Friday, June 27, 2014

Monthly Update: May & June 2014


Updates from May and June!

I never got around to creating a month of May update draft and before I knew it June rolled around and I was too late. In reality, though, it's perfectly fine to do a combined post of updates but I won't elaborate on every one. I do plan to write a couple more posts about 2-3 of these topics individually (like how I applied to the North American Language and Culture Assistant program, some places and things that I saw in Chicago, must see places and must-do things in Ohio and lastly, my own evaluation of some of these micro-gig apps I am using to earn an extra income on the side. For now, please enjoy photos of mine from the past two months and read what I've been up to lately.

As always, at the bottom I will share prayer requests and praises. Please input your email into the subscribe box on the right hand side if you would like to receive updates from this blog straight to your inbox. Thanks!

1. Explored more of Ohio's parks and nature activities



The more I talk to friends who stayed or are just visiting the Dayton area, the more things I realize I haven't seen or done in this area. One of those places was John Bryan State Park just outside of Yellow Springs, OH. I actually went to this park for a picnic during the last weekend of April but I didn't write about it in last month's update. It was an absolutely perfect day weather wise and I couldn't have asked for better company either. The picnic was an IFI (International Friendship Institute) activity and one of the last events of the school year. I enjoyed meeting more new people, getting to know others, playing Dutch Blitz (super competitive and fast card game, not to mention addicting :-P), exploring the park and river nearby and discovering more and more how small of a world we live in. And how any event becomes instantly better with international people in attendance! :-)





In mid-June, I went canoeing for the first time in a long time with a group from UCIE (University Center for International Education) and IFI at Wright State. The last time I had been on a boat in any sort of water was when I borrowed a friend's kayak and went out on the St. Johns River by myself one hot day in May. That was definitely a fantastic experience! Canoeing was so fun and relaxing (well, not always, haha) too and it was the first time I had been since being on JU's Rowing Team. I actually found that I paddle better backwards than I do forwards. After all, rowing requires you to paddle backwards! haha I did scare the friend whom I was canoeing with a little bit when I accidentally turned the boat around and started paddling us out of a tight spot...backwards! Oops, haha. We canoed  for two miles down the Little Miami River (with the Little Miami Canoe Rental in Oregonia, OH) and the trip went by fast. Everyone that went decided that we'd all like to try their 6 mile trip in a few weeks. Not only could we canoe longer but we could also enjoy eating lunch right there on the river!

2. Saw my brother Nathan graduate from college!



This particular milestone my brother reached on Saturday May 3rd, 2014 was a long time coming, about 9 years in the making. I was so proud of him but barely saw him walk across the stage that morning as there were SO many graduates of all different majors from WSU walking. It was the first WSU graduation
that I had attended and the number of graduates and people in the arena watching everything completely blew my mind. It also made me appreciate the size and personal attention I got during my own graduation in 2011 a lot more. I am very happy for my brother and proud of all his hard work (both in the classroom and outside of it as he paid for the majority of his tuition costs every year up until graduation). I can't wait to see where he goes with his degree and beyond! He is a very talented and ambitious person and I am proud to call him my big brother.

I will let the above picture say the rest. :)

3. Got my regional and city placements from the Spanish government!

On the afternoon of May 16, 2014, I was sitting in a cafe (Tim Horton's) up the street from my house working on several things including some worksheets for an online Spanish editing and translation class I was taking through Coursera.org. I got completely absorbed in my work and fascination with the Spanish language that I forgot to keep track of time. I also forgot to check my email for several hours but I knew I wasn't going to receive an important message that day so it didn't matter whether or not I kept tabs on it. Famous last words!!!

My mom had called me wondering when I'd be home and also was wondering if I would go get a haircut that day. I said that I hadn't decided yet on either but I would at least call the hair cutting salon to see if their sale was still on. Well, in between searching their website for a phone number to call and going back to check my email since I had neglected it, I had a very big surprise waiting in my inbox. Before I even moved my cursor over to the Gmail tab I had up, I said to myself, "Oh, I'm sure there's nothing new in here. It's not like I got my placement email or anything today." HAHA! The joke was on me because that was exactly what was waiting in my inbox - my regional placement from the Spanish government! I'm going to my first choice region --> Galicia!

