Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Day I Got Frustrated

I am somewhere between here..................

AND here.....................

Successes today include waking up, getting up, eating breakfast (free), and crossing off a couple of really minor things from my list (buy glue stick, umbrella, shampoo, mouthwash, dental floss, and sim cards.) All that took me to four different stores and six hours. Oh, lunch was in the middle. And afternoon coffee where I had my first breakdown of "what-in-the-world-am-I-doing-here-someone-buy-me-a-ticket-home-!"

< Why the glue stick? Travel tip alert: if you're still old-school and like to journal, keep receipts, ticket stubs, and random Dove chocolate wrappers that say "Feel Good about Yourself", then a glue stick is the journaler's best friend. >

The good news about today is that Sheffield people are just super, super helpful and friendly. Liam, at the Phones4You store, set up my phone and iPad like a professional. Oh, wait. He is. I also learned that Sheffield, Newcastle, and Glasgow are homes to the nicest people in the U.K.

The bad news about today is that I'm going through my first wave of culture shock. Total helplessness. (And this is where growth happens, I know, yada, yada, yada. I don't wanna hear it.)

Cultural difference: When one is already down and out a little, and the store clerk asks "you okay?" it's probably not wise to fall into her arms and whimper, "NO. No I'm not okay, can you find me a place to live?! Hug me!" Instead, you say, "can you show me where the mouthwash is?" because what she's really asking is "can I help you, in this store, at this moment?" and when you ask for mouthwash in return, she will definitely respond with "Oh yes Love, follow me. We've got several brands on sale at the moment.What else can I do you for?"

Sniff. sniff.

Here's a little pictorial of my day, because I'm too mentally drained to write coherently anymore.

Breakfast of champions. Pork and beans. This automatically prompted corn-on-the-cob for lunch. The toast was sure tasty though, and I sneaked a few Nutella packs to my room. Cheese packs = awesome.

My view at breakfast. Anybody want to visit?

The first of six leasing agencies that must have this recording: "Sorry, we just can't help you at the moment. Have you tried any websites or private lenders?" Yes. I'm one of those people who try everything over and over and over again before asking for help. So now I'm asking. Help me.
Lunch at Nando's. Super good. Super friendly service. The place was so packed I had to wait for a lunch! I ate the portobello wrap with pineapple and medium piri piri hot sauce. I asked the wonderfully kind servers if they could also help me find a place to rent since they were so good at helping me choose my lunch. "Unfortunately, not good with that one." (When said with a British accent, the word unfortunately never actually makes me feel unfortunate.) :)
I ended up trying all of these sauces. Next time I will go for the extra hot. Most of the meals here are based around rotisserie  chicken. The hot sauce isn't Mexican spicy, but more Indian spicy.
Fail: did not ride public transportation today. Too much of a mental challenge at this point of my day.
Success: opted for a mocha pick-me up at Cafe Nero. This is like a two-for-one: chocolate and coffee.

Accidentally took a picture of myself. Look at all those chins!
When I meant to take a picture of this. All of a sudden, this place feels sooooo big.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

Good news, I'm going to bed before 2:00 a.m.

Also, in other news, I love the staff at this hotel. Good conversationalists. Two nights in a row at the bar ending my night just chatting. Ben, the evening Duty Manager, has schooled me on everything from great pubs in town to why walking is better than driving, to lime and soda (a disgusting looking phosphorous neon drink that many people order) and why sometimes bachelor degrees just aren't worth it. The guy next to me tonight at the bar schooled me on all things California. He's been. A lot. He's got one word for me: tumbleweeds.

I drank water and ate french fries, which are actually called "skinny fries" on the menu. Misleading. Probably responsible for all those chins.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Day I Arrived

(P.S. (Is it okay to put the post-script before the post?) I think my blog shouldn't be titled "Journey2Learn", but instead "Letters2Home" because currently these entries are just ways my friends and family can experience my experience. You may find them rather boring! :) 

Terminal K: Chicago O'Hare Airport
Education Speak: 
This truly is a journey to learn. I sat next to a young man on my flight from Chicago to Manchester who just finished his A-levels in June in geography, ancient history, and philosophy. He detailed what the last five years for him were like with GCSE's, General Certificate of Secondary Education,  in 12 areas. I want to learn about these in more detail. I will look them up. I'm wondering how long do these exams take? And what happens as a result of these exams? These are questions I want to explore further. A quick read in Wikipedia helped.

From those exams, my seat partner chose four areas to focus on (age 16) for the next year, and then he took his first set of A-levels. The second year he focused on three subjects, I mentioned earlier, and now, after his second A-levels (age 18), he has narrowed down his favorite course of study, geography, and has decided to study at Manchester University in September 2014. He is now in his "gap" year, a year many 18-year-olds take off to work or travel before heading to the university.
(We ALL need a gap year. I wish this tradition would come to America, as usual, we are the exception to the rule. If I had my own children, I would institute it. Instead, many of my students say "I'm taking  a year off and going to work first.") He is returning home from a holiday in Florida with his family, who live near Birmingham, and he plans to take a 10-week charity trip to Ecuador to work in conservation areas for the rainforest.  He told me Sheffield Hallam was one of the top universities in the UK, out of 144. He's been researching. :-) He described it as an A-B school, which is the grade you need to make on your A-levels to be accepted to this university.  He chose Manchester bc he likes their Geography department. The university experience will cost him £9000 per year. That's about $13,000.

