Wednesday, August 31, 2005


According to the National Association of Hosiery Manufacturers, one out of every eight persons who put on a pair of socks each morning in the United States is wearing a pair made in Fort Payne / DeKalb County. Recent NAHM statistics show that Alabama produces almost 25 percent of the socks in the United States. These socks were primarily produced in the mills around Fort Payne. The city has indeed earned the title "Sock Capital of the World".

Fort Payne, Alabama, in addition to holding an important place in the textile industry, was also my destination last weekend. Well, more accurately, it had the closest hotel to our destination: the Lookout Mountain convention. My first time down south! (Disclaimer for non-singers (aka my mom): You're probably saying, "But Rebecca, you've been to the south plenty of times!" In the sacred harp context the important part is that I have not SUNG down south before.) It was like a real vacation... All I had to do was sit in cars and planes (serious thanks go to Jenna, our chaufeur for the weekend) and sing and eat. And the singing and the eating was everything it had been made out to be. Please can we get a bass section like that???

And you wouldn't believe me if I told you just how laden the table was with food at noon. Ooh, I found a picture of the dinner on the grounds from a previous year. Now that was some seriously good cooking. Clearly the sheer volume alone was enough to provide ample options even for a vegetarian like myself. Also the dishes tended to be pretty simple - creamed corn, fried okra, baked beans, etc, so it was easy to avoid the meat. Not to mention the vast array of desserts. Upon prodding I even tried the "pear salad" of which there were several varieties to choose from. Basically pear salad consists of a canned pear half covered with a mixture of shredded cheese and mayo, with a maraschino cherry to top it off. Surprisingly you really only taste the pear, so not being a fan of canned pears I'm afraid I didn't really find it to my liking. In addition to the food at the convention, we also ate at such establishments as Krystal (the southern White Castle, which we stopped at twice to indulge Jenna), Sonic (mmm.... junior banana split...) and the exciting new BBQ place in Fort Payne, at which I consumed fried green tomatoes and collard greens. Let's just say that while fully enjoying my culinary adventures (as ever) I felt the need to detox from hearty American food this week. (And an endless supply of US Airways' pretzels.) Immediately upon arriving in Northampton around noontime on Monday, I headed for Osaka, having heard good things about their sushi. I ate outside, by myself, at a plain wooden table with plain white serving plates. I had seaweed salad and an avocado and cucumber roll. Ahhh...

OK, just so you don't think food is the ONLY thing I think about and the ONLY reason I travel, I better find something else to say about my weekend. The thing that struck me most about the southern singing is that it is unquestionably a family affair. I'm so jealous of people for whom going to a convention means singing with several generations of their family, including all kinds of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I'm sure that feeling comes partially from not having an extended family period, let alone a close knit one that I would enjoy getting together with on the weekend to sing. Jenna pointed out that in 30 years, Western Mass. will be like that to some extent, and we'll get to sing with each other's kids. That's a very cute and comforting image. Just knowing that this community will, without a doubt, be around in 30 years is such a powerful reminder for me right now, since I'm getting very sad about leaving in a few short weeks and not getting to sing AT ALL for at least a year. Which, of course, is my choice, so I'll stop whining about it.

What else can I share? Well, it wouldn't have been Sacred Harp singing if it didn't involve some serious gossip. Which shall remain extremely unpublished on this public blog. And for those of you we think that such gossip means we singers must really dislike each other, I must re-emphasize the beautiful community that is Sacred Harp. Since most of you reading this are my singing friends, that's probably beside the point. Well actually, I guess that is the point. Deep. Anyway, the southern singers were of course particularly welcoming... I got plenty of hugs from people I had never met before. And of course there was the giant of a man with the surname Edwards, who, apparently feeling the need to fulfill stereotypes, cornered me immediately after I led for the first time to figure out how we were kin. And proceeded to introduce me to the rest of the Edwards clan throughout the weekend.

I think that's all my brilliant insight for now, I hope it didn't disappoint Linda. Speaking of which, let me take a moment to appreciate Jenna and Linda for being both extremely chill travel companions and fabulous guides to the Alabama singing world.

Oooh, I almost forgot! Check out my THREE PICTURES FROM ALABAMA!! And if Jenna gets around to sending them to me or putting them up, you can see some of her pictures, which may actually include people in them.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Rebecita and WHO on opposite sides of the continent???

Okay, this won't be a long one, but upon discovering I'd written one (1) out of the past eight (8) posts, I felt a need to reaffirm my status as at least one-half of this blog's title, even if I only make up two of the ten letters devoted to our names. Wow, that's a lot of math. I promise a bit more news from the North To The Future state sometime this week, when we'll be hooked up to sweet sweet high-speed internet while once again babysitting our old pal Cobalt the border collie while his people are at Burning Man.

