A Teacher and A Student

For some things in life you only discover a love, a passion for it later on in life. I suppose it’s better late than never as the old saying goes.   With this blog, I rediscovered my love of writing and with teaching I discovered my love of teaching. Nothing gives more satisfaction than the sight of someone’s eyes sparkle in delight and understanding when something previously unknown is finally understood.   I had been teaching younger kids and have recently moved onto teaching older students getting ready for college entrance exams.

You may wonder what is so good about teaching?  You keep saying what you know to students again and again?  For me it’s more than that. It’s fun and exhilirating.  Teaching for me is not just about going to a classroom and lecturing so that students can jot down notes and memorize.  Teaching is understanding and realizing the potential in each student.  Teaching involves understanding how each and everyone learns and customizing lessons to suit their styles.

Everyone I believe learns differently.  We have different trigger points, different ways of understanding things.  Some like pictures, music and diagrams.  Some prefer numbers, text and plain old reading and writing.  Understanding how one prefers to learn is important for if one learns the way one enjoys, then one will learn more and understand more.  Some are so bright, if taught too slowly, they will fall asleep.  It’s not that they are unmotivated, it’s just too slow sometimes.

I witnessed the importance of teaching with understanding with my first senior level student.  Upon the first encounter, I could see that she did not like English.  It was a mumble jumble of squiggles on a page that looked like a big headache.  (I can relate to the feeling, because that is what I felt like when I first started learning Thai and saw an entire page of squiggly letters.)  It was something she did not want to touch for just reading each word was a painful experience.   She barely touched the exam I had given her.

Since our first encounter, together we have spent a good number of hours going through exams, dissecting texts, learning grammar and vocabularly.  What I love most is the sparkle in her eyes when I explain something and the squiggles suddenly start to make sense.   English starts being fun.  I start getting more questions as her curiousity increases.  What is the difference between this word and that?  When can we use these sentences or phrases?  The lesson continues after hours.  With technology, mini lessons continue.  Readings and sentences are sent online. I love the interaction.

All these questions and the sparkles that light up her face make me smile and my heart feel literally full.  I am happy and content with my life.  I understand now why some choose to be teachers and professors.  The satisfaction of giving knowledge and seeing students learn, understand and enjoy is truly indeed a satisfying feeling.  It’s fulfilling.  It’s good for the soul.

Thank you for letting me teach dear student.

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Future Not Past

I can hardly believe the year is almost over already.  In just a few days it will be December and along comes with it Christmas, parties and New Years…Today I write about a quote that has been stuck in my head for weeks and believe it or not, it comes from Kung Fu Panda 2. (I know it’s an animation, but I have to say I think the creators did a lovely job of not only graphics, but the plot and content is also quite thought provoking. )

“It does not matter what your past is, but what you will do with your future.”

Master Shifu said something like this (I don’t remember the exact wording) to Panda when teaching him about “inner peace.”  Despite Panda’s success as a Dragon warrior Master Shifu says one needs to achieve “Inner Peace.” Inner peace is essential for without it, in the face of danger one can lose one’s grounding and fall flat on one’s face.   Inner peace stablizes us and lets us stand ready for whatever happens next, whatever comes to us.

What’s important though is not to let the past hold us down.

Many people and myself included sometimes get caught in the past. This is the way things were, this is how they should be.  We get obsessed with our own pasts, other people’s past and go about getting all flustered about it. We think our past defines who we are.  We believe that we are a product of the past. We think that we cannot change.

However, we are not.  The past does not define who we are.

What is more important is what we make of our future and who we are today.

What is important is what you learn from your past, your experiences and the path you choose for your future.

A robber doesn’t forever have to be a robber. If he realizes this is not the way he wants to live life, he can reinvent himself and find another career that is more honest.  We give them second chances.  In other ways, we can also give ourselves a new life.  Just because a certain event or certain experiences made us feel down and sad, it does not mean that our life will forever have to be that way. It is what Master Shifu says, “What you will do with your future.”

Your future is in your hands. Make it what you want.

Doraemon Girl: HBD!

