Monday, June 29, 2009

A Weekend to Remember

We had our goodbye party in Geoff's parents' garden on Saturday, and it was a blast! The weather was beautiful, even though it had been predicted to rain for part of the evening. A steady stream of guests came and went throughout the night, and I think everybody had a good time mingling. Geoff and I were surprised by the turnout of New Yorkers, actually, since it was definitely a bit of a trek out of their way. Even our friends who came solo seemed to be having a great time. And, as a special treat, I got to see an old college friend (Dan) for the first time in five years, because he had just arrived in NYC for the summer! All in all, we were more than grateful for all the friends and family who came out, and we will be spending the rest of our time here catching up with the rest of them...

Earlier in the day, when I had realized that my friend John wasn't going to be able to make our party (because he and his girlfriend were busy doing last-minute packing for their own summer trip), I made a hasty decision to rush uptown to meet him for coffee. As a result, I had to take a cab and sprint through midtown Manhattan to get to Port Authority on time for the bus -- TOTAL CHAOS! -- but it was totally worth it, because I got to say goodbye to my dear friend before he headed off for the airport today. yay. :)

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Then, this morning I came back into the city to meet up with the dancers for brunch at our troupe director, Laura's, apartment. There was an incredible spread of food, and we played Apples to Apples for a while before heading over to Central Park to enjoy a live jazz band. The afternoon wrapped up with some awesome music and dancing, before I had to say my goodbyes.

I am terrible at saying goodbyes, and I felt very sentimental to be leaving the troupe... But, it was definitely the perfect afternoon to remember. :)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Last day at AMS

I was saying goodbye to my coworkers, and then all of a sudden I felt my chest swell like I was about to cry. And then the tears came flowing out and they wouldn't stop. I knew goodbyes would be hard, because I had been working daily with some of these teachers and staffers for three years now. But I hadn't anticipated it being this hard.

Tomorrow will be our goodbye party! :) The timing couldn't have been better, because I got to delay some of the goodbyes. That is a good thing, because I was already a wet mess as it was today. I don't think I could have said goodbye to more people. Maybe tomorrow will be better after some booze.

Monday, June 22, 2009

My Inner Frannie

The CDC recommends that travelers receive Hep A, Hep B, Typhoid, and Tetanus shots prior to traveling to El Salvador. So, today I went downtown to a doctor to get those shots. Geoff had already gone there last week and had said that some of the shots would require a follow-up dose; my going today would allow for that buffer period to pass before I could get the second dose.

As it turns out, getting properly immunized is very expensive! In fact, neither the cost of the travel vaccines nor the visitation fee is covered by most insurance policies. When the nurse broke it down for me, I was flabbergasted. --In all, that would mean $250 for the visit alone, and another $360 for the shots! Holy smokes.

I was actually outraged over the amount of money that the girl had stated. I figured that there had to be some sort of mistake or loophole. Wishfully, I called up my insurance company, but they confirmed the disheartening fact that they would cover no part of the fees. Frustrated and desperate (and really, shameless), I ended up talking to the nurses for a while, because I wanted them to help me find a solution. They wanted me to go back on Wednesday, after they have a chance to consult their "fees person" about giving me a discount. That wasn't an option for me, since even going there today had required me to leave work early, and leaving early on Wednesday is absolutely out of the question. But, I also did not think I wanted to be a cowgirl about paying the $600 today. So, I kept asking if there was anyone she could talk to who was there...

Eventually, the girl relented and went to go talk to the doc, and they both agreed to turn the visit into a consultation for my chronic asthma condition. That way, they could legitimately bill my insurance for the visit, and I would only have to pay for the shots themselves. --Score! So, not only did I end up saving more than $200 on the visit today, but I also got some free allergy medicine samples and some free asthma advice! Good stuff.

--Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I hustled them today. ;) The whole time while I was talking to the nurse, I had pictured my friend Olajide in my head. I knew that if she was there, she'd be hustlin' them like mad, so I did my best to invoke my inner Frannie. And it actually worked. wow. :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spanish word of the day

My new favorite Spanish word: sinverg├╝enza. It means "a shameless person." I anticipate needing to use this word regularly in El Salvador. :)

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In other news, my teaching evals came back, and the results were very interesting! My kids overall liked me as a teacher, but think that my class can use a greater variety of assignments. (Specifically, more projects and fewer worksheets, which is perhaps not surprising, because I had basically modeled the unit structures after the honors track... And ultimately, those units are too worksheet-heavy for my non-honors kids.) This gives me something concrete to work towards next year, so I am really glad that I decided to do the survey!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

De-clutter

I have started to pack and clean up my stuff! Today was day 1, and I threw out a bunch of stuff. Things I still need to do in terms of packing and cleaning:
  • Send my nice dresses out for dry-cleaning.
  • DO LAUNDRY, and start packing away clothes that I want to keep.
  • Bring old clothes down to the Salvation Army.
  • Return my reference textbooks to the school.
  • Donate my own books to the local library.
  • Take pictures of my gazillions of old cards / photos and then get rid of the hard copies.
  • Go through my paper documents to keep only the absolute necessary things, and throw out the rest.
  • Mail only my favorite reference books to El Salvador.
  • CONTINUE TO THROW OUT STUFF!!

