Sunday, May 18, 2014

Post Grad Life Crisis

I’m 22, a college graduate, and I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I’m broke and broken down.  And not to be a cliché and quote some T-Swift song that has an immense correlation with my life, but, “I’m happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical ohhhh yeaaaaaa.” Well if this is what “feelin’ 22” is like, I’ll gladly pass.  I know it’s not like I’m 42 having a mid-life crisis because I’m stuck in a loveless marriage and a dead end job, but still, it’s stressful. I mean what if I picked the wrong career. What if it’s not what I want to do? What if it’s not what I’m supposed to do? What if I suck and the kids don’t learn a single thing? The rest of my life is a big decision. So many people already have jobs lined up and I haven’t even finished a single job application. Basically I feel like I’ve failed already, and I haven’t even started. I don’t know why it is I can’t bring myself to finish an application, I mean I’m three fourths of the way done with most of them anyway, but something about it just doesn’t feel right. Maybe I’m wrong comparing a job to love, but I think there should be a spark. That feeling you get when you know it’s right and you’re so happy you smile from ear to ear just thinking about it. I used to think about teaching in that way. After senior block I was ready to go out and change the world one classroom at a time, but somehow student teaching changed all of that. I went out and saw the world and fell in love with one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to in my life. I don’t know if it was the sense of adventure, the free spirits of the people, or the beauty of the land, but regardless I was amazed that I was capable of loving a place that much. Leaving South Africa left a huge hole I still feel like I need to fill. My seven weeks there was hands down the best seven of my life and I spent most of the trip feeling like I was never going to do anything in my life that would ever compare to how wonderstruck and how right everything there felt, and after graduation I’m starting to feel like I was right. So maybe I won’t apply for a big girl teaching job I just paid thousands and thousands of dollars and countless sleepless nights studying to be able to qualify for right off the bat. Maybe I’ll sleep on it until it feels right or something else that does comes along. In the meantime, as long as I’m happy and making enough money to survive, that’s all that matters to me.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Life in the Sunshine State

The Numbers Game
March 30th

Ten, four, six. Right now these are the defining numbers in my life. Ten weeks of student teaching completed, four weeks left in Florida, six weeks left until I graduate into the real world. That last number though, six, has been the one weighing on my mind the most lately. Although I've waited for the day of graduation since the first time I stepped foot on Ashland's campus, I feel like bait being thrown into a shark tank whenever I think about officially being a graduate. It's an intimidating thought knowing the world is wide open, just out there waiting for me. I can go anywhere I want and essentially do whatever I want. Throw job applications and interviews into the mix and you've got a great recipe for an overwhelming amount of anxiety. Then there's the dreaded, "So what are you going to do with your life after after graduation?" question. It's stressful enough trying to plan the next step of my life without being asked on a daily basis what my plans are and being interrogated by job application questions.

On the flip side, teaching is going great here! At the end of the day Thursday I stepped back and realized I had taught everything the entire day, definitely an amazing feeling. On Friday morning the kids didn't have school so the staff could have a meeting and work on report card grades, so I went to my first all staff meeting! They do this really cool thing where any member of the staff can recognize another member of the staff for something positive they did by giving them a package of candy. I was so excited to be recognized for volunteering at Family Fitness night the night before. My teacher was recognized a little more formally for doing such a great job in the classroom so far this year, so now it's official that I'm learning from the best of the best.

The Struggle is Real
April 7th

Florida has been great and all.... but I'm still spending most of my time missing South Africa a terribly large amount or wishing I was home already. Maybe I haven't given Sarasota enough of a chance. But then again maybe my hearts not in it. It's crazy because I feel like a teenage girl wallowing over a break up... Only mine was with a country and not a person. And even though this great new thing has come along, it just can't compare. Don't get me wrong there are SO many things I am grateful to have here, but I think I'm still so stuck in South Africa that it's hard for me to think about the positives all the time. Not a day goes by that I don't think about and miss my 25 favorite grade 1s back at Summerwood Primary. It's also hard knowing I'm so close to home (okay well not really that close but a heck of a lot closer than an 18+ hour plane ride) but I can't go home.I'm trapped in such a weird place.

Anyways, I'm determined to love Sarasota so these are things I already love here and I'm so grateful for : 

1. My amazing host mom. How lucky am I to have this woman take me into her home who is always checking up on me to make sure I have everything I need and I'm okay. Her family is just as amazing as she is and it's been so nice to get to know them as well. This week grandma and uncle bob are in town and I get to spend some time with them. Friday night they took me to Spanish point with them and it was beautiful! It was so comforting to be on the water again.

2. My bike. Okay well it's not my bike, but with the amount of miles I've put on it in the last few weeks you'd think it was. Last week I found legacy trail which isn't far from my house at all. I've spent so many afternoons exploring and I've made it a goal to go a little farther every time.  When my feet are moving, my mind stops. I'm at peace. I think that's why I like biking so much, that and I can't bear to be inside on beautiful days so it gives me a reason to be outside.

