Kazakhstan

When asked where I was going for the Eid break and I responded with Kazakhstan the reaction usually was, oh, do you know someone there? It definitely wasn’t a popular beach or resort destination but it was a chance to visit a new country and see Autum. Autum recently started at a new school in the small town of Atyrau, Kazakhstan and I was going to check it out. It was quite the trip as it took three flights to get there accompanied with long layovers. Now that I’ve made that trip once, next time I will do a much better job at booking my flights.

My first long lay over was in Dubai which I was not mad about as it’s a great airport. Once I arrived it was early morning and I had to switch terminals but thankfully it was a short shuttle bus ride. The hotel in the airport is really nice. You don’t have to walk to get to because it is literally in the middle up on the third floor. Most airport hotels you have to walk a ways to get to or are not as easy as you would think to get to. For this, I was thankful.

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High class 🙂

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The halls of the hotel were enclosed with these clear walls. They kept all of the noise out.

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Lots of pillows, comfortable bed and a massage chair.

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The view right outside my room.

I had a sixteen hour layover. Now I know what you are saying, “why didn’t you get a later flight” or “why didn’t you get out and explore the city?” It was much cheaper to have longer layovers and I knew that Dubai would be a great airport to have a layover at. As for getting out in the city I’m saving that for another trip when I can come back and play tourist. I just wanted to chill at the airport, which I did and it was amazing. After arriving to the correct gate area I found an awesome spot in a coffee shop, ordered an iced latte, and started my blog. I left Dubai at 7 p.m. and arrived in Astana at 1:30 a.m. Now for future reference long layovers are not a good idea at Astana airport, there is nothing to do, nothing. I had a seven hour layover so I basically slept on an airport bench on and off for a few hours then headed to Atyrau. I left Astana at 8:30 a.m. and was passed out the entire flight since you know I had to sleep on a bench. I finally arrived to Atyrau at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Yes it was a long trip. The actual flight time was not even nine hours but it took me thirty-two hours to get there. Ahhh traveling.

Atyrau is a small town in Kazakhstan. Chevron oil is large company there so there are many expats employed there that are affiliated with Chevron. There is not much English in Kazakhstan so that makes for a lot of adventures. Luckily Autum has a taxi service that she uses and can request taxi’s via phone or e-mail so they always know where we want to go. Autum picked me up then we headed to her apartment. She lives on the 17th floor and has a pretty sweet view of the city. She faces the side to see the sunsets and they are totally worth the watch.

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Autum’s apartment building.

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Walk on the river.

Autum had school the week while I was there which was perfect in that I could get my to-do list done, relax and then do activities once she was done with school. I had a pretty extensive to-do list to complete over vacation with such things as go through my bookmarks on my computer. Seriously though who has time to do that? I also helped Autum unpack her shipment from Egypt because I think that is fun and she does not. On Monday I went to school with Autum in the morning and then before lunch we went apple picking with her class. We did a few activities during the week after school but it was mainly a pretty chill break which was just what I wanted.

Fun fact: Atyrau is located in both Europe and Asia. The river below separates the two continents and there are markers on both sides of the river.

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Europe marker for the Europe side.

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Ural River that separates the two continents.

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Asia marker for the Asia side.

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Doing tourist things.

We also visited the Russian Orthodox Church which was beautiful inside and walked past the Manjali Mosque.

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Happy Eid!

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We also went to a local gallery, met the artist and looked through a ton of his paintings. I found one that I liked but didn’t love it enough to buy it, maybe next time.

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Grocery shopping – this was interesting and a little frustrating too due to nothing being in English. Oh and also this the vodka aisle, just vodka. There were about four more aisles for wine and beer. It’s pretty much the opposite of Bahrain and stuff was pretty cheap.

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I got a lot of hang out time with Hanuel. Yes, I did miss him but you know what I didn’t miss – his hair being everywhere 😉 Look at that face!

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There is a restaurant called Chicago so of course I had to go. There was nothing remotely even close to Chicago food on the menu, it took forever and wasn’t that great but it was fun to be a Chicago themed restaurant in Kazakhstan.

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Autum works with a lot of really great people. Many of her co-workers have been teaching for a while and/or have been in the international teaching world for a while. It was nice to talk with other teachers and get their take on the schools in the world. I know I’ve said this before but it really is true – the more teachers you meet while internationally teaching the more you realize what a small world it is. There are some new teachers at my school that a few of the teachers in Kazakhstan worked with before – small world. Friday before I left I went out with a few of the spouses. We went to the Lenin statue not to be confused with John Lennon. Vladimir Lenin was in power in Russia/Soviet Union from 1917 – 1924. He used to have many statues in high traffic areas around the city but now this statue is tucked away off of some back streets, for obvious reasons. Our last stop was the Beer House, Bavarius. We had a few beers, chatted for a bit and then I was headed to the airport to start my journey home.

