Faby

4 07 2015
Matthew, me, Erlin - Flores, Guatemala

Matthew, me, Erlin – Flores, Guatemala

While in Guatemala a few days ago, I was reading through two required summer reading books for the faculty at my school.  Both were on innovation in education, and both gave me some really good ideas on curriculum changes I want to make this year and even a new course I want to submit for approval for 2016.

As our rental bus in Flores, Guatemala (not a car, BUS) made its way from our hotel to the neighborhood where our Compassion International child lives, I was reading about the resources afforded to one school in the US to create innovative experiences—in their various forms—to the educational experience for middle schoolers.

We pulled into the Compassion project in Flores, Guatemala, and I was surprised at the lack of “things.”  Now, this was our sixth visit to Compassion kids we sponsor.  We’ve been to projects in Peru, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, two in India, and this one in Guatemala.  This was the sparsest one yet.  The classrooms only had three walls and were pretty much bare.  Another classroom that looked more like a cage had a huge padlock on it.  The prized possessions under lock and key were student desks.  These desks were so rundown they would have been tossed in a dumpster immediately if they had tried to make their way into the private Christian, uber-upper class school I teach at.

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala

empty classroom (the project was closed for the day)

empty classroom (the project was closed for the day)

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala - padlocked desks

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala – padlocked desks

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala - the pastor lives on the second floor, and the classrooms are the three open areas underneath (only three walls, no doors)

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala – the pastor lives on the second floor, and the classrooms are the three open areas underneath (only three walls, no doors)

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala - where the desks are padlocked when not in session

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala – where the desks are padlocked when not in session

The contrast between haves and have-nots was profound.

“Innovate!  Request more resources!  Do more!  Educate outside the classroom!  Provide authentic experiences!”  scream the books I was reading and indeed my own experience as a teacher in a first-world country to families with a ridiculous amount of discretionary income.

The walls of this Compassion center in Flores humbly tell another story about education:  “We’re thankful to have a place where we can keep our desks from being stolen.  We’re thankful to have running water where we can teach our students about basic hygiene, even though it’s not safe to drink.  We’re thankful for the few posters that remain on the walls.  We’re thankful . . .”

Maybe I wouldn’t have been struck as intensely by this contrast had I not for the past few days been reading these two particular books, but that was the serendipitous timing of these two events.

School in Guatemala was out for a week-long break to celebrate Teacher’s Day (YES!  Other places around the world actually celebrate and esteem their educators!)  The Compassion center was also closed the day we visited so we traveled to Erlin’s house to meet her and her family.

Again, the disparity was evident between my world and hers.  Her home was on a quiet corner in Santa Elena, just a few kilometers south of Flores.  She greeted us at the door, followed by the rest of the family comprised of her mother, maternal grandmother, older brother, and baby brother.  The paternal grandfather had died one year almost to the day before our visit, and no father was in the picture.

They did have electricity and running water, but other than in Guatemala City, there is no potable water for drinking anywhere else in the country.  All water for human consumption must be purchased.  Erlin’s family had lived in this house for close to 30 years, and it was paid off—a HUGE blessing—since her mother and grandmother made less than $10 a day to feed, house, clothe, and provide for everything else a family needs to survive.

Erlin’s mother was a hairdresser, and her grandmother sold cakes and homemade tortillas.  Both woman had the opportunity to attend vocational schools for their trades—another blessing that would not have been possible without Erlin’s sponsorship through Compassion.  Erlin, or Faby as she is known at school (Fabiola is her middle name), helps her mom by painting nails in their little one room salon attached to the front of the house.

Erlin's mother's salon (Erlin's middle name is Fabiola and her nickname is Faby)

Erlin’s mother’s salon (Erlin’s middle name is Fabiola and her nickname is Faby)

Erlin's mother's salon

Erlin’s mother’s salon

Erlin's family house

Erlin’s family house

Erlin’s older brother was 15 and was sponsored by a family from Korea, but his sponsors had never written to him.  He wasn’t even sure of their names.  Erlin’s 9-month-old baby brother will have the opportunity to be sponsored in a few years.  An older male cousin also lives with the family, and their immediate neighbors are relatives.

