London!

One thing that really surprised me in London was hearing many languages being spoken.  I had expected to hear a lot of the Queen’s English, but that was simply not the case!  I enjoyed the diversity around me, and so did Ysabela.  That being said, now back to our adventure….

While Rich dashed off to purchase tickets for Mamma Mia (for 38 pounds each), I took advantage of some shopping time after Bela and I sampled fish (haddock) and chips.  Ketsup cost extra, so we did without it.  It was much like the batter fried fish we get at Long John Silver.  We went to the M&M store and grabbed some neat things along with the chocolate.  Bela got chilled from the rain and wind later, so she unwrapped her blanket and used it like a rain coat.  We bought two on sale for three pounds each when I paid for Bela’s huge bag of candy.

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Bela was so tired by late afternoon, but she wasn’t alone; my feet ached, but we still had to keep moving on and off the metro.  The poor kid actually fell asleep while Rich tracked down two of the girls who got misplaced.  It took him about an hour to get back with them.

At least Bela’s shopping trip was successful.  She was pleased to find a flag and a London iPhone case.  I couldn’t find a case for my phone, so I was a bit disappointed.  We made it to Hult for supper where we had pizza.  It was pretty tasty after such a long day.  Some of the older ladies and I were nearly worn down to a nub after so many hours spent walking around London.  We made it to the hotel (finally) around seven.  (Keep in mind that we flew out Sunday after lunch and it was now Monday night.)  I was rooming with Laura, a Girl Scout leader.  Laura had emailed me prior to the trip to introduce herself which was kind of her.  I was thankful that Laura had a spare adapter so I could charge my phone!  Bela was rooming with three girls from the Texas group.  They had been discussing anime all day, so they had bonded a bit.

We hit the showers, then I perked up enough to go to the hotel bar for some American coffee.  It only cost me a pound.  I smoked a couple of cigarettes, then dropped off Bela’s medicines.

On my final smoke break of the night, I met a girl named Charlie Alex.  Her boyfriend, George, was caring for his little sister—Marla, two years old, green eyes, red curly hair.  Her picture was adorable.  Charlie asked me questions about the United States, and I listened to her explain why she was unhappy with the decision to leave the European Union.  She opined that it will limit economic opportunities for her generation.  Chatting with Charlie was a nice ending to a very hectic day.

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10-Day Whirlwind Tour

I have been away on vacation with my teen, Ysabela, for 10 days, but it feels like a lot longer!  I’m happy to be home and blogging again.  In this series of blogs, I will go over the trip day by day to share the experiences with you all.  I kept a journal just for that purpose since I had so many people interested in our travels.

July 10, 2016: We were lucky enough to be transported by friends to the airport, so that saved me a lot of parking fees and stress.  We made our flight, but it was a bit sketchy.  Dawn, one of the flight attendants, was there, but she wasn’t a bit helpful.  The plane shook and made odd noises—enough to alarm Bela.  I reassured her, but I was a bit concerned until things evened out.  Since our flight took off late, we barely made the connecting flight in Chicago.  We were the last ones to board.  That part was very stressful, as you can imagine!

After we got settled in on the flight across the pond, Jeffrey Alan made us feel at home.  This plane was so much different from the others we have taken!  First class was WOW!  Bela and I decided that one day, we will travel to Europe in that section!  We kept going to the “regular people” seating.  Each row was divided as such: 3-4-3.  Dinner was a sight!  I chose pasta, Bela wanted chicken, so we were both satisfied.  Each tray had the main course, a small bottle of water, a roll, salad with pomegranate acai vinaigrette dressing on the side, a small wedge of cheese and crackers.  I ate almost everything while I watched Allegiant; Bela tuned in to see a Goose Bumps movie.  We had time on the flight for about three movies if we stayed awake for the entire seven-hour flight.  We definitely felt spoiled.  Supper made us look forward to breakfast!

Flight information showed Chicago to London as 3939 miles which translated into seven hours and 20 minutes.  I enjoyed my headphones and blanket.  Daddy’s Home was my second movie choice.  I did end up sleeping some.

July 11, 2016:  We landed in London around nine in the morning (their time, not ours).  It took forever to get through the passport check.  Once we escaped that, all I wanted was a smoke!  I left Bela with an EF Tour lady while I found a smoking area.  After so many hours without one, I felt a bit dizzy afterward.

