Sunday, December 23, 2007

Elf Time with Grandpa & Izzy!

Totally rad

Last weekend I went snowboarding at Devil's Head with Ken, Josh, and Laura. Of course, there were plenty of hijinx and I planned on writing all about it, but with my lack of internet, the moment has passed. All I can say is that it was great fun until I had a mini-breakdown a la Flo on the Amazing Race. I blame sheer exhaustion and the dread of falling for the 81st time. Ultimately, I decided that snowboarding is quite fun and once my body has recovered, I'm not completely opposed to trying to thrash on the slopes again.

And yes, such things as "I totally biffed it!" were definitely said. We are just that cool.

Monday, December 10, 2007

As promised----

First picture is of my little friend who stopped by the apartment one day while I was watching TV. I laughed. And snapped a photo.

And my big weekend story--- Laura went with me to cross off two items on my 101 list. One was to get a picture taken with Santa. Check! And the other was to go up the Hancock Building. Check Check! Santa was at the top of the building. How convenient! (We went up twice by accident... There's a trick to get up for free which we discovered....) Anyways, to see Santa AND see Chicago at the same time ---before it was clouded over by nasty weather--- was great fun.

By the way, for those of you who have young children... Santas like to flirt. And touch backs. And ask you to be in their band. And hand you their card. Just so you know.

I'm not a big Christmas card sender, so here is my version... 'Tis the season!

I should really get internet...

A quick lunchtime message to let you know that I am still alive. I have a couple of funny photos to post soon and next time I have interenet at the apartment, I'll throw them on. Soon! I promise! And I'll tell you all about my new workout buddy at the gym, how I knocked off a couple of things off my 101 list, and how Ken and I continue to refuse to turn on our heat. Yes, life is that exciting! Stay tuned---

Saturday, November 17, 2007

There's a presidential suite available, but no governor's room..."

It is way past time for an update about my life as a tour consultant assistant. I came to Starbucks today thinking since I paid $5 for my peppermint mocha that I could use their internet. I was mistaken. I’m not paying anything extra to use their wifi. I can probably steal a couple bars tonight or tomorrow. Luckily I brought a magazine so after I’m done gabbing about my new career, I can immerse myself into the world of cosmetics.

Enough. My job.

Basically what I am doing is this: I work in an office of 15 individuals. All female except our boss who is a dude. There are four tour consultants who work on laying out extravagant vacations for the very wealthy. They are each assigned a region of the world that is their specialty. One person has China, another has Europe, another has India, Turkey, and the Middle East, and the last one does South America, Africa, Aust/NZ, and Indochina. The last two are completely swamped, as India, Turkey, Indochina, and South America are hot spots. So, as an assistant, I mostly work with the two of them---

A client calls in. He wants to do our South America tour through Argentina, but also wants to add in Antarctica. The tour consultant says, “Hey, Rachel! Could you please cut and paste the itinerary together from our regularly scheduled tours? And, oh, yeah, the last leg has never been done before. We need some hotels and some sightseeing. And then email the ground operator and get a price. Once you have the price figure out the percentage markup. And then call the hotels and see if their direct rate is better. And check online. Oh, and they need flights too. Could you also send this off to them? Okay, now on to the next people…this family of 11 wants to go on a safari…” And then I have to usually creatively write something about a location, mimicking our distinctive style. “Tonight indulge in a foot massage accompanied by flutes of champagne.” Which can be really fun.

I have to say, almost every single day since beginning, I look at the clock and think, “ONE?! I better eat something today!” The mornings pass by unbelievably fast. I have to be on my toes, piecing stuff together constantly, making sure everything makes sense (thanks to my geography background it’s not so hard), and also deal with coordinating with the tour consultants who are terribly busy.

I just celebrated my four week anniversary. The first week I was learning the ropes at a nice pace. The second week, there was a death in the family for one lady and I took over her cases for the next week and a half and then I was STRESSED as I was suddenly taking on a ton of responsibility and working directly with the head dude. Then she came back and the India lady left for vacation and is still gone. And things don’t go as planned …sometimes when you think something is settled, all of a sudden there isn’t a room at the Four Seasons for someone and you are sent scrambling. My quote of this last week was “I’m so stressed I could vomit.” (I’m hoping my dedication will result in a timely promotion… I couldn’t possibly get any better training than being thrown in head first into other people’s files.)

But I love it. I love my office. I love my coworkers. They are truly very helpful and interesting people. I love our “Happy Hour” Fridays (and occasionally other days… like when our boss and his wife went out of town ---- here come the wine glasses!) where we eat fancy cheese and grapes and gulp down wine in the afternoon. I love how I can wear jeans whenever I want. Do my feet hurt? Take off the shoes for the afternoon. I like sitting in meetings while a crazy lady from Dallas waxes on about her mega-yacht trip. Yes, I might actually drool a bit listening. But so is everyone else. I’m getting paid to read luxury hotel websites, stare at maps, and drink freshly made coffee.

