a saturday @ hort park

When I arrived (a bit late) in the morning to Hort Park, I was in awe of the beauty of the lucious greens, tall trees, and open grass field. Where was I? How come this was the first time I’ve actually ventured inside. I had only passed by Hort Park at the start of the southern ridges trail. As I was trying to figure out if I was in the right place and then I heard the worship music echoing from downstairs. I just followed the music down the spiral stairs to the multi-purpose hall. I saw some random people watching from outside through the glass walls as well. I was greeted by 200+ women of all ages and different backgrounds singing together in unison; a beautiful site.

Someone asked me afterwards if the retreat met my expectations. And I simply said that I didn’t really have any expectations. It was our first women’s retreat as a church, and I was definitely excited beforehand, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. The excellence that I saw in how the women of our church planned, prepared, and facilitated was an encouragement to me. Of course the decorations, food, and music were on point, considering the talented ladies that are part of my church!

It ended up being a Saturday well spent. It was a time of encouragement, worship, teaching, and fellowship. I felt so grateful for the women that organized and planned the retreat. I could see their love and heart for the women of the church and the Gospel throughout the day. A few key points that have stuck with me are:

  • We are free to live out the Gospel.
  • Our Christian life is about taking small steps forward.
  • Set your mind on what the Spirit desires.
  • Christians should be characterized by your waiting.
  • We are groaning for the new life to come. 
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2015 in review

slice of life 2014

One of the most important lessons I attained from my graduate degree in education is the importance of reflection. Every week, instead of tests (thank goodness for progressive education), we wrote pages and pages of reflections on our learning. We reflected on everything- from our journey as teachers, education theory, pedagogy, experiences in the classroom, and our graduate school classes. I definitely did see the importance in all that reflecting as an educator and in general, it’s a good life skill to have.

A fews day late, but I started reflecting on 2015 and I found it was hard to put into words accurately all that happened, so I felt that photos would be better. As I started putting together photos I felt pretty blown away at how incredible this past year has been. I had quite a few friends get married and I actually got to be there for the celebrations, many babies were born, friendships were deepened, and also at the same time with sadness as we said goodbye to a good friend unexpectedly -we miss you Crew.

It was also a year full of travel, including two trips back to NY, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Indonesia, Sydney, Paris, Amsterdam, Langkawi, Memphis, Toronto, Chicago, Boston, and Siem Reap. Besides all the fun traveling, I cherished just as much the simple things like exploring Singapore, getting to know my students better, going on hikes, watching tennis, flying kites, taking photos, discovering new cafes and restaurants, watching movies, celebrating birthdays and holidays with friends, meeting new people, and being part of our church community.

As I’ve been thinking about this new year, this quote has been resonating in me:

“You and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in ten thousand little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts.” –Paul Tripp

In this new year, as I live in the little moments of everyday life, I want to give God glory even when those struggles and unexpected bumps emerge. I want a heart fixed on God. I want to be full of gratitude and not complaints. A big thank you to all of my family and friends that helped make 2015 pretty spectacular. Here are some of my highlights from 2015. 🙂

What are you thankful for in 2015? What are you hoping for in 2016? 

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a new thanksgiving tradition

Orange is the new color of choice for a group of SAS teachers during thanksgiving weekend, as we venture to Changi airport with bags packed to the brim, full of a hodgepodge of donatable school supplies, translated Khmer posters, lesson plans, art kits, and the minimal pieces of clothes and toiletries to last us through the four day break. With our bright matching Caring for Cambodia t-shirts, we assemble in orderly lines at the check-in desks. We have our passports in hand along with neatly packed bags filled with kilograms of art kits donated by students from our elementary school students. We play the game of adding art kit bags to our check-in luggage hoping that the combination won’t go over our 30kg luggage allowance. We give big smiles and hope that the airline will be as generous in return with a bags that might go over a few kilograms. We are group you can’t miss- a sea of orange shirts.

This was my third year going back to Siem Reap, Cambodia with a group of about 20 teachers volunteering to train Cambodian teachers. I had a chance to work with 5th grade teachers from schools in Siem Reap. As I reflect on my time in Cambodia, I’m reminded that being part of this CFC trip has become my new tradition. A thanksgiving dinner that involves no big family gathering in my home in NY, but an impromptu, where should we eat in town for dinner, with a group of coworkers that have become like family. We find a nice restaurant, with cheap prices and good food, but no turkey or pumpkin pie. And there is laughter, because happy hour is truly happy when drinks are only a few dollars.

The day after thanksgiving, we wake up early, grab our breakfast quickly, all before 7am, not because we want to beat the lines for black Friday, but because we have another day of training. By 7:50am, we arrive at the school, starting another day of intensive heat while training and working with our Cambodian teachers in the classrooms with no fan. I’m always trying to stay hydrated and cool with capri pants and a light t-shirt, while the Cambodian teachers are in long pants/skirts and long button down shirts, and don’t seem to break a sweat.

Saturday is the day I look forward to the most. Our training is done and we get to visit the classrooms of our teachers and observe them teach. This is truly the highlight of my trip each year; seeing the teachers take the lessons we taught them, and adapting them for their students and classrooms in Khmer. I’m always not sure what to expect, but I’m always amazed.

