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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reality

     As I get ready to return to the states after 4+ months in Guatemala, I have been rehearsing my answers to the questions I expect to hear numerous times.  Today, however, I realized how much my reality has changed by being here. 

Here are a few examples: 
* My security fee at my house is more than my electric biil or my cable/internet/phone bill 
* Every time I go visit a friend, I have to check in at the guard gate with my id
* Every time I enter a shopping center, I have to get a ticket or a card so that when you leave, you have the same card and the car is supposedly not stolen
* My mind immediately divides by 8 to see what it would cost in US $$$
* I see guns everywhere, since every guard carries one
* Stop signs are treated more like yield signs
* I sometimes don't notice if the radio is in English or Spanish
* I could buy flowers, nuts, and fruit, from my car, while waiting for the light to turn green

     This all came to me the other day when I was having dinner at a local restaurant.  The guards came in for the cash drop and 3 of the guards had, what looked to be, double barrel shot guns.  I know very little about guns so I really don't know what kind they were, but I just went back to eating.  I didn't even think twice about it.

    Reality can change based on a lot of things, but I certainly say that location can make things change the faster.  Its safe to say that that is why I am here.  I was ready for a change and here it is.  It seems so second nature though, in such a short time.  I wonder if anything back home will strike me as weird, after being away.







Sunday, September 18, 2011

2 months

I have been in Guatemala for 2 months now.  Here are some of my thoughts, feelings, and observations thus far

The Good:
I love my job.  I love the people on my team and basically everyone that I have met has been awesome.  Everyone is super friendly and helpful.  I cannot say enough positive things about the school and the fabulous people that I have met. I am soooo glad that I came.

ES Administration is amazing as well.  Things are organized and most things make sense.  Tracy and Tete ask for and are open to suggestions from their staff.

My students and their parents, thus far, have been great.  

My new house is finally looking like a home.  I have it 95% of the way that I want it.  There are still a few items that need to be fixed and I have to go pick up some furniture this week that was ordered.

The weather is nice.  It has not been too terribly hot, nor to cold.  I honestly have not missed air conditioning.

There are several vacations spots within less than a 4 hour drive.  This makes weekend get always possible.

The natives are very forgiving when I botch their language and work with me to figure out what all my gesturing means.

Services are very inexpensive.  I can get a manicure and pedicure, with tip, for $13, & a 45 minute massage for about $20.  My maid comes 8 days a month for $100.  Hank can be picked up at home, given a bath, and dropped off back at home for $13. A car wash is about $4.

I have meet some people that I hope I will be friends with for many years to come.

I can stream any game that I want to watch for free on the internet so I am not missing any Braves or Falcon's games.

The not so good:
I miss my family and friends a lot.  Tough when you can't just pick up the phone or walk down the hall to say hi.

The traffic and the fact that traffic signs are more like a suggestion vs a law.

Shipping items from the USA to Guatemala is expensive, due mainly to the duty/custom fees.  I had a text book sent to me for my online class.  The book cost $53 and the duty fee was another $40.

Electronic devices are expensive.  A DVD player to play both US and Guatemala dvd's is about $60.  32" flat screens are about $500.

Some people are really negative about life in general.  It is hard to avoid such people when we are all in this CAG bubble together.

The rain sucks.  Not sure why but Florida daily showers are different than the storms here.

The complex where I moved into has a rule that dogs cannot be walked after 8pm.  This means that Hank is away at 5AM every day.

The rate at which I am learning and using Spanish.

My car will need hundreds of $$$$ in repairs.  

The Future:
We have 2 more 4 day weekends before the Christmas break.  It looks like one will be spent visiting the Mayan Ruins in Tikal.  The other looks like Honduras or El Salvador.  I may also take a few days before flying home to go get my scuba diving certification in Utila, Honduras.  But depends on the finances.

I am going to Jamaica for spring break to go to Emily and Tim's wedding.  I have the hotel booked and paid for.  Now, I'm just looking for a flight that doesn't connect through the US.  If I read the info right, there are about $200 in fees and taxes just to connect through Miami.

I am planning to take the GACE in December so that I can be certified to teach middle school math.

The Unknown:
Since there is a new president taking office in January, rumor has it that the new teachers may not get our work visas in a timely manner.  This can possibly make leaving and returning problematic.