3. My mentor teacher and classroom. I am so lucky to be placed with Toni! I think I got one of the best teachers in the school. Not only have I learned so much from her, but I love just hanging out and chatting with her in the classroom when the kids are away at specials. She's such a great person and a wonderful teacher and has welcomed me fully into her classroom from day one. Last Monday I had the opportunity to go on a field trip to Myakka State Park with my kids. It was such a beautiful place... filled with lots of gators. We lucked out and had perfect weather for the trip, and the teachers lucked out and half the kids fell asleep on the bus ride back to school.

The Canopy Walk!

4. Ashton Elementary School and the other staff. Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly and the school is as close to perfect as I've ever seen. Such a special place. One of the other kindergarten teachers has been so great and invited me out to my first Run or Dye race with her and her family which was everything I thought it would be! Later that night we ventured out to the Amish Country of Florida (nothing like it is back home) so I could get some pie and take a picture to prove to people back home that the Amish live down here in sunny Florida. 

5. 24/7 phone service. Not relying on wifi to send a text or make a call is wonderful. It's nice to be able to contact people whenever I want, talk about first world probs. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

God Bless America

March 20th

I’ve been here for two weeks, and I can already say I’m definitely going to like it here in Sarasota. The first week I was here was Spring Break for my kiddos, which meant I was on Spring Break too. Having my first week in a new place where I knew no one didn’t really sound like a fun time to me, but it ended up being an awesome week! I really hit the jackpot with my host mom and her family! They’re all so welcoming and friendly. My second night there I wasn’t invited to family dinner at her son’s house and after 7 weeks of being away from home, it was so nice to be in a family environment, even if it wasn’t my own. My host mom (Chris) is also a teacher at the school I’m at so on the days I feel lazy and don’t want to bike to school, we can carpool. On another note, I went to a book signing with her and her family and met Stephen King!!! I’ve never read any of his books or seen any of the movies, but it was still really cool to meet someone that famous. Even though I’m not going on trips like I was in South Africa, I’m still finding all these little, entertaining things here (I guess it helps that I’m so easily amused). One of the grocery stores here has a separate escalator for your shopping cart, it took a lot of self control not to go down multiple times.

A friend from home took a road trip down to see old friends (and me of course) and brought me a suitcase full of clothes I wished I would have packed the entire time I was in South Africa (I already know I’m going to be doing laundry a lot less frequently here). She used to live here, so she took me to a ton of cool places! We spent a day at Clearwater Beach which was absolutely beautiful! I also got to hold some random snake on the beach, and I thought I wouldn’t see anymore cool animals after I left South Africa. We spent the next day at Busch Gardens and even though it didn’t have as many roller coasters as Cedar Point, it was still a really fun day. It was so comforting to be with someone from home who just gets me and gets where I’m from.
By random chance, another friend from home on leave from a Naval base in Italy ended up being in Sarasota for the week with her family. We grew up together and I haven’t seen her over a year so I was ecstatic to spend some time with her! Her family took me to the beach with them where I saw my first real Florida sunset.

Now onto the important part, why I’m here. School has been so amazing and I haven’t even been there for a full week yet! All of the staff has been so welcoming, especially my host mom, mentor teacher, and the rest of the kindergarten team. I’ve already started leading some classroom transitions, teaching a few lessons, and sat in on some meetings! Everyone has definitely been going out of their way to make me feel welcome. My mentor teacher invited me to the fair with her and her family to watch the Steer show her nephews were showing in this past week. I went a little overboard on fair food, but I felt so at home being at a fair, and seeing some Amish hanging out everywhere. Another teacher invited me to join her and her daughter at the Run or Dye race this weekend. I’m so thankful I was placed at a school that’s so amazing and has such a welcoming staff because it’s definitely helping to make my transition here so much better. I can’t wait to really get into teaching and become more of a part of the school.  I still miss my South African students and think about them every day, but my new kiddos are growing on me and I think I might even like them ;)

I'm Not Ready Yet

March 9th

My last week was definitely my hardest week yet. Even though I knew I had five more days with my kiddos, it was still really hard picturing saying goodbye to those 25 adorable faces I have grown to love. It was especially hard to think about leaving when the kids would tell me things like, “Do you what my favorite thing to draw is Miss Zeleznik? It’s me spending time with you!” If that doesn’t melt your heart then I don’t know what will. My last day of school I found a Summerwood polo in the school vault and wore it at the swim Gala all day. It was nice to hang out at the pool all day instead of in the classroom because I think being in the same routine we did every day would have made it even harder to say goodbye. The point of this Gala is so that the grade 1 and 2 students can get used to how a Gala works for when they participate in the coming years. It’s all for fun, so all the students get to swim at least once (even if it’s just walking from one side of the shallow end to the other) so I was able to cheer on every one of my students.

Since we couldn’t really plan a big trip because my flight was Sunday morning, we found little ways to make my last weekend fun. We always get splashed from the second floor pool in the Radisson Blu, so we decided to sneak up there and hang out at the pool like we were staying there. Little did we know, apparently all the locals go hang out there too for cocktail hour, so we didn’t even need to be sneaky about it.

Saturday we hiked the Pink Lady Slipper, which was pretty local, but still pretty cool. It was such a beautiful climb. On the way back into town we stopped at the cutest little farm stall restaurant for some lunch. It was delicious, but it was also sad thinking it would be my last restaurant like that in the country.

