adventure

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #47: Irish Car Bombs, K-Pop, and the Sesquicentennial State Park

This week we got to celebrate our friends Sam and Laura who are both in Jonathan’s program and both happened to have birthdays this past week. We had all of the first year students in Jonathan’s discipline over for dinner, which sounds magnanimous of us, but there are only four of them, and also Sam cooked dinner even though it was his birthday. I did make fancy Irish Car Bomb cupcakes in celebration which were delicious if I do say so myself although they led to me gaining 3 lbs in the week before Thanksgiving – not ideal timing.

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Then we made our friends watch K-Pop videos like this one for hours. (Side note: I miss Korea so much).

Fall is in full swing here in South Carolina and I have been pleasantly surprised by how much the leaves have changed colors. Where I grew up in Louisiana (which is even further south for you non-Americans) the leaves don’t really change colors. This is partially due to the large amount of evergreens that grow there and partly because the weather stays relatively warm all year round with just a few cold spells instead of properly changing into a whole season of new temperatures. When we lived in North Carolina a few years ago, the falls were exquisite. The days were crystal clear and crisp and the leaves were brilliant. I wasn’t sure what to expect from South Carolina which feels more similar to my hometown than to Raleigh, so I’m excited to report that South Carolina does indeed get a bit of fall -at least my part of it does.

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We’ve been meaning to check out some of the parks in our new homeland for a while now. In Korea we enjoyed hiking and taking walks on the weekend which we were able to do even though we lived in a big city. Here there is more nature all around, but as far as I know there aren’t trails or lakes within the city that you can run on or around the way there were in Raleigh and even Daegu. This means going out to enjoy nature requires an intentional trip.

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After church on Sunday we drove for about 25 minutes to the Sesquicentennial State Park. There aren’t any mountains or even significant hills there so we took a walk more than a hike, but it was still lovely to get out on a such a beautiful day.

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I was very proud of how tall I looked next to this tiny tree…if only you couldn’t see those slightly bigger trees in the background…

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Jonathan was grumpy. I don’t remember why, but I’m sure it was my fault. I’m super annoying sometimes.

The one downside to the Sesquicentennial State Park is that we had to pay $2 per person as an entrance fee. I know that’s not a lot of money, but I still think it’s lame since that’s something we theoretically pay taxes for anyway. Also it sort of rules out the possibility of using it as a regular running spot.

There are lots and lots of pine trees in South Carolina (and in this park in particular) which don’t do anything in the fall except make a great mess of pine needles, but there still enough red and orange and yellow trees sprinkled in to make it scenic. We’ll have to check it out in other seasons and report back.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my trip to Sparkletown and celebrating Friendsgiving, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #44: Moving. Again.

In case you’re behind on the Dunn family drama, on Sunday we had to move out of our lovely condo after living there a grand total of 10 weeks because our landlords sold it out from under us. Boo. The good news is that we found a new place very nearby to the old one. It’s a duplex so it’s in a neighborhood rather than a big complex. There’s a little yard (although it’s mostly a dirt patch) and the house has wood floors and a (non-functional) fireplace and a loft with a spiral staircase.

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We were able to negotiate with our old landlords to have our moving costs covered since we were doing them the courtesy of allowing them to break our one-year-lease in the first place. This was the first time we had a moving company do the moving for us instead of doing everything ourselves. It pretty much rocked.

We still had to pack up all of our loose things into boxes and suitcases and we transferred our delicate things (wall hangings and small lamps) ourselves to make sure they weren’t damaged. My new friend Kelly came over on Friday to help me pack up the kitchen and Jonathan and I finished packing up the contents of our closets and our many, many books by Saturday night. The movers arrived at 8:45 on Sunday and have everything completely moved to the new place by 12:30. We spent the rest of the day cleaning the old place and driving unloading our cars which were crammed full of our breakable things.

I was still grumpy about moving.

I was still grumpy about moving.

The worst part of the move was that it was raining steadily all day long and the dirt patch front yard quickly became a mud patch which meant the floors of the house were quickly covered in mud as people tromped in and out. We are still trying to get the floor clean, but for now, I’ll just be leaving my slippers on all the time.

While the new place has a lot of charm, there are some downsides. It’s smaller than the old place and the kitchen has a lot less storage space, including no pantry, so we’re still trying to figure out how to fit all of the kitchen stuff plus food. The cabinets are also all very high which means I can just barely reach things on the second shelf and can’t reach the third shelf at all. It might be time to invest in a step-stool! There’s no dishwasher in this place, and while we didn’t have a dishwasher for the two years we were in Korea, it makes life a lot easier.