Their home consisted of two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen/dining area, and an outdoor area for laundry, processing the corn for tortillas, and a crude toilet and shower.  It was the largest home of the Compassion kids we’ve sponsored, but it was also encouraging to see how our financial contributions to this family was helping to lift them out of poverty into a more sustainable life—one in which every member could thrive instead of just survive.

Erlin's older brother, mother, Erlin, me, Matthew

Erlin’s older brother, mother, Erlin, me, Matthew

one bedroom in Erlin's house (yes, that's a half-wall with the living room on the other side)

one bedroom in Erlin’s house (yes, that’s a half-wall with the living room on the other side)

bedroom two where Erlin, her mother, her grandmother and baby brother sleep (there is another bed behind me)

bedroom two where Erlin, her mother, her grandmother and baby brother sleep (there is another bed behind me)

Erlin and her grandmother

Erlin and her grandmother

Erlin's family kitchen

Erlin’s family kitchen

laundry area

laundry area

laundry/storage area

laundry/storage area

toilet and shower rooms

toilet and shower rooms

Erlin and her 1-year-old cat (who almost died from eating a nest of baby pigeons)

Erlin and her 1-year-old cat (who almost died from eating a nest of baby pigeons)

We spent the morning at her home talking about everything, and then Erlin got to pick the restaurant for lunch.  Of all the choices available to her:  Pizza Hut.  To us, it’s too common a place to visit in the States.  If we wanted pizza, we’d try any number of gourmet eateries in which to partake.  For Erlin, Pizza Hut was a luxury, so off to Pizza Hut we went.  The entire family joined us at our request, and we talked some more about everything.

lunch at Pizza Hut

lunch at Pizza Hut

outside Pizza Hut - there are five people, 2 adults and 3 children, on the motorcycle

outside Pizza Hut – there are five people, 2 adults and 3 children, on the motorcycle

The Pizza Hut was part of a small strip mall, so we walked around after eating, and then we had a couple hours to kill before the bus would pick us up.  Thankfully there was a nice little playground at the mall, so we adults sat there and continued to talk about everything while Erlin and her brothers played.  Back at her house, we said our goodbyes and prayed with one another before heading back to our hotel.

at the playground - Erlin's baby brother and mother

at the playground – Erlin’s baby brother and mother

Erlin and her baby brother

Erlin and her baby brother

Erlin and her two brothers

Erlin and her two brothers

Erlin's two brothers

Erlin’s two brothers

Erlin's grandmother and baby brother - she held a towel under his arms so he could learn to walk without holding on to anything. (I commented to Matthew that someone in the US could invent a similar contraption and sell it for a ridiculous amount of money if it had the right branding.)

Erlin’s grandmother and baby brother – she held a towel under his arms so he could learn to walk without holding on to anything. (I commented to Matthew that someone in the US could invent a similar contraption and sell it for a ridiculous amount of money if it had the right branding.)

Visits like this are always surreal to me.  We plan months in advance:  submitting the paperwork, going through the background checks, arranging the travel logistics.  When the day finally comes, I’m almost always at a loss for words, and my emotions have to work overtime to process everything.

The work of Compassion is incredible, and we have been privileged to experience it first-hand six times now around the world.  If you are looking for a worthy charity to contribute to, one that really does make a positive impact on children, their families, and their entire community, this is the place.  If you don’t sponsor a child, please consider doing so today.  For those who already sponsor a child, please write to him/her.  You have no idea how much a letter means to these kids, and you can even do so online at the Compassion website.  These are treasures to be sure.  For those who sponsor and have the financial resources to do so, please consider visiting your child.  The impact will last for generations.

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Guatemala 2015 – Musings and Observations

3 07 2015

My husband I and just returned from a whirlwind tour of Guatemala, our 2015 international trip.  We only had eight days in the country due to my grad school schedule, but it was a fabulous trip.  Here are my observations and musings about Guatemala and travel in general. (Photos below.)

