Thursday, December 29, 2011

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Boy, it’s been a month since my last post! I kept procrastinating telling myself I needed to post, but I didn’t realize it’s been this long.
Well, as enjoyable as the past month has been, there’s not really much to write about. I spent the entire time not working, eating, drinking, and hanging with friends and family. After three weeks in Milwaukee filled with some of the best home cooking known to man, I came back to NYC 10 lbs heavier for two and a half weeks and restaurant hopped all over the Lower East Side.


-I finished my ESL certification during my stay in Milwaukee. So I now officially hold a 100-hour TESL/TEFL/TESOL certification!

-I definitely over packed! As concise as I thought my packing was, in weighing and repacking our trunks, I realized The Mister determined I had way too many clothes and unnecessary belongings. After a great many vetoing sessions we he was able to get my wardrobe down to a reasonable amount and my other belongings down to the true bare necessities.

And now it’s go time! I’ll be leaving for Ghana in just a few hours! I don’t know how soon after arriving I’ll be able to get internet, but I can say for certain my next post will be from Ghanaian soil! I can’t wait to take in and share my first impressions with you all!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Give Thanks

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love, happiness and many blessings. I spent Thanksgiving with my awesome in-laws. My days were filled with delicious food, loving family, and great conversation—but not much rest. I haven’t written in a while, so here’s an update on the happenings of the past few weeks.

Good-Bye Brooklyn

We’re officially moved. We packed up and vacated our Brooklyn apartment last week. This was sort of a three-part process. We had to pack our trunks for Ghana, pack everything to be stored with his family, and pack a suitcase full of clothes and whatnot that we’ll live out of over the remaining weeks that we’re in the states. 

In packing for Ghana, despite my best efforts, by the time I finished loading my trunk, I had the feeling that I definitely over-packed. I reassessed my load; however, there wasn’t really anything that I felt I could do without. The Mister calls it my contingency packing. I pretty much packed for any reasonably possible situation that we may face over a year’s time. 

Well, my lingering fear of over-packing was alleviated in talking to one of the Site-Directors in Ghana. We had a conference call with some of the teachers (all foreign nationals to Ghana) currently with the program. It was basically an opportunity for us to ask any questions that we might have, and for them to share any advice or suggestions that they would like to have known going into the experience. Long story short, to my relief, I packed adequately.

Here are some tidbits just for information’s sake:  

Our packed trunks are currently stored in New York City in the apartment in which we will stay when we return from our three- weeks stay in the Midwest.

We shipped our belongings to be stored with his family via Amtrak Express. This is a simple and very affordable service for shipping belongings cross-country. I definitely recommend it for anyone making a long distance move on a budget. The only thing is: I guess not every Amtrak station accommodates this service. For example, we had to ship from Newark (NJ) Penn Station because although New York Penn Station accepts shipments, we couldn’t ship from NY. 

So we are currently in the Midwest. Our shipped belongings arrived seamlessly without incident (it took approximately 5 days) and are stored snugly in his family’s garage.
We’ll be here for two more weeks enjoying his friends and family. Then we’ll return New York for another two weeks with my friends and family. And then we’re off to Ghana!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Packing Blues

Packing sucks! Imagine summer’s over and you’re packing for a three day jaunt to your favorite tropical island. Great—your summer favorites get to make an encore. Now imagine you’re packing for a weeklong vacation or even two weeks long: out comes the B-Team summer wear. Now imagine that you’re packing for a yearlong summer! Should be simple right? Summer clothes: a go, fall & winter: no, and spring: A-Team.  Well sadly, I’m not finding packing for Ghana so simple. 

First off, packing away my winter clothes for storage was surprisingly a bit painful. I hate winter, but I love my winter clothes. The one thing that gives me solace throughout the bitter cold months is my winter wardrobe: my warm and cozy sweaters, funky knit stockings, colorful scarves, boots, coats, etc. As I packed away my winter threads I realized how much I would miss bundling up. Again, it’s not necessarily the cold of the winter that I’ll miss, but more the snuggly feeling of coming in from the cold and jumping into a pair of sweatpants, or the super stylish “I am it!” feeling of a perfectly layered outfit, and that extra oomph in my step as I pound the pavement in my newest (or trusty) pull-a-whole-outfit-together boots. I had to talk myself out of convincing myself that any of that would be the least bit useful in Ghana. I’m a hard sell—even to myself, so in true over-packer fashion a few sweatshirts made the cut. My logic: What if I get stuck in the rain, get drenched, and need something cozy and warm to don when I finally get home? Or better yet, what if there’s an air conditioned building? Better safe than sorry. 