I have no idea if I will stay longer than my 2 year contract.  I do know that I cannot ever imagine returning to the states to be a teacher.  I can see myself being an international teacher for many years to come.

Important lessons I've learned:
We work and socialize in the same circles.  Nothing you say or do will ever stay private.  Everyone knows everyone's business.

Collect money from everyone when its due.  Certain people never seem to pay you back.

Most people decide to become (and remain) international teachers for one of 2 reasons; 1. for travel/adventure/change or 2. to run away or escape.  Keep this in mind when getting to know people.

Eat dinner BEFORE going to the marine house happy hour.

Rum and coke is cheaper than beer.  Shots of tequila are 3xs more than a beer.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Friends

I have spent a lot of time this past week thinking about my friends, new and old.  I feel that I am making a effort to keep up to date with my Georgia and Florida friends, even though I am much farther away.  Facebook makes this fairly easy, at least for those people that acutally use and update fb.  I have sent some personal emails to people, just saying hi and asking how things are going.  Most people have replied, but a few have not.  I honestly didn't expect to maintain all my friendships, certainly not at the same level, but I really thought it would take longer than 6 weeks before people didn't bother replying.  That is hard to accept.  Maybe people are just busy.   Maybe I expect to much.

As I am here in Guatemala, I have meet some awesome people.  90% of the folks here are super friendly and hang out a lot.  Its a lot like college.  We are all in this place so we mine as well make the best of it.  I wonder, however, how many of these new friends, that I will still talk to in 5 years.  The whole reason, season, lifetime thing.  People come into you life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.  Are we simply just riding out a season or 2 while in Guatemala?  Or will some of these new friends become lifetime friends.  I certainly hope that many are lifetime.  But who knows.  Outside of facebook, I talk to 1 friend from my undergrad days. (Love you Colleen) and about 4 from my master's. 

Time will tell! :)


P.S. My house is suppose to be painted this week and the rest of my furniture delivered.  Once that is done, I will post pictures of my new casa!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Day of School

I must say that this has been the easiest first day/week of school I have ever encountered.  Or at least, that I remember.

I was not able to get my classroom 100% set up but I think I got it 85% of the way ready.  I slept like a baby and got up on time. I arrived at 6:40AM to see some parents already there.  School actually starts at 7:30AM. 

I was in my room and waiting and my first student arrived around 7:05.  I had 19 on my first day.  I have 21 on my roster.  The other two will be arriving.  One is still on vacation and the other is transferring from another school so he will be coming in a few weeks.

I share my class with a Spanish teacher.  Laura is great.  She is working on her English but we seem to communicate well.  We spent the first part of the day setting up supplies.  They had recess, then P.E. we did a short, "get to know you" activity then it was lunch.  Laura did an activity in the afternoon and that was our day. 

Overall, I could not be happier with the school and my teammates are the best.  Today is the 3rd day of school.  I have 6 weeks worth of daily math plans, including all my copies of worksheets.  Also have 4 math tests to review and resubmit for copies.  I have the same set of documents for the first 4 weeks of language arts and social studies.  I need some papers to grade :)

Check out the schools website http://www.cag.edu.gt/






http://www.cag.edu.gt/

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Arriving in Guatemala City


I must say that my first day was a memorable experience for me; for better or worse.  To begin, my driver was suppose to pick me up in Antigua @ 8am.  She did not arrive until 8:35am.  She did call and say she would be 10 minutes late but ended up being 35 minutes late.  As is typical of Guatemala. 

This driver didn’t know where my school was so she took me to the airport where I met and was transferred to another car and taken to my school. 

CAG apparently has 2 entrances.  We eventually found the right one but by this time, it was raining.  I got my car keys and the driver took me to my car and we unloaded my luggage from Antigua to my car, in a steady rain.


I then drove my car from one part of the parking lot to another.  I parked and once I got out, was told I had to back it in.  So, I did as instructed.  I got my house keys and was ready to leave, but then we needed to put my other luggage in my car.

So, I moved my car, for the 3rd time in the same parking lot, (yes, its’ still raining) and loaded my luggage.  At last, I am ready to follow the school driver to my new home.
 And I do have a rain coat inside a suitcase somewhere and an umbrella is sort of hard to hold while loading suitcases.