  1. I no longer find long layovers annoying. Give me a kindle loaded with good books, and I’m a happy camper for hours.  14 hours of travel to get back home?  No problema.
  2. I go to bed earlier when I’m traveling. Probably because I’m not up till 1 or 2 a.m. working on homework.
  3. I eat a lot less when traveling. When I have to shell out cash at every single meal, I tend to eat on the cheap.
  4. Speaking of eating cheaply, I love to eat street food. Tamales, chorizo grilling on a dirty grill in the middle of the street, chocolate cake sitting out in the sun, it’s all bueno.
  5. I also eat a lot of ice cream. And it must be chocolate in a waffle cone.  Nothing else will do.
  6. Guatemala has the most amazing guacamole ever. We ate it at almost every meal.  I need to add way more lime to mine when we make it from scratch.
  7. I drink tea when traveling abroad.  I never drink tea anywhere else, and my version of tea is pretty much sugar water.  Why?  I know the water is safe to drink.
  8. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of looking at volcanos. Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala City . . . you can look in pretty much any direction and see a volcano or two . . . or three.
  9. Overnight busses are cooooold. I would take them again if I needed to, but I’d bring a big blanket.
  10. The only straight roads in the country are in Antigua and the north.
  11. Tikal is much more impressive than any other Mayan ruin in the Americas. Chichen Itza does not at all deserve to be on the new list of Wonders of the World.  We even got a private, behind-the-scenes tour with an amazing guide who took us on all of the back trails through the jungles so we could avoid the crowds and see more monkeys.  We could even climb many of the temple structures to the top which visitors are not allowed at the other sites like Chichen Itza or Tulum.  If you only see one Mayan ruin in your life, Tikal is the one.
  12. Guatemala was surprisingly clean, compared to many other Central American and developing countries. The people are humble and poor, but they take pride in the beauty of their country.
  13. At some point in my life or retirement, I need to live on a coast with a view of the ocean, or a very large lake AND mountains (or volcanos).
  14. hotel in Antigua

    hotel in Antigua

    Antigua

    Antigua

    Angigua

    Angigua

    Antigua, view from Cerro San Cristobal, an organic farm-to-table restaurant

    Antigua, view from Cerro San Cristobal, an organic farm-to-table restaurant

    Antigua sunset

    Antigua sunset

    Antigua sunset

    Antigua sunset

    Chichicastanego market

    Chichicastanego market

    Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, view from our hotel

    Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, view from our hotel

    San Pedro, Lake Atitlan, touring an organic coffee plantation co-op

    San Pedro, Lake Atitlan, touring an organic coffee plantation co-op

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal turkey

    Tikal turkey

    La Isla de Flores

    La Isla de Flores

    La Isla de Flores

    La Isla de Flores

    Guatemala City, view from hotel

    Guatemala City, view from hotel

  15. I look at clocks and care about the time much less than when I’m in the States. My soul needs this.




Travel Tips for India – For the Ladies

27 08 2013

This post is a little different from what I normally write, but I’ve had several women who are traveling to India in the near future, some friends and some strangers, ask for my input on what to pack, how to pack, and generally what to expect as a woman traveling in this amazing country. (And yes, I will even explain the proper technique for using a squat toilet – an important skill for any traveler in a third-world country.)

Several heinous crimes against women in India have been in the news lately, and it saddens me that media hype takes over and jades the rest of the world, dimming the lines between extreme situations and reality. I thoroughly detailed my experiences in India in previous posts, and I must admit, I had a most amazing time. However, I was not traveling alone; my husband was always by my side . . . ALWAYS . . . and we had a native guide with us almost 100% of the time we stepped outside of our hotels. I’m sure my experience would have been different had I been traveling solo.

An Introduction to India
Meeting Sai
Local Celebrities
Speaking to India’s Future Leaders
Varanasi (Dark, Deceived, Disgusting)
That Moment When a Dream Comes True
Dining With Royalty

So, here are my suggestions to all you adventurous traveling kindred spirits.

