What I’ve Really Been Doing

Ok so now that everybody pretty much knows, I guess I can talk about it.

I might be moving to Europe. It’s weird to type it out into the world like that. So far, it’s just been discussed privately among a few close, trusted friends and people I knew would understand and be excited with me. Honestly, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’ve been taking things one step at a time, and really, at any point, the whole process could just be over, and that would be it. We’ll see. But for now, we press on.

I’m applying to go with World Team either to Italy or Spain. This is the same organization I went to Italy with back in June, and so far, this process has been…quite thorough. It’s been very cool – I’m learning a lot about myself as I go – but it has also been taking up lots and lots of time that I might have otherwise spent blogging. Or (let’s be honest) watching every episode of Bones (again) on Netflix. The application alone was at least twelve typed pages, and then they sent me the personality tests, the spiritual gifts test and the Bible tests (one of which I told you I flunked miserably, the other I haven’t been brave enough to take yet).

Then they sent me the official invitation to join them for a week of information, evaluation and mutual assessment, and suddenly things got really real. First of all, I need about $700 to make it happen, which is the first real commitment I’ve had to make. Until now, it’s all been literally on paper. Just theoretical. Just a really, really amazing dream of a possibility. Just paella and/or pizza, European public transit, Romance languages and adventure abounding on every side. But when it hits your pocketbook, it hits home.

Then, speaking of home, I started thinking about all the things I’ll miss if I leave. Weddings, birthdays, family reunions, my godchildren growing like weeds, Baby Josh, maybe Moravian Sugar Cake in my PJs with my family on Christmas morning. I don’t know what I’ll miss and what I won’t, but I know I’m asking my family and friends to make as big a sacrifice as I’d be making in going.

But then I started thinking of all the things I’d miss if I didn’t go, namely the chance to do something awesome, something bigger than myself, something impossible, something I’ve felt compelled to do for the last seven years. I don’t know the details of what’s in store for me. I just know that if I don’t at least try, I’ll always regret it and wonder.

I think y’all would too. You know me. You know I’ve got this crazy pull toward Europe. I honestly think if I didn’t at least try to go, some of you would be disappointed. So I’m asking you to sacrifice with me, but also to share in the awesomeness, knowing that your letting go is fueling something incredible.

I didn’t intend to make this a fundraising post, so you can stop reading now if you want it to not be about money. But if you’re still with me, and you want to give a little bit to help me get to the assessment week, please contact me. Comment, call, email, text, smoke signals, carrier pigeon, dream invasion, note in study hall, whatever. But maybe don’t send me a pigeon. You know how I feel about birds.

woopsie

Did I really not blog all last week? Hmm. I meant to. I thought about it on several occasions. What was I doing anyway? I certainly wasn’t lesson planning, and I wasn’t doing other things on the internet because we didn’t have it yet. Maybe I didn’t blog last week because absolutely nothing happened worth telling anyone about. I remember going to work on Wednesday evening, and I remember saving 20% on my Kohl’s purchase by applying for a credit card that I will probably never use again. I remember checking out The Girl Who Played with Fire from the library and having to get the large print edition because they didn’t have the regular one. Somehow I recall buying lots and lots of food. Why did I buy so much food? And I remember watching lots of movies.

Man, that had to have been the most boring week ever after a really, really good weekend in Asheville, which I’ve just realized I never told you about. Ok, so basically, I hung out with lots of friends, ate at all my favorite restaurants, did a little too much shopping, bought a FUN new camera that takes eight pictures and puts them on one print kind of like a photo booth, and went funyaking.

