Catching up

I have way too much catching up to do here. So I’m just going to start.

  • Teaching is freaking hard. So much harder than I thought it would be. The first month, I had frequent moments of panic. I cried at work for six days straight. Everything just felt too overwhelming — the class management, the learning curve, working 18 hours a day. But it’s gotten better. I really love my students. And my really tough class is now pretty darn well-behaved.
  • We love our apartment! We lived out of our suitcases (and slept on a mattress on the floor) for the first month before our shipment came in. But now, two months in, we feel pretty settled. Biggest apartment perks — giant living spaces with high ceilings. And we love being on the 7th floor (earthquakes notwithstanding).

  • Taiwan is beautiful. One of the best parts about moving back is having a second chance to appreciate the beauty here. Paul’s been on many small excursions to various hiking trails and waterfalls around the area (he takes off when I’m at school). And despite all my work, we’ve managed to take a couple of day trips out to the coast.

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  • I can’t lie and say I haven’t had moments of panic — sometimes I still can’t believe we left our old lives behind. I miss my job, my friends, our church, our house. It’s weird to be a teacher and not a journalist. The first time and only time I listened to NPR since we’ve moved I burst into tears of homesickness.
  • But we like it here. It’s an adventure, for sure.
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We are here. Here we are.

After around 32 hours of travel, we made it to our new home.

When we landed, Anna asked (with humor): “Wait, why did we move here again? This is crazy.” It DOES seem crazy to pack up and sell everything we own and move across the planet.

But we’re so excited to be here.

Also, here are the views from our two balconies:

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And here I am, eating a very early breakfast of pastries and coffee. Note the bags under my eyes.

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anna-mazing podcast

If you can’t tell, we really like podcasts around here.

My older daughter, Anna, absolutely fell in love with Brains On!, a science podcast for kids. That, on top of lots of exposure to my own radio work, convinced her she wants her own podcast —  music (haha) to my ears.

So I inaugurated my newly-acquired audio kit and helped her start a podcast. The first episode of anna-mazing podcast* posted this morning. You can subscribe on iTunes or listen here:

Some behind-the-scenes notes:

  • The show is unscripted and extemporaneous, minus the segment headings and credits. Anna answered the questions without input from me (minus the prompts you hear on tape, like “Can you give me an example of that?”). We did go through two takes, but only because the first take included too much street noise. We recorded double the number of questions/answers we ended up using.
  • It took us a while to come up with a name. Some contenders? Anna’s Answers (Anna’s top choice), Anna!, and Anna’s Podcast. (We’re not very creative.)
  • *Incidentally, Anna objects to the lack of capitalization in the name. She says proper nouns have to be capitalized. Will change that for episode 2!
  • Anna didn’t really care too much about what the podcast is about — she just wanted to make one! I suggested a Q&A format because Anna is pretty great at giving pithy, sometimes funny, advice. And I liked the idea of showing her that her opinion matters, even as a kid. Crowdsourcing questions on Facebook also meant way less pressure for us to come up with content.
  • We recorded the bulk of the show on Shelby’s bed.
  • The one question I really, really wanted her to answer was a question about how parents can help their kids get along. She declined to answer (hits too close to home).

Recently enjoyed

LISTENING Mystery Show podcast, Gimlet Media‘s newest offering. It is whimsical, funny, and surprisingly moving. I buzzed through the first three episodes driving to Philadelphia last week and at times, I felt like my heart was going to burst with emotion. Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.51.59 AM Music: As I mentioned before, I’ve been feeling “off” music lately. But I managed to cobble together a mix that I love.

DRINKING Cold brew coffee. My little brother and his wife received a Hario Mizudashi cold brew coffee pot as a wedding gift and I remember being intrigued (I have a slight addiction to coffee accoutrements). He loves it! We decided to purchase one in preparation for the Kaohsiung heat and have loved it so far. As in, we now drink way too much coffee. Cold brewed coffee is special— it’s smooth and sweet and really, really delicious.

