I realized something tonight. I know some stuff about some fairly obscure subjects. I guess that’s what prompted Jenny’s comment the other week, “You’re my friend who knows stuff.”

It’s not like other people don’t know stuff, it’s just that they seem to ask me when it comes to, say, species of birds or animals, etymology, English literature, or Western Eurpoean history. Okay, I have a degree (or enough courses to count as one) in the last two, but, really, my knowledge comes from looking things up.

My realization came today when one of my work colleagues asked how a person would teach the difference between a vowel and a consonant. I thought for a second and said, that other than repetition of AEIOU (sometimes Y can come later), she could probably get the kid to shout. You can’t shout unless it’s a vowel. She thanked me, and said, “I wanted to ask you, because you’re the expert.”

How did I become the expert? Everyone else at my job is a Primary teacher. They’re the ones who have formal training in teaching people to read. Me? I realized I needed to know more about it than I could remember from teacher training, and I went online, and I went to the library.

What does this say? Do very few people wonder about something and then go and find a way to learn more about it? If not, why not? How can they not be curious? Maybe this is what ‘lifelong learning’ really is. I’m just flipping back in my calendar and I see notes: Werewolves. Beef rib recipe. Starbucks all sizes. Writing for teens. Writing prompts. UC Davis campus. Princeton. Arthropods. All things I wanted to know more about, so looked into them.

Granted, there are giant gaps in my knowledge: Pregnancy. Childbirth. Ethiopian cuisine. Anything beyond gravity, in physics.

But, you know? I’m ok with not being a know-it-all. For now.

Today’s word: Ye poan: Beautiful (poan rhymes with roan, which is the name for a horse whose coat is, in human hair terms, salt-and-pepper) With a bit of an emphasis on the ‘oh-an’.

Learning English

Today’s word: Taheda: finished.

Sometimes when people are learning a new language, funny things happen.

For instance, last week, when I was working with a student whose English is very poor, she was struggling to explain that her family had been down to the beach at low tide to dig up creatures and see what was there. Her name for the Jericho mud flats intertidal zone: The Tidelands. Much prettier, and somehow evocative of the deceptively long distance between the beach and the actual waves. In the Tidelands, you see Great Blue Herons, Purple Shore Crabs, Yellow Shore Crabs, Jingle Shells and Checkered Periwinkles. On the mud flats, you see some goopy stuff and some animals. No contest. She was on the Tidelands, and a better adventure she had for that.

Today I read a book report from a little fellow who got to a sad part of his book and struggled to come up with a way to communicate how this affected him. His report said, “It made my heart stop and cry.” Now doesn’t that kick ass on “It was sad”?

I love teaching English.

New Baby!

Well, Arwen did it again: Pushed out another little life into the world.

I, for one, am in awe.

He’s gorgeous and I wasn’t very scared of him at all!

That being said, I had a great time hanging out with Ripley and Gen today. Rip’s a great kid, and he can communicate in ways that I can understand now, which makes me love him all the more.

In other news, I’ve taken to learning one Korean word per day. I won’t be fluent any time soon, but I’ll be happier knowing that I’m learning something about my students’ first language.

Today’s word: Pan-deh: Opposite.

Family Reunion

I actually like most of my relatives. How cool is that?

See, my brother and I are much the youngest cousins in the crew, so everyone got married a long time ago, in that relative-stratum. But the older generation have begun to die. The only time we seem to get together is funerals, and that is no fun. We don’t get to know each other because we’re so busy being sad.

So my aunt decided that as some distant relations were coming from England (I wasn’t aware I even had English relations) we’d have a family reunion. Plus, it was my cousin Craig’s birthday. So, why not?

What a great idea! I ate, like, a pound of shrimp and smoked salmon, and shared family jokes with a bunch of people. I loved it! Maybe for me, family is the new family. I don’t know. It could happen.

Especially since my craziest cousin married a new man and has started a fish hatchery, I’ve acquired some step-cousins. One of the new steps is a ten-year-old black kid adopted from (?)Uganda. That’s Sam. (He was adopted in the new husband’s old marriage. I know the old husband as a customer on the gas barge, and since he never tried to grab my tits, I think he might be an okay guy.)