So we have irrefutable evidence that the fleas are now residing in our mailbox. In our MAILBOX. Come on now, really. What on god's green earth are they doing in THERE? This is both heartening (our home is not a breeding ground for some new variety of Teenage Mutant Ninja Flea that even the exterminator who came in two weeks ago is powerless to vanquish... we're just bringing the damn things in with the mail) and disturbing (does our mailman have fleas? is there a large furry flea-host residing in our mailbox that we don't know about? are they secretly planning a takeover of the entire Juneau region, one electric bill at a time?). I calculated that I've spent approximately 25 hours vacuuming this house since my arrival, and I'm not sure if this will cause me to spend the rest of my life feeling unclean if I don't vacuum every day, or never touch a vacuum again. Guesses?

Tomorrow is Christina's birthday and we're going out to a Thai place which is either (according to the reviews we read) the best Thai restaurant in the history of the Pacific Northwest, or a fair-to-middling eatery whose popularity is due solely to the fact that it's just not possible to eat Thai food anywhere else without spending several hours on a ferry.

My new goals are to learn all five types of southeast Alaska salmon (Coho, King, Sockeye, Humpy, Chum) and to find a job in Austin. My two current strategies involve reading this site and sending my resume to lots of Austin museums and other institutions that probably don't have job openings and couldn't afford to pay me anything even if they did. Sounds like a great plan to me.

Okay, this is rather longer than I intended. Going to bed now!



Thursday, August 25, 2005

Who's Afraid of Virginia Ham?

It's a blog bonanza! 4 posts in less than 24 hours! (That's right, keep scrolling down...) This should tide my readers over until I get back from Alabama on Monday night.

So Russell Library in Middletown was featuring a display of "culinary mysteries." I planned to give that genre the cold shoulder, until the giant thriller sized titles caught my eye. And I then I just had to write them down. The cheesy puns remind me of porn titles, except, well, they're just lamer. I mean, can you imagine being seen reading one of these books??

- Fear of Frying
- Quiche of Death
- To Catch a Cook
- War and Peas
- Sticks and Scones
- Sugar and Spite
- Thou Shalt Not Grill
- (I actually kind of enjoy the nonsensical nature of this one) Murder Has no Calories

Even more real content! Non-Labon related this time.

OK, now that I've told you everything you wanted to know about my grandfather, and then some, let's see what else I've been up to. My time in Boston, while also starring some excellent meals, was really just the next installment of "my life as Katie." I spent much of Friday and Saturday hanging out with Katie's 3 best friends from high school, who are all moving in together in Somerville. On Friday night, one of their sisters invited us to her place for a lovely Shabbat dinner. And she is an AMAZING vegetarian cook. We had homemade salsa and guacamole, squash soup, stuffed cabbage, 2 kinds of homemade challah, and several other sidedishes. And dessert. Good lord, I want Shabbat dinner every week! (Uh, but clearly not enough to actually be an observant Jew.) Saturday we had luxuriously good eggs at a French-style cafe place. Then we flagged down the ice cream man, whose truck played that "Do your ears hang down?" song with a werid electronic beat underneath. Then I helped B, whose car died recently, move some of her stuff from her temporary place to Somerville, where I promptly lounged on the couch and joined the roommates in watching a fabulous Lifetime movie called "Coed Call Girl" starring Tori Spelling. Then we went out to Davis Square for yummy and affordable sandwiches at this cute mostly-vegetarian sandwich/wrap/smoothie place, followed by more ICE CREAM. Sunday featured more eggs, in the form of homemade omelets, and then a trip to Boomerang, B's favorite thrift store. Which, I freely admit, has something on Village Discount in that, well, it has a finished floor, dressing rooms, clothes sorted more or less by size, and just classier stuff in general. Of course, with a relative price increase too. But I was suitably impressed, and more than willing to purchase an armload of clothes. So that, my friends concludes my travels in Boston. I'm sure your lives are the richer for knowing every calorie that I comsumed during that 48 hour period.

This week was more teaching, Buffy DVDs, young adult audiobooks in the car, and Watson in my room. You know the drill.

Today I went down to Middletown again. I was hoping to catch up with the Homeroom summer camp and tag along on their last field trip, but thanks to Nat, aka the snack-stealing ogre, who won't return my phone calls, I was unaware that they ended camp early, last week. So I spent my time productively. I walked around the neighborhood hoping to run into some Homeroom kids, and was not disappointed. Three of my favorite long-timers - Taja, Christie, and Tre'Quan - were at a playground, and when they saw me come down the street they immediately ran out and yelled my name and jumped on me in a big group hug. That was worth the drive down right there. Also, stopped by Andrea's and admired the new floors.