It’s Thanksgiving weekend and with it comes turkey, stuffing, cranberry and pumpkin pie.  Yes, I miss Thanksgiving in the US.  Here in Thailand, it’s just not the same.  We don’t get the “feeling” of Thanksgiving and families reuniting, or the felling that the weekend kickstarts the festive season and Christmas mad shopping with Black Friday.  This week of Thanksgiving is also a week when two good friends of mine were born many years ago and so I want to also take the opportunity to say “Thank you” to you my friends.  Tonight, in particular I want to write about a lovely friend who was born on the 21st.  You know who you are WD 🙂
Yes, we’ve known each other since primary school days in Bangkok when we still had to dress in uniforms with white shirts and a turquoise blue skirts.  That’s how I remember you dear friend.  In uniform.  We were all in uniform and together we’d be there walking around school with a few of our other friends. To this day, I still think you look the same.  You do not seem to have aged at all and one can always count on you if we need to hear some fun stories about film or other superstitious stories.

I still remember when we were both in college in the US.  Phone calls and ICQ were how we kept in touch and I’d be there calling you sometimes in the midst of the night.  Yes, our conversations ranged from anything from movies to heartache and other things girls talked about. You were the one knocking some sense into my sometimes nonsensical brain.  During long weekends like Thanksgiving I remember you coming to dear old Philly for a visit.

It was always good to see you.  It’d be our chance to have a little reunion with RIS friends.  We went for dimsum at Chinatown, visited the old city, Independence hall, Liberty Bell and explored South Street.  During the night, we’d sit and chat and yes, talk about superstition.  You were always the one who knew all this stuff.  You even brought along Tarot cards one trip and we had fun looking at them.  I don’t remember what my reading said, but I hope it was good.  I remember thinking how accurate it was. We even went around New York City together during my first trip there. Together we took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and walked from Battery park up to Central Park.  We saw almost everything New York had to offer.

After graduation, you stayed and worked in the US and I came back. We still kept in touch though and whenever you were in Bangkok, we’d meet up.  A few years ago you finally decided to come back and since then we have been seeing each other more often.  You still have this fascination for film and movies and know so much about them it always astounds me.  You are still the same passionate person who knows exactly what she wants and isn’t afraid to do it.  A person so sincere and without any negative thoughts or motives.  You are always just you.  A wonderfully reliable friend.

I thank you for being a friend who has always been there no matter how near or far.  We grew up together and will continue to do so.  It’s been great knowing you all these years, and of course for many more years to come. Thank you dear friend.  Happy Birthday!

It was right here all along

Have you ever had one of those moments when you want something, know you have it somewhere, just saw it the other day, but now that you need it, you can’t find it? It’s just not there?  I’m having one of those moments now.  It makes me wonder, if suddenly it is going to pop up out of the blue when I least expect it?  That is usually what happens to me. Days later, “Poof! Here it is! It was right before me all along, but it was hidden by something.”
Now I wonder why it is not there when I first wanted it to be.  Why can’t life be a little simpler?

Maybe it’s because we have to learn to really “see” things from another perspective before what we are looking for comes to us. Before we realize it was there all along.

Sometimes, oftentimes, people spend their lives looking for love, happiness and peace.  They want a happier life, a more fulfilling life.  Some will go through extremes, move countries, build a business empire, maybe even climb mountains, get rich and have all the money in the world in search of happiness. In search of reaching the ‘solution’ that would save them.

Many work so hard they forget to look at the people besides them.  Their families, their relatives, their loved ones, or even their children. Many children are growing up with nannies and daycare centers rather than with their family.  That is modern day life.

Then one day, after all those years of searching, working, trying to find the ultimate ‘solution’ that would make them happy, they find that what they had been looking for was right there besides them. Maybe just there inside of them.   Why didn’t they see this earlier?

For me:

Happiness is internal.

Happiness is appreciating  and being grateful for those around you.

Happiness is being able to do the things you love.

Happiness is being able to smile after just having an ice cream or chocolate. Happiness is living life the way you want to.

Happiness is not expecting. Happiness is being happy when others are happy.

It’s like when the food critic in the animation “Ratatouille” has his favorite ratatouille dish and he is reminded of childhood days. His eyes gleam and he is transported back to happy days.

It’s like when you look out the window to see leaves on a tree rustle in the wind and grass sway.  You can feel nature and its wonders.

