Posts tagged ‘TFA’

May 5, 2013

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello

Now that most people in my life know, I can finally share this news:  I have accepted a job offer at KIPP Tulsa as a 6th grade social studies teacher for next year!

KIPP

If you had asked me last year what I was thinking of doing when my TFA time was up, I would have told you that I would be staying at my current school and teaching my second graders again (moving from 2nd to 4th grade had them looping back to me).  Many things have happened this year, though, that made me consider other options.  In January, I was recommended for a position to teach in a new charter school in Tulsa.  I figured I’d go for it and completed two phone interviews and a sample lesson at the end of February.  When my interview was done, though, it became clear that they weren’t sure of what open spots they would have for months.  I was discouraged that there might not be any spots open, and I wasn’t sure if the school was a good fit after the interview.  I started to think that staying at my current school another year might be better than switching to the unknown, but then KIPP came my way.

The principal (or school leader) of KIPP e-mailed me personally inviting me out to chat about teaching opportunities at KIPP.  Apparently, the same person who had recommended me to the last charter school had also mentioned my name to KIPP.  Even though I was starting to sway back to my own school, I decided there was nothing to lose by meeting up with the principal.  Business school taught me that if the head of any organization is going to take time out of their schedule to spend one on one time with you, take advantage of the opportunity and learn all you can.  So I did.

We were probably out for about an hour and a half, and by the end of our meeting I was sold.  Here was a school leader who had a strong vision for the next decade that I wanted to be a part of.  I filled out an application that night, and had a sample teaching lesson scheduled for the week after spring break.  Now I am not one to make decisions lightly- anyone who really knows me is aware of this.  I talked to several teachers at KIPP to get a good, well-rounded perspective of what it is like to work there.  I feel like different teachers have different experiences, and it’s good to hear what they all have to say to get a good feel for the school environment.  I also tried to be observant as possible at my interview and drop by as many classrooms as I could during my free time to tour the school.  One class was dissecting frogs, another was dissecting a novel, and a third was receiving a stern talk from their teacher about not quitting in the final days before testing (I can’t count how many times I’ve given that speech).

Overall I loved the atmosphere, and I really enjoyed teaching a group of their 5th graders for an hour.  I saw a bit of my students in the class (ex. the one who ALWAYS has the right answer), which made me miss and wonder about my 4th graders that morning.  I came back to hugs and smiles from my whole current class, and it was hard to even think about leaving.  The truth is, though, they won’t be my kids next year.  They are moving on to two very strong 5th grade teachers at my school who will take just as good care of them as I could.  I know I will love my class wherever I am- it’s just time to take another leap of faith with my career and hope it works out for the best.

I signed my job offer at KIPP on April 3rd.  This means I will spend the next two weeks at my current school finishing up the year, and then take a two week vacation home to Orlando.  I have to be back by June 5th to start summer school as a faculty adviser (I will FINALLY be on the other side of the TFA process), and will work in that position through mid-July.  I’m hoping some of my family will come up to visit then before I leave for the annual KIPP Summit in Las Vegas (last year it was in Orlando- that would have been so convenient!).  I am so excited to meet with KIPP teachers across the nation and learn as much as possible before I start there the following week.  KIPP starts in August with professional development and then a couple weeks of summer school for their kids.

Thank you to all those who have been really supportive of the move.  It is not easy to leave the school that has been my home the past two years, and I did think about all aspects of the decision before making it.  Yes, I know the hours are longer.  Yes, I know I’m on call for the kids.  Yes, I know that it is not a contract position.  I promise I’ve thought of these things, but I do appreciate you looking out for me, too.  I’ll keep you posted on the transition.  Until then, you can see a little about KIPP’s story here:

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August 2, 2012

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

Coming back to Tulsa has come with a few unexpected surprises (of the bad kind), but let me give you some quick background.  I’m the type of person that makes a certain amount of friends, feels good about that group, and then doesn’t bother to really work on making more close friends.  Yes, I have people I see at big events and work meetings, but once I have my core support system, I’m pretty content.  It takes a lot for me to really work at widening my circle.  This past year I would say I was even more content than usual with just a few close friends.  I had to move to a whole new place, start a whole new career, and become physically and financially independent from my parents for the first time in my life.  That’s a lot to deal with- so making good friends had to come after taking care of my sanity.  Alright, that should be enough background- let’s move back to the present.

