March 27, 2010

Destination: Amazons

Probably should have posted this sooner, but is always the case before vacation, we had a crazy week at school!! In about 30 minutes I will be off to the Cali airport with my roommates, Steph and Hana, and two friends, Tara and Kelsi for Spring Break 2010! Today we are flying to Leticia, Colombia, the southern most town in Colombia ONLY accessible by air! Tomorrow we leave Leticia for 4 nights and 5 days in the heart of the Amazon Jungle! We plan to kayak, hike, see pink dolpins (yes, pink!) all while we try not to be attacked by strange creatures. I cannot wait to visit this extremely unique part of our world!! I will be back next Saturday night, so no updates until then! Happy Spring Break and Happy Easter Week!!

March 22, 2010

New Music Monday (Colombian Style)

One of the downfalls of living outside the United States is a feeling of disconnection with the English language music scene. Here in Cali, station after station plays enough salsa and reggaeton to leave me hopelessly day-dreaming of a Cities 97 New Music Monday.
Since being in Colombia I have had some CDs mailed here (thanks Mom!), bought some music on iTunes and swapped singles on Skype (thanks Joe & Kirsten!). (Yes, you can send music files through Skype - it's amazing) However, I still wish I knew what the new music was, who the new artists were, etc.
Since August 2009 I have added the following CDs to my iTunes:
  1. Jayhawks LIVE at Cities 97 Basilica Block Party
  2. John Mayer's Battle Studies
  3. Cities 97 Sampler Volume 21
  4. Carrie Underwood's Play On
I have also added the following songs:

Yet, despite these additions I am still desperate for new music. I miss the days of exchanging music daily with co-workers, roommates, friends, or the person next to you in class. That being said - I need suggestions so I am calling upon YOU to help me out...
What should I be listening to? What are you listening to lately and just loving??

green beer, green backpacks & (kind of) green mountains

I could just have easily entitled this post "Catch Up" or "Oh yeah, I have a blog", but the green theme seems to be working nicely. I have been quite busy living, but apparently not so busy blogging. Sorry friends. :(
In an effort to fill in some of the gaps from the last week, here are some updates:
  • On Wednesday, I did find green beer on St. Patty's Day...or rather my friend Scott made green beer with crappy Colombian beer and food dye, but it was fabulous none-the-less. I celebrated the day with friends, Catie, Scott, Caleb and Angie, and enjoyed the green beer as well as fish and chips. Not quite the same as spending the day in Naples, Florida with my grandpa as I have the past two years, but still a successfully "green" holiday.
  • Thursday, we had our annual girls book club. I haven't finished my book from last month yet, because it is really intense and also non-fiction, so hard to get into. However, I did keep that book to finish, as well as bring three more home to keep me occupied until next month. Here are my new titles to read:
Make Him Look Good by Alisa Valdes - Rodriguez
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Til Death Do Us Part by Ingrid Betancourt
The Heart That Bleeds by Alma Guillermoprieto
  • In preparation for our Spring Break trip to the Amazons in less than a week, I bought myself a backpacking backpack that I spotted at Totto on Thursday. Ever since I used my roommate's on my Ciudad Perdida trip I have been wanting one of my own, I just thought they would be difficult to find in Colombia. Turns out they sells them in several places, but I just loved this green one, probably because it matches my hiking shoes & I feel the need to be fabulous even in the jungle. (Or at least camouflaged so insects/snakes/bugs/animals in general do not recognize me enough to eat me) My roommate Hana also bought a new backpack, so we are all set to travel!
  • Friday at school we finished up the week by showing the movie Sandlot to the students, since we still only had half the 8th grade class present as a results of the binationals tournament. They loooooooooooved it. Which I knew they would, cause its amazing, but still - so great seeing them enjoy it. Despite going to an international school many of them have not seen "classic" English language movies, so I love sharing movies with them. As a baseball lover, this is definitely one of my all-time favorites - check out this scene for some Sandlot memories - enjoy!
  • Friday night I headed over to Caleb & Angie's to catch some of the March Madness games. Caleb streamed them thanks to CBS Sports and we watched them projected on the wall of their apartment thanks to a school projector. I love watching basketball again, and it makes me so excited for baseball this summer! I started a bracket pool at school with 11 other co-workers and I am loving watching the games and keeping track of points. Summary of my bracket so far - thank God I didn't pick Kansas to win it all. Go West Virginia!!
  • Saturday - read my book outside & realized you can still get burnt even under cloud cover. Thanks equatorial sun, we are no longer friends.
  • Monday - climbed Tres Cruces for the second time; you can read my more detailed account of the first time here. The second was much like the first, but it was Kelsi's first time climbing it, so I am glad I went again! Once again it was very hot, I drank lots of water, but was again stunned with the impressive views of my city.
View of the Tres Cruces (Three Crosses) hike from halfway up.
Hot & sweaty at the top with Hana, Steph, and Kelsi.
P.S. (Did you even think I wasn't going to mention it?!?!?!) THE Minnesota Twins, you know the baseball team I love that is going to contend for the 2010 World Series, yeah that one. Wellllll they signed this guy yesterday, not sure if you have heard of him, but his name is Joseph Patrick Mauer and I sort of love him. Annnnyway, he will be staying in Minnesota thru 2018 for $184 million. LOOOOOOOOVE. One of the top ten largest contracts in the MLB and one of the only ones for a non-NY Yankees player. Hip hip hoooooooray!!!! :) Can't wait to see him play at the new stadium this summer!!

