Thursday, April 20, 2017

Everything changes and nothing stands still

So much has changed since my last post here, and yet so much is exactly the same.

I'm preparing to move to a new place to continue my journey as a teacher - Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

If you had asked me a few months ago where I wanted to live, I would not have said Tanzania. Honestly, I probably would not have mentioned Africa at all. But life, circumstance, and a great school presented me with an intriguing opportunity that ultimately I could not say "no" to.

And so for the next few months I am preparing for this new chapter: moving to Africa.

So far my focus has been on deciding which parts of my past I want to take with me to my new home via photo enlargements and travel wall art. I printed and framed some of my best photos from the last ten years. I'm considering easy to pack posters that represent places I've been and the journey I've been on. Strangely, this is the first time I have really thought about creating a sense of "home" in a new place. I just have a good feeling about this next adventure.

I'm not convinced Tanzania will be where I ultimately "settle down", if a vagabond such as myself can do such a thing. But I do feel ready to create a life and be present in this new experience. My goal is to document some of that here, on this blog.

Join me this July as the journey begins.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Moving Forward by Going Back

In about two weeks I'll be returning to the very first place I was ever a teacher - Japan.

I've come a long way since then. My first ever teaching gig came with about 3 days of training and very little self-confidence. These days I've got grad school and a few years of teaching experience under my belt. My hope is that I find the country, culture, and people that I liked so much the first time around still present, but this time have more fun teaching.

It is also my intention to blog more this year than I did last year. I learned a lot last year, but I'm ready to move forward by going back to where it all began.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Don't tell me what to do!

So I spent 7th period relaxing at my desk, getting a little work done, with my space heater pointed right at me. All three of these things are abnormal for my normal school day. Let me explain.

So for most of the school year so far, the Seniors have been complaining that they should be allowed to leave the building for lunch on a certain day each week. Past Senior classes have done this, and now it's their turn. But for reasons I don't exactly understand, they have been denied this privilege. I think it's something about students misbehaving out in the world, making the school look bad (because they are in uniform). Needless to say, the current Seniors are mad. It's not fair.

What do angry, entitled children do when they don't get their way? First they pout. Then they argue. Then they put signs up around school, because if the rules haven't changed by now it's because no one is listening to them. And when all that doesn't accomplish their goals, they plan to form a small mob in the hallway, barge past the security guards, and go out for lunch anyways. And should any Senior decide that they don't want to be involved in all this and just go to the cafeteria, they are bullied into abandoning their lunches and leaving with everyone else.

Well, when they returned from their lunch out in Pristina they found that they were locked out of the school. I am not sure exactly what consequences await them (if any), but I do hope that something happens.

These students (and particularly the Seniors) believe that if they demand something all together then they must be granted it. On Monday they all came to government class and instead of reviewing for their test on Tuesday they opted to spend nearly the whole period trying to argue with me about pushing the test back. They felt sure if they all asked/begged/harassed me enough that I would change the date. They were wrong, I am more stubborn than they think. Many also threatened to just skip school (the student handbook says if they have an unexcused absence on the day of an assessment that they will just get a zero). But they all showed up. And just when I was hoping that maybe they were figuring some stuff out about how school works, they pull a stunt like this.

7th period is normally my most difficult class of the day. I have a volatile group of kids and lots of attitude and behavior problems. Most 7th periods it is a fight to accomplish anything, and when we do accomplish something - only a fraction of the students are part of that "we". And because there were no students during 7th period today -

I got the heater all to myself.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weekend in Greece, as you do

So the UN here is Kosova occasionally (or maybe frequently, I don't know, I'm still kind of new here) organizes bus trips to places. And this month they had two weekend trips to Paralia, Greece. Having been in school for a lengthy two weeks (and not even full weeks), I clearly needed a break. So last Friday after school we boarded a bus filled with various international types and were on our way.

You may or may not have heard in the news, there have been some issues between Kosova and Macedonia about border crossing. So our journey to Greece involved first driving into Serbia, then into Montenegro, and finally into Greece, with all sorts of border stops. (Usually I love getting stamps in my passport, but sadly these stamps were all so faint that the only part you can actually read is the date) So we didn't roll into Paralia until about midnight. Basically we checked in and passed out, all pretty happy to be horizontal instead of wedged uncomfortably in a bus seat.

When the sun came up we suited up and headed down to breakfast. First of all, our hotel and its restaurant were right on the beach, and on top of that the breakfast was a huge smorgasbord of eggs, cereals, baked things, beans, feta, tomatoes and cukes, fruit, and of course fabulous Greek yogurt and honey.

