Daily Archives: April 12, 2017

Letter J #AtoZChallenge

Letter J entries coming up! And, no, one is not Jennifer. ­čÖé

Jason

The one constant throughout my elementary school years was this one kid who was in my class each year from first to fifth grade. Jason Hensel, a scrawny boy who sported a blonde flat-top, was super smart and we competed for grades all the time. My number one goal in life was to be better than him. It was a bit of a crazy obsession. I had to be the best, and he was the only thing standing in my way.

As an adult, I was embarrassed to find a book of poetry I’d written in the third grade. The About the Author page was a fill in the blank worksheet, and nearly every statement had something to do with beating Jason Hensel in some way. “I wish I could swim as fast as Jason.”┬áDid I even know how fast he could swim?┬á“One thing I can’t do is spell as good as Jason.” I actually was a pretty good speller, but apparently I wasn’t Jason-level good. “I want to run as fast as Jason.” Wow, I was insufferable.

In second grade, our GT class, consisting of me, Jason, and some other guy I can’t remember, had to research a country and present a report to the group, along with bringing in a food from the country. I chose to present on China (coincidentally…who knew I’d end up moving there 20 some odd years later?), much to my mom’s dismay. Remember this is before the invention of the Internet…it was difficult to find information. I chose China because I could bring in fortune cookies. Imagine my shock when I moved to China and realized they aren’t even Chinese. Mind blown! Anyhow,┬áJason researched and presented on Australia. While I wouldn’t come to realize it until years later after much┬áreflection, that was when my obsession with all things Aussie was born. I can distinctly remember proclaiming from the age of 7 that I would one day become a teacher and live in Australia. Spoiler alert: I did it. ­čÖé

Looking back, I realize I must have had the biggest crush on him that my younger self didn’t realize. Whether it was a crush or something else, I was definitely unnaturally obsessed with him and being better than him. I’m so glad I’ve grown out of that phase of my life.

After elementary school, Jason’s family moved to a neighboring town and we never saw each other again. It wasn’t until college, when I was at a friend’s party and introduced to a guy named Jason, that I saw him again. I didn’t make the connection that it was him right away though. I remember thinking, This guy looks really familiar, but couldn’t place him. After seeing him a few more times at various functions, I heard someone call him Hensel. Lightbulbs went off! I know him! We laughed about the good ole days and became friends for a bit. We lost contact when I moved abroad, so I’m not sure what he’s up to, but I hope he’s doing well. I’m glad I no longer feel the need to compete with him.┬áI now compete with myself, as it should be.

Jobs

Over the past 20 years, I have worked continuously in a variety of jobs, not counting┬ámy babysitting gigs when I was younger. During high school and university, I had at least one job at all times. My first job was a skating carhop at Sonic, one of my favorite jobs ever. I still reminisce about that job and secretly want to do it again for a summer. The only job I was ever fired from was Schlotzsky’s, where I manned the registers. I was fired for attending a Garth Brooks concert instead of going to work. My dad got me and Andrew front-row tickets at the last minute, and while I protested that I had to work, he made me call in and go to the concert. I cried and cried when I was fired, sure that my life was over and I’ve never work again. I was so dramatic!

After being sacked, I got a job at Cinemark, where I worked in the concession stand, as an usher, in the gameroom, and in the projection booth. I’ve sold Cutco knives door-to-door…maybe not the best choice as a young girl, but I was pretty good at it. If you haven’t heard of Cutco, they are really awesome knives. I still have a bunch of them and use them all the time. I also worked as a carhop again, helping train newbies at a brand-new Sonic. I was meant to just work there a month, but ended up staying about a year. I also held jobs at two different HEB grocery stores, worked at my church’s Mother’s Day Out and Nursery programs a few days a week, and babysat for the Foster family in the afternoons.

My first full-time, grown-up job was when I was worked in a call center doing tech support for a free ISP. Just so you know, I had no technical knowledge, but somehow I got the job. They trained me, and I did okay. Most of the time, all people had to do was restart their computer and the problem was fixed. I even had a few callers who couldn’t get their computers to connect to the Internet, only to find out they hadn’t turned their computers on yet. Face palm! The hours at that job were pretty crazy, especially with my school schedule. I was 18 and a freshman in college at the time. I would attend school Monday to Friday 7:45-11:30 am, then rush to work Sunday-Thursday 12:00-9:00pm. Seriously, what was I thinking?!?

Right after graduation, I moved to Sydney where I was a nanny for a family of three kids. I also worked part-time in a bottle shop (wine and liquor store) in order to pay taxes so I didn’t get kicked out of Oz. I returned to Texas after 6 months, where I began working as a fourth grade teacher at Hall and Bay Elementary Schools for the next 6 years. During that time, I had part-time jobs off and on to make ends meet. How sad is it that teachers need to supplement their incomes?? Anyhow, I worked at Bath & Body Works and Coach in the mall near my house. As I mentioned in Letter I, I was a camp director for iD Tech for three summers as well.

Since moving abroad in 2010, I’ve worked as a teacher, literacy coach, principal, and head of primary/PYP coordinator at three schools in Shanghai, Tirana, and Bangkok. I’m fortunate that I no longer have to have part-time jobs to make ends meet. I now fill up my time off by traveling and going back home to visit family.

Whew…writing it all out makes me realize I’ve worked a lot and in a variety of settings!

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

Letter I #AtoZChallenge

This challenge has been fun! Enjoy my memoir encyclopedia entries for Letter I.

iD Tech Camps

In 2009, I was seeking adventure. I felt the pull to travel and just go, but due to a long-term relationship I was in, I wasn’t ready to move abroad yet. In the spirit of desiring newness and adventure, I applied for a position at iD Tech Camps. iD Tech is a really cool technology camp for kids aged 7-17, where they can learn how to program, mod and create video games, create apps and videos, and much more! I was into technology, but definitely couldn’t teach any of these courses, so I applied for the director position and got it. I was really excited about camp, but more excited that I’d be living in Denver, CO for the summer.

In preparation for working at iD Tech, I attended a weekend training session in Philly, where I met another soon-to-be director, Anela. She and I became fast friends, and the fact that she lived in Houston, where I was currently living, was the icing on the cake. She and I remain friends to this day. Training was a crash course in the craziness of camp life…and while I didn’t understand it all, I sorta loved it! I left pumped about the impending camp season.

Spending the summer in Denver was a dream! I traded the hot, humid, sticky summer of Texas with the cool, breezy, sunny summer of Colorado, and boy did it make me consider moving to CO full-time. My staff that summer was really great, and we were a team. We laughed more than I thought possible. We faced lots of trials together, which were scary and nerve-wracking in the moment, but humorous later. From being cursed at by an angry parent on my first day to an evacuation due to a gas leak in the lab to riding in an ambulance with a young camper who had a seizure in the light rail station while we were on a field trip to an instructor dislocating his shoulder while playing capture-the-flag, we went through it all. It wasn’t all crazy though. We had really fun times, too, where we hosted poker nights, dressed up in crazy outfits, and played pranks on one another and the campers. Camp has a way to bond you for life.

tacky thursday group shot

I’m especially grateful that I met many friends that summer that I remain in contact with still. Jen (AKA Trixie) and I developed a really close friendship, and have visited one another several times. She and her family are very dear to me. I am proud of the woman and mom she has become. Then there’s Emma (AKA Lemmanade), her wife Andrea, and her brother Juan. They are just good people. They’re also hilarious and a night with them leaves me with a sore stomach from laughing so much. Ian (AKA Sketchy or Sketch-a-licious) kept me sane that summer as my right-hand man. He’s pretty hilarious and uber-talented.

Following that first summer in Denver, I worked at iD Tech for two more summers, only those were in Austin, TX. I greatly missed my Denver crew, and right now I can’t actually remember why I chose to work in Austin, but perhaps it was to be closer to home. I had lots of fun at camp in ATX, but it wasn’t the same as Denver. I would love to continue to work at camp, but my summer schedule as an international school educator doesn’t match up with the US summer schedule. My last summer at iD Tech was the summer after my first year in China, and it was hectic, to say the least. Camp began a week before I was finished with school, so they hired a sub director to set up camp and work the first week. I flew in from China (16 hour flight and 12 hour time difference), and 12 hours later began working. I didn’t have time for jet lag, so I just powered through and lived on sweet tea (coincidentally, Sweet T was my camp nickname, too) to keep my energy up. It was super crazy, but also a memorable summer.

Injuries

I’m no stranger to injuries. Being super clumsy doesn’t help, but I also have some crazy bad luck sometimes. Rather than regale all my injuries, which would take all day, I’ll just give you the highlights.

In first grade, I broke the same finger twice. The first time, I was at my Mamaw’s house, and my parents were painting the upstairs rooms. I pushed my baby stroller into the room to seek attention from my mom and dad, but they only told me to get out, knowing my curiosity would result in me covered in paint. As I backed out of the room, a gust of wind from an open door swung the door hard and it closed on my right middle finger. I was in a splint for a while in order for it to heal. A couple of weeks after the splint came off, Andrew and I were playing in my playhouse, pretending that it was McDonald’s, using the sliding window as the drive-thru window. As you can probably predict, he slammed the window shut before I could pull my hand out of the way. As luck would have it, my finger was re-broken.

Fast forward to eighth grade. One afternoon in April, I was playing at the church playground near our house. Being the daredevil that I was, I decided to show off by walking on top of the monkey bars. I’d done it before with no problems, but this time someone rode by on their bike and shouted out my name, causing me to look and lose my footing. I fell, hitting my right wrist on the bar on the way down and landing on my left arm. Crying and in a lot of pain, I walked the block home and told my mom what had happened. She inspected me and ascertained that my arms weren’t broken, on account of there being no swelling. I’m a whiner when I’m hurt, so she was unfazed by my tears. Slapping my left arm in a sling, she informed me we had plans with friends.

I pathetically ate my chicken wings and fries at dinner, whimpering from the pain. Following dinner, we drove out to Navasota, a neighboring town, to watch the drag races. The cool April night air made my bones hurt. Still crying, my mom reassured me I was okay, and sat me in the concession stand to keep warm while she went back to watch the races. After a few hours, I was still in pain. I begged my mom to take me to the hospital. She reluctantly agreed, and we left.

On the way home, she changed her mind and decided to take me home and give me some codiene for the pain, figuring that would knock me out. When I was still awake and in pain an hour later, we went to the ER. After visiting with the doctor and taking x-rays, it was confirmed that I had indeed broken my left arm. In fact, I had fractured both bones in my forearm in the fall. I remember complaining to the doctor that my right wrist was hurting. He ordered an x-ray, and sure enough, I’d broken the other arm, too. Having two broken arms in middle school means that you are relentlessly teased. I earned the unfortunate nickname Monkey Girl, something that luckily didn’t follow me into high school.

A few months into my first year in China, I was playing sloshball in the Shanghai zoo with a bunch of my colleagues. For those of you who don’t know, sloshball is basically drunken kickball. I wasn’t actually drunk while playing though, because you didn’t drink unless you made it to second base, which I rarely did. Anyhow, I was playing defense and was in the infield when a pop fly came right to me. It should’ve been an easy catch, but somehow the ball hit my left ring finger at just the right (or wrong) angle to jam it.

Man, it really hurt! Trying to be tough and not cry in front of my colleagues, I continued to play through the pain. Pretty soon, I was in a lot of pain and could no longer use my left hand. Unable to catch the ball, I moved to the outfield where I’d bat the ball towards the infield with my good hand. Eventually, in too much pain, I left early. At home, I iced my hand with the only frozen thing I had, a bag of peas.

When I woke up in the morning, my finger had swollen to twice its normal size and had turned purple. Okay, maybe I should go to the doctor. It ended up being broken in the lower joint, and I was given painkillers and a splint. It was supposed to be healed in six weeks, just in time for Christmas. Christmas came and went, and it was still not healed. Long story short, it ended up taking an abnormal time to heal, and when it finally was healed, my finger was permanently curved, and I was unable to straighten it. After visiting a series of doctors, the answer was surgery to make it straighten out again.

