The Chimney Swift

I was unlocking my bike after church today when I heard a soft “thump” on the sidewalk followed by a rapid sweeping sound. I turned around to find a bird with long wings and the shortest legs trying to get off the ground. I walked up to it, knelt down, and scooped it up gently with my biking gloves. He didn’t panic or try to fly away. Perhaps he was stunned from having flown into the building. His feathers were entirely grey, with some lighter shades approaching white on his tail and coverts. Pardon my lack of scientific words for these parts, ornithology was my lowest grade in college. I held him for about two minutes, looking him over carefully. He had a few white clumps on him (aerial poo?) and he kept winking his right eye while the left remained opened (did he have a secret for me?).

After I prayed a few good thoughts for him, seeing that he wasn’t fading on me but rather gaining strength, I gradually let go of him and released him to the sky. He fluttered his wings rapidly, not losing any air to fall but climbing in altitude next to the World Trade Center where he may live. He circled once over my head, then headed off to windier breezes.

Seeking my own purpose for being in Long Beach, I found a metaphor in that Chimney Swift. We’re all designed with a purpose to fulfill a niche in life. When we find ourselves suddenly out of our element, we struggle to take off again. Sometimes it requires a helping hand to calm and reassure us that we can get back to soaring. My international teaching career has felt like I’m always traveling, clinging to high cliffs for shelter, and never feeling the salt of the earth. But some creatures aren’t designed to feel the salt of the earth, to hunt for worms and peck at grounded birdseed. Now humans are more adaptable than birds, but when relocating from a windy cliff to an urban lawn, it can feel like its hard to take off. I need to take stock of all those who have come to help me get soaring again. Thanks.


TESOL in Seattle

I left the dry brown confines of Los Angeles for the lush green shores of Seattle on April 18. In exchange for being able to see green, I wasn't allowed to see the sun for a week. All in all, a pretty good trade. I was in town for the annual TESOL convention, staying with my aunt and uncle in Newcastle. I rode the bus into town every day. I didn't like waiting in the rain at 6:30 am, but the mass transit wasn't too bad. I certainly got a feel for the city that way.

Sunday I arrived in partly sunny skies. My cousin Jessica happened to be visiting for the weekend, too, so we headed out to a place called Northwest Trek. It was a rehabilitation center for injured birds and a reserve for large game animals of the Northwest USA. We took a tram ride to see Bison, Elk, Moose, Sheep, and three kinds of Deer. Other animals, like black and grizzly bears, cougars, wolves, lynx, and bobcats were contained in large areas with inconspicuous fencing. It was good to spend a day outdoors, smelling the detritus and pine trees instead of soot and smog in LA.

Monday I had a training at the convention for implementing K-12 English Language Learners' standards in school. Yes, it doesn't sound very exciting but necessary for educators and administrators.

Tuesday I had off, so I took a tour of the Seattle Public Library. Completed in 2004, it is a wonderful example of green design. The mayor built it to draw more residents to downtown. The windows are triple plated with aluminum shades between one gap to dissipate the sunlight from heating the interior as it comes in and has Kryptonite between the other gap to prevent heat loss from the building. The book return system is entirely automated. When you drop it off in the bin, it goes up a conveyor belt, gets scanned in, and then robotic pushers move it onto the correct cart according to its Dewey decimal system. This saves time and money from paying humans to do it, saving the city money. And they've got plenty of automatic check out kiosks. Long Beach still insists on making patrons wait as only one librarian checks everyone out of the main branch. Architecturally, the building is inspiring. So see it yourself!

Tuesday afternoon I spent with a friend of mine from college. She taught English in Miyazaki, on Kyushu island, and married a man from there. Now they live in Seattle with their daughter. It is good to be able to stay in touch, even as our lives move in different directions we still try to keep something in common. And they gave me a great tip on a Japanese 100 Yen ($1) store in town. Great! I can get the Japanese stationery that I envy!

Wednesday through Saturday were spent at the convention center. Conventions are sort of like Disneyland: you're immersed in a new world for a few days where everyone is friendly and you can let go of other cares. Seeing all my old friends and professors from MIIS was a great treat. It certainly recharged my batteries for the year and motivated me to start some classroom research to share in the future. After a full day of sessions and strolling the exhibit hall, I would come home and visit with my Aunt and Uncle. Two different worlds that I tried to communicate best with. They were so hospitable to put up with my shifting schedule of figuring out how to get home in inclimate weather.

Saturday night I hung out with my cousin and his fiancee. We toured Fremont, saw the troll and Lenin statues, and went out for breakfast the next day. I definitely got to see some interesting neighborhoods and people by hanging out with them. Thanks David and Shelly!

Sunday came so soon, and with it my return home. Of course, the sun decided to come back out to say good-bye to me. I had such a good time that I forgot to pick up and send postcards on my trip. Sorry to all the folks that felt left out. Consider this blog with included pictures as a consolation!

Thanks for patiently waiting for me to get my act together with another legitimate blog entry. Maybe its saying something that my readjustment to the USA is complete when I no longer blog like an outsider. Hmm...


Staying Alive

Yes, I'm still alive. It's just been an incredibly busy month of travel, late nights, and distance from the computer. Lots to talk about when I get a chuck of time.

Countries I have visited

Where I've been in the USA