Here's a glimpse of what they call the Golden Ticket to Spain:



And then, just after I logged onto Profex (the application system candidates use to apply) a couple days later to accept, two weeks later, on a Friday again, I got my city and school placement. The funniest thing was, I had only emailed the regional coordinator in Galicia at the beginning of the week asking if I could be placed in a city called La Coruña. I never received a reply email except for the notice that I had been assigned a school placement....in La Coruña! And what's more is, I looked up the address of the school and I will be teaching at a school that is near the city center. In other words, I will have virtually no commute! Depending upon where in the city I decide to live, my commute could be at longest a 15 minute walk! :-D I am ecstatic about that!


Also, the bilingual coordinator at my school has already contacted me and shared the library's blog with me. If you would like to take a look at it and see some of the future students I will have an impact on, click here: Colegio Salgado Torres. (The blog is in the regional language, Galician, but if you know Spanish you should be able to roughly figure out what it says.)


4. Reconnected with old HS friends



I will let this picture speak for me with this one. It was so great to see you Lanora and meet your kids! You are doing a fantastic job with them. And they're so hilarious too!! :-)

5. Started to really clean and organize each room in our house (my room will still take a lot of work!)

I will elaborate on this more as time goes by but the short version of this update is that we are working hard to organize, clean and simplify several things in our house. I had the idea to first do all of this with my room as I have about 25 years worth of belongings in there now that have experienced a move almost every year for the past 7 years. It evolved into figuring out why we keep the things we keep, why there is so much clutter in certain rooms and how can we live more simply.

My brother came across a website called FLY Lady at the beginning of June and we have taken some activities and philosophies from there and applied it to our cleaning habits. One of these activities in particular is to break up our cleaning spurts into 15 minute challenges. The goal is to get as much done in one spot or one room as possible in 15 minutes. The time frame is not meant to frustrate you but rather challenge you to go through more things quickly and straighten them all up faster. You have to make quick decisions when it comes to throwing away, donating or keeping things. You even have to make sure you use those 15 minutes wisely and clean only the most important areas. We have done a couple per day for the last month and we have made a lot of progress! One of my big projects for this summer that I have yet to tackle is to scan all of my pictures, projects, papers, posters, reports, assignments, etc from school and back them all up on an external hard drive or flash drive. Then....I'm going to throw all of the hard copies away so that I can simplify all of the clutter in my room and life. I realized, while I was packing up my room in Jacksonville, that I can't move to Europe if I'm going to still be holding onto every little paper I write or print off. I need to consolidate and go digital! (And just because I know I need to is not going to make throwing all of those things away any easier. :-/)

6. Joined several Language Assistant Facebook groups and started to reach out and ask questions

I have been continue to research and join groups on Facebook that are geared for language assistants going over to teach English in Spain. I joined one in particular that is the largest one out there and connected with a couple of people. We have been introducing ourselves to one another, asking and answering questions and starting to make tentative plans to visit each other's regions. I am also looking into GBU's (Grupos Biblicos Universitarios, Spanish university student geared campus ministry) Facebook pages up in Northern Spain to see if I can connect with some evangelical Christians there early and hopefully find a good lead and potential roommates in an apartment next year. I'm crossing my fingers for something great to work out! :-)

7. Worked on getting back in shape

I was inspired by the picture below from an event that was floating around on Facebook. I have been thin my whole life but I haven't always been fit and in shape. I seriously need to build up my upper body strength which is why I started this challenge at the beginning of the month...but only made it about halfway through.
:-/ Better luck in July I say!



8. Visited Chicago for fun/work including a trial run trip to the Spanish Consulate General




I went up to visit Chicago the city for the first time as an adult from June 6th-9th to visit a friend, do some part-time work, see the sights and locate and plan a route to get to the Spanish Consulate where I will go in person to turn in paperwork to apply for my visa to live in Spain. That trip did not turn out as I had planned but I now know how to plan, budget for and get around the city better than I did! It's not my favorite city in the world but it was nice to visit.

