Walkabout – Holiday Style

We have always been a relatively untraditional family, but our holidays still involve eating copious amounts of food and consuming too much liquor. Everything else we do is generally done so that we can “eat more later” or to “make up for what we’ve already eaten”.

We usually make an effort to get outside and do active things. This Christmas day we had a walkabout through the neighborhood. It just happens to be a block from the beach and it just happened to be a gorgeous day.

We set out with no plans, but came home three hours later with new nooks explored and a renewed appreciation for the sleepy little beach town of Morro Bay, California.

Some highlights included:

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The duck pond at a housing tract right along the beach called the Cloisters. We learned that black coots have coot babies with fuzzy yellow heads (not pictured).

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Gorgeous views of Morro Rock from the newly completed bike/walking path.

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Surfers trying to catch little waves at the breakwater. Its hard to imagine that when the swells come through that the surf is huge!

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A secret canopy of trees lining the path behind Morro Bay High School.

Other highlights not pictured include the derelict miniature golf course in front of the high school and random trees along the bike path that were decorated with ornaments.

What new treasures have you discovered on your walkabouts?

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Christmas Cookie Exchange

I first experienced this phenomenon a couple years ago when a friend invited me to a Christmas cookie exchange, and again this past weekend. The idea is that a bunch of friends get together and each person brings a small number of cookies to share with every other person. Each person goes home with the same number of cookies they brought, but with more variety. Sometimes there is a recipe exchange included so that if you really like your friend’s cookies you can make them yourself. So here’s my top 9 list of Christmas cookie exchange awesomeness:

  1. It is an excuse to consume butter and sugar. Lots of it!
  2. It lets you see people that you might not normally see, or meet new people if you like that kind of thing!
  3. You can get a good laugh out of other people’s tacky Christmas sweaters (and you can wear one if you like tacky).ugly_christmas_toilet_santa_sweater_2
  4. It usually involves getting to eat other holiday treats like spinach dip, nacho cheese, meatballs, pretzels with hershey’s kisses melted on top, and punch (spiked of course).
  5. You get to bake. This one could be good or bad, depending on how good at baking you are. If you are the person that makes a bunch of cookie dough and then realizes that you don’t own baking sheets, this might not be enjoyable to you!
  6. Variety. Enough said.FNK_12_DAYS_OF_COOKIES_OPENER_H_s4x3.jpg
  7. You make the people you live with happy by bringing home treats, although I warn that this could backfire if your friends can’t bake.
  8. If you aren’t so into the holidays, it can count as your one holiday party!
  9. Did I mention butter and sugar?

Panamerican Ultimate Championships

We found ourselves in a Spanish speaking country again last week, although very temporarily. Our visit consisted of a lot of ultimate, some relaxing, and reconnecting with some of our Uruguayan friends. Seeing them and chatting made me remember the joy and pleasure that writing this blog gave me when we were living in Uruguay and beyond.

I have decided to re-kindle my relationship with the blog. In reacquainting myself with the blog I noticed that I had several drafts of half finished posts. It seems that the longer I neglected sharing our adventures, the more burdensome it felt to catch everyone up. The end result was just a void. So… that being said, I’m not going to try to catch you all up. I’m just going to jump right in!

We (the husband, the roomie – yes the same one from Uruguay, and I) traveled to Cancun, Mexico the week before Thanksgiving to participate in the Panamerican Ultimate Championships. It is a 4 day tournament  of teams from North, Central, and South America competing, coexisting, and interacting in the wonderful world-wide ultimate community.

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I was playing for a master’s women’s team from Atlanta, the Atlantiques! Yes, I know the name is awesome 😉 The husband and roomie played with Team Uruguay. They could only field a men’s team so I was out of luck, but that’s okay. It was the first time in about 4 years that I have played on a women’s team and it was a blast! We won the third place trophy in the women’s division with 14 players all over 30. For those of you who can’t quite grasp the awesomeness of this feat, just picture a small number of slow ladies schooling an army of 20 year olds for nine games over three days. Experience counts!

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The Uruguay team almost made it to the quarterfinals, but a weird three-way tie in the pool threw them into the bottom brackets. It was disappointing, but everyone just seemed happy to be there and playing! Watching my old friends play made me super happy. They have come so far in the three years that we have been gone and it’s really gratifying to know that we have had a part (and continue to have a part) in their development and growth.

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The weather was awesome in Cancun, especially for all those teams from Canada! The fields were really great, although they got a little muddy after a downpour on the second day. The only complaint I have, and I hear this is pretty common for international WFDF tournaments, is that the field site was really far from the lodgings and the arranged bus service was limited. All this basically meant was that we went to the fields in the morning and came home at the end of the day. This usually isn’t a horrible thing, but the AC of a hotel room is awful nice in the middle of an 85 degree F, 100% humidity day. We just kept telling ourselves… “We’re in Cancun! Life could be a whole lot worse!”IMG_0700.JPG

All in all… A fantastic experience and one to be remembered!

After a Long Hiatus: We’re Back!

Wow, it’s been a while. Sorry about the absence… Its been a busy year!

1. I have now completed my whole first year as a high school biology and environmental science teacher at a great private school! I really enjoyed myself and am certainly enjoying my summer break!

2. We have had a series of roommates, ending with the best… Matt! He moved back to the states in November, and in an effort to start up a business with my husband, he moved in with us. And he’s still here!

3. My husband and I bought a house! Its a super awesome place and I’m sure there’ll be lots of future posts about our adventures in home ownership.

4. My husband and I went to Europe (Italy and Croatia) to see one of our best friends get married to the man of her dreams in a crazy multilingual, multicultural week-long event near the sea.

I am going to try and get back into the habit of writing a post or two each week, or when something exciting happens. You can expect upcoming posts on the above topics as well as our gardening projects, putting in ceiling fans, and the gym!

