Wednesday, May 03, 2017

8 Years Later

Photo taken at Los Angeles International Airport

I began writing this post back in January, but I wanted to wait and see before I posted it. Now, I feel the time is right.

January 18, 2017
I had just landed at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) And, as I was headed towards the sea of humanity assembled in the queues that constituted Customs & Immigration, I saw a portrait at the time of, President Obama. It really struck me and it stopped me.  Having President Obama and his family in the White House for eight years was a tremendous source of pride for me. I admired the grace, class, intelligence, and sense of humor with which former Pres. Obama and Michelle Obama served as President and First Lady. Every summer, when my family and I ventured into D.C., we always made a point of stopping by the White House to give a nod.

Being at LAX two days before the Inauguration took me back to eight years ago, when I traveled back to the U.S. for a conference and landed at Washington-Dulles Airport, shortly after former Pres. Obama had been inaugurated. I remember being heartily greeted by the immigration official who said, “Welcome back, son!” This welcoming spirit/vibe extended itself all throughout the airport. And, what really caught my eye that day back in 2009, was a video screen in the immigration hall with a diverse group of people saying, “Welcome!” This was much different from the vibe I had experienced previously throughout the early to mid 2000's when I had returned to the U.S. I admit, at the time, 2009, I was a little fearful of flying to the U.S. from the Middle East, (Where I was living at the time). Renditions were taking place at airports, especially to men of color and there was much fear and uncertainty. The welcoming vibe of the airport and the change of leadership in the White House at definitely quelled my apprehension at the time and for the next seven years.

Now, 8 years later, for many people, for many groups, fear and uncertainty have returned due to the change of leadership in the White House. I’m trying to remain optimistic and hope something and/or someone good will emerge out of the current political situation as it did with Pres. Obama emerging from Pres. Bush’s disastrous second term (Two wars, housing crisis, economic meltdown, and an extremely low approval rating of 22% when he departed office). I’ve already witnessed progress in the following:

-The firing of staff and new leadership at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) who I place a large part of blame towards how the election went down!

-Bases being energized as with the Women’s Marches, The Tax March, and March for Science.

Photo taken at Women's March, Santa Barbara, Ca.
-Witnessing constituents being fired up at town hall meetings with their respective elected officials.

-And, hopefully, we will see more viable third party candidates in the next Presidential election.

Photo taken at Women's March, Santa Barbara, Ca. 

For those of us who are not GOP supporters, we need to steal the GOP playbook of the past 8 years that rejected pretty much everything, and just said, "No" a lot! And, try to make Trump a one-term president as how famously Mitch McConnell said the goal was of the GOP when Pres. Obama was first elected.



Friday, December 30, 2016


Nell and Hubert (June 2016)

"It's so free this kind of feeling,
It's like life, it's so appealing, When you got so much to say it's called gratitude, and that's right!"
-The Beastie Boys from their song, Gratitude.

As 2016 comes to a close and I reflect on what a strange and interesting year it has been, character building to say the least. I'm thankful and grateful for another year of life and the experiences that continue to shape who I am and the person that I continuously strive to become.

I couldn't let this year end without paying gratitude to my mother in law, Vernell Strecker and her husband, Hubert Strecker. Nell at age 79 and Hubert at 88, packed up their belongings and moved to Hubert's native Germany after 28 years of living in the U.S. I admire their spunk for making such a move at this stage in their lives. With their move, the house that I and my family have called home for the past 14 years and where Eleanor lived when she and I met 20 years ago has been sold. I'm not sad about the move because Nell and Hubert needed to move for different reasons, I'm grateful for their incredible generosity and hospitality the past 14 years!

With Nell and Hubert's former home being in Reston, Virginia, 15 minutes from Dulles Airport (And, 30 minutes from Washington D.C.), it was great to land after flying close to 24 hours and be home and in bed in no time. Or, having the traditional welcome home pizza, hot and waiting that was ordered as we were driving home from the airport. I loved the way Nell would give the neighborhood kids a heads up that Miles and Evan were on their way so they had instant playmates upon landing. When the boys were younger, I truly appreciated how Nell would take the boys to the neighborhood pool almost daily so that Eleanor and I could run errands or enjoy the activities and attractions the DC area has to offer. And, all the other things she would do for us during the course of the year.