I try not to talk to said craziest cousin, but I just might have to find a way to talk to her kids. Sam tried to give everyone ‘jelly beans’ that were really Red Hots. And giggled amd gave them out freely when we recognized them for what they were.

That’s the kind of cousin I’d be proud to call Family.

I Singlehandedly Save Transit

Translink, why do you taunt me? You claim that you are “Keeping Greater Vancouver Moving”, but from where I’m standing at the bus stop, that’s not happening. So I spent my time today while waiting for various buses (total: 57 minutes) and actually riding the buses (total: 48 minutes) concocting a cunning plan to help transit passengers in Vancouver, help Vancouver’s economy, and help your own ailing reputation.

Problem times I’d like to address:
8:00-9:30 am. This is Rush Hour. Remember it? yeah.
4:30-6:00 pm. Ditto.
9:00 pm from UBC. Whilst not a big rush hour, you should be aware that there are large numbers of people trying to get off campus at the time.

Solutions: More buses. No, it’s not crazy, it would work. Just think:

Traffic to UBC is highest between 7:30 and 9:30 am. This is because a fair whack of UBC’s student population (35,000, which is 5,000 more than the population of Campbell River) are coming to school between 7:30 and 9:30. With that in mind, it would be a really great idea to put a few more buses on those routes during that time. This morning, 2 B-lines passed me by at Broadway and Macdonald, crammed to the rafters with commuters from Points East. Hey, Alert, Translink! Not EVERYONE West of Granville is going to climb into their Beamer and zip out to B-lot! (Although with the kind of service you provide, I don’t see why not)

Ditto afternoon Rush Hour: Particularly as we’re swinging into the colder season and homeless people have to go somewhere to get warm. More buses make everyone happier.

And finally, heads up, Translink: Lots of people want to get off the UBC campus at or around 9pm. People’s classes end, kids want to go downtown, you name it. An extra bus at about 9:15 or so would ensure that people were not waiting in the dark for too long surrounded (let’s say) by drunk Mexican exchange students shrieking their national anthem.

What? There’s a problem? The expense is too big for those extra, oh, say, nine buses? Listen here: You’re a private company. Diversify. Think of all the tourists flocking to our fair city! You could turn those B-lines into tour buses and charge fifty bucks a head to take tourists on garden tours to Queen Elizabeth Park and Van Dusen Gardens! Or to Grouse Mountain! Or to the outlet malls in Washington State, for Christ’s sake! Come on, Translink, get with my vision! Then after a day of touring, drop people off at B-line points downtown or along Broadway, come up to UBC during evening rush hour, and take students home.

Also, you’ve been taking a beating in the news. Just think of how compassionate Translink would seem if one of those morning buses could easily become a Homeless haven. Vancouver’s homeless people could get on at designated B-line stops and have some sandwiches and a nap in the warm. Wouldn’t that strike a blow in the media? Just think of the photo ops. They might even forget the merciless price-gouging you did earlier this year!

See how easy?

Canada: Oh, the Insanity!

One of my tutoring students is a mother who has come with her daughter so that her daughter may learn English here in Canada. She explained to me on the first day of class, via much gesturing and electronic-translator-using, that she wanted “Survival English”. That first day, I taught her what the different coins were called. You know, nickels, dimes, and so on.

No wonder she wants just to survive. The woman has so very little English, I worry for her. We communicate via the electronic translator, drawings, gestures, facial expressions and universal noises. Actually, it’s kind of interesting just how far we can get with just this. I think we might be inventing our own language, like Ayla in Clan of the Cave Bear, only it’ll be Hyun-Suk in the Land of Insane Canadians.

Because, really, looked at from a monocultural, conservative, newly capitalist society, Canada looks like Pandemonium, run by escapees from Riverview.

We call our dollar coin after an excessively shy bird. The bird word also means ‘crazy’. We nicknamed the twodollar coin a word that means nothing, except that it has the word ‘two’ and rhymes with the one-dollar coin. Double the insanity!