Other small annoyances include not being able to paint this place like we did the old one and the fact that the windows came with curtain rods already installed (good!) but they are the flimsy white plastic ones and they are installed right on the window frame. The first rule of hanging curtain rods is to hang them higher and wider than the windows themselves because this creates more visual space. Having the rods right on the windows like that makes the windows look small and cramped. Also, the white rod poking through the curtains with rings at the top. I know those are dumb complaints, I just put so much effort into making the last place feel beautiful that I’m feeling less cheerful about compromising. But it is a unique, cozy place and I know I’ll grow to love it.

Not quite to the cute and cozy stage yet.

Not quite to the cute and cozy stage yet.

Probably the funniest part of the whole move has been watching our cats react to the spiral staircase. Ruthie took one look at it and sprinted to the top, then jumped up on the ledge at the top. It’s about 6 inches wide and if she fell off of it she’d drop at least 6 feet before hitting one of the stairs below. It’s horrifying, but she’s a daredevil. If I tried to block it off somehow she’d just figure out a more dangerous way to get up there. She runs up and down those stairs like she’s training for the Olympics.

Bart, on the other hand, didn’t even notice the stairs for a full day. When he finally looked up, apparently for the first time in seven hours, he made this face, which is an exact cat version of the face Troy from Community when he meets LeVar Burton. (It’s even funnier in real life.)

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The few times Bart has attempted the stairs he makes loud, whiny noises each time he takes a step with long pauses in between each one. He usually gives up after 3 or 4.

I’ll give you guys the full photo tour once we have it all set up, but it might take a little while since we’re fitting unpacking in around Jonathan’s school and my work schedule. Today I am practicing gratitude by being thankful for a new place to live that really is quite cute in spite of its flaws and for the fact that Jonathan and I are here together and as long as that’s true it doesn’t really matter where we are.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my trip to New York you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 42: South Carolina State Fair

The first fall that we lived in Raleigh we learned  that the North Carolina State Fair was an event that was not to be missed. If it hadn’t been for the excitement of our friends who were Carolina natives I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about the fair. In the US, most states have some sort of state fair, including Louisiana where I grew up, but the size and importance of the fair seems to vary from place to place. My memories of the Cajun Heartland State Fair which I’d attended a few times in elementary school were mostly of the carnival-type rides and spending all of my money on the game booth where you toss ping pong balls into fish bowls to win a live goldfish. One year I won three fish. After that my family stopped going to the fair. (Coincidence? I think not!)

The North Carolina State Fair was a different beast entirely. There were animal shows and art exhibits and craft tents. There were lights you could see from miles away and a huge fireworks display every evening. But the crowning achievement of the NC State fair was undoubtedly their selection of deep-fried foods. It seemed the unspoken goal of the fair was for competing vendors to figure out more and more inventive things to deep fry. Forget about corn dogs and chicken nuggets. We are talking fried mac and cheese, fried peanut butter and jelly, fried candy bars, fried Twinkies, and even fried Kool-aid. It was a feast made to clog even the healthiest of arteries.

This past week the South Carolina State Fair rolled into town here in Columbia. Having such fond (if strange) memories of the NC State Fair, we decided to see how it measured up. We went with our friends, Sam and Marya, on Friday afternoon. In our experience the fair gets crowded at night, so going in the middle of the afternoon meant we didn’t have to wade through a crush of humanity running around with foot-long corn dogs on skewers that could second as spears.

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We headed towards the animal exhibits where we arrived just in time for a good old-fashioned pig race. The picture isn’t great, but there are three pigs running around this pen. Pig #1 won by a mile, just for the record.

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Next we looked at some of the animals that had been submitted by their owners for prizes. This always reminds me of the part in Charlotte’s Web where Mr. Zuckerman takes Wilbur to the state fair. There was a wide variety of cows and chickens, but my favorite animal was, for obvious reasons, this rabbit with the killer cat-eye.

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After we’d had enough of the animals we decided to try out the food samplings. There were tons of booths, but we weren’t overly impressed with the deep-fried selection. In the end, we got a gyro and a lemonade and vowed to continue the search for a deep-fried dessert.

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Only in America, man.

We set out to explore the rest of the fair with our eyes peeled for the fried candy bars, but we couldn’t find them. We finally asked at the information booth where all the good stuff was and the girl working there directed us to a lone food cart offering a selection of fried candy bars, oreos, red velvet oreos, and cookie dough. We weren’t wowed by their inventiveness, but we got some oreos and cookie dough anyway. They were delicious, even though I could feel my thighs expanding with each bite.

