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*Slovakia Update

Hello from Zilina, Slovakia!

I arrived here safely last Wednesday afternoon.  Since then, I’ve been busy getting to know the other interns, meeting the youth group we’re working with for the first KECY (conversational English camp), and trying to get all the paperwork, etc done for my visa.

It’s been great to be back in Slovakia (it’s been three years since the last time I was here), to reconnect with old friends, meet new people, and to have a chance to practice speaking Slovak again!

This upcoming week we’ll spend a couple of days promoting the camp in high schools, and then on Wednesday we head for Prague.  In Prague we’ll begin The Amazing Race, where we’ll complete challenges and race from one side of the Czech Republic to the other, competing against intern teams serving in other countries throughout Eastern/Central Europe.

Over the next couple of blog posts I plan to introduce you to each of the other interns/team members, so check back soon for more!

*Slovakia

My bags are packed!  I’ve still got a long day of traveling ahead of me tomorrow (drive to Raleigh, fly to New York, 6 hour layover, fly to Zurich, fly to Vienna, drive to Slovakia… good thing I like traveling), but Slovakia is finally getting close!

Before I leave, I want to share a little information about where I’m going and what I’ll be doing over the next week or two.

Geographically, Slovakia is located in central Europe, south of Poland, north of Hungary, east of Austria and the Czech Republic and west of Ukraine.

I’ll fly into Vienna on Wednesday, where I’ll meet up with the other interns and team members.  Our first destination is Žilina, a beautiful city in north-western Slovakia.  I’ve been to Žilina many times before, and I’m really looking forward to being back there.

After Žilina, we’ll spend some time visiting the cities and youth groups that we’re working with to hold KECYs (conversational English camps for high school students), and we’ll head to Czech Republic for training and team building with the teams from other countries that Josiah Venture works with.  (To learn more about Josiah Venture, check out their website here: http://www.josiahventure.com/).  I’m looking forward to meeting the other interns and reconnecting with old friends.

Check back later this week for more!

*A few weeks home in the South

Between Seattle and Slovakia I got to spend about three weeks home in the South, visiting family and friends.  Last week I went on a six-day road trip with Amanda, one of my best friends from Seattle.

I left Greenville (NC) on Friday morning, picked her up in Ahoskie, NC, and then headed south to Columbia, SC.  We spent the weekend in Columbia visiting my friends from college, and then went to Atlanta on Sunday.  I dropped Amanda off to meet up with her aunt and uncle, and then I joined my brother just in time to go see “Rumors”, a community theater production which Jeffrey designed the set for.  After the show we celebrated my birthday.  The next day I visited my Aunt Hope and cousin Anna, who is leaving while I’m in Slovakia to spend 27 months in Africa with the Peace Corps.   Glad I got to see her before I left!  From Atlanta I traveled to Greenville, SC and spent the night with my Aunt Laura, Uncle Tim, and cousins Stephen and Mary.  Tuesday morning I went to Charlotte where two best friends (Caitlin from NC and Michelle from SC) now live.  Wednesday was my birthday and I celebrated all day: birthday breakfast with Caitlin, birthday lunch in Kernersville, NC with Kary (a college roommate), and then I was back in town in time for a birthday dinner with my family.  All in all, it was a great trip.  (Check out the slideshow below).

Now I’m just a few days away from leaving for Slovakia.  I’m excited to get there, but I’m glad I got to spend some time at home first.

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*Seattle Top 10

Before I get too far away from Seattle, I want to do a “farewell” post for the city.  This is my own “Top 10” of the people, places, and experiences that made my [just over] three and a half years there great!

