Lately I’ve gotten really into podcasts. It started when I broke my knee and couldn’t run, so all my high-energy million beats per minute playlists felt like they were mocking me a bit and I was looking for other things to listen to. I’ve been enjoying one called Noble Blood about historical royals and mysteries around them, but I have to listen to it on 1.5 speed because I like to listen to people talk as fast as I do. It’s already helped me with some questions on my Jeopardy app, which I am obsessed with. I can’t wait to get out to some trivia nights now that Hong Kong is open past 6pm again. (And yes, “Potent Potables” is often a category there. RIP Alex Trebek.)

my canine nephew

Other podcasts I’ve been deep-diving in on are “Coffee and Cults” and “Morbid,” hosted by two women that sound like we would be amazing friends and make me laugh out loud while discussing true crime as I stroll along the promenade. I often wonder why I find these kind of podcasts so interesting, not scary, for someone who is sometimes startled by her own hair touching her arm. I love true crime shows; tracking and catching bad guys, the weird details, and wondering about the psychology of evil people. I’ve read that it’s the absence of real fear – living such safe lives – that makes middle class white women so addicted to fulfilling a morbid curiosity. It’s true my life in Hong Kong is ridiculously safe – I could walk alone on the streets at 4am and be completely fine. I wonder if I’d like these shows as much if I was still living in Rio. Or Concord, California, for that matter.

It was suggested I start a podcast, so I set one up for the blog and you can find it on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, and maybe put it on while you’re washing the dishes and feel like we’re having a conversation. It’s the oddest thing to record yourself reading yourself, and then listen to it. I absolutely hate it. Remember when you used to have to record a message for your voicemail, and hearing it was so cringey, but you had to check what it sounds like? The sound of your own voice is always a shock. I can’t believe students have to listen to me all day. Then again, how many times a day do I have to yell at them to listen? Hm.

I read somewhere once that we are thrown off by a recording of our voice because what we hear when we talk is going through the cavities in our skulls so it’s deeper than what others hear. I don’t like that information how do I make myself sound cooler? Please advise. 

Day Six

How long is twenty minutes, really? I feel like the first time I understood how long two minutes was was when (after thousands of dollars of damage repair that probably could have been prevented . . . must marry a dentist. Hey Siri – find me a single dentist!)  I finally listened to my dentist and got an electric toothbrush. Good Lord. Two minutes is an AGE. It’s possible I’d only brushed my teeth a total of five minutes in the last thirty-something years, if that’s how long two minutes truly is. 

I digress.

For this blog challenge, I thought, hey, just sit for twenty continuous minutes of writing a day, and see how this helps develop your craft, manifests some self-discipline, etc. Yet already I’m finding it difficult. We’ve been really busy not only at work, but our social lives in Hong Kong have suddenly exploded with options, now that we can go out to dinner again. Places are open until 10pm and we are basically feral animals trying to remember how to be civilized after 6pm, which is when everything was previously closing. With gyms and parks open as well, there is a myriad of after-work activities I can now engage in beyond moping and talking to my plants, so I’m much busier than I have been in months and suddenly “just twenty minutes” sounds like a true challenge. 

Last night, trying to truly understand what one could or couldn’t accomplish in that set amount of time, I set my stopwatch when I began getting ready to go to bed. 

It took me 37 minutes to get settled enough to get into bed. 

Now, it should be noted that I live in a tiny studio flat and am really OCD about things being cleaned and tucked away. I don’t have closet space to chuck dirty clothes into, no counter space for dirty dishes or dirty anything, no floor space for a speck of dust to go unnoticed. So in order for me to get into bed in the right state of mind, I do have to have a clean “house.”

found this on my phone the other day. cannot remember the context.

I started my stopwatch, and then got all my dishes cleaned and away (hand washed, of course, never seen a dishwasher here), set up coffee for the morning, refilled my water bottle, flossed and brushed teeth (I promise!), emptied the dehumidifier for the morning, set out my clothes, packed a lunch, washed my face, moisturised, looked at my wrinkles, took the trash to the bin (we do that daily here in HK. See: cockroaches), and then a few other things I’m probably forgetting and it took 37 minutes!! So how in tarnation does twenty minutes, sitting and writing, feel interminably long? 