I enjoy taking the train, seeing my friendly ticket guy who gives me a thumbs up and a wink every morning (his happiness is contagious). I walk out of Union Station and look to my right---The Sear’s Tower and the river. I walk out at night and all the buildings are lit up. There are Christmas decorations in the main hall of Union Station. Ahhh..happiness.

Of course, all of this thinking has been absent in my life for quite sometime…basically since I used to be stressing as a real teacher (none of that Okinawa time filling stuff). I’m exhausted. 9:20 at night and I’m crawling to bed. I am also trying to work out four or five times a week… And let me tell you, a class called “Hardbody” isn’t a fluffy little workout.

Ken is proving to be very handy to have around. He makes the most delicious meals (orange roughy, gourmet chicken salad sandwiches, pumpkin soup, sweet potato everything) and is always ready with a glass of wine when I send him an email midday that says, “AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!” He’s good company. I think I’ll keep him around for a bit longer.

And I end with this thought ---- Do 9 years olds really need to be ordering Grande Gingerbread Lattes with soy milk, no whip?

Post script. Am going to pee myself. No Starbucks wifi, but Quiznos is free. ☺ Ha.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Shake your groove thang, shake your groove thang"

Somedays I have to remind myself of some of the surreal moments that I experienced on a daily basis in Japan. And, to be honest, I rather miss those completely bizarre moments that threw me for a loop. It's the spice of life.

This morning I went to the gym to take a class that I had never done before. It was a general description. so I wasn't sure what to expect, but figured it would just be a normal class. Well, here comes the instructor. Grey-haired, pigtails, spandex, complaining of a migraine, cursing like a sailor, and shmoozing up to herself in the mirror yelling, "BE SEXY! BE HOT!!!" I kid you not. We began dancing. Without any real rhyme or reason as to what dance move we were doing. There was a lady in the front doing some belly dancing moves. We were spastically jumping around. Women were singing "Mama Mia" outloud as we swiveled our hips and trotted around. Our instructor kept striking poses and sticking her arms up in the air. "SEXY! BE SEXY!!! YOU LOOK HOT!!!!" We did some dancing to classic seventies hits and various people got to pick our next move. Mind you, the next youngest person in the class had to be over 40. As we cooled down to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" complete with the women singing, I had to admit --- that was some workout.

And this is also why I love going to women-only gyms. Where else would mothers and grandmothers feel comfortable enough to swing their hips and shake their booties before doing their best with jumping jacks? I was probably a bit out of place as far as demographics went, but I haven't witnessed that much uninhibited fun in a long time.

---- Things at work are going great. I am continually busy and enjoy my coworkers. The train ride is pleasant and relaxing. I'll write in more detail soon. Promise. ---

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Stolen internet

Here's a quick update! I have one bar of stolen internet and don't know when it will disappear...

1) Ken and I went to see the Dalai Lama at IU. I'll post a photo later, but it was nice to see the smiley old man take off his shoes and chat for a bit about human nature and compassion. Plus it was glorious being able to hang out with Brooke and Mike and hit a Halloween party. And feel really old.

2) The job is going great. I have been incredibly busy and look at the clock thinking, "How did it get to be one already?! Four?! I have so much to do!!!" One of the travel consultants had an emergency and is going to be gone for another week and I have been picking up the work load. It has been tremendously challenging, but I learn something every hour. I've booked hotel rooms at the Four Seasons, communicated with Ground Operators around the world, and have talked with clients. I love the amount of responsibility that they've given me, but am a bit worried when another consultant goes on vacation next week.

3) The apartment is proving to be nice as well. We're having some hot water issues, but being able to walk to the train each morning balances that out. At least for me. Unfortunately Ken is driving a ton each day to his present job and is looking to get something more convenient. We both have joined gyms and have tried to get into a routine. This morning I went to the gym at 5:30 am. We'll see how long that lasts, but it was nice today and I plan on doing it again tomorrow.

Okay, that's all I've got. Happy Halloween! I remember being really depressed about missing the holiday last year in Okinawa. It's nice to be back.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Settling in...

I'm still alive, but we don't have internet at our apartment yet. Things are going great. The apartment is suiting our needs, the train is a smooth way to get to work, and my job seems like a good fit thus far. Today I'm helping with Turkey and Egypt itineraries and learning the ropes. I can't email at work except on my breaks, so I apologize for the lack of communication. I should stop blogging now. That has to be against the rules.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go... that song will always remind me of Kimi and Kelli.

Anyways, things are shaping up here as I have made numerous runs to the store to grab all the stuff that I'll need to stock my new place. I had to pledge my second-born child to my parents because of all that they are doing for me. I also had to unpack boxes from my last move over two years ago so that I could see what I already have. I never realized how many picture frames I have. It's slightly embarrassing.

So, here's a funny story. At least I think it's amusing.

