Tuesday, August 24, 2010

So Far, So Good!

I got the letter yesterday from the RSCDS, informing me I had passed. Of the seven people in my Unit 5 class, I've heard from Bernadette, Nigel, and Griff, all of whom have passed their RSCDS Teacher exam. That's four of us with a good result so far. Having seen how we all dance and teach during the two-week course, I have very good hopes that Hisako, Isobel and Pat will pass too.

The picture is from our Friday shopping trip to St. Jacobs. L to R, Hisako, Pat, Irene (our tutor), Isobel, and Lisa (our pianist). A warm day, but not drastically hot and humid. It was nice to get away from everything at TAC after the stress of our exams the day before. Isobel found some great clothes at the first shop we went into. There was a wonderful dress there that I almost bought. It fit really well, and would make a great ball dress - cool light-weight fabric, easy to wash, but still dressy. If it had been another color besides black, I certainly would have got it!

And we all had a wonderful time poking around in another shop, Ultimate Woman. Lots of really cute handbags, scarves, clothes and accessories. I bought a beautiful cut-velvet scarf showing two peacocks in jewel tones. I'm looking forward to using it this winter. Hisako and I also found a candy store that makes its own turkish delight, in about 20 different flavors! When we spotted that we both grabbed little bags and started choosing :). Mango, lemon, blueberry, mandarin orange, watermelon, cherry, lime...and really fresh too. I finished the last pieces yesterday.

It was a good two weeks. I enjoyed getting to know everyone, and I hope we'll stay in touch and become long-distance teaching colleagues.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I got back to Boise around midnight on Saturday night, tired, footsore, with heavy suitcases. Waited a long time at baggage claim, and of course hyper-efficient Boise Airport did not list our flight on the baggage claim marquee. So I had to wander up and down to each carousel, looking for my suitcase. Finally found it on the Chicago/Minneapolis one. Guess our flight from Denver was so small it didn't rate its own carousel. The plane was smaller than an Embrauer jet. Not sure what kind it was.

Sunday was a lot of laundry, unpacking, cleaning, and re-acquainting myself with the garden. Ken managed to fill nearly five quart bags of raspberries to freeze, and there are still more coming. The tomatoes are starting to ripen. We've eaten at least five or six in the last two days. There are six more on the counter, and more on the way that aren't quite red enough yet. So far its only been the Parks Colossal and Legend that have got ripe. There is fruit set on some of the other plants, but I can't tell which kind they are yet.

The chickens are lots bigger. We moved the chicks onto the grass today, still in their smaller pen. They're much more aggressive than any chickens we've had so far. It's hard to be sure this early, but I think at least one or two are roosters.

The survivor rooster got big!! He has a magnificent comb and he's so tall! He's found his crow at last, so he wakes us up around 5:30 am every morning (sigh!). I hope he'll be a tasty dinner at least, to make up for all the noise. :)

It was a great two weeks at TAC. My classmates were good people. I hope we'll all become teachers! We're supposed to hear in about two weeks. Exam day dragged for me, being last in the line-up. But I got to see everyone come out feeling pretty good about how they did, and word was the examiners were treating them kindly. So that was encouraging.

I had practiced teaching my lesson at least three times by the time 3:50pm rolled around. I wanted to be sure I didn't forget essential elements of the step practice or formation practice that led into the dance. I tend to do that when I'm nervous. They expect more detail than I'm used to doing, so it felt like there was a lot to remember. But I learned a lot that I want to bring into my teaching at home, even if I don't make such detailed lesson plans every week.

I got all the way through everything I had planned and was about to have them dance through the last 16 bars, when the examiners stopped me and said I was running out of time, so I should just have them dance it through. I briefed it and they did it. And it turned out well! No super-mistakes.
I'm thinking when our class starts up again in September I'll teach them my exam lesson, so they can see what it was like.

On Friday we were free to do whatever. So Isobel, Pat, Hisako, Lisa, Irene, and I all went to St. Jacobs, a little town north of Waterloo that was originally settled by German Lutherans. It's now a shopping mecca. Still a small town, with older brick buildings on the main street, but lots of fun, local businesses selling candy, clothing, shoes, home stuff, etc. We had a very nice lunch at Benjamin's, then headed for the stores. Isobel found some great dresses. I tried on some things but didn't buy. The one store where I might have bought something, a natural stone jewelry shop, was closed for lunch. Though I did get some fresh Turkish Delight at the candy store. Then on the way home they dropped me off at the Chapters bookstore. I got a book and some magazines for the trip home and walked the five blocks back to our residence.

My right knee got up to its usual tricks within a few days of getting there, so I wore an elastic brace in class. It doesn't do much to stop it hurting, but at least the swelling stays down. About four days into the course the arch of my left foot started hurting. I think I strained some of the muscles there. So I wore a foot/ankle elastic brace for the rest of the time. It helped enough that I could dance normally in the exam.

