Saturday, September 29, 2012


What's on your bucket list?

Sara and I are curating an event that is sponsored by the Cleveland Leadership Center, this is a one day, interactive public art project that will happen in Slavic Village. Before I Die is a global art project that invites people to reflect on their lives and share their personal aspirations in public space. This project was started by Candy Chang on an abandoned house in New Orleans after she lost someone she loved. 

Learn more at

Our site is at 8414 Broadway, Corner of Broadway and Harvard, Cleveland, OH and we'll be there from 7am til 7pm Thursday October 4.

Sign in here:

Stop on by and share your dreams aspirations and hopes via a paint marker on plywood.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mylan Park–West Virginia–turkeys welcome.

Sara and I have just returned from a two day visit to Mylan Park Elementary School on the outskirts of Morgantown, West Virginia.
We came at the behest and hard work of Sara’s college roommate Suzanne Smart whose last name is very apropos. She’s got to be a pretty sharp cookie – she brought us in didn't she?

We spent our first day conducting some teacher workshops in the library in the morning followed by a couple assemblies with the students in the afternoon. The second day we lead some writing workshops in the classroom. The students were some of the  most eager to learn that we have come across and we are hoping that this is just the first of multiple visits we make to this great community.

A cornerstone for families in this area is The Shack – a community center extraordinaire where Suzanne functions as one of the big wigs. It was through this organization that Suzanne was able to put together the logistics to get Sara and me into the school.

After our visit in the school we  had the pleasure of headlining a family literacy night which included a lasagna dinner and a gymnasium populated by free range toddlers. The day before when we swung by the center to get a lay of the land in anticipation of the literacy night we surprised some of the kids we had seen in the school as they played basketball. They were bug eyed excited to to see the visiting authors outside of the confines of school walls. One mohawked fourth grader exclaimed incredulously “What are YOU doing out here!.” as if the visiting authors are stored in the principles closet between appearances.


Well, thankfully we were allowed to roam free during our stay in the Morgantown area – not too unlike the flocks of turkey we saw wandering the hills on the way to school. I hope we manage to migrate back sometime soon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

There's a street for that...

 One of the amazing things about big Asian cities is the way certain services and shops are piled into sections of town. When Sara needed a special computer cable in order for us to see if there was anything salvageable from a fried hard drive on her mac we were sent to the Chung Sha Wan subway stop where we found several THOUSAND computer shops stacked atop each other. Whole multiple block and story sized buildings packed with shop after shop after shop of electronic equipment. Each place seemingly selling the same stuff – it boggles the mind as to how one decides which store to enter. Our decision was made by which one was open first as we were then headed to the airport.

Similarly – on a trip to Vietnam I asked our librarian hostess where I might find some sewing notions – zippers, buttons clasps – my mother makes purses and other seamstressy type things. The reply I received was “Zipper Street” of course. And that is where we went – zipper street blocks and blocks of honeycombed shops full of every type of sewing need.

So – when I saw Goldfish Market – on the map of Hong Kong in our hotel room I figured it would be worth a stop. Here are a few pics from this excursion. Even though we passed several dozen pet emporiums I have the suspicion we didn’t really find the market. It seemed a tad too calm. I think a little more research may be needed. Even so – enjoy some photos…

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hong Kong International School - good things come to those who wait.

An eighth grade class at HKIS
The hills of Hong Kong would give San Francisco a run for their money. The cab drive from the Cosmopolitan Hotel up to Hong Kong International School  should come with a disclaimer for those with heart conditions as the drivers careen through the curves like a video of a waterside ride being played in reverse.

The view from the faculty lounge - not too hard to get used to.
I met Clare P. (a 7 and 8 teacher at HKIS) a couple years back while Sara and I were presenting at the EARCOS conference and we have been corresponding for the last three years conspiring a way for Sara and me to visit HKIS. Well with our trip to Kuala Lumpur everything fell into place for a quick two day stay. This was Sara and my second trip to the city but our first to this school, a couple years back we worked at the Canadian School of Hong Kong which was great and we had heard nothing but good reports on HKIS so we were so happy to finally be connecting.

