Education and Creativity

When I was 10, in elementary art class, my art teacher challenged me what I was painting.

“It is a sunset!” I said with excitement at the stripes of red, orange, pink and blue.

She responded,”Sunsets don’t look like that. Throw it away and start over.”

I was devastated at the instruction as I loved sunsets and the one I was painting was from the night just before when I was in the car with my mom. I shared the story with my mom and she encouraged me to paint it again. (She also, being a teacher at the same school, had a few choice words for the art instructor.)

In the bridge to a revolution in creativity in education, those of us with any influence in children’s lives have a responsibility to encourage and foster that creativity. Children come out of the womb able to create. You don’t have to tell them what to do with Play-Doh, they just intrinsically know. And, this is all children – not just the gifted few. Slowly through life and being told time and time again that there are two types of people: creative and not, the unfortunate truth is that most of us lump ourselves into the “not” category. Let’s reclaim our creativity in dance, painting, design, writing and everything else. And – Let’s not wait until all the public school systems in the world figure out how to motivated creativity; let’s do what WE can now.

Click the link to watch the TED video that inspired this post. Its wildly convincing. Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity.

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Laura on Saturday

Walking home from a neighborhood street sale (NY style garage sale), I popped in a Chinese restaurant around the corner from my place.

I met Laura.

She ordered just before me, abour 5’7″, 60 years old, black, dressed in layers of dark colored sweats and looked a bit downtrodden. When she spoke you could see her one bottom tooth, which led me to wonder if she regularly wore dentures, but couldn’t be bothered today.

Laura sat and I asked,”Do you come here often?” She responded, “I just live upstairs.”

And so it began. She told me that she hadn’t slept all night because at 1am she received a call that her older sister has died. I then moved and joined at her table. While she spoke, her eyed became glassy with sad tears.  Her elder sister and brother, who were only 11 months apart, were two peas in a pod. “Everyone played like they were twins. He was in banking and she was in finance. They ate lunch together everyday.”

Her sister had been diagnosed 8 months prior with terminal cancer, which Laura was thankful for the fact they had time to reconcile the impending loss. “It still hurts, though,” she commented.  ”Eventhough we had the warning, it still hurts. She was the one that held the family together.” Laura also has a younger sister and the nephew of her now dead sister.  The nephew won’t answer the phone for anyone but Laura. She was concerned for him and planned on going out to the Bronx where he lives, as well as her parents, who are in their 80s and her other sister.  Not sure why Laura moved down to Manhattan.

She left me with hopeful encouragement. “Ya know. She’s gone and we have to carry on. We don’t have a choice. She’s at peace now. I have to remember that: she’s at peace. We’re the ones left behind, upset, but we have to move on. Her peace will help me get through it. I just have to remember.”

She was quite lovely.

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Branding Allison is moving!!!

For the last time this site will be moving. The new website will be …

www.nolongerstill.com

No longer still is my handle now. The idea is still the same: Never stop becoming who you are. This site will hopefully embody that concept and challenge. It will be updated with some new pages and get a whole new look. — Psyched!!!

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fake it until you make it.

An amazing thing happened a couple weeks ago while I was in the boulders sessioning out a project of mine, that I am convinced if I was a foot shorter or had the biceps of an Olympic weight lifter, would be a synch. (Excuses, just send, dangit!) But beta I have now, so maybe tomorrow afternoon ascent?

OK, so back to the point, I was checking a problem out on my way back to the car, and I ran into a guy, who with some eye contact and a smile, he communicated that we knew each other. So I doubled back and this is how the conversation went:

“Hey, I think I know you .. I know your face.”

Me: “Really? Cool, well I’m Allison, what’s your name?”

“Oh! I know from where. Your blog, I read your blog.”

“Really? Sweet. That’s awesome actually. Where are you from?”