As One Journey Ends, Another Begins

March 10th

I can still remember it like it was yesterday. The city seemed so big and I felt so small. Everything was cold and uninviting. Four strangers stared at me as I sat nervously on my bed in the living room  thinking to myself that all I wanted was for this to be over so I could go to Florida. Flash forward seven weeks. This city seems so small, but not in a bad way. I know its ins and outs, the good parts the bad parts, the cool parts and the eh nothing to see there parts. This is home. I've never been to a place that's become such a part of me, especially in this short of a time. The strangers I met on the first day are way more than that to me now. They're friends, roommates, and my family away from home. I would give anything to stay here with them longer (and I even looked into it but holy moly was changing my flight expensive!). Even though I am starting a new adventure in Florida, it's hard to be excited when I'm so heartbroken about leaving this amazing country that now means so much to me. It's hard to imagine anything ever comparing to this beautiful place and all the amazing experiences I've had here. "How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard" as hard as it is to move on from this chapter in my life, there's no way around it, but it's nice knowing that when I go a piece of my heart will always be here in South Africa.

It was really hard to come to terms with the fact that I had been able to do so many cool things while I was in the country, and there were still so many that I wouldn’t be able to do if I left. I'm sitting here terrified thinking that nothing I ever do will be as amazing as this experience or top it, and if I continue to have that attitude, then nothing will. Life is all about what you make it. There's beauty in everything, you just have to choose to see it. Sometimes you might have to look harder for adventure than others, but it's always there. I think that’s definitely something that this trip has taught me, that no matter where you are you can find something cool to do if you actually put the effort into finding it and making it fun. Growing up I always used to think Ohio was such a lame place, and now after being gone for so long, I have this weird newfound pride for all things Ohio.

I mean what is home when you really think about it? The place you grew up? Your current place of residence? If there's anything college and especially these last 7 weeks has helped me figure out is that home to me means more of a level of comfort than a physical place. Home is somewhere you're comfortable. Where you fit. Where you're happy. When you're having a bad day the place and the people that will in a sense hold you and make it better. Home isn't a building, it's a mindset.

I have this fear. This growing anxiety that there's so much out there to see and experience and I won't reach enough  of it. A fear that I'll stay in one place too long, settle in too much to ever bring myself to say goodbye and see what else is out there waiting. I like The idea of living on impulse, just picking up and leaving when it feels right, not when a job or the world dictates i have too. Life is way too short to not make the most of every second. Too short to sit by and just exist, just survive. Routine is a scary thing. It's addicting in the level of comfort it provides. Think about it, you're trained to think you need to graduate high school, get a degree, get a job, make it a career, have a family because thats how everyone else does it. Wake up go to work come home eat sleep and repeat... Every day for the rest of your life. I'm so terrified of falling into that trap. I need to know I have the freedom to change my mind any second. If I'm not happy i want to go find something that will make me happy. Can it really be that easy though?  Of course I want to work with kids, but I'm starting to question if teaching is the way I want to do it, or the way I'm meant to do it. What if there's some greater plan out there for me? And I'll never know unless I try to go find it. There's this quote about how you'll never know where you belong if you sit around and stay in the same place or something like that. What if this is like that? What if I get a teaching job, settle into a career, a routine, and I never break the cycle and there was this whole other great thing out there waiting for me I never knew about. I refuse to sit around and let life pass me by. Who knows what that means for me yet, and who knows if that will all change by the time Florida is done with me. Isn't it interesting to think about how a place can change you? Sure you might go trying to make an impact and you might succeed, but in the end you always leave changed. A place has the capability to gobble you up, swallow you whole and spit you out shiny and new. To take what you are and tweak it just a bit to make it that much better. And you always seem to leave a piece of you behind. A piece of your heart that will never stop loving that place for everything it was and for every little way it impacted you. You love it with such an ache to return that you can almost feel the hole leaving has left. That's what South Africa did to me. It Knocked me off my feet and left me breathless and craving more. sure it was hard sometimes, but no matter where you are or what you're doing that happens. I just cant help but wondering What if that's my place? What if that's where I belong? I never imagined a place could captivate every part of me like that, and I have this burning feeling that no  place will ever do that again.

I'm on Top of the World!

March 2nd

The drive to Cape Town was a long one, but definitely worth the scenery. We took the Garden Route which was absolutely beautiful! I was so tired, but didn’t want to risk falling asleep and missing a second of the beauty around me. Oddly enough, my first time in Cape Town was also Eminem’s first time in Cape Town, so what better way to start off our trip than with tickets to his concert!

Thursday was a pretty chill day. We got an early start so we could drive down to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope to spend most of our day there. It was so cool to actually be on the most Southern tip of Africa and the views were absolutely amazing! We also took a longer drive back to our hostel so that we could stop and see some different beaches, which also had some amazing views. Thinking back to my trip in general, it was almost impossible to be anywhere in South Africa that didn’t have an amazing view.

Friday was also a pretty relaxed day. We had the best all you can eat buffet at the hostel for only $5. We were going to hike Table Mountain, but it was completely covered in clouds making it too dangerous. Instead, we went to the Waterfront. It was such a nice area with a lot of shops and a few museums. We went to the Oceanarium to see penguins and also went to a few local museums. I was a little disappointed with the museums, but it was still cool to walk around and look at the history of another culture. That night we went to a few different restaurants on Long Street which is basically just this huge street that is really popular because it’s just filled with all kinds of restaurants and bars.

