Thursday, June 4, 2015

Over Jordan

I just plugged a 10-digit number into DHL's package-tracking service, and it informed me that my three cardboard boxes and one suitcase are scheduled to arrive in Washington, DC tomorrow, June 5th, 2015.

What will I be doing on June 5, while my clothes, books, and assorted Jordanian souvenirs simmer on my future front stoop?

Recovering, I expect, from an evening of on-campus festivities. Squeezing the things I wanted to bring to Greece and the things I forgot to ship home into one suitcase. Driving to Four Winters to cash in my full punch card for a regular-sized ice cream. Walking around King's Academy and looking out at the fields beyond the walls. Getting ready to say goodbye.

The last time you heard from me, the end was near, and now it's here. We've had our final faculty meeting, I've given back the key to my apartment, and I'm a few checked boxes away from officially signing out of King's Academy for good. Classes ended last week but they feel very far away. I saw students for the last time yesterday, at a really wonderful advisory group barbecue in Amman, and I guess it's just about time to accept their Facebook friend requests.

How does it feel?

The last few days have not been particularly reflective, or particularly celebratory or sad; plenty of logistics, a few heartfelt goodbyes, but no serious emotional turmoil or deep regret. I suppose I am ready for another adventure, like I was when I got on the plane in August 2013. Just today, feelings of anticipatory anxiety have started to bubble up, and I find myself calming them down by remembering that very few leaps into the unknown could rival the one I took two years ago, touching down in the desert to start my Real Life. I've already made that jump and lived to talk about it, so this one maybe won't feel quite so big.

I'm excited to be back in America. Will I annoy people by using Arabic phrases too much? Will I grow tired of the accessibility of creature comforts and the bafflingly consistent adherence to basic rules of driving? Will I miss my students? My friends?

So tonight there's a big goodbye, and tomorrow there's a slow burn to the end, and then I go to Greece and then I go home. Thursday, June 11; the following Monday I start summer work and then someday September will come and I'll start doing something else. It's going to be really, really different, but like I said before, I know how that feels already.

Too lazy for pictures from the last month right now. If you want to see them, just ask me the next time we see each other. I can take a train just about anywhere now, so I won't be far.

I think I'll probably regret the title of this post because it's a little sappy, but I've been thinking a lot about those apropos songs with "Jordan" in the title. I don't know if I'm going to get over Jordan, and I don't think I want to: I think I have learned things here that I won't even know I've learned until they tap me on the shoulder a few weeks months years down the road. I am very grateful to have been a part of this place, because I really believe in how important and special a school it is, and it feels like an honor to have helped push the seed of this place closer towards flourishing. Big changes ahead for King's, and for me as well, so I hope we stay in touch.

This may well be all for me and this blog. The best part of the internet is that these things don't go anywhere - maybe I'll take a look at my Xanga right now just for old time's sake. King's Academy, we came as strangers, we part as friends.

مع السلامة

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 18, 2015

I feel this afternoon that the search for a pithy title for this post would be an undue use of my effort. Today is April 18, 2015; the sun shines through the haze over Madaba, and five weeks remain in the school year at King's Academy. This is very likely not my last blog post, but we have gotten close enough that such disclaimers feel worth including. Two months have passed, and the words "blog post" are starting to burn a hole in my iPhone Notes. Let's get up to speed.

What has happened since my last day as a 24-year-old?

The birthday was an utterly normal day, except that I remember it being more stressful than usual. Some students surprised me by bursting out of an elevator holding a cupcake, which was a nice way to start Glee Club rehearsal. That weekend we hopped over the border to brave wind and rain during Tel Aviv's only non-beautiful 48 hours of the entire year, though the city managed to clear up in time for a totally lovely outdoor brunch. Ice cream sandwiches, late-night beers, strolling on the beach, and perhaps the coolest club I've ever been to made for a great late birthday present.

Did anything else happen in February? Our Lord of the Rings marathon happened in February. I made lembas. Don't let anyone tell you we don't have a good time out here in the desert.

