Freedom Writers

I don't plug too many movie recommendations on my blog, so you know this one is special. It's actually about the school district where I teach: Long Beach Unified. Set just after the 1993 LA riots, Freedom Writers takes place at Wilson High School. The local paper ran an article about two months ago about students' reactions to the YouTube previews. I agreed with them that the racial tensions at school are almost unrecognizeable to how they are portrayed in the movie. So when you go and see it, remember that it's a period piece: things are a lot better these days!

I'm in the middle of reading the book that the teacher, Erin Gruwell, edited from her students' writings: The Freedom Writers Diary. The raw descriptions of after-school life and the lengths that their teacher will go to connect them with individuals who have moved beyond hate to tolerance is awe-some. Gruwell doesn't mention it in the book, but her work resonates with Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed: giving literacy and voice to the voiceless. I'm still in Chicago until Jan 8. The movie debuts Jan 5. I wonder what the buzz will be like in LB? If you're at all interested in where I work, the plight of urban education today, or looking for a teacher inspiration movie, please go see this film!


Merry Christmas

Just a little note to let you know that I'm still here. At this point, "here" is Kildeer, Illinois, where I'm celebrating Christmas with my family. There's no snow on the ground, but it is markedly colder than SouCal. I'm enjoying being with family and will soon venture to my hometown of Naperville to visit with some old friends. There's something about living out of a suitcase for a week or two to simplify life just a bit. If I were home with all of my gadgets and doo-dads, I'm sure I'd waste away my entire vacation. No wonder I like travel so much: it keeps me focused and on the move!


Thanksgiving in Seattle

Safeco Field, home of Ichiro Suzuki and the Seattle Mariners!

I promised Monday updates and pix from my trip to Seattle. It was a wild Thanksgiving week in the Emerald City for my brother, sister-in-law, and me. We expected typical Seattle weather: 40ºF and raining. What we got was 5 days of winter wonderland with rain freezing to snow and sticking! It did wonders for travel around town, but thanks to use of generous Uncle Bill's Chevy Tahoe, we got around just fine.

Highlights of our week include: day trips to Bainbridge Island via ferry and Vancouver, Canada; naps on the couch after overeating; movies on the big-screen TV; rummaging through family books and paintings; and impromptu snowball fights with cousins and siblings!

Me with the backdrop of Lions' Gate Bridge in Vancouver's Stanley Park

It was nice to get out of the country for a few hours. Craig's wife Gena was on a quest for a Harvey's Restaurant. So hunting down the only Harvey's in town made for a nice tour of the city. Wouldn't you know that the popular Canadian hamburger chain of Ottawa can only be found in Home Depots in British Columbia? Along the way, we got to see the beautiful waterline, sports arena, gastown, and Chinatown in Vancouver.

Here's Craig giving his seal of approval to Harvey's

We toured Stanley Park for the afternoon of increasingly heavy snowflakes, incoming fog, and lowering temperatures. Did you know that the park is as big as downtown Vancouver? Lots of hiking trails and sites to explore. Here's some totem poles from First Nations around BC.

After dinner with Gena's cousin, we braved the worsening roads back to Seattle. If it weren't for the 4WD, we may have had to stay the night. They run a tight ship at the US Border at Blaine, WA. We took an in-depth tour of their facility during the middle of the snowstorm. If you want the same tour, just make sure to leave important travel documents at home before you go!;)

Back in Seattle we were treated to tons of food from Uncle Bill and Aunt Shari. While the days are getting shorter anywhere above the equator this time of year, our days were even shorter with 10am sleep-ins each day. But with delicious breakfasts and short outings in the afternoons, we kept things simple for the rest of our vacation there.

As a parting shot, this photo sums up our activities for the week: Uncle Bill catching naps where/when ever, Craig catching up on the latest biz, Gena and Aunt Shari exchanging stories and recipes, and yours truly behind the camera! Until next week!


Getting back in the swing of things

View from Point Lobos State Park, Carmel, CA

Phew! It's been almost a month since my last post! I'm terrible. Bestest Blog of all time may just kick me out of consideration for a link. But sometimes inactivity on the web is a sign of busy activity at the old brick and mortar. Last year I was pretty good at posting at least once a week. I think the secret to doing that is to have a regular day of the week that I post. Probably a good day for me now will be Mondays.

Since I last posted about Chicago's Olympic hopes, I've gone up to Seattle, Washington for Thanksgiving; took another international trip: to Vancouver, British Columbia; and have been trying to earn more money down here in Long Beach with additional part-time work. Things agwon fi mi dat fuh shoa!

Right now in Long Beach I'm subbing a few days a week, teaching adult ESL at night, and looking for full-time ESL teaching work in SouCal. That's like looking for the Lost Ark if you ask me. But at least it makes for a good adventure!

I need to post pictures from my Monterey, Seattle, and Vancouver trips, too! Ok, like I said, I'm getting back in the swing of things.

Countries I have visited

Where I've been in the USA