Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One chapter ends, another begins...

So it's been four weeks since I *finally* arrived back home in my trusty car that was packed to the brim with all my NC possessions. Mom met me in Raleigh and we drove the 3000 km together -- winding our way through many many states -- until I saw the glorious Welcome to Winnipeg sign.


I've had a chance to see many of you since returning. It's so touching to know that you are as happy to see me as I am to see you! There are still a few that I want to catch up with very soon. I'm staying with my parents for another week or so, until I can get my condo back. I've been trying to keep myself busy, and relaxing at the same time. It's been calming so far...

I want to make this the official last post of the blog. I might start another one sometime... If I feel the itch to bore the public with my rambling musings. But as I try to get further settled here (Goal 1 -- Find a job!) I think I'll just leave it to you all to request an update.

Last thing... I want to officially announce that I'm going to be an aunt in November. This was added motivation (and reward) for coming home. I'm hoping that I can be there for Blair, Janel and the new little one as much as possible -- and being in the same province will help that out!!

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer. Thanks again for all your support and encouragement over the last year. I cannot describe how lucky I feel to call you all my friends. :o)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And so, the end is near...

Well folks, this is it. Okay... maybe *this* isn't it. I don't actually leave for another three days... but I don't know if I'll have time to post between now and then... Or the ability to post if I did have time. I'm stealing a signal from a nearby neighbour as I sit in Ibeth's livingroom. She's letting me stay here because there's absolutely no furniture left in my place. But she's in Miami right now, so it's a little odd being here without her...

Ahh... so many emotions on these last few days. I'm spent! Among it all... I haven't been sleeping very well (until recently) and I suppose it's all caught up with me. To top it off, I'm still not sure when I'll be finished at the school... We were supposed to be stuffing report cards and updating cumfiles yesterday, but we got word that they wouldn't be ready until today... and today we were told that it may be tomorrow... maybe. So I've still got a few hours left -- I just don't know when! Makes it hard to plan the rest of the week...

I'm all packed!! Seriously, there's only a few bits here and there that I have left. And then I have to see if it all fits in my car. I'm a little nervous about that, actually. Wasn't before, but now that I actually see it all in packed form... Oh well, it might take a few tries, but I'll get it in!

And then there's the cleaning, which shouldn't seem like a big deal, but I'm just worried I'll forget something...

Mom arrives on Friday night, and we leave Saturday morning from Raleigh. I'll likely be checking my mail periodically in the next week, but unless you send something urgent, you might not get a reply for a few days.

I don't know if I will continue this blog once I get home. I started it for you all to keep track of me while I was down here, and eventhough I realize that there are still a few that I won't be close to... You know where to find me. ;o) Likely on Facebook or Twitter or somewhere inbetween (and yes, I've become somewhat of a Twit recently, though I haven't been certified yet), so I'm sure we won't be without communication!

I may start a new blog in the future, but I'll probably take a break before I do that. A few of you have been suggesting vlogs, or video-blogs. That's a possibility, but I make no promises.

Thank you all for following regularly and leaving comments every now and then. It's felt like a long year, but at the same time it's gone by fast! I love and enjoy you all so much and can't wait to love and enjoy many of you all in person very soon!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Some Like it Hot

We're well into summer here... These last few days we've had temperatures in the 90's, and the humidity has spiked too. Makes for some uncomfortable trips outdoors.... Unless you're headed to the beach, which is exactly what we did yesterday.

Graduation was yesterday morning. It was quite the formal service, with even the faulty (including me) having to dress in academic regallia (robes and hoods). The service itself wasn't very long... about an hour. But the whole thing felt quite awkward and stiff instead of celebratory and uplifting. Hmm.

After the convocation, a few of us yonger teachers packed into my car and drove out to Surf City for a little sun and sand. By the time we'd gotten all of our stuff together and actually driven out there (stopping for food) it was after 4 pm -- which seemed like perfect timing because the beach really wasn't that busy and we found a great spot right away.

It was my first time in the Atlantic (well, besides my feet) and it felt great!! As we were walking into the water, we spotted a little action in the not so distant, and realized that it was a dolphin! We also say stingrays in the waves. It was really cool. We sat and lazed in the sun which was low enough in the sky not to be scorching hot, took a walk on the beach and had a good, relaxing time. Just what I needed!

Today my neighbours Alvin and Ibeth are coming to move some of the stuff they wanted to buy from me. By later this evening, this place should be pretty empty except for my stuff. It'll be a little unnerving, but it should give me the last motivation I need to pack the rest of it (really not much now) and start cleaning this place for my landlord. I'll be spending the nights at Ibeth's because she's going to Miami and said that I could use her place since mine was dismanteled.

I can count the day on oneh and now... and not much longer after that I'll be back in Winnipeg! There are many things that I will miss about this place, but there are so many more I'm looking forward to back at home!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Eat More Cookies

Two weeks from today I'll be headed home!!! YAHOOOOOOO!!!!!

I am so thankful, relieved and excited to see have this year almost over. I've been struggling with some mixed emotions for several weeks now, but as the day gets closer and closer, I'm finding myself feeling more relaxed and ready to move on. When I get see other people at work and we exchange the typical "How are you?", my response has been "Better with each passing day!"

As I pack up my stuff both here at the apartment, and at the school, I find myself reflecting back on my experience and shaking my head at the many many many ups and downs that I've had. Yes, there are lots of things that I am ready to put behind me. Being overwhlemed, confused, intimidated, conflicted and feeling completely out of my element on several occassions. Disappointing myself,and letting that disappointment drag me down. Feeling disappointed with others, and allowing that to drag down my impressions of them. Things have definitely not been easy in the last 10 months.

But they haven't been all negative, and I so I feel guilty for allowing those thoughts to cloud the good feelings I've had. I wasn't miserable when I met and spent time with people who have become good friends that I'm sad to say goodbye to. I've had opportunities to travel and do things I might not otherwise have done. I've challenged and reached beyond my comfortable limits -- and while I admit that I didn't always feel successful... I survived and I'm proud of myself for lasting this long.

Some have asked (repeatedly) why I'm going home. They can't quite understand. They figure it's because I'm homesick. I readily admit to that -- I've missed the people, places and routine that I once took forgranted. I've wondered if that makes me weak... I've been quickly reasurred that it makes me LUCKY!

I've made mistakes this year, and I wish I could go back and redo these things over again. I've doubted myself, I've scolded myself, and I've cried to myself. I've felt happy, sad, angry, exhausted, indifferent -- sometimes all in the same day! But, when I take a step back, I realize that I've needed to do this... to learn this BIG LESSON. To question my confidence, to feel isolated and upset. Why?

Because I know now that life is too short to not do the things that I WANT. It's too short to separate yourself from the people who I love and who love me back (unconditionally, too!) regardless of my faults and insecurities. It's too short to feel small and insignificant. It's too short to dwell on mistakes and wish for do-overs.

Life is too short to NOT be who you want to be, where you want to be.

I took a chance. I don't regret that. I tried something new. I've sown those "wild oats", or whatever they say.

And now I'm coming home. Love you all.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day, aka the Unofficial Start to Summer

As I type this, I'm listening to distant rumbles of thunder outside. The long weekend is supposed to have a mix of all kinds of spring/summer related weather activity... Figures!! Luckily, I'm headed out west this morning... To Texas to visit Joanna and her family! I'm looking forward to it -- my little reward for having survived another semester. ;o)

There's only one (well, two...) regular class days left before exams begin next week. Whew! I thought it would never get here!! There have been all sorts of year end events and activities going on around the school and within the district. Last night the academic awards were given out, with a reception that followed. We also had our staff appreciation luncheon yesterday, sponsored by the PTSO -- which was just yummy enough to feel appreciated! We also got some pretty lunch bags to keep -- I really like mine and look forward to all the jealous looks I'll get when I use it back home!

