Thursday, August 13, 2015

Day One: What's On My Plate?

This post appears on my new blog, called Poor Ricardo. I do not plan to cross-post again. Waking Green Dragon has petered out over the last year and my writing efforts will go into this new blog...and my novel (no publication date projected). If you wish to follow my ranting and raving, reflections and reporting, please "Follow by Email" in the upper-right corner of the new blog.


While the look and feel of this blog are a work-in-progress (low priority), I began my time at the Champlain College Teacher Apprentice Program (TAP) today and want to make my first post.

One assignment tonight was to reflect on what else, in addition to TAP, is on my plate as I face the year ahead. In fact, I had to make an actual plate to show my priorities. Here it is:

God: Like the Three-in-One, the rosary here entwines with all else. Hoping to make it to DC to see "my Pope" again in September and have registered at a parish in Underhill, called St Thomas...which will probably be the name of my first-born son if I find someone with whom to create one and she agrees. (N.B. The rosary was made in 1999 for me and one major "bead" [er, fetish] broke shortly before the Maker rattled my faith. I am still trying to figure out which mystery went missing. Was it a Sorrowful or Joyful?)

Three apples: My initials are APL. The apple is a symbol of teaching and the logo of TAP.

USPS: The Forever stamp (49 cents!!!) is symbolic of my desire to resume my letter-writing habits of olde and to find someone with whom I can correspond "till death us do part."

Writing: The pen and "John Hancock" are emblematic of my ongoing novel-writing project and this blog effort.

Tea: The tea bag ties into the former and also represents my opium pipe-dream of opening a high-brow Boston Tea Party teahouse in The Hub.

Camera: The camera (actually a lighter and "keychain camera" "Made in China") stands for my passion for photography. I will do the Member-of-the-Month display at the Onion River Coop's City Market (Burlington, VT) in November with selected China photographs and some of my calligraphy on display.

Bernie: I hope to help lead GOTV efforts to organize Bernie's constituents in "the 14th colony." I am not talking about Vermont, which is a) solidly behind his effort and b) was the 14th state to join the Union. No, I am talking about the Americans living abroad who would comprise the 14th most populous state in the country if they could apply for statehood. Alas, they are like colonists who really lack meaningful representation despite being liable for taxation.

Clothespin: The clothespin represents all of the quotidian mysteries of living simply, but also indicates my inability to sever the umbilical cord with Project Laundry List. What lies ahead in regard to this, only the Shadow knows. A shout-out to El Profe for believing in me.


There is some raw, over-sharing in the above post, but that is characteristic of blogs. You can help me by commenting on what you would find most useful for me to discuss as I embark on this new chapter: seeking licensure and a job in Vermont as a social studies teacher. I hope some of my fans from Waking Green Dragon will follow this blog, too. There is a "follow by email" option in the upper right corner of the new blog: Poor Ricardo.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Some fodder from a friend

The following was sent to me by a friend in Changchun:
GRE and SAT exams are big business in China. They even allow people to teach SAT who have no idea about universal values. This news should not come as a surprise:  
As many as 8,000 students from the PRC were expelled from US universities for cheating, misrepresentation of qualifications, poor class attendance, poor English skills and low grades. 
It reminded me of the article in the Daily Telegraph two years ago about parents demanding the right to cheat:  
The archetypal image of the diligent Asian is quickly changing into an image of a spoilt kid who cheated his way into college...
I am very interested in people's reactions.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Last Chapter of Part One

As many of you know, I am trying to write an historical novel while in China and am thus restricted to a baffling lack of access to information that I need. I am half-a-world away from the places, like the Massachusetts Historical Society and Phillips Library at the Peabody-Essex Museum, where I need to be...and Mr. Xi has not torn down the Great Firewall. In fact, he seems to be raising it higher even as he strengthens his navy, builds a new silk road or two, plays with sand castles, and swats at the never-ending parade of tigers and flies.

In the coming weeks, I will enroll in the Teacher Apprentice Program at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. Working at Mount Mansfield Union High School in Jericho, Vermont, I will assist a full-time teacher from August to March as I pursue certification as a public school social studies teacher. This may pave the way for my now nearly fifteen year old dream of returning to the right-side up state from the upside-down state of New Hampshire.

I gave New Oriental notice that I intend to be finished here by June 15. I will also give my last public presentation for Overseas Consulting, which has repeatedly bragged in written material, despite my protestations, that I attended "Philips [sic] Academy-Exeter" (which I did not) and where the director once introduced me as a graduate of Phillips Andover Academy (which I most certainly did not!). I will spend a couple more weeks teaching two hours away from my home, in the mountains to the northwest of Beijing. For six hours a day, I try to inculcate spoken English in the minds of some engineers and other project management staff, who build gas and oil pipelines for one of China's largest state-owned enterprises. Given that I believe digging up more fossil fuels is immoral, this has been a particularly "character-building" assignment.