And so it went. This dude is from Figi, currently living in Australia, and here in Canada on a holiday. SO FREAKIN’ small the world is that I would run into this guy during the couple days he was in Squam. Totally rad.  Afterwards, I decided picking the blog back up was absolutely necessary.

This summer in Squamish has been a dream.  Many wonderful people, total world class parties, rock climbing has been mind blowing and the weather supreme.  If I can keep at it, I will be updating with pictures and videos of the summer.  Tomorrow I am headed to a climb called 69, right across from Murrin park to belay a friend, Hazel Findlay, on the route whilst she’s getting photographed. It’s a 13c crack, and I heard she had the first female ascent. What a baller!  It would do you well to keep an eye on this lady. She is the proudest female crack climber I know and the friendliest as well. She moves like she’s floating through water.

I am staying in Squamish for the next year or so to help the Rock church open a café call The Ledge in town. It will be super cool, a coffee joint, community center, and live music venue all wrapped into one. It will have late hours and unlimited internet – so we are psyched for what it will be able to offer the community.

Sadly, most of the summer I have spent trying to get back into shape. After taking 6 months off to travel to Africa and ski instruct in Colorado, I was a gumby coming back to the rock.

So I went from overhanging juiciness…

(The climb that will always make you love rock climbing… Fuzzy Undercling (5.11a, fun the whole way, at the Red River Gorge.)fuzzy

I miss laying back steep stuff.

fuzzy

Exposes by go go gadget arms.

fuzzy

To having to fake my way with style instead of skills … Fake it to you make it, baby.

rock_climber_heels

Here are some other fun pictures from the summer.

Pot lucks are a common theme in Squampton. We are one huge ridiculous family here. Below are Marieke and Alejandro.

pot luck

This is my and Joseph’s rendition of Step Up 2: The Streets.Take it to the streets

Tight and Bright party at the Grilled Fromage in downtown Squamish. People did not hold back.

Tight and Bright

There has also been some serious jam time with my Ukulele, Portland, and my roomate Lydia. Joseph and I “rocked out” once or twice as well.

jam time with joseph

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I heard you and here you are.

Thank you.

Thank you so much to the people that have been emailing me over the last couple months, reading and requesting me to continue with my blog. I heard you. And I will.

So much to tell about my second month spent in Africa, and what an experience I have had here in Vail, Colorado the last three months working as a ski instructor.  People from all over the world, daily challenges a mountain high, a yearning for my old work in Chicago all while living in a crazy Real World: Vail Employee Housing reality show that I wouldn’t force upon anyone.  It’s been a trip!  But, first I want to tell you about a particular experience I had in Kenya before traveling down to South Africa.

I love people and their lives. Most simply, this is what drives me to travel. True, you might find the most real and heart warming or wrenching story meeting your local grocer. He could tell you of his 60+ years working for that one grocery store and having never regretting one day as he ever so slowly lead you with his 82 year old body to the exact location of what you desire.  Your four minutes with this sincere gentleman could bring joy to your heart you never anticipated or for which you weren’t prepared.  But, there is also something to be said for meeting this same type of fellow on the streets of Amsterdam, rock climbing in Hong Kong or like the story I want to tell about the man I met on the shores of a Kenyan beach. (By the way, if you want to meet the grocer, go to Siloam Springs, AR and stop in the local IGA on Highway 412.)

After Sudan, near the end of November 2009, I went back to Nairobi for a while with my brother, sister-in-law and niece. While in Kenya, we flew to Mumbasa and spent some time in a resort out there.  I met a local water guide, part of the Kikambala Association named Tuli.  This guy was super interesting. He was 24 and had such a thirst for the world, and being the oldest of 7 kids, felt significant pressure to help support his family. He had been to Nairobi for a concert earlier in the year and learned of some ways to study in the states, and ever since he had his sights set high. We talked a lot about my life and how we were alike and not.  He introduced me to Rafiki, the art shop owner. Unfortunately this didn’t happen until the day before I had to leave. Big bummer, because I was invited to sit under the tree I show in the video and learn their craft. Can you imagine! the stories that would have been told sitting under the shade of the tree, whittling animals and talking about the lives of these Kenyans. You can see at the end of the video, there’s about 20 seconds worth of film showing the multitude of sculptures the men of Kikambula make.

