Notes on Show-going

photo by jere-me

Dear Minneapolis Hipsters,
Did you know that when are you at a concert, it is considered acceptable, nay encouraged, to occasionally engage in dancing? An intermittent knee-bob, a head-nod and even a shoulder wiggle are all baby steps in the right direction! It breaks my heart when I see you standing quietly in your skinny jeans, staring at the stage. I will be the girl in the back, booty dancing to indie folk pop.
Also.
Dear Liam Finn and The Veils,
Please don’t be disuaded by the crowd’s lack of dancing. We’re Minnesotan, we can’t help it. And Liam? You are my second-favorite small, bearded, joyful man. Consider yourself warned.

Adventures in Non-Traditional Adulthood: Planting Trees in Canada

Planting trees in Canadaphoto by margebarge

(This is part of our series on Non-Traditional Adulthood and the adventures to be had)

Finance Your Adventures: Planting Trees in Canada

My friend Tyler Eddy is awesome for many reasons. A list, you say? 1) He seems to have two first names 2) He is earning his PhD in something awesome and ocean-related (I think he’s a dolphin whisperer) 3) He has traveled the world, financed by his summers spent planting trees in Canada. Amazing right?! Tyler was gracious enough to answer a few questions o’mine about how to get into the tree planing game.

How did you hear about tree planting as a way to finance your adventures?

My first year of uni. 18 years old. The girl from the room above me and i became close (she would beckon me with kicks to her floor, my ceiling) and told me about this job tree planting where you could make good money while working outside and sleeping in a tent. she wanted me to spend the summer in her tent with her while doing it. i had other plans about our immediate future so joined another company and have known no other serious income (except for the employment insurance benefits that come with the terminus of a season) ever since.

How did you find a job planting trees in Canada? How did you feel about said your planting job?

Word of mouth. I had some friends that were working for a company and gave them a call. after a quick coffee meeting on campus with one of their representatives i was in. except they wanted a $100 deposit to make sure i was coming. I wasn’t sure what to expect but knew i wanted to get out of my parent’s house for the summer after newly tasted freedom at university. hated it. then loved it. then hated it again. then loved it. then hated it and sat on a stump crying and of course my foreman came to check on my trees at that moment. but by the end of it had made $200 in a day and was hooked. went home for a month in july and came back in august to plant some more.

How did you find housing for your tree planting job? How did you feel about said housing?

I had the mountain equipment co-op catalog (Canadian purveyor of all things outdoors) and ordered the tarn 3 tent and -5 sleeping bag (synthetic fill, much too cold, i froze during those early may nights dipping well below the freezing point). I was happy to be living outside and perched my tent on the edge of a small cliff overlooking the lake. It felt like a sanctuary from the long horrific days of my rookie season.

How much money did you make planting trees in Canada?

The first season I was a bit slow to progress (I was a late bloomer) but by the end of it I got better and made $200 in a day, which is a good goal for a rookie season. By season 9 I averaged $500 US/day. If I don’t make $400/day these days, I’m pissed.

What kind of people did you meet while planting trees in Canada?

all sorts. ski bums. college students. travelers. drop-outs. surf bums. musicians. old crusty lifers who never smile, Africans with smooth french, Quebecois with indiscernible french, girls that are tougher then most men i know.

What was the most challenging thing about your Canadian tree-planting job?

bugs. planting in the rain. bugs. planting in the snow. bugs. planting in the hail. bugs. waking up at 6am when it’s 10 below freezing. bugs. tendinitis. bugs. being told you have to replant. bugs. just planting another tree and not stopping. having every square millimeter of you chewed by bugs as well as the corner of your eyes and trying to hide yourself on your trip to town.

What was the most rewarding thing about planting trees in Canada?

meeting the best friends of my life. sharing the highest and lowest point of my life with them. traveling around every nook and cranny of Canada. planting up a mountain, stopping at the top to turn around, admire the view with eyes squinting in early light and take a deep breath. Hitching from Calgary to Vancouver with my best friend to see the west coast for the first time after reading ‘on the road’ by Kerouac while in a helicopter-access isolation camp in the Yukon where the sun never sets for a month. receiving a paycheck for five figures, excluding cents. getting dropped off in the morning, bagging up trees for the first run, smoking a doobie while looking at the land, choosing the soundtrack on the i pod and knowing that if you work hard and plant all 4000 trees as you plan you will make $600 that day. a warm beer after a hard day of work. having a five-star restaurant cook prepare the most amazing food for you everyday. night-off campfires with guitars and music blasting from trucks and people shotgunning beers and letting loose after working hard. being physically challenged everyday. living outside for three months straight. meeting the girl of my dreams and knowing she can handle pretty much anything that life throws at her.

