Monday, November 26, 2012

Coming Up Next: International Job Fair

In 3 days, I will be attending the AASSA International Job Fair.  The goal, of course, is to obtain a teaching job in South or Central American for next year. 

3 days to go… and how am I feeling? 
My insides are all twisted up. 

I’m excited, and nervous, and scared, and unenthusiastic  and skeptical, and confident, and utterly unconfident, and ready. 
In short, I’m not really sure how to feel. 

The job fair itself will be exciting.  The possibility of a change for next year is exciting.  Seeing a new piece of the world and gaining more teaching experience is what I want to do.  There are tons of possibilities out there, and I can’t wait to see where I end up.

But it’s also scary.  I've gotten pretty comfortable in Puerto Rico.  I know my way around.  I have a support system of friends.  I know how the school works and I've got my unit plans down.  I like it here. 
Not to mention that being so close to home and in a US territory has its perks. 

But, it’s time to take a leap of faith and try for something.

I can’t promise I’ll come back with a job after this job fair.  I can afford to go into it with my standards a bit higher than they once were, and I don’t plan on settling for a school I don’t respect or a location I’m not absolutely pumped about. 
If I don’t accept a job, I’ll have some decisions to make, of course.  To stay in PR one more year?  To search for jobs in Wisconsin?  Or another part of the US? 

I’ll keep you posted.  But the short version of the long story is this: my future is completely up in the air at the moment.  And that both terrifies and excites me.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Flights, Funny hats, and Food

I love just how much returning to Guayama after time in the States feels like coming home.  The sights on the road, the feeling of pulling up to the fountain at the edge of town, and most of all the smell of my house are comforting.  I really enjoyed my week at “home home,” but it’s good to be back.  And that fact is a beautiful thing. 

I wouldn’t normally go to Wisconsin over Thanksgiving break, but I had a special reason to do so this year.  One of my best friends from college got married!  So, Thursday, right after school, Robert and I set off for the Patillas airport, and he flew me to the San Juan airport in his plane.  Talk about riding in style! 

Robert's plane

San Juan from the air

Other than having to run to make a short connection in Houston, my flights went well, and by midnight I had landed in Chicago and was reunited with my friend Ice (college nickname…I can’t call her anything else).  We drove to her house, which she shares with her now-husband.  The best man and his girlfriend were staying the night as well, so we passed a few hours getting to know each other and enjoying ourselves.  I was a marching band geek in college, and that’s where I met Ice.  She married a fellow band geek, and consequently it was a wedding filled with band people.  We realized that of the 14 people in the wedding party, all but one of us had marched at some point in our lives.  So getting to know the grooms-people (both sides had both guys and girls stand up) felt like I’d been transported back to college.  Music people are music people the whole world over—dirty jokes, quirky senses of humor, arrogance, a love for music and all.

It was a blast. 

It was a weekend filled with funny hats, photobombs, a marathon game of “Never Have I Ever,” stories, messing with the photographer, and LOTS of laughter and dancing.
I’ll drink to that. 

And the photo-bombing begins

After Sunday, my week at home calmed down.  I spent Monday and Tuesday mainly at home, getting ready for the job fair (more on that later) and running errands.  

On Wednesday, Liz and I cooked a Thanksgiving feast and had some family and friends over to share it with us.  There’s nothing like gathering around a table with good food (mountains of good food) and good people. 

Thursday, I ran a 5 mile Turkey Trot in the morning (in 41:28—my personal best by a long shot!), then lazed away the afternoon until it was time to head to my aunt’s for Thanksgiving there.  Again—good food, good people, you can’t go wrong. 

The night—and my visit—concluded with a few friends at one of my favorite spots in La Crosse.  Getting to see everyone (and laugh a lot) was a great way to end my mini-vacation at home. 

And on Friday, it was back on the road!  A 2 hour drive to Minneapolis, a 3 hour flight to Houston, a 5 hour layover, then a 4 hour flight to PR, capped off with a 1 hour drive back to Guayama, and I was back.  Time for a nap and to unpack.  Maybe I’ll hit up the beach later this afternoon.  It was snowing in Wisconsin yesterday…so I should probably take full advantage of my current location.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Free What?!

Political season is officially over in Puerto Rico, as of last Tuesday evening.  The island has a new governor, and the city has a new mayor.  Though I don’t have cable (and so missed out on any political commercials) and I felt pretty far removed from the Obama/Romney race, I experienced my share of political campaigning.  I will not miss the rousing tune of “Con Eduardo estoy yo…” in the streets (though people still tend to sing it to themselves once in a while…it’s pretty catchy).    Nor will I miss the blaring political parades that stopped traffic and sometimes made concentrating while in the house impossible. 

But there was some good that came to us because of the mayoral election in Guayama, I must admit. 