Clothing
•Sleeveless tops and bottoms that show any leg above the knee should be avoided. Wear long skirts, dresses, or pants that fall below the knee, preferably to the ankle.
•Bottoms: Invest in some light-weight, durable, easy to wash, and quick-dry travel pants. I highly recommend The North Face Horizon Tempest pants ($60 at REI.)
•Tops: Make sure they have sleeves and do not show cleavage. Moisture wicking tops–think tech Ts you get at races or running shirts–work well.
•Undergarments: I recommend moisture wicking garments. Champion sport bras are great as are Patagonia undies ($20 at REI.) They wash easily and dry quickly for repeated use.
•Footwear: Everyone in India wears sandals, unless they are going barefoot. Invest in a comfortable, breathable, durable pair that will dry quickly when wet and that have some type of odor control. No matter what you do, plan on your feet reeking by the end of the day. Avoid sandals that have a lot of cloth components as they will take longer to dry. (Tevas and Keens are both great brands.) It is customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home, a church, store, school, etc. However, most people are not too offended if guests/foreigners do not participate in this tradition.
•If you are warm blooded and don’t like being cold, bring a light-weight jacket, hoodie, or sweater for indoors. Air conditioning, when available, can be really chilly.
•Bring a bandana or scarf that can be used as a head covering in case you visit a mosque, Sikh temple, or other religious site. Having your own is far better than fishing a nasty, possibly never laundered head covering out of a community bin. Lice, anyone?

Bathing and Hygiene
•Indian women mostly wear their hair pulled back or braided, but not in ponytails. If you are in more primitive hotels, don’t plan on having a Western style shower. More than likely, the bathroom will contain a spigot about thigh-high with a big bucket underneath from which you can wash. Be ready to forgo washing and conditioning your hair every day, and just pull it back instead.
•Bring your own soap, hand sanitizer, and a roll of toilet paper for each person in your group. A travel-sized pack of wipes is a good idea, too, for wiping off toilet seats or other things.
•Use bottled water when brushing your teeth. Don’t ever drink tap or well water. Always use bottled water; you can get a 1-liter bottle for less than $1. We even used bottle water in the 5-star hotels.
•Use hand sanitizer before every meal and after using the bathroom.

Miscellaneous Recommendations
•If you will be off the beaten path, be sure to pack you own bed sheet and pillow case.
•Burping out loud in public is socially acceptable.
•If you eat with your fingers, as many natives do, try to use only your right hand. Traditionally, the left hand is reserved for other sanitary purposes.
•If you are a guest for dinner, you will be served many dishes, one after another. Try to at least sample a little bit of each dish so as not to insult the host.
•If you have Celiac disease, India is probably not a place you want to travel to. Their diet seems to consist of 80% grains/rice and 20% everything else.
•When riding in a car, if seat belts are available, use them! Though traffic accidents are much less frequent than in the US, the sudden starts and stops can toss you around inside.

Using a Squat Toilet
•Strong quads and a good sense of balance as well as proper foot placement are vital.
•Skirts and dresses are easier than when wearing pants.
•Get your toilet paper ready first. Practice holding it under your chin so that both hands are free.
•Place your feet a little farther than shoulder width apart over the hole. A stance that is too narrow is going to strain your leg muscles and is much harder to balance on.
•Hike up your skirt/dress or scrunch your pants down to your ankles, taking care not to let any of the fabric touch the ground. This is not as easy as it seems. Keep in mind, if you are using a squat toilet, the ground around it is probably just little germ and disease infested. You don’t want your clothing touching it.
•Squat as low as you can. Your bottom should be just a few inches off the ground. This will offer the most stability and be easiest on your leg muscles. Doing a “chair sit” kind of squat–not squatting low enough–is going to leave your legs shaking. A low squat also ensures that no urine will find its way down your leg or onto your clothing.
•Do the deed, wipe (with your left hand–remember, the right is for eating), and “flush.” To flush, there is usually a bucket of water near a spigot with a smaller hand-held bucket nearby. Fill the hand-held bucket with water and pour, as forcefully as you can, into the drain. You may have to do this a few times to make sure everything flushed all the way down.
•Because flushing can be a challenge, try to use as little toilet paper as possible. If at all possible, feminine hygiene products should be placed in the trash, if there is a trash can.

Traveling in Varanasi
•First of all, if you don’t have to visit the city, don’t. Seriously. Don’t.
•If you do visit, wear capris and sandals that can easily be washed. Long bottoms will get in the way and could end up dragging on the ground which is littered with not just garbage but also cow dung and piles of human feces. You never know if you’re stepping in a puddle of rainwater, water from the Ganges or cow urine. Whatever it is, it’s gross.
•It’s not worth the risk of some nasty foot/skin infection to visit a temple if you have to take your shoes off to go inside.
•Use lots of hand sanitizer after you touch anything. ANYTHING!
•At your hotel room, take your shoes off immediately at the door and wear socks or slippers in your room. We actually did this in all our hotel rooms.
•Finally, save your money and time and visit somewhere else.

