2007 Annual Letter


As you may recall, late 2006 saw a move from the United States to Canada. The transition seemed like a great opportunity to shed some material possessions, so I donated the trusty Toyota pick-up truck to the local food bank in Point Roberts. Don't think this small gesture will tip the scale against global warming, but felt good. Even with the seasonal frosty weather, commuting once a week to the land of freedom by bicycle and bus turns out to be quite pleasant. An iPod and a good set of headphones make the journey a mellifluous treat.


Armed with a fresh residency, in January of this year I decided to go back to school and enrolled in a program that should lead to a credential in teaching English as a Second Language. Started off slowly by signing up for one course that met for three hours, one night a week. The campus is downtown, and created a pleasant, thirty-minute walk from our place in the tony West End to school. I figured the weekly trek was a good way to add some cross-training to the rowing regimen. (Will have completed my four-millionth meter sometime in January, which is comparable to rowing from Los Angeles to a bit past Montréal.)


Class was enjoyable. The fellow students are an international lot, and I was learning some stuff. The distressing surprise came when I attended the first class of the following term. For some reason it took forty-five minutes to walk the same route I had walked several weeks earlier in thirty, before the semester break. A fifty percent performance decrease in a couple of weeks is both baffling and alarming. Does increased awareness of English pronunciation affect one's gait? Unfortunately, the program does not require a research project, so this question will go unanswered.


One potential obstacle to finishing the ESL program (and any other activity that involves traversing the back alley behind our place) is the new, takeaway pizza parlor. While it probably was proper to install a ventilation fan that exhausts to the alley, it now means I must either detour around the place, or risk navigating the aroma of fresh-baked pies when venturing out and/or returning from various errands. While it would be inappropriate to compare this modest feat to steering safely around the treacherous rocks of the Lorelei, it does take some planning and will power to not stop in for a quick slice every time I leave the apartment.


Along with the residency came the right to work in Canada. Got lucky and found an incredible job (listed on craigslist) to teach at a local college. The title of the class is Play: Engaging in the World of the Child. The job description made it sound like the college was looking for a child psychologist. I applied anyway, figuring I would at least make the short list. Once again that experience with New Games would prove useful.


It turns out the school hired me to teach this course, as well as an additional course in the Fall, Activity and Event Planning. Am loving it. The students are getting certificates to be "youth and childcare workers". Folks who sign up for the program care about people and kids, and are pretty easy for me to get along with. Sometimes it feels as if the college decided to create the ideal job for me, and then fill it with great students to make it even better.


The play class was divided into two sections, a theoretical and an experiential. I had a ball sharing different ways to play each week. One week the theme of the experiential session was playing with rope and string. We learned Cat's Cradle, plus how to throw knots, spin lariats, and jump rope. Not sure if it was everyone's highlight, I enjoyed the group effort of trying to figure out how to play a giant version of Cat's Cradle with a hundred feet of clothesline and ten players, each one representing a digit.


The college has asked me to teach a third course, Child Development, in January. The offer is flattering and exciting. Planning and delivering the course will keep me busy, and the experience and opportunity are not to be passed over.


Late last year I was the inadvertent beneficiary of some online videos. Some dice stackers posted videos of themselves stacking dice on youtube. Intrigued viewers would see the videos, and then google "dice stacking" to find out more about the art. That led them to my website, and "Hey, presto!" sales of dice stacking books, videos, and supplies picked up. That spurred me to take the website more seriously. With a friend's help (Thanks, Andy) I am now proud of my website. If you have a moment, please take a look. (www.toddstrong.com) You can also catch a bunch of dice stacking videos on youtube.


Wrote a proposal for a new book of games. Instead of a parachute, this time the main piece of equipment is a large, inflatable ball. Be warned, though, if a publishing house accepts the proposal, the folks there expect you to actually follow up and write the manuscript. This past Spring and Summer were busy. The book is scheduled to be out in the Fall of 2008.


This may be another word of warning: Armed with a surprisingly strong dollar, Chris and I have joined many of our northern brethren and sistren in shopping for bargains south of the 49th (now referred to as Baja British Columbia by the locals). Don't be surprised if bejeweled, mukluk-clad Canadians show up in your neighborhood kicking foundations and slamming doors to determine if a cross-border real estate investment in sunnier climes is in order.


As for the crows on the card: Don't know if they have discovered the pizzeria at the corner, or not. They still come around regularly to say Hi" and pick up any stray peanuts we may leave on the window sill. There now seem to be several generations flocking around, so the program seems to be working.


As always, the best to you and yours.


copyright 2007 by Todd Strong



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