Funyaking (or duckying), by the way, is GREAT. We had so much fun, and now that I’ve used one, I can tell you more about it. So the funyak is made of the same material as a white water raft, and it’s inflated like a white water raft, but it’s in the shape of a kayak and only big enough for one person. They have two-person ones, but we just used the singles. It’s a little harder to maneuver than a kayak because it’s heavier and doesn’t cut through the water as easily, but that’s ok because if you run into something, you just bounce off. I ran into a bridge, for example, but I just bounced off and kept going. It also feels a little safer than a kayak because it doesn’t roll at all. It could flip over given the right (or wrong I suppose) circumstances, but mine never did, and anyway, if it did flip over, you’d just fall off because you’re not sitting down in a hole with your legs trapped like in a kayak.

In short, two thumbs up on the funyak. I highly recommend it for anyone with any kayaking experience whatsoever. Even if you just have a very realistic imagination regarding the mechanics of a kayak, I think you can do a funyak. And the folks at the Nantahala Outdoor Center were fabulous. Give it a go the next time you’re up that way.

Making Progress

With the move all finished and the semester over, I now have a couple of weeks to relax, unpack, get organized, get things like internet set up, and prepare for next semester to start. I am proud to report that I’m making progress on all fronts.

Time Warner is coming next weekend to flip our internet switch, which seems a tad ridiculous to me. How hard can this be that we have to wait a week and a half for them to come and plug things in? I mean, we have our own modem and router. We know where the plugs are. The apartments were built long before the Interwebs were, but I’m sure we won’t be the first people to use them there. All they should really need to do is literally flip a switch or click a box or perform a simple tribal dance. Really it can’t be that complicated. But apparently what with it being the beginning of the month and all, enough people are having their internet/cable hooked up to completely book every technician Time Warner employs for every moment of every day until the 14th. But we do have an appointment that day, so we’re making progress.

The unpacking and organizing are going well too. Here is a very bad, cell phone picture to at least give you (Ana) an idea of what’s going on in there. 99% of the boxes are gone, and though I don’t have a picture of it, my room is also taking shape nicely.

On the relaxation front, today marks the second day in a row that I have not woken up in pain, I went to the POOL yesterday, and I’m headed to Asheville tomorrow to get my kayak on!! Well. I’m not sure we’re actually going to go kayaking. We might go white water rafting, or we might go funyaking, which, I know, sound like we’re going to have an awesome time vomiting, but a funyak (aka duck or ducky) is basically an inflatable kayak or one-person raft. In either vessel, I am certain a fun time will be had by all. And I’ll try not to get 2nd degree sun burns this year.

And finally, although I have not yet begun to write actual lesson plans, I did order several books yesterday with which to torture my poor students. Yippee! Hooray!! You might not be able to truly appreciate how satisfying this is unless you are a teacher, but if you are a teacher (especially an ESL teacher), I’m sure you’re jealous that I’m getting new books. Even if I did have to purchase them with my own money from half.com. Whatever. Last year, I discovered the joy and absolute magic of tax write-offs. My goal is to get my AGI into the negative. I think I’m getting close.

Y’all have a great weekend!

True Confessions

True Confession #1

When I think about planning lessons, my whole brain shuts down, and I have to convince myself that it’s a necessary thing to do. Then I have to think about how long it will take me and what else I have to do that day, and if there’s any time at all to spare, the lesson planning gets bumped back. I like the actual teaching, and I love hanging out with my students every day, but the planning part is so draining. The only things in life I like planning are trips and parties. That’s it. Everything else can be improvised.

True Confession #2

When I’m walking alongside a single guy friend, I always want to hold his hand. Always. It doesn’t matter if I’m interested in him romantically or not. It just seems to me like the natural thing to do, and I have to constantly remind myself that we are not dating, that I’m not actually interested in dating him, that if I were to try and hold his hand, it would be weird, and that nothing good could come of it. It would make everything awkward and not be worth it at all. So if you are a single guy friend of mine and you notice that my conversational skills are lacking when we walk, it’s because I’m having to concentrate very hard on not weirding you out. You’re welcome.

But if you want to hold my hand, go for it. I won’t think anything of it.

