The flight from Thailand was uneventful. I wish I had taken my camera out of its cozy spot in Gordon’s backpack. I kept everything together just in case I should leave something on the Burger King or Dairy Queen counter. The back pack had been searched for small medical scissors and the laptop had to be scanned on its own so with everything wedged in tightly I didn’t even want to open the side pockets. I wish I had taken some pictures of Bangkok as we took off for flight. Miles and miles of the surrounding area was under water. Imagine looking at Katrina destruction without the blown debris. It was quite sad to see, but I had a better idea of the extent of the flooding. Two weeks before my departure we saw satellite images that showed the affected areas in blue. There is no way to really describe the destruction, but from the air.
I flew EVA, an airline out of Taiwan. It was decent. There were TV screens on each seat. They served tasty fried rice. There were no single air vents, so it tended to get warm throughout the flight. We had a three hour layover in Taipei. I wandered through the brightly lit shops that soldeverything from make-up and fragrances to clothing, electronics and postal services. The flight from Taipei was bumpy. There was quite a bit of turbulence and a few loud snorers. I think I only slept about 2 hours on that leg of the flight. I stayed awake because I wanted to ease back into a regular time schedule and ease up the jet lag experience. I was excited to wake up from my nap to a breakfast of rice porridge and the knowledge that we had two more hours left of the flight.
The top side of the clouds was stark white and smooth. I imagined it appeared as the Swiss Alps would in the dead of winter. There was a smooth wave from the clouds as the plane bumped into them, in its descent. A clear patch revealed sea lions basking in the sun on the Farallon Islands. Then again the clouds closed up under the plane. I was so grateful to have the mind to keep my Giant’s hoodie with me. My feet were swollen in my shoes. My toes were cramped, but at least they were warm, because I knew it was going to be cold. It’s San Francisco. Ugh, cold. The pristine white of the clouds had long switched to a velveteen grey. They had been smooth and soft on a layer of air. There was a stark difference from Asian air. I could automatically feel the atmospheric difference, the jitteriness, the gray. My daily rain showers turned to frigid wind and heavy moist clouds toying with your mind. Nevertheless, the mist held the Bay Area like any loving mother waiting for her child, no matter how restless that child was.
And then there was the Bay. I could see the Dumbarton Bridge in the distance. Lower and lower the plane went, still over water. Our wheels touched solid ground with a slight nudge to the backside. I had watched every minute of our descent through the window. I was tired, but not shaken or bruised, nor defeated or sad. The chill was familiar when disembarking the plane. The immigration officers were covered in tats and everyone in line with me was Chinese. Yup, I’m back in SF.
I shuffled my bags through x-ray machines, declared nothing and waited at the curb for K to get me. I pulled my hood over my bald head, turned on my cell phone and waited for all the strikes to come through notifying me of voice-mails, emails and texts. Oh my HTC Hero, oh how I missed you… My Danang Nokia with a Thai SIM card was dormant deep in the pack.
She came in a big blue truck. Her arms fell onto my shoulders and her cheek pressed to my lips. All of the familiar was wrapped up in the package of my wife. I am so grateful for technology. I was able to talk to her most nights and more often than not I got to see her face with my cats in the background. Then there was email and gchat. Technology is great, but nothing can replace the real thing. It is so good to see and touch my wife. We picked up where we left off…jabbering my ear off about driving dump trucks for her sidewalk garden projects. She’s so cool. It was nice to have her voice and learn that she wouldn’t have to work the weekend after all. It was a nice weekend. I was able to spend time with my brother Brent and my wife and my buddy Rob.
It was an interesting week indeed. I am glad to be back and see my people. I abhor the chill that is fighting to find place in my bones. I am a tad bit under-stimulated. My nerves are so accustom to vibrating at 8 or 9, all that is left is a soft slow tingle through my fingertips. A slight imprint of the foreign remains on my conscious and there is a hunger for it. There is a low rumble for the new, the strange, things gentle, some hostility, and culminating challenges. I am left to really search that out myself.
