writer’s block


This week my students started the third bend of our personal narrative unit. The students were starting a second round of  writing personal narratives. I had 30 minutes left of my prep period and I was stuck. For the past few days, I was trying to think of an event to write about for a personal narrative that I could use to model with the students through this final bend. I was tempted to just use one of the pieces I had written before.

I felt like the student who often tells me they have nothing to write about. I even tried to use some of the strategies that I gave my students when we collected ideas. The bigger problem for me was that I wanted to write about a moment that was age appropriate and relatable for 5th graders.

The precious minutes of my prep were quickly disappearing and I made a choice. I reluctantly decided to choose the moment when our family got our dog, Minnie, about 5 years ago.  I just didn’t want it to just be another cheesy pet story.  As I created my story arc of the events that happened, I wanted to create an arc of the emotions that I went through as well. This was something that the author Sarah Weeks showed us how to do in my summer workshop at Teacher’s College Summer Writing Institute. I created my arc showing the emotions I went through and as I got to the end of my arc, I realized that I felt hopeful.

This moment wasn’t just about our family getting a dog for the first time ever. It happened right before I moved to Korea and my parents were staying in New York. All the kids were out of the house, and this time I would be farther away, than when I left for college. I would be a 13 hour plane ride away along with my brother who moved to Korea a few months earlier. My other brother was away in medical school. I was hopeful because I knew the dog would provide a distraction, but more importantly it would become part of the family. Five years later, I still haven’t moved back to New York, but it’s quite obvious that Minnie is one of us.

A few hours later, when it was time for writing workshop, I shared with my students my story arc of emotions and I unexpectedly felt my eyes getting a bit watery as I shared the deeper meaning of my family getting a dog. There’s something powerful about sharing stories that move your heart with your students.

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kith cafe

So the cafe search continues here in Singapore. Next on my list, kith cafe, which has 3 locations on this island. I went to their location in park mall which is right by Dhoby Ghaut MRT station. I got to hang out with my friend Elaine who’s visiting Singapore for the first time and obviously loving all the good food and things to see here! I love having visitors. Well, besides a passion for teaching, we both share a passion for good food!

The food at kith cafe was ok. I ordered the steak sandwich, and I felt the meat was a bit too cooked. I think I would try some of the other things on the menu next time. I wasn’t a huge fan of the nacho chips that came with it, I think fries would have been better. Overall, a cute place and I would definitely come back again.

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no more excuses


After much going back and forth in my mind, I walked out onto my balcony and it felt cooler than the normal 90 degree weather, so I made a decision. I decided to to run outside.  I looked up on my google maps, how far the distance was to MacRitchie reservoir and I realized that it wasn’t too far. I could run to the reservoir and back, and I remembered that the route I took on the bus seemed pretty easy.

Once I got outside of my apartment building, I quickly felt like i was running in my own video game, dodging people walking on the sidewalks, waiting at stoplights to cross the big streets, passing by people eating outside, and making sure I didn’t trip over any uneven sidewalks, like I did in Chicago.  I found that running on the busy night streets of Singapore was more exciting then expected. Besides making sure I didn’t get run over by any taxis, and the humid weather, I found it bearable tonight.

As I continued my run, at one point, I saw an Asian guy waiting at the crosswalk in front of me. I thought, oh great, I don’t want to be stuck running behind someone, because that’s always kind of awkward. So as soon as the light turned green, I sprinted ahead of him so there would hopefully be a distance. Then, there was a big set of stairs in front of me as I was reaching closer I saw from the corner of my eye the same guy running ahead of me and up the stairs, I kept going straight on the path and felt a sense of relief.

A little while later, the same guy zoomed ahead of me. I must have been running really slow, considering how he caught up to me while going up and down a big flight of stairs. Other than that moment of personal embarrassment, I continued to run back to my apartment and I started to feel a glimpse of hope.

I decided that running needs to be a priority for these next two months as I train for my first half-marathon. Despite the huge amounts of anxiety I get when I think about how much I actually have to run on race day, I decided that I can’t give up yet. I will continue my small steps in training and pray real hard that my training plan will prepare me for race day.  So join me on my running journey. And don’t let me have any more excuses.