Last Sunday at the First United Methodist Church, a heritage service and lunch were held. What a great time! It was nice to celebrate an event like that with some of the people I've gotten to know and enjoy over the last several months. The church itself is celebrating 196 years (I think!), and reminds me very much of TMUC. I only have a couple of Sundays left to visit, but I will have a lifetime of memories of all the great people that make up the congregation and close masses. (And I can't wait to introduce the covered dish-luncheon idea to my own home congregation!! Yummy!)

There are only three weeks left of my time here in NC. I'm sure they will be busy! I'm still looking for a job back home... I have applied for quite a few, and I only hope that my temporary location doesn't deter anyone from taking a closer look at my resume and considering me!!

The countdown is on!! Have a wonderful weekend everyone! (I know I will!)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Watch a Video or Two!

One of my homepages on my computer is MSN, and sometimes I get a little sidetracked following this link to that article or video. Stumbled upon some really good ones tonight.

Jessica's Pep Talk

Word Up, Mom

This one is more impressive than cute... some of you have probably seen this already...

Sixth Grade "Paparazzi" Rendition

Gives me hope for the future. :o)

P.S. Homeward bound in four weeks. :o)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Virtual Flowers for My Mom...

This blog post is dedicated to a very special person in everyone's lives... MOM!! Happy Mother's day to all the loving, devoted, hard-working, iconic women who sacrifice their needs for their children. You'll never truly know how wonderful you really are, because there are no actions or words great enough to express all that!!
My Mom is enjoying a scrumptious brunch at Boccochino's with Blair, Janel, Dad, Faith and Al. Sounds like fun! (For my "brunch", I had an Arby's Jr. roastbeef sandwich.)
Last week was National Teacher Appreication Week, and the school district rewarded their teachers with a big box of strawberries... one for every member of the faculty! I'm still eating berries -- for those of you who knew me when I was little and would hunt the strawberries down in Grandpa and Gramdma's garden... You can imagine how happy that gift made me! We also got messager bags with the Dark Horse logo on it... perfect for carting things to and from work. I'm already making use of mine... I figure I might as well since only have a few weeks left.
Time seems like it's going by ever so slowly, and yet, at the same time, it's a little hard to believe it's May already. Things are quite busy for me... This week we've got tech and dress rehearsals for "Thuroughly Modern Millie", of which I am again acting as Assitant Director. It's been fun... hard work and many hours, but fun! The show runs Friday-Saturday-Sunday, and I imagine I'll need a weekend after that. After that, there's only two weeks left of classes before exams begin!
As I was stepping up to start this blog, I realized that this post is the 100th!! Yay!! Thanks to everyone who has read it from the beginning, and especially to those of you who read faithfully! I know I'll be seeing most of you again soon (!!!) and when I do I can thank you in person. But it really has meant a lot to me to know that you all care about me and want what's best for me. LOVE YOU ALL SOOOO VERY MUCH!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The long stretch to the finish...

There are only 7 weeks left of school (give or take a couple of days) and they can't go by fast enough!!

It is comforting to know that in 2 months I'll be flinging myself north FOR GOOD! Wow, I sound as if I've been away forever... but really... with this year, I feel like I have been.

And now, two months away from HOME, I am looking back at all the lessons I have learned down here.

Some are hard to swallow (like I've been too soft on my students, and it faults me big time)
Some are inspiring (like I know more than ever what direction I'd like my career to go in!)
Some are heartbreaking (the state of mind of many of my students)
Some are heartwarming (knowing I appreciate, cherish and crave my friends and family and the support and love they give me even far away)

There are more, and I likely won't realize many until I'm home and can share my experience and grow from it. These next two months will feel long and hard to take at times, but I'm hoping that the light at the end of this tunnel will keep me up and keep me going.

I love and miss you all so very much. I can't wait to see you again!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I uploaded my pictures to Facebook today, but if you don't have an account, you wouldn't know that would you? Here's the link to the album:

If that link doesn't work, well... Join Facebook!

I left Mom in Raleigh this morning on her way to the airport. I decided to take my time driving back down here... There's some pretty nice countryside around! Spend the afternoon "puttering" and working on my resumé. I'm pretty much in denial that I go back to work tomorrow. The break felt really nice... even if we were busy every day! Now I'm really looking forward to the next break... summer!! Only 9 weeks of work left!! Is it too early to start the countdown?

If you haven't read it yet, the trip blog is below. Leave a comment if you can... Not that I'm begging for attention... but a little love never hurts. ;o)

Miss and love you all!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

American Icons: A DC Trip Blog

For you, a day-by-day account... I've spent several hours on this, so I hope that it earns me a comment or two!! :o) Enjoy!

Thursday: Reunited and it Feels SO GOOD!

Time seemed to tick-tock super slowly on Thursday as both faculty and students at CHS looked forward to a long-awaited spring break. The kids had an extra event -- prom was taking place that evening and all the juniors and seniors attending were parading around with their hair-dos and manicured nails (well, the girls were). It was a rule that any student attending prom had to be in school the entire day, which was really as much of a punishment for us teachers as it was for them. But we managed to get through the day without any bloodshed or tears.

And then the fun began.

I stuck around after school ended to help the rest of the staff set-up the atrium for prom. It was cheaper to hold prom here than to find somewhere else to do it. And instead of having it in the gym (which is what they'd done in past) the committee thought it would be nicer to have prom in the atrium -- which makes sense... I mean why would you want to have it in the gym when you had such a nice space just a few feet away?

We tried our best to be helpful as we set up. Many of the teachers were returning later in the evening to chaperone. All those who were junior advisors were expected to stay, and everyone else had the option of lending their services or not. I thought about going, but when I found out how late it ended (12 AM), I knew I wouldn't be able to do that and still get to Raleigh in the middle of the night.

I left the school around 3:30 PM, got home and finished packing for DC. I'd decided to take only what I could fit into a backpack -- but I still managed to fill it full! I grabbed a snack and hit the road around 4:30 PM. I had originally intended to head straight to Raleigh, but I ended up having to make a 1 hour side trip to Hope Mills (near Fayetteville) to pick up packages at the UPS depot. It made the trip longer, but I didn't much care... I was too excited!

As I headed towards Raleigh, I was thankful that I was travelling into the city instead of out. The traffic headed east on I-40 at 6:30 was crawling!! I zoomed past them and arrived at "our hotel" at 7:00 PM -- right on time! As I was checking into the hotel, the airport shuttle pulled up and Mom got out. It was fantastic timing as I think we were both worried that the other would be left waiting.

We dropped our stuff off in the hotel room and walked across the street to Wendy's for something to eat. It was so great being together again -- I'm not sure which one of us talked more (probably me)! Back at the hotel we watched a little TV and then fell asleep. The alarm was set for 6:00 AM the next morning.

Friday -- The Train Trip that Wouldn't END!

We woke, dressed and ate early to make it with plenty of time to catch our train. Our cab driver was very friendly -- she had a lot to say and even offered to let us sit in her car while we waited for the train. I'm sure it was just so she could have some company while she waited for her next fare, but we wanted to check out the station before the train came.

Not much of a station to be had. Just a small waiting area inside. I knew that because we were departing from a satellite station in Cary and not the main station in Raleigh. Still, it was a gorgeous morning to wait... And of course we were still excited after not seeing each other for a few months. The train was supposed to come at 8:15 AM, but by 8:40 AM it still wasn't there. It came a few minutes later, and we left about a half-hour late. Oh well. We'd still make it there nearly on time, right?

Wrong. The first part of the trip was uneventful. The only drawback was that our seats didn't have much of a window for viewing out of. We talked, read, tried to nap a little. Easy travelling, you would have thought.

Just outside of Alexandria, VA, the train slowed, then stopped, then sat... for several minutes much to our frustration. An announcement came over the PA, but it was too quiet for us to hear. The conductor came through our car to tell us that the signal on the track was glowing red for some reason, and the engineer couldn't advance the train until it turned green again. A few minutes later, we were told that there was some sort of disturbance in Alexandria, and that the police were not allowing the trains to run through the town. Still later, we learned that a man had barricaded himself inside his apartment with guns. Some passengers were calling others on the cellphones trying to find out more information. There wasn't much else to do but wait.... so we waited. And waited.

And waited.