Back to business, I tried to track down someone who could update me on the status of hiring a Homeroom coordinator for the academic year, since my phone calls have been fruitless. Turns out EVERYONE is on vacation - all the bosses, Nat, HR people, etc. (As it should be in good old stuck in the 50s Middletown - I saw at least 2 stores with those familiar bootleg handwritten signs proclaiming "on vacation." As well as a prominent sign on Main Street advertising a "Singles Dance" at the Sons of Italy club.) I went down to the Homeroom office and poked through Nat's files, and was oddly pleased to see that despite my mind vacationing from the CHC completely for the past few months, it's still my show over there. He didn't change the space around and just used my notes and materials. Excellent. (And I saw that one of the new kids is named "Lexus.") I also talked with my temporary replacement in the Executive Assistant position, whose last day is tomorrow and who also hasn't been replaced yet. There too, I saw my handwriting everywhere (literally) which was again oddly satisfying.

Really, I was remarking earlier, people are really trying very hard to keep me in this country. I could easily waltz back into one or both of my CHC jobs, just call this summer an extended vacation. (Just like George, except with more open arms and less need to slip someone a "mickey.") And Andrea has that lovely house with the 4 extra bedrooms and no renters yet. And here in the valley, my trainer just basically offered me a job at the language school before she realized I would be leaving so soon. How come everything starts coming up Rebecca just when I'm trying to get out of this godforsaken hellhole?

Real content!

It's like I promised! No more links, non-functioning or otherwise! Where did I leave off in describing my exciting travels... let's see, Middletown, Andrea, beautiful movie... right, Grandpa Labon. I wanted to make sure to visit before skipping the country for a while, and it worked out that I was able to come for his 96th birthday.

So most of you remember Grandpa Labon from his ongoing attempt to bring me back into the Jewish fold. Other background about my grandfather: Son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he grew up in Baltimore where his family owned a grocery store (Not exactly Super Stop & Shop - the old fashioned kind, with live chickens and whatnot.) He was an electrical engineer for the army for many many years, including a stint in the Phillipines during WWII where he met my grandmother who was a WAC, followed by years of things like dam building in the southwest. Which meant my mother grew up in El Paso, Texas, which she escaped at the earliest possible opportunity. Living up fully to the stereotypes of that profession, he is meticulous and scientifically minded - even though I was always a good student, he didn't appreciate my dislike for math and science. (During one particular rant: "You won't even be able to turn the stove on in the future if you don't study science.") He's a good Depression era survivor - he and my grandmother saved everything - I remember stacks of yogurt cups and drawers of rubber bands when we went to visit. He keeps saran wrap on the remote control. He has never exactly looked on the bright side of things (buy him a present, and he unfailingly tells you what's wrong with it), a quality which certainly hasn't exactly mellowed as he has become old and bored in a retirement home. (Traditional conversation opener: How are you doing Grandpa? "As well as can be expected.")

Rebecca, what's the point of this story? I like stories. Oh, right, I was trying to set the scene for why visiting my grandfather is not usually at the top of my list of exciting activities. Not that it's so very awful, but usually our visits are fairly boring - my family sits on the couch and lets him ramble on about something he read in his scientific magazine or where he bought his shoes. But this time I was pleasantly surprised - I really enjoyed the visit and even stayed longer than I intended! From the moment I called him to say I was coming, he was just pleased as punch. When I tried to nail down a time to stop by, he kept saying how anytime was fine, he could rearrange his schedule. This, from the man who gives new meaning to the word "routine". He was just glowing the whole time I was there. I think he felt that I WANTED to visit and was really interested in seeing him. We talked a lot about food and cooking (he used to be a master ice-cream eater and bread-baker and his eyes really lit up at those subjects). He gave me a tour of the facility and introduced me to all of his cute old friends. He always makes it sound like he's bored and alone, but all the people I met had a real sparkle, and were quite friendly with my grandfather, all joking around and everything. And he was delighted to show me off and talk about how I graduated from Wesleyan and I'm going off to Ecuador and whatnot. And apparently he helped start a "Men's Club" where they get together and discuss current events once or twice a week. He seemed pleased that they rely on him a lot to keep on top of things, and he often makes notes of points to discuss in advance. (I was a bit put off by this stuffy old idea of keeping such a club only for men, but to be fair there are only about 20 men out of the 100 residents, so I guess I can see the value.)

