A disgruntled librarian packs it up and leaves fabulous New York City behind,
going on random global adventures,
while simultaneously promoting literacy
and spreading the love of the written word.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

a jew (or two) in Peru

(subject headings: jewishness)

as jews we often blow our wad too early.  and by that i mean that due to the jewish calendar an 8-day holiday (EIGHT DAYS!) often comes and goes long before christmas eve and christmas are actually celebrated, making the holiday season a bit of a let-down.  so maybe i waited to post this hanukkah story for dramatic timing ... or maybe it's late due to laziness.  you decide!

although i have often heard that there is a jewish community here in lima, i have not seen much evidence of it.  or any.  so it was with great trepidation that i began my quest for a menorah.  now, in new york you can pretty much buy a menorah anywhere: supermarket, chain-store pharmacy, judaica shop, etc.  but here i have seen no sign of them.

after a quick google search i found a very short list of synagogues in town, the first one located in my neighborhood.  i am now the proud owner of an iPhone, so i tried to find it using the maps app which they recently upgraded and turned completely useless.  after much fruitless searching and walking in circles, i realized i could use my phone to call the synagogue and just ask them where they are located.  ah, technology!

the conversation went something like this:
me: estoy buscando para una menora.  ¿vende menoras?
la señora: no, no vendemos menoras aqui.
me: ¿en serio?   donde puedo comprarla?  
(note that i am now using direct objects in spanish.  say what?!)
la señora: nadie vende menoras en lima.  necesita comprarla afueras.
me: ¿en serio?  donde compraste sus menoras?
la señora: afueras de Lima.

seriously? i could not accept that all menorahs in Lima, even those for use in a temple, were being brought in from outside of the city.  so i used my high tech phone to call the second (and penultimate) synagogue on my list.  i was then informed that they did in fact sell menorahs, and i was asked what kind of menorah i wanted!  now, at the time i didn't have much cash on me and not wanting to invest a huge amount of money, i told her i wanted a very simple, basic, cheap menorah.  (this information comes back later.  in the biz we call this foreshadowing)

this synagogue happened to be located in a different neighborhood so i had to take a cab there, dwindling my already low supply of cash.  (have i ever mentioned the ridiculousness of getting effectivo here?  next blog post!)

so i arrived in the approximate vicinity, and it really didn't look like there is a synagogue anywhere around.  however, when i looked across the street i saw not one but TWO oversized menorahs!  (did they get them here in Lima?)  proof that there were jews nearby!

i searched for the address and all i saw was the shady industrial door shown here.  next to the door was a large bullet-proof glass window with a metal security drawer and a small call-box.  i was about to skulk away in fear and then i noticed that there was a very utilitarian looking mezuzah affixed to the door.  another clue!

i push the little call button and have a lovely little awkward conversation:
me: ¿hola?
security guard:  ¿quien es?
me: soy señorita dewey decimal.  quiero comprar una menora.

they buzzed me into a second very industrial looking room with a second bullet proof glass window and a second metal security drawer.  but lo and behold inside the metal drawer is a yamulke!  then they buzzed me through a second door and i walk into a charming little courtyard.  who would've thought?

then a nice orthodox man approached me and told me that the shop woman would be here momentarily. while i was waiting he seemed very excited to ask me loads of questions: where do i work?  why am i here in peru?  what part of new york am i from?  am i married?  do i have children?  really, am i sure i don't have children?  and i'm married?  but without children?

he had that look in his eyes that told me that cute young jewish women don't stumble in here uninvited all that often.  i knew i had to be very cautious not to give up too much information.  thankfully the shop woman arrived before i became a reluctant congregation member (i am reform! i belong to no congregation!)

so i buy my menorah and luckily i remembered to also ask for candles.  she then handed me this box of velas de januca with a large Radioshack logo. strange. but whatevs. but when she rang me up i realized that i had exactly enough effectivo to pay for both candles and menorah.

but how would i get my taxi home?
as i was haggling with the tax driver i was nervous that i wouldn't have enough coins to get me home.  as i was adding up my change i thought it would only add to 1 sol ... but then, as i was adding it up, i had 8 soles!  enough for my taxi ride!  it was a hanukkah miracle!

¡feliz januca a todos!

