Friday, November 26, 2010

Telling Tales

I am still working on my research proposal for my final project. I thought I might explain it a bit - in case anyone had suggestions or ideas. The process is both fun and a bit terrifying. My graduation requirement is a Independent Research Project, pertaining to something in Peace Education. Totally broad - and I am trying to assure that my project doesn't get too big. Right now it is titled, "Telling Tales: A Culture of Peace through Language Arts in Grade 6 Classrooms".

Anyway - I have been in research methods working on my proposal and topic (maybe working isn't quite the right term... perhaps slogging? drooping? struggling?). I am hoping to build off of some of the work of Circling Our World, a literature project I did with ACGC and grade 6 classes for a couple years. My core question - in its present manifestation (it keeps changing) is how, through human rights education and developing solidarity, does elementary fiction and storytelling encourage a culture of peace? It's still likely to shift a bit.. but that's the general framework.

My hope is interview to a gr 6 teacher and a librarian about the kinds of books and stories are used in their classroom/school which promote peace, solidarity, global understanding, etc... I am hoping to see how the stories we read and tell, influence how we tell stories our own stories. In my head - (where everything works out how I dream - which I realize is challenging) I would do two interviews as well as work with the teacher doing a novel study of a book that looks at Human Rights, or Justice or global understanding... something like that and then create an assignment with the teacher where the students write a peace story, in the way they see it - perhaps it is about their community or school, or about sharing, or about justice in someway.... I am hoping I could get permission to receive a copy of the student's stories. Looking at the curriculum learning objectives, specifically for grade 6, I believe it all fits within the general learning objectives, specifically looking at how 'we' respect others and strengthen community, as well as the goals of learning to write with plot, character...

So - what do you think? Do you remember the stories that shaped your life? That changed the way you see the world? What are the stories you tell?

peace to you,

Saturday, November 20, 2010


It's been a busy couple of weeks. School continues to be busy - but on top of that - it's been a festivity filled chunk of time! Last week we celebrated the "North American Festival".

We had a great time. I am still amazed at all the food we prepared. We made:

50 chickens
150 lbs mashed potatoes
28 batches of mac 'n' cheese
30 stuffed squash (for our vegetarian friends)
a mountain of stuffing
fantastic green bean and spinach salad
a lake of gravy
and 42 pies

See - crazy!

The amazing Sara created a "thanksgiving pageant" which I am sure is unlike any other. It started as a conversation between two people from the USA and Canada (as the Canadian students kept saying, throughout our planning, "you do WHAT??") talking about what they love about Thanksgiving, and then some of differences. The pageant was two fold. A "traditional" pageant as you would find in your average American elementary school... and then a bit of new take with a deconstruction of what is missing in that story... Grad school is great fun at times. Sara totally outdid herself - costumes and all, it was great!

The lovely Maham

Just before the "first" encounter.

Haru and crew sang a song by Sarah McLachlan which was beautiful and we were treated to a group dancing a hiphop number.

HipHop wonder!

There was an incredible playlist created - and then we danced and danced and danced! A great time!

This week celebrated Asia Week. There are 44 students, representing 15 countries from Asia studying at UPeace. Last night was the main event - and it was incredible. The food was amazing! Perhaps my next adventure needs to be somewhere in Asia... :)

Throughout the evening students from many different parts of Asia presented some traditional arts, music and dance. I am forever amazed at the astounding talents this student body holds. I thought I would share a couple photos of that too!

Chinese Lion Dance

Some of the women from Korea did a fan dance, representing flowers blooming.

Bollywood came to Upeace!

And so so much more! I don't know if any of them read this - but my many thanks to everyone who participated in creating Asia night - it was wonderful!

I am coming near to the end of my research methods class. I would say that so far, this has been the most challenging course I have taken here, not in content, but in trying to determine my final project. The 'intensive' program they spoke of - seems closer to insane when in the midst of it. I have classes until the end of May and my final project is due on the 27th of June, with graduation on the 15th of July! Wowza! I am trying to contain my project into something small enough to be manageable. Cross your fingers!

Anyway - I should get back to work. :)
Peace to you!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Tomorrow is the "North American Festival" at Upeace. If I were to ask you what are the cultural aspects of North America you would like to celebrate with other students from around the world - what would you pick? Apparently the tradition here is 'thanksgiving'. Here is my caution - if anyone ever suggests you want to do this...

ANY recipe made for 300 people is crazy. DO NOT ATTEMPT while also enrolled in something else super busy - like grad school... :)

Today I learned (or at least confirmed) that I NEVER want to be a caterer. I was in charge of coordinating pie - for 300! My pie-bee partners were amazing - and we cranked out 40 pies in 8 hours... Not bad! I am super proud of my team of people who pretty well had never made pie before! We did decide that if we were to open a bakery... we would name it How We Roll. We're ready, just in case the insanity is permanent. :) My eternal gratitude for their help! Tomorrow we will have 20 pumpkin - and 20 apple pies, joyfully made to end off our feast. Tonight however - I feel like I could go without pie for quite some time. :)

Anyway - are you feeling inspired? Do you want to make some pie? I love how recipes get passed with people's names on them - so I won't change them... Here's what we did (with a few small modifications for what is available in Costa Rica):

Most delicious pie crust - (makes 5 pies) (aka Lorraine Vermeulen's pastry)
1 lb shorting
1 tsp salt
5 cups flour
1 egg
2 Tbsp vinegaar
Water to fill to 1 cup

Cut lard into flour and salt.
Slightly beat egg in a measuring cup.
Add the vinegar. then water to filll to 1 cup level.
This pastry is very moist so lots of flour needed for rolling. Rolls better when it is cold (impossible here - we just used extra flour... and some patience, although when warm - old wine bottles are a great substitute for a rolling pin - they glide!).

Clara's apple filling - makes 3 pies
15 c. apple chunks (peeled and diced)
2 cups sugar - add more if people like it sweeter
2 tsp cinnamon (I put in more... but I love cinnamon)
4 Tbsp. flour
325F for 50 minutes (or until everything is a lovely light brown and perfectly bubbly)

Pumpkin Filling
1 cup cooked pumpkin (you can substitute yellow squash, sweet potato or carrots. We didn't have pumpkin -so carrot it was! shhhh - don't tell).
1/2 cup sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. each of ginger, nutmeg and cloves
1 t. vanilla
1 cup milk or cream
2 egg yolks.
Mix; then beat the egg whites until still and fold into mixture.

Pour into unbaked shells and bake at 425 for 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to 375 and bake 30 minutes or until filling is set.

Anyway - time for bed.
Peace to you!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Oh ya - some of the good stuff too!

So it must seem that I live in a giant wet pile of mud by now - which isn't always true. There are times when the sun comes out - and lots of life giving and exciting things also happening along with the puddles and goo. Today I am back in my house, I have both water and electricity - at least for the moment - and the sun is shining. Another landslide has closed the road between here and school though, so it still remains to be seen if we will have class tomorrow or not.

A short while ago - one of the Japanese students had organized a tree planting event. The little trees planted will, in a few years, blossom yellow flowers - which are similar to cherry blossoms. We planted 50 trees at the event - which was great (and yes! the sun came out to join us too!).

My friend Colette - showing off her little tree - prior to being planted.

The event had speeches, singing, drumming and lots of great snacks. I look forward to seeing just how much a tree can grow in a year in this kind of climate!

The last few days of our last class, we were presented on educational changes happening in our home countries. How cool to be a class with 11 other country representatives - great things are happening in the world. I have pretty fantastic classmates! Don't they look like they're educating for something amazing?

Mercedes - Argentina

Rosemary and Ignatius - from Zambia

Maham - Canada/Pakistan

Chisato - Japan

Maricelly - Puerto Rico

Just a few of my fabulous classmates. We have now started our Research Methods class (as I mentioned a couple days ago). I should probably go and do my homework, just in case the road is indeed cleared tomorrow!
Peace to you!

Friday, November 5, 2010


day two -
Costa Rica has declared a state of emergency as the rain keeps on coming down. All the rain is being caused by hurricane Tomas - which is on its way to Haiti. I hope that it is gentler with Haiti, I feel that country could really use a break.

Today we actually went back to school - which was a bit surprising. The road up to the campus keeps suffering landslides, but it was mostly clear this morning. We travel by caravan - and there are all sorts of UPeace staff along the way - monitoring the road and giving updates.

Class ended - and we were sent on home. No lingering. The rain continues to pour down leading to my daily adventure. They keep clearing the road, although many other places near here have suffered much worse impacts of landslides. About 20 minutes from here landslides have killed many people, and others are still missing.

My adventure for the evenings begins as I have now been evacuated. Houses which are near to the river in Ciudad Colon (my town) have been asked to vacate as there is a threat that the damn upstream will not withstand this much rain. It is just a precaution and my friend Colette has generously taken me in. I am hoping that the rain will stop this evening sometime and I will be able to return home tomorrow. I feel very thankful that I am somewhere safe and dry - and send my prayers to those who are not yet.

I hope this finds you also safe, dry and happy.
Peace to you.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rain, mud and moving mountains!

I have been complaining a fair bit about the rain, the constant downpour. I am sorry. However, the clouds that enclose the town and are beginning to feel like a giant weight. I know there is sky out there, even if it isn’t visible from here. I know shouldn’t complain.

I think I have just hit, what is likely to be the most challenging part of my year here. I am trying to determine the question for my research project. It seems like something that should be exciting, enlivening - identifiable; not confusing and frustrating. Today I was supposed to present two potential ideas in class, which I was feeling kind of freaked out about, but the rain, which I have been bemoaning, interceded. Last night after two days of a non-stop downpour, the lights went out. Se fue la luz! I found out this morning, there was no electricity or water that there has been a landslide and school has been cordoned off - by mud, rock and rain, so, no school today. The rain, in its dreary dripping has given me one more day to sort out my thoughts. For those of you monitoring news, about Costa Rica, don't worry about me. While the landslides and rain are definitely causing problems - I am fine. I imagine school will be closed again tomorrow - although I am hoping they sort out the electricity issues before then. All the media here is about the different rescue work happening. My prayers go out to the families of those who have lost family members or whose family members are missing.

When I was living in Nebaj, Guatemala it was pretty common for the power to go out, especially during rainy season. It was easy, or so it seemed at the time, to learn to live without it. The power would usually go out around 6ish, as the sun was setting - light a few candles – and all was fine. Cooking by candlelight was kind of nice. I have sorted out the primary difference here. My house here is much more dependent on electricity – as I need it for my stove to work. There are so many reasons to love a gas stove – and power outages are certainly one of them. The solution for the day was to run away to a mall in San Jose – where they are almost always certain to have power and warm food, at least for a bit. I guess it is good to know that there are times when malls are good places – not always somewhere that needs to be avoided.

Peace to you!