Well, this was just a whole new side of my grandfather! I'm so glad I got that glimpse - he's really in amazing health for his age and it always seemed a shame to me that he had resigned himself to sit in his apartment and be old. He has no major health problems, walks without assistance, cooks for himself and has no real dietary restrictions, and is mentally as sharp as he ever was. I guess I vaguely remember him being more vivacious when I was younger and we visited them in El Paso, before my grandmother broke her hip and started her decline, when they had to move out of their home. (When we were talking he would still tear up every time he would mention her, though it's been at least 8 years since she died, and she was pretty far gone well before that.) Anyway, this is the first year that I have really seen his age catch up with him - his vision suddenly deteriorated so that he can hardly read any more, he had to stop driving, and he feels like his memory is slipping a bit. So I hope he keeps living it up as long as he can.

Wow, that was really quite a lot about my grandfather. Happy Birthday to him! I'll ramble on more about Boston in a separate post.

Updated links

Thanks, Linda, for pointing out that the links for the article in the last post weren't working. I switched the link to another site (it was just an AP article).

Texas becomes a majority-minority state
Pretty map

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Mmm... demographics...

Real content and more pictures coming soon, I promise. But it's lovely and COOL outside, so perhaps I'll take advantage of that. In the meantime, you can read this fascinating article. I'm sure my interest in this is in no way influenced by my Census background and Ethnic Studies major...

Texas becomes a majority-minority state
Or at least look at the pretty map.

(Editor's note: The links are updated and functioning now...)

I knew that the US is on track to become more than 50% "minority" by 2050, but I was still shocked by some of the specific statistics. How insane that our country keeps on chugging along with its familiar inequities while our capital city is only 30% white!!

I actually read this article with my English students this morning. I thought it was very appropriate since the terms "minority" and "majority" had come up in class yesterday. It was really interesting to discuss American racial groups with them, since as immigrants they see things much more in terms of geography and nationality. It took a really long time to get them to identify me as "white." They kept saying things like "American" and "citizen."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Wesleyan-related links. (From here I appear to be a nerdy alum, but I will go in for a closer look.)

I found this surprisingly interesting link on one of the blogs I stalk against my better judgement. The Washington Monthly created their own college ranking as an alternative to the lame mainstream US News and World Report ranking. Instead of basing it on "academic excellence" (which basically means SAT scores and money spent) they focused on categories like "community service" (ex: percentage of students who go onto national service like the Peace Corps) and "social mobility"(ex. percentage of Pell Grant recipients.)

In their own words:
How much more important, then, is it for taxpayers to know that their money—in the form of billions of dollars of research grants and student aid—is being put to good use? These are institutions, after all, that produce most of the country's cutting-edge scientific research and are therefore indirectly responsible for much of our national wealth and prosperity. They are the path to the American dream, the surest route for hard-working poor kids to achieve a better life in a changing economy. And they shape, in profound and subtle ways, students' ideas about American society and their place in it. It seemed obvious to us that these heavily subsidized institutions ought to be graded on how well they perform in these roles, so we set out to create the first annual Washington Monthly College Rankings. While other guides ask what colleges can do for students, we ask what colleges are doing for the country.

The first question we asked was, what does America need from its universities? From this starting point, we came up with three central criteria: Universities should be engines of social mobility, they should produce the academic minds and scientific research that advance knowledge and drive economic growth, and they should inculcate and encourage an ethic of service.

Not surprisingly, using that criteria, Wesleyan comes out #2 among liberal arts colleges (#12 in the US News ranking).

In more humorous Wesleyan news, I recently received an email advertising MIDDLETOWN DANCES!, which apparently is an "all-day, city-wide dance festival." I perused the schedule and found these gems:

- At the Middletown Roller Rink, "View the premiere of Rink, performed by Darla Stanley and Patricia Zubini-Weis, at 1:15pm and 1:45pm. In Rink, the two dancers cope with turbulent forces of nature and the psyche shaping obstacles into vehicles for rediscovery."
- On Main Street: "Premiere performances of a Waiter’s Dance choreographed specifically for and performed by the wait staff of Connecticut’s culinary capital, Middletown."

Sunday, August 21, 2005

This is my blog so I get to gush about things I like.

