May 31, 2012

Slowly Adjusting

It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Settle down folks! I haven't run away yet, just adjusting (slowly) to suburban life in New Hampshire and trying to find gainful employment.

Overnight I went from living in the back of my 1997 VW Jetta to sleeping in my own room with a lock on the door and space to roll over during the night. There are a lot of advantages to living in a sticks and bricks house but the number one best thing is a bathroom. Strange the things we come to appreciate.

Pierce Island, Portsmouth NH
I've been hanging out with the boys (the 5 and 7 year olds), playing lots of card games with Julie, and scouring the internet for jobs that sounds even slightly appealing. I'm not in a huge rush to get back to work, but I know that my savings won't last long so I need to buckle down.

Despite all the nice conveniences of living in a  house, I miss my car living a lot. Most of all I miss my alone time. I got use to hanging with the office ladies during the day and then having all evening (sometimes 7+ hours) to myself. I watched movies, read books, took myself for walks... Having a family around 24/7 is a big adjustment so I try to find some quiet time when I can. The other day I went to Pierce Island in Portsmouth for a few hours. I lay in the grass with an ice coffee and read Pride and Prejudice. It was wonderful and just what I needed before getting back to my errands.

My very cluttered room
In the past three days I sent off more than ten applications, took my boots to the cobbler, scanned 50 old photos, cleaned my mum's kitchen, and got an estimate for the belt I need replaced. I also found some almost new sneakers at Goodwill and have resolved to go for a walk every morning. This morning's walk was 2.5 miles, but we're only one day in and you all know how long my attention span lasts.

So there you have it folks, the life of a suburban house guest. I'm having fun with the family but getting antsy to be moving again and kind of regretting clearing my car out. If nothing else I could take off for a few days in Maine here and there. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and feel too exposed. Sometimes I forget that I don't have to carry all my stuff with me. Very often I am doing errands and realize that something I need is back at the house and not tucked away under a seat. Oh well, adjustments.

Thanks for the concerned emails!

May 25, 2012

A Cluttered Car

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, 
of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?
-Albert Einstein

Minus the mattress
Check it out! Yesterday I cleaned the car out and it was like that clique clown car. I just kept pulling stuff out and have now come to two conclusions. The first is that I am the most awesome packer ever. Seriously, this picture doesn't even have my mattress in it and there was still room for me. The second conclusion is that I may have some hoarding tendencies... Not a good thing when your living space is as small as mine.

New Hampshire might be my home for a little bit this summer so for the time being I can unpack the clown car. The best part is taking out the mattress and giving it a serious deep clean.

So today I am going to apply to a few more jobs and wait patiently for responses. Today was my last real paycheck from Massachusetts, so lets hope someone answers soon. 

May 24, 2012

A Day of Lasts

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. 
-Gilda Radner

Yesterday morning I woke up in my car for the last time in what could be a long time. I lay there in my morning haze listening to the birds chirping and the shopping carts banging together. After a while I got psyched up to begin my day of last times. I drove to campus for the last time, wondering what it would be like not to drive within the first ten minutes of waking up. I took a shower in the gym for the last time and cleaned out my locker. I went to see my lovely office ladies, sitting at the desk I took over two years ago. Would you believe that as a going away gift the ladies paid for more than half of the belt I need? Ever since Maine the extreme squeaking is at an all time loud and now I have cash to fix it next week.
An amazing gift from Debbie, our resident quilter

Living in my car means that I haven't had a place to go "home" to. Consequently, the office has doubled as my home. I had a french press, books, art supplies. All sorts of stuff I'd collected over the past two years and stashed in drawers and closets. If the office has been my home then the ladies have been my roommates, hanging out with me all day every day, talking through decisions, getting me through Spanish, commiserating about professors. It was hard to say goodbye, but I did and I headed out of town for the last time.

I don't know exactly what I'm up to this summer. I want to work outside if possible, taking advantage of the sunshine, but I'm still going to miss chatting in the office.On to the next adventure!

