Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mikelle, a 1st Grade Teacher?

I can't even believe how long it has been since I have blogged. I used to be an everyday or every other day blogger. When I would miss a few days, I would feel awful. Now, I haven't blogged in months. What have I been doing you ask that has taken all of my time? Teaching twenty-three 1st graders. 

Nate and I got back from London at the end of the July. We lived his parents in Layton, UT until we figured out what we were doing and where we were going to live. It is quite the adjustment moving from country to country like that, but we got through it. We both missed London terribly but new that our time there was through. 

The next day after we got to Utah, I started looking for teaching jobs. I didn't want to waste any time. I had done a couple Skype interviews while in London and one phone interview. The phone interview was for a 2nd grade position in a charter school in Salt Lake and it went so well. The principal and I talked for an hour and it was natural. She told me she usually hates phone interviews but she loved me and was very impressed with me even though she has never met me. She told me it was between me and another girl named Mikelle. :) Weird huh? Anyway, the other Mikelle got the job and I was completely bummed. I was mad that I didn't get a fair chance by being there in person to give it my all. I also did a Skype interview with a school in Toeele. This went awesome! They were so impressed with me that I had taught in London over the past year. Shortly after the interview, he sent me an email saying how impressed he was with me and how he would be getting back with me soon. I pretty much knew I had the job. Nate and I then travelled to Morocco for a week. It was in Morocco that he emailed me and offered me the job. I was ecstatic that I actually was offered a teaching job but it just didn't feel quite right. Tooele is so far away from everything and that was our main hold back. I emailed him back and politely declined. 

So as soon as we got to Utah, I didn't want to waste anytime. Gail, my mother in law, let me borrow one of her suits to wear to drop off resumes at the schools. She teaches 4th grade so she had the proper interview attire. All I did for about 2 weeks was search online for jobs, apply to them, drop off resumes to tons of schools, and wait for calls. It was stressful and discouraging at times but I had hope that it would all work out. I had some crazy interviews and funny experiences with the whole thing. 

I finally decided to apply to Canyons School District. There were 3 jobs on their website that I qualified for. I had my screening interview at the district office and aced it. She told me that she loved me and was so impressed. About 10 minutes after I left that interview, Todd Theobald from Willow Canyon called me and scheduled another interview at his school for their 1st grade position. I was so excited! My sister's friend, Melissa Winter, worked there as a 3rd grade teacher and gave me some great reviews. I felt like the interview went so well but he told me I wouldn't know for about a week if I got the job or not. 

That week was the longest week of my life! I kept on applying for other jobs and sending out more resumes just to stay on the safe side. I didn't want to be back at zero again if I didn't get the job at Willow Canyon. I had another interview at Jefferson Academy for a Kindergarten position in Kaysvillie. That interview went amazing as well. I knew that they wanted me after it finished but they couldn't quite say it yet. They even gave me a tour around the school as if I was already hired! When I got into the car after that interview I had a new voicemail from Todd telling me that he wanted me to call him. I didn't know what to do! I knew that I pretty much had 2 jobs available to me and I didn't know which one I liked more. I called Todd back that night and he offered me the job. I told me that I was thrilled but I would like to think about it and would call him back that night. Nate and I discussed the pros and cons of both jobs, locations, grades, teams, principals, and tried to figure out the best choice. I also had 2 other interviews scheduled for that coming Monday for 2 other schools. Before the difficulty was finding a job and now it was choosing which job to take. I never knew that would be so hard! For some reason I just felt so good about taking the Willow Canyon job. I loved the principal there and new that he would make my first year teaching so nice and comfortable. A few hours later, I called Todd back and told him that I would be thrilled to take the job! :) I quickly called my other interviews and cancelled them. 

That next morning, Jefferson Academy called me and offered me the Kindergarten job. I told them that I had already accepted another job the night before. He was so bummed out and in complete shock. I think they thought for sure that they had me. He was silent on the phone for a couple seconds. Then he told me how sad he was but he hoped for the best for me. I felt so torn and I just hoped that I had made the right decision. 

