The Always Evolving and Partially Unwritten Five-Year Plan

Posts tagged “teaching abroad

Teachable Moment

I go to physical therapy for my shoulder about 2-3 times a week. Almost every time I have been in there recently, I have seen a man dressed in the traditional middle eastern Muslim attire that looks a little something like this:

He is usually with his wife who is dressed in the long black robes and walks behind him. They don’t smile or make eye contact with me, and I feel a bit intimidated by them, especially the man.

Now when I visit the physical therapist, I look a lot like I just finished running 5 miles. I always come in my running shorts, an old rowing t-shirt and my hair pulled back into a ponytail. I’m also pretty sweaty from the walk over.

At first glance, I didn’t think we had much in common, but one day last week, both the man and I were waiting on the doctor and were sitting in arm chairs next to one another (quite close in proximity, I might add) and he started a conversation with me that went like this: (Note: for visualization I was wearing an old Peachtree Road Race shirt, workout shorts and running shoes, he is in the above outfit)

Dubai Man: “Hello.” (thick middle eastern accent)

Me: “Hello.” (American accent)

Dubai Man: “Are you from Malaysia?”

Me: “Ummm, do I look like I am from Malaysia?” (kinda of joking, smiling at him)

Dubai Man: “No.”

Me: (seeing that he didn’t get the joke, or was choosing not to laugh) “Oh. No, I’m from the United States.”

Dubai Man: “Oh, United States.” (I can’t tell if this is a good or bad thing.) 

Dubai Man: “I’m from Dubai.”

Me: “Oh, Dubai.” (I don’t really know a lot about Dubai, plus I didn’t want him to have the upper hand.)

Dubai Man: “I come here for 10 days. For treatment.”

Me: “Wow.” (I remember now that my doctor said there was this guy that was flying in from Dubai to see the doctor. Who flies to another country to see a doctor? People from Dubai, that’s who!)

Dubai Man: “What are you doing in Malaysia?

Me: “I’m a teacher.”

Dubai Man: “A teacher?”

Me: “Yes, a teacher. I teach little kids.”

Dubai Man: (looking away and shaking his head) “God help you!”

AMEN BROTHER! (I mean, I didn’t say that last part, but I was thinking it. Especially as the days creep towards summer.)

Later on when I walked out of the office, he was waiting for a taxi with his wife and he gave me a huge grin, a big wave and said, “See you soon friend! Have a nice day!”

I’m not saying I’m getting an invitation to a Christmas or Ramadan dinner, but I think we had a moment. I hope we get a chance to talk again next time and I think we both agree that no matter where in the world you do it, teaching can be a pretty hard job.

On a related note, last week was Teacher Appreciation Week (or the week before, depending on who you ask) so make sure that you take the time to thank a teacher that your kids have now or maybe one that inspired you earlier in life. There was a write up about one of my favorite English teachers of all time last week which was a wonderful tribute to him and all that he did for so many kids over the years at Milton High School. My top three teachers were Mr. Friedman, Ms. Hammock, and Mrs. Serkedakis. I loved that they made me think and wonder about not only the subject area they taught, and the world around me. They gave me confidence to do things I didn’t think I could do and I loved going to their classes (most) everyday. Do you have a favorite teacher that you still think of and smile? What was it about that teacher that you loved? Do they know how much you enjoyed their class? Drop them an email or letter to let them know. I bet it would make their day.


Sweet As New Zealand*

Picking up where we left off last time, here are five more reasons we l-o-v-e-d our time in the land down under the land down under. 

Rugby World Cup Finals!

1. Amazing All Blacks. For those of you that don’t know, (I didn’t!) the All Blacks is New Zealand’s professional rugby team. The day we landed in New Zealand, they had just made it to the finals of the Rugby World Cup and were going to play France on the day we left. All week long we had locals explaining the game of rugby to us, the traditions of the All Blacks and why the rival Australian team was so bad. Every time you turned on a television or radio they were replaying the last game or predicting what would happen in the next game. These people made die-hard SEC football fans look like amateurs. Every store, restaurant, church and library you passed had All Black signs in them supporting the hometown team. It wasn’t too much though, in fact, we loved the passion and enthusiasm and found ourselves getting caught up in it. The whole country was so impressively excited about their possible world championship, they were taking along everyone on the island! The last night we were there, we sat in a pub with locals and watched the team perform the haka, a Maori dance that was traditionally performed before they went into battle. Man, it was enough to get you pumped up for anything!  It gave me cold chills and made me want to jump on the field and play. The All Blacks ended up winning the World Rugby Cup 8-7, and it was amazing to think that we were lucky enough to be there for it.

Check out the haka performed before the Rugby World Cup here.

These cute kids stood on the corner before the big game, with all their All Blacks stuff on and got people to cheer and honk to show their support!

2. Glaciers. I don’t know if you heard, but New Zealand has a few glaciers. We bit the bullet (spendy!) and reserved a spot for the heli hike at Franz Josef Glacier our third day there.  I was beyond excited that we were

a) going in a helicopter

b) going to hike on a glacier.