In the past month, two teachers at my school have left because they were offered better jobs, I was assigned a new manager for TFA (this is the 3rd time in a year…), one of my closest friends here was on the verge of moving out of the state (thank god she is staying!), I was getting into arguments with my co-workers constantly over how furniture should be arranged, and my small prospect of a boyfriend was gone before we even got started.  Now most people have families and their best friends they’ve known for years to get through these challenges.  I, unfortunately, don’t have either of those here.  Phone calls help- but we all know that’s not the same as coming home to those who love you.

I realized people I could count on last year are not permanent.  Things will change this year.  I’m teaching a whole new grade (a testing grade- which adds pressure), I may or may not create that same wise owl family with my students that I leaned on so much last year, and my teaching partner for my grade is not confirmed until a few weeks into school based on enrollment (so I don’t have anyone to collaborate with that I know will definitely be with me all year).  Having people who can support you through these unknowns is crucial.  I really wish people could appreciate how great it is to have a spouse, parents, children, grandparents, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews within a short drive (if not in your home).  Most days I’m okay being on my own, but others can be really difficult.

I have one year left as a Tulsa TFA corps member.  After that, it will likely be my choice to stay here and continue teaching at my school, move to a new school in a new city, or move back and teach in my hometown.  I’m lucky to have my career choice nailed down, but the place where I work long term?  That’s definitely a big question mark come May.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the past month.  Yes, I had a lot of bad things happen those first few weeks back, but I’m not one to just stay depressed about something for long.  I like to find ways to make my life better.  So while I type out my big goals for my students, I am mentally drafting some for myself.  My biggest goal?  I want to really give Tulsa a shot this year.  I want to experience the annual festivals.  I want to check out this annual fair I hear so much about from my kids.  I want to find ways outside of teaching to help the community.  And most of all, I want to get to know more people.

I’ve already started on my goal a bit.  A big reason I don’t get out as much is having to take care of my dog on my own.  Well, I found a great dog park only a couple miles away that attracts a lot of people.  It’s been fun to go out and chit chat with random Tulsans for an hour while AJ gets to know the canine community.  I also joined a dog walking group on Meetup, and hopefully will get to know more dog lovers through their monthly group walks.

I also *finally* joined Tulsa Young Professionals last week.  The more I learn about this organization, the more fantastic I think it is.  It has a bunch of different work crews to get involved in that get you plugged in to your interests and helping the community.  They also have a lot of events including seminars, happy hours, volunteer jobs, and a running groups.  I volunteered with them at a music festival last week, and today I went to their little intro session for new members.  I can’t wait to start working with them, and they have a social event next week I plan on attending with some friends : )

Do I want to live in Tulsa past this school year?  I really don’t know yet.  I know I belong in the classroom as a teacher, but figuring out if I belong in Tulsa as me is going to take some time.

“Just know you’re not alone, cause I’m going to make this place your home.” Phillip Phillips, Home

December 6, 2011

Happily Ever Afters

I still can’t quite put into words how transformative the past year has been.  I occasionally will be hit with this realization while doing some mundane task.  I live in Oklahoma now.  I have my own apartment and dog (not a big deal for some, but I had only ever lived in dorms or my house before…I’ve also never been the sole person responsible for keeping a living thing alive).  And most importantly, I teach 20 beautiful 7 and 8-year-olds each day.  I don’t think people realize the risk I took applying to TFA about a year ago.  I had to give up everything- friends, family, career opportunities, the only state I’ve ever known…all for a gut feeling that teaching may be the job I was born to do.  Luckily, it paid off.  I thought about this awhile before I fell asleep.  I am extremely in love with my profession.  I adore my kids.  I’m grateful for my co-workers (I don’t think I’ve ever fit in quite so easily with a group of people ever). And I love so many parts of teaching- whether it’s coming up with sentences using my kids’ names to make spelling tests more fun or making up chants to build up our wise owl classroom culture, each day is kind of amazing.

