Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The State of Things

 You'll find no solutions within this post, only reflections.  I thought it would be good as well as interesting for my students to do a journal entry on a current event and so off we went to the computer lab. The assignment was to find 2 current events on any of the websites that I provided and then respond to them in their journals. Why did you find this interesting/ what caught your attention, how did it make you feel when you read it, what does it say about the state of our world, and how was it relevant to you were the questions I asked them to respond to.   I told them as writers and as human beings it was imperative that they be aware of the world around them. That we as a race of people are connected and our writing is influenced by that.
As the period waned towards lunch time I had a vague feeling it wasn't going as well as I had hoped. Audible grumbling could be heard about how they didn't care about any of the things they were finding, but I was reluctant to intervene, I didn't want to pick the articles for them. With a few minutes left we met back together in the classroom and I asked them to share a little of what they had found. The first girl to raise her hand was one of the brightest students in my class. She also has the worst attitude, and is not always eager to share, but when she does it is usually very insightful. So of course I eagerly called on her and awaited her inspired response. "China is going to the moon."......... Ah, ok. How do you feel about that? "Good." Wonderful. I would tell you the rest of the exchange but it only goes down hill from there. Needless to say I don't think she got exactly what I was going for.  Not a problem, surely someone else will have something along the lines of what im looking for. Wrong again. Ill suffice it to say that the highlight of the next few articles was a Brazilian clown getting elected to congress, or something.   I was ready to just let them go to lunch 5 minutes early when finally someone raised their hand and talked about a bombing in pakistan and the children that were killed. 
During the in-suing discussion my students came to a general consensus that we as a society are desensitized to violence and as a result it doesn't effect us. Ok I said, that makes sense, but does that make it any less horrible. I knew the answer I expected to hear, but surprisingly that wasn't the response that came out.  Yes, they said, it does.  As long as it doesn't happen to us or someone we know, we don't care about it. It doesn't effect us so why should we be concerned with it? I can honestly say that caught me off guard, not to mention it was past time to go, so all I managed to muster was, "Really? That's interesting." 
Of course after they left, countless responses sprang to mind, all of which I wanted to beat them over the head with. But as I sat and reflected I realized more and more that we are all like that to an extent.  The parade of bad news that flashes across our screens every day at the most, makes us pause and reflect, before we move on and immediately forget.  Are these kids so different from the rest of us, these children who dismiss injustice and violence so easily.  Or, are they a scaled down version of each one of us. A version without the knowledge and foresight to know the politically correct way to respond to other people's bad news. The version we don't like to admit exists. Like I said, I don't have the answer, but it's definitely something to think about.  

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

East Germany

As much as I would like you to believe that I am currently residing in a tropical paradise, it's not always the case.  Now it is true that the running joke here is that there is no need for a weather update, the forecast is always a High of 87, a low of 78 with a 50% chance of rain. Everyday.  So that part isn't so bad.  It's the things they don't tell you before you come, like the fact that there is no escape from the bugs. And I'm talking big ones, like starship trooper style.