And then it was March, I guess? My final semester at King's began; I'm teaching two sections of Ethics instead of Philosophy and have only recently decided that maybe I should mess with the curriculum after all. I think I'm going to keep my brain active by actually making the end of the term about ethics, rather than sticking with the same Philosophy syllabus I've been tweaking for the past two years. It'll still be pretty similar, because my class had so much Ethics in it anyway, but I'm now deciding whether to keep watching The Matrix or maybe try Minority Report instead. Input welcome.

Took a trip up to Ajloun to chaperone a Habitat for Humanity build with a bunch of students, which was a busy but very fulfilling weekend. Here we are building a house that will someday have a beautiful view:

And the students asked if they could sleep under the stars, and I said no, and a good time was had by all. I'm glad I went up there; we also got to visit Ajloun Castle which is gorgeous.

And then it was Spring Break! And Sam came!

Here we are in Jaffa Port:

Here we are at the Dead Sea:

It was a pretty amazing visit, if I do say so myself. Jerusalem (with a day trip to Tel Aviv), Petra/Wadi Rum with Andrew and Katherine, and enough time up north to see Amman and Madaba and a full King's Academy school day. We ate enough food for several more people, and I can't think of a better way to have spent spring break.

And then Passover came and went, and I actually made it BACK to Jerusalem for the Seder. Was a little sad to miss our own festivities at King's, but given the chance to make "next year in Jerusalem" a reality, I didn't think I could pass it up.

And two weeks ago now, we hosted a visiting conductor from Austria who did great work with the Glee Club last year, and he continued to do great work with them and the orchestra and all manner of student musical groups. But the best part of hosting is, of course, the excuse to travel, so we made our way up to Um Qais last weekend. An absolutely gorgeous site: pillars of ancient churches, pillars of ancient fora, pillars of ancient mausoleums, and a stunning view of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. Here's the picture I'm proudest of, which is currently my phone background:

So that was a week ago, just about. Since then, we made another cardboard boat for the cardboard boat race. Team Humanities Hubris decided to up our game for the second year by covering the entire boat in tape, instead of just most of the boat.

We tried to fit three people in the boat and sank immediately.

But enough about the past! Today it is still sunny out, and will be for another hour, and I've decided to do this instead of grading or lesson planning for the time being. I will probably start the business of life soon, given that we're approaching the first 5-day week in a while (thanks, Easter long weekends!) and the Glee Club has its big spring concert on Wednesday. This will be one of those busy busy school weeks, and I think it'll go by quickly.

Such is the present; as for the future? Still too cloudy to tell. I began the process of applications months ago, and it's starting to become time for interviews and conversations and thoughts about What's Next. Nothing set in stone just yet, which I'm OK with, and enough irons in the fire that I feel more excited than anxious about returning to the states. I finally told my advisees that I'm leaving, which was about as easy as I'd anticipated, so I probably shouldn't have been such a procrastinator about it. The hard part might be telling the Glee Club, or my Big History students, but they'll manage.

Signs of the end: 

- a goodbye lunch today with other departing History teachers and Sue, who's staying next year to keep teaching Econ but won't be around for end-of-year festivities

- looking at plane tickets to America and deciding whether to go straight back or take a little vacation somewhere in between. Greece?

- the ongoing psychological battle, toughening as the days pass, between focusing on now and focusing on the next thing. With barely over a month of school left, my barely repressible instinct for counting down finds itself torn between the thrill of proximity to the end and the banality of the inevitable. At this point, why even count? April will be May two Saturdays from now, and then we've really hit the final lap. I'm doing my best to make each day count, to put my efforts into concerts and classes and grading and engaging, but there are times when it doesn't feel as easy. I think the routine of busy five-day weeks will help, and we've got nothing but those left until the end, so it's time to get back in the saddle and ride this thing to the finish line. I think I'm in a metaphorical mood today.