-We don’t fire Civic officials if they are inept at, say, getting broken parking meters fixed. (Woe betide the Canadian who tries to explain that getting a broken meter is a good thing because you don’t have to pay. That’s like repealing the Laws of Physics to the Korean mind) Never mind that the Prime Minister does not order “all good Canadians” not to buy a newspaper that prints unflattering articles about his policies. (Note to self, ask someone about irony in Korean newspapers. Satire, too, for that matter)

-In Canada, you have to wait a week or so to get a fridge delivered. Maybe longer. And the delivery people can’t tell you exactly when it’s coming! Meanwhile, what is a person supposed to do? They have no fridge! In Korea, customer service like that would put a company out of business in a week.

-We only have a couple of hundred years of history. None of our Canadian leaders had any kind of mythical beginning. In contrast, the Koreans have at least three kings who hatched from eggs. Sir John A. and Louis Riel look pale in comparison.

-Canadians are all colours and come from all places. I, because my forebears came from Europe, am considered ‘Canadian’ by Koreans. However, had my forebears come from Asia, Africa, or even (WTF alert) been First Nations people, the majority of Koreans in Vancouver would not see me as Canadian. Canadians=white, to the Korean mind. Fred Kim the accountant is as Korean as Kimchi to other Koreans, even if Fred was born here, grew up here, and even (gasp!) married a white girl. Oh, that’s another thing. Koreans marry Koreans. Period. Korean marriage and interpersonal relationships is a whole other rant.

-Back to Canada, we leave perfectly good land undeveloped in the cities. Really, some parks with some grass and some fountains would be acceptable. But why leave such prime real estate right by UBC tenanted by coyotes and raccoons? Canadians have no business sense. (Actually, looking at the recent developments out there, maybe we are gaining Korean kudos)

So Hyun-Suk and I battle against culture and language together. I’m just so glad she has a sense of humour. That, more than anything, will see her through.

“The Realm of Possibility” by David Levithan

This book
will save lives.
I don’t have any
numbers, but I’m willing to bet that
Being a gay teenager is pretty hard.

This book
is full of stories about relationships
between blackwhitegaystraightbrothersister…whoever.

Each story gives
the message that it’s ok
to be who you are.

Each story is a
kind of

A different
kind of

They are the
beautiful bouquet
I have ever

Dear Dr. Seuss

Thank you for writing so many great books.
They’re sneaky and fun. They act as hooks.
Kids read them with glee and grab them with greed,
And before you know it, they’ve learned how to read!

I took “Hop on Pop” to a student today,
It wasn’t work, for him it was play!
He ploughed through the book, and asked for more.
His father was stunned as he watched from the door!

We went on to “One Fish, Two Fish”, and the going was tough,
But that little kid couldn’t get enough!
He knows he’ll get better if he keeps on this way.
He learned at least five new sight words today!

So Dr. Seuss, I suppose I’m writing to tell
That your books act like a magical spell.
You’ve fillled a very important need,
By writing the books that teach kids to read!

BC Words…and fish.

I’ve been reading Wet Coast Words, which I unearthed while cleaning up the books in Dad’s attic. Here for your linguistic delectation:

pecker pole: a small tree hardly worth logging.
hoochie: a soft plastic lure with tentacles, imitating a small squid. They come in psychedelic colours and patterns to attract skippers shopping for tackle. Invented in Japan, they were originally named hootchy-kootchies for their resemblanceto Polynesian girls in grass skirts.
MonkeyNote:Damn, I miss hoochies.
shagpoke: Great Blue Heron. MonkeyNote: It sounds dirrrty to me.