Another thing about this place is that it is Anti-America in disguise.  What I mean by that is that in a lot of ways Samoa looks and smells like the U.S. I know and love but not so deep down it's everything America stands against.  For example, I was eating at Mcdonalds on saturday for breakfast so I could watch a little college football. First, I order a mcgriddle and not so shockingly the lady tells me they are out of those. Ok thats fine, sausage biscuit it is. When it arrives it has cheese on it which of course I didn't want or order.  So when I take it back and inform her of the mistake she proceeds to look at me like i'm an idiot and tell me that a Sausage Biscuit comes with cheese on it, as if it were my fault for ordering it.  I kindly say no it does not and, just to make she sure understands, I point to the picture on the board of a sausage biscuit which oddly enough, is devoid of cheese.  I guess it's difficult to argue with a picture so she reluctantly gave me a new sandwich.   Well after sitting for a while I notice that it's time for a refill.  I head to the counter cup in one hand, lid in the other, you know the universal sign that I need you to fill my drink up.  Well the the lady looks at me like "can i help you?" Yes, duh, I need a refill. Oh what's that you say? I have to pay full price for a refill? I asked her a couple times if she was being serious and unfortunately for me and the rest of Samoa, she was.  The thing that really bothers me about this though is that I have eaten at this mcdonalds before and not had to pay for a refill. That's the problem. You NEVER know what you're going to get here.  It's like they just make up the rules as they go, and then decide to change them whenever they feel like it. Ehhh were running low on ice today, oh i know let's make refills full price. Would this ever happen in America? (Oh yeah, I've taken to calling home America, thus implying that this place does not count as being american, because it doesn't) You know, there are definitely positive aspects of being the anti-america, but we'll get to those in a later post.  For now, just know how good you have it Americans, cause on this island the most american of american institutions is communist in disguise.  This must be what the red scare felt like.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ok so the video of the virtual tour is on facebook, that's the only place I could get it to load. So Mom and Dad get Laura or Joe to pull it up for you.  In the meantime, here is a couple pics of me and Lynn on my birthday. He, Bill, David Willis and I had an engaging 2 1/2 hour dinner at the good ol Koko Bean, where the they make up for the incredibly slow service with really good food. If you notice, I'm rockin the Lebron James beard, so I've got that going for me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

So Im sitting here in class again as my students read and write away and the rain is falling gently outside the window. There is no air conditioning in my class and so the fans are always on and the windows always open and for right now it feels really nice. It will probably rain for a couple hours at most this morning, just enough to cool it off and then the sun will come out and the humidity will rise and things will be back to normal. This place is crazy like that, the mountains seem to trap the clouds and it will start pouring, almost out of nowhere, only to have them dissipate a few minutes later and have the sun shine forth again. This place really does have a special beauty, and the sad part is Im already finding myself getting used to it. I guess that is the same anywhere you live, but it seems especially a shame in a place like this. I find myself having to be reminded how blessed I am to be able to live in an environment such as this and to constantly be pro active in taking in as much as possible.

Anyways, me and Bill made a little video of our humble abode, and I do mean humble. This may not interest anyone other than my parents, and if thats the case well then you don't have to watch it. So without further ado, its Bill on the camera work and me doing the hosting.

Alright bad news. This video does not seem to want to load on here. Im going to keep working on it though, so check back later, it's totally worth it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Alright, here comes my first of hopefully many more posts from American Samoa. It is currently second period of the second day of school and my 3 students are writing away about their goals for the long term, mid term, and short term future. This class is going to easily be the best behaved class I have, but also the toughest to draw out of their shells. It is made up of the advanced math students, which means that while the rest of their classmates are in algebra they are stuck with me for writing and grammar. The class is made up of 2 Korean girls and a Japanese American girl. They are all very bright, but also quiet. Coming up with activities that are going to challenge these girls as well as draw them out is going to be tough but I am up for the challenge!
Its only the 2nd day and already Im tireddddd. How do teachers do this everyday? Joe you have my respect, as if you didn't already. I do love that this is a private school because I play Acappella music for them while they work and there's not a thing anyone can do about it! They seem to like it for the most part I think so thats good, and it's uplifting to me as I can only hope it is for them as well.
P.E. yesterday was easily the best period of the day, for me at least. We are very limited on space here as far as a place to play games and such but I was able to come up with a makeshift wiffle ball field and so we played that. It was a blast. Unfortunately for me, we don't have PE every day but I suppose it will make it that much more of a treat when we do!

I'll write more about my experiences and the people I've met here in a later post but for now here are a couple pics that I managed to take with the camera on my computer. Yes, thats right, I have no camera here on this tropical island I'll be living on for the next year. Sorry!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Here's the Answer, Now what's the Question?