9. Obtained a few extra freelance projects and sharpened my translation skills

My portfolio and skill sets are slowly getting built up the more extra projects I do. I have had three so far and while they have not paid a whole lot, they have definitely helped me to supplement my income. I have also challenged myself to translate about 100 words a day for the whole month of June which would come to a total of 3,000 words. I tried this challenge for many reasons but only successfully translated 1500 words. I tried this because I wanted to increase my speed and accuracy, build my vocabulary and read more articles in Spanish. I will aim to do this again in July and possibly in August to see if I can find just 20-30 minutes a day to set aside to translate any 100 word text from Spanish-English every day. Maybe in September I will do the opposite and go from English-Spanish. That will be a bit of a challenge for sure!

10. Started watching the World Cup 2014!

Last but not least, I am watching most of the World Cup games. Since I've been exposed to people other than those from Hispanic countries and I'd love to go to Brazil some day, I've been trying to watch almost every game. I don't particularly like to watch soccer (I'd rather play it to be honest) but I love to see all of the action on the field, how wildly the fans are cheering and how creative some people are dressed and how they go all out for their team! I even have the FIFA World Cup app on my iPhone and can follow the nitty gritty of each game if  I want to.




And yes, I'm still tuning into it even though my beloved 'La Roja' has been eliminated from the brackets!!! :( I'm very pleased to see how well the USA Men's team is doing and hope that they go far!

Praises

-I'm making progress on organizing and simplifying my belongings. It has taken some time to really feel like I've settled in here but I think after three months I feel as settled as I possibly can be.
-I received my regional and city placements a month earlier than I thought I would! And I got my region of choice --Galicia!!!
-Also, a huge praise that my school placement is in La Coruña proper and not in a small town 30-45 minutes away from the city. I will have virtually no commute and will save money on transportation costs during the week! I only thought this would be something nice to have happen to me but totally didn't expect it to happen. I'm already thanking God for being placed at this school and I haven't even gotten there yet! :)
-My brother graduated from college without a hitch and receive his diploma in the mail on June 27th. Very happy and proud of him!
-I got to go take a mini-weekend trip and not only explore a new city but do a trial run trip to the Spanish Consulate in Chicago. When it comes time to book my appointment there I will know exactly how to get there and where to go!


Prayer requests

-For my expected budget for Spain (Visa, background check and start-up costs, plane ticket, potential deposit on an apartment, personal expenses). There have been some setbacks or challenges as I try to earn the suggest amount I budgeted for but I am continuing to pray that I can get to half of what I need by mid to end of July.

-For an early placement hopefully in the northeast region of Spain (Galicia) and a school placement with little to no commute.   <---An answer to prayer right there!

-For a fairly easy and routine experience with the Spanish Consulate when I go to apply for my visa. I'm finishing up the background check process and will work on getting my medical exam during the early part of July. I will have to wait at least 10 days for the background check to be sent off to the State Department in Washington D.C to be apostilled (internationally notarized) before I can go apply for the visa.

-To keep using my time wisely and being able to take a couple of trips this summer. One in particular is our family vacation out to Nebraska to visit family. We are already experiencing schedule conflicts but pray that we will be able to make the trip together instead of separate.

*Updated*

-Health-wise I have been struggling for the past few months. And by struggling, I mean showing signs of carpal tunnel in my wrist (right arm). I type anywhere between 2,000-4,000 words a day for my copywriting/marketing jobs and projects, I write on this blog for relaxation, I message people, send texts and IMs and type other short notes and emails throughout the day. I really only get a break from typing on the weekends. I haven't always sat at a desk and typed long posts or emails which is bad for you know. I also know that my bad laptop etiquette has contributed to my pain but I didn't start to correct it until earlier in the spring of this year. I'm making progress in reversing the symptoms but it is going to take a lot more time to rehabilitate the wrist. I also won't have health insurance coverage until October (with the Spanish government) so I can't exactly just up and visit a physical therapist and pay out of pocket costs. I would just appreciate prayer for healing and more down time for my wrist.
If you or anyone you know has had (almost) carpal tunnel before and can recommend some exercises, stretches or products I could buy (specially designed mouses or laptop stands/holders), I would sincerely appreciate it!


