Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hungarian Dance

Little A has finished the First Grade. I couldn't quite believe it, even when I attended the year's final Parent-Teacher Conference and verified that he did indeed accomplish the set work required by the national curriculum to move up to Second Grade.

In a week or so, he starts Summer School, a five week half-day academic and IEP programme to prepare for the coming school year. I understand this means no more taking shoes off in the classroom, more seated writing work and less floor-based play learning. I hope he matures enough to cope with the demands of the coming year, but have confidence that he will since he has pleasantly surprised us at every turn.

More importantly, he seems to genuinely love school. The first few days of the holidays he seemed at a bit of a loss, and one morning put on his uniform and got his school bag and lunch box and instead on going to school.

Another thing he truly loved was the end-of-term programme. This year, the school had on its staff the first licensed music therapist in the country, who would give weekly lessons to each class and private lessons to certain students, among them Little A.

Teacher B did an amazing job at the Christmas concert, which Big A and I unfortunately missed due to an out-of-town wedding. The end-of-year concert though, was an even bigger production. The increase in students meant the parent audience would no longer fit in the school's small car park. So a nearby convention hall became the venue for the school show.

Little A has long been obsessed with stage performances. He watches them on YouTube, but has been overwhelmed whenever we have tried taking him to children's concerts. But as a performer rather than a member of the audience, I hoped he would focus on the music and the dance rather than the inevitable applause which still bothers him but he has conditioned himself to accept.

Once the class had walked through the theatre and gotten familiar with the layout, three mornings of run throughs and rehearsals took place before the actual show. Little A's class was doing a Hungarian dance composed of 16 children, each little boy partnered with a little girl. It was a long piece of music, well over 3 minutes, and I was amazed that all the kids had the choreography down perfectly.

All the classes did an amazing job, but I was proudest of my Little Prince, as his female classmates described Little A when he first entered their backstage room in his "costume" of dark trousers, long sleeved shirt and black vest. He danced, he bowed, he did lose it onstage during the awarding of the certificates, but he calmed down soon afterwards, and no one is perfect.

So ends another academic year. Two down, eleven to go. Bring it on, Grade Two!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Present Perfect

In the Philippines, there is a travel tradition called pasalubong, which involves bringing back small presents for loved ones at home. It is a thoughful gesture that lets one's nearest and dearest know you were thinking of them on yout travels and wanted them to have a small token from that city.

These days, with budget airfares and improved road systems making travel much more accessible, the pasalubong tradition may not be so frequently practiced.

Among childhood friends though, it is very much alive.

As teens, my best friend N and I were lucky to have spent every other summer in Europe. I was at boarding school in the UK, so my parents and legal guardian invested in a London flat where various family members could stay during their trips over. This included my second family that is N's. When her parents and brothers went to America instead, she would still come to London with my mum, dad and sisters.

In later years, it would be just my sister, N and myself. We would spend a few weeks in London and a few days somewhere "on the Continent". Rome, Florence, Venice, and Vienna were some of the cities we explored when we weren't pounding the pavements of London. Those memories are priceless, and to this day we have small items that remind us of certain trips.

When we graduated from university, started working, and then married and had kids, the threesome trips stopped, but the travels didn't. Instead of visiting new places together, we would see them with our own families, and always bring back something for each other no matter where in the world we might find ourselves.

N's family have been bitten by the cruise bug, so she has been trying to convince me and Big A to try one with them. We look forward to the day we will travel together again, whether it be on a solo girls' trip (the big 4-0 is coming up) or with our husbands and kids on a large ship. Until that day, each time we travel, no matter how near or far, we will come back bearing presents for the other. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Turning Japanese

Just after Easter, Big A and I went on a mini-break. It was the first time for both of us to visit Japan. As we only had a few days, we spent all but one of them in Tokyo. 

The one day away was another first as we took a train to a ski resort just an hour outside the city. It was a half day trip, for one ski lesson.

Big A is a natural athlete and thoroughly enjoyed himself, rising to the challenge of the new sport. I, on the other hand, was wary. Stopping required forcing my legs and feet into positions unnatural for a ballet dancer. I was not sold on it, but was glad to have tried and will probably do so again if another opportunity were to present itself.

Despite the snow on the mountain, it was springtime in Tokyo and cherry blossoms were in bloom. We walked around the city, tried as many kinds of Japanese cuisine as time permitted, and did some shopping. 

I was most pleasantly surprised by the lack of a language barrier, as most people had enough English to be able to communicate with us as needed. With this city only four hours away by plane and five year visas in our passports, it looks like we will be coming back to Japan. Next up, Osaka and Kyoto!