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I don’t know that the SC State Fair lived up to the NC State Fair, but it was still fun, even though I’m still trying to burn off the calories I ingested.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about the trials of tutoring, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #41: Everyday I’m Tutoring, Tutoring

Even though tutoring is an ordinary part of many people’s education, the word “tutor” still conjures up a 19th century Ichabod Crane type schoolmaster in my mind. It also always makes me think of this comic which my friend Christina’s family has a long-running joke about.

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I enjoy tutoring because unlike most classroom teaching I have the opportunity to work one-on-one with students and can try more than one method of explaining something until the student understands. The thing that makes tutoring an adventure for me is that I rarely know ahead of time what assignments the student will bring to work on together, but it’s my job to be competent to help them with whatever they’ve been assigned. This sometimes means a quick Google refresher coupled with liberal use of the Socratic method (“What do you think it means, Johnny?”) and a healthy dash of BS. I will admit that I’m amazed sometimes when some long-forgotten tidbit of knowledge pops into my head while tutoring and I realize those long hard days of elementary school really paid off.

In a given week of tutoring here are all of the things I need to have mastery of:

  • The basics of how the digestive system works.
  • What are xylem and phloem?
  • How to explain exponents to a fifth-grader.
  • How to make a 7th grade boy answer questions in complete sentences. (I’ve determined that it’s basically impossible).
  • How to master the  Reading Comprehension section of the ACT in the allotted 40 minutes. (How exactly do you make a student read faster? Besides making them read a bunch of things on a timer?)
  • How to use “credence” in a sentence and how to explain that for some reason, we only ever use this word in the phrase “give/gave credence to.”
  • How to write compelling personal essays for college applications without putting my words in someone else’s “mouth.”
  • What happened in Tom Sawyer? All I remember is the part where he paints the fence. Also when he and Becky Thatcher get lost in the cave at Becky’s picnic. Thanks a lot, Wishbone.
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I’ve realized that tutoring is similar to substitute teaching in that you can’t get by with mastery of a single subject or grade level. Tutoring is also unique in that, if you’re doing it right, you should really be working yourself out of a job. Which is good for them and bad for you. So the key is getting your students to improve enough that their parents think the tutoring is working without making them think the tutoring isn’t necessary anymore. (Just kidding, just kidding. For the record, my goal is definitely to have the students improve to the point that they don’t need me).

Things in Columbia continue to be strange and disjointed in the aftermath of the Great Flood. Parts of roads are still closed and many houses have to be knocked to the ground and rebuilt from scratch. Driving through neighborhoods there are mountains of debris in the yards from houses being completely gutted. It will take this city months to years to fully recover. The flooding has put a damper on both our adventures and on my job search progress as things here ground to a halt for an entire week. But this coming weekend we have a day trip planned to Wilmington, a beach town in North Carolina where one of my dear friends lives. We are looking forward to getting out and trying some new things in Wilmington and I will hopefully have a more interesting adventure to report back next week!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about the 1,000 Year Flood, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 39: My Best Friend’s Wedding

Last week I had the absolute privilege of being the Matron of Honor in my best friend’s wedding. My sweet Christina lived with me through all four years of college, stood in my wedding,  moved to Raleigh at the same time we did, and later flew all the way to South Korea to visit us. After my family, she is the person I love most in the world.

Reverse roles - Christina as Maid of Honor and me as the bride

Reverse roles – Christina as Maid of Honor and me as the bride.

One of my most favorite pictures of the two of us.

One of my most favorite pictures of the two of us from when we ran the Disneyworld Marathon in 2012.

Christina is one of those girls who has it all – beauty, brains, humor, kindness, and a love for adventure – and yet for some inexplicable reason she was still single after many of our friends were married. This was hard sometimes, but Christina was always gracious about it. So when she met Andy last summer and it quickly became clear that this was a serious thing I couldn’t have been happier for her. Well, I would have been a little happier if this huge life event (meeting the ONE and getting engaged) hadn’t happened while I was on the other side of the world, but that’s just my selfishness talking.

See what I mean? You can totes tell they want to be together forever.

Right after Christina and Andy got engaged. The love is real, people.

The weeks and days before the wedding were stressful, like many weddings are, with more than their fair share of double-booked venues, botched dress alterations, and a million little details that seemed like they would never come together, but the stress of this wedding was compounded by the fact that Christina’s dad was very sick throughout the whole process. He passed away just two months before the wedding and she had to accept the unthinkable – that her dad wouldn’t be there to walk her down the aisle. So. Many. Feelings.