Would you ever keep planting trees in Canada long term?

I am halfway through my Ph.d and show no signs of stopping. After finishing my degree I hope to plant in order to buy land in Nova Scotia. When it comes time for a family, I would like to be more permanently based.

What suggestions would you have for anyone else who wants to finance adventures by planting trees?

Make sure you know what you’re in for. Buy a good sleeping bag and a good pair of boots (shoddy tents can always be covered with a blue tarp). Find someone good to work for. The best planters will make no money with a poor company as this is piece-rate work.

Adventures in Non-traditional Adulthood: Teaching ESL Abroad

How to Teach ESL Abroad as a Non-Traditional Adult

(This is part of the Non-traditional Adulthood Series, in which we expound on the joys and adventures to be had whilst avoiding mortgages and babies.)
If you’ve got a taste for adventure or a bad case of wanderlust, teaching ESL abroad is a great way to pay off your loans while seeing the world. The college+wedding+babies formula isn’t for all us … in fact, a very large percentage of us take a less traditional, more scenic route reaching the destination that is Grown-up-ville. Why not have a good time while figuring out who we are and what we want?! Teaching ESL abroad is a great way to do this and see the world too!

Now friends, I will not lie to you. Moving abroad is an undertaking and it is crazy difficult at times … but most things worth doing are, right?! Teaching English abroad is also one of the best things I’ve done with my life. And it’s never going to get easier than when you’re young, cute and mortgage-free! So here are a few basics about teaching abroad to get you headed in the right direction. Bon Voyage!

Where should I go to teach abroad?

Well, that is a rather important aspect to the journey, isn’t it? ESL jobs are relatively easy to find, especially outside of Western Europe and particularly in Asia. You should have a really big think about what you want out of this adventure. Some good questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do I have a second language I’m keen to practice?
  • What kind of climate works for me?
  • How much money do I need to/want to make?
  • How do people in this country react to people like me? (This is a pretty important one. How do they treat Americans? Women? People of your ethnic background or sexual preference?)
  • Do I want to go someplace that’s westernized or quite remote?

Once you’ve answered these questions, do a little nosing around the internet to research the countries you’re interested in. Transitionsabroad.com is hugely helpful and include realistic profiles of many ESL-rich countries.

Where do I find a ESL teaching job?

As with many things, ESL teaching jobs are online! You really have two options: lining something up ahead of time or going to your country of choice and finding something once you get there. Both options have their pros and cons. Lining something up ahead of time could mean free airfare, training, being met at the airport and job security. It can also mean being stuck in a job or town that you’re not too keen on. Finding something once you get there may equal higher pay, better benefits and a working environment that fits you. But it also means all the normal stress of finding a job – but in a foreign, non-English speaking city. Wicked stressful, yo.

If this is your first time traveling in a non-English speaking country or teaching ESL, I would probably recommend trying to get something lined up before you go. Do some really in-depth research on your potential employers – check out expat online message boards and see what they have to say about the company and ask your school if you could chat with a few of their current employees. English schools vary hugely so it’s really important to find one that’s right for you. There are approximately a gajillion ESL-job sites online; some of the best are esljobs.com, eslemployment.com and Dave’s ESL cafe.

Do I need a qualification to teach ESL abroad?

Maybe. It really depends on where you’re going to teach English and what you’re hoping for. If you want to teach in Bangkok for a year, backpack around SE Asia and see your fill of Ladyboy shows, you probably only need a B.A. and a native-speaker accent. If you want to teach in Europe for several years, you’ll probably need a qualification. Qualifications range from month-long TESOL certificates to two-year Masters Degrees. However, if you just want to go to Asia for a couple years of sake-drinking fun, don’t feel that you need to undertake a course to get a job.

What about (a million other little things) about teaching abroad?

I had heaps of questions before I moved to Taiwan … could I buy breakfast cereal there? Would the keyboards have English on them? Would it be difficult to be a vegetarian? The best way to find the answers to all these quandaries is to hunt down the ubiquitous expat online message board for your country of choice. These message boards are positively thick with people aching to give you input and help you learn from their mistakes. Take advantage of it!

So get out there! Grab your passport, strap on that giant backpack and have an adventure teaching ESL abroad!

Class Discussion

photo by weaving major
I teach ESL to adults in St. Paul, MN. I love my job and my students pretty effing hard and on a pretty regular basis they bring me to tears of a) laughter b) tenderness c) both. But then we all know that I’m a weeper.

