Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 9 & 10: Waterfalls & My Swiss Relatives

On our last morning in the mountains we decided to check out this amazing waterfall that was right outside our hotel.

After about a 15 minute hike we ended up behind the waterfall about 1/3 the way up the mountain. 

The view was pretty amazing and the spray of water mixed with the drops of water coming off the rocks sparkled in the sunlight.

On the way down there was a drinking fountain that leads into a pool and a dog decided to take a dip when his owner led him to the fountain.

He was very satisfied with himself.  By the way, this is an Australian Shepherd Dog (Aussie for short).  One thing we've noticed is that all of them here have their full tales.  In America they cut-off the tails when they are babies.  This messes with their balance which is probably why the Swiss Aussie's hold their heads higher than American ones.  It's illegal in Switzerland to cut-off dog's tails and we've seen multiple Aussie's here waving about their beautiful tales.  Any arguments you hear for "docking" dog's tails is complete garbage . . . back to Switzerland. 

After seeing this cute dog we got on the train and headed toward Lucerne.  My mother's older brother left from Taiwan to Switzerland for college.  When he was there he fell in love with a Swiss girl, got married and settled down in Switzerland.  In addition to a Swiss aunt, I have a half-Swiss cousin who is completing his Master's degree in Zurich, which is about 45 minutes away from Lucerne. 

We've had some great times catching up with my relatives.  We've explored Lucerne and Zurich and really enjoyed both cities.  While it is nice to explore a new city and enjoy getting lost, it's nice to have locals that you trust show you around. 

My favorite moment in Lucerne so far has been spending time with my to my uncle, aunt and cousin. about.  While we haven't spent that much time together because they live across the world there's an amazing connection we share.  It's awakened a feeling inside of me somewhere between the comfort of home and the warmth of family.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 7 & 8: Making Good Choices

Today we explored the Jungfrau region from the bottom, exploring the valley near Interlaken. We took a horse ride in the area, saw some beautiful scenery and our horse took a dip in the beautiful Thuner Sea (the something-lake).

And then about 15 minutes later I fell off the horse. We were galloping and as my horse turned my saddle started falling to the right and as he made another turn I feel off. Luckily I landed square on my butt. Yeah . . . we did a slow walk for the reminder of the ride but the trotting and galloping was fun while it lasted.

Mom, relax, I’m really fine. As horse falls go this was the best way to do it.

Later I’ll write about my experiences with horses, a place called Rancho and the insane, freeing, terrifying and utterly exhilarating feeling of riding on a horse that is running.

Onto another day of making great choices.  

Watch as Diana goes on the unbeaten path and hopefully not fall off the mountain.
On the way to this lake:

Here's Diana explaining where we are:

Then there's Diana deciding to go down the mountain in the most logical way.

OMG, the cameras have taken over!!!

An awesome way to end our last full day in Lauterbrunnen.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Days 5 & 6: Lauterbrunnen, Finding Our Way

We successfully mastered the European transportation system by getting from Evian, France to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.

It really was kind of simple:
  1. Take a boat from Evian to Lausanne
  2. Get on the subway from the shore to the train station in Lausanne
  3. Take the Lausanne train to Bern
  4. Miss the connection to Interlaken because apparently Swiss-German public bathroom require you to pay so we had to . . .
  5. Hit the ATM
  6. Get some food from McDonalds (mainly to get change), 
  7. FINALLY manage to get the bathroom to work for us, use the ticket office computer to find the next train AND then . . .
  8. Take the train from Bern to Interlaken
  9. Take the train from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen
  10. Ask for directions to our hotel twice because when people point and tell you in meters how far the hotel is, I have NO idea how much walking that actually entails.

And . . . we . . . are. . . here.

No, this area does not look exactly like Rivendell. It looks better.  As Miley Cyrus would say it, this place is beautiful like “yeah.”  Actually more like what Joey Lawrence used to say in Blossom, this place is gorgeous like “woah.”

The day after we got here we hiked and it was pretty amazing.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking. 

Diana + big mountain valley = happiness
That's Diana on top to provide a little perspective.

A tree somehow finding a way on the side of a rock face.

Diana adding to the stone sculpture garden we found.

And I hope all of you have a good "fahrt" too.  heehee

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Days 3 and 4: Geneva, Evian, Lausanne, Thonon - Make a Mistake With Me

So right now we are in France—about a week and a half ahead of time.

At least the day started out as planned . . .

We had a great time exploring the historical side of Geneva. We checked out St. Pierre’s Cathedral, which had an amazingly cool archeological site underneath showing church runs. We also checked out the Reformation museum, which sounds lame but was really interesting. The best part of that was a small room that had music scores from the time of John Calvin and buttons you could hear to play recordings of the music.

