Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A sad occasion brings laughter and quality family time....

This past weekend, I went to Kingham which is in Oxfordshire in the Cotswolds (think the scenery from the movie "The Holiday"). I went there because my dad's sister, JoAnn and her family were here. They were here as my Uncle Abdul's mother died last week. Though I never met her, she was an AMAZING woman (I learned this weekend!) who lived an extraordinary life that began in Tanzania where she was friends with the wives of ambassadors and government officials and was deeply involved in the women's rights movement there. Eventually, to help her diabetic son, she moved the whole family to England where the majority of them still live. My Uncle Abdul moved to Seattle in the 1960s where he met JoAnn and they have lived there ever since. I hadn't seen them since my Grandma's memorial in August 2009 so I was really excited to spend time with them!

So, because of her passing, JoAnn, my Uncle Abdul and my cousins Nate and Annie came to England for the funeral. We spent the weekend in Kingham at the house of Adbul's brother, Naj. Though it was a sad occasion, there were tons of laughs, lots of food, and it was great to be around family when I was on the sad side from being gone for Thanksgiving.

I met Nate, Annie, and JoAnn in London on Friday and we were drawn to go shopping due to our American heritage that tells us to shop on the day after Thanksgiving! We then took the train to Kingham to meet the rest of the family and commence the eating. Theme? By Sunday evening, between 10 of us, we had finished 18 bottles of wine and all of my clothes smelled like fried food as I had learned to make East African food and was in charge of working the fryer! I'm darn good at it now...but man, it is very permeating of everything!!!

The "kids" stayed at a bed and breakfast in the village and, as usual, it was so cute that I almost died of the cuteness. I need a new word to describe English villages...quaint, adorable...HELP!

My cousin Annie and I in front of our 'cute' bed and breakfast!

Church rectory house in Kingham. I love the old stone houses!

Church next to the rectory house.

The fried bahji's that we made...they are made out of rehydrated lentils, hot chilis, onions, and garlic and are DELISH!! Jenny (Naj's wife) and I got really good at making them and made about 100 of them!

Jenny and I working the fryers! I might be able to get a restaurant job if I can't go back to teaching as I am now a really good fryer!

Abdul & Annie making the mix for the lamb/potato kebabs...also fried....see what I mean!
They were also amazing!
Annie is my "twin cousin" as I was born on her due date and she was born on mine.
We are 11 days apart.

JoAnn (my dad's younger sister) had to be in constant kitchen cleaning mode! We made a serious mess. So, that pretty much made it exactly like Thanksgiving where I feel like cleaning the kitchen is actually part of the holiday traditions!

We went to a pottery factory and I saw this sign. It is too true. Funny.

What you can't see in this picture is that Patrick Swayze is helping her sculpt it a la "Ghost." This was seriously the largest pot I'd ever seen. If someone fell in while trying to plant something, they'd be trapped forever!

Not sure what this structure actually is, but it was so idyllic that I had to take a picture of the scene. It has been REALLY cold here and I was wishing that I had a fluffy wool coat like a sheep!

Manor house in Oxfordshire.
I can picture carriages driving up to this.
It was right across the street from the idyllic sheep scene.

This was the view from the window of our bed and breakfast.
The fences were woven together. So cool!

It was a great weekend, despite the sad occasion and I am so glad that we got to spend so much time together!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Greener pastures....

I have officially resigned my position at Chesham Park as of today. I literally felt lighter as I walked home today. The stress of the situation has been turning me into the most weepy, ridiculously emotionally needy freak and I HATE being like that! I have had a chapped nose for the last month because I have cried so freaking much!

I actually feel sort of hopeful again…I know that sounds extremely melodramatic (it is) but I have been feeling extremely down lately and it feels so nice to maybe feel a bit like me again. So, to the many people I have sobbed to over the last month…THANK YOU…I really appreciate you in my life! The low-efficacy, life-stinks Liz is hopefully gone for awhile. Knowing I only have to get through 3 ½ more weeks there allows me to not internalize stuff so much now.

So, what now, you ask? Well, this is the joy of working for an employment agency. There are other positions around that I can apply for and the first one coming up is at an all girls school teaching biology about three towns over. The idea of an all-girls school is so appealing to me as I have come to despise teenage boys with the passion of a thousand burning suns…don’t worry, I won’t say that in my interview. Granted, several of the ones I teach right now are likely jail-bound. I know that there are people out there who are amazing at working with kids like that, but apparently, I am not one of them- at least once they are out of middle school. Also, the biology aspect is the most exciting part as I am SO not into chemistry and physics. I am hoping to get an interview. I would have to teach up to Key Stage 5, which translates to Years 12 & 13, which translates to Juniors & Seniors. So, hopefully, they will think I am qualified even though I haven’t taught kids that old. I even added my HS biology student teaching experience to my resume just to spice it up a bit!