Could he be any more adorable?

March 17, 2010

cheaters, spirit week & life as a teacher with 3 prep periods

Today I "taught" first hour from 7:30 to 8:40 and I teach again fifth hour...from 1:30 to 2:30. Best. Day. Ever. From Tuesday to Friday of this week over half of the 8th grade is in Cartagena, Colombia competing against other schools in soccer, volleyball, baseball, etc. While I do not necessarily agree that students should miss almost an entire week of school for a sports tournament, I sure am loving the slower pace of school with only 50 students here! With so many students gone we combined some of the classes together and therefore, I only have three classes to fit into an eight period rotation. Life is good. I assigned a two week long project to everyone during this time, so the students who stayed behind just have class time to work on the project. This morning they worked independently while I did some stuff around my classroom, answered questions and we listened to music. Perfect.

Not so perfect about this week? Well, let me just tell you a little story. Before the students left for Binationals I gave a short quiz on our current topic of area and perimeter. I usually like to give some type of assessment before students leave for a weekend or break because they tend to do better. On this particular quiz, students overall did well...however...some not so well. In fact, I caught two cheaters. One in class and one while grading. The one in class wasn't too exciting, he was just blatantly turned in his seat asking another student about his answers. I called him up to my desk and ripped his quiz in fourths. What can I say, I don't like cheaters.

The other cheating student has a bit more of an interesting story. I sit down to grade his quiz. As I am marking his answers and trying to follow his work, I notice that his work is somewhat non-sensical and doesn't really flow from one step to the's almost like he wrote down stuff to make it look like he did work. Yet, he somehow arrived at ALL OF THE RIGHT ANSWERS. Very perplexing. What makes this story more interesting is Mr. Genius had all the right the WRONG version of the quiz. Four out of six right answers for Quiz A, when he took Quiz B. Really??? What is this??? Stop cheating! (or at least get better at it for goodness sakes!) I don't really view myself as a malicious teacher out to get students, so the whole experience has me feeling a bit like Viola Swamp (mean substitute teacher from the children's book Miss Nelson is Missing) this week. However, cheating is a serious issue, and I view it as blatant disrespect for me and my classroom. Needless to say I had some very serious conversations with these students hopefully terrified them into not doing it again.
In other random news/updates, this week is our all school Spirit Week. Similar to the Spirit Week in the fall, each day has a different theme and basically just gives teachers an excuse to wear jeans all week long. Monday was Pajama Day, Tuesday was Twin Day (picture of Steph & I to follow!) and today is Colombia Day. While the US is swarmed with green today, I am here in Colombia sporting any red, blue or yellow we can find.
To those back home, cheers and drink a green beer for me!

March 14, 2010

Happy PI Day!

Well friends, today is Pi Day, celebrated by math enthusiasts, like myself, around the world! Pi, symbolized by the Greek letter (π), is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. (And yes, I could prove that to you!) Pi day is celebrated on March 14th, since as you clearly know, Pi = 3.1415926535… :)
Should you want to help my own personal celebration, please view here.

So Delicious! (A Day at Rio Pance)

