Friday, 11 January 2013

a short message and a poem: Welcome, 2013!

Ah, and just like that it's January 2013 and the first week back to school has come and gone.  Once again, there is so much on my mind, so many things I want to tell you, so many drafts unpublished and blog posts jumping at me too quickly, I am not fast enough to write them all. But here we are; hopefully back to populate and nurture the spaces we all have carefully created together. 


Tell me what you're thinking, spending your time on, investing in, questioning, pouring your heart into, letting go of or loving right now. Seriously.  Those are great places to start again or continue the conversations we began in 2012.  

As always, I'm listening.  

Anyway, to my 8s - I am looking forward to your Chiang Mai Project narratives.  Whether you exhibit your beautiful photo essays or produce digital stories, I can't wait to celebrate your realizations, epiphanies, your voices.  Let's do this.  

As for my 7s -- our Poetry unit  has come to an end as we make our way to Journalism and Media.  The unit is done but I hope that poetry will remain in your hearts and souls forever.  Let those words drip endlessly from your pens and never be afraid to share your verses with the world.  So many wonderfully crafted pieces emerged from those weeks and I am really so so proud of all of you. From free verse to sonnets, you guys outdid yourselves. Bravo!  

Finally, as promised, I am publishing my own Where I'm From poem (inspired by George Ella Lyon).   For those of you who posted your poem on your blogs, thank you.  Your lines inspired me to finish mine, for sure.  Now, it took many drafts and time for me to arrive at this version.  The final editing happened during New Years Eve while we were counting down the last few hours of an awesome year.  I wanted to do something I loved (writing) for people I loved (you guys) during the last night of 2012, so I opted to revisit, revise and finalize that earlier version of the poem you heard in class to well, this one.  I hope you guys like it. *gulp*  Here goes...

This is dedicated to my students, the most important people to me right now.

Where I'm From

by Ms. Pau

I am from an old house on 21 Lilac St. 
from rooms with stories, secrets 
and slippers in my father’s hands
occasionally hitting the exposed
surfaces of my little body.
I am from extending stolen tearful
 glances at my mother who 
didn’t know what to do. 
Making that first note to self: 
never cry where your young 
angry father 
could sense you. 

I am from the stone balcony that looked out
at the dusty street
and our big black steel gate
where I watched my 
Yaya Shirley leave unexpectedly 
after she was almost stabbed 
by our other evil helper.

The road ahead
I am from abandonment that I 
got to know too intimately at a very young age, 
from the expectation to be 
strong, silent and sure, which 
meant I was being a good girl because
I understood why,
because I didn’t cry.
I am from thinking that moving houses
was never supposed
to be traumatic. 
Haunting images of my parents, 
partners and friends
leaving me again and again and again
from Sunday tears erupting from my core
for no good reason except the thought
of another goodbye
even years later
as a grown woman

An older me
I am from a bigger backyard, a bigger house
a bigger gated subdivision that left
an even bigger gaping hole in my heart.
I am from this place where I learned to say the words 
“I love you” second and not first;
“I am sorry” first and never second.

I am from Alabang Golf and Country Club
holding hands, bad poetry read to young crushes
who thought they had found their true love
Big words and alliterative phrases 
clumsily strewn together for loved ones I vowed
I would never forget
never wanted to forget 
to forget me

I am from betrayal, deep sadness
and harsh secrets learned too early; 
from an awkwardness in my own skin 
I clung to, not knowing how else to be
from fighting for a self that he, she, and
everyone I knew thought was perfect
except my-self
I am from everything they said I couldn’t be

I am from one day realizing I had wrapped
myself voluntarily in a cocoon, so difficult
to escape and wiggle out of
feeling like I deserved to hide there, and
to prove me right I had to
break my heart
over and over and over
But I am also from the paper thin wing that 
made the first finest tear
the path to redemption and forgiveness
began with
the other wing setting me free...

Butterfly Bound 

I am from books that adorn my walls
fortified from anyone who thought I was 
illiterate and not critical enough
Yes, from a thousand books
I can’t live without today
A thousand friends who have 
kept me company, have helped
me escape, who constantly remind me
all to well about my own humanity.