We played one of those games of chess on huge chessboards (each square was about a foot and a half square). This Albanian guy was watching and helping Diana, making sounds whenever Diana was about to make a bad move. His English wasn’t very good, which made it all the more hilarious. Diana won, she claims because of her skill; I think it was because of the Albanian.

While Geneva is awesome it’s expensive, like a bottle of Coke is $4.50 expensive. So we stayed at a Holiday Inn outside of downtown and decided that we could find a cheaper place outside of Geneva.

I found a place that seemed awesome, at a great price. On it claimed to be 7 miles outside of Geneva. Yeah, after a confusing and then boring two-hour cab ride (good thing our cabbie spoke English) we ended up in Evian, which by the way is in FRANCE, not Switzerland.

This hotel is 3/4 price of the Holiday Inn and they have complimentary Evian water. The hotel is SO much nicer. Nothing describes it better than the view outside the windows.

Holiday Inn Express, Geneva

barbed wire?!? Let’s get a close up.

La Verniaz, Evian:

oh yeah . . .

So we are not going to head back to Geneva another day. Instead we are going to explore northern France and Lausanne, Switzerland. During the cab ride I was beating myself up for making such a big mistake. When we got to the hotel Diana assured me it wasn’t a big deal and after an amazing evening and a great dinner, I’m glad Diana made a mistake with me.

The next day we hit Lausanne, which is across Lake Geneva back in Switzerland. We found a huge Swiss toy, which totally would not meet American safety regulations:

Also, the best train stop name EVER. And yes it’s pronounced exactly how it looks.

We hit Thonon (by accident—got on the wrong boat back), which sported a great view of Lake Geneva.

And we found what looked like a Gap knock-off. I decided not to buy the shirt that said "VERY SEXY" in bright red. Might not be appropriate for school.

I think the models are trying to eat each other. (Once we got inside, we found that the owners of this story have very little command of English, although the advertisement for "Fun Price!" seemed to be accurate.)

Tomorrow we are off to Lauterbrunnen, the area that inspired Tolkien’s Elf city, Rivendale from The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy.

It better look exactly like I did in the movie, or else I’m going to have to write someone a letter.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Days 1 and 2: Geneva

There's something strangely familiar about Geneva. Maybe it's because it's a city on a lake, with a river winding through it. Maybe it's the Starbucks, the crepes, and the designer labels—not too far off what you find in any other European city. But I feel like I've been here before.

Geneva feels like France, but slightly off-kilter and prettier. Even the accents are a bit different. I think it's surprisingly like Chicago.

I had to snap the postcard view, and I'll probably take more pictures of it tomorrow. The sunset was very pretty tonight. The famous Geneva water spout didn't show up on my camera because it was so close in color and texture to the clouds, but I saw a rainbow on Lake Geneva as we descended in the plane.

Lots of swans glide around Lake Geneva. There were at least eight or nine preening themselves (basically, scratching their butts with their long necks). That posture wasn't befitting a swan, so here's a picture that is. Also, I like the creative way the Swiss tell you not to feed the swans.

 Kingsley invaded the postcard...
Since we're staying at the Holiday Inn tonight we wandered into two swanky hotels to people-watch. I ordered consomme at one and it was delicious. This flower arrangement is at the Four Seasons; I thought the textures were really cool. Evidently Geneva is one of the most expensive cities in Europe as far as hotels go; that's why we're going to be staying outside of the city tomorrow night.

-- Diana

Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer Break!

While I am really proud of the fact that for more than two and half years I have never missed a blog post (413 posts!), I think it might be a good time for me to take some time off.

So here's the deal, for the next month I'm taking a break from regularly posting on this blog.  I'm doing some traveling and while I may post my adventures, I don't want to be on vacation thinking about my next blog post. 

I'll be back in July with regular posts about music, teaching, Buffy and bananas.

Thanks for following the Purple Reaction.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gilmore Girls

I'm working my finishing my grades and comments.  It's amazing what you pay attention when you are procrastinating.  There's the show my wife is currently watching:

I'm actually starting the get into this show. The only problem is that she is watching season 1 episode reuns co-currently with the DVD of season 6 at the same time!  I mean, one second Lorelei is kind of talking to Chris, then they are engaged, Rory is in and out of college, then Luke is engaged to Lorelei and then he has a random kid and the whole thing with Rory being in and out of college.  What's up with the community service thing?  Seriously I look up one second and Rory is having a coming out party and next thing I know she's the college newsppaer editor. . . so confused.

And why can't Lorelei or Rory find a guy who really understands them?  Lorelei totally better end up with Luke.  Chris was SO much better when he wasn't on the show as much.  Oh, and Jesse is SO much better for Rory than any of those Yale guys.

