December 21, 2012

Party Prep

Making Gl├╝hwein!

Job hunt

I'm sure that I once used the phrase "bowels of grad school" to describe where I was figuratively climbing out of. Since then, I've redefined the limits of my mind and body as a grad student. Late nights, very early mornings, very poor sleep in between--typing until carpal tunnel and computer eye sets in--eating a strict diet of convenience foods involving shredded cheese and canned beans--living from latte to latte, paycheck to paycheck (though if I'd cut the lattes, maybe less so)...

The point is that I'm reluctantly moving from the bowels of grad school to the underbelly of the job market. My first round of applications went out recently. Several to the Middle East, and some to Myanmar, and none to anyplace that my grandma would approve of.

I even had an interview!

Well, besides my inability to use Skype properly on a MacBook (something that I recommend trying out before an interview, by the way), I think the interview was, if not a success, at least a learning experience.

The interviewer, I found out, got an advanced degree from NAU (small-ish world, huh?) and was curious about my NAU connections. I've never been in an interview where I am seriously under-qualified for the job at hand, so it was interesting to field questions that addressed by lack of teaching certification and teaching experience. I tried to cover my insecurity with a big smile (somewhat useless because I couldn't make my webcam work) and a lot of enthusiasm for Myanmar.

The job application process is tedious. It's like setting out a hundred fishing poles that all have the same hook, but a different bait. It's sometimes hard to know what to say in the cover letter, or how to frame yourself, and it takes a lot more time an energy than I expected.

Time to get back to the hunt.

Here's hoping for a great job in the near future!

December 19, 2012

Digital hoarding

I'm predicting that the massive PDFs I scanned in are the beginning of a compulsion that will last a lifetime.

Berlin kitty

December 13, 2012

December 10, 2012

My Flagstaff

The walk I've been wanting to take since September--today I finally took it. Now I remember why I love the location of my apartment. What a semester...

November 30, 2012

From the classroom

Some pictures from today's class. My students made some of the most interesting posters I've ever seen. Good job, guys!

November 25, 2012


Crocodiles (my intramural team) won our last game. It was wonderful. These guys and gals are amazing!

My white board

This wasn't as confusing as it looks. Promise.

Christmas is coming!

A little office decor...

November 10, 2012

Reflection: a grad school luxury

A few years ago, I'm sure that I pictured my life at 25. I have no idea what I thought it would be like, though it probably included more money and maybe more fame than I have now. It certainly did not include spending four nights a week in an elementary school gym teaching Saudi guys how to play volleyball. But, here I am.

The volleyball phenomenon at PIE started on a whim this summer. Since then it has morphed into a fairly constant event. Especially now that the weather has changed and we've moved the net into the gym. Now we have a court with lines and we can fill the gym with pop music. By the way, our favorite song (yes, OUR, as in mine and the Saudi guys') is "Hotel Room Service." Pitbull, you write a dirty, though catchy tune! I'm having trouble finding the right way to describe how much I appreciate volleyball. In the endless work cycle of grad school, volleyball is the only time when I can think about something besides writing assessment or lesson planning or job searching.

Tonight marked a distinct shift in volleyball. I asked the students if they would rather just play, or if they wanted to learn. To my surprise, they voted for learning, so I taught them how to pass and set. It helped--that wasn't a surprise. I've proposed some type of volleyball-based instruction (VBI for you TESOL nerds--you know who you are) as my practicum assignment next spring. Pending some insurance issues, I'll get to design a language class based on volleyball. It's perfect.

I can't say enough good things about the people who come to volleyball. There is a core group of people who I would definitely consider friends (Facebook will back this up). Then, there are the people on my intramural team (a.k.a The Crocodiles or Krokotiili) many of whom also fall in the friend category. Finally, there are students who drop in occasionally. What's really great is that I get to know so many of the students who aren't in my class. Volleyball has made me very visible at PIE. Most of the time I really enjoy it. "Miss Jena!" "Hi, Miss! Volleyball today?" "Miss, kill them!" (the last one refers to my serves). I really enjoy having students know me and talk with me during the day. From a language learning point of view, I'm thrilled that they are talking with a native speaker for a real purpose (yes, volleyball is a real purpose). I'm also learning some useful (some not) Arabic phrases, such as "I swear on my mustache [I will do it]!" "I swear!" "Come on!" "Work harder!" etc. I still can't say "Hello" or anything like that, but if you want to talk volleyball in Arabic, bring it on.

Seriously, I feel so lucky to spend time with these guys. With all the turmoil between the US and the Middle East, it's nice to have such a positive view of Arabic-speaking cultures. I spend most of my free time with a bunch of Saudi guys, and I think that's pretty cool.

Grad school coupled with being a TA is totally distressing. There is too much to do, no time to do it, but that's no excuse for doing it poorly. We are under pressure from all sides. Our physical and mental health suffers the consequences of too much stress, not enough food or sleep, and no time to reflect on it all. Clearly, I have two incredible (and simultaneous) opportunities: attend a prestigious TESL program AND get teaching experience in a top-notch IEP.

Tonight, I grateful for the PIE and its volleyball net. I think bump-set-spike has saved my sanity in Flagstaff.

To Coach Genrich--wherever you are: your practices were killer, but I'm so glad you taught me these skills and gave me this love for the game. If you could see me now!

October 13, 2012

October 10, 2012


Me and the gals chipping away at a table of specifications. If you don't know what that is, add it to your blessings.

October 3, 2012

Morning sun

The plant and I enjoyed the morning sun outside my office

September 29, 2012

Teacher perks

My students treated me to a latte and croissant this morning! Yahoo! I love this job.

September 26, 2012

More wedding pictures

Since no one wants another picture of my desk and stacks of papers, here is Sandford Hall in Mitchell, NE.

September 25, 2012


I don't know how many times The Killers have put out an album when I need it most, but they've done it again. This was my western Nebraska road trip soundtrack. Love LOVE Love.

September 17, 2012

What a weekend, or "what? A weekend?"

So, for once I was able to nearly execute a too ambitious plan of preparing not only for the coming week, but also the next. It did involve an alarm clock and two trips to Starbucks, but I was super productive, and I managed two rounds of sand volleyball and a picnic! Seriously, despite the intense reading and thinking, it was a great weekend in gorgeous late summer Flagstaff. I look forward to reaping the rewards of my hard work, and enjoying my good friends' wedding in Nebraska this weekend.

September 16, 2012

Working on a sunburn

Today was the beginning of zero-weekend mode in grad school. 6:15 alarm, at my desk by 8:00. Yet, an outdoor study study session at this elevation will immediately result in this type of sunburn, better known as farmer's tan. Eeww.

September 14, 2012

Veggie day!

Every Thursday this summer I have been picking up my veggie share from the Community Supported Agriculture. It's been a lot of fun trying new vegetables that I might have turned my nose up at otherwise.