Monday, September 29, 2008

the dark side

I'm thinking more and more about picking up contract work while in Buenos Aires. I'd like to spend my days teaching English and my nights working on freelance projects for 2 to 3 hours.

I'll need to invest in a new computer. 2 reasons for this. First, Jisseppii (my current computer that I have an pet like affection for) is getting old. I purchased him in college 6 years ago. He's a champ, but he has retired from working and is now used just to surf the net. It's not a good idea to rely on a 6 year old laptop for contract work. Second, from what I've been reading, computers in Buenos Aires cost 2 to 3 times as much as computers here. It's best that I purchase a computer before leaving the U.S.

PC vs Apple:
At first I thought I'd just go a head and get a PC, but now the Apple iMacs have been polluting my mind. I'm thinking of going to the dark side. I have been doing my research. I've spoken to my IT guy at work and several Mac users. My IT guy is very neutral and gives me the specs I'll need for either Mac or PC. The Mac users are overwhelmingly in favor of me joining their club. I just may?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

TESL/TESOL Certified!

Today was my last class! I am officially certified to teach English as a second language. Woo-hoo!

The classes were extremely valuable especially for the price (compared to other organizations that offer the same certificate). We only hit the surface on grammar and the possible grammar questions that we will soon hear. We learned how to break down english and different ways to explain it. Many times there are no explanations or rationale for the english language, you just have to memorize.

Everyone in class gave a presentation/practicum as if they were teaching non-native speakers. For the practicum we created a lesson plan that identified age appropriateness / level / theme / objective and observable outcome. In the lesson plan we included a variety of ways to get the students to write, speak, read an listen. We began our lessons with engaging the students; we had to show why the lesson was valuable to them or why the content is important. We then included a study portion where we would teach a lesson and explain. Finally, we presented an activity where the students would utilized what was learned.

After all presentations were given, we looked over each others ESL centric resumes and cover letters to do a peer critic. We also exchanged helpful ESL resource links on the web.

My classmates were so much fun. In these last two days everyone warmed up to each other. Everyone was interesting and they were also kind and very supportive. The guy who sat behind me always made funny commentaries. By the end of the days (9hour days), I was wearing thin. Typically, when I'm tired, I either cry or can't control my laughter. Luckily it was the latter. There were a couple times when I knew I should not have laughed out loud but it was just too funny not to have. One girl in the class was a character. She was very nice and her heart is in the right place but she was a conversation hijacker. Each time I engaged in a quiet dialog with another student she swooped in and began dominating the conversation with her thoughts and opinions. I didn't want to know HER thoughts, I wanted to know the person I was asking. This happened several times. I began to make it a point not to talk to anyone within earshot of her, but she seemed to gravitate towards me and hijacked away. At that point I would pause and then turned to speak with someone else. oy oy oy.

With each day that passes I'm getting more and more excited about the move. I'm looking forward to next week (the week of October 6th). I'll be finished with weddingpalooza and then I just may buy my plane ticket. Once I click the purchase button it will solidify my decision. (*I have a huge smile on my face right now thinking about it*)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

removable things-gone

cars and phones and diamond rings
Bling, bling
Those are only removable things
And what about your mind
Does it shine or
Are there things that concern you more
Than your time

Gone going
Gone everything
ne give a damn
Gone be the birds when they don’t want to sing
Gone people
All awkward with their things
~Jack Johnson
Today at work I was updating our website. It's more of a process I go through, rather than actual coding, which means it doesn't take too much thinking on my part; I've done this same process for the last 2 years. I digress. While working on the monthly website update I'm listing to my Jack Johnson CD. The song "Gone" came on...

I'm not a music person; I rarely listen to the words. I dated a musician when I was 18 and when he found this out (I don't listen to the words) I think I saw his heart break in front of me, he never looked at me the same. I felt guilty about this, but I now accept that this is just a part of who I am.

For some reason, today, I heard the lyrics for the song "Gone". The song's words seem to have spoken to me about my current struggle with giving up my stuff.

For me, I'll admit, I get caught up in materialism. I feel like I'm always competing to have a better car, I want nice jewelry(although I have none), name brand trendy clothes, purses, shoes, nice electronics like a plasma tv, an apple computer, gps, iPod, bigger apartment or a house. I feel conflicted, because if I really wanted these things I could go out and buy them, but I don't. It's not me (ok, I did buy the gps because I'm directionally challenged. I believe it saves me money on gas; that's my justification anyway).

Maybe I have a hard time giving up my stuff because I feel like if I don't own stuff, than I'm "poor". I'll feel like I won't fit in with society or the norm because I won't have anything to show my worth. The 80% of me (that I talked about in my last post) tells me giving up all my stuff will be a freeing & cleansing experience.

