Monday, August 31, 2009

Learning Italian isn't always easy

For the last 3 years I've been learning Italiano on my own. I was thrilled when I first started, prior to my big European whirlwind trip in 2007, because I was understanding the language. Even most verb conjugations made sense. I could count to a million. And while I was in Europe I was able to ask where things were and how much they cost and barter with a street vendor on cost. 

But now I'm taking my first actual Italian class at Parkland. I figured it would not only be a good stress reliever but a good practice before trying to take Italian language courses in Italy next summer. 

I was right.

The last 2 weeks have been pretty easy. I have trouble understanding my teachers directions from time to time (he speaks fast and occasionally throws spanish in the mix since he also teaches spanish). But tonight I learned that I've been saying certain #'s incorrectly! Any number with an 8 in it, after 38 I've said wrong. So 48, 58, 98, etc. All incorrect.  My prof said that since its said fairly quickly, it probably wasn't an issue when I said it while in Italy last time. But writing it is a different story. Already I've learned something!

And you know all those gangster movies or times when people sort of mock the italian speech pattern? Well they're correct! You emphasize the 2nd to last syllable. PIzzaRIa (up down up down). Buon GIORno. Sometimes when we are all speaking in class I feel like we're imitating bad imitations of Italians but really, its the correct pronunciation and syllabic emphasis just on super slow speed. It's crazy.

So there's my Italian update. I thought I'd throw you all something that wasn't exactly teaching related. And now that the Cubs have lost to the Astros I shall go to bed. How saw that this both sider loves 2 Chicago teams and neither one of them can seem to win a game when I watch them. I think it's time for football season....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Urbana Experience: Week 1

Well, week 1 is technically in the books. Friday was a good day at school. Even in 24 hours I've begun to learn my student's personalities although names will take a bit longer. 

I've got 1 student who has not yet turned up in Study Hall 1st period so we'll see what happens with him. 

My Coop 1 class grew by 3 more students on Friday which means I have exactly enough textbooks for my class of 24 students.

My law class was given their 1st assignment on Friday. It's something called a Justice Journal which will be due every monday. Basically they find an article or news story regarding legal issues and write 10-15 sentences about it. I gave them a list of websites and newspapers or magazines that would be acceptable. I was one of the few teachers that gave homework but I don't mind. It's LAW! From what I know of law school....15 sentences is nothing.

My Coop 3 class has a fantastic discussion during class on Friday. I explained that I really want them to embrace this class and their work opportunities as training for their future. They are all nearing graduation (all 7 of them) and understand that "future" means "very soon." I led a discussion about why we work and they argued points back and forth with each other with very little input from me. It's exactly what I was hoping for. At first they could only see the MONEY reason for working. But one of them brought up Obama and how he doesn't get paid much but loves what he does. So PASSION became the new topic. It fed into my discussion on how people view work around IL, the USA and internationally which ended up with a variety of reasons why we work. Let's hope my huge Coop 1 class can do something similar on Monday.

Friday also marked the 1st football game of the year. I saw several staff members at the game but very few parents and student fans, aside from those in football at the lower levels that weren't playing.  We played one of the top teams in the state and didn't win. But hey, we (and by we I mean our varsity football team) went out on the field facing a team that lined up with twice as many players and took nearly the full endzone to display their roster and did our best. Apparently the team scored the most points against this particular team in recent history. This town has little support for this team and I hope that can be changed with the new attitude and new coach (who was hired for that specific purpose). The team looked good and the coaching staff was definitely fired up with each score. 

Tomorrow is textbook assignment day. I went in today and with Tilia's help moved my textbooks into my respective classrooms. Tilia & I also met to discuss immediate fundraising for our Freshman class. We have a lot to do before Homecoming in October. If our plans fall into place we're going to bring a LOT more school spirit to the school, starting with the class of 2013. Thankfully our colors are the same as U of I. I'm in need of more orange to wear...

My parting thought for tonight is just a mention of what Maria Shriver said this morning on Meet the Press. She said her Uncle Teddy was the one to make sure everyone felt welcomed, loved and thanked. He was always reaching out to people to share his thoughts. This was probably a result of losing 4 older siblings to war and assassination and holding to the belief that our time is not assured. Her words were so passionate that you could tell she had learned to do the same because of her uncle. So send those thank you notes. Post a message on Facebook. Write a letter. Tell someone something everyday. Stay in touch. Even if it is just a single sentence it will mean the world to that person. 