And yet, my car, all of a sudden would not go into gear.  ANY gear.  NOT EVEN REVERESE.  So, I’m panicked.  One of the guys from the school played around with it and got it into gear.  I was then give 2 mechanics to contact. (this is not a car issue,.  Apparently, it was put in 4 wheel drive so all is fine)

I followed Paola, to my new house and she directed me right to my front door.

I was elated.  The house is SOOOOO much better than I had even imagined.  I will post a video once I get everything in its place.

I walked in and had a note from a fellow teacher, LINDSEY, who offered to help me. 

I should add that somehow, some of the bills were not paid over the summer, but Lindsey helped at ton.  So, I have no Internet or house phone.

She, Lindsey, allowed me to use her internet and actually had an extra cell that I could use.  I ran a few errands and then, Lindsey took me to Walmart. 

Lindsey was absolutely awesome.  She helped a ton in Walmart, as well and a few other stores.  And gave me some of her duplicates of household items! .  I am so grateful.

I spent the evening unpacking and making another walmart list.  By 10pm, I had 5 suitcases emptied but not everything had a home yet.  Although, it was a great start.

I headed to bed around 10:30.  I was woken up around 5:15 by a neighbors crying baby. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

First days of work at the American School of Guatemala

Things are going very well.  We had a short meeting on Friday to "get to know each other" and learn some basics.  We all got out cell phones and a check for part of our relocation allowance.  We took a tour of the school.  

2nd-5th grade has 20 homerooms, 5 per grade.  I meet my Spanish teaching counter part.  She is super sweet and I'm actually looking forward to sharing my classroom with her.  There are 22 new foreign teachers and about 8 local/Spanish teachers.  They have a staff of about 150 teachers, each grade level also has an aid that they share.  There are over 1,400 students from kindergarten - 12th grade.

Friday night we all went to the middle school principal's house and had pizza, beer, and wine.  It was Amy's birthday so we celebrated that as well. 

On Saturday, we all went to Antigua and were broken up into teams of 5 and had a scavenger hunt.  We had 5 clues we had to solve. We had a great lunch and still had some time for shopping as well!

 Monday was our first full day of preplanning.  So far, I have loved the sessions.  They are short, and to the point, and give you what you need right now, not 6 weeks from now!  I was able to get into my classroom and look around a bit.  It is huge.  My class size should be about 20 to start the year.

We also got our schedules.  It is the most unusual thing I have ever seen but apparently, it is typical of international schools.  It is broken into 45 minute blocks.  So, we have 8 language arts blocks through out the week but they are not all at the same time of day and some days I only have one block while other days, I have 2.  The students have 6 activity periods per week as well, including swimming!  I am looking forward to adjusting my brain around it.

Overall, I could not be happier.  The staff here and fellow teachers are amazing and super helpful.  Lets just hope it continues :) 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Nightmare of picking up hank

First and foremost, I have to give a HUGE thank you shout out to Cathy and Steve Carpenter.  Without them, I NEVER would have survived this ordeal.

Summary: Hank was in his cage for 14 hours.  He was dropped off in Atlanta @ 6am, I saw him for the first time @ 8:45Atlanta time.  We spent 5 ½ hours walking and waiting from office to office. We needed to get 5 forms and 1 stamp. It cost $509 from Delta and another $175 once in Guatemala.  He is alive and seems to be ok. 

OIG – Only in Guatemala.  I heard this phrase first when reading Kelli Horner’s account of getting her daughters passport.  It applies to my ordeal with Hank as well.

Details:
Amy dropped hank off @ 6am in Atlanta.  She was told she should have frozen water in the water dish.  This is a great idea and yet during the 5 phone conversations that I had with Delta, never once did they suggest this.  Amy was told that he would have water though.  I assume he did in Atlanta but I honestly don’t think he did in Guatemala.

Fast forward to 11:45 Guatemalan time (1:45 ATL). I had picked up Steve and Cathy.  Steve drives and tells me that my car is in 4 wheel drive which is why I’m having issues.  He fixes it.  The 3 of us went to the baggage claim at the airport, where I was told to pick him up.  After Cathy spoke to 3 different people, we learned that Hank had to be picked up at the cargo place in another building.  They said it would be at least and hour and a half. 

So, we went to Chili’s for lunch! Definitely the a highlight of the day!

It is now 1:30 in GUA (3:30 ATL).  We arrive at the cargo place.  Steve elects to just stay with the car while Cathy and I go inside.