About a week later, I got a call from the superintendent at Jefferson Academy. He asked me why I didn't take the job. He said he wanted to know so they could know how they can hire quality teachers like me in the future. He asked how I came to my decision to choose the other school over theirs and what was the deciding factor. He asked me what they could have done differently to alter my decision. I felt like it was an old boyfriend that I broke up with calling me for some closure to our relationship. It was an odd, awkward call. 

Still, I felt really good and excited about my new 1st grade job at Willow Canyon in Sandy! Nate and I went out to celebrate by getting Sonic half price milkshakes after 8. :) We were moving to Sandy and we were excited to finally have a plan. Less than 24 hours later we signed a contract for an apartment in Sandy just a couple miles from my new school! It was all working out!

This excitement soon turned to COMPLETE FEAR. A couple nights after I had accepted the job I had a nervous break down. I started feeling completely overwhelmed with everything that I had to do to prepare for a school year. It hit me that I only had 1 month until school started. It hit me that I had absolutely nothing ready, nothing unpacked, no supplies, no classroom decorations, NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING! I knew that I knew how to teach. I felt very confident in that after teaching in London for a year, but I realized that I had no clue how to set up and start my own class. I had no clue what to buy. I had to set up all of my procedures and make all the rules. I completely freaked out and was bawling my eyes out. I haven't cried so hard in a long time. Nate wondered where I was and came to find me. He heard crying in the bathroom. He asked if I was ok. I burst into tears even more! He listened to all of my concerns, comforted me and held me talking me through it. He told me that he would be there for me every step of the way. He was the sweetest most comforting husband at that moment and exactly what I needed. 

From that next morning on, pretty much until the first day of school, I was completely sick to my stomach. This lasted 1 month. I was nauseous every day until school started. Literally everyday. I felt like I was going to throw up all day long. I have never had stress affect me that way before in my life. It was so weird. I had to force myself to eat. Even on my mission when I was completely stressed out at times, I never felt nauseous.  My mom joked with me that I was pregnant but I knew that wasn't it. I was just completely and utterly stressed out and that was how my body was handling it. It was awful.

The school was being remolded over the summer so all the classrooms were empty. August 16th, my birthday, was the day that we were allowed to move in to our empty classes. My mom and dad were in town so they came and helped me set up my class. There was so much to do and I had a never ending list of items to buy, create, make, and set up. It was an daunting task and the nausea continued. 

About a week before school started we had a big faculty meeting and then we had the day to set up our classroom. An open house was scheduled in a couple days for the parents and kids to come and meet their teacher. There was so much pressure to make my class look perfect, organized and ready. It was so hard. I literally didn't sleep and was working 11 hour days. I would walk into my classroom and just start bawling because I didn't even know where to start because there was just so much to do. It was completely overwhelming. The nausea continued. I even started losing weight. 

School finally started at the end of August, on the 27th. I was literally so nervous. I walked outside to pick up my kids. They all looked so nervous too. They were silent and had their new school outfits on and their new shiny backpacks all snug tight onto their little backs. They were completely adorable and I started feeling more excited than ever. I couldn't believe that these were actually MY students and that I would have them every day and not have to give them up. All the moms and dads were cheering them on as they proudly walked into the school as 1st graders. They were video recording them and yelling their names. Even a few moms followed us into the school and took pictures of the kids at their desks. :) I knew that wasn't allowed, but I couldn't get mad at all because I new that that was totally something that I will do when I have kids. 

A little boy named Izacc first saw me and with a huge grin on his face handed me this can that was wrapped up in pretty paper and read, "I CAN hardly wait to be in your class." It was full of candy. So cute. I read them a book called, "First Day Jitters." It is about a girl being nervous to go to school but in the end you realized that it is actually the teacher nervous to go teach her class. I told them that I was just as nervous as they were. I think that made them feel better. 

After that first day of school the nausea completely stopped. I felt like myself again! I started getting really excited about being a teacher of these adorable kids. Now it is a couple days before Christmas break and I can't believe how fast time has flown by! I am almost half way through the school year. 