I am also applying to attend an international school job fair in January in London through the Council of International Schools. I have to apply just to attend the job fair and have all of references and qualifications checked before they even let you come to the fair. But, there are international/American schools from all over the world and four in London alone. So, we’ll see what happens with that. That wouldn’t start until next school year anyway. But, I think that those schools might be more in line with my beliefs but I don’t want to make any gross generalizations because I have only been in one English school and that would be quite premature. I could get to my next school and be much happier...hopefully that will be the case!

Last night was my first official driving lesson. It was really scary!! It is super-weird to have to concentrate so fully on something that is so automatic on the right side of the road. I am most nervous about roundabouts because it is my instinct to stop at an intersection, but if the way is clear, one keeps going. And, I have to know which lane to be in going on to the roundabout based on where I am getting off the roundabout. So, once I get the idea of going down the left side, I am going to buy a cheap car. If I am working outside of Chesham, I will need one and I would like to stay in my current house for now, for sure as I have everything I need here.

Though Chesham is a cute little town, it does get annoying to be in such a small town that doesn’t have a movie theatre or any sort of shopping at all unless you want to go to thrift stores that close at like 5:30. And, without a car, I feel pretty stuck since the buses aren’t exactly convenient and the only train is into London- which by the way, I went to London last Saturday to see “Chicago,” the musical, and it was AMAZING!! So, I am signed up for another few lessons and then I think I’ll be okay. If I had my own car to practice on, I wouldn’t be as scared but considering I have to go around like 5 roundabouts just to get out of Chesham, it is necessary to have a few lessons!

It does really suck to be gone for Thanksgiving and I miss everyone a lot! But, I am just keeping it in my head that in a mere four weeks, I will be skiing in the French Alps! WOO HOO!!! So, Happy Turkey Day to everyone…I am going to American Thanksgiving on Saturday with friends of my friend Tim from high school. He is bringing a crew of Americans to London from Brussels and we are having a feast. So, though I will be at Year 11 Parents’ Evening on Thursday night telling a bunch of parents how ridiculously rude and lazy their kid is (not holding back…truth, because WHO CARES!?), everyone else will be feasting!

Have fun! J

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I know why I never wanted to teach high school....

Today, during my Year 11 class, which was one of the worst classes I've had since arriving, I actually, in my head, weighed the options involved in just walking out and not returning. It was THAT bad. Apparently, my class has been grouped the way they are because they are "high achievers" and can do well on their exams so whenever I ask for help about behavior, everyone just keeps reminding me that they must do well on their exams and offers me NO practical solutions other than to write them a detention.

I was sitting there deliberating in my head and what ultimately stopped me was actually NOT professional responsibility, but the thought that because my laptop has been stolen, I have to bring my own computer to school everyday and it was hooked up to the projector at the time and that would have taken me too long to unhook it so I shouldn't leave. I called 8 parents after school today and BEGGED my department head to help me solve this issue, but she didn't mention one word about it and when I came to speak to her about it, she actually ignored me and then shut her door. Awesome. I feel really well supported.

I literally don't know what else to do. I've called parents, written detentions (which is obviously completely ineffective) and tomorrow I will try new seats AGAIN with a rearranged room that is in rows facing forward. I can't do any labs with them as the last time we did a lab, they were throwing weights at each other and then stole a bunch of them and they were found all around the building. So, I feel like I can't vary things instructionally to try to curb behavioral issues. I don't know what to do. I have reached my max as a teacher for classroom management and I need help. So, if anyone has any advice they could throw my way, I would really really appreciate it. I AM SERIOUS. HELP ME. I know that half of the people reading this are teachers and I don't know what to do.

On a funny note, today I called a parent and introduced myself as their child's teacher from Conrad Ball Middle School....old habits die hard. The lady was like...WHAT? Well, at least Conrad and Chesham start with the same letter.

I'm being observed again tomorrow...can't wait to be told again how much I suck by my department head who dresses like a teenager.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This trip sponsored by the sale of a 2000 Subaru Outback named Gretel...

Our first day in Amsterdam involved a lot of getting lost, getting wet from the ridiculous wind and pouring rain, and dodging a million tourists while walking in circles. Our hotel turned out to be in a heavily touristy area surrounded by many shops selling wooden clogs, weed, and women. That aspect of Amsterdam was overwhelming and quite nasty and we were glad to escape that and find some nicer parts of the city because it is truly a beautiful place with the old canal houses, the canals, and everybody cruising around on bikes. The biking aspect reminded me of being in Fort Collins and maybe that is why I felt like Amsterdam was extra enjoyable.

