Mr. Kay's Blog

The day to day happenings of a 6th grade classroom teacher

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Archive for the ‘holiday diary’ Category

bikes, food, dreams, and six feet under

Posted by willkay on July 28, 2010

Le Tour de France is a bike race around France, that lasts for three weeks. For twenty-two days, 180 cyclists, ride around France, climbing the Alps, the Pyrenees, and racing on the flat stages. It sounds silly to say that watching it is exhausting – watching people cycle up hills that I would have difficulty walking up, and they are doing this after having ridden 100km to get to the mountain – but it is draining. It has been an excellent Tour, where the lead has never been more than one minute, and was finally decided by 39 seconds.

Due to the Tour (and the 8 second gap between 1st and 2nd place), last week was spent mainly close to a television/computer screen. I did manage a haircut, deciding that it would be a good idea to get that over and done with, rather than waiting for the day before going back to school. There are few things worse than the “back to school haircut”. We also went to the cinema and saw Inception. This led to a series of weird dreams-within-dreams dreams. However, don’t let that put you off seeing Inception. A visually stunning film with a great concept and execution. Well worth the entrance fee.

Apart from that, we have also worked our way through Six Feet Under, all five seasons.

So, we haven’t left the flat much. However, we have been having adventures, adventures in food. I really enjoy cooking. I like finding recipes and then giving it a go, seeing if it works out. maria has also joined in with this, producing some fantastic meals. We spent some time plotting quitting teaching/photography, and setting up a restaurant instead. But, gentle reader, you have no need to panic just yet. We’ve decided that the restaurant business won’t work, and we’ll just stick to what we do for the time being.

Posted in holiday diary, holiday post | 3 Comments »

two weeks’ work destroyed

Posted by willkay on July 18, 2010

So, my holiday project, Grow-A-Beard was going really well. And when I say “well” I mean “well” in the sense that I was growing a beard. In all other aspects of my life, the project was not going “well”. Those of you who have been students of mine will have heard Roald Dahl’s description of men’s beards, from The Twits. Those of you who haven’t been students of mine, go read The Twits to discover that Mr. Dahl does not have a very high opinion of beards. At one point in the book, he raises the question: do men have to shampoo and condition their beards? I don’t know the answer to that exactly, as my beard never quite got long enough, but I can vouch for the fact that they are itchy. Very itchy. You know how scratchy and itchy and annoying your dad’s beard was when he kisses you goodnight? How he will sometimes scratch your face (or in my dad’s case, pull up my shirt and rub his chin on my tummy)? Well, take it from me, it is ten times itchier and scratchier and annoying (-er) on the other side. Yes, beards are awful to try and grow. And, as you probably noticed, the weather changed mid-week. Suddenly the sun shone, the temperature rose, and everything became more and more itchy. Friday night I shaved.

Apart from that, there isn’t a lot to report about week two of the holidays. I visited school one afternoon – I need to update my papers so that I can work in Mexico -, went shopping a couple of times, paid off the phone/electricity/water/mobile bills, watched a lot of cycling – La Tour de France, played a lot of Animal Crossing and finally got some peach trees to grow.

So ends week two. How’s it going with you?

Posted in holiday diary, holiday post | 5 Comments »

(back to work) Thursday

Posted by willkay on May 6, 2010

[Sorry this is late. There is a General Election in England. I’ve been sat watching the results come in. There could well be a new Prime Minister tomorrow.]

Happy Birthday Professor Rene! (Although it was actually his birthday on May 3rd – the day before Star Wars Day [May the Fourth be with you] – but the school has a way of celebrating people’s birthdays when it isn’t actually their birthday. Something to think about next Thursday, when the school calendar says it is someone’s birthday, yet it is their birthday on Saturday.) [Can you see what I have done there?]

Back to school on a Thursday, which means that I don’t get into the classroom for the first two hours: computer and Spanish lessons. This gave me enough time to prepare the notice boards for the students’ paintings, for Mother’s Day. And to mark the piles of books that had sat unwanted and unloved on my desk for the last five days. Good news – spelling quiz scores were very good.