I can never put a price tag on my Sweden experience, but my iPod will be worthless in the next two years.

So, what do I want? Who am I? Do I want belongings or do I want an experience?

I'm coming to terms...
Gone with my belongings. They're all removable things, this new experience will not be removable it will always stay with me...but it sure will feel like some bling bling to me.

Monday, September 22, 2008


I think my desire to live abroad is hard-wired into my curltural genetic code.

Looking at the probability. I'm 80% confident that this move will occur. The 20% got to me last night. Next weekend I'll be finished with my classes and I'll be certified to teach English as a foreign language. The following weekend I'll be attending a wedding. Then.... I can start mapping my plan!

Among other things I will begin to sort though my belongings. What should I keep, sell, give away, throw away? The sell, give away, throw away part makes me a little nervous.

Logically thinking, I don't want or need 90% of my belongings. Much of it collects dust. Emotionally thinking I want to save everything because what if. What if I need my college spiral notebooks a some point? What if I want to read my favorite novel for the 3rd time? What if ....

This afternoon, while walking through my office, feeling a little anxious about giving it all up, I told myself "well, than don't do it, stay here".

That idea freigtens me even more.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

hurt and happiness

This past week was filled with hurt and happiness.

I recovered from my root canal. The procedure itself didn't hurt; it was just painful before and after. Just today, I stopped taking the pain medication but I'm still on the antibiotics. It's my wallet that is still hurting and will be for awhile. However, I'm happy the problem tooth was taken care of now rather than while in a foreign country.

I received my birth certificate and criminal background check in the mail!

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I went home to spend time with my family. Just being at home for three days felt like a vacation. I feel so comfortable, safe and I laugh so much when I'm there. When I left, it hurt to say good-bye to Katie. I'm not sure when I'll see her next. I'm so so lucky to have my family.

Today I was back in my weekend "English teacher" classes. This weekend we're diving into grammar. I'm happy I'm not the only one in class that never learned the ins and outs of English grammar. There is so much to learn. It feels strange to know all the grammar, but to not have a term or definition for it. Example... the word "since" is a subordinating conjunction in the following sentence "He has not visited them, since his wife turned 50". Now I just have to learn 50 similar terms and know how to explain them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Surrendering to the tooth fairy

On Friday night around 3am I was awakened by a tooth ache.

I had no time for this, especially this weekend with class on both Saturday and Sunday.

Throughout Saturday I was able to keep the pain at bay. I popped naproxen every four hours. It got me through the day and evening just fine. A couple cocktails in the evening and a little making out also helped take my mind off of the dull pain.

The pain returned, big time when I tried to sleep. I couldn't sleep laying down so I had to prop myself up with pillows to try sleeping up-right. I laid or um leaned there for some time before getting frustrated and taking a shot full of Nyquil (My savior "so you can rest medicine"). Luckily I was able to sleep through the night but the pain returned Sunday, more pill popping took place throughout the day during my class. I felt like I had to explain myself to the student sitting next to me. I'm really not a pill popper, I swear.

After class I phoned the dentist for real "so you can rest medicine" I was blessed with a prescription of Vicodin and some antibiotics. I slept beautifully and the pain vanished.

This morning I visited the dentist office after taking a morning dose of vicodin. The nurse greeted me with a concerned expression on her face. "How are you doing dear". "I feel great!" I said. When the dentist tried to have me pinpoint the troubled tooth, I couldn't. It didn't hurt anymore. He applied pressure to all the teeth but they all felt super; no pain. He had to examin the x-rays to determine or guess which tooth was the source of my pain.

My options: Continue on the antibiotics and see what happens, but the x-rays show at some point I will need a dreaded root canal. Option two would be to get the root canal over with.

Since I plan on resigning from work, at which point I'll lose my dental plan , I scheduled my very first root canal for tomorrow.

Once I came back from the dentist I didn't take another pill right away. I let the pain return and sure enough it was the tooth he pinpointed from the x-ray. I only had to touch it softly and it radiated with pain. I've since resumed the pain medicine and am very comfortable.

The procedure will be costing upwards of $2000. Thank goodness for my dental plan. I'll pay somewhere around $900 out of pocket. Right now I don't know which will hurt more, my wallet or my tooth?

Looking on the positive side of things, it's better that this happened now than when I have no insurance and am in another country, I am fortunate that I have money in savings to pay for the remainder of the bill, I like my dentist and did I mention, I'm thankful I have dental insurance.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

my TESOL/TEFL courses

This weekend I had my first TESOL/TEFL* classes. The classes ran from 9am to 6pm on both Saturday and Sunday and are held at a nearby university. They're long classes, but went by quickly.
*TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language
*TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
So far, so good. I have to say I'm impressed with both Oxford Seminars and their instructor. I didn't know what to expect from a sort of 'crash course' on how to teach English as a second language since people study this topic on graduate level.