As my Pops has told me my entire life, "The only thing constant in life is change," and this year brought forth quite a bit of change for the Haynes Family. We look forward to 2017 and the years to come; to establishing new traditions and having new experiences.

Thank you, Nell and Hubert! Enjoy your new adventure!

Much love, Ryan, Eleanor, Miles, and Evan

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Post Election Conversation

My mobile phone rang shortly after I arrived at work, it was my son, Miles, “Dad, can Evan and I stay home and watch the election today. I answered, “No, Miles. Today is a good day to go to school. People will be discussing the election and your teachers may have the election results on in their classrooms.” Miles replied with an unenthused, “Ok, Dad.”

Later in the day, I was in my office working on a letter of recommendation when Miles entered. He just finished soccer practice, he looked at me, and I returned his look. He had this weird/peculiar look on his face. We didn’t speak; we just acknowledged one another with a nod. He plopped down in a chair and I decided to break the ice with, “So, you’ve heard about the election?” He replied, “Yeah, I told you so!” I quizzically answered, “When?!” He replied, “Last year, when Trump first announced he was running, everyone thought it was a joke (Me, [his father] included), but Dad, I told you then he was going to win.” I said, “You’re right, I remember, how did you know?” He answered, “I had a feeling, but I‘m still a little surprised.” Miles then looked at me and asked, “What now?” I felt that this was such a loaded question. When Miles asked this I initially thought, “Where is he going with this?” He then asked, “Will we still return to the U.S. this summer like we always do?” I answered, “Yes, of course!” He seemed relieved by this. Miles and Evan love returning to the U.S. each summer to catch up with family, friends, and to attend camp.

He then shared what took place during his day, which was interesting to hear. He said that many of his classmates and their families are Trump supporters and they were happy with the election results. He then said at lunch he and his friend William were trying to explain the benefits of taxes (i.e. How they pay the salaries of police officers, firefighters, build and repair roads, schools etc.) to one of their tablemates at lunch and after their explanation the tablemate looked at them and exclaimed, “Whatever!” and walked away.

We then discussed how this is the biggest presidential upset in my lifetime and Miles said, “Like when Truman defeated Dewey.” I was shocked at this response for a couple of reasons; one, I had to remind Miles I was not alive when Truman upset Dewey. Two, when I asked Miles, “How do you know about the Truman/Dewey election?” He just shot me a look and said, “I know.”

Then, we discussed the ramifications of the election. In addition to Trump winning, the House and the Senate were now Republican led and Trump can appoint Supreme Court Justices and how this will affect future generations due to the laws that will be passed and/or repealed.

As our conversation was coming to a close, Miles said two things that I found interesting:

1. “Dad, other than Nixon, has any other president been impeached (I was really surprised by his question and it also made me laugh. I was thinking to myself, “Why is Miles making a connection between Trump and impeachment? Is this kid clairvoyant?)?” And, the answer to Miles’ question was yes, the husband of Trump’s opponent. An interesting coincidence.

2. “This is the first presidential election I remember and will never forget.”

Monday, September 19, 2016

Putting It All Together

"Don't let schooling interfere with your education." -Mark Twain

I'm a about month into a new school year and I've recently been thinking about a conversation I had with a student at the end of the last school year that left me in a good place and carried me into this year. One of the great aspects about being an educator is the beginning of a new year. Last year, was a tough and draining year for me professionally and personally and the department in which I work. Probably one of the toughest years I've endured in my 18 years as a school counselor. It was one of the few times I was very ready for the school year to end and needed distance from school for awhile. From the first day I stepped foot on campus last year, I had to deal with an issue that consumed the entire year, in addition to other crises and tragedies that took place. This conversation that I'm going to share (With permission from the student, he actually encouraged me to share it), took place just prior to the end of last school year; it was an unexpected surprise and ended up being a highlight of my year. As always, I'm excited for the promise of a new school year and curious to see how it is going to unfold.