Do you or have you ever had a hard time separating from clothes? 

With winter clothes decided, next up were jeans. Initially, I figured I’d take about three pair with me. I love jeans, but not so much in the summer heat. However, realistically I can’t imagine packing for a yearlong trip and not taking any jeans. So, I think I have about five pair set aside. There were too many different cuts, fits and washes to choose between. I may have to revisit the jean selections and downsize a wee bit more. 

I won’t give spring and fall much attention, because my spring and fall wardrobe consists of a mix of all seasons really. Mix a little summer with a cardigan or scarf, take off a layer of winter, add a splash year-round, and boom: basic fall and spring wardrobe. So most of what I would wear in spring or fall, for the purpose of packing, gets a summer or winter designation.

So that brings me to summer. Now this should be easy, right? Wrong. Firstly, I’m trying to keep myself from over-packing. I can quite possibly reason for myself every possible situation for which each article of summer clothing would be necessary. But I’m fighting the urge for a few reasons. 

One: I genuinely don’t want to over-pack. We’re packing for Ghana in humongous trunks which, tempting as it might be, can fit pretty much my entire closet and then some. But I’m pretty certain that I won’t get an ounce of sympathy from The Mister if I don’t keep my trunk to a reasonable weight. And I secretly want to disprove the stereotype that women over-pack by packing the bare minimum necessities.
Our trunks aside The Mister to give an idea of their size.

Are you an over-packer or lighty-flighty? 

Two: Shopping! I’ve heard that Ghana is the fashion capital of Africa. Plus I love African bracelets and earrings. Plus there’s no way I’d go across the world and not bring back gifts for friends and family. With that said, I’m sure I’ll do plenty of shopping while there, so I’m trying to leave room for souvenirs.

Three: Feasibility. The village that we’ll be living in doesn’t have running water. I’m not sure from where or how, but we will have to fetch water with which to bathe, and I guess to cook and drink with as well. So clearly, a washing machine will not be one of the luxuries afforded to me. So that means that any clothing that I bring I have to be willing and able to wash by hand. Goodbye delicate cycle, goodbye dry clean only.

And lastly, four: Dress code. 
“Women and men should dress modestly since immodest dress or behavior will certainly attract undesirable attention… Women are encouraged to wear dresses, skirts or slacks… Females should try not to wear shorts. Sarongs are encouraged as an alternative or light linens, Bermuda shorts or knee length shorts.”
-Excerpt from Teacher Welcome Manual
By American standards my summer wardrobe is completely appropriate. I wear tank tops under all of my dresses so as not to show cleavage; my shorts, though above the knee, are a respectable length; to keep cool, I wear sleeveless tops instead of tank tops alone. Overall I’d say my summer wardrobe is all around acceptable from a family BBQ to a company picnic. But I’m worried that what’s acceptable in America, may be harlotry immodest in Ghana. Is a strapless, knee-length dress immodest? What about bare shoulders? What about leggings as workout pants? Or running shorts! Do you really expect me a person to go running in knee-length shorts? I’m just not sure how strictly the social dress code is enforced or obeyed. I really want to respect the culture, so taking these things into consideration actually makes packing summer clothes that much harder. 
Me at company picnic.
I have just about a week left to figure it all out and make some definite decisions. A part of me wants to stick to the minimalist agenda and leave anything questionable behind. But the fashionista in me doesn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to wear some of my summer favorites year-round. 

What do you think? Have you ever had a similar experience? How did you handle it? Play it safe or push the envelope?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Officially Mrs. Mister!

