Sunday, October 16, 2016


I struggled a bit with whether to continue this blog, now that I’m living back in Wisconsin.  I’m no longer “rocking” a tropical paradise, nor an international one.  Now I’m just rocking my own paradise.  Because the truth is, paradise is what you make it.  And thankfully, while I no longer hear Spanish spoken on a daily basis, and my employer no longer pays for one summer flight home per year, and I no longer live in the land of “eternal spring,” I’m still in paradise. And that merits at the very least, one final blog post.  

Cheesy, I know.  

This is my third attempt at writing this blog post.  The first I wrote right after the first day of school.  I was pumped up and excited and the post was overly positive, and I thought to myself, “best wait and see if this excitement lasts.”  The second I wrote after a particularly draining couple of days at work, and the post was rather full of complaints and self pity, and I thought to myself, “best reread this in a day or two.”  That, of course, was nearly two weeks ago, and now it’s time to try again.  

I’ll begin from the “beginning”...

I was so very scared about moving back to the US.  I worried about losing my social life, leaving good friends behind, leaving adventure and the outdoors and trail runs and people who “get it.”  I had so many fears that moving back to the United States after living abroad would be as difficult as everyone says it is.  

The summer, for its part, did well in keeping those fears from coming to fruition.  I was busy, planning a trip to Asia, being on a trip to Asia, and then upon my return, finding an apartment, buying a car, filling my new apartment with furniture and appliances, and beginning to learn the new curriculum I’d be teaching.  

I got really lucky, too, in that I happened to meet someone who lives here and “gets it,” who shares my love of Guatemala, the outdoors, food, and exercise.  So I can still talk about Guatemala--all the time--and I can still go on trail runs--all the time (who knew there were so many beautiful trails so close to where I live?!)--and really my social life is just overall remarkably awesome.  

Because the summer was great, the transition back to US life seemed exceptionally easy.  And then school started.  And when it started, it too seemed really great.  (And it still is, in a lot of ways).  I have a great team of teachers that I work with.  Everyone’s willing to offer support and help, and there’s truly a family-feel in the staff; we’re in this together, and doing what’s best for the kids is everyone’s number one priority, and to top that off--we like each other, too.  

But there’s been some stress involved during my first months teaching back in the States as well.  There’s more pressure here, a more rigorous curriculum, more paperwork and accountability, more classes to plan for and less time to prep.  Teaching high school is completely different than teaching middle school.  There have been days that I work 12+ hours.  There have been evenings I feel completely overwhelmed and like I’ll never get it all done, like I’m doing my students a disservice and am not the teacher they deserve.  And I never really had that in Guatemala.  Except for the weeks when DI was in full swing right before Global Finals, I never remember ever being very stressed out there at all.  

So it’s a period of acclimation.  But lately, I have more good days than bad days, I am finding a rhythm at school, and my evenings and weekends give me plenty to look forward to.

This morning, a Sunday, the sun was shining and the temperature was cool and the fall colors were almost peaking.  So Jake and I hopped in the car, and within ten minutes, we were in a forest, choosing among the well-marked paths for a beautiful morning hike.  After our hike, I contacted a seller on Craigslist about a washer and dryer for sale, and upon finding out it was available, called my dad to come with a trailer and a dolly to help move the appliances to my apartment and install them. He was there 20 minutes later, and before lunchtime, I had a washer and dryer installed.  This evening, I walked home from my sister’s apartment just after dark, and I didn’t give a second thought to the fact that I carried an expensive laptop and a nice phone in my backpack.  On the walk, just over half a mile, I passed no gates, no walls, no guards.  Instead, I greeted 2 families out walking and passed groups of children playing in their front yards--with no fence separating them and me.  None of these things would have been possible (or at least not in the same way) when I was living in Guatemala.  Public hiking paths didn’t exist close to my home.  My dad was too far away to help with things like furniture moving or appliance installation.  And a walk home, alone, after dark always came with a feeling of “walk faster; you should have driven; why are you tempting fate by taking unnecessary risks?”  I really do value these little things in my life--along with a whole lot of other big things I’ve been blessed with.   

And so as always, I can truthfully report that life is good.