To each of you - thank you for reading and supporting me. I've probably got a picture of you in my office and you are always in my thoughts. I love ya. Wake up tomorrow and be the change you want to see in the world. What a great reason to get out of bed!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

THE First Day of School

It came and has gone and my first true day of school as a full-time teacher seems to have been a success. Yesterday was technically the first day but was the freshman only. The class of 2013. I tried to help a few of them get around the hallways but truth be told, I was almost as lost as they were. Fortunately, there were plenty of teachers and admins in the hallway to lead the way and I directed several of the young ones their way to point with fingers, pens, pencils and hands full of papers.

I did get to meet the entire class. Ms. Detrick and I as class 2013 co-sponsors gave a brief introduction to the upcoming Homecoming project. We then settled into our impromptu table in the cafeteria to convince the freshman to sign up and assist in the float building, fundraising and general activity involved. Afterall, if they don't start now they will NOT have a very exciting Jr. Prom which they get to organize. Our first group sat in the tables farthest from the clubs and organizations offering information so with the 2nd round, we walked the tables and encouraged about 3 pages of students to sign up. I ducked out early to lead an info session on the student handbook (I was assigned a spot) and Ms. D did a great job acquiring a bunch of willing hands.

Today the entire student body was present, about 1200 students in all. My overall tactic was to discuss the syllabus and then have a game where I could learn a little about my students and they could learn about each other. I brought copies of the Bingo game we used in Hinsdale. It is a blank "board" that students can fill in with topics wherever they liked, creating their own board. I listed several topics on the board such as read a book this summer, saw a movie, has a job, will go to a football game, etc. I gave out Smarties to use as pieces to mark their boards. Overall it went pretty well. It would have gone a lot better if I'd had an overhead or LCD to project my "topics" list. As it was, I used a bunch of time writing things on the board which is not ideal but it worked. 

I have about 25 students in my Coop 1 class, 30 in Business Law and 7 in Coop 2. Quite the disparity but I think in the end it will work. I'll differentiate (an education buzz word) instruction to suit the size of the classes and go from there. It's me and the chalk for a while. Hopefully I at least get an overhead projector for biz law. I've already created a bunch of power points which are fairly useless in my present situation. If you don't know, I'm in 4 different rooms for 4 different classes and on 3 different floors. I think Urbana H.S. is a fantastic place but I am surprised at how lacking in technology the school is compared to the places I've taught. 

It was great to walk out of the building today with the Associate Principal asking how my day went. Hopefully I was tough enough and direct enough to get everyone to follow the rules, do the work and succeed. It was a good first day. I've got some frustrations I need to work out such as the fact that my predecessor left only assessments and textbooks behind with no demonstration of the lessons he did. He did tell me his philosophy was to just "keep the students busy" which I don't agree with. I want them to learn and connect. For now, I am going to assume such frustrations are all "first year teacher" issues and bumps that come with working in a new environment.

I'll trade the business suit for school colors tomorrow (I'm thinking black suit jacket with white t-shirt and orange neck scarf with dark jeans) for school spirit day. We're hoping to have a successful football team this year and I'm aiming to go to the game and support my students and fellow new Urbana teacher, Coach Watson. Go Tigers! It's almost TGIF....


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I even have my own parking spot...

Institute Day 2 has come and gone and I am fully ready for tomorrow's Freshman Orientation. I say "fully ready" because I only have 4 freshman in my Biz Law class. I love the Freshman though and can't wait to represent and get to know these students over the next 4 years as Freshman Class Co-Sponsor through till their Senior year when I'll be _______ Class Co-Sponsor. I think you can figure that one out. See? I'm in teacher mode!

We began our day in meetings at 8am. I arrived and parked Chicago style just as I've done the last year, backing into my parking spot. I noticed yesterday that I actually have my own spot and it is  marked "Reserved for Coop Coordinator." Sweet! I'm probably the only one who felt bad yesterday that I didn't park in it and took a regular spot, preventing someone who wasn't me from getting a spot. But as there is balance in the universe, someone had parked in MY spot so the guilt vanished when I noticed that a bold soul didn't care whose spot it was!

Today's meetings were about professional development, reviewing changes to the faculty/student handbooks and discussing how our school is measuring up to No Child Left Behind and the standards set by our fine government. There were a few giveaways, a massive breakfast of bagels, cream cheese and donuts and then a little bit more talk before we all had times to go our own way and work in our rooms or office. I've not met all the people whose rooms I'll be taking over for a period each day. The science dept. chair seemed a bit nervous that I'd disturb his room. Actually, he was more concerned about my classroom management skills and if my students would disturb his room. I told him it would be a lot of discussion with little reason to move around and it would all be fine. Let's hope I'm right!

I didn't go to lunch, having filled up on breakfast a bit earlier. Seriously, I don't eat donuts as a general rule, but a strawberry donut was too much to resist! Instead, I took the time to investigate the copy room. Once I asked for directions (I was 2 doors off) I made my copies of syllabi and information sheets for Coop. I didn't know how to log off the copier though so I waited for someone to come in and a nice fellow teacher showed me the way. 

Last night I had a large to-do list, mainly tweaking my info sheets and syllabi as well as creating a quick ice breaker bingo game. To finish the list, I had to make copies so I felt pretty set. My desk is nicely organized and all I have left to do for this week is to start brining all my books back to school. Feeling set, I actually left before the rest of my department. This is a major accomplishment for me. While doing marketing, I used to always come in early and stay late or even skip lunch just to make people see that I was working hard. I was working for praise rather than to get the job done and it was making my life so much more stressful than it needed to be. I'm determined not to LOOK like I'm working hard but to demonstrate how my hard work is paying off through results and rapport with my students. I'll put in the requisite hours (and more on occasion) but I'm not going to sit at my desk so people SEE me doing work. It sounds silly but it was an honest to goodness issue I dealt with and was a tough mental issue to shake. 

Two other quick notes before I sign off. I didn't like anything on the radio this morning so I hit the "tape" button in my car. Yes, it's 11 years old and has a tape player. The follow up answer to the question you are currently thinking is yes, I still own cassette tapes. The one in the player, which I had no idea what it may be was REO Speedwagon. REO, of course, is from Champaign and was started by two U of I engineering students. The song that played was "Only the Strong Survive." Apropos, no?
   Main street in Champaign is dedicated to the band. 

The other note is regarding my personal training sessions. Last week I tried the squat machine for the 1st time. I nearly passed out. I don't think I was breathing and I think I had too much of my energy/weight pushing against the bar on my shoulders which means I wasn't lifting correctly. Today I got through both sets with no problems aside from really not doing the breathing well. Major accomplishment for me! I did have "Only the Strong Survive" in my head so maybe...

I can't wait to share with you all about Freshman day tomorrow and the full school of students on Thursday/Friday. Go Tigers. I'm definitely going to earn my stripes. 

1st Day of School: Institute

It's finally here: the first day of school. To be precise, it is institute day yesterday and today but technically the school year has begun. And what a day it was.

Our morning started off at the middle school in the cafetorium (never heard of such a thing until I moved here). It is a combination cafeteria/gym/stage area. It was then off to the Gymnasium where we packed into bleachers and chairs. A bunch of us new teachers sat on the north side of the gym in the center on the bleachers. For a while no one sat near us as though so obvious we were the newbies. We laughed and watched the hundreds of teachers in the district file into the gym. Just after 8am the marching band kicked off playing the National Anthem which always gets me when I hear it. Knowing that my ancestor came over as an indentured servant and wanted so much to fight in the Revolution makes the flag a great symbol of his efforts and dedication to his adopted country. He was still living in NY during the War of 1812 when the Anthem was penned. That's what I think about each time I hear that song. 
After that we heard from the H.S. Orchestra and the Choir which sang a song called Grateful where students added in thanks to some of their favorite teachers. Cute. 

Our Superintendent made a few remarks shortly after 8:30. He sounds like a midwest version of James Earl Jones. He is a man dedicated to education and his booming voice just makes you listen. We also heard from our Board of Ed President who talked about community spirit and the fact that AYP scores don't measure all we do. The mayor of Urbana and the Union president also spoke.

After that, pins were handed out to teachers for years of service (5 yrs through 35 yrs). Our Assistant Superintendent spoke about the history of the Urbana school district from a 1-room school all the way till our current district status. He mentioned that in 2004 the goal was 40% of students making AYP. 4 schools did not make it. In 2009 it was 70 % and 4 schools did not make it despite enormous progress. This year it is 77%. The Superintendent got up again and talked about being Together For Our Kids. Another great speech.

The new teachers were then asked to stand and line up along one wall of the gym. The rest of the gathered then were to walk the line and shake our hands. Slightly embarrassing but nice idea. Most people just tried to cut through our line towards the doors. Oh well. I went to lunch with my department and some of the PE folks to Dos Reales, the local "primo" Mexican restaurant. It was pretty good, but no Hacienda.

After lunch we split up by schools, had a brief meeting then were off to Department staff meetings. We talked about budget and funding and our need to resolve a few room issues, including mine. I'm in 4 rooms for my 4 classes on 3 different floors. Passing periods are 4 minutes. You do the math.

It was a great day. I learned a lot, especially how much of a family these folks are to each other and strive to stay that way. It seems to be all about the students. I hope that's the way it remains and the experience I have in the coming months. I'm not very nervous. I can't imagine doing this at 21. I'm fortunate to have nearly 12 years of work under my belt and time to learn about my personality, character and reaction strategies. 

It's time I head off to school now. Have a great day everyone. Stay tuned. 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Extreme Makeover Home Edition: C-U/Philo Edition

I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but the ABC show, Extreme Makeover Home Edition, has been in Philo, IL since last Tuesday, a town about 9 miles south of Urbana. Since Tuesday, it has been the top story on every news broadcast. In fact, it has been only 1 of 3 stories on each newscast I've seen over the last 3 weeks. Along with the Makeover, Illini football bootcamp and move-in weekend are the two other stories I've seen. Although, they did do a profile on the guy who sells pictures during move-in weekend, so if you count him, that would be 4 stories but to me that coincides with move-in weekend and so I say it's three.

Anyway, I went church shopping again today and chose Stone Creek Church as my destination. It is a very diverse cultural church located on the south end of Urbana with 4 services, one of which is in French, a large parking lot and a new building. It seemed the most comparable to Park in the sense of size, which is one thing I've been struggling to find. It turns out that Stone Creek is the home church to the Montgomery family, the ones receiving the new Makeover home! 

So after the service, which was great and about financing/budgeting (perfect in lieu of the lesson being learned and witnessed by the Montgomery's calling to serve the community) I decided that since I was already on the south side of Urbana, I may as well drive the 9 miles further south and see what I could find in Philo. 

Now, to be clear, I really, really love watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition. It's a relief to have something positive on TV. Something that is really focused on doing good for others rather than some self-serving realty show or sitcom character. I think it's similar to the Christian artists I worked with who go out on tour preaching the gospel through music on the road for weeks at a time. It's not a glamourous job and it can be very tiring. The Makeover crew does the same thing and probably spend more hours working than the musicians do!

I parked my car in quaint, downtown Philo and crossed the railroad tracks with a photographer from the News Gazette who was out to the site for his 2nd time. All the local roads leading into the neighborhood were blocked off so we walked about 1/4 mile. My first visual onsite was the Red Cross RV. I think my feet decided before I did, but I signed up to join the bone marrow donor list and then went in and donated a pint of blood. I did really well until about the 18 minute mark, just as they were finished. I got a bit lightheaded and laid down for about 5 minutes before grabbing a bottle of water and a bag of Nutter Butters. 

There is a baseball field across from the house and what looked like a large shed. The new house is gorgeous from the front (the only angle I had). A big maroon-red fire truck was outside, probably in place to water the landscaping which was being done. It was a brown and light blue-green color with white trim. Blue shirted folks were all over the place working outside and I had glimpses of them inside. My guess is the Makeover crew was inside working on their designated rooms. I didn't see anyone famous, although I wouldn't have minded catching a glimpse of Ty Pennington (yes, I think he's sexy to answer the question you are thinking).

All in all, I had a great little adventure this morning. I may never live near or see the Makeover crew again and I'm glad I detoured. The farm country down here is beautiful, especially under a blue sky pocked with big, white, fluffy clouds. The big "reveal" is set for Tuesday between 1-3. I'll be in school meetings so there is no chance to yell "Move That Bus!" That's okay though. I'm sure it will be on the news again on Tuesday night along with more news on football!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wake, Eat, Learn, Eat, Learn, Earn, Eat, Sleep & Repeat...

