Category Archives: Wandering Feet

Travel Stories

An Unexpected Arrival

The first time I traveled internationally (other than to the neighboring state of Canada 🙂 ) was my year in Spain. Now, I could tell you about how I chose to travel as an exchange student, rather than one of the other opportunities that presented themselves, or about the stages of my trip as I went from Minnesota to Ohio to DC and on to Madrid. But, really, the best part of the story is the trip from Madrid to Sevilla, where I finally met my host family.
I think most exchange students receive information about their host families at least a month before they arrive in country. But not me. I left Minnesota still not knowing even what part of Spain I’d be living in. (That might be why I forgot to pack any type of jacket….) Finally, when I arrived at Grandma’s house, there was a message on the machine from AFS, telling me about the Martinez Borrás family. I’d be living just outside of Sevilla, and would have two little sisters, ages 10 and 4. That was Monday, August 30th. I met them on Monday, September 3rd.
One night/day of orientation in DC, a short layover at Heathrow, then three days of orientation at a monastery-type place in Madrid. Monday afternoon arrived, and of all the students taking trains out of La Puerta de Atocha,

Puerta de Atocha

In case this scene looks familiar - it’s in the front of the Level 2 book in a popular series of HS Spanish texts. Not my photo, but one that looks very similar.

I was the only one going to Sevilla. I hung out with the others in the tropical-forest-area in the lobby, not realizing that was the most humidity I’d experience for quite a while. Eventually, the lady from AFS Spain walked me down to the trains, but the ticket man said we were at the wrong platform. There were two trains leaving south from Madrid around two o’clock, and my ticket was for the one at the other end of the row. Thankfully, we were there early.
On the train, a nice man helped me put my bags up on the rack (both weighed roughly 70 lbs) and I settled down with my stitching. Or, at least, that’s what I was doing at 6:30, at which time, I had decided beforehand, I packed up my stuff to find a restroom so that I would be nice and refreshed when we pulled into Sevilla at 7:20. My first long train trip had been an interesting one. A boy up the aisle smiled at me when I pulled Cappuccino out of my bag and sat him next to me on the seat. (Cap is a stuffed monkey who goes with me everywhere, and has since I was a baby. Other than his cataracts, he’s in very good condition.) The old lady across from me may have been commenting on my stitching, or not. It truly sounded like gibberish to me, and not anything like the Spanish I’d been studying in school.
She got off at the last stop before 6:30, so she wasn’t there to react to me repacking my daypack. I had just put the last item in when the conductor announced the next stop: Sevilla.
What?
Yes. I heard correctly, and the signs on the platform also said Sevilla. But, the AFS people had clearly told me my train would arrive at 7:20. How did we get there 50 minutes early? I’d have to worry about that later. Everyone was getting off the train. I think the same nice man reached for my bags again. (A disadvantage of being short, or is it an advantage?) Zip the daypack onto the big backpack, lift, roll and get off the train.
I had arrived at Santa Justa station. Now I needed to find my host family.

Next time: How long it took to find my family at the train station.

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Journey to Alaska

Four trips in four years; fourteen months living/traveling in Europe and one in Mexico. Then stuck stateside, barely leaving Minnesota. The six year marked passed during my student teaching semester in the spring of 2009. My feet itched to go somewhere. Perhaps that’s what drew me to the presentation by the Alaska schools at the job fair. The bush schools offered moving stipends, but I wasn’t ready for that big of a change, so I only gave my contact info to the Anchorage School District.
They called sometime in May and we set the interview for Monday, June 14th, the day after the MS150 (bike ride from Duluth to MSP – 150 miles in two days). Thankfully, the time difference put the interview at 2pm in Alaska, but 5pm in MN, so I was able to fully recover from the ride. Oh, yeah, it might be nice to note the wonders of technology: the interview was through Skype. That first interview went well, and by the end of the month, I received notice that I was ‘eligible for further consideration.’
I had two interviews for specific positions, one in July and one in early August. Not only were they at different schools, but the positions were as different as you could get. Teaching Algebra I, II and Geometry to eighth graders versus teaching remedial Algebra and modified Geometry to tenth and eleventh graders. I wonder how different the year might have gone if I’d gotten the MS position….
Classes started mid-August, and by the middle of September, I hadn’t heard back from either school. I’d given up on getting a job in Alaska, and was tired of going grocery shopping every week, so I spent $90 and filled my freezer and cupboards. I got the call that Wednesday, the 16th. Reluctantly, the principal gave me until Friday to make a decision. Between Dad’s and my prayers, and some ‘seize the day’ type Proverbs, everything seemed to say ‘yes,’ so that’s the answer I gave.
Mom immediately googled Anchorage churches and found First Baptist at the top of the list. The time change was again in her favor, and contact was made. Multiple emails later, I had a temporary place to stay, a car to drive and someone to pick me up at the airport, all thanks to the pastor’s wife.
Once HR officially offered me the position, I booked my plane ticket for September 29th. I don’t know about you, but there was no way I could make all the arrangements I needed to and pack up my apartment in 13 days. I did my best, but Mom did a lot of work after I left. (Thanks!)
To make a long story slightly shorter, with my arrival in Anchorage, my saga of short-term jobs continued, and my short-term housing saga began. (Since college, the only jobs I’ve been at for more than twelve months involve tutoring, and since coming to AK, I have moved—taken all my stuff and not known where or when I was moving next—seven times, staying at most eight months in each place.) The circumstances and issues I found at school are not something to discuss on a public blog, but it was clear by May that God used that job to bring me to Alaska, and had something else in mind for me to do. I’m still waiting for Him to tell/show me what that is.
It didn’t take me long to pick up on some differences between MN and AK, especially once the snow arrived.
However, most of these differences come with pictures, and for whatever reason, wordpress is only giving me the html format of my edit screen, and that is not one of the languages I speak. So, once I figure something out, I’ll add them.

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