Pandora Picks: “Breathe Me,” Sia

I love Pandora. I know there are tons of music sites available out there, but I feel like I get a good variety of music from my Pandora radio stations.

I always want to share songs I encounter on there — both old and new. So, to motivate myself to update the blog, I will be posting a variety of songs from Pandora in posts called “Pandora Picks.”

Here’s one from Sia, an Australian singer who has become popular due to her work with David Guetta in the song “Titanium” and Flo Rida in “Wild Ones.”


Living small

I’ve looked at the concept of living in a small space for a while now. Some people look at my goal of living in a tiny home as a craze that I would end up hating, but I think it would be an adventure.

We recently connected with a family who lives in a 320 square-foot house in northwest Arkansas. I really love everything they’ve done with their tiny home, and I think it’s a realistic way of life. The key that you will see in their video below is that they live mortgage free. The bottom line for my curiosity in this possible future venture is living without the burden of a mortgage. Think how much money you could save and put toward other things in life if you only had property tax — or a rental spot for a tiny home that is mobile.

Another possible idea I’m including in my research is the idea of owning a shipping container home. Using a 4o-foot shipping container as a home not only provides a small space, but it also allows the opportunity to recycle.

A shipping container home can be converted into a living space. Notice how they’re also opting to include solar panels.

It will likely be a year or so before we are able to convert to a new type of abode since my wife in school, and we’re still transitioning from our time in Chile — but it’s certainly something I’m researching.

I’ve gone a little crazy on Pinterest; you’re invited to view the cool tiny homes I’ve repinned.


Summer 2012 — What a Waste

It’s become a tradition in my classroom.

On the first day of school I like to do a Letterman-style Top 10 Ways to Waste the Summer of __. I’m currently compiling my list so as to be ready for the first day of school. I find it’s a great way for students to reflect on their summer, and they get to see what a dork I am.

A few Internet sensations will be included on my top 10 list:

If you have any ideas to include on the ways we’ve all wasted away the summer of 2012, I’d love to hear about them.


Oklahoma/Kansas Storm Chase

This is our chase route from start to finish.
Three southwest Missouri weather enthusiasts on a chase in Oklahoma and Kansas on Saturday, April 14, 2012.

I experienced my first big storm chase yesterday. Two of my good friends/weather enthusiasts decided to head toward the Oklahoma/Kansas border to see if we could intercept a twister.

We decided to take the chance because the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, along with many other weather outlets, were predicting a high risk outbreak in Kansas and Oklahoma — something they had been anticipating for several days.

Although we didn’t see a twister on the ground, we could hear rumbles of one west of where we stationed to possibly witness one in Medford, Oklahoma.

Our journey started as we left for Oklahoma from Monett, our driver’s homestead. We went through several quaint small towns as we traversed westward on Highway 60.

Our first stop was at a McDonald’s in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Although we had our mobile radar on our smart phones, we wanted to check our main radar product — which needs to be made available for a mobile device. After checking the radar and reading new information from the Storm Prediction Center, we continued westward on Highway 60.

We made another quick stop in Pawhuska to do the same. We traveled through the Ponca City, a major oil town, and decided to go north and stop for another check of our weather data in Blackwell, Oklahoma, a small town off of I-35.

Storms were starting to fire up to the southwest toward Woodward, Oklahoma by this point, and we decided to try to intercept the initial cell, so we headed west through Medford, Oklahoma and then headed up north into Anthony, Kansas. The initial storm that was tornado warned was going in a more northerly direction so we decided to head back south to possibly intercept another cell. We traveled a terrible highway between Anthony and Caldwell, Kansas (which later experienced a tornado) and found ourselves back in Medford, Oklahoma.

Mammatus clouds in Medford, Oklahoma.

It was definitely supper time by the time we got back to Medford, so we decided to stop off for quick bite while we waited for an approaching cell. Eats ‘N’ Treats the only restaurant in town that was actually open on a Saturday night in Medford, and we were pleasantly surprised with the food and the fact that a small-town café offered free wifi.

After finishing a tasty burger and analyzing the radar, we positioned ourselves north of Medford to try to witness a confirmed tornado. Unfortunately, it was about 8 p.m., and it had gotten too dark to see very well. The extreme lightning within the cell was incredible, and we were able to hear a faint rumble in the background which confirmed that a tornado was definitely to our west.

Another great tool we used during our chase was a live stream, so many of our relatives and friends were able to witness the awesome lightning show along with us.

All-in-all, it was a great first chase for me, and even though we didn’t see a twister, we can rest assured that the tornado season has only yet begun.


Lovin’ Lenga

At the beach in Lenga.
Enjoying my fish and fries alongside my jugo natural. (I miss 100% juice.)

