Monday, September 11: Today, we remember the terrorist acts committed on U.S. soil. The events of September 11, 2001 are ones that we as a nation can never, and should never, forget. The United States experienced the worst terrorist attack in its history — “the coordinated hijacking of four commercial planes, the planned attack on symbolic targets, and the murder of innocent people” (The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial: 9/11 at the Pentagon).
Numerous memorial services are being held today. As we visited the Pentagon Memorial not far from our home in northern Virginia on Sunday, we saw officials setting up for a Monday ceremony. This is the first time we’ve visited this memorial, and we found it very moving.
According to the Pentagon Memorial‘s website, “one-hundred-and-eighty-four lives were lost at the Pentagon that day. They were men, women, and children. They were mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons. They came from all walks of life: administrative assistants, doctors, educators, flight crew members, military leaders, scientists, and students. They came from towns and cities, large and small, across the United States and around the world. The youngest was only three years old; the oldest, 71.”
Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.
The day, I remember clearly, was much like today, sunny, cool, and crisp. Fall was in the air. I remember wishing every day was as beautiful as that day.
I had put my children on the bus for school early. My two sons were 8 and 10, and my daughter, who lived in Virginia Beach with her father, was 17. I was 45 years old. I was driving my car down Reston Parkway on my way to a book group at my church, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, when I heard the news about the first plane hitting the tower. Newscasters were debating about the size of the plane; they seemed to think it was a small plane gone astray. Then I heard the news about the second plane crashing. I stopped at Barnes and Noble in Reston to get a coffee, and felt palpable tension and anxiety in the air; fear was etched on people’s faces. I called my brother in New York to make sure he was okay. Then I heard the news of a plane hitting the Pentagon.
When I arrived at church, everyone was in a panic over the news. Our pastor, who was to lead the book group, was frantic because her husband was in the Pentagon and she wasn’t able to reach him. Thankfully, it turned out he was fine, though we’d find out later that many were not. We watched the TV in horror as the twin towers fells, and as the Pentagon went up in flames.
The book group was not to be; we all dispersed to our homes in shock. I sat spellbound in front of the TV the rest of the day, and when my children came home from school, I told them what we knew so far of the horrifying story. We watched TV together as news channels replayed the planes hitting, buildings collapsing, people jumping off buildings, dust-covered people walking like ghosts through the streets of New York. It was surreal and terrifying.
According to the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial: Design Elements: the Pentagon Memorial serves as a timeline of the victims’ ages, spanning from the youngest victim, three-year-old Dana Falkenberg, who was on board American Airlines Flight 77, to the oldest, John D. Yamnicky, 71, a Navy veteran, also aboard Flight 77 that morning.
Each Memorial Unit is a cantilevered bench, a lighted pool of flowing water, and a permanent tribute, by name, to each victim, in one single element. Each memorial bench is made of stainless steel and inlaid with smooth granite. Each Memorial Unit contains a pool of water, reflecting light in the evenings onto the bench and surrounding gravel field.
Within the Pentagon Memorial, 85 Crape Myrtles are clustered around the Memorial Units, but are not dedicated to any one victim.
The Memorial’s stabilized gravel surface is bordered on the western edge by an Age Wall. The Age Wall grows one inch per year in height above the perimeter bench relative to the age lines. As visitors move through the Memorial, the wall gets higher, growing from three inches (the age of Dana Falkenberg) to 71 inches (the age of John D. Yamnicky).
Each Memorial Unit is also specifically positioned in the Memorial to distinguish victims who were in the Pentagon from those who were on board American Airlines Flight 77. At the 125 Memorial Units honoring the victims of the Pentagon, visitors see the victim’s name and the Pentagon in the same view. At the Memorial Units honoring the 59 lives lost on Flight 77, the visitor sees the victim’s name and the direction of the plane’s approach in the same view.
The benches facing this direction are the victims of the Pentagon.
Thursday, August 31: Cheers and welcome to our August happy hour! Come right in to our screened-in porch, make yourself comfortable and I’ll mix you up a drink. I can offer you wine or beer. I can also offer soda or seltzer water with lime if you prefer a non-alcoholic beverage.