About 2 hours after we first stopped, we saw a train pass us going in the other direction. Hurray! Still, it was about a half-hour longer (maybe more) before we got moving ourselves. And still the train was slow, because perhaps there was another train ahead of us. Once we got through Alexandria we knew that DC was only a few minutes away. It felt like ages for us to get there! We finally arrived at Union Station at about 6:30 PM -- only 3.5 hours later than we'd originally planned!

We caught our first few glimpses of DC when we stepped outside of Union Station to catch a cab to our hotel, which was in Maryland. After a ride from a navigation-ally challenged cabby (he had to call for directions!) we were dropped off at our hotel for the next four nights.

Right across the street from a bus stop, a Walmart and a Safeway, the hotel was decent enough for the easy price. It was undergoing renovations, but the interruptions weren't so bad. Sure, our toilet never did flush without sounding like we were drowning a small dog, and we didn't have a remote control for our TV the first night, but it was safe and comfy anyway. We stopped at Walmart to pick up some rations and then back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.

Saturday: Clang Clang Clang Went the Trolley!

I'd booked us tickets for the Old Town Trolley Tour in DC, and the first trolley left at 9:00 AM, so we didn't want to waste time. On the map, it didn't appear that our hotel was too far from DC's main attractions, but when we factored in the bus trip with connection to metrorail, it took us about an hour to get from one place to the other. Oh well, we definitely got to see the good of the district along with its not so pretty parts.

It was cool and overcast on Saturday morning, so I was glad I'd taken something warm to wear. Mom was in capris and a short-sleeved shirt, and I wondered many times if she was cold. Luckily the sun came out later in the morning and we had great weather from then on out. We boarded our first trolley and headed to our first tour stop -- the Lincoln Memorial. We didn't get very near the monument though, because we didn't want to miss our connection to the buss that would take us to Arlington National Cemetery.

The amount of visitors in the DC area this weekend was expected to be the highest of the year. Many people were taking advantage of spring break, Easter weekend, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival to make the capital their destination. I don't know what it's like on a regular weekend, but on this Saturday it was mass entrance. Very chaotic.

Arlington National Cemetery was very much what I expected, and very much what I hadn't expected. I don't know if anyone can describe the scope of land that this memorial covers. It was amazing, haunting and serene at the same time. We found the Kennedy plots, and toured Arlington House (Robert E. Lee's house), and stopped at the tomb of the unknown soldier. The grounds are beautiful.

On our way back from Arlington, we passed by the south lawn of the White House. Our tour guide was courteous enough to slow down as we did, so we could use our zoom lenses to get a good shot on our cameras. He told us to ignore the horns that would honk around us. No more than a minute later, as we waited in traffic, he pointed out the parade of cars that was going through the intersection not 100 yards ahead of us. He told us to look for the ambulance and then count to vehicles ahead of it. Yup -- PRESIDENT OBAMA himself was in the Suburban that passed right in front of us. Very cool.

As we made our way back into DC, we decided that it was a good time to take a break for lunch. Luckily the next place where we connected with the trolley offered several selections. We choose to eat at a local establishment rather than at a chain restaurant -- a small diner near Ford's Theater (where Lincoln was shot). Good food and good service! We peeked inside a Welcome Center/souvenir shop and caught the trolley that would take us up to Georgetown.

We saw the National Cathedral and several typical Georgetown streets, including some cute but pricey real-estate! Took a drive down Embassy Row, and was impressed by our guide who was able to rattle off all 30-some-odd countries in less than 90 seconds! Whether he was correct on any of them, who could say?

We got off the trolley at the north end of the Ellipse, which is the park that separates traffic from the north lawn of the White House. As we walked towards 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we saw all the people that were pressed up against the wrought iron fence getting their prime photo-ops. Of course, the street in front of the house is closed to traffic (and has been since the Oklahoma City bombing), but we could get as close to the building as anyone could by foot. There were several protesters fixed on the sidewalk, with their different messages (mostly about the war) I took a few pictures of the most famous residence (non-monarch) in the world right before the camera died. We walked up the street and into a gift shop that had replicas of the presidential desk and the presidential press podium for you to perch yourself behind. Walked back up to the Welcome Center near the diner and caught our last trolley of the day to take us back to Union Station. We had originally planned to eat dinner at a nicer DC restaurant, but opted instead to head back into Maryland and see what the little Italian place next door to our hotel had to offer. It was a long and tiring day, but we knew that another two more were right around the corner so we wanted to make sure we conserved what energy remained!

Sunday: W is for Walk.

The Easter Bunny found me, even in Maryland, and left me a bag of Lindor chocolates on my hotel bed that morning. We ate breakfast and then made the trip into DC around 8:30 AM. This being a holiday, we expected it to be quiet as we emerged from Union Station. What a treat it was to walk towards the Capitol on a gorgeous morning. The trees and flowers were in full bloom, and the squirrels came out of hiding to do some early foraging -- we must have counted a dozen as we walked! Stopped and took some pictures, and got another family to take a couple of the two of us. Made our way from the east side of the Capitol to the west side, and got a great picture of the National Mall on Easter Sunday (before all the crowds arrived). Our first destination that morning was the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian.

This building was on my "must see" list for the St. Laurent exhibit inside. Back in 2005, the exhibit is part of one in which several native North American communities are profiled. Several of my former students (and some co-workers) have made their spot in history by being featured in photos and videos. When the exhibit first opened, a whole contingent from "Sunny St. Laurent" came down for its unveiling. A sketch of the building hangs on the wall in my old school, and I've finally gotten to see it in person. It was great (re) visiting a community that I considered a second home for four years.

Our next stop on museum row was the Air and Space Museum -- one of the most popular in the area. No kidding! While the American Indian museum was calm and content -- this one was more vibrant and energetic. Things hung from the ceiling, planes and rockets and everything else that flew. If it had to do with air... or space... it belonged here. Including the Wright Bros plane and, a replica of the Hubble Telescope, a lunar module and more! We didn't spend a whole lot of time in here, but probably could have if we were more in the mood.

Continuing onwards, we stopped inside the Smithsonian Castle (the original museum, now just an information and generic exhibit place). Great architecture and landscaping! We walked (and walked) up along Independence Avenue towards the Holocaust Museum.

One thing to say about all the attractions in DC. There are many of them, and even in three days you can only visit a few. But most are free to the public, which is fantastic. Granted, it means there are larger crowds and line-ups through security and for the restrooms, but it's so great to see families and school groups enjoying American history without having to worry about admission prices.

Now the cafeterias in these museums... not free. My $9.00 knish/apple/sweet tea lunch at the Holocaust museum was good, but was a little more than I expected to pay.

Entrance into the Holocaust museum was timed, so we got tickets for 3:30 PM. With time to kill, we decided to walk towards the Washington Monument at the end of the Mall, then to the WWII Memorial. The quietness from the morning had all but vanished as throngs of people from all over the world took advantage of the great weather, the long weekend and the CB festival. We were tempted to put our feet in the fountain at the WWII memorial, or go for a swim in the reflecting pool, but thought we might get arrested.

So instead we decided to walk towards the Lincoln Memorial and try to find the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. So we walked. And walked. And walked.

We found the Veterans Wall, but we opted not to go any farther to visit Lincoln. It's unlikely our feet would carry us the 1/2 mile farther, and the hundreds of people swarming the steps were not very enticing. We're sure that Lincoln didn't miss us.

The Veterans Wall is impressive at best. It didn't appear that the names were in any order, but there was a directory that you could look up to let you know which number wall your loved one's name was on.

Back at the Holocaust Museum, we enjoyed a rest on a padded bench while we waited for our entrance time. At 3:30 PM we started our self-guided tour -- and promptly spent the next 1.5 hours in one of the most haunting exhibits I've ever visited. Wow. There are no other words to describe... You know what I mean. If you ever find yourself in DC... Visit.

