If We Had Stayed

Sometimes when we sit around the table at dinner time, my family and I play the ‘if’ game. (We always seem to play when it is mid-February and the temperature outside is below -20!)

The game always starts with the sentence, “What if we had never left South Africa to move to Toronto.”

  • We would have spent more time outside (remember this game is always played mid-winter!).
  • We would not have experienced living in cold, snowy climes.
  • We would have had to drive the children everywhere. They certainly would not have gone out with their friends as they do now.
  • We would have lived in the suburbs in a house with an outdoor pool.
  • We would have spent more time with family – siblings, cousins, grandparents.
  • We would have driven everywhere. Now we walk a lot: to the supermarket, to the subway station, to work.
  • My daughters would have gone to a private school. Instead now they attend a very good public school within walking distance of where we live.
  • My daughters would have had to learn Afrikaans – and they would not have learned to speak French.
  • We would not have used the public transport system – which in Johannesburg is very poor. Now we go everywhere using the TTC (Toronto’s public transit system). We love it! The trains and buses are frequent; and we do not have to stress when driving in a busy city.
  • I would have had a different work experience. In Toronto, my teaching experience is so much more than what I experienced in Johannesburg. The school board I now work for has a lot more supports in place for teachers than the school board I used to work for – and I currently work at a school that has many resources available to me.
  • My husband would not have had the experience of working at a large international company.

Often when we play this game, my husband and I feel nostalgic for the lifestyle we lived in South Africa. We do miss the good weather and our loved ones whom we left behind. But we remind ourselves of why we left. And, when we look at the positive experiences our children have had and their successes, we know we made the right choice.

Do you play the ‘if’ game? 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This post is linked to Frank’s If Challenge. You are invited to join in and write a post of your own. The post can be in any format: a poem, an artistic impression, a commentary. Once you have written your post, you can share your post on Frank’s page. 

Going Back to Work

For the last four and a half days I have been trapped indoors. My body screamed at me, “I need to rest!” The battle began with an aching throat and the loss of my voice. When I refused to submit, my body caused my eyes to tear so much I had to close them; and filled my sinus passages with mucus. My body won and I lay in bed and rested.

Early Morning City View. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

As I opened the curtains in the living room yesterday, I longed to be outside in the mild Fall weather we are currently experiencing. By late afternoon, I was bored: I had had my fill of Netflixing and of my current read. My mind kept filling with images of what I wanted to do with my class regarding our pumpkin inquiry. I knew then that I was ready to go back to work.

So today I go back. I am not 100% my healthy self, but I feel I need to return to the environment and the people I have chosen to work with everyday.

Do you stay at home until you are 100% healthy before going back to work?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

Justice League and Ramen

This year we celebrated my husband’s birthday the day after his actual birth date. Celebrating it on a Friday was so much more convenient than a Thursday evening. Thursday evening while I was conducting interviews with the parents of the children in my class; and he could still go out and play badminton.

To celebrate his birthday this year, we decided to take my husband to the movies and dinner. The movie we chose was Justice League as we all enjoy watching super-hero movies.  To treat my husband, my son decided his dad should go to the VIP section of our movie theatre. We loved it! I enjoyed the extra space and the reclining chairs. What a perfect way to relax after a hard day on your feet! Of course we had to get buttered popcorn. Delicious! Not only was I enjoying the experience, but I could see that my husband was too. 🙂

Not only did we enjoy the VIP experience, but we also enjoyed the film. Lots of special effects and action. The favourite part of the film for me was meeting Flash. I loved the way his character was portrayed – with plenty of humour. As fans of super-hero films, my family and I were not disappointed. I look forward to seeing the next film – the one that was hinted at  after the film credits.

After our film experience, we went out for dinner. At the moment, my family enjoy eating ramen. We love this Japanese food and enjoy the flavours of the soup. I enjoy, in particular, the vegetarian version laden with vegetables.

After dinner we headed home for some tea and chocolate mousse cake. The perfect way to end a birthday celebration.

How do you celebrate birthdays?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

Summer is Over

Summer is over and tomorrow I will go back to my normal routine. It is unbelievable that the past two months have gone by so quickly!

As you know from my last post, my mother came to visit us. Her stay lasted two months of the summer and we kept busy: chatting, sightseeing, shopping, sewing, spending time together. I am sure you noticed that summertime did not include blogging. Lack of social media output had not been my intention but I did find it difficult to include time to spend in front of my laptop during my mom’s visit.

When my mom left, I took a few days to rest  – and to participate in my favourite past time. I curled up on my favourite spot in the living room and read a few books on my to-read list. Once that time was over, and some errands had been completed, it was time for me to get ready for back-to-school. As you may remember, construction is happening next to our school. During the summer, the school board prepared for this and did a lot of construction at the school itself.

The grounds at our school were changed and improved on. New windows were installed and many classrooms received air conditioning units. My classroom was painted (finally!) as were a few others. Due to the construction, we were not allowed on the premises until last week.

When I stepped into my room it was a mess. I noticed that not only a white film of dust layered everything in the room, but also that some of my cupboards had been emptied. I sighed and began the huge task of getting the room in order. The last week of my summer was spent at the school and ended with me finally having the space ready to receive my new students tomorrow.

I look forward to the new school year and getting back into my routine. I have restarted my exercise routine and hope to pick up my blogging routine once I am back at work. The summer is over (as we can feel from the cooler weather) and it was one well spent.

How did you spend your summer?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

Gimme Hope Jo’Anna

In July of 1989, I took an aeroplane for the first time and left my country of birth, South Africa. I took the trip with my uncle and godfather, my sister, and my cousin. The four of us had planned an adventure with my uncle taking the lead. The destination? Mauritius – the island where my dad, my uncle and many relatives had been born. For him it was a trip back to his birthplace; for the three of us it was a trip to discover the place where one of our parents had been born.

The 10 days we spent together on the island were magical. We had a lot of fun and made many memories. I got to spend time with my godfather (whom I loved a lot), and I got to know my cousin even better. It was a time before I graduated from university as a teacher, and a time when my sister had been working for a year. We spent moments on the beach, shopped in Port Louis, and met my cousin’s grandfather who took us to so many places in his old car (which broke down a few times!).

For our holiday, my uncle had booked a bungalow which was near one of the big hotels along the Mauritian beach. At night we would head over to the hotel to drink cocktails and dance to the music played by the DJ. At that time there was a song we loved to dance to – a song that was not being played in South Africa at that time.

While dancing to Gimme Hope Jo’Anna by Eddy Grant under the warm Mauritian skies, I could not understand why such a catchy tune was not being played on South African radios – especially as his other songs were being aired. It was only a few years later when I was able to listen carefully to the lyrics, did I understand why it had been banned from the country. It was a song against Apartheid, the government of South Africa, and the people who ran Johannesburg.

Knowing the meaning of the song’s lyrics, however, does not change the pleasant memories I have of the time I first heard and danced to the song.

Do you remember hearing this song? Where was the first time you listened to it?

(This post is linked to Hugh’s 51 weeks: 51 favourite songs from the past. Join us with a song of your own.)

Remembrance Day

Yesterday morning my class and I did not get a lot of work done as we attended two assemblies. The first one was extremely interesting: a parent at our school is a pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force and spoke to the children about the work that he does both in Canada and Abroad. The photos he showed us created interest – as did his uniform and the medals he was wearing.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015
Poppies for Remembrance Day. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

After recess we attended the formal Remembrance Day assembly. The tone was set with the playing of the bagpipes as we entered the gym. The assembly was solemn (not the usual fun vibe) and included a beautiful rendition of In Flanders Fields by the grade 4s; a reflection what was done by the veterans (given by the Major the school had already met that morning); singing of Enfant de Paix by the entire school, and a trumpet rendition of a well-known military song (whose name I do not know).

The school exited the gym quietly once the ceremony was over. Many of the adults (parents and teachers) left with tears in their eyes.

What did you do to honour the veterans and those who continue to fight for freedom?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

Day 14: Learn to Fly

In my classes I have often had children who struggle with school work for a variety of reasons. Sitting at a table with pencil/pen and paper often leads to frustration as they struggle to read and understand what is in front of them – and battle to write down a response to the question. Often these children have accepted that they “will not get it”, or that they will have their paper returned to them filled with red marks.

My aim with children who struggle is to help them enjoy the activity – and to believe that they can do it! Often this requires personal attention, focus on only a few writing errors, and daily encouragement. Day by day, week by week, month by month, I have seen a shift in their belief in themselves. I have seen dependent children begin to work independently; I have watched students begin to believe in what they can do; I have observed boys and girls slowly learning a skill they have struggled with.

What a thrill it is to see growing self confidence, a mastered skill, a desire to improve and continue learning. Oh, how I love teaching children to learn how to fly!

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: fly)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 13: Learning Patience

“Be patient!” Growing up I often heard these words come out of my mom’s mouth. I wanted to do things “now” and waited impatiently for events to happen. I would get frustrated when I could not master a skill that looked so easy when others did it. As an adult, I have had to learn patience with people; and wait for the right time to do things.

And yet in the classroom I find mysef going over things more than once. I think of different ways in which to explain a concept if it is not quickly understood. I seem to have a well of unending patience as I sit with a child who is learning to read. I am not sure where the patience comes from but it is there when I need it.

As I work with the children teaching them new skills, I realise that I am teaching them patience too. I am teaching them that they will learn the new skill in their own time. I am teaching them to embrace their frustration while helping them realise that what they are experiencing is a part of the learning process.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: patience)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 4: Embracing My Calling

It did not take long for me to embrace the experience I had been led to. I adapted to my environment and learned to use the tools available to me: the blackboard, a box of chalk and the photocopying machine. No textbooks were on hand so I bought a copy of texts that were available in the bookstore and used them as a springboard for creating my own worksheets. The newspaper and magazines were perfect resources for comprehensions; old external exams were a guide to the type of questions I prepared my students to answer; the news was a starting point for so many debates and unprepared speeches.

I slowly became used to the many names I had not heard of before. I remember vividly a boy whose name I could not say – Mpumelelo. We all laughed at my attempt at pronouncing his given name. He made a concession for me: he chose a name he liked and said I could call him Luke. I taught him for three years and, even when I could pronounce his Zulu name, he requested that I continue to call him by the English name he had chosen.

As I welcomed Qhakaza and the students that attended the school into my life, I thrived. The owner of the school encouraged me to take initiative and gave me free reign on running my classes. My involvement with the children extended into after school hours: I would take them to experience their first live theatre; I would work with them in their preparations for a year end concert; I would spend Saturday mornings helping them to prepare for their grade 12 final exam.

I embraced Qhakaza; and the students of Qhakaza embraced me. The 9 years I spent at the school helped me to grow as a teacher; and satisfied my desire to help children who were in need.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: embrace)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

ParaPan Am Games: Blind Soccer

Since June, my daughter and her friends planned to attend the ParaPan Am games. They spent hours discussing which sport to go and watch: they perused the options available and spent time watching videos of each game. They decided on attending the 5-a-side blind soccer matches. School ended and the PanAm Games began. My daughter’s desire to attend a game played by those with physical disabilities did not abate.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015
Walking to the arena. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

Last week I accompanied my daughters and friends to watch the first series of matches for the blind soccer competition. After our TTC ride (public transit), we walked to the arena and knew we had arrived at our destination when we saw the brightly coloured graphics representing the PanAm Games.

photo 3 (72)
Watching Uraguay vs Mexico. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

We chose our seats on the stands – avoiding the heat of the sun. I was looking forward to the match as I had never seen one before. I noticed with interest that the field is a lot smaller than that of regular soccer (about a tenth of the size) and that pitch is surrounded by side boards (which will keep the ball on the field).

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

During play I noticed a few of the other rules (I had not looked them up before attending the game). The goalie (who is sighted) is allowed to shout directions to their team mates without leaving his post in front of the goalie box. In addition to the goalie shouting directions, each team has a coach who stands behind the opposing team’s goalie box and who can give directions on where and when to shoot the ball. At times another coach  shouts directions from the midfield sidelines where he is watching the game. For the games we watched, the players were speaking in Spanish so I was unable to understand the actual words that were said.

photo 2 (91)During the game, the player who is near the ball shouts out the word “voy” (Portuguese for “I am here”) to alert the others of his presence. I learned later that if a player does not do this, he will receive a penalty.  I am sure you are thinking that there is a lot of shouting going on – and there is! But it did not detract from my enjoyment of the game at all. The players, the goalies and the coaches are shouting – but not the audience. We were reminded a few times to not cheer as the noise would distract the players. Sometimes it was hard to keep quiet – especially when the scoring a goal was missed by fractions of an inch!

photo 3 (73)

You may have noticed in the pictures that all of the players wear blindfolds. This is to equalize all the players as some are partially blind. At times, play was stopped when the referees (dressed in yellow shirts) noticed that the blindfolds were slipping. I noticed that the men who referreed the game took care with the players. Not only did they ensure the players’ blindfolds were comfortable, but they also placed the players in position when they were to kick the ball after a penalty or if the ball had gone off the field.

photo 2 (92)The ball itself is different to a regular soccer ball: it is heavier than usual and is filled with plastic ballbearings that make a loud rattling sound when kicked. The players listen for the sound of the ball to help them know where it is. I noticed the referees shaking the ball before they placed it on the floor in front of the player for the penalty kicks. They did this until the player indicated that they knew where the ball was.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015
Watching Argentina vs Brazil © Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

What amazed me was that the players ran with no fear, trusting in their hearing to play the ball.

Watching the games definitely highlighted that a person is able to follow their dream, no matter what the obstacles. These men may be blind but that has not prevented them from following their passion and playing a game that they love.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015
PanAm Graphics. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

As we left the arena to go home, I was grateful for my daughter’s desire to attend a game at the ParaPan Am Games. Her wish led me to experience something I never thought I would.

Have you watched a game of blind soccer?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015