I totally just spoiled a lot of this show didn't I?

My bad.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Firework by Katy Perry

I really like enjoyed Katy when she first came on the scene. “I Kissed A Girl” was fun and when I heard “Hot N Cold” (which I wrote about in this earlier post ) and found out she was a phenomenal song-writer behind great songs like Kelly Clarkson’s “I Do Not Hook Up (which I wrote about in this post) I became a Katy Perry fan.

So I was excited when Teenage Dream came but unfortunately her lead single off of the album “Califonia Gurls” (which I wrote about here, man I spent a lot of writing about this girl. . . ) left something to be desired for. Yes, it was fun but it lacked the nuance of some of her earlier songs and unlike “I Do Not Hook Up,” it didn’t really say anything. And honestly, those whip cream dispensers attached to her um. . . y’know. . . yeah, just kind of confusing.

Then I heard “Firework” and it was a revelation.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Katy Perry is the greatest artist ever, but she’s doing stuff with this song that is significant. “Firework” is a feel good about yourself song like “True Colors by Cyndi Lauper or “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera.

Yeah, I’ve never felt like a plastic bag, but the house of cards is great use of imagery to describe a sense of insecurity. Perry beautiful paints a picture of feeling like an outsider, inadequate and not having anything that is really special until she reminds us that there is a spark inside all of us.  The second verse continues being hopeful with some great lines about how difficulty things in lead to better things. After a hurricane comes a rainbow and after a closed door comes an open road. 

Maybe it's because its graduation season or maybe it's because I'm tired of hearing boastful non-nonsensical rap music, meaningless love songs and dance songs that just don't make any sense, but "Firework" really makes me feel good about myself.

 (We're just going to enjoy the song and not think about the fireworks coming out of Katy's chest.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Week 34: The Last Week

These posts I’ve been writing every Friday about my first year at this new school I’m working at I usually write sometime on Thursday. Now it’s Friday night and I’ve sat down to write about my final week of the school year and I’m not sure what to say.

There’s so much to talk about. There’s the sing-along in a playground I did with fifth grade, watching Star Wars: Episode IV with my seventh grade (involving students of mine who had never seen the film before), inspiring conversations with a kindergarten teacher who used to design toys, leading a group of almost 400 students and staff in singing “This Land Is Your Land” and what it means to finish this school year. And I can’t forget performing “Love Story” during recess with a group of my students to fulfill a promise I made on the first day of school.

I’ll probably write about these moments later in the summer, as they are significant and meaningful. But right now, what’s in the front of my mind is something smaller a moment with a student who until a couple weeks ago I barely knew.

I expected my fifth grade students excitedly coming up to me with their yearbooks asking me to sign. I sat down in the fifth grade hallway and must have signed thirty in a row before escaping up to the middle school floor.  That made sense as I taught all of the fifth grade.

My middle school situations was different because I only taught about 1/2 of the seventh grade as the band teacher (the other students were in choir) and I taught about 1/3 of the 8th grade. I knew of the choir students but I didn’t really get an opportunity to teach them or get to know them which is why I was surprised that Margaret, an 8th grade choir student ran up to me and insisted that I sign her year book.

A couple weeks earlier I was up in the 8th grade hallway talking to another teacher and Margaret was hanging out. I made some jokes about her, she made some jokes back and that five minute exchange was pretty much the extent of our interaction for that year.

So why would she come up to me with her yearbook? Maybe she was simply collecting all the teachers’ signatures or thought it was one more joke she could make but as I started to write in her book I looked up and noticed that she was waiting for me to sign in an almost empty classroom as groups of 8th graders socialized in the hallway.

So I spent another minute, went past the standard message I had been writing in the yearbooks and tried to write something and a little bit more meaningful.  Now, this may have meant nothing to Margaret, but it may have meant something more. I don't know  But our conversations and this gesture of asking me to sign her yearbook stuck with for some reason.

Every actions, every conversation is an opportunity to connect, to show someone that you care.  That is what makes teaching meaningful and significant to students, when teachers take these moments and do something with them.  I don't know if I made any sort of impact on Margaret but I don't think it matters that in a way.

Like the song the 8th grade chose to sing at their graduation, "Fix You" by Coldplay, the expression of care and love isn't that you fix people around you but that you try.

Maybe that's what this whole school year has been about. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Old Bald Man!

This is what the faculty in my school do in our free time . . . (my entrance is around 4:06)

Yes, I am wearing a bald cap on the far right at the end on stage. 

God, I love my school.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Edge Of Glory by Lady Gaga

“It’s a meditation on where you are going to stand, with who and where you are going to stand.”

Bruce Springsteen said this to describe his masterpiece album Darkness On The Edge Of Town. The same words apply to Lady Gaga’s newest single “The Edge Of Glory.”