Enter through a metal detector and purse check. Enter through another metal detector and purse check and this time, surrender your license in exchange for a visitor’s pass.  We go to office #1.  The Delta office.  Pay about $15 for paper work.  Get directions to another office.  Exit through a metal detector and purse check.  Office #2 needs a copy of something so we then go to office #3.  Pay for copy and return to office #2.  Get the stamp we need.

Go back through metal detector and purse check to office #1.  Get directions to another office, which we have a hard time finding but it is actually the office we made copies in, #3.  It is now raining and will continue to rain for at least 2 hours.

Once we finally find it, the lady types in a number and says the flight doesn’t exist.  Once she clarifies, apparently Hank has not been scanned into the system as having arrived yet.  By now it is 3pm.  The plane landed 3 ½ hours ago.  Hank has been in the cage for 11 hours.  I’m so frustrated and I’m starting to cry.  The lady was helpful and kept calling until someone answered and within 30 minutes, we got the form we needed from her.  She sent us to another building, #4. Enter through a metal detector and purse check.

This turned out to be the wrong building, as there are 2 SAT offices.  So, back through 2 metal detectors and purse checks.  At this point, they stop checking our purses since we have seen them about 7+ times already.

We arrive at the correct SAT office (#6) @ about 3:30.  We stand in line.  There is an issue because I don’t have my passport.  I had to give it to the school’s lawyer to complete my car buying paper work.  I have a copy but I didn’t copy the page where I got the stamp to record my date of entry.  I didn’t know I was suppose to do that.  So, around 3:55, the guy says that he can’t help us, a guy that comes in @ 4 can.  So, we wait outside.  The new guy comes in and we expect for him to call our name but never does.  There are now 5 people in line.  We get back in line.  By 4:30, we get some help.  He says that he is going to get Hank.  We wait about 40 minutes.  No Hank.  The guy comes back and says we have to pay more money.  About $145.  So, we get the form.  Exit through a metal detector and purse check.

A man in the parking lot tells us that the 2 places that accept payment here are closed.  We spent from 3:30-5:15 in office #6.  So, we have to go to the airport, where the passengers fly, to pay the invoice. .  Exit through a metal detector and purse check.

Get in the car, go to the airport.  Steve has been sitting in the car for almost 4 hours now.  I’m in tears again.  Hank has now been in the cage almost 13 hours. We go into the airport.  Find one bank but it’s the wrong one.  Have to go down 2 floors and find the right one.  But, neither of my credit cards will go through.  Cathy, who by the way is doing all the talking, pays for me.  We cannot go back up inside the airport so we walk outside and go up the stairs in the parking deck and find Steve.

Once we return, we go through 2 metal detectors and purse checks. Back to office #6.  They say he is not picked up there, we have to go somewhere else. .  Exit through a metal detector and purse check. We got our licenses back, as we thought we were done.  (We were wrong)

Head to another metal detector but since they have no purse check person, you can’t take purses in.  So, Cathy just went, since I’m totally useless at this point anyway. 

She walks into one office #7, and was sent to another, #8.  She comes back out and says that we need more money.  But you can’t take your purse in so I give her her cash.  She pays another $15 or so.  Then she comes out with another guy but no Hank.  We have to go back to office #6.  But this guy needs to go there as well so we go with him.  We have to now redo the paperwork and surrender our licenses yet again. 

From here on, we have 4 more trips through the metal detectors. 

And Cathy wants to know if this dog is really worth all this.  I’m just scared he isn’t alive anymore. ( I know he is as he will not die in 14 hours but I’m furious and not thinking straight) It’s now about 6pm (8pm ATL).  Hank’s been in the cage 14 hours now.

Back at office #6, we turn in some paper work and are told to wait.  Around 6:45, I see 2 guys carrying his cage.  I’m so relieved.  His water dish is bone dry.  I go get 2 cups of water and pour in there; he drinks it all immediately.  We have to do some more paper work but they said that I could get him out.  But no one has scissors or a knife to cut the plastic ties.  Finally a guy just pulls it.  I get Hank out and let him walk around a little bit. 

We finish there and Cathy and I are carrying the cage and Hank is walking on the leash.  He is drinking water from every puddle made by the rain.  We get out to the car and Steve walks Hank while Cathy and I return to retrieve our driver’s licenses. 

