Thursday, August 29, 2002

Yippee! I'm going to DC tomorrow for a weekend of friends, frivolity, and freaking. I'm going to see Jim, Frank, and Jimbo. I'm so excited to be taking a trip, going to some new spaces, hanging out with old and new friends. I'll even be going to a modified PCV reunion with Kristie and Michael on Friday.

A friend of mine in Tajikistan reminded me of how I was living less than two years ago. In Uzbekistan, I couldn't take things like heat, food, or electricity for granted. But I also always had time for books, friends, and silly things like sunsets. My whole life was at a different pace. Now I watch the days spin away in a dizzying flurry of cell phone calls, email, and waiting on the subway. Both ways of life are good, both are bad. I don't think one is better than the other.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

My friend Michael Lopez pointed out a great site called www.nextdraft.com. I was so impressed I subscribed, and will probably begin using it as one of my primary sources for news. It has an interesting take on the news, plus a great reference to teaching in Brooklyn in the link above. Since I start in just a week, it was especially amusing to me. I think that teachers of math are simply misunderstood. We joke all the time, it is simply that no one else finds us funny.

This is another article from this site.

First Daze

Yesterday afternoon I called my friend Andy who had just completed his first day of his third year as a math teacher. Since I wrote about first days of school for students in yesterday's column, I figured I'd call and check how the first day was for someone who should really be nervous. A teacher.

When I was teaching high school in Boston and New York, I found out very quickly that whatever nerves a kid had on those first days was wildly overshadowed by gurgling stomach of the teacher. Will they listen this year? Will I remember the names? Can I avoid humiliation for five long periods?

Of course when I called Andy, his response was ho-hum. No, he hadn't been nervous. And yes, while the first day is always tiring, it hadn't really been stressful. He knows his stuff at this point and unlike the rest of the teachers on his floor, he just went ahead and taught a lesson and skipped all of the introductory pleasantries. In other words, Andy is a Math teacher. So for the record, let's exclude Math teachers from any connection with the following columns and instead include only those with normal sets of human emotions.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Lessons learned from buying tons of stuff at Walmart in Lubbock, packing it in a box, and shipping it to NYC:
1. Walmart is still a hellish, crowded suburban experience, rife with swarming children, beeping cell phones, and a parking lot bigger than Manhattan.
2. It's not really cheaper.
3. Yes, five bucks saved. Eighteen dollars to ship the box.
4. Except for the instant gravy packets (bad idea because of the cholesterol, natch), all readily available here in NYC.
5. Money saved, weightwise, by throwing out protective box surrounding toothpaste tube: ten cents. Time spent cleaning after tube ruptures and covers EVERYTHING in a blue gel goo: PRICELESS.

Monday, August 26, 2002

It's time to celebrate. Sure, I could keel over at any time from lard in my veins, but I'll keel over as an OFFICIAL MATH TEACHER. I passed the painfully difficult Math CST test by a comfortable margin, something that truly surprised me. After all the grief of the Fellows screwing up my test times and information, I passed it in spite of them, thank you very much.

Twice in one day, feeling that knife in the guts. First at the doctor's office, and then opening that envelope. I just knew that I had failed, and my overpowering fear of failure was shrieking in the back of my head. You're a loser! You're not going to make it! Everybody knows, and they're just not telling you! I'm like that Australian jesus lizard. You know the one- if confronted, it puffs out those frills to scare you off. If that doesn't work, it turns tail and runs like hell, even across water. I think I put across a pretty confident front, but deep down I'm constantly terrified that I'm not going to be able to meet the challenge. All I really want to do is run like hell, splashing across the water, my chicken legs kicking up waves. This whole math program/ NYC life has been one huge challenge, and sometimes it felt like my confidence/frilly neck bluff wasn't going to work. Then I open the envelope with shaky hands, read the good news, and realize that it's good that I have friends that love me and keep me from trying to run across the Hudson River.

On a different tack, a particularly observant friend pointed out to me that I shouldn't be surprised about my cholesterol count, as I obsess over gravy and Crunky bars. What?!?! Gravy has grease in it? Say it isn't so!
Nothing like a doctor’s visit to give me the spooked out willies. For all sorts of reasons, I always assume the worst with doctors. So my new doctor in NYC pulls me out of the waiting room to tell me my results. My stomach does the requisite flip-flop as I follow him into the hallway, where he shows me the results from my blood tests. Everything is very good, except for my cholesterol and triglycerides. My triglycerides were nearly twice the maximum for my age group. TWICE! I eat healthy, exercise, and sacrifice the animals at the lipids altar at midnight. What else can I do, except travel back in time to cancel out the fat genes attacking me from both sides of the family? The doctor tells me the readings could be off depending on what I ate that day, but that I’ll need to go back for a second test. Damn, damn, damn. I’ve looked at all my cousins on my dad’s side of the family, smugly noticing that I’ve scrupulously avoided the tendency towards the Bunger pear-shaped body. I was hoping that by abstaining from dear cousin Brent’s “only eat the flesh directly from the animal you just killed” philosophy, I could laugh at his early funeral while looking good for those family funeral photos. Now I know that I’ll be the early funeral, it just won’t take as many pallbearers to carry my casket, plus I’ll be a more attractive corpse.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

I am an allergen magnet. I'm irresistable, at least to the plagues of the bible. Pollen, mold, random floaty things all drift up my nose, do their little dance of histamines. I'm just waiting for the angel of death to cross the mantel and kill my firstborn sinuses.This whole weekend, I've been holed up in the Swanktuary, sneezing, sniffling, snotting. I can feel my face scrunching up when I'm trying not to sneeze. I just wish I could get a picture of my sneeze, as I bet I look really goofy. Bear won't sleep near me, because of all the ruckus, and I'm in a fuzzy coma because of decongestants.

I had a physical on Friday to be a teacher, which was tons of fun. It is nice that the NY Board of Ed demands that I'm tuberculosis free, that I am free of neurological spasms, and that they get all measurements to identify my body later. I regularly receive letters from both my university and Fellows program that contradict each other. It is possible that I'm supposed to be in my school next week, but it's not really clear. It is a bit vexing.

I've mentioned before that I really like my campus. Well, the Princeton Review agrees.
My campus is ranked as the most beautiful in the US, #5 for best bang for the buck, and a few other fun spots. I'm just so gosh-darned proud!