You'll hear from me again before the plane takes off for Washington. I saw a plane fly over the dorms two nights ago, and thinking about myself in a similar such plane brought on one of the strongest bouts of nostalgia I've felt this spring. Will those feelings intensify as the end approaches? I imagine so. If you're real lucky, you'll get to hear about it.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Quarter Century

Three months seem to have gone by pretty quickly.

Things that have happened since last I updated, in the pre-wedding-in-America, pre-Thanksgiving times of 2014:

- return to America (via Paris for three hours: Notre Dame, Rue des Rosiers, a lot of baked goods) for wedding

- return to Jordan (via Amsterdam for three hours: haircut, canals, ran out of money) in time for familiarly decadent Thanksgiving dinner (I made gingerbread again)

- presentation at the Queen Rania Teacher Association's education conference at the Dead Sea. Lina, Ala, and I made a cool poster, talked about using technology in the classroom, and then got massages at our comped hotel once the event was over. Big success overall.

- return to America again (via Istanbul this time, but without a big layover) for the holiday

And then it became 2015, with much fanfare and revelry, and I suppose I'll pick up the story there.

Quick note before all the reminiscing: I'm writing on the eve of my 25th birthday, as my final hours as a 24-year-old wind down, and could probably spend some time right now posting all sorts of existential musings about the passage of time and the Marking of the Years, etc etc. But I won't, at least not for now, so that instead we can look at some nice pictures.

Highlight 1: Mom and Dad's Visit
When my flight touched down in Jordan on the now side of 2015, I was greeted belatedly with the news that due to icy road conditions, we were not going to be able to make it back to King's that night. Instead, we slept in the airport hotel, which ended up being a sort of fun adventure that staved off my jetlag for a night and replaced it with bewilderment.

Followed that crazy night up with two snow days, which I have to say is a pretty tremendous way to restart the school routine, but before the jetlag had even really worn off, I was welcoming the parents back to Jordan for a weekend of adventuring.

And we had a great time! Spent the first day visiting Jerash:

...and the next tooling around Amman, including the Citadel, Rainbow Street, and some restaurant highlights. We crammed a lot into two cold rainy days, and made the most of both the time and the weather to see a lot of what we hadn't been able to see together the first time. Good stuff.

Highlight 2: Azraq and the Eastern Desert
The past few weeks have reminded me that January and February are the slog days of the school year: you start off slow, then get into a real routine and just start powering through. Then sometimes the slog gets interrupted by little shocks, like the trip to the Eastern Desert we took some time in the middle of the Mires of January.

Turns out the eastern desert is home to very non-deserty things, like the former oasis in the Azraq Wetlands which now looks more or less like Milford, CT:

Kind of a tragic story, as the Jordanian government in the middle of the 20th century siphoned off almost all of the water and the restoration efforts are slow. But at least they're happening, and it was pretty amazing to see something so bizarrely familiar in the middle of the desert.

Said desert, of course, also contains plenty of more appropriate scenery, like a bunch of castles:

Just a reminder of how much beauty there is in this country, and how much I have left to see before the summer. But I feel great about taking care of that particular side of the country. And I'd be remiss if I left out the super fun Eastern Desert highway road signs:

Highlight 3: JYMC

And there were musical adventures, too!!

The final weekend of January was not much of a weekend at all: instrumentalists and singers from all over Jordan came to King's to participate in the third annual Jordan's Youth Music Conference, the brainchild of a teacher here. "Instrumentalists and singers" here means "twenty instrumentalists and four singers," and "all over Jordan" here means "two or three schools in Amman," but we really did rehearse for 14 hours over two days and we really did perform two songs the kids had never seen before, and I think that's something to be proud of.

I don't think there's video up yet, but I'll send it around if it emerges. I was way too frazzled for photos, so here's a shot of the seats and new sheet music all ready to go:

Highlight 4: Food, as usual
This week, the winter doldrums come to an end, with a long weekend that will see three friends and I make our way westward to Tel Aviv. Last weekend was no slouch, either, mostly because of the food.

My first of three(?) plates from the Chinese/Korean New Year/Spring Festival celebration:

Delight in the glorious beige mess, please.

