In The Way

Archive for the category “Education”

Welcome to English Class!

One of my students shattered the window going into my classroom. I tried to find a sign online, searching Google Images for “WELCOME TO ENGLISH CLASS” and was greeted with Comic Sans font, rainbows, and unending clipart. Seriously, try it for yourself. Search “WELCOME TO ENGLISH CLASS” on Google Image search. You won’t be disappointed!

Considering my current work computer OS is a Windows XP, this turned out pretty well. Feel free to download and use it via .PDF or .JPEG. The internet in China is really bad, so right now I can’t see the image. Hopefully someone somewhere can see it, since WordPress assures me that it exists!



Just throw it away! Garbage Accumulation Update 2, Week 3

Saturday I accidentally broke my iPhone. I  created one piece of garbage out of my iPhone 3, which I have been using as in iPod touch for a little over 2 years. I went to open the iPhone and adjust/clean the audio slot for headphones that resulted in some major damage, rendering the iPhone useless. Oops.

Now I’m that guy, without a cell phone, laptop, or touch-screen device. Thankfully I’m still functioning, grateful, and alive. I’ve become much more aware of both how much I check this little device for text messages from Google Voice, and listen to music, as well as very much lusting and coveting other student’s iPhone 5s.

For this month, I am saving all of the trash I make for one month. I have 12 more days left of the experience. I no longer have a camera of any sort, except for my laptop webcam, with which I took this picture.

Garbage Update, after 3 weeks. Missing a few things like Subway wrappers and plates from a church potluck.

Garbage Update, after 3 weeks. Missing a few things like Subway wrappers and plates from a church potluck.

While this amount looks similar to update #1, you must realize that both of these boxes are completely stuffed, and overflowing with stuff.

A lot of the spacial garbage comes from food holdings. In fact, this is where most of my trash comes from. Milk cartons, juice containers, and soup cans.  I can eliminate soup cans from my diet and only make soup from vegetables, where I will only be using a plastic wrapper to hold the veggies, or nothing at all.

I’ve still missed a couple of things. I did not include a wrapper from when Valerie and I went to Subway during an afternoon, or a paper plate I used at our church potluck because I thought it would be gross to hold onto food containers, with all their sauce on them. I like growing things, but not mold.

I’m thinking about the future ideas of this experiment. The most obvious next experiment would be to see how little trash I could accumulate over the course of a week, month, year. This would force me to begin thinking about ways to eliminate some of my trash.

Some immediate ideas I can think of include:

Eliminating Fast Food: All fast food, even Subway, carries a heck of a lot of packaging. I could, at the least, ask for less napkins.

Buying Less Soup-in-a-can: I like making soup, and I often use $1 soup cans as the base before adding additional veggies, noodles, or rice. If I just buy the veggies instead of the soup-in-a-can, I will probably eat more healthily, and know exactly how much salt I’m really consuming. The downside? Having to actually eat all of the veggies I buy before they go bad.

Carrying a Portable Mug/Thermos: Valerie pointed this out as numerous times I find myself filling up a disposable cup of coffee or hot chocolate before remembering , oh yeah, I have to keep that puppy.

Buying Less Stuff Online: While the boxes still exist behind the scenes in stores, this would eliminate a lot of the boxes and packaging that comes from my online purchases. And it is oh, so addicting.

Then again, it’d be good to just buy less stuff in general. To twist, mangle, and combine two Ben Franklin sayings, giving away an apple a day makes you healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Any suggestions on what I could or should be doing differently over the next 10 days as I finish this experiment?

Tracking My Garbage Experiment: Update #1

It’s been almost a week since I started measuring how much I throw away.

The expected pieces were groceries, receipts, plastic bags.

For an idea of the kind of trash I expected, check out the beginning of this video.

But several times I realized I was drinking or eating something out of something I was about to throw away. My first reaction to this was, “Whoa, how did this thing get into my hand?!”

Both of these instances happened on Sunday, the sabbath of all days.

Sunday morning we went to church where I got coffee in a paper/plastic cup. The Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church shared their expenses for the year, and I couldn’t help but think how much of the $800,000 annual spending on worship went to the coffee before and after church, and the immediately disposable cups. As I finished the coffee inside the cup I held onto the cup, leaving it in my coat pocket as Wesley scanned Valerie and I into the DC, putting it in my grocery bag full of garbage back at the house.

The second incident happened while watching a documentary on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Office of Intercultural Relations was hosting the event, and they provided water in a styrofoam cup with deliciously salty popcorn in a paper bag. These too ended up in my grocery bag in my cupboard. I have yet to get a large garbage bag to hold this stuff from Ormston.

I thought I was doing pretty well until I got a box in the mail yesterday from REI containing a new and shiny green backpack. I was going to have to save this box, along with the other thing currently shipping to me in the mail: A pair of socks with a lifetime warranty.

Here’s the picture of my trash from the last week. Not too shabby, but it definitely contained a few surprises. I’d like to know how much garbage the average American creates per week to see how I compare.

Garbage accumulation for one week.

