Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunshine and Clouds

Yesterday was a splendid day on the North Coast, with unexpected sunshine and the prediction of many more sunshiny days to come.

I rushed home from church, threw on a swimsuit and made a little paradise on the newly mowed grass of my backyard. I listened to music, made phone calls, and lazily attempted to play Scrabble over the internet, while the neighbor's horses peered curiously at me over the fence and the shadows from the apple tree branches crept closer.
Beautiful, beautiful day. I love how even when the sun shines here, it is never really hot. A cool breeze is always playing over your skin. However, that is the very quality which makes the sun so deceptive; I have a little sunburn to illustrate that.

That weather was quite the contrast from Saturday, when I went to the Oyster Festival, clad in hopeful summer clothes, stopping at the last minute to throw on a sweater before I left the house. The wind was wild, the sky overcast and a little ominous, but that didn't stop the festival.

It is only my second time going, and yet again, I think it would be more aptly called a Beer Festival, because I saw much, much more beer being consumed than oysters. I too drank a beer and ate two delicious oysters.

I ran into some of my students there, and hung out with them for hours, listening to their amazing stories about what brought them here to study English, what it is like after three weeks being here, what they think of the U.S., California, and Arcata. It is funny to think that for some students, Arcata could possibly be emblematic of the U.S.; it is so quirky and non-mainstream.

An interesting thing happened at work. One of the other teachers suddenly quit, and I will be taking over her class starting today -- starting with administering a test. It seems like a heck of a starting place, but it is actually perfect since it also begins a new unit of study for the students, something of a fresh start for us all.

Svenska and Sverige Update

I am experiencing some flutters of anxiety about my upcoming trip to Europe, wondering if I ought to build some variety into my itinerary there, visit more places and more people. I have to do it on a shoestring, a limited budget, so that limits what all I can do, of course. But I realize, for example, I was going to fly into Copenhagen and hop right on a train to Sweden without ever exploring Copenhagen at all! I think I need to do this with a little less tunnel vision and allow for a more panoramic experience of leaving the country, seeing Europe, and experiencing other cultures.

Luckily, I still have five weeks to think about it, do research, make plans, etc.

Through sources at my Lutheran church, I have discovered an antiquarian retired pastor who teaches Swedish formally in Eureka. Unfortunately, he doesn't offer classes over the summer, but he has agreed to meet with me regularly at the library and practice pronunciation and answer questions. I am so excited to meet him and to get some of my questions answered at long last!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Waiting Time

Thirty-eight days. Is it a long time or short?

There is barely enough time for all the things I need to get done before I can leave: prepare my fall class, teach the two classes I am now teaching, sock away some money, make a million lists and blah blah blah; I won't bore you with the details that I find endlessly entertaining.

But the anticipation is almost painful. I can hardly wait to be there, see everyone, see everything. Five weeks seems like an eternity.

But it is hardly enough time to improve my Swedish, which is better than it was, better than nothing, but I slaughter that beautiful language when I try to speak it. I just don't get the pronunciation rules, and this goes beyond (what I hope is) a cute American accent. I just don't get the tones or the stresses or the long and short vowels. As a result I say everything wrong. My new tapes, Colloquial Swedish, should help mitigate this a little. Fortunately, most Swedes speak English.

My heart is already in Sweden. My thoughts are already there, too, and my stomach is in knots as I think about going. Five weeks is a long time to feel this way.

Then again, thank heavens there is time to iron out the details, to study a map of the airports I will have to navigate, to think about eventualities and anticipate some of them, to talk to my world-traveling friends and get as much advice as possible.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Turning Corners
The sun came out in this part of the world at long last. I ran around doing errands and getting things done.

For one thing, I purchased a plane ticket.

Things are set in motion, and I am taking a trip!! Hooray! Now I have five weeks to tie up loose ends and get prepared. Just a little scouting mission, just a chance to see what Sverige is like.

A Little Extra Cash
I am all about picking up a little extra cash any way I can in the next five weeks, so when Jack offered me the paper route while he's out of town in a few weeks, I said yes.

And I took a heavy box of books to Tin Can Mailman and made $40, but I turned around and spent half of it on a Guidebook to Scandinavian Europe, a set of tapes of Colloquial Swedish (uber helpful and just in the nick of time), and a Margaret Atwood novel that I've vowed not to crack open until I am on a plane somewhere.

Thumbs Up from Students
When I got to work the results of student evaluations were in. I had given my students a heads-up about this last week and told them don't be afraid to be honest and offer constructive criticism; anything they said would only make me a better teacher. So I didn't know what to expect.

But the results were gratifying. Two important (to me) things are obviously getting across: 1. I really like and respect my students for what they have already learned and the bold thing they are doing by being in an immersion program, and 2. I really very badly want them to succeed, in passing the TOEFL exam and going on to fulfill their dreams.

I take over for the other teacher, who is quitting, next Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday, I will observe. Busy, busy, busy.

Summer Begins

Tomorrow, my son meets with his independent study teacher for the last time as a sophomore. It's the end of the school year-- another hooray! Then he is going away for the summer to be with friends in Sacramento. I hope he has a fantastic time.

My Brave and Brilliant Sister
My sister starts chemotherapy tomorrow. She is full of dread but also gratitude. It is really an inspiration to behold. I am not sure I could ever be so courageous.

She went to a workshop called "Look Good, Feel Better," put on by the American Cancer Society. It was all about finding ways to deal with the appearance-related side effects of cancer and cancer treatment. She found it so inspiring that she wrote about it, breaking about 15 years of writer's block.

Basking in Svenska
Svenska är
ett mycket sexigt språk!

When I got home from work there was still plenty of sunshine left. I spread out a white cotton quilt on my newly mowed lawn, brought my little stereo out onto the porch, lay in the sun and listened to the new Swedish tapes.

The new tapes are quite rigorous. What an overwhelming language! They speak so fast I can barely read along in the book. I get a wonderful soul-deep frisson when I hear Svanska spoken in long stretches, in dialogue for example. I absolutely love the sound of this beautiful language.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


New adventures are right around the corner, and I plan to chronicle them on this blog. Seeing new things, experiencing a new culture, learning a new language, meeting new people-- I will tell you all about it as it unfolds.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

As The World Turns

Remember the olden days when I used to post every day? And now, weeks go by with nary a peep. It's not like there are any shortages of things going on in my world and in my head, but the drama of my life has definitely toned way down. Thank God.

Now there are just a few things to report:
The Joy & the Challenges

It's week three of teaching and I seriously love it. I truly like and respect every single one of my students. After class, I practically float out of the classroom to my car, because teaching energizes me!!

But there are also challenges. One of the zillion books I am reading about teaching ESL literacy, describes "the difficult circumstances under which most teaching of English as a foreign language is done, with few texts, high absenteeism, large classes, and learners with a wide range of proficiencies" (Teaching and Learning Vocabulary). That about sums it up, plus a few challenges on the administrative side.

Every minute I'm not in the classroom, I am planning, thinking, preparing, problem-solving. It even keeps me up at night when I should be sleeping.

Baby Comes Closer

I saw my son and his girlfriend over the weekend and the size of her big round belly reminds me that September is really not that far away. Before we know it a baby will be here. I need to get cracking on a number of projects, from baby blanket to cookbook.

Time is Kind

I went to a small summer music festival and saw many old friends. I was struck by how beautifully everyone is aging.
Image from
Moving Sucks

I've decided to move into a small, cheap apartment as soon as I can find one, because I can't afford so much space and I need to save money for the trip to Sweden I plan to take in January.

If I am fortunate, I will find a place that will let me keep my cat (whom I've had for years and is no trouble). But judging by last summer's house hunt, I am not holding my breath. If it comes down to it (and I hope it doesn't), perhaps my old friend Paris can be housed with friends.

Meanwhile, I have to down-down-downsize my possessions. To that end, I sold my other bikes on craigslist today.

Of course, the weather is so pretty now, the flowers are blooming and my home is so pleasant. Wish I could stay, but that is not in the stars.

I am casting the net widely to try to find a teaching job in Sweden before I go there. I don't know if I have the nerve to go there and then look for work.

And, there are a million little things to sort out first-- passport, plane tickets, permits, learning the language, establishing equivalent credentials, etc. Researching that is what I do for fun.