Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Southeast Georgia: Animal Hell… Animal Hope?

Someone in Florida asked me something the other day along the lines of ‘Is the situation with animals in your part of Georgia really as bad as it seems from your facebook posts?’ Sadly, yes. Yes, it is. In fact, it’s probably worse. Animal Control services in this area are limited or non-existent (depending on the county), shelters and rescues are overwhelmed, and one has to drive an hour or more to access low-cost spay/neuter clinics. But the real problem, in my opinion, is the culture. My mom was speaking to some sheriff’s deputies the other day about this and they said ‘We’ve got a real dog problem around here.’ Her response was ‘No. We’ve got a people problem around here.’ And it’s true.

In early December my mom emailed me about a disabled dog that had appeared in her yard (its back legs were paralyzed, although it could drag itself about with its front legs). She called local Animal Control and was told that they had already been called out because of this dog and had spoken to its owner. They said they would come out later that day and talk to the owner again. They told my mom where the dog lived and she took it home. The ‘owner’ told my mom that the dog had been abandoned with her by someone who was now refusing to take responsibility for it. The dog appeared in my mom’s yard the following week and she again returned it to its ‘owner.’ On December 19th, I found the dog sitting in the middle of the road about half a block from where I knew it lived, and I carried it back to its ‘home.’ The poor thing was sweet as can be, but had absolutely no use of its hind legs, and had raw spots on the back legs from where they dragged the ground.

I went back with my camera… the ‘owner’ came out shouting at me about how I needed to get the hell off her property right then because I was trespassing (I was outside her fence on the public right-of-way). My response was that she needed to do something about the dog because keeping it like that was inhumane. She told me the same story she had told my mom about the dog being abandoned with her, and said that she had no money for vet care, or a wheelchair for the dog, or even to have it euthanized. I offered to take it and have it euthanized, saying that I would pay for it. She hemmed and hawed and said she didn’t want to do that because it was such a sweet dog. I offered to share its picture on facebook with my animal rescue connections, and she agreed.

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I shared the dog’s pictures on facebook with the following caption: This dog was abandoned at the home of one of my mom's neighbors, and her owner refuses to take responsibility for it. My mom's neighbor is broke and unemployed and while she is feeding this dog, she can't afford any vet care. The dog is elderly (in her teens) and has lost all use of her back legs and has no muscles in her back end, so it is atrophied as a result. She drags herself around, and has rubbed her back feet raw doing so. Mom's neighbor does not want her euthanized (I offered to pay if she did). Local Animal Control is aware of this and have been out several times. Mom's neighbor doesn't want it to be taken by local animal control because she knows it will be euthanized. This dog is incredibly sweet, and really needs a loving home where she can live out her final days with quality care. Unfortunately, neither my mom nor I are able to take her. CAN SOMEONE HELP???? At the very least, please share this album. Thank you.

Notice how I didn’t mention anything about how the dog was always out in the street or in neighbors’ yards, or about the woman’s confrontational attitude. I didn’t even mention her name. Well, this being a small town, one of my friends is one of her facebook friends, so she saw the post. And totally flipped her lid. Here I was trying to help her, and her response was to post on my friend’s thread about what a liar I was and how I had never offered to help her and how she did really want to have the dog euthanized, but didn’t have the money. (In my opinion, if you have the money to chain smoke your way through a 30 minute conversation, you have the money to pay for euthanasia.) She then sent me two incredibly nasty facebook messages calling me a liar and a bitch, accusing me of slander, and threatening to have me arrested if I trespassed on her property (*cough* public right-of-way *cough*) again, and sent an equally nasty facebook message to my mom. The messages did, however, say that she would have the dog euthanized the next day.

We saw it on December 26th, nearly a full week later, sitting in a different neighbor’s yard.

It’s not an animal problem; it’s a people problem.

On December 23rd, as I was driving from my house to my mom’s, I saw a sad, skinny puppy sitting in the middle of the road in the rain. I pulled up next to it, and got out. It shrank away from me in terror. I coaxed him over to me and picked him up, and he clung to me. I went to three houses in the neighborhood. One house said they thought the puppy lived at a place down the road. I went to said house to be told no, it wasn’t theirs, but they’d seen it around the past couple of days. I went to the place across from them; no, it wasn’t theirs. They’d called Animal Control, but no one had come out. I took him home.

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Loki at his first trip to the vet.

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Loki in my room

I took him to the vet, got him his shots, had him de-wormed, got him some antibiotics for the infected cut on his rump, and posted pictures of him on facebook. Through the modern miracle of social networking, I was able to arrange for him to be adopted by my uncle’s ex-wife, a woman I had not had any contact with since I was an infant. Sometimes people can be the solution, if only they are willing to try.