But Saturday morning I went to the Advanced Technique class Alan Twhigg taught, just to relax, and I had to stop after the first dance. It hurt so much I couldn't spring on that foot. Dancing stopped being fun, so I went back to my room and finished packing. I hope it's just a strain and I'll be ok in a few weeks. I'm going to find a different elastic support to wear. The ankle one doesn't have a very big band around the foot.

Back at work today, with lots to do. Bills to pay, chores to catch up on. But it's nice to be home.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Exam Day!

So, here it is, Thursday, Aug. 12th. I do my teaching exam at 3:50pm, assuming they don't go off the schedule. I'll go over with the other two afternoon candidates after lunch, and try not to be too nervous while I wait. I've practiced-taught my lesson a few times, hoping I'll remember everything.

My dance is "Lady of the Lake" from Book 25. Not a super-difficult dance, but it does have some devilish 1 1/4 turns which could be problematic. Let's hope my stooge dancers don't give me TOO many problems. A few would be good - so I can show the examiners that I know how to fix things. But endless problems will just push me over my time limit.

There are four of my classmates over there right now, either doing or waiting to do their exams. I hope we all do well and pass. I'm just going to take a shower and get ready now, so I'm not in a rush. We leave at 1:30 for the dance studio. Send me good thoughts!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

End of the First Week, A New Week Begins

It was a nice sunset yesterday. I took this from our lounge. It has a great view.

Yesterday Unit 5 only had a half day of classes. Then we were free to do whatever. I relaxed for most of the afternoon, then Kathy and I went out to run some errands. I found a slip at the nearby mall, and we had dinner. It was nice to get out. I had a good sleep, but I forgot I could have slept in another half hour. It would have been nice, but I woke up before my alarm and couldn't get back to sleep.

Here we are, Sunday morning. It rained last night and the sun was a little red ball over the hills. This was the view out my window, facing east. I think it's going to be humid again today. Hard to believe a whole week has gone by already.

My right knee is hurting, but it's not the thing it did last summer when I couldn't push up from a bent position. It's puffy and sore, but so far I can use it. I thought about going to the AGM Ball last night, but decided it was better not to if I want to be in reasonable dancing shape for Thursday. My hip has been good. It gets stretched every day in class warm-ups, so I'm not too concerned about it.

It's our third go-round of teaching practice, and I'm first. This morning I teach Lady Susan Stewart, a hyper-active little reel with a break-neck track figure to begin and two corner-partner figures. At least you get a bit of a rest for the last 8 bars. Yeow.

I'd like to take more pictures of us in class, but I haven't had time. Maybe today if we have stooges I'll get to sit out one dance and take a few.

Friday, August 6, 2010

One Week Down...

One more to go!

It's hard to believe tomorrow is Saturday already. It seems like we just got here. Of course, Thursday was a very odd day, so I think most people feel like they've missed a day out of their lives.

On Wednesday night at least four of the 18 candidates and one of the organizers came down with food poisoning. My suite-mate, Kathy, was up most of the night in the bathroom, having a horrible time. That started around 10:30-11pm, and continued into the small hours. The bathroom door is pretty thin, so you can hear just about everything. Which meant all sorts of unpleasant noises. I got only 3-4 hours of sleep. Of course Kathy got even less, poor thing. By morning we found out more people were ill. The Prelim class was hit hardest, with 5 of their 11 candidates out sick. Only three of the seven Unit 5's were sick.

In fact, with so many Unit 2 candidates sick, they had to put off the Unit 2 exam for 24 hours. So instead of today, it's tomorrow. I hope Kathy does well. I think she's feeling fairly confident. It's the Personal Dancing exam, which to me was much less stressful than the teaching part. This takes away a day of their preparation for Unit 3, the teaching part, which is a shame, but I don't know what else TAC could do at this point.

So on Thursday, with only 4 people in our class, Irene's lesson was radically changed. Thank goodness we had stooges! Instead of her watching each of us teach a dance and writing up her comments, we agreed that she would stop us on the spot when she saw something that needed fixing. Since we'd already taught one dance and got written comments, this was an interesting change.

Poor Isobel got the first chance. I was next, so I tried to use all of the corrections I'd heard in Isobel's lesson. I still got stopped a few times, but it was a good improvement for me. Especially in how I mostly remembered to walk and talk the figure, rather than talking about it and then walking it. Much more efficient, and it gives dancers a better picture of what you want.

The other thing we did was get assigned a difficult figure to teach. I got The Spurtle. The others got the Spoke, the progressive reel of 4, and the tourbillon.

