July 8, 2015

#46 - Working hard, a career and planes!?

Dear Dubrovnik,

It's certainly been a while since I last wrote, and my how things have changed! Here's a short re-cap of all that's been going on! The first few days/weeks/months (remember I officially graduated in Dec.) after graduating are really not something one can be fully prepared for. There's often a lot of free time, or there's a job to rush into, or a mad search for a job, or perhaps all of these things! 

I returned to Champlain in May to walk with my class and catch up with some old friends before they headed off to various corners of the globe. It's always a ceremonious occasion, especially when everyone is going house to house drinking and you join at the last house sober due to a job interview only to find it to me Italian themed! It's as though I never left -- I could barely understand anyone and they were all dressed really funky, and everyone wanted to talk to me and tell me about what they were eating and their families. XD 

*Sidetrack* Mom got the Principal of the NATION award so we all skipped home to celebrate!

 *back to school*
Got to say goodbye to some good friends for a while though I hope to see them again in other countries that they call home! :)

 My pre-graduation 1AM selfie to celebrate the fact that a whole new generation is now in debt up to their eyeballs! XD
 The big day! Got to have a spot with a couple on my gals! 

 Celebrating Birthday(s) and hibachi!

 And a new baby pup!
 Found this in a stack of old assignments written by a professor who single handedly ripped me to shreds but gave me the best compliments in my career.

Back to Italy, it's true you know, the more you travel, the harder it is to stop. I really went through a withdrawal upon returning to the US. Coupled with the fact that many of my friends would be leaving the area, loosing a job, and figuring out living situations, the prospects of returning to the warm sand beaches in Savona where I was offered a job to teach the Oxford exam, and what lay ahead, well I had a lot to think about. 

Before catching the flight home I really contemplated staying a touring other countries but had a strange pull to go back, and I know now it was a good choice as I had to face the reality of job loss, and receive my first real test in life. In between moving into my new apartment from my temporary one, buckling down for a more extensive job search, working volunteering, donating, consigning and just ridding myself of much 'stuff' I took time to go to the beach, go for bike rides, make fancy dinners and even go to the movies to enjoy time with myself. After all, I'm kinda stuck with myself for as long as I'm here! I also got my 180 hour TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Masters level certification, CPR, AED and First Aid Certification and I'm currently looking into a few courses in leadership I would like to pursue. 

But things didn't start so smoothly, or fulfilling. After loosing my job opportunity I was having some doubts about where I should be setting my sights. Oddly enough, I read a horoscope from a friend that spoke of grandiose changes in my life within the next couple days following June 1st. It recalled specifically job related hardships, mistrust, and an absence of 'belonging.' It also suggested trying to reconnect with an old flame and although that didn't pan out as expected (it's worth checking to see if they're single before asking them to go on a date) I was able to have some solid 'me time' as I mentioned earlier. (It also spoke of 2016 being an amazing year and seeing as how 23 is my favorite number - and I'll be 23 then I can only agree that is should be pretty 'rockin'.)

Anyway, back the jobs and planes. SO, after many, many, MANY job applications, cover letters, and much waiting (about 3-5 weeks) I started to hear back from some prospective jobs- starting June 1st. They weren't super inline with what I wanted to do, but who was I to be too good for a job when I didn't have one. While meeting with a Peace Corps rep. I heard back from a call center that wanted to hire immediately, and the local coop that wanted to interview the next day. As I had no desire to pursue the call center in reality I turned down the position, but did share a great conversation with the hiring manager about being honest in interviews about intentions, expectations etc. 

The following day I was interviewed and remained honest about where I hoped to end up with a job, and despite having little knowledge about grocery stores beyond loving food I was given the opportunity to start right away. On the same day I was asked to interview for two more design jobs, and received two more interviews within the next couple days. These did not come without many weeks of waiting, and calls home for reassurance that I would one day find a job. While narrowing the design related job I started my job at the coop and really have loved almost every minute. I don't love freezers, or boxes of 84 single roll toilet paper that weigh near 60 lbs being lifting down from over head, but I've gotten back some muscle mass, and actually have a reason to feel tired at the end of the day, for which I am thankful. 

