April 2010

Not that Friday is the end of my week these days. This show has been occupying all my time, including weekends. Last night I got home sometime around 9, having left for work around 7. Another 12 hour day; I’m not sure my tired old body can take much more of this.

Fortunately it all comes to an end on Sunday, so there are only four more days. Unfortunately Pam leaves on Sunday for a week in Cambodia, so we wont get to see much of each other for another week. Last night she prepared a homemade soup, and ate it by herself at around 8 when it looked like I wasn’t going to make it again. She has been very supportive and understanding through all of this extra work, but we do miss each other’s company, and occasionaly wonder if perhaps there isn’t another way we could arrange this.

The show continues to lurch forward, always an inch or so from disaster, it seems. There are about sixty of us involved in this thing in one way or another, so there are a lot of people to keep on track. There are not a lot of prima donnas in this group, but people do get sick and have other commitments – like school work! – that need to happen.

Typically no one sees the tech stuff that happens, but it takes a huge amount of work to get all the sets built and the props made. Then there all all the sound and light cues, the equipment to get wired into place. It seems pretty much endless at this point. I have had a good crew working with me on all this, and they have been fun to work with. But at this point I just want the show to start. Compared to what I have been doing for the last month and a half, that will seem like a holiday!

Just spent two days sitting in a very unusual but interesting workgroup and again find myself wondering where this is all headed. There were thirteen of us invited and it was facilitated by a very capable local Consultant who is fluent in both English and Khmer. Hired simply to facilitate the process, she had no real history with any of the organizations involved. The programs represented were varied; blindness and disabilities, hypertension and diabetes, social work and counselling, microfinance and insurance, skills training and income generation, patient registration and health insurance, and of course, media.

The only thing we had in common was that we each have funders or partners in the Netherlands. These Netherlands organizations have formed an Alliance which is intending to submit joint funding proposals for money available through the Dutch government’s development program. As there have been a number of limitations to the success of previous programs, a decision has been made that all future proposals must use a “Programmatic Approach”, something none of us had ever heard of before.

Our task was to make recommendations to the Alliance for a strategy and specific target areas on which to focus. It was amazing to talk about the roadblocks each have faced and to watch as our small working group came up with a design for an ideal approach. Those of you who know my passion for CHE will understand my joy as they mapped out a CHE approach and then were delighted to hear that this strategy has already been in use for some time.

Even more delightful is the fact that the proposal that we have written uses a Programmatic Approach, and of course a CHE partnership and this group all want on board. Not sure if this group will ever get together again formally but I am sure we will be calling on each other to share our expertise as we go about our work.

The CPU staff and students are putting on a musical theatre of songs from Broadway musicals. It has been fun, but like all of these things, exhausting. I have had to wear a number of hats for this production: set design and construction, props, sound and light. All part of the mix when you are in a foreign city wiothout much in the way of community support. I was even asked to do a little choreography; not exactly my strong suit, although Pam and I still enjoy dancing when we can.

Here I am leading a couple of students through the steps for “16 Going On 17” from Sound of Music. Like most young people they learn to breakdance long before they can foxtrot or waltz. But they are fast learners. The routines for “Fame” and “He Had It Coming” were fantastic. Another teacher is conducting a student band for the performance, so all the music will be live.

I just secured a technician for the sound and light portion of the show this weekend, a nice Christian fellow that I met through the church, who is doing the three days for a reasonable price. And Jamie, my student teacher, has taken over the props and is helping with set design, so my load has been lightened considerably is the last few days. With most of the construction – including a stage thrust extension – behind me, I should be able to enjoy the next couple of weeks leading up to the show.

Like many professionals I feel a sense of responsibility to train the next generation. This hasn’t always worked out well for me. I have had some excellent student teachers over the years, and I have had my share of losers as well. A bad student teacher can not only make your life miserable for two to four weeks; they can also force you to reteach for the next month what has been poorly covered while they had the class.

They can also be incredibly destructive. One nasty young lady went balistic on my kids at every opportunity: she not only had control issues, but she badly misunderstood her perogative to correct behaviour. Then when I confronted her she would dissolve in hysterical tears. She clearly needed more help than I could give her, but rescuing my class from her abuses took most of the next six months.