For my Minnesota readers - you know how Fridays from May to September ensure a mass exodus from the Twin Cities to northern MN (Brainerd, Duluth, etc)? Well, today I participated in the Colombian version of this event - leaving a hot, busy city to engage in some rest and relaxation near the small town of Pance. Pance is only about 10 minutes from school, so about 30-40 minutes from our house, and is basically a little down in the foothills of the mountains with a river running alongside it.
After hearing great things about the nature and ambiance around Pance, we decided to go exploring. Thanks to my roommate Steph's new car, our trip was easy as pi. (cause today is pi day - in case you didn't know!...oh math jokes) We arrived in Pance a bit after 10am and found several great spots along the river to take naps, eat our picnic lunches and go for a swim to cool off! The water is chilly, but not icy cold, and feels so refreshing after being in the hot equatorial sun. As our students often tell us about anything especially fabulous, the water felt "so delicious"*!
By about noon the riverside was full of families and people out enjoying the day, and on our drive home we saw people along the river for a good 3 or 4 miles down the road. Rio Pance is truly the beach of Cali. I loved the chance to get out of the city a bit, even just for a few hours, and enjoy a little bit of nature. Colombia is such a beautiful country, but sometimes that is hard to remember when you live in a city!
Here are some pictures from the day:
Steph, Kelsi and I along the Rio Pance.
Kelsi and I talking a walk in the of many times when I am so thankful for my Keens sandals.
Not a bad way to spend a Sunday...
The madness that is Rio Pance on the weekends.
I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend and enjoying the switch to daylight savings time - I am now back on the same time zone as everyone in the Midwest. Hooray!
*Colombians use the word delicious to describe anything that feels really good - it's hilarious and sort of endearing unless your Kelsi and teach 3rd grade & part of your job is to improve your students' use of English grammar.

March 13, 2010

My Life List

Back in January I told you all about my decision to create a Life List, a list of things I want to do in the next 20 days, 20 months, 20 years, who knows...but things I want to do, or need to do. Since January I have edited the list a bit, but for the most part it remains as I initially wrote it. The items on this list, big or small, remain important for me and for my life, so for right now these 58 things complete the list. The list will of course need to be updated and with those updates it will probably change from time to time.
The purpose of publishing this list is not because I need feedback or for others to agree with my list, but more to provide me a sense of accountability. Some of these things will be extremely challenging, so I need someone else out there to remind me that "hey, you said you were going to go to every Major League Ballpark, so get going" (Although that probably won't be one of the ones I need to be pushed into) I need accountability, to you and to myself. So here you have it, the entire list. Happy reading and happy weekend! Off to celebrate an early St. Patty's Day! Cheers!

March 10, 2010

Parent Teacher Conferences Part Dos

As you can probably tell from my gloomy attitude it's getting to be that time in the semester when the days feel longer and everyone under legal drinking age seems overly obnoxious... Must mean its time for parent teacher conferences! For two days every one of my students will come to school with his or parent(s) to meet with each teacher about the student's progress thus far. Day one was today and we will finish up tomorrow. Just like first semester, I am finding this entire process incredibly entertaining for so many reasons. To name a few...
  • Colombians place a huge emphasis on appearance and dress, so of course all my mothers (and fathers too) come dressed to the nines. I think this is partially for my benefit and partially because they see other parents in passing and need to maintain a good impression.
  • Not only are Colombians very obsessed with personal appearance, but they also inherently notice the appearance of others. Today, mid-conference, a mother stopped to comment on how nicely my nails are painted. Thank lady, can we now discuss the fact that your daughter has 68%. Great, thanks.
  • The apple does not fall far from the tree. If you have ever in your life doubted this bit of wisdom, become a teacher and watch kids with their parents. HILARIOUS. From mannerisms to personality to looks, there is so much to learn from meeting a student's parents! I cannot even explain the number of times I thought to myself today, "Ohhhhh that's what he/she is like that."
  • Some of my students are absolutely amazing, nice, warm, kind people and I really love them. Even more I love telling their parents that I think their son/daughter is awesome, because who doesn't need to hear a bit of positive feedback on their teenager from time to time.
  • Some of my students need to get it together and stop acting like their homework will complete itself or they will magically pass my class by putting forth zero effort. The parents of these students get it and are more than happy to back me up when I mention their student's shortcomings. If I have to tell kids they need to work on their behavior at least I have some parent back up.
  • School provided snacks during break time. Mmmmm....fresh empanadas today :)
  • Let's be honest, sitting down to have a chat with some parents and their students is easier than teaching on any given day.
Wherever this work week finds you, I hope you are doing something equally insightful :) Cheers!

March 5, 2010

Today I had a thought. What if...what if I had never met you?