As for the design jobs, I really wish I could have had the flexibility to accept any of the official offers I did receive, but one had hours a bit too low and inconsistent for me to live securely, one ended up having an outcome goal that I didn't agree with and didn't have too much room for growth, another was AMAZING but an hour and a half drive one way meaning a 6:30AM departure from my place to make it by 8AM. So where did I end up? Randomly I decided to submit an application for a position that I wasn't too certain about as it was quite vague but I thought I'd give it a chance. I got an email asking for me to come in for a casual interview - warning 'feel free to dress casually or in whatever attire you feel comfortable as the hiring staff will be dressed in jeans/ shorts.' So, I played it safe with a 'khaki, flats, floral shirt cardigan' combo. I also REMEMBERED to bring my portfolio and capstone book which I'd forgotten once before. 

I had a good feeling that this would be the place for me. When asked if I had any questions, I asked if I could show my work (I brought five books I'd made consisting of my portfolio, capstone book aka my heart and soul in 99 pages, and my book on Bosnian war stories juxtaposed with Where the Wild Things Are. At this point the hiring manager leaned over his desk, eyes widening, face dialed into the books. The questions became very straight and direct - "Did you write ALL of this copy? The color schemes? Interviews? Why did you choose this font scheme, this logo outcome? What was your intent?"

All followed with a broad smile and extended hand asking if I'd like to join the Dealer.com team. I couldn't even muster the pure excitement I felt as I was utterly exhausted from working night shifts, reading job postings, writing letters, correspondences, and had finally found what could be a real, honest to goodness JOB. I had a follow up interview where I was formally offered the job as the Design Specialist. And whether it was to make me feel good or honest, I was told the position had been open for months and they hadn't found someone right for it until they met me. Strange enough, the night before the cascade or responses I read a great expression: "Vous allez trouver votre place." (You will find your place.) It's a nice idea. That somewhere in the world, there's a gap shaped just like me. I just have to find it and fit right in.  *And though most of my new co-workers I've met are stunningly gorgeous and in passionate long-term relationships with cats and matching upholstery - I still feel like I've found a good place for me even it's just me and some ladies who agree to join a torturous 7AM spinning class with me. ;)

Speaking about my strengths, and why I'm 'amazing' is something that isn't very easy to do, but being able to own the things your rock at will really place you high above the crowd. I worked so hard to get all those interviews, and worked night shifts to pay for all the things in between, and it was worth it. Time and time again.

I'm now midweek in my training at my new job with 51 other new hires from various departments and company locations around the country. It's very intensive 8AM- 5PM learning the company inside and out but I feel so blessed to have the opportunity. Once this week winds down I'll be catching a bus to a bus to visit a not-so-old friend and then I'll be off to the airport to catch three planes to MEXICO to celebrate the wedding of a friend I met in Dubrovnik!

I'll certainly write a post about the trip so stay tuned for that!

If you have any interest to learn about my new place of work- know that they were recently bought by Cox Enterprises. That should give you some idea of what Dealer is all about! 

So long for now! I'll post again soon when I'm en route to Mexico! 


April 23, 2015

#45 - Wrap Up and Return!

Dear Dubrovnik,

I've been state-side for just over two weeks and figured it's time to get final post up for the last few trips I made! Just before leaving a went through a series of no-internet stints as many of the hotels and places I stayed at had no wifi that there were willing to share so many of my stops involved hand-written notes to myself!

About 85% of the town/ museum/ building tours I went on with the 8th & 7th graders didn't allow photos of any kind, or video (because apparently that too will damage things...) so I have some photos from different places, and hang in there - I didn't exactly know where we were most of them time! Additionally, it rained and poured for much of our trip so I didn't bring my camera out often. But a big thanks to my host-sister who really helped to translate much of the tours, and for inviting me to dine with her fellow friends who enjoyed practicing their English with me! It's always awesome to see people excited to learn!

So flashing back to a week or so prior to departing, I visited La Stampa (the head newspaper for the region) and couldn't understand a thing as it was all in Italian and no photos could be taken. I was touring with my students from one of the other schools and they ranged from 6-8 grade so I didn't have many folks to help me understand. Prior to going there we visited Venaria Reale and to the say the least, it had some strange art!

Forgot something I suppose!

Massive gardens

I really liked this exhibit as the dresses were made of tissue paper

The next day I headed off to (unknowingly) my final day with my students in Saliceto, where they had organized a who morning of tours for me through the old churches and castles. And they did it in English! We also got to see the solar eclipse which was really awesome! As seen below through the thick glass.

Our first stop was at the magnificent, tiny church of San Martino just outside the city, built in the year 100. It is a national monument as the bell tower (with a single and double arched openings) is the only of it's kind in the whole Langhe region. The room is lit by a few spot lights from below and was easily below 40F though the temperature outside climbed to 60F. Not adorn with marble or precious stones as many churches I'd seen, this one had the most amazingly brilliant frescos hand painted over the walls and ceiling. 

The paintings depict the story of Saint Martino which is short is the story of a man who sees a beggar on the side of the road in the cold of winter, and cuts his jacket in half with a sword and gives the man half to stay warm. Later in a dream he realizes the man was Jesus. Another note is that all the horses have huge smiles of their faces, and no one could explain why.

The next church we visited was Sant'Agostino built in 1400, which is no longer used for worship but as a an after school program for kids. The only remaining room of the church where there is evidence that it was ever a church is a small back room which we all crammed into. Again, very bright and beautiful frescos, though a much different story depicted. The crucifixion is present on the front wall while to the right is the scene of a birth-mother/ with her wet nurses. Our the window it is clear that the artist is depicting Saliceto around 1223, which is not often depicted in religious affiliated paintings of its kind. 
Next we visited the church of San Lorenzo which was built in the 14th-15th century. The facade of the church itself has many odd symbols which are both religious and alchemic.
Inside the church was also freezing cold, but had many more beautiful paintings to be seen. It's high ceilings differed greatly from the other churches, and the paintings were overwhelming in numbers. Additionally, the details you can see on the columns are just that, they are painted on shadows and all. I was amazed by the realistic depth portrayed in the paint! 
The last really interesting piece for me was a painting located way down the way with an inscription in the bottom corner, very small. It said: INRI, except the N was written backwards. This is a symbol that indicates something of great interest is hidden within the area, whether that be in the painting, or in the church itself - well I really don't know, but important it was!
The last place we visited was the castle del Carretto which was built somewhere in the 13th - 14th century. It had four great towers (one rebuilt after the war to simulate the looks.) Once a fortress with a water filled moat, and drawbridge, it now stood quite with a green lawn and a sword in the stone.

Inside the courtyard (open to the elements) were the last of the frescos, some recently uncovered portraying women. The one seen below is traced back to the original artist, Taddeo of Bartolo in the 14th century due to his interest in using twisted columns which became his signature in a way as he like the design. In addition, he used bas-relief for the halos which means they literally stuck out from the wall, in addition to being painted gold.

The sword in the stone!
This photo marks the start of my journey that followed only a couple days after! We set out for Urbino and a slue of other small cities I had never heard of, and were in for a very rainy week!
Here is a photo of a train station we passed on the super highway, it was for 'red arrows' which are the fastest (and most expensive) trains. For example: I took economy local trains, and got from Asti to Florence in 5-6 hours. On a red arrow, you could leave from Milan (an extra hour or more) and arrive in under two hours to Florence. Phew!

Our first afternoon was a sunny, bright one led by a very fast Italian speaker who asked more questions than all the Italian classes combined! The students were not ready to be interrogated while on a tour! It was great to watch.

March and the flowers are all out!