We spent all day at the beach. Both days were actually beautiful - not a cloud in the sky, in the 80s - it was heaven. The water was a little bit cool, but not bad once you got in and the beach was walled off from the open sea, so it was pretty calm. The hotel had lounge chairs, little tables, and umbrellas all set up. The only catch was that you had to order stuff from the hotel bar/restaurant. So we had drinks served to us all day and also occasionally they would bring us little bowls of potato chips or nuts.

We didn't really realize that this snack service was kind of a thing until after dinner.

There were about 10 of us on the trip who knew each other, so we all went out looking for somewhere nice to eat and to try a little local food. I ordered some sort of spicy meatball thing which was delicious. We had some amazing little salads beforehand - beet salad, carrot salad, coleslaw - and some tzatziki with bread. The owner (?) of the restaurant had sort of lured us in with the promise of a free glass of wine. There was also a free shot of ouzo.

After dinner, some of us went to get another drink or two and we found this cute little bar with comfortable outdoor seating and twinkle lights. When our drinks came, so did a little tray of cucumber and tomato slices. Then there were some chips. And some little ham and cheese toasty sandwiches. and a small pizza. and a little shot of liqueur in an edible chocolate glass. We probably could have done without dinner, that's how much food they were bringing us at this bar.

Like I said, day two was just as beautiful and it started out exactly the same way. We spent the morning on the beach, then wandered around the shops a little bit. I bought lentils from the grocery store and some kalamata olives (you know, as a souvenir). On the way to get our bus back to Kosova we stopped to pick up a little chicken gyro which was delicious.

Luckily, border issues were solved over the weekend (?? Seems impossible, work getting done on the weekend) and we had a much shorter trip back to Pristina. Though I knew going into the trip that we might get back late on Sunday night and that I would have to be up early for school the next morning, I decided it would be worth it. And it was. AND we got back into Pristina by 8pm, so I even had time to pull myself together and have a relaxing evening before jumping back into school.

I can't wait to see what other weekend trips are being planned. This weekend home and doing nothing has been great so far, it's really giving me a chance to feel like I'm catching up on some grading and even planning ahead for my classes.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

lightbulbs. again.

I feel like a lot of my life here is consumed by thinking about lightbulbs. I know I wrote about my bathroom light saga already, but in the past week I lost one of two lightbulbs in the living room (on a three bulb fixture- one of them was already out) and then the single bulb in my kitchen started flickering....

I was a away for the weekend, so I sort of forgot. And then last night I cooked dinner while wearing my headlamp. So on the way home from school today I stopped to buy some lightbulbs. I bought four, feeling fairly confident that I had the correct size (a mistake I had made last time).

Well, I was right on the size. But. One of the fixtures doesn't appear to work at all in the living room. The other one blew the bulb when I turned the light switch on. Eventually I got another of the bulbs to work. Then the kitchen. First a bulb that didn't seem to work (and I was starting to fear that I would have to call the landlady again because the fixtures don't work) and then finally one that did.

I can't explain. And my suspicion is that the bulbs may have been faulty to begin with, in addition to my apartment possibly having been wired by a teenage amateur electrician. But I have lights in all my rooms. For now.

The other exciting thing is that last weekend in Greece (and I will do a post about Greece, probably tomorrow) I found lentils. Lentils!!! I'm pretty excited about them. People keep telling me that they do exist here in Pristina, but I have yet to find them. Apparently that's how it goes; sometimes you can find stuff and sometimes you can't. So this afternoon, beneath the glow of a new lightbulb, I made an amazing lentil salad with tomatoes, peppers, olives, and feta in a delicious mustard-balsamic vinaigrette. So. Amazing.

I still feel like, foodwise, I'm struggling to figure out what I can and want to cook. The ingredients are not so unfamiliar, it's just that there's not the same variety of options. So I find myself making a lot of spinach mac and cheese, pasta with olive-tomato-feta sauce, grilled cheese and ajvar (it's kind of a roasted pepper spread), I made a frozen pizza once, some frozen chicken cutlet things (in fact, I think the fact that nearly all of the chicken is frozen and my freezer is TINY is the reason I haven't bought more meat), eggs over fried potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and now this lentil salad. I haven't been able to get myself back into green salads like I'd been eating at home and I only made some smoothies the first week I had my blender. Also I've been super obsessed with chips, particularly ketchup flavored Ruffles. I'd like to get back to a little more healthy diet, when I get time to figure out what that might look like here. Though I don't think I'll have that much time any time soon.

And I promise to write about school sometime. It's just right now, I kind of hate all my kids and I'm feeling frustrated about stuff. But soon.