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Lenin statue – pretty big.

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Bavarius Brewery

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My journey home was not as long as on the way there but still long, about twenty four hours. On the way home I flew to Almaty, Kazakhstan which I was hoping to be better than Astana being that the website said they had a hotel that was only a three minute walk. Once I arrived I had an eight hour layover right in the middle of the night so getting some sleep was a necessity. The hotel was close, not connected to the airport but it was across the parking lot. My plan was to get a semi lux room for $30. They were out and the only one’s available where the very basic room that only had a sink in the room. The bathroom and shower were in the hallway. This room was only $15. Now for $15 you get exactly what you pay for. I didn’t even take pictures but it was a place for me to get some sleep so it served it’s purpose. My next flight was to Dubai then to Bahrain. There was a Subway near my gate in Dubai so I was happy and it only took me thirty minutes to get home from the airport, win-win.

Later skaters

-B

 

 

 

Back to Bahrain and back to school

The end of the summer means it’s time to get back to work a.k.a. school. I’m still glad to have the excited feeling of a new school year. As I teacher I hope that feeling never goes away because then it might be time to find a new profession. This year I was coming in with a good attitude and a bunch of new ideas that I was going to try with my classes.

I came back early to Bahrain to help some friends out by flying their dogs to them. That entire experience was super stressful. I give props to those people who travel with kids, pets and even those who travel with both. This experience proved to me that I do not want to own either, kids or pets, it’s all too much. In the end though I got through it and delivered two alive dogs to their owners who are all now happily living a new life in a new country.

Once returning to Bahrain I had one day to get everything in order. The following day we started our teacher institute week. It was fun to meet the new staff especially my two new P.E. guys. The first week was basically meetings on top of meetings but there was a small amount of time to work in our classrooms. That Saturday I headed to school to finish up my to-do list. To say I feel on top of it this year would be an understatement. It’s been a great start to the year. The new addition of another P.E. teacher has been amazing and the new P.E. guys are great to work with. Due to the addition of another P.E. teacher we now have more flexibility with our classes. We decided to split up the classes between the three of us and we are all teaching our own classes. This year I am teaching Pre-K, KG, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th grade boys and girls, and high school girls 9-12. We run on a six day cycle so three of the days are elementary days and the other three are middle/high school days. They alternate every other day.

I was excited to implement two new ideas into my P.E. classes and they both are starting out great.

Muscle & Bone of the Month – each month my elementary classes will learn about a new muscle and bone. We will learn how to pronounce it, where it is located, practice writing it, the purpose of it and what exercises/activities use that particular muscle and bone. I’ve never copied and laminated so much in my entire teaching career. I definitely made up for it this year!

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My fourth graders working on spelling and writing Bicep and Cranium, our muscle and bone of the month. They did a great job.

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Behavior Chart – most elementary classes use behavior charts and this is a combination of other teachers ideas and what I have “borrowed” from them. At the start of each elementary class they start on green. If there behavior is less than desirable such as not listening, not following directions, not working as a team, etc. they move to yellow and then possibly red. If they adjust their behavior they can move back to yellow/green. If the class ends on green they can move their corresponding jersey on the game board. Once a class’s jersey makes it to the finish they earn a free period of P.E. to choose whatever activity they would like. They also start over again once they reach the finish and try to earn another free choice day. The kids are doing well with it and like to move their jersey at the end of class.

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My office:

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My webpage for Elementary P.E.

https://sites.google.com/a/rvis.edu.bh/elementary-p-e/

My Monthly P.E. Newsletter – I started this in Egypt and it was a great way to let the parents know what we are doing in class so I decided to start it again this year. Here is the link if you wanted to take a look:

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Year 2 at RVIS, Year 4 of International Teaching, Year 12 of teaching

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Later skaters

-B

 

Summer Fun

It was a whirlwind summer and I had an amazing time…

Activities with the Little One’s. 

One of the biggest reason’s I come home, especially at Christmas, is to see my little people. We did lot’s of activities this summer and had a great time.

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Firefighter!

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Played with Lego’s on a light board.

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Indoor climbing fun zone.

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Played with blocks at the learning museum.

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Went on carnival rides.

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Played pie face.

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Went down the slide…about 5 times.

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Had a bad attitude because she didn’t want her birthday picture taken.