I hope this is helpful.





Bucket List

13 01 2011

My bucket list is in no particular order, and it changes often.  Many items have to do with travel, a passion of mine, and some are slightly off-the-wall.

1.  Launch a grenade.
2.  Dance a Viennese waltz in Vienna  on New Year’s Eve at the largest Viennese Ball in the world.
3.  See Taming of the Shrew at the Globe Theater in London.
4.  Visit Venice during Carnival.
5.  Ride on the back of a motorcycle at a sport bike track day.
6.  Sky dive someplace amazing like in New Zealand.
7.  Hike the entire Appalachian Trail.
8.  Ride the Orient Express in first class.
9.  Fly first-class on an international flight.
10.  Learn to play the piano without effort.
11.  Learn to dance as if I were in the finals of Dancing with the Stars.  (Derrick Hough
would be my partner.)
12.  Run a Victorian bed and breakfast on a lake.
13.  Teach at a missionary school in Indonesia.
14.  Run an 8-minute mile for a 5K.
15.  Retire to Costa Rica.
16.  Learn to cut an onion efficiently, like they do in infomercials for Ginsu knives.
17.  Bungee jump someplace amazing like in New Zealand.
18.  See a lion capture a zebra on a safari somewhere in Africa.
19.  Visit every “Wonder of the World” old and new.
20.  Learn to speak, read and write fluent German, Chinese, Polish, Swahili, Spanish, and French.
21.  Give 50% of my income to charitable organizations.
22.  Grow my hair back to the length it was on my wedding day.
23.  Earn my MBA.
24.  Earn my Ph.D.
25.  Fly in outer space.





Overflowing with Thankfulness

22 11 2010

“So then . . .
continue to live your lives . . .
overflowing with thankfulness.”
Colossians 2:6-7

As Thanksgiving approaches in a few days, the question “What are you thankful for?” has been entering many conversations I’ve had over the past few weeks.  Here is a sampling of what I am thankful for.

  1. The cross.  The blood of Christ.  He who died for my sins.
  2. God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness that he offers me on a daily basis.
  3. Peace and joy that God offers me on a daily basis, if only I am willing to accept it.
  4. The working of the Holy Spirit in my life.  Hearing that still, quite voice convict me when I need to be convicted and encourage me when I need to be encouraged.  Taking my heart’s cries to the Lord when I’m not sure what I even need, but knowing God does.
  5. God’s word.  Life-giving, life-sustaining, life-changing word.
  6. My husband.  Renaissance Man.  Wonderer and wanderer.  Creator and blower-upper.  Pyromaniac.  Stargazer.  Talker and listener.  Coffee brewer extraordinaire.  Pig manipulator.  Man of God.  My foundation.
  7. Caleb.  My sensitive, creative, artistic, inquisitive, perceptive, insightful, inventive, imaginative, resourceful one.  Expert Lego builder.  Walking Star Wars and Pokémon encyclopedias.  Comic book author and illustrator.  Top popcorn salesman.  Giver of amazing hugs.
  8. Jason. My stubborn, headstrong, fierce, funny one.  Thomas the Train lover.  Busy, busy, busy little boy who needs far too little sleep, especially on the weekends.  Creator and perfector of silliness, chaos and messes.
  9. Passing on a legacy of following Christ and serving Him to my children.
  10. My parents and their unconditional love and support and the way they love and adore my children. 
  11. My job.  My amazing coworkers.  My students and their parents.  I am having the best semester I’ve ever had and am completely refreshed by my choice of career.  I am confident I am where I am supposed to be.
  12. FRA education for my sons.  An amazing education at an amazing school with amazing teachers.  You are my second family.
  13. My home and the place of rest and refuge it is for me.
  14. My neighbors.  I can’t begin to tell them thank you enough for the way they take care of us and love on my boys.
  15. My friends, teamship, and community that matters.  They have opened my closet, pulled out and dusted off the skeletons, and walked with me in love and grace through the mess of dealing with them.  What a blessing it is to be free to be real, ugly, messed up and still adored.
  16. Financial discipline.  We have been tremendously blessed living with the philosophy of “if we can’t afford to pay for it in full right now, we can’t afford it.”
  17. Giving of our time and resources.  We are usually blessed more than those to whom we are giving and serving.
  18. Good health.  Even amidst the colds and sniffles, we enjoy tremendously good health.
  19. Running and being able to physically challenge my body in ways a few years ago I would have thought impossible.
  20. Music.  How quiet and sad my world would be without the music of my husband, my sons’ silly songs or the CD in my car (or even ridiculous commercial jingles that stay in my head for hours on end.)
  21. Learning and reading; they have transformed my life.
  22. Traveling the world.  Nothing compares with being able to experience a life drastically different from my own.
  23. Hope.  Without it, where would I be?

