Author Archives: aggiekesler

When will it be over?

Yesterday, HR informed me that I’d be going to the immigration office to extend my work visa. Bring a book, they said, you may be waiting a while…

We left school at 7:30am, presumably to miss the traffic. Spoiler alert: We didn’t. Thirteen miles and an hour and a half later, we arrived.

The office opened at 8:30. We arrived at 9:00. Tony, the HR rep, lined up to get our queue number (yes, you line up to line up), and emerged with the saddest face. Number 194. One hundred ninety-four.


Around 10:00, we went to check the progress of the queue. The red LED lights displayed number 20. Twenty!?!? You mean we have 173 more people ahead of us?!? This is insane! Free from sitting in the rows upon rows of seats, Tony tells us we can meet him back here at 2:00pm. He tells us about the indoor market full of food stalls and the underground food court we could walk around.

My companion, a 16 year old high school student who is a part of our school’s boarding program, and I slowly, and I mean slowly, make our way around. The market was pretty intriguing! There was the typical market fare, but there were also unique foods I’d never tried. We’d occasionally stop to watch as they prepared the food, asking questions about ingredients and preparation techniques. Almost always we were offered a sample, which I gladly took, but my picky friend did not. The coconut and black sticky rice balls were good, but not good enough for me to buy them. They were sweet, but the texture was too gooey. The curious yellow fruit I’d seen peeled and wrapped in cellophane at previous markets, yet didn’t know the name of, was there. Only this time, I saw the woman removing it from it’s large spiky exterior. A quick inquiry revealed it was jackfruit. I was offered a taste, which I took. The texture reminded me of flesh, and it had a sweet, yet slightly stinky, taste. I decided to pass on that one. I also tried rice crackers, cashew and sesame crackers (which I bought!), and pickled green mangoes, which smelled and tasted like alcohol.

Sufficiently killing time and our boredom, we headed down to the food court for lunch. My high school buddy ordered 2 double cheeseburgers and 10 chicken wings. And ate it all! I ate the PB and J I’d packed and a few fries. After a stop at 7-11 for a slurpee, we checked the time, certain it was nearly time to meet up with Tony. It was 11:19. We had successfully killed one hour and nineteen minutes. Man, this was going to be a long day.

Exhausting all the entertainment the market could provide, we sought out a place to sit and rest. I toggled between texting Shaggers, reading my book, people watching, and scribbling in my notebook. My friend watched YouTube videos and played games on his phone. Lunch break for the office came at noon, at which time they were only at number 70! Everyone was ushered out into the lobby area during the hour they are closed for lunch. Throngs of people, all dressed in black and white, sat motionless on the stools, staring into their screens as the time slowly ticked by.

As I wondered how many more hours we’d have to continue the waiting game, I noticed the hours on the door. They close at 4:30. Will we make it? Will they stay open later? Will we have to come back? Oh, please, don’t make me come back. Just as I’m wrestling with this idea of running out of time and having to do this all over again, a rather large man and his partner walk up.

He’s obviously annoyed and disgruntled to see the doors closed and the lights off. A quick look at the hours posted on the door reveals they’re on lunch break. Looking around, unsure of what to do, I reach out to him. “Yeah, they’re closed for lunch. Should be back in half an hour, but you might not want to come today. We got here at 9:00 and are number 194. They were only on 70 before lunch.” I give him a sympathetic smile.

Anger begins to set in. “But I have to get it. My visa runs out today and I am getting on a flight later, and I need my visa so I can come back into the country.”Setting his jaw, he says, “It has to happen.” I ask him when his flight is, and he says he has to be at the airport at 4:00pm, but he first needs to go home and get his luggage.

I wonder, Why did he wait until a few hours before his flight to try to do this? Will he get it in time? What happens if he doesn’t? Will he make a scene? Desperation makes you do crazy things.

