Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tumblr, Dating, and Relationships

"If you looking for love, let me tell you what I'm looking for..."

Let me chronicle the history of my relationships. I'd like to say I'm doing this more for others' understanding of my self, but I know that's not true. As with many defining moments, it started with my middle school insecure self. Guy 1 was the first boy to pay attention to me and directly tell me he liked me without getting one of his buddies to deliver the message. He wasn't afraid to show affection, didn't hesitate to tell me how he felt, and moreover, he was consistent. The relationship was brief but definitely set the stage for future relationships.

Fast forward past my middle school "dating days", and you arrive at my high school years. I can honestly say Guy 2 was my first love. We did everything together, and I had a chance to take on the role of nurturer. It was a fitting role because I tried to cater to his every need. Although there were a few instances along the way that were developmentally defining (e.g. how I would later handle criticism, skepticism towards relationships in general, and essentially trusting others), I'd like to think that there was much I learned to take away from this relationship. It was far from easy, but eventually I was able to find middle ground in finding ways to deal with our breakup.

It's now the later part of my high school years, and my attention has yet again been captivated. Guy 3 has won me over with his attention to detail and an unforgiving free spirit. I loved that I could be myself around him, further, that I was able to feel alive when I was with him. Considering that we had started dating in the later part of my high school years, my daily life was pretty hectic. From club meetings, to sporting events, night school, and balancing a social life, this often caused a lot of friction in the relationship. I was questioned as to why I was doing the things I did and not slowing down. This hit on a personal level because this form of questioning had carried over from my previous relationships. It was like adding salt to a wound. I resented having to justify why I went about doing the things I did. I didn't feel it necessary to explain myself as to why I was living life fast (according to their observations). I wanted to draw on the example of a runner. Every runner has a tempo and a certain level of endurance. As any runner knows, endurance is developed with time, and tempo is contingent on the individual. Needless to say, any of the serious relationships I've attempted to partake in have had issues with this.

I don't go on to contend or declare that this is why I'm single; rather, I go on to contend that this is why I continue to prefer to set my own tempo. As much as I'd like to use the cliché of "being single is a choice", I know that to not be true. My singledom is a result of a series of events. From being the jerk that wasn't assertive enough to tell a guy I really wasn't interested in committing to a relationship, experiencing the flip-side where many guys did an excellent job of playing the "fade out" game (I'm sure karma loved this), and even just being indifferent to the whole concept of dating and relationships, I know the counter argument would be that my faulty relationships and lack of trust is what's contributed to my inability to find a guy (because that seems to be some sort of life milestone these days). And as much as I'd like to repeat the phases of social media empowerment, I'd prefer not to.

(No shame in admitting you've done this before...I'm just as guilty) You know what I'm talking about. First, it's the self-righteous tumblr memes. If you're a girl, the meme usually includes something about independence and being self sufficient. If you're a guy, the meme typically includes something about Netflix, the gym, and having a "special girl" to change up this coveted routine of theirs. Once we get past the memes, there's usually a flurry of gym/workout posts (I'm guilty of some sweaty workout selfies too). It eventually cycles back to some late night self-pitying posts as to how they'll never find "the one"...and then it repeats. At some point or another we've been there. I'm commonly told my status as a person that's single is "just a phase", and I'll eventually meet a guy that makes me happy. And although I'd genuinely love to say my cats, students, and Starbucks seem to fill the void just fine, I usually just acknowledge their concern with a curt "thanks" and smile.

I know my initial intention in writing this was to look back at my relationship patterns, but I can't help but acknowledge some thoughts I have in regards to relationships. I admire and appreciate the many beautiful relationships some of my friends and acquaintances continue to be a part of. Many of you have some gorgeous looking kids...and pets. I think it's great that you've managed to find your "other half" so to speak. To my single pringles out there, thanks for keeping it real out there. It's not easy binge watching Netflix, deflecting questions about relationships, and working as well ( I kid, I kid...you and I both know there's more to a single person's life). At this point, I'm sure many are anticipating the onset of a single woman's rant about love and dating, but I'll spare you the word vomit and need to get all self-righteous on you. Lucky for you, I don't have a personal vendetta against the concept of love, dating, and relationships. I don't attempt to deny that it's real or exists either. I see proof of this every day; however, I know finding "the one" currently isn't my priority. Will it be a priority later? Maybe...maybe not. I don't trust myself as a psychic enough to say for sure. Now, I'm not saying this is an absolute truth for all women either. It's just what I've come to experience thus far. I love that I can devote my time and energy to close friends and family. I also have no shame in admitting that I'm in love with the work I do and the content I willingly choose to study.

To both single and monogamous individuals, I applaud you. We lead similar but different lifestyles. And as much as I'd like  to indulge in the idea that one relationship status is superior to the other, I'd rather avoid making things more complicated than they may already be. As Kid Cudi once noted, " the ones that make it complicated never get congratulated."

Now, excuse me while I discreetly look up tumblr memes.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Week 8: Lessons Learned


In the famed words of Johnny Cash, "What have I become?" A self proclaimed Pole? An enlightened self? A clueless traveler? An indulgent American? 

I'd anticipated that I'd have many more "ah hah" moments to come my way after having taught abroad for 2 months. I'm unsure if it was my notion that I thought I had to come back with all these tangible golden nuggets of wisdom, or the fact that it's what my friends, family, and colleagues are expecting, but in reflecting on my experience in Poland I think I have far more lessons learned as opposed to being viewed as the wise and enlightened Stacey.

To those individuals with the intentions, plans, or desire to travel my first word of advice is -do it. I understand family, financial, and work obligations are the first things to come to the forefront of your mind,  but if you genuinely aspire to travel it's essential to be proactive about it. You'd be surprised the opportunities and solutions you'll stumble upon if you just do a little research. 

I may be biased in my recommendation, but WorldTeach offered me an affordable way to travel, do service work, and juggle my responsibilities as a newbie educator.

 I was also afforded the opportunity to not only witness the selfless efforts of my hometown as they supported me in my endeavor to teach abroad, but I had the chance to break free of my little comfort bubble I had created back home too.

From bouts' of homesickness, becoming a master of improv due to unexpected schedule changes,to even some minor weight gain (much credit to Polish potatoes and Nalesniki) I worked and sometimes trudged through the things I encountered while in Poland. It wasn't painful nor disastrous, but it did challenge me to maintain my focus, be mindful of the lifestyle I chose to embrace in Poland, and keep a solution oriented approach when it came to teaching. 

Now, in trying to answer the infamous question of, "Why Poland?" I'm flooded with a wealth of words to describe my positive experiences in this hidden gem of a country. However, as effective or maybe ineffective key words such as, "hospitable, humble, persistent, and considerate" may be in enticing more individuals to volunteer in Poland, I feel it necessary to mention the things I'd improve on to make my (and maybe your future transition) transition to Polish culture and instruction of Polish students much smoother.

In thinking about the resources I intended to utilize during instruction, I think I would've been better off with a baseline teacher bank of resources (children's books, nursery rhymes, playlist of U.S songs to teach, ESL vocab lists, a unit plan) However, I lucked out in the sense that my years spent in extracurriculars and organizations from a young age to now a college grad helped me improvise and mold my bundle of resources while teaching abroad.

Had it not been my years spent in Girl Scouts as a tween, I don't think I could've gracefully maneuvered through teaching an arts and crafts class on a whim while camping with my students. My participation in spirit chants as a cheerleader in high school proved to be the perfect remedy for antsy primary school children who were just as eager to get up and dance. Involvement with UTB as a newfound counseling student grounded me in keeping empathy and genuineness as priority in my interactions with a foreign culture. The training TFA had also provided me yet again highlighted the importance of student investment. My time at IDEA public schools engrained the need for rigorous work regardless of a student's classification, and I can honestly say that belief followed me in my travels to Poland. And in looking at my newest (and oldest) affiliation with an organization,  is the community I now have as a teacher working for the school system I was once educated through. In working with my Polish students I've pulled my personal encounters with some of the most caring teachers during my time as a student in SBCISD to model that same message of success to my students as my teachers once did for me. 

So who am or what am I? I am an English teacher. I am a student. I am a traveler. I am curious. I am ambitious. But even more so, I know there are many more lessons to be learned in my teaching, travels, and experiences to come. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Week 5, 6, 7, and Part of 8 recap with photos :-D

In case you haven't noticed, I've been slacking on putting pictures. So out of guilt and boredom here are some photos and anecdotes to help you further procrastinate your workday:-D

Week 5: Welcome to Camp Białe
I was unofficially with the village students of Stanin, but we went camping for one week. Here are some of the highlights :-)
My roommates- the lovely Natalia and Carolina were the artists behind our unique door decor.

These little ones (Ewa & Jullia) attended my primary classes while at camp


Even the Polish Karaoke computer didn't show me sympathy 

We decided to do a lil' cruising :-)


So the next couple of pictures capture my camp initiation since this was my first time attending.

Group shot :-)

So because of this lake jump I had a sprained ankle shortly after- YOLJO (You only lake jump once it seems)

I had to sit out on this cool adventure park thanks to my ankle.
Part of the initiation, I don't just randomly kiss Polish people on their feet.


My pitty shot of my cast and I lol.
I became a regular at this Zapiekanka shop. They had tasty tea too!

Week 6: Back to Stanin
So there aren't many pictures, but I was quite busy in my defense. I cooked :-D

And I ate blueberries.

Sunset by the forest

I learned to make Nalesniki (probably misspelled) 

This cat was prego and such a cutie during my stay with my host family

I baked banana bread

I cooked enchiladas...

Oh and I made breakfast :-)

Week 7: Zagoździe
 I found my time here to be great. The students, staff, and teachers were beyond amazing.
 I started my weekend off in Warsaw. I saw a soccer match, did some sightseeing, taught, 
and later in the week I baked again :-)





The fans sung the WHOLE time lol


My lovely students- Middle school

Elementary
Someone finally spelled my name correctly- my students :-D

I had a chance to reunite with my first host dad for a game of soccer. End result- two goals
 and too many mosquitoes.

I stepped out for a bit and my student surprised me with some sweet
 messages on my last day there :-)

Just like home lol

I kept telling her to smile, but she kept saying we needed to work faster lol.

Week 8: Sarnow


Second day in Sarnow, 5th host family

Life is good and Poland is great!

Four more days in Poland and then I'm back home. All I can say is WOW! 
I'm certainly looking forward to these next couple of days. I'll keep you posted. 
Have a great Monday/Tuesday folks!



Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Week 5 & 6: The Grass is always Greener

Coming to the understanding that things are MUCH bigger than me.
Yet, I STILL don't strive to get out of my community as proof to say that I "made it", nor do I seek to sit back and compare myself to others and declare that I or my community are better than another. To travel, and experience other cultures is one thing, but to use my disdain for my own community as motivation to move on to "bigger and better" things; that's never been the case. 

In coming overseas, I see what dedication and possessing a caring soul can do for a village community. It isn't my attempt at hinting that the Poles have community development down to the T; however, in working, educating, and inspiring their incoming generations, they promote ambitions, multiculturalism, and giving back to their community for all the right reasons. I may be speaking from two months of limited interactions in Poland, but the cliché of "actions speak louder than words" couldn't hold more truth at this point in time. 

I think back to all the times I sat and talked with my friends, my classmates, and my teachers. And the question never failed to surface, "When do you plan to leave the Valley?", "How do you plan to leave?", or the resounding question of "Why stay in the valley? There's so much more you can do else where." My decision to make a commitment to my community was not so I could become a self proclaimed martyr of my hometown, but because I see so much potential in my community. The notion of educating my students to become assets to their communities as opposed to opponents of bettering their community is something I hope to effectively convey to all my students, regardless if it's my community or not. 

In discussing this with a fellow coworker in Poland, their idea of community struck me. Community, and community engagement for that matter, is seen as necessary simply for the ripple effect it soon creates after it is started. For them, any progress is improvement, and any improvement is good. 

In shaping our communities we should aspire to leave them in good conditions so future generations can do the same. If we never teach our kids to strive to improve, and appreciate the community around them, we will continuously fail to have that "greener side" everyone seems so eager to attain. Sowing the landscapes of our communities is must if we hope to reap the benefits of a thriving community there after. 

It's no wonder Poland is such a green  country... (yes, that was another corny joke)

Well, till next time, Happy Thursday :-)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Week 4 Poland: Home is where the... wait, what?

There's a lot of those moments where you find yourself dumbstruck by the serenity of it all. The greatest aspect of these moments are the simplicity you find at the core. 

Coming to Poland I came with an open mind. Opinions, thoughts, experiences, and contrasting ideas were all fair game. I enjoyed every moment of this cultural saturation. As I brought the fourth week of my service in Poland to a close though, I found myself blind sided by a gripping sense of missing everything I had back home. My friends, my family, the daily routine perks I indulged in back home- I wanted it; I missed it.

Coming to the realization that I couldn't walk out the door of my apartment in Łukow only to be greeted by all my loved ones was such an awkward feeling. And I say awkward, because I think further back to when I first made a commitment to Poland, I wanted it so bad. In fact, I still do. I'm sure there's this notion that the appropriate thing to say would be that I realized, " home is where the heart is", or "you don't realize what you have until it's no longer in front of you", but to be honest, living in Poland has taught me home is whatever you want to make it. And prior to Poland I already knew what I had. I didn't need to go to another country to acknowledge that I have some dedicated mentors, amazing friends, and a loving family. I've been aware of that for some time now.

It has been a blessing in disguise though, going through these mixed feelings of being homesick yet still trying to immerse myself in the Polish culture. I remember trying to google tips and advice to avoid, remediate, and even combat homesickness while abroad, and the same message kept creeping its way back into the articles- keep busy, establish routines, find things to get your mind off these feelings.

Reading this was helpful to an extent, but I didn't want to numb, disregard, or barricade myself off from the things I was clearly thinking and feeling. I think back as to why would anyone want to "get their mind off of being homesick". What in fact made it so scary to acknowledge that I did indeed miss home? Would that make me weak to those that looked up to me? Would it frustrate those that had personally helped me get to Poland? 

I thought about it, and I credit a lot of my being homesick to the fact that I'm comfortable back home. I have the luxury of getting instant access to a sense of comfort to just about anywhere I go or anything I do. 

Excluding the language barrier, there are so many other types of things, difficult or not,  I encounter in Poland. However, there are many more possibilities for me to make connections here - from connections with my students, to my host family, and even the connections on my train rides (cheesy, I know, but I couldn't help it) All the lectures, and instances where I was constantly being told that I was part of a vast global community hadn't quite hit home till I got here.

To be honest, the only thought or image that instantly came to mind when I thought of a "global community" was the dingy blue carpet I used to sit on in kinder- the one with a cartoon world printed on it and all the multicultural kids of the world in a circular embrace around this world. 

Feeble minded, maybe, but was I content with that image as my idea of a "global community"...of course not.

I've found that my personal solution to being homesick though, has been seeking, embracing, and identifying those connections. Thriving off these personal connections has not only aided in shaping my perception of what a global community may or may not be comprised of, but it's now my driving force in seeking more opportunities that'll allow me to connect with other people and experiences from other parts of the world. Plus, when I make connections at all the right times, I don't miss my train departure times either :-D...OK, I'll stop. Till next time folks, Happy Sunday btw!!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Why Poland, you ask...

Before Poland, or even the thought process of going to Poland came my way I don't think I had any preconceived notions about the country. Now that I'm here I find myself constantly answering the question of why did I choose Poland, or as some my students have asked, did Poland choose me? On a surface level I can honestly say I chose Poland. When I initially heard about the program through WordTeach, the country's  mystique instantly garnered my attention. I wanted to be able to formulate my own authentic answer as to why indeed did I CHOOSE Poland. I was fortunate enough to be placed in my 4 schools close to another WorldTeach volunteer, and we've come to the consensus that when in Poland you never know what you're going to get. As the great Forest Gump once said, "Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna' get." Well despite Poland having many chocolate options, let alone dessert varieties, one rarely knows what is to come their way while in Poland. From accordions at teacher staff dinners, to competitive games of table tennis, and even the revelation that someone's dad makes their own beer or Vodka, it never ceases to amaze me how pleasantly blindsided you can become (in a good way though). For my 1st host family, I was blessed to be placed in a home that had an innate desire to make me feel like part of their family as soon as I set foot in their home. I was humbled by my host mom's ability to genuinely make an effort to speak to me in English, and admired her patience with me as I pestered her about how to pronounce various street signs I'd see along our drive. It came to a point where she or I would gesture to something in broken English or Polish, and we could nod in agreement, acknowledging that we understood the gist of the message. It didn't always occur this way (For example, I try to avoid translating American hip-hop lyrics for all the right reasons as you might assume lol) Aside from the great food and people, I try to avoid condensing or limiting my rationale as to why I chose/like Poland for those two mere things I mentioned. Poland is so multi-faceted. There's a deep sense of community present-on a much larger scale though. The Poles I've met have willingly opened their homes to me in a number of ways. There's an unwavering notion that social bonds and relationships, in general, are golden amongst the people of Poland. Although this many social gatherings aren't to often the norm for me back home , I can appreciate it. I've come to see that despite the hardships Poles have encountered, they are adamant about holding on to their values and keeping their history alive, because despite these things having a collective impact it also molds their identity as Polish individuals. I may never come to predict my daily encounters in Poland, but I know that regardless of where I happen to find myself I can count on being humbled by the hospitality of the Poles, and continue to maintain a sincere appreciation for the many experiences Poles have endured and the things they are relentless in pursuing (such as my 1st host dad being relentless in trying to get me to try some of his "Jerry Daniels" Vodka that he made- he claims it to be Poland's version of Jack Daniels :-) ) So why Poland, you ask...why not, is all I have in response ;-)
Week 3 in Poland 

My Monday was off to an exciting start. My students and I visited the lovely White Lake. Polish pizza, splash wars and vulgar shirts were in the mix of it all.

With the exception of a run on Tuesday with my host family, I did a lot of nothing :-) Wednesday brought about a quick game of "football" with my host dad and his two sons. Needless to say, I got my butt kicked lol.
 Please excuse the appearance of my crusty/scabby knee...
So Thursday was a LONGGG day...of fun though :-) It consisted of a visit to the former capitol of Poland, Lublin. From historic villages, to renovated castles, a trip to KFC, and finally a stop at the cinema, I had the chance to finally crawl into bed close to 11 lol.



I kicked off my weekend with a trip to Illusion Farm and extending my stay in Warsaw. 

 The translated name of this castle is "Bathroom Castle". I've yet to gain any desire to swim here...
 Warsaw cityscape 
 The breathtaking Warsaw Uprising Museum
 Street art of Warsaw- My guess is that Colonel Sanders is kind of a big deal here