Moving on #blogjune 21

I’ve been dreaming of leaving this job since about 3 days after I started. I try not to think of anything as a “mistake” (because everything’s a learning experience, right?) but that’s certainly what it felt like here for about…oh, the first 12 months.

Preschool storytime 2016
Action Shot

Yet now, as I sift through work files and school event photos on my laptop and start to Trash and Burn, I have a sudden rush of … feelings.

This is the second-longest job I’ve held. Not necessarily because I have a short attention span – sometimes I’ve moved on in a hurry, but general Life events have also played their part (study, travel, child rearing). My last job before this I stayed 3 years, and it was the first time I left a position because it was the right thing to do, rather than to escape a tyrannical boss or poor working conditions. I was wholly unprepared for how leaving would feel. In the past I had left under cover of darkness, or in such rage against the machine that there was no room for feelings of sadness.

Primary library lesson
Listening intently, which students always do, whenever I speak lolololololololol

Here is a little of the latter, but it has been a long period of my life. And there have been some great moments, and some fantastic people – coworkers, students, random old ayis in the street. It’s also my last school-based teaching job (although, never say never as my teaching college buddy always said). At least by choice. And possibly my last librarian job for a little while. In a few days I will officially be unemployed.

So it’s all a bit emotional. And it will be a bittersweet farewell to China and all who sail in her.

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Not the most inspirational 21st century library environment, but I’ve stared at it every day since August 2014. Incidentally, what is it with me and getting jobs in ugly libraries? (Ayi joining the shot…)

Final week #blogjune 20

Last week at school. Racing to get my bi-annual report done before Friday, book my tickets for our 2 week train jaunt around China, pack our bags, prepare gifts, clean the house, finish updating the Library policy, clear my desk…

And I get this page:

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What do you think the Chinese Government have against infographics? Every single site seems to be blocked. I’m even trying with the VPN on (which we are not supposed to use at school) and it still won’t load. *cry cry cry*

At least I have an outline for my bi-annual report – I’m borrowing the headings from my Library Policy, which I think is a stroke of genius but is more likely biting off more than I can chew (a particular skill of mine):

Library Mission, Aims, Goals etc

  • community profile

Library Services

  • Teaching and learning (or curriculum)
    • Overview
    • Library orientation
    • Collaborative teaching
    • Development of resources
    • professional development/training
  • Reader Services
    • Book Week
    • Panda Book Awards
    • Displays
    • Book talks, discussions, book groups
    • Reading lists
    • Classroom support e.g. guided reading
  • Tech support
    • ICT lab
    • laptop / ipad loans
    • Library website
    • Recommended sites and tools
    • Training
  • Use of library space
    • Bookings

Collection development

  • Collection snapshot
    • new books
    • new collections (home language, graphic novel)
    • new digital resources

Circulation

  • circ stats e.g. top 10 primary, top 10 secondary
  • top borrowing homerooms

Staffing

  • Snapshot
  • Professional development and training attended

Evaluation and Goals – moving forward

  • Library services
  • Collection
  • Circulation
  • Staffing

Can I finish for this for Friday?? If not, I will blame the internet 🙂

Exit strategy #blogjune 16

Only 6 1/2 days of school to go. I’m tidying my desk, my Inbox, my Documents folder…and I’m sifting through the “Things I Started But Quickly Discovered Nobody Cared About So I Stopped” pile. It’s an unfortunate side effect of this role that I have developed a Very Bad Habit that goes completely against my character: I have stopped completing some tasks I know to be important when I’ve learned nobody cares about them, or worse, if I learn that other staff, or managers, mock me for doing them. It’s last minute, but I am so disappointed to make this realisation that I am going to try to rectify it to some extent by setting myself the challenge of creating an annual report for the Library using infographics.