The new value of the month is Loyalty. The sixth grade haven’t been very forthcoming with answers at morning line up, especially with questions about the value of the month. So, we discussed the value of the month. The homework tonight is to pick a film, and write about a moment of loyalty in that film. We then started the new spelling list…and the earthquake alarms went off! It was a practice. Once we were all out on the playground, we took the opportunity to sing “Happy Birthday” to Señor Francisco. Then back to the spelling list and: Words from a Different Culture. Thanks to Ana Andrea, we now all know the difference between an ape and a monkey. And thanks to Andrea and Ivan, we now know the three ways that crocodiles are different to alligators.

Recess and a chance to catch up with stories of how the holiday went. Ruben wins the prize for best story. Read it here.

In geography we finished the topic of Africa, specifically with South Africa. We talked about Nelson Mandela and his imprisonment, his release after 27 years, and his becoming the first black President of South Africa. Science was all about gravity, and how the pull of the moon changes the tides on Earth.

A good day back at school, with a lot of ground covered. Shame it was ruined at the end of the day with no one listening carefully for their names being called.

Something New: General Election in UK

Favourite Moment Of The Day (FMOTD): 57??

Professor Rene is how old????  [He’s not!]

Attendance: All present


  • Reading Log:
  • Story: Loyalty. Pick a film and write about a moment of loyalty in that film.
  • Reading: This is not an option. You should be reading 20 minutes every night.

Posted in english, geography, holiday diary, morning line up, reading log, science, spelling, Uncategorized, values | 1 Comment »

(checklist) Sunday

Posted by willkay on April 11, 2010

Aaarggh! Back to school tomorrow. Need to go through my checklist of stuff to do:

  • clean uniform for Monday  [check]
  • shoes cleaned [check]
  • hair neat and tidy [check]
  • shave!  [check]
  • finish reading book  [check]
  • set alarm clock [check]
  • go to bed early [check]
  • put out sunblock coat and gloves (checked the weather forecast for tomorrow, looks like rain) [check]
  • lessons planned for tomorrow  [check] (actually there’s a clue to tomorrow’s work in the top left hand corner – can you see what it is?)
  • books for school  [check]
  • equipment for school  [check]
  • lunch  [check]
  • holiday work completed [check]
  • happy smile on face [check]

I think that’s everything. I’m bound to have forgotten something though! Oooo, need to thing of a Something New to put on the board.

Posted in holiday diary | 5 Comments »

(peaceful) Tuesday

Posted by willkay on April 7, 2010

One of the problems with holidays is that I totally mess around with my body clock. You know, that clock inside you that makes you wake up at the same time in the morning, and makes you fall asleep in front of the television at night. What has been happening is, I haven’t been waking up in the morning, and I haven’t been going to bed until late at night early in the morning. Cause and effect. Because I don’t get up early, I don’t go to bed until a lot later. Because I don’t go to bed early, I don’t get get up until a lot later. Except this doesn’t work on Tuesdays. Tuesday is bin day. It is the day the binmen come round and collect the rubbish. [Translation into American: It is the day the garbagemen come round and collect the trash.] This means we have to get up early to put the binbags out in the street. We’ve tried putting out the bags before we go to bed, however the roving packs of dogs that wander the streets, normally wake us up in the middle of the night, searching through our bags for clues to my KFC addiction. Thus, Tuesday morning we have to get up early, drag the rubbish down the stairs, and put it all outside. Once we were awake and up and doing stuff, we decided that we should really do something. So we did. We went and crossed the border – or, at least, maria crossed the border (she has a Sentri pass), I stood in a queue for an hour, waiting to cross the border.