Christmas morning as my mom and I were driving back from feeding the horses (meaning that we were out in the country), I spotted a Budwiser box on its side, with puppies huddled in a pile in the weeds in front of it. We stopped and went back. Yep, they’d been dumped. Five skinny little puppies, about six weeks old, dumped on the side of the road in a Budwiswer box on Christmas morning. This isn’t a dog problem; this is a people problem.

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The five puppies when we first got them home.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom is 69 years old, lives alone, works full time (as a teacher, so she does NOT have a lot of money), and already has a ton of animals (two horses, eight dogs, and about 25 cats – all rescues, all fixed, all vetted). The addition of one puppy to the mix was stressful but doable. Five was not really feasible at all, but we couldn’t just leave them there. I posted a quick picture on facebook with a short, panicked rant about our situation. By that evening a local rescue (BARC) had contacted me with an offer of assistance. They offered to pay for vet care and to try and find foster homes for the puppies. Within three days, the puppies had gotten their first shots and had been wormed (and boy did they need that wormer, wow), and four of them had been placed in foster homes. And puppy number five? My dad had seen her picture and decided to adopt her. (If you're interested in adopting one, please contact BARC.)

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The puppies after 3 days in our care

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The puppy my dad is adopting

People can be the solution. My mom and I could’ve just driven past those puppies. Between the worms, the lack of food, and the cold, wet weather, and their proximity to the road, they would probably be dead by now. But we didn’t drive by. Instead, they’re healthy, cared for, and on their way to having loving, permanent homes.

People can be the solution, but right now those of us who are part of the solution are hopelessly outnumbered. Just take a look at some of the animals found by local area rescues in the same time period during which I was dealing with six puppies and a paralyzed dog:

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This one was abandoned at a loca apartment complex. Apparently its jaw had broken and had never been set, so it ‘healed’ like this. (From here.)

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This is one of three Great Danes surrendered by a backyard breeder who decided she didn’t want them anymore. They had apparently never been to a vet before. (From here.)

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This one was rescued from a local Animal Control facility. (From here.)

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Another starving stray found on the side of the road. (From here.)

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This poor injured cat had been dumped in this condition in a convenience store parking lot. It had to be euthanized, but at least it is no longer suffering. (From here.)

And that’s just a sample of what went on down here in just ONE WEEK.

There are some wonderful people (such as the ones working with the animals posted above) who are working their tails off trying to help as many animals down here as they can… but they can only do so much against the tide of indifference and cruelty that animals down here face. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. If you drive past the starving or injured animal you see on the side of the road and do nothing, you are part of the problem. If you do not get your animal spayed or neutered (for ANY reason), you are part of the problem. If you abandon an animal (for ANY reason), you are a part of the problem. If you have an injured animal and refuse to pay for vet care while spending money on cigarettes, you are part of the problem.

How can you become part of the solution?

Don’t just drive by abandoned/injured animals. If you can take them in – even temporarily – do so. With modern social networking technologies, you may very well be able to find homes for them among friends, family, and acquaintances, or you may find an animal rescue willing to take them. Another option is to set up an appointment to bring them to a local animal control facility. If the animal is severely injured, $35 will end its suffering. That’s how much it costs to euthanize an animal at my vet. I hate to see an animal die, but it’s even worse leaving it to die a slow and painful death on its own. If you cannot pick up the animal (and I do understand that it is not always possible, although keep in mind there is a difference between ‘impossible’ and ‘inconvenient’), call local animal control. (Keep in mind that in many areas – such as southeast GA – animal control facilities, shelters, and rescues are limited in size and funding and tend to be overloaded. Rely on them as a last resort.) If there is no animal control in your area (or even if there is), use your phone, take a picture of the animal, and share its information on facebook. Provide local and nationwide rescue organizations with the animal’s location and picture; spread the word amongst your family and friends that there's an animal in need of help.

Support local animal shelters, rescues, and humane societies. A while back I wrote a really long post about how to donate and support local shelters wisely, click here to read it. (Don’t just give money blindly; do your research and make sure you’re supporting an organization that will make good use of your money. You can also support local shelters, rescues, and humane societies by volunteering your time, either at their facilities, as a foster, as a fund-raiser, as a webmaster, as a photographer, and so on.) Do not donate to the Humane Society of the United States; donate locally to ensure that your money goes to the animals that need it.

SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR PETS. I cannot stress this enough. If you can’t afford the surgery at your local vet clinic, do a google search for low cost spay/neuter services in your area. Even if the closest service is an hour or so away (as it is here), it is much cheaper to make the drive than to deal with the expense of puppies or kittens later on. In some areas there may also be local services that provide transport for the animals to low/cost clinics for those folks who can’t take the day off work to make the drive. Even if you’re keeping your animal inside at all times and it is not around animals of the opposite sex, you should still get it fixed. I love cats and dogs…. but cats in heat are loud, obnoxious, and pee on everything. Dogs in heat bleed. Intact male dogs and cats spray EVERYTHING. Get your pet fixed, and you won’t have to deal with these problems! Not to mention that if something happens and your ‘indoor only’ pet gets out… Well, you can figure out what happens! I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘Well, he can’t get pregnant, so I’m not going to waste the money.’ True, he can’t get pregnant, but how do you think all the female cats and dogs get knocked up? If you’re not getting your male dog or cat fixed because he can’t get pregnant, you’re part of the problem.

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A spay/neuter message for Game of Thrones fans :-)

And for the love of god, do not abandon your animals.

If you are in Southeast Georgia, I highly recommend the Brantley Animal Rescue Coalition (BARC) as a wonderful organization to support, whether via donation or through fostering or other services. If you need to get a pet spayed or neutered, The Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia in Brunswick, GA and No More Homeless Pets in Jacksonville, FL offer low-cost spay/neuter/vaccine services, and the River City Animal Hospital  of Jacksonville, FL provides a mobile spay/neuter/vaccine clinic which serves northeast Florida and southeast Georgia. If you are in or near Waycross, this lovely lady can help to arrange transport for your animals to the nearest low-cost spay/neuter clinics.

And to leave this post on a high note, here’s an absolutely hilarious picture of Mochi playing with the puppy that will soon be living in Clearwater, FL with my uncle’s ex-wife: 

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

3/4 Done!

My third semester in the MA TESOL program has just come to a close. I have just one more semester and I will have my MA and be done with school for a while.

This semester I taught my first university level classes: mainly juniors and seniors; mainly education majors; all native or fluent English speakers. I had worried that while I loved teaching EFL/ESL, I wouldn’t enjoy teaching future teachers about second language acquisition and how to teach ESOL students. I needn’t have worried; I loved it. I had a really great time with my classes, and I hope I have students next semester who are as fun to teach as these guys were. I should also have a much lighter workload next semester, as I won’t be making PowerPoints from scratch for every single lesson; I’ll just be tweaking the ones I made this semester.

My experiences teaching this semester have changed my outlook on the future a bit. I used to think, ‘Why bother getting a PhD? I don’t want to be a university professor.’ Except that now I kind of do. And I didn’t go the thesis track. It seems that everybody says, ‘Oh, if you want a PhD, you absolutely must write a thesis for your MA’ and maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not. The thing is, I don’t want to get my PhD in TESOL. If I were to shoot for a PhD, it would be in Sociolinguistics – and it would be at a different school. I didn’t want to write a thesis for the MA because I came to this program wanting to learn more about how to become a better ESOL teacher, not to conduct research. Oddly enough, this semester I took a sociolinguistics course, and ended up getting really into my research on language policy in Kyrgyzstan – and I’m hoping to get my paper published. Here’s hoping that if I do apply for any PhD programs and I get dinged for not having written a thesis, a published article will suffice. You know, assuming it gets published. I guess we’ll see what the future brings. Were I to apply to a PhD program, it wouldn’t be for a year or so anyway.

I’m heading up to GA for the next three weeks. I’m actually going to be pretty busy designing a curriculum for a baseball-themed EFL program for a major league baseball team’s training center in the Caribbean. Which should be interesting, given my general lack of knowledge of baseball. I’m also taking a fairly large dog up to GA with me, in addition to Mochi and Charlie, as I’ll be pet-sitting her over the break. That’s going to make for an interesting car ride there and back, let me tell you. Sigh.

Lastly, vimeo seems to be letting me keep my Kyrgyzstan-is-Middle-Earth video online, so check it out:

Monday, December 9, 2013

All of the K-stan adventures are online!

In case you haven't been following my posts from my summer adventures in Kyrgyzstan, they are now ALL online, and you can check them out by clicking here. Or, if you don't wish to wade through all of my posts from this summer, at the very least check out Rural Kyrgyzstan's Water Woes and Religion in Kyrgyzstan, as they provide a look into some aspects of life in Kyrgyzstan that are very different from the lives of most of you who read this blog. And, in honor of the next installment of The Hobbit (which will be out in just a few days!!!), I've thrown together a video showcasing how Kyrgyzstan really is, in fact, Middle Earth, no matter what New Zealand says. YouTube won't let me host it, as apparently it's a copyright infringement, so click here to download it directly. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Six surprising things I learned/realized while living abroad.

