At the End

Well…  that is not how I expected the story to end. I mean, I’m sure everyone was waiting for Amir to bring Sohrab home to America with him but I was totally expecting it to be one of those fairytale conclusions like in The Littlest Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett where the poor orphan, held captive by a brutal master, finds a loving new family who whisks them off to a better place and everyone lives happily ever after. The author even hints on page 376 that this isn’t a fairytale, saying that if someone were to ask him whether this story had a happy ending he wouldn’t know what to say. Rather ironic when he’s just written entire passage about how all Afghans cared about was whether the ending was happy or not.

In Afghanistan, the ending is all that mattered. When Hassan and I  came home after watching a Hfindi film at Cinema Zainab, what Ali, Rahim Khan, Baba or the myriad of Baba’s friends-second and third cousins milling in and out of the house- wanted to know, was this: Did the Girl in the film find happiness? (pg 376)

 

I think the central idea behind The Kite Runner is that we all make mistakes and we can either choose to do something about it or we can spend the rest of our lives trying to pretend it didn’t happen. Either way, the fact is that our mistakes are as much a part of us as our arms and legs and we can’t change the things we’ve done so the only real option is to accept and move on. This concept is clearly illustrated in how Amir first tries to push Hassan away after letting him get raped, then tries to escape from him by fleeing to the U.S.. When he finally understands 26 years later that he can’t escape the gravity of what he’s done, he decides to do something about it: he decides to redeem himself by freeing Hassan’s son from a heretical Taliban leader.

When Amir and his father arrived in the U.S.A., Amir changed noticeably. He certainly didn’t manage to evade his conscience, but being positioned in an unfamiliar environment with new responsibilities (such as looking after his father and wife) seemed to cause him to become less aware of himself and more focused on others. As Amir grew less and less aware of himself, others seemed to grow more aware of him where previously their attention had been directed at Baba. Even the kindly, old grocer told him “You’re nice young man but your father, he’s crazy.” (pg 135) I still have some issues with how Amir treated Hassan and his father but I’m trying to see it simply as a cultural understanding between them.

This story shares several similar themes with the movie The Book Thief (based on the book by Markus Zusak) which is set early in the second World War and is about a young girl who goes to live with foster parents in Molching, Germany when her mother is forced to give up her and her brother and what life is like for her growing up. The major themes between these two stories are: Choices, Journey, Culture, War and Peace.

To anyone who’s enjoyed this book or thinks they would, I would highly recommend the Guests of War trilogy by Kit Pearson as it is extremely well-written and has many similarities.

Halfway through

 

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Sooo….  I am about halfway through The Kite Runner now and I can’t stop thinking about the incident 93 pages ago.

Together, Amir and Hassan win this epic kite flying tournament, which is a big deal in Kabul (where they live) and an even bigger deal for Amir who is doing his best to make his father proud of him. After a couple joyous moments of celebration, Amir sends Hassan after the blue kite whose lethal, glass coated string they’ve just cut. Hassan, the boy who was born smiling and faithful to the core, stops and yells back  “For you a thousand times over!” (pg 71) But he didn’t come back.

When Amir finally found him, he was in a back alley facing three bullies -the kite sitting behind him on a pile of rubble. Hassan wouldn’t give it up and bullies advanced towards him. Amir faced a dilemma (Prompt 2: Describe a problem faced by the main character -explain how the main character deals with the problem and make a personal connection): he could either step in before anything happened and hope he didn’t get beaten up, or he could hope Hassan would be able to hold the bullies off long enough for him to run for help. In the end, however, Amir stood frozen in the shadows, before fleeing in horror while the leading bully raped Hassan. Afterwards he accepted the kite without a word from his bloodied and shaken friend and presented it to his father as a battle trophy.

(Prompt 6: Write your opinion of a character’s action or reaction to a situation in the book. Do you think it was the appropriate course of action and would you have done the same?)

I hated Amir from that point on but at the same time I couldn’t help hating myself more because I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have done the same thing. At first, Amir is so guilt-ridden he hardly eats and he doesn’t sleep. He tries to escape his guilty conscience by avoiding Hassan and when that doesn’t work, he decides to get rid of the only friend he’s ever had altogether by framing him for stealing. But even with Hassan gone he can’t escape the knowledge of what he did -or didn’t do. Six years later (where I’m at now) he still vomits whenever the image of Hassan’s brown corduroy pants on the heap of old bricks resurfaces in his mind.

The contrast between the boys personalities is striking. While Hassan is so pure and perfect he’s almost unhuman, Amir is so immensely flawed and focused on himself that he is by far the more dislikeable and relatable of the two. It seems ironic that the first short story he wrote was about a poor man who sacrificed all he had for wealth and then he goes right ahead and gives up his only real friend in order to be the sole receiver of his father’s love. That’s something that really stands out to me.

