Friday, March 23, 2012


My 8th graders are making me happy again.  We started reading a novel, The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, last week.  The book is 374 pages long, and so in order to finish it by the end of the year, I’ve been assigning about 40 pages of reading per class (they have class every other day, so they have 2 nights to complete this reading). 

I was really excited to start the book, because I love teaching novels, and I knew that given the exciting plotline of the book, I could hook them in.

I was also nervous about it.  When I taught The Hunger Games to my 7th graders last fall, even though the kids loved the book, many of them still fell behind on the readings and would fail my reading quizzes—even when I basically gave out all of the answers before beginning the quiz. 

Tonight, grading my first set of 8th grade reading quizzes, I am pleasantly surprised to find that it seems all but 1 or 2 (in a class of 28) seem to have done the reading and passed the quiz.  (Even better—we didn’t talk about the book at all before I handed out the quiz).  HOORAY!! 

What’s more…the kids are addicted.  I had 8th graders approaching me in the halls before class today to tell me how much they love the book, and that they read beyond the required assignment. 
One of my best students in the class came up to me before class, and as another student rushed up to tell me how much they loved the book, she told me, “Miss, you’ve got them pumped up about something.  You got THEM pumped up.”  (What she didn’t say: “And that’s saying something!”)  It just puts such a big smile on my face.  I LOVE it when students are excited about reading, and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when it’s because of a book I introduced to them.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Reaching New Heights

A week ago, when I found out Liz wouldn’t be coming, I thought this weekend would be long and boring, and that I would be in danger of spending it alone at home, moping.  How far that turned out to be from the truth!  This weekend has been perfect: relaxing, fun, active.

Yesterday, Danielle and I made a quest to El Yunque with the goal of climbing a new trail.  Looking at the map, we tentatively decided to try for the top—El Yunque Peak; the highest point in the park.  However, we knew that time constraints and energy levels might turn out to be a factor.  (We started hiking at 1pm.  The gate to the national park closes at 6pm so we had to plan on being back to the car by 5pm.  The hike was supposed to take at least 3-4 hours round trip.  We knew it’d probably take us longer than that, due to side trips, rest breaks, and stopping to enjoy the scenery). 

We set off boldly into uncharted (for us) territory.  Immediately, we were engulfed in the relaxing sounds of El Yunque.  We listened to coquis (I think the plural of “coqui” looks so weird) call to each other, and birds sing in the trees.  On our way up, we met exactly 2 other pairs of hikers; the trail was much less populated with tourists than the more popular Big Tree and La Mina Falls trails.  I enjoyed that. 

My pictures of the rain forest never do it justice.

After nearly an hour of hiking, we came to a turn off for the Mt. Britton Spur trail.  It was short; so we decided to detour and enjoy the views from the lookout. 

Do you see the lookout on the top of that hill?

That one--the little thimble-shaped building shrouded in mist right above
the palm frond.  That's the Mt. Britton tower.  We hiked to that!

Mt. Britton Lookout Tower

The Mt. Britton lookout tower ended up being the final destination of our hike.  Once up there, enjoying the views, we decided we were content with ourselves and should just hike back down. 

View from the tower.  We were right on a level with the clouds!

That's my car down there in that little parking lot!

We kept remarking how lucky we were it hadn’t rained on us at all (especially after seeing the line of dark grey clouds hovering over the entire rainforest from the lookout tour).  We should have been knocking on the wooden trees we passed…because of course it started raining on our way down. 

I had a rain poncho along, and Danielle had a raincoat.  But you see…I have this problem with ponchos.  I never choose the exact right moment to put it on.  I either put it on as soon as it starts raining, and then it stops raining right away.  Or I don’t put it on, thinking it will stop raining, and then it starts pouring.  Or, like yesterday, I avoid putting it on, until I start to get thoroughly wet, and then I wonder if there’s really a point to putting on the thing, since I’m already wet.  I eventually put the poncho on (and let Danielle laugh at me for looking like a big blue wizard), and then it stopped raining about 10 minutes later.  Oh well. 

A little damp but very happy, we finished our hike and set off for Luquillo and food.  I’d say it was a truly successful Sunday adventure.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A New Beach...right under my nose

After a lazy morning, we decided to spend a few hours at the beach today.  We met to leave, and Danielle asked where we should go.  Usually, when we go to a local beach, the answer to that would either be “Pozuelo” or “Playa Caribe.”  Today, though, Jenni said, “I think we should go to Punta Guilarte.”  I gave her a puzzled look.  Where?  She explained it’s in Arroyo—a city maybe 10 minutes from Guayama. 

Not twenty minutes later we were at the beach, and I’m still in shock that this gem has been hiding right under my nose for the past seven+ months. 