I always thought of myself as a kid when I was in grad school.  I would describe myself and others as such when talking to professors or supervisors.  I still feel young and naive about many things, but I also think I’m finally becoming the person I was meant to be.  I feel so brave to have forged this path for myself with minimal support and encouragement from others.  No one was downright objecting to my choices, but no one was pushing me to do it either.  I had to make the decision.  I had to go for it.  And now here I sit.  Overwhelmed, excited, proud…content : )

On a semi-lighter note, I’ve switched into my annual Twilight coma with the release of the newest movie.  I planned on seeing it once, making fun of it, and then buying the DVD later.  It always starts that way.  But of course, I have now seen the newest movie THREE times, have re-watched the second and third movie, re-read Breaking Dawn, re-read Midnight Sun (props if you know what that is), and am in the middle of reading Twilight.  And this was all just in the past 3 weeks.  I’m hopeless, I know.

At first I felt ashamed about my re-obsession with the series- knowing it was likely my way to live out a whirlwind romance vicariously through a story.  However, I found while reading last night that I didn’t feel depressed at my own singlehood.  The books suprisingly don’t have that effect on me.  Instead they kind of make me hopeful about my future.  I know so many people who have met the love of their life, gone through their perfect wedding, and even a few who happily have a few kids.  I don’t have that…yet.  All of these exciting, simple romantic moments await me.

I’m not a cynical enough person to believe in the “dying alone” idea.  Every day I am not in a relationship is time to focus on me- who I want to be and who I am becoming with each decision I make.  I used to spend so much time thinking I wasn’t good enough because of the way I looked or the fact that I am not interested in getting drunk off my ass at parties just to be in with the crowd.  I’m at peace with just being me now.  Love, wedding, kids…I’m quite confident they’ll come someday.  I was lucky enough to find my dream job (I really should have known the whole “economist” thing wouldn’t work out…hahaha).  I think I just may be that lucky to stumble upon a happily ever after at some point, too.

September 18, 2011

Becoming a Tulsan and Some Wise Owl Love

I probably should not be updating this since I have several hours of lesson planning left for tonight, but I’m trying to make more time for myself to balance out the 60 hour work week I am currently putting in regularly (ah, if only my paychecks would reflect this).

Life in Oklahoma continues to be interesting.  The fair is coming up which to Tulsans is a HUGE deal.  This never happened in Florida because fairs can not compete with 7 theme parks…except on price.  I’ll have to check this madness out in the next weeks and report back if it’s worth all the hype.  Disney on Ice is part of it and they have a fair mascot, so I’m guessing it might just live up to these crazy expectations.

I’m starting to get the hang of this living on my own thing.  I have my routines down and even have started recognizing all the employees at Food Pyramid when I go grocery shopping every week.  Unlike the magical Publix, a maximum of 2 lanes are open at a time at this store.  And there are never long lines.  It makes shopping quick and easy, but it also makes me wonder how they make money.  But yes, routines are down.  I keep my apartment pretty clean, I don’t get too lonely, I am still in love with my TV (especially now that shows are back!), and Amberjack has finally started obedience classes to knock out some of these minor behavior issues (eating my shirt, occasional accidents, nervousness over being anywhere near water, etc.).  She’s in a class with a bunch of large dogs, so I’m wondering how that will play out on Wednesday (she’s going to look so tiny!).

Overall, teaching is going well.  I’m getting a little down because I do hear stories of challenging situations that a lot of my other corps members are facing.  Comparatively, my problems are small.  I got a lot of talkers, a small classroom area, and some challenging students (and by challenging, I mean they are far behind and need a lot of remediation with content before forging ahead).  I expected these things, so I’m not shocked or frustrated at where I’m at.  I’ll learn, grow, and keep working on that achievement gap.  My issue is whenever I get together with my TFA friends, they seem so down on some of the rough situations they are dealing with.  I feel like I can’t contribute anything to these conversations because I have mostly positive things to say about my own teaching experience, or my problems seem like nothing compared to what they are facing (one student set a desk on fire in somebody’s high school classroom…not the same as excessive talking in 2nd grade).

