Saturday, February 19, 2011

Things I Learned on My School Internship

I just finished a two week placement at a mixed gender comprehensive school here in the UK with 1500 students between the ages of 11 and 18.

I'm ready for a nap now. Wake me up next month?

Here are just a few of the things I learned:
  • Politics in academia are everywhere - even across the pond. Why why why no sense of humor? I just don't understand this.
  • Stopping work for a cup of tea at 11 o'clock every morning tastes and feels heavenly
  • There is nothing louder than the shriek of a 15 year old girl trying to impress her friends. Oy.
  • Silver haired geography teachers in corduroy blazers are cuuuuuute.
  • The three words that people continually associate with Chicago are "gangsters," "snow" and "guns".
  • Teachers should make no less than a six-figure income. (I always knew this to be true, but observing some of the things I did on this placement just cemented this fact. The amount of work they do is astounding, as well as the barriers they continually have to climb over every day)
  • Acne is caused by stress and lack of sleep. Not chocolate or french fries. (Hello, first breakout since I moved here six months ago)
  • Old souls come in all shapes and sizes
  • Being up early enough to see the dawn come is cool every now and then because you get to see scenes like this:


Monday, February 14, 2011

Be My Valentine?

It's the end of Valentine's Day and I'm snuggled in at home, drinking hot chocolate and thinking about how wonderful it sounds to crawl in bed early with a book.

I'm still on my internship for one more week, and today's schedule was jam packed. I got the chance to do a couple of career interviews on my own, learned more about the nuances of the English school system (the terms GCSE, A star to C grades, A levels, BTECS and NVQs are actually starting to make sense and sound less like word salad in my head) and sat in on a couple of fascinating leadership meetings. But the absolute highlight of my day? Getting a chance to help an Economics teacher write and distribute the school's Valentine's cards. Remember those? At my school we'd stand in line in the lunchroom with a sweaty quarter in our pocket waiting to scrawl our innermost thoughts on a piece of scrap paper. I remember handing it over to some random substitute teacher and praying they'd get it right and deliver it to my real secret crush.

So yes, today I had the chance to read the intimate romantic ramblings of a bunch of 14 year olds. Being privy to these notes was something I didn't take lightly and they did not disappoint. They were faaaaaaaantastic. Phrases like, "I am inextricably drawn to you" and "Your beauty and intelligence knows no bounds." I mean, COME ON. You're killing me here. Reading these little gems took me back to my days of young romance and all the love letters of my youth. I was lucky enough to have some really awesome boyfriends and I was romanced with a capital "R". There were cassette mix tapes filled with angsty songs (Depeche Mode still makes me weak in the knees) and cheesy Hallmark cards overflowing from front to back with REAL HANDWRITING. It wasn't about iTunes playlists or Facebook pokes, it was tangible stuff and it was exhilarating. Oh and I had a thing for handwriting too - I could easily fall in love on the basis of penmanship alone. Still can. Rrrraaawwwwrrrrr.

One boyfriend who went away to college shortly after we fell in love sent letters written in blue fountain pen. He wrote pages and pages of sweetness on gray linen paper, the curve of his script gorgeously masculine and sexy. Those letters lived a long life in a dusty cardboard box at the bottom of a linen closet until one summer night when I tore them to shreds on the advice of a well meaning marriage counselor. But it wasn't the ghost of this love that got in the way of my marriage. It was the marriage that got in the way. I can still see the garbage bag on my living room floor, filled with paper. At the time I thought what I felt was relief, but I was wrong. I miss those letters. Everyone should have a right to keep their cardboard boxes. They're filled with beautiful stories.

So another Valentine's Day has come and gone. I've been single for a lot of 'em now and I'm pretty used to it. It's so nice not to have to worry about picking out a gift or going out for an overpriced dinner. No drama or too sweet champagne over here!

But I do miss a good card.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Un-Beautiful Post

My walk to work

Today's post is brought to you by deserted streets, broken glass, assholes and pools of stale urine. No stylized still-lifes or perky platitudes here, just a healthy dose of reality. (With a bit of alliteration sprinkled on top).

If you came here looking for a bright and sparkly post about cozy cups of coffee and fields of sunshine it ain't happenin'. This week was a doozy, and I apologize to those of you that come here for the pretty bits. Rest assured, I'm still a happy camper - but right now my head is spinning.

A friend sent me this video on why I need to get off Facebook earlier this week and I'd be lying if I told you I didn't fall in love with its writer just a little bit. The message is spot on (plus he's gorgeous). We are all more than what we put out here on these pages and there is a depth and complexity in our real lives that cannot be captured in this flat space. I can post all the shiny pictures I want to here, but unless you're sitting next to me on the couch you won't know about my shit day at the new temp job getting yelled at by strangers or the problem I'm having getting the stench of pee out of my nostrils from the train ride home. (Dodging angry drunks and broken glass was fun too.)

My goal here isn't to be a downer. Anything but. In a funny way, this little bit of truth telling is my way of reaching out to whoever is out there on the other side to say hi, and isn't all of this crazy? Each of us walks our path every day. Today mine happened to be a lonely early morning hike to a car dealership where I would earn just a tad more than minimum wage to answer phones and transfer calls to people who didn't want to answer them. I was Invisible Girl. And that's okay, because a lot of expat life is spent on the outside observing. Two pre-requisites for becoming an expat? Buckets of self-esteem and the ability to self soothe.

But you can't make love to a bottle of vodka.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I Forgot To Put On Deodorant Today

It's true.

I also woke up with garlic breath strong enough to kill a horse* AND got my period.

Normally these things wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that today was a Big Deal at school. (I have trouble saying "at school" here, since the word school has a different connotation in the UK than in the U.S. But I think you get what I'm sayin'? If not - I'm talking about that building I go to to earn my Master's degree.....)


Today was the day that a busload of students was delivered to my university's front door to help us practice being career advisers. They ranged in age from fifteen to seventeen and provided the requisite amount of shrieking and eye rolling. They helped us practice our question asking and workshop teaching and provided enough challenging moments to make the majority of us wonder if in fact we've chosen the wrong career?

It was a day of watching, listening and judging and at the end of it we each walked away with six pieces of blue paper filled with scribbled sentences detailing our strengths and weaknesses. There were no surprises. I could talk for hours about my "Areas of Development" and will be the first to tell you all the things I need to learn. I come to this adventure with enough experience to understand that sometimes days suck and there's nothing I can do about it. Sometimes they suck a lot. Today was one of those days and I'm glad that it's over and I'm on to the "glass of wine and pajamas" part of the evening.


*The garlic breath was worth it though - I made this last night and it was deeeeeeeelicious.