EATING Paul brought me a package of stroopwafels from Amsterdam. They’re delicious and happen to fit perfectly over a mug I picked up at St. Vincent de Paul. Remember how I said I’m addicted to coffee paraphernalia? I just cannot resist a pretty mug (even though I am in the middle of packing the dozens I already have). Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 12.00.40 PMWEARING I picked up a pair of chambray pants from Target, thinking they’d be nice and cool for lounging around in Kaohsiung. I was a little worried they’d look too pajama-like, but Paul actually thinks they look “classy.” Ha. Anyway, they’re way more flattering than the picture on the website suggests. But they are just as comfortable as you’d think. (I’ve worn them three days straight.) Incidentally, chambray has been trendy for years but now it’s everywhere. And Target now has every iteration of chambray you can imagine: dresses, shorts, pants, shirts.

READING Recently finished Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. Both compelling but neither left me satisfied (albeit for good reasons). I’m currently reading David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks and I’m a bit surprised by how much I’m liking it.

WATCHING Bill Nye the Science Guy on Netflix. Fun for the whole family.

Unemployed

You know how I’ve mentioned (over and over) how much I loved my job as a radio journalist?

Well, it wasn’t perfect. In fact, I really regretted taking the job the first few months in. The “beat” didn’t come naturally to me.  I struggled going from having an in-person editor and team to working remotely. I hated how much Paul and I had to rely on daycare and after-school care. So much about it felt wrong, especially compared to how much I loved my previous part-time job.

Several months after I started the job, I began to seriously think about quitting. Then I had a conversation with some friends. One friend was battling similar feelings of unhappiness but her situation was less in her control than mine was… my advice to her was to try to find the things about her current life she’d miss when this season is over.

It occurred to me to apply that to my own life. And it made ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

I suppose it’s just another way of focusing on gratitude, but dude, it really worked. Instead of focusing on the things about my life that frustrated me, I seized on to the idea that nothing lasts forever — so I might as well fully embrace the aspects (big and small!) of my life that I did love.  Like

  • my 35-minute bus commute — perfect opportunity to listen to my favorite podcasts and have my first sips of coffee.
  • the ritual of making a mug of coffee with my Aeropress in the peace and quiet of the morning before everyone else arrived in the office
  • the thrill of brainstorming a new project
  • the satisfaction of an interview well done
  • believe it or not, committee meetings
  • the novelty of traveling (and staying in hotels by myself) during work trips
  • having a workspace all to myself
  • the challenge of diving deep into a topic I know nothing about
  • getting to meet all sorts of people
  • having the agency to ask strangers questions

You know what? It took just a couple of weeks of this change in attitude before I honestly felt like I didn’t only tolerate, but actually loved my job.

With this in mind, I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed not working. I was so dreading quitting, I forgot how wonderful it feels to have a day stretch out before you with no plans, no nerve-wracking interviews on the horizon. I love the relief of no deadlines, of no longer having to constantly feel productive.

I think the beauty of this in-between time is I know it won’t last, either. So I’m enjoying the things I love about staying at home, not working, before this season will also pass.

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Links

Recent things I read online and liked:

“Life is harder than radio.” Marc Maron interviewed Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. 

“So why not just say f* the career and just have the baby? Why not just say to hell with kids and pursue a career you love instead? Why try to have “it all” at all? Here’s why: Because having a great career is the best and having babies is f*ing incredible and having both is AMAZING, and no I’m not kidding, not even a little bit.” This Ask Polly advice about work/life balance is good stuff. 

My former colleagues at WHYY put together a really impressive series on Pennsylvania public education funding. It answers the questions you’ve always wondered about: How does the government decide how much money to give schools? How much do teachers make? What’s the deal with charter schools? What the heck is a millage rate?

BuzzFeed has a list for everything. And I mean EVERYTHING.

“Almost everything you look at will become sources of inspiration.” This guy talks about how to become an “idea machine.”