The long, arduous task that faced us at the end of the tour was the walk from the most western edge of the Mall to Union Station. If we'd been smarter, we might have taken a bus. But hunger, heat and exhaustion were playing with our heads... I can't say how far it was exactly, but I swear I shed a few tears of joy when we reached the end of Louisiana Avenue!! We ate dinner at the food court in Union Station and then decided that we deserved some Ben & Jerry's for all the miles we clocked that day. Well, if the ice cream was worth missing the last bus that should have taken us back to our hotel, then I suppose we made out okay. Instead we had a few moments of frustrated panic at the metrorail station before we found someone who would help us get back to our "home"... for a price, of course (private driver for a grocery store). We were blessed and thankful for the rescue, because otherwise we would have been stranded in not such a nice area!

Monday: When in DC...

We'd decided that today was the day we'd finish up the last of our intended museum visits. Upon closer inspection of our map, we discovered a closer metrorail station that would take us closer to where we wanted to be and give our feet a bit of a break. I wish that I could say that the metro system in DC was easy to use. It really isn't. Mom's got her own stories to tell, but in my opinion they really aren't much of a convenience to visitors. Still, it was faster than taking the bus, and cheaper than taxi, so we tried to use it like the locals do!

We walked up towards the White House again with a freshly charged camera in tow. Monday was the day that the Easter Egg Roll was taking place, and we knew it would be a popular destination, even for those of us without kids. At the White House Visitors Center, we learned that a lottery had been established for tickets to the Easter Egg Roll, and over 3 million entries had been submitted in a short amount of time. Of those, approx. 15,000 lucky families got the invite -- WOW! The roll started at 8:30 AM and went all day... It was cute seeing kids walking up the streets dressed in their Sunday best with their Easter baskets in tow.

Because of the roll, we couldn't get close enough to the WH to take any good pictures. People lined the block. So we walked around for a bit and then headed back towards the National Mall. We wanted to knock off two museums this day.

We started with the Museum of American History, where we saw everything from Dorothy's ruby slippers to the original Kermit the Frog, Archie and Edith Bunker's chairs, and Carol Burnett's Scarlett O'Hara costume. We learned about the history of the birth control pill and the creation of the first American flag. We spent some time in an exhibit dedicated to the First Ladies and their stylish inaugural dresses. We even saw the set that Julia Child used on many of her shows.

We ate lunch outside the museum, and slipped our feet into the pool that surrounded the fountain in front. Who cares if we were allowed or not. It was worth the misdemeanor.

After the rest, we made our way next door to the Museum of Natural History. Mom wanted to see the Hope Diamond and other gems, and I thought I tagged along for the trip. However, after entering the building and seeing (again) the drones of people that swarmed the place, a wall went up that signaled I'd reached my limit for crowds, kids and other tourists. I couldn't enjoy myself among everyone else, so I found an empty spot over the atrium and perched myself while Mom snapped photos of sparkly things. We toured the Earth and Space exhibits and visited the gift shops (less people) before leaving the museum.

A mutual decision to return back to the hotel was made, so that we could pick up a few things for dinner and the train ride home the next day. We made it an early evening, and napped on an off while watching television before finally falling asleep. It was a long, fulfilling few days for us!

Tuesday: Never Thought I'd be So Happy to Call it Home

Our train left a little later on Tuesday than on Monday, but we were still up pretty early to get ready and packed for the trip back to Cary. We'd picked up some provisions for lunch on the train and made sure we had everything that we'd strewn about over the last three days. We wanted to hang about Union Station, pick up a few souvenirs and take a few pictures before heading to the track.

The ride home was uneventful -- which was a blessing -- and we got home early enough to still drive home in the daylight. Stopped off at Walmart for groceries for the next morning and finally entered familiar territory and the comfortable confines of my apartment in Clinton.

It was a very much anticipated and enjoyed trip. Tiring, sure. Eye-opening, yes! But something to knock off the "to-do" list while I'm down here! I highly recommend a trip to DC for anyone who is interested in American history and culture. It's exactly like it looks in the movies, but much more.

I hope you enjoyed the trip blog. Mind the spelling mistakes and grammar errors. After three hours (minus a dinner break) I don't really care!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pants on fire...

Hi everyone!

Okay, so I totally LIED in that last post when I said that my next one would be the trip blog... Really, I thought I'd be all "on top of it" and get it out sooner rather than later, but, well... Let's just say that five long days, many monuments and museums, thousands of people... warm days and quite a few miles walked... I should know, I just re-lived it all over the last two hours as I edited all the photos.

But I did want to post and let y'all know that we did make it back alive (but barely!) Maybe this will soothe your building resentment for a little while I summon up more energy to actually write the epic blog. It was a great weekend spent with mom and a few more to come...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Only hours away...

I am so ready for a BREAK! Everyone is! The kids, aside from having spring fever, are anticipating the prom tomorrow evening. Only juniors and seniors are invited to attend, and the school is slowly transforming into paparazzi-land. I'll try to take some pictures of the place finally decorated, but I won't get any pics of the actual event, because... well...

Tomorrow at 1 pm, spring break begins. And, after helping decorate for the prom, I'm "springing" myself from school, home to finish packing and then over to Raleigh to meet Mom. Friday morning we'll be on the train by 8:30 AM for a 6+ hour train ride to DC. The sun will shine and the scenery will be lovely (I've already decided this). We'll spend the entire weekend in Washington, exploring the sites (cherry blossoms!) and enjoying quality time together. We come home on Tuesday -- and I think the trip will be just long enough. Hopefully the rest of the week we'll have a chance to relax and rest up a little bit so we won't need a vacation from our vacation!

Ibeth is going to Miami for the break, with some other Colombian VIF teachers. She's just as excited as I am! Hopefully the weather stays as nice down there as it will be up here -- we're expecting high 70's to low 80's for the entire week without much mention of rain.

Brian and Annie are going up to Maine to visit family (and look for jobs!) and Alvin and his family are driving to Houston for the week. Surely we'll all have great stories to share when we see each other again. Goodness knows, we all deserve the change of scenery (and pace!).

So the next time you read from me, I'll be sharing my DC trip blog with you! Until then, take care and have a very HAPPY EASTER!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Seven days to FREEDOM!

First of all... Let me give a big shout out to Evan and the Class of 2010 in St. Laurent!! I have to yell loud to some of you who are FINALLY taking your Europe trip with Ms. Bruce. I hope you're having a great time, and I can't wait to see pictures and read all about it in June! Yes, in June!! Wild horses couldn't keep me away!

Sorry I haven't blogged in a few days. Life took over, and as such I am BEAT! Thank goodness that tomorrow is Friday --- the last Friday before Spring Break! Yippee! Only 5 school days before vacation. Let's hope they are fast days....

One week from today I'll be in Raleigh with Mom (!!!) getting ready for our trip to D.C. the next day. I don't know what I'm more excited for... the trip to D.C. or hanging out with her! Which reminds me...


As a gift to her... (and you too!), here's a couple of pictures from last weekend... Love the beach...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The waiting is the hardest part...

I hear the snow has all but melted at home. That's great! Must be a record-melt! Hopefully this won't mean we'll have an early winter later this year...

The trees here are in their bidding stages, and some are blooming! I'm getting excited for spring break, which is still two agonizing weeks away. I'm hoping to make the time pass by faster by taking a couple of trips to the coast this weekend and next. The weather is supposed to be great this weekend... let's hope that the trend continues.

Things at work are going as well as they can. I still struggle in some areas, but I've had more decent days in recent weeks. I think that my biggest struggle this year has been realizing that there is tons of support out there and that it doesn't all have to be my burden. Having come from such a small school where I did a lot of everything... It's hard to relinquish that control again. I suppose my ego believes that giving in means giving up... admitting that I can't do it by myself. And I need to convince myself that it's not that I can't do it by myself -- it's that I don't have to! Which is not an easy thing to tell a stubborn person like me. ;o)

Everyone's ready for a break, though. The students, the faculty... We're treading water and trying not to strangle each other until spring break, wondering why it can't be next week already. ;o)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Food, Friends, Fun and the... Federal Government?

It's 5:28 PM on a Monday... and I'm home from work.

I can't even recall the last time that happened. Which either means that I've 1) started to lighten up on myself, or b) have forgotten something incredibly important...