It’s like when you are just sitting on a couch watching TV with your family and happy they are all alive and well. It’s like getting excited when you first get a message or call from your crush.

It’s like remembering how it felt to have your first bite of divine chocolate.
If you can look at everything around you with an open mind, like that of a child who is happy at just getting a new pencil or a piece chocolate, then I think we would all be happier human beings.

Have no expectations.

If you can look at what you have around you.  Be grateful for what you have, be happy with what is given, then you will find that life becomes a lot more pleasant.

Didn’t you ever notice that many times the poor street sweeper smiles more often than the rich businessman?  Life’s really a lot about what’s ‘inside’ not ‘outside.’

Yes, search nearby, inside and out before you go searching far and wide.  Maybe what you were just looking for, was right there all along.  It was just hidden from view behind that layer or dust.

Baby, Baby, Come Home

Sometimes your inner voice tells you not to do something, but you do it anyway.  Then later you end up thinking to yourself “Damn, why didn’t I listen to my inner voice?”  This happened to me exactly this past Monday. Here’s a funny story.

This past weekend, Alex and I have been discussing when best it would be to bring my Baby back home.  Yes, my little White Baby Jazz (if you are wondering, it’s my car :))  has been in safekeeping for roughly a month now away from the flood, away from the water that could cause it to choke, suffocate and eventually die.  It has only just reached it’s second birthday.  Too young to die.

Monitoring water levels, canal drainage, potential flooding estimates, we decided that by this week, I should be able to take my Baby out for a spin. It should be safe enough as the chance of her drowning in water seems quite minimal.  She’s restless and needs to get out of her little rectangle high up on the 7th floor.  I’m restless and need a spin around town.  We decide, Wednesday is a good day.

Yes, we will take Baby Jazz out on Wednesday. A few more days and the situation should be clearer

Comes Monday, all seems well and we have a change of heart.  Monday, Monday, will be the day Baby Jazz comes out for a spin!  I’m happy.  Things are becoming more normal and I can go for spins around town!

I was happy, yet deep inside of me I wondered if it was too soon.  Some things were still not too clear.  Was I rushing things too fast?  I pushed those thoughts aside.  What was there to worry about? It will not flood.  I was being overly cautious.  I was overreacting.

I decide to take her out of safekeeping and bring her safely down to flat land.  Once home, she sat happily under the clear cloudless sky enjoying the fresh air and the space around her. Birds flying overhead chirping her welcome.  It was a lovely evening the day Baby came back home.

Things seemed normal until I reached the end of the news.   The presented asked Professor Seri why certain zones were being declared evacuation zones.   What? What zones? They sounded familiar and close by?  The professor said we had to check facts on what was happening at the canal. Bangsue canal.  Yes, the one by my house.

I got on Twitter, FB and checked the news. Only three hours after Baby arrived home, the roads less than a kilometer away from me were being declared evacuation zones.  I wondered what happened to the protocol of having to be declared a “monitoring zone” before evacuation status?  Nevermind, the canal must have overflown.  The pumps must have broken down.  Maybe the water was flowing faster than expected.

My Baby had to go back to safety fast!  I got out of bed once more, dressed and in the midst of the night took Baby back to somewhere I’d know she’d be safe.

I knew this would happen! I knew it was too fast too soon to bring out baby.  My inner voice tells me again.  Why didn’t I listen to it? I didn’t want to.

Upon having completed the task of taking her back to safekeeping and arriving home.  I discover the Evacuation notice has been cancelled.   What??  Data Error.    No Comment.

No matter what, I decide to listen to the original listen voice and wait for Wednesday. Good middle Wednesday.

On  Wednesday I let myself listen to my inner voice.  Yes, it’s okay now to bring out Baby on Wednesday as initially planned. So tonight I brought Baby home.  Let’s hope it’s for keeps this time. 🙂

So listen to your inner voice.  Listen to your hunch.  It may be just what you need to save you some trouble. Or if you want some excitement in your life, just ignore it. 🙂 Who knows what excitement it will bring?  So I had fun driving around.  Better safe than sorry!

