Welcome Friends! I hope you enjoy tasting these teaching and travel tidbits.
Come along with me as I attempt to navigate my way through a new country, school system, and life for a year!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Brighton Beach Bum

Ferris Wheel on Brighton Beach

Brighton Pier
The only donut I could get close to
in Brighton; they only sell them in
bags of  4, 8, or 12, and I was alone,
soI went without.

Today was a Bank Holiday in England.  I've read lots of books where the characters head to Brighton for their holiday, so I decided to do the same.  Brighton Beach is somewhat like the Santa Cruz Boardwalk; a big Ferris Wheel,  carnival rides, snack shacks, and souvenir shops.  The menu at the seafood shacks was a little different--jellied eel anyone?

Punch and Judy on a Break

Those of you who know me know that there is nothing I like better than a sing-a-long.  I have been known to join complete strangers singing on the beach in the US and in Canada, and now I can add the UK to the list.  There was a group of Filipino Christians from a church in London singing on the beach, so I sat nearby and sang along.  Then one of them beckoned me over to join them and I stayed and sang for at least an hour.   It was so fun!  They were so very nice and we all had a great time singing and dancing and playing kind of a "you do what I do" game (game words were in Tagalog, but it was a motion game, so I could figure it out;  the rest of the singing was in English, mostly songs I knew).  They offered me spring rolls and adobo chicken and friendship.   I'm waiting to see if I get a friend request on Facebook from one woman who wrote my name in her book and said she would contact me.

Group Sing-along, so Much Fun!

After singing on the beach, I headed into the town where I took a tour of St. Paul's church and wandered "The Lanes".  I saw a photo of the Royal Pavilion on a post card, so I went off to find it.  It was built beginning in 1787 as the seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV. It was really ornate and had beautiful gardens surrounding it.  I ended my trip with a visit to the Brighton Marina, then took the train back home.  Another fun day! Tomorrow I will be heading to school to work on setting up the classroom and prepare for school to begin next week.  It's been great to have this time to explore my surrounding area before facing the challenges of teaching in a new country!
In Saint Pauls Church

"The Lanes" is a cute shopping district with lots
of jewelry.  I only bought a shirt at a charity shop.

The Royal Pavilion of King George IV

Sunday, August 26, 2012

London Calling!

Since my arrival in England, I've been fortunate to have had 3 chances to explore London, each time with a different lovely lady.  Ananda Dinnis (who did her Fulbright year 2 years ago and has returned here to live with her true love,) Jeanie Nowlin (a friend and former co-worker from home who was passing through London on her return trip from Kenya) and Stephanie Keagle (currently starting off on her Fulbright year) each were wonderful at helping me explore this fascinating city.

Everyone has to have this photo!

Ananda and me touring London

Ananda and Jeanie gave me fabulous overview tours of the city, including Covent Gardens 
(where I had an Eliza Doolittle moment,) Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, 
Piccadilly Circus,  Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Kensington Palace, 
the National Art Gallery, and some of the best pubs in town. 

Stephanie invited me to go to the Notting Hill Carnival, the largest street festival in Europe, which originated in 1964 as a way for Afro-Caribbean communities to celebrate their culture and traditions. Evidently, those traditions include dressing in fantastic parade costumes, eating delicious Caribbean food, and smearing yourself with chocolate pudding while dancing in the street.
Preparing to Parade
Stephanie and me eating Caribbean
street food 

With a Friendly Bobby

Pudding Dancers

Dancing with mops and dusters;
good plan after the pudding dancers!

Each of my 3 London visits were unique and so much fun!  They've left me with plenty of ideas for many future trips to this city that has so much to offer.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Canterbury Tales

Me on my pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral
Cool Gargoyle

This morning, after going to the beautiful church in Leigh for their 8 a.m. service, I went home and tried really hard to make heads or tails of the curriculum I'll soon be teaching.  It is really, really, involved!!   After working on it for a few hours I decided to reward myself by taking a little trip.  I got out my train schedule and saw that Canterbury wasn't too hard to get to, so I hopped aboard and now I write to you from the Canterbury hostel.  I really enjoyed touring their amazing Cathedral!  It has everything, royalty, mystery, intrigue, and murder all in an incredible building!  The town is also really nice, lots of cute little shops and cafes.  After a long walk to the hostel (I was led to believe it was much closer!) I made my pilgrimage back to Canterbury Cathedral for the 6:30 compline service, which was really nice.  I had a little dinner at a sidewalk cafe and made the trek back to the hostel in the dark. I'm not sure how to add photos on the hostel computer, but I'll try to add some when I get  back to Leigh.  Tomorrow morning I think I'll take the boat tour of Canterbury, which looks pretty fun.  Then I'll have to decide, do I go home and get more work done, or should I keep traveling while I have the chance?  What do you think?
One of the many beautiful stained glass windows
Spot where Thomas Becket was murdered
Traveling down the river in Canterbury