I hope to travel in late June, perhaps seeing new parts of Yunnan; Shaolin Temple and Zhengzhou in Henan; Xiamen (Amoy), Fujian; and the grasslands of Inner Mongolia. Those two resources that control human movement, money and time, may make accomplishing all of these goals difficult, but this going to be the last chapter of my first major (four and a half year) stint in China. It will also be one of the last posts on this blog before I transition to a new blog. Announcement coming soon!

Returning to America does not preclude another long period in this marvelous land at some point later down the road. I have too many good friends here and there is so much more to see so I know this will not be good-bye. I made a trip last week to Changchun, where I spent 2.5 years of my Chinese adventure. I said some sad farewells and was loaded up with fresh tea by a former student is both an emergency room doctor and a tea store proprietor.

One of my American conservationist friends asked, "Are you seriously abandoning your legal skills to help fight the environmental crisis after living in the heart of the polluters for the last four years?!?!? Please make sure your teaching certification is for you to keep helping us fight!!!!!" While flattered by her confidence in me, I have to say that, in a world filled with more than one Sen. James Inhofe, fighting ignorance might be our last best hope and I really think there is no more admirable way to make a difference in our national fabric than to serve as a public school teacher of social studies with all that entails: civics, economics, US and world history, geography...and critical thinking.

It will be great to be near Burlington as the junior senator battles for the Presidential nomination of his party. Contrary to some people's misplaced confidence in my desirability/ability as a political campaigner (I have never picked a winner or won myself), Sanders has not asked me to run his campaign. That said, as time allows, I will do all in my power to elevate his status and see that the issues which he intends to highlight become the focal point of a national dialogue about where we need to be headed.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Juanita Nelson, May She Rest in the Peace that She Championed

Last time that I was home, I got to spend four wonderful nights at the New York Catholic Worker's Peter Maurin Farm with my dear friend Deacon Tom Cornell and his wife, Monica. They were introduced by Dorothy Day after Tom was the first one to burn his draft card during the misbegotten VietNam era. While I was at the Farm, news arrived that her grandchildren had given permission to exhume Day's remains in time for this summer's papal visit. This was welcome news, because DD has played such an important role in their lives.

I met Tom Cornell through my friend Chuck Matthei, who was an amazing champion of community-supported agriculture and community loan funds. Chuck and I met when he came to speak at a Phillips Exeter Academy Martin Luther King Day event in January of 1993. He accompanied an elderly man and his spry wife: Wally and Juanita Nelson. During the last years of Chuck's own life, when he was suffering from cancer, he was like a son to them and took great care of them. I was at Chuck's memorial service and attended Wally's at Deerfield Academy. I am sorry that I will not be there for Juanita's. She was one of the most remarkable women that I have ever met. Today, from Tom Cornell, I learned that Juanita Nelson has marched on from the land of the living into eternal glory.

In the autumn of 1996, as a Middlebury senior, I got lost in the Adirondacks looking for the home of a future Middlebury scholar-in-residence, Bill McKibben. Around and around, I drove, burning up fossil fuel in my quest to interview the author of the End of Nature. My senior thesis, The Complex Task of Living Simply, would feature McKibben, the Nelsons, and Scott & Helen Nearing. Helen had driven into a tree the year prior and Scott was long gone, but the getting to know the living subjects of my thesis was a joy. I came away with the conclusion that McKibben was the most effective, because he was the most willing to compromise the purity of his daily life in order to make sure his important message was heard. The Nearings were the least effective--Scott basically disowned his own children for their lack of moral purity, as he saw it--because they were extremists. There was a lot to imitate in their lives, but there was a lot to be wary of.  It was Wally and Juanita who represented the Middle Way. Who can dispute the effectiveness of Wally's witness? He was a pre-Rosa Parks bus rider in April 1947 (see You Don't Have to Ride Jim Crow). He was a conscientious objector during the Second World War. He was the son of Alabama sharecroppers who fell in love with a woman from the South Side of Chicago--"the baddest part of town".

Wally and Juanita lived on Wolman Hill, a Quaker community in Greenfield, Massachusetts, off-grid and drawing water from a well whilst growing their own food and not paying their federal taxes, because they did not want to support the war machine. Juanita would continue this existence for years after Wally passed away. I would periodically drop-in to say hello sometimes warning her by leaving messages on an answering machine that was in a different house. Sometimes I would bring a curious friend, as well.

One of my happiest memories was in the spring of my senior year at Exeter, piling into a couple of cars with the diminutive Mr. Belcher, Bud & Barbara James (my mentors), and the not so diminutive Rev to go to Coltrane for a War Tax Resisters event with Wally & Juanita.

I cannot think of Juanita without picturing her in a sweater at her kitchen table, serving dried apple slices and reading by kerosene light. She had a voracious mind and her little cottage was lined with radical books. We had so many deep conversations and she was such a sage. I am sure she is looking down now upon us as we go about the quotidian tasks of our lives. I can feel her radiance. May she rest in the peace to which her life was a sturdy testament.

Exciting news in the mail

As many of you know, I have been teaching in China for four years. During that time, I have met thousands of students. One of the very best that I ever helped prepare for an interview wrote me this note when she woke up this morning after her mother gave her some great news:
I am SOOO happy to receive my offer from Exeter. How excited I was to get this news from my mom when I just woke up in the morning!