Does it seem crazy to compare Lady Gaga and Bruce?

Well take these things into consideration: Lady Gaga has called “The Edge Of Glory,” her “Born To Run” and wrote it as a throwback to Springsteen and his music. She was so inspired by Bruce that she featured Springsteen’s saxophone player Clarence Clemons in the middle of the song.  If you strip away the dance beat the echoes of Springsteen come across more clearly.

To me Lady Gaga isn’t the crazy outfits or the provocative music videos. Lots of artists have done similar things to Gaga like Madonna and David Bowie and while these images make an impression in pop culture what is truly meaningful, what truly lasts is their most heartfelt music.

Lady Gaga’s best work has been a combination embracing her influences and mixing them with deep personal feelings like “Speechless” an Elton John-inspired song about her father, which she sang with the Rocket Man himself in a loving tribute to her father and Elton.

“The Edge Of Glory” is similar, taking the memory of her grandfather and mixing in some Springsteen creating the same hopefulness and longing that Springsteen so often expresses.

The title itself expresses a feeling of being at cusp of something great and needing someone else to help you get there. Lines like “Right on the limits where we know we both belong,” and “I’m on the edge of something final we call life” are so much deeper than they seem. For Lady Gaga to push her music beyond the provocative to the emotions shows great growth as an artist.

Gaga described the “Edge Of Glory” as someone’s last moment of earth. The bravery, the optimism, the pure celebratory euphoria expressed in this song makes a powerful statement on the way that we should not only face death, but the challenges we face every single day.

The creation of music is a conversation.  One artists writes a song and another responds.  Just like in a spoken conversation the comments that keep the discussion evolving are the statements that build off of what has been said before and add something personal and meaningful.

Lady Gaga embraces music in this way and responding to things other artists have said previously doesn't make her unoriginal but it makes her a real artist and get her closer to the edge of her musical glory than ever before.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Week 33: The Perfect Moment

Every year I’ve been a student in school I get to this point in the Spring where everything seems perfect. I know my way around the school, I know how to deal with my teachers and my social group feels like it couldn’t get any better. It always seems as soon as I get to this feeling the school year ends and then I have to restart at the beginning of the year building back up to the point of contentment.
Now as a teacher I have a similar feeling towards the end of the year, but what’s different is that its' my students who create this feeling inside of me.

Many teachers enjoy the beginning of the year. There is the excitement of getting to know new kids, reestablishing ways of working and a excitement and energy that is in the year full of possibilities. The hard part of the beginning of the year is not knowing the kids and that’s why the Spring is so special for me.  And now that I really feel like I know my students the year is ending.

As a music teacher, I am fortunate that I get to see my kids develop over multiple years. Currently I teach 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades (the three top grades, I team teach). While there is comfort in working with the many of the same kids next year, they aren’t really going to be the same kids.

Much of what characterizes the way students behave are the classes they are in, the dynamics of their schedule and most importantly the developmental stages they are working through. This requires that even with a group of kids that I have worked with previously, I need to approach them like a brand new group of kids establishing what I mean to them in a different stage of their lives.

Here’s the thing, I’m not really sure how to do this, but I know it has to be done. Many positive things I have established with my students will carry over, but some things will not. It’s not about assuming the worst out of your kids. It’s about being realistic and conscientious about the students’ needs. In the same way that you want to give a student a fresh start who previously had a bad year, a students who is excelling needs to have a clean slate, another chance to redefine him or herself.

Endings bring meaning to things in our lives and the cycle of the school year marks the passage of the time like the seasons. Knowing that things are finite stop us in our daily lives to cherish the moments that we have left.  So maybe it’s not so much that I hit moments when everything is perfect in the school, maybe it’s knowing that the ending is coming makes me realize how great things have become.

Either way, things feel pretty awesome as I enter my final week at school. Yes, I am sad that the year is ending but I’m also feel happy about that feeling knowing that I only feel this way because of how great this year has been.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pajama Jeans


Here's the thing. Jeans are the most comfortable socially acceptable type of pant out there and a lot of people get away with wearing pajama pants in public anyways so who out there is really stuck with this conundrum: I want to wear jeans but they aren't as soft as my pajama! What am I going to do?!?

"fits every figure perfectly"?
"mock fly"?!?
"sexy second skin"!?!?

Now I do understand that it is hard for woman to find a pair of jeans that really fits well.  Guys, our jeans have a sepearate waist and length measurement.  Woman's pants often go through a a single digit number system, which means that a woman who is 5 foot tall could wear the same size as a woman six inches taller than her . . . doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Somehow I don't think Pajama Jeans are really going to solve this issue for women.

. . . but there is that bonus crew-neck t-shirt. . .