Adventures of a Drama Teacher











{September 23, 2007}   An Interesting Party

We went to Judith’s “Burning of her Mortgage” dinner party last night. It was the first of two, she will have another next week to accommodate more of her friends. She has paid off her house! Congratulations! As I now listen to Johnny Cash, I will tell you about this magnificent lady and her friends. Judith just turned 65. She was my 7th and 8th grade English teacher and my 8th grade homeroom advisor. She is from West Virginia, but has lived in Belgium for 40 years. As she tells it, she came to Belgium for a year and stayed 40. She was once a nun. In fact she was studying French at her “nunnery” during the civil rights movement in Washington DC. The head Priest had instructed that no priests or nuns were to attend the protests. This didn’t suit well with Judith (Sister Kathleen) for she felt that the black people were not being treated properly, so she marched with the protesters in full habit (nun costume). She then was demoted as a nun for her disobedience and sent to teach 49 7th graders at an inner city school which she claims was such a difficult experience that she has blocked the memory from her conscience. 49 7th graders, one classroom, brand new teacher. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? During this she also continued her education and was offered a Fulbright Scholarship to study French for a year in Belgium. She traversed the ocean on a cruise liner in 1968 knowing no one, and learned to speak French with a Liege-Belgian accent so well no one could tell she was American. After working a year in Brussels as a secretary she was hired on at St. John’s in its first year at the Waterloo location. This woman is so dedicated,wonderful, and funny! I admire her so much and really enjoy her company. Mo and I will be watching her dogs again in 2 weeks time.

 

So the people she had at the party last night were the ones we went with to the Labyrinth in the Ardennes on the first weekend we were here. Three Romanians,  an Englishman, a Belgian and two very small children ½ Romanian ½ English that speak, at ages of two and four-French, Romanian and English! The children’s mother is a gorgeous Romanian lawyer married to an Englishman who waits on her like she’s a princess. What a flamboyant personality! She is so wonderful with her kids, and come to find out she will only hire an “educated” nanny to help make sure her kids are learning how to speak “properly”. Must cost her a buck or two. Her father was a communist leader in Romania. He escaped persecution after the revolution and is now a University Professor of medicine. Her sister is an important geneticist working in Texas and discovered the gene for aging. (This was told to my by Judith). Judith also explained that even though these people were/are considered wealthy for Romania’s standards, it certainly isn’t the standards we as Americans consider wealthy. Anyway, sitting at the table with so many different languages spoken is so interesting. As interesting as the food we ate which was delicious. I have quit asking what this dish is before I try it otherwise I might not sample. I AM becoming even more adventurous.

 

Mo is going over to Axel’s house again today, (he and his mother stopped by yesterday to arrange a play date) so I am going to rest and read for pleasure.

 

Although this experience is wonderful, I must admit I am thankful to be American because of all the conveniences we have.

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{September 22, 2007}   I must have been a bad girl.

Difficult week; to say the least. 24 Hour Theatre (spending the night at the school with 40 10th graders and creating a themed performance within 24 hours) proved to be more than my constitution can handle. I equate this with spending an entire day in the dentist chair. Nothing more to be said.

UTDS is going great. Character work is extremely entertaining. We are on schedule. I am still worried about getting the set done, as I have no stagecraft class, and the one that is offered by the school and taught by someone else really only focuses on lighting and sound.

The police finally showed up this morning so we are a bit closer to driving legally. I bought a vacuum today which if you really know me, you know that makes me happy and this one really sucks in a good way!

After spending Monday night without an iota of sleep we also had back to school night on Thursday which didn’t finish until 10:00 PM. No rest for the wicked. As I wrote before I must have been a side-kick to Lucifer in a former life.

Mo is learning French and I am proud he joined the elementary school drama club.



{September 16, 2007}   The Soap Opera of my life

I am getting back into Eastenders, a British soap opera I liked when having an extended stay in England some 10 years ago with my first hubby (Mo’s bio-dad). Anyway, being stuck in my apartment waiting for the Gendarmes I finally figured out how to get my cable TV programmed in, and I have 3 English speaking channels. One is BBC Prime that has played Eastenders back to back. I have always liked the British TV because they have average looking people, with average jobs etc. unlike American soaps where everyone is stunningly beautiful and they are all doctors and lawyers and can die and come back several times and have identical cousins etc. But the Belgian people remind me, at least physically of American soap operas. The Gendarmes never came yesterday, and I hate to sound pessimistic but I don’t have faith that they will today. It would make things far too easy. I really feel like I wasted a day yesterday, but at least today is Sunday and nothing is open anyway, save a very lovely Sunday open air market (I have been twice, I really love it) and tourist stuff. Well, we could go to a movie or Brussels etc. But no, we are stuck waiting for the gendarmes which may not even show up.