The Instructor.
She is wonderful. For me, an instructor's style of teaching makes or breaks a class. She is very structured and knowledgeable. She has a master's degree in ESL, worked abroad for 10 years and she currently works as a professor.

The classes.
In these first two classes we focused on teaching styles, learner styles, lesson planning and student levels; like what would be appropriate. We also spent some time talking about culture shock. Oxford seminars provides all their own materials (3 books and a folder of information). One book is filled with activity ideas, lesson plan examples, learning games, warm-up exercises and more stuff that I haven't look at just yet. The book will be a good reference.

The Phrasal verb.
Our class was discussing what we may teach to an advance student. The instructor threw out the term "Phrasal Verb". She asked if anyone knew what it was. The two Brazilian au-pairs in the front giggled, they knew what it was...the rest of the class.....silence. The 16 of us Americans had not a clue. For an outgoing group of people, no one volunteered an answered...the instructor then explained some examples of Phrasal Verbs like; sit down, stand up.

The other Students.
On the first day there were 18 other students in the class. Today there were only 17; one didn't return. I believe it is because she doesn't have a strong command of the English. The class was too advanced for her basic English skills.

The other students are a mix of people. Majority have college educations, some are au-pairs from other countries and everyone has the desire to live abroad. I was excited to be with others who share my same desire.
$895 - TESOL / TEFL certification classes
*I recieved a discount of $100 for registering more than a month in advance

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Plan: 1st week in Buenos Aires revised

Today I was reading an article by a young journalist who moved to BsAs. In the article she mentioned that she studied Spanish for two weeks at the Academia Buenos Aires.

Since I like the idea of studying Spanish for two weeks instead of just one I checked out their website. I realized that for $230 more (than the Academy of Recoleta) I could get an additional week of, Spanish lessons, housing, and meals.

The total for the two weeks of lessons, housing with an Argentine family and food would be would be $595. $42 a day.

The classes at Academia Buenos Aires are immersion classes (No English!).

This will be an exciting start to my solo foreign adventure!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Moment of insight

Quick post before bed..
I had a moment of insight tonight while on a meandering jog around my small town. The weather was perfect, not cold, not too hot. What I like most about night jogs is when there are no cars insight; I like to jog in the middle of the street. Towards the end of the run I said to my friend, "I just need a life change of pace". She asked, in general, what do you want to do? The word "travel" jumped out of my mouth without thought.

Then it came to me.....
Why not do freelance work while in BsAs? Why am I denying this money maker? Why did I even block this idea? Freelance work would provide me with U.S. dollars in a peso world. Even if I don't pick up much work, money will go a much longer distance south of the equator. More to come on this thought... buenas noches

Friend of a friend

Making connections.
Through a friend of a friend I was introduced to a Porteño (a Native Argentine).

Joy had mentioned that a co-worker of hers, Paul, has family in Buenos Aires. After a couple of Paul's emails that exchanged greetings and contact information, I had Hugo's email address. My first contact in BsAs.

Hmmm, should I write the first correspondence in English?
I was able to tell, by reading over the chain of emails, that Hugo knows English, but I could also tell he wasn't fluent. The voice in my head told me "You really should write in his language since he is willing to help you out". An email written in Spanish it is.

Ufff. It took me a long time to express simple greeting and thoughts. I had so much to say but only a limited vocabulary to work with. One thing I wanted to express was that I would like to live in the busy part of the city. I used a translator to give me the Spanish equivalent of "busy", but the word "Ocupado" appeared. I thought "no, that doesn't sound right". Ocupado sounds more like "I can't reach him on the phone, the line is ocupado". Second word choice for "busy"? Active? Translation = Activo. ok, I'll use that one.

Hugo responded quickly. He was very welcoming and offered any help I need. It calms me knowing I have a connection in BsAs.

Muchas gracias Joy and Paul for the introduction.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Preparations: making progress

Last night Moira and I got our fingerprints and a tour of our local police station. The jail cells look like they do on TV, but the beds didn't have mattresses. After I commented on this I was told "this isn't the Hilton". True. Good Answer.

So, this afternoon I was able to mail away for my birth certificate and criminal background check (both needed to apply for working papers in Argentina).

I also made an eye exam appointment in D.C. My health insurance covers eye exams every 2 years. Since I had my last eye exam last year, my eye doc won't sell me contacts without another eye exam (which are expensive without insurance). Danielle got an eye exam AND 3 months of contacts for $99 at her er um my eye dr. Sounded like a reasonable price to me. So, instead of doing research to see if there are any deals in my area I made an appointment for Oct 3 in the morning (I need to be in her area anyway for pre-wedding prep)
$10 - Birth Certificate
$18 - Criminal Background Check
$0.75 - Cost of money order for bkgd check.