What's next? It's a question that we all wonder from time to time. It's a question that usually brings with it uncertainty and doubt. If you are in a place where this question seems relevant it probably means a chapter in your life is closing and the next one is waiting to be written. If this question were on a test it would be an essay question, not a math equation. What I mean by this is that there is no one way that people answer this question. The answer is not always the same. Depending on who you are and what direction you want to go in life, your answer will differ from that of anyone else's. For some people it's a nerve racking time as the answer to the question will determine the rest of their lives. I mean honestly, who wants to botch that decision? Others grab the bull by the horns so to speak, and relish the opportunity that a new direction in life yields. And the answers go on and on, a different one for every human being on the planet.
As for myself, when I think about the future my stomach seems to clench up and I lose my appetite. Not really but you get the idea. And so I've discovered a solution to handling these times and I want to share it with you. Now you may be saying " But I don't lose my appetite" and to that I say congratulations, this still applies to you. This solution I have is nothing new, in fact it's been around for thousands of years. The incredible part about that is, despite the age of this novel solution we as humans fail to use it more often than not. I am as guilty of that as anyone else I'm sad to say. But tonight, tonight was different. While I was praying tonight, about my future and what was next, I said this, " God, You know my hopes and fears, the desires of my heart. I lift those up to You, and my life is Yours to do with what you will." It's the first time those words had come out of my mouth in a long time, and I'm thankful they did. The peace that filled my heart was almost instantaneous. The things that I had been struggling with no longer seemed so insurmountable. The worldly nothingness I had been clinging to lost its appeal. Yeah, there's no doubt about it. Letting go was the best the thing I've done in a long time, and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Retirement Plan

I've decided to write a book. I was watching Mike and Mike in the morning (thats right, watching a talk radio show on tv) and they were starting their promotion of their new book, rules on life or something like that. It got me thinking, if they can do it why can't I? It seems that writing a book is a great way to insure a quick inflow of cash, and as people will read anything these days I figured I'd give it a shot. I realize of course that this is no easy feat, as I've never written anything longer than 13 pages in my life. This of course is just one of many issues a potential author faces when beginning their masterpiece. However for me I think it will be the toughest. Source material isn't the easiest to come by which I suppose is the reason author's do months and even years of research before writing a book. I don't have that much patience. So I'm going to ask my countless fan base for help with material. Now I'm sure you are curious as to what the title of my upcoming bestseller will be. Well here's what I was thinking; "No One Told Us How Hard Our 20's Would Be." What do you think? This is where I need your help loyal readers. Tell me what it was/is about that decade of your life that took you by surprise, that ended up not going the way you planned. And if you are one of those of those people whose life is exactly where you planned it would be at this age, you're lying. So there it is, no help me out. If you're lucky I'll even include you in the source page at the back of the book.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Look Back

Well I've taken quite the hiatus from blogging the last few months and I feel that it's time I make my comeback. I'd like to say that the reason for my extended absence was that I was incredibly busy doing incredible things, but unfortunately I can't claim that without being called a liar. Laziness and a lack of writing material are more likely to blame. Whatever the reason doesn't matter now because I'm back in business. Well it's a new year and what better way to start the new year blog off but with a review of the year thats been. This holiday season was unlike any other that I have ever experienced in that I didn't get to go home for Christmas. In fact, I barely got to celebrate Christmas at all. Nevertheless the increased alone time gave me plenty of time for reflection, time to contemplate and digest all the things that had happened throughout the roller coaster that was 2009. It never ceases to amaze me how fast a year seems to go and yet at the same time how much can happen.