It’s beyond me at the moment, but I am tired. And still have 37 minutes of tomorrow-prep to get to, so. I’m off. 

Days seven and eight were spent writing the birthday blog!

Day Nine

So if this were truly day nine, it would be a few days ago. But I had major hubris and thought I could accomplish this daily writing goal in the midst of two of my besties’ birthdays and my own, and several bank holidays, which in Hong Kong means “bottomless brunches.” Alas. We are forced to catch up on days. 

The thing is, at that tiny bump in the road, I thought about just chucking this challenge to the side, calling it a fail, adding it to the pile of ‘sounded like a good idea at the time, and wish i hadn’t ever announced it publicly’ things I have floating around in my present and past and future because – after all, who has noticed but me? No one! Kind of like your weight on the scale – only you know the number and what you wish it would be, but if you’re a nice person and bring in brownies and things, people will still like you (definitely that was not just a note to just me to try and make me feel something close to self-worth during a particularly low moment in the day. NOpe nope okay but maybe).

Part of me wants to rewrite the rules and say that if I do something creative – read, play guitar, write poetry/a song/a grocery list/paint, that it will count. But I don’t want to do that. I want to do what I said I could do. And hope that even with setbacks, whatever self-determination I develop in the next few weeks can spill over into other areas of my life, and prevent me from buying every freaking plant I see, or eating all things made from chocolate or potatoes.

simply the best.

Besides the super active social life that I’m so grateful for as it reemerges from the HK government-induced hibernation, I’ve also spent a lot of time reading. I’m in an English and a Spanish book club, which are very feminist, international, and intellectual, with a hint of competitiveness to speak with authority. On top of that, I read a lot of what I used to call “guilty-pleasure” books but now just enjoy freely because no one is allowed to make me feel guilty for being at home, tucked into a blanket, with a cuppa, spending no money, and reading about made-up worlds that all resolve themselves within 500 pages.

What’s nice is that I made the game, I’m the only player, so I can change the rules! Great. I’m doing that now. 

Twenty delightful minutes a day, now. Writing, reading, crafting, or playing guitar. I shall do this. Yeehaw.

Day Ten

I did not wake up today thinking this would be the day I’d have to teach my fourth graders what sperm kinda is, alas, that was today. 

I swear my students learn a lot it’s also true I am often in costume.

We have a daily 15 minute snack and I like to play my students movies – either a Disney classic I deem “educational” (“A Goofy Movie,” “Robin Hood,” etc.), or a nature documentary related to what we’re studying. Lately it’s been some Planet Earth about the ocean, and today we watched the segment about “mommy fishes” leaving their eggs on grass and then the video said something along the lines of “the males then come and spray a cloud of sperm to fertilize the eggs.” Eyebrows shot up and the questions drowned out the delicious Attenborough narrations so I had to pause, and I then had to haltingly explain that fish don’t need their moms and dads to hang out very much or at all to create a baby, and THEN further confuse them and break hearts by saying the fish babies would grow up without their parents. Shattering dreams about how much “Finding Nemo” was based on reality for my fragile, sheltered students. 

I quickly diverted their attention by impersonating a mother turtle making a nest in the sand, laying eggs, telling my unhatched newborns “peace out,” and getting on with my life. Then I acted like a baby turtle escaping a seagull and making it to the ocean. Phew. Crisis averted.  

Other things I taught about today:

  • Yetis
  • The plastic continent
  • The origins of Cinco de Mayo
  • How a taco is different from a burrito or enchilada
  • How to make a website
  • That oil and water don’t mix, so please stop ruining all my paint brushes during art projects
  • That penguins mate for life and bring their mates cute rocks and pebbles
  • How to make a QR code
  • How to find ⅔ of 48
  • Roman numerals
  • How to play solitaire in a group – my family’s game “Duffel”
  • Oh yeah and FISH SPERM CLOUDS

Only three of those things were technically part of the plan today. There was also a writing assessment, math review, devotions, a sprinkling of some other academic matter. All in a day’s work.

PS Pay teachers more.