Luckily the weather since I returned from Japan on August 8 hasn’t been bad. The first week it was quite hot and humid, not much different from what I experienced in Japan. But on Wednesday, the 23rd, the weather improved and dropped to temperatures of my liking, around 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23C). This is perfect weather; my mood lifts considerably when I can feel a hint of fall in the air. 🙂
I’m so happy to see you. We can mingle or we can sit, whatever is to your liking. How have you been since I’ve been gone? What kind of music are you listening to? Have you indulged in any daydreams? Have you changed jobs or gone into retirement? Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners? Have you tried out any new restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home? Have you had any special family gatherings? Have you gone on a holiday or had a stay-cation?
Many of you haven’t followed my trip to Japan, so maybe you don’t know that I spent the last 4 months (1 semester) teaching at Aoyama Gakuin University – Sagamihara campus with Westgate Corporation. I taught 2nd year university students majoring in Global Studies and Collaboration who were preparing for a study abroad in Thailand or Malaysia. I worked 9-hour days five days a week, and every weekend I went out exploring. I believe I had about two days of rest the whole time I was there! If you like, you can check out my time in Japan here: catbird in japan. I still haven’t finished writing about my time there, but more posts will follow, slowly, slowly….
Upon my return, I also found my son Adam has boomeranged back home from Hawaii and has settled into our basement. One of our agreements since he returned home is that he will hold a job, which he has done so far. He’s been working hard, so hard in fact that he ended up with some kind of flu over the last week. He seems to be doing well overall, and I’m happy to have him stay temporarily as long as he’s working. He has been saving money to take a trip to Australia to see his Australian girlfriend Maddy, who he met in Hawaii. He’ll be gone for nearly a month beginning September 20. On my second night back from Japan, he and I enjoyed a nice dinner together at the Whole Foods Seafood Bar.
Things have felt strange since I returned. I feel that I’ve returned to a parallel universe, and one not much to my liking. The very weekend after my return, I watched on TV a despicable white supremacy march in Charlottesville, about two hours from where I live in northern Virginia; in shock, I then had to listen to our “president” fanning the flames of hatred and arguing that there is moral equivalency between neo-Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists and the “alt-left,” a made-up term lumping counter-protestors and Antifa, or anti-fascists, into one big boat. Granted, there should be no violence in protests, but the white supremacists marching openly with weapons in one of the most peaceful college towns in our state was a frightening display and one that almost begs violence from counter-protestors. I am disheartened by what our country is coming to, and it is hard to be back after being in a culture where people greet each other with respect and bow to each other in nearly every interaction!
I didn’t watch any movies the whole time I was in Japan (I didn’t even know where any movie theaters were, except in downtown Tokyo). In an effort to catch up, I have gone to several movies since I returned: The Big Sick and The Glass Castle, both of which I enjoyed. While I was in Japan, I watched three full seasons of The Good Wife, which I was totally hooked on.
The first weekend I was home, I took 4-hour naps each day as I tried to reverse my internal clock. In Japan, nighttime was daytime here, and daytime was nighttime here, so no wonder my body is confused. I haven’t gotten much of anything done. As a matter of fact, I feel somewhat paralyzed with indecision. I never had a spare minute in Japan, and now I seem to have too much time on my hands. I don’t know how to focus my attention with so much time. I think it will take me a while to become acclimated to this parallel universe.
On Wednesday morning, August 16, I found out my daughter Sarah had taken a fall the evening before while running on a muddy path in the woods. She cut her knee wide open. She didn’t have her phone with her and had to walk with an open gaping wound until she found someone. Using a stranger’s phone, she called for an ambulance and was admitted to the emergency room where she had to have 25 stitches across her knee. She’s been immobilized ever since, as the cut was so deep it still hasn’t healed. As a waitress/bartender, she’s losing valuable work time; I plan to visit her soon, but she’s been putting me off until she feels a little better. I’ve been constantly worried about her, as a mother’s work as chief worrier is never over.
Adam has been taking a course about podcasts and posted his first podcast on the same day I heard about Sarah, so there was a bit of good news as he’s wanted to do this for some time.
On August 19, after I started to feel more like a human being, Mike and I went out to see the movie Wind River, which I enjoyed, and had dinner at Coyote Grill, where I had my favorite chili rellenos.
On Monday, August 21, I went at 2:00 to Kalypso’s at Lake Anne to watch the partial solar eclipse at 2:40 pm. It was a festive atmosphere, with people enjoying the beautiful day outdoors, drinking wine, wearing the funny eclipse glasses. I had seen a total eclipse in 1970 in southern Virginia, so I didn’t feel the need to travel a long distance to see the total eclipse, but Adam drove 10 hours to Tennessee, where he loved seeing a total eclipse for the first time in his life.