This was the view out the window of our canal house apartment!

Really? Really? GROSS!!! We did NOT attend. I repeat...we did NOT attend.

The first time we walked by this dragging our huge bag, I said to Courtney, "oh yeah, we'll be getting in that shoe." She agreed that it was only a matter of time!

For dinner that night, we met up with a friend of my friend Christine, with whom I studied in France. His name is Jonathan and he has lived in Amsterdam for about 10 years and so it was great to meet a “local.” We went to a GREAT restaurant that had a set menu and was really good and crazy expensive. Courtney and I informed him about our dietary restrictions that she is vegan and kosher, and that I have a gluten allergy, a peanut allergy and that all food I eat must be Halal. Amazing that a restaurant was able to accommodate all of those requests, isn’t it? Ha ha. I can tell I’m coming off of a visit with Court because we spend most of our time just making stuff up. It is awesome!

Jonathan then took us to a very local Dutch bar where we were the only tourists. People were surprised that we had found it, which is funny because really, it was like a 10-minute walk from the tourist area. They had great beers on tap and Dutch people are super-friendly and speak English better than most native speakers! In striking up a conversation with the guys next to us crammed into this tiny bar (it was impossible not be involved with the people around us because it was so smashed and crowded), we learned that one of them was a Count…like his dad is Baron and he is a Count…WHAT? Oh, and, he was a dentist. Hilarious. Count Dentist. Oh, and, he’d recently been to Omaha which was extra funny since Courtney is from Omaha. A Dutch Count Dentist in Omaha…it doesn’t get much more random than that!

The next day we went to the Anne Frank house, which was extremely moving and VERY powerful. When the rooms were cleared out, her father decided that it should be a museum the way it was, not a recreation of the furniture they’d had in the years they had spent in the annex. It is much smaller than I ever imagined and the population density is so high in Amsterdam that it is truly remarkable that they weren’t detected for so long. While there, I became especially enraged that the “Rachel’s Challenge” people (a program in schools in the US to deter violence in schools based on the student, Rachel Scott, who was killed in the Columbine massacre) have compared her to Anne Frank. When you actually see the annex next to pictures of concentration camps and realize that Anne Frank died of typhus in a concentration camp after hiding for years with her family, it is shocking that someone had the audacity to compare the “plight” of a suburban high school teenager (though tragically killed) to that of Anne Frank. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Bitterballen and Beer. Yum.

Really, the best part of Amsterdam is just hanging out in cafes, bars, and people watching. So, we spent a lot of our time sampling Dutch beer and eating yummy food. One of the most common Dutch bar foods is called Bitterballen…it is some sort of fried meat stew contraption. I know that sounds gross (Courtney thought it was) but I thought they were awesome. I mean really, how can deep-fat fried things served with beer not be a magical combination?

I've embraced wearing scarves in Europe. Courtney already had because she's just way cooler than me in general!

Canal Boat House in Amsterdam with a natural roof.

We took a one hour canal boat ride which was beautiful, but due to all of the partying, I became narcoleptic which really was hilarious to Courtney.

We arrived in Brussels just before dark but still got to see some beautiful countryside between there and Amsterdam. Tim was a great host and walked us all over the historic area of Brussels and then we went to a traditional Belgian brasserie for dinner. It has definitely been reinforced to me that I have sunk so low in my French speaking skills that I am worse than a deaf chimp. I need to brush up.

Tim took us out for a night on the town in Brussels (bars don't have a closing time so suddenly, you're like..oops, it is 4 am.) and then the next day we went on a driving tour of Gent and Bruge which were so incredibly beautiful!

GO DULANEY!!! Two Dulaney kids (and a Roosevelt kid) in Gent, Belgium.

What? I know.

Again, seriously?

A trumpolin? A violumpet?

Senior pictures in Bruge.

You get the pleasure of viewing this picture twice as it won't let me delete it!

Belgian waffle with chocolate sauce in Belgium. Our last meal before flying home. And, my last meal before heading to the gym and going on a massive diet for the rest of time.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A bender, beautiful scenery, and a good friend….part 1

This morning I said goodbye to my friend Courtney who had been visiting me for the last 10 days. Of course, because I always do, I cried when she left. We’ve had such a fun time together and work reality will really set back in now that she’s gone and I don’t really have excuses not to get things done!

