This blog is coming out from it’s subterranean hiding place, where it’s been since my last post – nearly 2 years ago. Crazy!
I have been toying with starting to blog again, home life has calmed down considerably and that part of my life feels “bloggable” again. Then along came a post on the Louet Lovers group of Ravelry, describing a new wheel made by Louet but sold and marketed by Woolmakers, called Bliss. And oh by the way, they were looking for test spinners – people willing to share what they make with a Bliss, and in return they’d get a free wheel. They still are looking – until April 30th – if you would like to get in on the action. As luck would have it – I was selected for a wheel. It arrived today which means I can pick it up from the post office tomorrow. I am just a wee bit excited!
My first wheel was a Louet S10. Well that’s not quite true. My very first wheel was a Babe single treadle. It didn’t take long for me to switch up to the Louet – structured quite similarly as the Babe, but better quality all around. I adored the S10 – it was versatile, I spun lots of different kinds of fiber on it, and lots of different kinds of yarn. Then I “babysat” a Norm Hall wheel for a few months for a friend, promptly fell in love with it, and pleaded with her until she sold it to me. Which required divesting myself of the S10 as well as some other fiber things. Long story short, I have the Norm Hall wheel still, but have missed the S10 all along. Not enough to give up the Norm Hall mind you (it’s a stunning wheel…), but still.
Thus – the blog is reborn, I sense an impending spate of spinning in my future, and – I have a Bliss wheel!
Today was super busy. Yesterday was for parts, only in a very different way.
I was fetched at 8:30 am and we went out to the School for the Deaf in Bamako. It was a holiday (Happy Jour D’Afrique!) so no children were there, but a number of adults were there, including a deaf artist I (I’m bringing a painting home…), and a few of the others I have been hearing about from Kathleen. They have a sewing studio with like 15 machines, and they make clothes and shopping bags and a bunch of stuff. The art studio was great – those children are blessed to have such an artist on staff! He uses car paint because that’s what’s readily available to him.
Then, we did a bit of a shopping tour. We didn’t go to any open air markets, but to a number of local art and artisan shops. The last one had a great selection of beads, and of textiles. I’m bringing home enough fabric to open a small sewing shop myself – but holy cow – it’s a tie-dye lover’s paradise here. That, and batik. Some of the fabric is waxed when it’s done- really pretty thickly.
Somehow, the day was tiring.
Today – tiring in a whole different way. We met with the President of the National Assembly (sorta like the US Congress), which was an experience in itself. Turns out, he has two deaf nieces. I went down a receiving line shaking hands, and ended up in this lobby with a TV camera pointed at me and they started asking questions about why I was there and what I hoped for re. deaf education in Mali. I was so not prepared to so anything coherent – supposedly it’ll be on TV at 8 so we’ll see about that. Then, we met with a subgroup of the Assembly charged with working on special education – and I gave my talk to them. They were awesome – they asked very thoughtful questions, even some pretty technical details about my research results. After lunch, we met with a group from the Minister of Social Development (I think…) – that was my biggest audience all week, there were about 30 people. All four talks this week went well – and we found out this morning (near the end of that presentation) that the Assembly has just passed a law setting up a focus in the country on special education.
Perhaps it’s just the “density” of things I did this week – but I really think the ball is rolling on changing policy and practice for special ed in Mali. Kathleen Peoples (my primary contact all week, from the Public Affairs Office at the US Embassy in Mali, for a few more days anyway – her tour is up) has been working on this for three years – and the week before she leaves things are falling into place. It’s pretty awesome thing to see.
