Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Bloody Holidays

How do Waterhouses celebrate Easter?

By performing minor surgeries on each other at the kitchen table, of course!

Rachel wanted to have a few moles removed, and I figured that as long as the tools were prepped I might as well go under the knife myself.  The evening also included my learning how to remove stitches because Sisters Take Care of Each Other in Time of Need ("time of need" being one week post-op when we're both back in Denver and the stitches need to come out).  Rachel, a nurse with plenty of experience (as she repeatedly pointed out to Dad), didn't need the practice so I had the pleasure of taking tweezers and scissors to the back of Mom's scalp to take out the stitches Dad gave her the weekend before.

Aside from the fascination I have with any kind of medical training, I found this to be an appropriate holiday activity given my adventures on Valentine's Day.  One of my students fell off the stage mid-class and hit her head on a bench on her way down.  She gave herself a pretty good gash on the back of the head and a concussion, which meant I got to flex my own medical skillz while waiting for the ambulance.  For the record, it was bloodier than the Easter surgeries (being a head wound and all), plus I had an audience of 17 wide-eyed teenagers watching me with that eerie quiet that teenagers get when they know something serious is going down.

Both bloody holidays turned out fine in the end; although I'm still glad that Memorial Day falls on the weekend after school gets out.

Hannah's Visit - The Second Half

The rest of Hannah's visit was consumed with school normalness.  She taught a few of my classes, observed several others at both the high school and the middle school, and we filled in the non-school-time as much as we were able to despite the exhaustion that comes with a typical week at school.

Happily, I was able to coordinate a drama field trip for the week of Hannah's visit, so on Wednesday we packed up 18 kids and headed downtown for a day of drama.

We had a pre-show workshop about the Marx brothers and slapstick comedy before going to a school matinee of "Animal Crackers' (based on the Marx brothers' movie of the same name).  The show was well done and highly entertaining, albeit with a script full of nonsequitors like the original (Why a sudden dream sequence all about a French king seducing his mistress with the help of the three musketeers?  Why not?).  The students loved it, as you might expect when the show includes jokes like:

Groucho: (to an audience member)  Thank you for dressing up.  So many people don't dress up for the theater today.  Just the other night, there was a woman sitting in your seat wearing a t-shirt.  The t-shirt said "Guess" on it, so I said, "Implants?"

They were quoting Groucho the whole ride home.

I talked the transportation department into giving us the bus for the whole day, so instead of rushing back to school right after the show we stuck around for a Q&A with the actors.  My students (and all of those in the audience) were shocked to hear that 98% of the show was not improvised - including an entire scene where one character flubs another character's name.  It happened by mistake in the movie and Groucho Marx just ran with the joke while the cameras were running.  They kept that scene verbatim in the play, and the students were astounded that it was scripted and not just a live mistake.

After the Q&A we detoured on our way to lunch to give Hannah a photo op in front of some of Denver's famous street art:  
"The Dancers" outside of the DPAC
and "The Big Blue Bear" outside of the convention center
Then up to the 16th Street Mall for a quick bite of lunch before heading back to DCTC for a second workshop.  The educational director offered to customize the second workshop to a topic of my choice, so I asked for one about the play the class is working on.  "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" is a famous enough play that I was certain they'd have no trouble getting one of their "teaching artists" to spend an hour with my students on it.  Justin, an actor in residence and a former Disney cast member (which always reminds me of the stories Annie told about her stint there!), spent an hour working with my students on the characters in their play and talked about using Uta Hagen's exercises to figure out some of the problems Stoppard presents.

It was good trip all around, and I liked giving the students a chance to get to know Hannah outside of the formalities of class.  She thought they were just adorable (which they are) and such good kids (which they are), and they decided she was "the British Waterhouse."  She and I came to school for just the first two classes on Friday before she had to catch her flight, and the students presented her with a giant card, a bag full of candy (evidence that they haven't tasted non-American chocolate because anyone who has tasted the wonder of European chocolate knows better than to offer someone from those lands Snickers and Twix), and a group hug:

This class is big on group hugs.