After reading these really interesting things that non-Americans couldn’t believe about the US until they actually came here and experienced life in the US for themselves, I felt inspired to write about some of the surprising things that I learned/realized while living overseas.

The US does not have the best healthcare in the world. Nor does it have the worst. With the debate about healthcare that’s been in the news over the past several years, I’ve heard tons of people say things like ‘the US has the best healthcare in the world’ (often followed by ‘and we don’t want Obamacare to ruin it’). I’ve heard tons of people going on about how countries with nationalized healthcare plans have awful healthcare, while what we have is The Best in the World. It’s not.

I haven’t been to every country in the world, and a lot of the places I’ve been to do have worse healthcare systems than the US – often far worse. But not all of them.

South Korea’s national healthcare plan is wonderful. Everyone is on it. If you’re living in South Korea and working legally, you will have access to health insurance. If you don’t have health insurance, the costs are actually still quite affordable. Access to same-day healthcare (for things both minor and major) is easily available without having to go to an ER, and the technology and medical treatments available are state of the art. Koreans simply do not understand why healthcare costs so much in the US, even with health insurance. The cost of healthcare here for uninsured folks in the US is simply inexplicable to them.

On the other hand, if you’ve ever spent time in a developing country, you’ll know that we here in the US are very lucky that at the very least we can go to a clean and competent ER if we fall ill, and the hospital will be obligated to stabilize you at the very least (if you lack insurance). In many countries, this option is unavailable, as the money for modern facilities and trained medical professionals is lacking. We don’t have the best in the world, but we are far from the bottom.

Reliable, fast, frequent, and cheap public transportation is a wonderful thing. We have a terrible public transportation infrastructure in the US. Unless you live in one of a handful of big cities in the US, you are not going to have access to decent public transport. Many large cities (such as Orlando, where I currently reside) do have a semi-decent bus system, but buses come roughly once an hour, are incredibly slow, and you may very well have to walk a long way to reach the nearest stop. This makes life really difficult for people without cars. If you don’t live in a large city, you must have a car, because your only other option is a taxi or bumming a ride off a friend. I never really considered this a problem until I went overseas – specifically to South Korea. I have traveled all over the Korean peninsula by means of bus and train. It’s cheap, it’s fast, it’s easy, and you can do it even if you speak very little Korean. I wish I could hop a train for the cost of a tank of gas and get to my mom’s in a fraction of the time it would take me to drive there, but that’s not an option here. Once, when I was in college, I looked into taking Greyhound home (from TN to FL) for Christmas. It would have taken 25 hours, and it would have cost more than a plane ticket. That’s absurd! Meanwhile, I can get from one end of South Korea to the other in just a few hours (by train) for under $50, and I can do it for far less if I go by bus (although then travel time can be affected by traffic).

American toilets are wonderful. Our toilets enable us to sit down. They have bowls filled with water. I’d never really thought about this before my first trip to Russia, but when you poop into that water, the water covers the smell. In Russia (and in many parts of the former Soviet Union), many of the sit-down toilets in people’s homes, in dorms, and in businesses have a ledge inside the bowl. You poop, and your shit sits on this ledge until you flush, at which point a stream of water washes your poop off the ledge and down the drain. There is no nice covering of water over your poop, which makes the whole experience much stinkier.

However, sit-down toilets are not a world-wide thing. They’re not even a Russia-wide thing. I encountered my first squatter in Moscow at VDNKh. I walked into the only open stall and saw a hole in the floor. Not a ceramic squatter of the kind common in many countries, but a hole in the floor in the center of the stall. I thought that the toilet in that stall was missing (and this may well have been the case), so I retreated and waited for another stall to open. Imagine my surprise when the next woman to enter the bathroom went into that stall and used the hole! Then the next stall opened, and it, too, had only a hole. I have since used squatters ranging from holes in the floor to fancy, gleaming porcelain basins, to holes in a concrete slab over a large sewage pit, to wooden squatters over hand-dug pits. I’m really good at squatting now, but trust me, I much prefer to be able to sit.

Voice mail is not a universal phenomenon. Here in the US, when someone calls your phone it will ring 4-6 times, and then the caller will be shunted off to your voice mail where they can leave a message. In Kyrgyzstan, and South Korea (and, from what I’ve heard, in many other places as well), voice mail does not exist. If someone calls you on your cell, it will ring and ring and ring until they give up and hang up. Not only is there no way to leave a voice message, but there is no limit to the number of rings – there is only a limit to the caller’s patience. And to yours, if you’re trying to avoid answering a call from a certain persistent individual. In both of these countries, it also seems perfectly acceptable to let the phone ring and ring and ring until the person answers it. When I worked for the computer company in Seoul, this was so unbelievably annoying. Someone would be away from their desk, but would have left their phone behind. Someone else would call and it would ring for five minutes. Or more. It’s not like the phones didn’t have caller ID (they did), or like they didn’t accept texts (they did). The caller could have texted a message or simply assumed that the person they were calling would see the missed call and call them back…. But no. Letting the phone ring incessantly seemed to be the thing to do. It drove me nuts.

All Asian kids are not super-studious and well-behaved. The myth that all Asian students are studious and well behaved has been around all of my life, and it’s just not true – at least not in Korea at any rate. Now, granted, Korean children and teens spend far more time in school (both in public school and in private ‘extracurricular’ schools) than their American counterparts; however, for the most part this is due to their parents’ desires, not to theirs. If it were up to them, they’d be at home playing computer games, not shuffling from private school to private school. And well-behaved? Hah. Kids will be kids, and if you put a group of them together, they are going to act like kids. I’ve certainly taught well-behaved Korean children and teens. I’ve also taught some who were total hell-raisers, and many that just wanted to gossip with their friends.

A lot of people in other countries think that there is no poverty in the US. I don’t mean that they think there is less poverty here than in their home country; I’ve met many people who truly believe that there is NO poverty in the US at all. Some people believe me when I explain to them that yes, poverty exists in the US, but some don’t. Below are two examples of conversations I’ve had about this – although I’ve certainly had more than two.

Back in 2000 when I was studying abroad in Russia, I met a young man whose father was, shall we say, connected to the Russian mafia. This kid (and he was 20 or so) wore designer clothes, had a cell phone (back when no one but Russia’s elite had cells), lived in a huge and recently remodeled apartment in the center of St. Petersburg, and drove a Mercedes. He told me one night that his goal in life was to become an American citizen because all Americans were wealthy. I pointed out that he was already wealthy, and that most Americans – myself included – were unable to afford his kind of lifestyle. He continued to state his belief that all Americans were rich, so I explained about how I was only able to go to college (and to Russia) because I had received a full scholarship, and that I lived with my mom, who was working part-time and making very little money. He became furious and began shouting at me that I was lying. He claimed that I was just saying that because I didn’t want foreigners coming to the US and becoming rich.

One day this summer, while I was in Kyrgyzstan, my host mother offhandedly said, “Well, there aren’t any poor people in America.” She was really, genuinely surprised when I said that actually yes, there are. She said, “But I never see poor people in any American TV shows or movies!” She was really amazed when I explained to her that we do have a poverty problem, that there are many people who are homeless or struggling to make ends meet. While she was far more accepting of this than the Russian guy I met back in 2000, I did hear her tell several of her friends in an incredulous voice, “Did you know that [Annie] says there are actually poor people in America?”

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cat litter I DON'T recommend

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This stuff is TERRIBLE. I normally buy WalMart's Special Kitty clumping cat litter, as it's the cheapest clumping litter out there. And it actually works pretty well. The day I ran out of my last box of Special Kitty clumping litter, WalMart was out of it as well. This was the next cheapest available, and it's Arm & Hammer, folks you'd think would know what they're doing as far as odor control goes. Plus the whole damn box is covered with statements about how superfantastic it is at removing odor from the litter box. I call bullshit. This stuff does NOTHING to remove or reduce odor, plus it is scented. HEAVILY scented. With something that smells rather strongly like that granulated stuff they used to pour on kids' vomit back when I was in elementary school. I have the litter box in my bedroom, meaning that my bedroom now reeks. Charlie goes into the litter box and comes out smelling like this stuff. I'd rather she came out smelling like cat shit, because it would be an improvement. Plus, it does not do a damn thing to cover up the smell of cat pee. It just smells like cat pee mixed with this god awful excuse for a "fragrance." At least it does clump. I've been trying to save money, so I figure I should use the box up before buying something else, but I'm not sure how much more of this I can take. Buy at your own peril!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Of sunsets, kittens, euthanasia, and head colds

I went up to GA for the Thanksgiving holiday break. In some ways it was not what you’d call a happy holiday, although I’ve certainly had worse. Two of our elderly cats – Tuffy and Grey – had to be euthanized. Both of them had chronic illnesses that had plagued them for years (and for which they had been treated for years), but they had finally reached that point. Tuffy was 13, and we’d had her since she was a kitten. Grey showed up, fully grown, on my doorstep in the fall of 2009 and had been part of our lives ever since. We have a lot of animals, my mom and I, and as a result, we experience animal deaths more frequently than people who only have one or two pets. I’d like to say that it gets better with experience, but it never does. It’s been five days since we buried Grey and Tuffy, and I’m crying typing about it. They will be missed.