May 20, 2012

Adventures In Maine

The Main Street Shops in Belfast
Last week I finally made the choice to go to Maine instead of New Orleans. After applying to a bunch of schools I got an interview for a school in Belfast, right on the Penobscot Bay. Pretty area, low key, sea breezes. Sounded great! They wanted to do the interview at their school in Bangor (multiple branches) so the new problem became how to make the 14 hours round trip to and from Maine. I'm not going to get into the many plans I had (a rental car being just one) but I finally decided to drive to a friend's house on Thursday night (3+ hours), from there to Bangor on Friday (4+ hours), down to Belfast on Friday evening (1 hour) where I would spend the night, and back to New Hampshire on Saturday (4+ hours).

I know, that's a lot of millage to put on the Go Go Gadget Red Car, but I figured that by doing it in stages I would save her some wear and tear.

So, At 10:30am on Friday morning I got all gussied up, put fifteen dollars worth of gas in the car, and headed north. Maine is on odd state, but odd in the good way. There was a Volvo with solar panels on the roof, a mechanic that dealt only in VW buses, and moose crossing signs every 20 miles or so. Portland, the capital, is only an hour into the state and considered southern. After that the Main Pike ends, the trees get thicker, and the highway becomes so cracked that police are unnecessary: hitting a pot hole at 70 MPH is its own punishment and traffic slows to about 50.

I stopped at a Wal-mart in Waterville and as I was waiting for the cashier a wonderful women asked to buy my purse. Remember a few months back I found a teal Dolce & Gabana bag at the thrift store for $3? Well this lady (who was buying a teal bike for her birthday) thought it was "the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen", so we talked for a bit (but I did not sell it to her).

Penobscot Bay
I got to Bangor around 3pm and read a book until my interview at 4pm. I got the job but I don't think I'll be taking it, for a number of reasons including the need to transport children in my car (not a good plan).

After the interview I wanted to see Belfast so I headed south east, or so I thought. Turns out I headed north east and wound up in Acadia National Park. Do judge! I was buzzing along listening to DJ Leif Erikson (no joke) and then had to back track. Two hours later I was in Belfast and too wiped out to go sight seeing. I found a Hanaford parking and feel straight to sleep.

The Warf
Saturday morning I got a cup of coffee and drove back downtown to look around and snap some pictures. The whole town of Belfast is on a hill that goes right down to the sea. It was very nice and the people seemed friendly, but it was time for me to get going. Instead of taking Rt 3 back to the highway I took scenic Rt 1 down the coast. If you ever have a chance to visit the coastal towns, like Bath and Rockland, take it.

After all that driving I have a killer trucker tan/burn and am heading back to Mass today, so it can only get worse. I have two more days of work and then I'm in New Hampshire for a bit and then I need to figure out what I'm doing next. Right now, I need another cup of coffee...

May 16, 2012

NOLA: A Struggle for Authenticity

*Hello there, Tuckerbag readers! My name is Ryan McCoy and I will be your guest writer today. When I first contacted Ash about writing for her site, she was planning on heading to New Orleans. Naturally, since I had been there earlier this year, I had a slam dunk just waiting to be written. Then a certain chowder eating state lured her away, and I felt silly. Ultimately, I kept the NOLA theme and wrote about experiences I had that highlight the gaudy atmosphere that might make living and teaching there a less than desirable experience. If you like my rambling, you can find me at

*Small note: I don't use Blogger, and right now the interface is coming through in Spanish. So there's that.


"It's the most authentic of all American cities." - Brad Pitt

Walking along a hotel lined street just after dark, a pale, 20 something guy in a Lacoste polo stumbles out of a bar immediately in front of me. "Welcome to New Orleans!" He slurs in a direction that, with some imagination, could be described as my own. Gotta love authenticity.

Continuing down the French Quarter, all the bars seem...too perfect. Too
refined, too eye catching.

 "In this vision of the future, the resurrected city will be sanitized of its past charm and turned into a culturally and ethnically homogenous city that is an artificial and contrived version of its old urban self." Professor Kevin Fox Gotham, on how many viewed the prospects after the storm.

That, in a nutshell, is the great catch-22 of the Crescent City. No other destination
in the US relies so heavily on its cultural image to attract visitors; and no other city
must struggle as hard as New Orleans from having its soul trampled.

Hell, even I contribute to the problem when choosing a suburb way in the northwest corner of the city for a boondocking site. Whenever I spend money around my parking choice, I tacitly support the encroachment of this gentrification.

I feel ashamed...I am choosing the wrong side in a battle older than Katrina, fought over the dollars of visitors (like me) and higher income residents gradually overwhelming the makeup of the city.