The last 2 days have been comprised of CRISS training, a great strategy that, for me at least, reminds teachers of the best strategies to use in the classroom to pre-teach, post-teach and use during instruction. There were a lot of great reminders. And I got to bond a bunch more with my fellow new high school teachers. 

I get the feeling were are seen as the "noisier" group of all the teachers at the training. We all felt it was geared a bit more towards the younger grades, despite originally being created for the high school level. Yet the biggest obstacle for us was that none of us teach traditional subjects that use all of these strategies on a regular basis. Between Health, Coop, Special Ed and Math, most of these strategies were a bit too elementary. I'm not saying I wasn't glad to have participated, but I wish sometimes that such training programs are split a bit further between grade levels to provide more applicable examples to model.

Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to dog sit for my all time favorite pooch, a little Shitzu named Bacon. She is adorable, very soft and has the biggest personality of any animal I've ever been around, except Chico, a bird I had for a while in high school. Taking care of Bacon for about 7 hours on my own prepared me for a lot of things for when I get a dog eventually. First off, I can now reasonably guess where the dog will lay down. Both my dog growing up and Bacon liked to lay on the top of couches and in the window to better watch the world outside. Second, they love to explore. Bacon wandered the house a few times before settling down in her perches. She also loved to play with her little bumble bee chew toy and I've learned that my long hallway is great for a little dog to run and fetch things in, once they've learned not to slip on the tile near the door! 

It was also nice to take a walk around my community with a purpose, other than getting out of the house. I even met and had a conversation with my first friendly neighbor, a woman in her 20's who moved here from Pakistan. We are both somewhat lonely and I'm excited to get to know her better. We walked for about 30 minutes and it wouldn't have happened had I not had Bacon for those few hours.

I've spent most of my afternoon today going back through paperwork for classes which start next week. I'm really excited to begin and just hope I do a great job and see the impact I make on my students. There is nothing better than that. Heck, I have plenty of things to offer them besides having knowledge about business and the real world. I'm a great writer, know a TON about history and I'm sure can be a great recommendation for some of them someday. I'd probably offer to be available in my room for questions, but since I'm in 4 different classrooms and my office is located INSIDE a classroom, that doesn't seem as likely as I'd imagined. Time will tell.

Have a great night everyone. Thanks for reading. I'm gonna go take another little walk in this October-like fall weather. Global warming? Nope, not in the midwest.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Orientation: Day 2

One thing I've been thankful for the last 24 hours is contact with other people new to the C-U area. I've been down here for 3 weeks and have either wandered around on my own or sat at home watching ballgames, CNN, Food Network or new episodes of Psych while working on lesson plans. From what I can tell, I've put a lot more into planning than my counterparts, which hopefully will make being a new teacher a bit easier!

Today we spent a few hours learning about pathogens. We learned about ordering supplies. Around mid-morning we all met up with our new teacher mentors and for those of us at the high school, had a chance to walk the building and get our first true introduction to our 2nd home for the next school year. It was then time for lunch back at the Middle School next door. This turned out to be a fantastic salad from Panera and an enormous cookie (which I'm proud to say I didn't finish).

I had about 30 minutes after lunch to work on Coop stuff, so I went up to my office (reference yesterday's message about the office). I am one of those people who prefer to sit and put a solid block of time into something. 30 minutes wouldn't allow me to call too many students and I'd just be getting into it by the time I had to meet downstairs for the "high school" meeting.  Instead, I went through my roster and wrote down phone #'s so that when I come back tomorrow I can dive right into the phone calls. 

The 1:30 meeting went until 4, past the 3:30 schedule but was chock full of good information. Our principal reinforced how great the staff and the school was, a phrase heard often during my two days and since my interview. Thus far I don't doubt it! We learned about hall passes, alarms, homeless/homebound students, parking, clubs & organizations, computers and how to work the grade system, which I've already been doing.

I'm really looking forward to starting classes. I'm also looking forward to getting to know the staff around me better and the students I'll have. What I heard today reinforced that my attitude and approach to teaching is in the right mode and I can not wait to make a difference in their lives.

Years ago, I was told going into the music biz not to expect to make any impact. I believe I did. I was a hard worker who focused on creating lasting, positive relationships with my clients and fellow promoters. I learned to be tough but I also learned that my "be nice" and you'll "get the same" approach to life does really work. I worked in an area of the industry where I know that each event I put on, made a difference in some kid or some person's life. And I know I made a difference in the lives of a few other people too. This time, I've got a job where I know there is nothing to do but to make a difference and help someone grow both in skills and emotions and in progression towards the real world from school life. We'll see how it all unfolds right here...