And all the kinds of salmon:
Sockeye: Our best-known salmon(Oncorhynchus nerka) have a superior taste and colour. The word is a corruption of a Coast Salish name, suk-kegh, meaning ‘red fish’. MonkeyNote: Sockeye Fever is still what I’m going to call my band, when I have one.
Pink: The Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) also known as a humpie, or humpback, from the humps which males develop in the spawning season. They are the shortest-lived (2 years) smallest BC salmon, and average about 2.2 kg in weight. MonkeyNote: Many people disparage pinkies, but they’re absolutely fantastic fresh out of the water and grilled with a little bit of lemon.
Spring:This species (Oncorhynchus tschawytscha) is our largest salmon, often weighing over 45 kg. They’re called ‘chinook’ on Oregon and Washington, ‘kings’ in Alaska, and tyee. Evidently the name comes from the fact that they have spring, as well as fall, spawning runs. MonkeyNote: I didn’t know that! Cool. Okay, so they come in white and red subspecies. My Uncle Don set up a lucrative market in Japan selling White Springs. Because they were unusual, the Japanese paid more for them. Also, really, really big springs are called ‘smileys’ because fishermen smile when they catch them.
Coho: Known as silvers to Americans, these salmon,(Oncorhynchus kisutch) are second in importance to Sockeye for commercial fishermen. During the spring of their last year of life, Coho are sometimes called Bluebacks because their backs go, well, blue. Coho must weigh under 2.25kg to be called Bluebacks. MonkeyNote: I didn’t know that either! What a great book!
Chum: This salmon, (Oncorhynchus keta) was formerly called dog salmon, prompting oone BC biologist to name his canine Keta. The origin of the word is uncertain. MonkeyNote: I think the origin might have to do with the fact that ‘Fall Dogs’ as they are sometimes known, are not considered to be really valuable fish, and are therefore usable for bait for other animals like sharks or crabs or whatever. Incidentally, it is a little known fact that Chum are the best fresh-cooked fish of all the salmon. I know because Uncle Don once did a test where he got one of each species of salmon except Pink, and cooked them up, straight from Seiner to oven to table. Chum was the best. My dad just confirmed it via telephone interview.

Atlantic Salmon: These (Salmo salar) do not escape from fish farms and wreak havoc on native salmon populations, according to the DFO. They simply cannot exist in BC’s waters without special care from fish farmers. If you see an Atlantic Salmon, you are hallucinating and probably a communist. (If you do catch one, they’re much milder in flavour than BC salmon, and not very good smoked, but pretty good barbecued.) Of course, you couldn’t possibly have caught one, since they never escape from fish farms, and they can’t survive anyway and the DFO knows best so shuuut up.

Thank you. This has been vastly entertaining for me. Any other salmon questions? Feel free to ask. Now that I have this book, the world is so much brighter!

Close to Home

Wow. John, please teach me to link like any self-respecting blogger, because I really want to link to a story in the Mail on Sunday, posted at Majikthise by The J Train while Amanda is helping out in NOLA. It may or may nont be true, but like The J Train, I don’t know why it wouldn’t have happened, despite the grisliness and far-fetchedness. After all, what’s not grisly and far-fetched about the situation anyway?

This story is about doctors in New Orleans and environs having to make the decision whether or not to give patients morphine overdoses and so allow them to end their lives in dignity, as opposed to possibly being victims of looting, squalor and agony-filled desperation while waiting for their lives to end.

This is a story close to my own heart.

My mother had a rocky but fast battle with cancer. She lost. For the last week or so she was in a coma, and Dad and Scott and I sat around reading books and…waiting. In a peaceful, well-run hospital. No threat of terror here (Other than the fear of death, which is pretty universal, really)
But the big scariness was pretty big and scary. Doctors could give us no prognosis, because there was nothing they could say or do. There was no information. The cancer was in her lungs, in her brain. No one knew how long it would take to kill her. We were a family in the grips of intense frustration, as well as shock. And we have never communicated our feelings very well to one another, so we were also a group of people isolated, but held together through the conventional ties of family.

If we’d thought to have some hospice care workers come in, we might have been able to better prepare for the inevitable. Doctors, as they could not ethically give us anythign to hope for, were schtum. Hospice help probably wouldn’t have been. Note to self: The next time someone I love dies, I’m getting all the fucking support they’ll give me.

As it was, my mother died in the early afternoon. I got to the hospital in time to see my brother come off the payphone. “She’s gone,” he said.

In the visitors’ room beside the room my mother died in, the doctor, an internist, spent some time with us. He asked us something. I can’t remember what, but it was something like, “Do you have any questions?”

Um, no. My mother just died there. What was I supposed to ask you? Your play-by-play on her palliative care? What happens after we die? Why you only serve cherry jello here?

I am so sorry for those victims of Katrina that were killed by doctors seeking to give them dignity in death.

I am much more sorry for those doctors, who, looking the Hippocratic Oath in the eye, saw the situation, had no answers, and had to create their own answers.

God bless you.

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