Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

This year's holiday came and went with relatively little complication or fanfare, which is just how I like it. I spent a lovely day at home with the fam-damily and I got every item on my list, including a new digital camera (!!). Unfortunately the underpaid worker in Malaysia neglected to include a battery in the box, which my well-connected brother promised to rectify for me this week. The camera apparently has a 'blog mode' which I plan to investigate as soon as it is charged. I realize that thus far the blog has been void of pictures, but know that I fully intend to spice it up 1) when I learn how and 2) when I have interesting pictures to post.

I've reached a relative stalemate with my visa, mostly because it's hard to get anything done over Christmas. I was able to find out that I have no known criminal past and am in the process of getting a signed letter stating as much. For some reason I can't get my freaking doctor to respond to my myriad e-mails about the letter of clean health (which she originally tried to scrawl on a piece of prescription paper; like I could have gotten THAT past the Chilean consolate) and I'm still not 100% sure what is meant by 'financial solvency' but hopefully a call to the San Francisco consulate will clear that up. I hope to have my application in by January 3 - wish me luck!

And, for those of you who may have forgotten or didn't know in the first place, I'll be turning 26 on January 5, which is a Saturday. Plans are still pending, but I figured I'd get through New Year's first (also no plans, a theme among friends this year) before deciding on birthday festivities. Stay tuned.

I hope you and yours had a fantastic holiday season. Good luck with those New Year's resolutions (my new exercise cords will come in handy starting on January 2...) and I'll write again next year!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hello, Seattle

I've officially been back in the Emerald city for a little over a week now. The first big hurdle was getting my live, potted plants on the plane - three in all - which was easier than I expected, despite having to remove one of them from the bag and laying it on its SIDE to go through the x-ray screener. My planes were mostly empty and despite snow in Denver I was only mildly late, so that by 1 am I had eaten at the Gyrocery on University Ave for the first time in I don't know how long.

The next and final step in the moving process was collecting my boxes from Amtrak. Dropping my boxes off in Philadelphia was probably the most stressful event of the entire moving ordeal (not that it was an ordeal, quite the opposite in fact). Within 2 minutes the handlers had busted open an entire box and had to frantically tape it back together. I tried to remain calm and asked if my boxes - all 355 pounds of them - would be placed on a pallet. The guy said, nah. I said, please? (Bearing in mind they had to transfer in both DC AND Chicago.) Perhaps to prevent a scene he relented, bu until I actually saw the pallet in Seattle I was convinced he just told me that to get rid of me. I was told they would arrive in Seattle at 10:30 on Tuesday morning, and by 10:38 I'd gotten the call. The boxes were all in good shape, fit easily into the car, and unloaded without a hitch in good old LFP. If you're ever moving across the country and don't have furniture, I highly recommend Amtrak - the whole shebang cost a mere $207 (anxiety not included).

Since then I've been making the rounds, seeing as many people as possible and fitting in as much work as possible, too. I attended two successful Christmas parties over the weekend and feel like I could live off the calories I consumed in 18 hours for the next week. Otherwise I have very little to report, except that Seattle has made a liar out of me ("It doesn't rain that much!") since it has rained every day since I got back, and promises to for the next 10 days in a row. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a gray sky and a soggy ground.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Philadelphia Story Ends

After two and a half years of living part-time in the City of (Sometime) Brotherly Love, I'm packing my bags and heading back west. I've done a lot of coming and going, but this time I know I won't be returning, which makes it much harder to leave.

I also don't have the luxury of leaving everything in my apartment, and in about one hour I will transport my baker's dozen worth of boxes to my friendly neighborhood Amtrak station, where they will make connections in D.C. and Chicago before arriving in Seattle on Tuesday at 10:30 in the morning (the guy on the phone was super nice, but a wee bit information-happy).

For anyone who has moved recently, I think you can appreciate that fitting an entire life into 13 medium-sized boxes (plus two suitcases) is an impressive feat. There was the added complication of having to separate items by things I want immediately versus things I don't want until a year from now, but my dad taught me well and I think I did a pretty good job. Special thanks to the folks at Trader Joe's who let me come get boxes - twice - at 2 a.m. I haven't been getting a lot of sleep this past week...

