In The Way

Archive for the tag “school”

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!



Back to the ‘Burbs from the Developing World

I still like Woodstock after finishing my semester abroad in Antigua, Guatemala. But it’s no Antigua. I went walking around town, and noticed how much this is not a walking town. Crossing 47, one of the main roads through town is downright dangerous. As far as I can think of, there is only one crosswalk across it near the center of town, a couple on the north side of town, and none on the south side of town.

The Endurobros ended their first leg of their journey when Nathan broke his leg in an accident while driving the motorcycle in Columbia.

They wrote about their time visiting Guatemala and Antigua on their blog, and guarantees to make you laugh out loud at least once.

They were also just featured in The Woodstock Independent, with a cool article about them, and one hilarious quote from Nathan. See if you can find it.

We came back to America on Friday.


Leaving Guatemala for the United States!

Adjusting back to the lifestyle here is different. Everytime I arrive back in Woodstock I feel differently about it. Sometimes I notice how rural it is between towns. Sometimes I notice how cold it is, and that it is hard to go outside. Sometimes I notice how non-pedestrian friendly it is. Sometimes I notice how the part of Woodstock that is “in-town” is slowly being replaced by towns on the outer circle, giving Woodstock the feel of a suburb within a suburb. Wal-Mart put the sports store on the square out of business, and now Panera is drawing business away from Mom and Pop stores owned on the square. The automobile is changing this town, and its not for the bette.r

My roommate Ben from Guatemala, and Libby, who was Valerie’s roommates each kept very interesting blogs while we were there. I hope you read them. Libby’s blog is here. Ben’s blog is here. 

I was blessed in receiving the Gilman Scholarship to study in Guatemala. This is a federal scholarship to help support students going abroad to learn another language. If you are going to college, you should do a semester abroad. If you are doing a semester abroad, you should apply for this scholarship. If you need any advice, tips, or editing on your essay, please contact me. I would be more than willing to work with you over Google Docs on making sure your essay is the best. Check out the Gilman Scholarship website for the details.

I got back into Michigan late Friday night, and to Illinois Monday during the day.

Christmas-styled Elf North Pole Metra train I took from downtown Ogilvie station to Woodstock.

Christmas-styled Elf North Pole Metra train I took from downtown Ogilvie station to Woodstock.

Back at home, I’ve been finally able to use my laptop computer. My screen broke in September, but I’m able to use an external monitor. I’ve been cooking, cleaning our house, writing, speaking English and Spanish, playing games with my family, finishing up a certain internship/job application, and working on building a bicycle-powered blender from a vintage stationary bike.

Thanks for reading.

Slinkies at Tikal!

It was totally worth the adventure hats. Last Sunday we flew up north the see the ancient ruins of Tikal.

Our flight left from Guatemala City somewhere around 6:30 in the morning, which meant that our bus left Antigua at 4am. It gets light around 6 here, which made 4 am either very early in the morning or very late at night.

On the way to the bus we witnessed two men stop their moto, dismount, chug the rest of their can of beer, and keep driving.

It was cold in the morning as we drove to Guatemala City, and my zipper broke on my athletic jacket I wore in the morning.

After checking into the airport with our passports, and checking out all of the other American and Asian tourists, we were ready to fly.

Valerie and I had been talking about going to Tikal for months, and had exquisitely planned wearing extreme jungle adventure uniforms as well as imitating Ace Ventura with some slinkies.

Here is a picture of us with our adventure uniforms!

Matching outfits! Photo from Libby Sgambelluri.

When we arrived in Peten about an hour later we noticed two things. 1) it was much hotter than Antigua and 2) our touristy van smelled of mildew.

While driving into the park we noticed these signs. These signs were hilarious, but also instilled some fear in us. Seeing 3 giant yellow signs warning of the eminent danger of snakes is a little intimidating. I am terrified of snakes, and I’m still recovering from our adventures through rattlesnake country in South Dakota.

Here are some pictures of the signs.


Small animal of some time! I don´t remember what these were called!

Pabo / Turkey!

Puma / Jaguar!!

This is either a boa constrictor with cute bunnies inside, or a speed bump with three bumps. I´ll let you decide.

After arriving where we enter the park, we met up with our guide, whose name I believe was Carlos. He had a large mustache, and grew up in this very jungle area. He was super knowledgeable, and gave us a very excellent tour. Crystal, an assistant with Spring Arbor University, noted that he was the best guide we have ever had for any SAU tours.

He made jokes like ¨You can´t run from a jaguar. You just have to run faster than someone else.¨ or ¨If you touch a branch on a tree, and realize it is kind of slimy and moving, you should probably move your hand. It might be a snake.¨ and ¨If you feel something falling on you from above, it probably isn´t rain water. It´s pee from the monkeys.¨

You get the point.

After a few of these jokes we stopped by the beautiful Ceiba tree, the national tree of Guatemala, and a tree integral to the rainforests in this part of the world. I saw this tree in the Milwaukee Public Museum this summer, but of course, it was merely a fake replica.

Here´s the tree.

The beautiful Ceiba tree, national tree to Guatemala.

This tree is something of an oak tree in Michigan in that it is the centerpiece for the surrounding jungle. It provides shade for surrounding plants and trees, is much taller and wider than other trees, and, I would imagine, has some huge root systems.

As we walked up to this tree, Carlos said, ¨Hold on a a second, I am going to see if I can find my little friend today.¨ From the path, he walked behind this beautiful tree. The way he gave us his mustachioed smile, and the way he had a twinkle in his eye, I was sure he was about to throw a fake snake out at us from inside his backpack. Valerie and I hung back from the group, not wanting to panick upon said snake-throwing. We were thinking something like ¨this is going to be great, us laughing at them.¨

When we heard girls screaming, we realized we had guessed incorrectly. Instead, Carlos had walked behind the tree and lured out a real live, wild tarantula that was living under the tree! It was unbelievable!