Monday, October 1, 2012

awesome library lessons

(subject headings: booksdewey decimal systemlibrary lessons)

oh my poor forsaken blog readers, how i have ignored you.  well, i won't apologize because i've actually been quite busy.

you see, at my lovely new school  all the teachers want to bring their students to the library.  it creates a huge amount of work for me.  when i was doing my observation hours at a school library in brooklyn, the librarian had to hound the teachers to bring their classes to the library, begging them to come in.  and in the 30 hours that i was there, i never saw one library lesson taught.  i have to say, it was rather boring.

so imagine my surprise when teachers are just knocking down my door (i don't actually have a door, but you get what i mean), knocking down my door to schedule library visits.  i actually do not have enough time in the day to schedule them all.  so needless to say, it's been chaotically busy trying to plan all these said lessons and then also do them.

you might be asking yourself, "self, i wonder what kinds of amazing clever craftiness miss dewey decimal has brought to south america?"  well, i will be happy to tell you.

so, our school has this curriculum which i need to follow and incorporate into all my lessons.  sometimes this is easy, and other times it doesn't quite fit and i find myself walking a strange sort of tight-rope between teaching the curriculum and being a librarian/teacher.   but as i go on i am realizing more and more that i must keep my identity as a librarian.  that is what i'm good at, after all.

so the first graders are doing a unit on how we express ourselves using art.  this was an easy fit, and i used it as an opportunity to talk about picture book illustrators.  first, we have been reading a different picture book each week, and talking about the illustrations.  at the end of the unit we are going to vote on which book has the best illustrations.  fun!

but then the other day i did a lesson on wordless picture books that turned out to be pretty awesome.  we looked at the book Sector 7 by David Wiesner, which tells the whimsical story of ... wait ... spoiler alert!  ok ... it tells the whimsical story of a boy who goes on a field trip to the Empire State Building and then is whisked off to a magical place where clouds are created and then wreaks havoc, blah blah blah, chaos ensues.  so we go through the story, discussing what we see on each page.  then when the story is over, i ask the students to tell me the story in order, so that we can write words for the book.  (as i said, it is a wordless picture book.  please pay attention to these sorts of details).  anyway, it turned out to be really cool.  and together we wrote an excellent version of Sector 7.

moving on ... then the second graders are doing a unit about organizational systems and processes.  mostly they are examining different processes, for example how a tree becomes paper or how milk becomes ice cream.  (i think i have mentioned my love of this video from Mr. Rogers about how crayons are made)

anyway, i took this opportunity to try to explain how we organize things in the library.  i have noticed that the children have a rough time finding things in the library.

first we learned about fiction and how we organize fiction by the authors last name.  so i put sticky notes on the children with the first three letters of their last name, and asked them to put themselves in alphabetical order. they were pretty good at that, but then i gave them a little scavenger hunt to see if they could use alphabetical order to find 3 different picture books.  we had mixed results with that one.

then the next class i explained about how we use numbers to organize non-fiction (numbers=non-fiction!)  and then after going through what the different numbers mean, i gave them a challenge.  i gave them about 40 or 50 pictures that needed to be organized and glued onto a dewey decimal chart. now, i will admit that after i had committed to doing this lesson i quickly began to doubt the ability of 2nd graders to accomplish this task.  it's pretty hard, no?  but i was amazed, AMAZED, that they were able to do it.  and within the time frame of a library lesson!  at one point we had a few pictures out of order and one child shouted out, "trains belong in 600!"

ah, it warms my heart.

and that is what has been going on here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

my degree is not useless OR suck it forbes magazine

(subject heading: higher education)

so as we were getting picked up from the airport in Lima by representatives of the school, we met one of the other teachers who was newly hired.  we got to chatting and he said that he was a school counselor.  not a guidance counselor, but a mental health type counselor.  now, the state of the US economy and educational system has been failing and it seems that anyone who is not an outright teacher is at risk for losing their job (or never ever being hired somewhere new), so i asked this counselor, "is it difficult to get jobs as a school counselor in an international school?"  because this whole international school thing is new to me.  and he sort snickered and proudly told me that school counselors are really sought after.  "school counselors, high school math teachers, and librarians," he said, "those are the positions that are most in demand."

librarians?!  say what?  (please read: "you like me, you really like me!")

which brings me to this highly offensive article from forbes about the best and worst masters degrees for getting jobs.  so it's no surprise that the "best masters degrees" to get are in computers, sciences, medical professions, etc.  pretty much, it was a long list of things that i would never be interested in.  even if i sold my soul and tried to enter one of these fields despite my complete lack of interest and passion, i still can't even fathom how i could possibly pull it off.

and what was the number one worst masters degree to get?  library science of course!  well, what's number two then?  surely every single one of my interests wouldn't be the worst possible masters degree to get, right?  drumroll please .... number two is english!  of course!  that's what my undergrad is in!  and i am a non-paid unpublished writer!  okay, i can't go 0 for 3 can i?  and number 3 is .... music!  ah yes, music, that was the degree i entered college for before i switched to english.  damned.  certainly number 4 must be something i would never be interested in, like basket weaving or criminal justice.  c'mon ... fingers crossed number 4 is basket weaving .... no, it's education!  which i recently went back to school for so i could be a certified school media specialist.  yay!  every one of my major interests that shapes who i am has been deemed useless by forbes magazine!