Don't worry, I'm not without "homework" tonight. Blech.

Had a really good time Saturday in Fayetteville. We went to a catering showcase that featured local vendors from around Cumberland County who were strutting their stuff with samples and promotions. I'd heard about it on the radio and thought it might be a good way to find out "what's out there" for the next time we were in the area. Admission to the event was free, but if you wanted to try any of the offerings, you had to purchase a ticket for $10 that allowed you to visit all 24 vendors. I don't know who would come and NOT want to sample... As it was we only knocked off about half before we were stuffed and ready for a nap. It didn't help that the room was hot and got increasingly more crowded as time wore on. We skipped some of the title names... Subway, Hooters... and went for the places that had the best to eat! Found a few favorites to try in the future.

While we were chowing down, a photog from a local paper asked to take our picture. After trying to get the best shot, and some confusion over how to spell our names, he told Ibeth and I that the picture might be published in the mag later on in the month, but that it should definitely be on the website earlier than that. So I took the address and found it...

Okay, so we may look like a couple of goofs... but it's kind of cool to think we may be mildly famous...

Saturday night I went to Brian and Ann's for some (more) chow and games. I met friends of theirs, and got to hang out and be silly. I caught up a little with the other Canadian VIF teacher, who was disappointed to know that I was leaving. Brian and Ann have also announced that they are moving back to Maine so that they can be closer to Brian's family and civilization. They are such fun people, and I hope that we'll be able to keep in touch after school ends.

I had a mix-up with my bedside clock on Sunday morning. I set it ahead before I went to bed, only I forgot that my clock has a digital calendar that's automatically synched to DST. So I woke up Sunday to a dark room a little after 8:00 AM and wondered why... It wasn't until I stumbled down the stairs and turned on the television that I realized what I'd done. Let's just say that another hour of sleep was not very hard to come by. ;o)

I got my 2010 census in the mail this afternoon, and it took me all of 3 minutes to fill it out. I'm required to by law... so says the envelope... but it feels rather dishonest counting myself now, when in a few months I won't be here anymore. I feel like I'm leading the Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics on...

Okay, it's now 5:53 PM, which is about the time I'd normally be cursing myself for not going home before 6 PM. So I guess I'm not really ending up any father ahead than usual. Except I got to grace you all with a post!

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, March 12, 2010



Sorry, just needed to let loose a little there! This has felt like a very long and busy week. Report cards, musical practice, meetings and the like... I feel like I haven't stopped since Monday! Of course, much of that is my own fault, but it makes me feel better knowing I'm doing the very best I can, so I push myself a little farther and hope that the impact is deeper.

Luckily tonight I've got some R&R planned... A little TV... a little reading... a little Farmville. ;o) Tomorrow Ibeth and I are headed to Fayetteville in search of civilization. Maybe some retail therapy is in order? Whatever we end up doing, it'll just be great to be out of Dodge for a little while! I'm hoping to take advantage of more weekends as spring comes... I've only got a few months left here, I want to see and do as much as I can before I go!

Hopefully you all have something great planned for your weekend! It may be an hour shorter than we'd like, but we've gotta make the most of it. ;o) So drop me a line and let me know what you're up to!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I swear I saw Spike Lee...

We lost. Boo. But it was a good season, and the boys really worked hard on their game. It was great being in an arena filled with people from our town and theirs, watching our teams play on a beautiful regulation court. The concessions came in handy too. Can't say I enjoyed the bus rides though... but I didn't have to drive myself... You give you take!

On the bright side, let's hope that the weather is turning towards spring. We're going to be near 70 by mid-week, and I swear I saw budding trees yesterday. I'm looking forward to being able to turn down the heat, and not just because it costs a fortune! Hope spring is around the corner for you, too!

Friday, March 5, 2010

I Believe....

We're on a winning streak...

Wednesday night, the boys won their semi-final game and are now in the final four for the eastern championship. The next game is tomorrow at 3 pm at ECU in Greenville. Apparently, this is as far as any team has gotten in basketball. Everyone has been buzzing at the school... It's really quite exciting. T-shirts with the phrase "We Believe" (team mantra) have been circulating around... We're flocking 2 hours out to attend the biggest game ever. Look for coverage on the news tomorrow. ;o)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Blame Canada...

So that delay I was hoping for was eventually announced last night... and then transformed into a full-on school cancellation this morning when we got a little more than expected. Something around 3 inches, which basically started melting as soon as the sun-rose, which made for a soggy, wet and flooded environment as those of us who didn't want to forgo a leave day tracked our way to school... a little late... but still there!

Now we've got another school day to make up for later on this month. Thankfully our Spring Break is still in tact -- for now!

Tomorrow we've got true two-hour delay, which means school starts at 9:45 AM. They are saying that this is the worst winter in years for precipitation and below-normal temperatures. Of course, everyone's blaming the lone Canadian in the midst for bringing the harsh weather with them. Geez... Can't catch a break around here!

I've been getting some pretty supportive reactions a people find out that I won't be back in September. My coworkers have all been really understanding -- they know how important it is to be happy with where you are and the difference you are making. Not many of my students know yet -- but I don't imagine that they many of them will care.

Those of my former students (from St. L) who I have kept in touch with are helping keeping my spirits up by posting their graduation pictures and counting down the days until their big Europe trip. I'm so happy that they are enjoying their final year. They are a great bunch of kids and I can't wait to celebrate with them in June.

I'm thinking about taking some university classes when I get back. There are a couple which could keep me really busy for the first part of my summer, but they'd prepare me for taking my M.Ed, which I am definite is in my near future. I just need to decide which branch I'd like to study!

Enjoy the rest of your week, my friends!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Go Black and Gold!

The Clinton Darkhorses are in the basketball playoffs! Tomorrow is another very important game! Unfortunately, it's about 2 hours away, in Greenville. The school is arranging bus transportation so that students and staff can go on and cheer for their team. I'm debating if I should go... Part of me would like to, but I'm pooped and I could really make better use of the 4 hours round-trip on a bus full of annoying teens. Still... Whoop whoop for the team! If we win a couple more, we're going to State!

It's raining right now, and the temperature is supposed to drop, so some of that might turn to snow. We likely won't get as much as last time (a record, BTW!), but a couple inches could be enough to give us a delayed start in the morning. It would be nice... to sleep in for an extra hour or two. I suppose I shouldn't jinx it -- with the winter we've been having, anything is possible!

Hope all is well with those I love and miss!

Sunday, February 28, 2010


As the Olympics come to an end I just want to say how PROUD I am to be Canadian right now. Watching all the coverage abroad, over a different network, there were times when I felt a little disconnected from my team, but I never forgot about the athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and organizers in Vancouver. Whether it was watching Scott and Tessa on top of the podium, or Joannie with her amazing strength and courage, or the women's hockey team singing the national anthem full tilt or that sudden death goal by Sidney Crosby this afternoon... It was all fantastic! :o)

We are the GOLDEN country...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Click your heels together three times...

There. So that's done. Now what??

For those of you who haven't figured it out yet, I've chosen not to renew my contract for next year and... COME HOME! It's not completely official yet... I haven't let my admin know... But in my heart of weary hearts... This decision is firm.

It's not easy for me to admit defeat, to confess that I couldn't make it as long as I'd hoped. I'd like to think that I'm more confident than that. Instead, I'm trying to focus on the positives... The idea that I tried at all, that I had the stamina to last as long as I have... That I didn't give up... that I pushed my boundaries... And that I learned something.

I learned a LOT!

I've learned that the things that I once took for granted... maybe even resented at times... are the very things that make me the person I am, and someone I am very proud to be! The outpouring of love and support I've gotten over the last several months has been nothing short of touching, and the cries of "WE MISS YOU" confirm that my decision is the best one I can make for my spirits... and for yours!

So in four months time... If all goes according to (my) plan... I should be back on home turf, for much more than a visit. That should give you all enough time to plan the parade. ;o)

And as for what's going to happen after that... well, that's something you'll just have to keep reading to find out! In the meantime, I hope to enjoy the remaining months of this adventure as much as I possibly can, so that I have lots of great, positive memories to take home with me!