I fly out tomorrow evening and, barring unforseen weather changes in Denver (which are highly likely considering it's Denver) I will arrive in Seattle at 11:30 tomorrow night. My trusty sister Tessa will be waiting at the airport (thanks for bailing on me, Stone! Just kidding) and then life in Seattle starts immediately. I'm looking at apartments Sunday afternoon, taking a family Christmas card picture Sunday evening, and going right back to work on Monday.

There are a lot of things I will miss about Philadelphia. My great friends and co-workers pop to mind first, of course, but this place has a lot going for it; namely, food. I'll miss Italian restaurants, BYOs, incredible sandwiches, soft pretzels with mustard (for breakfast - no joke), cannoli, pizza, hot wings, and bagels. (Clearly I've been sticking to a strict carbohydrate diet.) I'll miss the museums, the murals, the shops on South Street, H&M, people with New Jersey accents, and believe it or not, the subway. I'll miss walking or riding a bike everywhere, my sweet apartment, and the proximity to New York.

Of course, there are things I won't miss. I've been hit by a car three times in the past week, so I definitely won't miss being a second-class pedestrian. I won't miss the 20 lbs I'm hoping to lose by eating like a west-coaster, and I won't miss having to explain that it doesn't actually rain that much in Seattle.

The good news is, I still have a great network of people here and I look forward to visiting next spring, and many times after that. I will go out tonight and have a great time with my friends, but by tomorrow morning I'll be anxious to start my stay in Seattle.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I can't believe it has been an entire year since I hosted my very own first Thanksgiving. As much fun as that was, this year I will be celebrating with my awesome boss and 25 of his delightful friends and family members. Although I'm sad to miss Thanksgiving with my own family, I'm thrilled to be home in a mere 2.5 weeks.

Today brought more news from Teaching Chile. Namely, specifics on what we have to do to prepare for the trip. This involves a very tedious visa process which requires that I submit a variety of random documents, including:
*A medical release form stating I am free of any communicable diseases including HIV
*A police clearance form proving I am not a criminal
*Bank and tax statements showing I am financially solvent. And, since I'm not, this will likely take the form of a notorized statement my parents will have to sign saying they will bail me out of jail. (They also had to do this when I went to Spain, and I remember my mom saying "I'll bail you out of jail once, but only once.")
*About a dozen other items and documents, including some unspecified amount of money.

I then have to appear in person at the nearest Chilean consulate, which luckily for me is in San Fransisco. Nothing like a mandatory trip to one of my favorite cities where several good friends live!

I also found out what my exact dates will be, February 29 to December 19, which is a Friday. I'm hoping I can convince my friends and family to throw their Christmas parties THAT weekend instead of the weekend before, but I realize it's cutting it pretty tight. I may also be able to leave a few days before that, so I'll try to get an open-ended ticket. Chilean Christmas presents next year for everyone!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Earthquakes in Chile

So, a lot of people contacted me about the recent earthquakes in northern Chile. Thank you for your advanced concern that I am headed to a country whose entirety lies on a fault line. I pointed out to my mom that Seattle is overdue for a serious earthquake, Philadelphia technically lies near a fault, and I lived in L.A. Basically I don't feel at home unless there is the very real possibility that I will be knocked to the floor at 3 am by my building shaking and car alarms going off. So far the biggest earthquake I've endured was less than 5.0, so perhaps I am good luck (although the one earthquake I experienced while going to school in L.A. was actually while I was home in Seattle for Spring break, so go figure).

On a more serious note, what happened in northern Chile is quite sad, although it could have been much worse. The country is somewhat used to these disasters by now and a lot of the buildings are built to withstand the shakes. This is especially true in areas that have experienced destruction from a quake before. I will not be living so far north (I'm pretty much smack in the middle) but that doesn't put me at any less risk.