Before planning for Ghana, The Mister and I had been planning a Jamaican destination wedding to take place next year. Being from different cities, a destination wedding seemed like the neutral perfect opportunity to bring both of our families together. However, when we accepted our new positions overseas, we did so knowing that we’d be heading over as husband and wife

We didn’t quite know how we would work out getting married. At first, Jamaica was still on the table. We naively thought that maybe we could scale it down: we’d fly out with our parents for a private beach wedding. But logistics and, more importantly, finances quickly busted that bubble. Given the adventure we’re about to embark on, it would be insane financially irresponsible to spend that kind of money on anything but preparation for Ghana. 

We played around with a few more ideas, but they all pretty much ended in us coming to the same conclusion.  That’s when we decided on a courthouse wedding. The thing about a courthouse wedding is: it’s just business. All of the pomp and circumstance that goes into the planning and execution of a traditional wedding is (for all legal purposes) frivolous without the signing of the contract that makes man and woman husband and wife. So in deciding to wed at the courthouse The Mister and I had to ask ourselves, “What are we trying to accomplish?” and “What’s the most logical way of meeting our goal?” Staring an opportunity of a lifetime in the face, it became clear to us how unimportant the ceremonial aspect of being wed can be.

And so…. The deed is done! The Mister and I were married on November 1st. We woke up, exchanged personal vows and rings to each other, and then went down to the courthouse to make it official legal. No hubbub or fanfare. My mother and sister were there to witness. And that was it.   

 Our rings!

Well, that was almost it. This past weekend my mother hosted a dinner party in our honor. It was a beautiful gathering with some of my dearest friends and family and there was even an African drummer! I guess “no fanfare” is like speaking Dutch to a mother-of-the-bride. :) But we definitely enjoyed ourselves and appreciated everyone coming out to share in our love for one another. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Done Done & Done

Whew, I’m back. I apologize for not writing in a while, but I’ve been busy accomplishing all the things I will tell you about in this post. 

First up was my trip to the DMV. Typical of a true New Yorker, I neither drive nor am I licensed to do so. I had a learner’s permit once, but it expired. Since then my only form of ID has been my passport. In order to travel to Ghana we need to apply for a visa. As a part of the process I had to submit my passport with the application. So that left me ID-less—hence my trip to the DMV. I had to get a non-driver’s ID card. Unlike my trip to Borough Hall, the DMV was quite uneventful. In true city agency style, there were way more windows than workers. But the genius in the DMV waiting system is its use of alpha-numeric call numbers that keeps you in the dark as to just how many people are in front of you.

DMV Call number LED board

 There’s no apparent order to which letter group is called next, so you’re basically forced to sit and wait. It really wasn’t too long of an ordeal from start to finish and $14 later I have an ID that’s good for 8 years—even if I am looking down in the picture

So if you’re keeping track, that’s DMV and visas—check. 

Last weekend was our last Oxford class in which as a final evaluation we taught a practicum. There’s really no way to fail, but I did well, received a great evaluation, and was even ranked in the top 25% of the class. So I currently hold a 60 hour certification and am technically certified to teach ESL, however, there is a 40 hour online grammar portion to complete that will grant me a 100 hour certification. I’ll be completing the extended certification over the next few weeks, but as far as I’m concerned: Oxford certification—check. 

I am most excited to report that Friday was my last day of work… Check! Having finished the project that I was working on Thursday, I spent the entire work day Friday reading expat blogs of their Ghanaian adventures. This is when the true excitement hit me. I realized that having officially finished work, everything that I do from here on out will be in preparation for my trip abroad. It also hit me that I have 3 weeks to pack

The Mister and I are spending Thanksgiving with his family in the Midwest. That is also where we will store our belongings that we aren’t taking with us to Ghana. So, do the math, even though we’re not leaving for Ghana until the end of December, we have to have our entire apartment packed up and vacated by Thanksgiving. Friday may have been my last day of work, but really the work has just begun!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Almost Mrs. Mister

So I’m still chipping away at my massive checklist. Over the past week, I was able to tackle some major tasks.

