Tag Archives: adventure

Dressed in Green

Adventure never ceases.

Last summer, before moving to Chennai, I watched this video:

Today marks one week until school is out for the summer. Wanting just one more adventure before I leave, I set out with a friend to find this place. When looking it up, we discovered that Birdman of Chennai is an actual “place” on Google Maps. We drove straight there, more or less. We were looking for a camera shop, and there wasn’t one, but we recognized the neighbourhood from the video. And then we saw a big sign with birds all over it, on the second story of a mattress shop and upholstery shop. We got out, and the merchants told us, in broken English, that the birds would come soon. We had about 20 minutes to wait for the magic to begin.

In our research, Google told us that it “opened” at 4:00pm. Once we arrived, we learned that the birds gather to eat two times per day, 5-6am and 4-6pm. There are different flocks that gather on different “shifts” to eat. A colleague and professional photographer, Shannon Zirkle-Prabhaker, photographed the Birdman and the birds for an article in Silkwinds Magazine. Her photos are shown here and the Silkwinds article explains it all.

I didn’t realize that I chose green clothes, matching the birds, until one of the thousands of Rose-Ringed Parakeets pooped on my head while crossing the very busy street of Bharathi Salai. I grabbed my scarf to wipe myself clean and realized how my fashion accessory matched the surroundings!

The Birdman, and his friends, explained that the camera shop no longer exists, but he still has many vintage cameras and he would like to sell them. He lives in the building across the street, and continues to feed the birds two times a day. We didn’t fully understand all that they were trying to tell us but there was something about the BBC coming and shooting film for 4 days, and something else about the building being tied up in a court case. It was an amazing experience. I’m thankful, as always.

What adventure can you go on today?

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American Girl In A Box

American GirlLet me out.

I’ve methodically worked my way through my house selling clothes, furniture and household possessions. This move I’m planning on making didn’t come to me overnight. I’ve been plotting and planning, dreaming and scheming for a good 4 years. It’s all I’ve talked about to those closest to me and I was sure that my friends had become sick of me droning on about my plans as the years ticked by. I never would have imagined so much emotion displayed at my “All-Things-Art Sale”.

I saved the hardest for last: getting rid of my artwork. I wrote an Evite to everyone I knew who had known me as an artist over the years. If people loved my art and would use it or display it, I would simply ask for a kind donation to help me on my way. I slashed my prices, for it was more important for me to find good homes for my creations than it was for me to make a lot of money. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to sell quite a bit of my artwork, but I’ve kept the unsold pieces in careful storage. Like a litter of kittens, these pieces brought me joy and came with so many memories, but I had to find them new homes.

All Things Art SaleThroughout the day, dear friends wandered in and out of my home looking at a retrospective of 30 years of artwork displayed. Some were uncomfortable and one friend told me that it made her feel like I was dead and she was going through my belongings at an estate sale. Many of my guests have watched me grow through different series and concepts in my artwork and to see it laid out all together was, in a way, a historic type of event. I was questioned about how I could let it all go and I explained that for years and years, I had been interested in getting my name recognized in the Dallas art scene. I worked at meeting gallery owners, art collectors and other artists. I’ve spent years and years doing this dance, in hopes of getting a gallery show that could then be added to my resume. I wanted to be respected and associated as a Dallas artist, and I’ve been somewhat successful. I listened to several friends verbally process their interpretation of what I was doing. With tears in her eyes, one friend said, “I feel like I am robbing you.” I responded, “You’re not robbing me – you’re freeing me!” It’s been a great ride, and I’m so grateful for all the experiences, but this Dallas based, American Girl is about to crawl out of her box.

I recently read an article in the New York Times called, “You Won’t Be The Person You Expect To Be” . It is a fascinating article, by John Tierney, about how our personalities and tastes change over the years. The phenomenon, called “end of history illusion,” occurs when people tend to “underestimate how much they will change in the future.” When we humans look ahead, somehow we expect ourselves to stay the same.” Of course we don’t. “Middle-aged people often look back on our teenage selves with some mixture of amusement and chagrin,” said one of the authors, Daniel T. Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard. “What we never seem to realize is that our future selves will look back and think the very same thing about us. At every age we think we’re having the last laugh, and at every age we’re wrong.” Even as recent as 6 years ago I would have never imagined that I would be selling everything I own to travel the world and work overseas.

Life is short. What box do you want to crawl out of?

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Should I stay or should I go? (Part 1 of 3)

Explore your options.

