Sunday, June 27, 2010

Entry Visas obtained!

Are government bureaucrats the same the world over? On Thursday, we headed up to Seattle to turn in pieces of paper we could not read in the hope that fancy stamps would be placed into our passports. After getting the run-around and entering various downtown skyscrapers, we found the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. Barely a nod greeted us as the man behind the thick glass windows passed out a form. "Fill this out."

Of course, the forms were not filled out to his specifications but he finally accepted them with a large fee that we had not anticipated. Then, the somewhat expected surprise. "Come back tomorrow at 3:30. Visa ready then."

Hmmm, what in the world were we going to do in the city of parking at $10/hour? We headed east towards the mountains. Seattle traffic is abysmal but we finally got out of town and followed the Skykomish River. Eventually, we turned onto a forest service road and continued driving on a decent, dirt road. As dusk began to take over, we found a small turnoff and a place near a creek to set up camp.

The next morning, knowing that we had to burn lots of time before returning to Seattle, we found a beautiful hike through second growth up to a lake. Enough time was not burned. We got to the Visa place at 1:30 wishfully thinking that we would be given the visas and leave before Friday afternoon traffic got crazy. Nope. The man was again at work. Looking through the thick glass and without even a hello, he peered down his nose and tapped his watch, "3:30."


Sunday, June 20, 2010

and the bed goes

One of the things that I have found enjoyable about uprooting and moving across the country or world is the act of getting rid of stuff. Items come and go in our lives and they are just that - things. Yes, some are sentimental and more important than others and this time I'm keeping a few more than last. However, like a flood coming through and cleansing an ecosystem, going through things with a desire to rid is purifying to the soul in many ways.

This weekend found many items disappear. The bikes rolled out, the stereo sang its goodbyes, the bookcases emptied the shelves, and the bedroom was turned into a camping room as the bed moved from our upstairs lodging to inhabit the house boat of someone freshly returned from Hawaii.

We are now down to a little over a month before departure. Audrey's status is still in limbo but there are positive signs. Next week, we will head up to Bellingham and British Columbia for a while. Enjoy summer!


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Table Slingin' Run-away

Belmont Street is home to what was one of my biggest cravings while living in Guinea - big honking Laughing Planet burritos (aka the LPB). So, as any rational person would do I am getting my fill of these tasty morsels before I begin ordering by photo in Taiwan. Today, I stopped there on my way home with Audrey. A calm point of the day, there was no one in line and I had already ordered by phone. I quickly attached Audrey to an outside table and stepped inside to pick up the food.

An instant crash, a slam, and a black blur went flying down the sidewalk. It seems as if Audrey managed to pull the outside table over and it spooked her. She went berserk. Tearing down the narrow sidewalk, people jumped out of the way in panic as this small, furry black ball flew towards them dragging a round, metal table. The table swung from side to side, covering the entire sidewalk. Sparks jumped into the air as the metal collided with the concrete. The look on faces would have been priceless if I was not sprinting down the sidewalk yelling after her.

Fortunately, ritualized training paid off. At the corner in front of Stumptown Coffee, her panic-stricken mind was faced with a decision. Do I continue in this crazed direction or stop at the curb like normal? This brief dilemma allowed two guys to grab hold of her as I finished my dash to the end of the block. The window seats of Stumptown were full of people glaring down at the horrible dog owner who allowed his dog to recklessly pull a table down the sidewalk.

Audrey, with cut up legs, and myself red-faced in embarrassment hobbled back down the block with the table in between us to be greeted by a laughing LPB employee who was appreciative of the returned table.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The End of an Era--Goodbye Washougal

This is the final week at Jemtegaard and my leaving is bittersweet. I began my teaching career here in Washougal and it's the only teaching family I've ever known. I did my student teaching at Hathaway with the UP team: a triad of wonderful ladies who were instrumental in developing who I am as a teacher today. My mentor teacher has become a second mother to me and I am thankful every single day to have her in my life, still guiding and directing, while supporting and encouraging me.

When I arrived at JMS, I was new to teaching and it was my first position. I was lucky enough to work with an amazing teaching partner who taught me the value of forming strong relationships with my students. The focus was always on the person and not just what the student could or could not do. I was fortunate to be able to continue with that same group of kiddos for three years. I feel as if they have taught me way more than I could have ever taught them.

So as I leave Jemtegaard this week, I leave behind a wonderful group of kids, coworkers and a great community. I want to thank all of those people who have touched my life over the past 6 years. It has been quite the journey and one that I will always remember with a smile on my face.

It is time to move on and continue to grow as an educator and a person. My life has taken a lot of twists and turns over the years, but it is the people I remember the most. Thank you to those who have stood by me, laughed with me, cried with me and simply held my hand. I hope that you continue to keep in touch as Frank, Audrey and I embark on this new journey. We are excited to move to Taiwan to experience a new community and culture, and yet sad to be leaving all of you.

With fond memories,

Farewell to Sunnyside

For the second time, I am ending a school year at Sunnyside with goodbyes. Four years ago, I left at the end of the Year of the Mountain to join Peace Corps Guinea in West Africa. There, I taught math in French (an interesting challenge!) before instability and civil unrest caused the Peace Corps to be suspended. I then wandered through many countries (see for posts) before returning to Portland and SES.

After three wonderful years of teaching, I have had the amazing fortune to meet the girl of my dreams - Krista - and together we will travel to Taiwan to continue our lives together. We have committed to a minimum of two years at the American School of Taichung where we will both teach in the middle school. Our dog, Audrey, will come with us. We leave the United States on July 31 and begin teaching in Taiwan less than two weeks later.

The Sunnyside community has been a wonderful place to teach and I have enjoyed each amazing student that I have met over the past years. I hope that this blog can be a way for people to learn a bit about Taiwan as I discover this new place and culture.

Thanks for all of the great memories!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Should she stay or should she go now

Audrey. Yep, that cute, lil' black pooch is causing all sorts of grief in the house of moving to Taiwan. 20 hours in a kennel is simply unacceptable she informed us over a bowl of kibbles. So, the travel path of driving from Portland to Seattle, flying to San Francisco and then to Taiwan has been scratched. Our hope is to leave Portland on July 15 and drive south to San Francisco, enjoying the Oregon and California coasts along the way. In the end, she will finally get in her kennel for 13 hours on her way to Taipei.

But our concerns don't stop there. In February, Krista began the process of rabies shots, tags, titration tests, under the skin, sonar-detecting, radar following, heat seeking microchip implantation only to (possibly) be three days short. Audrey's possibilities upon arriving in Taiwan are "immediate deportation, extended quarantine at post entry port or destruction." We're hoping for a slight extension to her 3-week quarantine.

The import permit application goes out tomorrow. Let's hope for the best.