For once in my life, I want to be clutter-free, even though I know that it will be hard to do. (I came across some old cards from dear friends while cleaning, and felt instantly sentimental.) :)

Saying goodbye to the high-schoolers

I told my 10th-graders that I won't be around next year because I will be moving to Central America, and I could swear that a quarter of them asked, "Where's that?"

Another handful asked, "Does that mean you won't be at this school anymore?"

...Scary.

I relayed this story to some teachers, and told them that I am giving the kids the benefit of the doubt in assuming that they hadn't heard me the first time. But, one seventh-grade teacher said that a good number of her 7th-graders can't figure out where North America is on a world map, even after filling out South America correctly. --WHAT??!! Doubly scary.

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Afterwards, a few of the 10th-graders were pretty upset. I was surprised, honestly. I was the least experienced of their teachers this year, and I wasn't expecting any real emotion from them following my announcement. A few kids made me promise to come back in two years for their graduation. I will actually try to do that, because some of them I have taught for two years (in 8th grade and again in 10th), and it would really mean something to see them graduate on time.

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In other news, tomorrow will be my last instructional day with the 10th-graders. After that, they will get two weeks off to prepare for their Regents exams (content-specific exams they have to pass in order to graduate from high school). I have prepared an end-of-year evaluation form for them to fill out, because I think that as I get further into my teaching, feedback from students can and should be factored into my own assessment of my performance. But, I'm anxious! This is the first time I am doing any such thing, and I don't really know what to expect. Their comments can be very cruel, or very helpful/insightful. I really have no idea.

All in all, teaching 10th-graders has been a fairly bumpy ride this year, it being my first real exposure to older kids. I have had to really go out of my comfort zone to ask other more experienced teachers for advice to keep these jaded young adults in control. But, it has definitely taught me a thing or two about dealing with older kids, and hopefully my transition to EA will be a smooth one next year. :)

Monday, June 8, 2009

My Little Nemeses

I contacted my future supervisor, and he told me that they are planning on having me teach regular Geometry (9th grade) and honors Algebra 2 (10th grade). :) I'm excited! Please forward me any info you might have about good reference material for Geometry, so that I can make this class fun!! :) That will no doubt be my challenge in the upcoming year...

Some other things I will need to get before heading out:
  • Inhaler refills
  • Contact lenses

  • Some sort of insect-repellent thing (...Yes, I get bitten that much! I am a little worried about Dengue fever, actually.)

  • Passport photos (for visa apps)

Last night, Geoff and I had decided to leave the window open while sleeping, since it had been sweltering in my room. Within two hours of going to bed, I woke up to find both of my legs covered in mosquito bites! It was sick. I counted at least 10 bites in all, and they were already so swollen and itchy that they had woken me up. I had to actually close the window, slap on a layer of toothpaste (a home remedy that always works for me), and then cover my head and body entirely with a blanket, because I knew that if I had left my face out in the open, the mama mosquitoes would munch happily on my face like they had done in D.C.

Today, Geoff told me that he does not think he was bitten last night at all. That's crazy! I did some research, but could not find any satisfactory explanation for why I am always bitten so badly. I don't sweat much, and I don't use perfumed lotion! >:( Ridiculous! ...What is even worse is that supposedly the mosquitoes can smell you from 100 feet away! WHAT??!!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Duffel bags

Okay, so maybe I won't need a duffel bag that is so big that I can fit myself comfortably into it. But, that doesn't mean that I should preclude the possibility that I might.

So, I went and got two of these from a local army store at $35 each. As my students would say, "That's OD!" :)

Monday, June 1, 2009

30 days!

It is unfathomable that I will be moving out of my apartment and getting rid of all of my stuff in the next 30 days! I think that time will really fly by, now that we are actually in June. (--A surreal notion, in and of itself.) It is a two-week sprint from now until my high-schoolers are done with instructional days, and then another week until my 8th-graders take their Regents exams. And another week until those middle-schoolers, too, will finish school. Following that will be a busy weekend of: dance performance; our going-away party; and hanging out with the lovely dancers for the last time. Then, finally, I will have a couple of days of packing, throwing crap out, and MOVING!

Meanwhile, I'm teaching the next two Saturday schools (because I am a sucker) and Geoff is trying to organize a weekend trip to Pittsburgh to visit his pal's upcoming new baby. Our lives are caught in a centrifuge, and it's about to get crazy.