Am I killing New Orleans to create Houston?

Going back into town the next day, another intoxicated male--again dressed as if in preparation for fraternity auditions--offers the familiar greeting: "Welcome to New Orleans!"


Leaving the pampered atmosphere of the French Quarter, I search for the Faubourg Treme and something closer to my definition of authenticity.

My GPS informs me I have arrived, but this doesn't look all that different from the other neighborhoods in town. I hit the GPS a few times because it must be making an error. There's no sign directing me to a famous artist's house, no walkway conveniently hitting all the choice spots, and no shiny new coffee shops. I hit the GPS a few more times for good measure.

"The place is special because of who lives here...and what they contribute. Not necessarily what it looks like." A resident offered, noticing my confusion.

"For now, check out the bridge, then come back during the night."

(These pillar paintings continue for about a mile in each direction)

The nearby bridge is my first taste of the positive dimensions of tourism; allowing artists an outlet of control over what "Authentic New Orleans" actually means.

"The narrative's lack of specificity leaves it open to many interpretations and creates a discursive space for the inclusion of different peoples and ethnic backgrounds." - Authentic New Orleans: Tourism, Culture, and Race in the Big Easy

Since Katrina, the city has advertised an image of "artistic re-birth." In order for this to work, at least for now, marketers are cursed with the horrors of actually making room for those insufferable  artistic types.

That night, a walk outside of downtown proper brings this reality to life.

"You can walk off the street and, for practically no cover charge, see someone who headlines a festival in Europe: Germaine Bazzle or James Andrews or Delfeayo Marsalis" -Producer Quint Davis in an interview with USA Today.

Run down buildings appear to sway with the music as revelers stream by in a procession of excitement and vibrant color. Throw a stone, and you are likely to hit a musician discarding large sums of money to play internationally for a modest Louisiana living. Why?

"Its condition is so bad that when I write about it, as I intend to do soon, nobody will believe I am telling the truth. But it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes than to own the whole state of Ohio." - Traveler Lafcadio Hearn, summing up artistic attachment to the city.

(Ingredients of an authentic NOLA street band: Fiddle, soapbox, and a remarkably lazy dog.)

At no location in this city was this exemplified better than Vaughan's Lounge (featuring trumpet player Kermit Ruffins of HBO fame). I was expecting a tourist scene with khakis and high brow types who have accomplished the rare feat of watching more than two episodes of Treme.

Instead, the joint looks ready to crumble. The shoddy walls try desperately to hold the sweltering heap of people crammed inside.

I sip my beer and memorize fire escapes.

Tonight all social demographics drawn to NOLA are coalesced: The older, cultured suburbanites mentioned earlier, 9th ward residents who have been coming for years, adventurous young travelers looking to escape the mundane, and even a few foreigners who have come to the city for work. Ruffins melts everyone together with his wailing jazz.

This is how reviewers on Yelp describe the place:

"Vaughan's was a sweaty, sloppy, hot mess where people as old as my grandmother were grinding on their dance partners in a southern bluesy way."

"The show itself is a good free form performance, but the real draw is the audience and the space itself."

"The outside of this building looks, with no exaggeration, like Adam Sandler's character's house in the movie The Waterboy."

(Pictured: Something much nicer looking than Vaughan's, but nowhere near as fun.)

Will places like Vaughan's still survive once the city has fully recovered it's image (and thus, doesn't need them as much for authentication)?

There is a narcissistic trend among travelers to place that responsibility squarely on the actions of visitors. This thinking is a disservice to the agency of locals--residents with strength enough to control their own destiny.

"But we cannot depend on visitors to preserve Mardi Gras (and the culture in general), that is our job, not the visitors' job." - A Mardi Gras Krewe Cheif in an interview with Professor Gotham.

On my way out of town, I literally run into a man who is working to do just that, Treme and The Wire Actor Wendell Pierce.

"Welcome To New Orleans!" he rumbles, and for once I actually feel...welcome.

(Both of us agreed this is a horribly unflattering picture for all involved, and should be kept secret. Don't hate me, Wendell.)

May 15, 2012

A Cracked Hose

The Jetta is mad and when she gets mad she throws temper-tantrums like a four year old. On the plus side, she rarely busts something that I can't live without. Instead she send me a warning, like this one discovered as a result of the coolant leak.