Well we couldn't be more satisfied with finally getting our ducks in a row. The teachers and students couldn't have been more receptive. All the great reviews we had received about the school were well founded. We managed to see the whole middle school plus wedge in a couple teacher workshops and the enthusiasm and appreciation we felt were unparallelled. It's fun to work hard when one gets such positive reinforcement. (the goodies and coffee in the teachers lounge didn't hurt either.)

Even a broken leg didn't stop this customer from writing.
The only regret we had for this drive by visit was that it seemed too short. Well to our happy surprise that just may be remedied as well. Before we even finished our second day we were working with the curriculum specialists on getting us back THIS school year. I don't want to jinx those machinations - but it's looking pretty good for a February encore - cross your fingers and fasten your seat belt we may be climbing those hills again sooner than expected!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kuala Lumpur is for the birds.

 Kuala Lumpur is home to the worlds largest open air bird park - here's a dozen pics  of some of its denizens.

International School of Kuala Lumpur

Well, our first overseas adventure for this school year is in the books. Thanks to the International School of Kuala Lumpur and the Hong Kong International School - (more on HKIS later).

It's not very often we arrive at a school library our first day to survey damage done by a civet cat that dropped through the ceiling tiles and ran amok amongst the stacks of books - but that is how our week in the Malaysian capital started.

Now things certainly got better from there - of course that all depends on one's perspective the fact that a wild animal was running around the library before we got there is a positive in my book. Jason, the middle school librarian, told me during a fire drill, while we were hanging out in the parking lot waiting for the all clear, about the time a particularly heavy rain washed a twelve foot long python into the grounds from the forest adjacent to the school.

Well our visit didn't include any other run ins with wildlife excluding of course - middle and high schoolers - who were squeezed with the deft of a serpentine constrictor into our schedule by high school librarian extraordinaire, Nancy Woodward. Sara and I managed to see just about every student in the upper school during our visit. We ran some writing clinics - that's the new nomenclature we're using for our workshops. We work on specific skills  similar to the way one would work on a particular aspect of a sport in preparation for a real game. Just as one might spend an afternoon honing their putting  in preparation for playing golf or repeating corner kick after corner kick with the hope of scoring a world cup goal someday - we may be working on imagery, metaphor, summation, story structure, characterization etc.This way our lessons can be plugged into any writing curriculum that is already in place or provide some insight to students who may not be benefiting from a formal writing instruction. Sara and I believe that one can better decipher the strategies used in literature read once one has practiced these same strategies in their own writing.

Nancy scheduled an evening performance for students and parents which included interpretive dance to some of Sara's work - a chamber orchestra, an a capella choir, and a very talented singer songwriter from the 11th grade along with Sara and me performing some of our pieces.

And to top everything off - the school put us up in an absolutely luxurious hotel suite - in fact when we walked in Sara said, "Oh, this can't be for us!" it was that nice.

Thank you ISKL for helping us to start our year right!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Me and Blanche Dubois

Okay - we have finally arrived in kuala lumpur - local time 1:40am. I can report that it is hot, humid, foggy, and at this moment dark.

United Airline's skies were not so friendly to us on this trip. Our first flight out was cancelled due to a malfunctioning gage. To their credit the airline did put us up in the Hilton and fed us well. Of course I would rather have been eating dimsum in Hong Kong, which was our original plan but fortunately I built in an extra travel day just in case something went wrong. Good planning on my part - unfortunately I did not plan on several things going wrong.

In order to save the schools we are working with some money on the cost of shipping a couple crackpot poets to their school I booked our flight to KL out of Hong Kong on a separate carrier. Air Asia - think back to the old days Peoples Express kind of outfit. Well since United's faulty equipment caused us to miss our flight we had to rebook that leg, at our cost. Not the end of the world we figured, we'll lean on United and get some flying coupons or something. So we miss a dinner in Hong Kong - we are going to be there in a week anyway. So I rebook the flight giving us three and a half hours to change planes at Hong Kong international. One thing Asia does well is airports, I was confident we were on our way.