Mike and I are planning a holiday from September 22-October 7 to Budapest, Sopron, Vienna, Český Krumlov, and Prague. We spent many days this month plotting out our trip and making all our reservations. I can’t wait to go! In preparation, I’ve been reading guidebooks on Hungary, Austria and Czech Republic.
To get in the mindset for Prague I just finished reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I loved it! Here’s my short review from Goodreads: I really enjoyed this book that takes place in Prague before and during the Russian occupation. Besides being a love story, it also ties in the political realities of living under an oppressive occupying regime. Tomas, a successful surgeon at the beginning of the occupation, meets and falls in love with Tereza, who is like a child brought to him by a series of odd circumstances. Despite his love for Tereza, Tomas cannot stop his incorrigible womanizing; neither does he want to stop. In a parallel story, Tomas’s mistress Sabina and her other lover, Franz, a professor with noble ideals, try to work out their own love affair, a mere shadow and weak immitation of her affair with Tomas.
I love how the author wanes philosophical at times without abandoning the story of these characters and their backgrounds, histories that they can never excise and that influence them every day of their lives.
Upon my return from Japan, I found out when I weighed myself for the first time in four months, that I lost 8 pounds while in Japan. I guess it was a combination of the healthy diet there and all the walking I did. 🙂
My walks while home have been sporadic, and I’m rarely hitting 10,000 steps a day. In Japan, I met my goal of 10,000 steps every day just by walking 30 minutes each way to work and being on my feet teaching. On weekends, I often walked 10-20,000 steps. Needless to say, the pounds have started creeping back on since I’m not exercising as much here. It’s frustrating because I get bored walking around in circles in the same old places without any destination. My heart just isn’t into walking, but I will have to get back to my regular exercise routine soon. Below is a picture of part of a walk around Lake Anne in Reston on August 28.
Last Monday, after Adam had been working non-stop for days, he came down with a stomach flu and has been sleeping in the basement trying to recover. He’s been working so hard trying to save money for his trip to Australia, that he’s overdone it and is now paying the price.
Alex came up from Richmond to visit and spent two days here. It was so nice to see him after my time in Japan. He, his dog Freya, and I took a walk on the Fairfax Cross County Trail on Wednesday, August 30. As we were walking, I felt a sting on my right wrist and looked down to see something small and black on my wrist. I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t tell what it was, but I don’t think it looked like a bee. I thought it might be a spider. Anyway, the second I felt the sting, I knocked the creature away with my left hand, and immediately felt a sting on my left middle finger. Whatever it was, it got me in two places, on both hands, and they hurt like hell! I watched as the sting areas reddened and spread into a hard and hot raised area up over my hand and around my wrist. The next day, I went to see the doctor, who advised me to take Benadryl and gave me an antibiotic.
It’s been a rough time coming back into this parallel universe, but overall I’m glad to be home with my family, even though we seem to all be falling apart due to nasty falls, stomach bugs, and spider bites.
Please let me know how you’re doing, and what exciting, or even quiet, things you’ve been up to. I need to get back into a routine where I start following people again on their blogs more regularly; I hope to keep in touch more now that I have plenty of time on my hands. 🙂
Monday, March 27: It’s 3:30 a.m. on Monday morning. My bags are packed and I’ll leave in about an hour for BWI airport. My journey to Japan is about to begin. 🙂
This is the fourth time I will have lived and worked abroad. I taught Omani and Chinese university students on my two most recent gigs; the first time, I taught Korean elementary students. I always leave home with excitement and some trepidation, mainly because I never know what the work environment will be like. Each of my experiences has been completely different from the others. I never worry about the travel, because each place offers limitless exploration potential. I’ve rarely been disappointed in my travels. I’ve enjoyed each country in which I’ve lived while at the same time struggling to deal with cultural differences. I think every person should live in another country at least once in his or her life; it’s an eye-opening experience to be a foreigner, a minority, in another land. It gives one an understanding of what immigrants to our country must go through when they embark to the strange world that is America.
I don’t know why, but for this flight they recommend we get to the airport 2 1/2 hours ahead of flight time, which is 7:59 a.m. That seems awfully early to me, but who am I to question these crazy rules?