Saturday was by far my favorite day in Cape Town. The conditions were just right, so immediately after breakfast we started our two hour hike up to the top of Table Mountain. Once upon a time I thought I was fairly in shape…... and then we started the climb. It was by far one of the most physically challenging things I've ever done, especially when we got close to the top because the last stretch was pretty steep, but every second of spaghetti legs was all the worth the feeling of triumph I felt when I got to the top. There's is no way a picture could ever capture the beauty I saw as I looked down from the top.  And  now no one will ever have to listen to me complain about climbing another set of stairs again in my life.

Climbing that mountain was a lot like everything in life... There are hard times, times when you don't want to keep going and you don't think it'll ever get easier. times when reaching the top is out of sight. But that moment when it's in sight it's like a sudden burst of motivation. And the second you actually get there it's the best feeling in the world knowing what you accomplished. 

After hiking, I made a last minute decision that I wanted to go paragliding and within a matter of minutes I was rushed off to the take off site and being strapped in. It all happened so fast. One second I was standing there getting strapped in and the next my feet were off the ground... I was flying! That morning I didn’t think I could see views any better than what I saw on the top of the mountain, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was so amazing to be flying around just above the city.

Just before sunset, we hiked up to the top of Lion’s Head. It was not as extreme as Table Mountain which was nice because you could enjoy more of the view as you hiked instead of paying attention to where you’re putting your feet. Unfortunately the clouds rolled in so we couldn’t see the sunset, but the view from the top was still beautiful. I also met two Americans at the top, I can sniff them out from a mile away. Not many Americans travel here, so it’s always nice to run into fellow Americans, it’s like finding a little piece of home. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I Don't Know About You...

Febuary 15th.
Kwantu day! The elephants are here! We went to a place called Kwantu with Freewalkers to visit some ellies. IT WAS SO COOL! Not only did we get to ride them, and by ride I mean ride them around the bush just like they were horses, but we were able to feed them too! My entire hand was in the mouth of an elephant, how many people can say they’ve done that?! It was also really awesome to learn about the elephants too. My guide shared information with me as we casually rode around on an elephant (he even pulled out his phone to send a quick text at one point, but seriously, who texts on an elephant like it’s completely normal) and the ‘ring leader’ I guess you would call him told us even more information while we waiting for the other riders to come back once our ride was finished. I was blown away by how amazing these creatures were.

Next stop was a restaurant called Nanaga Farm Stall for lunch . They have the best bread I’ve ever tasted in my life (and if you know me well, you know that’s a lot of bread) and it was only 4 Rand… which means it was 40cents!!!!!). We ate our lunch out on a patio as chickens walked around freely. At one point, one jumped onto the empty table next to us and started eating the leftover chips from the last guest. As with all the other restaurants here, the food was phenomenal. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy food from a restaurant back home ever again because of the high standards this country has set for my taste buds. When we went to pay, I dropped a rand, and like lightening a chicken came out of nowhere to snatch it up. I guess they have a diet filled with variety.

After our lunch, we headed to a private game park called Schotia for our game drive. We were paired up with a really awesome German couple and our driver named Andrew for the night/afternoon. We started out like the little engine that could, when we couldn’t get up the first hill no matter how many times we tried. We found a different route, but continued to run into the same problem most of the afternoon/night. Despite our difficulty with that, it was an amazing drive! The scenery was so beautiful that I wouldn’t have minded sitting in one spot the entire afternoon. We saw animals like zebras, elephants, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, and LIONS! They were so close I could have reached out and touched them, but my better judgment told me I better not do that. We also ate at this super cool outdoor/tiki-like/bonfire restaurant.

Random note of excitement: Last week I gave directions to two different groups of people like I was a local and this week I got mistaken for looking like someone who speaks Afrikaans in the passages! It’s official, some people think I look like a real local!!!!!Scatterbrained. Anxious. Sad. Embrace. Those are just a few of the millions of billions of words all jumbled up in my head right now that I can make any sense of. The thought of leaving so soon has me so scatterbrained. As excited as I am to go back to America, I am so sad to be leaving a country that in a such a short time has managed to steal my heart. I am so anxious about what my time in Florida will hold for me, and that I will never find a place that I love as much as I love being in this country. I’m trying my best to embrace all of my time here, and remind myself that not everyone gets this opportunity to see this amazing country, but it’s so hard not to think about all of the things I will miss once I leave here. I haven’t even left yet, and I am already trying to devise a way to come back and spend more time here. As amazing as some of the big adventures like bungy jumping have been here, I think it’s the small, routine things I’ll miss the most. Walking to the grocery store. Hanging out at Kaffine to enjoy some good food and free wifi. Watching the sunrise over the water every morning. Being able to walk less than five minutes to the beach. Waving hello and goodbye the adorable little girl who lives in the apartment across from us and the cute little boy who lives below us. The way people talk here, not just their accents, but the way everything sounds more proper. And I’ll especially miss my end of the end of the day routine: “Good afternoon boys and girls” “Good aftanoon Miss Brough and Miss Zeleznik. And have a SUPA DUPA AFTANOON!!!!!!” Those cute little accents melt my heart every time! 

