The Benefits of School Residentials
Residential Trips in Thailand
School Residential Trips has featured high during this visit to Bangkok. As a ‘trailing spouse I’ve tagged along with Saint Mick of Thana whilst he has visited his school’s residential trips to Rayong, Khao Yai, Kanchanaburi, and Nakon Nayok.
Tagging along on the visits has been a real trip down memory lane for me as I’ve relived the emotions I felt when my kids were on residential. If you know me it won’t come as a surprise when I say it would be quicker to list what I didn’t worry about, rather than what I did! On each trip though the kids returned smiling and just about in one piece. I do remember a few colds, scrapes and tired eyes, but these memories have by and large been replaced by the excitement of their chatter, and the elation of their sense of accomplishment about what they’d done, seen and achieved. I always remember Betsy's joy, who struggles with balance, after she managed the bike ride under the lovely, kind, watchful eye of Madame Peppard who had tight eye on her well-being.
Cannery Row - Book Review and Book Club Discussion Questions
I am coming towards the end of my goodreads 'reading challenge'. I pledged 50 books but have only read 42. Consequently I needed a slim book to read-how shallow I am! A dear friend and I had recently been chatting about John Steinbeck and he recommended Cannery Row to me. I adore Of Mice and Men (especially the very opening description) and have actually taught it more times than I've had hot dinners, so it made perfect sense to read this book. I'm so glad I did.
John Steinbeck's Cannery Row - Opinion Piece
Cannery Row is a beautiful book guaranteed to encourage introspection and reflection on life. Set in the real Monterey Ocean View Avenue, fictionalized as Cannery Row, it is a study of identity. We learn about the individual characters and all their idiosyncrasies. From the generous hearted prostitutes, to the semi-lawless homeless, to the shrewd but semi-down-and-out businessman, we see into the soul of each character, as they come together to make the community of Cannery in the years of the great depression.
The structure of Cannery Row is linear and tells loosely inter-linked and intertwining stories that centre largely around the ecologist 'Doc'. Fact and fiction overlap, (with only a quick look on Google, we learn that Doc is based on Steinbeck's long standing friend Rickett.) There are separate episodes that occur during chapters that are featured between those comprising the main linear progression of the story. These ‘in-between chapters’ jar against the smoothness and the lull of the main text. The most poignant of the sub-stories, I think, is the story of two small boys where one knows the other's father committed suicide with rat-poison and taunts him for this. The portrayal of the cruelty that people are capable of, even as children, and the need for one upmanship, in this chapter, is shocking.
Cannery Row is the type of book that needs savouring; each bite is worth lingering over. The final chapter of the successful party extensively quotes from the beautiful poem Black Marigolds, translated from the Sanskrit by E Powys Mathers. The reader finishes the text with a sensation rather like being served the finest delicacies in the poshest restaurant, knowing that it would be a sin to not linger over every mouthful. They are not likely to be exposed to such delicious delicacies again.
The Girl Who Smiled Beads - Book Review and Book Club Questions
Autobiography, by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Wile, about Clemantine's experience of the Rwandan Massacre.
This is a powerful and well-written autobiography/biography sharing the story of Clemantine Wamariya. She and her sister Claire are adrift as refugees, fleeing the terror imposed during the Rwandan War. I hadn’t heard of Clemantine prior to reading the book, but it seems she became something of a ‘genocide survivor celebrity’ after sharing her story on Oprah.
When considering memoirs and biographies there tends to be an assumption that the process of writing the book will help the author come to peace with what has happened in it. – a cathartic process. What struck me most about this text is that this doesn’t seem to be the case. Even as the book comes to its conclusion and Clementine tries to make things as ‘right’ as they ever can be for her mother, she continues to seem completely troubled. There is a sense that she has gone through the worst, come out the other side, but because of that almost incomprehensible worst there can never be a best. So, whilst Clemantine can analyse and evaluate her situation and does critically review everything she has been through, she can’t quite fully come to terms with it or move forward.
The book does make for an unnerving read. There is nothing comfortable about Clemantine’s account as she repeatedly reflects on the brutality of it. There is no redemption, no forgiving and forgetting. One of the things Clemantine is troubled and confused by is how many Rwandan’s have, to some extent at least, moved forward with life (of course they have to). She finds this difficult to comprehend and the reader is exposed to the complexity of responding emotionally with any kind of rationality to such horror.
Clemantine explores the life she has created in America and illustrates how she is frequently misjudged, mistreated and misunderstood. To be truthful, whilst reading I am full of fear that I am the person doing the misunderstanding, which makes me feel a little defensive about a perhaps imagined reproach. Ridiculous eh! I feel that Clemantine resents and fears that she will always have the outsider position imposed on her yet cannot allow herself to take any other societal or personal position in the relationships she makes.
Lasting Impression of the Girl Who Smiled Beads
Ultimately, the book made me feel humbled, frightened, reflective and grateful. I love the parable of the girl who smiled beads, I love the honesty of the writing and I love being privileged to have had this ‘life story’ shared with me.
Girl, Woman, Other Book Review
I read Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other after she had already jointly won the Booker Prize with Margaret Atwood for The Testaments. I’d been intrigued to know what text would merit being considered equal to The Testaments as I had expected Atwood to be the lone winner (don’t think there is any doubting that it would have been wrong to not acknowledge the exquisite accomplishment of Margaret Atwood’s fabulous sequel to the Handmaid’s Tale.) As Evaristo says herself in this interview, who better to share the Booker with than Atwood.
Anyway, Evaristo did not disappoint. Far from it. Why have I never read any of her other books? Rather, I was blown away by the prose. It isn’t a poetry in verse, not quite, but it is beautiful to listen to. Reading the text made me intrigued to know more about the author as I was staggered by the incredible insight she has into humanity. It sounds a bit pretentious, but her writing really is a tour de force (a phrase she mocks at one point in the book) and like no other I have discovered in recent years. Exploring the lives of four groups of women she addresses just about every ‘woman’s issue’ (I use the phrase deliberately ‘tongue in cheek’) I can think of. From motherhood to sexuality, to ambition to regret – it is all there. I don’t know if I should admit this, as it perhaps shows my incredible naiveity that I didn’t actually think about the centrality of race until I read Evaristo’s own comments on this.
The links within the groups of women are significant and the links between those groups exist in the same way that unlikely connections and correlations occur in life, simultaneously realistic and incredulous.