Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Experiencing snowshoeing........

Hello all! I hope this finds everyone in Australia underneath the air conditioner or finding some way to relieve the heat! Hopefully everyone is safe and sound from the bushfires as well.

Snowshoeing Novice No More!

One of the lakes we walked around
On Sunday (Jan 20th) Janel and I headed up to Mesa Lakes area, which is near the Powderhorn ski fields. Janel took me out for my first attempt at snowshoeing - and I have to say I loved it! It was so quiet that all you could hear was your breath and the crunch of the snow under your shoes.

Standing in the middle of new snow

Its easier if you keep moving in deep snow though!
The snowshoes helped me walk through the snow easier and I even got up a jog at one point! It was so beautiful just walking around snow and ice covered lakes on trails that passed under bare aspen trees, past snow covered boulders and over little brooks that were still running. A few people prior to us had walked across a few of the lakes, but we did not attempt that! We took the scenic route and enjoyed the quiet, windless walk. Suprisingly, it was warmer at the top of the mountain than it was in Palisade - again, due to the inversion.

In the far left upper corner you can see a bit of a haze
behind the mountains - this is the inversion holding
in all the pollution as well as the cold air!!

 Driving in the USA!

I am finding my independence more and more here in the States. Those that know me know I enjoy having space and time to 'do my own thing' every now and then. This is particularly helped with being able to explore little things on my own if I choose. It has been wonderful having the fantastic friends I have made here drive me around as I needed, but I am pleased to say I have gained a bit of independence again by finding a car to buy. I won't be knocking back car pools or rides to difference places, but it makes it easier if I need milk or to grab something quickly if I can jump into a car and drive myself! So I have bought myself a very neat and tidy 1997 Honda Accord. Hondas are apparently very popular here in the States and are regarded very well in terms of safety and maintenance. Now all I have to do is get a Colorado license - you can only hold insurance in Colorado if you have a state license. That's my next job!

Driving on my own here is another story! It took all my concentration at corners to get right in my head which side of the road I will end up on to start with. There were a few turns I had to correct myself on, but they were very quiet roads with no one around! I concentrate very hard to make sure I am driving safely and correctly on the roads here and I have tried to drive a little bit every day since I bought my car late last week. It is getting easier, particularly the route to school (very straight and only two turns)! I am going to begin venturing out of the Palisade / Grand Junction area in the next month so I look forward to exploring with a high level of concentration while driving!!

Plans Coming Up.....
Over the next few weeks:

* I am heading to Denver for my ITF Orientation session - CITEL is also throwing an Australia Day party so I look forward to celebrating in some way (though it won't be around a BBQ or pool I'm sure - too cold!)

* I will be exploring the local area and getting into some shops to see what shopping here is like!

* I am going to treat the staff at Nisley to an Australia Day feast - pavlova, lamingtons, tim tams, scones, Anzac biscuits.......... who knows what they will get as I have only ever cooked ONE of these items - the Anzacs!! (Don't worry, I've saved some Tim Tams from my travels, I am not attempting to make these!) The students will be getting Caramello Koalas and Milo drinks.

Stay tuned to how it all goes.........particularly my cooking experience!!

Catchya all later!

Monday, 14 January 2013

And School Begins.........

Hello everyone! The last 10 days have been so busy and filled that I have only just sat down to update you all. The past week has seen me celebrate my 30th birthday, meet new people, start teaching Fourth Grade and continue to be amazed at the gorgeous scenery that surrounds me every day. Here are some updates:

Happy Birthday To Me!
I spent my birthday with a wonderful family who are good friends already after only knowing them two weeks. Janel works at the school with me in the Library and I went to her house on the edge of town for the afternoon and evening. We went for a hike up snow covered mountains for about a mile or so, taking in the absolutely beautiful views over Palisade and towards Grand Junction. Janel's house sits on hills outside of Palisade and has 360 degree views of the red mountains surrounding us here in the valley. Photos do not do any of these views justice but I will chronicle as much as I can for all of you back home in sweltering Australia! (I was unable to upload here - please look at the Photos pages located on the right)

After we hiked out and back I had dinner with Janel's family - they have twin boys and another who is in my grade - as well as a chocolate chip cookie slab cake!! It was a wonderful evening talking about Australia with the boys and Janel and her husband, comparing it to the States. The boys and their dad Russ go hunting for game on the hills where we took a hike and earlier that day had killed an elk! This led to me not only having my very first try of elk jerky (which was gamey but quite nice!) but leaving the boys astounded that hunting is not a 'big thing' back home and our gun availability is not as spread as it is here in Colorado and the States.

*Side note - After being introduced to elk jerky, I was told that anything elk is better than beef and that when I try beef jerky I will be severely disappointed! Another moment of interest for the boys was that jerky was not a huge seller in Australia - in fact, I had to tell them I have never seen it myself. We had a few laughs thinking up business names for our new jerky import business though - and working out the profit splits!!

School Begins
So a week ago I began the official part of my whole 'year overseas thing' - teaching. Monday morning came and I arrived at school at 8am, car pooling with Janel and her son. I vividly remember feeling the exact same emotions when I started at Korumburra 6 1/2 years ago (also halfway through the school year) - nerves, excitement, fear, anticipation, worry and wonder at what I had gotten myself in for. However everyone I met was wonderfully warm and friendly and made me feel very welcome and brave for what I was doing!

Monday was a teacher work day with no students and most of the staff were finalising their second quarter report scores, so I spent the day familiarising myself with the room layout and trying to get my head around the fact that I would be teaching 65 students each day. Yes, that's right - I did not make a mistake. I teach ALL the Grade 4 students every day, either in a writing block or for science sessions. To break it down for those in Australia my basic day looks like this:

8:50 - 9am         Homeroom group arrives in class; Pledge of Allegiance and Morning
                                     Announcement over PA system.
9 - 10am            Special Education classes for students - ESL, Speech, OT, Behaviour. While these
                                     students are out, the remaining students are mixed together and we look at
                                     reading or maths skills practice using SRAs, book studies and maths facts
                                     work. When students return from Special Ed, they are absorbed and picked up
                                     by myself or the other two Grade 4 teachers to work on certain skills.
10 - 11:25am    Block 1 starts. Students from all three Grade 4 classes are mixed into three 'block'
                                     groups. They rotate through each teacher every day - I teach Writing, Dave
                                     teaches Math (with no 's' at the end!) and Tracy teaches Reading.
11:25 - 12:25pm   Specials classes (Specialists to us Australians!) Half hour sessions of Library and
                                            Computers Monday and Thursday, with Music and PE half hours on
                                            Tuesday and Friday. All up students get 4 hours of Specials - this is
                                            teacher planning time. Very different to the 2 1/2 hours back home -
                                            however I unfortunately have to say this week I still was distracted from
                                            my planning by other things, just like I am always doing back home!!
12:25pm               Block 1 students come back to drop off their things and collect their food, jackets,
                                      hats, scarves, etc.
12:30 - 1:05pm     Recess / Lunch.........Students spend 15 minutes outside for recess playtime and
                                      then eat their lunch in the cafeteria for 20 minutes. This 35 minutes is my
                                      lunchtime as well (I do no duty during this time - I was told the reason for this
                                      is that I am required have 30 minutes free for break. Other staff, such as the
                                      specials teachers, cover the duty).
1:05 - 2:25pm       Block 2
2:25 - 3:45pm       Block 3
3:45 - 3:50pm       Homeroom returns to the class for any final handouts and the end of the day.

Wednesday is slightly different with the times. There are no Specials classes and the students move around between the three teachers in their homeroom groups. On this day of the week I teach Science, Dave teaches Social Studies and Tracy teaches Research. Another change on Wednesdays is that school finishes at 1:50pm for the students. That's right my Aussie friends and students - school is out at 1:50pm on Wednesday. The School District brought this change in as a way to save money from what I gather. While the students get the afternoon to go home and enjoy being a kid, we teachers spend this time on Professional Development and planning.

There is probably one major thing I have noticed this week which is different between Australian and USA schools. Here, every class is on a different schedule due to the need for students to eat in (and fit into!) the cafeteria, which is a commercial kitchen style deal. At Nisley, most students eat lunch from the cafeteria - and this is their ONLY food break in the day. They spend 15 minutes outside for recess time and then come straight into the cafeteria to eat their lunches for 20 minutes. At Korumburra, most of our students bring their lunch as we don't offer a full service canteen, with a recess AND a seperate lunch break (1 1/2 hours in total). Our students also spend most of their eating time outside and if it is bad weather we eat in the classroom or building. Weather wise, our climate makes it so much easier to do this eating outside though!

Anyway, before I sign off for another week of school there are a few more interesting points that I feel I would like to share with you:

* My mobile talk to me! Yes, that's right - when I have a call or a text my phone tells me who it is from and if it is a message or a call. Very freaky - and not at ALL like Siri!!

* It is so dry here (I am in desert country) everything is static. I keep shocking myself on light switches and bathroom fixtures!

* The Grand Junction valley is currently facing an inversion. Basically, the cold air is being kept down here near the ground and it has been weirdly freezing for the last week. Apparently they never have this long of a cold snap like we have had. Welcome to Colorado Candice!!

* I have yet to find bread here! I have tried a few different types but they are all very sweet - just does not give my Vegemite the best base!!

* Cake mixture boxes here have high altitude cooking instructions! I plan on trying to cook a pavlova for the staff in honour of Australia Day - this could be interesting in more ways than one!!

* Walmart = Big W.......this is the conclusion I have come to - except Walmart also has a supermarket in each store!

*People driving can turn right at traffic light corners when they have a red light - as long as there is no traffic coming obviously (remember Aussies, Americans drive on the right side of the road - which is still really weird occasionally!)

*American printer paper is smaller than ours! That's right - our A4 paper is larger than their standard paper size. Their standard size is 8.5" x 11" - basically our 'letter' size in office print settings. Important I find that out - printing things off for school was interesting the first few times when I was missing the ends of pages!

* Lastly, watching the Australian Open Day 1 tonight is not quite the same without our wonderful Aussie commentators - the Americans just don't have our same jovial attitude to everything!

Every day I am blown away by the majestic scenery I am surrounded by on all sides here in the valley. I have posted some photos of when I went to the Colorado Monument yesterday - we stopped at a viewing station and I took a few pictures quickly. I will be returning again but it just reaffirmed that I have been placed in a gorgeous area of Colorado. I look forward to exploring it more over the next 12 months!!

Take care everyone in Australia - keep drinking water and stay out of the extreme heat if it is affecting your area. To cool off, feel free to look at my photos and think of me here facing -20 degrees Celsius and snow flurries!!

Keep smiling and dreaming!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

First few days........

I have been greeted with open arms by Theresa's friends and the past exchangees of the ITF program here over the last two days. I have been welcomed and drive around and have seen and experienced lots of different things.

* Driving (being a passenger) on the 'wrong' side of the road is very weird!!
* Snow is pretty when it is fresh and slippery when it is not (it turns icy!!)
* Snow weather is COLD weather!! It is about -16 degrees celcius here tonight as I am writing this.
* Apparently I have an accent (although it's not as strong as others in movies according to some 14 year old boys today!)
* Mobile phones are expensive here - our prepaid plans are so much better.
* Home internet is cheaper here - and all wireless.
* All TV costs - if you want to watch TV you need to pay for cable, where there are different packages similar to our Austar / Foxtel.
* Soup and/or salad come with most meals you eat out at restaurants.......and meal portions are HUGE! Also, places will send out chips (as in kettle potato chips) with rolls and sandwiches whereas we send out chips (as in fries).
* You can turn right in a car on a red light at an intersection.
* I have also tasted elk meat (in lasagne) and had blueberry cobbler (which is like a pie but it is all mixed together and cooked). Both were very nice!!
* There are various streets here around Palisade and Grand Junction that are numbered in weird numbers and fractions ~ such as 28 3/4 Road. This means that the street is 28 3/4 miles from the Utah border!

This area is beautiful. Palisade and Grand Junction sit in a valley surrounded by high red rock mountains. I went out this morning (it was about -7 degrees celcius) and went for a walk down the street to take some pictures of the beautiful surrounds. I have included a few below but will start a photo page as well :-) You should be able to find it as it will be at the top right of the home page labelled 'Palisade / Grand Junction photos'.

My house for the next 12 months and the mountains behind.
Look at the snow!!

Walking down the street there was a gap between houses
and this was the view. Magnificent!

Happy New Year to everyone!
Keep smiling!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Here I am.......

Quick post for those following over the last few days - I arrived safely in Palisade!! I flew from LA to Grand Junction with a stop for a plane changeover in Phoenix yesterday and arrived at about 5pm. It was already dark - but there was snow on the ground!!

I have been out and about today having a look around and have seen snow, mountains, snow, mountains, shops, snow, mountains :-) I will post pictures as soon as I can!

The house I am staying in is about 2 1/2 times the size of my home in Victoria which means I have more than enough room for guests! (hint hint friends!) I am so glad to be here and can't wait to spend the week meeting people and getting the know the area. I drove past the school and I am excited to see what next Monday brings! :-)

Here I am Colorado - let the teachings and travels begin!!