It’s so obvious that what Amir needs to do is to take into account his father’s advice (“Better to get hurt by the truth than comforted by a lie.” pg 61) and to do everything he can to find Hassan so he can apologize to him and stop pretending that nothing ever happened, however, I have the feeling he’s going to waste many more years trying to ignore his conscience before he realizes this.

The Kite Runner

 

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THE KITE RUNNER written by Khaled Hosseini and published by Anchor Canada (copyright 2003), is a “stunning” and “powerful” story about the son of rich Afghan merchant who grows up alongside an impoverished servant boy who becomes his faithful companion only to be separated by collapse of the monarchy and the growing cultural and religious tensions of the time. The boy manages to escape to California with his father and, 26 years later, receives a call that brings him back home to try and regain the friend he lost.

According to various reviews and synopses, the world contained within the 391 pages of this novel seems to provide the reader with an acute understanding of the Afghan culture and it comes with a good deal of history and then-current political activities which is something I look for in a good book. I think that, alongside The Breadwinner and Parvana’s Journey by Deborah Ellis, this wonderfully-narrated story will help to create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind about what it’s like to grow up on the other side of the ocean where everyday life is different almost every day.

Charlie B. on TheGuardian.com gives this book a very positive review, saying:
“I think the best bit about the kite runner is its sense of fate and justice, of good overcoming evil in the end, despite all odds.”

A Strange Encounter with my Gramma’s Neighbour

If I could tell you exactly how we got from a modern little coffee shop to the other side of the world and back again, believe me I would but, as it is, I don’t quite know myself.

I believe it had everything to do with my Gramma’s neighbour, who, in her years of experience as a tour guide, managed to take us across the Atlantic to Sweden, Iceland and all over Asia without us ever leaving our seats. We explored the original language-oriented education platform of Singapore and the patronymic system of nomenclature in Iceland with some consideration to my mother’s maiden name (Hanson). As we made our way back through the Canadian wilderness, I learned the difference between a black bear and a grizzly as interpreted by a guide from Reader’s Digest who, when asked by a young couple interested in trying camping, replied that a black bear will follow you up a tree whereas a grizzly would simply shake you out of it.

Finally, as our hour was almost up, we made a pit-stop in Salmon Arm and took her to De Mille’s Farm Market where we tasted ice cream and fresh fruit and wandered through the petting zoo of peacocks, guinea pigs and alpacas and she added it to her list of places to take her next tour group.

Superman -The Untold Story

THE kettle let off a shrill whistle and Clark Kent blinked off his laser-eyes and put on his glasses. Pouring water over a tea-bag in one of his mother’s dainty bone-China cups, he began thinking of questions to ask his first interviewee: a lady named Jill Fennel who was announcing a grand-opening of a new store that specialized in all things Superman. He was flattered, of course, that people admired him so much but he couldn’t tell them that -at least, not as Clark Kent, the journalist from Daily Planet. He made a mental note to make a special appearance at the store after work.

 

Fans submit their designs and I have them mass-produced and… and…”

Jill Fennel suddenly stopped mid-answer. She was staring at a bit of blue spandex peaking out from under his left sleeve. Kal-El gave an inward groan as her eyes slowly traveled up his arm to meet his. Thank goodness the combination of his good-looks and other-worldly origins were often overwhelming enough to distract people. Except Lois. It never worked on Lois.

I biked here.” He smiled and winked at her.

Jill didn’t say much after that; just gazed distractedly at his face as if pondering whether or not people actually wore blue spandex outfits for biking.

 

After what felt like a century, the seemingly interminable interview was at last drawing to an end. Before things could be formally concluded, however, Clark caught sight of something out of the corner of his eagle-like vision. Several things in fact. The first of these things was that pedestrian he’d been watching for the past five minutes had finally grown tired of waiting for the red hand to change into a white figure. The second thing was that there was a semi approaching the intersection at a speed that could in no way be checked before it reached the red light. The third thing he noticed was that the semi was towing a trailer full of kittens (…for orphans  it said on the side) and a C-can containing explosive chemicals.

Superman was needed and needed fast, regardless of whether he would be exposing his Secret Identity. It was exactly for situations like this that Clark spent a third of his budget on rip-away clothing. As luck would have it, Jill happened to be looking over her notes. rrrip….In a flash, Clark Kent transformed from the charismatic journalist into Metropolis’ hero and launched himself into the air.

 

He assumed this renowned Statue-of-Liberty Pose and made a slow-motion dive towards the explosive, cat-carrying semi as the gap between it and its oblivious speed-bump closed rapidly.

Superman’s cape streaked behind him.

The pedestrian was nearly half-way.

The semi roared angrily.

Superman stood in the intersection, dug his heels into the asphalt and there was a sudden thunk  as the semi crashed into Superman and came to screeching halt within an inch of the pedestrian.