So, I thought I’d tell you about my students as E Entertainment discusses movies stars in French (actually this helps my French understanding even though it really doesn’t help my speaking of the romantic tongue).

In my 12th grade IB class I have Laurits (who is playing the gorgeous teacher all the girls have a crush on in UTDS). He is French. His friend Milan is ½ French, ½ Italian. Then there is Emilie who is Swedish, Rebecca who is English, Allison-American (she is my female lead, young beautiful English teacher Sylvia Barrett), Sasha who is ½ Belgian, ½ American but has always lived in Belgium, Nehal I believe is from Pakistan. Abby is also American. In my 11th grade class I have Boone (South Carolina), Quinn, Nathan (Dallas Texas), Natalie (Seattle area) and Alex who are American, Chris who is Northern Irish, Mikhel who is from the Caribbean, Lilly and Kai are German and Jose I think is from Argentina. Andrew I believe is ½ American ½ British. Most of them are ½ and ½ like my own child. Anyway, it makes for an interesting “Speak the Speech” when we experiment with each other’s accents. I don’t think I could even attempt all the other nationalities in my lower grade classes, but I do have a lot of Swedish people, Africans (Namibia, Zimbabwe) some Koreans, and even a few Russians. Let me tell you the days are interesting!

It is funny to work accents with all the students who have authentic ones. Really to them I have an accent! And some are hard to decipher as they are mixes of nationalities. Here we are much more world orientated, and involved in world issues. In America sometimes we tend to only think of American things. Here we think globally. Even though most of the students are well off and come from diplomatic type families they are all really involved in aiding others; such as supporting schools in Africa, a giraffe sanctuary, wheel chairs for the needy etc. It’s all part of their commitment to the IB (International Baccalaureate).

My hubby Sam phones me daily, sometimes several times, but I told him last night that I could not go two years without seeing him. He hopes to come at Christmas and work something out if I plan to stay. But if we don’t work something out I will want to come back to America, or wherever he is. I guess you just never know. All is well and exciting but missing the love of my life is difficult. This is the soap opera that is my life. Maybe I need to be on an episode of Eastenders.



{September 15, 2007}   Act I UTDS

Blocking is going well, we are ahead of schedule. My cast is so perfect. I have been having so much fun with them in character exercises! I had them all introduce themselves and tell about their home lives and how they came to be at Calvin Coolidge High School, and add brothers, sisters etc. according to given circumstances and their own imaginations. Then after finishing blocking the first act, I had them improv as if Sylvia and Paul were putting on a production of Macbeth and all the cast was there to audition or help (staff etc). I have never laughed so hard! They were fantastic! I am really lucky to have such a great cast! I also had them (those in my IB classes) each do an emotional construct of the show, then a director’s concept. Their work for the most part is on the level of college students. It makes my job easier for not as much writing corrections. Some of their ideas were so good, I wish I had thought of them myself. Then I went back and re-read my concept and I remembered why I chose to do it as I have, and that is because I am a teacher and want to remain truthful to that, but some of the abstract concepts were really interesting.

 

I am now at home awaiting the police visit, but they could come anytime between now and 5:00 PM and tomorrow between 7:00 AM and 5:00 PM which really blows my day as Saturday is the only day for shopping etc. So I have cleaned and organized, written in my thesis journal (previous bit) and now here I am. So TTFN!



