Thursday, December 31, 2009

Life Goals

I was rifling through my purse the other day, and came across this list of goals:
  1. Live and Work in Barcelona

  2. Teach English in Asia

  3. Get a Master's Degree in Teaching---maybe through the PACE program?

  4. Finish two years of service with AmeriCorps (in New England or Alaska)

  5. Get a Trucker's License

  6. Travel in Europe (in Venice, Rome, Vatican City)

  7. Go on a Vegetarian Cruise
These are some pretty widely divergent goals! I sincerely hope to do each and every one of them.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reading Challenges: The Final Countdown

This year, I read 173 books. I participated in seven book challenges, with mixed success. Two I am going to carry over into the new year, and hopefully complete by March or so.

By reading 173 books, I met my 150 book challenge. Going into this challenge, I really had no idea how many books I read in an average year. This seems about right---around three books a week. I don't want to pressure myself to read more, just for the sake of meeting a new challenge. I'm comfortable with this number.

I read 39 young adult books, and met my Juvenile Literature Challenge of two books per month. I enjoyed these books tremendously, especially the Pippi Longstocking and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books. I read portions of these books to my struggling second and third grade readers, and they were soon begging to check them out from the tutoring room library.

I completed the Classical Book Challenge. I read twelve classic books this year. Some of them were a little unconventional (The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson and Helen Keller's "The Story of My Life," for example). If I had the chance to do this challenge over, I would have read Dracula and a few longer works.

I didn't finish the Love Bites Reading Challenge, the Banned Books Challenge, or the Gay Literature Challenge. I get way too in to the Twilight books when I read them, to the exclusion of everything else. Having several college courses to finish up and a ton of hours to build up for my AmeriCorps position, I just couldn't go there this year. I'll probably finish the last two books in the series this year.

I wish I had read more books for the Gay Literature Challenge. I read Annie On My Mind, and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, my library has a very limited Gay Literature selection. I'll have to order some books off Paperback Swap this year.

Annie On My Mind also fell under the Banned Book Challenge, which was fun. I read a lot of hotly contested Juvenile Literature books, and shared some of them with my students. Somehow, knowing that a book is banned makes it all the more enticing, and spurred several reluctant readers to devour lengthy books.

I read a lot more young adult books than I expected to, and it's come in so useful for my reading tutor position. I can now recommend books with confidence. I have a huge collection of my very favorites lining the bottom of the whiteboard, ready for children to check them out. Some of my absolute favorites? Pippi Longstocking, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and The Rumplestiltskin Problem.

I didn't meet the Decades Challenge (I was two books short), but I plan to carry it over into the new year, along with the Gay Literature Challenge. This should be fun!

Happy New Year, and Merry Reading!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Time for Another Doctor's Visit

I can't stop drinking water. I am constantly parched, and easily down sixteen glasses a day. My ears are painfully full of fluid, and I have an unrelenting sinus headache. Much as I hate visiting the doctor, perhaps another doctor's visit is in order.

Doctors' offices never feel clean. It would be hard to, given that all of the visitors are sick, and spewing germs. During a fit of boredom a few weeks ago when I was home sick, I clocked just how far cough germs can spread (using a bit of cracker for a test). The results were scary!

I always feel like dousing myself in Lysol when I get back from the doctor's office. Who knows what germs are there!

Am I the only one to feel this way?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Diaperless Baby Movement

Internet research can be fun. Boredom is pretty much an unknown concept to me, for the very fact that just two clicks away you can research such intriguing things as the Diaperless Baby Movement or vegetarian cruises to Alaska.

YouTube is also a big hit---just google funny videos, and prepare yourself for hours of fun. YouTube also has clips of TV shows and movies, which are always entertaining to watch.

I love the sheer number of blogs online, focusing on anything from living a plastic free life, to stay-at-home dads.

Life is never dull online.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

19 Jobs

Children today will have an average of 19 jobs before they are 38. I've had nine, and I'm only twenty-two.

I've had good jobs---reading tutor with AmeriCorps, and English teacher to refugees and immigrants in Minnesota. I've also had some crazy jobs: English teacher with a European Academy in Guatemala, where my boss paid off the gangs to keep the teachers from being kidnapped, and selling plasma. Nothing too entirely special jobs were working in the college dining service, and acting as a custodial trainer.

Somehow ordinary jobs just can't be normal for me, though. Even working as a custodial trainer, I managed to discover that my coworker was a drug dealer and get hit on by a retired monk. Average? Hardly.

Nothing beats my job in a little, out of the way Spanish academy in Xela, Guatemala, where I fended off the advances of my three bosses while trying to get my full paycheck. It was always a negotiation. "Will you take half your wages? We're a non-profit!" Me: "No. I need to make rent this month." Them: "I don't have change." Me: "I do." Erg!

That job had a rather interesting ending: I was forced to quit after my student proposed to me, and my bosses refused to do anything about it.

