Welcome to our Adventure

10 years ago, Rick and I began to dream about living and working overseas. Over the years, we have researched and dreamed of various locations: Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, Shanghai in China, Cairo in Egypt, just to name a few. We even attended the University of Northern Iowa Overseas Teaching Fair twice to see what opportunities might be out there. This year, we decided to give it one more shot! Rick will graduate with his Bachelor's in May, Tully will move up to Middle School...it seemed like if ever the time was right, it was now! We registered for UNI one more time, started making contacts and saying our prayers. Well, as the saying goes, "The third time was a charm!" We are Living' the Dream. Please join us on our adventure!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Paintball in Powaii

Today a group of 12 hopped in a school van and headed north to the area of Powaii, which is a new expat community in northeast Mumbai.  Our destination was Headrush Paintball in Hiranandani Gardens, Powaii.  Preyanka had arranged the paintball and I took care of getting the school van so we could all ride together and avoid having to get separate taxis.
We met at Gloria Jean's Coffee Shop at 9:30 and Darshan, our driver, drove us to our destination.  It was the first time I had  been north of Bandra and as always, we saw many new, interesting and unusual sights!  

Headrush Paintball is located in a neighborhood known as Hiranandani Gardens and the view was significantly different than we see in our neighborhood!  

Once we arrived, we invited Darshan, our driver from the school, to play with us.  He quickly waggled yes, parked the van and joined us.  We were a bit early, so we sat around and visited.  Anytime a group goes on an outing, there is always a few people who may not have spent much time together:  new hires, returning teachers, teachers from different grade levels or departments.  It is a great way to get to know other teachers from ASB.  Tully spent this time scoping out the arena and learning a little Hindi from Darshan! 

Finally, and quite punctually by India standards, the operator's arrived and said it was time to "gear up!'  Gear consisted of camo jump suits, "bullet proof" vests, and a face shield.  
Meet my funny Aussie roomie, Sarah Trevaskis

Paintball was Preya's great idea!

Tullinator geared up and ready to go!

Lovely Larani

Zach (USMC) and Nancy

Jordan, who is asked daily if he is Tully's dad!

Team Thexton

ASB Paintball 

Ready for some fun!
Then it was time to choose teams.  Now, Rick and Zack are both Marines, so this created a dilemma!  Should they be separated or together against everyone else?  Tully wanted to be on Dad's team, and Team Ginger was created.  Obviously, Jordan had to be on this team, too, so it was Team Ginger against everybody else!
Team Ginger:  Jordan, Rick, Tully and Zack

Preya, Sarah, Larani, Molly and Nancy

Darshan, Larani, Sarah, Molly, Waciuma, Nancy, Preya, and Bryan
The guns were distributed and games determined...Elimination, Capture the Flag and Capture the Fort.  2 hours of spraying bullets and lots of bruises to prove it.  I think Sarah and Preya win the prizes for Best Paintball Injuries.
Sarah's goose egg.  She got hit AFTER she was already out of the arena!

Preya's Point Blank!
Over all, it was a great day!  Several enjoyed paintball for the very first time, including Larani, Tully and Darshan.  I can't help but smile, knowing the story Darshan will have to tell his friends at work tomorrow!  

Darshan and Tully
Preparing for the Final Battle

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

So Much To Do...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The end of the school year:  Benchmark testing is over, the countdown to the last day of school has begun, and the kids are done! My teacher friends completely understand what a busy time of year this is.  Most of us would argue that it is as hectic and frantic as December.   Now, add to that baseball, guitar lessons and this little distraction that is preparing for an international move!  Overwhelmed only begins to describe how I am feeling these days.  If only I could clone myself...One of me could go to school and do my job, while the other of me could stay home, receive calls from the shippers and begin the task of packing. 
In anticipation of our move, we hosted our first garage sale earlier this month.  I managed to clean out all of our closets, most of the kitchen cabinets, bedside tables and Tully's toys before this sale.  There is still plenty to clean out and, Teacher Friends- I have barely scratched the surface of my books!  What to ship, what to store, what to sell, what to trash? It is a huge process, but it feels so good to clear the clutter and lighten our load!  I anticipate another sale either late May or early June. 
Earlier this month I received access to the New Teacher Orientation webpage from ASB.  Needless to say, I spent a weekend reading and having so many questions answered!  We now know what is provided in our 3 bedroom/3 bath apartment.  When they say "fully-furnished", they mean it!  We really will only have to pack what we absolutely can't live without!  As we learn more about our future home, it is pleasantly surprising to realize how much is actually available there!  Looks like we will be able to purchase just about whatever we need, with the expectation of chocolate chips and garlic salt!  The website provided us with a detailed checklist of things to do with a timeline.  The priority right now is choosing a shipper.   How surreal!  I'm choosing a shipper for an international move! 
The school also provided a Google calendar for our first full week in Mumbai,  New Teacher Orientation week!  We will arrive in Mumbai on Wednesday, July 27 and be taken to our new home.  Over the next several days, we will get settled into our apartment, shop at the home goods store in Bandra, buy home electronics, visit Phoenix Mills (which looks like a very nice mall!),  and visit the market.  The school will arrange for us to convert US$ to Indian Rupees, establish cell phone and Internet services, banking and all other matters of business.  Dinners will be held with our Superintendent, Principals and we will attend a traditional Indian Cultural event.  On the weekend, we can request a car and driver so that we can check out our new city.  So much to look forward to!
In the meantime, Rick is wrapping up his Bachelor's Degree and will graduate May 21st.  Tully is playing baseball and has games and/or practice 2-3 times a week and guitar lessons on Wednesday.  I am so far behind on Lit Lab homework it isn't even funny!  I am going to HAVE to dedicate some serious time to that and soon!  In my spare time, I am cleaning out and determining what to ship and what to store. 
As busy as it is, I am thrilled to have the opportunity that is before us!  10 years of dreaming the dream that we are now preparing the live.  It will all be worth it come July 27!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Third Time is a Charm