And the heart-esque pancakes we put together for a six-friend Valentine's Day brunch:

And that's basically where we're at. Classes chug along - just two and a half more weeks in the term - and the weather swings from rain to sun and back again. We plan, we grade, we complain, we play board games, we think about our futures. Sometimes someone throws a party. Spring approaches, quickly enough.

I guess the next time I look at this page will be as a twenty-five-year-old, unless a fit of editing inspiration seizes me before this Study Hall is up. With any luck, there'll be adventures left to recount and pictures left to recount them with before spring turns into summer, and I'll do my damn best to keep you people in the world up to speed.

A word on the situation in Jordan? It was tense on campus, the day after Muath, and we had somber and sober discussions, some of which really felt productive (as I think it always does to air complicated feelings). But those tensions have relaxed, and school life has most definitely proceeded as normal in the last week and a half. I am generally impressed with the attitude of the student body, though I guess I haven't heard the vitriol that almost certainly makes its way around dormitory halls after we've gone to sleep.

But anyway. If you're wondering about safety, wonder not; we're fine as ever in our little walled compound, and fine in Madaba and Amman as well. The school would most definitely be taking care of us if we weren't, too.

You didn't come here for current events, though (right?), so I'll sign off for now. Three hours and twelve minutes left of twenty-four! And such mundane things left to do this evening. That's Real Life, I guess. Back soon; I owe you one for sticking with me.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

It's been a month?

So I guess the last time I updated the blog was before classes had even restarted in October? You're in luck, readers; wracked by guilt, I have decided to tell you about the last month of my life at last, even if it's already retreating into hazy memory and I apparently didn't take too many pictures.

I'm writing from the threshold of the final week of Term 1. Four more days of school left with the Fall Philosophers and Religious Scholars, and most of them only have three classes during that time, so we're really hitting the home stretch. I guess I've been busy in the last month? Probably not too busy to update, to be honest, but somewhere at that nexus of busy and lazy lies my last few weeks.

And to be fair, this is my first free weekend since that break. Since you last heard from me, I've spent my Fridays and Saturdays:

First, on duty, playing a music fest and chaperoning down at the soccer fields

Second, on duty AGAIN, celebrating Halloween (about which I can't really complain. We do it up for Halloween. Here's the silly pumpkin that I turned into a cyclops)

Third, finally not on duty, but instead #blessed with a full day of Parent-Teacher conferences! Last year, I was able to blog in the middle of those conferences because I had so few; this year, I had about twenty free minutes to even catch my breath between family meetings. It's always more fun than one expects to meet the folks and get an insight into the students' family lives, especially because the parents who show up to conferences are always the interested and invested ones, but "more fun than expected" does not quite equal "fun."

And if you thought the thrill was over that weekend, it wasn't, because I got to spend all of the next day getting my Jordanian Drivers' License!! I'd post a picture, but I didn't take one at the time and now it's just too far away. Turns out the Jordanian DMV is a lot like the American DMV, which by Jordanian standards it's actually pretty good, especially when you have a King's insider whisking you to the front of all the lines and taking care of all the logistics. So now I don't have to be afraid of getting pulled over, and I have a pretty blue thing in my wallet that doesn't expire until 2024. Score?

And now, at last, a few days to breathe. Suffice it to say that I've been having a great weekend doing a lot more nothing than I have the past few weeks.

Not only that, but all of a sudden, America awaits! Believe it or not (I sort of can't), I'm packing up THIS WEDNESDAY to fly home for the first wedding of my generation of cousins. I'm not missing any classes because it's finals week, and my classes don't even have any traditional finals, so I feel minimally guilty because I wouldn't really have been doing much of anything anyway. It'll be a little bit of a slog to count down the days until then, but I'm excited to wrap up a great term with my students and I think I'll manage.

Speaking of feeling minimally guilty, I think I at least owe you all a few more pictures. They were chosen almost randomly, but they're also more or less the best available options from a tragically small pool of October/November photos. Enjoy...