Punta Guilarte is a balneario—a public beach—in Arroyo.  This means that you have to pay $3 to park your car, but the beach has facilities—showers, bathrooms, a few picnic tables, a snack stall, big blue garbage barrels, and lifeguard stands (though today I didn’t see a guard occupying them). 

The beach sweeps along the coastline—covering perhaps as much as a half mile.  Today the place was populated with families and teens enjoying the Saturday sunshine and cool breeze.  The best way I can describe the place is that it is a combination between a park and a beach.  There are tall trees offering shade, some grass, and then the beach, which has waves small enough to make swimming possible and safe.  Some families brought grills and coolers, and I could easily see myself doing the same and spending an entire day there.  About the only downfall to the place is that the sand is rather covered in dry sea grass and not soft and smooth like other beaches. 

Danielle and I walked down along the beach to the point, and around the corner we could see all the way to Patillas.  At the point, the water is shallow, and a white crane stood perhaps 20 feet in front of us, tilting its skinny head to observe us as the breeze buffeted its feathers, revealing how thin and awkward its long neck truly is.  A pelican swooped overhead and dove in the shallow water, fishing.  We felt like we were standing in a National Geographic.  Of course I left my camera at home, thinking I’d be going to a beach I’d seen many times before. 

I’ll just have to return, to capture in photographs what has become one of my new favorite places near Guayama.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Driving One of "Those" Cars

I live in a pretty safe neighborhood.  But at the same time…not.  What I mean is…I don’t feel unsafe in my neighborhood.  When I’m inside, I often leave the front door wide open.  Neighbors spend time on their front porches.  Yet just as often…when I’m not in the living room, I lock and deadbolt my front door.  Stuff happens. 
Being a small town girl, though, I just never expected it to happen to me.

Last Tuesday, when I went out to my car to head to school in the morning, I reached to unlock the driver’s side door, and stopped.  Sucked in my breath…and stared at the driver’s side back window. 
Or lack thereof. 

The window was laying on the back seat, shattered into tiny pieces. 

In the front seat…the stereo was missing.  Of course.

Shaken, I got into the car and drove to school, bits of glass falling from the window frame every time I made a corner.  Thankfully, I had absolutely nothing else of value in the car, so nothing was missing.  They even left me my cds which I had in the front seat. 

At school, Eddie went out to inspect the car, and put a garbage bag over it (which was good, because the next night and day it rained nearly continuously). 

Seeing my car with the bagged window, I couldn’t help but thinking, “I never thought I’d be driving one of ‘those’ cars!” 

Thankfully, due to Eddie’s awesomeness, I had a new window in my car by Wednesday night.  I hadn’t been expecting it until Friday, but Eddie got the window and put it in for me as soon as he had it.  I was just hoping to have it before the weekend, when Liz was supposed to get here. 

Even though the part about Liz coming ended up being a moot point, I’m still glad to have glass in my back window again. 

The radio?  We’ll see if I get around to replacing that anytime soon.  Maybe if I come into some unexpected money.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Let Down

I won’t lie.  To say I was looking forward to my sister visiting me in Puerto Rico over her spring break in an understatement.  It was the highlight of my school year.  I am pretty sure I was more excited about spending a week with Liz than I was about taking a 7 night cruise with 3 of my best friends over my spring break.  And that’s saying something.  That cruise is going to be awesome.

My sister is my other half.  She and I are perfect complements to each other.  Sometimes I think that if you combined the two of us into one person, you’d have the perfect woman.    She’s extroverted;  I’m introverted.  She loses things; I remind her where she put them.  She loves math and science; I love English and the arts.  I took a job teaching in Puerto Rico; her dream job is teaching at our old high school.  She’s the entertainment on a roadtrip; I’m the one who plans the itinerary and makes the reservations.  I cook healthy meals with lots of vegetables; she just eats an entire frozen pizza (and doesn’t gain an ounce).  We make each other laugh.  We understand each other perfectly.
I miss her.

I was supposed to be picking Liz up from the airport this afternoon.  Unfortunately, fate had other plans for us.    Last night, on her way to the airport, she got into a car accident.  Another driver (an 88 year old man who may have been drinking) turned right in front of her.  Liz ended up in the emergency room with fractures around her eye, lots of bruises, and thankfully nothing more serious.  Her car is mangled, from all accounts, but she miraculously came out (relatively) unscathed.

The good news (and it is VERY good news) is that Liz is okay.  Also, though it's still under investigation, most likely it will be ruled the accident was not her fault, which would mean insurance will pay for her car and hospital bills. 

The bad news is that because of the fractures around her eye, changes in air pressure like those experienced while flying are not a good idea. 

So she won’t be coming to Puerto Rico this week.  

Update: check out these photos of my sister's car.  SHE'S SO LUCKY JUST TO BE ALIVE!!