Remember how I hurt my knee about 10 days ago? Well, later on that weekend, I noticed that Izzy was showing a bit of a limp. By the next day, she was full-on favoring her front right leg. Mind you, I hurt my right leg. We were both limping around the house and I *swear* that she was imitating me. We have a very close bond afterall. Anyway, after a few days of this, we started getting a bit worried, but thanks to an X-ray and some medicine, the dog is now healing and not limping any more. So now we can truly laugh about it and not throw around big words like elbow dysplasia. That dog loves and adores me.

And our neighbor dog, Rosco, who brings out her inner hoochie.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Can I offer you my firstborn for a spot?

This morning I get a phone message from a guy in Indiana with a study abroad network (Australia and New Zealand) asking me if I had received his email a couple of weeks ago about the job I had applied for. Well, what do you know? It went into my spam folder on October 3rd. I guess there's a reason that it got shuffled out of my inbox, but of course, it makes me wonder about what would have happened if I would have received that email. I was really wanting to get involved with study abroad programs. He said I could give him a call if I need a career change in the future. Ahhhh....Life.... how I love the twists and turns you throw at me regularly.

Yesterday, Dad and I took my new iPass for a spin and went looking for apartments. Dad should get a superhero award for dealing with everything we had to go through. Yay for dads! (And moms!) So we went to the first apartment which was quite near Regan and everything was very normal. It was a bit old and the lady looked like a heart attack waiting to happen as she spewed out the information about the place, but it had a parking spot. So, we're thinking... Great! One option!

We headed to the second which was an old building with hardwood floors, a fireplace, an extra room, a creepy bathroom, but a generally awesome atmosphere. It was within walking distance of the Metra and seemed like an excellent place. But there was no parking and the guy explained how many times I'd have to be moving my car since I would not only need night parking, but day parking since I'd be on the train. Thankfully, Dad was on top of his game yesterday and we went to the Village Hall where we had information thrown at us at an alarming speed about how there are no spots available at night and how you have to have this permit and this permit and move your car from here to here and oh, yes, these things aren't free, and how you can't even have one of these spots until November and that's only for the day time..don't know what you'll do at night.

We walked out dejected. Both places had just been taken off the list because of parking. We headed to our third apartment outside of town and although it was nice enough, I would still have to have a parking spot at the commuter lot for the Metra. We went to another station in another town and they said there was a two year waitlist to get a spot. Two years! So, there went the third apartment and every apartment that would involve driving. By this point, I was beginning to wonder why I passed up on the Oak Brook job. If I took that one, I could live anywhere because I'd be driving. And seriously, Metra! You want more customers? Make MORE parking!!!!

We drove out to Lisle which we had driven through on Sunday and we met a guy at an apartment building directly across from the station. But it was a scary scary place. One apartment was torn to shreds and although the guy said he was improving things and turning out some of the residents, we knew this place was not going to fly with the final decider-- Mom. We needed lunch. We needed to regroup. We needed to examine our options and where else I could live. We needed to see if I could take the bus to the train. We needed Jason from our last apartment building to call us back. We needed a miracle.

As we sat in the van, ready to pull out and start shopping for tents, Jason gave me a call to say he could meet us in 30 minutes. The last chance was directly next to the Metra station and was within my price range. The building looked completely normal with tons and tons of parking. And about a 3 minute walk to the Metra platform. This was it. I told Dad that if the guy was decent (which all the other landlords were a bit quirky/scary) and if the apartment had walls and working plumbing, we were taking it. Well, thank goodness for small miracles! The guy was very friendly and completely approachable... The apartments themselves were clean and mine would have new appliances, new paint, new carpet, etc. I grabbed a credit check sheet and told him we'd take it. And as we drove home, we were all smiles. The trials and tribulations of the day were almost completely forgotten, but we made sure to bring Mom along with us on our emotional journey through our story telling and scaring her by telling her that I was going to stay in a converted motel with boarded up windows.

So, I have a home. I have a job. In three months, I will have insurance. And I will be enjoying public transportation again.

PS --- For those of you job hunting and doubting the powers of Three of my five job leads/interviews, including the one I took, were found and applied for on monster. I'm a walking billboard.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Win Win Situation

Today I traveled up to Chicago for my interview with my second job option. I considered all weekend whether I should just cancel it because I was happy with the job in Oak Brook. I thought about my aching knee that was barely functioning, I thought about whether I was wasting their time because I was already sold on the job I already had, and I considered about one thousand other factors. In the end, I decided to see what this place was all about and make sure that I was making the right choice with Oak Brook.