what is interesting is that the magazine seems to only rate the validity of a masters degree by salary and the potential for job growth in the future.  so something like being a librarian or a music teacher which will probably pay an okay salary and give you good benefits and hopefully the type of job satisfaction where you go home and feel that you've helped shape lives, has no value in their evaluating rubric.

and yet here i am, scouted out by an international school, flight paid for, apartment provided, salary very reasonable, employed in a job that i find stimulating and satisfying.

so suck it forbes ... my degree is not the worst.  not at all.

miss dewey d.

p.s.  how's the publishing industry treating you right now?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Honeymoon adventures part 3: more than just heads

(subject headings: "honeymoon," "easter island," "excursions," "big holes")

There are three main tours you can take on the island, which leads me to wonder ... Are there three seperate tours worth of sights on the island, or have they strategically divided the three main interesting sights into three different tours that are then pumped up with filler activities so that you have to do all three tours if you want to see the three interesting things? I believe it is the latter.

the bolshevik in front of una vetana
So after having done one full-day tour, which was very good, we decided to go it alone and we rented a car for the day. Turns out those other two tours are unnecessary if you're willing to do some daring feats without supervision. First, we explored some random caves without flashlights. Tour guides have flashlights. We don't need no sticking flashlights! (this is my ego talking, we really could've used some flashlights)

The first cave was called "dos ventanas" which means two windows. We had no idea what this meant as far as caving goes, but nevertheless we entered a big whole in the ground without any equipment or knowledge about what was inside. Sometimes I'm amazed we don't get injured more. Anyway, I used the flash of my camera to guide us through the dark, which gave a sort of jolting strobe light effect. Seizure sufferers would not have been happy. And after banging around in the dark for a while, we reach a fork in the cave and randomly choose one direction. Then we see light up ahead and we realize that the cave ends in the center of a cliff with a huge drop into the rocky ocean. Cool! And totally dangerous! This must be one of the "dos ventanas.". We explore the other fork and it is a second, equally cool, drop off into the ocean. We took a gazillion pictures, but it's not easy to capture it.

The second cave we explored was quite long, maybe a 15 minute walk through the dark. It was here that my camera battery died. Apparently, using your camera as a flashlight really uses up the battery very quickly. Luckily, we we able to find our way to a hole where you could climb out. Not sure how well we would have retraced our steps. And then of course once we were back outside we had to figure out where we were and where we had left the car.

But I think one of the most impressive things we saw was the giant crater. We were going to skip the crater entirely after we had been shown a rather inferior crater on our tour that really just looked like a lake. But we saw a picture of this superior crater in the tourist office, and thought it looked worthwhile.

Obviously Easter Island has the head thing going for it, but they really need to start marketing this crater! It was phenomenal! I have never seen anything like it, and I have seen a fair amount of stuff. The sides of the crater were crazy steep, and there were all these cows hanging around as though grazing by an enormous crater is totally normal for them, which I guess it is. Also, the crater is right by the ocean, which is odd because the meteor or whatever that caused it was only a few feet from breaking right through to the ocean, and then there would be no crater. Actually, you could see two coasts of the island from the crater, so it really was a very precise hit on the meteor's part.

After taking about a hundred pictures of the crater, we were satisfied that we had seen all the sights of the island, and did not need to employ the help of any guides.

So what do we learn from this?
1. Easter Island = more than just heads.
2. Tour guides = often unnecessary.
3. Flashlights = good to have with you.

Honeymoon adventures part 2: here a head, there a head ...

(subject headings: "honeymoon," "easter island," "excursions," "making up stuff," "big headed statues")
these heads are all located in a quarry where they believe
most of the statues were carved.  they carved the statues
laying down, and then somehow moved them to other
parts of the island.  no one is sure how they were moved.
a researched dug one these head up and found that the
entire body was still intact below,
but then they re-buried them.

This is a small island, and there are a lot of heads on it. Not just heads though, there are full statues too. In fact, there is only one area that is just heads. we found out that actually those statues do have full bodies they've just been slowly buried over the years by the mountain eroding.

I would like to say that I've learned many things about the origins of these statues ... But I haven't. 