It was close to 4pm and two days before graduation. I was trying to finish up work so that I could go home for the day, and also finish up end of the school year stuff so that I get that much closer to going on break. As I was deep into paperwork and replying to e-mails, I looked up and there was a student at the threshold of my door. The student looked at me and the papers strewn around my desk and asked, "Mr. Haynes, are you busy?" I love it, I really do (It always brings a smile to my face) when students ask this question when I'm in the middle of many different things. I replied, "What's up? Come in :)." The student entered and proceeded to talk.  He said, "Mr. Haynes, in 14 hours I leave for university, I want to talk about the education I received at ISB, before I leave." This statement stopped me and I said, "Please proceed..." and I just listened (This particular student had won a prestigious scholarship from his home country and as a result, could attend university anywhere in the world. But, his country was requiring him to enroll in a program prior to matriculating to university immediately after school concluded and as a result, he was not able to attend graduation. What's interesting about this young man is that he also earned a scholarship to attend the school where I work. The young man is sharp!).

The student began with,

"When I first entered ISB I was a nerd. Then, he paused, smiled, continued, and said, “I’m still a nerd, but I’m less of one now, Mr. Haynes. ISB helped to make me less narrow and more well-rounded. Before I was curious, but narrow, now, I’m curious and open. As y'know I was a scholarship student. When I earned the scholarship to attend ISB I didn't know what to expect. I quickly learned that ISB was very different from the schools I had attended my whole life and it took some getting used to. Looking back on my education, it is interesting to see how the courses I took in grades 9 and 10 prepared me for the IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma Program and now how the IB courses that I took will prepare me for university. But, looking back on things, it was the classes that I wasn't as confident in, didn't want to take, or was skeptical of taking that prepared me well and made me a complete student. Mr. Haynes, you know I love math and science, but it was these classes that made me a complete student:

Theory of Knowledge: I came to love in class discussions.

Drama: Made me a better public speaker.

Jewelry:  I had the art credit to finish and I pretty much waited until senior year to complete it, but y'know what Mr. Haynes, I really enjoyed jewelry class. I got to use tools to manipulate, create, and design. 

English: Made me see the beauty of a well constructed argument. Prior to ISB, I never questioned what I was told. Now, I’m of the mindset, 'There needs to be an explanation for why things are the way they are!' English Literature made me a better scientist. I could write better lab reports, I could question and argue better. I could also better articulate my answers in Math.

Then, in a stream of consciousness, he shared the following: 

"ISB is less restrictive, more open, offers a wide curriculum."

“I remember my Middle School Math teacher telling me to go out and talk to people, to get a life, go live, life is not all about study problems. I admit, I was a study freak.” 

“ISB provides students with multiple perspectives and viewpoints.” 

“The fact that teachers care. My teachers became a part of who I am.  I hear my teachers voices in my head from time to time when I’m in certain situations.”

“Since this is my last day, this is good-bye. I need to share with you that I almost committed suicide a couple years ago. But, it was being able to speak with my teachers openly, especially, my Health teacher that prevented me from doing it.” 

"Mr. Haynes, I know it's late and it's time for us both to go, but I really wanted to share my experience at ISB before I left. It changed my life."

As the student got up to depart my office, I wished him all the best and told him once he got settled to keep in touch. After the student left all I could think was, "Wow!" Did this conversation just take place?! I just sat and thought, for awhile. Taking in all that he just shared, relishing the fact that he wanted me to share his thoughts with others, and thinking how cool it is that the student was able to astutely connect the dots in regards to the broad education he received. After the conversation, I could no longer concentrate on work and said to myself, "Time to head home."

