Category Archives: Teaching

My cuz, Sj Daisy, has her own YouTube channel . . .

 . . . and she’s posting a new video each week on her playlist: Read Along with Sj Daisy.

After a school year of reading to children at the Lihue Public Library (on most Mondays), my cuz, Sj Daisy, realized that she was onto something . . . that she’d found a little piece of her heart that had been missing, covered in moss and forgotten.

And then it dawned on her that she could keep her heart united AND reach even more children by videotaping her readings (one book at a time).  The children could then read along whenever it fit THEIR schedule . . . and so . . . Read Along with Sj Daisy was born.

She’ll be adding a new video each week through March 2017 (and maybe even longer . . . but this is what she feels she can commit to at the moment).

Do you have a child in your life who likes to listen to picture book stories? Or maybe YOU would like to sit back and be read to. The listener’s age doesn’t matter; no i.d.s will be checked upon entry into Sj Daisy YouTube Land.

Thanks for taking a moment from your busy life to check out Sj Daisy and her YouTube channel. AND thanks for sharing her with the children in your life.

I think that you’ll be falling in love with my cousin . . . I sure did!

xoxoxoxoo

Sj out

For a moment, time stood still.

Magic shows itself in so many ways.

On this particular day, it came so unexpectedly. I picked up my two Kindergartners and even before we were out the gate, the one who tends to make a wild child seem calm, was living up to his reputation.

“You cannot be the leader because you’re not behaving. Samuel is now the leader.”

He then hung back and pouted as Samuel and I continued on, counting all the way to 100, with prompts from me whenever we got to a new set of ten (i.e. THIRTY, thirty-one, thirty-two, he’d continue, FORTY, forty-one, forty-two he’d then say, each time we made a shift in tens, a beat was dropped by him and then picked right back up, like he was simply making a stop so he could dosey-do his partner).

And as we approached our classroom (I pick up these boys from their regular classroom and walk what feels like about five football fields to my corner in a regular sized room shared by four part-time teachers) with the pouter still lagging far behind, I gave thanks that the idea had come to me to set up cardboard dividers so that each boy worked in his own space AND that I’d set out the number cards (1 to 10) and dot cards (also, 1 to 10) by each boy’s work area, so I could simply tell this first boy who was being a pleasure to work with to go to his chair and match the cards.

“No,” the other boy said as I asked him to also match his cards. He pushed the cards under the cardboard holding pen and gave his all to the topic of pouting.

“You can do it,” I said. “Which one has more dots? This one or that one?” And somehow his arm didn’t get the memo that he was on pouting and not cooperating duty, and the cards gradually started to be arranged in the correct order from smaller to larger.

“Very good! Now match them with the number cards.”

And by golly if that boy didn’t do.

But that’s not the miracle. The miracle was of such epic proportions that I didn’t see it coming.

In this little dance we performed together, I played the part of observer going from one boy to the other.

“Good job, I’m so proud of you. You got all the numbers right. Now, write out 1 to 10.”

The cooperative boy was maintaining his lead in terms of getting his work done, so he played this game a few times. Cards in order. Write.

“Great job!”

But . . . the pouter did manage to match them all correctly. Yeah! 🎉

“Great!,” I said thinking it was so amazing that he’d managed to stay in his seat long enough to pair the number cards to the dot cards. “Now, let’s do it one more time.”

And this time he struggled. Hmm, I thought to myself, maybe it was a fluke the first time.

He pondered, he rumpled his brow, he even rubbed his forehead, BUT he continued thinking, pondering, and that other hand that also hadn’t gotten the memo, shot out and put them all together in the correct order.

“Great! Now write the numbers 1 to 10.”

I gave him his clipboard and marker, stepping away to check on his classmate. When I returned, I found that this little boy who rarely sits longer than 3 seconds, was fully engaged in his activity. And not only was he writing the numbers, but he was writing the box that represented the card AND the card with the various number of dots on it.

A part of me wanted to say, “You only need to write the number;” but then the smart part of me, the part of me that takes a breath before speaking, the part of me that can just observe what’s going on without getting involved, pulled me back and said, “Whoa, down girl! He’s doing it how he needs to in order to learn it. Really learn it.”