My work is about done here. Tomorrow, I am going to Campement Kangaba, where Boubacar Traore (aka Kar Kar) is performing Friday night. I am SO excited about it. I may wrangle a ride on the Nile while I’m there. WTF was I thinking not packing a swimsuit? Though somehow I think it’ll be ok to swim in the pair of boxers I brought to sleep in and a tank top…
Yesterday and today have been busy. I have met a series of Deputés and Ministeres, and other high-ranking officials, including the Minister of Culture (awesome awesome man), and I have given my talk twice so far – first to a small group (the Education Team at USAID here) where I lucked out and got to present in English, and today to a group of students enrolled in a teacher training program here in Mali. Additionally I have wrangled one visit to a “marché” so far to shop for some souvenirs
In photos. First up, three photos I took at the National Museum of Mali, in the textiles building/exhibit, before I got yelled at for taking photos. ”Yelled at” includes an attempt at extorting “a present” from me in order to not report me to the authorities. Kathleen (my host here, from the Embassy) simply replied that he should definitely report us to the authorities. While that stopped the requests for presents and reiteration that photos were not allowed, we did subsequently have a shadow through the rest of our stay at the museum
None the less, the textiles were interesting:
The rest of the exhibit was truly awesome – there were examples of textiles from various tribes, indigo-dyed fabrics, clothing examples (some quite old), etc.
The buildings in Mali are an eclectic bunch. There are a slew of shacks like this:
This one is actually in pretty good shape. Many have half of the thatched roof/sides gone; many simply have the upright sticks and something resembling a roof, many are constructed out of whatever materials could be scrounged and look nothing like this. I assume folks sleep in them; they’re there all day; they sometimes have stuff for sale (eg., mangos, eggs, or random crap). There are babies and children everywhere. I don’t think I’ve seen a single one fuss- well, I was walking by one today who was sitting in front of a bowl of mangos, and mom liberated the 5 inch sharp knife it had found (the baby was I’m sure only about a year old – not yet verbal). She squawked for a minute. Most of the babies I’ve seen are carried in a pouch on Mom’s butt – until they’re about three I believe.
Other buildings are a range. Some are beautiful and well-maintained. Some are in various stages of construction, which can last so long so as to start deteriorating before construction is finished. (There’s something about property taxes – they don’t start paying taxes on the building until it is occupied- so many remain in indefinite construction or something):
The food is excellent – talk about locally sourced and fresh. There seems to be a limited menu at most restaurants (mind you, “limited” is only in reference to the US’ overabundance of choices at restaurants….), and often it includes skewers (kabobs) of either beef or fish, and some chicken dish. If you order something like goat, it was likely butchered recently, and prior to that it was wandering around on the streets. See, like this – which is a half a block away from the hotel (end of same block the hotel is on):
Being herded down the street:
My visit to the students in a teacher training program remains my favorite. Check out these future teachers of Bamako:
Tomorrow, I visit the school for the deaf (can’t WAIT), and the afternoon is work-free (Happy Jour D’Afrique everyone), and a shopping trip has been planned. Thursday is a crazy full day with the biggest presentation (to the National Assembly, as well as a meeting with the president of the National Assembly). Friday will probably be a light day but these things can change.
*Things which have me smitten
Though – note that I have been traveling for approximately 22 hours and running really rather empty. No pictures yet as I have to sort out getting them off of various electronic sources (my usual email photo to self tactic won’t work here). I arrived after dark so most pictures so far are of the amusing but not really that interesting variety. E.g., of the hotel shower where I need a technology lesson to use it – the jets jutting out every which way scare me!
In no particular order:
* I flew on a small Delta Connect (or something) flight between ROC and Detroit, then on Air France/business class to Paris, then a 5 hour layover at Charles de Gaulle, and another Air France business class seat to Bamako, Mali. Business class is sooooo spoiling. They kept plying me with champagne, wine, and meals – holy cow, these in-flight meals were amazing. Four courses of supremely well-cooked food (a beautiful piece of beef on the first flight, salmon on the second), plus a cheese course, lovely lovely desserts, and a starter course – one had fois grass plus a shrimp/carrot salad kind of thing. I briefly regretted giving up my business class seats for the return home – until I regained my senses and realized that I will no doubt find plenty of really lovely food while IN Paris for four days instead. (By laying over in Paris, my flights are split into two separate journeys – the business class ticket kicks in if the travel lasts more than 14 hours).
* I certainly arrived quite well-rested by flying business class. Comfy seats which expand out so you are practically lying down; room to stretch out, less “frenetic” pace of anything being served – I slept a lot.
* Though it was surreal too. We were kept SO separate from the masses, it felt like we were on an entirely different plane.
* My teenaged French? 33 years later – it’s still there, somewhere, buried in the recesses of my brain. Though, it’s getting me in trouble. I SOUND good (excellent accent when learned at a young age and in an immersion environment), so I get into trouble easily – folks don’t realize that I’m a bumbling Americaine beneath the accent.