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Grey and Tuffy

But there’s never a shortage of homeless pets.

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This is Sunshine. My aunt (who lives in an assisted living facility not far from my mom) found her in the woods by her home, and brought her to my mom. Our home is not the best place for her, as we do have several cats with feline leukemia, but when the only other option is tossing her out on the street (don’t even get me started on the local animal control situation…) I guess it’s the best chance she’s got. She’s been vaccinated against feline leukemia already, although she’s also developed a head cold, which we’re keeping an eye on.

For Thanksgiving proper we drove down to F’s house at Dekle Beach. The weather was beautiful: chilly (for Florida), but with bright sunshine and crystal clear skies. The sunset was pretty spectacular. I promptly developed a rather nasty head cold and spent the time feeling rather wretched.

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I’m back in Orlando now for the tail-end of the semester. I have one presentation left to give and I’ll be done. I don’t even have any finals. (I know; it confuses me, too. Don’t get me wrong, I like not having to take finals, but not having finals just seems wrong somehow.) And speaking of finals, I can’t leave Orlando for a few more weeks because my students most definitely do have finals. I don’t control their official exam schedule, and the school has decreed that one of my sections will take their final on the very last day of finals… and I can’t leave until they’re done. I’m hoping that the extra free time I’ll have before going back up to GA will enable me to get a head start on my Christmas vacation project: designing the ESL curriculum for a major league baseball team’s training program in a Caribbean country. I should probably point out that I know sweet fuck all about baseball, but hey – I did order both Baseball for Dummies and the Idiot’s Guide to Baseball. I have to have this done by the beginning of January, so it’s definitely going to be my project for the break – unless I can get a good chunk of it knocked out beforehand.

I only have one semester left before I AM YOUR MASTER. Er, before I have my MA in TESOL. I’m still feeling fairly ambivalent about whether I stay in the US or go back overseas. I’ve applied for a pretty prestigious and rather competitive position which would definitely involve going back overseas (most likely to somewhere in the former Soviet Union), and if I am offered said position, I will most definitely accept. (There’s more than one ‘position,’ BTW, and chances are good – especially as they have a hard time filling their positions in the ‘stans.) Unfortunately, even though I submitted my application last month, I won’t hear from them until sometime ‘between early April and late June.’ Great. Meaning that if I don’t get it, I’ll be in a bit of a bind. June is a bit late in the year to be applying for teaching positions. However, I really do not want to be in a position where I am telling others that I cannot accept their job offer as I am waiting to hear from someone better, so I’ve simply decided to hold off on the job search until I find out one way or the other. However, I do think I will be confining said job search to the southeastern US – maybe even to FL – if ‘the position’ falls through. I guess we shall see.

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's calendar time!

As much as I deplore the 'holiday shopping season' and all of the attendant nightmarishness surrounding it, the holiday shopping season is also calendar buying time. I know that with all of our smart phones and tablets and various gadgets sporting electronic calendar apps, the traditional wall calendar is not as popular as it once was... but I still can't handle not having one. And since it's that calendar buying time of the year, I'm offering you three to choose from! Surely there's a calendar option for all tastes here, right? And you're probably going to be buying a calendar, so you may as well buy one of these, hint, hint... Anyhow:

For those of you who are Charlie and Mochi fans, I bring you twelve months of mustaches and underbites with the Charlie and Mochi Calendar! Click here or on the images below (which are, as you might have guessed, the ones featured in the calendar.)
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Or, if you prefer, how about twelve months featuring the stunning beauty
of Kyrgyzstan? Click here or on the images below!
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And lastly, if you're a fan of Desolation Travel, the last calendar I have on offer was put together my me and my DT companions, and it's filled with photos from our various trips to desolate locations throughout the past year - and the pictures it contains were selected by DT fans. Click here or on the images below.
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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rocky Horror! Halloween! Grammar! The Inhumane Society!

It's been a busy couple of weeks around here, mainly because it was Halloween season - which, in my opinion, is the best time of the year. This year I was able to rock three different costumes, which made me incredibly happy. I do love a good opportunity to dress up.

