Sunday, March 29, 2009

terminal case

March 23-29:

Life is good. It's been a bit strange to have worked that past 20 days straight, but there's a feeling of accomplishment along with this exhaustion. To clarify, I've probably mentioned that we have to do an additional 80 hours of independent volunteer work over the course of the year. Well, some of my teammates and I decided that it would be best to grind a little and try to knock out most, if not all of that time while we're still here in Maryland. It makes sense to us: we don't have a particularly taxing job during the week, we have weekends off, we have personal vehicles here to use, we know the area, after spending all week inside it's nice to get out and get dirty working outside and when we're at a cool location we won't have to worry about passing up something fun on the weekend because we're scrambling to get hours in. After yesterday's beach and trail clean up at Elk Neck State Park, I have 40 hours on the books. It feels pretty damn good. We were supposed to get another 10 hrs in today, but the site sponsor flaked. Whatevs, I'm not complaining about finally having a day off to sleep in, be lazy, do some laundry, buy some books and collect some thoughts.
There's not much to not about work. It's still work. The teachers are appreciative, the kids are fun sometimes, occasionally I'll do something neat like make a 10 ft banana split out of butcher paper, but it's mostly business as usual. I've decided I can't be a public school teacher by choice/passion. Too much damn discipline, it angries up my blood and I wouldn't be happy doing it. Other teaching, we'll see. I won't starve.
I guess the past few days and weeks of my life could be compartmentalized into lots of: working(at and away from school), exercising, reading, cooking and thinking. If we could add an electric guitar and a motorcycle to this mix I'd be the happiest boy, but I'm content with maintaining happy to happier right now.
The exercising has been fantastic. I've been staying with a super heavy core workout on Mondays and Fridays with the rest of the team. On Wednesdays we go to the giant YMCA 20 minutes away and I do heavy duty circuits with a 55lb bar. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I've been running/walking about 5 miles, much more running than walking lately. This week I'm going to start waking up early to jog a couple miles and do a little yoga before breakfast. This has definitely been paying off. I forgot to weigh myself, but I'd guess I've lost about 10lbs since I've been here, but I don't really lose weight, I just lose size. I gone two belt holes in since I've arrived and I expect to have to buy a new belt in a month or two. Good times. I also crushed another PT test on Friday: 44 pushups/min, 43 situps/min and a 7:07 mile. That's 56 seconds better than 2 weeks ago. Fuck yes.
So far, I've been reading about a book a week. Reach of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman, The Driver by Alexander Roy, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and The World According to Garp by John Irving. The Kundera and Irving books have definitely been the most enjoyable and have made the most impact. Unbearable Lightness is the first philosophy book disguised as a novel I've ever read, and liked. Lot's of insightful and thought provoking nuggets about life, relationships, love, cheating set in 1970's Czechoslovakia. I would definitely recommend if you want to dive head first into some terse, but dense material. Garp blew me away. I've always wondered if I would find an author that I thought could accurately write by biography and make it interesting. I'm confident John Irving could do it in his sleep. Garp is one of my new favorites and I can't wait to read the rest of Irving's books. It's a ridiculously well told story that provides incredible ideas and insight about family roles especially fatherhood, the impact of love and lust and just about life in general. I'd recommend it to anyone. I've heard the movie is decent and I could definitely see Robin Williams as Garp, but I won't watch it for a while. I don't to ruin this latent joy.
A few weeks ago I wrote that long diatribe about my romantic life and ant first I'd say it's a bit premature. But really, I've thought more about it and I'm more content with where that part of my life is. I'm transient for a reason, I like it. I've always had a bit of a grass is greener mentality and I don't think that's such a bad thing. Not that I'm constantly hating current situations, but usually things could be a little better and that leads me to new wonderful places and the people there. Sounds like a decent life. It might also have to do with the fact that I really can't think of anything I want to do after this than get a motorcycle and ride around the continent for awhile. I'll settle eventually, once some certainty comes. Perhaps when I figure out place/job/person that really holds me and I want to be held at that point. We'll see, for now I like things the way they are.
When I start experiencing cooler things, I'll write about them, but for now you get access to my diary from my hope chest, next to my ballerina jewelry box.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


March 12-22

I apologize for not updating in a while, but there hasn't been much of note. Not even any deep thoughts. I've been working everyday for the last two weeks straight, either at the school or hard labor on the weekend for independent service hours. I've basically been on autopilot. Just trying to keep myself busy at school, mainly being patient with the kids that clearly need one-on-one. I've also been exercising a lot, running and walking five miles on days when not doing circuit training. Clothes are feeling a little looser, so that's always nice. Overall I've been coasting. No real highs or lows. Physically I feel a little worn out, but it's the good feeling. Mentally I'm not wracking my brain over anything, other than the occasional what-if session for what I should do next year. But that usually just ends in me wanting to just ride my motorcycle for awhile. I bouncing between wanting to be planted and constant motion.
After getting a real taste for public school education, I'm pretty certain I don't want to teach. I have a ridiculous amount of respect for teachers, but I don't have "it" in me to be happy and teach. So I'm not so sure if the TEFL thing in Asia will happen. Whatevs, time to think about other options and locations.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Here it is

