22 August 2009

Summer vacation comes to an end

I should post a blog - it's been a while. Don't know quite know what to say, though. I'm not feeling my best. My ears have been plugged for the last two weeks. It's awful. I went to a doctor in England - my first experience with the NHS (very positive) - and he explained that a buildup of mucus is putting pressure on my Eustachian tubes. So I can't hear well, and my voice sounds like it's coming from the bottom of a steel drum. He prescribed a nasal spray, which I faithfully used, but nothing changed. Back home in Santa Barbara I went to my GP who came up with the same diagnosis, but told me that my plane flight put me back to square one as far as recovery. He prescribed an assortment of pills. Now, my whole body feels strange to me. For somebody who is rarely in poor health, this experience is very frustrating. It makes me realize how important good health is.

It's my last weekend of summer vacation. Monday school starts and guess what, I have 29 students on my roll. That's right. 29. Well, I'm a world citizen. I know what it's like in the real world. I realize how privileged we have been the last 13 years with class sizes of 20 kids. So, I'm not going to complain. But, I'm going to have to learn how to adjust.
I don't feel ready yet to be in the classroom. Even though I had a fab summer vacation, somehow it feels like it wasn't long enough to really feel like last year was last year. Anyway, I'm going to work really hard this weekend to get psyched up and excited about teaching. I do love my job. I'm not one of those who counts the days till the year is over. But the first week is definitely not my favorite. I like to work hard to get the kids jazzed about school and their new grade. But, with the way I'm feeling I don't know how I'm going to manage.

Our trip across the pond was great overall. Of course there were a few negatives. Like the weather in England. My goodness, in the two weeks we were there we must have had about 3 sunny days. Summer is summer, though. Mild temperatures, long hours of daylight - so we certainly were able to do lots of fun things. When we got back from France we spent a few days in Kenilworth (near Warwick University) with our friends, David and Rona Epstein. We did some beautiful walks. My favorite thing about England is getting out into the countryside for long walks. It's always so rewarding. Green meadows, sheep and cows, rivers, canals, great English oak trees, 'conka' trees, and always a charming teahouse not too far away. That's my second favorite thing about England. Being able to go out for a decent tea in the afternoon. It comes steaming hot in little teapots with warmed cups. Then there are freshly baked cakes and scones to accompany your tea. Clotted cream and jam for the scones. Yum, yum. Kenilworth is near Stratford on Avon -Shakespeare country. A lot of the architecture is Tudor which I find delightful.

After Kenilworth we returned to London for the last days of our trip. We decided to go around the city and absorb what we could. So we strolled through the usual places - Leicester Square, Soho - where we lunched at a Chinese/Thai restaurant (fine, wholesome food) - Chinatown, Trafalgar Square, the Mall, onto St. James's Park, Westminster Abbey, Parliament Buildings, across the bridge to the south bank of the Thames, and past the London Eye and hordes of tourists. The south bank along this stretch toward the Tate Museum has become quite the tourist hub. There's a whole lot of entertainment - like the type you find in Venice Beach, CA and in San Francisco near Fisherman's Wharf. Buskers, people trying to be statues, magicians, clowns, the works. When we got the National Theatre Daryl decided we should try to get tickets for a play that evening. We decided to see "The Observer", a play about a group of journalists and external observers sent to monitor presidential elections in a west African country. It was a great production with the usual themes of African countries resentful of the west's insensitive criticisms. The National Theatre has a reputation for fine theatre. We aren't into musicals so didn't do any of those.
On our last day in London we went for a walk along Regent's Canal - from Camden Town to Regent's Park. It's a lovely walk and on a Saturday morning lots of people do this walk. When we went home Angie had prepared a huge feast for lunch. Her friends, Suzie and Richard, and her sister (my cousin) Jay, joined us. We spent a most enjoyable afternoon of great conversation and sumptuous Indian food. Later, when everyone left, Daryl and I took one last walk across Hampstead Heath. We stopped on Parliament Hill to see London's skyline and tried to name what we saw: the BT tower, the London Eye, the 'Gerkin', the skyscapers of 'The City', Canary Wharf, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Chrystal Tower. I hated the thought of leaving this great city. But, I was ready for my home in Santa Barbara.

06 August 2009

French Riviera

Hi Folks, I'm back in England at the home of our dear friends, David and Rona Epstein, in Warwick (Kenilworth). We had the most amazing time in Italy and France, but because of a lack of Internet access I couldn't update my blog or Facebook. No Internet is seriously a drag. However, our days were so full I probably wouldn't have had the time anyway. Last week, while in Antibes, I had a few minutes to scribble down some thoughts which were saved in a draft: Here's what I wrote:

Hey there, sorry for the long delay in update. Though I have to say, there isn't exactly time for an update right now. That darn Mediterranean is just meters away and is so irresistable.... Bought a bloody fashionable bathing suit in Nice yesterday - a bikini, of course - will post glamor shots soon. Anyway, on the beach today, I thought, dang, I looked so fashionable - in my lime green and brown bikini with a belt around the waist, and stuff. I really looked cool. Honest to god. Anyway, I'm at a cafe right now sipping Rose - pink wine - 'cos that's what you do here. It's hot. God, it's sweltering. The sky bright, bright blue, the Med. azure and calm and warm.

Since leaving England last week our days have been busy, busy, busy. Really hard to find time to do email and blogs and things. Suffice it to say, we are having the time of our lives.

Last week we were in Verona, Italy to see opera. Let me tell you, if you haven't experienced watching opera at this amazing ancient arena, you must add it to your list of must do's. First of all watching opera with Italians whose passion for this is so obvious is an experience all by itself. In fact, when the tenor sang Nessun Dorma during Turandot, the audience began singing along. Then there was a demand to repeat the aria. so, guess what, the tenor moved to center stage and sang Neesun Dorma all over again. The audience loved it, seemed drunk with joy. But apart from the uber- enthusiastic audience, the venue itself is sheer magic. And the stage set up - OMG - breathtaking. This is living.

End of draft!!!

When I have a few minutes more I'll describe briefly our last days on the Cote d'Azure. We stayed in a lovely hotel in Ville Franche Sur Mer. From our room we had gorgeous views of the sea. We sipped champagne on our balcony as we watched yachts bopping on the water. But more about this later.

The next day or two we'll be in Kenilworth, then it's back to London for a couple days. We return to Santa Barbara on Sunday.