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Home in Leigh Village

Views from cupola above my room
It's my 4th day here in the UK and I'm beginning to know my way around a bit.  I'm very happy with my home at Waterworks House.  I went up in the cupola this morning a snapped a few photos of the views.  As I've wandered around the village I've met some very nice people, especially at the Fleur de Lis.  Now when I walk by there people sitting at the tables out front call me over for a chat.  Today they were looking on the internet to see what song was #1 in the UK on the day you were born.  Mine was "Diana" by Paul Anka, although they all seemed to think I was premature and it should have been the following hit, "Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis.  They've agreed that when they see me on the street they'll start singing "Great Balls of Fire" to me and I have to sing their songs which range from "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?" to "Livin' La Vida Loca".  Since I've pretty much got Leigh figured out, (there really isn't that much to figure out--the pub, the tiny grocery store, the church, the Village Green, and the train station pretty much cover it) I've expanded my horizons by taking the train to Tunbridge Wells.  It's a bigger town with lots of cute shops especially in an area called The Pantiles.  I had been warned by several people that it's impossible to find Mexican food in the UK, but I had Chicken Cilantros at a place called Zapatas, which was quite good.

Garden Path at my new Home

My room is under the cupola on the left

The Fleur de Lis

 Today was my first day working at school.  Louise, who taught Year 1 last year, picked me up and drove me to Stocks Green (which I though had been named for a stockyard or something, but actually it's on the green where the "stocks", those things criminals had to put their heads and hands through, were located in the "days of yore").  She spent hours going over the lesson plans for the autumn term.  Oh my goodness!!!!!  They are so, so, so complicated!!!  My head was absolutely spinning!  Every hour is planned in great detail and evaluated, and the plans are turned in to the head teacher.  I've never in my career turned in my lesson plans!  My yearly planbook at home is about 1/10 as thick as the planbook for autumn term here (and that is only one of 6 terms for the year).  I'm a little nervous about how I'm going to pull this off.  The curriculum is much more like our first grade than our kindergarten at home, however the students are kindergarten age.  They've all been to Reception Class at age 4, so I've been assured they can handle it.  I'm just not so sure about me.  All the staff is really great and supportive, so I'm sure they will help me muddle through.  One of my teacher's aides, (I have 2, one that comes on Monday-Wednesday and the other on Thursday and Friday mornings) helped my put background paper on the 5 display boards in my classroom, as after the morning I really couldn't do anything that took much brain power.  The display boards are all meant to be interactive and changed about every 6 weeks.  I'm sure going to learn a lot this year!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I'm in England!

After all the work and planning for it, it’s hard to believe I’m actually in my new home in England!  It feels surreal, like stepping into a book that you’ve read, as so many things are familiar from all the research I’ve done and photos I’ve seen.  Everything is going great! The house I live in is glorious and the neighborhood is spectacular. My room is at the top of a three story octagon-shaped tower from which you can climb a winding staircase to a viewing cupola with 360 degree views of the beautiful English countryside.  It takes less than one minute to walk to the Fleur de Lis pub where I had fish and chips and mushy peas for dinner and met a number of the locals. My landlady and I are already starting to bond, as we have quite a bit in common. She took me to the supermarket where I bought some food and a hairdryer, so I feel ready for anything!  My new car, a 2004 Mercedes-Benz hatchback, sits in the driveway ready for me to learn to drive on the left-hand side of the road. I did have a few bumps getting here, including a real stickler at the Sacramento airport who made me repack and repack my bags (he was just sure I would have to pay to bring my bookbag which I didn't want to do) so one moment he would say one bag had to be eliminated and I would move things to another bag which then would be a pound or 2 overweight so he would make me take things out which went on for some time, but eventually I made him happy. (I think it ended up that things were right back where I had them when I came, as I weighed my bags on the nurse’s scale at school and knew they weren't overweight, and the United Airlines website said you could bring a "reasonable amount of reading material and an overcoat" which would not count as carry-on luggage). Then there was the drama of almost missing my flight from San Francisco to London. The flight from Sacramento was delayed and didn't get to San Francisco until after boarding time. I had to take a shuttle and then a bus to the international terminal so I was about 45 minutes late and was sure I would miss my flight, but fortunately, the London flight was delayed as well. They had already called my boarding group but I got on with the final group, again having to do some repacking at the gate, which was really stressful and also I had lost my boarding card as I ran through the airport, but they printed me a new one at the gate as the plane was about to leave. Once on the plane, it was great, as Fulbright booked me a business first class ticket.  It was amazing!! You could actually lay your seat down flat like a bed, so I got some good sleep on the plane. My head teacher, who is also new to my school and is really nice, was right there to pick me up and drive me around the area a little.  My landlady was gone to Brighton with her daughter but she had a worker doing some construction in her garage who let me in and showed me around. He's really sweet and I guess he does a lot of work around here, including tending the beautiful garden. Such a garden!! It has lovely winding paths and little benches here and there that I plan to sit on and read if I ever have time. (I will take photos soon.) All the homes in this neighborhood are beautiful brick homes with lots of character.  I walked to the train station from which I can get to London.  It’s only .3 miles from the house!  I'm told there is also a bus station at the Fleur de Lis, which, as I said, is one minute's walk, so transportation will be really simple. Tomorrow I'll go to school then try to get a few more things done, but things are off to a BRILLIANT start!
Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas at the Fleur de Lis

