Friday, April 29, 2005

Hilliard Memorial Middle School

Betrayal, love triangles, friendship gone bad and one poem that began, "if the world were made of sugar." Students at Hilliard Memorial are invited to make it, shake and let it all out at a monthly open mike (see picture below). It is a come as you really are event hosted by librarian Terry Lord.

For other schools interested in a model performance poetry event that seems to really rock and not roll anyone into detention or unemployment, Hilliard has it going on. Here's how it works -- on the last Friday of every month there is an open mike poetry jam in the library, seventh and eighth grades alternate months. On Wednesday of that week, students need to register for lunch and poetry. On Friday, the poets get pizza, a soda and cookies (for $2, cost of a school lunch) and a lunch period of pure poetry.

Terry says she has never had trouble with kids being inappropriate in their poems. Poets realize if they foul out with their language, the poetry privilege will go away. Kids bring her poems they think might be in violation of school rules and defer to her judgment. It's all done on the honor system and it works. Look at the happy faces below. Just in case the kids didn't know how lucky they were that they had this incredible opportunity to express themselves, I let them know that events such as this at middle schools is R-A-R-E rare. They responded by giving Ms. Lord a standing ovation.

My visit to Hilliard was enhanced by all the performance poets in the audience and by the great job the teaching staff did preparing the kids for my visit. Very cool. Thanks to everyone.

Hilliard Memorial Middle School Lunchtime Open Mikers Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Maureen, Redbank Valley High School, New Bethlehem Posted by Hello

Redbank Valley High School

This was a day of firsts --
I was the first author ever invited to Redbank (thank you very much)
and another first, which is somewhat embarrassing. There was a very cool display created by a student, Maureen, in the library. A weeping willow tree with portions of a poem dribbling down with the falling leafy branches. "That's pretty," I said. "Nice poem."
"It's yours," said the librarian.
"It is?"
And sure enough. The poem is in Walking on the Boundaries of Change -- I remember it so clearly because as it appears in the book, it is short one verse, a problem we have been unable to remedy without changing the layout of the entire book.
But I didn't recognize the first verse.
What do I know.
I either have too much in print or I have been on the road entirely too many days this month. One thing for certain, the engaged kids, the teachers and the volunteers who put on the great luncheon really made my day in New Bethlehem, PA.

After school I spoke to the Seneca Reading Council (more great food, there is a major diet in my future). At least 20 of the attendees were pre-service teachers. Maybe this is a trend, if so, I think it is a GREAT idea -- getting teachers involved in continuing education before graduation. Kudos to Clarion University Education Department.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Benny explains to Danny, "you are a big brother now." To which Danny replies, "You mean we're taking this home?" Posted by Hello

Friday, April 22, 2005

Hilliard Weaver Middle School

Am I seeing spots?
Whoa. Am I seeing spots!

The stage at Weaver Middle was banked by hula hoop sized yellow and black spots, the teacher's lunchroom, more yellow and black -- even the teachers were dressed in yellow and black. Now, where do you think they got an idea like that?????

Beyond the spots, up and down the halls were displays of student poetry. Even the foreign language department got in on the fun with students writing in their second languages. Once again I have to express deep gratitude to a teaching staff who worked overtime to integrate my visit into the curriculum. The librarian, Sue Weaver, not only did a great job with the kids and getting the staff pumped up, she wrote a fine poem for my introduction. But I wasn't the only one who thought she worked over and above the call, her principal was so impressed with her work he WROTE A POEM to thank her. Did you hear that? The principal wrote a poem, brought it into the writing workshop to present it to her and read it aloud. 15 years on the road, hundreds of schools and this was definitely a first.

I left Hilliard after school for the long drive to Purcellville, 'Ginia to meet the new baby. Pictures to follow. Not sorry to be missing the snow (snow?) in Ohio.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


The old saying is that Anonymous was a woman. In these instances, Anonymous is a teacher. Here are some comments I have heard from anonymous teachers over the last few months:

1. "I used to buy into the philosophy that schools should be patterned after business, that we didn’t know what we were doing and we ought to adopt their model. Then I married a man in business – his company has undergone 4 re-organizations in 5 years. They don’t know what they are doing, who’s kidding whom?"

