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Posts from the ‘Travel’ Category

*Vacation with Mom and Dad, Euro-Edition

I could hardly believe it when Mom and Dad told me a few months ago that they wanted to come visit me in Slovakia this summer, but I’m certainly glad they did.

We started in Vienna, where we met up with my Uncle Tommy and Aunt Anne, who were in the city with a tour group at the same time.  After spending a day and the first night in Vienna and seeing things like the Belvedere Palace and St. Stephen’s Cathedral, we took a train to Prague.

Prague is my favorite European city, and there are tons of things to see and do there.  We started with a foot and boat tour of the city.  We were the only people who had signed up for the tour (probably because it was pouring down rain in the morning), and ended up with a private tour.  Luckily, the rain stopped by the time we got on the boat.  We visited Wenceslas Square, Old Town, Prague Castle, and the Museum of Communism, among other places.

Prague from the boat tour.

Prague from the boat tour.

Busy Charles Bridge.

Busy Charles Bridge.

Look who we ran into in Prague!

Look who we ran into in Prague!

After Prague, we headed to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.  We didn’t stay in BA long; only long enough to pick up our Škoda that Dad drove around Slovakia and Poland.  We drove to Žilina, northeast of Bratislava.  I showed Mom and Dad the upper and lower squares of the city, as well as where I’m staying here.

Žilina, looking down into the lower square.

Žilina, looking down into the lower square.

The next day we hopped in the Škoda and drove to Poland.  Our first stop was Auschwitz.  This was the first time any of us had ever visited a concentration camp, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect; I wanted to see it, but I wasn’t really excited about being in a place that had been the center of so much evil.  It was quite hot and sunny that day, and it was a strange juxtaposition to be in a place with such a dark and terrible history on a hot summer’s day, squinting in the sun, surrounded by green grass, singing birds, and throngs of tourists.

From Auschwitz we went to nearby Krakow for the evening.  Krakow is a nice city, large, but not as large as Vienna or Prague.  We ate dinner outside in the main square, and enjoyed the cooler air that we only got to enjoy during the evenings.

We left Krakow around lunchtime the next day and drove south to Štrbske Pleso, a mountain lake and vacation destination in the High Tatras of northern Slovakia.  This was probably the most relaxing part of the trip.  We walked around the lake, had an excellent dinner on the lakeside patio at the hotel, and relaxed in the hot tub and sauna.

In the morning we headed to Tatranska Lomnica, where we took a cable car into the Tatras.  The car that went to the peak of the highest mountain was sold out for the day so we only went up two thirds of the way, but there was still a nice view from the top.  Then we headed back to Žilina for the evening.

The next day we went to Bratislava for the last full day of the trip.  After we said goodbye to the Škoda at the airport, we went into the city center where my friend Jane joined us and gave us a tour of the city.  We had lunch at Slovak Pub, went up to Bratislava Castle, and walked through the Old Town (and Bratislava has the best Old Town, in my opinion).  It was terribly hot again, so after walking around for a while, we hopped on a train and headed to Vienna for the night, so Mom and Dad could catch their flight early the next morning.

All in all, we had a really nice trip.  It was great to see my parents, and to introduce them to these places.


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:  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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I’ve been slow to blog about this, but I had a great trip to Boston for the TESOL conference.  Liana, one of my friends and former classmate at SPU, and I traveled together and stayed with Karen, a friend from college who’s now in grad school at Emerson in Boston.

The conference itself was really good.  I enjoyed attending sessions to learn about successful teaching techniques and to get ideas, browsing the exhibit hall and looking through all the textbooks (yes, I’m a nerd), and catching up with former classmates and professors.

I attended sessions such as:

  • Using Podcasts to Integrate Speaking, Listening, and Pronunciation Skills
  • Real Grammar: Teaching Students How We Really Write and Speak
  • Tales from the Other Side of the Desk
  • Language Through Peace, Peace Through Language
  • Re-Imagining the Use of Authentic Readings
  • Connecting IEP Students to the University Through a Practicum Project
  • Boost Academic Vocabulary to Boost Results
  • Implementing Multiple Intelligences Theory
  • Re-Imagining Vygotsky, Dewey, and Freire for English Language Learning

If any of those actually sound interesting to you, you probably are an ESOL teacher, or ought to consider it 😉 .  During the conference I also saw two of my former professors present and was able to go out for lunch or happy hour with several former classmates to catch up.

Liana and I even attended a cocktail party put on by one of the textbook companies (Pearson Longman) at a house on Beacon St.

After the conference we stayed in Boston for a few more days to tour the city and hang out with Karen.  We visited Harvard, did a city tour on the Ducks, walked the Freedom Trail and saw the Old North Church of Paul Revere fame, ate Italian food at Il Villagio and had cannoli from Mike’s in the North End, saw Fenway Park, and went to the Museum of Fine Arts.

Having wanted to visit Boston for a long time now, I loved finally being able to explore the city. It was a really cool place; a little more alive and a little more “city” than Seattle, in my opinion. I loved all the old brick buildings, the Common, and that the public transport there works pretty efficiently. Also, I met a lot of interesting people (mainly friends of Karen’s) who are in grad school at some of the many universities in Boston.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip… Thanks to Karen for letting us stay at your place, and thanks to Seattle Community Colleges for helping pay for the trip!

*International Students, 2008.

Well, as of today I am officially through teaching until 2009.  The other day I started thinking about how many students I had had from so many different countries, and I ended up making a list of them all.  It turns out that, when you count students at school and private Microsoft students,  I’ve taught students from 22 different countries!  This map shows where they’re from; the countries are listed below:

students countries

-Argentina (1)
-France (1)
-Hong Kong (1)
-India (1)
-Kazakhstan (1)
-Kuwait (1)
-Poland (1)
-Saudi Arabia (1)
-Slovakia (1)
-Spain (1)
-Czech (2)
-Germany (2)
-Brazil (2 or 3)
-Colombia (2 or 3)
-Russia (3)
-Turkey (3)
-Italy (4)
-Thailand (4)
-Japan (++)
-Libya (++)
-South Korea (++)
-Taiwan (++)

*The symbol ++ means, ‘too many to count!’