Saturday, July 31, 2010

North Carolina

In just two short weeks, I head off for North Carolina.

I am not a fan of the heat. Humidity is horrible. So why, exactly, am I headed off to a place known for its heat and humidity?

For the chance to earn my Early Childhood Education Credentials. For the opportunity to work with preschoolers for an entire year. For the chance to see somewhere completely different. For a lot of reasons.

Let's just say that I'm definitely looking for a place with great air conditioning, though!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Only Nine States to Go!

I have just nine states left to visit in the United States. I'll hit Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina on my way to my AmeriCorps position. Then I'm planning a road trip to Washington, D.C., so I'll hit Virginia. That just leaves South Carolina, Nevada, and Utah. I'll also need to hit Alaska and Hawaii, but those are a little harder to get to.

It was a real shame that I couldn't visit Nevada or Utah while I was working as a reading tutor in Washington, but between visits home to see a sick relative and my car accident in Portland, there just really wasn't time (0r money). Hopefully I'll be back sometime soon.

Where would you like to travel?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Things to Do Before I Move

Things I need to do before I head for North Carolina:

  1. Find temporary housing. Why, oh, why do they not tell us what city we'll work in until after our two week orientation?
  2. Get tuberculosis test and medical exam for the Early Childhood position.
  3. Visit the eye doctor, and find a low-cost provider of contact lenses. I no longer have vision insurance.
  4. Visit the dentist. At least I'm covered for the basic exam!
  5. Refill all of my medications, allergy meds in particular.
  6. Pack. And repack. Then pack again.
  7. Load up on cough, cold, and flu medications. Do not even think about waiting until I actually have a cold.
  8. Figure out route to North Carolina. Only twenty-six hours of driving!
  9. Find cell phone charger.
  10. Load up my Sony eReader with books.
  11. Burn audiobooks to a CD.

Not too intimidating of a list, right?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Was this really what they meant?

"Dry camping. Inquire at the bar."

Don't you just love vacation signs?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Despite my crazy, seven segment video interview, I have received provisional acceptance for an AmeriCorps Early Childhood Education position! This is contingent on passing a background check, a tuberculosis screening, and a medical exam to make sure that I am "physically and mentally whole."

Lucky them, they have to do a background check for three states and Guatemala. When did life get so complicated?

Now the tuberculosis screening makes sense. I never would have considered that it would even be an issue before I spent some time in Central America. It's actually a miracle more of my study abroad group didn't get sick---we only had one case of the German measles, and another case of mono. The bedbugs and fleas, however, were a whole other issue.

Now I just have to pass that great medical exam! I wonder what think about depression?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back in Minnesota

After thirty-four straight hours of driving, I am currently blogging at home with a very happy black cat on my lap.

I spent two nights in the car, drove for ten, and read and slept in the very tiny space allotted after all of my earthly belongings, a tent, and three sleeping bags were stuffed into a tiny car. It was a tight fit, but somehow we managed.

Now I am enjoying the heat and humidity of Minnesota, a great preparation for North Carolina. Hopefully with less bugs.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Only in Central America

Only in Central America would a bus be stopped by hooded men on your way to renew your visas on the way to San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico. All motorists had to pay a bribe, or they would not be allowed to pass (a board with nails in it blocked the way). However, if you are an American you were lucky---they don't want the bad publicity, and they'll let you go.

Only in Guatemala could 20 policemen be held captive by one armed gunman. It sure is reassuring to realize that you're protectors are that defenseless.

Only in Central America are prisoners transported in the back of pick-up trucks. Just handcuff them and go!

Life is interesting in Central America.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dogs for Rent

I am a shameless Internet surfer. Recently I chanced upon an article from Yahoo called "Strange Things You Didn't Know You Could Rent". Of course, I had to read it. Who knew that you could actually rent a dog?

According to Yahoo, "Although the concept of renting a pet might seem shocking to some (rent a best friend?), there are circumstances where it might make sense, such as comforting the elderly, testing if a particular breed triggers your allergies, or gauging how your family reacts to an animal. Others would like a companion for hikes but can't keep a pet at home." They also mention that "participants can save hundreds of dollars a year on food, supplies, vet bills, and other expenses of animal ownership."

It's hard to argue that owning a pet isn't expensive---dog and cat food isn't cheap, and vet bills can be astronomical. Still, it's hard to imagine renting an animal.

They link to a company called Flexpetz, which "offers customers the chance to spend time with a trained dog for a few hours or at regular intervals." Having experienced first hand how beneficial the Read to a Dog program is at school, and what a difference a trained therapy dog made in the life of one of my middle school students, this is not a bad service. Fortunately, all the dogs are purported to "be rescued or "rehomed." When they are not working, "they live in the home of a caregiver."

Apparently, "participants can save hundreds of dollars a year on food, supplies, vet bills, and other expenses of animal ownership."

Personally, I prefer to volunteer at the local animal shelter. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement where I experience the joy of spending time with animals, without all of the trouble of remembering to buy more dog food or constantly having to brush the cats. Even better, I am providing much needed socialization for animals that are waiting to be adopted.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Disastrous Road Trip

Yesterday, I traveled down to Portland in my nice Toyota Camry (six years old with 200,000 miles on it!). I expected to have a leisurely drive down, spent the day perusing Powell's bookstore, and hopping from one vegeterian restaurant to the next. Oh, how plans change.

Portland's highway was ripe with construction. There were slow downs everywhere, and a lot of stop and go traffic. A guy pulled in front of me. For awhile, everything was good. Then, he slams on his brakes.

I knew there was no chance of me stopping in time. The shoulder was wide, so I tried to pull over onto it. My brakes, however, locked up, and I went into a skid that pulled me straight into the concrete barrier.

The airbag didn't deploy, but I was wearing my seatbelt and got out of the car unscratched. A nice semi driver stopped behind me and paused traffic so I could extricate my car from the barrier and pull all the way off the road. You have to love nice people!

Now I'm waiting for the verdict from the insurance company. Declare the car totaled, or spend $2,000 or more to fix it? It's an agonizing wait, made even worse by the fact that I have family coming in less than a week, and no vehicle to pick them up in. How will they get to their campsite and around town without a car? I guess a car rental is in our future.

On the plus side, a friend loaned me a nice bike, so I'm able to do my grocery shopping and school work without too much trouble. I've already logged seven miles on it in the past three days. Talk about your crazy plans to get in shape! All you need to do is have a disastrous road trip, culminating in a wreck, and suddenly there is no avoiding the dreaded bike.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Crazy Interview Tactics

"Who was your worst boss and why?" "What is one mistake that you made that you won't make again?" These are just two choice excerpts from a very interesting AmeriCorps telephone interview that I had last month.

Somehow I don't think they were expecting my Guatemala worst boss story.

How can you sum up in a few short, appropriate sentences a boss who refused to pay you and was unable to back you up when your student sexually harasses you? I know I should have just stuck to the whole, "Well, I once had a boss in Guatemala who refused to pay me my full wages" story, but that would have been just too simple. No, I had to elaborate.

At the very least, interviews with AmeriCorps are never dull. Whether it is a telephone interview with three supervisors on speakerphone, or strange horror story questions, there is never a dull moment.

What was your worst interview question?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Horseradish Cheese

Imagine sitting at a table, surrounded by your bosses and coworkers. They offer you some cheese, so of course you politely take a small chunk. Only afterward do you learn that it's Horseradish Cheese.

If you have never before tasted this (ugh) delicacy, let me tell you: you're missing out on one of the rare flavors of life.

And I don't blame you one bit.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Thrift Store Fun

I love thrift stores. I recently picked up a very cute navy green purse for $2 to supplement my (very worn out) purse that I've been using daily for the last two years. It's time to give that one a break (and a good wash!).

I also hit the Farmer's Market today. Amidst accordian playing and an exhibit by the animal shelter calling for the adoption of five new kittens, I was able to find organic garlic shallots for $2 a bunch, a pint of strawberries for $3, and a really good coconut scone for $2.25. Trust me, the scone was so worth that price.

I'm off to the library to pick up the rest of rest of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series. What are you reading?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Crazy Interviews

After a torturous sixteen question phone interview ("What was one supervisor that you did not get along with and why? What activities would you do with a two-year-old, a three year-old, and a four-year-old?"), I received word that I would be granted a coveted second round interview with the Early Childhood Education Corps.

The only caveat? I need to create a "short" 5-8 minute video to show "Why it's important to you to give a year of service in the Early Childhood Corps."

Did I mention that the job pays $1000 a month? And that I'd have to remain on food stamps?

On the bright side, they had a great typo: We have no expectations about the content of your video (ok, except that it’s kind of PG-13). They want a PG-13 video? I think they might have left out a very important word somewhere in there.

Oh, well. If I can find a computer that will actually allow me to access the example video, I might be able to pull one together. I also need to round up a videocamera and someone to actually film the video. Good thing our tech person at school is really nice.