About 4,000 miles ago the drive belt started squeaking and I knew that it needed to be replaced. Unfortunately I just can't afford to throw $350 bucks into her right now so I have have been actively ignoring the problem. I know, not a very adult way to deal with a car problem because if the drive belt goes (knock on wood) it's going to cost me a heck of a lot more to fix the engine. Truth is that it wouldn't cost me anything to fix the engine because she would be abandoned on the side of the road or (more likely) pushed stealthily into a nearby pond.

It seems that the Jetta has deduced my intentions and has been limping along for much longer than she had any right to. But just because she doesn't want to be junked doesn't mean she can't make her feelings known.

While this is not (technically) and vital hose, I've been told it could cut down my gas millage, not to mention the oil it's spewing all over the Jetta's innards. I'm surprised she isn't smoking like a forest fire yet (still knocking on wood), but I'm more concerned that an already taxed system is being taxed even more.

So, she's sending me a hint but a hint is still less than a winning scratch ticket and I now need to figure out the cost of replacing this new hose problem.

On Friday I have a job interview at a school outside Bangor Maine (Just as a side note I would like to point out that New Orleans schools have had my resume for over a month and I still haven't heard from them). That's a 6 1/2 hour 300 mile drive from Amherst ONE WAY. One of my lovely coworkers suggested that I rent a car to drive up and save the Jetta 600 miles of timing belt usage. Even though I really don't have the cash to rent a car (even the $40 economy sizes Chevy Aveo) it cheaper than a hose or a drive belt and I won't kill my transportation/housing on the side of a Maine highway.

Shoe Shopping

The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.
-Erma Bombeck

My mother was the queen of window shopping. We use to go into Exeter or Portsmouth or Manchester New Hampshire and walk through shops, pretending we could buy anything we wanted. We would try on clothes and shoes, we would even show up at Macy's to have our makeup done. It was pretty fun and set me up for a long life of validation through window shopping, which is much safer (and cheaper) than validation through actual shopping.

So, for the past couple months I've been "visiting" these shoes at JC Penny's. Nothing creepy, I just go in every couple of weeks and try them on. They were $35 (also known as 3 1/2 hours of my life) and way outside my price range. But, when I went today, it was a graduation miracle! My shoes were on sale for $14, which is very fortunate because I needed some professional looking shoes for my interviews. Sandals, while comfy and convenient, don't scream "responsible adult".

Here's some truth from a vehicle dweller: It's not easy to roll out of the car looking classy every morning! It's not like I have a huge wardrobe or even a place to hang clothes up.When I walk to the showers I need to be carrying everything I need for the day and there's no full length mirror. See? This is probably (duh) why people who live in their cars have developed a reputation for being unkempt. So, in closing I argue that $14 was a small price to pay for being the decently dressed car dweller and it might just convince someone to put me in charge of young minds. Thanks JC Penny.

May 14, 2012


It has been a wild and crazy weekend!

First of all, I took Friday off of work with the idea that I would watch the commencement at graduation. Bad idea. You might remember that I was having some coolant trouble (I'm going through it way too fast) so I try to avoid traffic jams whenever possible. Unfortunately, with five colleges within ten minutes of each other and graduations going on, traffic was at an all time awful and there I was, smack in the middle of it. Murphy's law: if the car is going to overheat it will be on a hill, on a narrow street, with no  breakdown lane. So there I was with smoke/steam choking out the sun (maybe that's melodramatic). After pulling into someone's driveway and letting the old girl cool off for a bit, I pulled a U-Turn and headed out of town, abandoning graduation entirely. When I stopped to fill up on coolant I found that the reservoir wasn't even attempting to hold liquid and there was a red stream running down the hill away from the car.

I woke up at 8:30am Saturday morning and headed towards campus for a shower. I couldn't get within a mile of the gym as parents from across the country helped their kids move out of the dorms. The Sociology ceremony was at 1pm but with my coolant problem I needed to see a mechanic if I was going to make the trip to New Hampshire for mother's day. Turns out the problem wasn't huge (or at least not expensive) so a few hours and $30 later saw me back on the road and headed north.