As the flight began, I started to read Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook. The first notebook hasn't got me hooked yet, but I'm only on page 35. The introduction though, written by Lessing, is one of the best introductions to a book I have ever read. She wrote it in 1993. She detailed her disgust wit
h the educational system (in the UK and around the world) in allowing us to have students read and evaluate what authorities say about a subject vs what they could learn testing it through their own experiences."Nevermind what professors say, read it for yourself, what do you say?" I was inspired by this.

Changing money...
Safe on the ground, 7:37 am., 1:37 am CST. Surprisingly, everything has been so easy.

Going through customs at the UK Border in Manchester Airport.
The customs agent was super nice, asking me outside of work if I had plans to travel, and then offered a slew of local suggestions. At baggage claim I found the toilet first (got to get used to seeing the word toilet) and then found a cash machine that changed paper bills, which on top of a terrible exchange rate, I also paid £5 for the exchange, getting only 52.50 for my hundred dollar bill. I had to use the cash machine instead of the ATM bc I needed actual coins to get a "trolley" for my luggage, which I could have used my card on, but it was out of service.

My luggage came quickly! In Chicago I was moved to an exit row and the airline steward checked my
carry on for me. Nice to not worry about heaving all that research up to the overhead bin. So, that was the first piece that came on the carousel. The next two pieces came quickly afterwards and I loaded up to exit the building. Signs were super easy to follow to the train station, and I kept thinking at any moment I would have to abandon my trolley for a set of stairs, but that never happened. It was a 10-min walk through a covered pathway that led me across a street, up 7 floors on a lift that held 40+ people and their bags, through a terminal, and down one floor to trains. Signs were posted along the way that said, 10 min, 8 min, 4 min, and down. I had pre-purchased my ticket, so all I had to do was slip in my credit card to a machine and print. I made it in 13 minutes...pushing 150+lbs.

I made my way down the lift to the platforms and into the cafeexpressshop. It's a little chilly here right now, maybe 65 or so, and cloudy. My biggest concern now is getting off the train in Sheffield.

My view while waiting for the train at Manchester Airport.
I have a luggage strap, may have to test the bad boy out. I plan to get a taxi to the Holiday Inn express. I can't believe I was actually worried that I could miss the 9:55 train. I made it in plenty of time to catch the 8:55, but I waited it out just to be sure. Wednesday is a good day to travel! Not too crowded.

The Train Ride...
It felt good to ride a train. Although once I was successfully on the train with luggage unloaded, we all had to get off and switch trains and platforms. Fortunately, my trolley was still outside the door. Once I loaded up my bags and made it to the next platform, we all were told to return to the previous platform and train. EighYighYigh! Even the Brits were giggly about this.

I returned to my seat and Ian sat down across from me. If all the British are like Ian, then I will have great help. We talked about everything from rugby people vs football people, hiking in the Pennines, this side vs that side, tipping, Chicago, Missouri caves vs Derbyshire caves, plane delays, breakfast,
My train mate pointing out the Derbyshire peaks.
and northern US vs Southern US accents. His constant questioning and conversation starters kept me awake from Manchester to Sheffield. When I finally told him I would be working at Sheffield HallamUniversity, his eyes nearly popped out of head, "Ooooh, that's a great university." I'm feeling proud and happy that I'll be at an institution that seems very well-respected, even though the city does not seem to impress people. The minute I got off the train, we found a luggage trolley, the lift, and the taxi stand. He left me as if he was worried I wouldn't make it on my own.

We pulled out of the train station, turned right, and voila!   Sheffield Hallam University.

Home Away from Home...
I'm staying at the Holiday Inn Express on Blonk Street. It was only a 4.50 taxi ride, but I paid 2 more pounds for the driver to lug my bags in and out of the car. I know, tipping is not required, b
ut you didn't lift those bags! 

I managed lunch, an egg salad sandwich, packet of crisps, and two bottles of water from the cooler in the hotel lobby. Paid 8.50 for that. Dad thought that was a good deal, until I told him that was about $13. He cringed a little. I still thought it was a GREAT deal. After skyping home, I promptly fell asleep. Hard sleep. I knew I shouldn't, but I just couldn't stay awake. I definitely need to change the time on my computer to GMT. I thought I could handle keeping it at CST, but all it does is make me think about what people at home are doing right now, and keeps me in two time zones rather than one. (Not that I don't want to think about my colleagues or family!) One time zone though is better for me to focus.

I woke up around 4:00 p.m., unpacked a little, showered, and headed downstairs. I was feeling some anxiety about actually going out of the hotel. New place, new faces, new neighborhoods, and sometimes I get it in my mind that when something looks dirty or old, then it must be an unsafe neighborhood, not because the building is 500 years old! :) So, I have to face that fear always when I travel alone, but once I do it, good things come. 