Francesca and I on the bus going somewhere!
Here is a pizza I saw at the bowling alley that night. It had french fries on it already with the mayo and ketchup combo many europeans adore. You bet the students ate it all! They also won about 3,000 tickets of various token machine games, and you'd never believe what they bought with the tickets: school supplies for their computer room, and classrooms. It's very difficult to get any financial help for extra supplies for students and it was heart-breaking in a way to see them use all their tickets to buy things which we throw away here as they're given out so liberally.
A shot of the sand on the shore of the Adriatic. Very different from Maine, but beautiful all the same.
Some of the trees in bloom on a ride somewhere! (Italians do have the crop thing down to a science.)

Here we actually just saw half a rainbow, (we also ran over about 5 peacocks at the same instance,
not sure how that balances out on the luck scale, or what half a rainbow counts for anyway.
Here might have been the day we visited Macerata in the afternoon. We climbed the hill-side to get a view of the whole city along with some off-shore fishing ships.

This was a rainy day. I think we were in Recanati, but I wasn't able to take photos if the sights we saw so I really can't be sure. It was cold, and about half the students caved and bought umbrellas from street peddlers.

The crypts of this church were incredible, completely tiled and some of the faces
were more true than some of the best paintings I've seen in Europe. Not better than
the David though. Nothing can really be better than him.

A quick shot upstairs before we got kicked out, trying to show some scale of the place.

The next day we visited the Gotte di Frasassi, and it was great but the people who worked there were tough to listen to. The guide we had spent a great deal of time explaining that cameras and videos could not be taken as they erode the rocks, and I get it, flash photography does destroy a lot artifacts, especially over a long time, but video, with no flash can't harm anything, but the giant flashlight she used to spotlight different areas certainly could! The true reason is as many are, for people to have interest to visit a sight, you want them to travel there to see it, not search it on the web. In reality, if you want to get the experience, you probably will research it, and visit it. If you have no intent to ever visit - you probably won't. Another funny thing is that we were told not to touch the rocks (everyone did, even the teachers) because when someone says no, you can't think of anything else. Regardless, I found it so ironic as an optional adventure for the cave tours was a guided down and dirty expedition deep into the caves on foot, climbing and crawling.... Anyway, the were quite beautiful and magnificent in the least. The largest cavern could hold the whole duomo of Florence inside, and many of the small caves were bigger than most mansions I've seen. 

But as with many interruptions with nature, I was sad to learn that the caves used to me home to millions of small (and not so small) animals, one can assume millions of bats were in that equation, but since the adaptation to make it a tourist site, the whole place is void of creatures except for a small fish tank that may hold living brine shrimp. The room was full of sulfuric rocks so no one stuck around too long to find out!

I think this was the last day but I can't recall what this museum was... anyway, it had many great works that showed the test of time which I find fascinating in it's own right.

A little tribute to the hunger games? 

Some more amazing detail.
Wonderful hand carved wooden doors.
The view over some place! 
A now amphitheater, once home to a hand ball pitch (still never saw that game in action)
Fra posing with a horribly mis-imagined statue
I had all my students pose with it, but I told them they had to have the most serious face they could make. Worth zooming in if you can!
After our trip to Urbino I got to Turino to see the city one more time before leaving and got a great tour from my friend Paolo!
That afternoon I wrapped up filming with some students (they made a music video to 'The Nights' by Avicci) Here is the link to see that: https://www.youtube.com/copynotice?video_id=tZghSCjmBu4

They got some funny photos of their own.

Phew! In summary what amazing opportunity I've had. I'm still not adjusted, mind, body or soul, and it really makes me question whether I should continue to help people in this way as education really is the key to any door. Never the less, it taught me a lot about how fortunate I am, and how 'bubbled' some people really are. In addition, I can see the importance of music in the early years of a students life, and the persistence of teachers really being a big part of the student pursuing college or high school for that matter. Though I had a rough travel back through airport delay hell and had a stint of 48 hours awake, I made it safely back to my home. I really do wonder if more travels lay ahead in my future and I can only hope so! 

I manages to surprise all of my friends from school by walking into one of their studios at Champlain and hope to get back up there soon once I've gotten my job searches under way!

Stay tuned for the next big adventure... it's going to be warm and Mexican! ;D

Ciao for now! <3