Then, as God would have it, as I was riding my bike home from school, I bumped into the teacher that the student cited as saving his life (She just happened to be riding her bike in the neighborhood). As I was sharing the conversation that I just had, this teacher stared at me in disbelief and said, "I had no idea." Then, after I shared the conversation with her, she looked at me and said, "Thank you for sharing this with me. I needed this right now." And, as I left her and continued my bike ride home I said to myself, "So did I."

Thursday, May 26, 2016

TED X Talks: A Catalyst for Change, International School Bangkok

TED is an acronym for: Technology, Education, Design. I first got hip to TED Talks sometime in the mid 2000's. An acquaintance mentioned that I check out Al Gore's TED Talk on Climate Change. I did and I was hooked. I liked the format, setting, and vibe of TED Talks. TED Talks are a great venue for some of the most innovative and freshest voices to come forth and share their ideas with the world. I draw inspiration from the talks and often times view them when preparing to give a presentation.

As part of the English curriculum at ISB, students in grade 11 in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program are required to give a TED Talk on a topic of their choice under the theme of "Catalyst for Change." Then, out of the 170 students who give in class TED Talks, 10 are selected to present at a TED X event.

Last year, I attended ISB's TED X Talks and I was blown away! I heard students give passionate speeches on the following: The Merits of Taking a Gap Year, The Power of Public Speaking, and Introversion. But, it was the presentation entitled: Default: A talk on the lack of diversity in literature that greatly impressed me!  The student, half-Thai, half-Dutch who is passionate about literature and visual art, gave a presentation on why when depicting characters in movies and literature despite how they are described, end up being white in movies or when illustrated in books. It wasn't just the subject matter that enthralled me, it was the manner in which this student commanded the stage. She was confident, provocative, and passionate about what she spoke. I was so impressed by her and all the speakers I saw that evening. They were better presenters than many adult presenters I've had to endure over the years. And, it was after her presentation that I vowed, to attend ISB's TED X event annually, as I am able. That's how powerful the evening was for me.

Fast forward to this year's TED X event and the presenters. I had the pleasure of seeing some of the following topics presented: The benefits and challenges of growing up a Third Culture Kid (Which was painful and hilarious. Why being offensive is important (It was not what I expected and I really enjoyed it!). How the Brain Can Get Sick (One Student's Journey with Mental Illness), and the importance for multilingual people not to lose their mother tongue. It was another great evening of fearless and passionate students who had stories to share. What's your story?

* Below is a video of the Default TEDxTalk from 2015 and a link to this year's TEDxTalk's.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Dreams, Schemes, and Everythings

"Dreams, schemes, and everythings fill the dusty corners of your mind." -Paul Weller

During the recent Christmas holiday, my family and I were back in Virginia and I was reminded of the above song lyric while shopping for hockey equipment. The store I was in named, Total Hockey is the kind of place my friend, Chris Nystrom and I envisioned. We spent a lot of time discussing an establishment like Total Hockey while playing Sega Hockey in college or devouring countless chips and salsa at our favorite Mexican Restaurant, Casa Grande in our hometown of Richmond, VA, where we would meet up for dinner every Thursday evening when we were just out of college. Total Hockey is what we had in mind, wall to wall hockey! TV's all over the store playing hockey. A mini rink in the store for people to take shots to sample sticks. A goalie technician to help people purchasing goalie equipment. Movies to buy, classics such as Slapshot and soon to be classics such as Red Army (A recent very good movie about former Soviet players trying to make it to the NHL and the draconian system and conditions under which they played in the Soviet Union). I would have stayed for hours, but El and the boys were waiting for me in the car. I perused, tried on, and sampled gear in the limited amount of time that I had. And, the more I walked the aisles, something unexpected happened, the more melancholy I became. I was thinking, "Total Hockey was a dream Chris and I had that never became reality."