I don’t know about you…..BUT I’M FEELING 22!!!! What a great day! I went for my usual morning run, and even though I couldn’t see the sun through the overcast morning, I just knew it was going to be a good day. I passed my roomies on my way in to get ready for school and they started off my day with some happy birthday singing. Then I got into my apartment and found a wonderful table of all my favorite treats from my girl Sarah, I couldn’t have been happier! I got to school and was surprised with my favorite chai tea latte from Caroline and the news that my teacher wasn’t coming in so I got the kids all to myself for the day! It was such a fun day hanging out with the kids. I just love every single one of them to pieces. I’m currently trying to figure out how to bring them all home with me, or stay here with them forever. Being apart from them just isn’t an option I want to consider. For dinner, I went to Angelos with my roomies and finally had some pasta, I’d been looking forward to it all week.

Thursday and Friday I was lucky enough to get to spend the day with Teacher Kelsey and her grade R kids (our preschool/kindergarten age) at Beachwood. From the second Kelsey introduced me, I knew I’d get along great with them when little Andrew immediately stood up to yell, “I love her,” and then sat back down to look me in the eyes and tell me he loved me again. Apparently love at first sight is a real thing! Thursday I just took the back seat and tried to learn their names and get down the routine, but Friday I was on my own with them. It was awesome to be able to see how a classroom at that age worked, and of course the kids were so cute!

Friday night was a lot of fun! We took a trip to Stanely Street in town. It was like a really trendy street you’d find somewhere in America. We wanted to experience as much of it as we could, so we got drinks and a bread platter at a wine bar, ate fajitas at place called Buenos, and then ate the best brownie in the world at another restaurant. It was such a lovely evening!

Saturday morning I woke up early and walked down to the beach to read for a little bit. The sun reflecting off the water was the prettiest I’ve ever seen it. Just when I think I’ve seen everything here, I see it in a new and different way, so breathtaking! Sarah and I went to Kaffine and ordered breakfast sandwiches to go to eat on the beach and then we got ready to go attempt to tan, but the wind was so crazy, we were getting attacked by the sand. Once all of us met back up, we got ready and headed out to see the Donkin Memorial in town and city hall. It was really incredible, but there wasn’t much to do, so we didn’t stay long before we headed to Bridge Street Brewery for dinner.

Monday it was SO nice to be back with my kiddos. I have never been so attached to a group of kids before and I missed them like crazy Thursday and Friday (even though I still ate lunch with one third of them). I’m starting to get the feeling they’re just as attached because Thursday Matteo demanded me to tell him where I was all day because he was so worried about me all day long. Today he told me that when I leave he’s going to “miss me until he dies,” and yes ladies and gentlemen that is a direct quote. All my aftercare kids ask everyday in the middle of homework when I’m leaving and tell me that I’m not allowed and I have to stay forever. They’re just perfect; there aren’t enough words in the world to describe how much I love each and every one of these kids. 

p.s. I still can't figure out this whole rotating pictures thing, so if anyone could help me that would be AWESOME! :) Cheers! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Every Mile A Memory

Wow, four weeks down. I can’t even believe time has gone this fast. It’s so sad because there is so much I want to do and see here that I know I just won’t have time for. I also can’t imagine not living in this beautiful country. I also can’t imagine school and the grocery store being close enough to walk to, it’s just so much more convenient than having a car. Here’s an update on my week was:

Last Saturday morning was pretty uneventful, I took about 3 naps before noon. I definitely think whatever all the kids have at school they so kindly shared with me. It could be because they all pick their nose and wipe their boogers EVERYWHERE as if no one is watching. As gross as that is, it’s nice to know that kids are kids no matter where you go. Saturday night, our South African friends in our apartment complex drove us to a really cool restaurant just outside of town. It had a beautiful view of the ocean and the atmosphere was so relaxed since it’s a spot locals go to, and not one of the touristy restaurants in town that we’re used to. The highlight of my day though was a phone call from my little brother. As cool as everything is here, I miss talking to my best friend everyday like crazy.

Sunday morning we made a traditional American breakfast (chocolate chip pancakes and bacon, YUM) and took it outside to the picnic tables to eat. We shared some of our leftovers with all the little kids who live in our building and they were so excited. It’s such a small thing, but waving and saying hello to them always makes my day. After that, we packed up and headed out to spend the day at the beach. You can tell classes at NMMU have started here because the population at the beach has changed and expanded to more people our age. Sunday night we went to a new church called Father’s House. It was really different from the one we went to in Walmer, but it was still really cool and it was nice that the crowd was closer to our age and not all high schoolers.

Monday was field trip day! The day I anticipated since the sign up sheet went home. We went to a museum called Bayworld which is about a five minute drive from the school (and about a 20/30 minute walk from our apartment, depending on how lazy we feel). It was cool to see inside the museum. It was really similar to the Natural History Museum in Cleveland, but obviously this museum included a lot more marine life. I’m so glad I decided to help out at after care at Beachwood because it is turning into such a great bonding experience with the kids. Some of the kid’s complain all day about wanting to leave school, but as soon as the final bell rings they are practically dragging me over to Beachwood and begging to do homework. It’s nice to get to know some of the children from the other grade 1 classes and the grade R (kindergarten/preschool) students as well.