I went to Asia to work. Again, I had impeccable timing reaching Asia in major development, especially in how they hire foreign teachers. Asian countries have become more stringent in the ways they handle work permits for teachers. I went to Asia half-cocked and was disarmed immediately when the subject of my documents came up. Vietnam accepted my local background check, but Korea only accepts federal background checks. Some schools are fine with post baccalaureate certificates while other schools prefer graduate degrees. There are a lot teachers working in Asia without redentials. They began at a different time. The feeling I got was that I didn’t have the experience to back up my certificate. My 100 hour TEFL certificate was suspect. I tried to hold my head high and exude the teacher spirit, but they called my bluff.
I returned home set and intent to go into the education field. Moments before leaving Pattaya I began to check Craigslist and look into my options of programs, schools and degrees. I began to pick up information about informational sessions being held at different institutions. From the time I returned home until the week before Thanksgiving, I researched, went to meetings, and asked questions. I know there is more confusion ahead.
I want to find a somewhat local institution with a program that can meet my needs. I feel I need a fine balance. There are options to have loans forgiven, but that involves working in an under-performing schools for about five years. I don’t have a problem with that, but my long term goal is to get into an international school. Teach abroad. The options I have sitting in from of me cross over and cancel each other out at the same time. I’ve been wondering about my own teaching philosophy, but my feelings are all over the place. I need to have a long sit down with myself and create something that resonates with me.
Stanford…A short discussion with a dear friend led me to research STEP. Brent’s conversation began and the universe opened up to me. Granted, my timing is horrible and I will have to wait to apply for Fall 2013 due to certain tests I will have to take. On the other hand, as I had agreed to follow my dear friend to campus, I found that STEP was having a meeting that same night. I gathered my questions for the educational program at Stanford and went to their special campus. Stanford is a special kind of campus. I just feel smart…STEP involves a year in the classroom in a local school, classes are at night after school,and supposedly there is a supportive community where I can get as much support as I need.There are loan forgiveness programs to look into, but I will be 45 before I can teach over seas working the schooling off.
CSUEast Bay…I skipped the program session at Cal State. I first considered the distance I would have to travel for classes. Taking BART to the end of the line did not appeal to me. The program lacked a Master’s component. They only offered TESOL as a certificate, not a degree. The Master’s component is a big deal for me. For me to return to college at this age means I need to get the most I can and I need a Master’s. Let’s face it, a Master’s degree carries weight and the Stanford name carries ton.
On-line options…Phoenix University has an education program, but it is so annoying trying to find out about their programs. You need to fill out on-line forms, which in turn fill your inbox with spam. I would appreciate an on-line page that simply explained their program. USC…They have a program that is a Master’s in Teaching and Master’s in TESOL. If I were to do the on-line route, I would pick USC simply because of the name alone. I would have to do my diligence in finding a job to back up the theory I would be learning. I feel it could weigh as much as Stanford as long as I have the field component locked in. There are many online options. On-line schooling makes me nervous. I do well in a classroom, exchanging ideas live as opposed to posting my thoughts on a forum waiting for a reply. I may do it, but the cost of the education on-line is no cheaper than in-class.
Alliant…Is a for-profit university with many branches. The focus of the meeting revolved around the fact that you needed to be working in your own classroom. Job postings mainly refer to credentialed teachers. If accepted into the program you will receive a letter from the school stating the acceptance into their credential program and then the hiring school can work on getting you an intern credential to teach through the year. I ask, “How can I get into the program without having a school to work in? How do I work if I do not get accepted into the program and get the letter of proof of enrollment?” I am hard pressed to follow their logic.
SFSU…The meeting was a waste of time. It was about filling out the application, not the program. I will have to talk to someone directly about the M.A. TESOL program, but was sad to find that it focused on adult learner instead of children. I was also disappointed to find that their credential program didn’t include an M.A. option.
BATTI…My head has been swimming in educator preparations for the whole week. I was annoyed that the post for the event at San Francisco Day School didn’t clearly state what would be discussed. It mentioned that it was teacher intern related. At least there were cookies, I didn’t have to suffer two hours of pointless information and I learned about teacher prep at Mills College.
USF…This was my last meeting of the week. I wish I had actually made it to the breakout group for my interest, but I know this is the school I want to go to. They had an awesome food spread at their graduate open house. There were people to answer my basic questions, but there are programs I could mix and match and I feel like I need a little more guidance in making an informed decision. It seems like I can get something that could work for me, but I am not absolutely sure. I’ve been tossing around a lot in my head and with graduate school you need to narrow your studies down. I just want to find what is best for me.
The search continues…