What are you thankful for?





Lost in Translation

9 09 2010

Matthew and I visited China in 2007.  While there, we discovered why using Google Translator as your sole translation source is not a good idea.  Click on each picture to view a larger version.

Chinglish

This was in the back of an in-flight magazine from Shanghai to Xi'an where they list the songs played on the various channels. I can't decide if "Harmonious Conjugality" or "Hauling Camel" is my favorite.

Chinglish

This was found in the Beijing airport.

Chinglish

I think this was found at the Terra Cotta Warrior Museum outside of Xi'an. I wish I knew what an "areaturnover" line was. I think I would really like to walk it someday.

Chinglish

Sadly, I know too many native-English speaking people who confuse the correct usage of to, too, and two.

Chinglish

Conserve happens!

Chinglish

You may walk. You may run. You may wander. You may stroll. You may saunter. You may stumble. You may even crash. But by all means, do not stride!

I would love for my readers to share your favorite examples of Chinglish, Spanglish, Frenglish, or any other examples of “lost in translation.”





High School Memories (Has it really been 20 years?)

14 08 2010
William Horlick High School, Racine WI

William Horlick High School, Racine WI

This post is dedicated to my 20-year high school reunion that is occurring right now, 550 miles away.  I truly wish I could have gone, but fate would not allow the trip.  I’m thankful I’ve been able to reconnect with a few high school classmates via Facebook, but I’d sure like to see them in person.  Actually, I’d like for them to see me.  I am a very different person now than I was 20 years ago.  But this post is not about how I’ve changed over the decades.  It is a random collection of memories from my time at William Horlick High School in Racine, Wisconsin. 

Freshman English with Mr. Kelly.  His weekly quizzes were always five questions with one bonus question.  The bonus question would be something like:  What color socks was John wearing in the second paragraph on page 37?  Somehow, I almost always got his bonus questions right.  I’m not sure what that says about me, but I really enjoyed his class.  And his mustache.

One of the most feared classes in high schools across America:  Physical Education.  I really had nothing to fear.  I wasn’t overweight.  I was a competitive gymnast.  I was fairly coordinated.  But still, it was PE.  All freshmen were required to take one unit of swimming.  I never signed up for it, and up until my senior year, I was always waiting for someone to tell me I had to take PE over because I hadn’t met the swimming requirement.  Thankfully, that never happened.

Riflery was probably my favorite PE unit.  The shooting range was in the basement of the main building, with a low ceiling and exposed pipes.  We could only shoot in the prone position.  I did pretty well.  That I can recall, that class was the last time I ever shot a gun.

Fencing and ping pong with Ms. Rush.  She had an eternal tan as well as the wrinkles to show that she spent way too much time in the tanning salon.  She was the only PE teacher who actually made us learn something about the sport we were practicing.  She gave us quizzes and a final exam on the history of the sport, scoring, the rules, etc.  Of course, I remember none of it now.

Duct taped "golf" ball

Duct taped "golf" ball (Mine was closer to the size of a grapefruit.)

Golf.  We weren’t allowed to use real golf balls since our “course” was the front and side lawn of the school property.  The coaches didn’t want any broken windows, so we had to make our own “balls.”  We each got a sheet or two of newspaper to crumple up as tightly and compactly as possible, ideally down to the size of a golf ball.  Then we duct taped it.  Needless to say, my “golf ball” was the size of a grapefruit and traveled a maximum of two feet regardless of how hard I hit it.