March 11: Day 3

Same ol', same ol'. Business as usual and such. Mostly hanging paper and coverings on the walls to prevent the kids from cheating on their assessment tests next week. And I'm sure next week I'll be up and down the step ladder to take it down again. I suppose I should be cynical and complain but when it comes down to it, I'm taking a load of these ladies' minds and helping them breathe a little easier and that's really all that counts.
One little girl finally said I looked like Santa Claus, I was waiting for it. Of course I had to shoot back a "What makes you think I'm not him?." Messing with kids is a decent time. And this is a great age, at 8 or 9 they're starting to get fairly intelligent, but they're still innocent and sweet. They still skip everywhere. They also sit in the tiny chairs that I'm sure make me even more of a comical giant when I sit down to do filing and stapling.

Soul exposure time: Obviously during lunch period the other teachers interrogate me with get-to-know you questions and inevitably the first question is always "Are you married or single?." And then it's immediately followed with a "Why are you single?." It's happened with most jobs in the last few years and this one is no different.
It's a topic I've thought about a lot and I've always had different answers for the why. I suppose I've always been single and for different reasons. Sure, I've dated, had romances and lovers and trysts. But nothing long term and official. In times past my excuse has been a heightened self-awareness(my term for low self esteem from growing up a fat kid) coupled with being a late bloomer. Then it was that stupid crippling anxiety thing and general awkwardness, but I suppose alcohol sortof helped with that. Then it was really a problem trying to find a cool girl who didn't have a boyfriend. Which, because I'm such a nice guy, led to a lot of emotional cheating. I'm a douche. Then it was a proximity issue by living at home with rents. This was good and bad; it forced me to get out and try the craigslist dating scene and those of you who've heard the stories know the rediculousness, others might hear about it if you asked nicely in person with a beer or three in hand. Now it's because I have been and will be a transient for a decent while. While this trait seems to be initially endearing to some women, the whole traveling for really good reasons things, it doesn't lend well to the long term. And rightly so. It'll be a good 9 months before I could even start to date someone in a legit way and even then I'm thinking about taking a few years to teach English in Asia. Oh me. Yet at the same time, if a special lady said "hey, move here, let's make it work," I'd probably give it a shot. But I think the singleness will remain for a bit. Does it sadden me? A bit, from time to time. But at the same time I've kinda figured out my life thus far, so I'm at peace with it; especially when I have some form of an object of affection around, because I really like doing cute boyfriendy shit. I'm king of the subtle, meaningful, "yeah, i was listening" gift. Blah. Brain sponge has rung dry. Maybe this only made sense to me. The gist: hey questioner, way to make an always single person remember they're still single. Hah!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Old Hat

March 10: Day 2

My first full day at the school. It was decent. Quite fucking familiar. I did a fair amount of the grunt work for the teachers: putting up posters, reaching for high things, covering bulletin boards so there's no cheating during the state assessment tests, grading tests and entering them on computers. I also helped out where I saw fit with the kids, showing a math or computer trick here and there and perfecting my teacher/parent "look." The look that will stop a kid immediately when they're doing something they know they shouldn't. It's a fun part of growing up I guess.
Point of ponderance: Kids are really growing up fast. These 3rd graders are doing probabilities in math and learning about onomatopoeia in english. Madness.
Final note: Fitness is going swimmingly. I took our first of 7? PT test yesterday and did pretty damn well. We were timed a minute each for pushups and situps. I did 37 pushups and 39 situps. 100% completion for pushups is 36 and situps 40. I hope to raise them both to 45 for the next test. We also did a mile run. I came in at 8:03. It was the first time I've ever run a timed mile in under 10 minutes. The boy is proud. And today I went for a lovely 5mile jog walk along the water. I'm trying to up the wow factor when I see everyone again.

People aren't really commenting and I'm wondering if I'm writing interesting enough stuff, I'll write about anything as long as people ask.

Monday, March 9, 2009


March 9: Day 1 of actual "work"

Today was the day we actually went to the school, got a tour, met the kids and teachers, and got a taste of what we would be doing. And what we're doing is a little surprising. We all thought this would be a needy school with lots of work to be done and they just needed the warm bodies to fill vital roles. Not so much. It's a Title 1 school, which means at least 40% of the kids have free and reduced lunches, this school has somewhere around 80%. So there's obviously a deficit in the kids' home lives. But since they're Title 1, they get an enormous amount of funding. A ridiculous technology budget and classroom with teachers, aids and interns from local colleges. Which leads to us. Obviously we can help, but is this the right place? We're expected to make lasting, tangible changes, especially in the areas of creating a newsletter and getting the parents involved in the school. There's already a newsletter and the parents quite involved, especially for such a poor and transient population. Right now the desired tangible effects are a bit dubious. I see the tangible effects being our presence in the students' lives and that won't be seen until they get a little sad when we leave and maybe some of them will join Americorps in the decades to come.
I'm gonna be bouncing between the four 3rd grade classrooms as a resource person. Somewhat similar to my last job, and all the Collaborative people will understand, especially with the age group/maturity level. I think I'll have a decent amount of fun. The teachers definitely have their shit together, almost to an intimidating degree and the kids seem to like me. One boy called me handsome in front of his friends and quickly followed it with a "no homo," so as not to emasculate himself in front of his chums. It'll be a quick and dirty and fun 7 weeks.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Satis - Enough

Feb 27-March 8

I apologize for not being in attendance lately. I haven't really felt like writing and besides, you got two quality posts back to back, and this one will probably be fairly long, so hush. Over this period of time there have been a few "yays" and a few "blahs," but nothing too terrible.
Yay #1 is obviously the arrival of my nephew, Weston Charles Arbour. My mom is out in Ohio right now to help and reports that Wes is a hungry lad who having a bit of trouble burping, hopefully he learns or his uncles will have to show him what's what.
At this moment I'm trying hard to think of what else happened, but right now it's just a blur of banality. Meetings, an induction ceremony(because up to this point I guess we weren't actually doing what we were doing?) and random chanting from various teams and units that made it seem like rush week. Or should I say rush weak. Ho ho, I'm a PUNisher. Anywho.
Another positive moment came in the form of the events Wednesday night and into Thursday. It was "Americorps Night" at the local bar, so the 18+ kiddies could come and dance, but not drink. A fair amount of bumping and grinding took place, along with a fair amount of imbibing spirited beverages. Almost too much imbibing. Why do I have to wind up with a gorgeous lady at the end of the night and have a ridiculous conversation about existentialism with her?
Early Thursday morning turned into later Thursday morning after only a handful of winks. The induction ceremony went by surprisingly quick, with a couple nice motivating speeches and a snickers bar to combat my overhanging senses. After some forced team "reflection time" the beauty began. We had clandestinely arranged a brunch for select awesome people. I needed to use my new griddle to its fullest potential. (the griddle and the crock pot have turned out to be the purchase decisions i've made in awhile, i love my growing collection of cheap and functional cookware) Everyone chipped in with eggs, bread and pancake mix. I added the hardware, the passion and some pumpkin pie mix. Yup, my pumpkin pancakes will make you swoon. Swoon. We figured I made around 50-60 flapjacks, about 20-30 pieces of freedom toast and not nearly enough bacon. Everyone was sated and I received hugs. I like my life.
To top Thursday off, we were treated to a pizza party by our awesome unit leader. We had tied the lovely ladies up the street in a cleanest house competition and our unit leader generously bought enough pizza for all of us to get our binge on. Brunch of brunches and then Pizzafest. Fantastic.
That night revealed one of the better hangout sessions so far. Everyone else was leaving the next morning so quality time was precious. I spent the evening, with my glucose levels cradling me like muscle relaxers, on the couch with a guitar, randomly spurting out ridiculous, humorous and borderline offensive verbiage. I think at one point I suggested another of the wolf unit teams use "We'll eat your grandmother" as they were pondering a team motto. I'm not sure why people listen to me sometimes.
Friday was alright. I slept through everyone leaving. I'm not a fan of permanent goodbyes, because they rarely are. The conversations will continue when you get back. I'll see everyone in 7 weeks and I already made pancakes. Friday morning was spent at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. This is were they test all the stuff that the military uses to kill people, or keep Americans safe. I guess it depends on your perspective. I would have loved it if I was 10, not so much. Tanks are neat, especially all the WW2 era Russian and German ones, but not enough to mask the taste of silly little things like carnage. I guess this is healthy cynicism. Though it was really neat to go to a government installation, in a van with government plates, flash my government ID and bomb right in. Maybe bomb wasn't the correct word to use right there, but I'm sticking with it. The weekend thus far has been lazy, relaxing and a little boring. Everyone's gone, so lots of reading has been accomplished and now you get to hear from me as well. I'll type more very soon since work at the elementary school starts tomorrow.