If you've been living under a rock, here's a link to an article about the events:


There were two aftershocks on Thursday, although I question calling 6.2 and 6.8 quakes "aftershocks" - those seem like they should count on their own. So far two people have died, which is of course terrible because the hope is always that there will be no casualties, but at the same time pretty amazing considering there were four quakes measuring over 6.0 in some of the poorest areas of the country.

All in all I'm not any more concerned about my trip. If anything it has renewed my respect for nature. Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that we can't control everything.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Life Unknown

Hello friends and family,

This Web trend could only go on for so long before I cast my own hat into the blogosphere ring. I started this blog over a year ago with the title La Vida Desconocida - the life unknown - but never got around to writing anything. That's (hopefully!) about to change as I gear up for and go on my next great adventure: a 10-month teaching job in Viña del Mar, Chile.

As most of you know, I studied in Sevilla, Spain for four months in 2003. Ever since then I have been itching to live in a Spanish-speaking country. However, since graduating college in 2004 I have had an amazing job working for Apex Learning (www.apexlearning.com) and it's been impossible to tear myself away to do anything else. The timing for this program seemed right to take a sabbatical and, with any luck, there will be a job at Apex waiting for me when I return in December of 2008.

I've used these past few years to focus on a passion I never thought I'd be interested in: education. Developing and managing content for Apex has helped me understand the internal workings of curricula design and implementation, while working as a volunteer ELL teacher (English language learners - ESL is no longer PC) has taught me how to be a patient (me? patient? get out of here) and effective educator. I'm thrilled and terrified at the prospect of applying what I know in a foreign setting.

Working with an organization called Teaching Chile, I've been placed as an English teacher in a university system called duocUC, which has campuses throughout Chile. I'm honestly not totally sure what it stands for, but I know it's associated with Chile's Universidad Católica. It's like really fancy community college which offers 2-year programs, mostly technical but also encompassing areas like ecotourism. This goes to show that you CAN be a university-level teacher with a mere Bachelor of Arts; you just have to leave the country and agree to do it for 300,000 pesos a month, which believe it or not is a full-time salary of a whopping $600. Picture me rolling... This is the campus where I will be teaching: http://www.duoc.cl/sedes/vina.htm

Did I mention that Viña del Mar is on the beach? Check it out:

I've never lived so close to the ocean and yes, I am ecstatic, even though my aunt Sandy once warned that crackers don't stay crispy at the beach. Viña is Chile's premier tourist destination, with Valparaíso (literally "go to paradise") a mere 15 minutes south, and Santiago about 1.5 hours southeast.

I still have several months left in the U.S. Right now I am in Philadelphia for another 4 weeks. I bought my ticket back to Seattle today, so for those of you interested, I arrive Saturday, December 8 at 11:33 pm. However, I am connecting through Denver, so I hope to be home by Christmas. Special thanks to Jacob Stone for being on call to pick me up from the airport (and for being one of my few friends to own a car - you're all a bunch of hippies). Cross your fingers that Amtrak is, in fact, the best way to transport the few possessions I haven't yet gotten rid of during my myriad cross-country moves.

Once in Seattle I'm still not 100% sure where I'll be living, but I suspect my parents and siblings will get their fair share of me. Shout outs to Anne and Tessa for living in strategic locations in the city, and to my Mom who will no doubt sacrifice the use of her car for me on occasion.

I have been told by the director of the program in Chile that I need to arrive on February 29 (proving that yes, this is a leap year), so I'll have three months in Seattle to pay off credit cards (I'm so close), stress over the status of my Chilean visa, save up cash, start and complete a strenous work project, and party with my peeps. Yes, I just said peeps. I'll also blog during that time which will hopefully keep you interested until I actually get out of the country. Then the really juicy stuff should start rolling in. I hear the Chileans have a tricky accent so I'm looking forward to putting my rusty Spanish w/ faux Spanish accent to work on some comedy of errors-type conversations.

This is probably more than enough for now. I'll update with details as I find them out, and other events I deem worthy, like the December 2 Seahawks vs. Eagles game in Philadelphia I'll be attending. Go Birds! (See what I did there?)

Until next time...