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a heart across the ocean


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Challenges are Challenging

Do you remember my LFBG Challenge in 2015? Those who are following my blogs, of course, know that it eventually succumbed to an unfortunate crash and burn halfway to the finish line. However, in fairness, although I came up short in completing that challenge, I can honestly say that I successfully scored several opportunities for growth that year.

Then the calendar flipped over to a new year, and just early this year I agreed to my friend’s photo challenge. The idea was to support each other in our quest to hone our skills in photography. When we launched our challenge, we were the embodiment of persistence. Every week we deliberately assigned themes and excitedly exchanged images we had taken. I thought it was fun as I was constantly creating opportunities to go out to take pictures. However, things have changed. My friend’s schedule became demanding and our challenges slowly died a natural death. So sad!

The early demise of our photo challenge didn’t stop me from taking pictures, however. As a matter of fact, I’m up for another challenge. This time with another friend whom I am going to refer to in this blog as Ms. D to protect her privacy. I am more optimistic that this challenge will survive the test of time as Ms. D has shown consistency over the years we have known each other.

Ms. D and I share a lot of commonalities. Like me, she is also married to a foreigner and now residing abroad. Our friendship was further solidified during the time we were both juggling graduate school while simultaneously playing our role as housewives, plus motherhood in her case. You may remember that I documented in this blog some of my struggles while I was attending my program. I remember Ms. D and I exchanged stories about sleepless nights and extreme fatigue, which, of course, was commonplace in graduate school. It was tough, and I couldn’t believe we both survived and made it through. That is the heart of this new challenge we have just created. Now that we have both graduated and currently working in our chosen fields, we have decided to go for our glamour challenge. Gone are the days of “no-comb-days”, conjuring up images of bed head bouffant. For the next fifty-two weeks, we will celebrate success through glamour (for whatever that means). We will digitize it by exchanging one captured image each week. Will we push through, or will we fade away? Come and join us and see how far this challenge will endure…

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Hang in there!

“Challenges are what makes like challenging and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua J. Marine


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Year 2016: It’s a Wrap!

Although I must admit the year 2016 was “fast and furious” for me, with intermittent gut wrenching challenges, it has been a meaningful and productive one. Here are some of its highlights: I graduated from my second Master Degree in August, and I’ve been employed as a college instructor immediately after. My husband and I had two short getaway trips: one in spring, and another one in summer to celebrate our anniversary. I attended four workshops on TESOL, one of which I met a well-known theorist in the field of linguistics. For the first time I also participated in a political event with the sitting US President as the guest speaker. And, finally, after a year of delay, I successfully finished reading the book “An Astronaut Guide to Life on Earth” by Col. Chris Hardfield.

In hindsight, I must say, some goals I intended to achieve this year fell a little short. Not because I didn’t work hard enough but because opportunity just didn’t present itself. This has brought me to the realization that indeed everything has a time and a season. No matter how much I try, I don’t think I can force things to happen if they are not meant to be. However, it doesn’t mean that I have to lose faith and give up on my goals. I think it simply means that I just have to wait longer and probably want them more. I am convinced that sometimes there is something going on in life that is greater than what we think before planets align. That being said, before everyone gets revved up to turn the page for another year and another beginning, let me share with you some important lessons that 2016 has taught me.

  1. On my GTA Program: Success is not the result of taking chances, exploiting golden opportunities. It is the determination, hard work, and persistence to make these opportunities work to my advantage.
  2. On my graduation: Big events in life – my graduation for example – is ephemeral. Soon afterwards, the applause and adulation will stop, the spotlight moves on, and so do I.
  3.  On my job as an ELS instructor: Understanding diversity makes me see myself as no different from others. It makes me kinder to humanity.
  4.  On reading and travelling: Reading, as well as travelling, broadens me as a person.
  5. On both challenging and rewarding experiences: More than material things and fleeting victories, the most important thing in life is making most of my time I have in every situation.

There will be many endings and beginnings in our lifetimes. I surely agree with Hardfield, and I quote “Endings don’t have to be emotionally wrenching if you believe you did a good job and you’re prepared to let go.”

I wish one and all a happy New Year – 2017 bring it on!

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What Are You Thankful For?

When I arrived here in the United States in 2009 I had no idea what the holiday Thanksgiving was all about. It has never been celebrated in the Philippines, and I don’t remember any of my teachers in school discussing the topic. It was my husband who gave me a crash course on the significance of this holiday. As he was busy playing chef in the kitchen, I remember him explaining to me how the Native Americans and the Pilgrims came together in a feast to give thanks. Since then celebrating Thanksgiving has become a tradition with our small family. My husband always prepares the same meal every year: mashed potatoes, corn, beans, Hawaiian Rolls, pumpkin pie covered with Cool Whip, and, of course, turkey. I, on the other hand, will always set the table and clean the dishes afterwards. I am truly thankful for this division of labor because I am sure our Thanksgiving dinner would be a disaster, considering my appalling expertise in cooking (no kidding).

“Every person is gifted in some area. We just have to find out what.” – Evelyn Blose Holman

Seven years later I found myself in front of my three classes, retelling the same story of the first Thanksgiving to my ESL students. I thought it was surreal. I’ve always dreamed of teaching in a college or university even when I was in my native country. Deep down secretly I never thought that one day I would make that dream come true – here in the US, at a respected state college. I have a lot of things to be grateful for. I am thankful for my life; my family, especially my wonderful husband; my new graduate degree and the opportunities it has unlocked for me this year, especially my college instructor’s position.

Every time I attend my ESOL classes, I see myself in my students. Some of them have been in the country for many years, some have just arrived. Like me, as when I first came, they are full of hope that one day they’ll fulfill their American dream. I can see it in their eyes; I can feel it every time they struggle to communicate in broken English. In hindsight, you may think that my role as an instructor is just to teach my students the new language skills, (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) they need in order to function and assimilate in their new country. However, it is more than that.

Every time I assume my solemn role as an educator and stand before my classes, I feel that I have a vital mission: an obligation to encourage and inspire my students to believe that their present state doesn’t define their future. Learning a language is a process; it takes time. Dreams do come true, however, and no matter how challenging their situations are, I need to reinforce an understanding and a belief that their struggles are just temporary. With tenacity, persistence, and resilience, any goal can be obtained in America. This mission is what makes me excited to go to work every day. I have found my purpose, and, I must say, on this Thanksgiving day, this is what I am most thankful for.

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There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential.”- Rusty Berkus

Happy Thanksgiving!

 


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Happy 7th!

A few weeks ago my husband and I went back to Cocoa Beach to celebrate our 7th Wedding Anniversary. It has become our tradition to celebrate our anniversaries on the beach in remembrance of our beach wedding in 2009. It was really nothing fancy but a quick escape to spend quality time together.  We stayed for four days at the International Palms Resort and took advantage of its amenities. Since it was blistering hot in the afternoons, we lazed around the pool in the mornings, and did our beach strolls in the late afternoons. On our second day we also visited the famous Cocoa Beach Pier. It was pretty, but not exactly what I expected – it was crowded with beachgoers and board surfers who enjoyed riding the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  Water sports enthusiasts would surely love it. Unfortunately, for us who were taking a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, it was just too much.  In the evening, we went for a night walk on the beach. It was beautiful. The skies were clear and I was happily surprised to see stars radiating like little diamonds.  The last time I saw stars in Florida was in 2014 – and, mind you, it was at a planetarium. I didn’t realize that simple star gazing could be very romantic. I wish we could do it more often. On our third day, we went back to the pool, and later enjoyed some live music playing at the resort’s beach bar and restaurant. I must say, it was really just a simple anniversary vacation for us but, nonetheless, it was very sweet and refreshing.

Sensual pleasures have the fleeting brilliance of a comet; a happy marriage has the tranquility of a lovely sunset. Ann Landers


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My Life After GTA

Before my graduation I was afraid that I won’t get employment immediately. I was aware that the school year would open two weeks after my graduation, and I haven’t even started applying for any jobs. The truth is, I didn’t even have any prospects.  My fear for the unknown, however, was immediately dismissed after I was invited for an interview by the associate dean of one of the state colleges in the city.  It turned out my Lead GTA recommended me for a teaching job that the college had available. Although I was hesitant at first because of the location, I still went for the interview. I was glad I did it because I found out eventually that the college has a branch located 10 miles away from my home. To make a long story short, I got the job. I was offered to teach two ESL courses two times a week: one for beginners, and the other for advanced.

My schedule is fantastic! That was my initial reaction – until I ran out of things to do at home, and I started feeling bored. So, I started applying for a part-time job to fill my free time, and it didn’t take long before I got an offer from another organization. However, as fate would have it, an unexpected circumstance came up.  One instructor suddenly left and the college had to offer me another two courses to teach. I was very happy when I received the offer. More than the financial gain, for me it was the vote of confidence from my supervisors that was really more important. So, now I teach four courses – four hours a day, four times a week. Still, I am far from my target goal, but I couldn’t be happier. I am truly grateful for my teaching job.

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but believe.” Anatole France

 


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Timeout

After going through a demanding curriculum while attending graduate school, a timeout, albeit short, is absolutely delightful. That being said, you can call my last two weeks a pleasure. A simple pleasure, that is. There was no grand trip nor big revelry. Rather, I was afforded with a much-needed uninterrupted long sleep in the mornings followed by unhurried afternoons of unostentatious activities. Ahh, tranquility! At first, I thought it was lovely – except for one thing:  after being on a roller coaster with non-stop actions of twists, turns and drops, the idea of inactivity was almost inconceivable for me.

My first few days of my hiatus, I was constantly searching for things to do: cleaning the house, and then cleaning the house some more. Can you believe it? When I was in school I had yearned for the day to come when I could just laze around and not worry about anything at all. I thought it would be wonderful, yet when I was finally face-to-face with inactivity, I seemed not to know how to handle it. Like getting off a roller coaster ride for the first time, I felt disconcerted that all the action suddenly came to an abrupt halt. Suddenly, I felt a little bit thrown off balance.

My loving husband, of course, came to the rescue. Despite his busy schedule, he was kind enough to give in to some of my whims and fancy. No budget buster, but fun nevertheless. I realized that even as simple as quick dip in the pool, a round of Frisbee throws at the park, or a trip to the movie theater were more than enough to satisfy my hunger for adventure. After a while, I felt a quiet sense of joy and contentment just hanging out with my husband, compensating for those QTP (quality time plus) moments we both missed.

During lackadaisical afternoons, I quietly engaged myself in pleasure reading. I’ve started reading (again) the book “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth…” by Col. Chris Hardfield. I got his book in summer 2015 while I was doing my internship at St. Petersburg College; however, I temporarily abandoned it when I started my Graduate Assistantship Program at UCF.  It has been a year since I laid it down. Until I returned to the page I last left off, I have almost forgotten how much I appreciated the insights he shares of his life experiences as an astronaut. I must admit, as a non-science person there were many scientific jargons I hardly understood, but still I have enjoyed it enormously. I found many bits and pieces in his stories that I felt were not only thought provoking but also worth emulating. His wit, tenacity, and humility are indeed inspiring. I was captivated by his adventures, so much so that while my co-GTAs were travelling to exciting destinations in the country and other parts of the world, I, on the other hand, was travelling in space orbiting the earth – in my mind.

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Photo borrowed online

So it goes with my timeout.

Next week I am returning to work: new work place and new job, that is, and beginning a new chapter in my life. I’m excited!

Thanks for reading.


The Most Awaited Graduation!

After a long wait finally everything came to a meaningful and heartwarming finale –  the Commencement Ceremony! I don’t know how to best describe it. When I woke up that morning to get ready for my graduation, I was consumed with so many emotions. There was sadness, excitement, and, of course, the overpowering anxiety gremlin.

The feeling of sadness stemmed from the thought that I will no longer see my GTA friends on a regular basis. For almost a year we have shared a lot of life experiences together, not only as classmates in the graduate program, but also as colleagues at work. This Summer Term we sat next to each other in the faculty room and almost every day after our classes, we would share stories, jokes, and laughter. There was never a dull moment with my co-GTAs. They are so full of life and optimism that sometimes I forget these ladies are actually half my age. What made us get through the challenges in our program was the unified support we rallied for each other. We conquered our obstacles and reached our goals not by competing with each other but rather by lifting each other up.

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The feeling of excitement, on the other hand, obviously came from the thought that I will finally be off the hook from the endless writing and long chapters of reading. Oh boy, that was tough! The day I finished my final exam for my last course requirement, I felt a big load was lifted from my shoulders. For the first time since I started the program, I didn’t have to worry about schoolwork; I didn’t have to worry about anything at all. I’m FREE and it feels wonderful!

The night before my graduation I rehearsed in my head what to expect during the ceremony. Surely there was nothing to worry about, but it was still nerve-wracking (at least for me). I can only compare it to the drilling of a root canal-similar anxiety. But once it is over you wonder what all the fuss was about. I believe it is human nature, of course, that we feel anxious about the unknown. Despite the fact that this was my third time to walk for a graduation (first for my Bachelor’s Degree, second for my first Master’s Degree), obviously I still haven’t gotten used to all the pageantry. The anxiety built when we entered the UCF Arena while the graduation song was playing. There were several thousands of people in the audience. I felt my tummy churning when I saw the crowd, and the first thing that came to my mind was where’s the bathroom. Thankfully, the butterflies in my stomach settled down as the program progressed. I felt both proud and humbled when my name was called and I heard my husband shouting “Omaha” from the crowd. I am still comprehending why he did that except for it had something to do with Peyton Manning, who is his favorite football player. I also felt victorious when I shook  the Dean’s hand and crossed the stage without tripping (that was my husband’s greatest fear). Phew! Likewise, I didn’t wave and pose like a model just like I did during our dress rehearsal in the faculty office (that was my husband’s second fear after seeing my video). He thought it would be a nightmare. Haha! So, overall, it’s a mission accomplished. Yes, I MADE IT!

A lot of people have been part of this journey: my brilliant professors in the MA TESOL Program at the University of Central Florida; my wonderful GTA Lead; UCF’s ELI faculty and staff; my co-GTAs; my family and friends from the Philippines; and, of course, my loving husband who untiringly supported me during the entire program. To all of you, THANK YOU so much for believing in me!

Here’s a video of our Summer 2016 at UCF’s ELI courtesy of Ms. Rose Tran. Enjoy!