Thursday, July 28, 2011

Return of the Traveling Teacher: Arrival in Düsseldorf


I arrived this morning at 6:45 am local time- which is 10:45 pm the night before in Colorado! Needless to say, I am tired having missed a night of sleep entirely. How has my dad been doing this kind of sleep pattern for the last 40 years? JEEZ! I am a wreck today. I guess it doesn't help that the morning before I left, I woke up with a terrible cold! But, despite that, easy travel that was all on time. Denver-Vancouver and then Vancouver-Düsseldorf.

It just felt really surreal seeing it written considering how long I've
have been anticipating this move! (Since January!!) What you can't see is that there
are people swilling Molsen and playing hockey under this sign while Maple syrup pours of
the drinking fountains...that's just how it is in Canada.
I was met at the airport by the admissions counselor from the school, Maire, who is Irish but has lived here for 14 already! She could easily spot me given my overabundance of luggage! I had three large checked bags, a carry-on size suitcase, and a fully stuff backpack! Hey...I am moving...not just visiting and I had to pack my bag full of green chilis because I cannot go without Mexican food like last time! :)

Maire drove me to my apartment and then we lugged all of my suitcases in the elevator. I am on the seventh floor by German counting and the sixth floor by American...either way, it is at the top of the building and I have a pretty good view! Really relieved the elevator is fully functional (there was question about whether it would be under construction) because my three, 50 pound bags would have broken me if I'd had to do the stairs! The school also had put together a welcome tub for me that included toilet paper, paper towels, a little food, coffee, tea, and cleaning supplies...Maire even brought more cleaning supplies later as the fridge is mother-effing disgusting and I am going to need some gloves and a mask to tackle that- which she brought over later! 

Part of the view from my patio! 
I felt really crappy upon arrival due to the stuffiness of my head and the fact that it was nighttime to my body, so as soon as she left, I slept for a few hours. My one job today was to wake up for the phone/internet guy, which I did. Let me tell you how much empathy I have for immigrants to the US who don't speak English! Fortunately, the housing coordinator at the school set up all the appointments because when he got here we were like a comical mix of sign language and pointing! I would never have had internet if the school hadn't set it up! For those of you out there working with non-English speakers, think about the daily life things that we don't even think, grocery shopping, etc. I still don't know what my phone number is but my internet works so that's fine! 

I don't have any hangers so it will take me a few days to fully unpack. But, what a relief to have my own house again! I am selfish and don't like sharing my space and am really glad to be able to live my life in more than one room! 

I worked on the bathroom with all of my cute, collapsable Target
containers. I've spent an obscene amount of money at Target (Tar-jay) lately! Ugh.
My boxes arrived from England and I trying to decide where to put the paintings my
parents brought over! 
So that's it for now. I haven't gone anywhere since I arrived because I feel yucky and am really tired. I have been intermittently unpacking and sleeping and rocking out to my new Glee CDs. The answer is, yes, I am a huge dork. Tomorrow night I will be going out to dinner with my new friends Barbara and Todd Bryden (whom I haven't met yet but I know we'll be friends!)! They are friends of one of my CSU friends, Rachel, and she connected us back in March since they just moved here this summer too! I'm really excited for some new friends already! Tomorrow I will venture out to the grocery store which I am sure will be filled with confusing hilarity! Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Tale of the Fastest Summer Ever

This summer has absolutely flown by! I have spent many a days just driving back and forth from Denver to Fort Collins to Boulder (in one of my parents' cars like I am in high school, but unlike my car in high school, these can actually go on the highway...phew!). It has been a busy summer and unlike most summers, I haven't gotten to even have ONE DAY just laying around doing nothing!

The summer began with a visit from my Danish cousin, Terese, and a weekend-long
slumber party with my dear friend, Megan! 

Between visiting friends, going to a family wedding reception in Seattle, a training and a family visit in Atlanta, a trip to the Western Slope of Colorado, a Camp Chief Ouray reunion, a visit from fire-escaping New Mexican friends, many trips to Fort Collins to hang out with The Dudleys, and a million breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and coffees with long lost friends, it has been a great trip home. In fact, it has felt like I never actually left.

To be honest, after my horrible experience last year, I am just mentally setting the reset button and starting over with my international teaching experience! The best part about coming home, and Colorado will always be home, is that you always feel at home! (Can I use 'home' again in that sentence?). When I was at my training this summer, it didn't even feel like I had worked in England. All of my teacher thinking came straight from CBMS as if I had never left!

So, here are some pictures from my summer. You'll notice that I spent a lot of time with babies and toddlers. Its what I do! :)

My first summer visit was with The favorite twins!
Clark & Fawn have not gotten any less hilarious while I was gone...more so, actually!
Four is funny!

Now these aren't toddlers!
My nanny, Lori, has the most amazing kids ever...Karolina & Kai!
We zooed it up and I can't wait to spend Christmas with them this year!

After a few initial visits, I headed to Seattle for my cousin Annie's one year anniversary party! Seattle is the coolest place and I was really relieved to be back in cool, Northern European-ish weather after the shocking 90's of Colorado!

My cousin, Annie, took me out for delicious dim-sum while in Seattle!
We also spent some time with her backyard throwing knives, seriously fun! 

