On the way to school

The school work began successfully on Tuesday. We took a taxi and despite traffic and pollution, we arrived on time. On Wednesday, we were going to another school, one closer to the hotel. Because there's a small window for getting through rush hour, we had trouble getting a cab. Yikes! What to do? Take a tuktuk! I didn't get a picture of the one we were riding in, but I did get views during the ride. Yes, we were facing backwards.

You can see lots of commuting styles in this picture.

You can see lots of commuting styles in this picture.

This motorbike is getting very close to our tuktuk!

This motorbike is getting very close to our tuktuk!

Tuktuks carry goods as well as people.

Tuktuks carry goods as well as people.

Some of these vehicles are incredibly cute!

Some of these vehicles are incredibly cute!

The gray haze isn't fog but pollution. 

The gray haze isn't fog but pollution. 

A mask is a good idea. I like the ears on the hood. I think there's somebody else on the back of the scooter--or maybe the driver has four arms?

A mask is a good idea. I like the ears on the hood. I think there's somebody else on the back of the scooter--or maybe the driver has four arms?

We arrived at the school on time. Being in the tuktuk meant that we could zip in and out of traffic, rather than getting stuck in it in a taxicab.

Week 1, Chile tour

Before I launch into next week, I want to write about what a great tour this has been! 

I began the week at Andrée English School, in their nice new library. I like to be surrounded by books, and this was appropriate, as it was Book Week in Chile (or worldwide?). I told stories to students who were ten to twelve years old, easily getting them to join in on the silly parts. I'm always anxious on the first day of a tour. I usually have slept badly and I don't yet know the school culture or English level of the students. I needn't have worried this week. 

At all the schools, I show the US map to explain where I'm from and also to give the kids a chance to get used to my accent and pacing. I've begun showing them mycrooked fingers at the outset, explaining that if I don't, they might get distracted during the stories. 

On Tuesday we (my excellent tour manager, Sofi and I) went to the high school of Colegio Alemana, the German school here. [Note to US readers: "colegio" means high school and younger, not university level.] This was the first time the older kids at this school had heard a storyteller and they were an amazing audience. They asked questions like, "What motivates you to be a storyteller?" I wrote about that in a newsletter last week and will probably reprint the article on this blog later. 

Wednesday I visited the primary section of the German School. These students study in Spanish and German, so English is their third language. Some of them had only been studying English for a few months, but they understood a lot. Oh, how I wish schools in the US would teach second languages earlier than high school!

On Thursday we took a cab up to a combined school, Colegios Padre Hurtado y Juanita de los Andes, where the little boys were on one side of the audience and the little girls were on the other. I'm really hoping to get pictures from the school to show what great listeners these eight and nine year olds were. 

We took a cab from this school to another, Colegio Apoquindo. Though the librarian frequently tells stories at this school, they hadn't had a storyteller from outside. Since these were boys aged 12-14, I began with a scary, gory story, "Mary Culhane and the Dead Man." They relaxed, assured I wouldn't treat them like babies. 

 Some of these schools, like the one I went to on Friday, Colegio Everest Masculino, are up in the hills above Santiago, not down in the bowl of smog in which the city unfortunately sits. 

Everest Masculino was, of course, the school for boys. I had the younger ones, six to eight years old, who were thrilled to be in the auditorium, with those seats that flip up...and down...and up...and down. They loved the puppets, especially baby bird Peeps. They threw him pretend worms and helped him to get rid of the ensuing hiccups (and in the meantime, learned the word "hiccup").

The schedule this week worked out so that we arrived back at the apartment around 1 p.m., ready for a nap. That meant we had energy to go out and explore a bit of Santiago in the afternoons. 

It was a fabulous first week of the tour. The teachers, administrators and students were incredibly welcoming at every school. If the other weeks are like this, I'll be a happy storyteller. Oh, right, I'm usually a happy storyteller. I'll be even happier in that case!

Street art in Santiago

Before I write about storytelling here in Chile, I want to show some of the murals and other street art we saw yesterday in the Bellavista neighborhood of Santiago. Sofi (my tour manager) and I walked there from our apartment in Providencia yesterday. We saw these scenes before and after lunch (I had the most delicious piece of salmon I have ever tasted--I'm drooling a little thinking of it). At any rate, here are some of the pictures. 