The heat has been pretty intense the last few days here. The high speed winds I just started to get used to have seem to come to a screeching halt as the percent of humidity has increased along with the temperatures. The only bad part about it is your clothes just sticking to you all day long, not a fun feeling. Honestly, I’m more than happy to deal with this than the snowpacolypse back home. You can tell it’s brutal on the kids just sitting in a hot classroom all day long because they are all much more emotional  and exhausted. On Wednesday,  a child was so exhausted that he fell asleep in the middle of storytime at the carpet. Today is Friday and it has rained for most of the day, which has helped cool it down . It’s also Valentine’s Day which has definitely lifted the spirit of the children. Today was definitely a day filled with love. This morning one of our roommates surprised us with a set up of scones, muffins and juice for breakfast, they were delicious! At school I was instantly greeted by cards, chocolate sweeties, and flowers picked from the schoolyard by students. It was cute to know that they had thought of me when planning their gifts for Miss Brough. For a few Rand, the students were allowed to wear their ‘civis’ (street clothes since they usually wear uniforms) if they had red on them. It was so cute to see then all dressed like little kids, instead of the mini adults they usually looked like. They were extra funny today too. One little boy told me, “Teacher Lesticks, daddy said I must save some of this chocolate bar for teacher for myself” and then proceeded to eat the entire bar. Another little boy excitedly gave me the bow off of a candy bar… but kept the candy bar for himself. My favorite laughable moment of the day was when a little boy found a pin that said, “I’m an extraordinary woman!” and proudly wore it on his shirt all day despite the fact that he knew what it said and he was very well aware he was not a woman. I’ve never seen a happier child before in my life. Even though I love a good laugh as much as the next person, my all time favorite moment of the day happened two hours after I passed out my Valentine’s. Valentine’s Day here is definitely not a big deal like it is at home, the only person that gets Valentine’s is the teacher. I was so excited I bought a box of Toy Story Valentine’s to bring with me on this trip, until I started to hand them out. I was a little crushed to realize that none of the kids understood what they were, what they said, how to open them, and the worst part was that some of them didn’t even know what Toy Story was! It was a little after break time when I looked up and realized one little girl was walking around carrying my valentine around the room. As the rest of the afternoon passed, I realized most of the class was carrying their valentine around with them anywhere they went in the room. It made me so happy to realize that it wasn’t a fail and that the children did understand them.

It’s strange thinking my time here is more than halfway done. It’s very bittersweet. I can’t wait to be that much closer to going back home to Brunswick, but every morning when I walk into school and see all the first grade faces I’ve come to love, I am heartbroken thinking that I’ll have to leave them. They’ve each hold such a special place in my heart, and I can’t imagine not seeing them every week. It’s also weird using the word home about America. In the short time I’ve been here, it’s snuck up on me that I now consider this my home. I even had a nightmare about leaving the other night. I woke up in a sweat thinking I was going to miss my flight back to America and I had to rush around the apartment to pack up my things. I was sobbing so hard that I couldn’t bring myself to leave the apartment. That dream is so the opposite of everything I was feeling 4 short weeks ago, and I almost wish the next 3 weeks could last forever.

(I don't know why I can't figure out how to rotate this picture, but since I can't I'm instead telling you to just rotate your head to view it. It'll still get the job done)

I have been practicing my Afrikaans with my students (especially my colors!) but here are some of the English words my students have tricked me with:
Tackies= tennis shoes
suitcase= bookbag (if you say bookbag they’ll laugh and look at you like you’re an alien not an American)
corkies= markers
costume= bathing suit
ski pants= leggings
press stick= sticky tack
robot= stop light
specs= glasses
petrol= gas
take away= food orders to go
passages=hallway (if you tell children to be quiet in the hallway they’ll never understand what you’re       talking about)
bum= butt (clearly I’m too immature not to include this one)
A hat is almost always referred to as a cap.
Instead of getting a ride somewhere, you get a lift.
You don’t get things, you fetch them. How charming does that sound?
The most commonly used words in school are lovely, brilliant, charming, clever, and shame. The word shame is used quite frequently in all situations here, for example, “That poor boy tripped over his suitcase because his takkies weren’t tied” “Oh shame!”

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Week Three

Friday the first big adventure began! At 4pm sharp we loaded up the Freewalker’s van and headed to Plett. I thought the scenery was pretty the whole way there, but then we arrived in Plett and my mind was completely blown! It was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. We walked across the beach to go to dinner at a restaurant with a sea side view, and caught a glimpse of the Milky Way and more stars than I’ve seen since I was 12 on the walk back to the hotel.

Saturday morning we started our day semi early with a boat ride out to dive with seals. We put on wet suits, flippers and snorkels, so it was the real deal. It was amazing to see hundreds of seals playing in the water and laying on the rocks. I don’t know where I was thinking this dive would take place, but I was completely panicked by the fact that we were about to plunge right into the middle of open water with no shore near at all. We jumped into the water and the shock of the cold combined with the fact that there was no shore to swim to was so overwhelming to me that I couldn’t stop hyperventilating and had to get back in the boat. I was proud I at least tried, but I’d prefer to never jump into the middle of open, freezing water like that ever again in my life.

My New Year’s Resolution was to be fearless, and after my seal scare yesterday, I needed some redemption. Sunday afternoon, I whole heartedly took the plunge into the realm of being fearless when I leaped off the highest bungy bridge in the world. Surprisingly, I was relatively calm leading up to the jump, I think my adrenaline kicked in a little early and helped with that. It was the most unbelievable and exhilarating experience of my entire life. Nothing, not even riding all the rides at cedar point or hanging off the edge of a cliff in Ireland, can come close to touching the experience I had leaping off that bridge. The only scary part was dangling head first while waiting to be pulled up and trying to think of everything besides the fact that my feet felt like they were going to slip out of my shoes at any second (clearly in the 30 seconds it took to jump I had completely erased the memory of putting on the backup safety harness).

Saturday was a rough day for me. I battled some pretty intense homesickness off and on, and even seriously questioned if this trip was even worth it. Sunday really solidified how happy and lucky I am to be having the experience of a lifetime in this beautiful country, despite how much I am missing everyone and everything at home. It’s funny to me that I ended up teaching on the coast for 14 weeks of my life when one of my biggest fears in the world is drowning and I have never liked being in the water. Coming on this trip is such a big step out of the lines of my comfort, and as hard as things get, I couldn’t be happier I did this. Homesickness will come and go, but regrets can haunt a person forever. Of course we did a lot more than seal dive and bungy jump this weekend, but I won’t go into too much detail about that. We had a few ocean side lunches/dinners,  visited a craft market, took a boat ride around Knysna, watched the sunset, saw baboons just chilling on the side of the road, ate fast food next to some monkeys, and watched a whole herd of cattle just casually wonder around a cemetery. Besides bungy jumping, hiking in Plett was my favorite part of the weekend. It was so unbelievably beautiful. It reminded me a lot of Ireland, but so much warmer. I could have stayed there forever. On the way back, we dropped off our new German friend Daniel back at his home in Addo National Park and we were able to see a little bit of wildlife. We also passed one of the biggest townships around. It was sad to see the conditions and how many people lived in such extreme poverty there.

The reason I’m here though, teaching, is also going great. Everyone at the school is so friendly. This past week, Caroline and I were picked up on our walk to school by a student and her mom and by a fellow teacher. My students of course are great too. One day I got to play substitute in another first grade class, and every time I passed my class in the hall they screamed and shouted like I was a celebrity or something, so it’s cool to know how much they enjoy me hanging out in the classroom. My mentor teacher is really awesome too. Even though she’s only a few years older than me, she’s always checking up on me to make sure I’m staying safe here.

We made some new friends in our building this week. They’re all South African farm boys from the north that are staying here on business. They’re all like your typical American southern gentleman. They surprised us with ice cream on our door step one night, and invited us to a traditional braai (a barbeque) another night). Last night, they were nice enough to let us tag along to our first rugby game!!! The stadium was beautiful and it made me feel so at home hanging out there. After asking 800 million questions, I think I’ve been converted to a rugby fan! So far my weekend is off to a great start, and I hope the same is true for all of you!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Time Flies

I can’t believe I’ve been here for a day short of two weeks already! Time really does fly when you’re having fun. Adventure wise, we didn’t really do anything too crazy last weekend. I think we all just needed some time to relax and explore the town a little more after our first week of student teaching.

On Saturday morning, we called a cab to pick us up and drive us to the Green Acres mall. It was like any mall you would see in America, but it seemed a lot busier than the mall in Strongsville that I always go to. All the locals keep saying February is the most brutal month of the year for heat, and that this might be their hottest summer yet, so I needed to buy some skirts and shorts to wear to school. We spent the majority of the day at Green Acres. Although getting skirts was important, the best buy of the day was a real pillow!!! I have never been happier to see one in my entire life since the pillows they gave us in our apartments are as thick as a folded hand towel.  I slept like a baby that night. After returning to Summerstrand, we went to the Boardwalk for a bit to enjoy some free wifi (it’s a very valuable thing to us here).

Sunday morning we got up early and walked to the leasing office so some of my roommates could buy wifi. I knew I should buy some since I would run out soon (and sure enough I did that night) but I was out of Rand and they only accept cash for internet. After that, we spent the entire day wandering through the flea market. There were so many handcrafted wood pieces, paintings, and key chains. I would love to buy one of everything except
 1. Nothing fit in my suitcase on the flight here and
2. I only had enough rand to buy some ice cream.
That night we booked a cab to take us to the United Methodist Church service in Walmer which is about twenty or so minutes away. Most of the people were about high school age, but it was a great service and we plan on going back on Sunday nights.