2. At a school that has adopted student uniforms, kids are required to wear dark pants, white shirts, oxford shoes and a belt. A 30 year veteran teacher, told me a story of one of her second grade students whose life is chaotic, being shuffled between homes and caregivers, and who appeared for school sans belt several times. The consequences of this behavior is that the student first receives demerits and then if it happens enough times, a pre-school 40 minute detention. If the child misses the detention (as may very well happen to a seven-year-old kid who lives in chaos and depends on undependable adults to get him to school), the child is to receive a full day, in-school suspension. On the day that this teacher’s student was slated to begin his in-school suspension, she told me that the child didn’t even understand why, or what a suspension was. She kept him in her room and when the young, officious principal called her and asked where the child was, reminding her to send him to his full day suspension, the teacher said (here’s the direct quote), "No."

The principal argued, the teacher stood firm. Finally they compromised. The child would make up the missed detention and serve 40 minutes at the end of the day. The policy of full-day in-school suspension was subsequently modified.

Powerful word.


3. “You should write a poem about a father messing with his daughter, you know, abusing her.” I told her that I’d had this request before and in fact there is a poem in Walking on the Boundaries of Change on this issue – or my best attempt to write on this issue, since such abuse is not part of my experience. “Well, it’s part of mine,” she said flatly. She is a woman over sixty with a smokey, 7&7s at the Moose Hall voice. I went to retrieve the book from the display and opened it to the poem “Hear It” and passed it to her. This is a poem that was written by assignment. It is by necessity somewhat vague, beginning “I don’t want to talk about it,” without ever defining what “it” is. I’ve always hoped that certain kids who read it will understand the meaning of “it.” I’ve discussed this with teachers and with guidance counselors (who gave me the assignment in the first place). The book has been in print 8 years, this was the first time I’d shared it with an abuse victim face to face.

When I passed her the book, she passed it back, couldn’t see without her glasses. I read the poem aloud to her and when I finished she looked deep in my eyes, tight lipped, restrained tears, turned and walked away. Before she went through the door, she turned and said, “That’s it.”

I will never forget her eyes.

Hilliard Heritage Middle School

Poetic Karaoke?

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Here's the plan: Kids had to find a song and print out the lyrics so that they could develop a good understanding of the rhythm of the language. Kids then wrote a poem to the rhythm of the song and created a power point presentation with their poetic lyrics. Then, with some help from Tech Man, they sang their lyrics to the recorded music, their pictures being projected up on a big screen along with the power point shows. Here are two: My sweet little brother to the tune of Sweet Home Alabama and I love the Three Stooges to Hakuna Matata from Lion King, performed with Adam Sandler humor. This was the lunchtime entertainment at Heritage, what a show!

Big assemblies at Heritage -- I'm not sure how big, but BIG. Seventh and eighth grades. Lucky for all of us the kids were so well prepared. Thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What does poetry do, really?

That was a question from a third grader at Edgewood Elementary today. I responded that I think that poetry brings folks together. I'm open for other responses if anyone reading this has a better one.

The fourth grade hallway at Edgewood was covered in red paper painted to look like brick. The kids had scribbled poems on the papered walls like graffiti. There were stacks of boxes and a trash can, all combined to make the hallway into an alleyway, just like on the cover of I Never Said I Wasn't Difficult. All the grades had done special projects, but the fourth graders -- Wow. Special thanks to Liz Clagget who not only coordinated my visit to Edgewood, but to all the Marysville schools. The kindergarten was able to read and perform Copycat. Very impressive. And they did it with attitude. Boy, did they.