I made a day trip to Richmond on Monday, March 20, to visit my two kids. Before meeting them, I went for a walk around one of my favorite gardens, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. I got a glimpse of spring here in Virginia, but now I’ll have to leave it behind. I’ll be immersed in Japan for full-on spring and through the heat of the summer. Tokyo’s weather is much like ours – cool and rainy in the spring, hot and humid in summer. It will be similar to Korea’s weather as well.
Inside the conservatory, I found orchids and tropical plants.
Outside, I found a Japanese tea house and garden, a children’s garden and tree house, and a pond.
I hope to see you all in Japan! You can follow my adventures here: catbird in japan.
Friday, January 13: On a beautiful Friday in January, just before I was to begin teaching a 7-week session at VIU, I decided to drive to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia for a morning outing. Before this job dropped into my lap, I had made a schedule for myself that included taking a photo outing every Friday. Despite getting the job at the last-minute and having to prepare two syllabuses and lesson plans, I went out anyway, determined that I wouldn’t allow this job to ruin my personal goals. In the end, the outing caused me a great deal of stress over the weekend. It turned out I would never have time for another Friday outing during the entire 7-week session.
I was glad I went even though it took me longer to drive there than the 1 hr 9 min estimated by MapQuest.
At the Visitor’s Center, I was told there was a 2 1/2 mile hike to the river bluff or a shuttle into the town of Harpers Ferry, where I could get some lunch. I only had time for one or the other, and I was hungry, so I opted for the town. The town is supposedly closed off to cars, so I was required to take the shuttle despite having my car. Later, as I walked through the town, I saw cars driving through, so it was obviously NOT “closed off to cars!”
I was dropped by the shuttle on Shenandoah Street, from which I could see St. Peter’s Catholic Church on the hill overlooking the town.
I walked down the quiet street, looking at the preserved shops from the 1800s.
At the end of Shenandoah Street, I got a glimpse of the John Brown Museum. I didn’t go inside because I didn’t want to take that much time.
The story is this: In October 1859, determined to arm enslaved people and spark rebellion, John Brown and his followers seized the armory and several other strategic points. The raid failed, with most men killed or captured. Brown’s trial and execution focused attention on the issue of slavery and propelled the nation toward civil war. (National Park Service pamphlet)
I walked up High Street, which has shops and restaurants. As it was lunchtime and I was hungry, I searched for a place to grab a bite.
I stopped by the train station to watch some of the trains barrel past.
I ducked into Hannah’s New Orleans Seafood & Southern BBQ for some lunch. It was bright and cheery, and the Bubba Gump Louisiana shrimp fried in Cajun cornmeal was delicious. 🙂
After lunch, I walked back down High Street.
I took the path up to Jefferson Rock. First I came face-to-face with St. Peter’s Catholic Church.
Irish laborers flooded into the Harpers Ferry area during the 1830s to build the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal and the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad. St. Peter’s Catholic Church symbolizes America’s melting pot tradition and the customs, habits, and religion of the early Irish immigrants.
During the Civil War, to protect the church from Union and Confederate shells, Father Costello flew the British Union Jack flag as a symbol of the church’s neutrality. St. Peter’s escaped the war relatively unscathed. The church was remodeled in 1896 and Mass is offered here every Sunday.
Further up the path, I found the ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church, one of Harpers Ferry’s five earliest churches. Built in 1852 with money provided by church fairs, St. John’s served as a hospital and barracks during the Civil War and suffered considerable damage. It was rebuilt afterward, but was abandoned in 1895 when a new Episcopal church was built in the upper town.
Above the ruins sat a pretty house with a grand view.
This is how Thomas Jefferson described the view from Jefferson Rock during a visit to Harpers Ferry in 1783:
“On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Patowmac [Potomac], in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder, and pass off to the sea … This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”
Around 1860, the U.S. armory superintendent ordered red sandstone supports places under “Jefferson Rock” because it was “endangering the lives and properties of the villagers below.”
Going back down the hill, I passed the ruins again.
At this juncture of the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers, George Washington envisioned military strength and chose Harpers Ferry as the site for a U.S. Armory. By the early 1800s, the rivers powered the armory complex and commercial mills. The revolutionary method of manufacturing with interchangeable parts was perfected at the Halls Island rifle factory.
Below is Arsenal Square and the John Brown Museum.
