Monday, July 28, 2008

First Week of Training

Well, I've managed to get through the first week of training. It really was quite a trial. In this organization they're constantly telling us to have lower expectations, and yet, silly me, I came in thinking I would have a chance to breath while I was here. Well, that moment sure never came in week one! Due to some odd scheduling decisions, there were only three of us alumni here for the first week, along with Kelly and Carice who are higher up in the administration. This means we all had plenty of teaching to do!
It's interesting to think of how the new teachers view us. Here we all, "experienced" in the ways of the organization, and somewhat "familiar" with life in our respective overseas countries. We hold a certain amount of power in our hands as we have information that is completely foreign, and highly important to them. And yet we're instructed to be vague. To give answers like: It depends. And in truth, it really does. We can't guarantee that things are even going to be the same for us in the second year, so how can we tell them just how it will be for their first.
The hard thing is that I'm really bad at giving vague answers. I might not always tell people everything that is going on in my head, but if people ask me how I'm doing, and I feel awful, I'll tell them that I'm still breathing, or surviving, or, at the very least, here. So to have them ask directly, "in your experience can you tell us how you felt about ..." it's really hard to somehow turn that into a horrible evasive answer culminating in further frustration for the new teacher and myself as well.
I totally understand the reasoning behind the structure, but that doesn't make it any easier to follow the model.
Fortunately I think I've been able to explain to most people that, while I have to respond to them in this sort of way, it's really not the sort of person that I am. And while there is a small amount of pleasure in withholding the teaching schedule until the last moment (which I am duty bound to do) that is mostly just because I know the horror that went through me every afternoon of training and I wouldn't want to deprive them of that experience with anxiety :)
All this to say, I'm exhausted and sooooo thankful that things are mellowing out a little bit this week. But only a little bit. I still have to keep things running smoothly for practicum. Last week we were in a new location and had only 8 or 9 students a night. Not very helpful when you have 18 new teachers, plus 5 alumni/staff observers. It meant some rather uncomfortable classroom settings for sure. Thankfully we are going to be back in the same place we were last year for the rest of the time. It will be sooooo much better. And we should be able to attract a lot more students there. I'm excited about the prospects.
So for now I'm just trying to keep it all together and enjoying the chance to get to know the people I'll be relating with over the next year.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Newest in Auto technicians

So I'm kinda slowly but surely filling in the past. On my way down to Medford last week, where I had planned some time chillin' with the nephews and my ever stylin' sista, I suddenly observed some abnormal car behavior. As I exited the freeway and headed to Janet's house my car began to steer like a tank. Not exactly a cheerful situation.
After conferring with my sister and calling my dad, I ended up calling my cousin Bill who is a mechanic in Weaverville, CA. Between talking to one of his other mechanics, and later Bill himself, I discovered that the belt that controls the power-steering had snapped completely in two.
This left me with a bit of a dilemma. While our modern world of technology and convenience urged me to take it in to a shop, my wallet agreed with the counsel of my sister, effectively turning me, and by default my nephew Ryder, into mechanics for the day.
Now let me tell you straight up front that my Dad has always been very forward in his thinking regarding my abilities to understand and deal with my car. Before he would teach us how to drive he would pop the hood, show us the engine and explain to us what would happen when we first turned the key in the ignition. When one of our cars had a problem, he would take me with him to the mechanic and try to explain to me what it meant when the engine had a cracked head, or the fuel filter was faltering. He painstakingly instructed me on how to check and add oil, as well as useful things like how to change a tire and put on chains.
Way to go Dad!
Unfortunately, despite his best attempts, I'll confess that I really don't know a whole lot about the inner workings of my car. Sure, I can check the oil and top off different fluids. I've changed headlights on a couple of my cars, and added air to my tires. But beyond that, I'm pretty much lost.
While Ryder has been dying to drive a car for ages, and has his license but is waiting to have enough money to pay for insurance in order to actually use it, his knowledge of cars isn't a whole lot greater than my own. One thing he definitely has the advantage over me in, however, is strength. While it is hard for me to let them grow up, at 16 and right around 6' it is impossible to deny that, as much as my tickle attacks might still reduce him to helplessness (anyone have a keyboard that plays "Oh Susannah" so I can turn him into a banjo on my knee?) he is most assuredly stronger than I am at this point.
So if you take two very inexperienced and yet competent and intelligent people and put them in front of a car, what do you think will happen? Well, it started off with a lot of this:

Basically, a lot of standing around and trying to figure out how in the world to make the very small, very tight belt somehow stretch around three unmoving pulleys. Just so you know, brute strength won't cut it!
Needless to say, we ended up calling Bill again, and after some instructions we began the difficult and dirty task of winding our hands around tubes we knew nothing about in order to loosen screws that were undoubtedly tightened on by machines when Ryder was just a wee lad. Eventually, with the aid of some lubricant, my smaller hands that were able to fit into tighter places, and our combined weight and muscular ability, we loosened the screws enough to move the pulleys, put the belt in place, and then secure them back into almost their original positions.

