Monday, September 29, 2008


Every once in a while, someone asks, "What do you miss most about home?" There are a lot of things I miss--family, baseball, good beer, hot dogs, the lakefront, beer gardens, live music--but, quite honestly, I knew I'd miss these things even before I left. So my answer is usually a vague, "I don't know."

Last weekend, I came a little closer to an answer. 

When some friends invited me to join them for a trip to Rishikesh, I wanted to go, but I also wanted to chill out and do nothing. The thing that convinced me was this: the hotel would have a swimming pool. I live in a place without bodies of water, without bathtubs, without a chance to sit back and soak. And after two days of wandering the hillside, of taking five-hour walks up and down some steep inclines, I realized I needed, not just wanted, a day in a pool. So I said yes.

And in Rishikesh, I discovered the Indian version of truth. When we arrived at the hotel, we wandered over to the pool and found it filled with green water. Almost solid, thick, algae-overgrown water. We spoke to the manager, demanding a discount because the pool was unswimmable. He just looked at us, wondering what the problem was: when asked about the pool on the phone, he had replied that, yes, there is a pool. And I guess he wasn't lying.

I wasn't the only one looking forward to swimming, so we called other hotels, asking if they had pools, and more importantly, were they clean? We drove over to another place, this one with a great view overlooking the Ganges. Down below, we could see white water rafters going past.

The conversation at reception went something like this:

"Do you have four rooms?"
"Yes, sir."
"And do you have a pool?"
"And is it clean?"
"Yes, sir. You will find it to your satisfaction."

Not ready to commit, we went over to look at this clean pool. And there it was: completely dry. Empty. No water. But certainly clean. We left and ended up staying at a place without a pool. We didn't feel like being mocked by a pool we couldn't use.

And I realized: one thing I really miss is the chance to just submerge myself in cool, clean water. That, and I miss direct responses to simple questions.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Small world

After school yesterday, the phone in the English office was ringing off the hook as I walked in. I ran to pick it up before my head of department, a  cynical old Australian, could say anything about the call being from one of my fans. He does that. The phone rings, and he turns to anyone else in the room and says, "Must be one of his many fans." Guess he doesn't get many calls.

The call was from the development office. Something about a couple of my "fans" being at the school wanting to meet me. "Yeah, right," I said, thinking she was kidding around.

"No, really," she said. "There's a couple here in the Lyons Lounge from Chicago on their honeymoon, just passing through town, and they know of you from your blog." 

That sounded a little too random to be made up, so I dashed through a terrific downpour to the staff break room. And sure enough, there was a couple there from Chicago--Jeremy, an IT guy, and Erin, a former CPS teacher and current Museum of Science and Industry employee--who knew of me because of Chicago Teacher Man. 

Well ... it was like this: Jeremy had previously worked at a different international school in India. He moved to Chicago, where he met Erin, who had read a Chicago teacher's blog, an anonymous teacher who recently moved to India. On their trip here, they wanted to head north to the mountains, so they passed through town, then while wandering, got lost and ended up at the school gates. So they stopped by, and when they told school personnel that she was a science teacher and he an IT guy, they got the royal treatment and tour (we currently have a science opening). They asked school staff if there happened to be an English teacher from Chicago ...

We met, and later I dragged them over to my place, then on a walk up the hill, showing them the sites. They stopped for pictures ... of monkeys, of clouds, mountains, a rainbow, weird signs, and on and on, reminding me of me. (Maybe I'll get one or two of those pics to post on this blog?)

In any case, here they are at my place, my first official visitors from Chicago:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Back in Chicago, I found it funny when students couldn't spell a word like "guaranteed" on a quiz called Success Without a Guarantee.

Well, 7,000 miles away, on the same quiz, I've got proof of humanity's similarities. On one of my current student's quizzes:



She finally went with garranteed

One kid almost had a perfect score on the quiz; in fact, his only error was spelling "guaranteed." I garantee he'll be mad at himself when he gets the quiz back tomorrow.