My home away from home before I find a home. The Holiday Inn Express.
The staff at the Holiday Inn Express have been super kind and friendly. The front desk clerk sent me on a 10-minute walk (seems that's the end-all-be-all of distance measurement here) to Leopold Square. I will be going back here, especially this weekend for some jazz music. JAZZ! I said. I asked if it was safe, and he said he walks this route every night going home from work at 11:00 p.m. It gets dark about 7:45, so I wanted to return before then. The walk was all uphill, which reminded me of something Ian (from the train ride) said about Sheffield, "Rome and Sheffield were built on seven hills, and that's where the similarities stop."  I passed KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and McDonalds on my way to find dinner. I settled at Popolo's because it was next to four other restaurants in the square, and it was packed! No other restaurants had people sitting outside. So, I checked out the menu to see what was the fuss...then I realized it was the equivalent of happy hour. The other restaurants nearby might
What it looked like upon arrival.
need to rethink their late afternoon prices. The service here was great. I ordered the prosciutto e ouvo, which is described like this: prosciutto ham, olives, and mozzarella on a tomato sauce base with a cracked egg." It came by recommendation. I added the salad, which was my favorite! 

The good news is that it was all downhill home. I took a few different streets back just to familiarize myself with the area. I only had the hotel map, which was terrible, but I still made my way by using landmarks. I found the main thoroughfare that houses numerous SHU buildings. Everything looks so close on the maps I've been viewing, but I never realized how close all of this is. My hotel is less than a 3-minute walk up to the university. I made it back to the hotel for a cup of coffee at the hotel bar (I chose a mocha version because I was

What it looks like before bed. hehe.
craving something sweet) and then ended with a soft glass of merlot. I've had a good, make that GREAT, day in Sheffield. 

Tomorrow's agenda...
More walking. Find leasing agents. Find a phone. Ride the tram. Search for a yoga studio. That's probably all I can handle in one day in an unfamiliar city. 

Here are a few others pics of my day: 

prosciutto e ouvo pizza and salad for dinner.

Wall of water (on the right) outside the Sheffield Train Station. Look above and to the right--SHU...I didn't even notice it until now!

Some countryside on the train from Manchester to Sheffield. I love the rock walls that divide the fields. Don't you know someone put a lot of hard labor into those!
It's everywhere I am! Tomorrow I might try to find Sheffield University.
Window shopping on the way home from dinner. Looks like some great shopping to be had in this little city. At first I saw a TJ Maxx, but it's TK Maxx instead. Good thing I have one bag that will be empty for the trip home. These reminded me of my colleague Kristin Howard; she would look dynamo in them!! (And be 7feet tall!)
I will be hitting this place up soon. Yay for a little authentic Mexican food in Great Britain! Ben, the night manager on duty tonight, said there are two Mexican restaurants in this town, one local, one a chain. I will try them both. He said, "they are both really good!"

Speaking of Mexican, my last meal in the states. Not authentic, looks kind of gross actually, but oh so good. A mess of a tostada covered in hot sauce, guacamole, and sweet sauce.

All of the luggage in my care for the journey. Red=clothes, shoes; Grey=gifts; blue=research; backpack=cameras/electronics; purse=passport/credit cards.

Just what you think of in England, a clock tower, a red telephone booth, and a black cab (in the distance). Just walking home tonight.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Day I Left

My app isn't working. So no pictures. So much for technology!

My flight left at 3:20. I spent the last three days in final preparations. This morning I woke up, saluted the sun and finished last minute packing procedures. I even had time for coffee and a pedicure! The last two days of yoga have been overflowing with energy and emotion. I thank my friends Kathy, Angie, and the yogis at Sumits. Please try out that place someday. 

Dad came at 11:00 and after visiting for a bit, we drove to Mexican Villa fora hearty last Springfield meal. "The food you grew up with" is the slogan on the front of the menu, and I know there are haters of the MV reading this, but there is no other truth about this place for me. I've transitioned through the Villa's menu like I've transitioned through life. From French fries and taco salads (with no lettuce or tomato, mind you) as a child to burrito enchilada styles in my college years to vegetarian cheese tostadas and guacamole dip as an adult. I just can't get my fill of white American cheese dip and MV hot sauce. There's a bottle securely stored in my luggage. 

Moving on...and moving out. I thought I was doing so well by packing weeks in advance, but seems I just can't let go and leave things behind. Dad arrives, and I instantly drop 10lbs from the cases with his "you don't need that" and "you should buy this  there." Why yes. Yes I should. It's really nice to have someone help make decisions. That still didn't prevent an overage of nearly 20lbs. The large red one contains clothes and shoes. The grey one, gifts only...200+ items friends, family, and colleagues have given to me to give to my new friends, family (because I always meet family!) and colleagues. Dad said I would have that all given away in less than two weeks. :) The small blue is a carry on and has  jackets and my research: files and books. The backpack is a leftover from a student my very first year of teaching. He never returned to pick it up, so when it finally gives out on me, it's obituary will read "Left behind, but traveled to every country Casey Daugherty did." In 20 years, it's been the one staple travel companion. It's full of electronics and cameras. I like it because there's old school storage for big laptops. :) 
All-in-all there's 173lbs of my life stored neatly in 150+ cubic inches. 

So there you have it. I am off. I will post later this week when I get settled into Sheffield. It's supposed to be sunny and 70 when I arrive. I think this sounds lovely. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Just the Beginning: the final days of Fulbright orientation

Capitol butter. I think I need at least one blog post that starts with butter.
That last two days of orientation provided no time to post. I left D.C. Saturday later afternoon, and spent time writing on the plane. I am shocked at how much I can actually type on my iPhone Notes in a short amount of time. My sleeping patterns are already in a mess, and I think anxiety is starting to settle in a little deeper before I leave next Tuesday. There is much to do.