These last almost 4 months have been life changing for me. I have had the time of my life. I love each of these kids so much. They make me laugh so hard some days that I have actually cried in class. They are hilarious! They are the sweetest as well, so nice to each other and so honest. There isn't any tattling or, "You butted!" like I have heard in other classes. They love each other and are all friends. They are all so smart too and they try so hard. I can honestly say that I would adopt any one of them and take them as my own child. They are that sweet. I really don't want to think about the day that I have to say goodbye to them at the end of the year. It is going to be awful. 

I feel like I have grown so much as a person. I have accomplished something hard that I never thought was possible. I have done something that used to scare me and now I do it with ease. I am confident and comfortable in my shoes as a 1st grade teacher and I am having a complete blast. :) I feel like I was made for this job sometimes. I love being silly with the kids and making them laugh. I love helping them learn and finding new ways to make things click. I love exciting them with fun things and seeing how happy their little faces get! It is such a rewarding job. 

I will do another post soon about all the funny things that they say all the time but here are some pictures from the year......Enjoy!

Halloween!
 The School Fun Run!
 The Class Store!
 Dinosaur Museum Field Trip
Santa's Stuck Craft and Writing
 Opening Letters from Santa's Elves!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Muslims in Morocco

Religion has always fascinated me. I have always had the desire to go "religion hopping" and learn about all different kinds of religions and why they believe the things that they believe. Not because I wanted a change from my own beliefs, but because I enjoyed learning about others.' Growing up in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, I didn't get much religious diversity. It is mainly Christian up in CDA, and the most diversity I got was the mix of Catholics, Non-denominational, Protestants, and Christian Scientists. I grew up in the Mormon faith, (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints) which is also a Christian faith. But really, CDA didn't have much else, at least not that I was aware of. 

So going to Morocco and seeing the strong Muslim religion taking place all around me as I was there was fascinating to me. FASCINATING. It was so different to anything that I was accustomed to. The biggest wake up call that I ever got was on our first morning there at 5AM when the first call to prayer went off right outside of our hotel window. I heard it as clear as day. It was a very effective alarm clock and afterwards, I was wide awake. We continued to hear it every morning bright and early at 5AM and there was no off switch to it. 

5 times a day, they have a call to prayer. I know they are speaking in Arabic, but since I don't know the Arabic language, to me it just sounds like a big loud scary noise full of some speaking and some monotone singing/chanting. It freaked me out every time that I heard it but fascinated me at the same time. And even after being in the country for a whole week, I still didn't get used to it. On the last day, the whole thing was still shocking and mind boggling to me. When the "alarm" goes off, you see all the men rushing to the mosques to begin their daily prayers. Such commitment to their faith. 

On the picture below you can see a pole sticking up from the top with a perpendicular crook going out. This is where they hang people when they go against the Muslim religion or when they commit some serious sin. I don't think they use it as much as they used to in the past, but still, it is there. I think it is more as a reminder of what could happen. 

Every time the call to prayer would go off, I would imagine what it would be like if President Monson, the Mormon latter day prophet did a similar thing. Can you imagine him getting on a big loud speaker and telling everyone that it was time to pray? Can you imagine him singing into a big microphone that had a speaker throughout the whole country? Can you imagine him forcing you to pray and having him tell you when to pray and when not to? I can't. Prayer seems like such a personal thing to me that you do when you show thanks or when you humbly ask for blessings. Yes it is good to pray throughout the day, and to always have a prayer in your heart, but I can't imagine doing it on someone else's timetable. I don't think I could ever get used to that.
 Stand up.....
 Squat down.....
 Stand up...

 The 5 times daily prayer ritual is only required for men. It was interesting to watch what the women were doing during this time. Here are some of them. They mostly were hanging out, siting around for their husbands to get done so they could go back home. Interesting I thought. Women are seen so differently than they are in the US. They aren't really worth much in Morocco and don't have authority at all. They are there to please their husbands and to have children. When people would come up to Nate and I, they would always address Nate, not me. It was like I didn't even exist there and wasn't important. They would barely even look at me. Even going through security in the Marrakesh airport, they made two lines, one for males and one for women. No mixing of genders allowed. The women's line was way longer so the men got through much quicker. Fair? Not really, but that is just how it is in Morocco. Feminists wouldn't survive there. 

