Life Aquatastic

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Living by the ocean is the best.  The intoxicating uncertainty of her moods thrills me.  Will she be blue and calm, turquoise and flirty or gray, rough and full of fantastic anger?

Being near the ocean is an absolute treat.  It centers, grounds me, puts things in perspective.  It is my loyal friend to visit – well, my loyal friend with multiple personality disorder.

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Cape Town Unrequited Love

4I’ve met the best city in the world.  She’s beautiful; she’s cultural; she’s fun and interesting and she makes me happy.  She’s the city of my dreams.  And, wait, I’ve known her before.

Cape Town, the Mother City, is my one who got away.

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And That’s Why I Blog for America

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Back in my Teach for America days I was fat with self-righteousness, certain that my life was one With Meaning because TFA told me so.  I was the chosen elite; smart enough, brave enough, good enough to save America’s education system!

Now, I don’t really mean to diss TFA.  It’s a great organization.  It means well and it gets results.  But it’s even better at marketing than education.  It convinces 22-year-olds, otherwise set to become Contiki tour guides, that they have a greater purpose.  I’m thankful for their influence.

But now that the un-glamorous glamor of working in America’s worst performing school district has long past, and I am a sell-out, rich-kid teacher at a private international school, I am more cynical.

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A Diverse Reminder

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Southeast Asia continues to splatter Awesome and Weird onto its diverse, fantastic canvas.

Recently in Chiang Mai, Thailand JD and I marveled at ancient temples whilst sidestepping lady boy lookers.  We ate delicious pad Thai with a dessert of tarantula from a street stall next to McDonald’s.  We went whitewater kayaking through proper rapids, and quickly paddled out of the way of elephants bathing in the river.  They waved goodbye to us with their trunks when we moved on.  In the wake of the beloved king’s death, there was no alcohol served, except sangria and margaritas at Mexican restaurants.  In Bangkok, the millions of mourners who flooded in from across the country were met with stands of free food, free drinks and free tea to anyone who wanted it in the spirit of the king’s generosity.  As we learned, we were also welcome to partake.  We bypassed the magnificent paintings of aspiring Thai artists and, instead, bought beetle wing earrings as souvenirs.  We tuk-tuked through alleyways of the Sweet, the Strange and the Sublime.

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How the East Was Won

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Or rather how the East won me over – East as in Eastern Europe.  After spending most of my American life pining to be exotically French or Italian or even British and being obsessed with all things Western European,  I have come to admire Europe’s other half.  My trip with my mom to Hungary, Czech Republic, Croatia and Italy (just couldn’t resist!) transformed Eastern Europe from intriguing to enchanting.

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This is Croatia

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And it’s wonderful.

The Glitz, Glam and Grit of Budapest

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Budapest startled me.  The fine beauty I associated with Western Europe interlaced with the darkness of far and recent past so perfectly that I was sure I was in a storybook.  Here the opulent Parliament building sits just in front of walls still suffering from Soviet bullet wounds.  The Jewish Quarter hosts one of the world’s largest – and most beautiful – synagogues in between lots that have been abandoned since most of the Jews there were deported in the last months of World War II. From the Danube River you gaze at a fairytale castle just next to the statue made to commemorate that the people wanted no more war.  Budapest quickly became one of my favorite places.

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What Comes Next?

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Arriving in a developing country like Vietnam can be difficult.  It’s messy, loud; jazz with no rhythm and a coked up bass player.  Street food vendors have rats a-waiting in the wings.  Three-story houses that you could only afford here are subject to weekly power cuts and water shortages that reduce them to stifling cinder block cells.  Local friendliness is more intrusive than calming.

But four years on those nuisances fade to background noise.  What emerges in their absence is the fun of being here.  Even if initial intrigue and cultural fascination wane, homey comforts arrive in a place you never thought you could call home.

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Combating the Dumb Head

2I’m sure I’m getting dumber.  I’ve begun to take for granted that I will always know all things I once learned.  Suddenly I realize I’m not so good at math.  I forget the capital of Vermont.  Even my vocabulary, the party trick of any English teacher, grows dimmer by the year.  Surely working with young children is to blame.  As I aid their developing brains I drain my own?

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