The EF Tour lady took Bela to Richard, our babysitter/guide/go-to guy, and he finished collecting the rest of our group.  We dropped off our luggage at the bus while he passed out our Oyster cards.  Oyster cards are used for public transportation.  We saw a lot of the metro today!  We literally walked miles.  One lady had a FitBit and said we had already walked almost three miles, but she didn’t have it on all day.  We definitely got in way more than 10,000 steps.

We saw buskers in Trafalgar Square and hoofed it over to Covent Garden to view some awesome statues.  Our final destination for the day was Premier Inn in the Shoreditch area of town.  More pictures and info to come!

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Taking Things for Granted

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I realize that I am lucky to have been born in the United States.  I didn’t understand the magnitude of my good fortune until I lived in Mexico for a few years.  Don’t get me wrong—Mexico is a great place to live, absorb culture and increase language competency.  I’m not writing to bash any country.  I’m just pointing out that a trip to the post office can be a radically different experience depending on the location.

What I mean is here in the U. S., I have a car and a good job.  That gives me the ability to go to the store when I wish or to the post office.  I remember when I was in Mexico I’d chat with friends and family who would remind me to check the mail.  That could be a major day trip in some cases in Mexico.  The small town where we lived didn’t even have a post office.  I had a Suburban to drive, but I didn’t always have the pesos to put gas in the tank.  That meant I had to spent a few pesos to ride the bus from the village to the city of Mérida.  I was also at the mercy of the bus schedule.  Usually one left on the hour if the drivers were on time.

The bus trip itself took about 45 minutes each way on a good day, not counting traffic or maybe oppressive heat.  (Sometimes the heat alone would leave me melting in my hammock!  Forget travel on days like those!)  Are you with me so far?  We haven’t made it to the post office yet!  To get there, I would have to get off of the bus at the corner about ten blocks away from the actual post office.  I’d either wait for a city bus or I could walk.  If it was a cooler day, I’d walk.  I knew I was getting close when I passed the police station.  Once at the post office, I’d chat with Doña Landy as I checked the mail.  The ladies there took good care of us.

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Since Mexico is a warm place and I spent time walking, I’d need to get a Coca Cola before boarding another bus to go to the centro (downtown area) to take the bus home again.  I always thought it best to make a morning trip to the city if I had to go.  At least that way, I might be home by early afternoon before the full heat wave hit.  By the time all was said and done, a simple trip to the post office would have cost me a lot of effort and probably at least half the day.

The next time you check your mail, remind yourself that things aren’t always as easy as they seem.

Planning

For all of those people who don’t know how teachers roll, let me give you a bit of insight.  After the initial rejoicing at the end of the school year, many of us use our vacation time to attend workshops or take classes to improve our practice.  Those workshops may last one or two days, depending on the topic, but the thinking process lasts a lot longer.  Putting all of the learning and thinking together to create classroom activities takes even more of our vacation time.

That’s been my experience, especially after the Martina Bex Comprehensible Input workshop last week in Lincoln.  I’m sure I’m not alone.  I spent this week rehashing and rereading the handouts she provided for us.  Now I’m almost ready to start choosing vocabulary to use in my own stories.  Then comes the actual writing process.  I’m sure I’ll have a few false starts, but the results will be worth the time.

For more information about Martina Bex, visit her at https://martinabex.com/.

 

Meeting Martina

Before I begin, let me tell you that I wanted to call this blog post “My Brain is Full,” but I felt that was too long, and I like alliteration, so I went with the current title.

If you teach (especially foreign language), you probably already know which Martina—Martina Bex.  I have spent considerable time exploring her blog https://martinabex.com/ otherwise known as The Comprehensible Classroom.  She discusses the advantages of using CI (Comprehensible Input) when teaching.  After all, if the students have no understanding of what the teacher is saying, why bother?

Martina spent two brain-filling days with over 100 educators from Nebraska and surrounding areas.  (One teacher drove from Arkansas to take this training!)  The part that really blew me away was that we teachers didn’t have to pay to attend!  That never happens!  This time, however, it sure did, thanks to the hard work of Dr. Janine Theiler of the Nebraska Department of Education.  She had support people like Jessica and Jami who saved my bacon when I thought I was lost.  They made sure everything went smoothly so we teachers could learn and improve our practice in the classroom.

I was thrilled to get a copy of Martina’s presentation in addition to the handouts provided.  I will use them to create plans of my own as I work toward CI in my own classes.  Now I have the framework necessary to push students toward proficiency!

It was a pleasure to meet Martina.  She’s very approachable and thoughtfully replies to questions.  I took the picture below on a break from the session on the second day.  I asked Martina, “What makes you happy?”  Her response: “My children!”

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For more information about Comprehensible Input, the research behind it and strategies for implementation, please visit https://martinabex.com/.

Coffee Karma

Ysabela and I had a fabulous visit to D. C. for the American History Film Project exhibition.  I was excited to have Doorja leading our tour since she was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic (in spite of the rain).  Ysabela learned a lot.  Martha was there to help navigate, so all bases were covered.

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Our weekend was fun, but then we had to get down to the business of making our way home again.  Our shuttle driver was late, but it turned out fine since ticket agents open the counter close to five in the morning.  Ysabela and I had stayed up all night so we wouldn’t oversleep, so we were in desperate need of coffee!  While I waited in line to check us in, Ysabela was playing on her phone in the waiting area.

The line moved rather quickly, and I looked over to catch Bela’s eye so she could join me.  I was surprised to see her chatting with “tall, dark and handsome.”  After I noticed him close to my daughter, my tired, squinty eyes zeroed in on his cup of coffee.  :)  Where in the airport did he get that this early in the morning?!  My (flawed) plan was to clear security and then get a cup of java.  Seeing his cup made me realize the error of my ways.  Bela was happily chatting away to this young fellow, but I had the chance to ask about the coffee shop location.

He stood up quickly when I turned back to the line and asked Ysabela if we wanted coffee.  She reported later that she refused several times, but he insisted.  He put his coffee cup down near Bela, took off and said he’d be back.

I was approaching the counter when I turned to see this young man with a cup in each hand heading my way!  I couldn’t believe it when he refused payment for the coffees!  I tried three times, but he wouldn’t hear of it.  He said something like, “I’m working, and if you want coffee, you can have coffee!”  What choice did we have?  Ysabela and I thanked him profusely and had coffee!  Before he disappeared, I asked him his name and told him I’d be sure to blog about him.

If any of you know a handsome gentleman named Zari, please pass along a hug from us.  He made our morning, so he deserves some good karma….let’s all keep paying it forward.

 

 

 

 

Onward to D. C.

Somewhere close to lunch on the last teacher workday (LAST TEACHER WORK DAY!!!!), I left to take the dogs to Koko’s Palace, pick up Ysabela and our “personal bags” and head to the airport.  When I refer to “personal bags,” what I really want to say is that we each carried a large tote that held our clothes for the weekend.  My bag even had room for my purse.  That saved me money since there’s a charge for a carry-on or checked bag.  Only a personal bag flies with me free—if it fits under the seat.  We all know clothes can be mushed, and mush we did.  :)  We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.  I was a bit nervous since I had received an email advising me to arrive three hours early for domestic travel due to long security lines.

Bela and I took the red-eye and arrived in Washington, D. C., right before five in the morning.  I will admit to sleeping—and most likely snoring—all the way.  I am not ashamed.  In my defense, I did warn my flight neighbor.  He didn’t have a problem with it.  Bela later informed me that he and I were doing some duet snore harmony.

I had downloaded the Uber app prior to leaving home, so I thought transport would be easily arranged.  HA!  Airport Internet could be a bit better.  After almost half an hour of “loading” on my cell phone, I was done.  My last resort was to call my hostess, Martha.  She was already awake (thankfully) and came to pick us up within the hour.

We were welcomed at the apartment building by Martha’s neighbor, Mr. Ali.  He’s a delightful person who made me a cup of coffee when I was there last year.  Coffee friends are forever friends.  Ysabela and I managed to get settled in enough to take a nap.  Martha set the clock to make sure we’d be ready to get to the venue by the appointed time.

Didn’t I tell you what we were doing there?  Oh, dear!  Sorry about the oversight!  We were there to present student films for the American History Film Project!  I attended last year with one of my students; sadly, none were able to come this year except for my daughter (who also did a film).

This year’s venue was lovely.  The curator at Blenheim was so gracious and generous.  Ysabela and I even got to take a tour of the place before our presentations began!  We were made to feel so welcome that I hated to leave at the end.

It has been so encouraging to see Martha’s dream grow.  There were more films presented (and more states represented) this year than last.  Our in-person audience also doubled!  Local school board members were in attendance, and they took an active part by asking insightful questions after each film.  Ysabela did a fine job, as did the other students.  Several young film makers joined us via Skype to answer questions.  Technology is great!

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For more information (and to see the films) head on over to the Facebook page (link below), give it a “like” and do some browsing!  Please share it with your friends as well.  I’ll blog more about it all in a day or two!  Stay tuned!

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