played worldwide. I searched in my area but had no luck in finding an established group. I posted a humble notification on the Next Door app to members of my new local community, and to my surprise I had 30 responses from strangers who also wanted to learn how to play. I set up a meeting place at a local restaurant and the rest is history.

In the months that followed, others jumped in to help organize and smaller groups formed based on weekday, weeknight or weekend play date availability. New friendships formed between the members and this week we celebrated our new friendships by having a holiday progressive dinner party, between three homes, right here in my neighborhood. As I looked around and observed the laughter and enjoyed the delicious food and drink, I felt so proud to have started this group and brought so many people together.

I also attended my first Internations Meetup this past week and it was so enjoyable. I sat with four women from Ukraine, Jamaica, Ireland and India. They all encouraged me to attend the upcoming holiday party. Sometimes I get discouraged because it is more difficult to find global friends here but I’ll press onward. A person can never have too many friends.

Do you live in a new place and are you lonely? What might you do to bring people together? You will be delighted at the results.

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Things I Learned

nov2016imageRemembering.

During the past few weeks, I’ve been writing schools and checking out websites of potential employers. As of this morning, there are 58 Art Teacher openings posted on the Search Associates website. As I contemplate the possibility of moving to a new country, I am reminded of all the learning that one goes through upon immersion into a new culture. I am both excited by it and unnerved by it. The adrenalin rush that an expat feels upon arrival in a new country is not easily forgotten. Cleaning out some old documents, I came across this list I made of a few of the things I learned in Turkey:

 

  1. How to pee in a hole. I will never forget a sweet, female Turkish friend bending over in laughter when I asked her how to do this. Through gulps of laughter, she shut my art room door and acted out some important strategies that all Turkish girls are taught. This knowledge forever changed my life in Turkey.
  1. How to say, “Kas lira?” (How many lira does this cost?). Then learning how to count to 30, and finally how to negotiate/haggle. I became a confident buyer before too many months.
  1. How to tolerate the smokers. Smokers are everywhere. Smoking is what people do. Both young and old people smoke. I remember thinking, “Well maybe smoking won’t actually give you cancer like we’re taught to believe in USA. There are tons of old people here and they all smoke!” I still wonder about this…
  1. How to be a calm passenger in the backseat of a taxi, with a crazy driver, and not wear a seat belt. Seat belts exist in taxis, but they are all “adjusted” so that they don’t work. Now imagine this, staying calm, with loud Turkish music playing on the radio, and slipping and sliding down very steep hills covered with snow. It was during these rides that the carefree taxi drivers would ask me, in broken English, “Where from?” When I said, “Dallas, Texas”, they would often say, “Ah, Dallas!! JR!!” I learned that people in Turkey love the show, “Dallas”.
  1. I learned who Ataturk was and why he is important to the nation of Turkey. I now know more about Ataturk than I do George Washington, and I love him too! Ataturk’s picture hangs in every classroom and in many homes. His picture hangs on street-side banners and permanent signage all over the city.
  1. How planning ahead is of no use in many countries outside the USA. The ability to organize my time, that I’ve become so good at, didn’t work in Turkey. Things change. Their cultural understanding of every thought, every decision is, “Inshallah”: If Allah wills it. I learned better how to roll with the punches and live in the moment. I’m not an expert at it, but I’m better at it now than I used to be.

As I venture onward into this recruiting season, I am faced with another season of transition. I know the excitement of moving and the hardships of immersion. Finding the right “fit” of a country, and a school, is of upmost importance. Decisions should be made carefully and wisely, and for me, with a lot of prayer.

What questions do you ask yourself to know if a big change in your future is a step in the right direction?

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Bozo in the White House

bozoupclosePresidential.

Working among many international teachers, administrators, staff and families I was surprised that everyone seemed to know what was happening in American politics-sometimes more than I did. I learned that the world pays very close attention to the USA. I think it is safe to say that most people hold on to the hope that the USA will make the “right” decision on all kinds of issues. The United States provides a beacon of hope for freedom for many in the world.

