Monday, June 28, 2010

Preparing the House

Sorry for a short and uneventful blog, but packing a house really leaves little to the imagination. We are taking our time with the packing, but have actually put clothes and other personal items into the big red duffles. Joe informed me that he will have the two duffles and I will take the third duffle with the large suitcase. I think this will work well if he chooses to overlook all the stuff that ends up in one of his duffles. The luggage scale from our Cromer colleagues is about to get a workout. I have cleaned out the guest room closet and half of my dresser, so I think the clothing matters are going well, and the three piles (taking to China, leaving in storage and taking to Goodwill) seem to be in proper balance. Today I gave away a dress that has been in my closet for 20 years which I have never worn!

I've had a lovely time discussing prescriptional matters with the geniuses at the Walgreens Mail Service. I knew my order for a full year of pills would give someone pause, so I called Blue Cross to see how they would handle it, then I sent a very detailed letter along with my very clear prescription off to Walgreens. Naturally, I received an email saying that my prescription would not be shipped because it was not covered under my insurance. (My next thought is not appropriate for all audiences, so you can use your imaginations.) I talked to a very nice woman named Jennifer, who probably never understood my requirement, but at least said she could get it put through, so my pills should be on their way this week. I have a second prescription to fill in another week or two and I think I might just walk it over to my local CVS where they all know my situation. Sometimes the personal touch is simply more efficient.

We did receive excellent personal attention from Travel Document Systems, our visa processing service recommended by our friend Nate. We mailed everything (passports, extra pictures, visa application, letters of introduction, travel itinerary) to TDS early last week and received a phone call asking for information on our employer. This is a tricky question, as we really don't have an employer at the moment, but our TDS contact (who never gave his name, just his email) assured me that a former employer would do, so good old FUSD gets to provide us one last bit of service (thanks, Barbara!). I will probably be holding my breath until those passports come back.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Water, Water, Everywhere

A week in the Kentuckiana region (Louisville and the parts of southern Indiana right across from Louisville) really got me started thinking about living with humidity again. Great for my skin and violin, tough on my hair and any outdoor activity. Therefore, we stayed indoors for most of the rest of the Midwestern trip, which gave us time to make some preliminary plans for when Helen and Tim come to Shanghai, which they started talking about as soon as they heard our news in February. I read the first few pages of a book on learning "the basic 800" Chinese characters, a wonderful gift from Joe's sister Lisa, and was greatly encouraged to learn that the system of characters is no more complicated than reading musical notation. I wonder if the authors know how to read musical notation... We also visited with one of my seminary professors who was thrilled with the news and called me "Lottie Moon," a famous early missionary to China so loved by the Southern Baptist denomination that we named our foreign missions offering drive after her. (Remember that, Baptist friends?) In the continuing coincidence department, we ran into one of Joe's multicultural counseling professors as we were walking to our plane in the Louisville airport, so Joe was able to get some quick ideas about resources.

We got back to Flagstaff, thanks to Rhonda and Andy's taxi service, and found Faun with a newly broken hand (fourth or fifth metacarpal, nice waterproof blue cast), and we've spent this weekend hearing news about successive fires on every side of the city. Our home is safe (so far), but where is all that water when you need it? Rhonda offered to take Jack back with her, but I held off, as we'd barely seen him during the summer and I didn't think I could combine Father's Day with moving my dog away. I bought myself four more weeks, so we'll see if the idea gets any easier... hmmm, what are the odds? Also, we've started the party planning for here and in Phx, and the lists seem to get longer every day - whew! Well, I'm off to pray for rain; maybe a modern Lottie Moon can be effective in a slightly different role.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Farewell Tour Continues

First, we went camping with Faun and Randy, Mira and Bruce, Beth, Carol, and four dogs. It was a weekend of record-breaking heat in Flagstaff, but we still found lots of water in the tanks and even patches of snow for the dogs to enjoy. As an engineer for a large oil company (not BP), Bruce has traveled to many parts of the world, and we had a good time talking about gestures in Nigeria (a smooching sound that is intended to get someone's attention) and Brazil (where it is not OK to make the OK hand gesture). We will have an interesting time discovering Chinese gestures, which I assume will come more quickly than the spoken slang.

Next, we met many of my relatives, including my father's remaining siblings and sister-in-law, at a seniors' bowling tournament at Sam's Town in Las Vegas. I've been going up there for a few years to watch my Uncle Steve burn up the alleys in the Primetimers annual tournament, but this year we added a Maywald/Hayes family reunion, with family coming from the Houston area, San Antonio, Phoenix and suburbs, Vegas, Indiana (my side) and South Dakota. It was a blast to see everyone and we got lots of good pictures. We still have a big farewell party in Phoenix in July, but this was a nice start, and I got to show off the school brochure with the nice picture of the new auditorium.

Finally, we flew out to Louisville for a week with friends and family there. Again, we had a huge showing from Joe's family, with four generations represented. We were originally scheduled to meet in a city park, but local heads prevailed to move to a restaurant, and no sooner had we been seated than the northern Indiana skies opened for a "frog-strangler," as Andy Griffith would say. Nevertheless, we had a great time and everyone agreed that we should do it more often. Maybe next summer.

We've had more communication from our school about various opportunities. Jeff Stubbs, our old friend, wrote to ask about interest in pursuing online doctorates (EdD), although he hasn't nailed down a school as yet. He's talking to places like UCLA and Princeton, which really makes me think twice about adding yet another diploma to my wall. Jeff Martin wrote to give some basic details about our duties in activities, where each staff member leads or works with two after school clubs. He talked a lot about sports (probably because he's a PE teacher), so I'm wondering if I can start a bowling club. Today as we were driving through Indiana, we donated to a football team because the mascot was the Dragons, so we felt like that would give us a leg up on supporting our new school (also the Dragons), so there's our little bit of karma for the week.

Next week: getting home and starting the packing/yard renovation/clothing decisions... or maybe we'll just take some long naps.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Face to Face, More or Less

Joe got an email from Tammy Rodabaugh, my name doppelganger and his new Chinese principal, asking if we could Skype with her about general counseling issues and a potential Lower School music position for me. After a few tries, we finally got together on Tuesday night (her Wednesday morning) and had a very nice talk. She has very pretty long brown hair and large round glasses, which is not particularly relevant, but I like to remember first impressions. Her proposed music position was also an excellent first impression. One of the current music teachers, who happens to be Chinese, is leaving at the end of this school year (next Friday), and because Ms. Rodabaugh doesn't want her music teachers to be overloaded, she is hiring two people to fill the departing teacher's position. One person will be a local hire so the school can maintain Chinese cultural music, and the other person could be me if everyone agrees. This would be general music for 1st-5th graders, 40 minute classes twice a week, and grade levels would be bunched together, so I wouldn't have to try to switch gears from class to class. I would probably also teach some strings in an after school setting, which means that my teaching day might start later than others' because I would go later (maybe 8:30-4:30). Anyway, it's up to our head of school, Michael Donaldson, and I should know something within the month. Joe also got to speak briefly with the school librarian about his "bibliotherapy," which made her put her hands over her heart in love, I think. Winning hearts from across the ocean, that's my husband!

The SCIS school year will be done on Friday (June 11) and the kids are taking a trip to the Shanghai EXPO 2010 (also known as the World's Fair). I have been reading great things about the fair, and we are looking forward to going when we arrive, because it runs through October, but we'll probably wait for the hot summer weather to break. I'm hoping to get a preview from one of my email buddies.

FUSD is done, or rather, we are done with FUSD, having turned in all our keys, computers, etc. Our colleagues at Cromer were very generous, giving us a lovely sendoff at the annual awards assembly, complete with awards for each of us and a beautiful bouquet of roses, then following up with a travel bag full of travel items at the end of year luncheon. There is much drama to come in the next week, when the district will make its decisions about which schools to close and what grade levels will be included in the remaining schools. Already two different parent groups have hired lawyers to sue the district for whatever decision is made. The rehire process for the teachers who will have to transfer buildings and also those who received RIF notices sounds a bit confusing to me, but my friend Faun seems to know what she's doing. I'm glad I'll be out of town until the dust settles, at least for the big decisions. Legal dust will probably take a bit longer; it usually does.