Friday, 27 December 2013

Saying Farewell........

Last day at Nisley

My last day at Nisley was the final day before winter break. The kids were hanging out for the break - but I am pleased to say (as horrible as that makes me) that they were not hanging out to say farewell. We had some nice moments in all my classes in the final week and I had to tell quite a few students that I was absolutely sure they would love Ms Drewer as much as they loved me! We also did a lot of "other" tasks involving Math this week - including this decoupage design using shapes.

The final day was filled with farewells, beginning with a staff breakfast. Here we celebrated the end of our Secret Santa week, revealing ourselves to our gifts recipient, and I was presented with a gorgeous painting the whole staff had contributed to. It was beautiful!

A staff member painted the tree and then each staff member put their own fingerprint on the tree as leaves. There are even bear prints leading up to the tree ( Nisley Grizzly!) and a C for Colorado on the trunk. Thank you to my wonderful colleagues for such a beautiful and thoughtful gift - I will always remember Nisley when I look at this in the years to come.

Saying farewell to the students was hard - it was a bit harder knowing I was not going to be seeing them again. Not quite like the end of the school year! However, what made my heart warm was the fifth graders who dropped by throughout the day to say goodbye. These were students I had January to May - and they liked me enough as a teacher to shed tears! My one moment of pure joy - when I turned around and three "tough boys" from last year were standing there, waiting patiently, to give me hugs  and say goodbye. That and seeing one of my fourth grade boys cry as he said goodbye made my heart melt - these kids at Nisley are special and I am proud to have been able to help them feel that here in any small way this year. Goodbye my Nisley Grizzleys - you are all superstars!

Some final pictures around the grounds of Nisley.........

View of drop-off/pick up lanes, cafeteria and Nisley sign from road

Staff car park :-)

Courtyard between the two buildings - always locked

Tetherball poles  and the play equipment (3-5 play area)

These Neos are Amazing!!!

Janel's house

That night a (fairly large) group of us went to Janel's house for another farewell get together for me. I was starting to think people were going to miss me! ;-)

It was an amazing night full of laughs, memories, stories and new discoveries. We were so busy talking that a lot of pictures I wanted I forgot to take, but below are some for you to see:

He is so happy to be having a picture with his former teacher! Not! :D

What really made me have a teary moment was the gift that a few of my friends had organized. They gave me a (working) compass with a map of GJ on the back so I can always find my way back whenever I wish. An extremely thoughtful memento......

Tearing up as I show Amber.....

All in all I was net off with a bang and am so very grateful I met these wonderful people this year. They are an amazing bunch and I am proud to call them my friends.

Dinner at Dos

The night after I was with my school friends at Janel's, I went for dinner to Dos Hombres with my "outside" school friends :-) It was a great couple of hours of talking about every topic under the sun. I love hanging with these guys  and can't wait to catch up with them when I come back to town!

Montrose and Shooting

The three days before Christmas I headed down to Montrose with Janel, Russ and their three boys to stay at Janel's dad's house. Their house is absolutely gorgeous and has an amazing view over the town of Montrose and the hills surrounding it. I was taken for a quick (and snowy) look at Black Canyon outside Montrose and we also went and spent the afternoon in Ouray at the hot springs - where I was dared and successfully met the dare of swimming laps in the cold water pool. I swam up and back and then quickly hopped out back into the warmth - but I did it! :-)

Janel's boys have been flabbergasted all year by the fact I have never shot a gun. As they have grown up hunting, they have found it a bit hard I think to comprehend how in Australia we don't all go around with gun licenses and own our own guns. So while in Montrose they decided it was time I learned to shoot - before I went home. I had a explanation of each of the three guns I shot - safety, targeting and reloading - from Russ, and then the boys became my reloaders and "mentors". I think I surprised them - with my second turn of the pistol I shot 5/6 targets! It was extremely weird handling the guns and there was nowhere near as much kickback as I expected from each one. However, by the time I shot the two guns a few times each and then tried the rifle (which was not very comfortable to set up with!) I had a slight tremor that I knew was a reaction to doing something that for me was competent foreign :-) Despite this, I felt very American and even looked kinda like I knew what I was doing.......

(Apologies if these pictures offend anyone..... Feel free to scroll down to the next section of the post)

Hit the left circle target 5/6 times on my second turn...... Beat the boys (but not sharpshooter Russ!)

I had to kneel on one knee and bend over the rifle to sight it - it was a tad uncomfortable.....


Christmas Eve I spent with Sara and her family. I completely enjoyed my afternoon/evening with her family. We all went sledding at the end of the street - even her 18 month old nephew - and had some great laughs as we went down the short hill. I will upload some pics as soon as my computer behaves :-)

Following sledding, we ate a cooked (hot) ham dinner with brown sugar and marshmallow sweet potatoes, green bean casserole and crescent rolls from a can. Completely American all the way! :-) We then watched Sara's nephew open presents for himself  and his little sister, in between stacking the boxes of course! They were much more interesting than what was inside Lol. The night wrapped up with a few games of 'Apples to Apples' and 'Heads Up' (the Ellyn game). Overall I had a wonderful night of laughs - thank you Sara and her family for welcoming me to your family celebration.

Christmas Day was spent enjoying a relaxing morning watching White Christmas, then heading out to the Longs for the rest of the day. I had a great time with the boys helping them set up iphones and laptops and showing them some tricks and tips. We chilled out in front of a movie for the late afternoon along with loads of laughs and chatter. Dinner was cooked ham again but more familiar sides - mash potato and green beans. I did however make the crescent rolls this time - very very strange! Thanks to Janel and her family for making me one of your family this year - and I'm glad you all liked your Xmas presents :-D

Last few days

My last two days in Colorado were spent packing, sorting and cleaning :-) I took a large bag of clothes to spread amongst friends and charity and the. Squeezed the rest of my belongings into two  and a half suitcases and a backpack. I did post another box home as it was a third the price of paying for a third checked suitcase...... Airlines really don't want you past two bags each!

My last night was to be spent having dinner with Sara - but it was actually a small surprise dinner with a few of my friends! I had no idea and was very touched by the gesture. I have always wanted a surprise party or dinner, so this was even more special :-) I had a great night chatting and laughing with my new friends from this year - and was very disappointed when dinner ended and it was time to say goodbye!

Farewell Colorado 

Here it is. After 12 months, countless adventures, many many laughs and amazing friendships, it is time to say farewell to GJ and Colorado. As I write this I am sitting in Denver airport waiting to fly to Vancouver for one last weekend stopover before heading home. I am so very very lucky I was able to work and live here this year. I am in awe of my colleagues here in GJ, seeing what and how they work - they make school count for their kids and that is amazing. I have made wonderful friends, both in and out of school, and I am certain these friendships will last for many many years to come. This has been by far one of the best years of my life. Thanks to social media and the internet, it is not goodbye in any sense - and as I was told by a work collegue, indeed it is never goodbye, only "until next time".

So until next time Colorado - thanks for the memories xxxx

Keep smiling,
Candice :-D

**Vancouver and Australia to come.....

The final hurrah in Colorado.......

CITEL Farewell Brunch

The first weekend of December I headed to Denver for the final CITEL event for this year. While some people were unable to attend due to other commitments or the weather, it was wonderful to catch up and say farewell to most of the Aussies and CITEL members who had been with us for most of the year. 

The week prior to this we had had some winter weather hit GJ and across the mountains. However, this didn't phase me as I was going to Denver as a passenger, not as a driver. The I-70 can be very dangerous in areas during winter as a result of ice and snow, but I felt confident in being a passenger with experienced drivers leading the way. My friend Linda and her friend John offered me a ride and on Friday afternoon we headed off on I-70 for Denver. Unfortunately, we hit ice just over an hour into our trip. We slid left into the left hand lane, then slid back across the road into the right lane, slid down the embankment and slammed into the wildlife/deer fence, hooking the car onto the wire. It was a scary moment and thankfully there was no cars near us on the road for us to hit. Thankfully again the fence stopped us, or I am sure we had the speed and angle that we were on target to flip. No one hurt, just shaken for a few minutes :-) After waiting for the fire rescue squad to make sure we were okay, the state patrol to come and take an accident report and then the two tow trucks (the first was broken and couldn't pull us up the slope), it was at least two hours before we were allowed to (slowly!) drive the car into Glenwood Springs. Here we left the car to be checked, rented another one and got back on the road to Denver. I will admit I spent the rest of the ride either with my eyes closed or looking at my iPad. I finally got to Fiona's about 9:30pm and was very glad to end the night with a glass of wine!

Saturday was the CITEL Christmas brunch and farewell. It was a wonderful afternoon catching up and saying farewell - but us Aussies were also the entertainment! I made a PhotoStory movie of everyone's pictures from the year; Lindsey wrote and performed an original song; and Stuart wrote and recited an original poem. We're very talented us Aussies! I do have video of all here - I will update here so everyone can see them when my computer is feeling like liking me again :-)

Following this lunch, Fiona and I hit the shops at Colorado Mills - particularly Forever 21 and Eddie Bauer! Then we went for dinner at a small eatery Fiona was wanting to try before she left called The Beast and the Bottle. It was a gorgeous atmosphere and the food and wine was deeelish! We even splurged on dessert......

On my departure from Denver, I chose to head back over the mountains on the Amtrak train. My nerves appreciated my decision as I woke in the morning to light snow falling again. Despite a few hours delay, I did find the return journey more pleasant than if I had gone back via I-70.... Just not quite ready to test the roads again so soon!

Shoveling Snow

On my return to Palisade, I decided I needed to clear the inch or less of snow that was sitting on my driveway to prevent an accident. It was becoming slick as it was melting in the sun and the re freezing overnight, and the sun was not quite strong enough to melt it away completely. 

So one night when I arrived home at 6:30pm from work (pitch black due to winter), I got out the snow shovel and headed outside. Rugged up to the nines, it took me 30 - 40 minutes, a lot of swear and sore shoulders to clear the driveway and footpath in front of the house! I felt very successful and will post photos when I transfer them from my camera :-)

Nisley - School of Excellence

This year I have worked with an amazing group of educators. Prior to my arrival, they had been awarded a Colorado School of Excellence award for student growth in learning two years in a row. This year, they were awarded a National Title 1 Distinguished Schools award - one of 100 in the nation and one of two in Colorado. Then recently they discovered they had been selected as a Colorado School of Excellence for the third year in a row. These teachers are humble and are constantly doing this for their students - I congratulate them on their recognitions for all their hard work.

Some of the staff at the School Board meeting where they were recognized for their latest achievement 

Nisley Staff Xmas Party

The Saturday before school finished for Xmas break, we had our staff Xmas party at a venue in downtown GJ. While not every staff member attended the night (it seemed like about a third to a half attended), it was a wonderful night of laughs and interesting moments :-D

He chose my White Elephant gift to open...... It contained koalas!

My choice of White Elephant gifts to open...... So cute!

Following the venue wrap, a group of us headed out to a few pubs downtown and then went to a staff member's house for the early hours of the morning. I got in my house about 3:30am - a tiring but awesome way to kick off my Colorado farewell week! :-)

Newspaper article

I was interviewed by the Daily Sentinel - a GJ paper - about my experiences here during my exchange year. I was happy to talk about my year...... Just didn't expect it to end up on the front page a week later!! Must have been a slow news week ;-) 

I have tried to include the link here - hopefully it works........

Book Club Goodbyes

I have been attending a book club once a month while here with a friend from CITEL. During the last week of school, we had a potluck dinner to celebrate a few birthdays and say goodbye. I really enjoyed getting to know these interesting ladies and will look forward to seeig which books they read int he next few months! 

The Final Farewells are to come.......

Keep smiling,
Candice :-D

Thursday, 12 December 2013

November living.......

First snow

On November 5 I woke up to see the first snow of the season had fallen overnight! It was a very light dusting, but still very pretty and a shadow of what was to come!!

Friendly Hike - kinda!

On November 10, I went for a hike with Janel and Katie over the hills at the back of Janel's house. It was awesome to walk and just keep walking...... no snow though as it had all melted! It was actually really nice weather - cool but sunny. I hiked the same area for my birthday at the start of the year...... it's all coming full circle!! (including my difficulty breathing! Damn high altitude!) lol

The "Two Awesome Events" day......

1. Catching Fire came out at the movies and I went to see it Friday opening night (it opened Thursday midnight) with Amber and Cady. Awesome, amazing, fantastic, wonderful..... I could keep going but if you loved the books and loved the first movie and have been to see this one then YOU KNOW!! (Can you tell I'm still excited? Seen it 3 times in a week excited!)

2. The REAL snow finally hit town..... just see the video, its kinda self explanatory (my initial reaction was twice this - I had to pause in my initial reaction so Cady could take out her phone!!)

Arriving home.....


Zion and Bryce National Parks

Katie and I planned a three day mini trip over the start of Thanksgiving break to these two National Parks in Utah. It was so much fun heading off on Sunday morning - we just chatted and chatted and chatted, stopping off along the way to swap drivers and check out some wintery views!

Crossing the border to Utah

Black Canyon rest stop

On the road again......

Once we hit the I-15 headed south we lost the snow

Driving into Springdale and Zion NP

Zion was about a 6 hour drive from Grand Junction and we made it to the gorgeous Best Western in Springdale with plenty of light left. (For those in Australia, this is very important at the moment as the sun sets by 5pm). We spent our first hour walking the nature trail out the back of the hotel and watching the sun set on the mountains behind where we were sitting. Beautiful!

Amazed at the mountain colours!

Starting on our hike - this is looking from the hotel car park!

There was a little creek that led into a little pond

Clouds on the mountain top

The colours were gorgeous - it was like we were in autumn
 (but it was the last week of November)

Loved that there was still leaves on the trees here

Had to practice my volleyball skills for staff after school pick up games!

Katie relaxing and watching the sunset

Orange gold mountains

We called this "Witch Mountain".... then I thought of "Hag Hills"

The Best Western was a great place to stay in Springdale

We had plans to get up and watch the sunrise the next morning in the park, but when we went to bed we decided to enjoy our holiday and get up when we woke up. SO wonderful! :-) Once we were organised (and had partaken of our included all you could eat hot and cold breakfast buffet, which included a made to order omelette station), we drove into the park and along the scenic drive.

Katie and I agreed to attempt the Observation Point hike, which overlooked the famous (and popular!) Angels Landing hike. It was a great decision by us as the trail was not very populated and we had great space to take some amazing photos along the way. We made it 1 1/2 hours into the 3 hours to the top and then turned around once we were behind the mountain where the trail split into two hike directions and went back to the base...... again, a great decision by us as we were watching the light and the going down was as hard on the knees as the going up was on my breathing! :-)

Check out the gorgeous views we had on this hike though.......


After we completed our 3 hour hike, we chilled out at the Lodge in the sun, relaxing on rocking chairs and watching the sun go down. It disappeared really quick - there one minute, gone the next behind the mountains that surrounded us. As we headed into town, we made plans to see Catching Fire on the big IMAX screen right on the edge of the park later that night. This was an awesome decision - it was my second time watching the movie in 3 days, but it was a completely amazing experience. So worth it!!

Than next morning we tried to plan to get up to watch the sunrise, but I think the hike had tuckered us out, as we woke up but did not move very far!! Once we had organised ourselves and had breakfast again (the best breakfast I have had anywhere in the world at a hotel), we drove through Zion National Park to Bryce - about 3 hours away. I drove through Zion so I was unable to take any pictures of the scenic route, but it was awe inspiring the entire way. Zion is by far my most favourite park in the US now!!

Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for its amphitheatre of hoodoos, and that is where we headed with a few hours left in the day. There had been quite a lot of snow here, which compared to Zion's none was exciting for me! We drove into the park and stopped off at two viewpoints overlooking the amphitheatre - even climbing a 12 inch wide trail through snow to get to the higher elevation views!



The thin air is what I then blame for Katie's attempt to "make the mood" with her music at the top.........

In all it was a wonderful little mini trip away with a great friend - even the drive home through Capitol Reef Park was amazing and had some phenonmenal views from up high! ;-D


Thanksgiving here is as big as Christmas is for us in Australia. For many families, this is the holiday where they all gather together and catch up on the year or years apart. I was lucky enough to go with my friend Sara to her sister's for Thanksgiving and as well as eating turkey and all sorts of sides cooked as I'd never tasted before (such as brown sugar and marshmallow sweet potatoes, green bean casserole and rolls from a can), I had cuddles with Sara's brand new niece! She was so tiny I was even more terrified than I usually am - thankfully she is so tiny that she slept through the 5 minutes I was holding her! :-)

Thanksgiving saw us roll to the end of November. Following our week off for this holiday, it was back to school for three weeks until Christmas break. For me, this meant my last 15 days at Nisley - definitely a countdown had begun! *deep breath* Here we go...........

More to come -
"The final hurrah in Colorado"
"Saying goodbye"

Keep smiling,
Candice :-)