Settling back into our seats by the entrance, I notice security is lax. There’s this illusion of safety, what with the metal detector and the baggage screener set up near the door, but the security guards are mostly on their phones and people just walk right in. Sometimes, when their eyes aren’t glued to their phones, they ask people to put their bags through the scanner, but other times, they don’t. It doesn’t matter though. They never look when the bags go through anyway.

Dude, I hate waiting. I wish I could take a nap. I try in vain to get comfortable on the hard plastic seat.

Restroom break time. Surprisingly, it’s decent. Not super clean, but not abhorrent like it could be. A common occurrence in Thailand, we are provided with one-ply toilet paper with which to dry our hands after washing. Tiny pieces of wet paper get stuck all over my hands. This only adds to the frustration of my day.

Now back in the rows of seats inside the office, I try to read, but the constant ding followed by the robotic-sounding voice calling out the next number in the queue interrupts my flow.

At 3:30, they are only at number 137. Fifty-four more to go. And they close in an hour. Let the nail-biting commence. And the annoyance continue to fester.

On a positive note, I got some mango sticky rice for a snack. The mango wasn’t very ripe, so it wasn’t amazing, but it was good enough to quell my grumbling tummy and take up a bit of time.


Throughout the day, we’d run into familiar faces as we trod along, all of us in on this shared experience, never to see one another again. One in particular was a couple…well, were they a couple? I couldn’t exactly tell. The young man, who couldn’t have been more than 24, was handsome in that boyish, he-knows-he’s-handsome kind of way. Dressed in a fitted suit, red tie, and blue paisley pocket square, his hair perfectly in place, he had an air of arrogance about him. I caught his accent briefly. Definitely not American. British perhaps? I’m not entirely sure. He strode confidently, followed quickly by a young Thai woman, at least a foot shorter than him, cute, hair in a ponytail, and wearing a brown velvet dress and sneakers. She was obviously in love with him, or at least infatuated. She had all the tell-tale signs…laughing at all his jokes, gazing up at him with eyes a sparkle, and lightly touching his arm every chance she could. He certainly wasn’t bothered by it, but he never touched her. That’s why I don’t think they were a couple.

Coming up on 4:30, the crowd thinning, seats emptying, people break free of the imprisonment we have all found ourselves in today. Tony tells us they’re going to keep working past closing time so we will be seen today. Hallelujah! Trying to unsuccessfully distract myself with my book, I am fidgety, wanting this day to end.

Finally, at 5:15, my number is called! A brief interaction with the immigration officer, a few signatures, and a photo later, I’m done. Or so I think. Nope, I now have to wait on my passport.

At 6:00, we load into the van, headed back to our area of town. By this time, I’m hangry. I just want food. Real food. And I want a massage and a shower. And I need to slice. Climbing into the back, I try to lay down, but sleep eludes me.

I finally arrive at 7:15pm. Nearly 12 hours after we left this morning. Such a waste of a day. Relieved it’s over, I get some Kao Soi for dinner and a quick massage on my leg, where I’m certain I pulled a muscle. If I never have to do that again, it’d be too soon.

Running an Errand

This morning, I was tidying up our circle time area and found a book that Ms. Lauren had loaned me that I needed to return. Since I’m still struggling to get around quickly, I decided to utilize my “teacher helper” job and send one of my preschoolers down the hall to return the book.

Thinking that this first errand might be a little daunting alone, I sent a buddy along with my teacher helper. Standing in the hallway, I offered encouragement to my suddenly shy friends. “Go on. Knock on the door.” They disappeared into the doorway, and I waited for them to return.

Two heads peeked out, smiles spread across their faces, and as they emerged into the hallway, I noticed they still had the book with them. “Guys, you have to knock on the door louder. She’ll come and you can give it to her.”

Giggling, they tried again. And again, after a minute out of sight, they reappeared in the hallway, still clutching the book. Now I’m giggling, wondering whether to walk down and help them.

More reassurances. More trepidation and nerves. It’s time to call in reinforcements.

