There is no place like home…

Our year in Xi’an China has come to an end. Now that we are home, there are so many things we appreciate that we took for granted before. My comp I students are writing about what they are grateful for this week, and I will join them by making my own list.

  1. I’m grateful for clean air and big skies.
  2. I’m grateful for places to run, swim, and bike.
  3. I’m grateful for my office and office technology like the copy machine.
  4. I’m grateful that we are reunited with our son, Israel.
  5. I’m grateful to have my own car and a valid driver’s licence.
  6. I’m grateful to have meaningful, creative, challenging work.
  7. I’m grateful for my colleagues and students.
  8. I’m grateful for my church.
  9. I’m grateful to have all the coffee I can drink–all the time.
  10. I’m grateful to have a big, extended family near by.

But most of all, I’m grateful that I was granted the opportunity to spend a school year in China with my husband Jeremy, and my son, Asher. We learned and experienced so many things we would have missed had we never traveled. Thank you all for following our journey.

The Poetry of Goodbye

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On Tuesday, I said goodbye to my freshmen classes for the semester. They started in week 4 and ended in week 13, so I only had 10 weeks with them this semester. Our time together started with me in tears and all fifty of them in the wrong classroom. (Also, a man smoking a cigarette inside came to our class and yelled at us in Chinese but then left…) Our last day was much better than our first day.

Instead of taking a final exam, my students read poems that they found from the Poetry Out Loud website. I had students choose their own poems and then mark the poems for stressed words (function words like nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, question words, interjections, and negative auxiliary words). Then students got up in front of the class and read their poems.

They treated me to a range of poems from “She Walks in Beauty Like the Night” by Lord Byron to “300 Goats” by Naomi Shihab Nye. Students even found poems I’d never heard before but fell in love with. For example, “Sad Boy’s Sad Boy” by Charles Bernstein, “Late Summer” by Jennifer Grotz, and “Waving Goodbye” by Gerald Stern are poems I will re-read on my own later thanks to my class. I even had the joy of listening to a poem by Vachel Lindsey who I am mostly familiar with because of his support for Langston Hughes.

Unfortunately, my time with the freshmen ended, and I will not see them again until next semester. But as we left the classroom, the first snow of the season started to stick on the sidewalk. Some of the students were seeing snow for the very first time, and everyone had cellphones out to photograph the moment. That is poetry enough to last until spring.