The Ballad of Jack and Rose is totally my new favorite movie. I never heard of it until yesterday, though it just came out this year and was at Sundance. For some reason it has gotten only mixed reviews, and sure, it is another one of those indie films about loss of innocence. But even though we didn't start it until after midnight and had every intention of falling asleep and finishing it the next day, Briana and I were both completely enthralled until the last second, and kept staring at the screen through the credits. First of all, every frame was just too beautiful for words (cinematographer Ellen Kuras, from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind among other things). And the story and characters were crazy and epic but somehow real at the same time. (Writer/director Rebecca Miller.) And I want to marry both Jack and Rose: Daniel Day-Lewis (so that's what all the fuss is about) and Camilla Belle (where did this girl come from?) I can't say enough good things about this movie, just do yourself a favor and watch it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Bad News/Good News and other assorted updates

Here I am posting from the comfort of the beautiful home of my museum's curator and her husband, where we're taking care of their robotically perfect border collie and pretending that all their exotic plants and books are ours. (Her desktop background is a photo of the Gates in Central Park, which is making me very nostalgic for my NYC weekend and decadent free meal at Lidia's-Big-Fat-Italian-Table restaurant with Molly & David last February...) The biggest news is that Christina arrived safe and sound and craving ice cream (that's how you can tell she's safe and sound) from DC on Sunday and moved into the Flea House with me for 10 weeks, and R's in his new digs downtown. What else has happened since last I posted? Here are some of the highlights in Bad News/Good News format, just to keep things interesting...

Bad News: After a solid week of cloudless skies, the rain has rolled back into town.
Good News: I've unexpectedly discovered that I neither enjoy nor require sunshine as much as I always believed I did. Who knew?

Bad News: I've spent more than two weeks' salary in the past month on doctor's appointments.
Good News: I earn $100 a week, so really, er, it could be much worse.

Bad News: Paul Newman isn't actually secretly in love with me.
Good News: I dreamed two nights ago that he was. That's good enough for me.

R and went camping last weekend in a GORGEOUS glacial basin up near Granite Creek. You know you're in Alaska when you finish packing and start your hike up to the campground at 8:30 pm. We didn't end up finding a flat place to set up our tent until after 11:00, which meant that we got to see stars! Stars!!! Now THERE'S a sight I haven't witnessed in months, since I never have the gumption to stay up until it's dark enough for them to actually come out. We were surrounded by uninhabited mountains as far as the eye could see, which gave us that nice dark planetarium feel. Between the two of us, we've taken five (5) introductory Astronomy classes, and the only damn constellation we could identify was the Big Dipper (although maybe we've just been looking at the Alaska flag too much). The weekend involved another partial climb up another mountain (if you're assuming that THIS one didn't end up with me in tears, boy were you wrong!), more marmot-sightings, and Richard's consumption of nearly a whole stick of fancy salami in a 48-hour period (he proclaimed himself the only man to go into the bush and return fatter than when he left).

Things at the museum are good... our week-long day camp went as well as could be expected, and now I recognize small children all over town. C and I have been assigned the task of photographing the museum's entire textile collection, which means lots of old hats and shoes and purses have been manhandled by us in the past week, with many more to come. We're borrowing one of our co-worker's cars this weekend while she's on a camping trip, so I got to drive out the road and visit TWO malls (the Nugget Mall is both disturbingly and comfortingly identical to the Hampshire Mall, with just a few notable differences, mainly the stuffed grizzlies and timber wolves in glass cases scattered throughout the corridors) AND Fred Meyer. I'd sort of forgotten there was so much stuff in the whole world. I was so excited to see the Manischewitz section in Fred Meyer (Jew food!!!) that I bought two whole boxes of matzo, which I'll surely never be able to finish.

Any questions? I think that about covers it. Miss you all! Love, K

Friday, August 19, 2005

"But when that open road starts to callin' me..."

Here I am in West Roxbury with Ms BBH, I'm eating pretzels, and it's already 2:14 as I begin this post.

More to come, but check out these 3 new pictures.

I thought that after a month of nonstop driving, even going near a car would make me physically ill. Instead, I felt right at home jumping in the car for a trip to Middletown/Boston, throwing the cooler in the back with its trusty hat to keep the sun off, and cranking the country music. And I got a warm fuzzy feeling, thinking that driving will forever bring me back to June 2005. Not to mention, I laugh in the face of trips under 2 hours.

Middletown. Made my deposit at the bank, and only saw one Homeroom parent there. Walked to Homeroom to try to ambush Nat, my temporary replacement who has been known in the past to steal snacks from little children, and who now won't return my phone calls. Looks like they must have gotten back from their field trip early, and no sign of Nat. Saw another Homeroom parent and ex-Homeroom kid, Michael. (And his little brother, who gives me hugs and drew me a fabulous picture when he didn't even know me. Like all the younger siblings not old enought to attend Homeroom and know better, he's just seen all the toys and fun stuff and thinks it's the best place on earth. ) As I passed by, my trusty mechanic Steve came running out to chat with me, although he didn't ask me to marry him this time. In short: good old Middletown. I did talk with the receptionist at the CHC to try to track Nat down, and she started asking me about policies and such, and I could barely even make that part of my brain work anymore. And I just really did not at all care. Excellent.