Friday, August 16, started with a 10-min walk/jog around the hotel area and ended in the park adjacent to  the White House for a little outdoor yoga. I met up with Jode (teacher from Colorado,) and we walked two blocks back to the Capital Hilton together.

9:00 a.m.: met in the New York room with Holly (Dr. Emert, Assistant Program Director) to learn about the details of the Fulbright grant. For the first time I felt a little anxiety due to the fact that my grant  has not been transferred into my account yet. I quickly learned this was because my British bank account has not been confirmed yet, and my funds will actually be administered by the US-UK Fulbright Commission once I get settled into the UK. All of this means my initial expenses for the first week hotel and deposits for a flat and other living set up fees will come directly from my pocket. September will be one rough financial month, paying both my American AND British bills from my own pocket.

Without a break we moved right into a 90-min session on Developing Global Competence with Honor Moorman from the Asia Society. If you are a teacher, you may want to view this work if you are interested in preparing your students to become globally competent citizens.

There was something safe and familiar about Honor's session, and it included presentation strategies I use quite often in my classroom--text rendering and writing prior to participating in dialogue (which I think always makes for richer conversation.) Now I know it was her background and work as Co-Director with the San Antonio Writing Project. How I WISH I had the opportunity to visit with her now. These 90-min made me think in new ways about my Capstone. Prior to this, I had big concerns that my work isn't important to the world, and once I was selected by the Fulbright Board, I began to think the most important thing about my research is that it fits "my" classroom. But I think this session was helpful in making me think globally, and after reviewing the global competencies, I am rethinking where it fits: how can this help tomorrow's adults solve climate change issues? How will participating in structured dialogue to improve writing skills move us towards medical breakthroughs for diseases like AIDS or Cancer? Why does working in small writing groups help students learn to communicate (write) for diverse audiences? How does practicing dialogue prepare students to ACT in new ways in future settings where conversation is important? I seemed to walk away from Honors session rethinking not my Capstone, but the underlying focus of why this work in communication is important. I look forward to thinking and writing about this more deeply over the next few months.
Revathy (Technology) and Manju (Principal), India

Watch this video if you have 7 minutes. It won't disappoint you. It's from the experience of a 16-year old middle class American girl who spent time in a developing country, so only watch it if you want your heartstrings to be tugged a little. We read her transcript and had discussions about whether or not this student was globally competent. I sat with a Inka, Manju, and Revathy. Sidenote: Inka is a fine arts and music teacher from Finland, Manju is the principal of Delhi Public School North (4500 students,) and Revathy has her PhD. in Mathematics and coordinates technology enhanced learning--we might have a thing or two to learn from the Indians in this field!) Together, we have 70 years of teaching experiencing, and our conversations were interesting. Our conclusions were that this student showed clear evidence of becoming globally aware, and was on her way to becoming globally competent. I wish I could tag teachers in blog posts. I would tag Kathy Scales and Lisa Deckard. These two teachers practice teaching their students to be global thinkers. I know after watching this and discussing Ms. Moorman's work, they will have new ideas to bring into their classrooms.

We moved right from Honors session to meeting two pretty important people in the world of Education. So important, in fact, we sat in a room waiting for them and were notified of their arrival before their actual arrival in the conference room. They both also came with very long titles and dark suits.  The kind of title that is written with commas and without prepositions:
With Deputy Assistant Secretaries, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Dept. of Education.
Meghann Curtis, Deputy Assistant Secretary,  Academic Programs,  Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U. S. Department of State
Clay Pell, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of International and Foreign Language Education, U.S. Department of Education. (tap that link...I thought it was interesting!)
We only had 45 minutes with them, and the time started with each talking about the value and importance of teachers. Meghann spoke first, and then Clay, without as much as an introduction, asked us "what do you see that needs to be changed?" Wwhaaat?!? I wasn't quite sure what I just heard, and I knew I wasn't prepared to jump into a conversation with the U.S. Department of Education. I do know that his leading with that felt really great. I think all of us were in a little shock, and after a few minutes, questions and concerns began to bubble up (how can we keep quiet?!) Clay listened to each of us, and I loved that he made no excuses, or even said "we know this is a problem" when my colleagues brought up issues. Instead, he nodded his head, asked clarifying and/or confirming questions, and wrote notes. Do you know how valuable it feels to be heard vs. being put into place of lesser power? Our words and our actions do this. Comments like "we know it's a problem" or "we are already working on it" or  words that generally defend the current system are demeaning and disrespectful to the person bringing up an issue. I have been practicing not doing this in my classroom, and instead, while students offer suggestions or give advice, I bite my tongue to not defend why I think my way is right or they are wrong. Instead, I want my students to feel this same type of value and respect that I felt with Clay Pool and Meghann Curtis. After their session, I snapped a photo with them and they asked me about my classroom and my research. " I am a teacher at Republic High School, and I teach 12th grade English." I shared my work, and they both asked further questions. I thanked them for realizing that many sacrifices have been made by teachers to participate, and in addition to being absent from family and students, the majority of us have earned this Fulbright only to be rewarded from our districts with no salary, insurance, or retirement benefits. Instead of rewarding accomplishments such as this, teachers are placed on leave of absence. In my case, I am officially jobless until I receive a contract when I return. I have taken out a loan and extended my retirement an extra year to be able to participate in Fulbright.