On Friday, October 25th, a group of us went to go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show film and interactive performance put on by The Rich Weirdoes

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Security made M. take off his "FBI" jacket, because "someone might think he was a real agent." Um, OK. The show itself was pretty fantastic though. I've seen RHPS put on in smaller venues, but this was definitely the largest and most interactive version I've ever been to.

Saturday one of my classmates threw a kickass Halloween party.

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I went as a flapper.

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Mr. Green and Miss Scarlet from Clue, if you were wondering.

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And then of course, I taught class on Thursday dressed as a Dalek. As you do. I'd say about half of my students knew what I was immediately. The others were like, "What's a Dalek?"

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Thursday I also finished up my fifth and final lesson to my students on teaching English grammar to EFL/ESL students. Yes, we spent five days on grammar. You want someone to talk for six and a half hours (thirteen if you consider that I teach two sections) on English grammar, I am apparently your girl. The PowerPoint by itself isn't quite as great. For one thing, SlideShare has mucked up my formatting, and you can't see my animations. Plus, as I've mentioned before, I do NOT write every word I say on my slides - I hate it when teachers do that. As a result, reading the slides won't give you as much information as sitting through my class would have. However, if you're an EFL/ESL teacher new to teaching grammar, it should give you some useful pointers.

And lastly, due to the combination of some really horrific animal-shelter related news that I read on Facebook and all these people posting about NaNoWriMo, I've become inspired to get back to work on The Inhumane Society. I started by editing the existing 140 pages - you can read the edited first part here - and by finally picking up where I left off. Once you're all caught up, you can read the latest installment of The Inhumane Society here.

Oh, and you know I'm still posting about my summer's adventures over at Cat Lady in Kyrgyzstan, right?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My thoughts on Downton Abbey, S04E03 (SPOILERS!)

Season 4, Epsiode 3 of Downton Abbey was by far the most traumatic episode of the show, in my opinion - and when you consider that the show gruesomely killed off two of its main characters last season, that's saying a lot. But just because it was traumatic doesn't mean we should stop watching. In fact, I think this episode gives us a lot of important things to think about and to talk about. Yes, it was disturbing... but life can be disturbing. And really, there are a lot of important things to assess about this episode. Like I said in the title of this post: THERE ARE SPOILERS in this post. If you don't want to know what happens, stop reading right now.

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I had a heads up to what was going to happen, due to a spoiler someone had posted on Facebook in the form of this status:

jesus fucking christ, there was no need for a double-rape, all the tragic deaths last season were upsetting enough
Immediately I started to try and predict which of the characters would suffer this horrible fate.

Would it be Lady Rose? After all, she's a non-stop flirt with the habit of picking up men in 'unsuitable' venues.

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Would it be Lady Mary? I mean, the previews had shown her flirting with a new male character.

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What about Lady Edith? She and her new beau have certainly come quite close to doing things which would have been deemed wholly improper for the 1920s.

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Maybe Edna, the flirty servant with a thing for Tom?

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I didn't think it would be Anna. Happy, good, kind, sweet, caring, loyal to her loving husband, Anna? I did not think of her AT ALL.

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It never occurred to me that it would be Anna, and yet it was. She was raped by the valet of one of the visitors to Downton. The scene was quite brutal, even though they showed little more than him punching Anna into the face and dragging her off into another room. A lot of thought obviously went into the way this episode was filmed, as this was one of the most disturbing scenes I have ever watched (and as someone who watches SVU and a bunch of other crime shows all the time, that's saying something).

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It never occurred to me that Anna would be the victim, AND THIS IS A PROBLEM. I am an educated, intelligent woman. I know that rape can happen to ANYONE. I know that despite what some folks may say, no one ever "asks for it." Flirting, fooling around, being in an 'unsuitable' place, or behaving in a way that society may deem 'improper' does not make it okay for someone to be raped. EVER. And yet, scroll back up and take a look at the thoughts I had before I started watching the episode. I am really quite ashamed of myself. True, these are fictional characters, but nonetheless I was judging them and predicting their 'rape-ability' based on their flirtatiousness. While I would never, ever judge a woman who was raped, it seems that these sorts of judgmental reactions are built into me. They're probably built into most members of our culture. And that sucks.

Apparently there are quite a few people who are claiming that they will never watch the show again as a result of this:

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Yes, it was disturbing. But denying rape happens isn't going to prevent it from happening. As awful as this was, I applaud the show for addressing something that happens far too often and that many victims are too ashamed to discuss. Anna's heartbreaking reaction, begging Mrs. Hughes to tell no one - not the doctor, not even her husband - had me sobbing in my seat.