* I packed a denim jacket for the cooler air-conditioned rooms (warning from my contact at the embassy). I’m wishing I had brought a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt – this hotel is chilly! Though it keeps the mosquitoes and malaria-potential at bay, so….
*There’s a really kinda suspect painting over my bed. A single huge eyeball on a slant – corner to corner on the 3″ by 5″? frame. Someone’s watching me. Not sure who…
* I’m boiling my first batch of water for consumption. Wish me luck in avoiding gastric distress. I have figured out how to keep the kettle button from popping off so it’ll boil for 5 minutes not 5 seconds
* I have no idea how much the 1.5 L bottle of Evian costs which they have conveniently left in my room. It could be worth it though. the price list has a price for the half litre bottle in the fridge but…
* The drive from the airport was interesting – albeit after dark. I’m looking forward to seeing more tomorrow.
* It’s a cash economy here. The hotel accepts Visa (though not MC). I don’t expect anywhere else to though.
* 1 US $ = 460 CFA (currency of Mali). Figure that out in your head (1500 CFA for small bottle of water….um, I’ll be using that currency converter app liberally). (Ok, a guesstimate is close – a little more than $3).
*Euros are easier. 7 Euros=10$. 7:10 is easier than 460:1.
* I haven’t figured out how to text home from my phone. Supposedly I can for 50c a pop, which would be convenient for saying “hey! Get Toby on Skype!” although it appears that Skype doesn’t play nicely with the hotels “private” internet network. Gmail video chat will suit just fine. Once we figure out how to all be there at the same time. Calling home is just not feasible – it costs $5/minute.
* I finished reading David Lebovitz’ My Sweet Life in France on the plane – a totally awesome book. And excellent preparation for a food tour of Paris next week.
*I started Mali Blues by Leive Joris, and got about half way through on the plane too. It’s interesting – and also a good read upon arriving here, although it was published in 1998 so not necessarily a current view.
*I started knitting with Kidsilk Haze – for the first time. You know, the yarn more often referred to as crack. Now I know why. It’s really lovely to knit with. This particular skein has bits of sparkley silver spun into it also – Kidsilk Night. Shockingly this yarn has been discontinued (seriously??? it’s lovely.) This is a deep deep nearly black purple color called Macbeth – it’s totally yummy and is en route to becoming a Scarfuffle (ravelry link).
* I have been surrounded by friendly people all day and also seen a number of women wearing their babies. I think I saw them using a kanga – there’s a picture and a video of how to use one here. Toby was a total sling baby – he’d probably still love to be carted around in one though at 104 pounds or whatever he is now it’s so not happening. It was very cute to see the babies’ little feet stick out though
I’m off to sleep – there will be some sightseeing tomorrow – squee!
I cannot get enough of the three tulips I have blooming this year. (The deer ate most of the tulips a few weeks ago – hopefully they were delicious, though I quite happy they missed a few.)
Additionally, this is a test post. I leave Friday for a trip to Mali and then Paris. Internet connections will be few and far between in Mali – but hopefully I will fond wireless spots to get some photos up
This is a difficult year re planning for Toby’s move up to through the school grades. He moves up to the middle school (6th grade) next year, and the real problem is that the building is horrible regarding functional accessibility for anyone who uses wheels to get around. It is technically up to ADA code, but it is far from “friendly” – it’s a hard building to deal with even for folks who are ambulatory. I swear, I’m having more trouble with sorting this out emotionally than I did when sending Toby off to kindergarten (that was a hard thing to do with both of my kids – a combination of excitement plus bittersweet about “launching” your kids off into worlds wider than one which orbits around moms/parents).
The building is sort of like a combination of a (1) multi-level split-level part, attached to a (2) multi-floor “donut” shaped building with a hole in the middle and an elevator in opposite corners, with neither corner particular close to the multi-level split-level part. You enter the school into a big open area, where there are four choices – a hallway at the back which goes off to the left, a hallway at the back which goes further to the back and the elevator a stairway jutting out from the wall on teh right about halfway back which ascends to a loft type thing and the main office, and a sunken atrium thing straight ahead which opens to an open area, and then beyond that the cafeteria. Note all the stairs, and the only way to the places is via going back down a long hallway to an elevator, which then connects to long hallways which connect back to areas at the front of the building.
So – while most kids can go up the stairs to the main office for whatever they need to take care of (the nurses office is up there too, and counselors, and things like the table to pick up items that parents drop off), and then off down the hallway to classrooms – Toby will have to make a 20 minute trip the long way around and back if he needs to go to that area before a classroom. Twenty minutes is an eternity as far as the daily schedule goes at middle school, he’ll miss half a class. Plus, reason #1 that I suspect he’ll be spending much of his middle school career in hallways, and not for punitive but rather mobility reasons.
That’s the multi/split level part of the building. The donut part of the building is also a challenge. The elevators are old and only sometimes functional. (Hannah was on crutches for three weeks in 6th grade, so they gave her a key to use the elevator. Three separate times in those three weeks, the elevator was “broken” and she had to hop down the stairs on her crutches to get to wherever.) Hopping down the stairs will not be an option with Toby. Instead? He will be waiting in the hallway for however long it takes for them to fix the elevator. Reason # 2 that I expect he’ll be spending much of middle school looking at the hallway walls.
There are a zillion other reasons why I suspect he’ll become intimately familiar with the hallways.
We also have to decide what kind of “program” to put him in – there are three choices:
1. Regular classes, with a resource room period daily.
2. Regular classes with a Teaching Assistant there, with a resource room period every other day.
3. Modified classrooms – only special ed students, only a special ed teacher, no resource room, no mainstreaming/inclusion (however you plan that out), though there’s probably room for “push out” to a regular classroom for a few periods a day.
Toby is a kid who has mobility needs, but academically is at or above grade level and holds his own against peers.
With any option, they recommend that Toby skip taking a foreign language until “later”, as the resource room will take the scheduling slot of a foreign language (and apparently no one in option #3 ever takes a foreign language).
Toby is highly communicative and verbal, and he has the best vocabulary in his class according to his current and prior few teachers. There is no academic reason for keeping him out of a foreign language, plus he’d do well at it I suspect. I have no idea if option #1 or option #2 is better (#2 gives a sort of “case manager” – if the Teaching Assistant is “good,” they’ll keep tabs on where Toby’s at across the school days). Resource room is where they’ll do stuff like give him extended time on tests when he needs it, and when they’ll be able to “scribe” his work (he speaks it, someone else writes it) without bothering the rest of the class.
Further, there’s the PE “oy” part of the puzzle. There are two PE options: Regular PE, which starting around now becomes sort of competitive/team training stuff, and some sort of modified – which is mostly for the kids who for usually cognitive and social reasons do not “fit” well in the competitive/team environment, and it’s “skills based” – they send them out to the field if the weather is good, and they work on throwing a ball. Etc.. (Honestly. It’ll take Toby the entire PE period to get the walker across the grassy field.) The problem really is that CP is pretty low-incidence – the more common reasons to offer a modified PE program are for other kinds of developmental disabilities. So in addition to the physical challenge part of getting a walker over a grassy field, he will be miserable in a group of kids who don’t communicate as well as he does. He is a really sensitive kid and as friendly and aware as can be of other folks’ challenges, but asking him to do a chunk of time in a place where talking doesn’t work so well? Not a great fit for him. Plus – he LOVES trying to figure out how to participate in team sports. He will not love figuring out how to throw a ball 10 feet. He is perfectly adequate at things like wheelchair basketball and sled hockey. If the sport happens while sitting, he’ll do it and he’ll be doing PE.
PT cannot substitute for PE. There’s a state law about a certain amount of PE throughout K-12 (it varies by age, it’s about 3 times per 6 day cycle in middle and high school). I get that PT is not a good substitute for adapted team sports. However it beats the hell out of modified skills based stuff. And he’s doing the PT regardless, it’s hard to envision him “having” to do what will be a mostly useless and miserable PE experience for him.
The one way we may be able to “manage” the PE piece is that something on an IEP trumps state law. So if we can get the PE reduced to one time per cycle on his IEP, and then request that that time be used for pull-out PT time, we may be able to manage it that way. That, or I’m prepared to get him a doctor’s note and give him a study hall instead for every single PE day during the school year Somehow I doubt we’ll be able to get it reduced to zero.
