Monday, November 29, 2010

Bring me to your Chef!

I am teaching 16 first and second graders which is why I am not blogging very often and why, in all likelihood, you will probably be hearing a lot of classroom anecdotes if you hear from me at all in the next months. Last week was our big Thanksgiving program at school followed by our Feast, even tho the Costa Ricans are not big fans of the pilgrims, or pil-GRAMS, as Alexa calls them with emphasis. But being an American school we pulled out all the stops and I ate three turkey dinners before the week was over. I love turkey and I am, after all, a living example of what the pilgrims were to become, twelve generations after they hit the rock. So I can never get enough turkey and can whip up a pilgrim hat with little prelude.

For the occasion and to honor my forefathers, my amiga and I wrote an original Thanksgiving play called, with great imagination, "Thanksgiving Play." I wanted to write "Thanksgiving, the musical," but Bono was busy on Broadway working on Spiderman. So we settled for something with less of a score. Like every other first and second grade classroom in America, and one or two beyond its pilgrim-loving borders, we enacted the whole story starting in England with the King as villain disallowing his subjects to pray as they please, then moving on to Holland where the children became naughty because, after all, this was the home of Amsterdam so what were they thinking anyway and they were praying freely but in Dutch, what?! In an act of linguistic desperation, the pilgrims hired the Mayflower and the ill-fated Speedwell which you may, or may not recall (I had forgotten it myself) which proved to be holier than thou and began sinking soon after they set sail.

The pilgrims limped back to Holland where their kids once again had to translate every blooming conversation their parents attempted which, incidentally, is something my own kids can relate to in our current cross-cultural living situation. When they had successfully crammed all 100 pilgrims onto the Mayflower they set sail for America again, take two. When given a replica of the Mayflower to color in class, many of my students chose to decorate the sails with brightly colored flowers - get it? - in a much-improved version of the dingy white ones which were impossible to clean and with which those plain folks grew quickly bored and which might have cheered them up on their two month voyage had they simply admitted that plain and boring was not necessarily the only pathway to heaven. There being no floating hospitals in the midst of the Atlantic, at least not in 1620, Oceanus was born at sea and he was a boy but in a brilliant stroke of artistic license coupled by a shortage of boys in our class, we cast he as a she.

Finally the pilgrims hit the rock, which is yet another brilliant stroke of artistic license by the history makers, as you surely know if you have ever been to Plymouth to see the famed Rock which sits in a cage and typically results in exclamations of disbelief and a vast sense of being both underwhelmed and somehow misled by both history books and first grade teachers everywhere even though you find yourself squinting at said stone as you are simultaneously blinded by the flash photography of busloads of Asian tourists who seem quite happy with this scheduled stop at the rock on their tour even tho the rock is really more like a pebble. But maybe the Japanese are used to things being a little smaller than previously imagined. Meanwhile, back at our story, the pilgrims hit the promised land where they see not only that they will be free to pray as they please but that they had better get started because it was November in New England and, as Rumor (brilliantly played by Bella) notes immediately, "There are no flowers here!" Which, in our play, is succeeded by similar sentimental expressions of surprise and dismay culminating in Rumor lamenting, "Who will help us?"

This is where Squanto appears to save the day by showing them how to use the very first organic fish fertilizer to plant their corn and pease (simple living somehow included adding an extra -e to every word), all of which leads to the following year when the stalwart survivors decide to forego hiring prestigious party planners from the island of Mannahatta and opt to plan their own simple and organic, yet humble, first Thanksgiving feast. In reading this part of the story in class, Camillo - a native Costa Rican who would ultimately go on to play Chief Massasoit - was supposed to say, 'I will bring my chief." Instead, with a slip of the tongue coupled by an inability to read, which is probably how most of history has evolved, Camillo said, "I will bring my chef." Which was probably a better idea anyway.

Happy Belated Thanksgiving,


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

When trees fly...

Q: So where have I been?
A: Oregon.
Q: Doing what?
A: Building "high-quality overwintering habitat" for coho salmon which were listed as "threatened" species in 2008.
Q: What?
A: Have you heard about the ARRA? How about the Economic Stimulus Package signed by Obama in 2009? I like to think of it as the modern-day WPA and if you have driven across America lately you understand why. All across our wide nation are men and machines toiling away on highway and bridge projects being brought to you by the ARRA.

In our little neck of the woods up Canal Creek we just flew 312 massive fir trees via chinook helicopter (no relation to the fish) which strategically placed them in designed structures across the creek to build coho habitat. Functioning rather like larger, more expensive beaver dams, these structures will create "stream complexity" and deep pools where the wee ones can hang out for a year or so without being eaten or flushed out by heavy winter rains before they are ready to make the transition to bigger and better and brackish and saltier waterways.

If you have never seen a 23K lb. tree fly, believe me when i tell you that it is a sight to see. We only managed to get a portion of the 1000 trees planned for four different waterways before the rains began and the fish moved upstream but we will hopefully continue where we left off next year flying trees and spending almost a cool million ARRA dollars. I thank you, America, and you, President Obama, and the coho do too.

Here is another photo from my trip. And no, these are not coho, these are chinook. This is Andy and I celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary by catching the first legal salmon of his life. (You will have to ask him about the others.) IN the two weeks I was there, we went to an 18-year-old birthday party, a 50th wedding anniversary, the Governor's Gold Awards in Portland, the laundromat (where I folded my clothes while eavesdropping on an interesting conversation about channel catfish in Arkansas), the pool, and Target where I erroneously got in the 10-item lane with over $300 of stuff (including a tropical-scented deodorant that I think I bought after smelling way too many because it reminded me of Costa Rica but ultimately made me walk around smelling like a bad candle) and where I instantly made several new enemies in Eugene, Oregon. Lo siento.

I got my hair cut, co-hosted our monthly writing workshop featuring my favorite pen pal and funny tween author Dale Basye and a Conversation Project for our town to help decide what Waldport wants to be when it grows up. I opened my first business checking account for my first business--Coho Consulting--and ate the best chocolate creme brulee EVER at Panache in Newport, don't miss it. We had dinner with friends at their house and at our yurt and in general had fun playing yurt without the kids around and ate so much salmon I am afraid I am now, absolutely, part fish. We saw a dead stellar sea lion on the beach, purportedly from leptospirosis, and I came upon a smaller California sea lion resting at the tide line who looked very hungry. Hopefully he will have more salmon to eat soon.