My books live here
I am from a hundred films, movies 
and pirated DVDs; characters like
Tyler Durden, Mr. Keating, and 
Lara Croft, I wish 
I were instead of me sometimes.
Their happy endings, misadventures
and worlds combined 
leave me envious and confined
As I gaze vacantly at the laundry
spinning round and round

I am from the quest for kindness 
gratitude and turning the corner
 but still not having a clue
from women’s rights and claiming feminist
and not believing in God for awhile
because according to my Masters Degree
 that made me look weak
I am from all of it boiling down to that angry little girl
who wasn’t allowed to speak
or make an appearance
All she wanted was to be heard and be herself
I call her Olivia 

I am from writing and writing and writing
during nights desperate for answers
and from days like this, where I am writing
and writing still 
I am from many complicated, 
complex and convoluted corners
that don’t remember everything 
like I thought I did

I am from wondering what it all means to 
all of it making sense
I am from seeing the world behind a lens
and through my pen and lined journals
from finding solace 
in the sound of the pounding of keys
I am from these eternal lines and shared images
from these two always, always saving the day

I am from malignant tumors
that peppered my neck and upper chest
from cancer that came out of nowhere
but taught me the most important lessons
in life
from being in remission 
and from being spared
for a reason

I am from my body image, the final frontier
 that is the total contradiction of who I am now
fissures from an old script
of a self worth defined by a society screaming
I need to be stick thin to be beautiful 
tiny cracks in my psyche that need 
to be filled 
healed and sealed

Self acceptance
I am from metamorphosis that only happened
when I stopped trying
from being transformed by 
gratitude and a love that overflows
from the ultimate well spring of life 
I am from my Creator
who reminds me that I am 
wretched and yet
still the best thing that’s ever 
happened to Him.
I am from a God who says
I made you for a reason and has
a son who helped me understand
the words, ‘I forgive you.”

I am from the earth and the sea and my
sun kissed skin 
from beneath the shallow surface
of the ocean, watching dugongs
swim away as I listen to my heavy breathing
and celebrating a heart that’s so full 
it could burst at any moment

I am from my Kuya I was born to adore and 
a mother and a younger sister I learned to love
and a father, now older, less angry, my biggest ally
These pieces make me who I am
the best bits that make the most sense
most of the time
the very basic
definition of where I belong begins
with Mon and Maqui, Eddie and Rae

Family Gold

My sis

I am from my classroom
the conversations that wow me on 
a daily basis
to collaboration, asking important questions
and reclaiming the power of storytellers
and storytelling
I am from always challenging myself as a teacher
and learner and from saying
I can still do so much more

Special beginnings 
My classroom today
 I am from spaces that we create to build a new life
three hours away from where I was born 
From missing the sound of the clipping carabiner 
to finding peace on the mat
I am from the inked narratives on my skin
that remind me that the pain, it always ends.

Here we go
The big move
I am from my mistakes and
my redemption and transformation
that has already begun.
I am from where I am headed, 
where goodbyes become easier
and where everyday there are 
warm hellos.

I am from today, still alive
more than okay
the best I’ve ever felt 
in 39 years
I wouldn’t recognize ennui
if it sat in front of me to have tea

I am from 
looking out my balcony
writing these verses for the most important 
people in my life right now
finally coming home to a huge party 
where everyone is invited 



  1. That is a beautiful poem. Beautiful probably does not accurately describe it, it is more than beautiful

    1. Mel!

      Thank you so much. I really appreciate you saying that this quiet Singapore Saturday. :) Would love to hear your version; find out more about where 'you are from.' Try? then Share? :)

      Again, thank you. When will you come visit us? #chilicrab

    2. Ok, I wrote my version. I don't know when I will be back for visiting and #chilicrab

  2. Ms. Paula,
    You poetry and words are a true inspiration. I look up to you as my teacher, friend, and a person that I know is truly amazing. Your stories and poems tell me something different about you every single time I read them. This time it was about your life and the experiences you have had. It moved me very much as I was reading through it. I never knew some of the things that you wrote about but I'm glad that you decided to share them. And because you did I respect you and love you even more! You have taught me soo much and I love learning with you inside and outside of the classroom. You help me when I get stuck or do not understand things in class and explain them to me until I do understand, and I am very grateful for that. You are a amazing, beautiful, smart and inspiring person. Thank you for sharing your poetry with me.