We decided to visit another local beach today. Lenga is a strip of beach located northwest of Hualpén, and along with fun in the sun offers a variety of seafood restaurants. It was about a 45 bus ride from our apartment, but I’d estimate it to be about 20 minutes away by car.

Rachel's pastel de jaiba.

Seafood + Aaron and Rachel = happy. We ended up eating at La Barca, which came highly recommended — rightly so. I had fried fish and fries (yeah, not too adventurous) and Rachel had pastel de jaiba (a dish with crab and cheese). ¡Qué rico!

Even though we’re in the middle of summer, the air is too cold and windy (see Rachel’s sweatshirt in the videos below) to give us any desire to enter the water.

Take a look:

Our view at lunch in Lenga.

The birds kept nose diving into the water in hopes of catching lunch.


The Midway Point

Six months down and six months to go.

Sometimes it feels like we’ve been living in Chile for a long time, but when I’m busy teaching the time flies. Either way, I know July will be here in the blink of an eye.

That being said, I have been kicking around different ideas about my future vocational possibilities.

Having worked in education for eight years now, it might feel odd to not work in a classroom when we get home. Then again, with all the doom and gloom in education, that odd feeling might turn a little more into something like “this is pretty good.”

Heaven knows, I’ll never be a rich man as a teacher — not that that is a goal of mine. However, after having lived with financial struggles and limitations in Chile, I’m not interested in returning home so I can struggle some more.

I have looked at varying job fields, including corporate educator/trainer positions and possiblities in journalism, too. Of course, I’m looking at teaching jobs, too — but those won’t start appearing for another month or two.

All-in-all, it would just be nice to work for a well-established company or institution that pays its employees well and treats them well — and in return the company receives a high-quality product, service, or good. Admittedly, I was pretty jealous of Google’s employees after looking at its jobs Web site in preparation for a lesson plan for one of my classes. Who wouldn’t want a free lunch and massage therapy available at work?

Appreciation is the best motivation, so we’ve created a fun and inspiring workspace you’ll be glad to be a part of, including on-site doctor; massage and yoga; professional development opportunities; shoreline running trails; and plenty of snacks to get you through the day.

— From http://www.google.com/intl/en/jobs/lifeatgoogle/toptenreasons/

A promotional video confirms it:

*Sigh.* Nonetheless, I’ll be combing the jobs Web sites for the next several months before we return home. I hope and pray the exact right opportunity presents itself.

If anyone out there knows about any job openings in and around Springfield, I would definitely appreciate hearing about them.


English Summer Camp

While cold and a little snow were affecting friends and family at home this past week, Rachel and I were trying to stay cool as we volunteered at an English summer camp in the small town of San Nicolás, which is about an hour and a half north of Concepción.

Going into the camp, we had no idea what to expect — other than that we would be working with high school-aged students.

After arriving to the bus terminal in Chillán last Sunday afternoon, we found a micro (bus) that would take us to the rural bus terminal from the city’s main bus terminal where our Tur Bus dropped us off. When we got to the rural bus terminal, we were immediately greeted with a feria with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and other tasty-looking goods. We met our group’s monitor and another volunteer at the rural terminal for a bite and then got a ticket to San Nicolás.

After waiting a bit and making sure we had everything we could possibly think we’d need since we knew San Nicolás was a small town, we were off on the rural bus line. In Chilean style, the bus was packed; fortunately we had seats, but several people were standing.

A cool tree we found near the plaza in San Nicolás.

Upon arriving, I truly felt we were in Mayberry. Small specialty shops lined the main highway that ran right through the middle of the town.

The home where we stayed in San Nicolás.

We walked past the town’s plaza and on to our accommodations. We stayed with a very nice family in the town, and Rachel and I both felt that was one of the big highlights of our experience. The host always prepared us an excellent, well-balanced supper, and the whole family welcomed all five of us volunteers.

Each day, we went to the town’s liceo (high school) to greet our English summer camp students at 10 a.m. The camp’s theme, “Go Green, Rock On!” was carried throughout the week in various activities we planned for each day. The students were split into five different groups, which we named after the five natural elements: earth, wind, fire, water, and wood.

My group, "Wind," at the English summer camp in San Nicolás.

Some of the memorable activities from the week include a national project (my group “Wind” created a newscast to highlight the problems of Torres del Paine), group karaoke, a talent show, and a field trip to the beaches at Cobquecura.

A miming activity we were doing.

Group karaoke was always a crowd pleaser.

More karaoke.

We had to incorporate the Wachiturros in somewhere. This was a story they acted out.

The windy beach at Cobquecura.

The waters were certainly not for swimming at Cobquecura.

Inside the Iglesia de Piedras at Cobquecura. People have died in this rock formation because the tide rushes in and washes them away.