As we were signing out for the day, I spotted the chance to check off one more photo of Hannah's list and pulled our current school resource officer out of his office:

Then we headed back to DIA to send Hannah on her way.  By the time I dropped her off there was no point in my trying to get back before the end of the school day, but it wasn't even noon yet.  So I hopped back on I-70 and drove to Grand Junction to visit the family for the Easter weekend.

On the way, I spotted two more good American signs that I texted to Hannah, much to her enjoyment.   This was printed on the tile in front of the toilet in the restaurant where I stopped for lunch:

and this was posted outside a second rest stop along the way:


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Playing Tourist

We had a snowy commute to school Monday, a typically busy day, and then met Rachel and Fara for dinner at Ted's.  I couldn't convince Hannah to try bison, but we enjoyed a protein-rich meal and good company.

Today after school (Tuesday), we went on a bit of a photo scavenger hunt.  Fara mentioned a trail head nearby that had mountain lion warning signs.  Since I couldn't produce an actual mountain lion for Hannah (although we did almost hit two deer on the way to school Monday), the warning signs would have to do.

I followed Fara's directions and was surprised to discover that this is less than ten minutes from my house:

Sometimes I think living in Colorado is wasted on me.

We walked around the trail a little, took a lot of photos, then got back in the car to head to Dinosaur Ridge.  We arrived after the gates were closed, but parked at the base and walked up the hill to see:

Dinosaur footprints!

A lot of them!

And a couple of crocodile prints too:

The view was nice from the ridge as well:

After the photo shoot, we walked back to the car to meet Rachel and the boys for dinner at Cafe Rio.  Tomorrow's an all-day drama field trip.  Hannah's excited to see Denver in the daylight (we drove around a bit after MonkeyTown, but it'll be better tomorrow) and to ride on a yellow American school bus.  At least she's easy to please.  :)


Denver's playing host to "The legendary New York City video cinema and dining experience" (as described on its website) known as MonkeyTown4.  I was charged by the trip coordinator, Dan, to find cultural experiences for Hannah.  We're just between touring shows at the DCPA, there aren't any good concerts in town this week, she isn't into skiing or outdoor stuff (Win!); but MonkeyTown4, despite not being a "typical Coloradan experience," sounded weird enough to provide some sort of culture.

The tickets are limited to 32 per show.  My attempt at rounding up a group to go Tuesday night was a circus of failure as after a flurry of emails and coordinating, everyone managed to get a ticket for that night except me and Hannah.

I just bought us tickets for Sunday's show instead.

We drove through the snow which, thankfully, was far less of a storm than predicted.  It was just enough for Hannah to marvel constantly at the fact that everyone was out and about driving and shopping and such in it ("Back home everything would be shut!  Positively shut!"), but not nearly enough for me to panic as the driver of the night.  We passed the building three times before finding this hardly-visible logo on a set of doors:

It's easier to see from the inside

Despite the snow and freezing wind, they didn't open up until 15 minutes prior to showtime.  Everyone huddled about outside until the host of the evening pulled up, dashed inside, turned on the heaters, and came back out to greet everyone with a glass of champagne.  I declined, but in just moments he came back out with a glass of strawberry hibiscus iced tea for me instead.

At 6:00, he greeted the group and ran over a few particulars including
1) Pointing out their front-page article in the Denver Post
2) Saying that photo are welcome, as is conversation at "appropriate levels"
3) Introducing the live "lecture" that would also be a part of the program, and
4) Explaining that because we're in Colorado, they could partner with a local bakery to offer edibles tonight.  He cautioned us that when they sampled the edibles earlier, they discovered that they were especially potent this time.  He suggested that "If you are not used to partaking in such things, maybe you should only have half of one to start.  Or maybe a quarter.  You know, enough to give you a good intellectual buzz."

Said edibles

I did not partake.  I did, however, embrace the photography allowance, and once we were allowed into the performance space, I was one of the first to explore the cube.

The entryway as seen from the exhibit

MonkeyTown consists of a large cube made of "floating" movie screens.  Several short "art films" (i.e. no discernible plots but some urinating and sexual play with USB plugs) are shown on the screen as the audience is served a multi-course dinner inside the cube.

I liked the first film, "Central Park Quilts" by Theo Angell.  The artist filmed Central Park through several seasons, then compiled the footage in a modge-podge of images, some inverted, with one season per screen.