Love and HUGS to all!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

40 days and 40 nights...

I know I kind of left you all hanging there a few days ago... but I'm hoping that the pictures made up for it!

I had a very good weekend with my best pals from home. I'm so lucky that they took the time out to come and visit... and I wish that I had been in better spirits for the weekend. A long week getting ready and anticipating their arrival, the excitement of having them around again, and the melancholy I felt as the days wore on and the visit came to an end. I know that they were enthralled with everything they saw and did (and ate!), and I love them dearly... I just would have enjoyed it more if I'd felt like I was on vacation too. But I wasn't, and I didn't.

Things are work are... chaotic? I feel the pressure of having one semester under my belt and trying to live up to (my) expectations and not revisit the same frustrations. It works most of the time, but it's taking much more out of me. I am grateful for the opportunity, the faith and confidence that others have in me to trust me with such a demanding job. I hope that it's all been worth it, because otherwise I feel about ten years older for nothing!

I am seriously considering my options for the future... next year, more specifically. I realize that I have to hurry up and make a decision -- the best one for me, so that I can just go ahead and relax. It'll come... soon. There's only 4 months left in the school year.

I love you all and I thank you for continuing to read my musings.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mother Nature's got a sense of humour too...

I don't have much energy to write a full blog, so I'll just let the pictures speak for me. Never thought I'd see this... ;o)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hoops for Hope

So this week is Breast Cancer Awareness Week in The US, and to commemorate, the girls basketball teams have been running a campaign in honor of Kay Yow, a former NC State basketball coach who lost her life to the disease in 2009. This week they are playing all their home games (today and Friday) wearing pink jerseys. I stopped in at one of the games tonight as I was leaving work (much too late for my liking), and watched their dedication ceremony. It was a great show of respect to the legacy of the women who had fought and lost the battle, and a huge show of support to those who are fighting and surviving.

My mom is a two time breast cancer survivor. She was only 26 when she was first diagnosed. When she was diagnosed again, I was still too young to really understand. In recent years I've realized how extremely blessed that my mother is to have overcome and to be a 20+ year survivor. Without the ongoing support of others, medical researchers wouldn't be able to keep searching for better ways to detect and treat this disease, and a cure would not be on the horizon. Wear pink just once this week, and let others know why.

Love to all!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dressed in Blue...

It's Super Bowl Sunday (duh) and I'm doing probably the most American thing that I've done since I got here. I'm actually going to watch the game. Moreover, I'm watching the game at my first Super Bowl party! Okay, so it probably won't be anything spectacular, but I'm just happy to be going out and doing something social on a Sunday evening! On Friday my students asked me who I was rooting for, and after a pause for me to actually recall who was playing... I went with the Colts. What can I say... I'm loyal to my northern roots! ;o)

Last week felt like an extremely long week. There was so much going on! Our schedules were all out of whack. I can only imagine what all those schools in other counties are dealing with... some had four days out of school last week alone!

I've been preparing for the arrival of Kimber, Tina and Melissa on Thursday (!!!) ... Cleaning the house, making up beds, etc. I'm really looking forward to their visit in a big way. Here's hoping that the next four days aren't excruciatingly long and slow...

Hope everyone had a good weekend! Yap at you soon!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Is that a bag of fertilizer you're carrying?

So the snow/sleet/freezing rain mixture that we got on Saturday was enough to close school on Monday, and impose a two-hour delay today. Not that I'm really complaining... though I probably will on Feb 15th when we have to make up that missed school day!

I had about 1/4 inch of ice on my car to chip off Sunday morning. The sun came out, but my car sits mostly in the shade and didn't have much help to melt the ice. Luckily, I still had my snow brush packed in my trunk, but it still took 20 minutes to clear my windows! I had every intention of going to church that morning... But there was literally no life at the building when I drove up 15 minutes before the service! I guess in NC, when winter comes, everything really does shut down. ;o)

Depsite school being cancelled yesterday, I went into work anyway. It's great how much work you can get done on those bonus workdays! And it's a treat to have the freedom to go out for lunch, too!

They are expecting another "wintery-mix" system to pass through by the end of the week, though it's not supposed to be as extensive as the first. Folks around here are complaining about winter -- they're ready for spring. Me too, though this is nothing compared to what I'm used to back home!

So my new "obsession" in the last few days is Farmville on Facebook. You non-FB people likely haven't a clue about the application, but basically you get to create your own virtual farm to tend. I managed to "just say no" for several months, but the other day (in a fit of boredom, perhaps?) I caved, and well... I never thought that harvesting and plowing would become priorities of mine! Oh well, I suppose that there are worse things that I could be doing with my time... (if you can think of any, let me know!)

<3 Enjoy the rest of your week!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Welcome to Winter...

So it snowed, sleeted and rained for about 12 hours and covered everything in a wet and icy layer. The power blinked off and on again once around 2 PM, but the cable was cutting in and out for most of the afternoon. It was a good day to stay inside, which is pretty much what I did. Here's a photo from the front door at about 9 AM.

Let's hope it over now!

Friday, January 29, 2010


So there's big hype of yet another threatened winter storm, and it looks like this one will actually make an appearance. Have you been watching the news about the weather that they've had in the southern-midwest? It's rolling this way, and should arrive overnight. Snow, sleet, freezing rain. They say that there might be as much as a half-inch of ice in and around this area, and that the power service might be affected.

So I went and did my usual Saturday grocery-shopping after school. The store was busy. The gas station afterwards was worse! I was there for 20 minutes, mostly waiting! I was a little perturbed when a big truck cut me off as I gave the car in front of me some extra room at the pump -- the driver just snuck around me and cut in! Had a few choice words in my car about that one. ;o)

I'm not quite sure what to expect tomorrow. What if the power goes out? That would change my weekend plans a fair bit! Should keep the heat in the house up overnight just in case? It's funny... I'm used to winter storms... snow and wind and maybe a small outage, but this could be very different!

I suppose there's not much else I can do except make sure that the flashlight has fresh batteries and that I've got stuff to keep me warm. Bummer. I was looking forward to a drive over to Fayetteville tomorrow.

Oh well! Hope you all are staying warm this weekend, too!

If I loose contact for a little while, and Sunday comes and goes... HAPPY 65th BIRTHDAY DAD!!! :o)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Halfway there!

I hear my favorite northerners got blasted this week(end) with a blizzard! Yikes! I don't envy anyone... Well, maybe those who had a snow day! Hope you all managed to get through unscathed and warm. :o)

Not much to say right now... It's the change of semester. We've had a couple of pupil-free days to help with the transition. It's amazing how you can fill up a day even when you have no classes to teach! It's been nice not having to worry about an exact schedule. Tomorrow it begins anew, and the first few days will be like the first ones all over again. I can't help but feel a little nervous. I'm trying to stay optimistic that I'll have fewer struggles this semester now that I've "been around the halls" a few times. It's going to be a busy week -- even if it is short!

I hope all is well with you! I'll post back again in a few days! :o)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Welcome to Gotham...

Good evening. You may remember me from my last New York City Trip Blog, written from March 25th – April 1st, 2006. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here: It’s good for a story or two, however it’s not a prequel to this trip blog. :o)

In anticipation of the Martin Luther King Day weekend, I’d asked Ibeth last month if she wanted to take a trip to New York City. She had mentioned that she was interested in going for the holidays, but she didn’t want to alone and didn’t know if she could afford it at such a crowded, busy time. So when I let her know that flights were relatively inexpensive for the MLK weekend, she told me to go ahead and book it! We pre-arranged a few activities to do while we were there, but the rest of the plan was just to try to absorb as much of the city as we could in a short few days. Excitement was building as week as the trip approached, and we could hardly contain ourselves by Friday afternoon…

And so, without further ado... My trip blog.

Friday –

I got permission to leave a little early from work (a whole 15 minutes – wow!) so that we wouldn’t be rushed getting to the airport. Ibeth was a little worried that we wouldn’t have enough time. Our flight was to leave at 5:47 pm, and she said she was told that we should be there at least two hours before. So we left town at around 2:15 and excitedly drove up to Raleigh and the Raleigh-Durham airport.

