a foggy sunday in highland county

Sunday, October 13:  I start my first morning in Highland County with unease.  I am a person who rarely dreams, or at least I never remember my dreams, so to have two quite disturbing ones in two nights tells me something is really upsetting me.  This time, in my dream, I went to my class with all the cheating Saudis and there were a lot of strangers in the class, along with my regular students.  I kept telling them to please leave my class.  These interlopers left at my request, but as soon as I turned my back, other strangers mysteriously appeared.  I couldn’t get rid of them; they kept multiplying like mosquitoes on a summer day.  Finally, I asked, what are you doing in here?  I saw they each had a small pad of paper, and were questioning my students about every complaint they had about me and taking notes.  It was like a sting operation in my classroom.

starting out on a foggy day
starting out on a foggy day
rustic building in Highland County
rustic building in Highland County
cows in the pastures on a foggy day
cows in the pastures on a foggy day
farmland
farmland

It’s so strange.  I’ve never had any students complain about me as a teacher.  Granted, I’ve only been teaching since I went to Korea in March 2010, so it hasn’t been a long career for me.  I taught English at Bethel High School in Hampton, Virginia right after graduating from the College of William and Mary in December 1978, but I only lasted one semester.  I had huge discipline problems; I even had one fat black girl knock me down!  I hated teaching so much, especially because of the amount of work involved for the pay I received, and because of the classroom management and discipline issues, that I finished that semester and swore I would never teach again.

an old barn
an old barn
fall foliage
fall foliage
another barn
another barn
farmhouse
farmhouse

I kept my word all these years, until 2010.  But after getting my Master’s in International Commerce and Policy in May of 2008 (another useless degree to add to my already useless B.A. in English), I applied for 250 jobs; I only got 5 interviews and no job. I believe to this day my inability to get a job in the low-paying field of international development is because of my age, and because I was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years. When no one in the U.S. would hire me, at least Korea did, and then Oman followed.  I resorted to teaching again, though I still had a bad taste in my mouth even 32 years after my high school teaching experience.

Beulah Presbyterian Church
Beulah Presbyterian Church
Church services only every other Sunday!
Church services only every other Sunday!
a creek by the church
a creek by the church
friendly horses
friendly horses

In Korea, I taught little children, and though they were rowdy, they weren’t rude; neither did they have a sense of entitlement.  In Oman, the girls I taught were problematic, because they were immature and not serious students.  They were always talking in class, and cheating was an issue.  However, even though I called them on these issues many times, they never complained about me to the administration.  It often happened at the University that students would go in mass to complain about a teacher, and that teacher often didn’t get his or her contract renewed.  In the Gulf, students have great clout, and teachers are not respected.  The administration does not back up the teachers.

another barn
another barn
farmland in Highland County
farmland in Highland County
ponds and pastures
ponds and pastures
ponds and pastures
ponds and pastures

So here these Saudis are in America, and acting in the same irresponsible and entitled way, and thinking they can get away with what they do in their own country.  Frankly, it makes me sick.  I have come to realize I genuinely dislike these students, and thus it is time for me to get out of teaching.  At least as long as the makeup of my classes is mostly Saudi Arabians,  I just can’t do it any more.  An abysmal paycheck doesn’t compensate me for putting up with these students or for the amount of work I have to do outside of class in preparation, marking and administrative tasks.

bales of hay in green pastures
bales of hay in green pastures
bales of hay in green
bales of hay in green
farmland in Highland County
farmland in Highland County
farmland and fall foliage
farmland and fall foliage

I’ve decided that I will cut back to maybe one class next semester; I’ll spend the rest of my time looking for another job, finishing my novel, and writing travel essays.  I’m not sure what else I will do, but I must get out of teaching for so little pay.  Because of the demands of my job, I barely have a moment to myself to do the things I love.  Whatever job I have, I want to leave it behind when I go home, so I can devote my free time to my passions.

rolling hills and colorful trees
rolling hills and colorful trees
fences
fences
farmland
farmland
cute little cows
cute little cows

The things I love are these: photography, writing and traveling.  I need to find a way to live my passion.  It’s taken me a long time to even find my passion, and now that I’ve found it, I want to live it.

farms
farms
fog
fog
foliage
foliage
farmhouse
farmhouse
farmhouse
farmhouse

So here, in Highland County, I start off the day having coffee and breakfast with Annette and Dan in their home.  Annette doesn’t feel like going out on a photography excursion because of the dreary day; I’m not thrilled about the weather either, but I’m only here for a day, so it’s either now or at some distant future date.  So, I take a drive all over Highland County, following a map Annette has drawn for me, and explore the mountains and the farmland.

I drive along Bluegrass Valley Road and through the town of Bluegrass.

fall foliage along Bluegrass Mountain Road
fall foliage along Bluegrass Valley Road
an old building in Bluegrass
an old building in Bluegrass

I stop at the Ginseng Mountain Store, where the owner gives me sample of grass-fed lamb and shows me the little apartment they rent for $99 for two people.  It has a full kitchen, nice bathroom and screened-in porch.