I called upon Alani, my not-afraid-of-anything spitfire, to help them. She gladly tiptoe-ran down the hallway to assist her too-shy friends. Confidently, Alani knocked on the door, and Ms. Lauren opened it, to the surprise of my little ones. They handed over the book, and all three ran back to me, proud smiles plastered on their faces.

I’m glad I didn’t go save them. One step closer to the independence I am trying to instill. They’ll be ready next time another errand presents itself.

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Let’s Get Vulnerable.

On my lunch break, I like to take a few minutes to myself and watch videos on YouTube while I eat my lunch, clearing my mind from the morning. Usually I watch Jimmy Fallon segments, as they’re guaranteed to make me smile. But today was different. Today I scrolled through one of my favorite channels, Soul Pancake, for something new to watch. For those of you who don’t know, Kid President is the brainchild of Soul Pancake.

The That’s What She Said playlist caught my attention. Expecting something light and humorous, something akin to Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, I pushed play. The first episode was entitled “Beauty and Body Image.” Whoa, that got real, real quick.

A focus group of an eclectic group of women sat around a table, talking about body image issues, sharing their perceptions of beauty, particularly their own, as well as recounting times in their lives when they questioned their body. Everyone shared these vignettes from their past when someone said or did something that caused them to doubt their beauty. As I listened to these women laying it all out there, I found myself nodding in agreement, tears welling in my eyes. Why is it that we allow others to define our beauty? Why do we give power to this negativity? Why do we consume media that promotes unattainable beauty standards and think we are less than when we don’t, when we can’t, measure up?

After watching That’s What She Said, I clicked on the That’s What He Said suggested video on the side, not really sure what to expect. The men’s version, entitled “Self Esteem and Body Image,” tackled similar issues related to body image and the messages men receive from others and the media. What surprised me most was that men faced the same things women do. They doubt themselves. They strive to fit this mold of what an attractive man is, someone who’s tall and strong, who can protect their loved ones. It shouldn’t surprise me that they feel this way, but it does. It’s not as widely talked about a topic as it is with women. Listening to them sharing their struggles and concerns was eye-opening. It made me understand a little more what’s beneath the often macho exterior of men.

As I watched both videos, I found myself noticing how beautiful each and every person was. Even as they described issues they had with their bodies, I would think, But look at your eyes; they’re so striking. He has a nice smile, one I’d notice across a room. Her hair is lovely; I wish I had hair like that. Her skin is radiant; I love the way her freckles dot her face. Why is that we can easily notice the beauty in others, but not always see it in ourselves?

Some of the questions and discussions posed in the video got me thinking about my own experiences. How do I feel about my body? First off, I struggle with my weight. I’d like to be much thinner, more fit. I’ve never had a flat stomach. Oh, how I wish I had one. My hair, while a pretty color, doesn’t know what it is. Is it curly? Is it straight? I wish it’d make up its mind. I’ve always been self-conscious of my smile. I have nice eyes, but the dark circles under them have always been there. I wonder if that makes me look tired.

When was the first time I felt not good enough, physically? Thinking back, I was in 7th grade when the self-doubt about my body started to creep in and consume my thoughts. I had always been small growing up. I was short and athletically thin, a result from the endless hours I spent outside running around and riding my bike. In middle school, my body began to change. Puberty hit me full-force, causing my body to grow softer and larger in certain areas. I was no longer thin. I found myself looking at my friends, with their flat stomachs and perfect bodies, and wondering why I didn’t look like that. Boys didn’t pay me much attention, like they did to my friends. I started to call myself fat. I’m pretty sure others did, too.

For the past 20+ years, my weight has fluctuated, from fat to not-as-fat, but I’ve never felt entirely happy with myself when I look in the mirror. I have never worn a bikini. Even when I wore a size 4 (a size 4!), I was too fat for a bikini. I wish I was that fat now.  I can recall, almost verbatim, the times in my life when people I loved have commented on my body. The time when my haircut made my face look too fat; when I wasn’t thin enough for him; when I didn’t look like a model and he deserved that, you know; when I was asked, not so subtlety, if I’d put on weight; when I was asked what I ate that day and whether or not I had worked out; when I was asked what’s wrong with me that I’m still single. Why do I let their commentary continue to play in my head?