Luckily, I have made many new friends at the school I’m at who are completely unrelated to TFA.  We chat about our own classrooms and school, but we also talk about TV shows, movies, boys, families, hobbies, favorite places to eat, etc.  It balances out any school drama and reminds me how great a support system I have in Tulsa despite having all my family and close friends over 1,000 miles away.  My kids are a big part of my life, but I don’t want to completely lose myself during my teaching adventures.  I still have a way to go to achieve this balance, but I have hope : )

Last major news is I got my free iPad that Apple donated to TFA.  Um, win.  I already bought a case and a bunch of apps for my kids to use.  I thought I would be selfish and keep it all to myself (7 year olds can not be trusted with something that expensive!), but seeing the apps just inspired me on how I could use it with those in my class who are behind in reading.  I can picture working with them one on one and them lighting up at the interactive features of the books I got for it that secretly are teaching them sight words and how to follow along with a text ; )  I can not wait to bring this to class this week.  I really do love my wise owls ❤

To everyone who has sent me letters, one of my goals is to send out some from my end this week.  I love each and every one, and they honestly can raise my mood a lot when I check my mail after a long day.  Jessica, Mike, Mom, Katie, and Gramps- I’m talking to you.

Alright. Back to lesson planning.

PS- I watched 50 First Dates randomly again this weekend and LOVED it.  I only thought it was okay before, but for some reason it was the perfect movie for my mood this weekend.  It is now part of my DVD collection for future viewings.

July 8, 2011

Worst. Flight. Ever.

Two weeks ago I was working on lesson plans and just decided to go home for the following 3 day weekend.  I hadn’t planned to visit home anytime soon, but I really needed a break from Institute life.  Airfares were okay, so within half an hour, I had booked a red eye flight home for the upcoming Friday.  I had to work my ass off all week to make sure I had as little to do as possible once I came home.  This included using our surprise afternoon off for additional lesson planning…boo.  I didn’t get all I wanted to done, but I got a good start on most things.  Friday came soon enough, and by 11:50 pm, I was on my connecting flight to Atlanta, ready for the three day pseudo-break.

It must have been about an hour into the flight that we got the snack and beverage service.  I had apple juice and pretzels, and then tried to get as comfortable as possible in the middle seat (in an exit row, so I had a lot of leg room).  I was fine, but then suddenly had a huge wave of nausea hit me.  I never get sick like this, so I tried to just sit through it, but within minutes decided I had to get up and get to a bathroom ASAP.  There was no way I was going to throw up in front of people.

I stood up fast and hit my head on the ceiling.  This didn’t phase me much because I was focused more on my destination.  I remember being behind this guy walking SO SLOWLY in the aisle, and when he finally sat down, I made my way forward.  I kept hitting almost every seat, which should have been a red flag, but about 8 steps away from the bathroom, I felt myself crumple to the floor.  The last thing I remember was hearing everybody gasp and get up around me and then I must have blacked out.

When I opened my eyes, there were a few passengers around me and a couple flight attendants.  One of the flight attendants said I fainted and then had a seizure.  WHAT???  I remember thinking, “Oh, this is a dream.  Wait, no, this is real.  Yes, I remember falling and now I am on the floor in front of a plane full of people.  Greaaaaaaaaaat.”  They asked me my name and age, and I also gave them my seat number for good measure (I had this urgent need to prove that I was okay).  I told them what led up to falling while I mentally asked myself the following questions:

Did I throw up? ::Checks face, clothes, and floor:: No.

Am I clothed? Yes.

Does anything hurt? My knee, kind of.

Did they have to shoot me with some type of shot to wake me?  I don’t think so.

Two of the passengers with me were physicians, and they had a brief debate whether I actually had a seizure and why I would have collapsed.  The same flight attendant who told me I had a seizure started talking about how planes can have weird effects on us.  I was like lady, I just flew to Russia and back, and China and back the year before.  I got this plane thing down (or at least I did).  Then she said alcohol can make it worse.  I told her I hadn’t had any alcohol for a week at least, and she stopped talking.  The group around me on the floor finally decided that this was probably a combination of dehydration and exhaustion, and eventually my “seizure” was downgraded to just shaking.