Floods, Politics, and Corruption

Where there are people, there you find politics.  Yes, the needs and wants of people differ and how to govern them all is indeed a difficult task.  In good times, things are easy.  Everyone is happy and the people are too busy being happy or going out their own business.  In times of crisis, you really see the true inner side of human nature.   Will the crisis reveal the “innately selfish” side of human behaviour as mentioned by Hobbes or will it reveal a good, compassionate, loving and caring side of human behaviour? What do you think?

This crisis that Thailand is undergoing has revealed both.

On one side, you find people, friends and organizations arranging groups, flood relief missions and volunteering their time to help those in need.  Yes, you see people helping each other, helping elders, helping children, helping dogs and cats.  Every living thing deserves a chance to live and survive.  It’s wonderful.  You see people carrying dogs on their shoulders, soldiers and policemen wading through water chest high. You see these volunteers, these people all helping tirelessly, days on end, and still a smile appears on their faces.  They do it quietly, diligently, seeking no recognition. I applaud all these good people.  You are my heroes.

Then, you see the politicians. (Of course there are good ones too, but let me focus on the main
players.)   Each trying to “make a name” in the face of crisis.  When they fail, it’s the other side’s fault.
This crisis has instead turned into a battlefield between two parties.  Each throwing responsibility at one another.  There is the government’s Flood Relief Operations Command (FROC) which supposedly was set up to oversea the flooding situation.   Then there is Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.  Throughout the crisis, it has been a battle of who can throw responsibility to the otherside.  No one wants to accept responsibility for the flood.  It’s sickening to see this being played out when instead they should be working together hand in hand to get Thailand through this crisis.   We are in a crisis for heaven’s sake.

Both parties are to blame.  Both have their problems.

Then there are things like Corruption. Yes, it’s not a small thing. Yet it happens so much and so often in Thai society that it saddens me to see younger generations growing up in a society where the main value is money.  They think it’s normal.  Money is King.  If you want your kids to get into a good elementary school, pay for it. Make big gifts.  If you break a traffic regulation, well pay the police officer to forget the ticket.  If your company needs your truck to carry loads heavier than permitted, work out a special arrangement.  It’s said simply and easily with a straight face.  It’s a part of life, didn’t you know?

No, I don’t know.

Now corruption not only happens in forms of money. It happens in laws and regulations. Yes, laws can be changed and amended to suit one’s needs. When no one is looking, the cat will play.  Quietly it moves and pounces when the opportunity arises.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I love my country. I wish it well.  Let’s work together for a better Thailand. A stronger Thailand. A
Thailand that not only smiles but smiles honestly from the heart and soul.

Myth 8: Seal Juices into Meats by Searing

Let’s forget floods tonight and talk about cooking.  If you are a cook, and cook meat, then you are bound to have heard this, “Seal in the juices by searing meats before you cook.”  For the non-cook, what does this mean?  It means basically to fry or expose the outer layer of meat to high temperatures before baking, or continuing to cook it.  My family does it, and so do my aunts.  I thought it made sense.  You cook the outer layer first, so that the raw juice would not be able to come out.  It’s like one of those know hows that gets passed down from generation to generation.  Lifehacker says this is not so.  Here’s why.

The article says that this was first proposed in the 19th century by a German chemist called Justus von Liebig who said that applying very high temperatures to meat would create a “sealed” layer of cooked meat through which liquid the inside meat would not be able to escape. (Wow, I didn’t realize this would go back so long ago!)

Anyways, there is a problem with his experiment in that he compared the liquid and nutrients from a piece of meat that was submerged in cold water. It was then heated, simmered.  This was compared to a dry piece of meat which was applied to an extremely hot surface.  If you think about it, of course the fried meat would be juicier than the one boiled to death..

That’s not all, another book called “On Food and Cooking” by Harold McGee compares a seared piece of meat and un-seared meat cooked identically.  He says that the seared piece of meat actually retained fewer juices than the un-seared piece!  Searing, according to him, has no effect!

There goes my belief in sealing in the juices.  What this tells you is to question what you hear and what you are told.  Just because a good cook tells you something, it may not always be true.

When you hear a good tip, try it yourself and see what works best.  Searing, I think, may have an added benefit in that it gives the meat a little more taste than if it had not been seared. The crispy outer layer 🙂   As for the juices?  You have to just test it yourself.  Let me know when you find out! Happy cooking!