Sidenote: guess where Clay Pell spent seven summers of his life--age 7-14. Click here. 

Important note: lunch consisted of salads and two peanut butter/chocolate chip cookies.

With Karen C. Writer-in-residence at The Education Trust.
The next session was data driven, and here we learned about outlier schools across the US who have all the cards stacked against them, yet consistently outperform their state and national averages. It was chart after chart, but Karen Chenoweth's examples, knowledge, humor, and wit kept me motivated to understand the evidence she presented to us. We are beginning to feel the effects of inequality, and although we say we are the land of opportunity, and that each generation will be better than the last, we not providing enough good resources for those living in poverty, so this engine of inequality is accelerating. The U.S. ranks third highest in income inequality of the OECD nations. Karen studies the schools who breaks through the inequality barrier and notices these five commonalities:
  1. These schools do not focus on programs, but only on what students need to learn.
  2. These schools focus on the standards and not the selection of materials. They pride themselves in "not teaching to the test."
  3. These schools focus on providing time for teacher collaboration. The teacher is the single most important factor in student achievement.
  4. The schools assess frequently, not using grades or standardized tests, but using formative assessments in the classroom to see if students are learning and what they need to know. 
  5. These schools build relationships with kids. 
It didn't take long before a teacher finally broke and began to talk about the disgust of using standardized tests as the measurement tool. That's when the conversation got lively.

With no morning breaks and an afternoon of data,  Holly gave us 30 min to decompress before returning for our next Capstone session. I took advantage of the great weather and my abled body and walked for about 15 minutes.

At 3:45 we met with our country team and alumni to work on our Capstone Research and talk about educational (and cultural) issues. The UK team decided to meet in the hotel's Statler Lounge. There are all kinds of ways we need to start prepping for the UK, but we thought here we could get a little practice in. This was probably one of my favorite times once again. My UK team is smart and funny, and I'm fully believing the Fulbright selection and placement board knows exactly what they are doing. Steve and I will be a nice, combative (in the most loving way) match, and Becca will be our peacemaker. Stacey's always about two minutes behind and has coined this phrase that I heard her say over and over: "Wait, now. Wait. What did ya'll say?" I already love them all like family and want each of them to have the best experience possible. Mark, our alumni, is super helpful with information.

The closing dinner started at 6:30 with group photos. I showed up late since I ran up to my room and napped until 6:36!! Steve sent me a
At the closing dinner, Capital Hilton Hotel, Washington D.C. Becca (Leeds), Steve (Sheffield Hallam), me (Sheffield Hallam), and Stacey, (Institute of Education-London). Becca, Steve, and I leave within the next week.
kind text. Dinner was baked salmon and potatoes. No dessert. Thumbs down! After dinner and over coffee, Holly opened the floor for comments, reflections, or observations. It started rolling when Mikko from Finland began to tell the group how much he loved us. The daughter of an Indian teacher danced for us.  Then the Moroccan team handed out Dulce de leche, Stacey taught us all to sign "I love you," and gave away pens from the Arkansas School of the Deaf with the symbol on the top. Inka sang a song in Finnish, and several teachers stood to thank all of us for the inspiration, adoration, and collegial atmosphere. Nearly everyone thanked Fulbright (Tatiana, Holly and Becky) for bringing us here. Murshell, who's going to Singapore, inspired us all by performing Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken, and Katie led us in a community children's song that asks "what is your legacy? And what will your story be?" I closed (not intentional) the open floor session by reading my poem All Things Austrian. I was nervous (especially considering Steve has a degree in Creative Writing!), and could feel my voice quivering, but in the end I was glad I shared. I hardly ever have "moments" that I remember, but this one was so powerful for me when I was living in Vienna, Austria, roommates with refugees from the Yugoslavian war. Helena, Andrijana, Brano, Martina, Sonia, they and so many others taught me about my own culture and helped me grow in awareness of my action (and inaction) as their citizen neighbor. This poem is the raw original, but since I have drafted many copies and reformulated it into varying essays and public speeches:

I was 20 and I wanted to be Viennese.
I spoke the Viennese dialect.
I bought clothes from consignment along the Danube,
And at first district boutiques near St. Stephen's Cathedral.
I kept a bank account and withdrew money at the tellers.
I bought groceries at Hofer’s and Billa’s
and bargained for staples at Naschmarkt on Saturdays.
I ate schnitzel with lemon and lingonberry jam,
and helped travelers find hostels down bricked alleyways.
I studied Klimt.
I memorized every line on the Ubahn.
I waltzed in Stadtpark, and tied my scarf on the balcony to secure my seat for Madame Butterfly at the Staatsoper.