A King's Academy sunset, which now happens at like 4:30 thanks to Jordan's early switch to "Winter Time"

Scenes from the advisory group trip to Burger Shack. I feel good that I actually got to provide them with something tangible and not just vague advice

Big Historians hard at work evaluating each other's posters! Hopefully I'll send this to someone in power and it'll be the cover of a magazine someday.

Will you have to wait a month until my next post? Can I ever start taking interesting pictures again? Are you wondering if I'm still making weird food sometimes? (I am!) As for the other questions, time will tell.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Or, "I Make Up for Three Weeks of Blog Absence By Uploading a Bunch of Pictures, Most of Which Don't Even Have People In Them"

The first picture is a selfie, but that's pretty much all I've got for you. Hello again, people! It is coming up on 7:00pm on the last day before the last day of vacation, and I am (for once) updating in my apartment instead of a brightly lit classroom full of squirming freshmen. Those little munchkins are making their way back to the dorm tonight after two weeks of freedom and celebration with their families, and I think I'll miss the quiet of an empty Sulafat but I'll hopefully soon rediscover the thrill and excitement of having a dozen barely pubescent neighbors. 

It's been a great vacation, though! A week of LOTS OF THINGS was followed by a week of almost nothing, in proportions that seem to have evened out well enough to leave me reasonably rested and reasonably prepared for the school weeks to come. I'm usually not one for vacation updates (isn't hearing about Jordan what you all pay me for?), but this one is a birthday present for Nana, so enjoy the photo safari of my Big Balkan Vacation!

Adventures began during a 6-hour layover in Istanbul, of which I took full advantage. Note my enthusiasm at having successfully left the airport and found Galata Tower (it wasn't hard), despite operating on 2-ish hours of sleep at 7:00 in the morning.

The spice bazaar wakes up. Because what was I going to do with three hours in Istanbul besides retrace the steps of my food tour for a third time?

First stop, chez baklava. They were only selling breakfast breads, so I bought one of those instead. This kicked off a string of utter gluttony that also included Turkish delight, pomegranate juice, chicken pudding, börek, and, eventually, baklava:

Close focus intentional.

Then I got a haircut, and then I got back on the plane, and it took me to a place called Podgorica in Montenegro, and I was picked up by Eli, Harvey, and Nick! They had come to collect me after a wild week in Munich and elsewhere in Montenegro, and as soon as I was in the car, we were off.

First, across lovely Lake Skadar for my first taste of Montenegro's eponymous beauty.

Within about a half hour of arriving, we stumbled upon a family vineyard selling homemade wine, brandy, and honey. They spoke enough English that we were able to do great business, and also had some cute cats. Good start to the trip, to say the least.

Late that night, after a dinner stop in Cetinje drive down 25 spooky mountain switchbacks (check the Google maps road for proof!), we arrived in Kotor, which is not named for the Star Wars video game but is certainly sufficiently impressive. We hit the town in the evening after becoming better acquainted with this Eurovision hit. It immediately became the theme song of the trip.

A view from the next day, as we ascended to the fortress of Kotor with the lovely Cruise Ship of Kotor beneath us.

View from the descent. Construction worker, I guess?

The old city of Kotor is completely contained within a triangular castle that abuts the mountain we climbed to reach the fortress. It looks as majestic and imposing from sea level as it does from up here. 

Next stop: Dubrovnik! Having already been, Eli and I figured we could revisit some old haunts while Nick and Harvey explored the city walls.

We stumbled upon the Jewish museum by chance and asked about Yom Kippur, which had ended the previous night. Apparently, 80% of the 45 Jews in Dubrovnik are women, which means they don't have enough for an Orthodox minyan, so nothing happened for the holiday. It was great to get even a small glimpse of the local Jewish culture, though.

Look familiar? It's the rock that Eli jumped from during Whiff year! He did not attempt a two-year reunion jump, and neither did I. The pirate ship is a bonus.

Another day, another country: Bosnia ahoy. This is the totally epic bridge of Mostar, destroyed by bombing in the 90's but rebuilt through the combined efforts of a bunch of European countries and banks. Totally worth it; it was gorgeous at sunset.