Thunder storms tonight, heavy rain. From the looks of those dusty fields yesterday, the rain is needed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Clinton-Massie Middle School

Okay, how cool is this? I walked into the school and looked down and realized I was walking on poems written by CMMS kids and published in sidewalk chalk all over the place. One that sticks in my mind was an angry poem that involved finger pinching of a sister and some other mischief and ended in the words, "the worst part is, I was grounded for life." It was hilarious. More serious was an "Angry" poem rewrite using the word "Marine" and honoring a local soldier. We were able to meet in a large group instruction area instead of a gymnasium or a cafeteria, which was also cool. I really felt that I got to make eye contact with everyone. One boy I won't forget soon told me that he had been in the school but a few days -- his fifth school so far this year. Mixed up family, he was there in spite of incredible odds, not the least of which was it ain't all that easy to move a southern accent up north. We talked for quite a while, he showed me a snapshot of his estranged mom, brother and half brother folded in sixths. We talked about how success is the best revenge. He promised me that he would graduate from high school, no matter what it takes. I'm writing about this here, hoping to seal the deal. Good luck.

The drive from the Waynesville area back up to Marysville was pastoral, back roads through working farms, tractors stirring up dust across wide fields.

Monday, April 18, 2005


Lunch with students at Waynesville Middle School. I told them about a story I’d heard on the radio driving down – about the schools in New York City where they were cancelling recess for elementary kids, not temporarily but permanently, as a way to help kids prepare for proficiency tests. The kids had lots of opinions – how much recess meant to them in elementary, how many thought they still needed recess once a day to run around, One wizened sixth grader, her brow crossed with a pleading, perplexed look said, “I had recess and I turned out okay.”

A message to legislative armchair curriculum directors.

Another girl told me the story of how she had moved away from another community and then went back in the summer and went looking for her best friend who had been living with her grandmother. But when she went to the door she found out that her friend’s mom had taken her friend away and no one would tell her where, her eyes broadcasting pain. When you listen to kids’ stories of their utter powerlessness against the whims of recess cancelling, moving around grown-ups, is it any wonder they get angry?

During the assembly one girl asked me a great question when I was coming down hard on the need to put precise details in our writing: “But don’t you kind of want to leave things open to the reader’s imagination?” We talked about how specific the writer needs to be in her descriptions in order to kick start the readers imagination. Good discussion.

I loved my visit to Waynesville because I actually got to talk to kids, which I don’t always get to do. Many thanks to all the teachers who prepared the kids and brought in great food. Special thanks to Kathy Hale for all her hard work.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

MCTE Bright Ideas Conference

Now, this really is a bright idea -- hold a conference for pre-service teachers that patterns itself off of a reading or english conference so that students get in the groove of being lifelong learners before they graduate. Let them see how cool it is to exchange ideas through poster sessions, to present and hear from their peers. That's what the Michigan Council of Teachers of English has been doing in Lansing for over twenty years. This year there were over 300 teachers and students in attendance. Michael and I did a joint reading at the luncheon, something we don't get to do as often as we'd like. Fun fun. And the poster displays on justice and equality prepared by the students were overwhelmingly impressive. Big thanks to Marilyn Wilson and Sue for all their hard work.

Home for a few hours and off to Waynesville, OH.
Who invented poetry month anyway?
Deep breath. Two more weeks to go.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Okay, I filed another extension on my taxes. Every year I say I'm going to get in under the wire and every year...but this year (with a lot of help from Kelly) was soooooo close.

Kelly was very motivated since she was working against a bigger, more important deadline: TODAY IS THE BIRTHDAY OF THOMAS JOHN WEIST, 9 lbs. 1 oz, 21 inches tall. I understand he has strong lungs and lots of opinions. A perfect extension to our family. Congratulations to Kelly, Brian and little Tommy's two older brothers Ben and Danny. I will not get my hands on the little guy until next weekend, due to bad scheduling. I can't wait.

So, Uncle Sam can wait a little, this truly important day belongs to Tommy. A new life begins with places to go, people to meet, things to do. Just think of it. And Tommy will always have a reason to celebrate on tax day, how many of us can say that?

