Saturday, May 29, 2010

Leap Year

Yesterday was not a great day for me, so on a whim, Geoff, Andrea, and I headed to Gran Via to catch a movie in spite of the on-and-off rain. (Here, during the rainy season, Salvadoreans rarely go out.) We watched Leap Year, which is a sweet romantic comedy that reminds me of some classics that I love! It has to be one of my favorite movies of late, and they also incorporated picturesque landscape from the Irish countryside. Lovely! It made me really want to go to Ireland sometime. (And maybe if I lug my redhead along, they'll be extra nice to us.) ;)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May (through October) showers

It is cold and damp here in San Salvador; I actually feel as though I'd have to break out the jackets soon! The dreadful rainy season is here to stay, all the way through October or so. It is making me jealous that everyone in the States is bathing in sunshine, even though I recognize the irony that I am the one who never has to deal with walking through snow to get to work.

With the end of the year quickly approaching, our twice-weekly Spanish classes are wrapping up as well -- y eso es muy triste. I love our current teacher, and I feel like I learn a great deal in her class; we even went out and got her chocolates to thank her for teaching us! Even though I will definitely keep working on my Spanish, we probably won't luck out the same way next year in getting another super structured, systematic instructor. Entonces, hoy mi clase de espanol fue a la casa de Kristin para celebrar el fin del ano con vino y brownies. Fue muy divertido! Hablamos por casi dos horas antes de la hora nos occurio.

On the personal end of things, I am feeling complacent. Work has zapped me of all my energy for personal pursuits in recent weeks; I haven't even finished a book in three weeks. The only thing I am actively working on is learning to do a headstand. (I anticipate this to take me a long time, since I have a horrible sense of balance, but I do intend on practicing daily until I get it.) I love my yoga class, and I really think that both my flexibility and core strength have improved significantly in the few months since I joined the class. This summer, my goal is to work on my personal yoga practice, so that I am not always so reliant on going to my yoga class to get things done!

And, I am excited about going to LA and Shanghai so soon to visit the fam!! Of course, I'll have to stuff my suitcase with books, TV downloads, and my yoga mat on the way there, but I do expect to come back with an extra suitcase full of American goodies! :) (Things we can't get very easily here or are very expensive: contact lens solution, sour patch kids, Neutrogena face wash, condoms, good beers...) --And, who knows? I might get to swing-dance in Shanghai! :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Beautiful mirador

On Sunday, Geoff and I went with a few friends to celebrate a birthday at a stunningly beautiful restaurant that overlooked many nearby mountains. The food was delicious; the menu featured fusion cuisine brought back by the two Salvadorean restaurant-owners from their experiences living around the world. And the restaurant was only a short (~30 minute) drive from the city!

Our photos don't do the place justice. We had dined on the deck while the sun was setting, and you could see numerous mountain ridges near and far, colored in hues of blue and purple. Right past where we were sitting on the deck, the cliff drops about 60 or 70 feet. It was truly breath-taking; I hope we go back soon sometime. :)


The year is wrapping up so soon! With my Alg2H classes, I've been doing simple trigonometry in prep for their Pre-Calculus class next year. It's making me nostalgic already. (With Geometry, we're still pushing forward with "regular" curriculum all the way until the last day of instruction. I feel a little bad because I'm speeding through some of the topics, but the kids seem to be faring OK, despite their complaining.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Workaholic Anonymous

Happy Cinco de Mayo! (Did you know that yesterday was May the Fourth Be With You Day? Love it.)

I was really happy today, because it was the last day of our 3-d projects, and the kids were completely absorbed in the spatial visualization puzzles (this time without the aid of computers)! For stretches of a few minutes at a time, my classroom was silent with the sound of careful thought. Afterwards, I asked a handful of the kids whether they had liked the project, and they replied unanimously that it was great!

...It's super cool when things work out the way you envision. I really love teaching so much. :)

The weekend ahead, however, promises to bring a lot of work. (Bleh.) On top of the massive amounts of end-of-the-year grading and the usual weekly planning, I'll also have to pull together at least preliminary study guides for the final. (I am feeling parental pressure to get those posted very soon, so that kids can start studying early to make sure they pass the class.) I think parents conveniently forget that during these last weeks of instruction, as their kids check out and begin looking forward to the final, we are still grading and planning as normal. We don't get a break to pull together those study guides, especially not when kids are anxious to see the latest updates of their Q4 grades!!

Good thing Geoff has essentially guaranteed me that he wishes to do 16 hours of work this weekend ("8 hours on Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday"). We'll be workaholic buddies.