Here’s a teaser picture for the next post… our vacation to Europe!

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Our Balcony Garden

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We decided to try our hand at growing green things this year. Ideally we’d love to have a whole garden and grow things in the ground, but our apartment living has relegated our experiment to our balcony and pots. This is our second round of growth. The first round of basil, mint, and cilantro was wiped out my some kind of aphid infestation.

All of our plants have come from seeds. We have used a miniature plastic greenhouse to start growing the seeds which has worked great, although it might have led to the demise of our cilantro by making them grow too quickly and getting top-heavy. When the seedlings reached the miniature greenhouse lid, we planted them in real pots and left them outside.

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This second round of plants consists of basil (in the two small rectangular planters), purple tomatillos (in the large rectangular planters), and tomatoes (in the large pots). Hopefully the basil will grow big and strong and we can make some yummy pesto and the purple tomatillos sounded like they would make an excellent and visually stimulating salsa. The tomatos were given to us as seeds of two different types already planted in small pots. Of course we now have no idea which type is which because the cat knocked the pots, soil and seeds off the table before they could make it to the balcony. We were still hopeful and pushed the soil back into the pots and put them outside. Despite their rough beginnings they have grown big and strong!

Oh yeah… and our little aloe plant is as happy as can be, even if we do forget to water it!

The World of Nations Celebration

Last weekend Asa and I and Asa’s mom, Merrill, went to the World of Nations Celebration here in Jacksonville. The festival has been in existence for a good 20 years and is a great place to go and experience some 30 different international cultures. Each country was set up in their own tent where they displayed crafts and doo-dads for sale, sold authentic (for the most part) food, and stamped passport documents given to each visitor. A main stage central to all the countries exhibited entertainment and ceremonies from each country and local stages had live bands or dancing.

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Each year the World of Nations Celebration is open on thursday and friday for elementary and middle school students to come learn about different cultures. Asa fondly remembers going to the celebration when he was a little tyke.

We had a great time wandering around, sampling local cuisine, and people watching. We even got to sample some empanadas from Colombia which were very different from the ones we had in Uruguay.

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Some fun facts we learned:

– The Ethiopian calendar follows the Julian calendar which has 12 months of thirty days each and a 13th month of 5 days. The calendar is 7 years and 8 months behind the Western calendar.

– The Taj Mahal only took 17 years to build with workmen working every single day.

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– Nollywood is what Nigeria’s booming film industry is called.

– The South Korean flag has a representation of yin and yang surrounded by depictions of the four elements: heaven, earth, fire and water.

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– Angel Falls in Venezuela is 19 times the height of Niagara Falls.

The Top 5 Woes of Academic Job Searching

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Although I have a job now, the path to getting a job wasn’t paved with rubies or any other precious stone. I imagine many other job seekers went through trials and tribulations similar to what I experienced over the last year. So here are a couple of my top observations while applying for and finding a job.

1. There are actually a lot of jobs available. The biggest advice I got while job hunting was “it’s a numbers game. Just keep applying”, so you might think that having a lot of options would be great. It’s only great until you get rejected from all of them… then it’s not so great.

2. The job market is saturated with overqualified job seekers. It seems like in my field (i.e., recent PhD graduate in the sciences) there are an awful lot of people that are super qualified for the jobs that are available. I’m not referring to the good student that got out of graduate school with a paper or two and some really awesome connections (that’s me). I am referring to the people that had NSF pre-doctoral fellowships during grad school, finished grad school having 4 or 5 papers in the journals Science or Nature, have now completed a post-doc in a high performing lab with the top brain in their discipline, and have a half million grant to do cutting edge research in their future job. Now its great that super qualified candidates are getting jobs at universities, but how overqualified does one really have to be just to get a job teaching at a small liberal arts college? Pretty damn over-qualified apparently.

3. Communication from potential employers is almost nonexistent. Now that most job applications are submitted online or via email, it is a rarity that job seekers ever hear back from potential employers. Some applications I filled out didn’t even have a contact email or phone number for a representative that knew about the job. I guess the motto is “apply blindly and ask questions later”. Don’t get me wrong… It’s tough to hear back from a potential employer that your application was great but they found someone else. But when you start to tally up rejections and take bets on when someone will finally email you with news, it would be nice to hear something, anything.

4. Employers have not changed their application process to accomodate such large numbers of applicants. Although the job applying process has moved to the realm of the internet, a few aspects make it tough for both job seekers and potential employers. For job seekers, I found any application that requested actual recommendation letters instead of contact information for references particularly annoying. I think I asked my references to send upwards of 40 recommendation letters on my behalf. All that work of sending and then reviewing recommendation letters just isn’t necessary, especially when potential employers have so many applicants to sort through. I would suggest sorting through based on resumes and other additional documentation (teaching and research statements) and then request letters if the applicant makes it past that stage. The additional documentation also bogs down the system. I understand that if the job is a teaching job, that a teaching statement or a sample course syllabus would be helpful in judging the applicants’ merits, but when there are more than 100 applicants, it takes forever. I am still hearing rejections from jobs I applied to in the fall (yep, 5 months later). Having rounds of sorting applications or having the job advertisement open for only a short period of time might curb these issues.

5. In the end, it still really does matter who you know. I have a friend who knows someone whose aunt works at …. sounds like some kind of scam, right? Not so! It’s the way to get a job. Employers would much rather hire someone that is known to a current employee or comes with a recommendation from a friend. This is in fact how I got my job at Westminster. Big thanks need to go out to the frisbee community and all it’s wonderful teachers for passing the word along that I am awesome!

Hopefully I won’t have to deal with these issues again any time soon, but for those of you that are dealing with them, hang in there!