Andrea's house. Is amazing. It needed a lot of work, but it was a steal for a lovely old 5 bedroom house in the up and coming North End of Middletown. You can see her just putting love back into every inch of that house after 30 years of destruction at the hands of Wes students. And I painted the kitchen ceiling! That was all I could do to help in one afternoon, but Andrea was just going to spontaneously combust if she had to face another surface with a paintbrush, so I think it was appreciated. I had to leave before we got around to putting the tile down in the kitchen, but I can't wait to see it. One whole room just perfect and ready to live and cook in. I took a million pictures of the house since Andrea can't put her hands on her camera at the moment, and I'll eventually get around to putting up the rest of them for your viewing pleasure.

I'm sleepy, so more on my grandfather (who is definitely all of 96, what was I thinking! I got him confused with his younger brother I think. And he also has an older sister. All 90+ and still going strong.) and other Boston highlights at a later date.

I'm going to Alabama in a week! Whoa! Hey Jenna, I think this means it's time for a mall trip...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Seasoned traveler looks down upon others, travels some more

When I saw the cover of this week's Valley Advocate, I thought it had promise. A map of America with the title: Drive-By America: Can you see the country traveling 5,700 miles in 26 days? Well, you can catch glimpses. I like road trips! I skimmed the article and was almost instantly bored. Some guy and his wife traveled from Mass. to Colorado, wimped out on going all the way to Montana, and thought they were pretty cool for going through 18 states and averaging 6-8 hours of driving a day. As someone who recently traveled 7,000+ miles in 23 days, and actually did do the whole cross-country thing, through 25 states, I just had to scoff. I don't begrudge these people their trip, but I can't help but think maybe they just need to have a blog for their friends and family and not subject the entire valley to their charming American vignettes such as:

"We saw windmills spinning, drawing water for cows in Nebraska. In Ohio, there was the Starbucks booth in the grocery store where I had to walk the man behind the counter through the process of making a skinny vanilla misto. And in Indiana, there was the little sign outside of a town on State Road 25 that said, "Trucks, no jake breaks, please." Our trip was filled with little episodes like touching the hem of Esther Morris's dress in Cheyenne, Wyoming. And we weren't even in Wyoming for a whole day."

Booooring. (Look, Katie, cows!) In related travel news, I'm about to head out for the weekend. First stop: Middletown, to help Andrea fix up her wonderful new house (and do such other fascinating things as go to the bank.) Next stop: Boston with B, with a side trip to visit my grandfather on his 93rd birthday. I'll keep you posted, maybe take some pictures. Most importantly, I will do my best to uphold my reputation as "a more interesting traveler than that guy."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

11 pm, Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Is the time that I will officially arrive in Quito. Yes, I finally got around to purchasing a plane ticket to this crazy place I've been promising to move to! I'm really going! Anyone who wants to come visit - Continental has very flexible roundtrip fares for <$600, at least from Chicago. Eternal springtime weather, historic cultural world capital, super inexpensive cost of living, the Amazon, beaches, volcanoes, ME! know you want to...

Friday, August 12, 2005

I like ellipses...

Sorry for this week of blog deadtime. I've been a bit busy. So you know all this stuff about finishing my TESOL course and moving on? Yeah, well, it turns out not so much. Our trainers suggested that those of us who are still in the area continue to teach some of our English students. Which is great, I'm excited to get some more experience and keep working with these students. I had planned on showing up at 9 on Monday and observing someone else teach. Instead, the someone else canceled due to illness, and I found myself at the school at 8:15, throwing together a lesson with another TESOLer, and then teaching an hour and a half lesson. This is the first morning all week that I haven't gone in to school. I taught again yesterday, and the other days I was just checking in with the other teachers and going through the resources they have there, so I can figure out what books to pick up for myself. I think my birthday wishlist is going to be solely dedicated to teaching resources. Booooring.

Ha ha, guess who just busted into my room for the second time today and made himself comfortable on my bed. The gate, it does nothing... Poor Watson, he really has a hard time with all the construction and such. Now that I'm not allergic to him at all, I don't really mind. As long as I'm here. When I'm not here he does things such as squish all the stuff in my closet and shred all the used tissues from the garbage.