Friday, September 5, 2008

My first student: English Lesson #1

Sun and I met for one hour last night. We split our time between two books. One is a grammar book and the other is a vocabulary book. In the vocab book, we went over health care related words.

My experience teaching English thus far is good for me. I need to think on my toes. I don't give speaking English too much thought (as with many native speakers), so when Sun asks questions, I don't have the answer right away and sometimes I just don't have the answer. For instance preference of words. Sun's mother-in-law calls "cough drops" "throat candy". I've never heard of "throat candy", it sounds too much like "nose candy" Did she make "throat candy "up?... ok, I just googled it. "Throat Candy" is another name for "cough drops".

Looks like I learned some English last night.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Preparations: shots, papers, car insurance oh my

Fulfilling my need to plan...

I want to make sure my health is up to snuff and I'm making use of my health insurance while I have it, so I'm scheduling some regular check-ups. Also, I'm looking into:
  • what types of documents I may need to bring with me
  • fees I may encounter when accessing my U.S banking accounts
  • possible penalties I may incur for canceling my car insurance

A couple weeks ago I told my doctor that I'd like to spend time in Buenos Aires; I asked what types of immunizations I should get. She recommended I get a the Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccination. She also recommended that I have my latest immunization history sent to her office. Afterwards I contacted my college (I knew they had records of my latest immunizations). They faxed over my history and it turns out I was over due for a tetanus shot. I scheduled appointments for all three - tetanus, which now includes the whooping cough vaccine, Hep A and Hep B. I'll soon be up-to-date with immunizations.

Birth Certificate
Yesterday, I printed out a form to request my birth certificate. It will cost $10. (To process the request online would cost $8 more; my frugal self will be snail mailing it.) I'll need to make copies of my drivers license and the change of address card (since my drivers license address is incorrect).

Accessing Money in BA
I'm starting to think about moving my checking and possibly my money market account to another bank to avoid ATM withdraw fees once in BsAs. There's some discussion about this on the site. I know that my credit union won't charge me, but there will be a fee from the owner of the ATM and possibly a foreign conversion fee. It appears Charles Schwab does not charge any fees and gives you back any fees that owners of ATMs charge. I don't plan on using my savings, but if I do, I don't want to pay fees to access my money. Here is what expats are saying about atm fees in BsAs. More about Banking and Credit Card Fees in BsAs

Criminal Background Check
Sometime this week Moira and I will get our fingerprints taken. For me, I need them to apply for a Criminal Background check that will be needed to apply for working papers in BsAs and Moria needs hers for when she applies for a public school position.

Canceling Car Insurance
My blog stalking is paying off. I just read that I just can't just cancel my auto insurance without a penalty when/if I decide to get it again. By canceling auto insurance, they, the auto insurers like Nationwide, views that as a lapse in insurance. If I would go for auto insurance again (after a lapse of insurance) I will be considered high risk and end up paying more!

Solution? I just spoke with Nationwide and they suggested that before canceling my policy, I be added to someone else's policy as a second driver. This way there won't be a lapse of insurance. The cost, she said, should be minimal,, if none since I'm over 30 and have a clean driving record.

Allowing myself to be out of control

"The best way to predict your future is to create it!" -- Abraham Lincoln

I like to plan, to feel prepared, to make things happen. I like to be in control of my life.

I was able to fully recognize this personality trait of mine last night when I met up with my Dominican. I thought our plan was to go for a drink before salsa, but he suggested meeting early; at 7pm. I agreed, but was thrown off guard. Are we having dinner? Should I wear my normal typical salsa clothes (a tad revealing and not so appropriate for walking around the city). Should I dress up, but it's a Wednesday. Maybe a shirt with sequence and capris, but is sequence ok for a Wednesday, it seems like sequence should be reserved for the weekend? Will we go to salsa afterwards? Together? The unknown, just in this small instance made me go a little crazy.

Over a glass of red wine, the Dominican, who is very observant, made the observation that I tend to get bored easily (I was talking about my job). He asked why haven't I gotten bored with salsa yet.

I never thought about that before. Why haven't I gotten bored with salsa? I think it's because when I'm salsaing, I play the part of the follower, that's the womans role on the dance floor (but just on the dance floor). I have no idea what steps are coming next, I have little idea what is going to happen. I'm out of my element of needing to know. Someone else (the man) has to take that role. It's scary to me, but I like it. Also, I feel like I'll never master salsa, I'll never be perfect, it will always be a challenge ~ I like the feeling of the unknown and temporarily not being in control.

It's ok to be out of control, but only for a short time.