Monday, August 17, 2009

The School Year Begins! Final Chicago Fling

It has been a busy few days in KBland. I consider last Thursday my first official day at work. I met with my Dept. Chair and three coworkers to set up our office. For a visual, picture a hallway with about 10 classrooms on the 3rd floor of a school. Now turn right into one of those classrooms and pass the teacher's desk. No, it's not a full wall - there is a door there. Walk through that door and you find our office. It is tucked away behind this classroom in a very peculiar setting. My desk is to the left just as you walk in the little room. I face away from the door. Looking ahead I see not only file cabinets but look just a bit more to your right and there is a window and 2 other desks. I'm currently picking out photos to put up on my desk and bulletin board and am taking any submissions you may have! 

At any rate, we have the office completely set up and my files are fairly in order, although I've noticed there is not a single file from my Coop II class and plenty for Coop I and Business Law. Not to worry!

My Dept. Chair kindly followed me to my home and then drove me to the local amtrak/mass transit hub in C-U so I can catch the Megabus. It was my first foray into this particular brand of transport. Not a bad trip although I couldn't imagine taking the bus from Memphis, where it originated, all the way to Chicago. It was packed when I climbed aboard. I suppose if you are going to only spend $10 to get to Chicago it would be worth the time on the bus. As for me it did the job. It reminded me of the coach tour in Europe - not quite as nice or stylish, but still a similar ride. As it happens, I brought along my notes from that particular trip to keep writing my travel book. So up to Chicago and back to Champaign I wrote about the days we spent in Germany. 

I spent my morning on Friday at NWestern getting what will be among my last allergy/immunotherapy shots in Chicago. It was a bit of a process, but I'm willing to donate as much time as the folks working in that office need - their serum has been a lifesaver and given me my healthiest summer in years. Take that dust, grass & trees. (Let's hope ragweed takes the punch too, now that it is sprouting). 

Sarah and I spent lunch along the lake near Huron and inner Lake Shore. We watched a few planes overhead practicing for the Air Show, probably one of my 3 favorite times in Chicago (the others being Marathon weekend and Christmastime when the city is alight). We talked of the future, gave advice and provided encouragement over lunch. 

Friday afternoon Mom and I got pedicures, something she really want to do and I of course am not going to say no. Despite injuring my toe a year ago, I still have no toenail but I must say the nail salon on Southport & Diversey does an amazing job! You would never know there was no nail on my toe - it looks awesome!

Mom, Dad and I tried a new restaurant in the city on Friday night. Trattoria Caterina on Dearborn just south of Harrison. Amazing food. Quaint. Very well priced and a BYO to boot. Definitely try it before summer is out!

Saturday was the Air Show. It was very hot and I had a great time watching the planes. I am a total plane nerd. I'm going to claim it comes from being the first generation in my family since the Revolution not touched by the military in any way. Mom, Dad and I started out watching. Ginger joined in later and we had a great time catching up. 

Saturday evening was spent at Summerdance in Grant Park. The Flat Cats were playing, perhaps Chicago's best swing band. It was still hot and I think I got a good solid 2 hours of dancing in. Kim, Melanie, Paul, Matt and I all danced like crazy. Matt even invented a new move, the Swinging Matty. 

I left Sunday morning for Champaign and got up early this morning for the first of my many meetings for New Teachers. There are about 45 new teachers in the district. It was a great day, packed full of information, much of which I'm still processing. I went up to my office after Day 1 of Orientation and called about 15 of my students to assess whether or not they have jobs. It seems they are doing pretty good there, although a few will need some help in finding a good fit. They seem up for being proactive, which is a great first lesson. 

I'll leave you with a few photos from the weekend, since I haven't posted any in a while! Till the next edition, KB

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Getting It Done

I've had a very productive day here in Chambana. I woke up around 6:30. I was not in the mood to get up so I read a little bit. I've been flipping between Pres. Obama's Audacity of Hope and a book on the history of Italy. 

My first task of the day was to get a few loads of laundry done. Check. I followed that up around 9am calling various businesses that still had to be dealt with since my move, all of whom either didn't get it right or haven't confirmed a cancellation or changed address. Check. Then came the final unpacking in the office. It finally is ready to premier as my work room and guest room. Check!