And, in more exciting news, I've finally put up a bunch of new pictures. Not on Flickr this time... I like Flickr fine but if you don't pay the money for a pro account you can only make 3 albums. Which is silly. Plus it's a little too hip and fancy for me. (Warning: I'm about to become one of those people who discusses the technical details of their blog / website at length...) So I scouted out about 7 million of the 8 million photosharing sites, or so it seems. There's some great options if you want to pay for a real account instead of a free one. If you're cheap like me, you have to trade off certain features. I finally settled on, which I like a lot. (According to the website: In Slavic languages, "fotki" is short (and to some degree endearing) for "photos".) It fits most of my requirements: It isn't commercial, in fact it has a really nice community feel, offers a lot of options and tools, is very accessible to use and view, lets you create unlimited albums, and has no limit on the length of photo descriptions. Downsides: it has a few minimally intrusive ads, and the big one: a storage limit of 10 mg. For some reason, I have a really nice feeling about this site and might consider actually paying for the upgrade at some point.

Anyway, check out the new stuff, including pictures of the language school, more cute dog pictures, and some fun archive pictures, at:
Again, I recommend not doing the slideshow option since it doesn't show you my fabulous descriptions. Which you may have to scroll down past the ads to see anyway. Feel free to leave comments on the photos, and let me know what you think of the site. (And don't fret, you can still see the road trip photos on flickr - see the link on the right side of this page.)

I'll leave you with the pictures... time for a trip to the post office, I've got a stack of packages to get out to some of you lucky readers.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Let it rain a whole lot more, cause I got them deep river blues...

I can't write too much since I should be making couscous right now, but I couldn't ignore that pointed request for updates from my other blogging half, particularly since I've been meaning to post a little something for several days now. R and I are going to a Volunteer Appreciation Potluck this evening, co-sponsored by my museum and the city visitor's bureau, and I decided a dish of the shape-note-convention-variety would be in order: tasty without involving more than four ingredients, and able to be mass-produced with only a minimal effort on the part of the cook. Couscous with salad dressing chopped veggies it is.

In other news, R and I took the bus out the road, the term used to refer to anywhere north of downtown Juneau up to the end of the road -- which is, literally, the end of the road; bearing in mind there's only about 40 miles of highway through Juneau, it's a pretty accessible commute -- and encompasses such marvels as the Mendenhall Glacier, Costco, and the Alaskan Brewing Co. Which, as per R's strict orders, we had to stop at and take a tour of on our way back into town from our errands. Our "tour" consisted of a 15-minute explanation of the brewing process as recounted by a shaggy-bearded, jovial man named Tony, and then as much time as we wanted to wander around the gift shop and get our glasses refilled with whatever we wanted to try. You literally can't walk in the door without someone good-naturedly checking your ID and shoving a glass of beer in your hand. So. Much. Free. Beer. I made R drink most of mine, but appreciated the sentiment.

Last weekend we climbed Mt. Roberts (some of us faster than others... I won't say which one had to sit down every half-hour and wait fifteen minutes for the other one to catch up), which is a gorgeous climb. It didn't even start raining on us until we'd gotten about a mile above the tram terminal (1,500 feet above Juneau), at which point we walked into the clouds and were drenched by freezing, sideways, blustery rain. I tried to suck it up and climb on, but finally, like the good sport I am, I started crying and yelled ahead to Richard at the top of my lungs "This isn't fun at ALL!!!!" at which point he calmly informed me that he had no desire to climb any further and just thought I wanted to go on because I was so stubbornly plugging on. Heh. So we went back down and the sun even condescended to shine on us for a couple of hours and my pants dried off a little and we went to our favorite Chinese-Japanese-restaurant-run-by-Koreans for dinner.

It's been eerily beautiful out all day, my one day off this weekend before a full week of kid's camp starting tomorrow at the museum. We had an explosion of phone calls from eager parents in the 11th hour (apparently that's the "Juneau way"... in a similar manner to "making a Wesleyan entrance") and enrollment jumped from about 9 kids a day to about 17. Between 8 and 11 years old. Be afraid.

What else of note has happened lately? I saw marmots for the first time, we were fed tasty halibut cheeks by the curator of my museum and her husband, we went to see a great bluegrass band from Anchorage, we watched "March of the Penguins" (so cute!!!), and we're toying with the idea of staying till December. Just toying, mind you. We'll see.

Okay, MUST make couscous. Much love to you all!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Moving on...

Two days of closure activities, final projects, last minute reflections, unexpectedly strong group bonding, and not a few tears later, I suddenly find my life without purpose. What does one do with oneself when one doesn't have a highly structured TESOL day? Well... I'm glad you asked! I set my alarm for 9:30 this morning, which I felt was ambitiously early, so that I would make it to the farmers' market. By 8:15 I was wide awake. Over the past few weeks I've found myself actually enjoying being up and out of the house early... what's happening to me?? Could I really be turning into a responsible-morning-person-adult-type??