I’m testing these sites:

Canva (can’t get the templates to load without VPN *cry cry cry*)

Piktochart (like a lot. Easy to use, pretty templates, loads without VPN)

Infogram (could be great, but templates won’t load without VPN)

Easelly (already annoying because weird layout and templates won’t load without VPN)

So I reckon I’m pretty much stuck with Piktochart, but that’s cool because it is cool! There’s some excellent advice about creating interesting annual reports here and here.

While I was playing about with them, it suddenly occurred to me that an infographic would make an awesome CV. It seems I am not the only person to have this thought! There are even companies who you can pay to create amazing graphic CVs for you, like Story Resumes, the people who created my favourite below:

lucyin

Leaving China #blogjune 4

Trying to think of a topic that is not immigration…but it is kind of our life just now. We are officially in our last 20 days of life as expats in China. In 20 days we will hurtle down from the 21st floor for the last time, and close the door on our 2 years in China.

I have mixed feelings, which I expected and did not expect.

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Looking out our apartment window to the Yellow Sea

Professionally, my 2 years here have been a crushing disappointment. The fire in my heart for libraries has completely died.  In hindsight, I wish to God I’d had more confidence in my ability and aimed higher – taken a job in Shanghai or Guangzhou or a bigger school. When I chose a small school in a backwater – thinking it would be an easier transition back into teaching after 3 years in public libraries – I condemned myself to a role with no budget, and complete and utter ignorance of my purpose and that of libraries.

Many times in the past 2 years I have wanted to quit, and some beautiful opportunities have come my way – jobs in Scotland (impossible due to visa), and jobs on either side of Australia – one literally in “Eden”. I made the difficult decision to turn them down, because I’ve left my hometown many times with the end goal of Europe, and I have turned back every time when things got too difficult. I felt like this time, I had to stick it out.

And *happy dance* in a few weeks we will be on our way to Spain.

Plus, having all passion for my job crushed out of me has made me think about what my real passions are, what I dreamed of being when I was 10, or 16. And while my job may have been less than desirable, the salary was not, so now I am in a position to live those dreams.

China has birthed my almost-mid-life-crisis.

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Chiang Mai paper trail

I love Chiang Mai. This is my last holiday in Asia for a while as we leave my job in China for gypsy life in Europe this June. I could’ve ticked another country off the list (Sri Lanka, Laos, Philippines) but as Ms 10 is Australia and I am travelling solo, I decided to return to Thailand,  Mostly for a hand papermaking workshop I had noticed on our previous fleeting visit to CM at Christmas. 

 
I joined a girl from Milwaukee who had come from a circus camp in Laos, to spend a sweaty, strenuous morning turning pulp into paper. HQ Papermaker is run by Kenji from Japan, who also fronts the sho in town. Kenji has many years experience in papermaking, although HQ seems to run as an export business, rather than a studio.  

skilled local – she can make over 80 sheets per day
 

Local staff create 80 plus sheets of paper a day (we were knackered after 6). The sheets we saw drying (above, behind my measly few) were destined for a soap company in California. I got the impression they did not receive too many people for workshops. The lady assisting us was lovely, but like a good Asian mama she was a little too quick to ‘help’ us.

All the same, it was a momentous occasion for me and, if I hadn’t been surrounded by strangers I think I might have cried. I haven’t made paper since primary school, when someone came to school so frequently to teach us that there was a permanent bathtub set up for the slurry. This method was different – Asian style involves spreading pulp across a single frame rather than the western method of dragging 2 frames through slurry. But…I could totally see myself doing this – setting up my workshop, practicing, experimenting, teaching others (I’m a little more excited about that last part than I had anticipated) 

This paper is called Saa paper, made from bark stripped frol mulberry trees. These days the bark is imported for nearby Laos. There aren’t enough Thais interested in the back-breaking task of stripping bark. 

my first batch of paper!
 

Paper obsession

I was fortunate to meet Beijing-based US artist Elizabeth Briel this week. Actually, we’ve met (briefly) once before, but that was “BPO” – Before Paper Obsession,Paper pilgramage so I did not make the most of the opportunity. Elizabeth works for the same international school foundation as an “artist-in-residence”. Most of the time she is based in Beijing, but visits other campuses for week-long residencies. A very cool job and there have been many moments this week when I have cursed my fears that prevented me from following my heart to become an Art Teacher, but such is life.