Thanks for reading and investing time and prayer into my life!

Ata a próxima/Hasta la próxima/Until next time!
(Galician)          (Spanish)             (English)

Besos y abrazos,

Sarah

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Few Things I'm Thankful For...

If you regularly read this blog, you probably already know that I moved from Jacksonville, Florida back to my hometown of Dayton, Ohio for a few months. If not, well, you won't be out of the loop much longer as I'm working a short series of posts with updates on my life here and what is next for me. Today I just wanted to write a short post about some things I'm thankful for. I started writing down several things I'm thankful for just after I moved so that I could maintain a more positive outlook as I transitioned from living on my own with roommates to living in one of the houses I grew up in with my parents and brother again for a short time. It hasn't always been easy having everyone under one roof again but in some ways it has been really great.

Find out why below!

Just lounging outside one last time with the dogs (Fred, right; Nolan, left) in late March.

  • I'm thankful I can live in a more peaceful and quiet area. No train whistles, dogs barking -inside and outside of the house-or construction noises.
  • I'm thankful that I don't have to worry about one of the above mentioned dogs eating my uh, rather delicate laundry items, haha! (I still sometimes worry about that in the back of my mind because it became I had a couple bad experiences with that. :P)
  • I'm thankful I don't have to worry about someone honking their horn or whistling at me as I walk to/from a bus stop or wait at one.
  • I'm thankful I can sit outside with my kitty on a nice sunny day and feel like we have the neighborhood to ourselves.
  • I'm thankful I still have alternate places to go (ie: cafes, libraries) to work on projects and regular work.
  • I'm thankful that the nearest Target is up the street (5-7 mins away) and not 50+ minutes away by bus. So nice!
  • I'm so thankful (for the first time in fact) that the Dayton area has such a well-connected and beautiful network of bike trails. Not only can I get great exercise whenever I want to but I can also enjoy the natural beauty around me. :)
  • I'm very thankful that I have the opportunity to meet new people, especially international students! :)
  • I'm thankful that places to meet and hang out with people are NOT far away at all. (You're too big sometimes, Jacksonville haha!)
  • I'm thankful I don't have to interact with a super anti-social and unfriendly male cashier at Save-a-lot (supermarket) anymore. (It was like he was terrified of small talk and making eye contact. The cheap, fresh produce was the only thing that made me keep back coming there, haha.)
  • I'm thankful I don't have to hurry to grocery shop at a store, fit the small amount of items I do buy into one reusable bag and have to walk and carry the heavy bag from one or more bus stops and then home. And I'm thankful I could fill up a whole shopping cart full of groceries and have a way to transport them all home (especially in the rain!).
  • I'm thankful I don't have to spend most of my morning corralling dogs and telling Nolan to stop barking at every little thing sometimes - especially the "Invisible Dog" aka a big dog that lived next door whose owners would let him go outside of his fence.
  • I'm thankful to have my family close by (living with me) for late night chats and laughs, advice and hugs.
  • I'm thankful to have so many people in my life who not only care about my well-being but also care about my dreams and goals and want to see me succeed in life.
Taking a short break from work today with my kitty, Tigger. I made a towel out of my sweater for him to lay on. :)


If you're reading this blog, chances are you are one of those people! :-)

What have you been most thankful for lately?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

La tolerencia es el vino de los pueblos por Jorge Majfud (translated)

