What a great week!  This was a week I realized how excited I am about what I am doing and how freeing it is to have a dream and turn it into a reality.   

I spent the start of the week with my parents at the house our family is building in Crivitz, WI.  This area is known for it’s winter snowmobiling season but also has some great white water rafting in the area.  I love white water rafting so I thought why not go.  After a few rainy days I was able to join on to a trip of campers going down the river.  I was able to navigate a fun yak, which is a blown up version of a kayak and I got to help the guides with the campers.  Things were going great and we stopped right before the first major rapid to examine the scene.  We pulled our boats over and scouted the fall to see which path our little kayaks could navigate.  The kids went down in large rafting boats but the smaller kayaks needed a plan.  After looking at it for a few minutes my guide, Rob, informed me that if I wasn’t up for it I could take my boat around.  I thought, you only live once so make it interesting.  At the first drop I nailed it and it was such an adrenaline rush.  I was so proud of myself and so happy to have conquered the class 4 rapid in a kayak.  Afterward I thought, I got this.  After the second and third drop a groups of kids rammed into my boat and knocked me out of my kayak.  This lead to me going down a 5 foot waterfall without my boat.  No major injuries were sustained but I was pretty sure that at one point I felt like I was going to drown but I made it.  It was a crazy and exhilarating experience.  I was glad I had the guts to go even though I was by myself.

After this adventure I went to a going away party that a fellow teacher and some of my students put together.  The party was a great time.  We spent 3 hours talking about different cultures and how to push yourself to be a better global citizen.  The students asked me some awesome questions that pushed me to think about my experiences and how to give them the best answers.  It was wonderful time that made me leave feeling like we had open each others minds.  It also made me realize I am really going to miss this group of students and our awesome discussions.

This was followed the next day by another great evening, a going away party with my family and friends.  I was so happy to see all the people that showed up and to know that so many people cared about me.  It was such a good time and chance to talk to people.  I will miss everyone but am sure we will all keep in touch.

Well, I leave in 8 days and my passport came back with a visa in it- which is exciting.  My good-byes have been said to many and I am now wrapping everything up.  In the final days before my departure I am so excited to be going and so happy with the time I get to spend with all my family and friends. 

Moral of the story for today (for my students who keep asking me for my deep thoughts): 

1)   Live every day as if it is your last (Life is much more fun that way)

2)   Always cherish your relationships with loved ones (they will be there when times are rough and help you celebrate when times are good- they are the rocks that keep you on steady ground when the river is raging around you.) 

The last few days have been very productive days for me, which is good since I have only 16 more days until the big adventure.  I was able to mail my visa application to the Tanzanian embassy, which is great.  My only concern is that I need it processed and back to me in about 12 working days (I cut it close to the wire), but I am optimistic it will be ok.  I also shipped my boxes to Mama Grace, so my clothes and basic needs are on there way to Tanzania.  Again, I am also optimistic on this and hope that they make it there ok.  I went to the bank with my dad and had him added to my bank account as a secondary account holder.  I finished my last and final grad school class and cleared out everything at school that was mine.  I made my final payments for my tour through Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.  I booked a hostel to stay at for the first few days in am in Bali, and I started to read a blog about a young man who is walking across America for the year on $3,000 (www.natewalksamerica.com).  Although this blog was not related directly to my trip it did help me to see that although I might not have all the money I was hoping, if he can live in America for a year on $3,000, I can live in 3rd world countries for a year on $5,000.  So now more stress just positive thoughts (:

As things are getting closer and I am also starting to say final good byes to friends and family.  Which makes it seem more real that I will be leaving for 13 months- Yikes!  But it is also super exciting.  I cannot wait for the big adventure.  Anyone in the Chicago land area, I am having a going away party June 24th from 7-10pm at  CubbyBear North in Lincolnshire.   Come out and have a good time if you are in the area.

This week I have also firmed up some plans for my New Zealand trip! My cousin Mae and her husband Mark are in New Zealand and our my first stop.  I am super excited because in talking to them I learned they are planning a 4th of July celebration party the weekend I get there.  It should be alot of fun.  I also talked to them about the idea of renting an RV and driving around the southern island of New Zealand.  It is making me more and more excited.   So as things get closer to my departure I will keep you posted of what is to come.

This week I will be spending with my parents in Wisconsin where I plan to do some whitewater rafting or kayaking.  My goal is to read a book, relax with my parents, have a mini adventure, and practice my speech for the NEA Convention I am speaking at on June 30th.  All in all a good week planned.

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This week two of my good friends, Farahani and Charisma, came to visit for a week.  It was a great experience.  With Farahani being from Tanzania and going to school in America it helped me get a better idea of just how crazy it can be when cultures collide.  Farahani has been in America for one year and is going to college in New Jersey, and Charisma in an America who just finished medical school and has traveled to Tanzania to volunteer in the local clinics and hospitals.  Both of them were nice enough to come to an Interact meeting (a student club I run at ACHS) with me and talk to my students about what life is like for a  Tanzanian to live in America. 

Farahani talked about how hard it has been for him to get used to how many things we have here and how much we take for granted.  He told students many stories and how the hardest thing for him was seeing the large number of things Americans have and thinking about how many people are in such need in his home country.  Many of the stories he told helped open the eyes of my students.  Here are some of the stories that stood out to them and to me.

He told students about was how difficult it is to go to an American restaurant and get a menu.  He described how it requires intense studying just to decide what to eat in America, and how once you decide there are twenty questions until you fully order……How would you like it cooked?  What do you want on the side?  What type of dressing do you want?........In his country the menu is one side with only a few options and there is no alternative to what is written.  Beans and rice is beans with rice.  Chicken Fried is fried chicken.  When asked how he would like his chicken (original, spicy, mild) his first thought was “Which one means dead?” 

He talked about how difficult it can be to drive in America.  In Tanzania there are only a few stop lights, and all roads are one lane roads.  Here there are so many stop lights, stop signs, lanes, streets and cars.  He told students that driving for him was like sitting through a really difficult math class that you couldn’t fully figure out what to do and you had to pay attention to so many things that eventually you just don’t want to do it anymore.

He discussed with them how difficult it can be in America because very few people talk to you and it can seem like a very unfriendly place.  In Tanzania everyone talks to their neighbors and knows everything about everyone through lots of conversation on the street, in town, at home, at school, everywhere.  He told them how when he first came to the US he spent most of his time in his apartment because very few people talked to him and it did not seem ok to go knock on people’s doors and talk to them.  He explained how in Tanzania it is perfectly ok to walk down the street and talk to a little kid or a complete stranger where in America if you start talking to a little kid people think you are kidnapping them and a stranger walks away from you quickly thinking you are crazy. 

Through this visit it reminded me how different cultures exist in the world and it is sometimes so hard to merge them together.  Had Farahani not told my students about these differences they might not have known how different our culture can seem to others.  Maybe through his conversation and his sharing of his experience they will be more open to those with different backgrounds.  I know that after this week together our cultures definitely collided and although Farahani and I did not see eye to eye on all matters we are better friends now because we tried to understand each other. 

I cannot wait to set out on this next adventure and see how different life can be.  After this very difficult year I am ready for a new adventure full of new ways of life, new cultures, and the chance to meet different people.    Though are cultures will surely collide and it will be difficult for me at times.  I am excited how that collision will change me as a person.  

Stay posted.....