Our victory lap might not have drawn quite as large a smile as the home run Ryder hit this year, but we were both pretty pleased with what we had managed to do.
At the end of the day, however, Ryder assured us that this was his first and last experiment with car care. We'll see...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The tale of the transient sunglasses...

It all began in such an unassuming sort of way. A casual browsing moment in a Vietnamese shop in Cheb. Crystal, who had consistently been without sunglasses all year, was thinking that maybe, just maybe, she might be able to find something that would suit her fancy, and prevent her from being the one squinting in all the group photos now that the weather had gone all to loveliness. Never wanting to miss out on a moment of making myself look horrifyingly awkward in a pair of sunglasses that seem to have an overwhelming desire to eat my entire face, I joined in.
After several episodes of thick plastic and tacky rhinestones, my eyes fell upon a pair of traditional 1970's aviator sunglasses. They were, admittedly, enormous and gold, two things I generally try to steer clear of. All the same, I lifted them from the rack and slipped them on. To call it magic would cheapen the moment. Instead, it was more like destiny. At 79 KC, they were meant to shade my vision from the sun, like the Disney Princess glasses (purchased in the children's section of Walmart in Eagle River, AK) their predecessor. So they entered my life - through some cajoling on the part of Crystal and Naomi - and brought with them an uncanny desire to pose like a Charlie's Angels movie poster throughout central Europe (see pictures in previous posts for further evidence of this syndrome.)
Upon returning to the US, the glasses did their best to blend into the scenery. After unsurprising comments of horror from my mother, and amused acceptance on the part of my father, they worked their way into the hearts, and onto the faces, of some very entertaining characters. So now, sit back, and enjoy the travels of these epic sunglasses across the ever changing canvas of faces they have recently embraced.

Can we say a young Farrah Faucett or what?

Aunt Sarah: Wow, you're being so serious Rowie.
Rowan: Yes, I am.

Naturally ready to take on the world.

I'd say we've got another poser on our hands.

I'm pretty sure that hat used to be mine as well.

Anyone remember the theme song for Chips?

The name's Bond. Hephzibah Bond. Um, I mean Tyler ;)
Clearly there are more serious things to do with one's time than merely to pose for photos...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Best laid plans

Hmm...I have so many of these. One set involved having some free time here at training in order to catch up on things like my blog and my journal writing. HA! Don't make me laugh. Let me tell you, with only three alumni here they're definitely keeping me hopping.
I have some fun photos to download, but at the moment I'm just sitting on a work computer in a stuffy office wearing the clothes I'm supposed to wear for the next couple of days and hoping I'm not dripping sweat to add to the mustard that naturally fell out of my sandwich today. Oh, and then they served spaghetti for dinner...
Things are pretty intense and I'm pretty exhausted. Wouldn't mind a few prayers for perseverance, patience, and the ability to hold it all together.
I'm excited about the new team, and worn down by the endless questions I'm supposed to evade. It seems that everything is endless. At least next week there should be a slight drop in the amount of insanity I have to pour myself into, but for now I've been working 12 hour days at the least and my eyes are seriously crusting over.
More when there's a break in the crazy.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ants and more ants!

Can I just say that there are a lot of ants in Medford. I'm beginning to think that Janet's house was built on the mother of all ant hills. That being said, I've continued to keep busy this past week. I had a chance to spend a few short days with Jessie. I'll post pictures later of how adorable she and her future baby are getting to be :) Good fun.
Now I've found my way through the intense heat to Medford. Driving with no air conditioning really isn't the best way to go, but I'm sure I shed a few pounds of water weight in the process. It was pretty much ridiculous, but it's great to be here.
This afternoon Ryder has a double header, so I'll be getting in some baseball. Hopefully I don't get a sunburn (as I typed that four more ants emerged from beneath the keyboard! What could they possibly find enticing about the underside of a keyboard?) as the antibiotics I was taking for my mysterious Czech rash still haven't totally gone through my system.
Well, I think Janet just got home so I should go and have some fun with her. Oh, I was able to swing by Blodgett Church to see people there which was nice. It was strange to know all our stuff wasn't in the house, and that there are now 6 kids living there, but it was good too. Time just keeps sailing by...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A week in the wild west