When do I feel most beautiful? That’s a hard one. I wouldn’t use the word beautiful to define me. Cute? Maybe. Pretty? Sometimes. But beautiful? Hardly ever. If I had to answer that question, I’d say I feel most beautiful when I’m sharing a story with a friend or laughing with my whole body. If I really think about it, I think that I push people away, afraid to let anyone get too close, because I don’t feel beautiful enough. I feel confident in myself in terms of my personality. I know I’m a good person. I’m intelligent. I’m funny. I’m adventurous. I’m kind. But I lack the physical beauty that people seek. So instead of opening myself up for heartache, I find that I close myself off to others. I hope that the confidence I have in my inner self can be echoed in my confidence in my outer self.

This journey I’m on is definitely a life-long one. Learning to be comfortable in my own skin, accepting who I am and what my body looks like, and gaining self-confidence are all things I’m working on at the moment. I have good days and I have bad days. Today’s not a bad day, but it does leave me thinking.

Spring Break Plans

I’m soooo excited for Spring Break!! Just another 8 days of work, and then I get a magical 12 days off! 🙂 Linner is coming for part of my break, and I’ll be doing a bit of solo travel, too. Today I finalized my plans and I’m really looking forward to it!

When Linner arrives, we’ll have a quick staycation in Bangkok. The plan is to visit the Floating Market (new to us both), stay in a posh hotel downtown with a rooftop pool, get massages, and eat yummy Thai food. All in all, my kinda thing.

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Linner and I will travel to Krabi, Thailand and stay in Ao Nang at a sweet resort not to far from the beach. I plan to lay by the pool (hopefully I can get in, too!), relax with a pina colada or a fresh juice, and read. We’d also like to explore Ao Nang beach. Again, I hope to take a dip. Ao Nang has beautiful beaches, with huge rocks and cliffs nearby. I’d like to take a boat ride one day.


Once Linner leaves, I’ll be solo traveling to Indonesia! After a quick stop-over in Jakarta, I’ll fly to Ubud, Bali, where I will be staying at a relaxing hotel near the city. It has a pool with lounge chairs, a spa, and a good restaurant. The best part is it only cost me $34 a night, including breakfast! There’s a free area shuttle, and if I’m mobile and able to walk around, I plan on exploring. If not, I’ll lounge by the pool, reading and writing. Either way, it’ll be a relaxing trip!


This is why I live abroad…trips like this are possible and affordable. 🙂

Currently…

Currently, I’m…

Listening to my This is Us playlist. Don’t they have the best songs on that show?? I could listen to it all the time!

Loving the fact that I’ll be on Spring Break in a week and a half! Linner’s coming to visit and I’m going to some pretty cool places that involve sun and sand. 🙂

Drinking English Breakfast Tea, my go-to morning drink. It has to be Twinings.

Thinking about all the things I need to still book for my Spring Break trip. I’m such a last-minute travel planner.

Wanting to go watch Beauty & the Beast (again) this afternoon. Such a great movie! Brings me back to my childhood. Oh, and the popcorn with M&M’s is a guilty pleasure, too.

Procrastinating lots of stuff…lesson plans, newsletter, and emails I need to return. Ugh…guess I should do this at some point today.

Needing to do my foot exercises today. I’m getting more mobile, and want to continue the progress I’ve been making.

Reading…well, I actually just finished a book last night. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon was pretty good. Now I’m looking for what I’ll read next. Any suggestions?

Worrying about whether or not my wounds will be healed by the time Spring Break rolls around. Currently, the doctor says I can’t get my foot wet. I sure hope they do, because it’d be a shame if I couldn’t get in the pool or the ocean!

Anticipating my new adventure…so much to do to get ready, but looking forward to this new chapter in my life!