 

That night, as Clark Kent sat drinking tea from his mother’s favourite China set and watching the news (which mostly involved him as usual), a story came on about the grand-opening of Jill’s new store.

And now, a moment with Jill Fennel, the creator of Be Super.”

Thanks Bill. Today, I was able to witness the icon of the store, Superman himself, in action. I was in an interview when suddenly, he comes out of nowhere and stops this semi carrying explosives and kittens for orphans from colliding with a pedestrian. Stop by the grand opening and you can be super too by picking up the hottest Superman pajamas, semi brake-pads and the latest in rip-away clothing.”

 

Commercial Glass Recycling

Hi everybody! Just getting in some practice for tomorrow night’s presentations.

I’d like to tell you about my Independent Directed Study on recycling commercial glass.

First of all, when I say ‘commercial glass’ I am referring to glass that is treated, such as window-panes, windshields, shower doors and even cookware. Because the properties of commercial glass can vary so much in comparison to bottle glass, there is actually no system in place to recycle it, and so a massive amount of glass is winding up in the landfill every year. So when a window breaks, guess where it ends up.

The differences between bottle glass and window glass are numerous; bottle glass is simply coloured glass, where-as commercial glass is largely two main types (float-glass and soda-lime glass), it might be tempered or heat-strengthened (which would alter the melting point), it might be silk-screened (coated in a layer of ceramic frit paint) it could have a Standard Issue Solar Coating , or it could have a Low-Emissivity coating; all of which could produce toxic substances when melted; a concern for both the environment and a work-safe hazard. In spite of all this, however, it still seems entirely possible to devise a system to recycle commercial glass.

At present, I am looking into the bottle-glass recycling process which I hope will provide some foundational details for this system.

My dad, as a glazier, has a lot of experience in the industry and has been a huge help to me throughout the course of this project and a lot of my progress so far is due to his insight and advice. Thanks dad!

The Off-season

Apparently Crocuses are not indoor plants.

While not all of the ones I’ve seen in exterior environments have bloomed but they all are still a very healthy green. Mine still have yet to display any signs of producing buds. They are, however, undergoing an entertaining transformation from forest green to soft orange… Perhaps I will bring them home over the weekend and see if fresh air does the trick.

Meanwhile, congratulations to all of you who are having success with your plants! I’ve seen some very healthy sunflowers, (nice work Aaron, Nolan and Kendra) a thriving Fuzzy-wuzzy (SCK), and some barely existing Marigolds that I think have been forgotten (Leif)…. Anyway, best of luck to you all and have a fantastic weekend!

My plant

Okay then, I’m sure you want to know all about what plant I ended up choosing. But before I tell you what it is, I’ll give you a hint, it’s one of the ones I listed in my last post; it has tendrils that ride up every surface and entwine like sturdy, grey trunks, and two fan-like ears to frame its broad face…       Well in case the word trunk didn’t give it away already, it was elephant ivy.

Taking some clippings from a mature plant that currently resides by our elongated stairway and putting them in a jar I begin the seemingly-eternal wait for a sign that roots were breaking out before placing the clippings in a bed of soil. About a week ago however, I happened to revisit an elephant-ivy clipping specialist (some of you may be familiar with Google) whence I learned that you were in fact, not supposed to start them in water…

A well-timed cold-spell has encouraged me to focus my attention on some crocuses, so we’ll see how that goes.

Preparation for Planting

The school is embarking on a planting project as part of the Global Wonder, Local Action vision set in motion by Mr. Khalili. All the students are going to grow their own little plants, posting pictures of their progress once and while to ‘spread the joy’.  I think it’s a great idea -there’s been some mutual agreement as to the lack of greenery in this school. As of yet, however, I have been unable to decide on what exactly to plant. In truth, I can name a long list of things I’d like to plant -but are either hard to get a hold of or unable to survive in the low-light conditions that just so happen to exist here. I am looking for one that will last long, be easy to manage or be useful in some way (such as herbs or medicinal plants like horsetail ferns). Any suggestions? I’m considering…

Hens and Chicks,   Shamrocks,   Dill,   Asters,  and  Elephant Ivy

Hens and ChicksShamrocks
DillAstera

What’s been happening at the Inquiry HUB?

It’s been a big week for the Inquiry HUB! Students have been going from school to school, spreading awareness about a relatively unknown part of School District 43. Some made posters and drawings in attempt to capture spirit of our school. Yesterday’s gym warm-up consisted of moving virtually every chair in the building into the main classroom and every table out of it. White-boards were wiped; posters were hung; dishes were washed; fishes were bought; suspense built up as in the rising action, until the climax -the Open House last night- was reached. Now that it’s all over, today feels kind of like the falling action and denouement as the day slowly comes to an end.

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