In the car, Hank just lays in the back seat.  We dropped Cathy and Steve off and we went home.  Its now close to 8pm (10pm ATL) He drank a ton of water and ate dinner and explored.  His cage needed to be cleaned out of course. 

Overall, he is here and is safe but I had no idea it was this hard or this expensive.  This may be his one and only international trip.
                                                          Hank is now a Cat!

 9 stickers were not enough.  They had to hand write one

                                                    Smiling now that he is out of the cage!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Guatemalan Food

In case you are curious, here is a little about what I have eaten since being here.

I am in a homestay that provides 3 meals a day Monday-Saturday.

Breakfast:
Every day we would have 3-4 of the following fresh fruits: Watermelon (with seeds), banana, papaya, and pinapple.

Other items included rock hard toast, although the jelly was great.  Pineapple is my favorite.  Scrambled eggs, omelets with ham or hot dog, pancakes, and corn flakes.  Often black beans are served with eggs.  I can't eat them for breakfast.  I have hot tea and water.  No coffee.

Lunch:
Always seemed the biggest meal.  Often we would have soup.  Homemade, not heated up from a can.  Pasta, beef stew, and fish.  The fish is awesome. Always have water to drink.

Dinner:
Fresh veggies in a salad with no salad dressing or veggies stir fried.  One night I had a baked potato with some type of sauce (no butter, sour cream, salt, or pepper) and the other half of the plate was spinach.  At least half the time, we have no meat for dinner.  Have had fish, rice, fried plantains. Water to drink as well.  I'm often hungry after dinner so I get a snack around 4, then dinner is @ 6:30.

Resturants:
I've enjoyed eating out here, for the most part.  Sunday's we are not provided food.  French fries are the same.  I swear the ketchup seems sweeter, as do the coke products. (a can of coke is 3Q which is about $0.39)  Chicken fried wantons at the Chinese restaurant were surprisingly amazing.  It had a mango salsa.  YUMMY!!!  I did treat myself to one FANCY meal here.  I had pineapple juice to drink. My appetizer was eggplant with shrimp, mushrooms, bacon, and melted mozzarella cheese.  My meal was a BLT sandwich with chicken and avocado, along with sweet potato fries. This amazing meal costs 133Q, including tip.  Which is about $17.  This is super expensive here.  I did go to Freda's and was very disappointed in the sausage queso but the guacamole was awesome.  I've had 2 pretty good hamburgers as well.  There are tons of street venders on the weekends but I have not chanced eating any of that. 

I found a bar with a Saturday night "all you can drink single liquor" for 79Q which is like $10.

Most places include a 10% tip on the bill so I've learned to look closely.

There are no free refills and the regular is like a kids size cup

For some reason, they do not bring the check after they clear your dishes.  I always seem to have to ask.

Pink ice cream does not necessarily mean it tastes like strawberry.  Not a bad taste, but not American strawberry ice cream.

You can get ceapes made with nutella, strawberries, and banana's in almost every cafe for like $3.  They are awesome.

I have not eaten at McDonald's, Burger King, or Subway.  I have, however, eaten at Pollo Campero.  Apparently they have a few chain stores in California, but I have never eaten there either.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Antigua

Antituga has been wonderful.  I have enjoyed exploring a lot. When it rains however, there is nothing to do there than read.  I'm not complaining, as I have reread books 1-4 of harry potter since arriving.  After my first weekend, languor school had lost its appeal.  I went into the stores and restaurants and attempted to speak Spanish and yet everyone spoke English.  I had no trouble getting what I wanted.  I know that it will no be like this everywhere but, I feel like I'll survive.  

Monday was a holiday here and Spanish class was interrupted to watch a parage.  It was amazing to watch all the school kids with instruments.  Each school seemed to have a band and a beauty queen.  I will post pictures on fb.  Below are a few of my favorites.




On Tuesday, I asked my teacher to skip the verbs and lets go walk around the city.  She agreed and we went to several markets and worked on vocabulary.  I bought a purse, blanket, and hammock chair.  I do hope there is a place to put it.  It was annoying to go to the market.  Everyone wants to give you a deal.  And the actual selling price is usually half of what they first ask.  So annoying to get used to.