  1. Seattle Pacific University:  SPU is why I moved to Seattle and where I spent much of my early days in the city.  SPU’s MA-TESOL program was excellent: great professors, great classmates, pretty campus, and I felt like I left the program very well-prepared for teaching English.
  2. Coffee:  I wouldn’t have made it through grad school without coffee, and really no post about Seattle could leave this out.  From the original Starbucks (and 200 other locations throughout the city) to local favorites like Zoka Coffee, Caffe Vita, or Java Bean, you’re never far from a great cup of coffee in Seattle.  Even better than that though is the fact that coffee-holism is completely accepted (and perhaps encouraged), and a dire need for a cup of coffee at 3:00 in the afternoon is understood.
  3. Microbrews:  While I’m talking about beverages, I think I became a bit of a beer snob in Seattle.  I learned that I love hoppy beers like IPAs and I definitely prefer a pale ale or amber to a lager or a stout.  Some local faves of mine include Mac & Jack’s Amber Ale, Manny’s Pale Ale, and the Elysian’s Immortal IPA.
  4. Rain:  Seattle’s reputation is not undeserved!  Although it rarely downpours in Seattle, many months of the year are characterized by a slow, steady drizzle.  The rain gets old, but even Seattle’s gray clouds are not without silver linings:  A) Your plans are never ruined by rain; you plan for rain.  B)  If you’re too busy to curl up with a good book and a cup of coffee on one rainy day, you’ll have another opportunity tomorrow.  C) Two words: rain boots.  D) Seattle’s sunny days more than make up for the gray ones!  When the sun comes out in Seattle, the city is truly one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever visit!
  5. Blue Sky Church:  Despite the gray sky often seen in Seattle, Blue Sky is easy to find just across Lake Washington in Bellevue.  I found the church shortly after I moved to Seattle and absolutely loved being a part.  Blue Sky values deep relationships and community among its members, and I made some truly amazing friends there!
  6. Kaplan:  Returning to #1 on this list, I moved to Seattle to learn how to teach English.  During my second quarter at SPU I landed a job teaching English to international students at Kaplan, and it turned out to be one of the best jobs (and some of the most fun) I’ve ever had.  I’m incredibly thankful to have had a job where I loved going to work, got to meet many awesome people from literally all over the world, and made some great friends both among students and coworkers!
  7. NSCC:  After teaching for a few years at Kaplan, I had the opportunity to teach at North Seattle Community College.  I enjoyed getting to do things like choosing my own textbooks, creating a syllabus, and coming up with quarter-long projects.  Even more than that, I loved teaching both the international student population as well as immigrant and refugee students.  I also had some pretty rad coworkers there.
  8. Riding the Bus: I know, I know… Seattle’s public transit system is not the best.  I’d probably give the city a B-, and I’m an easy grader.  (Not in class, of course).  Regardless, this was the first time in my life that I lived in a city where you could get by without your car, and I loved it!
  9. Ballard:  Cupcake Royale, Conor Byrne, La Carta de Oaxaca, The Matador, Old Town Ale House, Java Bean, Golden Gardens, King’s Hardware, The Majestic Bay, my apartment… I’ve written about all this before; need I say more?
  10. Fremont, Queen Anne, Wallingford, Capitol Hill, Greenwood, Green Lake, Mountains, Boats, and Water…: Okay, perhaps that’s a little much for #10, but the point is that Seattle is a city made up of distinct neighborhoods and is surrounded by extreme natural beauty.  Snow-covered mountains, sailboat-covered lakes, tiny craftsman homes clustered on the hills around the city… I loved every day in Seattle, and I’m thankful I had the chance to live in such a great place!

*Changes

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll notice a totally new design and title.  (Or lack of title, really).  If you keep following, you’ll probably see more design changes and hopefully a title at some point.  I had all kinds of things I wanted to blog about, but I wanted to get the design and title down first.  I still haven’t had any grand ideas, so I’m just going to continue blogging without.  If YOU have a great idea for a title, PLEASE do share.

The title of this post, *Changes, refers to more than just the blog though.

In the last week, I have officially left Seattle.  I’ve been home in North Carolina since Saturday night, and I’m leaving for a South Carolina, Georgia, other-side-of-North-Carolina road trip tomorrow morning.  Check back later for stories and pictures.

When I get back from my road trip, I’ll have less than a week before I leave for Slovakia (wow)!

Between now and then, I hope to do a few blog posts about Slovakia, but also about the end of my time in Seattle and things I’ll miss about that lovely-yet-rainy city.