In September, Rick and I registered for the UNI Overseas Recruiting Fair for the third time.  In the following months, we revised our resumes and began surfing the UNI website on a daily basis, looking to see which schools were registered to attend.  One perk of the registration is being able to access a school's "fact sheet" and see the demographics and benefits offered by that school.  If the school looked interesting and the benefits were good, AND it didn't have a travel warning from the US State Department, then I would sent an e-mail to the Head of School with my cover letter and resume.  Many schools replied and by December I actually had my first Skype interview with Cairo American College.  They were very interested, as were we. CAC has always been one of the schools at the top of our Dream School list.  Unfortunately, by mid-January the revolution in Egypt had begun, so sadly, CAC was moved to our "no-go" list.  I continued to  peruse the UNI website and send out e-mails asking for interviews at the fair. 

On Tuesday, prior to us leaving for Waterloo, Iowa on Wednesday, a blizzard struck Northwest Arkansas!  By Wednesday morning, there was a good inch of ice with about 5 inches of snow blanketing the roads.  Obviously, school was cancelled, so we loaded up the Jeep Commander and headed north!  Thankfully, the good ol' Jeep have no difficulty what so ever maneuvering the terrain.  Not surprising, Missouri and Iowa are far better prepared to deal with sticky, or rather, slick, weather situations and the rest of the trip was uneventful.  We arrived in Waterloo late Wednesday evening and had Thursday to play and relax a bit before kicking off a very busy weekend!

At the prompting of my principal, we drove over the Cedar Falls on Thursday.  Nancy was right on!  Downtown Cedar Falls is simply beautiful!  I felt swept back to a time and place reminiscent of Mayberry RFD!  We lunched at a quaint little '50's diner and experienced our first Maid-Rite sandwich.  For those of you as unfamiliar as we were, a Maid-Rite is a loose meat sandwich on a bun, nicely seasoned and dressed like a hamburger.  We did just a bit of shopping, caught a movie and headed back to the hotel to prepare ourselves, both physically and mentally, for the fair.
Friday morning, we arrived at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center at 7 a.m.  (Waterloo is home to the 5 Sullivan Brothers who all served, and died together in WWII.)  We picked up our packet and a couple of invitations to interview.  The most interesting was from the American School of Bombay. 
Inside their packet was this interesting business card.  Flip open the tab, and you have a jump drive with a digital information packet, a movie of the school, and various slide shows about India, Mumbai, and the school.  (for those of you, who like me, didn't know the difference between Mumbai and Bombay...The city was originally named Mumbai.  When the British took it over, they called it Bombay.  I think someone may have been a little dyslexic!  The city is now internationally recognized at Mumbai, but some still call it Bombay)
At 8:00, all of the participants headed to a large conference room, where 3 Heads of School and 3 overseas teachers talked about life abroad and working in international schools.  Participants had the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the session.  It is a very important part of the fair...helps you to get some ideas about what to expect, reminds you to keep an open mind and be prepared to be flexible!

From there, we had about an hour and a half for a meal break and at 11:00 the doors opened for the Round Robin.  This is without a doubt one of  the most interesting experience one could ever have!  Participants have a map of all 111 schools in attendance and where they are located in the convention center main room.  When the doors open, all participants flood into the room, scrambling to get to the schools they are most interested in and ask for an interview.  We made our way to the American School of Bombay and introduced ourselves to Joe Atherton, Elementary Principal and scheduled our interview.  We wrote down our interview time on the schedule and strategically headed to ask for interviews with WBAIS Israel, Saudi Aramco Schools, (where we learned that they cannot hire a woman to be the leading spouse...Saudi Arabia was then moved to the no-go list!) Singapore, (line was too long!  Can't waste time standing in a long line!) American School of Kosova,  Rainbow Bridge International School, Shanghai Concordia, Shanghai American, American Community School of Athens Greece and finally, Casablanca American School. 
Our first interview was with American School of Bombay and it went very well and got me in the zone!  They asked us to come back the next day and meet with the Superintendent.  Good sign!   The next interview wasn't scheduled until 10:30 that night, so we had Chicago style pizza at Doughy Joey (there go the Weight Watcher points!) and headed back to the hotel for a well deserved nap!  After the nap, we plugged in the "business card" and began to seriously research and consider India!
I can honestly say I have never had an interview at 10:30 p.m. before, but it was fun!  Rick especially loved talking Kosovo with the folks from ASK!  Like old home week!