Winter on the left, Fall on the right

You can see the table settings under the screen here

As the Central Park film came to an end, our host encouraged us to duck under the screen and take a seat at the table. After checking with each of us for allergies or dietary restrictions, he served us each the first course:

Crudo, fermented vegetables, citrus, dill 
And so it went - five courses, each with a wine pairing (which Hannah declared went from "pretty good" to "really good"), and 15 films.

"Unique Boutique" by Shana Moulton, which featured dancing bodiless clothes and a woman who
flew into a Native American pot and danced next to a rock

Green garlic soup, chicken gelee, spring onion, almond
served during a particularly dark movie

Housemade cottage cheese, spring roots, lemon balm, black pepper
Dim panoramic shot of one of the "geometric" films - Peter Burr's "Green | Red"

About this time Will Rahilly came out to perform "The Fertile Swipe."  It seemed to be a tongue-in-cheek PowerPoint about the connections between food and art that devolved into him trying to assist a woman's floating head find her missing baby.  After he ran around the area outside the cube with a "live" feed, he returned to her to suggest that she just make another one.  So she gave birth, somehow using a static-filled TV, a strange pair of oiled hands, and cut-outs of a fast-forward icon to do so.  Then a strand of pearls was pulled from her mouth.  Then hanging bags of liquid appeared and sprung leaks, which the performer played with while standing on the seat between two audience members.  Then he served each of us cookies, spun around, tumbled out of the cube, and died.

He lay there for about four minutes.
The cookies were good.

The lecture completed, back to "normal" programming:

"Cool" by Jeremy Couillard

Lamb, crushed fava, whey

"OM Rider" by Takeshi Murata.  It says something about the night that this was not the weirdest film.
It was the creepiest, and several minutes were spent watching this guy breathe.
When he wasn't breathing, we were watching a hipster wolf play a keyboard.

Preserved meyer lemon, yogurt, maple
(This was yummy)
With a final farewell from our host and his humble admission that the last film ("The Waxwing Slain Pt. 1") was his own, we gathered out coats and returned to the snowstorm.  Hannah declared the experience "the weirdest thing" she's ever done.  I don't think I can say that, but it definitely ranks pretty far up there.  And as with all such weird experiences, I'm glad I did it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Meet Hannah

Remember way back to last year when I applied for a Fulbright Teacher Exchange, won the grant, and then the US Government took it away immediately afterwards because of the sequester?

Shortly after that, the Fulbright people contacted me to say that the UK Embassy was so annoyed by our government's financial incompetence (not their words), they are going to pay for the UK teachers to come visit their would-be US counterparts.

The UK teachers spent last week in Washington, D.C. learning about the U.S. educational system on the federal level and in Sacramento learning about it at the state level.  This morning I drove out to DIA to pick up my would-be counterpart, Hannah.  She'll be my houseguest and work companion for the next almost-week!

She's here to see the sites of Colorado as much as she is to learn about school systems on a local level, so we headed straight for Boulder.

I had planned on doing Boulder tomorrow, but I switched plans when I saw tomorrow's forecast (7-10 inches of snow!  What the what?!)

We were both starving, so we headed to that good Italian place on Pearl Street for lunch first, then strolled about enjoying the gorgeous weather and the always-entertaining people of Boulder.  The Farmer's Market was still going strong, although neither of us joined in on the Silent Disco Hula Hoop Party.

We did go into the Dushanbe Tea House and got a table right next to the koi pond to enjoy, as Hannah called it without irony, "a spot of tea."

Statuary in the koi pond

I tried the Boulder Tangerine tea - "a spicy blend of cinnamon and tangerine."

We headed towards my place after a bit more walking about and a quick stop at Boulder's Trader Joe's to get Hannah some groceries (and so I can officially check all three Trader Joe's in Colorado off my list!).  Home for a quick nap for Hannah, then out we went again, this time to the Alamo to see "Captain America.

It turned out to be appropriate for a foreigner's visit in more ways than I expected, since the movie takes place in DC and has quite a lot of scenic shots and sequences.  Hannah was tickled by how much she recognized after her brief time there earlier this week, and I got to enjoy my own smugness over how well I seem to know DC after my summers there.  "There's no buildings tall enough in that area to create that window's view," and such.