Some of the bright and lovely sights on my run tonight!

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the surprise


It’s official, I’m no longer a plant killer. After multiple attempts over the years to grow and keep plants in my apartment, I was never too successful.  Last year, I bought an orchid plant from the wet market near by and it did well for the first month of so. But quickly, I saw it’s downfall as it lost all of it’s flowers and all that was left were it’s green leaves. However, instead of throwing it out, I decided to keep it. I still continued to water it as it stayed out on my balcony through the unchanging Singapore season.

After a long summer back in the States, I came back, and to my surprise, I saw some new buds growing. I honestly couldn’t really believe that the plant was still alive. A week later, the flowers started to bloom one by one. Now, it looked like a brand new orchid; stronger, full of life, and still growing.

I was talking to a co-worker about a student who was quite difficult in her class two years ago, but now this student was doing much better as a fifth grader. She joked how all that hard work she put into that kid was finally paying off.  Just like that orchid plant that I continued to water and take care of, sometimes you might not see any visible changes immediately with the children you work with.

As an international school teacher, we are in a very transient community and it’s hard to see how your students have grown when many of them move to different countries or schools after the school year. I wonder how my students that I taught in Korea are doing now that I’ve lost touch with many of them.  However, that doesn’t mean you made any less of an impact.

Every time I look at my orchid plant, in full bloom, I am still in awe. I touch it’s flowers and make sure it’s really still alive and healthy. So let’s continue to have a bit more patience. Let’s continue to hope when there seems to be no signs of growth. And let’s continue to breathe life into the lives of our students.

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Singapore’s Hidden Cafe: Chye Seng Huat Hardware

When you think of hardware stores, coffee shops don’t usually come to mind.  I’ve been wanting to check Chye Seng Huat Hardware (CSHH) for a while. The outside of the building definitely looks like a hardware shop, but once you go through the side entrance, you quickly enter into the world of coffee. I guess it’s one of those cafes that you know from word of mouth.  And, it’s definitely doing really went. Petrina and I went on a Sunday afternoon and the place was packed. We couldn’t get a seat inside and had to sit outside after waiting for a bit. We indulged in their bite-sized carrot cake which was moist and delicious. I opted for their Jasmine tea being a non-coffee drinker.

If you are the coffee connoisseur, this is probably the place for you. Not only is there is a cafe, there’s a roastery, a coffee school and a private coffee tasting room.  I think I’ll try going back another time when it’s hopefully not as busy. They had some other food options that looked pretty good as well. It definitely had a cool vibe inside and an eclectic crowd (most of them taking pictures of their drinks and food).

Now that I’ve checked off CSHH, there are still so many other cafes here in Singapore that I need to go to. After seeing this list of 20 cafes to visit, my list is getting very long!

Chye Seng Huat Hardware
150 Tyrwhitt Road
Singapore 207563
Tel: +65 63960609
Tue to Fri: 9am – 7pm
Sat to Sun: 9am – 10pm

Kitchen Closes at 5pm

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The Cheapest Michelin Star Restaurant: Tim Ho Wan

I’m finally back in Singapore and I’m on a mission to check out a bunch of good food places and more authentic Singaporean food as well.  On top of my list of places to check out was Tim Ho Wan. It opened recently and is famous for it’s dim sum. The original one is in Hong Kong and won recognition as a Michelin star restaurant.  Immediately after it opened, there’s been a buzz here in Singapore as there is always a long (2 hours+) wait and they don’t take reservations. We went one Saturday morning, and my amazing friend Aimee got there super early for us.  By 9:30am we were seated for dim sum. The line wasn’t too bad early in the morning.

The pork buns were definitely worth the wait! The rest of the dim sum dishes were good as well, but I couldn’t really tell if it was that much better than other good dim sum places I’ve been to here.  We ended up ordering way too many dishes, but our bill came out to less than $50! I’m glad that I finally got to check it out. I think next time, I may just get the pork buns to go and skip the line!

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