This picture does not contain the veggie scraps I’m “composting” AKA “leaving in a plastic container outside in the 10 degree weather.”

I’ve made some goofs. I’ve thrown away tea bags, realizing later I should have saved them. I’ve also thrown away two cans, one containing garbanzo beans and one containing tomato paste. This next week I will remember to save these kind of items. I’ve also thrown away out of habit the food other people have given me. Last night, for example, someone gave Valerie and I a 1/2 of a pizza in a box I immediately trashed. For the next week I hope to save the tea bags, cans, and any garbage or handout someone gives me, directly or indirectly.

Thanks for reading!

Top Reads from 2012

This last year was one of my favorite years as far as reading books goes.
I read a lot. My goal is to read one book a week, typically outside of the books I am reading for my studies.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

I read this quote in Timothy Ferris’s 4-Hour Workweek, and it reminded me why I enjoy reading so much.

These are my top 10 books I read this last year, not in any particular order.

1. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel: This is an incredible story of God and an Indian boy travelling across the pacific ocean on a lifeboat. Ever since I read Robinson Crusoe like 12 years ago I love dystopic stories or anything based on the general idea of being stuck on a desert island somewhere. They also made a movie about this.

2.Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Relin: This story documents a man obsessed with developing the developing world, specifically in Pakistan, and fighting terrorism with education. This true story contains passion, corruption, and determination. The three cups of tea idea is that with the first cup of tea, you are strangers. The second cup you are friends. The third cup? Family.

3. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig: Wow. What an incredible book. This was the first e-book I ever bought, for about $3 when we were travelling in Guatemala. It has caused me to think about my entire life philosophy more intensely than I ever have before, and incorporates travelling into the story as well. It is an impressive philosophy book. 

4. Justice: What is the Right Thing to Do? by Michael Sandel: This book uses philosophy to apply it to what I am most interested: justice, and our interactions with other people. He uses real life examples to prove how deep rooted philosophical arguments on society, morality, and how we interact with others is used today.

5. The Chosen by Chaim Potok: A novel of two brilliant Jewish boys with conflicting religious interests growing up in the 1940s. An interesting book analyzing Jewish thought and orthodoxy.


6. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: An American Olympic runner is captured in Japan during World War II and ends up shipwrecked, jailed, beaten, and broken. An amazingly TRUE life story of endurability, mindset, and gratitude. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Amazing.

7. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: A brutal story, but a beautiful story about pain, life in a corrupt world, and reconciliation. I will never look at kites the same way.


8. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin:  I learned that our nations first brilliant entrepreneur was all for open-source patenting, unlike the secret-protecting companies we have today like Apple. He speaks of the importance of civil service and living for the common good of all of society, as well as encouraging others to practice personal disciplines on a daily basis. Any American interested in free-markets, socialism, or capitalism should read this book. If Franklin were alive today, I’m sure he would be blogging.

9. 127 Hours by Aron Ralston: This tells the story of a man who gets his arm stuck in a canyon while backpacking. He tries everything to get unstuck and leave, and does everything imaginable until the unthinkable: He cuts his arm off, leaving it between the rocks and stumbles away. Similar to Life of Pi, except this is a true story. It was fascinating entering Aron’s brain and how methodical he remembers himself being. A fascinating survival book even though the movie is kind of weird. I hope read Into Thin Air, another survival book next.

10. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris: I am currently reading this right now, but it is one of my favorite books arguing for working smarter, not harder, and living life now, not waiting until retirement to do what you want to do. An encouraging self-help book to encourage people to stop waiting and start doing. If you have any income at all you should read this book.

While I read many more books, these are the favorite I can remember off of the top of my head right now. I look forward to the books I will read in 2013. Valerie and I are also working on writing a book of our own as a synopsis to our bicycle trip, with some philosophical aspects intertwined as well. I’m planning to finish the rough draft in the next 6 months and I hope to have the final version #1 done by next December.

What about you? Do you have any favorite books that you read in 2012?

Do you have any books you are looking forward to reading this upcoming month or year?

The Enduro Bros come to town!

Ever since our bicycle trip, I have been hoping some crazy and wayward travelers would pass by where I was staying and I would be able to offer them some hospitality. After trips like that, perhaps one of the most profound realizations about the world is that, it´s not so dangerous after all. In fact, most people are quite helpful. All you have to do is ask!

So, last week, the day before Halloween, Nathan and Aaron Cooper showed up in town.

This is what they looked like. This is at the hill of the cross. Photo courtesy of Valerie.

I was waiting in Parque Central when they showed up, but motorcycles loaded down with stuff isn´t all that uncommon in Guatemala, so everytime I heard what I thought was a motorcycle, I turned my head.

We settled in, and thankfully two rooms at my homestay´s house were open for them to stay for the week. These rooms typically have Austrians, Germans, Koreans, Norwiegiens, Americans, or Guatemalans living in them for any period of one night to a year.

I haven´t hung out with Nathan all that much in a while, and I´ve really never been around Aaron. Together they make a hilarious combination that is loud and laughs a lot. Having them here was some of the most fun I have had the entire semester.

We talked about what we wanted to do the next day, and I profusely apologized for the lack of being able to see Volcan de Fuego erupt, as it was pretty cloudy the whole time they were here. Nathan really wanted to ride their motorcycles to the top of an erupting Volcano. I wasn´t so sure that was either safe, or possible, but we decided it was worth a try.

Wednesday morning, on Halloween, we headed to Volcan de Pacaya, an active volcano, but one that is not currently erupting. This is the volcano I ran a half marathon up last year, which is still one of the craziest things that I have ever done.

This is a view from above. We came up from the other side.

We hopped on their motorcycles. I rode on the back of Aaron´s motorcycle and LOVED it. As much as I love motorcycles, there is nothing like going really fast, and feeling the air moving past you as you ride. It was just brilliantly fun. A wild ride, and, of course I was wearing a helmet.

We were hoping we could drive the motorbikes up the volcano, but unfortunately, the closer we got, the less likely this looked possible. We went up one way, only to find a trail that didn´t look big enough to enter with motorcycles, and a local guy telling us that it was a really bad idea to go up that way. We would have to go up another way.

We then went to another entrance, where a guard told us we weren´t allowed to take the bikes in, but that we could pay and hike up from there. From past experience, I knew there was another spot where we could go a little higher thatn where we currently were. We drove around and parked at the entrance. At this point, no less than 5 people had told us that we couldn´t go up the volcano without a guide. By the end of the trip this number was over ten.

Everyone at the entrance gawked at us as we pulled up, as we were, quite literally, the only people there. We asked the guy at the entrance if it was possible to go up without a guide and he said, yeah, of course, if you know the way. You just have to sign these papers saying that you agreed to go up without a guide and if you die, you are held responsible, not us.

Since you have to sign these things to do things like field trips and paintballing, we quickly signed and hiked up.

Once we cleared the tree line, we were determined to get to the top. We kept heading up. And up. And up. We looked around and could see clouds, and that was about it. On top of the volcano it feels like you are on another planet except you can still breathe oxygen.

On the way up 4 police officers told us that we needed a guide to be there, with which we responded with things like ¨Where is the ATM?¨ or ¨Where are the chocobananos?¨ or ¨We should have brought the motorcycles up here.¨ We even joked with one of the police officers that if we would have bribed him he would have let us enter the park with the motos. He said something like, ¨Well yeah, of course you could have done that. Why didn´t you?¨

We kept hiking up and were determined to go to the top of the cone and look down. As we were getting to the very demanding and steep part, similar to what you remember from Lord of the Rings. In fact, it did rather look like Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings. Something a lot more beautiful than this.

Speaking of Lord of the Rings, when we got closer to the top, some small Guatemalan man bearing a wooden staff showed up, warning us something that was, quite literally ¨You shall not pass.¨ Since this man didn´t look very much like Gandalf the wizard, and didn´t have any sort of badge, we argued for about ten minutes as to exactly why we weren´t allowed to ¨subir¨or ¨to go up¨the volcano.

After much harrasment, he said, ¨Okay, you can go ahead and pass. But do you guys have a cigarette?¨ To which we were like, ¨what are you talking about?¨, and continued up the volcano.

We made it to the top. And it was terrifying. I am hoping that Nathan will retell this account on their blog at , so that you can read his account of it as well. We made it, and it was so scary looking down in. All I could think of was that it was about to erupt and kill us all. Thankfully, I thought wrong, but it was enough that I was yelling at Nathan for perching precariously at the lip of a volcano with a pit going down with no visible end.

The mouth of pacaya is best described as an abyss.

There is a very entertaining video Nathan took from the top of the volcano on the EnduroBros Facebook page. You can see the crazy video, and like their page at .

And this was the first day the Aaron and Nathan were here. It was awesome.

That night, La Union had a Halloween party. Aaron and Nathan went as Daft Punk in their motorcycle onesies, or jumpsuits, or whatever they called those things.

Valerie and I went as a fisher and an octopus. It was by far the best costume I´ve ever had. Valerie is so much fun!

Fisherman and Octopus. Don´t worry Spring Arbor, that´s an empty bottle of Sasparilla! You can see the EnduroBros behind us. We made the Octopus costume ourself out of a purple sweatshirt, some foam, and a lot of staples! Photo courtesy of La Union Spanish School

Not to be let down after the Volcano, the next day, All Saints Day, Valerie, Aaron, Nathan and I headed to Sumpango for their incredible kite Festival.

Again, there is another awesome video of the kite festival on the EnduroBros Facebook page.

This had kites that were over 50 feet tall, and just absolutely beautiful. People work on these yearround, and they are made out of bamboo and tissue paper. Here is a picture of Val and I at the Kite Festival.

The Kite Festival! I think flying kites on November 1st is a tradition I shall try to remember to do next year!

Altogether, it was an awesome blessing to have Aaron and Nathan Cooper come through town. Ride on, EnduroBros!

Please, visit their website at

Or, simply like them on Facebook at

As always, if you are interested in how I am here, and an amazing scholarship to help students study abroad, visit . 

Thanks for reading.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: