Activity 78: Picture(s) Not Taken

Do you sometimes wish you had taken a picture of a certain moment in the past? It can be someone important in your life (and someone no longer with you, for example), or an important conversation, or a place you thought you’d come back to? I know we have our devices with us almost 24/7 these days, and yet this ‘almost’ is key. Sometimes, you are not thinking of making a picture or a video (too many emotions, too much to do or care about, etc.). Sometimes, your hands are so full (literally!) that you can’t take your device out of the pocket. It can be a rainy hike, or last miles of a long run, or…

Okay, this was my way to explain the title of this activity: think about 1-5 moments you vividly remember, and make a note about each one. You can mention a date, a place, a name, a word – anything that would ‘trigger’ that story in your mind. 

This is an example I started earlier today: 

Once you have these ideas brainstormed, you may want to choose one and make more notes, so that you were ready to share one story. 

Instead of a story, I’d like to share a memory of how I got an idea for this activity. It was 2011, and my first time in Myanmar, on a QuiLT Course for teachers. The abbreviation stands for ‘Qualification in Language Teaching’ and the course was provided by World Learning/SIT Graduate Institute and the American Center.

It is hard to imagine now, but the Internet was not as accessible in those days, and depending on location, it could be slow and unreliable. Even in a big hotel where I was staying, an online chat on Google Mail was not always possible, and talking or video chatting was out of question. What was left was email of course, and sms/texting. Bernice, my co-trainer (was amazing!) shared how she collected ideas and moments to share with her family: took notes in her notebook and then wrote a daily email talking about something that happened that day. (Do people do this on Twitter and Instagram in 2022? 🙂 ) I was not sure I got the point, and she said ‘Think about your walk this afternoon and that car with the Buddhist monks who were all waving and smiling at you. You’ve just told me about that and you looked very excited!’ And… I got it! I had just told her about that, and of course I had no picture of how this happened. Imagine an empty road and me walking slowly in the heat. A car is approaching, and I notice that there are five (I think?) young men all dressed in rust-colored robes, with big smiles on their faces, waving at me and shouting ‘Hello!’ I waved back, and kept walking, with the same big smile on my face. I took that same route a number of times, but there was never a chance to see such a car again. I was not even sure if it is okay to take a picture of a monk actually…

What was/is in that moment? Maybe, the chance to be ‘in the moment’, to be brought back to presence by someone who does not know you, and whose lifestyle, language, and culture are all super different from you, but with whom you can share that moment of ‘togetherness’, if literally for a moment. 

After these stories are shared, some reflective questions can be asked, for example: 

  • In your opinion, why do you remember that moment/story? 
  • How often do you recall it?
  • Have you shared it with anyone? 
  • Is there anything in common between yours and the other stories you heard? > > Especially if there were 2-3 people sharing in the small group, or with a larger audience.
  • Does this story tell you anything (new/interesting/unexpected/forgotten) about yourself? 
  • Is there another story/moment jotted on your Hand Template that is close to the one you shared?
  • [if yes] Would you like to share that second one with the same group? 

Myanmar was very special to me and left a big mark in my heart in the professional sense, and personally. I learned so much from the teachers there, and this can be a whole grateful post, with many more stories. Which I hopefully will do one day. I wholeheartedly hope there will be peace and calm in this beautiful country soon, and a chance to come and collect/notice/live through new beautiful encounters. And maybe, take some pictures.

Meanwhile, thank you you for reading, and yes, #StandWithUkraine!

This post is a part of my series ‘It’s in (Y)Our Hands‘. The number in the title indicates the day of the war between Ukraine and Russia. Check out the other activity ideas and read more about the project here. If you have ideas to add, get in touch and be my Guest Post Writer and Activity Sharer! 

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict
This entry was posted in It's in (Y)Our Hands and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Activity 78: Picture(s) Not Taken

  1. ChristinaC says:

    Oh Zhenya….this piece has struck so many more chords than I could count.
    Where do I start? The peace and safety of a memory? The vivid images that could not possibly be captured?
    This is a wonderful activity; one I’m definitely stealing from you!
    I’ve been thinking for quite some time now, how we’ve evolved (?) into instantly reminiscing. It’s not waiting for a photo to be developed, but how to make the photo we just took look perfect – by whose criteria, I wonder. It’s not seeing a photo and trying to piece the moment together. It’s just something beyond all this, and I’m not sure I like it.
    Haven’t we all got images within, those that no camera could catch? And why should it, to be honest. From what I’ve known so far, smells and sounds bring up (and back) everything. Maybe we should be teaching with a blindfold?
    Reading your work inspires me so much, thank you for such great food for thought.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Zhenya says:

      Dear Christina
      Thank you for the warm words, and for (potentially!) ‘stealing’ the activity. I would love, love to hear how it goes, and what you needed to add/adapt to make it work for your students.
      And wow, the idea to talk about the ‘instantly reminiscing’ us these days can be a whole new activity! The photos we take might sometimes replace the ‘being’ in the moment, or in other words, we are ‘there’ for the picture to be taken, and once it is done, it may not feel important to stay longer? Whose criteria, as you are asking (the ‘audience’ who will see them on Social Media? Even our family members who are not with us but with whom we are hoping to share the picture? Or the moment?)
      The ‘images within’ wording sounds so beautiful. I think these images are much fuller, much more than a camera can convey, as it is more than an image. A piece of ourselves?
      Haha, ‘teaching with a blindfold’ can be fun! Even not for the whole lesson, but for an activity (10-15 minutes). It needs to be face-to-face, or in an actual room, I think (the ‘3D’ experience which is harder to bring online, even with the fun tools we now have).
      Thank you for this conversation: a great way to start a new day for me!

      Liked by 1 person


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