Ginseng Mountain Store
Ginseng Mountain Store
Ginseng Mountain Store
Ginseng Mountain Store

I stop in Monterey for lunch at Mountain Hideaway Restaurant and Tavern, where I eat a huge plate of nachos.  The place doesn’t have much in the way of atmosphere, but I am starving, and the food serves its purpose. 🙂

nachos
nachos

In Monterey, I find some houses are already decked out for Halloween.

decked out for Halloween in Monterey
decked out for Halloween in Monterey
monsters and ghouls
monsters and ghouls, pumpkins & spiders
the church at the main intersection in Monterey
the church at the main intersection in Monterey

I make multiple stops along the road to take pictures.  Often there is no place to pull over along the two-lane roads, so I look in both directions as far as I can see, and if I can’t see any cars, I hop out of the car to take pictures, leaving my car running in the middle of the road. The fall colors are beautiful, and I think the fog makes the photos atmospheric.  Not quite what I wished for, but here’s my day, in all its foggy glory.

a barn being a barn
a barn being a barn
greener pastures
green pastures
barn and silo
barn and silo
a friendly dog along the road
a friendly dog along the road
another barn being a barn
another barn being a barn
fall foliage and farmland
fall foliage and farmland
farmhouse
farmhouse
green pastures
green pastures
another farmhouse
another farmhouse

After all this driving, I head south to the Homestead at Hot Springs.  More to follow…

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39 thoughts on “a foggy sunday in highland county

  1. Another heartbreaking essay. I understand so well what you say about the students, but you did get decently compensated here and you left your job at 4 pm behind you every day and you had your weekends and evenings to yourself, plus six weeks of paid holidays. Teaching has its moments when it permits you to do the things you can’t yet get paid to do. Clearly, your love is travel and organizing amazing vacations for yourself. What a gift to others it would be if you could become a tour guide for older folks who have the money to enjoy the finer things in life which you always find a way to ferret out wherever you go. I have never seen anyone more dedicated to researching their holidays more than you, or even researching wherever you are to get the most out of it. Your photos are breathtaking, the fog, glorious and the damp, autumn air is intoxicating to me stuck here on Firq with a whole ten days off for Eid and not two riyals to rub together to go anywhere. But you my dear, need to travel as much as you need to breathe. With your well documented history online as your portfolio, and your huge following of readers of your blogs, perhaps you really need to look into leading small, exclusive tours for a reputable, elite company, so you can at least get paid to travel with people who share your interests. That or return to teaching in Europe where the money is not great but the students are much more motivated and oh, the air you will breathe!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind and encouraging comments, Mona Lisa. I think sometimes about leading tours, but I’m not so sure about it. My problem is the people I might end up with! Haha! I’d love to figure out a way to make a living from writing, leading travel/writing workshops, or some combination of teaching travel essay writing and then just writing. I have to finish my novel and I have several books in mind as well. I just need to find time to do it, and at this job, I’ll never find it. Yes, I was compensated well there, and I was able to leave work at work, but I was lonely and miserable there because of the culture, the students and the heat. I’m much better suited to life in the USA. I just need to find where I belong here.

  2. I love the countryside and the older big houses surrounded by more countryside. I wish you the best of luck with your pursuit of a more pleasing way of earning a living.

    >

  3. I love the way you chunter all through this post, come to a conclusion, then carry on with the lovely photographic essay, Cathy. It’s really beautiful despite the fog, and you seem to have some answers. I wish I had your get-up-and-go! 🙂
    Did you meet a blogging friend on this trip? Somebody said hi to me on your behalf.

    1. Thanks so much, Jo, for your kind comments. I do have some ideas about changes I can make; now I just need to make them happen. I did meet a blogging friend, Annette Naber of Beauty Along the Road. I mentioned her and a link to her blog in a previous post. I introduced her to you while I was there, so I’m glad she said hi on my behalf. 🙂

  4. I’m so glad you didn’t let the dreary day deter you. You have a lot of beautiful shots here, and I think the fog contributed. I’m sorry teaching hasn’t been going well for you. I hope you find a way to combine your passions and live your dream. 🙂

  5. Gosh what beautiful photos on a dreary day.

    Its not that hard to jump off the cliff Cathy, and I can tell you from my personal experience, that you’ll have a soft landing. 😀

    I agree with KvK’s comment – in fact she said exactly what I was going to say. You love traveling so much and are so confident about arranging your own wonderful vacations that arranging trips for others should be simple and fun, and don’t forget to mention your passion for photography… If anyone isn’t sure whether to join your group, your resume with all your travels is already in your blogs.

    1. Thanks Rosie, for your words of encouragement. I think I need to do something with travel and with writing and photography. I’ve been reading Paul Theroux’s travel essays and am so inspired. I need to think of something combining all my loves.