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South Africa road trip

This has been amazing – jsut have a quick minute. Shark diving was as sight – the water were super rough, but those animals are huge and mighty. So cool. Met a couple rad Afrikaans guys that have become our good friends – they are showing us around and giving us tips.

Driving on the left side of the road has been a trip – I am constantly saying in my head “stay left, stay left.” So far so good.  Headed to the ostridge farms today. A couple more towns to go and then back to Cape Town for another week.

Love to all!

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Sudan: my final impressions, why Sudanese don't smile and some pictures, Part 2

These are the last major things that really stuck out.

1. The importance of a greeting in the Sudanese culture. I spoke more about it in a post on Sudanese Culture Travel Tips.

“Greetings are valued deeply in this country, and good byes are not important whether it is for the day or if you might never see them again. When you meet someone, it will be common to be asked how you are, how your family is, how their health is, how you have been eating, how the animals are, how your sleep has been and how work is, etc., etc.” And, even if you leave for 10 minutes and come back to join the group, don’t be surprised if you do it all over again. And love shaking hands – they do this all the time. I really liked it, as if it is affirmation of the friendship.

2. Gift GivingI also wrote about this in the Travel tips, but worth mentioning here as well.

“Gift giving is a big deal in this culture, but thanking someone is not. Do not be offended if you give someone a gift and they act like it didn’t happen. Inside they are very grateful. In turn, be ready to receive gifts graciously, even if you know what a tremendous sacrifice it is for the family. It is their pleasure to give and you will insult them by saying no.

3. Where did their smiles go?

The Sudanese might come across as a loving, jovial and friendly people, smiling all the time – but put a camera in front of their face and it instantly grows starc. Why? Well I finally asked on my last day in Malakal and found out because they see smiling in pictures as a type of weakness. “If you are always smiling, how could you be a serious person, how could anyone take you as a stern leader, able to punish and be strict?” they told me.

So they told me they were very confused by Barack Obama’s photographs that they saw everywhere, on TV, on the internet, and in the newspaper. He is smiling all of the time, so even though everyone in Sudan loves him and thinks he is their savior as well at the U.S.’s, they don’t believe he will be able to be the leader he will need to be and be serious when the time calls for it.

Contrastly, if they are sending pictures home to their families or friends, they will smile and be very happy, because the need to apprear serious is unnecessary – but since they don’t know who is seeing mine – they opt for the straight face. You will see below, sometimes I am able to steal a smile out of some kids, and how truly beautiful the smiles are!

Some boys that asked me to take a picture of them at the Suk (market)

Some boys that asked me to take a picture of them at the Suk (market)

A Beautiful church by a local shop.

A Beautiful church by a local shop.

A typical thatch home in Malakal.

A typical thatch home in Malakal.

I was so psyched to buy this skirt and top at the Friday market in my last day in Malakal.
I was so psyched to buy this skirt and top at the Friday market in my last day in Malakal.
The beginning of dry season starts to yeild some hefty crack all over the ground.

The beginning of dry season starts to yeild some hefty crack all over the ground.Some art and jewelry made by this woman for sale at the Friday Market in Malakal. The beading at the front of the picture is traditional wedding adorment.

Some art and jewelry made by this woman for sale at the Friday Market in Malakal. The beading at the front of the picture is traditional wedding adorment.

Some art and jewelry made by this woman for sale at the Friday Market in Malakal. The beading at the front of the picture is traditional wedding adorment.

Some boys again asked me to take their picture - and I love this one!  You can see the SIC church school sign in the background.

Some boys again asked me to take their picture - and I love this one! You can see the SIC church school sign in the background.

Another picture from the Suk (market). This man was very kind allowing me to take his picture with his spice and grain shop. I loved these blue pales.

Another picture from the Suk (market). This man was very kind allowing me to take his picture with his spice and grain shop. I loved these blue pales.

This is one of my favorite pictures.  This man's dress shop was amazing, and so cheap! I can't figure out how he still turns a profit for charging $6 for a child's dress. After materials and labor, he has to be walking away with a couple bucks. How is that enough for him and his family??

This is one of my favorite pictures. This man's dress shop was amazing, and so cheap! I can't figure out how he still turns a profit for charging $6 for a child's dress. After materials and labor, he has to be walking away with a couple bucks. How is that enough for him and his family??

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Sudan Travel Tips

Below is listed some basic travel tips for going into Sudan and more specifically Malakal. Hopefully this can help prepare you for what to expect. I have a ton of other posts about my time there and other pictures if you want some more information on what to expect or see.

Remember when you travel to a country, it is your responsibility to fit into that culture as much as possible. You are visiting them, to learn about living differently from what you are used to – so leave your American, Canadian, European, etc, expectations at home and come with an open mind to experience new things.

Food and Drugs:

  • Drink only bottled or filtered water. And – drink a lot of it to stay hydrated. It is SUPER hot and dry during the dry season.

    Malakal Suk (market)

    Malakal Suk (market)

  • Beverages: only powdered milk is available. They LOVE sugar with their tea and coffee. The running joke is that the Sudanese like some tea with their sugar instead of the other way around!  So, if you go to visit anyone or invited, just drink it down and be thankful.  It is safe because the water has been boiled.
  • The Dollar right now is worth about 2.5 Sudanese pounds. Most food is pretty equally priced in the Suk (market), but some basic fruits and vegetables are hard to come by and priced 3-4 times more than you might be used to.  If you eat local food in side street restaurants, a group of four people can get full off of about 12 USD.
  • Beware of malaria!  The Mosquitos weren’t bad in November, but bring repellent and wear pants when it starts to get dark. Tuck in your mosquito net around your mattress at night.
  • Take into to country with you several drugs listed below. Chemists (pharmacists) are hard to come by so, you need to make sure you have what you need to treat several common illnesses there.
  • Co Artem – 2 boxes per person. Treats malaria. Symptoms take 7-10 days to show up and are similar to an intense flu.
  • Cipro – 500mg, at least 20 tablets which is one 10 course of treatment. Treats food poisoning or skin infections.
  • Tinidazole – 2 boxes per person. Treats giardia, which is a bad parasite that is very common. Some symptoms are Diarrhea, bloating, flatulence (farting), stomach cramps, fatigue and weight loss.
  • Tylenol with codine – this is in case you break an arm, get bitten by a snake or scorpion and the pain is too intense to bare before you can get help.
  • Malarone or Doxyxyxline – preventative pills for Malaria.

Getting around

  • The people are kind and helpful, and if you need to, you can probably find people to speak a little English with, but the majority of the city speaks Sudanese Arabic and also one of the most prevalent tribal languages, Shilluk.  I posted some basic Sudanese Arabic phrases to get you started.

    Inside a Malakal Taxi

    Inside a Malakal Taxi

  • Taxis are cheap and a great way to get from where you are staying to the center of town. They pretty much just run one route, so stick to that and you should have any trouble walking the rest. If you get a taxi from the taxi line up, they will wait for the taxi to be full before leaving, so you might be sharing with other people, depending on the size of your group.
  • The roads are synonymous with pot holes. Best way to deal with it, is to embrace it – look at it like a ride at Six Flags.
  • City power is only available in the evening from around 7pm-6am, so make sure to have a headlamp with you to carry around at night. It is also good to have close by when you are sleeping in case you need to wake up for the latrine.
  • Check your shoes before ever putting them on for scorpions, spiders, lizards, etc. Also shake towels outs and basically don’t leave much on the ground preventing anything from crawling on your stuff. Also keep your suitcase zipped.

Culture

  • Gift giving is a big deal in this culture, but thanking someone is not. Do not be offended if you give someone a gift and they act like it didn’t happen. Inside they are very grateful.  In turn, be ready to receive gifts graciously, even if you know what a tremendous sacrifice it is for the family. It is their pleasure to give and you will insult them by saying no.
  • Greetings are valued deeply in this country, and good byes are not important whether it is for the day or if you might never see them again. When you meet someone, it will be common to be asked how you are, how your family is, how their health is, how you have been eating, how the animals are, how your sleep has been and how work is, etc., etc.
  • Store owners do no expect you to say thank you; it is not part of what these people do or say. So if he immediately moves on to the next customer after you, don’t be offended – remember how when you first walked up he asked you many questions in the greeting.  Saying please will be just as uncommon.
  • It is acceptable for anyone to stop by and ask for water – “jib mooya.” Translated directly as “bring water.”  They like it luke warm, so don’t pour out your ice cold water.  Also if there is a group of friends so family, they will share from one cup.
  • Appropriate dress: Women should wear long skirts. A few inches below the knee is okay unless you are visiting some Muslim men or women. Then you need to have a skirt to ground, a shirt that covers down past your elbows and a wrap for your hair.  Men should wear pants at all times, jeans or slacks, with t-shirts or button downs. When you are in your own home, women can wear pants and tank tops, but keep in mind that you should be respectful of the culture you are visiting at all times.
  • There are UN trucks everywhere! Many people work for the UN, so you should keep your eye out to talk to some of them if you are interested in their efforts in the country.
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Sudan: closing thoughts, pictures and a video, too!

This video will give you a pretty good idea of what Malakal was like. The homes. The street, the children and the mamas and babas (mom and dad in Arabic). The boys delivering water from the Nile using donkey carts, the minimal trash, the businesses.

During my short 7 days in Malakal, I learned about tribal conflict, the significance of greeting one another, of saving water and electricity, the value of learning even a few phrases of someone’s mother tongue, and most importantly, gained my own view of Sudan, apart from media or whatever 3rd, 4th, or 9th degree of separation information that someone hands me. Some of these things I already knew, but learned them differently here.

1. Language.

My bro and sister-in-law had been studying Sudanese Arabic for a number of months once I had arrived, so I asked around and got some phrases that could be used a lot and with many different people. With the phrases listed below, I was able to have a conversation for about a minute with kids, parents, shop keepers, mostly anyone. My spelling will look ridiculous because I have written them phenetically in case any of you would like to visit Sudan one day and need some English-Sudanese Arabic words to take with you! Also, don’t worry, if you come and need to just speak English, you won’t have to seek anyone out, they will find you to practice what they know!

  • Shukran – thank you
  • Ma Salama – with peace/good bye, basically, ‘go with peace’
  • Salam Aleakum – Hello, a greeting, translated: Peace to you
  • Aleakum a salam – The response Salam Aleakum, translated: To you, Peace
  • Kev: What’s up?
  • Kwaysa: I’m good, can also be a question: Kwaysa? – (are you) good?
  • Tamam? – (I’m) good.
  • Ismuk muhnu? – What’s your name?
  • Iss mee _____ – My name is ____
  • Suke – Market
  • Chi – Tea
  • La – No
  • Yala – Scram!
  • Iowa – yes, or shortened to just ‘I’
  • Mumkin – possible, maybe
  • In tee shatru – You are clever.
  • Surrah – picture, softly roll the R

2. Group ownership prevents begging

Most of the families in Malakal and across Sudan share their income, food, clothing, homes, and so on with anyone that is related to them at all. Sometimes the earnings of one man or woman will go to supporting 30-40 people! Can you imagine the pressure!  They are a people so willing to share for those who need it, who take care of their own. And since there is such tremendous trust to care for one another and take people in so easily, this yeilds a lack of begging in the community. I was so shocked. Malakal is about as big city as Sudan gets, but I still expected mothers with children holding out their hand, and kids all over tugging on my pants, but this did not happen at all!

