Eye of the Optimist-luck and kindness

Posted on January 28, 2016 at 9:54 PM
Keep the faith. Small acts of kindness abound and fortune smiles, though you may not notice. Keep your mind and eyes open and you will see.

Here are some examples from my experiences yesterday. Despite some negative feedback, good things happened. People around me were generally thoughtful and helpful, though some of my students of last semester rated my teaching low.

When I went out yesterday, I noticed the guard's puppy shivering outside in the cold rain. This lovely friendly and well behaved 6 to 8-month old Jindo puppy is often left alone on a short tether in front of the building for long hours, even overnight in freezing temperatures, without company and proper food, water and exercise. The day before, I stopped to play with her twice and gave her some water. Yesterday, I took her and her gear inside the entrance to the building. She really wanted a walk and was trying to hold in her waste, but I had not time for her then, so she relented and went inside but piddled on the tiles. At least it was a bit warmer inside the building. The dog and gear were gone when I returned, and I notice they have not left her outside today, thankfully.

I had a routine medical appointment. Fortunately, I did not have to wait long in the queues. 

It rained and I had no umbrella, but a taxi driver offered to give me his umbrella when I explained why I wanted a taxi to go a short distance. Since I was headed to a store anyway, I coped without this nice man's generous offer; I said I would buy an umbrella. I needed to keep an extra one on hand, in any case.

While I was at the store, I left an item behind. It was bulky, so I put it aside while I was organizing my purchases in my shopping bags then forgot about it. After a stop in a doughnut shop and the walk to the bus stop, which must have consumed about 45 minutes, I realized my omission. Yet, the item was still there on a bench waiting for me to return for it. People in Korea generally do not commit petty theft. Rather, they show concern for people and their belongings.

Back at home, found another positive comment about this blog. The writer said they thought the entry about my day was a good article, and they implied that it inspired them to make a journal, too. I should feel optimistic about my writing.

The editor who is completing the formatting of my published ebooks was supportive. He confirmed that big online stores like Amazon.com steal materials, in that they sell without reporting sales so that they take all the revenue instead of giving the authors their share. The positive side to that is that it is likely more of my books have been sold than it appears. This editor gave me a discount on the formatting order because of the quirkiness and finicky demands of the e-publisher.

Further on the topic of books, I have ordered the textbooks for the online editing course I have recently registered in. There was a hangup in ordering the books from the institution's bookstore because of their administration practices of online courses between semesters. That is fortunate, because this hangup spurred me to look at other sources for these books. I found good used copies of them at discount prices, and was able to use an old gift certificate given to me a long time ago by a brother. After applying this gift coupon, I have a credit. That means I only have to pay for shipping. As there was a problem getting the items shipped overseas, I asked a friend to receive them and forward them to me. He agreed to do this favour for me! I can minimize the shipping costs this way, too, especially since I bought paperback editions and used copies whose lower value keeps the price of tariffs down.

Because I received word of some negative feedback from a certain group of my students, I looked at all my student evaluations for my teaching in the fall semester of last year, 2015. One group for the same class, whom I taught exactly the same way, gave me a perfect score. Three other groups of this same course rated me normally at an acceptable level. 

I need to keep all these positive experiences and input when looking at the negative student feedback. Sometimes there are groups where the dynamics and circumstances are against you. We sometimes find some students with a sense of entitlement who demand high grades yet do not want to work and are insulted if other less privileged and less traveled English language students receive better marks. Often, though, this kind of student expects to just coast through without having to work, but other students follow instructions and complete tasks better. Such were some students in the problem class. Many were also enrolled in a second course of mine, a writing course as opposed to the conversation practice course, and they brought this negative outlook into the writing class, too, resulting in negative feedback for this writing class. I have to keep it all in perspective for myself, no matter how my "bosses" interpret things. I know I have a pretty decent track record and strong effective teaching skills. this past semester, I tried hard to implement the best of my skills and knowledge in facilitating conversation practice. I went out of my way to make it interesting and create a variety materials and activities that would aid conversation and make the course experience fun for all. Despite such efforts, reviews can be unpredictable, especially when students are very competitive and stressed about performance.

I am fighting the nagging thoughts and negative emotional reaction that I am feeling this morning from the negative reviews I read yesterday. Writing this blog is one way to overcome them. Also, I think it best to stay away from the campus today, though I wanted to go to the campus gym. 

Anyway, I have already begun planning the spring semester courses in such a way as to mitigate the kind of problems I had last semester. Fortunately, I have not been assigned the same type of course for the next semester. Rather, I have some senior conversation courses instead of those 2nd year conversation courses. That is probably due the kindness and foresight of our Coordinator who made our schedules.

Anyway, I am starting the (secret) transition into the world of publishing by embarking upon the editing course. It is time for me to move on, so I plan to quit English teaching and move back to my homeland after this contract. I am not telling my employer this yet, just in case, though. The negative side of my teaching experience of late tells me that I am correct in estimating that it is time for me to make a change.