I had a wonderful summer at Exeter last year, and it is exactly what made me fall in love with this prestigious but also supportive and welcoming school. Thank you so much for teaching me how to do an interview, which helped a lot during my applications! I hope I will make a difference this year as an Exonian!

Many thanks and best regards, 
This girl is inquisitive, meticulously polite (she writes thank-you notes with alacrity and regularity!), and open-minded. This gives me great confidence in Exeter's admissions process.

I have written back to her that she will be a "prep" with the new principal and that the community is very excited for this breath of fresh air. What an auspicious time to attend the Academy!

Tomorrow I will meet with a couple of boys (for the first time) who got wait-listed.  Oh, cruel world!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Update from the Chinaman

Greetings! I am writing an historical novel that has little or nothing to do with China. I have more than 20,000 words, which is a start. I don't talk about it, except to say that I am doing it so no questions!

Mr. Xi, Tear Down that Wall

I don't blog much any more because using the Internet in China makes me weary. I have a dark joke that China could control the world simply by tearing down that Great Firewall. Productivity would increase threefold, at least.

Will be state-side from February 9th to 26th, doing research for book and seeing some old friends and older family members. Have done less traveling this year. Made it to Hainan in November and to Guangzhou for four days of exquisite food, warmish weather, and a picturesque writing environment from my balcony in the historic Victory Hotel.

Music in the Air

Going on the perfect date today. Lunch, followed by a visit to the National Museum of China, followed by attending Mass at Wangfujing, etc. I may be compelled to sing in the choir today.

Only a few of you know that I joined the International Festival Chorus and sang Handel's Messiah during Christmastime. We performed at the Harrow School in Beijing and the huge municipal concert venue in Tianjin. We also caroled at the Australian and British embassies in Beijing. For the former gig, the Ambassador herself presented us each with a bottle of Syrah from Oz. Now that is advanced diplomacy!

For those of you who don't know, the Rodin Museum in Paris is my favorite in the pantheon of all museums. Here are the details on the exhibit in China.

Date : November 28, 2014 - March 22, 2015
Venue : Gallery N10
Hosted by: National Museum of China, Rodin Museum in Paris

Rodin Museum in Paris The National Museum of China, after the exhibition of Ten Masterpieces of French Painting- Making the 50th Founding Anniversary of Sino-French Diplomatic Ties closed in June, will host another exhibition t hemed on classical French art, namely, Rodin, l’oeuvre d’une vie, to bring a successful conclusion of this memorable year.
A total of 140 original works created by Auguste Rodin, a great French sculptor in the 19th century will be on display, including The Thinker, The Age of Bronze, Monument to Balzac, The Gates of Hell and other representative works. Moreover, many drawings for Rodin’s gypsum sculptures will also be exhibited, through which art lovers can get a glimpse of the thinking process and moods during the artistic creation by this most prestigious master in the world history of modern sculpture.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Vignettes from a World Traveler

On Education

I am home in the land of the free and the home of the braves (and the Washington Redskins). I ran into my old acquaintance Winona LaDuke down at Battery Park on Monday after marching the prior day in a 400,000 + person Climate March. She has always had so many common sense things to say about education. Today, as I flew for $201 (plus baggage fees!) from the Big Apple to the Mile High Metropolis, I read about First Amendment restrictions on reporters in our national parks and about a Colorado county where they want to revise the textbooks to, possibly, erase Caesar Chavez and the browner parts of our sordid history from the books.

I get lots of questions about education in China, where the scrubbed version of history is the status quo, but have to wonder if the same thing is happening here. First they attacked science (climate change and evolution), which they continue to do. Now the crazies are on to new subjects.

As some of you know, part of this five week stint in America includes ten days of taking two Chinese students and a group of about nine parents on a tour of prep schools. This will bring me back to the East from LA on October 1 and includes a sojourn to St. Paul's School and the Academy, as we Exonians pretentiously refer to our alma mater.

On blogging

One thing I have enjoyed on my trip home is the relative availability of free WiFi and not having to use a VPN to access the New York Times, where, a couple days ago, I read China Clamps Down on Web, Pinching Companies Like Google. That has led to my blogging less over the last few months. It just takes too long to upload photos. It has been fun to be back. I ran into a couple of people on the march who I had not seen in a decade or two. One bemoaned the diminution in my blogging. I may try to do a bit more when I get back, but an earlier post announced that I was cutting back.

Self-Indulgence (aka Updates on Yours Truly)

I have joined the International Festival Chorus (IFC) and am considering taking a 茶道 class, which will both consume a fair bit of time. I will sing Handel's Messiah, which happens to be my favorite piece of music, in both Beijing and Tianjin!

I have turned forty on this trip and this trip home has included staying in a different bed nearly every night so far, often with friends who have kids in the range of four to ten. I am feeling a bit behind and badgered by those who ask when I will come home. I will! But not yet. I am not done. There is more that I want to see and learn about these people on the other side of the world.