What are you currently doing?

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Lollipop Moment Thank You

Tonight, I re-watched Drew Dudley’s TED Talk entitled “Everyday Leadership.” In it, he talks about a girl who thanked him four years later for a moment that forever changed her life. She was scared about going to university, but when he came up to her wearing a goofy hat and passing out lollipops, she knew everything would be okay. She could do this.

In his talk, Drew asks, “How many of you guys have a lollipop moment, a moment where someone said or did something that you feel fundamentally made your life better?” He goes on to ask if we’ve told that person that they had an impact on our life. It got me thinking about people in my life who’ve been instrumental in a big way.

My lollipop moment was in 2006. I was beginning my third year as a teacher, in that shaky period where you feel like you sort of know what you’re doing, but you’re still second-guessing most of your decisions. I had spent my student teaching placement, as well as my first two years of full-time teaching, as a Grade 4 Math & Science teacher in a two-way split. Math was my jam. Always had been. I felt comfortable with numbers, with the one right answer aspect of it. Sure, there are many ways to get there, and I celebrated those, but at the end of the day, there’s only one right answer. Science was full of experiments, therefore it was equally exciting and engaging to teach (and for students to learn). I was comfortable in my niche, and I didn’t want it to to change.

Of course, as I’m sure you’ve predicted, it changed. With a reduction in students and staffing, my teaching partner was moved to a new campus. With no one to be my switch teacher, I was told I’d be a self-contained teacher. Gone were the days of teaching only Math and Science. I would now add Reading, Writing, and Social Studies to the mix. To say I was scared and upset would be an understatement. A major one. I was freaking out. I can’t teach reading and writing!!! I have never taught anyone to read! I have no idea how to even begin teaching someone to write! You’ve got the wrong person! I can’t do this! All those insecurities of not being good enough surfaced. To top it off, that year was the year that my district was embracing reading and writing workshop, a brand-new concept to all of us. No more basal. No more teaching stand-alone grammar lessons and form writing based on the 6 Traits. (Just to be clear, I despise basals and teaching writing and grammar inauthentically, but these new initiatives meant there was no one on my grade level to go to for help. It was new to them, too!)

During this freak-out moment, Debbie Johnson came to talk to me. Debbie had been teaching Grade 2, and while I knew her from seeing her around the building and in faculty meetings, we weren’t really acquainted and weren’t yet friends. But that year, Debbie had been appointed to the newly-created position of Literacy Coach on our campus. She approached me, trying to assuage my literacy fears. Her idea was simple. I didn’t know how to be a reading and writing teacher. She didn’t know how to be a Literacy Coach (she didn’t even have a job description!). But what she did know was how to teach reading and writing well. Really well, in fact. So she proposed a plan. She’d come in everyday and teach alongside me, mentoring me through this newness in which I suddenly found myself.

I’m not dumb, and I know a good thing when I see it. Through my tears, I took her up on her offer on the spot. Debbie and I began spending a lot of time together, planning, observing, teaching, assessing, reflecting, and crying (mostly me!). Using the gradual release of responsibility method, she held my hand as I launched reader’s and writer’s workshops in my classroom. She was in my room everyday for my entire afternoon (120 minutes) for at least a month. We used the First 20 Days by Fountas and Pinnell to guide us through reader’s workshop and Lucy Calkins’s Units of Study to establish writer’s workshop. She taught me how to teach guided reading, how to confer with my readers and writers, and how to take documentation on my students so that I knew them better as readers and writers. I learned to read and write alongside my students, using my writing and my struggles and triumphs as teaching tools.

Following that first month of hand-holding, Debbie and I met regularly to plan and reflect. She continued to observe and coach, and she remained that steady person I could rely on. I was in her office nearly everyday, sharing successes and failures, worrying over my abilities, talking about my kids, and problem-solving. We forged an unbreakable bond. What we had was why Literacy Coaches exist. They are there to help and guide, listen and offer advice, nudge, but not judge. Debbie was all of that– and more. Sometime during that year, Debbie became my friend, my confidant. She knew more about me (professionally and personally) than most people did. I could trust her completely. We shared secrets. We laughed. We gave each other books that the other just had to read.