Keep a healthy perspective. Do not overlook the acts of kindness and good fortune of daily life. Do not underestimate it. If things are not working out, make some changes.

Categories: communication, living, positive thinking, journal writing, relationships, teaching

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Household Treasures

11 January 2021

I heard an interviewee speaking over the radio talk about cherishing items in the home. It is one way to explore and enjoy surroundings without traveling, he said​I'll try it.

A lot of objects on display in my apartment are artifacts from my travels, ironically. They refresh my most poignant memories of precious and mind-opening explorations.

Sitting atop the filing cabinet next to my desk are to souvenirs from South Korea, where I worked and resided for 10 years. After such a lengthy stay, I have loads of memories prompted by numerous artifacts of my experiences in that country. These two are among the best reflections of cultural and historical particularities of South Korea. They are a framed photo of a hero central to the labour and national democratic struggles and an ornament from folk culture in the countryside of the southern part of South Korea.

Jun Tae-Il was a courageous student activist leading actions against the last dictatorship in his country. He represents the heart of the movement and the victory for democracy. He became a martyr when the police fatally shot him while he was demonstrating in the street in Seoul, the capitol. The ornament is an ceramic fertility fetish, an image of a penis from one of several such parks in the southern region where I used to live. This part of the country remained tribal longer than other parts, so folk traditions such as shamanism and superstitions have endured. Fertility monuments were erected (pun intended), of course, bring about more healthy children. The foreigner exploring such parks giggle at the sights. 

Next to the filing cabinet is a bookshelf. One of the most noticeable objects near the top of this piece of furniture is a tacky, plastic, white alarm clock. It is significant because I bought it to ensure I woke up on time on my last morning living in South Korea. I had an early flight. As a small travel alarm clock had recently failed, and I was not sure my phone alarm would wake me fully, I picked up a cheap clock at a local general store. I don't use it as its ticking is noisy, but I have not thought to give it away. It remains perched on the shelf, deprived of a battery, as a reminder of my departure from the ex-pat life and return to Canada. 

I also have items saved from two trips to Cuba, one in 2003 and one in 2019. Both trips were organized political events. The first took me there with a political choral group to meet Cuban choirs, learn some of their songs, perform with Cubans, attend the May 1st rally, meet labour associations and tour the island for two weeks. I am looking at a typical replication of a sketch of Che Gevarra which one can find easily in street markets. Our choir, supportive of the Cuban revolution, valued the Cuban revolutionary democracy, social arrangements and political principals which that image, the most famous in all the world, represents to millions of people. It inspires and gives hope. I remember strolling through the streets, visiting markets and restaurants, chatting with locals and attending all the meetings on our hectic schedule. I have other little treasures such as a ceramic, hand painted ashtray, photos of our Cuban comrades, and an African-Cuban, wooden statuette.

Above my desk hang a pair of water colour paintings in wood frames. They portray sites in southern Manitoba in the general area where my grandparents met, married and bore my mother. They feature two views of the banks of the Red River, a river highly important to Canadian history. There were battles against invading Americans launched there and a key struggle of the Métis nation. The city of Winnipeg lies nearby, which used to be the industrial hub of Canada until the Panama Canal opened up and undermined the Canadian railway system. I have only passed through Winnipeg by car. This area is not one I remember, for I have never visited it. 

On the floor near my desk lies a wicker hamper. I have mixed feelings about it, but it has been very useful, so I have kept it. You see, it belonged to my father's second wife. My father remarried this odd, older person rather quickly after my mother passed, which denied her children necessary time to adjust. I carried resentment about her, but chose to avoid them rather than say anything or show my negative feelings. As I said, it is a practical item for it holds linens and Christmas stuff and allows aeration through the woven stems.

I originally bought the filing cabinet to organize research, not academic information but information found in the course of activism and stabs at political journalism. It therefore stores records of several international and regional conferences. Though I purge it once in awhile, there are still clippings, leaflets and pamphlets. They cover issues such as Canadian mining firms abroad, human rights cases, privacy rights, student concerns and transportation. I have been replacing old articles and folders with my own writing pieces. Among them are also old, self-published newsletters addressing local and international issues, some of my published articles and unpublished poems. 

Conversational News

10 January 2021

It is so good to be able to express myself and have contact with readers through this blog again. The loss of the access to my blog along with other aspects of confinement and restrictions really affected me. There were added unsettling restrictions due to circumstances, even including access to my games when Adobe Flash Player was removed. I was feeling the mounting stress of rising COVID cases and the awareness of the damages inflicted by this disease as well as the damage inflicted by states that remain focused on helping profitable enterprises more than addressing the disease and health care and financial interventions fully and equitably. Most such as Canada are handing the responsibility of pandemic management to individuals. Very unjust!