After school on Monday, we headed to the Boardwalk to meet a local girl and some of her friends from NMMU for dinner at Spur. Monday night they run a burger special where you buy one meal and get one free, so I was all about that! And as always, the free wifi is a plus, especially for facetiming. On our walk back into our apartment building, we met some South African country boys who are staying in the complex next to ours for a few weeks for business. It was funny to hear how similar their country living was to our country living, even though it’s an entirely different country. They seemed really nice and invited us to barbeque with them and listen to Tim McGraw whenever they are outside. Not that I don’t feel safe here (but sometimes the teachers freak me out telling me horror stories of crime), but it makes me feel safe knowing they are going to be around for a few weeks if we ever run into any trouble (which I hope we don’t). It’s just very different that all the houses and building here have huge walls with barbed wire surrounding them and there are bars over all the doors and windows.

After school on Tuesday night I went to help out my high school roommates coach fitness club, and it was so much fun! I will definitely be going back. That night, Summerwood Primary held a picnic/pool party for the first grade families, so I decided to go check it out. Although I didn’t talk to any parents, it was nice to get to know the other first grade teachers better. One was even nice enough to drive us home since it was getting dark out.

As always, the kids were adorable this week. We were having a lesson on body parts and discussing the reason we had eyelashes when a raised his hand to say that they were only there to “make us pretty.” They say the cutest things. My favorite story for the week is that one morning a child’s mom stopped to talk to me before class and asked where I was from because her son had told her I was from Mexico! I’m sure Mexico is a lovely place, but it’s definitely not where I call home.
I learned some small but interesting differences between our culture and theirs:
1. THEY DON’T MAKE S’MORES WITH CHOCOLATE!!!! This is just disturbing.
2. They call all crackers biscuits (I have no idea what they call biscuits)
3. They sing the incy wincy spider instead of the itsy bitsy spider which just sounds adorable with their accents
4. They call ‘jell-o’ ‘jelly’ so they don’t quite understand American’s fascination with peanut butter and jelly
5. They call all ‘jelly’ ‘jam’

It’s Thursday, which means the weekend is only a day away! I’m so excited for tomorrow because we are going to a braai (a barbeque) at the high school with our roommates before we leave for Plett (Plettenburg Bay) for the weekend. I’ve heard it’s one of the most beautiful cities around and it’s also the city my mentor teacher is getting married in next year. I can’t wait to see what the weekend has in store! Talk to you all next week J

Friday, January 24, 2014

Week one, done!

     It’s official, I’ve survived not only my first week as a student teacher, but also my first week in South Africa!!! Everyone was right, it goes by quick. I’ve never been to a beach in America before, but I’d imagine that this city is very similar to one there. Sometimes things don’t feel that different here, except for when I am in school.  I am in a grade one classroom and I have 24 lovely students. The first difference I noticed was that a classroom library was missing. There is one bookcase in the room, and if I had to guess there are probably less than 30 books sitting on the shelves. Their school day is much shorter than ours. Grade R (which we would call kindergarten) gets out a noon, grade 1 and grade 2 are done at 12:50. Once you are in grade 3 you have to stay in school until two and high school stays until 2:30. My roommate and I think they have such short school days because they don’t have a long summer break like we do. Despite difference in academics, kids are kids anywhere you go and I am in love with my entire class. I know I still have five more weeks, but I’m already sad knowing I will have to say goodbye. Some of the phrases they use are a bit different than what your typical American child would say. On the first day of school, a child was completing a paper and told me, “I hope that my parents are pleased with my work.” It's just so adorable, you would never find an American child that speaks that properly. 

     Going into this experience, I was worried about not being able to understand their accents, but it never occurred to me that they wouldn’t be able to understand mine. The way they pronounce their ‘e’ and ‘a’ sound is especially different.  On the first day, one student told me, “Your language is weird.” My roommates are from/go to school in Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama, so we’ve discovered that my accent is even different from theirs. I never realized I was such a northerner until now. People seem to pick us out as Americans very easily here. It must be something about the way we dress or carry ourselves, because some locals have told us that it’s not our accent that gives us away.

     Although there are times I miss everyone from home, I am too in love with it here to be homesick. This city just gets me. Most of the time people walk around barefoot (perfect because who hates shoes more than this girl?), even to the grocery store and out to dinner!!! I also love that the grocery store, restaurants, my school, and the beach are within walking distance. I think it's such a hassle to have to get in a car and find a parking space, so I am all about the convenience of being able to walk to my destination. It would be helpful to have a car to get to some of the cooler sites outside the city, but we can call a cab and the Freewalker's adventure crew for that. Everyone here is so laid back and relaxed, I could really get used to this way of life. Since I get out of school at 1 everyday, it's so nice being able to go hang out on the beach after school. Last week we even saw dolphins on the beach! I about passed out from excitement since I have never seen one in real life before. I love how active the city is too. There are always people out swimming, surfing, biking, running, or walking, no matter what time of day it is. It's very motivating. 

     Last Sunday we went sandboarding in Sardinia Bay with Freewalker's, our first real adventure! It was amazing! It’s basically like snowboarding on sand, but way easier and it doesn’t hurt when you fall (which I did a lot of…). The beach was beautiful and the people were very friendly. We can't wait to plan another big adventure, but until then we are going to try and explore Summerstrand a little more this weekend and make a trip to the mall so we can buy more warm weather teacher clothes before the heat gets to unbearable in February. 

This is the beach at Sardinia Bay where we sandboarded. You can't tell here, but the sand dunes were really high!