Kneel down....
And repeat....
for a long, long, long time,
or so it seemed like to me. 
Fascinating?
I think so. 

Being in Morocco made me feel so grateful to be an American. I have never appreciated my country as much as after I came home from Morocco. The people there are trapped. They don't have the freedom of speech or freedom of religion laws like Americans do. They have to do what the government and their religion says they will do or else.....they will have a serious punishment.....maybe even being hung. 

We should all be grateful to live in America and to experience the freedoms that we do. 

Monkeys and Snakes and More Monkeys, Oh My!

In Morocco, they have a lot of crazy things that you aren't used to seeing back home. Every time Nate and I would turn our head, we would see something else that was fascinating to us. Sometimes I felt like I was constantly walking around with my mouth open in complete shock and horror and other times in complete amazement. 
The Moroccans like their animals......well, they actually just like their tips. 
Everyone works off of tips there and the unemployment rate is pretty high. They use animals to make money off of tourists and it actually works pretty well for them. All the tourists have to get pictures with the monkeys and the snake charmers. That is a must when traveling to Morocco. Here are some of my favorite pictures from our trip. Even now when I look at them, I can't help but laugh!

Monkey sitting on my arm.
Me wearing the man's hat.
 Monkey giving me a hug....
 Monkey snuggling up with Nate and I.
 Snake Charmers!



Speaking of snakes.....
I bought some awesome snake sandals there. 
They are so comfortable and the cool part is that I saw the guy making them 
right there in his little shoe shop. 
More Monkeys....this time sitting on top of Nate's head!
 Our faces tell it all in this pic. 
 As you can tell, it was a very memorable exciting trip! 
I mean, wear else can you get pictures like these?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sahara Desert Camel Trip

When we booked our tickets to Morocco, one of the main things that we wanted to do was to take a camel ride overnight trip in the Sahara Desert. That sounded so exciting to us so we knew that we needed to make it happen. We got connected with a group that did tours through our hotel. Before the journey, we went shopping in a small tiny town to buy some Berber memorabilia. 

We bought some traditional head wraps!
Don't we look so fashionable!?
We were now ready for our trip. We caught a ride in a taxi down to the camel area. While we were waiting, they offered us some mint tea like everyone always does, but of course we couldn't drink it. We were offered tea at least three times a day and had to turn it down each time. The Moroccan guys taught us how to get on and off the camels with the little English that they spoke. They loaded up all of our bags and sleeping items on the camel that we needed that night. Here is a picture of us before we started our trip.