Around noon, the replacement leg for my new dresser arrived. I had already showered and was about to walk out the door to do another errand so I put the leg down and headed out. My task was to go to the Illinois Terminal to check out parking options. I plan on taking Amtrak or Megabus on my trips up north and as it turns out, parking is available for purchase through Amtrak but not Megabus. Hmmm. At least I have info now. Check.

Then came the completion of my dresser. My purchase at Meijer originally came with a broken leg. The company provides replacement parts for no charge up to 5 years after purchase. It took only 4 days to arrive - good service! The first part of assembly had taken 3 hours. Getting the leg attached, back tacked on and drawers inserted took about 30 minutes. It's nice to have the dresser off my bedroom floor. Another thing done on the list. Check!

I picked today to go to the cinema because it was discount day. I saw Public Enemies, the story of John Dillenger, Chicago gangster, bank robber and shady hero. I had watched them film part of the ending scene - extras roaming the sidewalks on Lincoln Avenue which had been given a facelift, complete with fake streetcar tracks. Old time cars lined the streets for 2 blocks and all the local businesses had been given facade overlays to make them look like they did in the '30s. I need to see if that Asian food restaurant really existed in the '30's near the Biograph or if that was a '00's restaurant with a fancy sign in '30s style. Great film. It was a private showing, at least for part of it. I was the only one in the theater, which is a first.

Tonight I gave the Perseid Meteor Shower a shot. It was on the list but not a confirmed to-do project. I tried sitting out back but not much to see. I walked to the end of my street and laid on the curb in the darkest section of the road. It was a relaxing 30 minutes, if not overly fruitful. I did see 4 meteors. The real show doesn't kick off till after Midnight, so not bad for an early show. Check and Check.

And now the final thing on the list: sleep. G'night friends!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Moving Forward

My footsteps over the last week have led me to a variety of places, both looking forward to places I hope to frequently visit whilst living in C-U and places I hold many fond Chicago memories. 

On Sunday I visited 2 churches which were recommended to me by a few people I know in Chicago. Both were among the more contemporary in C-U and seemingly had groups of people my age. The first church I visited was not contemporary and while the message was good (the pastor did his message in scrubs, discussion Colassians 3) it was not a good fit. Sunday evening I went to another church to their "young adult" service which was supposed to cater to 18-3o's. Well, heck, that should be good right? Let's just say it was all young and no adult. I venture to guess I was older than the pastor there, too. Good worship though. Message was not inspiring, although it did seem to impact the kids pretty well. A sign I was too old for that gathering. I'll probably give that church another try next Sunday, during a morning service. It reminded me a lot of the old Harvest Bible Chapel I attended in the '90's. Wow. I can't believe that was so long ago!

On Thursday of last week I ventured to U of IL, my first venture into the C-U community, to visit the only swing dance society in the area. I imagined I was walking into something along the lines of U of Chicago, where its a very diverse age group, although definitely student driven. U of IL is not that way, at least not in early August. It was about 35 students, only 1/2 of whom danced at any one time. A few were kind and asked me to dance so I did get a few practices in. I am hoping things change once the school year starts. If not, at least I can hit a First Friday up in Chicago on occasion. Or the C-U Lindy Exchange when it occurs. We'll see!

This weekend I did have my official, final hurrah at Fizz for my swing "career" in Chicago. It was a great night (air conditioning!) and everyone was in a great mood. My good-bye dance was decent, although I confess that as people jump in to dance with you, while you alone are out on the dance floor, you tend to feel like you are being turned around over and over. I don't know why I was ever fearful of getting out on the floor alone, with the crowd circled around me clapping to the rhythm of the music. I don't get nervous in front of crowds. It was such a fun night and perhaps I've even encouraged 2 friends to take my place in the Chicago Swing scene!

Things are progressing nicely here all in all. The home is nearly all sorted and set. I'll tackle the desk tomorrow. It's the last big thing to be properly organized. I've got 2 weeks worth of lesson plans firmly written for all 3 of my courses. I meet with my department chair later this week. AND I'm going to get back into the workout zone tomorrow. 

I'll have plenty to report on my next update. The feet will keep on walking and this page will keep on talking of my experiences. Stay tuned!