All identity-crises aside, I did successfully make my first trip to the Northampton farmers' market. Thanks to my busy schedule and Nancy's generous meal provision, I haven't really cooked anything in the last month, and I've been itching to get my hands on some fresh produce and get in the kitchen. Which is exactly what I did. I whipped up some roasted vegetables - mostly fresh organic beets and heirloom tomatoes from the market, with a melange of all the herbs growing in the garden here. Mmmm... today was perfect and lazy and fresh like summer should be. And I got to go walking with Watson and singing with the MWE on top of it!

Dan is entertaining me by reading jokes out of Ha Ha Bonk. By entertaining I mean distracting from my blog entry. Wait, wait, you've got to hear this one.

"How do you get rid of water on the knee?"
"Wear drainpipe trowsers."

OK then. Sounds like Richard's P-Pants. Anyway, besides perfect lazy summer days, I'm going to have to start turning my attention to all those important life-business things. Like my landlord who still won't pay up the security deposit. And the wisdom teeth that need to come out. And the plane ticket to Ecuador that needs to be purchased. And the job in Ecuador that needs to be scouted out. I am starting to get excited about Ecuador again, as much as I am finding my life here so very lovely. I think I will start out by taking a week of Spanish classes and just getting settled, seeing as how I've never even been to the country before. Then for a month I might get some part time work and also volunteer, maybe at a kid's drop-in tutor center I read about, just to ease into things, before really starting to teach full time. I'm not too worried about making loads of money right away... I have to share with you some typical quotes from teachers regarding the extremely low cost of living in Ecuado and the ease of finding an English teaching job:

"In general living expenses are cheap. I opted for a cheap, simple, but pretty mini apartment, and my rent is, believe it or not, $46/month, which includes electricity and water. It is in a safe place. Bus fares are 20 cents within the city. Taxis are between $1 and $3, depending on how far you go obviously. I probably spend like $40-50/month on food for me, then there are of course random expenses like internet cafes, running between 80 cents and $1.50 an hour, entertainment, etc. (movies like $2.50 a ticket, a nice average restaurant like $5.00 a plate)."

"From Quito, you can see most of the country's beauty on a small budget and a weekend. It's about an $8 and 8 hour trip to the beach and roughly the same to the rain forest."

" I left for Ecuador with no real plans, no job offers, no where to live. I planned to figure it out when I got there, which was surprisingly easy. I found a beautiful 2 bedroom apartment for $70 a month within a week."

" I got a job in the second school I called into..."

"When I arrived in Quito in January, I walked into the South American Spanish Institute to find out about English teaching possibilities. Within 90 minutes, I had taken a grammar test and the director of the Institute had offered me a job. I started the following Monday."

Well, I could talk about how great Ecuador sounds all day, but this post certainly is running on, isn't it. And with my new early schedule, I'd better be off to bed!

(Psst... Katie... isn't it about time for a new post from you? Our readers can only take so much of me before they need that Juneau fix.)

(Psst... Linda... I'm glad to see you couldn't go through with your blog vow of silence! I was worried back there.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

So long, farewell, Auf wiedersehn, good night...

This morning I taught my last english lesson! Over the past 4 weeks we each had 7 opportunities to teach, for over 5 hours total... I guess that doesn't sound like much, but that first lesson feels like a lifetime ago. When we had no clue what we were doing. By now we're all churning out lesson plans, throwing around jargon like PPU, TTT, and VAKT, and, of course, reflecting like pros. Still, we're all feeling sad to leave behind our very first students. On the other hand, if I really want to see them again all I have to do is eat at Hunan Gourmet.

I have wrap up assignments for tomorrow and friday, and then it's all over! Of course, the trainers keep telling us that we're part of the school now and we can still use their resources, observe, volunteer, even guest teach. Some people who are sticking around longer than I are going to student teach classes in the fall. You may notice that I'm using "we" a lot... it's that whole spending 10 hours a day for several weeks with the same 9 people thing. Between that and the introspection/reflection to the max, we all could recite each others' personality quirks, learning styles, teaching strengths/weaknesses, family history, etc in our sleep. We are especially bummed to be down one member, whose mother died this morning.

Ok, it's off to finish my last essay, glue some pieces of paper on bigger paper, stick on some explanatory post-its, slap it all together with my lesson plans, etc, and call it a portfolio.

And in non-TESOL related news (as if there were such a thing these days...): Thanks to Jenna's rescheduling, I'm going to Alabama in a few short weeks! Lookout Mountain here I come! (whoa, pun not intended)