Spanish with Señora Christianson, four years in a row.  She began every class with “Pon tú chicle in la basura.”  I went on to minor in Spanish in college, but this is the one phrase that has stuck with me over the decades. 

Lunch, especially on Wednesdays—pizza day!  Ahhh, those soggy crust pizza rectangles with the large scoop of gooey rice pilaf on the side.  I would love to eat this just one more time to see what my adult taste buds would think.  Twenty years ago, this was my favorite meal each week.  Every other day of the week, I would have a plain hamburger with French fries.

Study hall first period senior year.  I remember getting permission to come to school late since I had study hall first period, and I was on the honor roll.  I never took advantage of that though, despite the 7:15 a.m. start time.  Study hall was held in the cafeteria, and the girl who sat across from me had just had a baby.  I remember being amazed that she was trying to finish high school.  I also remember being secretly thankful I was not her.

Sophomore year chemistry.  I loved balancing chemical equations, but I hated the labs.  The only lab I remember is the one that went horribly wrong.  Let’s just say it ended with the rubber stop on our beaker blowing off and shooting across the room and out the window.  Thankfully, our teacher had stepped out of the room, and thankfully the window was open.  Fate was on my side that day.  My lab partner and I did learn that a gas was created when we mixed the two chemicals together in the beaker.

Chemical Equation
I actually enjoyed balancing equations, but I wouldn’t consider myself a science geek by any means. I also loved diagraming sentences in elementary school. I would use different colors for the different parts of speech. I’m much more of a grammar geek than a science geek.

  My favorite class ever in high school as well as college:  Choir.  My memories of choir could be an entire post itself, so here’s the abbreviated version.
Horlick Madrigal Dinner, 1990

I am in the blue/white jester costume sitting on the far right of the front step.

Madrigals.  Eating right off the roast suckling pig in the kitchen.  Crying every night during “Verbum Caro.”  Wondering how many keys the priest would wander in and out of during his song.  So many more . . .

Czechoslovakia.  My first trip over the Atlantic.  My camera breaking right after we got off the plane.  Our host family presenting an interesting egg-rice dish for dinner, and Heidi and I later chowing down on chocolate bars in bed because we were so hungry.  Being hit on by some drunk guys in the subway, and our host student speaking to them in Russian to confuse them.  Our farewell party where just about everyone, including the chaperones, got drunk.  (I did not imbibe.)  So many more. . .

There were many “firsts” during those four years at Horlick. 

  • My first boyfriend (and kiss.)
  • The first person I knew to commit suicide.
  • The first time I “skipped” a class (though unintentionally.)
  • My first (and last) progress report from a teacher (sophomore history).  Progress reports were only sent home if a student wasn’t doing well.  For me, that was getting a C.  I forged my mom’s signature and brought my grade up in part by staying awake during the oppressively dull films the teacher showed–the kind where the cassette tape beeped, and you had to click the remote to move to the next frame.
  • My first time competing in any kind of sport—gymnastics.
  • My first car, an AMC Eagle Station wagon.  I managed to get three flat tires at the same time, and I ruined the rim of one tire trying to make it to my friend’s house.  My dad was not happy with me.

    AMC Eagle Station Wagon

    Not my original car, but a close doppleganger. I drove it to school every chance I got, though we only lived three blocks away. In the time it took me to drive to school, find a place to park, and then get to class, I could have walked from home in less time. But it was still cool to be able to drive myself to school.

Overall, I had a blast in high school, especially my senior year.  I don’t remember a lot the facts and academic knowledge I was taught.  The things I remember are far more important, especially the power of encouragement and influence. 

As a teacher myself, I realize full well the influence I have over my students, positively and negatively.  I think back to those teachers whom I couldn’t stand:  my junior physics teacher who talked to the chalkboard or my junior English teacher whom no one liked, and I do not want to be remembered in that light.  I want to be remembered the way I remember Mr. Pavao; the one teacher who took some time to encourage me to stick with something I loved and that has blessed me many times over in the past two decades.

Blessings,
Kelly