I started this year in a new apartment by myself with the daunting task of student teaching ahead of me. It was my first time living alone and combined with the subject I was supposed to teach provided for an uncertain and insecure beginning to the year. I was teaching BCIS which is a computer class where students learn how to use Word, Excel, and Access. Seeing as I was far from a Word and Excel expert and had never used Access in my life you can understand why I was so nervous. Thankfully I was blessed with a fantastic Mentor teacher who could not have done more to help me be successful. She allowed me to learn at my own pace and was always in the nearby to help when I was stumped by a problem, which happened more than I care to admit. However, student teaching wasn't the only thing going on during this spring semester, we were also strongly encouraged to pass our certification tests and begin looking for jobs. It quickly became evident that the most prominent business jobs in education were mostly BCIS jobs and I've already mentioned how excited I was about that subject. Needless to say it was a stressful semester which was evidenced by the case of shingles that I contracted during that time. Meanwhile on the relationship front, while I was becoming more and more dependent upon G our relationship was being tried by various brain lapses on my part and uncertainty on hers.

When the semester finally came to an end I found myself still jobless and not quite sure where exactly I wanted to go. I was offered the youth intern job at Mid County and I must say I was very tempted to take it, but my dad in his wisdom talked me into staying in Abilene so as to be in a better position to find a job. It was an interesting summer as I felt alone at a crossroads. G was working in town as the medic at ACU camps but her job kept her very busy, not to mention our relationship at this point was very strained. I spent the summer staying up late, sleeping in late, bumming internet off my neighbors and applying for jobs online. I got a couple of interviews towards the end of the summer and they both went pretty well, but in the end I was beat out by candidates with more experience. It was disappointing and a shot to my confidence, but to be honest I wasn't sure that I was too upset about not getting those jobs. One was in San Antonio (where I know no one) and the other was in Round Rock (where I know a few people) and I wasn't sure I was ready to leave Abilene. See while G and I struggled through the summer I realized more and more how much I cared for her and the things I needed to change became clear to me. But, as happens so often in life, it was too late. She had already checked out of the relationship and the end of the summer found me jobless and girlfriendless in Abilene. Not exactly what I had envisioned when this year started.

So I started the Fall with the genius plan of substitute teaching and reffing as my sole sources of income. I believe this plan would have unraveled quickly, but thankfully God was watching out for me. I ran into a friend from club in Subway one afternoon and he told me about a job opening at the place where he worked, New Horizons. It was a night shift job but it involved working with kids so I figured I'd give it a shot. When I went in for an interview I was able to eat lunch with the entire staff and right away I felt right at home. I knew there was one other guy going for the job but I felt good about how the interview had gone and so I was confident. When the guy called offering me the job it was like a weight off of my shoulders. I finally felt secure for the first time in a while. It was like I was becoming responsible for myself, and it felt right. So I began my new life as a vampire. Not really but thats what it felt like. It was nice to have a consistent source of income and feel somewhat like an adult. I spent a lot of time in the Fall and beginning of winter hangin out with one friend in particular. We would spend hours sitting on the porch in the wee hours of the morning discussing life and wondering how it is we got here? I don't know what I would have done without those nights, but I know I'm thankful for them. As the year drew closer to its closing the holidays arrived and I was able to go home for Thanksgiving. My entire family was there this year and it was nice. It felt so good to be home, to be surrounded by family. It even felt good to walk the old familiar streets and breathe in the nostalgia. December however was a different story. As school ended for the semester the mass exodus of Abilene began. The town emptied out and with it went my friends and social outlets. So for three weeks all I had to look forward to was work. I didn't even get to go home for Christmas. In fact I worked on Christmas Eve. This however turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Since I worked Christmas Eve I got to be there on Christmas morning when the kids opened their presents. Seeing the looks of joy and happiness on their faces was a present in itself. These kids don't have a lot, but when it comes to Christmas presents they don't want for much. Thanks to generous donations from various churches and staff members, I was almost jealous of their Christmas take. Just joking, but it was good to see them so well taken care of for once in their lives. Later that day I was able to drive to Dallas and spend Christmas night with my family which was great, even though it meant not sleeping for about 30 hours straight. So anyways, there you have it. My year in a nutshell, or several nutshells. If you've stuck it out through this entire narrative, I commend you for your perseverance, and I promise this New Year will contain more frequent posts from yours truly.