Before Christmas, as my paper obsession was just beginning, I stumbled on Elizabeth’s website while searching paper in Asia. I discovered that she had pretty much “gone before me” and she had written a manuscript about it!

After a few brief chats with Elizabeth this week I now realise that if I allow my paper and papermaking obsession to grow, it is going to take over my life. I’m okay with that. I may also be having a sort of mid-life crisis, or perhaps it’s the whole “Year of 35” thing, and the realisation of not just my mortality, but the end of my youth? Perhaps there really is a crafty grandma inside all of us, and this is me tipping over the ageing edge? There’s an element of rage against the machine though – I could also blame this rotten job, that has challenged me in all the wrong ways and burned my interest in teaching and earning money to a crisp. Who knows, but I am suddenly possessed with the desire to pursue all the art I left behind as a teenager. I also realise that I don’t have to fit anyone else’s idea of me. Gah – what a paragraph of cliches! But it’s true – I am overwhelmed by this feeling. If I was to suppress it I would be utterly miserable.

To this end, I am pursuing every opportunity I can to make stuff, to find out which making has the most allure for me. Easter holidays are only a few weeks away and I am returning to northern Thailand, this times sans Ms10 (who departed one VERY happy girl for a month-long holiday with my family in Australia last week). I have only a few days there due to the irritating flight connections from my 2nd tier Chinese city, but I plan to use Elizabeth’s manuscript as a guide to make the most of it, visiting paper street, and joining a papermaking course. I’ve also signed up for a screenprinting workshop in Hong Kong on the way back. Printmaking and papermaking seem to go hand-in-hand in the book arts world. In fact, it seems papermaking is the introverted, closeted sibling to the wildly popular printmaking. Weirdly printmaking was my biggest obsession at school. I was woefully inadequate at linoprint, but screenprinting…my mum even purchased a kit for me one birthday, and I spent many an evening printing random words (can’t remember any pictures or patterns) onto old clothes.

Paper in the Monkey year

We’ve had a hectic month. Given the crazy flight costs and that I am potentially unemployed come July, I decided to stay closer to home for out Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) holiday, and had thought we might do a short trip to Seoul to explore their hanji paper in the middle. Fortunately I didn’t book any flights, as we both came down with a shocking flu. One of the worst I can remember. We were bedridden for 4 days straight, which the locals celebrated by releasing tones of fireworks, from around 6am until 10 at night. When we finally recovered we were able to stagger into the city for a couple nights in fancy hotels, but our plans of heading to Korea faded.

Around the same time I’ve received disheartening responses from every university in Australia where I’d hoped to enrol in a research degree. Tasmania never replied, despite multiple attempts. CDU sent me a copy/paste of their website, telling me to identify a supervisor, which would be fine if they put any identifying information about staff online! Not even an email address…

University of Newcastle were the most promising, and I received a lot of advice and direction, AND they have an onsite paper mill.  However the artistic lecturer I found was not qualified to be sole supervisor, and although half a dozen others expressed interest in the project, none of them felt qualified to take me on as a candidate. The art lecturer also indicated that I should gain more practical experience, and I feel this may have influenced the rejections. He is right, so I have decided I should focus on this for now, and come back to the research at a later date.

The problem is, I live in a backwater in China. I can’t find supplies here to create a home studio. I have the blender and frames, felt and etceteras, but cannot find the mesh. Intensely frustrating. So far the onlmy practical experience I’ve had were two goes at elephant poo paper parks in Thalamd. It was fantastic, and I’m so desperate to get started on making all my mistakes so I can be closer to being an expert craftsman, it kills me! I’m hoping the upcoming Easter break will provide an opportunity. I’m looking at washi paper in Japan, hanji in Korea, Thailamd again, or visiting the Miao or Dai ethnic groups in south China.