I Think I’m Back Now

Physically, I’ve been back in the country since Sunday afternoon. But my brain is just now catching up. Y’all, I’ve been SO tired all week, and today is the first day I almost feel normal. The weekend went a little something like this:

Friday

Friday night, after a full day of all our stuff (kids camp, etc.), we went out for a fancy dinner in a restaurant in a suburb of Milan. The food was amazing, and there was an endless parade of desserts that made my day. We didn’t get back to the hotel, though, until after midnight, and then we had to get up at 5:00 the next morning because we’d decided to go to VENICE!! This was an idea we’d tossed around early, early on in the planning, but we’d decided against it because it’s farther from Milan and more expensive to get there. HOWEVER, because this year marks the 150th anniversary of the uniting of Italy, they’re selling train tickets at discounted rates (presumably so that people can travel around and see the whole united country). So we got two-for-one tickets, and away we went.

Saturday

Like I said, 5:00 a.m. Barf. It was basically horrible because Saturday just happened to be my hair-washin’ day, so I had to get up to make that happen, and then we had to leave the hotel at 6 to go to the train station to get on our 6:50 train. But in the end, it was totally worth it.

We got to Venice around 9:30 and were unleashed upon the city. Our group of eight broke up into smaller groups, and Mark and I set out for Murano, which is a little island just north of Venice where they make glass things. We went to see a glass blowing demonstration, and then after doing a little souvenir shopping, we decided to try and find some lunch. What appeared to be the main “street” was a water street like those in Venice, which was really nice because it felt like we were in Venice, but there weren’t a million people. The water was calm, the boats were parked, the restaurants had seating on the sidewalk right beside the water, and you could hear the guy down the street playing the accordion. Seriously, if y’all ever go to Venice, this is the place to be. It’s like Venice, but a little cheaper and much less hectic.

So we’re sitting there finishing our pizza and getting ready to ask for the check when a girl walks up and says my name, and I look up, and it’s a girl I knew in Asheville. Yes, leave it to me to run into someone I know in a foreign country. I knew that she was there, but since we hadn’t been planning on going to Venice, it hadn’t occurred to me to get in touch with her, but there she was with her new fiancé, headed to the grocery store.

So we chatted with them for a little bit and marveled at how weird it was that we’d just run into each other there, and then they started telling us all the insider secrets on where to go and what to do. This, friends, was the greatest thing that could have possibly happened because they knew where to go for a 50-cent gondola ride.

Yes, that’s right. I said 50-cent gondola. Now, normally these things are like a million euros (not really, but they may as well be because there’s no way I could afford even half an hour on one), but those are the ones that ride you all up and down the canal. But come on, who needs that, right? The only thing you really need with a gondola ride is the photo op. You just do it for the experience, and the experience doesn’t really have to break the bank and take up the whole day. Sixty seconds will do you just fine, and that’s about what you get for 50 cents because it literally just takes you from one bank of the canal to the other.

Y’all, it was perfect. It made my life, no joke. It was the best spent money ever, and that includes hair gel purchases.

After that, we made our way to the gelateria to which we’d been referred, and it was also pretty magical. Then, all the items on our agenda checked off, we just ambled our way back to the train station, stopping in buildings and side streets and bakeries and stores all along the way.

We hopped back on the train around 6:15 and headed back to Milan, where we had to pack before going to bed because we had to get up at 5:30 the next morning to head home.

Mid-Story Recap

So just to remind you, we’ve now had late night, early morning, busy/exciting/exhausting day, and late night with early morning looming.

Sunday

We got up at 5:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m. on Saturday in NC – This will be important in a moment.), dressed, tossed the last of the stuff into the bags and headed downstairs to check out. Our ride to the train station arrived at 6:30 to take us to where we got on the bus that would take us to the airport. We got to the airport around 8:00 (2:00 a.m. EST) and checked in for our 10:00 flight.

