Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Because I NEEDED more stress

For a short recap:
1. China has changed by arrival dates no less than 3 times.
2. The changing of my arrival dates came AFTER I purchased plane tickets and therefore required the payment of additional fees totaling $400.
3. China has made it clear that they will not pay any airfare fees more than $1300 and my ticket there, with fees has already cost me $1200. This leaves me paying my own way home.
4. China hasn't really told me what I will be teaching or what exactly I will be doing for the week I was volunteered to do traning at the middle school.
5. After I was told I was approved for my 2 week tripto Egypt, they are saying that they were never told about it and are unsure about me missing that much work.

The latest update is that despite the fact that I returned my signed contract to them on July 9th, they will be unable to send me my working permit or the letter I need to get my Visa until August 2nd. With international air transport considerations, the earliest I will be receiving it is August 10th. Please note: I will be moving from NYC on August 9th.

China's solution? They are "strongly" requesting that I not leave New York until after the 15th of August. They also made some comment about the Consulate in LA. While LA is on the west coast, where I told them I was going, LA is really far from Seattle and Medford both and I would have to pay to get myself there. The time to get my passport will most likely be 5 business days.

My other option is getting this stuff in Hong Kong. Considering I am flying to China the DAY they asked me to be there, I am not sure when I would have time to do this. I am almost positive I would have to have my Visa first. While a trip to Hong Kong would be nice, when would I have the time before the start of school?

Questions I have for China but have refrained from asking:
1. If you were putting together my contract in May, why couldn't the paperwork for my permit and Visa be done then?
2. Why don't you act like my time or money are important to you?
3. Why do you hate me and want to make my life miserable?
4. Why have you asked me for the NY Consulate's information no less than 3 times when I have already given it to you no less than 3 times AND its openly available on the internet. Please note: this is the consulate for YOUR country, this information should be readily available to you. Also note, your multiple requests tell me you have dropped the ball on making the contacts you needed to do to finish this process.
5. Why do you continue to suck so hard? This is no way to make me want to be there, working for pennies a day, to teach you ANYTHING about American culture. Note to self: make first American Culture lesson on how to conduct business with Americans in an appropriate fashion.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Birth of a Country - In a Day

While the days I have remaining on the East Coast are slowly dwindling, I am quickly working through my list of the many things I want to do before I leave. When I am not doing fun sites/eateries/etc, I am busy packing and trying to sell off my stuff. My current problem is working out the easiest way to get all these big boxes to the PO. Keep in mind, I don't have a car...and they are big and heavy. It's not as easy as it sounds. To top it off, I am using moving boxes to pack up my stuff and therefore have to wrap them in paper to mail them to Seattle. As a wise woman (me) once said, "Wrapping heavy moving boxes in paper is like trying to put an elephant in pants".

Taking a short break from that fun, I have decided to take a minute to tell you about my most resent trip - Philadelphia PA.

While the first and foremost thought when one thinks of Philly is that it's the birthplace of this great nation, Heather and I really wanted to go to see the King Tut exhibit and the Franklin Institute. Historical sites were a bonus really. So, when Greyhound offered $20 round trip tickets, we decided it was time!

Our day tour of Philly started with getting refused entrance at the US Mint.

Apparently they expect tourists to be free of makeup, liquids, pastes (including lotion and chapstick), bags or backpacks, shopping bags, cameras, cell phones with cameras, medications, umbrellas, strollers...the list goes on and on, but I think you get it. Undeterred, we headed to Christ Church cemetery and saw Ben Franklin's grave. As the sign so aptly stated "4 other signers of the Constitution are also buried here". The big deal is Ben though.

Down the street, we took a tour of Betsy Ross' house.

Next came Christ Church where George Washington, Ben and Betsy worshiped in their day.

The Free Quaker House was where Betsy was one of the last two congregates.

The Arch Street Meeting House (Quaker too) is the oldest in PA and the biggest in the world. Go Quakers!

Then we got some Philly award winning gelato to really get a feel for the city. Next came The Bourse which is stock exchange and the first in the world to house a stock exchange, maritime exchange, and a grain-trading center. (ooohhh, ahhhh)

Tickets to Independence Hall are free, but apparently they are also only in limited quantity so we missed getting tickets to go into it. IH was the PA State House where The Declaration of Independence was adopted and where the Constitution was debated, drafted, and signed. old City Hall and Congress Hall are there too, but you can't go into them either without a ticket.

Thankfully, no tickets were needed to see the Liberty Bell (my pics). We got to see the dig happening at the site of what use to the The President's House before the White House and where they have discovered evidence that Washington had slaves. The original house was torn down in 1800 and the site had been a public restroom site for the last 48 years.

In our trip to South Street to get Philly Cheese Steaks for lunch, we saw Library Hall. Had we known better, we would have gone in. Apparently they have the original journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition, a copy of the Declaration of Independence in Jefferson's own handwriting, a first edition of Sir Isaac Newton's Principia and last but not least, a first edition of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. Crap! The American Philosophical Society is just across the street and its members have included Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Madame Curie, Albert Einstein, John James Audubon, over a dozen Presidents, and over 200 Nobel prize winners. Otherwise, it's just a building. We made a quick stop into the Curtis Publishing House to check out a huge mosaic in their lobby from 1916 made by Tiffany and Parrish. (my pics)

We went through Washington Square and saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Mother Bethel AME Church was a stop on the underground railroad, the 2nd oldest black congregation in the country, and the land it's on is the oldest parcel of real estate continuously owed by African Americans in the US. We were invited to go in, but in where we were use to seeing the main part of the church was a table with coffee and treats and a small gathering of people. We left without seeing much and no refreshments.

After waiting in line for close to 30 minutes, we got the best Philly Chesse Steak sandwiches ever. Granted, its the first I have ever had, but who can argue with steak and metly cheese?! Heading back into the Historic area, we went by the Physick House which was the home of "The Doctor of American Surgery" Phillip Syng Physick lived.

He also apparently made the first soda, which they have for sale, so we tried. Black Cherry and tasty!

Old St. Mary's Church was where Washington worshiped and where the Continental Congress came to pray together and where they held religious commemoration of the Declaration of Independence. Next was Carpenters' Hall where the First Continental Congress was held.

Franklin Court was where we saw his printing shop and bindery, his old tenant houses, remains of his original house, and a museum of some of this inventions.

After all that, it was time to get to the Franklin to see Tut and his stuff. Granted, Tut himself isn't there, they have a lot of stuff from his family members and there are 5 artifacts that were taken from his actual mummy. At the very end, there is a gold skull (my pics) they have made from CT scans they took of his mummy in '05. Being the only thing we could take pictures of, its what you get!

On the way back to the bus station, I got to see City Hall

and the amazing Grand Lodge of the Free Masons.

Considering the only things in "1000 Places to See Before You Die" for Philly are food, Independence Hall, and some rando flower show that is 1 weekend in March, I would say Heather and I got way more than we bargained for! Now, back home, we have discovered there is plenty that we didn't see too! I'll just have to save it for my next trip there.

If you want to check out my pics, click on the album below. All of the other pics you have seen here were "borrowed".

Philly July 07

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Back by popular demand: Me!

You want an update? No?! Oh...ummm....Too bad! You're getting one, so sit back and listen...

It all started last Thursday afternoon. That was the day my grandpa came to visit for a long weekend. Boy was it long!! Who knew an 82.5 year old man could have so much energy? Starting Thursday when he got in from the airport and ending Monday morning when he headed back out it was non-stop tourism. I am so very glad he will be my last tourist for the summer! We averaged 4 miles of walking a day (despite the heat) and literally crammed as much as was physically possible into 3 1/2 days as humanly possible.

The events were as follows (deep breath now): soul food buffet, Times Square, Grand Central Station, 34th Street, Heartland Brewing Company, Egyptian Embassy, Board of Education, MTA Transit Museum, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Coney Island, Empire State Building, World Trade Center, Financial District, South Street Seaport, St. Paul's Parish, Trinity Church, The Bull, Bowling Green, Liberty Island, Ellis Island, random walking tour of south south Manhattan, remains of Lovelace Tavern, Fraunces Tavern, Vietnam Memorial, Federal Hall, City Hall, Brooklyn Bridge, Mustang's Bar and Grill (where gpa got a little drunk), crazy taxi ride home, Central Park Zoo, carousel at Central Park, American Museum of Natural History, heaps of sushi, and Central Park.

It was almost relaxing to head to work on Monday. Speaking of work... Those of you who haven't been paying attention don't know that summer school started.  For me, it started the day after regular school got out, the 28th. This day also happened to be the morning after a crazy long night of drinking and debauchery at the school's End of Year Party. I only have two words to explain that night's events to you: Booze Cruise.

ANYWAY, summer school starts and we have 2 days without the students. I was hoping that things would be more organized with Ms. Harris (our excellent AP) taking the lead, but things were and still are a bit crazy. I did find out I have a student teacher. She is most likely about 10 years older than me, is doing the Teaching Fellows program, and seems quite nice. The additional nice part is that she started teaching as of this week - week 2. Summer school is only 4 days a week, which is great, and as of next week, week 3, I am no longer the lead teacher. It was going to be even easier when we were told we were teaching from a kit so that everything would be easy. All Ms. Harris seems to say is that things need to be easy and not stress us out. Ha! Our "easy" kit ended up being mostly based on cds, of which we only have 4, and none of which work on the laptops available to our classroom. This could be remedied, but we cannot download the necessary players to get the cds to work. So, the kit is out. Now, we are scrambling to come up with ways to get the kids to do anything. It's really boiled down to them writing a paper to pass science. Most of them are also supposed to be writing a paper to pass Social Studies as well.

We have our students for 2.5 hours a day (then have 1.5 hours free = nice!). 1 hour of that is supposed to be "independent time" so that the 8th graders can make up a 3rd class. Oh...did I mention that summer school is only 19 days? Yep. These kids are allowed to "make up" 3 to 4 subjects during 19 4 hour days in the summer. Insanity. If I was any of these 8th graders and my future of going to high school hung in the balance I would be working my ass off. I am sure you would be too. But, these little people are a whole different breed. We lay the books open in front of them and they do NOTHING. Some nap, some have yet to come with either something to write with, something to write on, or both, some come an hour late (despite being told they wouldn't be allowed to, no one stops them), some just do whatever the crap they want to. It's great. Tomorrow is Day 14.

In other, slightly less stressful news, I was able to get my VISA for Egypt now so I don't have to try to navigate the process in China. I officially signed my contract with China to teach there and am currently waiting on my letter of request so I can apply for my China VISA as well. I was finally awarded by NY State Teaching License - just in time! I gave my landlady notice that I am moving out. I have been unsuccessful at selling any of my stuff but that is most likely for lack of really trying. I have started to pack stuff up and am amazed at how much "teacher stuff" I have. My original limit of 10 boxes just isn't reasonable.

Each day now is just another countdown day for me...there are 42 days until I leave for China, 29 days until I am in Seattle, 20 days left in my apartment, 14 days of summer school, 4 more weekends in NYC, and 1 more work day this week.