The plaza in Cobquecura.

On the bus ride back to San Nicolás from Cobquecura.

More from our trip back to San Nicolás from the beach.

Saturday was the last day of English camp. We ended with a cocktail with pizza, fruit, and juice.


Welcome, 2012!

Twenty-eleven has been interesting, as you can see.

I’d say the biggest event that has happened to me is moving to Chile, where I’ve been teaching English at DuocUC since the beginning of August. This journey has definitely been a roller-coaster ride — and the ride won’t end until July of 2012. I think one thing’s for sure, this experience has made me appreciate what I have at home — a lot more.

And, when I get home, I have no idea, as of now, what is in store. I keep praying that God puts Rachel and me in the right situation.

For now, the journey continues.


Buenos Aires, Argentina

Did Christmas just happen? I’m pretty sure this is the first year of my life I wore shorts and a T-shirt on Christmas day.

A lot has happened since my last blog post. My first semester teaching English at DuocUC in Concepción has ended successfully. It was a good semester, and as I’ve mentioned several times before, I had some of the best moments as an educator happen during my time there.

On our Air Canada flight getting ready to depart from Santiago.

Rachel and I just got back from a nice excursion to Buenos Aires, Argentina. (We knew we wanted to travel to Argentina sometime during our time here in Chile, but recently decided to go at the end of December because Rachel will be starting an online course that will hopefully launch her into a respiratory therapy program back home.) The trip was a very nice getaway.

In all honesty, it opened our eyes a bit to what we’ve been missing here in Biobío region of Chile. To start our journey, we stayed in Santiago on Friday, July 16 with a friend of Rachel’s who is originally from Ohio. She has been living in Chile since she came to work in the peace corp in the 1960s; she met her husband and has been living in Chile ever since. She took us to some places we had not visited in the few days we were in Santiago when we first arrived to Chile in July. It was a little upsetting to see how most foods were cheaper at the grocery store, and the gastronomical variety was much richer than the stores here in Concepción. (They had cheddar cheese, for Pete’s sake!) We also noted that the colectivos in Santiago were cheaper than our shared-taxi rides are here in Conce, too.

After our overnight stay in Santiago, we caught our Air Canada flight to Buenos Aires. We arrived into Ezeiza, Buenos Aires’s international airport, on Saturday afternoon; the flight from Santiago to Buenos Aires was probably a little less than two hours. We were entertained with our free choice of in-flight movie/TV entertainment and a meal that the time flew by — pun intended. (The airline companies in the United States need to get it together. We have experienced flights with Avianca, LAN, and Air Canada here in Latin America, and each one had a movie, a meal, and a much more relaxed atmosphere.)

On Board the AirCanada flight.

Upon arrival, we found a reputable taxi service that agreed to take us downtown to our hotel; Ezeiza is on the outskirts of Buenos Aires and is about 30 minutes from downtown. Our taxi driver was very nice, and answered our many questions about the city. He offered us a discount service to return us to the airport when we were leaving. He also immediately thrust us into the Argentine accent; it threw our ears so much that we had a little language comprehension issues at first.

On our taxi ride from the airport to our hotel in Buenos Aires.

We found a great deal from Hotels.com on the Hotel Bristol, which we found after we got there was truly at the city’s center — right in front of the obelisk, Buenos Aires’s major landmark. The hotel offered us a wonderful view of the main avenue thoroughfare, El 9 de julio, and was just steps away from the Subte, South America’s oldest subway system. Along with the convenience of location and comfortable, clean rooms, the hotel offered a free breakfast with a variety of freshly-prepared pastries that are even better than the photos present on their Web site.

Sunday night racing entertainment around the obelisk had traffic redirecting outside our hotel.

My very delicious gulab jamun at the Indian restaurant we found.

Buenos Aires definitely has plenty to offer. We took the typical touristy-looking city tour bus, which drove us to various landmarks throughout the city. We enjoyed a few inexpensive steaks in Argentina, and had several good meals while we were in the city. I think the highlighted meal was a trip to an Indian restaurant. Rachel ordered her dish “Indian hot,” but it was barely spicy. (Spicy food is one thing we both have really missed from the States here in South America.) We also found a tenedor libre (all-you-can eat buffet) Chinese restaurant that we visited a few times while in Buenos Aires.

On Lavalle Avenue. (Make sure you get the double l sound down when you say it.)

After a week of visiting several landmarks and admiring the abundance of statues, looking for good deals on merchandise in various stores along Lavalle, drinking Starbucks (since we don’t have that in Conce), and resting in our big, comfortable king-sized bed, we headed back for Chile. The view on our return flight was wonderful, and can best be described with the pictures here.

To view more pictures from our trip, visit our Buenos Aires online photo album.