Friday, September 12, 2014

when a student becomes a teacher

If I found out that there was a video camera in the Literacy room of the public library during my tutoring session today I would die.
Today was my first official volunteering session with my student. She is a middle-aged woman from Mexico with very little knowledge of the English language. Which is where I come in. She wants to learn conversational English and I am doing my best to aid her learning process.
I met her for the first time a week ago and it quickly became apparent that we would have trouble communicating. We sat and smiled at each other and laughed nervously. My Spanish vocabulary is extremely limited, I was proud of myself for saying good morning and her name correctly this morning.
All week I stressed about being able to communicate a new language to someone when I couldn't even communicate with in their native language. I hated professors who taught me French when they knew little English. 
I had a TEACHER book to page through and the whole time I looked through it I felt as if I was about to be caught cheating. How can I teach a language that even I mess up occasionally?
My fear was that I would come across as patronizing. I wanted to suggest we start with the alphabet, but what if she thought that was juvenile? 
To be frank, I was terrified. 
For lack of a better place to start this morning, I picked the first page of the book. The first few pages taught about describing your morning routine, including showering, brushing your teeth, and breakfast. 
This seemed advanced, but we plunged in nonetheless. 
For the first time in my life, I conjugated English words. I brush, you brush, he/she/it brushes, we brush, y'all brush, they brush. 
I struggled to convey the meaning of possessive pronouns: "it's not my book, it's your book."
*blank stare*
"I wash my hands and you wash your hands."
"No comprende"
Frustrated laughter ensues.
We went through all of the verbs and nouns for each activity. Who even puts "floss" in a beginning level book?! 
I vigorously acted out flossing, brushing my teeth, brushing my hair, stepping in and out of the shower, spitting, swishing, and putting away.
It was a hard hour. I used google translate a lot. We laughed when there was nothing we could say in a language the other would understand.
But when my (possessive pronoun use) student struggled pronouncing the word "deodorant" and finally read it correctly in a complete sentence, her laugh of pride nearly made me cry. 
Tutoring ESL is the most rewarding experience of my life to date. I even got to assign HOMEWORK today. Don't you wish you were in A Very Lucky Girl's classroom?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"back in your day..."

A twelve year old said these ominous words to me yesterday. We were playing a game that involved guessing movie titles based on clues and I was sucking at it. Why? Because they were all "the latest" Disney movies. I think the last Disney movie I saw before Frozen was rewatching Mulan. I'm not up to date on Brave or How to Train Your Dragon or any of the other hot commodities in the elementary school world. And so this twelve year old mocked my knowledge with laughter and a declaration of "you don't know these because they didn't exist back in your day!"
Excuse me? 
Repetez s'il vous plait?
When did I become old enough to have "back in your day"'s thrown at me!? 
The same twelve year old went on to talk about how one of his teachers at school is 24 (aka 2 years my senior) and married. And then asked when I was getting married. I told him boys are icky, present company excluded.
And then I spent my Saturday night in a hot tub with a 10 year old and a 12 year old singing "Let it Go" at the top of our lungs. A neighbor 10 year old joined us because she heard our singing over the fence. 
The entire time I was thinking how strange it is that people my age, or just a bit older, are married, starting careers, and doing adult things. I went and saw my friend and her husband's new HOUSE Friday night! HOUSE! With extra bedrooms and everything. 
I don't feel like an adult, but when I step back and look at my life I guess I am doing adult things. I graduate college in three months. I keep track of the bills for the little grey house. I book flights for myself, party of one. I teach the English language to a woman almost twice my age. I have a freakin' teacher's guide! 
In my Gateway training class in the middle of August, a girl was asked when she began to feel like an adult. 
She said when she turned eighteen. 
And here's A Very Lucky Girl, 22 years young, eating cookie dough and drinking a coke out of glass bottle because it just tastes better. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Expectations