We went to Balboa Park. We spent time walking round the *squirrel* park, through the gardens. maria took loads of pictures. If you ever go to Balboa Park, look carefully at the buildings. They all have very intricate carvings on them, that are very beautiful. We also spent an hour or so in the botanical garden – a glass building, full of flowers and plants. There are always major culture-shocks for me when we do things like this. The other day, when we were at the zoo, we stood and watched humming birds, flying in and drinking the nectar in plants. It amused me that in England the humming birds would be in cages, because they are not native. It was the same today. As a child in Sheffield, my parents would take me to The Botanical Gardens. There were huge greenhouses, full of exotic plants and trees – like palm trees or orange trees! And yet, here I am now, in a country where I can see palm trees and orange trees from my kitchen window. [Of course, Balboa Park does not have a Bear Pit like the one in Sheffield. Although the bears were taken out of the pit in the 1870s, just before I was born.]

When I first came to Mexico, one of the first places we went to in the USA were Sunset Cliffs. I like the sea and I’d never seen the Pacific Ocean, and there is nowhere more beautiful to view the Pacific than sat on Sunset Cliffs, watching the sun set. The cliffs go red, the waves pound against the rocks sending spray up into the air, the sun disappears behind the horizon very quickly. We decided to finish the day with a visit to the cliffs. However there were still a couple of hours to go before the sun set, and we hadn’t eaten. We went to Shakespeare’s Pub and Grille. This is an English pub in San Diego. This means that I get to order one of my favourite meals: fish, chips, and mushy peas. If you look closely at the picture you will see that I have a bowl of something that is slightly radioactive-green coloured. This is not a bowl of guacamole. that is a bowl full of mushy peas. Yum, yum! Of course, there is not just the true joy and wonderment of mushy peas to be had at the pub. There is also the shop (or shoppe as they insist on calling it). There you can purchase pork pies, scotch eggs, maltesers, and Marmite. Marmite, simply the bestest ever spread to put on your toast! [At this moment maria is start to go on about Marmite, avocado, and cheese, something I haven’t tried…yet!]

After a late lunch, it was time to set of to the cliffs. As we drove along, I played CNPS. CNPS is Consecutive Number Plate Spotting. This is where you spot number plates with consecutive numbers. Basically you need to see a 000 to start. Then a 001, a 002, 003, 004, and so on, until you get to 999. You cannot miss numbers, you cannot see them on television, or in pictures. You have to spot them live. I have been playing this game for over a year now, and during the day I managed to spot a 037 in Balboa Park and a 038 outside Shakespeare’s Pub. Unfortunately the 039 I spotted was before the 038, so that didn’t count. I spent the journey to the cliffs searching the number plates to no avail! As usual, the cliffs were beautiful. We waited for a bit, contemplating the universe, watching the waves pound against the cliffs. There weren’t that many surfers in the water. The sun set. We got cold. We came home. Stopping off at Target for a ginormous bag of wild bird seed. [On the balcony, maria has built a shelf upon which she has placed several different bird feeders. These we fill with seed and left over food that the birds might eat.]

So, that was my Tuesday. How did yours go? Have you done anything exciting in the holidays? Drop me an email or write something in the comments, I am sure that everyone will be interested.

Posted in holiday diary, stuff | 4 Comments »

(earthquake) Sunday

Posted by willkay on April 4, 2010

It’s Sunday afternoon, Easter Sunday. We’ve finished watching “The Right Stuff” and have just started to watch “Three Kings”. The sun is shining outside, there isn’t a cloud in the sky. The window starts to rattle. It’s been rattling most of the afternoon. It isn’t particularly tight in its frame, and the slightest gust makes it rattle. Except, it normally rattles once/twice and then settles. Now it is is rattling constantly.

Earthquake! – says maria. Can you feel it?

This is a point of contention between us. I have never felt an earthquake since moving to Mexico, she tells me there have been 3/4. I come back with “it was just a lorry outside”, that is what made the hangers move in the wardrobe.

Yes – I say.

And I can. Forget the rattle of the window, you can see the floor rolling. No, seriously the floor rolls. It undulates. You know how you see those films of earthquakes where they show you solid concrete rippling – it does.

We’re going out – she says.