That first year was hard work. I doubted myself. A lot. But you know what, I did it. Through the mini-lessons that flopped, the late nights spent planning, the tears shed, and the stress of planning and teaching 5 subjects everyday, I grew. I reflected often, refined my craft, and vowed to be better each and every day.

The biggest lesson Debbie taught me was that to be a good reading and writing teacher, I just had to be a reader and a writer. I already possessed those skills. In my free time, I was a reader and occasionally a writer. I thought like a reader and a writer. I was passionate about it. All I had to do was show it to my budding readers and writers. All I had to do was be myself, letting my love of literacy and my passion shine through. Most of the battle is getting your students to love reading and writing. Once you’ve done that, anything is possible. My beliefs around literacy are rooted in that authentic work of readers and writers. Reading and writing should be life work, not school work. And this is how I approached it with my students.

In 2006, Debbie Johnson was my lollipop moment. She met me where I was and coached me forward. In the years after, I went on to become a stellar literacy teacher, one whom teachers and administrators around the district came to observe. I was the teacher who ignited the writing flame in even the most stubborn of kids. The writing club I created for struggling writers was something every kid wanted to be a part of. In China, I created a Literacy Coach position and was a coach for 2 years, eventually becoming principal. I shared my passion of literacy with others, and I made a difference. Looking back, I’m not sure my life would have turned out this way had it not been for Debbie Johnson. So Debbie, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

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Baby Steps

If you’ve read my blog this month, then you know about the accident and saga that began two and a half weeks ago. Today was another appointment in a string of appointments. On the docket was cleaning my wounds, changing the dressings and a check-up with the doctor on my progress.

Update: The road rash on my ankle is healing pretty well, and while it isn’t exactly pretty, the majority of my wound is now dry and they didn’t need to even cover all of it today. My toes are healing, but considering the open wounds are only a week old thanks to last week’s fiasco, they aren’t as far along as my ankle. That being said, only 3 toes needed to be covered today. So, progress. My ankle, foot, lower calf is still swollen, but is not nearly as swollen as it has been, so the doctor was pleased with that. I’ve got some range of motion, although my Achilles tendon is super tight, which is making it difficult to put my foot down normally.

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I’m soooo over the whole hobbling on crutches or using a wheelchair thing though. Teaching preschool in a wheelchair seriously cramps my style. I can’t get around easily, especially in a school that’s not totally handicap accessible (so many steps!), and I’m just not the teacher I want to be right now. I can’t do what I want to do and that makes me cranky! I wake up every morning and think, I’ll just walk. I’ll be fine. Only I’m not fine. My leg doesn’t do what my brain tells it to do. Grrr!

Anyway, the last few days, I’ve been able to put a little weight on my foot, and with the aide of my crutches, I’ve been able to walk-ish. Due to the fact that I can’t put on a shoe or anything, my practice has been confined to my apartment. Today, I asked the doctor if I could have some sort of foot covering to try and walk outside and at school. I demonstrate my willingness to try by hobbling around the treatment room. After a bit of cajoling, he agrees to let me try. He even recommended I see a doctor in the rehab department and start physiotherapy today!

Physio went well. After a heat pack treatment for 30 minutes, I was put through a series of exercises, and to my surprise, most of them didn’t hurt at all. I then got to practice walking around with my new kicks! She kept telling me I was doing it wrong, but like I said, my leg’s not listening to my brain right now. At least I was doing it, even if it wasn’t exactly right!

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They say my recovery will take a while (3 months til I’m back to normal!), but if I keep at it and do my exercises everyday, I’ll improve faster. I’m determined to get off these crutches, so I’m going to follow the doctor’s orders. Here’s hoping it won’t take as long as they think! 🙂

Baby steps, literally and figuratively. 😝