But sadly, when we got there that day, the ride was canceled, due to fog. I was devastated. Then they said we could wait around for a little while to see if the fog cleared for the next flight. Of course, we did, and we even got as far as putting on our hiking boots before they canceled the next flight too. So. Very. Sad. There might or might not have been some crying in the middle of the street about this. (Dan has got to get a hold of himself about these things.) We did get as close as we could to the glacier on foot, which was pretty cool. Just not as cool as adding a helicopter.

See the glacier? I was standing where it used to be. Darn you global warming!

3. Fergburger It was the best burger we’ve ever had, hands down. We went there twice and ordered the Southern Swine burger both times. The New Zealand beef was amazing and Fergburger is a bit of an institution in Queenstown.

4. Outdoorsy. We loved how many things we could do outside in New Zealand! It was perfect weather and when outside looks like a movie, why in the world would you ever stay inside? While we were in New Zealand we went running, bike riding, rock climbing, hiking  (called “tramping” in NZ) and even got an invitation from the local rowing club to come out and join them for a row. It was like the best summer camp in the world.

I even found rowing in Wanaka!

Can you see Dan?

Rock climbing in New Zealand

On a break from our bike ride. In the background are “The Remarkables”, the beautiful mountains made famous by being part of the scenery for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

5. Things we weren’t used to seeing in Malaysia, but missed from home. You know, things like churches, pine cones, fluffy beds, drive through liquor stores and cold(ish) weather. It’s the little things.

Right after we got there and got out of the car for the first time! Cold! Yippee! Watch out for the Kiwis!

Church of the Good Shephard in the countryside.

So that was our trip to New Zealand in the form of a top ten list. I have about five million more photographs that I will be happy to go over in excruciating detail just as soon as I get home. Let me know where to meet you and we can settle in for some more New Zealand goodness. Do you make top ten lists for vacations? Or is that just me? If you don’t, you should. It’s a good time. Leave us a comment about your favorite vacation location – we might want to check it out next!

*Sweet As is another slang phrase used in NZ. Kiwi’s use it instead of “awesome.” Go ahead, try and use it today. You will feel oh-so-Kiwi when you do.

I couldn’t resist one last Kiwi pic! Cute little guy, huh?


Thank yous!

This post isn’t going to get any points for originality, but in the spirit Thanksgiving I thought I would try and come up with 50 things that I am thankful for this year. How do you ask, did I arrive at the number 50? Well, I felt like 10 seemed like I wasn’t really showing a lot of effort. I mean, my first graders came up with five each this week for goodness sakes. I did like the symbolism of 30 things that I was thankful for, being as there are 30 days in November. Then I ran across some over achievers on the internet that were doing 100 things to be thankful for! What?! Really people, you get past a certain point and you are just making things up. Unless you are Kate Middleton, in which case you might be able to round out the 100 thoughtfully and accurately.  So, being half a princess myself, I decided to go for 50.

I don’t know if anyone that might read this really even cares what I am thankful for this year, but on days that the frustration level of living in a foreign country gets so high that I swear I might lose it and I can’t think of a single, solitaire thing to be thankful for, I thought it might help to put things in perspective. Like storing up some thankfulness to be opened as needed. Although working today wasn’t the same fun as running a half marathon and stuffing your face with loved ones by the fire, it will have to do for this year. In no particular order, here comes the silly, sappy, and serious things that I am thankful for in 2011.

1. My Mom. Behind every good girl, there is a great mom. Seriously, my mom  is awesome in so many ways I can’t even begin to write them all here. I am so thankful for her giving nature, her persistence in everything, and taking care of so many things for us while we are overseas.

2. My Dad. My dad is also an awesome guy. I (selfishly) love it even more that he lives on the same side of the planet as us right now! It makes weekends so much better when we can go and visit him in Singapore, eat some yummy food, visit Vivo City and listen to some of his corny jokes. Plus, he is doing an amazing job at Universal Studios Singapore. He won’t brag about it, so I will!

3. Singapore. When Malaysia just gets a little too crazy, dirty and unorganized for me, visiting Singapore is like hanging out with the beautiful, polite, well groomed sister that you never get tired of.

4. Teaching friends. They make me only want to have three drinks when I get home on Friday instead of seven or eight.

5. Room mom. I have the best room mom in the world. She is bakes, subs, throws amazing parties and in general makes things easier for me.

6. Travel. I am so thankful that we have had the AMAZING opportunity to travel to so many places in the past year. So far we have been to Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Indonesia! We will be heading to Cambodia in December too. Pretty sweet.

7. Henry. You didn’t think I was going to have a list without him, did you? He’s the best dog ever. End of story. If you have met him you know this to be true. I can’t wait to see him in 7 months. Never leaving him again.

8. Mags. She is orange, funny, vocal, fat, and comes when she is called. She is pretty much the best cat ever. Dan “I really don’t like cats” McNair, even affirmed the sentiment the other day. Impressive.

9. Honeykins. I am so thankful I picked him. After this adventure I feel like we can accomplish anything together and am looking forward to the next one. (Maybe a little closer to home next time?)