So I suited up and made my way to the Loop. It was fairly easy to find parking at Union Station (which is 1/2 block away from the travel agency) and I quickly found the office. The atmosphere of this place was completely different than that of Oak Brook. Although both deal with five-star travel and the upper 5% of the economic bracket, this office felt much more laidback and the main guy had all sorts of cool travel artifacts around his office. We sat on comfortable couchlike chairs and he offered me coffee. Then we chatted. No drill sergeant questions. No searching for my "most difficult moment at work" or "describing a time I faced adversity in the workplace" or any of that junk (which in Oak Brook they wrote down every word I said in response to about 80 questions). After about 20 minutes, he said, "So what kind of salary do I need to offer you to have you say you'll work here?" I told him about my other job offer (and he worked there previously) ... He was willing to outdo them by a little (which was a nice gesture) and then tried to woo me. He offered me the job on the spot and as I hemmed and hawed about the decision, he asked if speaking to two workers who started in the last year and who didn't have a travel agent background would help. It sure did. I was soon sitting with two nice ladies who I would be working with and we chatted for about 30 minutes about all the different aspects of the job, the clients, the atmosphere, the city. I felt really positive about the job as I left and by the time I got home, I knew which job I was going to take. Thankfully, I knew that my Oak Brook contact was out of the office today so I could just leave a message. It was a difficult decision, but I think choosing the smaller office with a more "family" atmosphere was the right choice. Plus the entry-level job here was just more interesting and involved than the other.

Anyway, I begin in two weeks and since I knew I would be moving soon either way, I spent Sunday combing the western suburbs with Mom and Dad. I love the area near Regan and want to live within walking distance of the Metra so that I never really have to drive. (I *heart* public transportation!) By taking my Chicago job, I get an extra week to find a great place to live and perhaps even locate a couch and queen-size bed! (Anyone have some furniture to get rid of?!) I'm excited to begin this next chapter in my life and I hear that the coffee at this office is phenomenal and free, plus there is often freshly-baked banana bread. Oh, yeah, and I am going to be immersed in creating "unusual" trips for very very very rich folks. The sky is the limit with other people's money. Anyone want to take a private jet adventure? I'm your girl.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Dogsitter no more

Hey there, my faithful readers. Thank you for being with me as I explored daytime television, the beginning and end of the internet, and all the glorious bad habits that you can teach a dog in a day. And now, after 2.5 months of being home and refusing to substitute teach, I have a job. Or maybe two!

My job in the 'burbs called me back a few minutes ago and officially offered me a position at their company. And I have to say that the company I am interviewing for on Monday has a lot to live up to. My gut is in a bit of turmoil, but I think it's leaning towards Oak Brook. And this place has a gym in the basement which is excellent and previously unknown news! I think that might have swayed me more than anything.

So, I'm going into my weekend with a smile on my face. I start on the 15th if I accept their offer, which means that I will need to locate an apartment and get moving quickly, unless Regan can take on another resident along with her baby and husband. I was supposed to head to Valpo this weekend for my 5 year reunion, but this morning I slid on some water and recreated Laura's wedding with another injured knee. Despite the pain and the sadness of maybe not being able to see Tammy, I'm pretty excited about having a job. And not just a job. Perhaps a career. Which is a completely different thing.

And because I need an image to break up this blog... I present this hot photo of a former couch potato.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Job Hunt Update ... Part 85 .... and 86

UPDATE for an update!!!

*** Just got a call from 'burbs place and he is almost sure that he will have a job to offer me tomorrow. Why would he call tonight if he won't have one for sure? That would be cruel. So, I'm pretty sure I am employed.... But I am also going to head out to the Monday interview and see how it compares. I was really thrilled with my interview and the people at the first job so either way this is all going to work out. I hope. If not.... I'm going to scream!***

Okay, so here's the breakdown.

The job that I interviewed for with the luxury travel company in the 'burbs never got back to me...a week after they said they would make their decision. No letter. Nothing. So I emailed yesterday and they haven't made their decision yet, so I might still have a chance for that position.

The phone interview/Denver folks are supposed to get back to me in the next week or so to schedule an in-person interview in November... if I didn't bomb the prelims. So, I'm still waiting.

I had given up on other jobs and then on a whim today applied with a travel company in Chicago. Ten minutes later I got a call from a head honcho who just received my info and I have an interview on Monday! This job is almost identical to the first travel...five star arrangements...entry-level assistant. But it's downtown! Like DOWNTOWN Chicago! Exciting! Anyways, I'm thrilled to have yet another back-up.

Let's hear it for people calling back!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Two new loves---

I want these Nikes. I could totally rock some striped knee highs.

Need some new music to listen to at work or at home? At, you just type in what kind of music you like and they tune you into radio stations that match your style. Love this!

You know, if I had a job, I wouldn't have so much time to roam the internet. And that would be a shame. I should look at the positive side of unemployment!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Corn Maize

Although the temperatures are still in the 80s and the leaves haven’t begun to bring me happiness by changing colors, autumn is still in the air in central Illinois. Ken has made his annual trek to the great outdoors of Canada for some fishing, so I’ve been exploring all that the area has to offer solo. Well, not completely alone. My mom and dad were game for a trip to a corn maze and pumpkin patch.