We were both pretty exhausted after the movie - me, from a late night at Rachel's and an even later night cleaning my apartment afterwards, Hannah from catching an early-morning flight after a travel-intensive week - so we're taking an early bedtime.  Tomorrow we have tickets to Monkey Town 4, but I'm a bit concerned about the 8-12 inches of snow predicted for the exact same time.  Hannah wants a true Colorado experience, though, and there's nothing like wondering whether a show will happen with a large snowstorm blowing in.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

All is Right With the World Again

...because tonight Jason and I booked plane tickets for our summer trip!

It's official - we're going to:



and Kyoto!
(All images courtesy of Wikipedia, by the way.)

And quite probably other sites in South Korea and Japan as well.  Suwon, perhaps?  Maybe Kanazawa?  At least Mt. Fuji's on the list so Jason can get his mountain-running checked off.  I'm hoping to find a craft/cooking/Bunraku class to take while he's frolicking in nature.  Plus, I can hang out with Buddhist monks again!

We tried our darndest to get into North Korea on this trip as well, but it turns out that there's no tourist transportation between two warring countries.  Go figure.  I'm still a little bitter about this. At book club tonight I mentioned that we tried to find a way to get to North Korea on this trip.  "North Korea?" the ladies exclaimed.  "You want to go to North Korea?  Why would you want to go there?  It's dangerous!"

Every time someone reacts that way, it just makes me want to go there even more.

Jason and I are discussing the DMZ, and we still may tack it on as a day trip; but right now we're weighing the value of taking an entire day to get a glimpse of North Korea through a fence in a barren landscape against having an extra day to explore Japan.  I told Jason I may be willing to let the DMZ go if we put a Hong Kong/China/North Korea trip in our plans in the next five years.  He was quick to agree.  We both may be more than a little driven by imaginary competition for passport cred against invisible fellow travelers.

He was also quick to agree to stripping down in public again when I pointed out that by going to Korea and Japan we have the chance to add two more countries to our naked bathing list.  I'm pretty sure that's exactly the kind of thing my Young Women's leaders had in mind when they gave all those lessons about setting goals.

Between that, Tokyo's reputation for Michelin restaurant stars, and the theater-viewing possibilities; this will be a fine summer trip indeed!

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Snow Day... Eventually

The call for a delayed start came at 5:40.  I wasn't surprised - it had snowed most of the night, as forecasted and wasn't letting up.  I was annoyed, though.  I had already showered and was mid-hairdrying so instead of an extra hour of sweet, sweet sleep; I read for a while, expecting a call to cancel school to happen at any moment.

No such luck, though.  I met up with my carpool buddies at 7, and we started up the mountain.

The roads were awful.  About 15 miles in, we got stuck at one of the steep points and spent 10 minutes watching busses, semis, and passenger cars slide left and right in front of us:

The cars in front of us finally slide far enough to the sides that we could pass.  We found out later that about 3 minutes after we got through, they shut down that part of the highway completely.

After about 80 minutes of driving, our phones began ringing - school was cancelled.  We were 3/4 of the way there.

John pulled over at the next intersection, cleared off the ice buildup, and we began our slow descent down the mountain.

Just over two hours after we left for work we bade each other safe drives home and parted ways.  I headed to the gym (yay for working out when I'm not exhausted!), then home for a quick second-shower, and then met Fara for lunch.

She recommended a French cafe in Highlands Ranch that was absolutely delicious and had more than generous portions:

...which takes care of lunch (and breakfast!) tomorrow as well.  Naturellement, we had to sample their pastries as well.  I went with one with an unusual combination (pear, banana, and Nutella) that was overwhelmingly rich:

but Fara's blackberry puff pastry was delicious:

After Fara dropped me off home, I thought about all of the things I should do with the rest of my day - cleaning, essay-writing, student travel planning, lesson planning.  Then I thought of what I could do.  And I made the right choice.

I made myself a cup of hot chocolate, curled up under a fluffy blanket, pulled Natasha onto my lap, and read.  My outstanding decision-making continued when I woke up suddenly with one of those neck-snapping sleepy head drops and realized that I had drifted off.  I put the book down and took a nap.

A nap!  Me!  In the middle of a Thursday!

And that, my friends, is how you do a snow day.