I guess you can kind of qualify Idaho as the Wild West. I'm pretty sure people passed through here on some manifest destiny quest. Anyhow, just thought it might be nice to do a little pictorial view of this past week running around with the family. I haven't had a whole lot of time to just sit and mellow out, except two short runs to Starbucks where I attempted to catch up on journaling, a task I just can't ever seem to get ahead in somehow...But having had to wait a bit too long to eat after taking the antibiotics for the mysterious possibly Lyme's Disease rash I'm feeling a bit queasy, so I thought I'd fill this in.
Julie's had us pretty set up for activities since we've been here. Knowing that both Cheryl's and her own kids enjoy horses, we went to a place called Orphan Acres where we got to see over 60 horses, and the kids had a chance to pet them and do some chores and even sit atop them for a moment or two.

While the girls got a big kick out of the horses, Rowan was most impressed by the equipment ;)

On the 4th of July Brian had a chance to ride his scooter in a parade in a small town called Johnsontown, not far from Moscow. What the town lacked for in size, it made up for in the long line of cars parked along the narrow road. They definitely know how to pull in a crowd. Of course, for us the most exciting part was the once in a lifetime opportunity to see Brian in a Hawaiian shirt! I think Adelia enjoyed the bit where she got to ride on the scooter with him too. And of course all the kids were pretty excited about the chance to scoop up candy off the street. Amazing the things that we would generally be horrified by that suddenly become the norm on a national holiday.

After the parade we went home and whipped up some homemade ice cream. Have I mentioned just how much food I've been eating here? It seems like every time I turn around it's time to start working on another meal. It's insanity. But with this many people around it's kind of how it works. I was pretty excited about this Toffee Coffee ice cream though.

The next day Julie and I made some sushi. For those curious if I've given up my fish hating ways, let me say that there was nothing raw, and the fish in the ones I ate was only tuna. As much as Tekla always likes to remind me that tuna is fish too, the way I make it, it really doesn't taste like fish at all.

For dessert that night we had this exciting American Flag cheese cake that Mom made. We would have had it on the 4th, but between the large number of desserts we already had, and the fact that it took a horrifyingly long time to make, it just worked out better to have it the next day.
Yesterday, which was actually Julie's birthday, we all went for a hike in the mountains a little over an hour from Moscow. It was the perfect day for it. Sunny and lovely, but not too hot. As always, I enjoyed snapping a few photos.

The fact that all my family is so photogenic just makes me want to take photos even more. The one thing I don't have any photographic evidence of is me in a helmet and leather jacket on the back of Brian's scooter. It did, however happen. I managed to swallow my excessive fear, and rode on the scooter for half the trip back to Moscow. I even survived the nasty yellow bug splat on my leg! Will wonders never cease. I guess it's true that if you face your fears at times you end up having a lot of fun after all.
I've got a couple more days here before heading to part two of my trip home. Cheryl and the girls fly back to Alaska on Thursday, so I'm heading south west that day too. I'm excited for the next portion of my trip, but want to take advantage of every moment here as well.
Hmmm...will I ever be stable? A question I just keep asking myself.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Flying by already

I spent some time yesterday with a calendar, realizing just how little time I really have here. How can I best make the most of every moment. It's so hard to figure it all out. And then there are the financial strains of the current fuel situation. Hard to imagine that what seems like a few short years ago I was freaking out when gas got up to $1.29. I never dreamed it would get over $2, and now it's past $4. So when is that we're going to convert to something besides fossil fuels? (sigh) I'm a slave of the system like everyone else.
This morning I went with the family to the orphan horses home just outside of Moscow. I've got to admit that, while I enjoy horses, I'm not exactly obsessed with them. Haley, on the other hand, was absolutely in Heaven. It was good fun to watch the kids playing around with the horses, and we learned a lot about the work the guy does there. There is even a "famous" movie horse there, who was in Dances With Wolves and was then sold to some loser who just wanted a famous horse but didn't take care of him. Sad to see the way people can be so cruel to animals. Anyhow, it was a nice outing. I've got some good photos that I might put up later. Currently my computer is in the shop, so hopefully it'll be up and running great again so I can update more fully.
Not really a whole lot to say. Just wanted to comment that I'm still here, still trying to make sense of this life of mine. It's always so eerie to return to the US after a long absence. While it all makes sense pretty quickly, it doesn't mean I always get all excited about it. I love seeing my family. But life in general can be so overwhelming, especially when I know how brief this moment is. Will I ever figure out where it is I'm supposed to be?