The only incident was my last day with my brother. A small boy, probably 10 or so, came up and asked for money, but he quickly left and most likely just asked us because he was bored due to the 7 day holiday of work and school to encourage people to go register to vote.

This country is yet another example of tremendous hospitality. These people give what they have not to give. But my favorite part about it, is that it is not what they give you when you come to visit, but that they give at all. It is the hospitality that is important; so it might be coffee and cookies one day and maybe watered down juice another, and yet a feast on a later day. I hope this is something that I instill in my family one day. Everyone is welcome all of the time. I don’t have to be prepared and there aren’t expectations for what I can give. We will pull things together and no matter what we are doing, stop for the guests (hopefully in my wrap around screened in porch) and visit for a while. How nice is that!

And my hope is that my guests don’t call, don’t text or email. But just come and knock.

(more to come in one more Sudan post)

UN Delivery of goods to a neighboring school. It was crazy how many UN workers and trucks were everywhere in this town.

UN Delivery of goods to a neighboring school. It was crazy how many UN workers and trucks were everywhere in this town.

An old building from when the British ruled the area. Notice the neighing horse and worker guy.

An old building from when the British ruled the area. Notice the neighing horse and worker guy.

This photo is telling. So British. All of the straight-ish trees lining either side of the road. In its day, this must have been quite a beautiful road.

This photo is telling. So British. All of the straight-ish trees lining either side of the road. In its day, this must have been quite a beautiful road.

THE NILE RIVERRRRRRRRR!!!

THE NILE RIVERRRRRRRRR!!!

I liked this, because it was a very clear picture of the road that the British built when they were in Malakal. The brick lined paved roads must have been beautiful along the Nile. Now they are basically ruins, with bridges falling apart and barely these bricks popping out of the dirt.

I liked this, because it was a very clear picture of the road that the British built when they were in Malakal. The brick lined paved roads must have been beautiful along the Nile. Now they are basically ruins, with bridges falling apart and barely these bricks popping out of the dirt.

My bro and I sat to grab some local food. Basically bread and beans. I'll have to ask again what it is called.

My bro and I sat to grab some local food. Basically bread and beans. I'll have to ask again what it is called.

Some beautiful girls that stopped by the house a few times. The one in the pink dress was definitely the leader of the group. None of the other girls would ever respond or make a decision without her.

Some beautiful girls that stopped by the house a few times. The one in the pink dress was definitely the leader of the group. None of the other girls would ever respond or make a decision without her.

My niece, Avery, and me on the doorstep of my brother's home. We hung out here a lot watching the chickens. Good times.

My niece, Avery, and me on the doorstep of my brother's home. We hung out here a lot watching the chickens. Good times.

These trucks are used like semi trucks in Sudan. I thought they were circus trucks the way they are decorated!

These trucks are used like semi trucks in Sudan. I thought they were circus trucks the way they are decorated!

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What is to come…

Hello!  As you can see, my new website still has quite a bit of work to be done, but with some severely early 90′s dial up speed internet, one can only do so much!

Mombasa has been great, I am making a video of this rad guy named Tuli tomorrow, so I will post when we get back to Nairobi and have some decent internet. Pictures to come as well, of course. The Indian Ocean is beautiful. Super clean from what I can see.

I was sick as a dog one day, I though my head was going to explode. But after that one day, and some general chilling and soaking up some feel-good A/C, I am back to full health. My bro’s copy of the first season of Jericho got me through the day. Awesome show! Big Negative it didn’t make it past its first season.

Reef walking and adventure stories with the Kenyans and British all around to come as well as a ‘reflections on sudan’ post. Major things that I learned from the Sudanese. Thanks for checking!

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