While in Turkey, I thought of myself as an American ambassador: diplomatic, hardworking, respectful and honest. I was always aware of this and it caused me to be more careful in my actions and in my speech. I wanted to represent my country well. But sometimes I became upset and embarrassed about the news coming out of the USA. My Colombian friend used to laugh when I’d ask her to explain, once again, why I shouldn’t be angry over some of my country’s decisions. Time and time again she told me that she loved the USA. She explained that because of the USA, her country had made great strides over many years and was finally doing well. From her perspective, her native country was beginning to be recognized and respected around the world. She owed it all to the USA. This friend helped me see the USA from a different vantage point than my own. Because many of my global friends kept current with American politics, I became aware of the USA through their eyes, whether they saw “us” as the good, the bad or the ugly.

bozowallWith all this in mind, I recently attended an artist talk at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas. American artist, Kathryn Andrews, currently has an exhibition there called “Kathryn Andrews: Run for President“. Since my repatriation I’ve been stunned at the political arena surrounding this Presidential election. I’ve also been surprised to learn that my foreign friends are watching and wondering, with keen interest, who will be the next President of the United States. For me, I’ve been somewhat embarrassed as I try to answer their questions. When I walked into Andrews’ exhibition, I saw symbols that perfectly explained what I’d been thinking about this election season. Andrews investigates relationships between popular culture and power structures. There is a direct connection between politics, race and celebrity. The reality of this election season specifically comes to life through her artwork.

How might the results of this Presidential election affect you, as a teacher, in an international school? I hope you are paying attention because you will be asked questions from your soon-to-be- foreign friends.

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Two short years

may2015blogGrateful.

Weeks away from moving across the world, I’m trying to savor each moment I have left in Istanbul. Each time I go to a favorite neighborhood I realize it may be the last time I’ll be there. This place is now one of my homes, and although it is not possible to fully discover this city of almost twenty million people, I do know how to find my favorite markets, cultural and historical sights. I’ve learned how to maneuver the busy, crooked streets by foot or using public transportation and find any destination I’m searching for. I’ve learned just enough Turkish to make the locals comfortable with me and I treasure the friendships I’ve made. As I look out over the cityscape with a heart of gratitude, I hope it won’t be long until I visit again.

I’ve spent the weekend packing up my belongings. I was surprised to realize that I’ll likely need to purchase another piece of luggage to get my things back to the States. When I arrived here two years ago, I brought the fewest of necessity items, but since then I’ve discovered Turkish towels, Afghanistan pottery and Uzbekistan textiles. Who can resist this city that spans 700-square miles? There are so many Turkish delights! And since I was home last summer, I’ve visited seven more countries, buying small tokens of remembrance in each.

What an adventure I’ve been on! My mind has expanded in all directions through the conversations I’ve had and the books I’ve read. But, I’m weary. I’m longing for calm. I miss my family and friends. I’m eager to be home, on the other side. I am looking forward to being taken care of by people who know and love me well.

Istanbul, I love you. You’ve changed me and you’ve educated me beyond what I thought was possible. Be well, my friend.

 

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Time flies

OctBlogPhotoWhen you’re having fun.

It’s been just over six months since I’ve paid any attention to my blog. Lately a few people have asked about it and I felt a tug on my heart to write a short post. I never know what to say; there’s always so much to tell. How do I choose?

Over the summer I went home to Texas and also traveled to California to see my daughter. I was eager to gauge my feelings and emotions – both of being back in the States and also returning to Istanbul. All that’s worth noting is that I loved seeing my family and friends but I was super excited to come back. This is an amazing, energy-filled city and it continues to have my full attention. I am grateful for how much I’ve changed and how much I’ve learned about the world through my students, my travels and my new international friends.

November is around the corner. I am now involved in decisions that will guide my future. Should I stay or should I go? It is already time to decide if I will extend my contract or move on. I love Istanbul. I love living overseas but also wonder what it would be like to live in other distant lands. I miss my family too. It is a constant tug of war. Words that my mother always told me come to mind, “It’s always good to have options. Many people do not have any. Even when the decisions are hard to make, it is still better to have options.”

I challenge you to carefully observe your life and your options.

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