{September 12, 2007}   Trouble with photos

Okay so I have tried several times to upload photos of Mo and I at the Lion of Waterloo, but no matter what I do the pictures turn out way too big for this page. Anyway, the Jr. High is auditioning in my room right now, a 50’s musical version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.Rehearsals are going great for UTDS, we are getting through blocking a lot faster than anticipated. Sometimes I feel like I wasn’t paying attention to how surreal the blocking is in this show when I scheduled blocking. Anyway it’s a good thing. Classes are going well, I am still waiting for the Gendarmes (Belgian Police) to visit my apartment so I can get my Belgian ID card so I can get my car. Again Belgian bureaucracy! I am so homesick at times I question myself, but it’s much too late to dwell on it, but sometimes I wish I could just run home. I guess mostly I worry about finances as everything is so very expensive. I didn’t have financial concerns at home and here I most certainly do, at least until I get the car and see how much moo-la is left over. The move itself cost a lot. Mo is adapting well, I think, but his peers are rich kids so I am not sure how that affects him. I am sorry about not getting photos in here sooner, I will try from my home computer and see how that goes.

We had an assembly this morning and a student belly dancer performed, and she was fantastic!!! I kept thinking how Shepherd wouldn’t even allow something like that as too much skin was showing. It was so multi-cultural! They also had a presentation on International awards. The different student trips were shown in a power point presentation. Wow! It was really cool to imagine all the interesting things these students get to do. Even Mo has a 5 day/4 night student trip at the end of the year, and I have my first one in October.

Well I am out of Diet Coke so I better traverse to the “Deli-Traitor” to get some for my school fridge. I miss you all, please keep the emails coming.



{September 12, 2007}  



{September 8, 2007}   The Gawds shined on me today!!!!

I finally got my internet at home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So be prepared for a barrage of entries to catch you up! Before I add the ones I have written in the past month I will catch you up with the past few days.

Yesterday we took the whole high school on an adventure day in the Ardennes. We hiked, climbed walls and went through caves, bonded and got really muddy and tired. I am a 9th grade advisory (homeroom) so I had my kids with me plus a few more of my drama students. Then today I went to green and white day which was a soccer, volleyball tournament against our rival school ISB. A lot of my students are on the teams. Every game I watched we won! Okay now for the barrage.

As a New Orleans’s style jazz band plays outside our window above the very expensive dress shop appropriately named “Talking French” I think of all the exciting things I haven’t had the time, or the internet access to write. I still don’t have either, but I need to catch up. I am living in the Centre de Waterloo, and the annual Braderie Festival is going on, and the band is literally under my window. I am on the third floor, although over here it is the second as the first floor is zero. I have met and conversed with my down stairs neighbor’s, en Francais, but Corinne wants to practice her English too. They are quite gentile (nice). Two very narrow flights of stairs lead to our apartment from a secret door that one can only find if they almost step foot into the boutique below. One would be frightened away by the prices but the clothes are manifique! The Belgian people must be the most aesthetically beautiful people I have ever seen, although most of them smoke. Fashion is high here in the Centre. People bring their dogs with them everywhere. Ikea, grocery stores, restaurants etc. It’s very funny.

 

The music below is now playing “Won’t you come home Bill Bailey” which reminds me of my cruise ship days and Disneyland. “I’ll do the cooking honey, I’ll pay then rent, just please come home.” The people are very friendly and I am getting pretty good at getting by with my rusty French, but I am miserably homesick for Sam.

 

It is a good thing that I am very congenial, as everything takes more time here and cost’s at least twice as much. Gas is over $10.00 a gallon! The taxes provide excellent benefits such as medical coverage and pensions though. I am saving the same amount I was for retirement in the states, and I am not contributing anything but taxes. I have furnished my apartment very modestly at Ikea, as the stairs keep me from bringing up anything too big. I will have to have a machine de lave (washing machine) lifted through the window eventually. So far I have been doing my laundry at my good friend and ex-English teacher’s house. Mo and I have relied on her quite a lot and she has been more than gracious. We have stayed over there quite a bit. Morrison just loves her, she has dogs we walk and she loves to play games. She also gets Morrison’s precocious wit. This whole experience is forcing me to be more social, unlike AZ. I think if I had been more social there I never would have left. I still am very lonely here, and I have cried every day for missing Sam. As well as I cannot call home yet without a fixed line, which I am hoping will be fixed this Wednesday.

 

It has rained almost every day since we’ve been here, kind of like Hawaii where at some point it rains. Only the very first day did it rain ALL day long. The past week has been pretty nice. We will need a car eventually, as I am sure it will become a drag to walk when the heavy rains starts. The weather here is comparable to that of Oregon.