Kay, I get it. So I watched. Took a step to the right and looked at the other boy who was also deep in concentration as he wrote his 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . with matching dots beside each other.

And now with a step to the left, I see that pouty boy is no longer pouting. Instead, he’s lost. Lost in the magic of numbers, writing, solving, figuring out.

Step to the right.

Still working.

To the left.

Licking his lips in concentration.

And I sat down and marveled at the silence that had reigned for at least three minutes, maybe four. And by the time they’d each finished, at least six minutes had gone by, maybe even seven.

The hush was so pronounced that the world shifted a bit on its axis. And then, the world literally stood still. Completely and unequivocally still. So still that Trump’s mouth couldn’t move nary an inch.

When they’d finished, I called out, “Great job boys! I’m really proud of you both.” And turning to the left to pouty boy who was no longer pouting but rather standing looking a bit disoriented by the concentration and focus he’d just experienced, I asked, “Do you think you can be the leader now?”

“Yes,” he nodded not making a sound, in a fog of such deep thinking that I think his world too had shifted off its axis.

And with a quiet I never would have thought possible, each boy lined up, placed his arms behind himself and walked away to re-join their class and have lunch.

“That’s great you only had one boy today,” my co-worker called out when I returned.

“Oh, I had both.”

“Really? It was so quiet that I figured little-lad-difficult wasn’t here today.”

“Oh, he was here. Come take a look at what they did today.”

And my co-worker walked over and stared in disbelief. She could feel the momentous moment that it was. Perhaps her world had shifted too, so startled did she look.

“I’d take a picture of that, if I were you.”

And I did. I took shots of both of the boys’ work. As a celebration of their success, of the quiet that had reigned for around perhaps 8 minutes, 10 or even 2. A silence that can’t really be measured in time but rather by gravity, for the earth’s pull lessened for those full moments as each of us, in our own way, took flight, loosed our footing but somehow stayed grounded all at the same time.

image

Success! Yeah!!! 🎉

FLO Graduation 2013

Jumping for Joy

FLO Graduation 2013

We were literally jumping with joy to see each other again. : )

FLO, Future Light Orphanage is located outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In the early 1990s, after having lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for over ten years, Madame Phaly founded FLO. When telling her story, she wrote, “By the time I left Site 11, I was responsible for 91 children. Some were orphans, but others were children of parents who could not take care of them. They were the nucleus of what would become the Future Light Orphanage, and some are still with me today.”

Unfortunately, Madame Phaly died in November 2012. She is greatly missed, but her legacy lives on.

Two years ago I happily stumbled upon this wonderful organization and taught English language classes during the children’s summer break. The following year I felt the pull to return. And now, on my third visit to FLO, I realize that our lives are forever connected.

You can visit past posts from when I was teaching at FLO to learn more about that experience.

You can visit eGlobal Family and sign-up to be a e-foster parent.

You can form a connection with a place like none other.

FLO is a global family. A community born from one woman’s generous and courageous spirit. There’s room in her and everyone’s heart for YOU too.

We tried the fried artichokes, AND I got a bag of strawberries. Yum!

Photo highlights of Day 11 – Sunset Beach to Castorville’s Rec Center (15-miles : )

Strawberry Fields forever . . .

played through my head on ASL Walk Day 11 as we meandered past one strawberry field after another. There were literally miles and miles of strawberries! Yes, we ALL swiped one. Yup, bad, bad, bad. But they were delicious!

At the end of our 15-mile walk, we stayed overnight in Castorville sleeping on the floor of a gymnasium. Did you know that Castorville is THE capital of artichokes? I didn’t either. We shared some fried ones we bought at a fruit stand along the way. I didn’t really taste the artichoke, but they were good.

If you’re looking for what to do next May, why not attend the artichoke festival? Their 2013 festival just happened, so you’ve got plenty of time to plan.

Below are the photo highlights from Day 11 of the 30-day Walk for ASL.

Enjoy!

xoxoxoxo from Sj

My last full day at FLO in picture form . . .