For weeks, my seventh grade students had been telling me that the mayor of Guayama had promised to give them all tablets.  As in the mobile mini-computer kind of tablets.  One student came in with the case for his tablet and showed me proudly.  I, however, had heard nothing about this from anyone other than the students, and it sounded pretty far-fetched to me.  I got a little nervous noticing how high their hopes were set. 

And then, on November 1st, a last-minute staff meeting was called after school.  Our principal opened with something along the lines of, “I’ve just been informed of this, and I have no control over it.  If you want to vent your concerns to me after the meeting, you certainly can.”  The group tensed. 

Turns out, the rumors were true.  The mayor of Guayama was coming to the school the next morning to give out the tablets.  Of course, they were not to be simply delivered to each homeroom.  She required a full-school assembly, at which each student would be called by name to receive their tablet and then take a photo.  The mayor said she’d be there at 8am.  But the last time she’d visited a class at our school, she’d been nearly 2 hours late.  Our principal wasn’t sure whether she’d require both elementary and middle/high school to be in the assembly at the same time or not.  Long story short: we could potentially lose an entire class period or more to the production, and we’d have the task of keeping our students orderly through a long, hot, boring, and quite frankly, pointless assembly.  Because yes, all students and teachers would receive a tablet.

Wait wait wait… TEACHERS TOO?!?! 
Okay.  I think we can handle a messed-up schedule for a day. 

And we did.  As it turned out, we ended up only missing about 45 minutes of the last period of the day, which is the longest period anyway, so I still had an hour with my class.  The assembly was quite organized and efficient, really.  The only confusion came in wondering when class would begin again, as students were dismissed from the assembly to go straight to lunch, but lunch started late because of the assembly.  No one told students or teachers what time class would begin again.  But it all worked out. 

So now I’ve got a new toy.  And all of my students have a new toy.  And despite the questionable politics behind the gift (The mayor spent $2 million dollars and students coincidentally received their tablets the week before the election.  Hmm…), the educational possibilities really ARE quite exciting.  (As long as every teacher doesn’t try and use the tablets on the same day and the school’s internet doesn’t crash under the strain.  But so far that hasn’t been a problem.) 

Oh, and the mayor up for re-election?  She lost, despite her expensive gift to the students and educators of her city.  I wonder if a thank-you note from my students and I would make her feel better? 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

La Cueva Ventana

Puerto Rico is a beautiful place.  Amanda and Josh and I tackled la cueva ventana (the window cave) near Arecibo yesterday, and the view did not disappoint!! 

It took us about 2 hours to drive to the window cave.  We parked at Texaco, paid $2 to do so, saw this interesting sign:

and set off up the trail to the cave.  The cave was easy to find.  There was one fork in the trail, but thankfully a guy had set up shop there selling bottles of water (I think), and he told us to go to the left.  Once we got to the entrance, we pulled out our light sources (I finally got to use the headlight I got as a graduation present almost 2 years ago!) and set off into the dark depths of the cave. 

The walk was pretty short and easy to follow, and soon we saw the light from the window, and then we were there!  We had great timing, as one group of people was just leaving as we arrived, so we had the view all to ourselves.  It was truly magnificent!! 

I finally got to use my headlamp!! 

After the window cave, we walked through the other cave that’s right there, which is basically a big cavern.  We used a rather sketchy rope (hung from a massive tree root coming from the ceiling that swayed back and forth when we touched it) to climb up, and we exited through a smaller opening—a shortcut back to the path down the hill! 

Since we’d only spent about half an hour total at la cueva ventana, we decided to try and find a waterfall we’d read about before heading home.  Unfortunately, the turn mentioned in the directions I had doesn’t seem to exist, so we didn’t find it.  We decided instead to head to Lago Dos Bocas, which was well marked on my map. 

The lake is a beautiful place to relax.  There are 4 restaurants on the lake, and each has a boat which ferries guests for free from the dock. We’d brought our own picnic lunches, so we forewent this service and simply sat in the shade at a picnic table, enjoying our food, the breeze, and the great view.

Lago Dos Bocas 

On the way home, we wound our way through the mountains rather than taking the expressway home.  What a beautiful day!  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Walking to Heaven

I wish I had a photo that did the view justice from last evening.  I had one of those, “I just can’t believe I live here,” moments.

We arrived at the beach at sunset and waded into the water for a swim.  As we walked slowly out to sea, the view to the right looked like a giant canvas God had painted, using sweeping strokes of pink and gold, gray and white in the sky, and metallic gold for the surface of the water.  As we stepped further out into the quiet evening, the calm golden wavelets welcomed us and caressed us, as with a gentle “hello,” of a caring friend, rather than energetic screams of a young child.  We all felt at peace with our lives as we slowly watched the world change color, the stars come out, the deep green palms in the distance fade to black.

As we walked out into the shallow water, Sonja said, “It feels like we’re walking out to heaven.”  We laughed about it, but her words did resonate with me.  Softly walking out to the end of the world…and completely at peace with the decisions we had made along the way.  Yes.