Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Hawaii TESOL Conference

Did everyone have a romantic Valentine's Day? I certainly did. And by that I mean I spent Valentine's Day at the Hawaii TESOL Spring Conference! Romantic, right?

This year the conference was at Brigham Young University-Hawaii, in Laie, which is up on the North Shore. It's sort of a different world up there, so beautiful and relaxing and peaceful and just totally separate from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu. I love it, although getting there on the bus is quite a journey. Especially in the pouring rain which we experienced for part of Saturday!

This was my first TESOL conference, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but it was really cool! There were lots of my fellow HPU MATESOL students there. Some of the us were presenting in a panel and the rest were there for professional development and fun. I love seeing my classmates outside of school, actually, so it was really nice!

Some (but not all!) of the HPU MATESOL students who attended.
 The theme of the conference this year was "Identifying Problems, Finding Solutions." The day started off with a plenary address from Rebecca Oxford on "The Language of Peace: What it Means for Teaching ESL and Developing ESL Teachers." Her speech was really interesting and about how people from different cultures look at the world differently, and we as ESL teachers are sort of at this crossroads between different cultures and part of our job is facilitating peaceful communication. She talked about the different sort of layers of peace, all the way from inner peace to peace between people to peace to between cultures to peace between humans the environment, and suggested some activities to develop that peace. 

After the address, we went to smaller sessions. You can look at all the options here (you might notice my name missing from the panel I was one... rude!). There were lots of good ones, but I chose "The Impact of Culture on English Language Proficiency" and "Changing Learners' Attitudes toward Foreign Accented English" for the morning. They were both so interesting! In the first one, the speaker talked about how Japanese culture might affect English proficiency. She analyzed it using Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions, and it was really cool... Definitely made me think about my target cultures! The second speaker talked about the negative attitudes lots of learners have toward non-native accents and her action research about changing those attitudes through more exposure. 

Lunch was provided by North Shore Tacos and it was delicious (who doesn't love tacos?!). I sat with most of the rest of the HPU crowd, and we had a surprise special guest: Rebecca Oxford! She was really nice, and very interesting to talk to. She's taught at University of Maryland and Penn State, so we talked about MD and PA (the best states!). At the end of the lunch, the Hawaii TESOL officers sat with us and they were really nice too! I was intimidated at first by all these important people, but they were so friendly. 

After lunch it was time for the panel. Several of the grad students from the Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) class had been asked to be part of the panel with our professor, Dr. Hanh Nguyen. That is one of the coolest things about HPU's TESOL professors - they really encourage us to get out in the field starting now and to participate in things like this! We had presented the day before at an AL Talk here at HPU, but this was a bigger venue and I was pretty nervous! The dress rehearsal definitely helped though, because the panel were pretty smoothly overall (despite a few technological issues). My friend Nick and I presented on Praat, Aya talked about Spreeder, Kristine talked about VoiceThread, Martin presented on using Siri to teach pronunciation, and Kat presented on TutorMike. After we all finished, it was a pretty exciting feeling of accomplishment to be able to say we had presented at a conference! It was really nice to have some of our other HPU friends in the audience too!

After the panel, with our certificates (so official!) From left to right: Nick, Aya, Kat, me, Kristine, Dr. Nguyen, Martin.
 So there you have it! My first TESOL Conference. While it may not have been the most romantic way to spend Valentine's Day, it was definitely a great experience!

This week is a short week but we have a History of the English Language exam tomorrow, so wish me luck!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Adventures in Kauai: Hiking the Kalalau Trail

If you know me, you know that I am not exactly the toughest, most in-shape, outdoorsiest of girls. Don't get me wrong - I love a good hike. There is nothing that heals my soul more than the view from the top of a mountain (except maybe raw cookie dough). It's preferable if there is no sign of humanity in my view, because as we've discussed, I don't like people. But there is a reason I haven't quit society to be a nomadic backpacker. Backpacks are heavy, I generally think toilets were a positive advancement, and eventually I like a good shower.

If you know my boyfriend, Devin, you know that he is strong and tough and in shape and outdoorsy in the former-Eagle-scout-current-Army-dude kind of way. He is absolutely fine with not showering for alarming lengths of time, seems to have no problem with a bathroom-free life, and he has plenty of practice carrying a giant, heavy rucksack for miles. (True story: one time Devin asked me to help carry his gear upstairs. He put his ruck on my back and I just tipped right over.)

So sometimes, Devin drags me on absurdly long hikes or backpacking trips and I acquiesce because I like to check them off my bucket list and because I know that at the top there will be a view that is worth it and because I'm too poor and lazy to buy a gym membership so I have to burn calories somehow.

For Christmas, his present to me was a trip to Kauai, which was absolutely on my bucket list and had legendary views and plenty of calorie-burning potential. So I was excited. But he wanted to hike Na Pali Coast, a beautiful stretch along Kauai's northwest coast. That meant hiking the entire Kalalau trail, which is 11 miles long and involves terrifying sea cliffs and no flat parts, just a constant up-and-down trail. Once you're out on the trail, the only way to reach civilization is hike back or to be picked up by an emergency helicopter. So I was also nervous. 

Not my photo. Source. This is an aerial view of the Na Pali Coast.

We spent 3 days in Kauai. We arrived Friday morning very early, rented a car, stopped to watch the sun rise over the ocean, and kept driving out toward the Kalalau trailhead. We stopped for breakfast and to stock up on some last minute snacks and repack our bags, and then we parked the car and were ready for our adventure!

Look how ready Devin is. Notice how he's carrying everything heavy. Also notice his sweet socks, a gift from our roommate's mother.
That first day, we hiked 6 miles to the halfway point, where we camped for the night. The first 2 miles are full of people (ugh) because it's just a day hike to Hanakapi'ai Beach. From there, you can hike another 2 miles to a waterfall, but we didn't do that because we had SO. MANY. miles to go. Anyway, about 0.25 miles in there's a nice lookout where we saw some whales (!), and then at 0.5 miles you get the first real glimpse down the coast. Little did I know, we were only seeing about half the trail (if that much). Either way, it's breathtaking.

Pictures will never, ever do it justice. I want to cry because you all can't see how beautiful it was.

Obligatory photo to prove we were really there and didn't just Google the photos.
This is a picture of me when I still believed in happiness and good things. Before the world's longest hike.

We stopped for lunch at the beach, which is apparently a very dangerous place to swim, so we didn't get in the water. Then we set off on mile 3, which is apparently the worst, steepest mile on the whole trail. And it was pretty rough indeed. But we survived. The miles started to feel a bit longer and my bag was feeling pretty heavy. (I only had water and my own clothes and toiletries but somehow that weighed a ton. I can only imagine how heavy Devin's bag was. I never attempted to lift it for fear of another tipping over incident.)

Look at this adventurous adventurer.
Around mile 4 or 5, it started to pour down rain. I love rain, honestly, and it was sort of nice because I was so sweaty, but it was also terrible because it makes everything heavier and my boots filled up with water and everything was incredibly slippery. I almost fell off the mountain twice. 

By the time we got to the camp at mile 6, it was dark and continuing to rain. It let up briefly while we ate dinner, but once we were in the tent it started raining again and continued to rain for the entire night. Everything was wet and muddy. On the bright side, I found a cat because I'm a huge cat lady and I can find cats miles from civilization. You could put me on the moon and I'd probably find a mooncat.

Also, Kauai has a lot of GIANT CENTIPEDES. One crawled across my boots. It was awful. Anyway, we camped for the night and then we sort of dilly-dallied in the morning. There was a waterfall about a half mile from camp, so we made a detour before continuing on the trail. It was worth it. There wasn't a single other human being there (yay!) and the waterfall was beautiful. Huge. I wanted to go swimming in the pool but we had to get going.

You can't see the top - that's about half the waterfall.
On that second day, we had to hike the scary part. There's this part of the hike called Crawler's Ledge, which is skinny, horrifying part of the trail that drops in a sheer cliff several hundred feet to the sea. The waves are giant and crashing and so, so beautiful, but if you look down you will want to vomit. I'm afraid of heights and generally not very brave, so I had to sit down and cry for a minute struggled. Fortunately, Devin held my hand and I made it, very slowly, along the cliff. 

I don't have any actual pictures of Crawler's Ledge because I was too busy clinging to the rocks for dear life, but this is the beautiful sight you are blessed with if you survive.

After Crawler's Ledge, there are few more scary parts, but none of them are quite that scary. When we got past it, we found a nice clear spot to eat lunch. My adrenaline level crashed at the point and I was strangely exhausted, so I needed a break. Unfortunately, there were another 4 miles to go. Ugh.

If you look closely you'll notice the beach, which is where the trail ends. You'll also notice that I'm smiling because I'm thinking about breaking my leg on purpose so a helicopter will come save me.
 The next four miles were populated by mountain goats (we saw a woman hiking along carrying a goat, but it was unclear whether it was a wild goat or a pet or even how long she had been carrying said goat or why...) and tough people like us (ha). The very last mile was incredibly muddy. We finally made it to the beach and I collapsed on the sand and cried. Okay, I didn't cry, but it was a relief. Unfortunately, the trail is so difficult that we only hiked about a mile an hour, so it was pretty late when we got there and we didn't have much time to set up camp before the sun went down.

Once we set up our tent, we walked along Kalalau Beach, which was beautiful. The waves were HUGE because it's winter. They made the most incredible crashing explosions of water and sound and of course on my camera they look tiny, but they were incredible.

It was so pretty!
I promise those waves were giant.

 After our beach walk, we went to the waterfall where people get water/shower. It was freezing but I have to say, it was pretty exhilarating to shower in a waterfall! I felt so at one with the Earth and all that.

Speaking of being at one with the Earth, there are people who LIVE out there. Full time. They smell like people who live in tents. I'm not sure how they manage - they must hike in and out regularly to pick up supplies. I couldn't stop thinking about how if the apocalypse started they wouldn't know about it, because there is absolutely zero cell phone service out there. Also sometimes people hike the Kalalau Trail naked. It's pretty... jarring, to say the least. Maybe I'm just awkward. Anyway. Yeah. If you hike Kalalau, be ready for that.

Our third day, we didn't have any more nights of camping permits and we had a flight early the next morning, so we had to hike the WHOLE 11 miles back in one go. I've never hiked 11 miles before. I've hiked 10 and that was rough. So I was really nervous. Devin carried almost all of my stuff, since his bag had room after we had eaten our food. The lighter bag made a HUGE difference. I don't think I'd had made it with the extra weight. As it was, the day was a struggle.

Early morning goodbye to the beach.

 We started out around 8:30 (which was actually pretty late). The first few miles were good. Crawler's Ledge was less scary the first time and things had dried out considerably. We were making decent time. We stopped for lunch at the 6 mile campsite, and I was reunited with my new pet cat :)

For a girl without a cat of her own, I have a shocking number of selfies with cats on my phone. What does that say about me? Only good things.
From there, the next 2 miles or so were okay. Manageable. We played the celebrity alphabet game to pass the time. Then we hit a section that was just up and up and up and up. It seemed like we would never reach the top. We kept saying we'd rest when we got to the top and we just never got there. I felt like we had climbed up at least half of Mt. Everest.

After that mile, we had two miles of downhill to the beach, which was depressing because I knew we'd have to go back up after. We stopped to rest at the beach and then set out on the last 2 miles.

The last two miles were awful. I told Devin, "Okay. I'm not having fun anymore. I want to be done." My whole body hurt, and my legs were so tired, but even worse my feet were covered in blisters! At one point I slipped and fell and I just sat there on a rock and said "I can't do this! I give up!" A very nice man passing by offered to carry my bag (sometimes people aren't that bad) because he could clearly see that I was a pathetic mess. I turned him down and trudged on.

When we finally reached the trailhead, I almost cried happy tears. We took a selfie where we almost look happy, but if you look closely you can see that we're dead inside.

That night at the hotel, I took the single greatest shower of my entire life. I put on clean, dry clothes. I ate hot food. I slept in a real bed. It was the best.

All joking aside, it was an incredible hike and an unforgettable experience. The photos don't do it justice in the slightest. If you can, you should go see it for yourself. I've never felt more amazed by the scenery around me. I almost wanted to be a trail hippie and stay there forever. Almost. 

It was HARD and it was sometimes scary but it was so, so worth it. And of course, shoutout to Devin for being my pack mule, my steady hand, my cheerleader, and my tent setter-upper. 

The moral of the story here is that you should all go book a flight to Kauai and strap on your hiking boots. If I can do it, you can do it.

Friday, February 6, 2015

How is it the end of Week 3?

No seriously. How is the third week of the semester already over?! It doesn't help that February is so short; March is right around the corner already!

This week has been pretty busy. Work is starting to get busier with the semester underway. Tutoring is pretty slow the first few weeks because no one has any assignments due, but by Week 3 people start having actual papers and Spanish students realize they need to get their required visits over with, so they come in. Since I'm doing some of my Practicum II hours in a Spanish 1100 class (first semester Spanish), I feel like my tutoring is going better because I know exactly where the students are and what they've learned.

One of the best things, in my opinion, about the MATESOL program here at HPU is that we have so many opportunities for practical experiences. We have "microteaching" in most of our classes, which is when we teach our classmates a 10-minute activity. It's a great chance to get feedback from our peers. We also have a whole semester of Practicum I, which among other things gives us lots of observation hours in a bunch of different settings, which was so valuable.

Now in Practicum II, we're placed in one (or two) classes for a longer period of time. It's great, because you get to know the students and the class and the mentor teacher pretty well. What's extra awesome about HPU's practicum courses is that they're quite flexible and you can have a lot of choice in where you do it, so I'm really fortunate to be doing mine in two places this semester! For the first half, I'm in the SPAN 1100 class, and for the second half, I'm in an ESL academic writing class. I'm excited about it because not only do I get two very different and very valuable experiences to learn from, but the program will give me a letter saying I did student teaching in both English and Spanish, which will be great when I apply to future jobs! Since I'm not 100% sure where I want to end up in the future, it's nice to have the double option of teaching ESL or Spanish. Even though the MATESOL program is focused on English, primarily, lots of alumni go on to teach other foreign languages as well, so it really does give you a lot of options!

Anyway, speaking of Practicum II, I solo-taught an activity this week! I was pretty nervous, and it didn't go perfectly (does teaching EVER go perfectly? This is a real question!), but I think overall it went pretty well! My mentor teacher gave me some great feedback and I definitely plan to incorporate it into the next activity I teach. I was so nervous about this activity that I made my boyfriend be my "trial student" the night before, because I figured if he understood my directions, then a first semester Spanish class would. And I was right! Not everything went according to plan, but my directions weren't the problem. (Lost materials was the problem, and of course they were found about 5 minutes after the lesson!)

And now, because I feel like a blog post without a photo is boring (my father once told me that my blog posts were too long and no one wanted to read about all the minutiae of my day and to just post photos... and if my own father said that then I assume everyone else is thinking it!), here's a photo of me and my lovely classmate Kat on a hike we did over winter break at the Lanikai Pillboxes. It had great views!

Keep an eye out next week for an update on my trip to Kauai! :)

Thursday, February 5, 2015


Almost a year ago, probably, two of my friends from undergrad (they're twins) told me that their family would most likely be coming to Hawaii for their dad's 60th birthday this year. Well, it happened! And when two of your best friends from 5,000 miles away are going to be just a few islands over, you book a flight! So I booked a flight to Maui and spent a few days crashing their family vacation. It was a blast!

First of all, Maui is really different from Oahu. There aren't nearly as many people, which I think is great. People overwhelm me. (That's why I hate New York. People everywhere.) So right away, I liked Maui.

We stayed in a condo on the beach, so the first day I was there, we just relaxed on the beach. It was so nice after a long semester!

It was a pretty little beach!
Oh, and we saw WHALES.

See them, those two tiny specks? WHALES.
 The second day, we took a bus tour of the Road to Hana, which is one of the things Maui is famous for. Hana is this little town on the side of the island far from everything else, and the road out there is very windy and absolutely incredibly beautiful. I was glad we took a bus tour because (a) our driver was really knowledgeable and told us all kinds of stories and legends and information, (b) I didn't get car sick!, (c) we stopped at all the good spots. It was about a 10 hour day, with lots of stops of course to take photos. I took about a billion, but here are some of the more interesting (I hope) ones:

Again, I took about 300 photos but... I don't want to bore you all with them! It's hard to take a good photo from a moving bus. But take my word for it: Maui is gorgeous.

Look at this fabulous crew I spent the trip with:

Here we are on the beach New Years Eve, when everyone else in the U.S. was firmly in 2015 and we were still in the Old Year:

Coming home from Maui was a bit of a catastrophe. My flight was delayed for 6 million hours, and the airline I was flying was absolutely awful about keeping up informed. I finally got home after midnight and there was a raging windstorm on Oahu, which was actually pretty cool. 

Anyway, that was my first experience with island-hopping and I would definitely recommend it! The islands are very different and there is so much too!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

It's spring semester?

So... I'm not sure how this happened, but it's spring semester! It's FEBRUARY. January was over so fast!

We're 2 weeks into spring now, so I guess I should post an update about all the things going on! There's a lot going on.

I'm taking 4 classes again, which is a lot of work but so far I'm managing. They are:
  • Second Language Writing: As a writing tutor, I am really excited about what I'm going to learn in this class! So far it's been really interesting.
  • History of the English Language: I love the super linguistics-focused classes, and this one is no exception! It's a night class on my longest day of the week but it's so worth it. I love this class!
  • Practicum II: This is basically student teaching. I'm splitting mine between a Spanish 1100 class and an ESL Academic Writing class. Both very different experiences, so I'm excited to learn what I can from them!
  • Capstone: This is basically preparing my portfolio. Which is a lot of work! If I could give advice to anyone in the program, it would be to get started early. Work on it over breaks. It's a lot. But it's kind of interesting too, and it's cool to think that this could be what I show future potential employers! It's a good way to reflect on how much I've learned in the program and how far I've come from just 2 years ago!
In addition to school, I'm presenting at two AL Talks this semester (February 13 and February 27). AL Talks are hosted by the Applied Linguistics department, and they're just sort of extra-curricular opportunities to learn a little more. Sometimes we have visiting professors or speakers and sometimes it's students in the program and sometimes it's other things. On February 13, I'm part of a student panel on technology in language teaching. On February 27, my classmate (also named Sara!) and I are presenting something about our curriculum development project from last semester.

On Valentine's Day, we have the Hawaii TESOL Conference... How romantic, right? The student panel on technology is presenting there, too. I'm so nervous! I've never presented at a real conference before. But it's exciting, too! 

That's about it as far as spring semester so far. Between four classes and work and everything I'm pretty busy! But I'm also so aware that this is my last semester and I want to enjoy everything Hawaii has to offer, so look out for some fun-stuff updates this semester as well :)

Speaking of fun stuff updates, I have two big ones to make about winter break! I got to visit Maui and Kauai, and I had a BLAST. Coming soon, I promise.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fall 2014 Recap 6: The Final One!

So by now, you're probably sick of reading about my fall semester, and we're starting the spring semester! Time flies, doesn't it? Here is my very LAST post about Fall 2014, I promise. Anyway, I ran out of themes for my posts, so here is an assortment of photos of the random things I did this semester.

I saw the cast of Hawaii Five-0!!!! They were filming right here on Fort Street Mall. I walked out of class and BAM - celebrities. Pretty cool! That was one of my goals for my time here.

 I ate my first fresh coconut! We have coconut trees in our yard, and you have to cut the coconuts down or they can actually be very dangerous! They're huge - that box is really big!
I survived a "hurricane." Everyone FREAKED OUT and bought all the food & water on the island. It all amounted to a rainy, windy day off. The boys decided that buying enough pizza to feed the entire army was the best (and most economically practical) way to prepare for a hurricane. We had pizza for days!

 I went to a luau and ate delicious food. So much food. We went to the luau at the Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki. "Hale Koa" means "house of the warrior" in Hawaiian. It's the military hotel here.

My pictures are awful but the luau was SO. COOL.They performed dances from all over the Polynesian world. I was amazed, honestly. It was so much fun.

We went to the luau for my 24th birthday. Not a bad way to ring in a new year of life! Obviously, for a luau, we had to wear our best Aloha gear!

We had dinner at the Oceanarium, which is this restaurant/aquarium where you get to eat with the fish! While eating... fish... They also have a mermaid! Our waiter was from Mexico and we became best friends once I told him I spoke Spanish. 

I gave my first "AL Talk." Applied Linguistics (AL) Talks are professional development events from the department. They happen every other Friday. Sometimes professors give them, sometimes guests give them, and sometimes students give them. I got to give this one, along with 2 of my classmates, about the language teaching jobs we had this summer.

I rescued a cat! Jack here was a neighborhood stray who was always very friendly. One day I came home to find him limping. We took him to the vet and got him fixed up, and it turned out he had a microchip. His mama was tracked down and we discovered that Jack had been missing for almost TWO YEARS (pretty crazy for a 3 year old cat!). His mama had moved to Virginia in that time. She was so grateful he was found, and he flew home to her that weekend. After so long, they got their happy reunion just in time for a Christmas - how's that for a miracle?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fall 2014 Recap Part 5: The Fisher House Hero & Remembrance Run, Walk, or Roll

The first weekend in September, we did the Fisher House Hero & Remembrance Run, Walk, or Roll on Ford Island. The event is all volunteer-run, and it's to remember the members of our Armed Forces who have been lost in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It's an 8k route, and all along the route are boots - one boot for every person lost. There are so many boots. It was such a nice event, but also so emotional. It was so strange and sad to think that for every boot, a person had died. Each boot had a picture of the person with their name, branch of service, and the date they died. Walking with so many people in the military, it was especially sad to see the people I knew looking for friends they had lost. To me, the people on the boots were strangers, but to some people there, they were friends or brothers or sisters or fathers or mothers. It broke my heart. One boot (pictured to the left) honored one of the heroes depicted in the movie Lone Survivor. (If you saw that movie and didn't cry, how?!)  At the last straightaway, I started to look more closely at the boots, and suddenly I couldn't stop crying. Some boots were tied together - people who had died together. One pair was tied together but had different dates; then I realized they were brothers. The poor parents. Most of the photos were from military IDs, but some were personal photos. One of a soldier with his newborn baby. One of a soldier with his dog. Neither of them would ever understand why their soldier never came home. Some of the boots had been decorated with leis or other offerings. Someone set a beer next to one boot, sharing a drink with a lost friend. One widow had left a letter for her husband. I cried so hard I couldn't read it. A little boy walked with a shirt honoring his father. From the Ford Island bridge, you can see Pearl Harbor. It was almost overwhelming how much loss was represented there that day. It was a heavy reminder that the people who are fighting our wars are not statistics or faceless strangers. They are real people, and they leave real loved ones behind when they go off to fight.