And last but not least: Sarajevo! My trip ended as it began: a solo excursion in a cool city (the other guys had an earlier flight than I did). Here's a view from one of the steep hills surrounding the city.

So I walked and walked, checking out mosques and churches and synagogues and plenty of foods. I took a nap on a park bench, and snapped this photo of the point at which Sarajevo's western and eastern "old city" areas meet. Clearly, they are aware that this is of interest to tourists.

Up another hill for tea and a book until the call to prayer resounded from hill to hill. It's a beautiful city, like a mini-Istanbul in its diversity, and I was really surprised (pleasantly so) by the vibrant buzz of a city that was so recently torn up by conflict. Everyone we met, from hostel owners to shopkeepers, seemed very optimistic about the future of the city and the country, and I feel like I haven't seen the last of Sarajevo. I sure hope not, anyway. That food was delicious.

And last but not least, the whirlwind tour of Jordan! My flight arrived at close to 4 in the morning, and after sleeping in at King's, it was immediately off to Wadi Rum. Here, Nick and Harvey climb a dune.

We thought some of our photos were good enough to be publicity shots for Suleiman. He was, as always, a great guide in the desert, and we had a very relaxing evening out on the dunes and under the stars.

Petra, of course, which never fails to disappoint. We were there until it was pitch dark, then drove immediately to Amman to meet Harvey's cousin at a bar. I don't know if I've ever been so exhausted. But I don't regret it: always good to have new adventures, especially when touring people around. Plus, I had a whole week to recover.


And did I recover? Let this picture stand as a testament to the fact that I at least baked a ton of muffins. This (apple) was the first batch, which I made for our Survivor catch-up/Canadian Thanksgiving-themed Happy Hour. Today (peanut butter) was the second batch, which I made for our Board Game Brunch. Sound ridiculous? Every day was like that. Parties, cooking, restaurants, Chase's birthday, games, and the occasional thought of school have dominated the week, and I think I feel sufficiently vacationed out and ready to start back up. Tomorrow I proctor the PSAT at 8am, which will definitely get me on my feet whether I like it or not, and then it's off to the races.

Hope you enjoyed the little Balkan photo trip! I'm realizing that after being gone so long, it's going to be nice to get back in the classroom with my students and remember why I like this job so much in the first place. Hanging out with friends is fun, but you can do it anywhere, and I suppose I'm looking forward to a return to the hustle and bustle. We'll see how long that lasts.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Shanah Tovah 5775! (All you wanted was pictures of food, right?)

Because that's pretty much all you're going to get. 

When school ended on Thursday, I began a more-or-less uninterrupted run of cooking and eating that lasted until Survivor brunch ended around noon today. What follows actually begins before Thursday, with the Challah Odyssey that Hannah (new history TF) and I undertook in advance of our unprecedented four-Jew Rosh Hashanah dinner. Look on in wonder as:

The dough, with yeast successfully cultivated, begins its first rise.

Post-rise dough looking awfully risen.

Out of the fridge, into silly looking little rolls, and ready to rise once more.

Look how it keeps growing!

Let's skip right to the final product. Having never made bread before, I was pretty thrilled with these results, and they tasted nearly as good as they looked. Here's a shot of our holiday table:

This just before Mike graced it with lamb and cauliflower soup and carrots and egg noodles, to go along with (of course) apples and honey and challah and wine. Note my sneaky pomegranate-vase/Jewish-holiday-multipurpose-tool to the left of the candle. It was a delicious dinner, a great way to ring in the New Year, and made us all feel lucky to have one another to celebrate with. Is more bread in the future? With Hannah's and my hubris adequately burnished by our first attempt, you can bet on it.


Then came Friday, and the Sulafat progressive brunch! At long last, our dream of moving from apartment to apartment and eating too much food in each place came true. I have tried to spare you the gory details, but here's the basic progression:

Stage One: The Smith Abode. Yogurt parfaits with granola and fresh fruit; deviled eggs; Irish tea brack; coffee and tea.