Yesterday, we headed to Gilmore's Green Acres over the border in Indiana to get lost in the fields that mapped out the Corn Belt of America. It was opening day and not too swamped with loads of people, so we were almost completely alone in the maze. I’ve never been in a maze before and wasn’t sure what to expect. Mom, even though a bit directionally-challenged, was our professional guide, as she had brought her class to Gilmore’s before. We didn’t have any tactics or a specific game plan. Basically, we wandered and occasionally made our own path through the rows. Mom opted out when we stumbled across the smaller maze within a maze and Dad and I continued to roam the corn. We were trying to figure out which letters/states we were in while we were walking. After about 45 minutes total, we were out and ready to explore the rest of the farm.

First we visited some goats and sheep at the petting zoo area... And since there weren't a ton of people around, we could make all the goat and sheep noises we wanted with no shame. Okay, maybe a little shame.

Next stop was to have some good old-fashioned clean fun as we raced rubber ducks by pumping water. Mom and I tried not to gloat too much with our successive victories over Dad.

Although most of our pumpkins for home had already been purchased, we had to go buy at least one pumpkin from the patch. A nice man who was missing two fingers took us out personally on a hayrack ride (the fact that he was missing fingers has nothing to do with anything, but it's interesting). We grabbed a pumpkin that was calling our name and some gourds.

After a caramel apple and some cider and a mean and persistent bee, plus a little more goofing around, it was time to head home.

It was a grand old day on the farm. But seriously, I could really go for some fall weather.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One man's trash...

Is really just trash.

But my family managed to pawn off quite a lot of our junk onto some poor unsuspecting garage salers last weekend. We were expecting calls from angry parents once they discovered that we had given their children "gifts" of old puppy dolls and candles. They can have their own garage sale in the spring and charge more.

What else is new with me? Let's see... I.Hate.Job.Hunting. It's so unbelievably frustrating. I had my interview almost two weeks ago and they said they would reach their decision at the end of last week. As of now, I'm just waiting for my rejection letter which is sure to arrive in the mail tomorrow. It's disappointing, but not the end of the world.

I had another phone interview with an educational travel company based in Denver. The interview went fine, I think, and in about two weeks, they'll get ahold of me to see about an in-person meeting. The job itself would begin in January, so there isn't a huge rush. I've also started sending off resumes to random places again.

I'm beginning to feel like Izzy - caged and tired... yet fairly content. Can someone scratch my belly?

PS. Yes, that is a SpongeBob doll and a pumpkin head. And, yes, they were already sold. No emails, please.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Froggy Turner!

Last weekend, Ken celebrated his 24th birthday (Ha!)... And how did we mark the momentous occasion? A trip to the races, of course!

A group of us headed out to Balmoral Racetrack for their Super Night. We had a grand time watching fourteen races, betting on all of them, and losing money. I did a horrible job of picking horses all night. I kept losing my $2 bets as my horses refused to fight it out until the end. I was getting frustrated and when it came to the last race with the biggest purse on the line, I just knew that Froggy Turner was the name of the champion. I put $5 on him to place (which Ken doubled to $10 without telling me) and what do you know... Froggy came up from behind and galloped to first place. And we won $60. It was glorious!

Anyway, it was quite exciting and I think Ken had a good birthday. I'm not sure if Josh will be making the trip back for awhile.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sweaty palms

There is nothing like the sigh of relief that follows stressful moments in life. It's almost like you've lost 10 lbs without even trying.

On Wednesday, I traveled up to Oak Brook for my interview with the travel company that could hold my future in the palms of their hands. To say that I was intimidated seeing the gorgeous office buildings would be a serious understatement. However, once I got into the actual office and saw that the workers (who were doing a presentation on European Villas and saying things like, "Okay, so then after we had this fantastic breakfast, we were taken on a tour of....") were completely normal. I interviewed with two ladies who asked me quite a lot of questions, some of which threw me for a loop. We discussed my former jobs, my former travels, and thankfully one of the ladies had been an English teacher in Japan for seven years. And had visited Okinawa. They demonstrated what my job would entail (it's entry-level so nothing too hard-hitting) and then talked about the opportunities for internal promotion. It's an amazing company and offers unbelievable 5-star trips. It's completely baffling to think about how much money I spent on four months of travel and how much people will drop for 5-10 day trips.

Anyways, there is nothing that I would do differently about my interview. I was happy that I bought the expensive suit! After my interview, I headed just 10 minutes away to Regan and Kent's new condo to see Baby Alex. I spent the night at their place, ate some yummy food, caught up with Regan, and took a great walk on the park district trail right next to their home. It was a nice visit and, of course, you can't beat the free entertainment of five-month-old babies...especially ones who are discovering new sounds!