At least life is never dull!

Monday, December 21, 2009

My First Greyhound Bus

Two long nights, thirty-five hours, and three bus transfers later, I am finally home. I was pickpocketed, but only lost $2. The occasional bathroom was unbearably filthy, but it was the exception, not the rule. I was not felt up or harassed, which makes this a good trip in my books.

On the plus side, I got to meet a mechanical engineering student from India who was finishing up his first semester at North Dakota State University, and see the best behaved little one-year-old in my life.

Although the bus hit some ice under an overpass and nearly toppled into the ditch, our driver's twenty years of experience kept us from harm. The vast majority of our drivers were witty and kind, and tried to make our bus trips as enjoyable as possible, despite their long hours.

Overall, this was a great trip.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gifts That Give More

I recently discovered the joy of donating money to charitable causes. I love giving through The Hunger Site. I'm able to pick a specific cause, and know exactly how my money will be used. I recently chose to fund a fuel efficient stove for refugees in Darfur. For just twenty dollars, these stoves reduce the number of dangerous fuel-gathering missions women have to go on in this war torn region, and are markedly better for the environment.

For seventeen dollars, I was able to pay the school fees of a Guatemalan child so that she can attend school for one year. This amount is a pittance in American dollars, but far beyond the reach of many families in Guatemala.

How do you give back?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Never Google Greyhound

A small bit of advice for Greyhound travelers: Don't google Greyhound bus experiences before you go.

Out of the many search results, ninety percent of them were negative. They detailed drunk passengers, crazy people creating chaos on the bus (including a guy with a pistol in a paper bag), uncomfortable riding conditions, and overcrowded buses. Not exactly the type of stories to reassure you when you're contemplating a 35 hour bus ride.

I figure it will all be all right, though. After all, can it really beat traveling by bus in Central America? Probably not. The odds of getting proposed to or felt up are much, much smaller (much more so on the former than on the latter).
Wish me luck!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Greyhound Here I Come!

Well, after a long debate (Is saving $200 really worth 72 hours on a bus?), I finally booked a Greyhound ticket. Since all of my long distance bus trips have been confined to Central America so far, this should be interesting.

I'll be spending two nights and an entire day on the bus on my way home for Christmas, and then one night and two days on the way back. I can't tell which is worse. In the day I can see the (snowy) scenery, but that might just make the trip feel even longer. At night, I'll have to scrunch up into a reclining seat and try to sleep (for two nights straight!). At least the trip won't be dull.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Did I Stumble into a Meeting of the Watershed Protection League?

With the rousing and ever important question of, "What's your watershed?" I began to wonder if I somehow stumbled into the wrong meeting. Wasn't this the AmeriCorps training on creating environmental change in the workplace? Maybe I mysteriously stumbled into a group of radical environmentalists, or innocently wandered into a meeting of the Watershed Protection League. After all, what do watersheds have to do with the workplace?

I was soon reassured that I was, in fact, in the right place. Our presenter told us very matter-of-factly that she was "simply passionate!" about watersheds. And so the rousing discussion of "What's your watershed?" began.

Now, I use cloth bags and even cloth pads for crying out loud, but I do not for the life of me know what my watershed is. Even back in my home state, if you asked me at gunpoint to identify my watershed, I wouldn't be able to. I mean, I'm thrilled to realize that I even know what a watershed is!

That conference on understanding poverty is starting to look better and better all the time.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Time to Book a Flight!

It is time once again to book a flight (or train, or bus) online. Is it this hard for everyone?

I keep pulling up great fares, only to find out that the price just expired. The new rate is at least double the old one. I just went through this! Can this even be legal? Maybe I'm just thinking unethical. Whatever it is, it sure isn't too much fun.

I am seriously considering Greyhound. Since I've never had the (distinct?) pleasure of going on one, this might be the perfect time. Saving $200 doesn't sound half bad, either. Another student loan payment, here I come!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Still Sick

This has been a rough few weeks. After feeling absolutely exhausted for two weeks, I finally made it in to the doctor. An hour's wait later, I was diagnosed with bronchitis and an ear infection. While certainly not fun, it's great to finally have an explanation for my tiredness.

It's been two more weeks, and I'm still not feeling all that great. I still occasionally fall asleep at five in the afternoon, and only wake up when my alarm goes off in the morning. Maybe it's time for another doctors visit.

I'm lucky to have really good insurance. The cost of doctors visits are negligible. I hate to think what will happen when I reach twenty-five and am off my family's insurance policy---hopefully I'll have a good job by then (I guess living on a volunteer's living stipend won't be an option anymore). Monthly medication costs for depression meds are astronomical---nearly two hundred dollars without insurance. Going without them is not an option---it's just miserable, and not conducive to holding a steady job and living in any reasonably fulfilling way.

In the meantime, I will volunteer as much as possible, and try to discover my life's calling (that sounds so corny!) Hopefully I'll figure it all out soon.