Stage Two: The Watsky/Procknow Palace. Shown above is the spinach and cheese strata I made (pour one out for Yasmine).

Stage Two (con't): Strata, now accompanied by juice and johnnycakes.

Stage Three (not shown) included an unreal mint cake and a delicious and flaky spinach pie. I thought I wouldn't have to eat for a week or so, but then it was time to cook for the weekend activity.

This weekend, Nihal house hosted their annual international dinner, in which students cook food from their respective homelands. Chase and I hosted team dessert, the hallmark of which was an all-American apple pie. Take a look:

So it was, by all accounts, an utterly delicious weekend, and I tried my best to think of the ideals of reflection and self-improvement that should characterize the Rosh Hashanah season. Now, just five short school days separate us from a two-week vacation that will see me trekking through the Balkans and shepherding some old friends up and down the King's Highway here, so be on the lookout for pictures if I ever feel like posting them. Onward to October!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Long Weekend

I write, yet again, from the laziest of weekends.

I think I've actually outdone myself from last weekend. Last weekend most of my friends were around, and we hung out and talked and were alternately productive and unproductive together. This weekend, almost everyone headed off campus to chaperone the proctors on a trip to Wadi Rum. I opted to stay behind, initially because I was just too late to respond but then because I realized the magnitude of the work before me:

- 28 Philosophy papers to grade
- 30 Big History assignments to grade
- 58 midterm comments to write for all 4 classes

(not to mention the normal planning responsibilities of a normal school week)

Yes, midterm season is somehow already upon us, and in order to even get to the comment-writing part I had to finish all the grading. So it seemed like a good idea to stay home, and I have to say I'm pretty dang proud of my accomplishments so far. 15 Big History assignments and 28 comments remain, and the deadlines feel so much less ominous, and I still have three hours to kill in various ways before our latest Downton Abbey marathon commences at Lina's. So I thought I'd do a little writing.

Big major life updates? Not really. But here are some pictures:

Mr. Ben with his advisees. Took an awfully long time to finally take the selfie, but I'm pretty happy about it.

Speaking of advisees, I forced them all to download this app that tracks how well you sleep and wakes you up with a biologically calibrated, phenomenally gentle alarm. This is my pride and joy so far: last night's 95% sleep, which I hope to share with my advisees and lord over their heads while they exhaust themselves with homework. Seriously, though, the goal is to make some actual progress and get them to actually consider their terrible terrible sleep habits, so I hope this can galvanize them into action.

Cooking! Top is a lentil stew made by yours truly; bottom is a paella made by Lina's truly. I had no part in the bottom one but it was delicious and we ate it while watching four straight episodes of Downton. It's really one of the only things I've been doing for the last couple weeks. It will be weird when we're caught up (hopefully by tomorrow!) and the marathon days are behind us. Looking forward to some more tea tonight.

Kittens! When I left my house for dinner in between 3 hours of grading and 3 hours of reading alone on my couch, I was greeted by this adorable sight. Look at em! The mom is in front and the babies are behind (there are actually 4 in total). They're even fluffier in person. I guess the wild cat situation at this school isn't all bad.

The one thing I'm really proud of this weekend (well, besides all the work I've gotten done). Finally busted out my beautiful Shabbat vase and actually lit candles, and even had company to do it with (you can see Mike's leg in the background there). Jordanian vintage port and some local bread made perfectly good substitutes for the real thing, and it just felt so nice and comfortable and homey to do a little celebrating together on a Friday evening. Here's hoping I keep remembering to actually do it. And also I'm gonna need more candles.

Well, duty calls, I think: laundry and other such weekend duties before I head to Lina's to bang out some more grades and watch some more British people totter around. No school tomorrow because of a Professional Development day; I can handle that. And in two weeks it'll be October break and I'll be in the Balkans, which is pretty hard to wrap my head around. Life certainly moves fast enough around here; sometimes it just rocks to slow it down and just sit and think and read and write for a weekend. Til next time.