He said ¨When I was a kid, we didn´t have uhplaystation. We just had these, and these are my favorite toy.¨

And with that, he asked anyone if they wanted to hold it. Here is a photo. There is a video, too, but it is on the Facebook, so I can´t post it on here. You´ll have to befriend Valerie or I to view this.

Valerie holding the tarantula! Seconds before she held it, I thought to myself ¨There is no way I can hold that thing¨, and even did a sissy shudder at the thought! There´s an awesome video on the Facebook!

The rest of the day went great. We saw ruins, monkeys, turkeys, tarantulas, (NO SNAKES!), and the incredible views from the tops of the ruins of Tikal. It was a blast, and we absolutely loved it.

Valerie and I at one of the 4 ¨main¨ temples. This is on all of the Guatemalan liscence plates, and currency, and things like that.

Guatemalan National Liscence Plate!

For months Valerie and I had been scheming how to make the Tikal experience the best experience possible. So, we thought, what better to take to some ancient pyramids but a SLINKY? After watching this memorable scene from Ace Ventura, we had to take it with.

Heres a picture to prove that it happened!

Slinkys down some ancient Mayan stairs.

Valerie just has the best of ideas. Altogether, we slinked, we slanked, and got a bunch of great pictures.

As always, thanks so much to the Gilman Scholarship for helping fund this awesome trip to Guatemala! Check their site out at

Thanks for reading!

Just a Fun Weekend in Guatemala

On Friday morning I stopped by La Union Spanish school to see if I could take a proficiency exam to prove to SAU that I can speak, read, and write Spanish at a proficient level. I wasn´t able to take the test last week, but I was able to talk with my former Spanish teacher, Alvaro.

He now has another student from Korea who is just learning Spanish at a very basic level. Alvaro was excited to tell me that him and a few other teachers were going swimming in a “piscina” or a swimming pool in a nearby village.

I couldn´t say no swimming! So, after lunch on Friday, we took a chicken bus to a small nearby pueblo called San Antonio Santa Catarina, which I am pretty certain is a village I tried to visit last year, but had some language miscommunication, so I only saw the town for about 5 minutes before taking a bus back to Antigua.

As we rode the bus, I quickly realized that the teachers from La Union were no longer in their official work positions as Spanish teachers. It was easily notable that I was among a group of friends due to their use of the “vos” form, which is something I don´t know a whole lot about. This isn´t the vosotros form, which they use in Spain, but rather an adapted dialect specific to some Latin American countries. At any rate, speaking as a gringo, and trying to speak among a group of a bunch of other native Spanish speakers is a totally different thing. I now understand why many people living in the United States stay quiet when around many other English speakers. It can be a little intimidating when everyone laughs at what you are saying, and you aren´t really sure why.

When we arrived in San Antonio, we weaved and walked through town, as several of the teachers stopped to buy lunch food for our potluck at the pool.

I don´t know what I expected at the pool, but after walking through the town full of cement walls and dirt covered streets, I didn´t have high expectations of the pool. Thankfully this sort of ethnocentrism often results in a surprise.

And surprised I was. The pool was really beautiful, complete with a slide that was literally the fastest slide I have ever been on. It was extreme.

Here is a photo I took from Alvaro Gil, my teacher´s Facebook page. You can´t see the diving board in here, but you can get the idea of the pool and the slide, plus the fact that the pool was built on the side of a small mountain!

Photo credit to Alvaro Gil, my awesome Spanish teacher!

Since I was the only gringo on this particular trip, I was able to practice my Spanish some. I was also able to teach some of the other Spanish teachers some basic swimming techniques like “flotando”, which means “floating”, but we typically call treading water. I also helped a bit with the basic front crawl strokes.

It always feels good to be good at something around here, since speaking a foreign language has a knack of making me feel like an idiot on a regular basis.

This weekend was awesome. Not only did I go swimming, but all of the guys on the trip here had a man + date = mandate on Saturday morning hiking some amazing trails up around the Earth Lodge. We also got to see some of Dali´s pieces in the Cooperación Español. Valerie and I went on a wonderful date to El Tenedor, a restaurant that overlooks Antigua, and we all went to Wokco, a new Asian style restaurant in town.

Altogether, it was a great weekend!

As always, if you are considering a semester abroad and interested in an awesome scholarship that I was blessed to receive, visit


Postcards from Guatemala

I´m in the process of reading Ben Franklin´s Autobiography. Compared to the last book I read, The Lord of the Flies, Franklin´s peace holds a much more optimistic view towards life and humanity.
He discusses the benefits of personal virtue and discipline, and warns against the dangers of pride.
He includes a list of virtues he tries towards becoming moral, and without flaws. While realizing this is incredibly difficult, morality is a goal we can at least attempt to hold.

Here it is:

“1. TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

2. SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

3. ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

5. FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

6. INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

7. SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8. JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9. MODERATION. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.

11. TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
With this list he keeps a checklist of how well he is doing on things, and makes a daily tally of when he failed on different circumstances. For example, if he were to eat a GIANT banana split from The Parlor in Jackson, Michigan, by himself, he would probably be violating the rule of Temperance.
I am working on his goal of Resolution. I have resolved to send out 22 postcards from Guatemala to people back home.

They might look something like this:

It will look something like this!

Here´s where you come into play.

E-mail me your addresss at , Facebook message me, comment on the blog, tweet, whatever. If you send me your adress, I will send you a postcard from Guatemala.

Maybe this will become a Birthday tradition.
So please, write me.

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