The really exciting thing for me right now is that I am wearing a sweatshirt! And I can see pumpkins at the farmer's stand outside my window. Plus, Mom has started bringing out all the autumn decorations. I haven't had the chance to enjoy fall since 2004. I definitely intend on hitting some orchards and pumpkin patches and corn mazes... and I'm going to drink warm apple cider and eat caramel apples (sans peanuts)... and I'm going to crunch my way through piles of leaves. Oh, the glory of it all! (Let me know if you want to join me on any of these excursions!)

Monday, September 10, 2007


First things first... I'm still alive. Maybe a bit bored on a day-to-day basis, but definitely still alive and kicking.

How have I been spending my days? Let's see... I usually get up around 8 and then take some time to eat some brekkie and drink some coffee. Around 10, I begin my workout and am showered and ready to go by noon. At this time, since I'm all clean and dressed, I play with the dog outside for awhile. Then I play with her inside. Then I sit in the kitchen so Izzy can take a nap. Then I put her in her crate so I can take a nap. At about this time, my mom gets home from school. We chat and read the paper. Dad gets home. We eat dinner. I go for a bike ride. I settle in for some TV and then I do it all again the next day.

Umm. Yeah.

But there is good news on the horizon! I have had two job nibbles and will hopefully be employed soon! The most promising job might contact me in the next couple of days. At least I hope they do. This particular job is with a luxury travel company and fits all of my main criteria, including location and most importantly, career guidance. In fact, it seems to be exactly what I want to do with my life. So that's great! I've had a semi-phone interview with a guy and he was giving me all sorts of promises about a job, so let's all hope for Rachel for a moment, shall we? (EDIT: I got a job interview for Wednesday. Whoo Hoo!!!!) The second job involved a phone interview that I just had a couple of hours ago. Now I need to decide if I want to book a plane to do the in-person interview or not and then ultimately make a huge move. To Seattle. The job isn't ideal and doesn't pay all that well, but I would be living next to the ocean again and among the mountains. And I've been semi-obsessed with Seattle for the last couple of years. (Although I've actually never been there... call it The Grey's Effect.) And this one is in the travel industry as well...with a well-known cruise company.

I have been holding my breath for the last five days or so... It would be great to breathe again --- and get paid.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Unemployment Line

Last Thursday night, Ken and I braved the ferocious storms that swept through the Chicago area to visit our friends Dustin and Laura in Schaumburg. The reason for driving through green skies and downpours, past pulled over vehicles, through flooded streets, and alongside downed trees? The promise of some easy money from the producers of the famed show, "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"... What else would lure us to the hinterlands of the north?

We had some delicious pizza at our overnight stop and Laura and Dustin even pulled out an interview with a former "Millionaire" contestant for some inspiration. Though the dude was certifiably insane, it helped us to get ready for our very own "Fastest Finger" questions. The open auditions were to be held at Medieval Times and the parking lot supposedly opened at 5 am. Ken and I will do some crazy things, but getting up at that hour isn't one of them. We rolled out of bed at 7:15 and as we arrived, we couldn't help but notice the wrapping line. But the good news was that it was moving. This was especially good news because it was still raining. Within five minutes, we were inside the walls of the make-believe castle and within an hour realized that we had just missed the next audition group by five people. Although we were a bit discouraged, we decided to stay for the extra hour and continue with our dream for glory and a moment with Meredith.

During our time in line, we had a chance to meet others with million dollar dreams. And as we talked with them, I noticed a theme... Everyone was unemployed. How else would they be sitting on the floor at 9 am on a Friday morning? We were in an unemployment line! The girl in front of us had quit her job as a writer a month ago, the lady in front of her lost her job two days ago, etc. etc. This was not just an audition. This was survival.

Ken and I got in with the fourth group of folks taking the test. We sat in the front row and received directions for our two quizzes. One of them was a Netflix movie quiz and the other was general trivia. Both tests had 30 questions and we received 10 minutes to complete each. The movie one was first and I had no hope of actually passing it. There were completely random questions. Some of them were extremely easy, but then others were small little details from movies I had never seen or heard of. The second quiz was much easier. I felt fairly confident with all my answers except about three. Thanks to the miracle of Scantron, we knew our results within minutes. They announced the people who had passed both quizzes first and there were probably about 15 people on that list. Then the movie-only passers which numbered about 4, including the guy next to us. Finally it was time for the general test. After listening to quite a few numbers, I finally heard mine. I might have squealed a bit.

After the passers and non-passers had been separated, I was herded to an "interview" area and was given about five questions by some random girl who wanted to know about my T-shirt and why I wanted to be on the show. I highly doubt I did anything to stand out, but in two or three weeks, I'll find out if I've made it to the contestant pool.

The day was quite fun. Ken and I spent the entire ride home trying to remember all the questions. Ken didn't make it to the interview section, but by comparing our answers, we think he only missed one more than me... the passing grade must have been a 28 or 29 to make it to the interview.