The buildings are painted in vibrant colors, whether or not they have street art on them, and there's a mix of old and new construction. On this Sunday afternoon, we were happy to stroll around Bellavista, enjoying the beautiful weather. It was a great way to relax before diving headfirst into the tour. 

The Chile tour begins

I arrived! On Friday, I had a full day working with third graders (8-9 yr olds) at the Lied Center of Kansas on puppet skills, then rushed to the airport. My flight from Dallas to Santiago was delayed by ten hours, so the airline put me (and a planeful of frustrated travelers) up in hotels in the area. On Saturday we took the ten-hour flight. I was met by my tour manager, Sofi, with whom I am also sharing an apartment. Here are a few pictures of the apartment:

This is my bedroom with attached bathroom. That second bed? I think it will serve nicely as an office. Sofi also has a bedroom and her own bath

The kitchen is small but nice, as is the living room.

And a view from our windows:

More on what we saw in Santiago in my next post.

More on the 2013 Belgian tour

It has been a good couple of weeks here in Belgium. Yesterday I had my last two performances of the tour, at the school the farthest away. It was in the village of Limbourg, which required that I take three trains and then be picked up in the town of Verviers by the kind director of the school. Fortunately, the trains were on time on the way (delayed on the way home, but I didn't care).

This is the clock in the Verviers train station.

This is the clock in the Verviers train station.

Some of the schools I've visited have been run by native English speakers or are international in scope. Others are English-immersion schools, with primarily Belgian teachers. I have to say, all the schools were wonderful on this trip. The level of English has been mostly very good. I left each school saying, "I hope I can come back here next time!" Believe me, this doesn't always happen. I remember one school in Belgium many years ago where the level of English was very low, the staff wasn't helpful, and the administration seemed hostile. I had none of that on this tour. All of the schools were welcoming, all of the kids responded well to the stories. The hardest part is always the logistical aspect, figuring out how to get to the schools either by public transport or by the kindness of my friend Marie and her trusty Prius.

Here are a few interesting things I saw at the schools. At World International School, the main part of the building was once a house owned by a marble merchant. There was marble everywhere! Mix and match. There was even a slab of marble in front of the radiator. This is the fireplace in the staff room: 

I didn't take pictures at Collège St.-Louis in Liège, though I did last time I was there. I had a fun time with the middle-school kids there. I would have liked to get a picture of the cat in the staff break room. Apparently there are several who live outside at the school. The director prefers them not to go inside, but this one was surveying its domain by the window.

At St. Paul's British Primary School, I had time to look through the school's albums of creative projects the kids do. I didn't go up into the back garden where the children go for recess, but I could see that they have a grand time there. One teacher laughed as she told of a student who had had to change his clothes completely the day before because he was plastered in mud. The play yard is up the stairs in the second picture.


Here are a few pictures from the school in Limbourg. I'm not sure what the animal figures playing instruments are, but I did love the seahorse playing harmonica on the balcony. 


I was in the gym at this school. The door to the bathroom had an unexpected sign on it: 

Comfortable seating in Belgium

I'm near the end of my 2013 Belgian tour. Last week I went back to the European School of Brussels at Uccle, where I've been three times (or is it four) before, and for the first time to the school's site at Berkendael.

Six years ago, I told stories at the ESB site at Uccle. The last day of the performances was especially difficult, as my father had died the day before and I wasn't able to get back to the US. I decided to continue with the performances but get back in time for the funeral (I must say here that the teachers at ESB were especially kind). During the very last session, I had kindergarteners. I was worn out from performances and from grief, so I sat down to perform and therefore wasn't able to see that the small children in back were completely eviscerating the cushions. When they left the room, I was surprised to see pillow guts in a big pile around where they had been sitting. The teachers apparently didn't notice. I was beyond able to do anything about it, so I neatened it up and, I'm embarrassed to say, fled. 

I confessed this to the current librarian. She laughed. She is new since then and told me about sewing the cushions for the children to sprawl out on before the opening of the library this year. She is librarian for both school sites, and at both, the children have many wonderfully cosy places to sit. 