I loved The Clash. In the early 1980’s, their sound and energy penetrated the rebellious age of punk all over my college campus. Not only did the British punk movement influence me to chop off my hair and dye it pink, I also got my ear double pierced, grew a “tail” that reached to the middle of my back and attempted to get a pink flamingo tattoo on my tummy. (As it turned out, the tattoo store was closed and I never got the nerve up again to go back. Thank heavens!) The Clash’s screaming, jumping and body slaming dance moves resinated with the questions I was asking myself about my life’s decisions. Their lyrics summed up many of my college experiences: Should I stay in my relationship or should I go? Should I continue waitressing or should I go? Should I stay with my roommate or should I go? Should I do an “all-nighter” in the art department or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go now?

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go there will be trouble

And if I stay it will be double

So come on and let me know

Should I stay or should I go?

This rendition is by Sergio Lourenco:

I also wore a button on my backpack that said, “I Want It All.” Although the button is long gone, the philosophy stays with me. My life has been filled with blessing upon blessing. I am rich with experiences and I am grateful, but I want more. Not more, in terms of money or possessions, more in terms of living true, loving more and experiencing adventure. I want to know more people, from all different backgrounds and cultures. I want to fall in love with the entire world. I want to feel spiritually and physically alive through once-in-a-lifetime adventures and service. I want to be more authentic, sharing my gifts with the world.

So now, years later, I’m asking the same question: Should I stay or should I go? This time, I’m talking about my job, the Dallas art scene, my home in Texas and my country. I’ve been exploring how to combine my love of teaching with my love of adventure and travel. Teaching art in an international school may be my way to do that.

Although there are many educational placement companies, I have narrowed my search down to three: UNI (University of Northern Iowa), ISS (International Schools Services) and SA (Search Associates). Although I’ve never taught internationally, I have read many others’  personal accounts through various forum blogs. I will explore each of these three recruitment companies over the next few posts. All of them, however, share a few common threads:

• Bachelors Degree or higher

• There is a registration fee which includes participation in recruitment fairs for a specific period of time. (Fees shown are for single individuals. Married teaching teams may have different pricing.)

  1. UNI = Individual/$150
  2. ISS = Individual/$185
  3. SA =  Individual/$200

• In order to register you must hold current certification as an elementary or secondary teacher

• Candidates who are single with no dependents, or married candidates who are part of a certified teaching team are most successful

• Most schools prefer to hire teachers with a minimum of two years relevant teaching experience

• Due to visa restrictions, many schools cannot hire teachers over 60 years of age

• Many schools offer contracts on-site during recruitment fairs that are held in various cities across the globe

Part 1 of 3: UNI (University of Northern Iowa)

This overseas placement service has worked with certified educators, year round, since 1976. Additionally they offer an annual recruiting fair and referral services for all levels of educators, in all subject fields. UNI does not charge placement fees to either candidates or recruiting schools. I’ve been told that there are typically around 20 art vacancies each year. I’ve also been told that, typically, there are more overall vacancies posted at the UNI Fair than there are educators to fill them. According to the forums I’ve read, most people really enjoy their experience at the UNI Fair. For many, the only complaint is the weather.

For the past several years I’ve tracked available art positions that were made known to UNI and these are some of the results:

  • The 2012 Fair had 23 openings in art in various countries such as China, Kuwait, Japan, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, UAE, Morocco, Costa Rica, Thailand, India and Venezuela.
  • The 2011 Fair had 22 art vacancies and included many countries such as China, Kuwait, Japan, Mexico and Egypt.
  • The 2010 Fair had 22 art vacancies in schools located in countries such as China, Egypt, Qatar, Guatemala, Korea, Israel, UAE, Greece and others.

The staff at UNI are friendly and helpful to work with. I’ve emailed them many times over the past few years with an assortment of questions. I recently asked why they thought their recruitment fair was unique and why they felt their recruitment company is “the best”? I wanted to know what the advantages would be of my choosing to be represented by their firm over the others? I was also curious to know if they offered incentives that other firms did not. The response I received was this:

“We are unique in the fact that we are the only university in the country that has an event like this – the other recruiting events are put on by companies. So we have a very unique advantage to be cost effective as a non-profit so a variety of different schools attend our event. We have the large schools that will be recruiting through multiple organizations but also very small schools that only come to us.”