Friday, August 10, 2012

Husband, History, and Holding Anna

Carl and me at Jefferson's Rock overlooking Harper's Ferry

My first ever blog post was when I realized that Carl and I would not be together in our home in California again for 14 months, but we did have one last American meet-up when he drove from Wisconsin to Washington D.C. so we could do a little time traveling together. Our first stop was 1859 for John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. So much history in one little town! We continued to move back in time as we headed to Colonial Williamsburg. Give me a costumed docent and a cobblestone street and I'm a happy girl! It was fascinating to join the wig makers, spinners, blacksmiths, pub-goers and political leaders of the day as they went about their lives during the time of the American Revolution. Next we fast-forward to Europe in the 1940's as our friend, Mollie Herlocker, gave us a private tour of the Holocaust Memorial Museum. It's a very moving memorial to those who were lost and those whose lives were forever changed as well as a great reminder to me as I head off on my teaching exchange of the importance of the goal of the Fulbright Exchange program, to increase awareness of and respect for, diverse ideas, values, world views and ways of life. Carl and I returned to present day Washington D.C. for more sight seeing and a night out at the Kennedy Center where we saw the play "Sheer Madness", a hilarious audience-participation murder mystery.

With my spinning instructor
We were the only two people who came out to
see this cannon being fired in the rainy weather.
In the Blacksmith Shop


After some All-American BBQ, Carl dropped me off at the airport to return to California with Emma to help her settle in and to have a chance to see my boys, Levi and Eli, and hold my sweet granddaughter, Anna. I sure am going to miss my family this year!

Holding precious Anna Joy

Friday, August 3, 2012

Next Steps

Fulbrighters at the Capital Building

This week all the American Fulbrighters and their international exchange partners met in Washington D.C. for an orientation before heading off to our host schools.  It was great to see the teachers I had met in May and to finally meet those I had only known as tiny photos on Facebook until now.  Of course it was most exciting to meet my exchange partner, Emma Davies!  She is just as lovely in person as she has been over email and Skype these past months.  Our group was offered the opportunity to tour the capital city one afternoon, which was really fun and educational, despite occasional downpours.  Throughout the week, Fulbright alumni shared their wisdom with us  as well as  the team at IIE (International Institute of Education) and our sponsors from the British Council. One of the highlights of the week was the "Cultural Fair" last night on the 14th floor of our hotel (with amazing views of DC and Georgetown) where all the country groups shared information and displays of their home culture.  Lots of fun times, including a British Pub Quiz, an American Pageant, and lively singing and dancing led by the delegations from India, Mexico, Ireland and Scotland.  Many of the teachers head to the airport today, however I'm taking this opportunity to meet up with my husband, Carl, tonight (whom I haven't seen since June 9th) to spend time together in D.C., Harper's Ferry and Williamsburg for a few days.  Then Emma and I will fly together to Sacramento so I can help get her settled into the classroom at Sierra Hills and have a bit of time with my California friends and family, including my darling baby granddaughter, Anna Joy.  I'm one step closer to my UK adventure! 
With my exchange partner, Emma Davies