Then there was the guy that went down every rabbit trail that crossed his neural pathway: his mind was mental jumbalaya (kway teow, for my Asian readers). One fine day he was conducting an experiment – that as usual had practically nothing whatever to do with what was on the curriculum – and he set his tie on fire! There it was smouldering away under his very nose, in plain view of my fascinated students who were holding their collective breath (and snickering under it) to see how long it was going to take for this guy to realize he was on fire. Ah, me; teaching can be such a cruel gig.

Fortunately teaching in Asia builds in its own safety net. There aren’t a lot of teachers who have the moxey to do their practicums on another continent, and those that do don’t need a lot of coaching from me. Jamie has been with me for week now and she has already taken over some burdensome responsibilities in dramatic arts that were beginning to weigh pretty heavily on me. We have a musical theatre coming up at the end of the month, and this has meant that I have been wearing four or five different hats in addition to my regular teaching load. I have been happy to let Jamie take a couple of these.

She and her two colleagues have been in Singapore for the weekend, but Monday she begins in earnest on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I am looking forward to seeing what she has in store for my students, and getting caught up on my marking while she is teaching. There are just two months to go in this term, and the remainder of this year looks like it is going to be very enjoyable indeed.

I know that there are many of you who have been praying for my Dad so here is the latest news. Following several weeks of almost constant, excruciating pain and trials on medications that left him as limp as a dishrag- but mercifully pain free, he did get to see the surgeon last Tuesday.

The good news was that the MRI clearly showed the nature of the problem, a blood vessel is sitting against one of the intercranial nerves and it is correctable with surgery. Although the surgery does involve going into the skull, the surgeon was pretty confident that it is a straight forward procedure with minimal risk. There is some risk from the general anesthetic, especially given his recent heart attack so he will need a pre-op assessment by the cardiologist and anesthetist. A decision was made to book him for “urgent” surgery.

Today came the bad news. Given the state of the health care system, the wait for an OR for “urgent” surgery is four to five months. Randy and Syl are however developing some advanced skills in the titrating of medication doses and in monitoring the care he is recieving. We now have some hope that they may have found a drug combination that will allow Dad some freedom from pain and yet be able to breathe, alert enough to eat, be safe and even get a bit of pleasure out of life while he awaits his OR date. Last night was the first night in several weeks that my family felt it was safe to leave him alone overnight in the retirement home.

We know that God is in the details and are trusting that the wait is the best for Dad as at least it will give his heart some time to recover. He would appreciate yours prayers that during this time he would have some measure of pain relief and freedom from the overwhelming fear that an attack will happen at any moment. Pray for my family at home as they seek to look after Dad and for us a we make decisions about when I need to return to Canada.

It is very difficult to be away at this time but I know that the amount of time I can spend at home will have limitations. I would love to be there now to help with his care but I also want to be there through his surgery. We are now in the process of booking flights home immediately after graduation on June 19th and although Steve will need to be back to start teaching on July 15th, we are praying that I will be able to stay on until his surgery is over.

Our lives are busy these days, and not without their share of grief and responsibility. But we do make it a point to celebrate opportunities to see and do new things, for that is what continues to keep our lives in balance. This weekend I had the chance to see the Malaysian Grand Prix, the first Grand Prix I have seen live since Dad took my brother and I to see the first Canadian Grand Prix in 1961. (Just in case you were thinking that I was over-indulging out here).

The tickets were a gift, as was the invitation to the Mercedes party on Saturday. I did end up spending about 30 bucks on these neat little handheld monitors they rent these days. They not only show video of the parts of the race track you can’t see, but give you updated track times, leaderboard and even onboard video views of whatever driver you select – great for close-ups.

I caught a ride out to the track on the back of a buddy’s motorbike, and spent two days at the track, seeing everything from practice, through qualifying to actual race. The whole experience was fantastic, and the level of driving by these guys is really something to watch.

On Saturday there was a fair bit of rain for qualifying. Here is an uncharacteristic view of Lewis Hamiltion, spinning out on the hairpin entering the grandstand straightaway. Button did worse, and neither McLaren or the two Ferraris made it to the front of the grid.

On race day Hamilton sliced through the field like a hot knife, but ran into a very stubborn Sutil and had to settle for sixth. Considering he started at 20th, he did very well indeed. Provided his car continues to perform, he should do well this year again.

On Saturday evening Pam and I had tickets to the Mercedes Benz party, and had a lot of fun munching on canapes and dancing to some very decent live music. With a number of colleagues from the college along for the affair, it made for a very pleasant evening. Today it is back to work and responsibility again.