By the end of Thursday most of the sickies were up and walking around, even if they weren't very interested in food yet. On the way home from classes we stopped at the stores to get recovery food - yogurt, bananas, ginger ale, saltines, etc. BUT! By Thursday night two more people got it. Fortunately they both had less violent cases and they are up and about today, if not dancing.

The organizers reported our problems to the Board of Health and informed the three catering companies. Needless to say, most of us are being very careful about what we're eating. I've been sticking to un-peeled fruit and box cereal at breakfast. Until today we were having meals catered because there aren't enough of us to justify opening the University dining hall. There needs to be 40. Now that the TAC AGM weekend is starting, we'll go to the dining hall for meals.

Today, Friday, was better. Isobel was out, but everyone else was there, and we had enough stooges for two 3-cpl sets. The three who had not yet taught their second dance were able to do so. Then Irene had each of us choose a fairly easy dance that we remembered well, and we had to Brief it and they danced it. I did Flowers of Edinburgh. I didn't want to be sooo brief that all I said was "chase, set, chase, set, down, back, poussette. So I thought I'd put in a bit more detail, and ended up saying too much. *sigh*

Tonight I went out for Chinese with Hisako, Isobel and Pat, all of whom were sick and just couldn't face the TAC dinner. Not that it's bad food, it's all been very tasty. We just don't know where the food poisoning came from. But tomorrow we'll be in the dining hall, so hopefully there will be no more problems.

Tomorrow we're back to teaching another dance. So far I've done Euan's Jig, Donald Bane, and now it's Lady Susan Stewart. All carefully chosen by Irene for maximum tricky bits without being super advanced. Euan's Jig has a six-bar double figure of 8, of all things. Lady Susan has both set to corners and partner, and turn corners and partner. So you immediately think those are the hardest figures. And they are. Then I started looking at the first eight bars. Yikes! It's just a track figure, but you really have to cover some mileage!

So I'm first up tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Day Two

Today we begin actual classes. We'll be here in the Residence building because it's a holiday. Pretty convenient for us in Unit 5, since we're meeting in the common area right outside our rooms. In the pictures you can see the 5th floor right above that brick section that extends out. So the windows on our floor look directly out, across to the soccer field.

We walk past the soccer pitch into the campus to the dining hall for breakfast, as you see in the next picture. The food has been ok so far. Today was pancakes, ham slices, oatmeal, fruit, cold cereals, and toast. The coffee isn't as strong as I like it, but it tastes good.

So, in a few moments I'll be stepping outside my own door and directly into the class. I think we're working on footwork technique and some of the more difficult figures today, before we really get started on teaching practice tomorrow.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

TAC SS 2010

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

So, here we are. I left Boise around 6am, got into Denver at 7:30, and then waited for the flight to Toronto until 11:30. So plenty of time wandering around the shops at Denver airport. I found Kathy Byers at our gate about an hour before our flight, so at least I had someone to talk to for part of the time. I forgot to eat anything for lunch, so by the time our flight got to Toronto I was very hungry.

Customs took almost an hour waiting in line. There were hordes of people from all over. You heard all kinds of accents and languages. I think a lot of planes had arrived at once. They had the usual snake-y line, so we walked back and forth across the room at least 10 times. Kind of comical really. Customs itself was very quick, once you actually got to an agent.

Then I got my bag and we found Hisako. She arrived earlier from Australia. So we went to the rental car place and headed off through Toronto. It was fairly simple from the airport. Just took one highway west until the turn-off for Waterloo/Kitchener. And the college was easy to find as well. Once we got there we put our luggage in our rooms and headed off for some dinner. We found a Thai place that was so-so, but at least it was food. Then we hunted down a Walmart. Not my favorite place, but it was open at that time of night and things were cheap. The other two had forgotten things. I picked up some odds and ends, like a small towel to use as a bathmat, a mug, and trail mix.

Then I unpacked and settled in. As you can see from the pictures, the rooms are *very* basic - and SMALL! But they are air conditioned and there's everything you need, including a reasonable desk and an internet connection. On each floor there are small common areas with kitchen stuff, including a fridge and a microwave.

This morning Hisako and I walked down Kings St. into the town. I didn't bring my camera, but I took a couple shots of the view from my window in that direction. There are lots of small shops and cafes. We stopped at one for a coffee and breakfast, then walked on. In the other direction on Kings there's a Starbucks and a 7-11. So I picked up a container of Tazo Chai and some milk. It's going to be a tough two weeks in some ways, with homework to do in the evenings and not a lot of free time. So it'll be nice to have a hot chai while I'm working away on lesson plans. I am please to say that my trusty laptop made the journey here safely and has caused me no trouble so far in connecting. This laptop has lived well beyond its sell-by date and traveled halfway around the world with me. I'm hoping to replace it later this year, but in a way I hate to give it up. It's been my lifeline to the outside world on so many occasions.