I went to a macadamia nut farm Tuesday afternoon.  It was interesting.  I ended up having to ride a "chicken bus." Think 20 year old school bus with 3 people per seat.  My butt bairly fit between the seats.  :)  I was warned never to get on these but I was with a few other students and a teacher from the school so, I went.  Can't say it's an experience I wish to repeat. The farm was okay.  Not as interesting as the coffee farm, but its amazing what they can do with little to no modern technology.  I got a facial using face creams made with macadamia nut oil. One of the workers asked me if I was native American because I had yellow skin.  I can honestly say that I have never been asked that before!

It rained all day Wednesday and most of Thursday.  Didn't do much but read.

I'll write another blog soon about the food and people I've met.  Thanks for reading :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday - Day 3 in Antigua

I am totally in my element today.  Total nerd.  I will admit that the hour by hour blogs will not be the norm forever but with so many different things happening, I have no idea how to include them all.

I was awake at 5am by this annoying bird.  I put my ipod on and attempted to go back to sleep.  I got up for good at 6:30.  Got dressed, reviewed my verbs, and was ready for breakfast @ 7:15.  Breakfast was scrambled eggs with red peppers and onions and black beans that look like refried beans.  All mashed up.  A side dish of fruit was also there.  It is the same everyday so far: banana, papaya, pineapple, and watermelon.  I left for school and had class from 8-12.  I really am not gelling with my teacher.  She has no personality and I'm getting bored.  We had to take 3 breaks this morning.  I need more of an attention span.  But, I did kill her in the opposite match game :)

While at school, I got an email from Amy that my niece Kayleigh was at Schotish Rite with a broken arm and concussion.  My heart sank. I knew there was a very real possibility of stuff happening while I was away but was not expecting it on day 3.  I looked at buying her a gift basket or flowers to send but in the end, just sent her a heartfelt email.  What more can I do?  She has been released and is recovering at home.  She was horseback riding bareback and got thrown off.

I came back to my house for a lunch of soup, pork, and salad.  Then, out the door I went.  I went to the ATM to get some cash out.  Most banks have an armed guard at the entrance of the banks.  I guess to help keep everyone safe.  I then went to the super market. 

I bought an iron and blow dryer for $56!  I think that is crazy.  But, it was needed and is the only place in the city to buy it.  But, I got a 20 oz coke at the exit, and it was about $0.80.  Not that its even but really, how weird is that?  In Georgia, home of Coke, they are like $1.59 now. 

I made it home just for another 2 hours of lessons.  My afternoon teacher was Sara.  I like her alot better.  Instead of drilling me with my own flashcards, she does a question and I have to answer, using the verb and vocabulary in context. 

At 4, I left the school with another teacher to go to a presentation.  From 4:30-6pm I listen to a lady present on the Mayan calendar.  Supposedly, the Mayan calendar has reportedly "predicted" the end of the world to be December 12, 2012.  But, that is not true, according to the speaker.  The 26,000 year Mayan long calendar does run out on this date and then just starts over.  The sun will be in the center of the milky way.  (Yes, I'm a dork and don't care.)  Also, astrologically, the Mayan calendar is only off by 33 seconds!  Anyway, I listened to the presentation in english, then in Spanish.

I toldmy house mom that I would not be home for dinner so I went to a resturant very close to my house.  I had a hamburger, french fries, and 3 beers for $13!  Woo hoo!  My waiter spoke perfect English and was from Germany.  I also met 2 other patrons of the bar, a guy from Pennsylvania and a girl from Boston.  While I spoke to them only in English, I had a great time. 

So, it is now 8:45pm in Antigua and I have yet to start my homework.  But I am totally satisfied with my day.  Minus not being able to talk to Kayleigh during her traumatic experience.

Side notes: 
-I have yet to see a single person adopt the "pants on the ground" style of dress so its good to know its not spread world wide yet.
-Pineapple marmalade is awesome
-I have refused to ask what any food is until I taste it.  I ate a plantain stuffed with beans tonight.  It was great! 
-Pictures are on fb from my first 2 days and where I'm staying.
-I'm planning to book a trip to hike the volcano soon! 
-My spell check for Google is now in Spanish since I am logging in from Guatemala.  Need to figure out how to change that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

First 24 hours

 
Things could not have gone better during my first 24 hours in Guatemala!  It was not perfect but nothing was too terrible.  Getting to the Atlanta airport was great.  Thanks to Amy for a ride.  When I got there, I had learned that all of my bags could have been up to 70 lbs, not just 2 but hey, it all works out.  I LOVE flying Delta Business Class.  Too bad I can never afford it with my own dime.  I sat next to a  nice gentleman who travels a lot and gave me some places to visit and was super positive.  We had mimosas as our before flight drink.  A stupid lady got up and went to the bathroom while we were taxiing to the runway so we had to stop the plane.  People can be so stupid.  Every announcement on the plane was in both English and Spanish.  We actually had an amazing lunch of steak and shrimp and chocolate cheesecake!