Saturday morning started bright and early!  Our first interview was with Shanghai American School.  We had interviewed with SAS and Andy Torres 7 years ago when we had attended.  We both really like Andy and have researched Shanghai and know that SAS is a top-notch school that we would love to be a part of!  He remembered us and made it clear that he wanted to hire me.  He had the Superintendent come in and visit with us, and asked us not to accept another contract until we talked with them first. Another really good sign! 

We caught the American School of Bombay's orientation and went back to visit with them again.  This time, we met with Joe and Fiona, who is their new Middle School Principal.  Joe told me it was down to me and one other candidate.  He wanted to ask a few more questions and answer any questions we had.  He talked $$ and benefits and told us more about the school, at which we realized that this opportunity was looking more and more inviting, as an educator and a parent!  We left, knowing that we were seriously in the running!
We still had a few more interviews, but at this point it would be hard to top an offer that would be coming from either SAS or ASB!

By noon, we had completed all of our interviews and headed back to the hotel to pack up and change into our jeans for the drive home.  Within the hour, Fiona called and asked us to come back, even if we were in our jeans:)  This time, we met with Craig Johnson, the Superintendent, who continued to woo us with benefits and what it was like to live in Mumbai, India.  He presented us with a multiple choice question (gosh, I thought overseas teaching would mean no more MC questions!).  Knowing what the contract and benefits would be, if an offer were extended would we say A)  maybe, but we need more time B)  thanks but no thanks or C) absolutely!  He told us the ball was in our court and to let him know the answer that afternoon. 

While an offer hadn't been extended, it sounded like one might be in the making, so we headed over to talk to Andy at SAS.  We told him where things stood with ASB and at that point, we were thinking we would really prefer to go to Shanghai.  Andy wanted us to come with him, but he needed me to visit with his elementary principal first.  Give him 15 minutes...He had just been on Skype with her before we got there, so he went to call her so we could talk.  As it turned out, the internet was down, so he couldn't get her on Skype and she wasn't answering her cell.  As much as he wanted to hire me, he couldn't with 100% certainty guarantee it at that time. 

I knew that I wanted to come home with a signed contract and the Bombay deal was a really good one.  While India hadn't been on our radar when we went to Iowa, it certainly was now and so we went back and told Joe that if an offer were to be extended, we would seriously consider taking it.  Give him an hour...he would call us in a bit.

This whole weekend had been an emotional roller coaster!  It was so exciting, but nerve racking at the same time!  There were about 700 teachers there, all vying for 100's of jobs.  Statistically, teachers with trailing spouses (8% are hired) and dependent children (8% are hired) are least likely to go away from the fair with a contract.   All of this hurry up and wait was stressing me out! 

We spent the hour driving around and found a section of Waterloo we had managed to miss in our first 2 trips!  Then we headed back to the hotel restaurant for a cup of coffee and to wait for the call.  Eventually, Joe called and asked us to come up for a brief discussion.  My first response was that of excitement, thinking- "This is it!"  On the ride up the elevator, I began to wonder if he was calling us up to tell us he had chosen the other candidate!  That was the more harrowing roller coaster elevator ride ever!
Thankfully, Joe didn't kill much time before extending the offer!  If there had been any concern or doubt about whether Mumbai, India and the American School of Bombay was the place for us, it all feel away when he asked me to come and be a part of ASB.  I excitedly accepted and we all hugged!  Rick, Joe, Fiona and me!  They were as happy to have us as we were to have them. 

 Joe loves the idea of Rick getting his Master's in Education and all of his military travel experience.  He knows these will be beneficial in helping Tully and me adjust to culture shock and with Rick in school, he can help with Tully while I get settled in to a new school and job.  I will be serving at the K-5 Reading Specialist at the American School of Bombay.  Tully will attend, tuition free!  My contracted salary is just slightly less than I make now, but with NO taxes!  I will contribute 12% to retirement, which ASB will match.  A 3 bedroom, fully furnished apartment is provided, along with a utility allowance.  They install a phone and provide internet.  We do have to purchase our own bottled water, groceries and monthly phone bill.  In addition, Tully and I both will have a PC/tablet for our school work.  They fly us over in July, then after the 2nd year, they school will pay for our flight home annually. 

Larani has decided to save her money and go along!  She will be able to do her schooling online and live the dream with us.  Addi and Mike are saving for a visit and hopefully, we will be able to show Austin and the grandbabies India, too!

So begins the adventure!  I know we have so much to learn about our new home, but we will enjoy doing the research and have already started our list of places we plan to visit and see on our time off.
Thank you for going along with us!  We hold you near and dear, regardless of how far away we live.