Resolutions

I’ve always kind of laughed off other people when they make new years resolutions. I am very practical so if there’s no real reason to it, why bother? I mean, you’ll do it for a month but then you’ll completely forget all about. Anyway, I decided to actually try it for once.

This year I had three resolutions that I thought were practical, reasonable, and worthwhile.

One: Complete Wanderlusts 21 day yoga challenge. Check. I did complete it although I did take a day or two break in between the last few days. I’ve been doing yoga on and off for the last few years. I love it but I didn’t seem to be getting much better at it. So I took it on for 21 days and after 1 week I could see a difference! Since the challenge I’ve tried to keep up but I definitely haven’t been nearly as diligent.

Two: Don’t eat any chocolate or dessert for one month. Check. I only cheated once at a friend’s house when she was baking chocolate chip cookies. This one came from constantly coming home from school craving sweets. All I wanted to do was eat chocolate. So I took a month off (obviously this couldn’t be a permanent thing because I like baking too much). It was harder than I thought it would be, but I satisfied my cravings with sweet potatoes. Of course I had to make a cake for Ronnie’s birthday at the end of January, but my takeaway from this experience was to only eat dessert after dinner. It was very tempting to eat that amazing German chocolate cake for breakfast, lunch, or snack time. I’ll have you know that I resisted and only ate cake after my dinner.

Three: Keep the house clean. Many of the teachers here have hired a maid to clean for them. My good ol’ Dutch heritage can’t imagine me paying someone to do something I’m perfectly capable of doing myself. However, we are very bad at keeping up with things. It generally sits around until we need it or it’s very disgusting. I read a blog once that suggested 20 minutes of cleaning when you first get home from work is a good habit to get into. Because really, cleaning isn’t all that bad, but finding the motivation to get started is what gets me. Unfortunately this has been the least successful of my goals. But we shall continue to work on it.

Anyone else have a New Years resolution?

Gender roles

Here’s another interesting cultural tidbit about Egypt.

Men are almost exclusively involved in women’s beauty products and processes. I went to get my hair cut for the second time and, for the second time, it was cut by a man who looked like a biker. Tattoos, slicked back hair, kinda short, wearing leather, you get the point. Perhaps this is to make up for the fact that he does women’s hair for a living. Also men and women have separate salons…it’s very awkward for me to sit in a men’s salon and vice versa.

Makeup counters frequently have men behind them and lets not forget the piles of bras out on the street, also sold by a man. Personal trainers at the gym are mostly huge buff men.

My most recent theory is that since men can have more than one wife, they don’t get jealous.  Who cares if my wife is out getting beautified by some other man? I’ve got two more to keep me happy.

Of course I have no idea, but it’s something that seems very odd to me having men so involved in what many people consider something quite personal.

Staring

There was a time in my life about 10 years ago when I avoided contact with other people at all costs. I walked through the halls of my high school staring at the floor. Something happened (I don’t remember what) and I realized there was nothing to hide from. I started looking up at people in the hallways as I slowly learned how to socialize. It was a painful process that I was horrible at. 

After college, I moved back to my hometown, got married and realized that all the people I grew up with were gone on their own adventures. Again, we (Ronnie helped quite a bit) slowly began to make friends again as we became a part of the music community. 

Jump to September 2015. We moved to a place where I stick out like a sore thumb and everyone stares. It’s incredibly uncomfortable and I have been tempted to make faces at them and stare back. Instead, I avoid them. I can’t communicate with them and even if I could, I would have a hard time trusting what they said. So, once again, I go through public avoiding contact with people at all costs. 

If only I had more time to learn Arabic properly. That might help a bit. It’s quite exhausting spending your time avoiding people. And it’s extra miserable when your husband is gone for two weeks. I’ve even considered dying my hair darker to see if it would help me to blend in…Don’t worry though. I haven’t considered wearing a head scarf.

Differences

I’m going to try really hard not to complain, but I make no guarantees.  Although this time it isn’t about Egypt…it’s about the good ol’ US of A.