I couldn't believe it, but I actually started feeling sad, really sad! Sad that we didn't realize our dream while I was shopping in a store and about to give money to proprietors who did! It can be demoralizing when you witness someone else living out your dream. It got me thinking of my dreams past and present. Then, I thought of a quote by former NFL coach, Herman Edwards, "A goal without a plan is a wish!" What are my current goals? They are ever changing. Here are some that immediately come to mind: Raising children who become adults that are productive members of society, visiting all 7 continents (I've visited 6), getting a book published, running another marathon. More importantly, what are my plans for achieving the above mentioned goals? What are your goals and what are your plans for achieving them? As I was leaving Total Hockey, I was reminded of one of Chris' favorite quotes by the musician, Taj Mahal, "Dream your life. Live your dreams!"

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Style Mile: An Afternoon in Glasgow, Complete With a Great Soundtrack

This post originally began, Sunday, November 15 in a booth at a restaurant in the Edinburgh, Scotland Airport waiting for the university tour in which I was participating to commence.  Prior to to this post, I hadn’t been inspired to write. Nothing was coming to me, nor had presented itself. I spent the previous day (Nov. 14) in Glasgow, Scotland, and Glasgow was my muse. 

The first time I visited Scotland, I was 17 years old. The trip was a high school graduation gift and it definitely helped to plant the seed for my future wanderlust. The trip was part of a 12 day tour with a group of students, that was a whirlwind tour of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The tour made quite an impression on me in a few different ways. One, I quickly realized traveling with a tour is not for me (Different reasons and this may change as I get older.), mainly due to lack of autonomy. Two, I really dug the UK! I knew I had to return one day and was confident that I would. And, three, Scotland emerged as my favorite part of the trip. Three things stood out to me about Scotland: the people, the food, and the vibe. 27 years later, the same was true on this day in November.

It was a Saturday afternoon in Glasgow, and the soundtrack of my life was playing in different parts of the mile long walking street. I checked into my hotel and Paul Weller was playing over the speakers in the lobby, it brought a smile to my face and it will bring a good rating on Trip Advisor for the hotel ;). It was an overcast day with the sun shining its face intermittently. I walked the Buchanan Street Style Mile, as it’s called. Shop after shop, street musician after street musician, playing all types of music. No surprise that Glasgow is named the UNESCO City of Music. People would stop, nod their heads along to a tune, or just get down and dance.

The Buchanan Street Style Mile
It was nice to be out and about, especially in cooler weather. Cuisines from Turkish doner kebabs, Italian, Mexican, and Thai (I always seem to find a Thai restaurant :)), were all on offer and I was hungry after flying all night. After walking for awhile and taking in the sights and sounds, I decided upon a restaurant called Wokabout. Made to order fresh ingredients cooked in a wok, of course, and the restaurant had free wi-fi, which I was looking for. The music in the establishment was great, as was the food.  I created a dish the proprietor claimed she had never made before with a variety of spices, sauces, etc. She was intrigued and decided to make some of my dish for herself. At the restaurant, I was able to Skype Eleanor and e-mail colleagues. At one point, hearing all the music in the background, Eleanor asked, "Where are you?!" It felt great to connect and be in touch after traveling all night, while being fed, with great tunes being played about.

After lunch, I came across a vigil for the victims of the Paris terrorist massacre on the steps of the Royal Glasgow Music Hall. A bustling street came to a halt and was respectfully quiet, paying homage to those who had been killed.

After paying my respects, I continued down to the Christmas market, food galore: German sausage makers, spit-roasted pork, paella, Mediterranean fare, doughnuts, beer gardens, exotic meat burgers, there was something on offer for everyone.

As I was walking through the Christmas Market, I heard one my favorite Fine Young Cannibals (FYC) songs, "Johnny Come Home" and  it brought a smile to my face. 

Smiling, listening to FYC, I saw a coffee stand that was selling hot chocolate in different varieties: Plain, with Baileys, with caramel Baileys, with mint Baileys, you see a theme with this coffee stand. I never tried hot chocolate with Baileys before and I asked the proprietor what she recommended and she said in a great Scottish accent, “Caramel Baileys, luv,” and she was right, it was fantastic! As I savored every sip, Sade came over the speakers. I hardly ever hear Sade out in public, I enjoyed the moment.