I had been handling the conditions of the pandemic fairly well, but emotions were catching up to me in December as I personally began to feel tired and stressed. I started to feel irritable and alarmed. I looked forward to two weekends at home over Christmas and New Years, but the employer wanted me to work on the Saturdays. Saturday being the heaviest work day for me with five hours straight teaching and two hours travel, I had been wanting relief to get a chance to rest and calm down. I ended up taking the Saturday following NY Day off, which certainly helped. I am much better now.

I did not carry through with my usual practice of personal assessment and planning in December as is my habit. I was too agitated. I did not want to reflect on this past year, actually. Not then.

Anyway, there is not any change in my goals. I generally carried through with financial, livelihood, social, family, health and growth goals. However, the social and family goals were frustrated by Covid-19 rules. However, there are elder relatives with multiple health problems whose mental health was being upset by the situation, so I have been visiting with them in cafes and such. They are better now. I have also been aiding an elderly neighbour whose health, already in decline this year, was getting worse partially because of Covid-related restraints. (Her degrading sight and hearing, as well as shaking and loss of balance, caused her to stop driving permanently, and skeletal issues caused her to stop regular exercise. She is worried she will be forced to consider entering a facility while many care homes are in crisis!) My exercise regime was also compromised. The local fitness center remains open but I perceive it as risky, so I do not go there. Aside from some hiking and walking to accomplish transit and errands, I haven't been exercising much until recently. Now I do some yoga, lunging, stretching and weighted arm raises sometimes. I am prevented this week because of an inflammation (hemorrhoid caused by lengthy sitting!).

 One big factor affecting stress and anxiety levels is news reportage. State and private corporate news services, like most enterprises today, try to streamline by relying more on tech and web browsing to find news topics. There are fewer reporters and there is less extended, investigative reporting. For the past decade at least, such services have resorted to "conversational journalism." It is an adjustment to distrust of news and official authorities during a trend of democratization, I feel. However, it tends to keep popularity and viewer or reader stats in mind. Topics can be sensationalized by rehashing events and speculation. Commentators are brought in to discuss as are senior reporters, but the discussion is not very productive in that it does not lead to increased knowledge. Rather, it keeps generating more questions. Conversations often entertain unanswerable questions, particularly because there can be no resolution. They just push the topic and stimulate possible answers to stir up controversy and alarm in order to improve ratings. Pertinent information might be omitted if it actually answers a question. Once audiences abandon a thread, they turn to some other topic and start over. It is really unconscionable because of the innuendo, speculation, rumour, omission, lack of investigation, assumptions and biases.

The COVID coverage is a clear case in point. Partial information is supplied, such as a medical official's announcement that is partly based in some truth. The announcement is questioned. Opponents are recruited to present the false arguments. Sideline topics are raised to create more friction. Proper sources are ignored. Questions are recycled and spin round and round with no conclusion. The affect is understandable: alarm, anxiety, fear, stress, accusations, complaints, etc.

I follow a couple of doctors who produce daily videos to update viewers on scientific developments and explore reasoning behind government and medical decisions regarding the pandemic. I rely on Dr. John Campble and Doctor Moran. Find them on Youtube. Campbell is the most digestable, for he uses plain English, which Moran is more technical. The latter seems to be addressing people in the medical field. By following Campbell, in particular, I can see the gaps in the regional and national news reporting. I can see that they are lagging behind the news by ignoring or failing to search for reliable information.

We're Back

07 January 2021

Apologies to my followers and viewers. You have been very supportive and encouraging for many years. I might have disappointed some of you who were looking for new entries from me. 

Let me explain. VISTAPRINT changed its platform last year. When they did that, the method for making blog entries changed. I had no information from them about what to do. It simply appeared that I know longer had any blogging service. 

However, I just spoke to a VISTAPRINT rep who guided me. I can now write blog entries, as you can see.

It was a strange year all the way around. Things seemed kind of more chaotic than usual. I felt agitated and stressed last month for no definite reason. I had trouble sleeping. I felt exhausted.

My general astrology reading asserted that the pulling away of Jupiter, one of my planets and a very powerful one, from Saturn would make Sagitarians feel exhausted by the end of December. Despite the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, it does indeed feel like I worked and accomplished a lot (activism, teaching, writing). Things are supposed to get easier for us Sagges. 

There was added stress because of the effects of the pandemic. Not only that but worse, state aggression seemed to increased around the world, causing civilian mass responses. Though I had handled it pretty well until the end of 2020, I guess it finally got to me and I started soaking up some of the stress and anxiety emitting from my region and beyond.

2021 is starting out a bit weird, too. Just look at yesterday's events. U.S. Whitehouse invasion. Solar flare sending rays that caused several storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. More lockdowns. 

I wish all my readers well. I will resume entering focused pieces when I have more time. Please stick with me. Thank you for your comments to date.

Ed Wise


15 January 2020