Marysville, OH

Marysville, OH is home to (among many other things) a large Honda plant and the only (that I've noticed) Japanese language television station in the midwest making it a small town with an international flavor.

I remember growing up with very little exposure to the outside world, thinking that anything foreign was, well, so FOREIGN. From Yugioh Cards to Dora the Explorer, kids are exposed to so much more, which I can only hope will build more tolerance in the world.

Wednesday I visited East Elementary School in Marysville. It is a small school, located in what might pass as Marysville's inner city. The library is at the hub of the circular layout, with walls open on two hallways, truly forming a heart of the school. The kids and staff were totally engaged in literacy through poetry. One fourth grade class had prepared a group performance of Wham-a-bama-a-one-man-band that really rocked the place. It was a good day, but at 3PM, I finally hit the jetlag wall and retreated to the hotel for an early night. Many thanks to Gail Jenkins for all her hard work.

Thursday I visited Raymond Elementary, a more country school on the outskirts of Marysville. This is an older building that has expanded more than once, the most recent time with a new library. When possible, this is just how I like to meet kids, in smaller spaces where we can really make eye contact with one another. We had a wonderful learning experience because the kids were SO well prepared by their teachers, in addition to coaching by librarian Pam Jones. I really appreciate everyone's time integrating the author visit right in with the classroom goals (as was also the case at East and Mill Valley). Everyone was warm and receptive to the "foreigner" from Cleveland. Thank you!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

morning walk reflections

I seem to be gaining back an hour a day in my sleep patterns -- today I slept in until 4:30 AM. I'm kind of liking this early morning routine I've heard others talk about and have often been too snoozy to explore on my own.

what's coming -- Walked to the gas station to buy a bottle of water. Who would have predicted gas prices over $2 (or bottled water for that matter). I read in the China News that car ownership in China is currently at 20 million cars and this number is expected to soar another 100 million in the next generation. That's going to mean a lot more guzzlers bellying up.

Somewhere I read that we have used up roughly one half of the earth's finite oil reserves in the past 150 years, chugging like freshmen at a frat party. In my lifetime gas has gone from $.19 per gallon to $2+ and rising. What's coming?

what's past -- yesterday, the librarian at Mill Valley told me that her husband and sons are dairy farmers. Another teacher commented that she loves to watch the cows come in for milking and she wished she could get her third graders to form such a nice, organized line as Kristi's husband manages with his cows.
"You mean you have a real live dairy farm still?"
"And you actually let the cows outside of the barn?" (as opposed to keeping them standing on concrete for their entire lives hooked to machines)
I told her I was so glad to hear that. She told me that there were only two dairy farms left in her area, that she has two sons in their twenties. One likes the cows and one LOVES the cows, but with the way land is being eaten up in this area above Columbus for suburban sprawl, she doesn't know how long the farm will last.

I hope the Chinese learn from some of our mistakes and don't start ripping up all their train tracks, spending all their transportation resources on highways for all those new cars. Highways that rip the guts out of cities and separate folks into isolated economic camps, paving over all their farmland.

Lots of worms on the roads and sidewalks today, finding their way across asphalt. The story of us all?

Mill Valley Elementary, Marysville OH

Wow! Mill Valley did such a fantastic job of tying my visit directly into the curriculum needs of the school, I just have to talk about it. The halls of the building were lined with artwork and kids' poetry generated in response to my books, which means when I arrived, kids were armed with questions so far beyond "what kind of car do you drive."

Here are just a few that I remember off the top of my head:

Kindergarten teachers used my poem "I am to be" and had kids write on their own in response using this formula...Each student completed the sentence, "I am ______ with three facts about themselves and then they finished off with "I am not done, I am ____, where the kids speculated on who/what they will become. These single word responses written with their tightly gripped pencils were precious. Three other afternoon kindergarten students read their poems aloud during the assembly.