The minute I had regained consciousness I felt fine.  I didn’t feel nauseous, and I was able to get up and go back to my seat without any help.  I was just mortified about the whole incident, and still had about an hour left to go on the plane.  Just FYI, there is nowhere you can hide on a plane.  I did suffer minor bruising on my knee and face, but otherwise was left fairly unscathed.  The paramedics checked me out when I got off the plane, and reported that my blood sugar, blood pressure, and pulse were fine.  They thought it was ridiculous that I was told I had a seizure because I wouldn’t have been aware right afterwards if that was the case.

Despite being fine, the experience was really traumatizing.  TFA Institute staff always says to take care of yourself, but it’s really difficult when the expectations are so high here.  No matter how far ahead I get, I always have something that I have to be working on.  Luckily, we only have a week left and then my time will be mostly my own again.  I’ve never felt like I couldn’t push myself just a little more, but apparently even I have a limit.  My goals for this week involved drinking (non-alcoholic drinks) and sleeping more, both of which I’ve been able to more or less accomplish.

I haven’t cried almost at all since induction started, but I had way too much time to think on my way back to Phoenix.  A few tears came out quietly when I let myself think about everything I force myself to bottle away when I am here to keep it together.  Most heartbreaking of all?  Remembering how happy I was on that roof in Russia with Nikita.  I boxed up those feelings when I drove to Oklahoma, but they’re definitely still with me all the time.  His package is also MIA in Russia right now (USPS tracking status just says “Arrival at Post Office June 15 RUSSIA”…that’s specific).  I haven’t lost all hope that he’ll get it, but I’m thinking it’s likely I’ll see it returned before he would ever see it.  As long as it isn’t lost forever, I suppose that will have to do.  Please think positive postal service thoughts in the meantime ❤

June 25, 2011

Yes, I’m alive.

As you can see from the title, I haven’t completely fallen off the face of the Earth.  I’m teetering on the edge occasionally, but I’ve managed to stay grounded her at the Phoenix Institute thanks to a really good group of friends.  Brianna, Natalie, Victoria, Dante, Chelsea, Angela, Katie…and several others, you guys have all helped me find sanity these past couple weeks, and for that I am grateful : )

For those of you who have not experienced Teach For America Institute training, just FYI, IT’S HARD.  My typical schedule last week looked like this:

5:45 AM- Wake up, get ready to go, pack up all the materials I will need for class.

6:30 AM- Get in the “Pack Your Lunch Line” and then go to Breakfast.

7:00 AM- Bus ride to the school I’m teaching at.

7:30 AM- Get classroom ready, sign-in, turn in final copies of lesson plans, meet with my Faculty Advisor, report to morning duty, etc.  These tasks vary depending on the day of the week.

8:30 AM- Class begins. Spend first hour teaching procedures or testing students for diagnostic data.

9:30 AM- Report to info session about a teaching topic.

11:00 AM- Free time to enter in student data and prepare for lessons (so not really free time…).

11:30 AM- Teaching block begins, including an hour of support teaching, taking the kids to lunch, and then an hour of lead teaching (this week’s subject: Math!).

2:00 PM- Report to 2, hour and a half info sessions on more teaching topics.

5:10 PM- All school meeting including short reflections and logistic info.

5:30 PM- Bus ride back to Arizona State University.

6:00 PM- Dinner at the dining hall.

6:30 PM- Shower and pack up bag to work on lessons in the computer lab.

7:15 PM- Arrive at computer lab to write and revise lesson plans, make and print worksheets, try to stay awake, etc.

11:30 PM- Leave computer lab to go back to dorm.

12:00 PM- Sleep.

*REPEAT*

Having this typical schedule has been rough.  Especially trying to get through a day this packed on only about 5-6 hours of sleep.  But as I said, having some good friends helps.  We vent, we go on mini-food outings (frozen yogurt- yes please!), and see who can look more zombie-ish during late night lesson plans.