These poor camels.....they have to carry so much weight! 
They are such weird looking animals and they walk super slow. 
I was in front of Nate and every time I would look back at him, I couldn't help but start laughing. Here we were in Africa, riding camels in the Sahara Desert, wearing these bright colored head wraps. It was kind of unreal, and hilarious, and I had to hold back the laughter. I kept on thinking what would people think if they could see us now!? The journey consisted of me, Nate, our friend that we met earlier in the week from Madrid/Columbia, Eduardo, and our Moroccan tour guide that didn't speak any English. He only spoke French and Arabic. Good thing we had Eduardo there to translate for us, or else we would have had a very VERY awkward night of charades! 
This is us finally landing in the desert about an hour and a half later. Man, my butt and legs were sore! Who knew that a camel could be so uncomfortable. And if you are wondering about my wrapped up toe, I had a major blister on it from the snake shoes that I had bought in Marrakesh and it was getting infected. I wrapped it up really good and tight so I wouldn't get any sand in it to make it even more infected. It is interesting how they would get the camels to sit down. The tour guide would come up to them and just say, "Shhhhh, sshhhh" to them over and over, and then they would lay down so I could get off. They would go from standing, to on their knees, to laying down on their legs. Funny animals. Having them stand up was the scariest part. One time, Nate's camel tripped as he was trying to stand and Nate almost flew off the front of him! 
It was now time for a photo shoot in our Moroccan attire!
Don't we look just......so......Moroccan? :) 
The blue sky, the sand dunes in the background....Nate looking so serious. 
As you can tell, by this point in our trip, I was completely sunburned! The over 100 degree weather had done me in! So, hence, my face almost matched my pink scarf. Not the most attractive look, but hey. 
Here is where we stayed the night. We had a tent, but the tent wasn't for sleeping. The tour guide cooked in the tent and stored things in there to keep them safe. We slept on the blankets to the left of the tent. Yes, it was a rough night, full of big bugs crawling on us, an extremely uncomfortable hard ground to sleep on, and the hot muggy weather that made me have a headache. I slept in the middle of Nate and Eduardo. They made us each buy 4 huge water bottles to take with us. After about 3 hours of being there, all the water was warm. That is how hot it was. So the entire night and the next morning, we were drinking warm water to stay hydrated. Gross. But we knew our bodies needed the liquid because it was just so hot out. It got so hot that to a point, I felt nauseous. I have never had heat do that to me before. Watching the stars at night was fun though. Because there were no lights around and we were so far from any civilization, the stars were super bright. We watched shooting stars and followed the star patterns as we laid there trying to fall asleep. Before all this happened though, we had a sand storm. It started about 2 hours after we got there. I have never experienced a sand storm before and it wasn't fun. There was sand blowing all around us with fierce winds and we couldn't get out of it! I was so grateful that I had my pink scarf! The scarf helped protect my head and face from the sand and I finally realized why these people wear them living there. It made more logical sense to me. The sand was everywhere though. It got in my eyes,  ears, nose, and mouth. When I would bite down, the sand would crunch between my teeth. Gross. It was hitting against my legs so hard that it hurt. It felt like someone was cutting my leg with sharp little needles. So we all got in the tent and tried to stay protected. It lasted for about an hour and then suddenly, it settled down. What a night!

The worst part for me was going to the bathroom on the sand dunes. It is way harder than it looks! Every time I would go it would run down onto my feet. I just couldn't aim very well. It was hard going on a slanted sand dune! So I went back to the camp with wet feet each time. I couldn't wait to get home and shower and use a real toilet again! 
On our way to the desert, we passed through a couple little villages. I don't even know if you could really call them villages. They were more like just a couple little mud homes here and there that were hand built by these people. We saw people walking around outside by them carrying grass on their heads (like in The Jungle Book Disney movie) kids roaming around by themselves, and people working in their "yard." Some children were selling these little handmade "camels" made out of dried up palm tree leaves. As we were riding, they would walk up to the camel and try to hand them to us. Of course they wanted us to give them some money afterwards. I felt like I couldn't reach them safely enough without falling off of my camel because of leaning down too far. But Nate was able to do it safely without falling off. We got this little camel creation for like 20 cents. I thought it was cute.
It was fun walking around the sand dunes! 
I love the feeling of the sand on my feet and in between my toes. 
Carrying loads of grass to their homes on their heads!
This little girl was wandering all around by herself outside. 
She was probably only around 2. 
The poor camels were tied up so they couldn't escape. As soon as we got off the camels, our tour guide tied up one of their legs with rope. One of the camels was a little agitated and tried everything he could to get the rope off. He was even rolling around on his back in the sand like he was having a tantrum. But the rope was effective because the next morning, the camels were still there where they started. 
Here is a picture late at night when we were having our tea. Yes, having tea again.....
Our tour guide took good care of us by preparing all of the food for us. He made us slow cooked tagine  vegetables and chicken with flat bread. We had warm oranges for dessert. He served the dinner on one big plate and he gave us each a fork. We dove right in and started to eat. The crazy part was when the tour guide started eating his meat. He not only ate the meat off the bones, but he ate the bones along with it. I heard some crunching sounds and looked up, and yes, he was crunching down on the bones. Food is definitely seen differently there than in the US. 
In the US we eat for entertainment and social events and there they eat more for hunger and to get enough energy stored up for their next hard labor activity. 
Here is Nate taking a walk along the sand dunes early in the morning.
Both Eduardo and Nate said that during the night, I was having nightmares about bugs crawling on me. They said I would sit up and start screaming about a bug and frantically be trying to scrape it off of me. I would also scrape my entire sleeping area. They said it was a rough night! :)
The next morning for breakfast, we had more flat bread with apricot jam
and Laughing Cow cheese, and or course, tea.
We all agreed it was probably the grossest breakfast that we have ever had. You couldn't think about the tour guide preparing it either because he never washed his hands. Here he was petting the camels, going to the bathroom, setting up camp, and then.......making our food. :(
They don't know about hand sanitizer there!
We all were a little on the sick side the next day.
Camel foot prints in the sand. 
On our way home after we packed up that morning. I love these shadow pictures. 