First up doctor visits—Yay! Not so much. Aside from my yearly physical my main purpose for visiting the doctor was to take advantage of this plush health insurance while I have it get the necessary vaccinations for my upcoming trip. Ouch! I’ve never been afraid of needles, but after the first shot, I found myself looking for the escape hatch. The nurse explained to me that it’s not the needle that hurts; it’s actually the depositing of the vaccine into the muscle tissue that’s painful. Tomato – Tomahto Ouch! I did score cool points for being a big girl about the Tetanus vaccine which is reportedly the one that people complain hurts the most. But whatever points I scored there were lost over the next few days, as I was such a wimp about my arms hurting. Seriously, I couldn’t even sleep comfortably (which only added to my extreme fatigue from being so busy). But I’m better now. :) 

Next up: Rings! In my last post I mentioned that The Mister and I would be inking the ring check box. Well, we did. Not much to report here except we were able to order our rings. Although we spent more than I had wanted to spend, (gold is through the roof!) I’m excited for and can’t wait to see how they turn out.

This past weekend was the second of our three-weekend, intensive ESL teacher training. I’m appreciative of the useful information that I’m acquiring, but man am I tired! I guess I never really realized how necessary the weekends are for recuperation. I mean, I just always looked forward to the weekend as free time to do what I want, rather than a time for physical and mental rest. I didn’t realize how much off my free time I actually spend resting. I’ve been going non-stop for the past two weeks—I’m drained! I can’t wait to have my weekends back.

What does the weekend mean to you? A time to kick it or a time to kick up your heels?

Oh! I almost forgot to mention: We got our marriage license today! Big step…even bigger headache! Dealing with government agencies is quite possibly one of my top five most hated things. They hire just enough idiots to keep things running. There are always more windows than workers. And I think it’s a rule that when one window opens, another one closes. Like I said, just enough to give the appearance of a moving line. Every now and then, you spot the one clerk, who seems competent enough to be the beaconing light at the end of the dreary tunnel. But what happens? Super Clerk is trapped handling the moronic patron who didn’t do any research and has a million and one questions.  So, now your line count is all thrown off. By your count, there are just enough people in front of you so that your spot should land you at Super Clerk’s window. But the Moronic Duo is taking so long that now the count is off. So you begin to panic. Now you want them to take longer so that they’ll finish just in time for you to be next with Super Clerk’s. But hey what’s this? The dimwitted security guard. Yes, the same guard that you showed your online confirmation number to upon your arrival. The online confirmation number that was supposed to speed up the process for you. Dimwit decides, now that you’re second in line, the line is too long and some sort of express line needs to be established. You have your confirmation number, so you can go straight to Super Clerk’s line. Sigh of relief. As they say, all’s well that ends well. The Mister and I can officially be married.

Next episode: the DMV…

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Back to School

When I started this blog, I figured now would be a perfect time to do so, given that so much is happening in my life all at once. But for that very reason, this is also an insane time to take on the responsibility of maintaining a blog; but I will do my best.
So I’ve been MIA, because I’ve had a pretty hectic schedule lately. A lot of odds and ends to take care of and most worthy of mentioning: school’s in session! Triple time, at that!
For the past year I have been teaching an adult GED course, which is back in session for the fall semester. This semester, I have also signed up to teach an ESL class. (I figured it would help to have some classroom experience as I embark on my TESL/TEFL certification.) And finally, this weekend The Mister and I started our TESL/TEFL certification course. So between lesson planning, teaching, learning, homework, and oh yeah—working nine to five… busy doesn’t even begin to describe it.
But I’m not here to complain; there’s definitely a silver lining to all of these errands and responsibilities. As much time and energy it takes to be a teacher, I have never had a more fulfilling experience. As much as I wanted to be out enjoying the beautiful NYC weather this weekend, the skills and concepts I’m acquiring in my certification course will help me to be a better teacher here and abroad. And every errand that I run is another check on the preparations for Ghana checklist.
Speaking of errands, I’m super excited about an errand The Mister and I will be tackling tomorrow: Rings!

Random Thoughts: Expected to be Expecting

Without fail anyone who has ventured a guess at what my exciting news could be has guessed pregnancy. Usually, a woman of my age and relationship status, who has scrapped future wedding plans for an expedited City Hall wedding, is knocked up expecting.  So I can’t say I’m surprised to be expected to be expecting. But I will say I’m relieved that I can proudly answer, “No” to the supposition.  Anyone who knows me personally knows how eager I am to become a mother—but only under the right circumstances. And for me, those circumstances include marriage first, babies after.  Right after! Well, that was the plan anyways. But now that we’re moving across the world, away from everything and everyone we know, maybe right after will have to wait.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

bells will ring... the sun will shine

Everything is happening so fast that it still feels unreal to me. Sometimes, just to make it more real, I say to myself, “You’re going to Africa!” and it starts to settle in a little more. But if that doesn’t make it real enough to me, you know what does? The ton of things I need to get done before departing. Thankfully, I can cross two of those things off of my list. 

I’m not one of those women who have been dreaming of a princess wedding since childhood. But I must admit that shortly after the proposal I was pleasantly haunted by visions of the perfect wedding dress. It didn’t exist anywhere but in my head, and I was willing to do whatever it took to have my seamstress-sister bring it to fruition. So never in a million years would I have thought that I would walk into a store on my lunch break and walk out with my wedding dress. But that’s just what happened. Well it’s not a wedding dress in the traditional sense (i.e. white, poofy, sickening), but it is lacy. Maybe I’ll post some pics after the occasion.

What are your thoughts on keeping with tradition? Is it important or stifling? What untraditional aspects have you or would you incorporate in your wedding?

With my dress taken care of, it was time to move onto the second most important task at hand: plane tickets! After checking out some online ticket prices, we decided to kick it old school and go through a travel agent. I thought travel agents were obsolete—boy was I wrong. They’re amazing. Although it took a little longer (about an hour) to finalize everything, we were able to work with an actual person to tailor our itinerary to fit our needs and get our tickets cheaper than the prices offered online. Long story short: travel agents rock!

Do you prefer travel agencies or online booking? Are travel agencies obsolete?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

TAP TAP TAP... Is this thing on?

Peace reader! Thanks for joining me.

My name is Rose.* I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.  I wouldn’t say Brooklyn is all I know, seeing as though I attended boarding schools for both high school and undergrad, and my passport has seen its share of ink stamps. But I will say Brooklyn is the only home I know.

I am 27 years old and engaged to the love of my life—let’s call him: The Mister. (His choice, not mine! I actually hate it.) For the past 5 years, I’ve been not so happily working a dead end position at a top NYC law firm. The Mister and I have been throwing around the idea of leaving NYC for quite some time, however the timing never really seemed right. And truth be told, my love for all things Brooklyn probably kept us grounded here far longer than necessary.

One night not too long ago, The Mister and I were talking about future plans and the prospect of teaching English abroad arose. It’s something we’ve both wanted to do and had talked about before, but that night we discovered the fire of desire was well alive. So we researched opportunities and avenues and decided to take an Oxford Seminars certification course. We had looked into Oxford Seminars when we considered teaching abroad in the past—we even attended the information session. But something was different this time. We had committed ourselves to going to abroad.  I’m a firm believer in the adage, “everything happens for a reason.”  In order to take advantage of discounts offered, The Mister and I attended an info session (even though we attended an info session in the past). At the end of the session, as we were filling out our registration forms, a batty old woman who had been interrupting the presenter’s spiel with nonsensical questions comes over to us. She was extremely chatty and invasive of personal space. So we’re both kinda mmhmm-ing her while concentrating on our applications, willing her to go away. Are you annoyed yet? We were. So I’ll save you the details, long story short: she dropped the name of a website that posts paid and volunteer opportunities available overseas. We jotted down the website, wished her luck and went on about our business.

The next evening, I came home from work to The Mister raving about an awesome opportunity he came across on the website the old batty woman had suggested to us. To make what could turn into a really long story short: we both applied, and here two weeks later, we’ve been accepted and offered positions.

Now, in the next 3 months, I’ll be leaving my job, giving up my apartment, getting married, saying goodbye to my friends, family and the only home I know, and boarding a plane headed to Ghana, Africa starting life anew as a wife, teacher, student of life and returned daughter of Africa. 

*Well sorta. Rose is actually my middle name. In the interest of anonymity, I’ll be using it as a nom de plume for this blog. The internet is a very dangerous place for a paranoid like me.