“So how?” I begged from Helena, “How does everyone know I’m an American?”
The patio at the flat on Lilienbrunnegasse became our sanctuary.
We sat below the potted tulip trees discussing our differences.
Her eyes searched the sky like she was thinking, but she knew the answer.
Her immigrant voice spoke broken English, mixed with German.
“It’s your walk, Casey.” She said it matter of factly.
“You walk like a free person.”
Holly (Dr. Emert, Assistant Director), got up to address the group in tears. She told me later "it was the last line that got me!" She could barely make it through a final speech as the room was high with energy and emotion. We are Fulbrighters, ready to increase mutual understanding between the U.S.
Tatiana (Director, Fulbright Teacher Exhange), Dr. Emert (Ass't Director), Betsy (Program Officer, U.S. Dept of State), and Becky (Sr. Program Associate). These women created this experience for us.
and other countries of the world, stepping into the role as teacher ambassador. In 2011, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said "It is through education and exchange that we become better collaborators, competitors and compassionate neighbors in this global society." Holly thanked each of us for being there, and reminded us "It wasn't me who brought you here, and it wasn't Becky, and it wasn't Fulbright. It was you. Your gifts as great educators put you here. So go, enjoy what Fulbright can offer you." Tears and hugs all around. We teachers can be a bunch of emotional people!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Do Not Have a Plan for This, It Will Only Cause Anxiety: Fulbright Orientation Day 2

When I was finally dozing off to sleep last night after 1:00 a.m., I was amazed at how shockingly quiet it was. Then 6:00 a.m. arrived and the street below came to life with all the enthusiasm only an orchestra of garbage trucks and work vehicles can provide. I stayed in bed until after 7:00, trying for cat naps, but finally gave up and gave in to some yoga, which only consisted of an 8-minute flow of various modifications/challenges to sun salutations. I moved to two songs only: Snow Patrol's "Just Say Yes" and Bruno Mars "Just the Way You Are."

I gathered my iPad, Fulbright folder, and camera bag and headed downstairs to the Senate room for breakfast: oatmeal, slivered almonds, sugared pecans, a dab of soy milk, an orange, and a spoon full of scrambled eggs sprinkled with Tabasco. I sat alone because all the tables were full, and I of course, was eating at the last minute (8:35, and it closed at 8:45.) Karen (teacher from Alaska) and I arrived at nearly the same time. She has an excuse though since she's still working on Alaska time, which is four hours behind the east coast.

Our work space today in the Senate room. Can you see everyone wearing jackets!? So cold!!
We met at 9:00 to meet with the Chief of the Teacher Exchange Branch of the U.S. Department of State, Jennifer Gibson, who was a no-show due to an emergency at work. Awesome. I hope it was something James Bondish but with teachers. Hopefully we will get to meet her soon. She was followed by a beautiful woman named Edi, who did show, and she is the Vice President for Professional Exchange and Community Outreach. What I find fascinating about this experience is the respect and honor each person shows toward the Fulbrighters (I've learned this is what we call each other--Fubrighters--and we have already discovered we are "family.") The first thing each presenter did today was thank us for being there, thank us for being teachers, and congratulate us on the accomplishment.

Soon Craig Storti from Communicating Across Cultures took center stage for a session on The Art of Crossing Cultures. I think this was one of the most phenomenal public speaking sessions I've ever heard. He was so insightful, funny, and thoughtful with this words. A storyteller at heart. We took a British tea versus American coffeecross-cultural quiz: did you know that Norway ranks the highest of "most trusting of other people" with a score of 59? The USA ranks in at 41. The country that least trusts other people is Brazil. Storti reminded us that people are not out to frustrate us, and that all the behavior of others, though possibly illogical to us, is always logical to the individual based on their values, beliefs, and assumptions. Much of the time was spent poking fun (loving fun) at Americans. One of my favorite things he said was that the starting point for Americans is not reality, but reality plus. We never view things realistically, and will walk away or immediately try to cheer someone's gloom, because "we shouldn't be depressed, we should always be eternally happy." We role played through various conversations and then had discussions on the importance of face, the locus of control, management styles, rank and status, and communication styles. He reminded us that we don't learn from the easy, and he gave us tips on how to work through cultural differences, and to stay focused on what brought us to become Fulbright Scholars and to be working in the country we are living. He closed with this cute clip. 

We worked our way toward lunch, which was a wonderful green salad and a plate of new potatoes, carrots, and steamed broccoli. Oh, and about four dozen chocolate covered strawberries and mini-cheesecakes.

Lunch was probably one of my favorite times today.
Mark, Becca, Steve, and Stacey. My UK peeps.
We had to sit with Fulbrighters from and going to the same country as us. I really got to know Steve, Becca, and Stacey. Stacey is going to London, but Steve, Becca and I are in the heart of England, Yorkshire County. Conversations were fun, and I've learned that Steve and I will get along splendidly. We placed two bets at lunch, both of which I lost. Not a good start. He's researching philosophy and how it's taught in the UK. He teaches in Boston at the high school next to Harvard. Becca is taking her two children with her to Leeds. She is from Tennessee and will study how the UK prepares students with special needs or disabilities for the living and working in the modern economy. I wish Stacey were going to be with us. She is so fun and is the Technology Coordinator for the Arkansas School of the Deaf in Little Rock. She will be surveying deaf educators in the UK on how they use mobile technology to serve deaf students. So neat. I cannot stop talking about or reading about the work of all of my colleagues here at Fulbright.

After lunch we sat with our country teams and listened to a panel presentation of previous Fulbright DA Teachers. Oh, and we also learned today that the U.S. Department of State has changed the name of this award, and this is the transition year. So, it is officially called the "Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching" as opposed to the "Distinguished Fulbright Award in Teaching."

The room where we met today was at least 55 degrees. I could see my breath. I drank 19 cups of coffee before transitioning to tea at the 3:15 p.m. break, and took a much needed step outside of the building to get a few minutes of sunshine.

From 3:30-5:30 we talked about our Capstone Research Projects. By 4:40, my eyes were glazed. I worked with Steve and Michelle (she returned from Argentina in 2012.) I remembered why I love teaching--because I move around all day. Sitting is not for me, unless I'm here:------------------->

I ate dinner tonight with Jode, and she and I planned a yoga meeting in the nearby park at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow. Dinner consisted of Caesar salad, spinach lasagne rolls and mushroom-stuffed grilled tomatoes. And more cheesecake.

I opted out of the bus tour of a few well-known D.C. sites, and instead cabbed it ($17) to the Washington National Cathedral. My cab ride took me right past the British Embassy. It was about 10 minutes away, but I missed the last ride up the observation tower. Sad for that. I was one of 10 guests in the building total, so Chris and Clay gave me personal tours of the outside and inside. I was fretting a little about not going on the bus tour, but this was exactly where I needed to be tonight. A little spiritual grounding often comes in a sacred space, and this is why I appreciate these old cathedrals because I do feel a sense of respect for an entity greater than us.

The National Cathedral has some phenomenal history, and Chris took me outside to show me damage from the earthquake two years ago, AND the Darth Vader Grotesque.
The Darth Vader Grotesque. Read the really cool history here.

I went inside and browsed through the stories the stained glass windows told; the Space Window actually holds a piece of moon rock from the Apollo 11 mission, and a some of the pews were carved in England during World War II: one depicts a lion (England) holding a snake (Germany) in its mouth. The head of the snake is the face of Hitler. Just before close I sat down in  pew to participate in a closing of the day service. It was me and one other gentleman. We read prayers and psalms in unison. I went outside after and walked through the Bishop's Garden. Dusk didn't allow for pictures, but I was at the point that I didn't want to take any more. The space was becoming more to me than an image could represent. 

I cabbed it back ($14) and had to stop at the concierge to tape a twenty dollar bill together that I somehow manage to rip exactly in half during the cab ride. I wrote and sent two postcards and drank a glass of red wine. It's nearly 11:00 p.m. and I'm wiped out from Day 2.

My tour guides Chris and Clay standing in front of the Lincoln statue and the story window of the turmoil the US went through during the Civil War.

You can't see in this picture, but above this hang the flags of all 50 states, and each week a flag is brought and the state is prayed for on Sunday. The 51st week is DC, and the 52 week is the nation.

Just me and this gentleman in the closing services. We read Psalm 31 together in unison.                                                   "Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Breathe in Opportunity; Breathe in Growth: Fulbright Orientation-Day 1

Why I can't sleep. Too excited to start this!

Got up at 5:45 am, even though I tried to sleep in until 7:00. Couldn't sleep, for both excitement of travel and thinking how I am missing my first day with my students. I needed to sleep because I was up too late listening to the Cardinals victory over the Pirates. Rolled out of bed a little after 6:00 and unrolled my yoga mat in the living room. Did a 15-minute personal morning routine I created to match a few of my favorite songs. I was feeling a little anxious, so I chose a routine to connect and slow down my breathing--this to match my "yoga relaxation" playlist, which includes an old personal favorite, Redemption Song by Bob Marley, but covered by 3 Doors Down. I always open the doors, curtains, and windows during my morning routine because I love the soft feel and sights of morning. I knew it was going to be a good day.

Showered, cleaned out the dishwasher and kitchen sink (nice to come home to a clean house) and packed up my computer bag. I buy gadgets so I don't have to take my bulky old laptop, but it's been a work horse for me the last five years, and I can hardly stand to leave her behind. Techno-wise, I've packed my Asus laptop, my iPad 2, a travel keyboard, a Sony HX300 digital camera, a Canon digital camera, and my iPhone, which I learned yesterday how to unlock and to be able to use in England. Yay! I'll hopefully get on that process tonight when I get to the hotel.

I decided a carry-on was all I would take to DC and save as much baggage money as possible for the flight to Manchester. Although it's only three days, they are work and play days combined, so I had a hard time planning my outfits. I went with one set of yoga clothes, gym shoes, flip flops, blue Cole Haan wedge pumps, my go-to Calvin Klein black dress (this thing goes everywhere with me!), a blue/black checkered dress, a J.Crew grey cotton/linen skirt, white linen pants from J.Jill, a pink (my power color) dress shirt, two scarves, and a J. Crew cardigan. I still think I over-packed. I bought a dirt cheap weekender duffel bag from the Coach outlet that folds up into a small pouch...with all my clothes and shoes, it didn't even fit in the overhead compartment above seat 10D! There's nothing more embarrassing to me than trying to cram in a bag that doesn't fit, and then I realized it would fit at my feet, so I put up my computer bag instead.

I am landing at Hartsfield in Atlanta shortly...will resume this note on the next flight. 11:13 am...actually 12:13 pm.

Arrived at my gate, T-2, at 12:55, this after navigating through D terminal and riding the shuttle four stops, a bathroom break, and a stop at The Coffee Bean, where a purchase of a cafe au lait and a bottle of water cost $8. I was really hungry, but couldn't find a good place to get a quick to-go salad.

I tested out a travel outfit today: a green pair of Eileen Fisher linen palazzo pants, a Black Nike drifit tank (I love these!) and Sanuk wedge flip flops (like walking on a yoga mat!) I also carried my cardigan because I often get chilly on airplanes. I should mention I'm wearing a fabulous Wacoal t-back cotton bra. I am sorry about that info, but it's so comfortable!!! The verdict is still out about whether this becomes the outfit I will land in England in. I love the comfort, flexibility, and deep pockets the palazzo pants offer.

The flight to DC is 1 hour and 15 minutes. We are ahead of schedule. The flight isn't too packed, but of course my row is. Seat 22a next to the window. So far, bumpy, but we just crossed through clouds and have risen above them. The couple next to me brought on a tuna fish sandwich and French fries. I've vomited on plane rides twice before...and both times my seat mate pulled out smelly food. I will update later on the vomiting, but I will say my stomach is churning. There's just something about the lack of fresh air that encourages my wheeziness.

Note to self: I need a watch.

When I land I have decided to take the DC Metro to the Capital Hilton Hotel. I generally take cabs on work trips, but I have decided to save the cab fair since I'm landing in plenty of time before dinner reception tonight. Plus, the metro is easy to navigate and I need to start thinking about public transportation since it will be my only mode the next four months.

2:05 eastern time: 37,000 feet. Winds from the northeast
37,000 feet, but just a few inches above a down comforter.
15-20 mph. The captain has informed us this will mean a bumpy descent. The clouds look like a comforter an intergalactic giant could peel back and nestle down on earth to nap.

I plan to get on the metro at DC National, catch the blue line toward (forgot, but once I see it I'm sure I'll remember) and ride eight stops to MacPherson square. Once there, exit out toward Vermont Street, take a left toward K, and a right on 16th...or is that right then left? Too bad I left my notes on the kitchen counter. I will find it soon enough.

All the Delta employees have been so kind.

Let's just say I've checked to make sure I have a barf bag.

2:32...all electronic devices need to be stowed.

Now the blue line stop waiting. The metro was so easy to use and find from my gate. I remembered to run back into the house to get my metro smarttrip card from the last time I was in DC. I had $3 on it still, and I loaded $5 more. I was happy to remember the card since the initial cost is $5. I've used the same Smarttrip card for three trips to D.C. now.

7 minutes wait for the blue line. My view.

I came up out of the metro and crossed the street. Passed a Cosi and a Pret a Manger. I was so hungry, I wanted to stop in, and I've been craving Pret a Manger since Cindy's trip to London in June. I just love their sandwiches and baguettes. I realized pretty quickly that I was walking in the wrong direction. About face for a half block, and then right onto 16th street for the side entrance of the Capital Hilton Hotel.

My Capital Hilton room in panoramic view.

I checked in, super quick, and made it to my room. Fulbright has also paid for us to have the Internet, so that was a pleasant surprise I had already planned to pay for it when I arrived. I unpacked my bag and went to the 2nd floor to check in at registration. I met two of the people I have been e-mailing with since last December. It's nice to put faces to everyone's e-mail addresses. I got my bag of goodies, dropped them off in the room, and went for a stroll around the hotel and a few blocks down 16th street. I didn't take my camera because I was just wanting some fresh air and movement. Came back to the room and did a 30 minute yoga routine to open my hips and lower back. Traveling seems to tighten everything up. Here's the routine from yoga journal. At about minute 17 or so it got a little challenging for this novice yoga student (the spot in low lunge, twist, and grab your opposite foot--my hamstrings ALWAYS cramp when I do that. Maybe someday they will release.)

The Fulbright Goodie bag, which includes insurance AND a Visa card. :)
After yoga I had just enough time to change, freshen up, and head downstairs for dinner. I used to be able to walk into a room full of strangers and start conversations with anyone, but as I age, this is getting more difficult. I think that desire has left me, but I still have enough in me to meet and greet, and I first met a 2nd grade teacher from Alaska. She was a genetics scientist until eight years ago when she and her husband moved near Denali National Park and became teachers. She's going to Finland to study the research practices of teachers. I am HIGHLY interested in her work. Once I opened up to her, I realized that I was in a room full of amazing and interesting people. I began to mingle, and mingle, and mingle. I met science teachers, math teachers, language teachers. I am definitely in my element to talk shop, and I LOVE teacher shop talk.

I also had the chance to meet Steve, who is also heading to Sheffield Hallam. I think we are going to get along just great...neither of us have found a place to live or even have a hotel reserved for the first night. I suspect we will become fast friends.

17 US Teachers and 15 International Teachers at dinner.
The reception tonight was hors d'oeuvres of cheeses, fruit, crackers/breads, vegetables, and a variety of dipping sauces (hot mustard, spinach cream, etc.) A wonderful leafy and dark green lettuce salad started the meal, followed by baked chicken over spiral noodles and fresh tomatoes. I ordered vegetarian, and got a huge pile of fresh steamed broccoli over the noodles. It was just what I needed. A glass of red wine (a blend) to accompany and a cup of coffee to go with chocolate covered strawberries and a fruit pastry to end the course. More conversation, pictures, and now off to bed. I am exhausted tonight. Just after 11:00 p.m. here in D.C. Breakfast at 7:30 a.m.

I wonder how my students in Republic are doing. 

Also, I landed safely without vomiting. :) 
Yippeee! Made it.