I left Columbia on Wednesday to head to Raleigh for the beginning of the wedding festivities. On Wednesday night we had a little bachelorette party with  mostly local friends which included copious amounts of fondu and the most classic of all bachelorette activities – mini golf.

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Thursday was rehearsal day and the first half of the day was absolute chaos. In an effort to be helpful I made several trips to the airport, to the craft store, and to pick up food and drinks to make sure the bride-to-be remembered to eat. One of the most fun things about this wedding was that the other women in the wedding party were also some of my best friends, so it was roommate reunion all over again.

Rehearsing. PS- Isn't this church fabulous?

Rehearsing. PS- Isn’t this church fabulous?

Rehearsal dinner with so many fabulous people!

Rehearsal dinner with so many fabulous people!

Aside from the weather (which was pouring down rain all day for several days)  everything from the rehearsal on Thursday night onward flowed like a dream and suddenly it was late Friday afternoon and we were zipping her into her dress and adjusting her veil and holding our bouquets and walking down the aisle to stand at the front of the church as Christina and Andy became a family.

Garter time.

Garter time.

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Isn’t she the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? Also, the matching robes were a bridesmaid’s gift. Adorbs.

Christina's sister, Lori, sister-in-law, Anna, and niece/flower girl, June. Does that tutu just kill you?

Christina’s sister, Lori, sister-in-law, Anna, and niece/flower girl, June. Does that tutu just kill you?

I cry at all weddings. Weddings of people I know and weddings of strangers and weddings of characters in movies. There is something about that moment when the bride steps onto the aisle and she is radiant and gloriously happy and the groom’s eyes (and everyone else’s) are locked on her like he never in his wildest dreams imagined someone so beautiful would choose him forever. It’s magical. But this wedding – this moment when the doors opened and my best friend in the world stepped onto that aisle holding onto her brother’s arm, with her train and her veil trailing behind her, I couldn’t even breathe.

You guys. I ugly-cried.

I tried so hard to get it under control, but of course that just meant my face was all red and contorted doing that thing where you try to smile through it, but your whole face is twitching and your nose is running from the effort. I was a hot mess. Thankfully, nobody was looking at me (except Jonathan who confirmed that I was indeed ugly-crying) because everyone was so mesmerized by Christina’s bridal beauty.

And then, in the blink of an eye, the ceremony was over and she was Mrs. Proctor and we all headed out to the most exquisite reception I had ever seen.

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The Cotton Room in downtown Durham, in case you were wondering.

As the Matron of Honor, I got to give a toast at the reception. This was my first experience writing a toast and I found it to be more difficult than I expected. Striking that perfect balance between being light and fun for people who aren’t as close to the bride as you are while also saying things that are meaningful to your friend and the relationship you have with her is tricky. Add to this the fact that my devotion to Christina borders on the creepy and you can imagine how tough of an assignment this was. But after much deliberation (and much vetoing of my ideas by Jonathan) I found a way to say how much I love her, how beautiful and holy marriage is, and how very happy I am for the two of them.

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And then, we danced. And by we, I mostly mean me. I danced like a fool (because I am an epically bad dancer) for hours. And it was glorious.

At the end of the night, I hugged my sweet friend and kissed her cheek and then we all sent her off in a shower of sparklers to their honeymoon in Tahiti (dreamy, right?)

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Week 39 was an epic adventure. We’ve got 13 weeks left and I don’t know that anything will top this, but I’m willing to try!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure checking out the farmer’s market and the Greek Festival you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty Two Weeks of Adventure # 38: Farmer’s Market and Greek Festival

The calendar says it’s fall, but Columbia hasn’t gotten the memo yet. It’s continued to hit the 90’s here most days, but since I have the ability to spend most of my time in air conditioned buildings or cars (unlike in Korea where it was equally hot but without much air conditioning), I can’t complain too much. It’s also been beautifully clear with brilliant blue skies almost every day (also a huge contrast to Korea which is frequently hazy even on sunny days) so I’ve been inspired to get out and do a little exploring.

The Soda City Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday morning in downtown Columbia. I love farmer’s markets. Back in Raleigh there is a huge, permanent farmer’s market that’s open every day with an especially big one on Saturdays. In Korea, there were two markets within walking distance of our apartment and I often got our fruits and vegetables there. The Soda City Farmer’s Market has a fun atmosphere with a combination of fresh produce, baked goods, food trucks/stalls, and art, jewelry, and crafts made by local artisans.
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The most unique part of this market compared with others I’ve been to was a produce stand that allowed you to take a box and fill it as full as you could with whatever produce items you wanted. It was $10 for the entire box and there was a good variety of fruits and veggies to choose from that all came from a local farm.
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I managed to pack in corn, kale, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, a spaghetti squash, yellow squash, apples, peaches, an eggplant, and some mushrooms.
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I had a moment of nostalgia when I passed this tent selling Korean food. It was only about 10 AM so I wasn’t ready to eat, otherwise I would have been all over that mandu!
Sorry to the lady who was standing right there while I was trying to get a picture of the menu board!