As a TV drama/sitcom series addict, I often find that real life collides with a situation, a feeling or a quote from one of my favorite shows. Today's show: Sex and the City. I am a huge SATC fan, so much so that I bought the boxed set on DVD as a Christmas me, from me, last Christmas. (In all fairness it WAS half off at Best Buy - clearly a deal too good to pass up!!) In fact...come to think of it, it's really quite surprising that SATC hasn't found its way onto this blog more frequently.
Anyway, today I found myself thinking back to season 6, as Carrie says goodbye to her three very best friends in the entire world before she departs for Paris indefinitely. Over dinner she tells/asks them,
"Today I had a thought.
What if...what if I had never met you."
As a very hectic, crazy and difficult week came to an end here in Colombia I found myself reflecting on the people who I rely on everyday - the people who have remained a constant force in my life when nothing else seemed sure. People who remind me to keep my feet on the ground but encourage me to shoot for the stars with my dreams. These people who contribute to who I am need to be introduced to this blog of mine, because they contribute to my experiences everyday in so many ways... so I am starting today with one person who has made my Colombia experience better and better with each day.
From the time I arrived in Colombia with 13 other new teachers I knew there was something unique about Kelsi. Strong. Unassuming. Kind. Generous. Funny as hell. Looking back, I cannot remember which of her fabulous characteristics I noticed first, I just remember thinking "She looks like she is having a great time, all the time."
Here we are six months later and I cannot imagine Colombia without her. In fact, I cannot imagine life without her, so if I needed to come to Colombia to meet this girl from Orange County then I guess fate's kind of awesome. In these six months I have come to appreciate so much more about Kelsi, from the way she is so willingly up for any type of adventure to her three signature dance moves. She makes Colombia more fun and she definitely makes every day of our jobs more fun - I could Gmail chat with her all day long! On the days when nothing seems to go right she is always up for a good vent session at Crepes & Waffles. Beyond that, we share tons of common interests in yoga, outdoor adventures, shoes, How I Met Your Mother, The Office, reading, red wine, and travel...
I heard somewhere once that as you get older the people you meet who truly understand you, who get you, who relate to you at the very core of who you are, become increasingly rare. I couldn't agree more, so I am going to try to hang on to every one I find, and Kelsi is definitely one of those people. LOVE her!

Mathletes in Cali - what, what!

Hahaha...ridiculous blog title, I know. :) So yesterday at school we held the second annual Math Olympics! Yes, that's right, a competition about math and it was F-A-B-ULOUS. As a total math nerd who loves problem solving and logic and some good old fashioned teamwork, I loved the entire event. My 8th grade students worked with groups of four students, composed of two 8th graders and two 9th graders, to solve logic problems appropriate for their level(s).
My friend Tara is the 9th grade math teacher and another awesome math nerd in disguise. We had a great time watching our students work together to solve some tough problems. As a teacher, I find that I most often teach to the middle of the road students, provide extra help for the lower students...and IF there is time leftover (which there usually isn't) then I think about the high end students. As a former "high end" math student, I definitely want to challenge my students who have a natural talent for math, but when push comes to shove, sometimes there just are not enough hours in the day!
The Math Olympics provided me with a great chance to challenge some of these students in a new day and I am so glad my students chose to participate in the event. All the winning teams (and teachers) will be receiving Math Olympics t-shirts to celebrate the event, and next week Tara and I will be hosting a pizza party for our 8th and 9th grade participants.
Here are some photos from the competition:

Loving the Math Olympics 2010
One of our teams hard at work!
Happy Weekend!

March 2, 2010

waiting on the world to change (*thanks jm)

About 90% of the time I try to keep this blog full of the amazing, fabulous, positive things happening in my life and here and Colombia. Today is not one of those days.
Turns out the March blues are not just a result of snow turned into black, slushy, mush on the side of I-35 in the Twin Cities. The March blues happen everywhere, even in cities with daily weather of 82 degrees and sunny. How unfortunate.
  • I bought a plane ticket home. For June. This is awesome, except what I really want is to sit down with my best friends & eat ice cream right now, not in four months.
  • It's March. I have had the same 100 students since September. I tried, I really did. I have given a sincere effort to like all of them. At the end of the day, everything I know about supporting students, how they need positive role models, etc. is being tossed out the window because some of them are mean, and I don't like them and I don't know how to go about liking them.
  • Tomorrow we have a meeting to "discuss" discipline for our students who snuck out of their rooms during our field trip. Seeing as how the administration did not need our opinions to decide which students would be allowed on the field trip, I don't really want to attend a meeting about what to do when the kids we didn't want on the trip in the first place acted irresponsibly.
  • There are no dateable men in Colombia. As in zero. Nada. Zilch. I didn't come here to find a boyfriend, or to date, or anything, but I mean...really? I'm 22 years old. I just want a nice boy who happens to also love baseball to take me out to a nice dinner and share a bottle of red wine with me while we discuss our life plans to visit every Major League Ballpark in America. Is that so much to freaking ask?
  • Speaking of baseball, for the past two years I have been at Spring Training in sunny Fort Meyers watching Joe Mauer take warm up swings. This year, millions of other girls are there instead while I read about it via Twitter updates. Super duper.
I think that's about all the "woe is me" action I can handle for one night. I am sure there was more but after one hour vent sessions with both Steph and Kelsi today, this is all I have left. I hope to return to joyful, shiny, bright, happy to be alive posting as soon as possible.
*Title courtesy of a John Mayer song. :) Love him.
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