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Was all smiles after picking out her birthday present – Peppa Pig’s camper.

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Grumpy face…

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Happy face!

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Played at home…a lot!

St. Louis for a Bachelorette Party

My soon to be sister-in-law had her bachelorette party in St. Louis so my BFF and I headed down for a night out.

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Best decision ever….taking the train!

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With the soon to be bride

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Out in ballpark village – looking into Busch stadium from the balcony. This place is awesome!

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Reserved – that’s us!

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Bar area upstairs looking into Busch Stadium. Awesome – even if this is where the Cards play 😉

Hawaii

In a word – Amazing! I was lucky enough to travel with Autum again. Her parent’s are living there so we stayed with them and they did a great job of playing tour guide and taxi. We stayed for ten days and did so much in that short amount of time.

The diving was great. We did two dives, well actually I only did one. I got super sea sick, which I never have before so I sat the second one out. We made a lot of touristy stops such as The Dole Plantation, Pearl Harbor, Polynesian Culture Center but also went to local beaches and hangouts. Pearl Harbor was amazing and very somber at the same time. The entire place is set up very nicely and gives you so much background information. I walked away with a much better understanding of the events leading up to, the day of and what came from Pearl Harbor. The Polynesian Culture center was very cool. We watched a show that featured dancing, fire dancing and a story of local culture. We hung out at a few different beaches and saw the most beautiful landscapes. My favorite part of Hawaii, Oahu to be exact because that is the island we were on, is that one side has beautiful beaches, one side has huge, beautiful mountains and in certain places in the middle there are forests.

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Morning of our dives – what an awesome looking sky!

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My view for the second dive…Got sea sick, puked over the side of the boat and got fried by the sun.

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Arriving in Hawaii – Aloha!

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Coffee plantation

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Dole plantation

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Another great sunset on the way home

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What a view!

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At the Polynesian Culture Center – yes we are all matching 🙂

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The Arizona at Pearl Harbor

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Total tourist – sunburned, local Hawaiian wear, and headphones on for the tour!

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Wreck Dive – upside down barge. This view is coming out from under it.

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St. Joseph’s, Michigan with the kids

We took a short weekend trip with three adults and four kids. We played at the beach, swam in the hotel pool, ate at a pizza place that was in the train station, rode on the indoor ferris wheel and then headed home. It was a nice little weekend trip.

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Everyone all loaded in the mini van.

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On the indoor ferris wheel while we waited to go eat pizza in a train station.

Jesse & Lisa Brenwall

Jesse and Lisa got married July 23rd. I went down the week of the wedding to hang out and to help out with anything that I could. It was nice to hang out with Jesse and Lisa before the wedding. We went out to eat with friends, watched t.v. and planned honeymoon activities. The wedding was amazing, Lisa was beautiful and it was a great reception. Jesse and Lisa headed to St. Lucia for their honeymoon. And now I have a sister!

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The family at rehearsal dinner.

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Steph and her brother from another mother 🙂

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The happy couple 🙂

Cubs Game!

For a thank you gift, Jesse and Lisa got me Cubs tickets. Jesse was able to upgrade me thanks to his good friend Jackie who had better seats. These tickets were from her work so I figured they were good but did not realize how good they exactly were. The Cubs were playing the White Sox at Wrigley so it was a perfect game to take my BFF with (she’s a Sox fan). We found a sweet parking spot a block from the field that was easy in/easy out, had a bathroom and the guy was super nice. Once we got to our seats we realized how amazing they were. It was a great game, a little slow until about the 6th inning when the Cubs blew it open. There were a couple homers so I was up cheering and high fiving people. It was so awesome.

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Wrigley Field

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The new jumbo screen – not as bad as I thought it would be.

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Jim Harbaugh threw out the first pitch.

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Charles Tillman sang at the seventh inning stretch. Dwyne Wade was also there in a skybox.

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We were 6 rows up from the Cubs bullpen. It was crazy close.

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Cubs won 8-1

Brandy’s In Charge

In March my BFF asked me if I would watch the girls while they go to Boston for a few days for their honeymoon in August. Of course was my answer as I was silently freaking out at the fact that I would be by myself and in charge. I’m glad it was at the end of summer so if gave me time to get my feet wet with these kids on a full time basis. It actually wasn’t that bad, I can say that now that’s it’s over. I only completely freaked out once and wanted to loose my mind about three times. Steph’s response to that was “oh that’s not bad”.  The first day we stayed home, Raegan woke up with a swollen eye due to a mosquito bite. The second day we also stayed home but had some visitors. The third day was jam packed with going to gym time, lunch, and then ice cream after dinner. We took a bath every night because they are always sticky – always, all the time! In the end it was a good experience, next year will be better with the little one being older or it could be completely worse who knows that’s the fun with kids you never know when they will loose their shit!