10. Sistas. I don’t get to live in the sista house right now, but I get so excited to hear about the cool things they are doing back in the states and am so proud of them for being fabulous.

11. Kindle. A portable library. Need I say more?

12. Spell check. I would look pretty stupid without it. For the record, I blame the Canadian education system for my spelling failings.

13. Pinterest. Obsessed.

14. Australia. The best vacation ever. Beautiful country, nice people, and good food. Whenever I need to go to my happy place, I just go to Australia.

15. Good health. I really hesitated to even write it, because I didn’t want to jinx anything. But, compared to last year, I have had significantly less food poisoning, stitches, and general doctors visits. Thank goodness.

16. Being an American. Not putting anyone else’s country down, just proud of mine.

17. Fresh fruit all winter. The watermelon and mango are amazing all year long here! And the mango is so good, my sister calls in “Malaysian Crack.” Seriously, it’s that good.

18. Tennis. Discovering I like to play tennis has been revolutionary! I love the feeling of a solidly hit ball right on the line and the cute skirts. I’m not very good, but I have a great tennis partner and tennis coach. I’m also super pumped about going home and playing with my mom and friend Leigh.

19. Rowing. Not having rowing here has solidified how much I love it and can’t wait to start coaching again when I get back to the states. Dad Vails, Head of the Charles and erg tests, here I come!

20. Glee. Biggest Loser, Modern Family. I know they say television rots your brain, but I love these shows. I am thankful for Glee because I always wanted to be in a broadway show (although I can’t sing or dance.) I can practice my carefully choreographed dance moves all from the safety of my living room. Biggest Loser never fails to make me cry, but in a good way. And Modern Family is just clever. Love it.

21. Facebook. It lets me keep in touch with people from far away. Priceless.

22. People who spay and neuter pets. Listen to Bob Barker people!

23. My camera. Love that I can take pictures to remember all of the amazing stuff we are doing. That being said, I can’t wait to upgrade!

24. Invitations. Sometimes I don’t feel like going. But it’s nice to be asked, isn’t it?

25. Markets. Thankful for the fresh food and interesting people that I get to see. Plus, I am getting better at bargaining. Can’t do that at the Gap.

26. Travel books. I pour over these like they are gold.

27. Opportunity to realize what things are important and not so important.

28. Dave Ramsey. This man changed our marriage and our family tree. I am thankful I can listen to his podcasts to stay motivated.

29. Armed Services. Thank you for everything.

30. Funny forwards. Sometimes you just need a good laugh.

31. Mash-ups. If you don’t know what these are, you should watch more Glee.

32. Jesus. Duh.

33. Lists. They help me provide clarity and stay organized. No problem was ever too big that couldn’t be conquered with a list.

34. Quotes. Big ideas with carefully chosen words, in just a few sentences that you can post where you can see it. Love it.

35. Our blog. I am so thankful that we can share what we are doing over here with people all over the world. Pretty cool.

36. Condo that is rented. We have two good renters and rent coming in every month. So beyond thankful!

37. Jobs. We have ’em when so many people don’t.

38. Chai tea. It is a bright spot in my mornings.

39. Dr. Pepper. I have been able to find this consistently at the grocery store, which is a miracle. Chances are it might not be there next time I go. So I’m thankful for it now.

40. Teachers pay teachers. Awesome website that pays teachers for all of the amazing work they do in creating lesson plans and units and lets me download them for a small fee.

41. Toilet paper in public bathrooms. I live in Asia, don’t forget.

42. Report cards for this semester being done. Thank goodness!

43. We live closer to the school than we used to and I don’t (usually) break into a sweat at 7:30 in the morning. Score.

44. Healthy babies born this year to friends and family. We have had so many babies born to friends and family this year and are thankful for every one. (And we love getting pictures of them!)

45. Good friends getting married (but not to each other). So happy that Slim and Abby are climbing on the marriage train this year! Yay for finding the person you want to be with the rest of your life!

46. Grandmother getting treatment for cancer. My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and while I am not thankful for her getting the cancer, I am so thankful that she has great doctors, my mom, and aunt to help her through this. Love you Ermie!

47. Ruffles on shirts being in style. Actually everyone that wears a “B” cup or below was pumped about this one.

48. Clorox wipes. A room that smells clean? Yes, please!

49. UGA vs. GT. Always my favorite game of the season. Thankful that I know and love people on both sides of the field!

50. Clothes that feel like pajamas but aren’t. You know, the kind that can be passed off for regular clothes in public, but you could sleep in later and feel perfectly fine.

51. My husband surprising me with tickets to Twilight the night it opened in Malaysia! Major points.

52. People that say “Excuse me.” Appropriate for adults and children to use.

53. Packages, suitcases, letters, facebook posts and emails from people back home. Thankful for the reminder of what we have waiting for us when we return. 🙂

54. The cute way some speakers of Asian languages add or take away “s” at the end of the word. For example, “Thanks for being my friends” when only talking to one person. Adorable! (And helped to inspire the perfect Thanksgiving blog title!)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!