Surgery and all the surrounding issues is a very long story, but the short of it is that the doctor didn’t numb me correctly and I felt the entire thing. Upon the first cut, I asked, “Should I feel you cutting my hand open?” To which he replied, “No. You feel that?” “Yes, and it really hurts,” I said through tears. “Well, I can’t numb you anymore once I’ve cut you. Sorry.” Earnestly, I tried to cry without moving my body, while I felt every cut and stitch. As far as surgeries go, this one was pretty traumatizing. After that, I found out that they never got approval from the insurance company, despite telling me they had. They wanted me to pay an insane amount of money, which I never did. I can’t ever go back to Parkway Health in China. In the end, my finger went right back to its permanently curved state, despite 8 weeks of twice weekly physiotherapy. Now they say the only way to fix it is to re-break my finger. No, thank you. I’ll just stick with my crooky finger.

finger surgery

My most recent injury was when I got into a motorbike accident in Bangkok five and a half weeks ago. You can click here to read all about the accident and the emergency room visit. Update on my progress: I’m still in my little green boot, but I’m now able to limp around without crutches. My wound is almost healed, but I still have a small open wound on my ankle, which is totally cramping my holiday plans. I mean, I was at the beach in Thailand and I’m now in Bali, and I can’t get in the water. It’s so not fun! I’m hoping to be back to normal soon.

img_3334

iPhones

When I got my first iPhone, it was an ordeal. After my cheap pink Nokia phone was stolen, I decided to upgrade to an iPhone 4, my first smart phone. I was living in Shanghai at the time, and was very new to the language, so I didn’t know more than a few words. I went to the nearest Carrefour and proceeded to spend a few hours trying to purchase the phone with the correct specs and package. Since Mr. Lee, the man helping me out, didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Mandarin, we relied on Google Translate to communicate with one another. This added step took more time and definitely caused confusion on both parts, but in the end, we had it all sorted. When it came time to pay, there was an issue with my card. Since this was the largest purchase I had ever made in China (6000RMB or ~ $1,000), my Chinese bank card didn’t work. I tried to take out money from the ATM, but I was unable to take out that much on one day (apparently there was a limit on my card). I decided to try and pay with my overseas credit card, only to realize that it, too, had a limit.

Frustrated beyond belief that I was unable to purchase the phone after spending hours trying to work it out, I was about to give up and go home. That’s when Mr. Lee came to my rescue. Understanding that I couldn’t get the money to pay for the phone that day, he told me he’d pay for it and I could pay him back the next day. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This guy, who didn’t know me from Adam, was willing to loan me more than he probably makes in two months just so I could have an iPhone. I was shocked, but graciously accepted his offer, promising to come repay him the very next day. I don’t know that I would have done the same for a stranger, but I guess I have a trustworthy face. I gave him half of the money (all I had been able to withdraw), and promised to return the next afternoon.

After telling the story to Shaggers and Jeezy, they teased me to no end, telling me Mr. Lee only did it since he had a crush on me. Jeezy kept making vulgar jokes…completely embarrassing and grossing me out. They both went to Carrefour with me the next day to repay him, and Jeezy tried to set us up. I was beyond embarrassed and paid him quickly and got the heck outta there.

I’ve had not one, but two, men pickpocket me and steal my iPhone, and I am proud to say, I confronted them both and got my phones back! Take that thieves! The first incident happened in Shanghai on a cold January night. You can read the whole dramatic story here. The second time was a couple of years later while walking down a crowded sidewalk in Tirana, Albania. Sally and I had just had dinner and were walking back home along the main drag, weaving in and out of people. I felt something that seemed like someone was unzipping the small pocket of my backpack. Knowing that the only thing in there of any value was my iPhone, I turned around and saw a man standing there. I told him to give me back and my phone, and when he gave me a quizzical look, I grabbed his arm. Sure enough, my phone was right there in his hand. I snatched it back while scolding him for stealing. He just looked at me like I was the crazy one. Surprisingly, so did the onlookers. Why is it that I’m the bad guy in this situation? He’s the thief!

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]