Once we landed, everything went exactly as Kelli had told me.  I went through immigration and then got a FREE cart to load my bags on.  They wouldn’t all fit but I made due.  People don’t wait in lines though, but I made it.  Had my bags x-rayed and 3 had to be hand searched but nothing was confiscated.  I got out of the airport and found both of the people picking me up.  I signed the paper work for my car and gave the driver from CAG 4 of my bags.  I took the other 2 with me and my driver, Julio, took me to Antigua.  It was about an hour drive.

American places I noticed on my drive: McDonalds, Wendys, Burger King, Texaco, Shell, Chuck E Cheese

As we drove by the shacks, I realized that this is not an industrialized country.  It was amazing what people live in and call home.  It instantly made me more grateful for what I have.

I arrived at my language school and was greeted by Erick, the owner. He walked me 2 doors down and took me to the house where I will be staying for the next 2 weeks.  Senora Tina is the landlady.  There are 2 other students here.  Stella is from Taiwan and has been here for 5 months already.  Amanda is from Belize and is learning Spanish in order to go to medical school. I got unpacked and had some lunch.  It was some beef, carrots, and potatoes cooked in some red sauce with rice.  I have a decent sized room with a twin bed, an amour, a dresser and a desk.  The roof is not connected so technically I have to walk outside to get to the bathroom, dinning room, and the front door.  I have my own keys that lock the bedroom door, amour and dresser. 

I attempted to take a nap but it is way too loud. So, I got up and asked one of the girls how to get to the supermarket.  Basically what we would call a super Walmart but they actually had appliances as well.  So, all alone I made my way through Antigua to the supermarket to buy some shampoo and conditioner.  I was quite proud of myself for the trip going off without a hitch.  I bought a coke light but it did not taste like diet coke.  To me, it is sweeter. 

I came back and read some on my kindle.  Then it was time for dinner.  I have no idea what I ate but it was decent enough.  Dinner conversation is suppose to be in complete Spanish so I was a little lost but they tried to include me and the other students helped translate.  It is a very warm household.

It gets dark here a lot sooner than I would have guessed.  By 7 it was pitch black.

Breakfast was toast with pineapple marmalade and fruit: pineapple, paypa, banana, and watermelon.

I have had 2 hours of my first day of Spanish lessons.  I guess they are going okay.  I’ll have a better feel for my learning speed after a few more days.

I am planning to go on an afternoon outing today with the school, however, I don’t know where it is that we are going. 

So, this is basically my first 24 hours.  I am alive and well and have not cried.  My new adventure has begun.

Love you all!!!!
Pictures will come soon!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Florida Vacation - countdown 10 days

I'm in the the final hours of my 17 day Florida vacation and I have enjoyed it but honestly, have not been able to really relax much.  So many "to do" items running through my head.

I made my first trip to Key West with Colleen, an old college dorm friend, and had a great time.  Did some touristy stuff and some local stuff.  We stayed with some friends of Colleen that I can now call friends of my own.  A big thanks to Johnna, Ed, and Will for being great hosts.
                                                                Sunset Cruise

I then spent a few days in Tampa with Nia and Lisa.  I was also able to visit some great friends that I have managed to stay in touch with.


I ended the trip in Indian Rocks Beach with the Caldwell's.  I babysit for them a lot and this is my third time joining them for vacation.  My patience was a little less this time.  I think it had to do with my brain always over drive. But no one died and we had a pretty great vacation.

I leave in 10 days.  It crazy to think about.  I'm still excited.  Not sure when to pure panic will set in but I truly expect it any day now.  I have triple checked and confirmed my arrival plans.  I'm going to language school in Antigua, Guatemala for the first 2 weeks but at the airport, I'll be met by two people.  My job will be getting my extra luggage and have me sign some paperwork for my car and then I'll jump in the shuttle to Antigua.  With no passport I might add.  that scares me a little bit but, I'll have a copy and try not to break any rules.