You know what else helps?  The kids I’m actually teaching.  I LOVE being in the classroom.  I was a bit afraid my students would dislike me because I’m more of a hard ass than my fellow teachers, but just as my advisor said would happen, my kids love me for my own style, too.  I think I’m pretty good at designing lessons to keep students engaged, and I’m also good at keeping the class in line (though our class consequence system needs some work).  I already know I’m going to miss these kids a lot when we leave Phoenix.  I’ve had them for math all week, and next week we switch to reading.  Should be a refreshing change, but we’ll see.

I never thought I’d say this, but my focus this week is improving my time management.  I need to get more work done on the weekends to free up my week.  As much as I need a day off, I need sleep more.  But before I dive into lessons, a big group of us are going out to see Bad Teacher.  I’m thinking it will be very therapeutic : )

For all my friends and family I haven’t talked to, I miss you like crazy.  I’m three hours behind Orlando, and that combined with my busy schedule makes it very hard to keep in touch.  If you can, please send me anything- post it note messages, letters, “Hang in There” Kitty posters…I really could use all the support I can get:

Kelly Schrumpf/Teach For America
Mailbox #2228
711 E. Lemon Street
Tempe, AZ 85281

I promise to send something back.  Maybe I can start writing letters on the bus ride home?

June 11, 2011

Setting Down Roots

Remember that last post when I was leaving for Induction for TFA?  Well that is already over.  The brief 5 days were PACKED with info sessions, reflection sessions, socials, and even a scavenger hunt.  I made some really good friends in a short time, met more people that I’m sure I will become better friends with soon, and even more people who I’m sure are awesome, but I just haven’t spoken to much yet ; )

Here are some of the main updates I have for you all:

1) I signed a lease with Memorial Creek in South Tulsa.  I ultimately decided on living alone.  I haven’t tried it before, but I really like to have time to myself.  I am in a very quiet part of the complex on the top floor.  While the top will be a pain when I move in, it will be really nice to not have loud upstairs neighbors (and I won’t freak out as much if I hear a weird noise).  You can see my floor plan below.  It’s 726 sq ft, and basically the perfect size for me.

Memorial Creek A1 Model

My Apartment at Memorial Creek

2) I bought a bed.  Leasing an apartment alone was stressful, but really nothing compared to browsing the HUGE Rooms Today showroom (no, not Rooms To Go).  I felt completely overwhelmed in choosing a bed frame, mattress, couch, table, etc.  I’ve never bought furniture before, and I have no idea what prices are reasonable and what brands are good.  I decided that I could wait on buying everything else, but it would be really nice to have a bed as soon as I get back to Tulsa.  I ultimately settled on the Crown Mark one shown below.  I love the shallow cubbyholes it has to add some decorations or just to put small decorative things in.

Kelly's Bed

My Bed: Crown Mark Queen 1400

3) I have a tentative placement at Park Elementary School.  You can view their full profile here.  I really like that it has a high Native American population because this is a minority group I have had little exposure to in Florida.  Also, the school’s test scores are pretty decent in reading, but they do struggle in math.  In case you didn’t know, I kick ass in math.  I also thought it was REALLY cool that they operate a “Micro-Society,” which is described as such:

Micro-Society is an exciting program that is only offered at two elementary schools in the Tulsa Public School District. The program is designed to teach children about the complexities of our worldwide society through the implementation of building a micro-society within our school.The students learn about and are given the opportunity to experience running a school government, establishing businesses, and providing services such as banking. They are involved in the entire process including designing their businesses, setting up bank loans to start their ventures, advertising, the interview process, production of goods, and sales.This on-going experience also includes:

  • Completing job applications
  • Interviewing
  • Budgets
  • Writing a Constitution
  • Hiring and firing of employees

Pretty cool, right?

I leave for Arizona tomorrow, with a brief overnight stay in Santa Fe.  I only have passenger, which made packing the car infinitely easier.  It will be nice to have company on this trip.  Let’s just hope I can dodge the crazy fires going on out there…

June 6, 2011

As Rafiki would say, “It is time.”