Second grade teachers used my poem "Soccer is the greatest fun" for a model to write "Second Grade is the greatest fun" as a group poem and then kids wrote individually, choosing a topic. Turns out football, gymnastics, biking and pizza are also the greatest fun. Writers used specific language to detail exactly why. Way cool.

There were other many other creative lesson plans in at Mill Valley (a K-4 building), I just didn't write them down, reminding me ONCE AGAIN, I need to keep a notebook with me at all times. Maybe a couple other teachers can write here to explain their lesson ideas.

What a great day!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

coming home on a jet plane

Coming home on a jet plane can be a lot more complicated than leaving on one. It is 3AM, I am back in OH and rather enthusiasitically jet lagged -- as opposed to exhaustedly jet lagged which I will be at 3PM later this afternoon if I don't get back to sleep.

I arrived home on Sunday, went to Stephie's birthday party. Stephie is my daughter Katie's daughter and she is four and very into Hello Kitty, her new sandbox, her new bike and the color pink. I spent a glorious day at home with my family and left at 5AM on Monday for a school in Marysville, OH.

My visit to Navin Elementary COULD have been disasterous -- I was pretty tired. But as usual, the kids saved the day. We threw poetry back and forth and all around the room. The librarian, Denise, kept me on track and really helped make the day a success. Thanks to Denise and to every kid who looked up and smiled when they heard the word "poetry." I needed that.

Friday, April 08, 2005

same same, but different

Caltex International School is one school with two campasses, Duri being the northern brother. The kids were so excited for a day of poetry, they managed to sit through two one hour sessions -- one hour with me presenting and one hour with them writing. Ideas were just spilling out all over the place. After our poetry day the teachers participated in a workshop, then the day ended with a family night. It was a jam-packed day, more than I am used to, but after surviving that bus trip up there I had more than a little extra adreneline. In between school sessions I was treated to lunch and dinner at two different teacher's homes. It is cool having school and home so close together that everyone can go home for lunch, even the teachers. Margie, the librarian, was so on top of things that by the time we had finished writing our poems, she had them laminated and posted. This morning it was back on the bus, lunch again with Rita and Lyle Molzan and then a short flight to Singapore. Tomorrow is the marathon 17 hour flight home.

Things I learned in Southeast Asia:

Don’t brush your teeth with the tap water no matter how many stars the hotel has.
Don’t pick up the fluorescent orange golf ball on the bathroom floor behind the toilet, it’s a moth ball, the odor is soap resistant and it will make your hands funky for a long time.
Doorways do not come one-size-fits-all in Thailand; when in doubt, duck.
Ants are more interested in non-food items than you would ever imagine – hair brushes, computers, earrings come alive if left on the wrong counter during rush hour.
Every hour is rush hour for insects in Indonesia.
Obeying traffic lights, lane lines and one way street signs is for sissies.
A smile and a nod goes a long way when you don’t share the same language.
Having a butler means having breakfast made and on the table at 7 sharp, having your bags carried to school and your bed made and a snack ready after school. I recommend one for everyone.
Teachers who teach at international schools are humorous, down home folks posted far away from home. The students are eager, class sizes are small and parents are involved. In a phrase, international schools rock.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Leaving Pekanbaru for Duri

Today we had our poetry jam at Caltex School – every student presented a poem with pride and more than a little attitude. Not only did every poet get rewarded with pounding applause, but each and every one received the highest possible score – two gongs! And when we were done, I was gonged out in a ceremony that began with a b-o-n-g and ended with the tricking sounds of the rain stick. I made a lot of friends at Caltex and hope to see them all again someday on the world poetry circuit. I left school with lots of thankyous to my host family, Rita and Lyle Molzan and boarded a bus for a two and a half hour trek to Duri. I don’t know if it was the tropical rain storm, the one and a half lane road with constant and passing traffic going both ways, the deep jungle valleys outside the bus or the two armed guards in the seat in front of me who really didn’t look old enough to handle fire arms, but I could tell right off this trip was to take me about as far as a poet can get from her kitchen table in Cleveland, OH. I arrived in Duri just in time for a great dinner with teachers and came home to my guest house, which comes with a butler. Neither one of us are quite sure how to communicate with each other, but he has a nice smile, fixed me a cup of tea and promised me breakfast tomorrow at seven. No monkeys here, unfortunately, too much of the rain forest has been burned and hauled away to make way for palm oil plantations. While I was at dinner an extended family of small ants or termites seems to have moved into my laptop. I’m hoping that they eat all the crumbs over night and take off for more promising digs in the morning. That or I’m finding a can of Raid somewhere. My environmentalist philosophies have their limits.


