Thursday, April 16, 2015

Big Island Adventures!

So a recent Hawaii Bucket List item: Going to the Big Island! Devin and I spent Easter weekend on the Big Island, and it was great!

Aside from the weather. It was pretty rainy the whole time... Womp. But it was still pretty! You can drive around a lot on the Big Island (it's so big!) and there's hardly any traffic (unlike Oahu...), so it was nice just to enjoy the drive!

We got there Thursday night and just checked into our cottage at Volcano National Park. Friday morning, we got up early to start the day! In the morning, we went to Volcano Winery, which was just a 10 minute drive from where we stayed. I love wine, so it was a great little stop. We did the wine tasting and bought a few bottles... They have a really delicious tea-infused wine, a guava wine, and a macadamia nut honey wine. All of them were so unique and yummy, mmm. 

That afternoon, we went on a "Star Tour" through the place we stayed.... Let me just tell you all that it's NOT worth your time or money to do that! At least the tour we did wasn't. It started at 2 PM (that should have been our sign...) and they took us to a planetarium in Hilo. It was okay... We saw a movie there and spent some time in their museum, but you don't miss out on anything amazing if you don't go there, in my opinion. Then we drove up to the Visitor's Center at 9000 feet on Mauna Kea. We were served a very bad plate lunch, and left to wander around in the cloudy twilight. It was cold, but I expected that. A while later, it finally got dark, but stayed cloudy. We bought a few things at the gift shop. Eventually, it cleared up enough to see about three stars, and then it was time for us to go because the tour ended at 8 PM. Just when it was clearing up and the visitor's center people dragged out their telescopes. So, if you want to see Mauna Kea, just drive up there yourself. It's not worth the price of the tour, and then you can stay however long you want. If you want to drive all the way to the summit, you are allowed, but you need to have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and check with your rental company. So that's my advice about that.**
 

Our breakfast view. Not bad, right?
We were supposed to go on a volcano tour Saturday, but after Friday's failure we cancelled it to do things on our own. We had breakfast with a great view of the Kilauea Crater, and then drove to the Kona side of the island. It's a pretty drive and the weather was actually nice!

When we got to the other side of the island, we took a tour of the Kona brewery. Now in my opinion, if you've toured one brewery you've kind of seen the basics and there's that much else to see... But Kona was actually really cool! They do a lot to make their beer brewing practices super sustainable, like using recycled materials, reusing things, and even using special beer bottles that are 11% lighter to reduce fuel loads. Just hearing about that stuff made the tour worth it. After, we stayed for lunch at their brewery restaurant and the food was so yummy! 

 After the brewery we went to a coffee plantation called Mountain Thunder, which grows organic coffee. We took a tour, and that was pretty cool too. I learned a lot about coffee! They also had some tasty teas (I'm more of a tea girl, personally.) Oh, and they had cats. So I loved that, because obviously my mission in life is to find cats everywhere I go.

We stopped for a late lunch at a place called the Coffee Shack, which had a really beautiful view. By then, however, it was pouring down rain, so the view was a bit hazy. After that, we drove down to South Point, which is the southernmost point in the United States! (Yes, it's farther south than Key West!) There, we took a long and beautiful drive through cow country until we reached a parking lot where we paid some Hawaiians with four wheel drive to take us in the back of their pickup to the famous Green Sand Beach. I'm not joking. It was a very Hawaii experience. The drive out to the beach was gorgeous, although honestly the sand is NOT that green.


After the beach, we stopped at the southernmost bar in the U.S. for dinner with some friends who were also visiting the Big Island before driving back to Volcano National Park. Before heading to bed for the night, we drove up to the Jaggar Museum lookout to see the glow from the volcano. It was raining, but we still got to see a pretty good glow!


The lava is actually pretty far down, but it sure looked like it was about to erupt, didn't it?

The next day was our flight home, but we had the morning free. We went for a hike called Kilauea Iki, which is in an old crater. It honestly felt like we were hiking on the moon or something. The lava landscape is so cool.


After the hike, we got to see one of the lava tubes (no lava runs through it anymore, thankfully!). It's a basically a big tunnel. It was nice and cool after getting all sweaty hiking!
 


After that, we just drove up to the airport and came home. It was a short trip, but it was fun! It was so nice to just spend some time together and to have a break from "real life" -- neither one of us wanted to come back!

**If you have been keeping an eye on the news here in Hawaii (and maybe outside of Hawaii?) you might have seen something about Mauna Kea recently. They are building a big telescope, the "Thirty Meter Telescope" (TMT), and a lot of people are upset about it because they feel that it's a threat to sacred Hawaiian land. It's an interesting debate, and certainly not something I'm qualified to speak about, but if you want to know more you should look it up! Apparently it has attracted some celebrity attention, even!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

More Hawaii Bucket list stuff... and some more BIG NEWS.

So, last weekend was a pretty good one for the Hawaii Bucket List. Saturday morning, we went to Wet N Wild Hawaii, which is a big water park. Now, I know, the ocean is right there. But water parks are different! And so fun! We got a GroupOn and went for the day and it was a blast! 

That night we had another Bucket List item... horseback riding on the beach! We went up to the North Shore and booked a ride with the polo club there. It was an hour ride at sunset, and you get to ride right on the beach. It was so pretty and a really cool experience.

Please ignore my weird facial expression and check out that sunset.
My horse was an active polo horse! Quite an athlete, haha.
Right there on the beach! Also, check out our super cool helmets!

 Very cool!! Horses are so cool, aren't they? Devin's tried to bite mine.

After the ride, Devin suggested we go back down to the beach to take some pictures. He set up the tripod and all (he has a very fancy camera that I have no idea how to use) and set a timer and we posed for a picture.... but then nothing happened. He has a little clicker for his camera (I told you it's fancy!) so he said "Hang on, let me see if I have the thingie," and started looking around in his bag... But he didn't pull out the camera clicker. 

Instead, he pulled out a ring box and got down on one knee! So right there on the beach, at sunset, he proposed to me :) And, of course, I said yes! And the fun part? The camera was on video the whole time, so we have the whole thing recorded!



So, that one might not be on YOUR Hawaii Bucket List, but I think it's a pretty good one to check off ;)



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spring Semester Update

Whew, what a busy time! If you took a look at my April calendar right now, you'd probably cry. I know I want to! Spring semester is rapidly coming to a close, so here's a peek at some of the things that have been going on here at HPU.

Student teaching is almost over! I only have one more class to teach to complete my hours. It has been such a wonderful experience, honestly -- such a valuable part of the TESOL program here! I have been incredibly lucky to have not one but two wonderful mentor teachers this semester in Spanish and in Writing. Getting to see a beginning language class and a second language writing class has given me two really different perspectives and experiences and I have learned so, so much. Getting to practice being in front of a whole class has made me feel a lot more comfortable teaching, and I'm starting to get the hang of this whole lesson planning thing, maybe! Obviously, I still make mistakes, but that's what feedback and practice are for, right? I feel much better about teaching next year after this semester of practicum.

Basically what people think about teaching.


My portfolio is coming along as well! There are only 2 pieces of it I haven't started yet, and I plan to knock at least one of those out tonight! Everything else has been drafted and revised at least once, and several bits have been approved. Monday the 20th is the final deadline, so things are getting intense! This weekend, that's pretty much the only thing I'll be doing. It'll all be online once I'm finished, so I'll be sure to share the link here! (Now that I wrote this whole paragraph I am looking at my calendar and thinking SIX DAYS?!?!??!)

Who's starting to feel the pressure?!
 I've also been accepted to present at the Capstone Symposium on the 23rd, which is exciting! Students from a bunch of different departments are getting together to present posters or oral presentations on something they've worked on. I chose (of course!) my paper on language policy in Catalonia. Quite a few of my fellow tutors are presenting as well, so I can't wait to see what they'll have to say. If you're around on April 23, be sure to check it out!

My other two classes, Teaching Second Language Writing and History of the English Language, are going well! We have a big research paper in HoE coming up, so I checked out half the library yesterday in anticipation. I'm writing about the fate of the Celtic languages in the UK... I think it'll be pretty interesting! Certainly it'll get me pumped up to visit Ireland next spring!

In the meantime, I'm working on my Andorra paperwork. I need to book my flight in the next week or so, which will make it seem a little more real!

Hard to believe that just a month from today, I'll be walking across the stage at graduation. Right now, it seems like there is an awful lot left to do!! Deep breath. It'll all get done, right? And in just five weeks, I'll be landing in Maryland and my Hawaii adventure will be over. Speaking of which... I have a few more Hawaii Bucket List things to post about, so keep an eye out for those!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Some big news!

This semester is FLYING by. There are only SIX more weeks (including finals)! I only have six more weeks as a student! Six more weeks until... until what, you ask?

So you might recall that I said I have no idea what I'm doing next year. Well, that has finally changed! I HAVE NEWS!


So, I refrained from posting about this in case it didn't work out, but it has, so I can finally post!

After a lot of thinking last summer, I decided to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. I decided to apply to Spain because it is my favorite place in the world. So I wrote essays and filled out a lengthy application and asked for recommendations and then I had an interview with a panel of professors from HPU. And then I turned it all in by mid-October and I settled in for the longest wait of my entire life. (I didn't even wait that long to find out about college or grad school!) Lalala. No stress...

Except EXTREME STRESS the day the Spain decisions came out and... I didn't have an email! Nothing! Not in my Spam folder, not hidden among other emails, not a thing. Everyone seemed to have heard but me. Being in Hawaii and 6 hours behind the East Coast, I discovered all of this at 6 AM on a Monday, which is not a good time to discover anything. I called the Fulbright office and told the lady that I hadn't gotten my email and she just said that some of them had bounced back, and she couldn't tell me my results over the phone (WHY?!), but she would try resending them later that day. Of course, I panicked and called my mother. 






She calmed me down a little bit, but I was about ready to throw up from nerves. AND I was set to be videotaped teaching that morning. What a day! Anyway, while we were on the phone, I got an email with the subject "Fulbright Application Andorra." Which is not Spain, so I was confused. Did they know who I was? I didn't apply to Andorra! Surely there had been another mistake.

I opened it (hyperventilating slightly) and found out that they could not offer me a spot in Spain, but there were extra spots in Andorra, and would I like to go there instead? I wasn't 100% sure this was a thing that could happen, and I was not sure from the wording of the email if I definitely got Andorra or if I'd have to wait even more. I replied saying that yes, I was interested, and I got an email back shortly confirming that I was indeed being offered a Fulbright to teach in Andorra!

It was so surreal. I was excited but so surprised! Here I'd been planning to either stay in Hawaii or be in Madrid, and now I was going to Andorra! Most people, when I told them this, said "Andorra? You mean Pandora? Is that even a real country?" Some people said, "Is that a part of Spain?" To which I obviously replied:


But anyway, for those of you who don't know (which is most people, I guess): Andorra is a teeny tiny little country in the Pyrenees between Spain and France. Yes, it's a real country. The official language is Catalan, the area is 181 square miles, and there are about 80,000 residents. The main things to do there are hiking, skiing, and duty-free shopping. And in September, I'm going to be living there teaching 12-16 year-olds English for a year! WOO HOO!

The Andorran flag. I think it's pretty!

This is Andorra! So tiny!!!!!!

But soooo beautiful. Guess I'd better work on my skiing...

Seriously, doesn't it look like it's straight out of a fairytale?

So there you have it! My big news! That's about it for now... I'll post soon with some pictures of fun Oahu things that we've been doing and an update on school.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Camping, WHALES, Thai food, more WHALES.

School life has been a bit busy lately, but not too busy to have some Hawaii fun! 

A few weeks ago, Devin and I went camping. We went to Bellows, and stayed on the military side of the campgrounds. The military side has some awesome amenities like actual showers (although not truly hot water), picnic tables, a mini golf course (I would like to put out there that I beat Devin!), and even a little bar that we went to one night for live music. And they even have quiet hours after 10 PM that they actually enforce! We have stayed on the civilian side at Bellows several times and been kept up by huge groups of people being rowdy until 4 AM (no joke), so that was what made us try the military side. And... we are never going back. 

Anyway, Bellows (both sides) are on the eastern shore of the island, by Waimanalo. That side of the island, in my opinion, has the best beaches. Soft sand, perfect blue water... what more could you want? So while everyone back home was complaining about a giant snow storm, we were here:

What snow?
Not too shabby, right? We had a great weekend there, and then on Sunday was went on a whale watch cruise before heading home! We had a Groupon for it, and it was such a cool experience! We got to see lots of whales, and I learned a lot about them, too! Whale watching was on my Hawaii bucket list, and I'm so glad we got to do it! My phone was dead, but the tour included a CD of the photos they took, so here are some of the coolest shots, courtesy of Island Divers: 

Breaching! So, so cool. They look smaller in the photos than they were in real life.

We kept seeing them just swimming along at the surface. We saw a couple pairs, usually a mother and calf.

Look, there are two of them!

I feel like whales have so much fun. Doesn't that look fun?

At the very end, two of them swam RIGHT BY our boat. I felt like I could have reached out and touched them.

They were so close!

When they do this with their tails, it means they're about to dive deep and you probably won't see them for a while.

It's like they're waving goodbye!
Seriously, HOW COOL ARE WHALES? If you don't think whales are cool, you are wrong. So, if you are in Hawaii over the "winter," go on a whale watch!! The peak season is December to March, and then they head back up north to Alaska. (One day, I want to go kayaking with whales in Alaska. That's my other whale-related bucket list item. Well, that and having a pet whale.)

After that adventure-filled weekend, Devin went into the field for two weeks. That gave me more time to watch Netflix focus on my homework, so I got a lot done! And since the whole brigade (I think?) was in the field, my friends were all in the same boat, so to speak, so we hung out without our men, which led to some really nice girls nights! 

On one of the girls nights, my friend Kait and I went up to Haleiwa and ate dinner at Opal Thai, which was amazing. I'd never been there before, but I do like Thai food. (I'm no connoisseur, but I enjoy it!) The restaurant used to just be a food truck, and it was on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on Food Network, and for good reason! They have their own space now, and the guy who owns it, Opel, will give you a menu and then takes it away and asks you what you like. He listed a whole bunch of ingredients and then he asked if I like all of them. I said yes, so he walked off and I was (very quickly!) brought this totally unique dish made just for me! Talk about royal treatment! It was delicious (so spicy!) and I am definitely going back there again!

Now, it's spring break, which has been relaxing! I haven't had any real plans at all and it has been great! We went for a short hike on Sunday on the North Shore and had dinner at the food trucks there before heading over to meet our friends' brand new baby. And I've finally had time to clean our house! And this weekend I'm seeing Cinderella with a friend, and then we're having a St. Patrick's Day party and a beach day!


Hard to believe there are only 8 more weeks of school, isn't it? On that note, I'd better go do some homework...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How is it Spring Break already?!?!

Oops... It's been a while, hasn't it? Things have gotten pretty busy the last few weeks! I can't believe we are already halfway through the semester! (Or halfway through Spring Break... how sad, right?)

School has been really busy, with our first History of English exam, some writing assignments, more student teaching, another AL Talk, and another portfolio deadline. Work has gotten busy too, since tutoring is always busy when school is! 

Sara and I (yes we have the same name) at our AL Talk on February 27th.

I've officially switched over to student teaching in WRI 1100, which is a very different experience from SPAN 1100! In Spanish, I was teaching things like "Hello, my name is..." But in writing it's more like "What is a counterargument?" It's cool to get both experiences! I have to say, having a mother who's a teacher is immensely helpful. It's so nice knowing I can call her anytime with questions or even just to say "Mom, it gets easier, right?" after a lesson that doesn't go perfectly. (She says it does, sort of.) 

I've learned about all sorts of things that can make a lesson not go perfectly... which I suppose is the point, right? Now I know, for example, that if you have an activity that is based on groups passing something to other groups, you had better set up an official passing route, or chaos will ensue... Oops. I've also learned that the Weasley family isn't the best option for teaching family relationships because there are too many of them. Duly noted... And I'm still working on how to time my lessons well. I always seem to end up with too many activities, but I suppose that's better than too few, right? 

All TESOL students have the same favorite color.

I've turned in a draft of almost all of my portfolio at this point, with the exception of my Practicum II materials and my holistic reflection. It's quite the feeling of accomplishment! It's hard to believe I only have 7 more weeks of class, EVER. (Unless I decide to do my PhD some day down the road!) Although I guess as a teacher, you're never really finished with class, are you?

Being a last semester student, lots of people are starting to ask me, "What's next?" Well, trust me everyone, the second I know what's next, I'll tell you! For now, the answer is a big "I don't know." It's like senior year of college all over again...

The closer I get to the end of the program, the more I realize that a) I'm super excited and b) I'm also a bit sad! I've made some really awesome friends here, and we have a truly wonderful group of professors. I'll miss everyone after I graduate! I'm a bit of a nerd, I guess, and I've always loved school, so I'll even miss my classes! (Although not homework...)

Well this has gotten a bit long, so I think I'll make a separate post now about things I've been doing outside of school... Stay tuned for some pictures of WHALES up close and personal!

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!