Sorry to the lady who was standing right there while I was trying to get a picture of the menu board!

In the afternoon we went to the Greek Festival which was going on all weekend long at the Greek Orthodox Church.
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My dad is Greek and I grew up eating Greek food so it’s always a little nostalgic to me to eat it. The festival was packed but the gyros we ended up with were well worth the wait.
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We also got to see a little Greek dancing.
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I’d heard rumors of a baklava sundae, but couldn’t find it anywhere so we didn’t end up having any desserts. Probably for the best considering all the yummy foods we’ve been indulging in lately and the fact that I have a bridesmaid’s dress to fit into for a Very Important Wedding this weekend!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure teaching the 7th grade you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

 

Fifty Two Weeks of Adventure #37: Tales From the Seventh Grade

I have a friend who teaches 6th grade history and media studies at a private school in Raleigh. She is pretty great at what she does and seems to really enjoy it (for the most part).  I’ve always felt a bit in awe of her, knowing that she voluntarily goes into whole classrooms full of tweens on a daily basis. Another friend (the one we went hiking with in Charlotte last week) teaches history and Latin to middle schoolers and also coaches several teams. Again, a fantastic teacher who seems to genuinely enjoy what he does. I’ve always felt that it takes a special person and personality to enjoy that awkward middle school age group and I’ve also always felt that I was not one of them. This week I put that theory to the test.

I am still actively seeking employment here in Columbia as several part-time and freelance opportunities I’d been trying to line up have fallen through. One of the few things I have been successful at was getting hired on as a tutor at a local (very nice) private school. When I interviewed to be a tutor I also interviewed to work as a substitute teacher and this week I got my first call to come in.

I got a text at 8 AM asking if I could sub last-minute. I was still in pajamas and hadn’t even had a first cup of coffee. So naturally I said yes. I had no idea what grade or subject I’d be teaching, but I pulled myself together and said a quick prayer that it was something I knew something about. Especially since this was technically my first time teaching in an American classroom.

When I arrived at the school I was taken to a middle school classroom full of maps where I deduced that the class had something to do with geography. It was 7th grade geography. Luckily, the teacher had created a PPT presentation for that day which was on the computer. I quickly tried to remember everything I knew about maps, globes, equivalency and confluency. The reservoir in my brain proved to be decidedly shallow, but, as every good teacher knows, when in doubt, fake it! Or Google it if you have time and/or can do it discreetly.

The first class came in wearing neon green and orange and yellow (it was Spirit week, and “Neon Day,” a memo I clearly had not gotten in my black and white ensemble) and talking a mile a minute. “I’m Mrs. Dunn. I’m subbing today,” I said over the sound of their chatter and my own pounding heart. And then…I taught.

I taught four geography classes and a homeroom class. To 7th graders. And I kind of loved it.

Sure, they were more chatty and rambunctious than was probably ideal, but I was surprised by how endearing I found them. In seventh grade they’ve reached the age where they’ve realized that one great way to get out of work when they have a sub is to distract them with lots and lots of questions, most of which I didn’t answer.

“Where’s Ms. H? Are you our permanent sub? Could you be our permanent sub? You have an accent (hah!) Where are you from? What’s on your shirt? Is it kangaroos? Is it dinosaurs? I think it’s cats. Where’d you get it? Where is your necklace from?”

And a few of which I did:

Student: Are you normally a geographer teacher?

Me: No, I used to teach English.

S: Then how do you know so much about geography?

M: Because I’m an adult.

S: I can see why you were a teacher. You’re good at it. I actually feel like I’m learning something.

M: Thanks. (Maybe this was sucking up, but it still made me feel good!)

There were also the funny compliments which were possibly meant only to distract me, but I like to think they were genuine.

S: I love your eyebrows.

M: Thanks.

S: No, really. They’re perfect. Look! (All the girls in the classroom look and sigh in envy) Wow. They really are.

M: Ummmm, thanks… (If only they know. My eyebrows are actually the bane of my existence beauty-wise. They look ridiculous 92% of the time).

In the end we made it through with few casualties and apart from feeling rather more tired than normal I have to admit that I had fun. Perhaps teaching middle school is not quite the hell I imagined it to be, but it still was a big adventure!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure hiking in Charlotte you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.