Incidentally, I finally finished reading a beautiful book yesterday. I had checked it out from the library 3 weeks ago, but school had kept me extremely busy, so it was put on the backburner. But, towards the end of the book, I was so anxious to find out what would happen to all the characters, that I was stealing reading time during all hours of the day! It is called Fall On Your Knees, written by Ann-Marie MacDonald, and is the most heart-rending book about the most extraordinary family. I highly recommend it!

I picked up another book, but I'm feeling pretty silly about it all. I have been pretty good about reading a book every 2 to 3 weeks since Christmas, but it seems pretty unrealistic that -- with everything going on -- I am going to have time to read between now and finals week.


Anyway, to give you a perspective of how fast the centrifuge is going, there are only 4 weeks of school left -- INCLUDING FINALS!! If that's not crazy, I don't know what is.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Brain/Life Dump

It has been sweltering here in San Salvador, but this week that heat and humidity have finally turned into rain. First, a trickle, and then today, an all-out ugliness outside. I guess this marks the starting of the rainy season. Yuck!


Geoff and I went to the beach last weekend to check out "Atami," a private beach club to which the school has membership. We had heard mixed things about it, so we decided it was something to see for ourselves. They had two types of rooms, $20 for a room with a fan or $36 for a room with an AC unit. We sprung for the one with AC, and it turned out to be a blessing, because the beach area was unbearably humid during most of our stay. But, besides that, Atami had a couple of huge pools (warm even at night because they are completely exposed to the sun during the day); a 100-meter water slide (actual curvy, water-park style); and a couple of salt-water pools right next to the ocean! The salt-water pools were awesome during high tide! The waves actually splash over the edge, but the pool is roped off on the sides so that you would not fall into the rocky ocean 10 feet below.

All in all, we had a LOT of fun at the club, and we think that we will try to go back there with a bigger group of people next time. My only gripe from the whole weekend is that the club is a bit remote from the happening spots along the popular beaches, and yet their food has a high price-to-quality ratio. Our weekend ended up costing a little over $100 bucks -- definitely not cheap for El Salvador -- once you included all the food and drinks, and that was only for mediocre food and a few drinks!


In other news, my dad is out of the hospital! YAY. He was in there for a short stint for something potentially very serious, but in the end, the docs determined that he was OK and let him go after a few days of in-patient care. :) Thank goodness! (Needless to say, this had been very stressful...)

I can't wait to see my parents in June, which seems to be, amazingly, just around the corner.


On the teaching front, I have been working hard to pull together the last projects of the year for my kids. I showed my Geometry kids a super fun movie about dimensions, called Flatland, and they loved it! On Monday, we will launch into a multi-day project on the computers, using this link in combination with some excellently scaffolded spatial puzzles (which I found while digging through the reference books at my school) to do a 3-d visualization/surface area/volume/base perimeter project. I can't be more excited! The entire project will take 3 or 4 days, but it should be super fun and educational for the kids.

In Algebra 2, we're wrapping up the exponential / logarithmic functions unit, so I dipped into my long-past engineering background and worked with the science teacher to figure out an RC-circuit lab for the kids. I have already tried it out, and I think it is going to be brilliant! (We're also doing a water-cooling lab, which is also exponentially slowing down as it approaches room temperature. But, that one is easy to set up, and I had actually already made the kids do it once last year with my friend Tim when I went away myself on a school trip, so I'm not too concerned about working out the logistics of that lab.) I am relieved to be wrapping up the long and very tedious exponential and logarithmic unit with some hands-on science activities.

Addendum July 2, 2010: In the spirit of sharing, here are the RC circuit lab thumbnails. Let me know if it looks interesting and you want the original file!


The last bit of update is that I got to swing-dance to live jazz music last night right here in San Salvador!!

April is apparently the jazz-appreciation month around the world, so the American Embassy had sponsored a free jazz concert in the plaza across the street from La Feria (the San Salvador convention center). I went with my sensible swing shoes on, just in case the music and venue were swingable. And, it was amazing!! Geoff wasn't there, but Andrea and I danced, and then I asked some of the Peace Corps volunteers we had met to dance. By the end of the concert, there were 4 or 5 couples up swing-dancing, and it was so lovely! (Even the locals were looking on, admiring the energy we had spontaneously generated.)

Afterwards, Andrea and I went along to grab a drink with the Peace Corps people we had met. They were super cool, and they gave me an interesting perspective on El Salvador. But, that's story for another time. :)