Here's the condensed version of my weekend:
  • Took the ocean view scenic route into NH
  • Stopped at Odiorne Point to dip my toes in the Atlantic (see calming video above)
  • Had Margaritas with Julie
  • Ate awesome Salmon and had a few beers with friends
  • Slept on the pull out couch
  • Got woken up at 6am by an eight year old poking me in the back of the head
  • Had lovely omelets for breakfast
  • Drove to see my folks
  • Had a few beers, chilled out, chatted
  • Had LOBSTER for lunch (oh yeah)
  • Drove back to Mass
And that's about the point that I collapsed from exhaustion.

I only have one week left in Massachusetts and, after three years, I think I'm feeling a bit nostalgic. Stay tuned for the employment 

May 11, 2012

Wear Sunscreen

Considering my graduation I felt that this was the best kind of advice for all of us, recent graduates or not, and probably means more than most of the commencement speeches going on this week.

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing everyday that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.”
Mary Schmich,
Wear Sunscreen 

Graduation Day

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
-George Bernard Shaw

As you all know, I've been struggling with my next step after college. Do I go to New Orleans, where I can teach at an inner city school and have a major change of venue? Or do I go to the coast of Maine, where I can teach at a small school and take advantage of the relative calm? I've been trying to decide ever since my graduation was put in question by a failed Spanish exam. I thought I had made up my mind, but it seems I still had doubts. Finally, last week, I made a small wager with myself: The first state to ask for an interview would win me. The reality is that every wager we make is only against ourselves, and I figured that this was a way to make a decision without actually making it. I realize that this is a kind of cop out and dangerously similar to a passive existence but, because I could not make the choice, I needed something else to make it for me. 

Today was graduation at UMass Amherst. In keeping with the anonymity both vehicle dwellers and bloggers are entitled to, I've never volunteered where I was at school (for obvious reasons), but now that I'm done I can't see the harm. At 28 years old and only having been here for two years I didn't see the point in walking. For me this wasn't so much the end of something as a logical next step on the road to... wherever it is I'm trying to get. Unfortunately the fact that I was not at the ceremony meant that I was out in the world as hundreds of families tried to get as close to the memorial stadium as possible. I had to pull over three times after my car began to smoke. Even after adding extra coolant the poor thing still had trouble and finally I gave up. I planned to catch some of the commencement speech, but instead I cranked the radio and headed out of town.

I  drove all the way to West Brookfield, about 40 minutes east, and stopped at one of my favorite sites. As I've grown older I've developed some concrete opinions about certain things. I like Hermen Hesse's Demien more than Stienbeck's Mice and Men, Moose Tracks ice cream is better than Rocky Road, and sculptures are the most soulful expression through  artistic medium. The fact that I like one doesn't mean that I don't enjoy the other, just that I don't connect with it in the same way. Today, as my classmates were throwing the caps in the air and cheering their deliverance from college, I was standing in West Brookfield with this fountain. It's on the village green and seems completely out of place in the small town, but it's lovely and gave me a much better send off than I could have had in Amherst.

When I got up the courage to head back to campus I had a an email from a private special needs school in Maine. They want to interview me on Tuesday, which is pretty inconvenient considering I'm heading that direction tomorrow night and back down to Mass on Sunday evening. With the car smoking I would rather not tax her more than necessary, but I may need to. So Maine wins, I'll let teachNOLA know on Monday that I will not be there for orientation. The school is Maine has already asked how soon I can start, which I see as a good sign.

Thanks everyone, for all the advice. Keep it coming: this decision is bound to be followed by many more. 

May 10, 2012

Cap & Gown

A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that "individuality" is the key to success.
-Robert Orben

I picked up my cap and gown today along with the tassels. I get three, one for my BA and two for the minors, and they're all different colors. Graduation is tomorrow and the campus is getting crazy. My parking lot/home base has been over run with proud parents in RVs. I'm hoping they behave themselves and don't draw too much unwanted attention.

I'm not planning to walk in graduation, but I thought I might swing by to watch commencement. I'm driving up to New Hampshire on Saturday night to have a graduation toast with some friends and then Sunday I'm dropping in on the folks for Mother's Day.

