Struggles with Smartboards and Syntax

Days in Ireland have tended to be days of extremes. First it’s lashing rain followed by a period of sunshine and daffodils. Then we have a day of two rosary service practices, choir rehearsals, recordings of radio shows, and the Pope visits (note: this was Wednesday…minus the Pope part) followed by a day when the tea break is longer than the unbreak (note: this was every other day besides Wednesday…just kidding).  Next we have tea with the…hem hem…elder ladies of the parish (and I say this in the very fondest of ways) followed by a run in with classrooms full of mini energizer bunnies down at the primary schools.

Nicole and I have been working on a rosary prayer service with the 3rd class students, since they’re between receiving sacraments and we think they’re just as special as the classes who will be receiving a sacrament later this year! Nicole and I divided up between the classes and the other day I had the privilege of working with the students on a song and walking them through the prayers that we’ll be saying as a group. The music teaching part didn’t flow quite as I’d hoped…

I wanted to write the words on the board so the children could follow along, and as I looked up to the front of the classroom, I saw a friendly-looking whiteboard with actual colored dry-erase markers alongside a board attached to a computer with a funny looking wand thing and a bunch of computer graphics that didn’t exist when I was a wee one in the 3rd grade. I, of course, went straight for the thing I knew, but the teacher said, “ah, go ahead and use the smartboard.” Smartboard? I think I’d prefer the dumb board, but okay. I picked up the wand and moved it toward the big blank white space, drawing it cleanly across the screen. Nuthin. I heard a mass of giggles from behind me and a whole bunch of children chimed in, “you’re holding it upside-down.” I flipped it around and touched it to one of the symbols that looked promising. More giggles. “That’s the rubber,” more chimed in, now thoroughly entertained by my struggles. Rubber…right…eraser? “Okay”, I said aloud, seeing the range of colors by the “rubber.” “Well, I’ll go ahead and write in blue for Mary, our mother.” And, as if I weren’t embarrassed enough already, I looked to the colors to pick out blue and saw two seemingly identical hues sitting side by side. Oops. The blue-green colorblind girl shouldn’t be so confident to assume she would know blue when she saw it. As things were already going poorly, I knew if I chose one it would probably be green (to my dismay but to the probable joy of the children), so instead I tapped a safer shade and said, “purple it is!” (You know, because umm…Mary liked grapes…or something.)

Once the words were written (taking at least 5 minutes longer than it would have on the dumb board), I went through the refrain of the Ave Maria with the children. Miss Nolan asked if I would sing the verse because the children love to hear Nicole and me sing. I starred blankly at the first verse…I think I’d heard it once when Nicole sang it, but the melody was escaping me. Oh well, I thought to myself, it’ll probably come back to me if I just start singing. Bad idea. I started somewhere, made up the middle, and ended somewhere about two octaves above where I was supposed to end. Somehow I just kept jumping higher, so when it was time for the chorus, the children were straining to hit the notes I’d set up for them. I don’t think they really knew how the verse went, but from the looks on their faces, I think it’s safe to assume they knew it didn’t go like that. Anywho, the Rosary Prayer Service is on Tuesday at half eleven* in the main church, in case anyone wants to come on up.

A second adventure of the week was my newly-found service opportunity. Last week sometime I had popped in for the tail end of a Sunday mass at the Bride Street Church and found myself looking at the bulletin boards at the end of mass. I found a little blurb about teaching English lessons in Wexford and, highly intrigued as to why an English-speaking country would require English lessons, I telephoned the contact lady, Aniko, hoping to get a few more details. She answered in the midst of what sounded to be a clan of rowdy children, cooking the evening meat and potatoes, and knitting a sweater… “sure, good, oh what? You speak English? Perfect, you can start tomorrow.” We exchanged only a few more details before her other activities snatched her away, so I only knew that I was to walk into town, find some hardware store and walk through the dark and scary alley behind it to wherever the program was occurring. And after no funny business in the alley, finding the correct location and joining a class (she kindly let me sit in for the first session…phewf!), it was actually pretty neat! There were mostly young to middle-aged Polish persons living in Wexford, so we got to talk about how Henri’s favorite food is accounting, Helena’s age is 13 (she looked like about 55), and how a younger Latvian girl had a crush on the photocopied Italian man on the workbook page. We’ll see what other excitement next week holds.

Anyway, Aniko offered to give me a lift home, which is always appreciated. I could hear that she wasn’t a native of Ireland, so I asked her where she was from originally. “I am living here 12 years, but my family is from Hungary, near Romania.” My eyes popped open. “No way!” I said, “my family is too!” She turned and gaped at me. “Yea,” I continued, “my last name is Puscas” (pronounced Pooshkash in Romanian). “No!!” She exclaimed, “you’re a Puscas?!” She started speaking so fast that I’m not entirely sure it was even English anymore, but I think she said she was either related to a Puscas or knew someone who was or liked the famous Hungarian futbal player, Ferenc Puscas. She said whenever anyone found out she was from Hungary, they would either talk about ‘Ferenc Puscas the Great’ or goulash. She was glad I had a bit more knowledge of the culture.

The famous Ferenc! I look just like him, huh?

Next, I asked her how she came to be in Wexford and she said she’d taught French lessons for awhile and met her husband here. Again, I was flabbergasted, since I was a French major in college. I started spurting out French and I thought Aniko was going to swerve off the road she was so caught off guard. We both chatted in French for a moment and, as if we hadn’t found much in common already, she is also a member of the Church of the Annunciation (where we work!) and lives in Clonard. I half expected to say “I’m with the House of Brigid and live at 206 Cluain Dara” and for her to chime in, “Hey! I’m in the HoB and live at 206 Cluain Dara too.” Whadya know…connections all over the globe! So it was a grand old time, and next week perhaps we’ll learn to say things like “my favorite sport is hippopotamus”**, “I have ten firefighters in my bathroom”, and “my favorite car is goulash.”


Finally, if you’re still with me, here is a little about last evening’s workshop. The four of us trekked out to Monamolin to the church of St. Moling to host a workshop for the women (and one gentleman) of the parish. We learned a great many new pieces together, focusing on pieces that would sound lovely with an SSA choir. The pieces included a beautiful setting of psalm 128, the Mass of Redemption parts, and a lovely version of a communion meditation, I am the Bread of Life. It was a great workshop followed by a mass and, of course, tea & biscuits. The women (and man) said they were very grateful for our hard work  and for the flurry of new music they’d learned in a jiffy! And we were grateful for a successful first workshop! And tea!

And we’re off to ACE mass in Dublin. Read ya next time!

*Half eleven (for the non-Irish readers) is not 5 1/2 like I thought (Tis 11:30)

**Here is “my favorite sport is Hippopotamus”, courtesy of Google:

Welp, I couldn’t find Sport Hippo, but here’s a funny hippo anyway