      When we meet in California, I hope we can talk about “jumping off the cliff!” 🙂

      1. I have been reading Paul Theroux for 33 years! He just did a revisit of his great railway train bazaar trip through Asia and Russia and it was great to relive it all through him again now that he is older and wiser. Love hs travel stuff!! I hope he is inspiring you, too!!

      2. Yes, he’s definitely inspiring me, Mona Lisa. I like it that he’s very real and is a little bit of a curmudgeon. I think I can come across that way too sometimes, so I can identify with his outlook on things. I’m considering signing up for an online travel writing course through an Australian Writer’s Center.

      3. Go for it! I know you will check out your resources before plunking down any money! I sent you a link from International Living magazine, not sure if that is any good, but if you could combine the house sitting around the world with the travel writing, oh my you would be in heaven!!!! Good luck to you! It seems as different members of your family slowly find their way, that means soon it will be your turn. How is your son in California? I am surprised both boys did not go for that together. Take care!

      4. Yes, I have a blogging friend in Australia who took that course and loved it. She said it was really great. So I think I will take her advice. As far as the International Living Magazine, I liked it and was ready to sign up when I saw that the webinar was on Monday the 21st at 3:00 EST, at which time I will be at work. The time didn’t work for me, sadly. I’ll keep an eye out for their next one.

        I’m actually glad both of my sons didn’t go together to California. Adam’s personality is quite overpowering, and Alex needs the time to find his own way without his brother’s influence. He’s actually glad to have this time to himself and has just signed up for an online Personal Training Certification, and is now thinking of other things he wants to do as well.

        As far as myself, I’ve got to figure out a way to cobble together a more satisfying existence for myself because this ESL teaching is certainly NOT it! 🙂

      5. If I see that webinar uploaded somewhere so you can view it later, I will send you the link! You belong to the world and I am getting so excited for you as you steer your future in a meaningful and rewarding direction!! Team Catbird!!!!!!

    2. Rosie, I was trying to find your comment you wrote about David Sedaris’s article about China, which I finally read, but I can’t find it to respond. I can’t remember where you made the comment. Anyway, that article of his was hilarious!!! It reminded me a little of Korea, which has a lot of that same spitting of phlegm, foods, etc. It cracked me up!

  6. Cathy, I agree totally with all the above comments. The other thing you should consider is doing travel writing for publications. Have a look at http://www.writerscentre.com.au/ I know this is an Australian centre but people all over the world do their courses. I did the online travel writing course and it was wonderful and well worth the money. I think you could really do well if you are prepared to work hard at pitching stories. You have plenty of material already.

    1. Travel writing really does appeal to me, Carol. I would love to do it. I just signed up for information on the Writer’s Center’s online course. I’m glad you think it’s worth the money. Maybe I’ll begin the next one on October 28. Thanks so much for telling me about it. I’m really interested in travel writing. 🙂

      1. You will find it excellent value for money and remember the exchange rate is in your favour at the moment, so it will cost slightly less. The great thing about it is that every lesson comes as an MP3 file so you can save it and listen again and again. I also printed all the written material and saved it in a folder so I could look at it with each lesson. I think the magazine and feature writing course would be good too. One at a time though! Good luck.

      2. Carol, I just looked at the schedule and I see it’s a 5 week course. Can you take longer if necessary? If I sign up for October 28, those last five weeks will coincide with the last 5 weeks of my semester, which will be really busy. But when I finish my semester December 13, I’ll be totally free for a month, so I could finish then if they allow you to do it. Do you know how it works? I can write them directly if you don’t know.

      3. I don’t think they work it that way, but they offer the travel writing course all the time so there’s sure to be one that will fit in better with your schedule. Email them and ask so they know you are interested. Also, sign up for the newsletter which comes every week. It always has a list of upcoming courses.

      4. I think I’m going to go ahead and start it on October 28 just because I’m anxious to make the change. It will mean a busy time for me, but at least I’ll be done by the time my semester ends and then I can truly enjoy my time off. And maybe do some travel articles during my holiday. 🙂

      5. I think you will be fine Cathy. It’s not that time consuming and you will have plenty of ideas and material that you can rework for the assignments. And the beauty of the MP3 files is that you can keep them forever and listen to them as much as you like later. Good luck, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

      6. You’re most welcome. I am looking forward to hearing how you go and what you think of it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and I also hope that it helps you to move on and follow your passion.

  7. Love the photos – how different your photography is now you are back in the US – all landscapes and views. I really like the red barns and the white churches, how beautiful are they! And so American. I don’t need to tell you about my views on teaching…

    1. Thanks so much, Jude. I’m really glad you like the photos. This is Virginia for you, and you’re right, so quintessentially American. As far as teaching, well, I imagine we both agree on that. Teachers are definitely undervalued in this society. 😦

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