I have been so much better in the past about keeping a regular blog schedule. At least two posts a week, like clockwork. 
But here I am, on the brink of a new semester, and it has been almost a month since I last wrote for A Very Lucky Girl. 
I haven't stopped writing. I still journal regularly. I have written and rewritten essays for the Fulbright application. I write emails daily. I still find myself when I arrange words into coherent sentences, art in strings of black and white.
I started to blog about my Florida trip and began constructing a back to school post in my head. 
But neither one seemed to grow me as a writer. I don't see the point of A Very Lucky Girl if I'm not challenging myself. 
Someone asked me yesterday if I ever wrote stories. Fiction. I had to say no. I've never even touched the genre with my own words. I devour it when I read, it's my favorite type of book, aside from the travel memoir, which is rapidly escalating in my word-hungry eyes. 
I've been pondering why I've never written any fiction ever since. I think I stick as close to reality as I can in my posts and journaling because my imagination is such a personal place. I'm terrified to reveal it to anyone else. 
I have a new respect for fiction writers. And I think it's a genre worth exploring for A Very Lucky Girl. It's a challenge, if nothing else. 
God knows I don't shy away from a challenge. Tomorrow I dive into my final semester and will remain submerged beneath a pile of books, 18 hours of class, Skype tutoring to English students in Brazil, and a peer teaching assistant position until I surface for air and graduation in December. If I save money adequately and stick to a strict diet of Ramen, I will reward myself with a few weeks in Europe before starting real life in 2015. 
I'm not going to promise a set number of blog posts. I can't promise I will blog at all this semester. But I swear to remain A Very Lucky Girl. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Highfive for Words That Come Easily

I met you. I remember standing in a circle, memorizing names. Then came a party that evening. You stood out to me a bit. Maybe I think that now, looking back on what transpired later, but I do think I noticed you immediately. Weeks went by. 
We would pass each other, chat, and see each other at parties. Nothing special. Nothing out of the ordinary. 
I remember walking home in the pouring rain. I met you in the elevator on your way down. I looked like a drowned rat. You took one look and laughed your infectious laugh. 
I remember the pink shirt you wore at a party. We leaned against the open window and you tried my girly drink, while lamenting my lack of Beatles music knowledge. I started crushing on your piercing blue eyes. 
I specifically remember the night I knew I was in trouble when it came to you. 
I went to a movie night. I ended up sitting next to you. Not too close. But close enough. 
Close enough that every time we touched on accident I caught my breath and had to remind myself to calm down. 
I remember messaging later. It was the beginning of something. I just didn't know the ending yet. 
I remember talking about party costume ideas. You wanted to be a teenage mutant ninja turtle. You wanted me to be the weird rat sensei, tempting me by saying I would get to order you around. I wondered if you would kiss me if I told you to. I wondered if you would kiss me if I told you not to.  
We danced that night. I didn't want to stop. 
I knew I was playing with fire, that I might get burned, but I couldn't resist you. It wasn't just physical, although that was a significant part of it. 
I was attracted to your humor, your athleticism, your confidence, and your total persona. 
You nearly had me before you left for a while. I remember hugging you tightly to make up for the fact that I wasn't going to kiss you. 
You tried to convince me otherwise, telling me it's what we wanted and that time away wouldn't change it. 
You were right.
We talked almost daily while we were away. 
We both drunkenly and soberly acknowledged the tension in our relationship. 
I told you things I don't tell many people. 
We returned and I continued to reject your physical advances. 
I didn't want regrets. Especially about someone who had become so special to me. 
But you mentioned I might regret pushing away this experience. 
And once again, you were right. 
I don't remember the exact date, but, eventually, one late night, near four in the morning, we kissed in the stairwell. 
And maybe it's the way you speak or maybe its the way I had thought about it for so long or maybe its because it was just you, but no matter what it was, I deem it one of the best kisses of my life. 
All of the rest after with you were just as good. 
I was blissfully happy. 
I will always think of our last week together fondly. 
That's what made it so hard. Because there was a last week, but there wasn't any closure. We didn't break up, because there wasn't anything to officially break, nor were there any fights. 
We were separated. Life goes on. 
I remember our beginning and I hope we haven't hit our ending yet. I know I will see you again someday. And when someday comes maybe we'll kiss, maybe we won't, but I will always treasure our days together. 
You tell me things I definitely don't want to hear, but that I need to hear. The mark of a true friend. You've seen me cry at 3 AM. I hope I have helped you as much as you have helped me. 
You are a one of a kind man. Strikingly sensitive, your depth might surprise people. Fun-loving and fatally attractive, you have brought so much light to my life. I'm so glad you were born. And I'm A Very Lucky Girl to have met you. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Words Under Pressure

Words are weird. I can sit down and type out strings of words that mean something to me in record time. I trip over my fingers because those words have been inside me for so long and I'm anxious to spill my feelings in a tangible, manageable, form.
But when I notice I haven't blogged in a while and it's time for a new post I am often stumped. Not because my blog posts are meaningless (although I did write about Tinder...so you be the judge), but because I'm nervous to share all of me with all of you (John Legend reference YES). Maybe you won't like what I have to say. Maybe you will criticize it. Maybe you'll think differently of me.
Writing is risky. Writing is permanent. I need only to scroll back on my own blog to find posts with words I wouldn't write now. My words are permanent outward expressions of a constantly changing person.
The words I'm currently most worried about are my two essays for the Fulbright ETA funding. I need to write a personal statement and a statement of grant purpose. This is the one time I wish I had a longer page quota to fill. Each can only be one page SINGLE SPACED. I have to give the decision committee enough information in those two single sheets of paper for them to decide I'm a good candidate for the program.
Those words are my first and only impression.
A Very Lucky Girl has to find some grant worthy words STAT. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

723 Does a Puzzle

I love my share of the little grey house on Brooks Street. Kirsten hasn't moved in yet, but I am eagerly awaiting her arrival, desperate for the sounds of an actual full house. The empty room by the front door is a constant reminder that we are not yet complete. But Kylie and I have had a blast as roommates for the past two months!
Many many laughs have been had, so much so that I've begun thinking I need to start a monthly installment of a post titled "conversations in the little grey house on Brooks Street."
We've discussed pizza and breadsticks at great length. We've lamented the shoddiness of our oven and the over-alert-ness of our smoke detector. Whichever it is, whenever the oven is opened to take out food, it must be aggressively fanned to prevent the screeching of the alarm. We have learned and often warn each other when removing meals.
We've spent time arranging the word magnets on our fridge into inappropriate phrases, fitting for a 22 year old and an almost 21 year old. We still don't have a couch in our living room, but there is a painted bookcase and a few boxes. So very homey.
I've met our neighbors across the street and they are some of the sweetest people ever. The husband helped me move in a chest of drawers one afternoon, which is when I learned his wife (Jana?Janet?He spoke so fast!) was also an English major. I met her a few weeks later when she was out gardening and she assured me she is gainfully employed and always has been. It gives me hope! I also met their swoon-worthy son..
A few nights ago I sat on the front porch, wrapped in my sleeping bag since we still don't have furniture out there yet, and watched the torrential downpour. I can't determine whether I love our back deck or our front porch more...both are perfection in their own ways, in different kinds of weather. I lay on the back deck and soak up the rays often. But on this particular evening, I saw our neighbors across the street from the porch and we exchanged pleasantries. He mentioned his wife had just made dinner and asked if I would like some roasted quinoa and vegetables. Up until this point in my life, I had never tasted quinoa. But when the neighbor with the attractive son offers you free food YOU DON'T SAY NO. So I apprehensively said yes. He brought a dish over to me and commented on my book choice, remembering the title and author to tell his word loving wife.
And my verdict on quinoa? Not bad!
I've decorated my room with a few of my favorite things: namely people, places, and Thunder colors. I painted my dresser Scotland blue and attached orange knobs, a tribute to my main man, KD. I found a perfect set of drawers at Hobby Lobby, marked down from an astronomical price, and made an impulse buy. Each drawer is painted a different country flag from all over the world. I love that I've been to 6 out of the 10 places. My room is an escape. I can look at one of the many postcards and pictures plastered all over the walls and be transported to a different time in my life. A time when I was spending money, not saving it. A time when I was talking with my friends in a flat in Dundee, not snatching a few moments to Facetime or Skype. A time when I was constantly planning my next adventure. And the giant Scotland flag above my bed is definitely  a conversation starter, if nothing else!
I love evenings within the little grey house the best. Gibby is home from work, I am just walking in from a shift at Sam's, usually dramatically dropping my vest on the nearest surface, and we sit at the kitchen table (because, remember, there's nowhere else to sit). Sometimes we talk, sometimes we blare music, sometimes we drink, sometimes we snapchat, and sometimes we do all of the above, PLUS put together a puzzle. 
I roped Gibby into completing an "impossipuzzle" with me, so named because it's just an image of cupcakes in rows and it's incredibly hard to put together. We struggled to piece it together, throwing puzzle pieces to the side in fits of "dammit I've tried that one there 8 times, take it away from me!" 
And I marveled at how often it looked like a puzzle piece might almost fit. It had all of the characteristics of the one next to it. But the shape was slightly skewed, just good enough to look right from a distance, but not good enough to be perfect. 
My life is like that puzzle. I try to fit the pieces together and sometimes they look right at first. They might even look right for a long time. But then I look again and see the edges don't quite line up. That piece belongs in my life, but it might not belong where I originally thought it did. As the pieces rearrange and come together, I see more clearly what my life is beginning to look like. And A Very Lucky Girl is happy with the picture. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Crazy Would Be Changing My Mind