Our “10:00 flight” boarded at 11:00 and then proceeded to sit on the ground for three hours while they “fixed” a valve. The captain gave us frequent updates that were slightly less than reassuring:

  • The valve isn’t working.
  • We’re not sure if the valve isn’t working, or if it’s just the indicator light.
  • We’re on the phone with our folks in Dallas, trying to figure it out.
  • We’re going to just close the valve and NOT USE IT ON OUR EIGHT AND A HALF HOUR FLIGHT.
  • We can’t get the panel off to get to the valve because the screws are stripped.
  • We’re drilling the screws out now.
  • Ok, we’ve got the panel off, and we’re working on the valve.
  • We’ve got the valve closed. Now we’re trying to find new screws to put the panel back on.
  • We’ve got the panel back on. We’re finishing up the log book, and once we get it back on board, we can take off.

Then it sounded like the plane was driving through a large and violent automatic car wash, at which point, Mark whips out Joshua 10:11, which reads, “As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.” Thanks, Mark.

  • Ok, folks, we’re all set for take-off, so if you would, make sure your seats and tray tables are in their upright and locked positions and that your seat belts are securely fastened. Flight crew, prepare for take-off.

Then it suddenly got really hot on the plane and something smelled like old, overheated hair dryer, and that’s when we prayed and took off.

Fast-forward to New York.

We landed at JFK around 5:00, which was when we were supposed to land at RDU, but clearly we had missed that flight, so they had re-booked us on a JetBlue flight, which was nice, but it didn’t take off until 10:00 (4:00 a.m. on Monday in Milan – Remember how we woke up at 5:30? Yeah.). So we went through passport control, got our bags, went through customs, took the AirTrain to the terminal where JetBlue is, got our boarding passes, re-checked our bags and went through security again. Half-asleep, we found and ate some food, and then we all fell asleep at the gate while we waited for our flight home.

After that, it was pretty smooth-sailing, but I didn’t get home until at least 12:30 (6:30 Milan time), and then I had to get up at 7:00 to go to work on Monday.

So yeah. Beat. But I think I’m back now, or at least well on my way. And thankyaJesusandamen for a long weekend to recuperate even more. I am very much looking forward to it.

And I’m Off!

Y’all, I thought this week was never ever ever going to end. It was a good week, but you know how it is when you’re anticipating something truly awesome, and it just feels like it’s a million years away even when it’s only a day away. So knowing that work this morning was the last thing I had to do before I could let it all go for a weekend and a half, it was by far the slowest four hours of my life.

But it’s over!! And I’ve been checking things off the to-do list like a mad woman. Father’s Day cards are mailed, laundry is being done at this very moment, photo copies have been made of credit cards and passport (just in case), AND…

I AM 100% DEBT FREEEEEEEE!!!! That’s right, friends! The student loan is paid off completely, as are all my credit cards. I don’t know what to do with this feeling, or even what this feeling is really. Elation? Definitely. Relief? Yep. Exhaustion? Totally, but I think that’s unrelated. Mostly, though, I think it’s freedom. For the past several years, I’ve had to factor into my budget this large sum of money each month. Without it, it feels like my options widen significantly. I know it will be very easy to find something else on which to spend that money, but that’s just the thing. I can spend that money on something else. Or I can save it. It’s mine to do with as I please.

And right now, it pleases me to go to Italy and eat enormous bowls of pasta. I’ll let y’all know when I get there, but beyond that, I may not have much internet access. I’ll see if I can set up a few stories to tell themselves to you, though.

WOOHOOO!!!

Jump On In – The Water’s Fine

I’m starting a pool to guess how many trips to Target I’ll make before I go to Italy. I’m now up to two, and I leave on Friday morning. So if you want to throw your guess in, feel free. The winner will receive something of my choice from my closet (or bedroom in general). You never know what it’s going to be. You could win some jewelry, clothes, dust bunnies, craft supplies, bizarre items that were meant to be craft supplies but never got used, or perhaps even a Target bag full of Target bags!! The possibilities are almost endless.