I followed part of the Appalachian Trail from the end of Shenandoah Street across the footbridge to the C&O Canal and Maryland Heights.
There is a lot of train activity at this juncture of the rivers.
Rail transportation in the United States began in Baltimore, Maryland on July 4, 1828, when Charles Carroll, the only living signer of the Declaration of Independence, laid the cornerstone of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
On the same day, President John Quincy Adams turned the first spade of earth along the Potomac River for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.
The race was underway as the progressive railroad and the traditional canal struggled to become the first to connect the Ohio Valley with the east coast. Harpers Ferry was one of the first milestones of that race.
Work on the railroad and canal progressed slowly at first, but by 1834 both companies had completed construction to a point opposite Harpers Ferry. The canal had won the race to this point, and it continued up the Maryland side to the Potomac.
The B&O Railroad, plagued by land disputes with the canal, crossed the Potomac at Harpers Ferry in 1837 and rapidly pushed on. By 1842, it reached Cumberland, Maryland, and a decade later, the railroad was open to Wheeling on the Ohio River.
Business boomed at Harpers Ferry with the arrival of the railroad. Refrigerated cars brought oysters and other luxuries to the town. Thousands of travelers visited Harpers Ferry as it became a gateway to the Ohio Valley.
The Civil War shattered Harpers Ferry’s prosperity. Much of the town was destroyed, and Confederate raiders constantly sabotaged the railroad. Despite the war, the railroad escaped permanent damage, and the B&O survives today as a main artery of transportation in the United States.
On the other side of the footbridge, I saw the path along the C&O Canal, but I didn’t have time to explore it further.
The C&O Canal was burdened by a lack of building supplies and a scarcity of skilled labor and thus encountered serious financial problems. It did not reach Cumberland, Maryland until 1850 — eight years after the railroad reached that point. Plans to continue further westward were abandoned.
Made obsolete by the faster and less expensive railroad, the C&O Canal never attained any great measure of economic success, but it did transport coal, flour, grain, and lumber to Washington for nearly 90 years. Canal operations ceased in 1924 when a flood devastated the Potomac Valley, leaving the canal in ruins.
Today’s view of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers passing through the water gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains has changed little from Meriwether Lewis’ view in 1803. Lewis hoped to find a similar, accessible trade route on rivers passing through the Rocky Mountains.
The first mode of travel consisted of a primitive ferry established in 1733 by Peter Stephens. Stephens sold his business to Robert Harper in 1747, and Harper and others carried settlers and supplied across the waters until 1824 when a bridge constructed across the Potomac made ferryboat operations unnecessary.
In less than a decade after the bridge was completed, the iron horse and the mule brought the transportation revolution to Harpers Ferry.
In 1848, the building now known as John Brown Fort was built as a fire-engine house for the U.S. Armory. On October 16, 1859, it served as a stronghold for John Brown and his raiders, as they were penned into the building by the local militia. U.S. Marines stormed the building at dawn on October 18th and captured Brown. Convicted of murder, treason, and inciting slaves to rebellion, he was hanged in nearby Charles Town on December 2, 1859.
The Fort escaped destruction during the Civil War, but from 1861-1865, it was vandalized by souvenir-hunting Union and Confederate soldier and later travelers. In 1891, it was dismantled and transported to the Chicago Exposition, and in 1895, it was rescued from conversion to a stable and brought back to Harpers Ferry to be exhibited on a farm. Then in 1909, it was purchased by Storer College and moved to campus. Finally, in 1968, it was moved by the National Park Service to within 150 feet of its original location.
After my fun excursion, it was sadly time to return home and get to work on preparing for my classes. I could have explored a lot more. Sadly, it would have to wait for another day.
Saturday, March 4: The last eight weeks have been a whirlwind. Between teaching two intensive ESL courses at Virginia International University (VIU) and at the same time going through a rigorous application process for an EFL job in Japan, I’ve hardly had a moment to breathe. I also had a Skype interview with the English Language Fellow Program, after which I was accepted into the applicant pool. On top of that, I faithfully attended a writing class every Saturday for 6 weeks (although I didn’t get much writing done).
At the beginning of this year, I didn’t have any job prospects and had a year of great possibility stretching out before me. I had ambitious plans to: write my memoir; take writing workshops; get my novel published; look into starting a business organizing creative travel retreats; travel to Croatia, Budapest and Prague; and walk the Camino de Santiago.