I danced around my home yesterday morning, torn between laughing hysterically and crying of pure joy. 
Why?
The direction of my life was so fantastically validated. 
When I first started researching the Internet for information regarding teaching English as a second language, I signed up for emails from a job listings site. Just for kicks. I felt sure I would regret the enormous influx of spam, but instead I found something wonderful. 
One morning, when I was taking that damn Ancient Art of War in June, I scrolled through the options of the day in my email and found a listing for online volunteers needed for a program in Rio de Janeiro. 
Considering I have high hopes and crossed fingers to get into the Fulbright program, destination Brazil, I jumped at the chance to become more involved in this pursuit. 
I sent the woman my resume and a short blurb about me and why I was interested. 
She responded quickly and set up a Skype chat with me for Thursday, July 10. Because it is a volunteer opportunity and not an actual job, I was hopeful, but not particularly positive about my chances, considering I have zero experience teaching anyone how to speak English. Unless you count my grammar Nazi tendencies. 
Thursday morning found me sitting in front of my laptop almost 20 minutes before our scheduled meeting, showered, made up, and clothed in a dress, cardigan, and even heels. Our 11 AM time came and went and, even though I anxiously refreshed Skype, a request never came in. I emailed my contact to inquire and she was very apologetic about her Internet connection issues and suggested we try again Friday morning. This time at 8:30 AM. I readily agreed, but went to bed with lowered expectations of receiving the opportunity to volunteer. 
Friday morning found me sitting in front of my laptop about 5 minutes before our scheduled meeting, unshowered, barefoot, still wearing Thursday night's mascara, and clothed in pajama bottoms, tank top and sports bra, with a cardigan thrown over the entire ensemble. I hope all of my interviews are of the Skype variety from now on. 
We had a lovely half an hour conversation and she filled me in on the program. I still have limited knowledge, but the organization is called EnglishWorks and is made up of eight "learning squares" in Rio. Each class is made up of about 30 people, of varying ages from 14-80 and the students have a live teacher, an online teacher, and then us, the volunteer tutors who hail from all over the world with varying levels of expertise. Some of them are professionals and here I am, a lowly university student...
But, miracle of miracles, she assigned me a class. Which led to the dancing/laughing/crying fest on Friday morning following the Skype call. I immediately told Sam's Club (my new place of employment) that I would have limited availability on Fridays due to my new commitment from 6-6:30 PM Rio time (aka 4-4:30 PM). 
I received an email with information regarding my class, including the teachers' Skype contacts and and an invitation to the EnglishWorks Volunteers Facebook group. This is happening. And I couldn't be A Very Luckier Girl.