Other teachers, who teach internationally, have told me that UNI is somewhat physically difficult get to in February, when they hold their annual recruitment fair. There’s always a chance of blizzard, making it nearly impossible to get to northern Iowa or back home again afterward. When I inquired about this, the staff at UNI agreed that chances of storms in the Midwest are possible in February. However, during the past UNI fairs, there has only been one storm that affected a large amount of people. The altered transportation schedules had more to do with conditions in Chicago and Minneapolis airports than with northern Iowa. Yet, it is cold, especially for warm blooded Texans. As I understand it, there are coat racks at every entrance for people to use as they stand in line for interviews. Brrrrrrrrr……..

So, should I stay or should I go? Teaching overseas is not for everyone but according to a forum entry I recently read, “Do your homework about schools and jump on for the ride. There is nothing more exciting.”

Would anyone be willing to share knowledge about living/teaching overseas?

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What I know to be true

Art and travel change lives.

The first day I stepped onto my college campus in 1978, as an anxious 19 year old, I declared my major as Art Education. I loved learning and I loved college – so much in fact, that I went year round. I never stopped for a break. I took classes in the summer, during Christmas break and spring break. I remember dreading to take the compulsory art history courses, however. All I’d heard was that they required lots of memorization of artists’ and paintings’ names, dates (oh my!) and hours of boring lectures. But two art history classes were required so I reluctantly signed up for them. And was I in for a surprise!

I loved them.

Sitting in that large amphitheater-like lecture room in permanent, worn, folding wooded chairs that perfectly fit my back, viewing hundreds of images, I learned about the history of the world, through art. It made me feel “connected”. It helped me understand the importance of art and why creativity makes us human. My imagination soared as I vicariously traveled the globe learning about different cultures of people, the objects they revered and the ways that they found to express themselves through a variety of materials. It was at the end of my sophomore year that I made the decision to change my major to fine art. I then continued to work to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. I knowingly announced, “I want to be an artist, not an art teacher!” . . . little did I know that 20 years later I would find my way back to the classroom.

It was not until I began teaching full time, in 2001, that I understood what an incredible career path teaching is if travel is a priority. I have about 13 weeks off per year! Teachers don’t usually receive large salaries so I’ve had to learn how to penny-pinch. I save what I can, but I also sell my art. I work extra jobs at school like proctoring the SAT and taking tickets at our football games in the fall. Sometimes I teach private art lessons or hold garage sales. When I get money as gifts, I save it for travel.

I also pay for all my monthly expenses with credit cards and collect airline miles with each purchase. I’ve taught my college-age daughter how to do this, as well, and she now collects miles for herself. One of the cards I currently use came with 100,000 miles upon my qualifying and completing a minimum spend in the first three months. This translates into two, round-trip European airline tickets I’ve got in my back pocket. The other card accumulates points connected to a hotel chain, but those points can be transferred into airline miles and with every 20,000 I transfer, they “give” me a bonus of an additional 5,000. Being mindful to not get into financial trouble by overspending my credit cards, I treat my credit cards as a debit cards (in my mind). When I make a purchase, I always use my credit card and then, immediately, I note it and take it out of my checking account right then and there. At the end of the month, when I receive my credit card statement, I balance my checkbook, marking off the purchases, one at a time, that I’ve already subtracted out of my checking account. When I’ve gone through the statement, I know I can pay it off and write a check (or pay online) for the entire balance. I never carry a balance on my credit card. I never get charged finance charges for late payments or pay interest. This takes being responsible and organized, but right now I have enough miles for three, roundtrip tickets to Europe! It seems worth it to me.

Travel changes the lives of everyone involved. New relationships are formed and we influence one another. The study of art history provides a foundation for understanding what you are looking at when you travel to foreign lands. Through the art objects we learn to appreciate cultures that are different from our own. Many of the man-made items we see in our travels are artworks. All that we enjoy as tourists, such as palace and cathedral architecture, historical bridges and walls, woven fabrics, rugs and tapestries, marble sculpture and fountains, ethnic clothing, ceramic vessels, oil paintings and frescos is art! – – humans made that stuff!!! Amazing, isn’t it? And all of us have the capacity to create!

My next three weeks of articles will highlight three educational recruitment firms that I’ve been following for at least five years. I hope to describe the differences in them and how one might consider being hired to teach overseas if a life of adventure suits you. I had already taught art for quite a few years when it occurred to me that teaching was a ticket to live other places. Even though we Americans often hear horrible accounts of how bad our public school education system is, most of the world longs to learn from us and would be overjoyed for us to share what we know about education with them.

Has the study of art influenced your travels or have you been able to travel because of a creative job or adventure seeking lifestyle? Please do share!

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