Then, my plans were waylaid. Out of the blue, VIU called me in for an interview, despite the fact I had applied in August of 2016, only to be rejected by them at that time. I accepted the job and committed to their short 7-week session. Every time I teach as an adjunct in the USA, I become determined not to do it again because of the amount of work vs. the low pay, coupled with no travel opportunities. Teaching at VIU was great, as far as the students and my colleagues, but the amount of work I spent outside of class was ridiculous. A couple of weeks into the job, I applied for a job in Japan.
Now it seems I’m embarking on a major detour.
This morning, my husband made me laugh so hard I was almost in tears. He said, speaking in third person as if I weren’t right there with him, “my wife – she never knew a detour she wouldn’t take!”
He knows me all too well.
The simple truth is this: I don’t know when to stop.
This aspect of my personality cannot be denied, and it permeates every part of my life. For example, during the recruitment process with Japan, the recruiter interviewed me on Skype on a Wednesday in mid-February for 1 1/2 hours. I thought that would be the end of it, but at the end of the interview, he said he thought I might be a good fit for a particular program. In order to be considered for it, I needed to prepare two 45-minute lesson plans as soon as possible. Those were dreaded words, because, perfectionist that I am, I knew that I would spend hours and hours on those two lesson plans. By gosh, I already had tons of work to do in my classes at VIU.
At the end of the Skype interview, I said to the recruiter, “Could you please let me know if I will no longer be considered for the job before the weekend? Because I already know I will spend hours on these lesson plans and I’d rather not prepare them if you’ve already decided against me.”
He said, “No, sorry, it’s impossible to let you know that before this weekend.”
This meant that I had to complete the plans on the upcoming weekend. In the end, I spent literally 6 hours preparing two 45-minute lesson plans!
Call me crazy? Sure, if you like. It’s probably true.
The same thing happened when it came time to prepare the final exams for my two classes. Several teachers gave me old exams to use, but as I studied them, I realized I hadn’t taught certain things that were on their exams, and their exams didn’t cover certain things I had emphasized. Thus I spent the entire last weekend in February recreating the final exams for both classes.
On Monday morning, I went into my Reading & Writing class and said to my students, “I’m exhausted! I just spent all weekend making up your final exam.”
One of my Nigerian students who has quite a sense of humor got a panicked look on his face. He dramatically put his face into this hands and said, “Oh no, teacher! If it took you all weekend to prepare the exam, it will take us four hours to take it!” Everyone in the class burst out laughing.
The exam went almost as he predicted. It was way too ambitious. Though the class is only 2 hours and 20 minutes long, meaning the exam should have taken no longer than that, some students were taking the exam for a full 3 hours.
Ouch! I felt so bad for my poor students. Stoic as always, they soldiered through and did pretty well anyway. I had to be a little lenient in grading some of the more time-consuming aspects of the exam, but we managed to survive unscathed.
How do you stop a person who doesn’t know when to stop?
When I got the job offer to teach in Japan, at a university somewhere in Kanagawa Prefecture (the exact location has yet to be revealed), I had to acknowledge that I read the 29-page handbook that tells about the 9-hour workdays, possible 30-90 minute commutes on crowded trains, the high expectations, the dress code (including the requirement of wearing pantyhose – ugh!), and numerous stringent rules and regulations about working in Japan. After signing the contract and reading the handbook, I said to Mike, “What am I getting myself into?”
Mike says, and I’m sure his prediction will be right, that when I get to Japan, I’ll be saying “Oh my gosh! What have I gotten myself into?”
I had to send a professional photo to their specifications. Here’s the best I could do!
My husband continued with his “roast” of me this morning. “My wife is the only person I know who puts 20 things on a to-do list each day and doesn’t even consider the possibility that it will take 40 hours to do the things on the list. And then when the day is over, rather than congratulating herself on the 5 things she did accomplish, she berates herself for the 15 things she didn’t do.”
Oh dear. He’s a funny guy. He’s going to miss making fun of me during the four months (one semester) I’ll be in Japan.
He might also miss me during 10 month period beginning in September, IF I get the English Language Fellowship, which is still looming out there until early summer. They can offer me a fellowship anytime from now until June for a 10-month position anywhere in the world for the 2017-2018 academic year. Of course, there is no guarantee I’ll be offered the fellowship.