Up until now, I have tried to just focus on one step at the time.  Graduate.  Go to Russia.  Finish my internship.  Complete TFA course work.  Pack.  Drive to Alabama.  Drive to Tulsa.  Put everything in a storage unit.  Tour apartments.  But now, all I have left is to actually start with TFA.  I honestly feel like I am living someone else’s life.  I’ve become so distracted with even the simplest tasks (ex. I asked for a 3:15 movie ticket when I really wanted 11:15 and I left my thumb drive in the hotel business center, though luckily no one grabbed it in the time it took me to go looking for it) because I think part of me doesn’t believe that I’m here.  I’m not the type of person to just pack up my life and move to an unfamiliar place doing unfamiliar work.  This is insane!

Welcome to Oklahoma

Entering Oklahoma

Tomorrow I move into the Hyatt Regency for a week for induction, and then it’s a two day drive to Phoenix for five weeks of training.  I have a feeling things won’t seem permanent until I get back to Tulsa in late July.  Until then, I’m just going to keep moving forward and do my best to avoid those heart-wrenching glances back.  These next two years might be the best of my life…or maybe they’ll be the worst.  I don’t really know what’s ahead, but the best I can do is keep up a good attitude.  I’ve already survived a two day drive here (part of which was relaxing and beautiful, part of which made me feel like a pretzel and had me teaching myself to stretch while driving to keep somewhat comfortable), lifting more than my weight in stuff to put in storage, and my first experiences with apartment hunting.  The next 6 weeks should be smooth sailing then, right?

We’ll see.

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June 2, 2011

Moving On

I leave for Oklahoma in less than 48 hours. CRAZY. Most people in my situation would be focusing on packing and getting TFA reading out of the way (to be fair, I’m done reading, just haven’t finished all my follow-up writing assignments) , but of course, I got sidetracked with a special project.

Ever since I came home from Russia, I have missed Polina’s (former exchange student who I stayed with the whole time in Russia) brother, Nikita. He is only about a year and a half older than me and has already gone through a lot of the things I am going through now- moving away from home, finding a place to live by yourself, balancing a full workload, etc. Every day I wish I could talk to him about my anxiety, excitement, and fears about the big move, or just have him distract me with stupid jokes (when you can’t speak someone else’s language too well, hilarity will ensue). Unfortunately, we can just communicate enough through charades and a few words here and there in person, but written and voice communication won’t really be possible until we understand each other’s languages better.

I was sad about this for awhile after I got back from my trip. There was so much more I wanted to talk to him about, but instead it was off on a train to Moscow, and then later a plane back to Orlando. After a couple weeks of semi-moping, I decided to do something about how I felt by sending him a present. Choosing a gift was still tricky due to the language barrier, but eventually I came up with something awesome.

::Prepare for the Awesomeness::

One of the conversations I did have with Nikita in Saint Petersburg was how much he liked Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios when he had visited here in 2000. I combined that interest with our language struggle and developed an ABC book of things found around the park. For each item, I wrote down the word translated in Russian to hold up in the picture I took at the park. This way, the ABC book serves as an english tutor and a Russian/English dictionary. I had to get creative with a lot of the words (thanks to those who made suggestions for tricky letters!), and taking the pictures on Wednesday was a nightmare with the on and off again downpours. Me and Dan (my brother-in-law who took all the photos) kept running to get pictures in between storms or re-staging shots under overhangs to avoid messing up the Russian signs. It got a bit ridiculous, but once the rain let up, we were able to power through a good chunk of the remaining shots.

I put the pictures together in a scrapbook tonight, and also added some extra pages with messages in Russian, pictures from my time in Saint Petersburg, and a CD of primarily instrumental music from movies (most of the movies included I know he likes, and he really likes soundtrack music…this seemed like a good way to go given the lack of english in instrumental music). You can view a video of the completed project (including my translations) below:

I can’t tell you how proud I am of this book. It forced me to practice my Russian, let me do something nice for someone else, and also allowed me to get my feelings out creatively when I can’t rely on talking. Now that this is done, I can move on from missing Russia, the families I met there, and Nikita, and focus on what’s to come. Oklahoma? Let’s do this.