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Having a tea party – yes I put those braids in her hair and yes I clearly need some practice.

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Sitting in a tub, I’m not even sure if she has pants on.

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We take naps where ever we fall

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Or where ever they will fall asleep

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Watching Monster’s University. We alternated between this and Monster’s Inc. on repeat for three days.

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Dairy Queen

Milwaukee

Every summer and winter when I come home I am fortunate enough to get a few days with friends that I taught with at the high school. They are all busy with their own lives but make time to hang out and we even keep in touch all year though messaging, thank goodness for technology. This year we decided to go to Milwaukee for two nights. We drank, went out, went to a Brewer’s game, went out some more, drank some more – it was awesome! Love you girls!

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Milwaukee we are here!

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Small guy with my bloody mary – amazing.

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Dinner

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Henry’s hard ginger ale is awesome taste like a Moscow Mule which I just found out was a thing!

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At a Brewer’s game – Mille Park was awesome!

 

The end of the summer came quick as it always does but I can honestly say that it was a great summer filled with great memories. Now it’s back to school.

Later skaters

-B

 

 

 

Amsterdam

Before heading home I decided to tag along with my trusty travel partner, Peg. She was headed to Amsterdam for a week so I went with and spent two days there. Peg booked an Air B&B place near the Red Light District. Oh perfect we will be close to everything, taxi man please take me to this address. We arrived at the apartment around 4 p.m. At that time there wasn’t a huge crowd of people on our street. As we walked in and up the spiral staircase we entered an amazing small but perfect sized apartment.  As I’m looking out the living room window I look across the street and see this…

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Then I look down the street to the left and right and see all similar sights. Not only are we near the Red Light District we are literally in the middle. I sent this Sex Palace picture to all of our friends and let them know that this is the kind of area you can stay in when Peg is in charge of lodging.  To be honest though it was perfect size, perfect location and worked out great. I just really liked giving Peg a hard time. Her son met her in Amsterdam and this is where she booked to stay, Mom of the year 😉

That night we went for drinks at a local establishment and explored the city. People watching is on point in Amsterdam. We met up with some friends who were also visiting.

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Fun fact about Amsterdam which I knew but forgot, lots of daylight hours that time of year.

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It’s 9 p.m. – WHAT!! Look at how light it is out.

That particular night the sun didn’t set until after 11 p.m. I’ve heard people say that it messes with your body and sleeping. Before experiencing that I was confident that I could handle it staying lighter longer – WRONG! Your body thinks it’s tired but your brain is like no it’s light out its 4 p.m. when it’s really 10 p.m. It was so crazy but pretty cool too experience for the first time.

The next day we explored more, rode the train, had drinks in the morning, picked up Peg’s son and his girlfriend, ate some awesome sandwiches, went shopping at some thrift stores, took a nap, ate more crepes, and drank some more.

It was only two days so there is still lots to see so I will definitely be back.

Later skaters

-B

Leaving…doesn’t get easier, I’m pretty sure it gets harder.

End of the school year is always the best time of the year because summer vacation is starting. As an international teacher though it also brings saying goodbye to colleagues who are moving on. I know I’ve wrote about this topic before and I will continue to write about it every year I’m sure. It’s a weird thing in the international teaching world you meet people and instantly you form strong bonds with people as if you have known them for years. I’m not sure why this happens but it does and it’s really cool. Most people grow up with the same people they go to school with and spend years forming bonds. I still to this day have friends from where I grew up and also worked with and not just friends, a group that I know will always be there when I get home from traveling the world and we can pick up as if I haven’t ever left. It’s an amazing feeling and something that I will never take advantage of and it also gives me comfort in knowing that they will be there when I get home. Those bonds are understandable since we have been friends for many years. On the other hand I have close friends who I have only known for two years, a year or even ten months. In those short time frames a special and strong bond can and has been formed. I think as we grow older we know the type of people we want to be around and the type of people we want to invest our time in. Now obviously not everyone makes the cut of who you want to invest time with but I do believe that we can gain something from everyone. Personally, I know that everyone I have met on my international teaching journey has impacted me in some way or another both good and bad. I’m an active traveler so if you say “come visit whenever” be prepared, I might just show up on your doorstep one day, just kidding I’ll call first. It’s not goodbye, it’s until we meet again.

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I’m off to enjoy the summer, recharge my battery and see my people.

Later skaters

-B