Past discussions I’ve had with students:

  • The first time a student’s husband “loved” her
  • How delicious snake and monkey are
  • If they will get a body like mine from drinking Pepsi
  • Why I have boobies but their Chinese teacher doesn’t
  • If ghosts live exclusively in the ocean
  • Why I have hair like a lion
Equally hilarious is trying to explain any sort of western holiday or celebration. I tried to teach my students about Independence Day with wee, England and America shaped puppets, and a ridiculous story about how England was the mother and America was the unruly child. This was obviously met with blank stares and “Teacher, no.”

So, when I read David Sedaris’s “Jesus Shaves” story I thought “David Sedaris! What are you doing in my classroom!? Get out of there, you!” It is, of course, hilarious and chronicles what happens when David begins taking french classes (in France) and his class tries to explain the concept of Easter to a Moraccan classmate.

Here just a bit of an excerpt.

The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. “It is,” said one, “a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and . . . oh, shit.”
She faltered, and her fellow countryman came to her aid.
“He call his self Jesus, and then he be die one day on two . . . morsels of . . . lumber.”
The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.
“He die one day, and then he go above of my head to live with your father.”
“He weared the long hair, and after he died, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples.”
“He nice, the Jesus.”
“He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today.”
Part of the problem had to do with grammar. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as “To give of yourself your only begotten son.” Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.
“Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb,” the Italian nanny explained. “One, too, may eat of the chocolate.”
“And who brings the chocolate?” the teacher asked.
I knew the word, and so I raised my hand, saying, “The Rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate.”
My classmates reacted as though I’d attributed the delivery to the Antichrist. They were mortified.

In Praise of Non-traditional Adulthood

photo by fayebatka

 

Lately, a lot of my favorite online haunts have been rife with talk of quarter-life crises and the reality of adulthood versus the rose-tinted nostalgia of our childhoods. Heavy stuff, surely! But it got my little brain a’workin on the topic of adulthood and how we all choose to use ours.I think we can all acknowledge that the American formula for a adulthood goes something like this:
1) attend four-year university
2) meet your special someone while attending said university
3) graduate and move in with special someone
4) get your starter job
5) marry special someone
6) advance in your job
7) baby #1
8) buy a house
9) baby #2
10) move the the suburbs, eat out exclusively at Olive Garden, spend your weekends engaging in lawn care and taking kids to soccer practice, slowly die inside.

I kid, I kid.

Kind of.

But what happens to those of us who don’t find the special someone? Or discover that we can’t get a job with that Anthropology degree? Or feel claustrophobic at the thought of being tied down by a career/spouse/child?You know what? I think it’s the pretty rare individual what actually follows this formula … though that doesn’t keep a lot of us from measuring ourselves against it. How silly! In my entire extended group of friends, I know exactly one person who has followed this formula (at least thus far, she’s on step six at this point … there’s no telling where she’ll go from there!) the rest of us have switched universities, ended long term relationships, had babies before we finished school or bought the house before the wedding. We have taken the scenic route, or a road less traveled or even a series of (interesting) dead ends.

None of this is to say that following the formula is bad. Babies are lovely! Weddings are grand! And lord but I would love to live in something bigger than a breadbox! But I think there’s a lot to be said for this non-traditional approach to adulthood and living life on our own terms, really thinking about the life and future we want for ourselves rather than swallowing this college+wedding+baby notion.

We need to stop punishing ourselves for deviating from what society has taught us is The Correct Way to navigate our 20s and 30s. I will not be ashamed of the holes in my resume resulting from world travel. I won’t be embarrassed to admit that I’m not a home-owner. I won’t blush and stammer when my nosy aunt asks me when I’m going to start making babies.

How closely have you followed the formula?

Weekend Project: Origami Crane Table-topper

Origami and I go way back. I spent nearly every Sunday of my childhood repurposing the Aitkin United Methodist Church bulletins into cranes, boxes, frogs and functioning Mt. Fujis, much to the annoyance of my parents. But now! I’ve used those same skills to whip up this cheap and easy center piece.

Ingredients:
Magazines
Scissors
Tall glass cylinder

1) Pull out your giant stack of magazines. Don’t lie, I know you have them! Rip out pages that are mostly monochromatic and fit the color scheme you’re going for.


2) Square off your pages by folding them into a triangle and cutting off the extra bits. I like to make different sized squares, so I can have a few wee cranes in the mix. It pays to be anal retentive here, because if your paper isn’t a square you’ll end up with a wonky duck, not the crane you’re after.


3) Following these instructions, fold your squared magazine pages into sweet little cranes!

4) Stuff your cranes into your glass cylinder and bask in the smugness of creating such cool centerpiece in 10 minutes with your old Cosmos.