Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tostadas, little dogs named Harry, and small spaces

Carmel last weekend; Harry Potter themed sand castle contest! This was one of my favorites:

...Today was a beautiful day in Salinas! Last week was colder (mid-to-lower 60's) and windier, but this week warmed up significantly. I skipped Spanish class last night to go to yoga and it was phenomenal (I take Spanish classes at the community college as part of my AmeriCorps "training").

My school's teachers' lounge is pretty tiny, yet they manage to pull off several luncheons per month and today was the first I went to: tostada bar! Everyone brought something and the food was muy deliciosa! My friend Marina helped me make guacamole - I brought avacadoes and she brought a ton of other stuff and we mixed it all together at school. There was such a lively atmosphere and music that I almost forgot where I was! I could have been at a Mexican family get-together. This luncheon in particular was a farewell to our principal who will be moving on to an administrative position. He seemed like a really wonderful, motivated person (for the 3 weeks I sort of knew him) and the school will miss him alot. Now the assistant principal has become the principal, but we have nobody to fill her old position. Things are hectic around school for sure, and space is limited -- did I mention that the 5 AmeriCorps tutors have no designated place to tutor? We've been using the stage in the cafeteria/multipurpose room, which is tiny and we basically get kicked out by the noise of assemblies and lunch hour. It's our only option so we just do it.

So I guess the theme for today is making the most of your limited space! Apply to your life as you see fit.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

top of the mountain at Chualar Canyon

This is where the program founder, Ginny, lives. Her son gives a lot of Jeep rides to the top of the mountain. They're kind of scary rides but you can see forever.

...hasta ahora

Driving across the U.S.:
So I just made this blog last night but I've been here for almost a month. I'll try to recap some important things, but there's no way to get everything. It would be a small series of books :) Anyway, the 5-day drive out here was the coolest road trip ever (right Mom?) - even the delay in Bakersfield, CA after part of my bumper fell off! The Saturn dealer of Bakersfield fixed it up and we were good to go - almost $200 later. But whatever, there was no time to dwell on that. I was in California! We stopped at the Grand Canyon (before Bakersfield of course) which was amaaazing! Do you see the sunset picture? The whole trip was unforgettable.

However, when we finally got to Marina, getting out of the car was the best thing ever!

Just to clarify, because I know I've told people differently, I actually live in the small coastal town of Marina. AmeriCorps helps all the volunteers find cheap housing (semi-affordable using the "living stipend") on CalStateU.Monterey Bay campus. I live with Mary from Iowa and Delia from Massachusetts. We each have our own bedroom because Delia moved into the laundry room (we don't have a washer/dryer so the room just sat there!) Marina is in the county of Monterey (which also contains the cities of Monterey and Carmel, etc.), 100 miles south of San Francisco, 40 miles south of Santa Cruz (which is a pretty cool place), and 300 miles north of L.A. I work in Salinas, my neighbor city to the East. Salinas is pretty big (I guess I'd compare it to Lansing in size) and surrounded by vegetable fields. Lettuce and spinach are HUGE out here! On my way to work I drive by hundreds of men and women in the fields working faster than I ever imagined. That was something I didn't expect (I don't know why, but I didn't think the fields were RIGHT there next to the road. But where else would they be?...) Injustice sits right in front of you everywhere - here I am with a nice reliable car and in general lots of opportunites, and I have probably never put in such a hard day's work as I see out here.

Which brings me to why I'm here - to read with kids! I work at Cesar Chavez Elementary, a semi-bilingual school with no hallways (the classrooms stand on their own and are "connected" by a courtyard), which means I get to put on my sunglasses most of the time when I walk from classroom to classroom! My Spanish is getting better every day, especially working with three other AmeriCorps volunteers (Lupita, Claudia, and Marina) who are Spanish-speakers (and Noah is cool too :) Most of the teachers switch back and forth from Spanish to English in class. I recently started tutoring one-on-one literacy with 1st through 4th graders. So far, I'm just trying to get to know them more. We've read some Eric Carle books, Dr. Seuss, etc. and played some flash-card games. Soon I'll start planning and actually teaching more phonetics related stuff. I've had some down-time and helped out in a Kinder classroom with my little amigo Luis. He is the cutest little thing, a full head shorter than the rest of the kindergarteners (seriously he makes all the 5-year-olds seem extremely mature). He needs a lot of attention so I read with him/help him trace the number 1/make sure he doesn't run away... If I had favorites he would be one of them. He is super friendly and gives out a lot of hugs, so it's easy to forget how hard you are working just to get him focused.

Pretty soon Chavez will start an after-school program and I might be able to get paid for 2 hours a day to teach gymnastics!!

I'm finally feeling settled in here and I love it. there are plenty more stories to tell but I don't have the time to type them all and you probably have stuff to do!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007