 

I have realized that material things are not important, as I would give up everything I have save Morrison to be together with Sam, but I realize too that even if I was back in AZ we would not be physically together. He is just too swamped and will be as such for another year.

 

Now Scottish bagpipes are playing below.

 

Tomorrow commence the school year with the students. My schedule is hellish. There is A week and B week and the classes change daily and weekly, so it may take a while to figure it out. I also have auditions this week for the high school show, which is also my thesis show, and 24 hour theatre and London Taps trip coming up. No rest for the wicked as I always have said and I know believe Sam and I both must have been Satin’s little helpers in former lives. Which reminds me that I went to my first Catholic Mass since I went to school here in the 70s. Things have not changed. Stand up sit down, stand up and extend peace to your neighbors. I wish I had more time to listen but I find myself going over lists of the things I need to do in my head.

 

This is a little much for one entry, again I hope to get pictures soon. Know that I love miss all my buddies, friends, family and former students, and hope to hear from you all soon.

Journal/UTDS 

29/08/07

 

Tomorrow begins auditions. I have known the students for three days now and they are the best part of this adventure.   I am now baking cookies to bribe the IT guys at school to come over and get my Internet going; I have tried but failed, I today only got my fixed phone line repaired so I can have Internet and cable TV. I sometimes get CNN and BBC; a little English as I am very home sick. I have been here 20 days.

 

My concerns with the students are accents. Wow, they are strong! At first with the ones who sound American I thought they weren’t good readers, but I think now that English is their second or third language so some words are still hard for them. I do think the former teacher wasn’t a hard ass about reading a loud a lot like I am. He certainly never did vocal warm-ups with them as they look at me like I am out of my head when we warm-up. I taught them the Zoo Woah Shaw first thing. Maybe that was a bad idea, but how was I to know? You should see how they reacted to energy ball! They told me they played games as warm-ups (they didn’t know freeze tag, park bench or ABCs). I do think I have the talent to pull off the show. Bon chance aujourd hui.

 

8/31/07

I am the happiest I’ve been since I arrived in Belgium. Not that I have been super un-happy, but I have had many moments of depression. Today’s casting session reminded me again “why” I do this job. I made it through the week. I paralleled Sylvia Barrett with students testing the new teacher and the bureaucracy of the administration. A concern I am having today is the damn metric system! Everything is metric and I don’t know it. Try building a set when you are not schooled in the metric system.

 

I managed to cast the show! I found out that I indeed DO have a budget and a rather large one at that. Doesn’t mean I should spend it all, but at least I can cover the show. I HATE casting as I hate disappointing kids, but I think it will be okay. I have the main characters dead on. Even my Paul, a drop dead gorgeous senior, which physically embodies the character, I worried about his STRONG French accent, but another drama teacher (8th grade) and I felt that the accent would make him even more “devastating’ to the women of the show; Besides the character quotes French in his dialogue. We had such a fun casting today and it is wonderful to hear students singing the “Banjo” song in the hall-ways. Not ALL students are frightened by me. The serious drama ones (My IB classes and the after school UTDS group) seem to be just as vibrant, energetic and enthusiastic as me. So I cast the show and I have a budget! Hal laaaay loo ya!!!

 

03/09/07

 

I just got off the phone with my designer. He’s in Hollywood. His design and ideas I truly love but I do not trust that Jean Van Claire (technical director) and the stagecraft class can pull it all off. I don’t think this school has ever done anything, or at least a set, as elaborate. But the school claims to be drama orientated and the BEST performing arts school in Europe, so let’s prove it! I had a first read though with the cast after school today and it was fun and exciting. My main concern is not to turn it into a farce. The kids have a tendency to play it that way at this point, but I have not given them direction yet except just to experiment with it. I did mention, “Do not memorize lines until we have blocked it out and given character directions” so that they don’t get into a rut of doing it the same way if I want to change something. I had a moment, well about 10 minutes of doubt this evening as to “Why I chose to do this?” Not just the thesis project but the whole move. What was I thinking to try to pull this off? Not only in a new school but a foreign country! I am just plain mad (insane)! I am getting a car soon so that will make things easier although I will be broke.

 

9/9/07

 

I got more blocked than expected. The kids are doing well. Laurits didn’t show up for Paul. I am so tired I can’t think straight. Belgian bureaucracy is hell.



et cetera