In which case, I can still either go to Croatia, Budapest and Prague, OR I can do the Camino de Santiago. 🙂
My husband thinks I’m the busiest person he’s ever known, bursting with energy at 5:30 a.m. on the weekend mornings, antsy to get up and get going with my day. Much to his dismay.
I finished up my classes at VIU on Thursday, March 2, and submitted my grades on Friday, so my time at VIU is over. I now have to complete a 7-10 hour eLearning course in preparation for Japan. I also need to get my Japanese visa, read as many books as I can about Japan, buy a new Kindle to load a bunch of books onto, get a new work wardrobe and a bunch of pantyhose (ugh again), buy a new computer, go to a couple of doctor appointments, and, on top of that, show up for jury duty this coming Wednesday. I’ve already bought my plane tickets for Japan, leaving Monday, March 27 and returning on August 8, one week after my contract ends on August 1. I can’t stay longer than that, sadly, just in case I get that fellowship.
I don’t know why I’m made up the way I am. But Mike is right when he says I never knew a detour I wouldn’t take. I would add a caveat: I’ll take the detour as long as it offers me some of the things I love. When an opportunity to travel, or to live and work abroad, falls into my lap, how can I possibly resist?
Welcome to our January happy hour! Come right in, make yourself comfortable and I’ll mix you up a drink. I don’t know about you, but January has been a rough month, so I really need a drink (or two or three!). Today I’m serving up a new concoction I discovered at Lolita in Philadelphia: a jalapeno-cucumber margarita. I’m not a big fan of sweet drinks, so this is perfect and refreshing. Of course there will always be the old standbys of wine and beer. I can also offer soda or seltzer water with lime if you prefer a non-alcoholic beverage. Cheers!
I’m happy to see you. We can mingle or we can sit, whatever is to your liking. How are you surviving since the election? Have you taken a stand in politics or are you sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to shake out? How are your resolutions coming along? What kind of music are you listening to? Have you indulged in any daydreams? Have you changed jobs or gone into retirement? Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners? Have you tried out any new restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home? Have you had any special family gatherings?
Well. Let’s just say, at least for now, my plans have been slightly waylaid.
“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” ~ Allen Saunders
The day after I signed up for three writing classes at the Bethesda Writer’s Center and one class through Fairfax County Adult Ed on starting a new business, I got a call from Virginia International University, a small private university not far from my house, to have a phone interview. This was a shock as I had applied and been rejected for a job with them last August. The phone interview was followed by a request to do a 20-minute teaching demo, which I also did. They hired me as an adjunct to teach two intensive ESL classes, Mon-Thur (9:00-2:40). I didn’t have much time to prepare as the classes started on Monday, January 16, on Martin Luther King Day, so I was pretty stressed out.
When I teach, though I only have 20 contact hours/week, I end up working almost double that amount. So, now and for the duration of the 7-week session, my time is not my own. Not only do I have to prepare for and mark papers for two classes, but I also am taking one writing class every Saturday for 6 weeks, and I have two more one-day classes I’ve signed up for, one this Thursday and one on a Saturday in March. The writing teacher gives us writing assignments; we’re supposed to submit a piece for work-shopping every Saturday. On Thursday night, I finished the two-night entrepreneurship course. In the last class, a speaker discussed franchising for most of the class, which I have no interest in! It was mostly a waste of time and money.
Luckily the semesters are very short at 7 weeks, and I only have five more to go. Also, as I’m an adjunct, VIU can either offer me a position next session or not, and I can choose to teach classes or not. After seeing how much of my time is consumed, I’ve decided to either teach only one class, or none at all, in the next session. It’s hardly worth it when I divide what I make per contact hour over the hours I actually work, plus take taxes off the top. I’d rather focus on my personal goals.
That being said, the students are enjoyable. I do love being in the classroom and interacting with my students, but I don’t enjoy the time I have to spend outside class hours to prepare. As I am often a perfectionist, I can let the preparations get out of hand, and I never seem to know when to stop.
On top of this, I applied back in December for The English Language Fellow Program, which sends experienced U.S. TESOL professionals on paid teaching assignments at universities and other academic institutions around the world. It was quite an extensive application process; I had to write numerous essays about various aspects of teaching. They don’t even look at an application until all references are turned in, and I knew my Chinese reference would hold me up. Finally, in early January, after much prodding from a friend on the ground in China, my former supervisors submitted their references and I was contacted to have a Skype interview, which I did. The next day, I was informed that I’m now in the applicant pool and will be considered for programs worldwide. Though there is no guarantee that I’ll get a fellowship, at least I’m happy I made it into the pool. This would be for the 2017-2018 academic year.