I don’t argue, I don’t panic. I do think of picking up the laptop. I think of grabbing the camera. I stop myself. I’ve been in one of these situations before, not an earthquake, a fire. That time I did the same, just got up and walked out. Picked up nothing, didn’t run, didn’t panic, just left the building. All those years of practice at school for fire drill set me in good stead. Earthquake drill is pretty much the same – except in school they like to get you to climb under your desk for ten seconds – get out the building, get as far away as possible from the building.

We head towards the front door. The ground is rolling and I feel sick, seasick. I don’t (or never have) suffered from seasickness (and yes, I have spent time on ships/boats/dinghies) but this time I feel it. Nothing really matches up with anything. By that I mean, the floor is moving, you are moving, you can see the walls moving, the floor moving, but it makes no sense to your brain. I felt sick in the pit of my stomach.

maria grabbed the front door keys, the front door is locked, three locks. I’ve got no shoes on, she’s got no shoes on, at least we are not in our pyjamas! This is unusual for a Sunday afternoon but we were planning on Skyping later in the day, so clothes on. maria gets the three locks done and then fails to open the door. It is only a second, but in that second the thought flashes through my mind that the door is stuck. It isn’t. We leave the flat.

Opposite us the door opens at the same time and the neighbour steps out. The three of us make it down the stairs to the ground, the people from the downstairs flat are already out. The earthquake is still going on. I’ve heard that earthquakes seem to last for ages, but this one is lasting for ages. We move as far away as possible from the building – which means we are now leaning against a wall. The wall is also vibrating, except it isn’t a vibration, it’s an undulating ripple. Stupidly, this wall is the main wall of the house next door. In trying to get away from our flat, we have pushed ourselves up to another building. But we don’t have keys to get out the gate and into the street.

maria pushes herself off the wall and stands, looking out into the street. You can see everything rippling. It’s weird. Like everything is being refocused through a camera lens, from blurry to focused and then back out.

The kids – she says.

And then she sets off back up the stairs for the phone. The earthquake is still going on – or is it? It is hard to tell. If you’ve ever been at sea or ice/roller skated for some time, you know how your legs are still wobbly when you walk normally on land? It’s a bit like that. I’m still wobbly and I can’t tell if it is still the earthquake or it is me. I don’t say anything to maria, there is no point. We’d just argue and she’d be stood on the stairs which would be daft. The neighbour starts to question what she is doing, but she moves so quickly (maria) that she is in the house and back out, dialing, within seconds.

The earthquake finishes. I don’t know what to do now. I’ve heard of aftershocks and, honestly, I’m scared. Really scared. Earthquakes in Haiti, earthquakes in Chile, all in the last couple of months have made me aware. Now, obviously the building I’m about to enter hasn’t fallen down but…But it makes no sense that it is still standing. There were ripples running through the walls seconds ago. This isn’t a cotton blanket that you have just flicked, this is a solid, concrete wall. How does it not crack? How does it not have some structural weakness? It makes no sense.

The kids are fine. Everyone is fine. It was a 6.9 earthquake that lasted nearly a minute. The good news is that is was a rolling earthquake, not a “jump around, jump around, jump up and jump down” type earthquake. Back in the flat Twitter is going crazy. Everyone felt it, everyone is fine. maria switches from phoning her kids to phoning her mum.

You heard the window? ‘Cos you’re useless at knowing there’s an earthquake, use that as a guide – she says.

Four minutes later the window rattles again and the door starts to wobble. It’s an aftershock. I’m actually feeling sicker. Really sick in my stomach. I think it is because I am thinking. Up until now I’ve always known that there could be an earthquake, just didn’t treat it seriously. Now it is serious.

I’m wildly checking internet sites. CNN tell me that people in Los Angeles had their chandeliers shaken. The New York Times tells me that the shock could be felt in Los Angeles. I’m sort of getting annoyed. Who cares about Los Angeles? It was here. Here in Baja. !50km southeast of Tijuana. And then the next aftershock hits. This one is a beast. 5.4 on the Richter scale. For the seven seconds it lasts I am really scared. This one seems to last forever, much longer than the real thing because now, now I’ve done the thinking. Now I know that it can go wrong. Now I am looking forward to collapsed buildings, digging people out of wreckage, missing the result of tomorrow’s footy match (Sheffield United v Newcastle), hell, missing the result of Chivas v America tonight…and not caring. Except. Except. It’s over. Over before maria (who always knows when there is an earthquake) notices. She’s still on the phone with her mum! I tell her.

We’ll sleep in our clothes tonight – she says.

I put on a pair of shoes. I’ve been walking around in socks all this time. I check my phone, it’s fully charged, and put it in my pocket. I get my wallet and put that in my pocket as well. I check that the front door is unlocked. I open a beer. I feel a bit sick, I need something to settle my stomach.

No longer an earthquake virgin.

Posted in holiday diary, stuff | 17 Comments »

(saw a panda) Sunday

Posted by willkay on March 28, 2010

Sunday, second day of the holidays. Yesterday we went to bed early, so that we could be up early. Fully sunblocked, hats firmly on heads, we set off for the border. The early hour was a good plan, I had to renew my I94, and there was no queue. The UK and the USA have a “visa waiver” policy, which means that I don’t actually need a visa to get into the USA, I pick up a 90 day pass. This still means I have to queue to cross the border, and then queue to get my I94. Today it took a whole 9 minutes. Nine minutes. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and legal (to cross the border).

The San Diego Zoo is one of our favourite places, we have annual passes. I have been to zoos in three continents and San Diego Zoo is, by far, the best zoo I have ever visited. Yesterday, Saturday, they opened a new Polar Bear Plunge. This was our target. However, wisely, the Polar Bear Plunge is at the furthest point in the zoo from the entrance. This was not a problem. Due to the early hour of our arrival it was still not too hot and the animals were active. There was also no queue at the panda exhibit. No queue, active animals, happiness all round:

From the pandas we set up to the top part of the zoo. Although we were supposed to heading to the polar bears, we were distracted by the Elephant Odyssey. The elephants were their usual fun selves, many playing with the keepers, who were armed with water hoses. However, the lions were not “in the jungle, the mighty jungle…sleeping”. In fact, the lioness was actually chewing away on a bone. More like a dog than a (big) cat:

There is also a black jaguar in Elephant Odyssey, who was pacing back and forth, close to where we were standing:

Grabbing a frozen lemonade, we then walked over to the new exhibit. The polar bears did not disappoint. I assume that the polar bears have been in the exhibit for some time, so that they can become acclimatised before letting the public in. However, they were both wandering around the exhibit, dragging their blankets with them. Again, what I love about San Diego Zoo, is that the living areas for the animals are huge, however the design of the cages still makes you feel that you are close to the animals – without them being restricted. The rest of the exhibit has many activities for younger children: caves to crawl through; stepping stones to jump on/from; holes in the ice to pop up through. Another wonderful exhibit, which is well worth the walk. (You could cheat and take the skyride that gets you straight there from the entrance, but you’d miss out on everything else.)

By the time we left the polar bears, we’d been in the zoo over four hours. The sun had passed its highest point, the temperature had risen, and the zoo was full. We decided to head to the exit and leave. We have a whole two weeks of holiday ahead of us, we can come back another day. However, there was still one more magic moment for us. The last time we had been to the zoo, the two bears were arguing. Maria has a picture of the moment on her blog here. This time they were best of friends. Playing in the water and coming to check out the visitors:

A quick trip through the gift shop for Nikos to buy some sticky/stretchy animals, Danny to pick up a pair of animal-scissors, and Maria to add to her collection of animal cups (she reckons they are the best to drink milk out of), and by the time we got back to the car we had walked 8.9km according to the pedometer on my mobile phone. Not bad for a Sunday! There was time to stop off at Souplantation (so that Maria could pick up a packet of biscuits [cookies to you] to have something to go with her glass of milk) before heading back home, and into the welcoming cushions of the sofa.

So, that’s what I did. What did you do this weekend?

Posted in holiday diary, stuff | 3 Comments »

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