I am trying really hard to find one thing that is the same here.It’s not easy.

There’s a different language (obviously), different measurements of length, height, weight, temperature, different currency, different expectations about time, different cultures, different time zone, different everything!

The only exception being time.  I thought they were going to use the 24 hour system because the principal sent all the schedule information that way, but maybe that’s just him.  It’s normal here.

So what am I not complaining about?  Yes. This is Egypt where certain things are a lot harder than necessary, but all of my co-workers (minus 1 other American) only had to adjust to the new language and culture stuff because everyone else in the world agrees on measurement systems. 

Of course this is no big deal for all the Americans who will never leave their sacred homes. I always thought the few people who went by the metric system were snobs, but now I realize that they are just being practical (global-minded to use my IB lingo).

I feel that America in general is very self-absorbed. The 9 and 10 year olds in my class are instructed in 3 different languages every week. In the US, you’re required to take one, maybe two years of a second language, but not until high school when it’s kind of too late. Even the Canadians are able to speak and understand some French.

Hey America! There are other people in the world besides yourselves!

I was pretty upset when I started student teaching that geography and foreign language skills had no mention in the cram-packed elementary curriculum.

Next week is my chapter in math about measurement.  Who wants to bet on how many times I say feet and inches instead of metres*, etc?

*Side note: Can anyone tell me why the textbook spells it metres, but it’s still perimeter?

Rant over.

 

 

Summer 2015 books

When school ends and I run out of things to do, I turn to books.  This summer I read quite a few due to the fact that I knew I was moving out of the country and shouldn’t do any new art projects or home improvement. So here’s the list.

I feel like I should have a disclaimer about my book selection.  Before I left, I realized that my membership at both the Richland Library and the Mid-Columbia Library had expired.  When you move every year, you can maintain your membership in both because they last for two years, but I must have slipped up when living in Benton City last year. Anyway I could only update my Richland account because that’s what my address was. It turns out that Richland’s online assortment of books is much more limited than Mid-Columbia. So after placing several things on hold that I actually wanted to read, I ended up getting a few to try out. Many of them came from the “most popular” section…

Mean Streak by Sandra Brown. This is the reason for my disclaimer. I hadn’t really intended to read an adult romance novel, but this one was quite well written. I’m sure many of you are thinking, but look at the author, you should have known. I don’t pay attention to authors’ names. It’s a bad habit but it’s true for actors, composers, and singers too. It was very intriguing and hard to put down. It’s a good book if you like that kind of book…

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. To be honest, I don’t think I even finished the book. It was quite wordy, hard to follow and I eventually gave up and watched the movie instead. Shh. Don’t tell.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I loved this book! I know they’re making (already made?) a movie out of it.  I can’t imagine it’ll be any good, but the book had everything in it. Adventure, comedy, grief, celebration, depression, even a little romance. I was all ready to pack my bags and head out into the wilderness by the time I finished. (I decided to go to Egypt instead)

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand. I really didn’t have any idea what I was getting into with this one. Mentioned in conversation around a campfire, I decided to check it out. You get a history lesson along with an amazing story of a racehorse, his owner, and his jockey. This one was also very well written and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Non-Fiction book about people’s habits.  It was absolutely fascinating.  Ronnie probably got bored of me talking about all the different things involved with habits, but I thought it was quite a good way to pass time driving to Seattle.  Almost like a self-help book, but also incredibly interesting.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen. This book was kinda blah.  Not very exciting and now I can’t even remember how it ended. No recommendation from me on this one.

In the Woods by Tana French. This book is written in first person and I began reading it from the perspective of a woman. It was very weird when I realized that it wasn’t a woman. It would be interesting to investigate why that happened… Recommended by a friend from the last book blog I wrote, I finally found it.  Once again I should learn to research my books (or possibly just look at the over before reading them) as it would have been helpful to see the part that says Dublin Murder Squad Series.  A thrilling mystery that ends a bit disappointingly, but left me wanting to read more. I will most likely look for more books from this author.