So far, there are two votes for 11 trips to Target, one vote for 7 and one for 5. Wagering closes tonight at midnight, so toss your hat in the ring while you can for a chance to win one of hundreds of fabulous prizes!!

We’re talking about TOTAL trips here, including the two I’ve already taken. Keep that in mind as you place your bets.

Documentary Begets European Art Tour

Earlier this week, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me the best documentary they’d ever seen. Originally, I just wanted suggestions for films to show in class, but then I got really interested in watching them all. The lovely DLF suggested The Rape of Europa, and it was then seconded by Sister Dallas, so I figured it was as good a place to start as any. With my handy-dandy new Netflix account, I queued it right on up, and in the mail it came.

And now I’m slightly obsessed.

It’s the story of how the Nazis stole, looted and plundered great works of art from all over Europe as they expanded their empire, and how, in fact, the countries they invaded were related to a “hit list” of art pieces Hitler wanted either for his personal collection or the national collection he was attempting to amass. The film shows how museums and gallery owners hid (or tried to hide) their art, how they were successful or not, and how some of them got and are still getting paintings back.

It’s really fascinating, and it has  inspired me to start imagining a European art tour wherein I would travel to major European cities to see the most important works living there. On the list so far, I have the Louvre, the Orsay, the Vatican, the Uffizi, the Prado and the Hermitage. I also want to hit up Prague, Cracow, Brussels and Berlin. That’s nine cities, so this is perhaps a 2-3-week tour. Any takers?

I also have rough plans for a European spy tour wherein I play out James Bond plots, and a Sound of Music tour in which I spin around singing in the Alps. I think the spy tour might take a week or two, and the Sound of Music one might only take about three days. If you’re up for any of these, do let me know so we can start planning in earnest.

A Few Short Updates

I have to leave for work (again) in about 15 minutes, so I don’t have time for a lengthy post about anything, but that’s cool because I don’t have anything lengthy to say about anything, so here are just a few short updates and tidbits:

  • I LOVE that it’s already Wednesday. This week is going by much more quickly than last week.
  • Whitney and I are looking for a new place to live. We want a cheaper place, preferably closer to work for me. If you know of anything in the Cameron Village/Wade Ave./downtown/campus area that costs less than $900 for a 2BR or less than $1200 for a 3BR and won’t smell like college boys, do let us know.
  • I signed up for Netflix. Why oh why did I not do this years ago?? It’s amazing.
  • I signed up for eHarmony. Just seeing if you were paying attention. Yes? You are? Good because I seriously did. Nothing exciting to report so far, but apparently I am VERY matchable.
  • I’m having an AWESOME hair day today.
  • My personal fundraising for my Italy trip is done!!!! I have ALL my money!! My team as a whole, however, is at about 72% funded, so if you still want to contribute, we would love that. I kinda want them to go with me.
  • I watched a fabulous documentary yesterday that I’ll write more about later, but if you want to go ahead and watch it, it’s called The Rape of Europa. If you have Netflix, you can stream it online. It’s also a book that I might be interested in reading with a book club. Any takers on that? AND I am 100% sure that I want to go on a European art tour. That is of course in addition to my European spy tour and my Sound of Music tour.
  • Oh! And on July 22, Koka Booth is showing a sing-along Sound of Music, complete with subtitles for all the songs and a costume contest! I’d like to go as Liesl in the gazebo, or perhaps Liesl coming out of the gazebo after being kissed by Rolf. I’ll just hold my arms straight out with an elated look on my face and periodically fling them backward while squealing. But I’d also like to find a dress. Any ideas?
  • I watched Legends of the Fall the other day for the first time since it was released in theaters in 1994. I do not know how I was allowed to see it at the tender age of 14. I don’t even think I was allowed to watch Dirty Dancing until later than that. But good golly it is one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen.