I Like That

I Like That
See, hear, taste, touch and inhale the wonders of the world.

Friday, January 28, 2011


I compare my one kilometre walk from The Madison Apartments to the Strathcona Garden Recreation Centre a gauntlet run, in which I am forced to march between a grotesque display of trash on my left and loud speeding vehicles on my right. By the time I get to my exercise program, I feel as though I've been beat with clubs and whips.
          Today, as soon as I left the front property of 345 Dogwood and turned north, I was overcome with the smell of cat litter and cat crap that had been dumped on the boulevard in front of Durable Properties. I quickened my pace and swept past a collection of cigarette butts, a brown banana peel, and a crushed can of soda. I looked up and my sight was bombarded by an assortment of paper cups, plastic straws, pizza boxes, and a soggy sandwich, all strewn amongst a stack of rotting logs on the boulevard in front of the curling club. I continued toward my destination but was distracted by the bright blue tag that local hooligans had forced on the tall sign that broadcasts the daily specials at the bakery.
            Halfway to my goal, I glanced at a cluster of trash outside a garbage container housed in the bus shelter. I continued down the street and passed one fork, seven paper cups, plastic wrap, more pizza containers, two cigarette boxes, and a spoon on the second street block boulevard. I felt disappointed that the boulevard in front of Lions Manor was strewn with papers and a plastic container. I picked up my pace and tried hard not to pay such close attention to the garbage. At the next intersection, I couldn't touch the crosswalk button because it was coated with a mysterious brown substance.
            On the last leg of my journey, discarded plastic and paper containers, several pens and pencils, a clump of soggy paper, a set of broken headphones, bubble wrap, and a flat green garbage bag seemed to be calling out, “Look at me! Look at me!” I scrambled up the stairs to the recreation centre, slipped quietly into the building and caught my breath. As I walked toward the studio door, I glanced at the flickering fireplace and noticed a grouping of candy wrappers on the ledge in front of it. I thought, “Oh, my goodness, where does it end?”

First block gauntlet run
Second block gauntlet run
Final gauntlet run

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I LIKE THAT I have been invited to join Group 3 of the Chronic Disease Management and Take Heart Program. I've secretly nicknamed my cluster ‘The Chronics’. I will meet the other members tomorrow, Wednesday, January 26 at 10:00 a.m., for the first time. We are a gathering of persons who have neglected our health, and are now registered with the Vancouver Island Health Authority to exercise for free for the next six weeks. I’m very excited to walk the one-kilometer from my home on Dogwood Street to Strathcona Gardens Recreation Complex.
     Today, at my first assessment, I had my upper body measurements taken and they all ranged in the forty’s. I’m shaped like an apple with legs. The kind Rehabilitation and Fitness Coordinator, Angela, recorded me at one hundred and sixty-eight pounds, but said not to worry too much about my weight.
     My physical assessment included pulling back on a lever with each hand to measure my grip, walking up and down a flight of stairs twenty times; push-ups, squatting against the wall at a thirty-degree angle for twenty seconds, and lifting myself from a sitting position to a standing position twenty times. She recorded some numbers on a piece of paper and calculated that I qualified for Group 3.
     I'll let you know how 'The Chronics' do at our three-times-a-week workouts.

Monday, January 24, 2011


I LIKE THAT Frank reads to me every day. We have a morning ritual that starts with a daily reading from our Baha’i prayer book, followed by Frank reading from a book we’ve chosen from our home library. We’ve just finished ‘Sailing Back in Time’ by Maria Coffey. Her story telling brought back luxurious memories of our sailing on the Johnstone Strait between the Vancouver Island and the mainland.
Frank built LEJJJAR, a twelve-meter beauty, by himself, much like Allen Farrell’s China Cloud. Each letter in Frank’s boat’s name represents his grandchildren. It took him six years to build it while he worked as gardener for the Town of Port McNeill on Vancouver Island. He had it towed to the ocean shore, pushed it into the saltwater and sailed it for twelve years, as many years as he lived on it.
Sadly, LEJJJAR ended up beached on the shores of an isolated island, abandoned by her new owner. The choice to let the vessel go was a difficult decision for Frank, but our plan back then to teach English in China and other parts of the world, meant that LEJJJAR could not come along.
We miss sailing and boating in general. We’ve been throwing around the idea that we would be quite happy on a houseboat. 
You can find this book on Amazon.com
LEJJJAR at Pierre's Lodge
Frank on LEJJJAR

Thursday, January 20, 2011


“Enjoy the scenery but you will have to leave your glasses with the guard,” Mae said. Our Chinese English teacher friend guided Frank and I onto a bus in Yichang, Hubei Province. Our destination was the Three Gorges Dam.
“Why would I have to leave my binoculars with the guard?” Frank asked.
     “The dam property is very private and you cannot look with those glasses on the north side,” Mae said.
     I placed my hand on Frank’s lap – a gesture we had established with each other to help calm ourselves when we did not know exactly how things worked in China.
The bus was filled with fifty-two Chinese teachers and four English teachers, including Frank and I. All the passengers taught at Yichang No.1 High School. Our excursion to China’s famous Three Gorges Dam was to celebrate Teacher’s Day.
When we arrived at the barricaded dam site, we lined up to have our backpacks checked. There was a slight tug-of-war between the guard, who could not speak English, and Frank, who could not speak Chinese. Frank told me later that he wasn’t trying to cause a scene he was only trying to protect his prized field glasses. The guard took the binoculars and put them in a box where he stood.
We boarded a golf-cart vehicle and were driven to the middle of the top of the dam. We were ushered to the south side viewing area where we leaned over slightly to gaze at the brown rushing water. The thunderous sound of the displaced water pushing through the openings in the concrete barrier was deafening. We were denied access to the north side and were given another reason later in whispered tones.
"The reason you cannot go to the north side is the same reason you cannot bring your binoculars to the top of the dam – you will see too much,” our Chinese teacher friend said.
The area to the north of the Three Gorges Dam is being flooded and the property that was there has disappeared under water. Advocates for the displaced renounce China’s Three Gorges Dam. The love-hate relationship of China’s Three Gorges Dam is that it provides three-quarters of China’s power and at the same time has displaced millions of farmers who helped build it.
Learn more about China's Three Gorges Dam   http://www.worldinterestingfacts.com/infrastructure/three-gorges-dam-the-worlds-largest-dam-from-china.html   

Rendering of Three Gorges Dam
View taken from Internet

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Perhaps you'll remember that I've taken the liberty of writing Aesop's fables to suit the profession of teaching English as a second language. Here's another of those versions.

One summer’s day a new ESL graduate came to a teacher seminar to quench her enthusiasm, and as she stood drinking in the ambience she saw her form reflected in the eyes of a senior teacher. “How clever and learned my colleague looks!” she thought. “And how inexperienced I am, and unused my abilities are!”
       While the new graduate was examining and criticizing the talents that nature had given her, the colleagues drew near. The graduate’s abilities, with which she had found so many faults, instinctively carried her through the preparation of a comprehensive lesson plan, but the weight of experience of the senior teacher and his argumentative tone prevented the group from completing their task.

We tend to underestimate the small things about ourselves that are often our most valuable attributes.

Students listen attentively
Frank entertains the student audience
Teacher colleagues entertain students

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I LIKE THAT Frank, my husband, is an explorer. His passion for travel prompted us to accept a job in China to teach English as a second language. We loved the country and it’s people so much we stayed and worked as English foreign experts for four years.
            For our first six months in China we lived in Yichang. All about Yichang, China
            Teaching middle school youth was our classroom challenge and we jumped in feet first with enthusiasm. We spent a great deal of our time preparing elaborate daily lesson plans but when we had spare time, Frank would bring me out of the gated teacher’s living quarters into the bustling streets of Yichang. One day, Frank heard clunk, clunk, clunk from behind a group of depilated buildings and went to investigate. He found a family making coal bricks. It is common for the people in rural China to burn coal bricks to heat their homes and cook their meals. The smoke hangs thick in the air and settles on everything it touches. The crushed coal is shoveled into a hopper where it is stamped into cylinder-shaped forms. The forms are punched with holes to help the air circulate when they are set on fire with kindling. The solid coal bricks are placed by hand into a man-drawn cart and transported all over the city.
          Frank walked away from the experience happy to have had the chance to witness the entire family operation. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


            I LIKE THAT every classroom in China has an English Study Leader. The student’s designation comes from achieving the highest grade after examination from the Chinese English teacher.
            The same position in the Canadian classroom is called the Monitor, a reference that has taken a turn for the worse because the students see the person as a snitch and hence the famous code of silence.
The English Study Leader in the Chinese classroom is respected and he or she takes great pride for maintaining order amongst the collection of fifty-nine or more students in the room. They will dutifully stand with you as you conduct your class and, with encouragement from you, will travel around the room guiding the other students in their study of the English language.
            Prince, the English Study Leader in one of my classes, came to my rescue regularly and I was very grateful. I didn’t have a command of the Chinese language, so when a student didn’t fully understand my instructions, I would ask Prince to interpret.
            I asked Prince if he minded helping me and he said, “It is my honour and duty, Mrs. Black.”
Frank entertains Uygur students
Susan teaching song at English Corner
Students celebrate New Year

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


 I LIKE THAT I had the great privilege of teaching English as a second language in China from 2005 to 2009 with my husband Frank. We lived and taught in five provinces and travelled to many more in the Motherland. We returned home to Canada with great admiration for the people and their kind treatment of us.

While in China, I read Aesop’s Fables and took the liberty of translating the stories into ESL Teacher Tales. Here’s one example:

 Two Foreign Experts who where teaching English as a second language in China, one with a degree in linguistics, the other without, were swept down a river of lesson planning locked in a company-dictated team-work environment. The linguistics teacher told his companion to stay by his side, and he would advise him and protect him.
            “Thank you for your offer,” said the recent ESL graduate, “but that’s just what frightens me. If you’ll just keep your distance from me, I’ll be able to plan on my own and float through my semester unburdened with your experience and in safety. But if we come in contact with one another, I’m bound to be the one who’ll suffer.”

Avoid ESL teachers who are too powerful. When the collision happens the weaker one will be destroyed.
Students entertain with song
Frank and his Chinese teaching colleagues
Susan interviews entertainers

Sunday, January 2, 2011


 I LIKE THAT Frank and I took a run on our Russian URAL bike to commemorate the New Year. The temperature in Campbell River was about 0 degrees Celsius so we protected ourselves with extra layers. I wrapped my bulky upper body in four layers of clothing including a t-shirt, hoodie, fur lining and my black leather jacket. Frank’s gear was much the same except that he covered his face with a bella clava.
            The sidecar accommodates my bag, water bottle, seat cover, lap blanket and me. After I sit down and cover my legs, Frank brings the URAL hoodie over my head and fastens the clasps to the windshield. I’m protected from the elements. Frank boards the attached motorcycle, a re-engineered version of the 1936 German BMW and starts the engine. I’m glad that I’ve remembered to wear my earplugs. I sit right beside the source of the noise.
            The bike draws a great deal of attention even before we head out. Our neighbours call out that we’re crazy to be heading out on a bike. We feel differently about it because it is our only mode of transport. Today we are heading out to our singing group.
            We moved forward and I reached out for the metal handle bar in front of me. I can see all around through the windshield and the plastic covered windows on each side. I can also see the ground moving beneath me through a small opening where the hoodie meets the sidecar. I feel a great sense of freedom.
            We purchased our freedom online. We were teaching English as a second language in China and thinking about transportation when we arrived back to Canada for the summer.
            “Look at this, Honey,” Frank said.
            I stared at the sidecar rig and it caused my face to smile.
            “It looks like fun!” I said.
            With the click of a button we became the proud owners of a shiny green Patrol.
            Today, as we travel around the city, the wind blowing past us, it is clear that we are the adventurous type and a bit quirky.
P.S. if you wish to learn more about the URAL you might like to visit http://www.curdforum.net/
URAL hoodie by Frank
New Year Run
Travelling by URAL