Here is a picture of our tour guide. He does this every night for a living and takes a different group of tourists out each night. I am sure that he meets a lot of interesting people! He was so grateful to us when we gave him a tip. These people don't make very much yet they work so hard. He is married and has a family but never gets to be home at night with them which is sad. He is always out doing this tour. Hopefully our tip money helped him out a bit!
We had a great time and experienced so much culture and new ways of life. I felt so grateful to have the opportunity to do and see new things that I had never experienced before. I know I will have great stories to tell my kids someday. 
But.....once was enough for me. I don't think I will be doing this trip again any time soon. :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ever Wonder What They Eat in Morocco?

To me, part of traveling and experiencing the culture of the country that you are visiting is eating the food. Food is so much apart of every country's culture and how they live from day to day. 
Plus, I love trying different types of food that I have never tried before. Even if it looks a little "iffy," I am still willing to try it just once so I can get the total culture experience. 
So if you have ever wondered what they eat in Morocco, you can get a good taste of it for yourself. 
Here are some pictures of our food adventures during our week long Moroccan adventure....

Pastilla
This little thing is way good. We had it several times. It is like a little filled pancake. It is filled with shredded curry chicken, ground almonds, brown sugar, and some nutmeg. The outside dough is like a filo dough that has been fried. It is the perfect combination of sweet and savory. 

Moroccan Salad
Pretty much every restaurant that we went to offered some type of Moroccan salad for their first course. 
This one was typical. It had little piles of chopped up veggies and rice. There was usually a little pile of salad with eggplant and spices, lots of green peppers and tomatoes, as well as rice. Quite tasty but simple.

Vegetable Tagine with Couscous
I love couscous and make it quite often at home. When I found out that it came from Morocco I was super excited to eat it there and get my fill! They serve it all the time, and after a few days of eating it I actually got really sick of it. But this dish was good. It was a vegetable dish that was slow cooked in a tagine pot with spices and then put over couscous. There were some cooked golden raisins on top too that added a good amount of sweetness. Vegetarian all the way.....just my style. 

Coke, Arabic Style
Nate loves Coke. We couldn't drink the water in Morocco because everyone said that it will make you sick. So we drank a lot of bottled water and lots of other juices and sodas. Nate's favorite of course was the pure sugar coke. This bottle was especially cool because it has "Coca-Cola" written in Arabic on the bottle! 

Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
This was my favorite food item in Morocco. They have oranges growing everywhere there. In the main market area, they have all of these fresh squeezed orange juice stands. There are tons. They all sell the exact same thing and have the same prices so it is hard to know which one to walk up to and buy from. They are all trying to get you to come to theirs and they are fighting over you. They will get your attention from way far away and wave at you like they know you and then motion for you to come over to them and buy some. It is hilarious. They pressure you so much and act so disappointed when you go to the booth next to them. It is so good though. They squeeze it right there in front of you and it is so fresh. They serve it in glasses to everyone.....and I don't think they wash the glasses in between customers. They even reuse the straws too. You just can't think about that unless you want to be completely grossed out. :) Oh well.
 Click on "Read More" below to see some more crazy food pictures.....