Mount Ranier out the window of the plane!
The best part of the summer: I got an iPad and was able to catch up on movies
I missed while on all of my flights! This was worth putting down the movie!
My friend Dawn from CSU was able to come to Seattle from Oregon while I was there!
Great to catch up with an old friend and to realize that we haven't changed
 much since we met when we were 20!
Family dinner in Seattle. My dad's sister and her family live there and hosted me!
We had a great time with plenty of delicious food and wine! Big surprise, huh? 
There was a photo booth with props at the party!
My aunts, JoAnn & Marilyn, are always willing to be silly with me!
I had one of the quickest travel turn-arounds I've ever had (enough time for laundry and a little nap) before heading to Atlanta for an International Baccalaureate training at the Atlanta International School. My school in Düsseldorf sent me to the training and the coolest part about it was that the AIS is where the movie "The Blind Side" was filmed! The training was a synthesis of many other professional development experiences that I'd had before, however, IB has a set of vocabulary and principles that were new to me. Most importantly, IB is focused on thinking and application of learning instead of memorization like in my last science department.

I was able to make some good professional connections with several science teachers from around the US who think like me instructionally and we exchanged information and already sent lots of teacher/student documents back and forth through email. I also met a science teacher from California who will be in Germany this summer so we are planning to get together in Düsseldorf. HOW FUN!

The other part of my trip to Atlanta was that I was able to spend time with my cousin Brian (we have twin feet but his are giant...or "superior" he would say!) and his girlfriend Ayla, who is awesome! And, I also got to see my cousin Ryan and his wife, Angie. Ryan and Angie have the most hilarious little girl, Abbie.

Abigail Susan (Abbie, or if you are going to get fully Southern....Abbie Sue)
is an extremely funny kid. I think that there is no doubt that she
is just like her Aunt Cara used to be when she was little!
(Sorry if you are not a family member and you are reading this but my family
will know what I am talking about!)
While I was in Georgia, some enormous fires began burning in New Mexico, the largest in the state's history. The smoke in Taos, where my friends The Murphrees (otherwise known as Shira, J-rod, and Mona) live. The smoke got so bad that they ended up having to flee to Colorado. I had had plans to go to Taos to see them anyway, but instead got to spend a week with them in Colorado. Mona is nine months old and she learned to scream really loudly and hilariously while here.

Mona & J-rod were playing "lion tamer" with Daddy as the lion.
This induced a lot of really funny baby screaming!
During part of The Murphree visit, we stayed with The Cloughs (Kirsten, Matt, & Annika). Nothing beats old friends, wine, cheese, and backyard grilling!
Annika was wearing my empty backpack while we walked
around REI and then saw this bike basket. She
immediately put it on her head! Very logical, of course! 
As I mentioned before, I spent a lot of time driving between Denver, Fort Collins, and Boulder. One of the trips to Boulder involved visiting my friend Carolyn and her new baby, Ellie.
Carolyn & Baby Ellie!
Carolyn, Ellie, and I went through a few outfits on this day!
One of the highlights of my summer was seeing Carmen at the Central City Opera with my mom and dad. We decided that operas have to be extra-super dramatic because how boring would an opera be if it was just about clerical work or something? This was the best rendition of a song from Carmen that I could find!

My other sojourn this summer was to the Western Slope with my mom to visit one of her oldest friends, Joanie! We visited Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, tasted some Western Slope wine, and fought off the worst mosquitoes of my life while camper-camping on the Grand Mesa. We also got to see some of the best, most amazing wildflowers at around 9,000 feet elevation. I was suddenly shocked when random Latin names would escape my brain and burst forth....Thermopsis divaricarpa, Antennaria parvifolia...AAAAHHH!!! (Thank you, Pingree Park, CSU's mountain campus where I spent the most intense four weeks in intense that I still randomly bust out scientific names!)
Joanie, My Mama, and Me at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park!
AMAZING views! 
WHAT? Look at these Columbines!
Aquilegia caerulea
We had a fun trip although I almost lost my mind from the mosquitoes! Ever since my India trip I have a hard time with bug spray since I pretty much burned my skin off with 100% Deet! And, who knew that Colorado had such amazing wine!

Everybody knows that I have been a "camp girl" my whole life...having been a camp counselor translated perfectly into being a middle school teacher. So, at the beginning of the summer, Megan and I concocted an idea to have a Camp Chief Ouray 1997 reunion...the last summer we were all there together. Kir and Matt offered to host and it was so fun to catch up with everyone. Although, it was funny to be like, "so, since college, what have you been doing?" since we've all gotten quite old!
The Campers!
From left to right in the back: Megan, Me, Kir, Matt, Beth, Kevin
In the front: Gina & Justin
We were all counselors at Camp Chief Ouray in 1997 (and most people in other years too!)
I have also been hearing about my mom's painting all year and finally got to try some for myself. We went to a place called "Canvas and Cocktails" and through some careful painting instruction, I was able to create my first painting! Having been told by pretty much every art teacher and every seventh grader that I've ever taught, that I am a horrible artist, it was really exciting to create something that might actually be worthy of hanging on the wall (hopefully at Megan's since she said she wanted it!)!!

The creating begins!
The final products! Turned out pretty well!
I almost threw mine at the very end because I totally screwed up one part....
...but the teacher rescued me, like a good teacher, and the worst part turned into my favorite part!

And lastly, when I wasn't doing all of this other stuff, I spent lots of time with The Dudleys, Natalie, Todd, and Harper! Harper's new thing is to put objects on people's heads and call them a hat and then laugh really hard because they aren't actually hats! She is such a doll and so super smart!
Harper hammed it up for me! I also taught her how to take
pictures with my camera which she thought was really fun!

I leave in a week from Wednesday and have every second planned between now and then. My friend Courtney is flying out from Omaha and I will be staying with my friend Kir while she gets her tonsils out...OUCH!

And, as I have been doing all year...I pack. I will be hauling a major load of green chilis over to Germany because I have learned that I CANNOT live without them and they are impossible to find in Europe.

So, it is likely that the next time I blog, it will be from my new apartment in Germany! WOO HOO! Bittersweet to leave (especially all these sweet babies that I hang out with!) but I am looking forward to having my own place, a new job, and a new challenge!

Auf Wiedersehen!!!