The following story is an opinion piece written by one of my former professors at Jacksonville University for the widely read El Pais newspaper online. I liked the piece so much that I wanted to translate it from Spanish to English and share it with my readers, many of whom do not speak Spanish. If you do and would like to read the original article, you can click this link and read it here. If you are a native Spanish speaker and notice an error in my translation, please comment below and bring the specific line or phrase to my attention! I will sincerely appreciate the corrections. Thanks!
Tolerence is the wine for the people by Jorge Majfud
My father was the fourth or fifth child of 12 born in Uruguay to a Lebanese immigrant couple, she was Christian and he probably was too. All his childhood he lived in misery, digging up food from the field to eat, setting his bare feet in the cow manure to relieve the early morning cold with frost, fighting with other poor people for the bones that were left in the Frigorífico Tacuarembó.
He was a school boy when his siblings already worked mixing mortar to make bricks or planting vegetables that later he would sell in their town. When one brother returned from school, the other found him at the entrance of the town in order to put on (exchange) his shoes.
With time, somewhere there in the 1950s, my father successfully made it to the capital city to study carpentry and radiotelephony and upon returning to his town started Fabrica de Muebles, as he called it, besides starting many businesses and founding a Rotary Club and some banking cooperatives successfully. During the day he worked in his pharmacy or looked for some lost cow en one of his fields, and at night, for 30 years, taught classes in the technical school. His colleagues laughed at his ability to fall asleep sitting or even standing on foot.
“If I could go back in life, I would work less and enjoy things more,” was one of the last things he told me on the phone, not out of grief but to give me new advice, that ended up being his last. Our last conversation was lighthearted because one never knows the meaning behind each moment.
One day after his funeral, walking through the old corners of my city from my past lives, as if I took the sadness out for a walk with the secret hope of losing it on some corner, I came across many people, too many at the moment, the majority of whom I did not know or had not been able to recognize after so many years. One of them told me: “I had the best time of my life when I worked for your father. The man knew how to follow through with projects in whatever city and we were all going there together.”
“I was a student of your father,” another gentleman told me, whom I did recognize from some years back. “I was a lost boy when I met him. He gave me my first job and showed me how to be a team. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be who I am today nor would I have the family that I have.”
My perspective, like any other, is not neutral. To me he was an serious e man, generous with his own family and others, even though many would think the opposite. “To some people I am a good guy,” he said, “and to others I am surely a miserable guy. You can't be okay with both God and the devil.” It was not difficult to find faults in him, not because he emphasized this in some particular human way but because it is never difficult to find faults in everyone else. If they say he was already a perfect guy, what would happen if he was preaching democratic love to his enemies and they crucified him for it, what more can one hope for?

This was even more evident in the world of idealistic passions. We always discussed politics. He always clung to his conservative principles and I held onto a rebuttal. Our discussions were intense but as always we resolved them in a simple way:
“Well, I can see now that we are not going to reach an agreement,” he said, “ let’s go have some wine then.”

Of course, someone will say that tolerance is not the wine but the opium for the people. No lesser truth is that its absence in death of the people and worse, the frustration that each one of these concrete lives conform to this mythical abstraction.
I loved him a lot, like any good son can love a good father. But a son never loves as much as a father does. It takes a whole lifetime to come to this realization; some, even, need two lifetimes to understand it and more to begin to accept it. So, one can go about discovering other meanings in old memories, each one more profound.
For example, in several political elections, the old man listed himself on the ballot for their party. I never voted for him. I remember my first time, at the end of the 1980s, I voted for an emerging ecological party. When I arrived home I told my father that I had not voted for him. As always, he took the news with a smile and told me that I had done well.
Now that he has died, I ask myself what in the hell did that idealistic honesty serve for what I presumed that one election day. For what purpose does every tiny cruelty serve? For what purpose does every single small truth, every questionable honesty serve?
What is the point of everything? I asked myself this while I stared at a pile of a hundred letters written in Arabic that his parents wrote and received almost a century ago. I don’t know what they say. I can barely suspect that they are stories of love and heartbreak, of meetings and failed attempts that neither my father never came to know because his also hid his own frustrations, how all secrets of a language were hidden from him that are only used in the most profound way of their two shattered privacies in a clay ranch, in the middle of a field barely close to being able to survive.
What is the point of everything? I went back to asking myself this. So I look at my son looking out the window as I liked to do while my father worked very useless things and I realized that I know the answer. The answer, no the truth. Because one thing is a task, what you should do, and another thing simply is not. There is no doubt about one and about the other, about the truth, probably no one knows it or their own name. 

To read more articles and opinion pieces by Dr. Majfud, follow him on Twitter or visit his website, Escritos Críticos.
**This is just a practice translation.I am not claiming that I am providing the official English translation for this article nor am I claiming any ownership or rights to it.** <--just wanted to clarify that!

What I've Learned So Far at 25.5 Years Old