They’re bringing food . . . it’s a gift.
Some got a snack along the way.
These guys are buds!
See?
I watched this building being built during my stay at FLO.
See the wat (pagoda) ?
Now in the complex . . .
That’s a lot of rice!
Then came clean up time . . . I didn’t take any photos during the ceremony.
Wanna help?
See the one about the big flood?
My turn next!
: )
Take our picture!
Now YOU!
No more rice . . . just kids!
Monks gotta do laundry too!
One more picture, Auntie???

My last full day at FLO . . .

On Wednesday, August 25, 2010 I posted the following (and more, this is an excerpt) on my glob: susansbackwardsglob.com:

What I came here to do . . .
written 8/24/2010
I came here
to be
to live
to learn
to grow
to expand
to have fun
to laugh
to play
to rest
to love.
And more and more I wrote.
So, before I left for this 5-month trip to SE Asia, I meditated and asked, “Where? How long? What do do?” And I listened. Yes, I listened to my Divine Soul, or my gut, or my intuition; plug in any word that feels best to you. And slowly, it came to me. The school. Some travel time and time to rest. Two months to volunteer somewhere. And the final month to travel, rest, and reflect on all that I knew would surely happen.
Okay, I had the basic framework, the outline, if you will. I trusted that the particulars would arise in their own time. And they did.
The very first day at school in Bangkok, a new friend told me of FLO (Future Light Orphanage) a little outside of Phnom Penh.
Another friend of a friend told me to be careful; do my research, that a lot of orphanages in Cambodia are a scam; are fake; they bring in kids for the hour or two when sympathetic westerners come to look and most surely give donations. After, the kids go home, and the crooked people pocket the money intended to help the unfortunate.
“Okay, be careful, Susan Jane,” I thought, “Be sure it’s a legitimate organization.”
And, I realized that it was best to stay at one place for the entire 2-month period. It’s better for the kids, the organization, everyone. So in the midst of the intensive program to earn my CELTA certificate, I glanced once again at FLO’s website; it seemed legit. Okay, it really was just a glance; I was busy and preoccupied. I was mostly trusting that it came from a real recommendation from someone whose son had volunteered and BEEN there. I contacted the school; we had a dialogue back and forth; I told them I didn’t have a police record to send but that I could ask friends to be references. They willingly obliged; nothing more came of it. : ) (I suppose just that you say that you have references was the point . . . ) I set the dates; we made an agreement. Okay, 8-weeks volunteer teaching at FLO . . . focusing on speaking and writing . . .
And that was that. I put it out of my mind, went back to focusing on CELTA, made it through those laborious 4-weeks, passed, and sigh, took a rest, and when the moment was right, looked at the FLO site again. This time I really looked at it; I went through page after page. That’s when I discovered the Hawaii connection.
“Of course,” I thought, “Of course.”
I really wasn’t surprised. Hadn’t I asked my Divine Soul (gut, intuition, higher self, God to those who feel more comfortable with the norm . . . ) to guide me? Hadn’t I listened to what felt right?
Yes, I had. So of course there’d be a connection to Hawaii at FLO.
That first night when I arrived, I was nervous. “Why am I so nervous?” I wondered to myself. But I was; I was nervous.
So to arrive and see *HVB’s placard with Kamehameha in the silk shop (where I first stayed), made me smile.
And then, to enter the canteen where I was dining alone and see an ALOHA sign, made me smile again.
Relax Susan Jane! Don’t you know that you’re well loved! Don’t you know that all is WELL.
“Yes,” I thought to myself, “I do know. Thank you.”
And as you know, the next 8-weeks were magical. The students at FLO are such smart, funny, lively, wonderful people.
So, here it was Friday the 16th of September, my last day at FLO, and what should happen? I was invited to join FLO students who don’t have **family as they traveled to the neighborhood pagoda (temple/wat) because of this very special 15-day holiday to honor ancestors.
I was absolutely surrounded by love. Yes, surrounded. In the form of precious, wonderful, charming, and caring human beings. One little boy took my hand for the start of the walk. Another appeared for the next part. And another and another. And then, the first one came back again to be with me as we approached the pagoda.
Then, one-by-one two older students (a boy and a girl from my two classes) appeared to thoughtfully guide me through the ceremony, “Auntie, like this . . . Auntie, now come here. . .” And it was done with such love, such concern that I be included, that I understand what was going on. That I really participate in a ceremony that was so very important and sacred to them. And then, it was time to sit and be quiet, and yes, I meditated.
And it came to me, “Of course, of course my last day at FLO would be so very, very perfect, so very, very sacred. Of course. My Divine Soul who knows all, loves all, and only wishes good things for me and everyone somehow knew that this was the right day to end my stay at FLO.”
And as I sat with these most wonderful children, I gave thanks. I gave thanks for everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING: my life, all life, my health, my parents, my family, my husband, my friends, these children . . .”
Sigh.
What an absolutely perfect and wonderful way to end my 8-week stay at FLO. And it came to me, ask them to write their name in your analog iPhone (in both Khmer /kə maɪ/ and anglais). So I did. So when I see you next, ask me to show you my book. Ask me to show you their wonderful names and how they write. I’ll gladly share their gift to me with you. There’s plenty to go around for all.
Here’s another excerpt from that same entry to my glob susansbackwardsglob mentioned above:
And I thought of the people in my life who live in Light,
and I thought of the people I don’t yet know who received my text message back in April.
and I thought of how I’m going to meet them and others as one thing leads to another,
one heart leads to another.
Doors will be opened.
Introductions will be made.
And I will find my way around this planet
on the voyage
which will open up
to me.
Yes, of course it would all work out perfectly. Of course there would be bookends to mark this experience and that. Life is like that; it unfolds with the most amazing symmetry.
“What a coincidence,” we say to one another when some chance this or that happens. “What a coincidence that . . .” plug in the blank of your choice. A chance event? Or the beautiful orchestration of your soul and mine as they converse with one another in a plane that our human mind doesn’t see nor understand. Call it God’s hand, call it divine guidance, call it blind luck, call it what you will. Regardless of what you call it, I can guarantee that each and every one of you have had at least one something happen that you’re thinking of now. Admit it. You are! You’re human, and you’re having a human experience, so of course you have!!! It’s so very, very natural and common.
Alright, so there I was sitting on the floor of the pagoda surrounded by these most wonderful human beings.
“Stay and have lunch with us, Auntie!”
Of course I did.
It was soooo delicious.
“Who made this?” I asked.
“Many people, many, many people,” they replied.
“What did I eat?” you ask.
“***Fish. Curry with vegetables. Rice. Lots of rice. Noodles. Two different kinds of noodles. And bananas. Crisp, fresh bananas.”
Yes, I was stuffed. And they kept eating!!!!
“We eat a lot,” they giggled, as they continued to eat and eat.
“Are these children heavy?” you ask.
“No, they’re not.”
You’ve seen the pictures. They eat really healthily, hardly any processed foods. (The processed foods that they do have are candies or cakes that they buy with money given to them by their eFoster parents.)
“It’s time to clean up, Auntie. You sit; we clean up.”
“I can help,” I said. And I did. A little. Nothing in comparison to what they did.
“Are you ready to go outside, Auntie?”
“Are you?”
“Yes,” they replied.
“Kay, den, let’s go!”
And then they showed me some other things on the grounds of the wat  (pagoda, they said). We burned some more incense. We prayed, and then we just had good ‘ole plain fun looking at the beautiful murals inside another building. Then . . .
“Take photos of us, Auntie!”
I took photos.
“Now with YOU!!!!”
And more pictures were taken . . .
When it was time to walk back to FLO, that same little boy, who had first grabbed my hand when leaving FLO, magically appeared (he was in one of my Gogo Loves English 1 classes).
I smiled as I took his hand.

He still holds a very special place in my heart . . .

So . . . now for the photos of this most wonderful closing to a most amazing 8-weeks . . .
I love you ALL and hold you too in my ****heart.
-sj
*Hawaii Visitor’s Bureau
**Some of them do have family; they’re at FLO because they’re family is very poor and can’t provide them with an education.
***My beautiful young lady friend pulled out prime pieces of fish for me and dropped them in my bowl. : )
****My heart is very, very BIG.

Mahalo for your generous donations!!!!

Dear Friends,

Some of you very thoughtfully sent funds my way in order to take a few FLO kids out to dinner in Phnom Penh.

Why did I want to treat them to a dinner out on the town?

First of all, I wanted to acknowledge the two student teachers for their hard work; they’re volunteer teaching the younger Ss at FLO, and I don’t know that many 17 and 20 year olds would would willingly add more work to their already full schedules.

Also, there were a few other Ss who continued to pour themselves completely into their school work; I wanted to let them know that I’d noticed their efforts and positive attitudes.

When I invited them to join me for dinner on Sunday, September 11th, I could tell that they were containing their excitement in order to give a thoughtful, quiet and, dignified, “Yes.” It was obvious that they were jumping up and down on the inside. : )

You all also gave so very generously that I was able to treat ALL the FLO students to apples twice! (using YOUR donations, of course)  They’ll be receiving the second apple in the coming week.

And lastly, the young boy who was one of the winners during the talent show in August (and who gave me his drawing) received some drawing supplies (paper, colored pencils, pencil holder, etc.) thanks to YOU!

All of this may seem small compared to others who have funded new buildings, scholarships, etc., but to these students, the gifts you gave them were HUGE!!!!

On behalf of them, I would like to thank you so very much for reaching into your pocketbook, sharing your hard earned dollars, and making their day a little brighter.

The following are some shots I took during our outing.

Enjoy and thanks again,

-sj

The gang! (LOVE the mural Dani!!!)
This was his first time in Phnom Penh; he was so excited. AND he devoured and LOVED his meal! : )
She got a hamburger with french fries!!! LOL And she ate it all! It was a gourmet one. Nice!
The two student teachers got the same thing . . . and the van driver whose hand you see; they all had clean plates at the end.
It just so happened that there was an art exhibition next door; we went and the kids couldn’t believe that they had pupus anyone could eat–for free! They ate more! This woman is displaying a special sweater she knitted before the Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge era; she kept it safe and had it on display to represent a time gone by.

More random tuk tuk shots from around Phnom Penh, Cambodia . . .

Let’s see how fast the internet connection is in Sapa, Vietnam . . . it’s freakin’ fast!

Enjoy!

Random tuk tuk shots from my time at FLO outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Aloha Everyone,

I literally just shot these “off my hip.”

They’re for those of you who haven’t visited SE Asia yet. And for those of you who have, well, it’ll surely bring back some memories.

And, just imagine lots of noise of all kinds: tuk tuk honks, moto honks, car honks, truck honks, loud speakers broadcasting this and that (music, talking, chanting, who knows what-ing) . . . and oh, turn the fan on and let some dust and exhaust fly in your face. Ahhh . . . do you feel it yet? Are you there with me?

Love to my many friends around the world,

-sj
p.s. more to come . . . this is all the time I have for uploading . . . off to Hanoi and then Sapa.

The closing of the 15-day festival which began while I was still at FLO . . .

Hello Everyone,

When you visit Luang Prabang, you’ll most likely want to get up early one morning to give the monks sticky rice. I’d read and heard about it, and then decided that I too wanted to participate.

This morning ended up being an auspicious day, it was the closing of the festival which began while I was still in Cambodia and at FLO; it was why I got to go to the *pagoda (temple) with many of the FLO students on my last day. Yes, I haven’t told you about that yet (nor properly thanked all of you who gave $s for taking some of the FLO kids out to dinner! That will come; I promise. In the meantime, here’s a simple, “Thank you; the kids were soooo appreciative!”) I have many photos of that most wonderful experience (both).

But for now, it’s Tuesday morning, September 27th, and I just sat outside with many other people and one-by-one handed the monks sticky rice and a cake (there were 3 separate groups of monks, about 60-70 people all together, of all ages). There was one other guest from the hotel who also participated (a cute, young Japanese lady, a nurse who lives in Tokyo, she said).

Here’s a shot to give you an idea of what it was like . . .

Best wishes for a beautiful Tuesday, September 27th . . . wherever, whenever, and however you may be.

With warm aloha,

-sj

*the word of choice in Cambodia, but in Laos it’s vat (wat), the nice 22-year old lady I met yesterday while riding the slow boat up the Mekong told me this. (She’s lived in Luang Prabang for one year and was taking her parents on a tour; they’re visiting for 3-days. She later told me that her brother, who had come north to live with her and “watch over her,” had died in April during the water festival. “They do not smile for many months,” she said as she explained that she wanted to bring them a little happiness . . . )