Sure enough, we got there with plenty of time. I’d already checked us in online the night before and printed our boarding passes. Since neither of us had luggage to check (we were trying to travel light to avoid this!) we breezed right through to security. I was worried that I had too many “liquids and gels” than they normally allow, but I tried to pack them carefully so as not to get yelled at by the security. It was no problem! Ibeth had a bigger bag than I did, and they briefly looked through hers, but we both ended up getting through without much difficulty. We really didn’t care though… our adrenaline was pumping and we were in good spirits as we anticipated the weekend ahead!

Ibeth and I waiting to board our plane to NYC!!

The flight to NYC was on time, and we even landed at LaGuardia a little early. Ibeth had never flown at night, and she had and aisle seat. Of course, at night there isn’t much to see below except for random clusters of light, and she asked me more than once “Where are we?” Like I had a clue! It was too bad that the pilots didn’t fill us in on their routes like they sometimes do. He did announce, however, when we were beginning our approach to the airport, and told us that we’d soon be able to see the lights of Manhattan outside our window.

When I went 4 years ago with Tina, we flew in and out of Newark, New Jersey during the daytime. I remember that on arrival, sitting near the front of the plane, we were told that we’d see the island on the right side. We were sitting on the left side, and Tina nearly leapt over me and across the aisle to see out the window. (Good thing she was buckled in!)

This time, we were told we’d see the city best out the left side of the plane. Wouldn’t you know it, we were sitting on the right side. So this time it was Ibeth who was stretched across me trying to get a glimpse of the lights as we landed. We did see Times Square and the Empire State Building from where we were, which was very exciting!

Landing in LaGuardia, we deplaned right onto the tarmac. We had to wait for Ibeth’s bag (she’d ended up checking it planeside) and shivered as we realized that it wasn’t as warm in NYC as it was in Raleigh (duh). Then it was through the terminal and outside again where we caught a taxi to take us over the river and to our hotel.

The taxi ride was an experience, as it was the last time I was in the city. There was a little TV in the backseat that on some local news/information channel. I kept watching our fare total in the bottom right corner and wondered how much the ride would cost once we got to the hotel. We weaved in and out of the streets as we made our way from the Upper East to the Upper West Side, and finally to 87th street and the Belnord Hotel. With tip, we paid $36.00 for our taxi ride.

The hotel lobby was nice enough, like the lobby of a small apartment building, I guess. The clerk at the counter checked us in and handed us our room keys. We were originally in room 505, but when we got to the room, we realized that they’d made a mistake. Our reservations were specifically for a room with two-twin beds, and this one only had one double. We explained the mix-up to the clerk, who seemed apologetic, but said that there was nothing he could do to help us out since all the rooms like that were occupied. He told us to come back the next day and talk to “the manager” who might be able to help us out, or offer some sort of compensation. We were disappointed, but determined to make the most of whatever we were given and not let it ruin our weekend.

The room was TINY! It literally was no bigger than 10x10. The bathroom was a third that, with just enough room for the tub, toilet and sink, with about a square foot to spare. There was a tv and a nightstand, and a small closet. And that’s it! It’s a goo thing we weren’t staying longer and brought more stuff!

Our hotel.

By this time it was way past dinnertime, and so we went outside in search of food. Our hotel was right near Broadway, and so we went up there. The first place we spotted – a hot dog cart – excited Ibeth so much that we had to stop and have a real New York hot dog on the street. Tina, they were just as you’d remember them! We walked a little farther up the street to check out the neighbourhood. I saw Zabar’s on Broadway and 81st and wanted to take a peak inside, but they had closed at 7 pm. We were still hungry, and so we stopped at a little pizza joint about a block and a half from our hotel. Ibeth got a slice, and I felt in the mood for some soup. It was great chicken soup and really hit the spot (and warmed me up!). Stomachs fuller now, we went back to the hotel and called it a night.

I don’t think either of us slept very well that night, and it was likely because we were both trying hard not to disturb the other. I set my cellphone alarm for 7am, because I knew we’d want to get an early enough start to the day. We had every intention of squeezing as much experience into the 2.5 days that we had in the city as possible.

Saturday --

We left the hotel around 8:30 am, but not before we spoke to the manager at the front desk. He was already aware of our problem, and told us that if we had our bags packed, they would move them into a new room – as per our reservation – during the day. We made sure that he knew that we picked this hotel for its convenience, facilities and price and that our sleep the night before had been affected and thus our day ahead. We hoped that we’d have something more suitable by the time we got back in the evening.

We stopped off at Starbucks for some morning nourishment and headed off via Subway to Times Square!

It was just as I remembered it the first time I visited. Really awesome and beyond imagination. If you haven’t been, you have to go to understand. If you have been, you know what I’m talking about. Since this was her first time, Ibeth was awestruck, and took pictures of every possible angle and orifice. Reminded me a little of Tina four years ago. Of course, I had to take pictures, too. The weather was nice, a little chilly, but there was no snow and the sun was shining -- though how one would know amid the buildings is a mystery!

Ibeth content in her favourite spot!

We made our way up 7th Avenue to 48th Street. My eyes were fixed on an advertisement in the distance. It was pointing the location of the M&M Store. I don’t know if we missed it last time, or if it only opened since we’d been there. The store is entirely devoted to the M&M franchise – absolutely everything you can think of is branded with the famous logo! Unfortunately, once we got to the store, we realized that it didn’t open for another half-hour. Neither did the store across the street – the Hershey’s Store. Bummer. Actually, most of the stores in TS didn’t open until 10 am. Only some of the restaurants and the souvenir shops were open. So we took advantage of doing a little trinket hunting. Personally, I wasn’t looking for anything. Ibeth wanted a keychain, but had trouble picking one from the plethora of selection! She also wanted a t-shirt (you know which one – <3) but decided to wait to find the best deal. When we finally got back to the M&M store at 10 am, we were only there a short while before Stephanie texted me and said she was 10 minutes away.

Stephanie is no stranger to this blog. In fact, she was likely one of the first to read it! We go way back ten years… and more! We spent some time together in Dallas two years ago when we both visited our other good friend Joanna and her family. Steph lives in PA, and so when I told her we were coming into the city, she said she’d drive up to spend time with us. She’s so lucky to live only an hour away – but still this was her first time making the trek alone. She parked her car in NJ and hopped on a bus. We found her at the Port Authority terminal – well, after a little bit of hunting and texting to help us locate each other. God bless the internet, and God bless cellphones!
Advert outside the M&M Store...

One the three of us were united, we hopped on another subway headed downtown to Chinatown. We wandered up Canal street, trying to fight the crowds, take pictures and “browse” without slowing down. It’s a remarkable marketplace. If you should interest, or even accidentally make eye contact with anyone – they’re all over you in a nanosecond and won’t let up until you buy something! There were vendors on the street holding pictures of those knock-off designer handbags. If you paused, they’d be whispering in your ear “Coach, Gucci, Louis Vitton”. Apparently, if you were interested, they had a spot “in the back” where they hid the bags. Don’t go to the back unless you’re 100% interested, because I’ve been told that they won’t let you leave until you buy something!

We were too thrown to actually stop and buy anything, so we made a loop around a few blocks and found a restaurant to eat at. After replenishing ourselves, we hopped on the subway again in search of the Empire State building. Neither of us (Ibeth, Steph or I) were really interested in waiting in long lines to go up to the top. We just wanted to stand at the corner and peer up. So we walked up Park Avenue until we spotted it. We continued onwards to see if we could locate Rockefeller Center. Thought we did, but were proven wrong. Soon enough, we ended up in Time Square again, and this time we were able to spend time in the M&M Store and Hershey’s, plus Toys R Us and a couple more souvenir shops. Ibeth got her t-shirt.

My new pal...