 

Esperanza Rising by  Pam Muñoz Ryan. We’re doing our first unit at school on migration and this looked like an excellent book to read aloud. However, as I began to read a simple book to my class, I quickly realized that they’re vocabulary is quite limited.  I am still hoping to read a portion of the book to the class, but the whole thing would take far to long, trying to explain everything. I preread it for school but really ended up enjoying it. A heartwarming story. It’s books like these that I hesitate to read to my class because I might start crying in the process.

Fun culture fact

I learned last week that the act of hooking your pinky finger with another person’s pinky mean very different things in all three of the cultures we have at school.

In the U.S. it’s a pinky promise…a sacred oath not to be broken.  Note that this was not something I ever did during my childhood and didn’t learn about it until fairly recently.

In Egypt it means that you are not friends anymore. You hook your pinkies and walk away meaning that you won’t talk to each other any more.

In France (or possibly Belgium) it means that you have said something at the same time as someone else. Then you hook your pinkies and make a wish (similar to jinx).

Now you know another fun fact.

Here goes…

As promised, here’s what’s happening next year.  Well here’s what we’re planning on for next year.  I won’t go into a lot of detail about the backstory but our reasoning more than anything is, why not?  We’ve always wanted to travel and we have nothing holding us here contract wise.  So Alexandria, Egypt (How’s that for a credible source?  A teacher using Wikipedia?) is going to be our new home for the next two years.

My contract consists of some relocation money, a two bedroom furnished apartment, a plane ticket there and back at the end, and a job!  We’re officially heading out of the country on August 10th and will be met at the airport by the principal of Alexandria International Academy.

What I know about the school is that they have three separate sections, the French section, English section, and Arabic section.  My position will be 4th grade teacher in the English section.  It is a fairly small school with 270 some kids which mean the maximum class size is 18 students.  I had a fairly small class all year, but that still sounds wonderful.  It is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school which means I teach in the Primary Years Programme (PYP).  This is all inquiry based learning, meaning that instead of having a list of standards to meet and tests to pass, you have a topic or theme and you fit in all the things that you can relate to that theme.  To put it simply, I get to teach them how to be an integral part of society instead of teaching them to pass a test (I bet you can all guess my feelings on the CCSS, and SBAC that I endured this year).

The salary is a few hundred less in US$ than what I made this year as a first year teacher, but the cost of living is much cheaper, plus our rent is paid for.  And let’s not forget the irreplaceable experience of living in another country...I’m getting sarcastic now because how many more times can we talk about how excited we are and what an adventure it’s going to be? 

Safety.  That’s the thing everyone is worried about.  It’s fine.  The majority of the things you hear about in the news happen in Cairo.  I won’t be in Cairo.  The principal assured me that at the most, I would be uncomfortable being stared at. Most of what I’ve read about says that excessive jewelry attracts unwanted attention and I never wear jewelry (I don’t even have my ears pierced!).  So I’m good there.

I like to joke that Ronnie’s job there is going to be my bodyguard.  Truthfully, we don’t have anything set up for him.  However, Mr. Arbour (the principal at AIA) has offered to help us find a job for him there.  Maybe he can learn Arabic in these last two months and be my personal interpreter.

So we’ve got a list of things to do before we go and hopefully everything goes smoothly.  Passport applications are in the mail, an appointment with the health department will happen soon, and plane tickets are scheduled to be purchased tonight.

Name an emotion and I’m probably feeling it.  Let’s not go there.  I’ll just say that today I lost it and my poor husband had to endure it.

Hmm…what else do you want to know?  I feel like that’s most of everything.

Tri-cities people, keep an eye out for a garage sale date.  If you’ve got stuff you want to sell, send it on over!

Also our two kitties need homes (Henry will go to stay with my in-laws).  They can go together or separately, so if you know of someone looking for a cute cat, let us know!