In traveling, I’ve noticed, especially in Europe, many places play great lounge or cool background music, not canned Muzak.

I returned to my hotel and about an hour later, went out for dinner. I felt the need to suit up, I was in Scotland, had to break out the tweed sports coat, plus it was chilly. I would combust if I ever wore tweed in Thailand. It was nice to wear dressy warm clothes again. It was great to see people dressed up for a night out. Ladies all dolled up, wearing stylish boots looking lovely, despite the inclement weather and guys suited, well booted as well, and wearing overcoats. I had dinner at a friend's restaurant and the manager and waitstaff took great care of me. As I was dining by myself, the staff would come by, chat me up, inquire about my well-being, it was nice. The cook who was preparing my food was a friendly cat, with whom I think I had a good conversation. But, it was a little tough to tell with his thick Scottish accent, I caught about everything other word he said. As a Scottish friend of mine says, "If you don't understand what people are saying, just smile and nod your head. My husband has been doing this for years with my family." 

I then strolled to a couple of pubs to see what ciders were on offer to sample. As I strolled, it was good to see pubs and clubs, cavernous to holes in the wall, playing great music, and seeing people groovin’ and enjoying themselves. I was enjoying the festive vibe. It was a fun day, but as jet lag hit me like a hammer, I returned to my hotel and promptly fell asleep. The next day, it was time to get moving again, to begin the university tour. 

Part II: A few days later, while on the university tour, I was getting ready to check out of the hotel where the group was staying and I got locked out of my room. I had the key, I tried it multiple times in my door, but the door just wouldn't open. As a result, I encountered a maintenance man named, Sam. This experience with Sam pretty much summed up my time in Scotland in regards to the wonderful people I encountered.

Regarding Sam. If you are from the U.S., remember the 70's-80's tv show, "One Day at a Time?" There was a great character who was the maintenance man/building supervisor named, Dwayne Schneider or just Schneider. Sam and Schneider could be twins. If you are not familiar with Schneider, picture a 50'ish man with a pencil mustache, wearing a white t-shirt, who has lived life and has a lot of stories.

I was standing outside my door, Sam approached and I told him my door wouldn't open. He asked, "Anyone in the room?" I replied, "No." He then inquired, "Window open (It was 30 F (0 C)and raining)?" I answered, "No." Sam then proceeded to take a screwdriver pen from his pocket and with the precision of a surgeon, took off the panel frame to the doorknob and proceeded to pound a metal plank in the door, while carrying on a conversation with me. With the noise he was creating, I could barely understand what he was saying. He then reinserted my card key and it worked! I was back in my room and was grateful because people were beginning to load up the bus. Sam then commented, "Oh, the door gets stuck from time to time." While I resumed packing, I happened to look up and there was Sam, standing in the threshold of the doorway (He reminds me of a colleague that I currently have) asking me, "So, where you from?" I'm thinking to myself, "What?!" I then began explaining to him, I was with a group of counselors, I work in Thailand." He cut me off and said, "Nah, nah, nah, so where you from? For simplicity sake, I said, "Washington D.C." From my U.S. accent, I think this was the response he wanted to hear because he then proceeded to tell me about his itinerary for his upcoming cross-country U.S. trip this coming summer. "'Y'know, I haven't been to the U.S. since the 70's, I'm sure it's changed a bit. I went to Hong Kong last year, that's a fun city! I almost went to Bangkok, but I want to Bali instead and he proceeded to tell me his travels for the past year and it was impressive! Sam loves to travel! I think he would have kept chatting me up, but I now had to cut him off and say, "Sam, thank you for getting me back into my room, but I really need to go. It was nice meeting you, save travels, all the best. Sam, replied, "All the best to you as well and he gave me a hearty handshake as I was departing the room. Meeting Sam, taking the time to talk with him, I should say, listen to him and hear about his travels made my day and contributed to another memorable experience to Scotland!