So, this is why you haven’t seen much of me in the blogosphere. My classes end March 2, so I should have more time after that.
As for other random stuff in January, I’ve been to see three movies: Hidden Figures, Julieta, and La La Land. I enjoyed them all, but I especially loved Hidden Figures because I grew up in southern Virginia near Langley during the early years of the NASA space program, and the fathers of many of my friends worked at NASA. I also enjoyed the light-hearted romance and music in La LaLand, as it gave me a welcome escape from the dark times our country is facing since January 20.
By the way, I made up a January playlist on Spotify that you might enjoy. I call it: of true detectives and highway vagabonds:
“Far From Any Road” – From the HBO Series True Detective / Soundtrack
“Highway Vagabond” – Miranda Lambert – the weight of these wings
“The Angry River” – True Detective (From the HBO Series)
“Inside Out” – Spoon – They Want My Soul
“Do You” – Spoon – They Want My Soul
“You Know I’m No Good” – Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
“Hold On” – Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
“Gocce di memoria” – Giorgia – Spirito Libero
“Somebody’s Love” – Passenger – Somebody’s Love
“What I Am” – Edie Brickell & New Bohemians – Shooting Rubber Bands at the Stars
“Love of the Loveless” – Eels – Meet the Eels: Essential Eels Vol. 1
“Tighten Up” – The Black Keys – Brothers
“City of Stars – Ryan Gosling – From “La La Land” Soundtrack
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” – Emma Stone – From “La La Land” Soundtrack
I haven’t had time for much else of interest, but I did go on Friday, January 13 to Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia for a bit of an outing. It was before my first week of teaching and I was determined to do an outing each week on Friday (since I’m off); I’ve been trying hard not to let the job run me! However, the following Friday was the inauguration and I didn’t want to go out in the traffic (and I certainly had no desire to attend the inauguration) and last Friday (the 27th), I had a mandatory teacher meeting (which I don’t get paid for, by the way). So, it seems the job is running me after all. The pictures scattered through this post are from Harper’s Ferry; I’ll write a blog post about it later.
bridge remains at Harper’s Ferry
walkway along the railroad tracks
I finished reading several books this month. My favorite was Nabokov’s Lolita, which is shocking by way of subject matter, but wonderful in terms of prose. I listened to the audio book, and I felt thrilled with so many of Nabokov’s passages, just for his amazing use of language, that I had to go out and buy the book so I could reread many of the passages I listened to. I plan to write about this in a separate post. I also enjoyed City of Veils, by Zoë Ferraris. It takes place in Saudi Arabia and is a murder story, not my usual cup of tea, but I love it because it portrays the nuances of Saudi culture. I also listened to the audiobook Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents by Elisabeth Eaves, which I enjoyed because she traveled to places like Egypt and Yemen, echoing some of my own travels. And everyone knows from my recent posts about visiting museums, that I also enjoyed the small book: How to Visit a Museum, by David Finn.
As for the aftermath of our election, I don’t want to ruin our cocktail hour, so I’ll write a separate post about it. All I can say is I’m extremely proud of all the women who marched in the Women’s March on January 21, and I’m proud of the protestors at airports and at the White House who are protesting the Muslim Ban. You can count me as part of the Resistance!! We will NOT stand down.
I hope you’ll share what’s been going on with you. As always, I wish wonderful things for all of you. 🙂
As my maiden name was Cathy Birdsong, I have often used the name “catbird” on my blogs. I was in New England a couple of years ago when I came upon this aptly named studio – one I’m sadly not at all associated with. If only I had such a studio!
Last year in Chincoteague, I came upon this sign that carries part of my youngest son’s name.
My oldest son’s girlfriend is named Ariana. I found her namesake restaurant in Philadelphia – a restaurant featuring Afghanistan cuisine. Sadly, we didn’t try it out. And we could have had 20% off with a movie ticket!
Unrelated to any of my family, I found this boat in a Maryland marina a couple of summers ago, an ode to Miss Betty. Berthed beside Miss Betty is The Other Woman.
And at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, MD, I found the gravestone of Elijah Jefferson Bond, creator of the Ouija Board. 🙂
Elijah Jefferson Bond – Creator of the Ouija Board