Caveat: Tree #122

Not fully a tree… a ubiquitous shrub called devil’s club.


It’s a rather horrible thing to walk through, clustered in the underbrush, but a woman along the road one day told me it was “strong medicine.”

[daily log: walking, 4km]

Caveat: Tree #121

I worked at the school library again today. The work is a little bit dull, as there is some down time between seeing students. It’s more just “holding down the fort.”

So I didn’t take a tree picture today. I should have and could have, in the parking lot at the school, but didn’t.

I’ll present another tree from my archives. This tree (and the ones all in a row behind it) is from my daily walking commute to the Karma school in Goyang City, South Korea. The street is 강선로 (Gangseon-ro), in front of 강선초등학교 (Gangseon Elementary School), taken February, 2013, a few blocks north of where my apartment was at that time.


[daily log: walking, 2.5km]

Caveat: The Shortcomings

I worked a second day today as a substitute at Craig Elementary School.

Today, I was a librarian.


I even figured out how to check-in and check-out books, using their computer…. Even though the computer was a Mac, which I normally wouldn’t touch for questions of philosophical purity.

I had a bit of a breakthrough realization about this new work context: in terms of enrollment, Craig Elementary is actually smaller than Karma Academy (where I was teaching in Korea). They are not strictly comparable, of course – the latter being a private specialty school, not a public school. But in terms of the number of kids that I actually have to know, it’s a pertinent observation.

Being a substitute librarian is easier than the kindergarten gig I had on Monday. Well… it’s more laid back, anyway. Still, I got to see the kindergarteners again. And one of the kids said a very “Craig, Alaska” thing as part of a general review of my job qualifications: “You’re not bad as a substitute. You’re funny. But your face-hair is too short.”

That comment needs some explanation. I noticed that most men in Craig have beards. That’s one reason I made a passing effort at letting one grow on my face last fall and over Christmas. More notably, all the male teachers at Craig Elementary appear to have beards. So the child was just pointing out the obvious: though I might seem qualified to be a substitute teacher, I clearly had obvious shortcomings, because really I didn’t look quite right.

Caveat: Real Life Trolley Problems

“Trolley problems” are philosophical conundrums dealing with complicated ethical decisions.

But today Arthur and I had a real-life trolley problem. We were going to launch the boat. The boat launches on a little “trolley” that runs out some rails into the water from the boatshed. But there was some problem with the trolley. A piece broke off: “Snap!” and the trolley lurched 10 inches downhill. It was a bit scary.

Here is the broken piece.


It turned out one of the chocks that is wedged under the trolley wheels to ensure it stays in place when it’s parked in the boatshed hadn’t been pulled out. So the trolley tried to go over the chock and the guide-piece snapped off.

I see this as the type of hazard that arises due to Arthur’s continued refusal to write down any of the numerous procedural checklists he’s long been accustomed to carrying in his head. I try to write down these checklists based on observation and continued questioning in the vein of “what are you doing now?” … but these lists are still going to have holes in them – because I don’t have any past experience with so many of the things Arthur does.

A smaller example: it’s like the the struggle I have every time I watch Arthur trying to tie a knot in string or rope – I am not a knot person, I have always been poor with knots and I have always deferred to others when knots needed to be tied. Arthur, on the other hand, has always been very good at knots. But now, with his processing deficits (especially 3-D processing deficits), he very visibly struggles with tying knots that in his past were essentially so easy as to not require conscious thought. He will stand and study the rope in question, and simply not be able to know what to do with it. It’s painful, but it’s doubly painful because I have zero idea what his objective is – what kind of knot is he hoping to tie with his rope? I don’t have a clue.

Likewise with his checklists. And he rarely makes any effort to verbalize them. So I’m stranded, unsure what he’s trying to do and unsure how to help. Supposedly, I’m a “safety officer,” but without a program as to what’s next, it’s hard to know what I need to watch out for.

Caveat: Sub Sub

I went to work today.

It was the first time since I quit working at Karma last July that I’ve gone to work, or gone into a classroom.

The kindergarten teacher at Craig Elementary was sick. And it seemed like the normal person who does substitute teaching was also sick. She came and gave a bit of orientation, the first hour or so, and then left. And there was a teacher’s aide, who was essentially promoted to be the main teacher, and more or less knew what was going on. And I was the temporary teacher’s aide, along with some other helpers.

Spending 6 hours with kindergarteners is quite a bit of work. And I didn’t really know my way around the school – so it was orientation by fire. Typical in Korea, perhaps less typical in the US, but this is a small town, a small district… so I had actually somewhat assumed this is how it would go.

It was fun. I hope I made a good impression. Actually I feel confident I did fine with the kids – but they’re not the constituency I need to impress, rather, the other teachers. We shall see. I did manage at least to have learned the kids’ names by the end of the day. I felt positive about that. And I solved a three way power struggle between three girls who were fighting over a doll. I think the other teacher was somewhat surprised at my success, there – she had shrugged and said it seemed to be an unsolvable situation and was just intent on keeping them separate.


Caveat: Tree #114

I took a walk straight up the hillside (rather than along the road one way or the other). One walks much less distance – I prefer to call it “tromping” rather than walking. But it’s exhausting – pushing through undergrowth, climbing over giant fallen logs, squanching through muskeg and streams. Here’s a tree I saw.


[daily log: walking, 2km]