Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015

adventures in teaching abroad: overnight camping at little ding dong

I have been teaching middle school since I was 21 years old. That's kind of scary to think about. It makes me feel old. When I walked into my first classroom as the teacher, I was petrified. I was convinced the kids would eat me alive, but they didn't, and I fell in love with my profession.

I am now 28, almost 29. In all those years, I have taught more than 500 kiddos, but to me, they are so much more than students. They are these wonderful human beings I get to spend my time with. They humble me, amuse me, and inspire me even though they sometimes also give me splitting headaches.

Sometimes, I do things for them that I would do for no one else like take an overnight camping trip to a place called Little Ding Dong. The best way I can describe this camp experience is like an American summer camp. The kids got to do fun activities: rock climbing, skiing & sledding (it's a looooong story), walking a tight rope, and using paintball guns. They had to sleep in tents they set up themselves. They had to make their own food. They got to put on performances around a bonfire. They got to use glow sticks and jump around and be really loud and obnoxious.
Basically, they just got to have a lot of fun on a Monday and Tuesday instead of spending their time indoors at school. That's not to say that my class isn't really fun; I mean, come on, we just did literary speed dating, although, we never play around with fire or glow sticks. 

Anyway, like I said, I do things for them I would do for no one else like dance on a barrel to Gangnam Style while they all watch and follow along despite the fact that I may be the only person on the planet who does not actually know the dance to this bizarre song. 

And not run fleeing from a warehouse that has a bonfire exploding fireworks out of it only 15 feet away from me. 

Or eat food that they cooked (even after a few catastrophes: lighting oil on fire and dropping critical ingredients on the ground). 

Yes, these are the things I do for them, but they are worth it, and even though I hope I never have to, I would do all these things for them again. If you knew them, I am sure you would too!
To say they had a good time would be a vast understatement! 

Friday, April 17, 2015

mount john summit

I am literally having trouble finding the words to describe this place/day/hike/moment/feeling.

This was possibly one of my favorites days, ever.
Like in the history of my whole entire life.

I guess I should first introduce everyone.
Everyone, this is the summit of Mount John.
That down below?
That's Lake Tepako, or Lake T as we took to calling it because we could just not figure out how to pronounce it correctly. 
Over yonder in the distance?
Those are the Southern Alps.

Okay, now that everyone is acquainted... I still don't know what to say.
Phew, I am glad we got that out of the way.

I have been postponing writing this post and looking at these photos because I knew that no matter what I did, I could never do this place/day/hike/moment/feeling justice, so I guess instead of trying, I'll just tell you all about this place/day/hike/moment/feeling instead and see what happens.

Mount John kicked my booty, and I have been working my booty hard this last year running, running, running.

The endeavor to get to the top of this mountain was a challenge
I huffed. 
I puffed. 

I took more than one extended breather photo opportunity stop, but I liked that.

No, I loved it.

I have been working so hard to get healthier and fitter, and I liked that I could do something that I am not sure I could have done one year ago. I liked that my legs burned as we steadily climbed up, but I liked even more that I knew I could make it to the top. I liked knowing that I possessed the resilience and strength and will to make it to the top of anything. 

This mountain made me proud of myself and everything I have worked so hard for this past year, and that felt... well, the word good does not come close to capturing it. 

I liked even better that the moment of victory, when Lake T spread out before us, was totally worth the sweat and burn, and I am not gonna lie; when we finally crested the last hill and this was the view, my inner dork emerged and the only thing I could hear over the wind was the Lord of the Rings soundtrack.

And then I fell in love with this place/day/hike/moment/feeling even harder.

But it was even more than that.

My dad is no longer of this world but for this place/day/hike/moment/feeling he absolutely was.

He was everywhere.
And in some ways, this was for him.
This place/day/hike/moment/feeling.
I know he would have been awed by this.
I knew it would have moved him, just like it moved me.
And because of that, I was him and he was me.
And unless you've lost someone who was a part of you, you just will not know what I am talking about, but these moments matter so much.


Do you see what I mean?

Word vomit is the best I can give you for this place/day/hike/moment/feeling.

For some people, Mount John and Lake T and the Southern Alps might just be another pretty place and another pretty hike. I am not most people. 

So, there.

That was the best I could do. 

Check out the Sunday Traveler and Travel Tuesday for more travel stories!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

christchurch botanical garden

I have a thing for botanical gardens. I love the one in Taipei and the one in London certainly left an impression-- or, maybe it was the swarming birds that left an impression?

Regardless, the botanical garden in Christchurch was like a wonderland.

At one point, we all ended up sprawled out on the grass just because it was there and we could. I mean, Taiwan doesn't really do lush, soft patches of grass (without the threat of snakes or other creepy crawlies, anyway). Plus, we live in an urban jungle. Our opportunities to sprawl out on any grass or anywhere clean & natural are quite limited, so you had better believe we spent a good portion of our time in the garden just relishing in the feeling of grass squished in between our toes and looking up at the blue, clear sky without any trace of pollution.

I don't know about everyone else, but this was when it really sank in that I flew across the world and hey-- I really was in New Zealand! 

We took the adorable tram to the garden and spent a few hours walking around, listening to live music and soaking up the fresh air and sun rays and admiring the shocking blueness of the blue sky.

Walking into the garden was a surreal experience.

We had wandered around Christchurch before hitting up the garden-- we saw destruction and devastation everywhere countered by resilience and the beauty of the human spirit, but then we walked into the entrance of the garden and suddenly everything was pristine and beautiful and whole.

Christchurch Botanical Garden is an oasis in the middle of the recovering city.
What is your favorite city garden??