I know I already made up my mind on the whole New Orleans vs Maine thing, but I'm seriously thinking that what I need is some down time. I know it's juvenile and New Orleans makes more sense, but I'm going to give myself the weekend to think about it. For now I'm going to intentionally not think about and watch some episodes of Midsomer Murders

May 5, 2012

The Art of Eating

"The fact that the poor are alive is clear proof of their ability."
-Muhammad Yunus, Banker To The Poor

This summer I'm going to be working seven days a week. The first half of each week day will be spent teaching summer school and the second half will be spent learning educational pedagogy with other new teachers. On the weekends I will work fourteen hours for the hostel I'm living at to pay for my bed. The kicker is that I'm not actually being paid for any of this work (at least, not in cash), and my hours will be too erratic to let me get a waitress job at night (not like I could cram anything more into my schedule). The only real solution is to put aside some money. Unfortunately, because I've been in school, I've only been working part time and after my regular bills there really isn't much left over.

By working at the hostel at least my housing is taken care of, but I will need to eat once in a while and I'll probably need a trolly pass at $50 per month. Did I mention this will go on for three months? 90 days with no income. Sounds like a reality show. I've done the math. $450, or $5 per day, will get me a pack of mushrooms to throw in my Raman Noodles. On top of the $450 for food I'll need $150 for a trolly pass as well as another $450 just to meet my credit card payments. Looks like I'll be eating Roman Noodles sans mushrooms. That's over $1,000 I need to save and let's be realistic: that's just not going to happen. 

My solution is to bum rides from other teachers when possible or walk. Yeah, I know it's going to be hot and sticky, but that will save $150. As for food, how about this?
Yes, I recognize that I might starve on Tuesdays and Saturdays, but maybe I can shove some rolls into my purse. Instead of $5 a day, I can nurse a $2.50 beer which cuts my costs in half. I can't get around the credit card, so I'll have to put that money aside somehow. 

God, I hate being broke. Don't get me wrong, it's romantic and everything and I know money doesn't buy happiness yada yada yada, but I'd like to go a full three days without checking my bank balance or buy a buy a new pair of jeans instead of a "new to me" pair from Goodwill. On the bright side, if practice makes perfect then I'm going to be a penny pinching savant by the time I'm 30.

If you're also super broke, check out 
Broke-Ass Stuart's Goddamn Website for some ideas and a laugh.

May 3, 2012

And The Answer Is...

Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked.
"Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire Cat.
"I don't know" Alice answered.
"Then," said the Cat, "it doesn't matter."
-Lewis Carol, Alice in Wonderland
Two years ago the lack of a college degree was limiting my employment opportunities. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to be (I'm still not) but I had a general idea and now, armed with a freshly printed BA, I can do whatever it is I want to do. It's like standing in front of a tray of cookies and, even though you know can come back for seconds, you try to take one of each flavor because you can't decide on just one.

But, for better or for worse, I have managed to decide on just one: New Orleans. While I know that in the long term I would be happier in Maine, New Orleans will give me the short term experience and support I need. I've already invested so much into it that I might as well carry through and then next year I can go north to an island and maybe the year after that... Well, I could go any place. So it's time to get to work. I have a whole class to get done before I head down and money to be saving if I'm going to stay fed through the summer.

This is me trying to be grown up and making a decision based not on what I want right now, but on what will have the greater benefit down the road. New Orleans might be higher stress but it's still a great city. Maybe I'll take up Yoga or something.

May 2, 2012

Two Roads Diverged

 I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost

After a full week of studying and worrying about graduation, I am emotionally exhausted, and the ride isn't over yet. The latest news: I've passed Spanish. Yup, you read that right. My TA bumped up the final exam score enough for me to pass with a D. I'm still not happy about the grade or the evaluations, so I'll be writing letters to the Chancellor and who ever else might respond. The bottom line though is that it's passing and I'll be graduating on time which means that New Orleans is back on the table. Which brings me to the next bit of stress: Do I want to teach in New Orleans?

For the past few days I've been looking at schools in Maine. Small schools in rural coastal towns and islands where I could start small in an area I adore. Maybe I just did too good a job of justifying the potential loss of NOLA, but I kind of want to teach in Maine and wondering if, even with the guarantees of New Orleans, I really want to head south.