And another in Sumatra Posted by Hello

Gonged at Caltex!

Well, I've been welcomed to schools, I've been introduced with poems and songs and outstanding performances, but this is the first time I have been gonged into a school! Honoring an Indonesian tradition, I was welcomed at the Caltex School in Sumatra by a deep g-o-n-g. After they asked me three questions: Where am I from (Ohio, USA), What is my birthday (September 15) and what is my favorite food (pizza) I turned a rain stick upside down and b-o-n-g the gong was sounded again and our day began. Caltex is a small school by US standards, 40 kids grades pre-K to 8. Everyone was all enthused to hear and write poetry. I was pretty jazzed too, especially after I watched the monkeys playing outside before school began.

No, I'm not talking about the ones in the shorts and sneakers -- I'm talking about the MONKEYS! As one student pointed out after I was yammering about the monkeys like the bug-eyed foreigner I am, "they weren't just invented for zoos, you know." Well, yeah, I guess I knew that, but it sure was new to me to see them running free like squirrels all over the neighborhood.

I was particularly impressed by a display of Haiku poetry about the Tsumami in the hallway, illustrated by three dimentional collages representing the chaos and damage caused by last December's disaster that struck the beaches. This school is far inland, so it wasn't damaged by the earthquake or aftermath, but no one in this region has been unaffected by its devastation and like many schools, this school has helped raise money for relief efforts.

After sharing and writing poems the world was washed clean by a genuine tropical rain, after which I was treated to a traditional meal and a yummy dessert -- rice with honey and mangoes. Double yum. After that we had a rocking family evening -- more poems. I can honestly say this is one school visit I will NEVER forget.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Sara in Sumatra Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 03, 2005

To Singapore

Leaving Michael waving at the hotel window is hard. He's heading back home in the morning and I'm on to Indonesia through Singapore. Customs is a breeze getting out of Vietnam, here they x-ray the bags but there is no one looking at the monitors. Oh well.

Reading the International Herald Tribune on the plane, news from the outside world -- The Pope has died, millions mourn. That Teri person has finally passed (what WILL they talk about on Fox News?). If I were tri-lingual and could push a broom, I can get a job for 1/3 more pay than I could pushing a broom elsewhere at the new Disney World in Hong Kong. One item I can't read. Literally. It has been crossed out of the paper with a black magic marker. I hold it up to the light and can figure out by reading the fringes that there's been some kind of protest by Buddist monks in China that the Vietnamese govt. doesn't want me to read about. That's not cool. Having seen censorship and propaganda in all kinds of packages (did someone say Fox News?), I can say this is a new one on me. Quaintly old fashioned in a modern news age.

I'm still hung up on the fact I couldn't get a custodial job at Disney in China since I can barely pretend to be multilingual if there are pictures on the menu as we dip into the sky above Singapore. Lighted ships are lined up along a lenghty channel disappearing into an infinity point to my right, too many to count. Customs is a wave toward the taxi queue. Pretty lax for a country that still believes in caning and enforces the death penalty for drug possession.

Into the taxi and I feel at home again -- high rises, highways, people traveling in the same directions in the same lanes -- what a concept! I am met by one of my hostess teachers from Duri, Caroline, who takes me for a walk around the hotel. Across the street is Borders, next to Gucci and McDonalds. We talk about the lax security at the airport and she tells me that chewing gum is also against the law in Singapore. Little note for those traveling -- no gum, but Caroline assured me I wouldn't get arrested for the Tootsie Roll in my pocket. Whew.