I guess I should (since I kind of use this blog like a journal) just give a run down of our days….Court got here on Saturday the 23rd and I almost attacked her in the pick-up area of Heathrow Airport when she first appeared. There was some worry expressed that we’d “go all American” and scream while jumping up and down upon seeing each other. I only did a minimum of that so as not to disturb the English restraint of emotion- HA! (Just kidding, sort of, to any English people reading this!)

We got back to Chesham and headed to the next closest town for some lunch since Chesham is wholly lacking in decent restaurants. Courtney needed a few hours nap and then we headed to “Old Chesham” and went to the Queens Head pub where they have awesome Thai food and good drinks. It is my favorite place to hang out in Chesham (there aren’t many options, so really, it wins by default but it is still great nonetheless!) and the atmosphere is really mellow. I have made the mistake of thinking that tipping was necessary there before (it isn’t) so I’ve definitely spent a chunk of change in there since I arrived.

I should mention that this is NOT the Queens Head but another pub in Chesham which is quite trashy but has an AMAZING jukebox. You can hear everything from Journey, to gangsta rap, to Stevie Wonder. So enjoyable!

The next day we slept in and a bunch of us piled into a taxi for a traditional English, Sunday pub roast lunch. We all had roast lunches and spent the afternoon hanging out which eventually led into the evening and a few ‘senior pictures’ around the pub. It is not very often that I get to have lots of drinks in the middle of day but when you are on “holiday” it is imperative that one does that. The pub was really cozy with kids and dogs running everywhere. My little neighbor, Tom, even had his naptime there and just curled up on a bench next to the fire and slept! So adorable! Courtney and I tried to curl up on the same bench, but it didn’t really go as well.

Pubs in England are for more than just drinking. They are just for hanging out and spending time somewhere. Even without alcohol, I LOVE the pub culture of England!

A short wall...we really couldn't resist the senior picture opportunity.
Senior picture with Courtney, Me, Nicola (going to ski in France with her), and my roommate Anna.

Monday we piled in the car and headed to Warwick (pronounced War-rick) to see a medieval castle and a cute village. It was an amazingly huge castle but given that it was about $40 to get in, we decided to admire it from the outside. More driving found us in Stratford-upon-Avon where our dear friend Will (William Shakespeare) is from. We decided to refer to it as Stratford-upon-Mary Kay as we were sure that was the Avon to which they were referring when naming it! Stratford-upon-Revlon is an adorable English town with many buildings that are original and hundreds of years old. We saw Shakespeare’s house (again, didn’t go in due to the extreme cost!) and just walked around. Since it was a school holiday for everyone in England, Stratford was quite crowded.

This was us in front of Will's house....

A building in Warwick that looked just like "Diagon Alley" in Harry Potter!

On Tuesday, we woke up and headed into London on the tube. It was absolutely pouring and crazy windy, which really makes for awesome weather when you are touring around a big city. We walked for miles up and down the Thames and then to Covent Garden, which is a big shopping area. We had dinner on a riverboat on the Thames River overlooking Big Ben- really? Really? It is so crazy. I kept saying to Courtney, “we’re in England together….weird!” After a long, convoluted, certain stations & lines closed ride home, we packed for Hamsterdam!

Rainy, rainy London!

View from the riverboat. If you want to come visit me, I will take you here...

We decided to share a bag, which would later prove to be a ridiculous fiasco when we saw the steep staircases in the 400 year old canal houses in Amsterdam. On one staircase (I’mgoing to put a picture but it just won’t do it justice!) I had to put the bag on like a backpack while Court stood a step above me and pulled the bag upwards from above. We laughed so hard we could barely stand up straight! Our flight left quite early and so we got picked up from the airport at 6 am- for some reason in my life, I NEVER get to fly out/in at a normal time of day when I don’t have to stay up crazy late or get up crazy early.

We arrived in Amsterdam to pouring rain and a language full of O’s, J’s, and other letter combinations we couldn’t decipher! When we were first looking at Dutch, we couldn’t remember the word in the time it would take to look from the street sign to the map. Every single street, we would have to look back and forth about 12 times between the sign and the map and we still walked in massive circles dragging a huge bag behind us in the rain! We FINALLY found our canal house which turned out that we had our own little apartment on the fourth floor overlooking a canal and the red light district.


This was part of one of the many circles we walked and so we had to take a break and take a picture!

The steep staircase. I know it doesn't look that bad on film, but it was REALLY steep!

Looking up the staircase before I became a sherpa!

Windmill in Holland!!!

Stay tuned...more to come about the ridiculous antics of the girls from 2NW Edwards Hall at Colorado State University. (In case you don't know, Courtney and I were neighbors in our dorm during our freshman year of college and have been participating in craziness ever since!)