We finally found our way to Rockefeller. Watched the skaters for a little while and popped inside the NBC Experience Store, where Steph bought a Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien magnet before they became a collectors item. We decided to walk up to 5th Avenue and ended up in Saks (laughing at the outrageous prices), rode the escalator in Trump Tower, and drooled over sparkly things at Tiffany’s. When we finally stopped moving, it was obvious to all three that we were tired of walking!

Outside Trump Tower...

We took the subway back to the bus station so that Steph could catch her ride back to NJ. Ibeth and I had tickets to a night tour with one of the sightseeing companies. We said goodbye to Steph with the promise that we’d see each other on Facebook real soon. Ibeth and I headed back to – guess where – Times Square for the third time that day. We grabbed a small snack (soft pretzel from a cart) and found a bench to sit on while we rested… and gawked.

Plethora of entertainment in Times Square....

The night tour was a couple of hours long, and it took us all around the city. We even went over to Brooklyn so we could see the skyline from across the harbour. We were a little disappointed that the bus didn’t stop in Brooklyn so we could get good pictures. It was hard to take them while the bus was in motion. Oh well… Our memories will be our pictures! We were dropped back off in TS at around 8 pm, and decided to make our weary way back to our hotel. We stopped off at a grocery store on the way and picked up some dinner. I had a great chickpea salad! As promised, the hotel staff presented us with a new room, 514, which was a fair bit larger and much more to our liking. So we settled in for the night, and it wasn’t long before we were both too tired to keep our eyes open any longer!

Sunday --

Up again between 7 and 7:30 am – or at least I was! I was dressed and ready to head out, so I told Ibeth I was going for coffee. The grocer we visited the night before had that, plus fruit and muffins for a nice little breakfast at the hotel. We eyed the weather forecast as we ate and realized that rain was likely by lunch, so we bundled up a little warmer and headed down to Battery Park to catch the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Ferry.

We waited in line to get through security before the ferry, and then another line to get on the ferry. I had purchased tickets to get into the monument and museum located in the pedestal of the Statue. However, we weren’t allowed to bring any bags or purses with us into the building, so we had no choice but to rent a locker in the gift shop. We weren’t the only ones, and the lockers filled up quickly. By the time we got to the head of the line to rent our locker, we found out that they were all taken and that we’d have to wait for one to be opened and emptied before we could go ahead. So we waited for about 10 or 15 minutes until a locker was freed. We stashed our stuff and took our cameras and headed towards the next queue for security. We were about halfway through that line when we saw a big group of people enter the area with their bags, etc. to stand in line. We were wondering what was up when we heard one of the security officers pipe up “You will not get through security if you have a bag or purse. Go back!” The others started arguing with her, telling her that the attendants in the previous room had told them to go ahead because there were no more lockers. A couple of guards came out – with their guns tucked under their arms – to check out the commotion. Someone disappeared for a few seconds and then came back and shrugged their shoulders and shook their head. We continued to wait in line… tired of waiting in lines… and were a little frustrated when a few groups were allowed to cut ahead of us in line because they had special wristbands. Whatever.

We finally got through security and into the monument. We took in some exhibits about the statue’s history and then followed the signs that led to the pedestal of the statue. There were several signs informing us that since the elevator was broken, the only way to make you way up to the pedestal observation deck was by stair… or stairs. 168 of them to be exact. Good grief. We were about to earn our lunch. After walking the entire day before, I’m sure we both heard our legs groan. What a relief to finally get to the observation deck! The security attendants there cheered for us, and then told us to look up into the core of the statue. My camera had already run out of batteries, so Ibeth took some shots on her own. We were told that if we wanted to go outside, we should do so soon before the rain started. Not so – as we opened the door out, we were greeted by a chilly wind and the unmistakable pat pat of cold rain against our skin! Needless to say, we didn’t stay too long out in that mess! Another 168 stairs down to Earth, and then a race through the rain back to free our bags from our locker. We waited for the ferry and decided not to go to Ellis Island. Another time, perhaps. Ibeth was happy with just being that close to the statue.

When we got off the ferry in Lower Manhattan, we were greeted by guys who were peddling rain ponchos and umbrellas. I’d already decided to by an umbrella as soon as I saw one. I could tell that it wasn’t the best quality, but anything that kept the rain off of us for a little while was a good idea. We headed back up to the next subway station, and I tried to point out the location of Ground Zero to Ibeth. We thought about walking to the site, but we were hungry, wet and cold and just wanted to sit down, eat and dry off for a little while. So we went back to our anchor point – Times Square – and had lunch (our most extravagant meal of the weekend) at the kitschy cool Planet Hollywood.
La Lady Liberty!

To be honest, I can’t really tell you what we did after that. I was hoping that we could have gone to the NYC Public Library and take a look around inside, but as it was Sunday, that building was closed (probably the only one in the city that was). So rather, we hopped the subway to Grand Central Station. We wandered, people watched and wandered a little more. The shops at Columbus Circle were after that – fancy, high priced shops that made us feel cheap and under dressed. Tired, we headed back to the hotel.

On the way back, we stopped at the same pizza place from Friday so I could pick up more of that great chicken soup. It was just what I knew would warm me up and make me relax. The owner put the cup in a paper bag with plenty of crackers, napkins and a spoon. However, on the way back to the hotel, the bag got wet. As we stood at the elevator to go up to our room, I felt the bag give and looked down to see my snack fall and spill all over the lobby floor! I was so heartbroken. I really didn’t want to go back out into the rain to buy more soup. I told the clerk at the desk that there was a spill, apologized and went sadly up to the room. I debated a little more, sucked in my lower lip and decided that I couldn’t be any more wet or cold than I already was, and that the only thing that would cheer me up was some soup. As I was leaving the hotel again, the clerk (same one) asked me where I was going. I sighed and told him I wanted to replace my soup, and he shook his head and said “That looked really good.” I asked him if he wanted some, and he replied “Sure!” and handed me some money. I told them they had other kinds, and he asked me to get him some lentil soup. So I set out for two cups of soup now. The owner of the shop was surprised to see me back, and I explained what had happened. He replaced my spoiled cup, plus a cup of lentil, and only charged me for one. How nice! (I put the paper bag into a plastic bag that I brought with me. Should have done that the first time.) Back to the hotel for a hot shower, some yummy chicken soup and again we were both asleep too early for a long weekend in New York.


Sob! Our last (half)day . Again I was up earlier than my friend, and so after I dressed I told her I was going for a walk and would be back in a half-hour. I walked up Broadway a few blocks, and then crossed the street and walked back down. I took note of a few places open for breakfast so that when I went back to Ibeth, I’d have some suggestions. The night before the only place I could think of was the McDonald’s on 82nd St. Even when I got back to the room with a few more suggestions, she still picked McDonald’s. Shucks. Oh well, it was cheap!

We had to check out of the hotel by noon, so we decided to stay close to the nest and wander towards Central Park. We walked around the interior of the park for a little bit, taking some pictures. Then we walked down Central Park West to 72nd street to see Strawberry Fields and the Dakota Building where Lennon was shot. There was a security guard sitting in a little booth by the corridor, and he was watching us like hawks as we snooped! A group of three was checking the spot out at the same time, and one put a bag down on the ledge near the building. The guard snapped out of his little closet and told her to pick it up right away. Wow! I wonder how much they pay him to do that?

Central Park path... (can you believe this is in the middle of the city??)

We walked back up 72nd to Amsterdam, and then back to our hotel. We chilled out for about 20 minutes and checked out right at noon. We found out that we should get 15% compensation on our first night’s stay because of the room mix-up. The clerk said Expedia should take care of it. I’ll keep my eye out for that, but I’m not holding my breath.

We went for the cheap transit option back to the airport and so hopped a bus. It was a decent tour uptown – past streets we hadn’t gotten to visit – and even through the Harlem neighbourhood. We grabbed some overpriced food at the airport and waited for our flight time. Both of us slept for most of the flight home – wishing that we could have spent three more days in such an amazing city!!

Wow – a six page trip blog! I wonder if I set a record on my last one??? I'll probably add a few pictures in the next couple of days... I'd do it now, but I've just spent 2 hours plus on this one post...

Edited on Jan 20th... Added some photos... Enjoy!