I like a comfortable library. This reminds me of the reading bathtubs in the library in my hometown of Springfield, Vermont. A local artist (Goldie May) lined the inside of old clawfoot tubs with foam, covered them with plush and painted them. Kids loved reading in them. 


Here are the cushions at the two libraries. Pretty, aren't they? 

More on the tour soon, I promise. 

Western Kansas views--and pie

Last week, I drove almost seven hours to Western Kansas to tell stories. First I was at the Scott County Public Library for a Young Author Celebration on Sunday. What a fun group made up primarily of Mennonite families! I'd thought that the kids would see me in the next couple of days at the Scott City Elementary School, but it turned out that they were mostly from the Mennonite school. (Don't worry, I'll get to the pie soon. I will say, though,  that I've had excellent pie made by Mennonites at Iris' Cafe near Ulysses, KS many years ago.)

On Monday and Tuesday I told stories to kindergartners through fourth graders (ages 5-10), in small groups in the library. It's a treat for me to tell in the school library instead of in a cavernous gym or cafeteria. It makes so much sense to have the storytelling in the library. Even though it was only the first full week of school, the kids were wonderful listeners. At this time of year, the kindergartners are still really preschoolers, the first graders are still really kindergartners, and so on. The librarian and music teacher were my gracious hosts at the school. 

On Monday afternoon, I decided to go sightseeing. I'd never been to Monument Rocks, strange white rock structures about 18 miles northeast of Scott City. They're also called chalk pyramids. Here's the view from the distance, with the flat, flat land all around. (Flat like the top of a pie, not the lattice kind though.)

Getting closer...

This is called the keyhole. (Nothing to do with Key Lime Pie. Hold your horses about the pie.)

And there's another clump of rock formations across the road.

Across Kansas, there are abandoned houses and barns. I put a picture of one up a couple of years ago, in fact the last time I was in Scott City (working with junior high school kids that time). Here's one I saw on the way back to the motel in Scott City on this trip. (I didn't actually have pie in Scott City, but I had a nice chile relleno. The pie story is coming.)

The land out here is fenced in, sometimes with wood posts often made of hedge, a.k.a. Osage orange, wood that is resistant to insects and rot. It also burns hotter than any other wood, but has to be in a wood stove because it sparks like crazy. I used to burn it in my stove in Lawrence. (Not the oven, which I had to clean well when I moved as cherry juice had spilled over when I made a pie.)

When the white settlers came, there weren't lots of trees, but there was plenty of limestone. (I think they also made good pies after they'd planted fruit trees.) Post rocks can still be found around Western Kansas. Here's an example, with more in the background (from the rest area somewhere outside Great Bend).


Some of the most impressive buildings in Kansas were built of this limestone. This is the Kansas Mercantile, in the Old Ness County Bank Building, also called the Skyscraper of the Plains in Ness City. (Almost there.)

Okay, about pie. Many years ago (maybe 11?) I was telling stories in southwestern Kansas libraries for a week. I do love a good piece of pie and am usually on the lookout when I'm on the road. After the performance in Ness City, I stopped by at the Kansas Mercantile. On the door was a handwritten sign, "Thursday special, pie and coffee." I paused. What day was it? Yes! Thursday! 

About six or seven people sat around a table, relaxing as I wandered around the gift shop. One volunteer asked if she could help me. I didn't get to the point (of the pie) yet, but asked about the building. I had recently bought my old house in Lawrence, which was built in 1882. She took me on a tour, even up to the unfurnished top floor. On the way down, I asked about the pie. 

She was happy to cut me a piece of cherry pie. It was magnificent, one of the best in my quest for restaurant pie. Homemade, with a pit or two that snuck in to tell me it was made with fresh cherries. The woman who made it stopped by while I was eating. As I ate, I sat with the crowd at the table. They asked me where I was from and what I was doing in Ness City. One older gent had a harmonica in front of him. "Are you going to play that?" I asked. He had only been waiting to be asked. He had mild dementia, but retained his love of music. The others around the table sang along with the old tunes he played. 

I got back on the road that day headed down to Dodge City, with the sound of How much is that doggie in the window and Daisy, Daisy in my ears and the taste of excellent cherry pie in my mouth.