Even in our modern society, rape victims are ashamed to talk about what happened to them and worried that they will suffer from the stigma of having been raped. I would like to think that episodes like this will help to open up a conversation about rape, the victims, the perpetrators, and the aftermath. Yes it was hard to watch, but don't let that turn you off from the show.

Oh, but wait! Didn't that Facebook status I quoted above mention a double-rape? Yes, it did. This is another disturbing aspect of this episode - although to me what's most disturbing is how little reaction there is to the other rape. Most comments that I've read have not referred to it as rape at all, and quite a few have expressed shock and disappointment IN THE VICTIM. So who was this second victim?

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Tom. Yes, men can be (and are!) victims of rape. Tom, who was already rather drunk, was plied with a stiff beverage by Edna, who later snuck into his room and had her way with him. (Keep in mind that Tom had already made clear to her that nothing would ever happen between them.)

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Most people would agree that if a man gets a woman drunk and then has sex with her when she's too intoxicated to say no, that counts as rape. Yet why is there so much outrage over what happened to Anna and none over what happened to Tom? While this rape was nowhere near as violent as what happened to Anna, it's still rape. And that's important. And it's something that needs to be addressed as well.

Kudos to Downton Abbey. I'm disturbed as hell. I cried. I had a hard time falling asleep because I couldn't stop thinking about it. But this is something that's important. It's something more people should think about. It's something more people should talk about. And Downton's got people doing that. As Joanne Froggatt (the actress who plays Anna) said,
"I was really proud of the show for tackling a subject like this ... I really do believe that Julian's [Fellowes] written that in a way that is not gratuitous at all, he does very much go on to explore the emotional journey of Anna and Bates. He's done a beautiful job of hitting the right note with it. I think we all just felt a big responsibility to get it right."

Monday, October 7, 2013

Word Formation and Morphology

In case you're interested. We discussed word formation in our last class, and will be doing morphology tomorrow :-) (BTW, I know that my transcription of the Chinese word for boyfriend is probably way off base, but I don't speak Chinese...)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Florida Springs: Fanning Springs & Manatee Springs, Levy County, FL

The road between Orlando and Dekle Beach passes by quite a few springs, as I noticed on my last trip there. I took a short trip to Dekle this weekend (which will be the subject of another post) and decided to stop at one spring on the way there and another on my way back. 

On the way there I stopped at Fanning Springs, which is located in the tiny community of (wait for it...) Fanning Springs on the western edge of Levy County. To be honest, I found the springs rather disappointing. While the water was crystal clear and bright blue - and while I was the ONLY person there other than park staff - I was still a bit let down. For starters, even though the water was perfectly clear, there was no vegetation whatsoever inside the spring head area. None, other than at the very edges. While this might make the springs more comfortable for swimmers (I admit, freshwater "seaweed" is always disconcerting when it rubs along my legs while I'm swimming), it gave the springs a bit of a dead appearance, in my opinion. The other disappointing factor was the concrete dock which separated the springs proper from the run leading out to the river. Again, convenient for swimmers (and boaters), but god what an eyesore.

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However, despite my feeling of disappointment, it was an absolutely gorgeous day to visit a spring. Not only was the sky clear and blue, not only was I the only visitor at the park, but it was the first day that it actually felt like fall here in Florida. It's so rare here to have a gorgeous, sunny day that isn't blisteringly hot and tormentingly humid, so having a day of perfect weather made sitting on the spring-shore quite pleasant. And while there might not have been a lot of aquatic plant life, I saw quite a few fish and turtles. I'm guessing they were enjoying the fact that there were no humans in the water to disturb them! I saw an insane amount of mullet, plus one super adorable baby turtle who was only about two inches in diameter.

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He wasn't much bigger than this in real life.

On  my way home from Dekle, I stopped at Manatee Springs, located just outside of Chiefland, FL in Levy County. Sadly, despite the arrival of fall temperatures, it's still too warm for manatees to be seeking warmth inside the springs, so I didn't see any. Also, when I arrived at the park it was about to start pouring. I also knew that I had two more hours of driving to go. As such, I didn't spend much time at the park. That being said, I found Manatee Springs much more to my liking than Fanning. The springs seemed more natural (as in no giant concrete dock marring your view), and they seemed a lot more alive vegetation-wise. That being said, there were quite a few swimmers and scuba divers, meaning that the fish and turtles were nowhere to be seen.

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You can walk all the way around the spring head. One side (the far side) is bordered by a man-made wall. From the other side, one can walk right into the water from a natural shoreline (although it does have that ramp that the boy is standing on).