Here's hoping I can get on the show and bring home the bacon! Otherwise, I really really really need to get a job.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sweating with our Sox

Today Dad and I headed to The Cell to watch the White Sox take on the Mariners. Our team lost, but we walked away with some purchases (including some flip flops and T-shirts) and nice memories from some great seats. We sat right behind the White Sox bullpen seven rows up. I got some excellent shots and even though the Sox got spanked, I was entertained by the action going on with the other pitchers. Besides just having a nice day out with Dad, I also got to check something off my list of 101 things to do. Here are some of my favorite shots from the day:

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pass the BBQ sauce, please.

This weekend Ken and I finally had our big bash and I'm hoping everyone had a memorable time! We ate lots of pig, consumed copious amounts of beer, and, I think I speak for all the females, were absolutely captivated by the excitement of beanbag throwing. Here are some photos from the event:

Izzy licking frosting off of my nose during the baking bonanza with my mom.

Ken and his niece, McKenna, who is remarkably bigger than this time last summer. What a cutie! (Both of them)

McKenna declares herself the beanbag champ.

The pig being prepped. Thanks for the sacrifice, Wilbur.

Ken with his college buddies - Miller, Girdler, and Skinner.

Ken ruining a perfectly good photo of Krystal and Zack.

Fawning all over Ken with Amy.

The true warriors of the evening (having to deal with all the men) - Laura and Krystal.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Merging back into American life

I'm home! I am writing this post from my new bedroom... I was upgraded to Brooke's room. My flight home could have been better. I will never fly Northwest by my own free will. I had to get on the plane twice in Detroit and got kicked off twice due to mechanical problems before we were given a different aircraft. I arrived in Chicago a couple of hours late, and thankfully Josh, Laura, and Ken decided to stick around and pick me up. Also, the flight attendants were rude and looked stuck in the 80s, you had to pay for drinks (not that I was wanting a drink on a 12 hour flight), and the planes were dingy and outdated. My flight in Japan was as nice as always, though, and I had a fellow Okinawa ALT with me to keep my mind off of the reality that I was leaving for good.

My transition back to the States hasn't been too terribly difficult as of now. I am adjusting to how fat and loud people are and only drove on the wrong side of the road for about a block before Ken said, "Ummm..Rachel? Right side." The sad part is that I was so torn up over leaving my apartment and Chatan and the kids.... and now I feel like I was never out of the country. Why can't memories stay crystal clear? Am I taking up too much important space with useless pop culture trivia?

I have had some nice evenings with friends since being back. Last night, I met up with Josh, Laura, and Zack, plus Ken and two Shimane ALTs (weird, right?) for some Mexican food, margheritas, and time at a local bar. Ken and I were able to enjoy our favorite chicken salad sandwiches the other day and then jumped in the pool afterwards...exactly as we had planned. And this weekend is the big bash where hopefully I will get to see a lot of familiar faces. I'm going to mix together some sangria ingredients tomorrow. Yes, I know--- rough life.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tatami and Tanlines

I'm sitting in my clean and packed up apartment waiting for the utilities people to come by and after a final lunch with my teachers, I'm off to Naha for the night. Then tomorrow morning I start my long trip home. I'm leaving Okinawa in a state of denial. Denial that my travels are done for the timebeing, denial that everyone at home was moving along in life as well (doesn't time freeze when you leave?!), denial that I will never set foot in my Zen apartment again, denial that I just spent a year in Japan (that's still really weird!)...

But I'm also leaving fulfilling my blog address: I have tanlines (thanks to Bridgit and Aquarius) and I've lounged around in my tatami room for hours on end. Okinawa had its ups and downs, that's for sure. I can't say it was a perfect year. But at the same time, I'm proud of myself for overcoming my initial unhappiness with the situation and sticking with it. I am incredibly thankful that I'm leaving the island with a positive view and happy memories rather than the bitterness I had at the beginning. I wish I could bottle up the smells (some of them), the sounds, the food, the sunshine (or about 50% of it), and everything that made up my experience in Okinawa. I'm trying to soak things in, but know that in a few years, the visions won't be clear and that I will forget events and places. And that makes me incredibly sad. Unlike England, I'm pretty sure I will never set foot in Japan again unless I suddenly become independently wealthy. I can say "I hope to see you soon!" to students and Okinawan friends, but know that I will never see them again.

So, before I make myself incredibly depressed, I'm going to watch Sesame Street, enjoy an Okinawan donut, and maybe do a final dance around my apartment with broom in hand.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Full Circle

I've looked at the thing for the last year. I've seen it from my apartment, from school, and have enjoyed Thai food next to one of its legs. Tonight was the night. Time to finally jump in a booth and ride the ferris wheel... and time to view the magic of Mihama from above. And one last print club and azuki bean frappuccino with Bridgit. We will miss you, Mihama.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The final farewells

Things I will shed a tear for:

Mihama Village, zenzai, azuki beans, Pucca chocolate, onigiri, miso-flavored stuff, the beach, the Union supermarket and theme song, kids staring at my eyes and nose, beautiful flowers, people covered up completely a la Michael Jackson in the sun, kawaii kids, cartoons for everything, my apartment, the mushroom cookies, mochi, ginger ale at every restaurant, AFN and award-winning commercials, the gym and naked conversations, 100 yen stores, Blue Seal ice cream, seeing geckos and huge butterflies on my walks, the joy of conbinis, feeling like a novelty, fun stores, cell phone emoticons, Nihonglish everywhere, vending machines at every turn, beautiful green/blue water, cute little Japanesey things, riding in a bus and watching people, quirky Kokusaidori, friends, genki students, lunch sets, having interesting things to blog about, Starbucks on Thursday nights, print club, taxi cab chats, massage chairs, Mr. Donut "crack" coffee, sashimi, ice coffee with sugar syrup, sliding doors and tatami mats, the urinal

Things I can't wait to kick to the curb:

infuriating parking tactics and defensive driving, kids staring at my eyes and nose, the heat, walking in the rain, only having one TV channel, talking about the weather, blank stares from students, teachers who are the only ones in the room repeating after me (and with the wrong pronunciation), listening to people answer the phones behind my head, the grunting, paperwork, snorting/spitting, 1600 yen movies, pizza with mayo, the same questions over and over and over, listening to the annoying math teacher talk during morning meetings, the stairs at my apartment building, sleeping on the floor, the threat of cockroaches, feeling like a novelty, back and tummy sweat at all times, heat and sun stroke, humidity, sitting in the metal building baking, trying to waste six hours at a desk each day, not being able to bake/cook anything because I can't read labels, glares from the man downstairs, bloody politicians with their megaphones, saying "Ohayo gozaimasu," not being able to find trashcans anywhere, stairs at school and apartment, military folks everywhere, the weird grey/brown paper at school that smudges ink, not knowing what people are saying about me, feeling like a child that has to be looked after, bad imitations of American food, Spam, slippery sidewalks, generally not knowing any details ever, mold

"It just got warm. Did you pee?"

I'm exhausted! I feel like I keep running and running and adding to my lists, while rarely crossing anything off. But it's also been an excellent weekend although it flew by a bit too fast.

On Friday, I had my last class (which was one of the best all year) and gave my speech in front of the school to say good-bye. Then my homeroom grabbed me and ran me up to the AV room to watch our video from the stage festival. After laughing at the performance, we ran up to the classroom for some Mr. Donut donuts and a very nice speech from one of the students. They also presented me with a collage of photos and good luck wishes (which were hilarious and thoughtful at the same time). It was exceptionally nice and as the summer break began, the students were reluctant to leave the classroom. A multitude of high fives were thrown and I sadly walked away.

The evening was spent with my teachers at a sushi restaurant where we chatted and enjoyed each other's company. Theresa, my predecessor came along and can now vouch for the strangeness of some of the new teachers. Quote of the night came from one of my teachers who told the crazy teacher who wears the crepe outfits that she liked her pants fringe. Quote from crazy teacher: "Yes. Thank you. The theme of this outfit is 'cicadas.'" Ha.

On Saturday I grabbed my beach towel and headed to Tropical Beach with Jamie, Theresa, and Bridgit. It was extremely hot out and we spent most of the afternoon in the bathtub water ocean. There were plenty of people to watch and after having our fill of the sun, we made our way to a cafe for some more chatting. I spent the evening wandering Mihama at night and watching "Harry Potter." There were mostly Americans in the theater and I didn't know how to behave socially around them. It scared me to hear them talking and I felt completely uncomfortable in their presence. I wanted to talk to the Japanese couple wearing yukata sitting a few seats down instead.

Today was yet another beach day and besides soaking in some sun, the highlight was when Bridgit's car got pinned in by two vehicles and some helpful Okinawans tried to be good Samaritans. Thankfully, the owners of one of the cars appeared and moved out of our way. It would have been sort of funny except we were sweating bullets and just wanted to get moving.

Tomorrow begins "Errand Week" as I try to tackle some of the tasks that must be done before departing on Saturday. As my time in Okinawa ends, it's time for reflection... I'll pen my summary sometime soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Photo Ops

My homeroom class... hands down the best class in the school. I found out after the party that they are throwing another party for me tomorrow afternoon. I thought my sad little good-byes were over!

My three "Spiderman" boys who wanted to take a "Japanese" photo. Ummmm.....

My best first year girls... They love to speak English and have already sent me emails since this morning. (Also their names are some of the only ones that I could really get down.)

It was a rough morning. I had 4 classes and rewarded myself with another afternoon on the rocks. Better than a drink on the rocks at 1 pm, I suppose. :)

I got one hermit crab photo. They were a bit more elusive today, but I could still see them once in awhile. I did see one do a somersault which was quite funny. Maybe I need a pet hermit crab for when I get home.

And the beach ... sorry about the wind noise.