As usual I have only half listened to our tour guide and will therefore pass on half truths and conjecture and pretend it is fact. And who are you to question it? Have you been to Easter Island? Yeah, I didn't think so.
So you'll just have to believe whatever I say. I am a librarian after all, a credible source of information. Ironic, no?

these 15 moai statues were reconstructed after a
tsunami.  large japanese cranes were brought in
to move them.  some of them had been dragged
miles away from their original site.  also, one of these
statues went "on tour" and was in times square!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

honeymoon adventures part 1: business class travelers

(subject headings: "business class," "easter island," "honeymoon")

we are classy ... business classy! so for a long time the only thing I knew about our honeymoon were the following clues ...
 1. there are beaches, and people could relax near these beaches even though the weather itself would not be "beachy."
 2. the destination is remote, and while there are activities and things to see, it is not inundated with activities.
 3. the flight is long and would require business class (maybe require is a strong word, but a business class flight would be "worth it")

so I wondered ... how long can you make it at an airport without seeing evidence of where you are going? can you make it all the way to the gate? can you get to the gate and then not look at the little sign saying the time and destination of your flight? can you put your hands over your ears and go "la la la la ...i'm not listening!" while flight attendants announce that you are on the flight to ...... please listen closely as we explain the various safety features of the flight? because I threatened the bolshevik with this.

but it didn't get to that, luckily as it may have resulted in me getting kicked off the plane... the proverbial jig was up at check-in. the bolshevik, a notorious mumbler, was using hushed tones to tell the man at the counter where we were going, while I stood several feet away pretending to fuss with the luggage, but not so much so as to arouse suspicion. it's a delicate balance.

and that's when I heard it, the man behind the counter finally deciphering the bolshevik's whispers, "oh, you mean Easter Island!"

so there you have it, it's difficult to get beyond check-in without finding out where you're going.

and then I remembered that someone at the wedding had told me we were going to Easter Island, but in the wedding haze of excitement I had forgotten immediately.

moving on ... once we got past security we were able to go in a VIP lounge for business classy people. we're special! the VIP lounge was amazing! there was a buffet, and a fancy orange juice squeezer, and an OPEN BAR! all free! and there were newspapers and a TV and a nap room and fancy arm chairs ... oh it incredible. our flight was supposed to leave at 1am, and it was delayed an hour, but I didn't even mind because the business lounge was so lovely.

when we got on the plane not one but two flight attendents introduced themselves to us and explained that they were there to help us. then they brought us champagne so we could sip it while the steerage passengers walked by. you need to put those people in their place quickly.

after takeoff we reclined our seats into beds and quickly fell asleep. Then one of our flight attendents woke us up to tell us how important eating dinner is, it's a long flight after all and we'll need our strength in the morning. so we selected wine from a wine list and got warm rolls and breadsticks, and then a large adult-sized meal with dessert.

and then we were so full that we reclined our seats into beds, pulled up our cozy comforters and fell faaaaast asleep.

I'm ruined now ... I don't know how I'll ever fly with the commoners again.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

could we start again please?

(subject headings: "animal encounters," "food we have eaten," "Peru," "the Bolshevik")

as you may have noticed, i have not blogged in some time.  i had all these delusions that i would write a whole bunch of posts about malaysia, and that i would be able to catch up before the next adventure began.  this of course did not happen.

then my computer crashed and refused to open iPhoto ever again.  but it is unfair to blame my old computer.

so here is an extremely brief recap to get you up to speed ...

1.  malaysia was awesome.  the food is delicious, and if for no other reason i highly recommend going there just so you can eat.  we also saw a whole load of asian temples, and i fulfilled my dream of being attacked by monkeys.  it looked something like this:

2.  while in malaysia, sampling the most incredible food imaginable, the bolshevik finally proposed to me.  after carrying around an engagement ring for over two months, spanning several continents, on the 3rd to last day of our trip he asked me to marry him.  it looked something like this:


3.  then in the following seven months i worked as an ESL teacher, went to an international job fair, secured a librarian job in Peru, finished my school media certification, finished my novel, captained a competitive jump rope team (we placed 3rd in the Punk Rope Games!), helped start a union, and planned what i am told was a pretty awesome wedding.  the wedding looked something like this:

and that's what has happened since i stopped blogging back in november.  so we can just start from there, right?  cool.

so now the bolshevik and i are in a hotel room in Lima ... we just arrived last night and very soon someone will be picking us up and taking us to our apartment.  (the school found us what appears to be an incredible apartment).  then tonight the bolshevik is whisking me away to a secret honeymoon location.  you know how bolsheviks like to whisk people away.

i'm going to see how long i can go before i figure out where we're going.  i am wondering if it's possible to actually board the plane and still not know our destination.  we'll see.

to be continued ... (in a reasonably punctual fashion, i swear)