Here are the pros and cons as I see them:

New Orleans
  • Pros: It's a fun city and I'll be doing a rewarding job while learning a lot about how to teach under the worst of circumstances. Rent is cheap and Sarah will be joining me down there, so it will be even cheaper. The pay is good and it's going to look great on a resume. I also won't have to use my car (which is not sounding great) so that will let me keep more of my paycheck. Another huge pro is that teachNOLA will provide support throughout the school year so I'll have an advocate.
  • Cons: I don't plan on living in New Orleans forever or even making a career out of inner city based education. The experience, while rewarding, will be stressful and at time discouraging. I'll be expected to advance my students at least 1 1/2 years, not the typical one grade level, so there will be long hours and lots of nail biting. The education through teachNOLA is excelent and helpful, but it's not free. By the end of the year it costs about $4,000 which will be taken out of my paychecks. Even though I have a position with teachNOLA I'll still have to find a school when I get down there, so I'll be doing applications and interviews for a while until I'm hired as well as teaching summer school, working at the hostel, and not making any money. And then of course there is the heat and humidity. 
  • Pros: Maine is  beautiful and one of my favorite states, plus there are few things I love as much as the ocean, so you can't beat the location. The rural schools have small classes which would allow me to teach without the pressures of a large inner city school and really focus on method and material, which might be a benefit in the long run. I'm familiar with the culture and, while this may not seem like a big deal, it definitely can come in handy especially when dealing with families.  Speaking of families, I'll be within a day's drive (7 hours) of my nephews and my parents, which would be kind of nice.
  • Cons: They pay less and I might have to figure out transportation (fix the Jetta or buy something), which will cut my paycheck even further. While money was never the point, it does come in handy when the credit card bill comes due. I'll also have to figure out housing which could be sparse depending on the location. I won't have the educational benefits of the teachNOLA summer program or the support from an outside organization. In New Orleans I would have staff supporting my job hunt, but realistically I might not even be hired by a school in Maine.
When I begin to lean towards Maine I wonder if it's only because off the stress I've been under this year. Maybe I just want some calm and quiet, which is not a good reason to choose Maine in the long term. On the other hand I wonder if I lean towards New Orleans only because I've put so much time, effort, and money (plane tickets) into securing the position.

I wish I has a week to think about it, but I need to either start my course work for New Orleans ASAP or start applying for jobs in Maine. I was looking at summer schools I could teach at and they'll need applications even sooner. 
So come on, peanut gallery: you've always given me good advice. Which road?

May 1, 2012

Maybe Maine...

So here's the deal, and hang on because this is going to get twisty.

I failed Spanish. I studied ridiculously hard over the weekend (like 23+ hours) but, while I entered the test feeling very prepared, I left confused and downhearted. A group of classmates who gathered in the hallway afterwards agreed that the test was aggressive at best and mean spirited at worst. We were tested on material we hadn't fully learned and, because most of us are seniors and most of us failed, most of us will not be graduating. I know what you're thinking: this is a reflection of the teacher, not the class! Well, we agree with you and most of us will be appealing our grade with the administration, not because we are over-privileged ponces that want an easy A, but because we worked hard and learned a lot but do not agree with the method of assessment. The problem is that I'm not sure this situation will be resolved in three weeks and if I don't have that degree in hand when I head to New Orleans, I won't have a job when I get down there. But there is a silver lining!

I spent a lot of time on the phone with my sister last night and right before we hung up she said "you're getting very 'glass half full' in your old age". She was unpacking in her new Montana apartment and I was having a very passive aggressive nervous breakdown in the English Department. After I outlined my plan to overthrow the Spanish faculty single handed, we started talking about other options and why this is actually a good thing. Pay close attention while I do some good old fashion justification:

New Orleans is a very fun and interesting city, but I wasn't moving down there for the city itself. I was taking this job because it would allow me to get my teaching certification while making a meaningful contribution to very worthy cause (low income and high risk education). So the question then becomes; can I get certified a different way? The answer is that yes, I can find a state with lax provisional certification, work for a year, and use that classroom experience to apply for professional certification. But where?

Rural Maine, that's where! Did you know that there are towns in Maine with only a one room schoolhouse? Islands that only have a hand full of children? They have trouble getting teachers because, really, who wants live on a tiny island with thirty people for a New England winter? Me! That's who! Instead of beginning my teaching career ("career" might be a bit optimistic) with a high needs classroom and students with behavioral issues, I can get my bearings. Get comfortable with classroom management and lesson plans. Learn to work with parents and administration... In reality this is going to make me a better teacher in the long run and potentially save me from a straight up ulcer.

Ok, I realize that a rural island in Maine is kind of (exactly) the opposite of a large southern city, but doesn't it sound great? They pay decent money (about $34k) and maybe I can do some boating...