That was until we got on the plane again in Chicago.

Our departure time was set to be 10am. We chat with air new acquaintances of inconvenience - see the post before this one - get on the plane and then we sit. We sit on the Tarmac 10:00 - 10:15 - 10:30... The captain comes on the intercom to let us know that since the flight number has changed because we are leaving a day late a new flight plan has to be entered into the traffic control system. 10:45 - 11:00 - 11:15... "Sorry for the delay folks - the computer isn't liking the flight plan - we have to enter it manually we will be in the air shortly."

Okay I am thinking to myself we still have over two hours, we can do this. 11:30 - 11:45... The plane pulls out of the gate to the cheers of the passengers. We taxi for ten minutes then we stop. 12:00 - 12:15 - 12:30... "Well ladies and gentlemen, it seems a smoke alarm has gone off in the back galley - there doesn't seem to be any reason for concern but procedure requires us to return to the gate so that maintenance can check it out."

Okay - we've missed our rebooked flight. "Maintenance has deemed us airworthy but unfortunately the cockpit crew has been in the plane too long to complete this flight and we are going to have to replace them."

By now folks are bailing, on Asian kid grabs his carry on bags saying "This is a sign - I'm getting out of here." and he does.

Another passenger tells me he overheard the maintenance dude grilling one of the cabin crew "You swear none of your people were smoking back there?" Seems it's possible one of the flight attendants might have thought the time spent entering the flight path by the captain was his or her opportunity to grab one last smoke before our 15 hour flight.

Anyway, we finally get into the air around 2:00 pm. No shot at catching or connector to KL.

Once we get to Hong Kong our luck changes a bit. There is one more flight leaving tonight and they have room. The nice young ladies at Air Asia rebook us for a very nominal change fee when they were under no obligation to do so. I think they truly took sympathy on us. The kindness of strangers.

So now here I sit in the back of a black taxi tooling the streets of Kuala Lumpur headed to our hotel. A little worse for wear - but still in one piece. Let's hope the stranger driving this car knows where he is going.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Well - the travel gods giveth and the travel gods taketh away. Sara and I are now sitting on our flight to Hong Kong a mere 19 hours later than it was scheduled to leave.

Now we haven't been sitting on the plane for the duration. After a two hour wait while technicians attempted to calm down a jittery gage in the cockpit which turned out to be inconsolable followed by the flight crew de-planing (it's never a good sign when the crew bails) we were told that we could leave the plane but stick close because they expected to get the big bird off the ground in an hour or so.

Smart move on their part. They shrewdly got all 300 plus passengers off the aircraft and dispersed throughout Chicago O'Hare before admitting the flight was cancelled. It seems United Air has learned that pissing off a bunch of people inside a narrow metal tube has its downside.

To United's credit they did put us up in the Hilton with a hundred and a half dollars worth of food coupons (our room service dinner cost 85 smackers).

So, as we wayward travelers wandered through the terminal we would cast knowing glances at folks who we recognized from the aborted flight. This following morning we struck up casual conversations as we bumped into familiar faces. We shared past travel war stories and airport preferences - forming those micro friendships that one does when one is away from home with people one will most likely never see again.

The sharing of an inconvenience just enough of an impetus to pierce the clouds we usually travel within.

Bon voyage

Monday, September 3, 2012

Just About Time to Jump Back In!

The new school year has snuck up on us again and we are getting ready to jump back in! One last fun trip up to Chautauqua to visit our friends Sarah (with an H) and Ron (no H) and hike a river before back home to pack for Asia. 

Gotta meet with the house sitter, scrub the rugs, pack some bags, etc. etc. Then we're off to Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. later this year we re-visit the Singapore American School to work with our friend Dr. Nancy Johnson - very cool.

In future travel news - we've been invited to speak at the Association of International Schools in Africa annual conference - October of 2013. The association is even willing to help with airfare for schools who might be interested in us visiting them the weeks before the conference.

So - I had better get back to cleaning and packing.