Sometimes, living abroad means letting go of the old traditions and embracing the new traditions that start to form. So for that, I realize there is much to be thankful for. cfc-0434cfc-0444cfc-0436cfc-0465cfc-0512cfc-0523cfc-0580cfc-0504cfc-0491cfc-0576cfc-0555cfc-0573cfc-0561cfc-0553cfc-0567cfc-0596cfc-0446

a year through photos

The other day, I was telling my friend how I had no space on my phone to download another app because of all the photos that I took. It’s true, especially when you have a 16gb memory space and you love to document everything through photos. I blame it partly on one of my strengths (according to strengths finders test) of “input” that makes me want to collect things.

I like to collect things, and photos in particular because every picture reminds me of a moment, that I will never get back. Who knows when I will need that photo or memory later on in my life? I might as well take a photo and save that moment forever. Ok, I’m sounding a bit more OCD than I really am. To clarify, I have been able to delete a lot of photos (considering my lack of memory on my phone). Currently, I only have 1,707 photos on my iphone and maybe a few videos as well.

In an attempt to reflect on this past year, I decided to look at my photos I took on my dslr camera and shared on my blog. I came across a few that stuck out to me, whether it’s the colors, emotions, or the memories they reminded me of. Each photo brings me back to a moment, big or small, from this year. Here’s a small glimpse into my 2014.

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a paris icon: the eiffel tower

When one thinks of Paris, the Eiffel Tower is one of the first things that most people think of. It’s an incredible icon of Paris. There were abundant reminders of this beautiful iron structure all over Paris. I must admit, I probably had close to 100 pictures with the Eiffel Tower in it.

One of the memorable parts of this Paris trip was actually going inside the Eiffel Tower to the upper levels. We must have waited for over an hour, and it was a chilly night, but definitely worth waiting for the elevator. Even though we didn’t go all the way to the tippy top (someone had a fear of heights, I won’t name names), it was well worth it. Now, I can say, I’ve been inside the Eiffel Tower. On our way down, we took the stairs, and I felt so bad for the people that were walking UP the tower! At one point, I started to encourage the people climbing up. I would not recommend walking up the stairs, especially on a cold day.

The last night in Paris, we of course went back to the Eiffel Tower and enjoyed the lights while eating Pierre Herme macarons. I didn’t eat them all, and brought the remaining ones back with me to Singapore! I think the next country in Europe I plan on visiting is Spain! I just found out that one of my friends will be studying abroad there. Anyone interested?! 🙂

Stay tuned for more posts on my summer in ny!  

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a few of my favorite things {paris}

To say that I’m a bit behind would be an understatement, but nevertheless I think it’s time to start posting my Paris pics from March, then I can post more current pics from NY. It’s hard to not fall in love with Paris after visiting. This was my second time going back (as an adult), and I felt like I could live here. Really, how hard would it be to eat delicious chocolate croissants, baguettes, and macarons everyday? I loved that the apartment we stayed at was walking distance to the Eiffel Tower.  Every morning, we grabbed breakfast from the bakery on our street and ate on a bench at the park next to the Eiffel Tower. So Paris definitely has a piece of my heart still there. Here are some of my favorite parts of Paris. Enjoy! xoxo.

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slice of life challenge day #3: about time

slice of life 2014

I’m a day late again for my post, but I’m going to keep going. Last night, I fell asleep with my laptop next to me on my bed, with my blank blog post for the day open on the screen. All that I had typed in was “slice of life challenge day #3”. It has been one of those weeks, incredibly draining emotionally and physically, and it’s only Tuesday night.

Sometimes you just need a break, which is hard for teachers, when it always seems to be “go, go, go”. How amazing would it be if teachers got 1 full day a month without students, no grade level meetings, no parent e-mails to respond to, no professional development meetings, and were allowed time in their classroom to plan, grade, and reflect on the learning of their students?! Even though 1 full day a month would probably not be enough time, think about the impact that could make on student learning and teacher effectiveness.

I’m not sure if it’s just part of my school culture that teachers feel so overwhelmed and busy, or maybe it’s just something that all teachers face. I’ve taught in four different schools (2 NYC public schools and 2 international schools), in the past 11 years and I can definitely say that no matter the environment (public vs. private), there always seems like there’s too much to do. How many teachers have you met can say, I have enough time in the school day to get all my planning, grading and all those other added responsibilities done? Or what about teachers that say, I never have to bring work home during the week or the weekends?  If you have met those teachers, please have them share with us their secrets.

I’ve come to realizing that we need to embrace the work load and finding ways to manage it so that it’s reasonable. One part of that would be to let go of achieving perfection, and make a priority list. Is this activity or item on my to do list really necessary? How can you decide what is necessary? For me, it’s all about going to my core beliefs and values on my role as an educator. I think a lot about how does this impact student learning.

In addition to spending time on things that will positively impact student learning, I really value building the individual relationships with my students and making sure they know they are valued. So even if it means spending extra time at home commenting on my student blogs (they are all participating in the slice of life challenge), sometimes you just need to take that time, to make sure they know that you care.  In the end, I think it will probably be those little things that you do for your students, like handwritten birthday notes, checking in with a student that looks sad after recess, or sharing how impressed you were with their writing that will resonate in their souls.

How do you manage to balance your time as an educator? How do you find the time to get everything done?