For those in Atlanta, my going away party is Friday, July 15th.  If you didn't get the email, the evite is linked to my facebook page.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Countdown - 1 Month until departure

Here it is, June 18th.  I leave on July 18th.  Amazing how time flies and stands still all at the same time.  As of Wednesday, my condo will be empty and all items in storage, donated, or stuffed into 6 suitcases that I pray will fit the luggage requirements with size and weight :) 

It seems like forever ago that I registered for my job fair and then a month later was officially offered my job.  I can honestly say I'm ready though.  At least, I'm more ready than not. I'm nervous but that is mostly because I don't do change well.  I'm not spontaneous at all and have almost everything I do on a schedule.  I think this will be good for me, but the uncertainty can be terrifying, if you allow it to be.

I am at my parents lake house for the weekend and its nice to spend some time with them.  I doubt I will be back to the lake before I leave.

I also think that I will have my jeep sold before I leave for Florida as well. 

4 more days of work, then I'm off to a 17 day Florida vacation in Ft. Lauderdale, Key West, Tampa, and Indian Rocks beach.

As I end this, I wonder who I will still stay in touch with, and who I will not.  I could guess but I will try not too.  It's funny how I'm closer to a few people in Tampa, 4 years after I left, than I was when I lived there, and some of my closet friends, are no longer really communicating. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bitter Sweet

This week I said goodbye to my Marbut coworkers since I will no longer be an employee there.  While I know that many will stay in touch, I also know that some, I will not see again.  Can you believe that not everyone is on facebook?  

I have learned and grown so much in my 4 years at Marbut.  Like any job, there were good days and bad days, good policies, and pointless ones.  But, all in all, I feel like I am a much better teacher for my time at Marbut.  

The teachers there are amazing. They are who I will miss the most.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I'm leaving the country

Hi Everyone,

I am moving to Guatemala July 18, 2011.  I will be teaching 4th grade at the American School of Guatemala.  Ironically, a girlfriend from middle school and her husband are also teachers at this school so I will actually know someone when I get there.  I will be teaching English language arts, science, math, and social studies to mostly native Guatemalan kids.  All of the subjects that I teach will be in English.  I will have a co-teacher in the classroom that will teach Spanish language arts daily.  It is a 2 year contract.

Frequently asked questions:

What are you going to do with your condo?  I have a great friend who is going to rent it while I am gone!

What about Hank?  Hank will be shipped to Guatemala, via Delta Cargo, about 2 weeks after I get there.

What about your season tickets?  I am keeping Falcons.  I will be home in December for 3 weeks so I should be able to see a few football games.  I do not want to give up my Falcons seats just yet. I did not buy Braves and Hawks since I will not be in town and selling all season will be to hard to manage from another country.

Do you know any Spanish? I have taken about 15 hours of one on one lessons through skype.  I feel like some days I'm making progress and other days, I have learned nothing.  I feel like it will all work out in the end.  I am planning to attend language school in Antigua for 2 weeks before school starts.

Can you take your jeep?  I'm not.  I bought a car from a teacher that is leaving.

When do you leave? Monday, July 18th

Why do you want to go there? Why not?  I'm tired of the school system I am currently in and I do not feel that going to another school or even county is going to fix the problems that I have encountered.  As a teacher, I do not feel like I am doing what is best for my students anymore.  But once upon a time, I really enjoyed my job.  I am hoping to find that place again.  Also, I do have the opportunity to make more money and travel as well.  With my condo rented,  my monthly salary remains the same.  But, my housing is paid for by the school in Guatemala.  They also cover moving expenses, shipping items, summer travel, settling in allowance, insurance, etc.

What does your family think?  Amy has been my number one supporter from day one.  Owen is a little upset but I think he will adjust.  My parents are both supportive as well.  They will be relocating to Alabama this summer, so we already knew that we would be seeing each other less.  Most everyone thinks its a great opportunity.  I really only have 2 friends that had been entirely negative about the situation.  Alot of friends want me to stay, but understand the amazing opportunity that this is.

Can I come visit?  Please do.  My door is always open, as it is in Atlanta.  Round trip tickets are currently about $700 for non stop flights.  But you have a free bed once you get there :)