But basically, I would say you will have more problems with airport security flying from Cleveland to Buffalo than from Vietnam to Singapore.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Reuinification Palace Posted by Hello

later that same day

In Vietnam, they call it "the American War." Tonight 1300 teachers, mostly American, Canadian, British and Australian ex-pats came together for a reception at the Reunification Palace. This building is next door to the former US Embassy, the bunker atop which sat the infamous helipad where the last chopper took off in April of 1975. The building is familiar to those of us who used to look forward to reading Life Magazine every week -- those of us who remember Life Magazine.

First, I couldn't believe I was there, second I couldn't believe that these beautiful people who were considered to be enemies for so long, were welcoming us with such warm smiles and elegant service. "White Guilt" is a phrase tossed about at poetry readings back home, but try carrying it through a country where we killed 4-5million folks over 19 years just a generation ago. Where some of the victims of Agent Orange and Napalm beg on the streets. Yeah. Heavy.

As we approached the building the Palace groungs were a bit off putting with spiked fences and uniformed guards, but as we turned our eyes on the wide staircase we saw it was banked on both sides with at least 50 wait staff, dressed in white, holding trays of drinks. A (what would you call it?) combo of Vietnamese musicians were playing meserizing, lyrical stringed instruments, luring us in like Sirens. It was an unbelievable and healing experience to be walking and nodding at folks in the building that was once war central. An unbelieveable meal was stacked at dozens of food stations, local and international fare of the highest quality. Thoughts of old wars disappeared as the teachers mingled. At this event, the question, "where you from" is a two parter...I'm from Wisconsin, based now in Singapore, or from Oregon, now in Bali, just relocated from Hong Kong. The night was magical.

Michael and I lingered in the halls that Nixon and Kissinger had used to meet with Diem, chatting, munching on everything from curried noodles to ice cream. As we were leaving, I noticed a couple of tanks parked on the front lawn to the left of the broad circular drive, left there in commemoration of the arrival of the troops we know in the west as the Viet Cong and what is termed here to be Army of Patriots. Outside the spiked walls the city zoomed through the night toward tomorrow. The Vietnamese people have obviously moved on, on motor scooters, bicycles and in honking taxicabs. The city is thriving and throbbing with possibilities. Like at home, the young people are much more interested in the latest movies and fashion that in old war stories. Still, I have trouble getting my arms around the irony that the war that caused such division at home, ultimately brought reunification here. Yes, communist red star flag flies over the building, but there is no boot on anyone's back that I can tell. Everyone is moving too fast toward the future.

Dragon dancers opening conference Posted by Hello

don't laugh at me

Peter Yarrow leads off the conference talking about his recent visit to a home for children disabled by Agent Orange. He sings the songs that helped to rally a nation of protesters to say to the commercial war machine, "stop it," and to finally be heard. A demarcation line winds through the audience -- younger folks respectfully sing along, but those of us over 50 are in tears. The wounds are that deep. This isn't Pennsylvania or Ohio or any other of the 50 US states that sent their proud youngsters over here to die. And so many lives lost among the Vietnamese, so much destruction. For what? After 30 years, we are still asking.

In a soft voice, mixing song with spoken word, he reminds us how music is a universal language and that we still need to rally against war. Not speaking about Iraq, he is talking about the ongoing wars in our schools. Along with Peter and Mary they are working with to promote and organization called Operation Respect. a It offers a free curriculum to schools to stop school bullying and violence, the centerpiece being a song, Don't Laugh At Me. He reminds us that war is the ultimate disrespect, but that we are training our children to be warriors when we tolerate disrespect in schools, on television and on playing fields. At this point the demarcation line disappears and everyone is teary-eyed as videos are shown and the song repeated, the audience singing along.