But the irony – PE is required but foreign languages are optional – it slays me.
Startitis is upon me in the knitting department! I have finished a few things – Toby has new Harry Potter mittens. I have nearly finished a few others — I have several buttonholes to finish on a sweater; and a half-knit baby sweater.
But with the start of two weeks off from work, I am madly pondering new options. Hannah would like a sweater (cardigan, stockinette or garter on the top half, an eyelet/lacy thing on the bottom half) which I have started designing (really, borrowing design features from a number of existing patterns) and picking out yarn for. While looking for a different skein of homespun, I pulled out two other homespun yarns and am casting on for hats and mittens. (No doubt, once I locate the one I was looking for there will be another new project…).
The house is bizarrely decluttered and ready for the holidays – the tree is up, the downstairs levels is mostly hot-spot-free, presents are all either here or on their way (and I have managed to avoid all malls altogether this holiday season!), I’m mapping out meals with the kids for the week. One batch of cookies has been baked and consumed.
And thus, a lovely break begins
I’m starting late but apparently that’s not against the rules – #reverb10 is about daily word prompts for writing and reflection, and creating community by sharing stories. There are 15 prompts up already (um, yeah, it’s 12/15…), so I’m picking one and the lucky pick is Appreciate. While I’m not sure I can pick a single thing that I appreciate most of the whole last year, right now what I’m appreciating is how technology has changed my teaching. I am teaching a course this quarter which I haven’t taught in over 20 years, and while the course content has not really changed (Psych 101 is still pretty much the same…), there are now a total slew of resources to be had in webland.
Today’s find was software I can use to caption YouTube videos. Oh. My. Gawd. YouTube has SO much stuff on there – and it’s a great resource for pulling out snippets to demonstrate various concepts in a survey course. This week’s topic is developmental psychology – and while students can read about Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, and how children progress into things like conservation of liquid and number, seeing it happen is totally different. However when you teach a class of deaf students – much of YouTube is inaccessible – as it is not like TV which is mandated to be captioned. (It’s entirely different from TV. It’s an open source kinda thing – all material is populated by individuals – not by production companies.)
CaptionTube is totally easy to use. You can point to your own videos, or to urls of other videos, and then you add captions throughout the video. You sign in with a gmail/google account, and away you go. I have captioned a short video already, and mailed the caption file off to the owner – if they agree, they can add it to their video and voila. It’s captioned.
This is the video I’m trying to caption, and here is the caption text and timestamps:
00:00:04,835 –> 00:00:06,835
What’s that called?
00:00:08,045 –> 00:00:10,045
Dad: What shape is that?
kid: A ball
ball. Can you turn it into a snake?
00:00:11,981 –> 00:00:13,981
Dad: See if you can roll it into a snake.
00:00:24,51 –> 00:00:26,51
Dad: Is that a pretty good snake?
00:00:27,178 –> 00:00:29,178
Now, which one has more?
00:00:30,372 –> 00:00:32,372
which one has more clay, the snake or the ball?
00:00:31,997 –> 00:00:33,997
Kid: the ball.
Dad: The ball? Can you a ball for
us again? Can you roll it back into a ball?
00:00:45,14 –> 00:00:47,14
Dad: So that’s a ball. Which one has more?
00:00:50,208 –> 00:00:52,208
Dad: The ball or the snake?
Kid: The ball.
Ok. Can you roll the snake out again?
00:01:01,951 –> 00:01:03,951
Dad: That’s some pretty good clay isn’t it.
00:01:07,152 –> 00:01:09,152
Dad: NOW which one has more clay? That one or the ball?
pats long snake)
Dad: That one has more clay. Why is that?
00:01:16,533 –> 00:01:18,533
KId whispers: The snake.
Dad – Why is that? What’d
Kid – it’s longer
Dad: It’s longer, ohhhh!
00:01:23,22 –> 00:01:25,22
Dad: Allright, make it a ball again.
00:01:34,737 –> 00:01:36,737
Dad: That’s pretty good. Now, which one has more clay,
the ball or that long snake?
kid: that long snake
This concludes this moment of geek.