    Sammie <3

    1. SAM!
      I am at a loss for words right now actually but I wil try to reply.

      Thank you for your kind words, your sincerity and your passion. I really appreciate your comment and all the love you have sent my way. Thank you. You are such a warm, bright light I love being around. And wow, the idea that you know and feel that we are learning together inside and outside my classroom has made my day, wait, no year. :) Man, I am so glad I know you. Keep shining.

      Ms. P

  3. Dear Mrs.Paula

    This is an amazing poem, just like you. It is so good that if anyone would need an example of a good or actually, Awesome poem, this would be on the top of my list. Looks like you have a lot of stories and experiences in your life which would touch everyones heart. I probably skipped not one but two beats when your poem finished because it is just out of the world. I think that next year we should not use George Ella Lyons poem, but yours. I feel soooo inspired by this poem that words to describe it are not even in a dictionary. I will always look up to you because you have been the best teacher ever! You are not only an amazing teacher (like this poem) but you are also very inspiring making me look up to you always. If a classroom were to be a solar system, then surely you would be the biggest star there shining light to everything there. And I would not be a planet, But an asteroid because I have MUCH to learn in comparison to you. Your light will guide me to my goal and you will always be there for me and everyone.

    Pallav :)

    1. Pallav,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I am moved that you were moved. I am happy that my simple words have inspired you and that you know I will always be here for you guys, my students. These are golden words. Thank you. But, the shining light is not me. I am not the sun. You guys are. And as much as you feel you have much to learn from me, I have learned a great deal from all of you. Every single day and block and encounter and work submitted and thought shared at the table -- these are the most precious. I just wish sometimes that I could multiply myself so I can tell this to everybody in the most sincere and personal way more often. Again, thank you. For being you and for sharing your thoughts here. Now, keep on writing. You have a special online space and voice to nurture. :)

      Ms. P

  4. Sitting in my bed scrolling through my news feed and checking my email, I am at loss of words of what to say right now about your poem. The reason that it is so good is that you have let yourself go to all experiences and that is what makes you the person you are today, that is what makes you such a great teacher because of all the experiences that you have now shared. Your students can now open up and understand you on another level, which we could not do before.

    It is such a privilege for us to be able to have you as a teacher because of your writing skills and who you are, they could never be replaced. Now that all these moments are shared, I feel that the way that I see you is deeper and better than before. I am so glad that you decided to share this poem, it means the world to me and after a long time of waiting to read it, it has exceeded all expectations and has gone beyond, so thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I hope that all your other poems are shared with us too as it is a great inspiration to us to write poetry by how beautiful it sounds and knowing that we should share everything.

    Ella (:

    1. Ella,

      I am humbled by your kind words. Thank you so much. I am really glad you like the poem. I felt I owed it to you guys. I mean, after asking all of you to open up and share your innermost thoughts and ideas through poetry, it was only fitting that I try to do the same. It was a great process to let the words and memories come together like that. It has taught me a lot about being a teacher, learner and person. It was a great way to reflect and be grateful for everything I have been through and have right now. I am very blessed.

      Anyway, it's funny how you feel it is a privilege to have me as a teacher when I thank God everyday I have all my students and you guys in my mentor class. All the unique creatures that make up 7PGu has made my first year in UWCSEA extra special. Each of you stand out in your own specific way, it's pretty cool.

      Thank you again for the kind words and for taking the time to write it here. Keep on writing, okay and take it easy. The water will always be there.


      Ms. P

  5. Hi Mrs.Paula,

    This poem is beautiful....
    I am also completely lost in words after scrolling through this inspiring and self-reflective poem. I have learnt so much about you, through reading this poem. You are the most inspiring and encouraging teacher I have had.
    The skills that you are able to teach us during our writing and reading units are flawless. I am so inspired and thankful that we are able to have such an amazing teacher, like u.
    Thanks so much for being AMAZING.

    Marla x

    1. Dearest Marla,
      What a lovely thing to say. Thank you so much. I am humbled by your words and your sensitivity. It was such an important poem to write and am so glad you got a lot out of it. I am definitely looking forward to everyone's Where I'm From poems too. :) Exciting.

      As for classes, I am so glad you feel safe and challenged and learning a lot. More words to touch a teacher's heart. Thank you.

      Anyway, have a great winter break. Lots of love to your family. Happy holidays. I will be peaking in your blog to see what you've been up to. :) I am sitting in a cafe right now composing a post myself. :) Take care, okay.