Sunday, December 21, 2008

From yours truly,

Hey Jake, remember me? Your blog?

I'm still waiting here, hoping that someday you'll spend a few minutes and write in me. I bet some pretty interesting things have been happening in your life. No? Well that's okay. I'm sure something will happen soon. Until then, I'll just be waiting here... so patiently.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mr. Akemann

I've been back in Illinois for a bit now, doing nothing as usual. Today I finally subbed at the local high school for the first time. That was weird. I was a student there five years ago and now I'm on the other side.

Let me first say that I had no idea how much I've changed in the last five years. I haven't felt so conspicuous and obviously not part of the norm since India. Walking around in the hallways, I don't think I could blend in with them if I tried. And really, I haven't changed that much, physically at least. I'm the same height and the same weight. I may have a slightly "older" looking face, but not something big enough to notice off the bat. Nevertheless, it was clear everywhere I went that I was a teacher and clearly not a student. It's so odd.

After teaching elementary kids in Korea for a year, I don't think I could have been more prepared for today. I subbed the level three ESL classes. I used a lot of the same disciplinary tactics, which was odd, but it worked. I had to bust out the "teacher face" only a few times, with mixed results.

But really, the biggest difference is the language. These kids speak English exceptionally well. I could have complete conversations with them. Of course, I immediately reverted back to my I'm-talking-to-Koreans voice, complete with good annunciation and repetition of important parts of what I'm telling them, but they understood. It was amazing having students who could understand what I was saying. They just couldn't read very well. In fact, some of my Korean students could probably read just as well if not better, but their speech was enough to make up for any drawbacks in reading. Verbal communication is important in life. Reading and writing is extremely important for some stuff, but not completely necessary. At least... that's my standpoint.

Anyway, I was impressed. Based on the flack the ESL program gets in U-46, I imagined it'd be a circus of kids who don't speak any English (basically my life last year). I'm sure level one students and elementary school is a different scenario, but the students I had today were just kids... er.... young adults who need more attention focused on reading and writing.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Greyhounds bite

A few days ago, I had a decision to make. I wanted to go to Denver from Salt Lake City. I could either take an Amtrak train or a Greyhound bus. It was then that I made what may be the stupidest decision of my life. I took the bus.

I took a train from U of I to Chicago a bit ago. It was really nice. The ride was smooth. There was tons of space. I think I remember being irritated that someone was talking on their cell phone, but having electric outlets for every seat made up for any complaints I had. I just busted out the laptop and chilled for a few hours.

Riding greyhound really makes me lose faith in humanity a bit. If you ever feel like you're too high on a high horse because being a human entitles you to intelligence and dignity, ride a Greyhound bus. It's like a collection of the oddest and strangest people in our country. This is unexpected, because it's not cheap. It costs the same as Amtrak and for long distances it's roughly the same as flight. Yet they congregate there on the busses, the circus of mankind.

Putting the passengers aside, even the organisation itself is just... not organised. Every single bus I've ever taken with Greyhound has been late, usually by over an hour. I assumed that an overnight bus that lasts ten hours would have a "sleeping" theme. You know, maybe low on announcements, not a stop every hour that wakes you up with lights for fifteen minutes. A bus transfer to a delayed bus at two in the morning, being forced to stand in the cold while rude busdrivers yell at you, watching the same bus driver get cussed out by a drunk peer and watching him get chased away by a police car is probably not something that would fit a "sleeping" themed bus.

But you learn from your mistakes, right? About five years ago, I traveled with Greyhound through Florida and told myself I'd never ride with them again. However, after using the bus systems in China and India, I thought I'd been hardened to bad bus systems. I guess putting it in perspective it doesn't sound so bad. No one was smoking next to me and I didn't have a steady stream of exhaust filtering in through my window on Greyhound. But the busses in China and India came out to be about five to ten dollars, not seventy-eight.

Next time I'll take Amtrak.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mountain Climbing

Maybe you guys from out West will think this is funny.

Yesterday I was at my Aunt Debbie and Uncle Mark's house here in Utah. They live on the side of this mountain that is not as tall as the others around it. I thought, "Hey, I like hiking. Maybe I'll just climb up it really quick before dinner."

Did you know that air is less dense in the mountains? Everyone knows that, but it really does affect how you breathe. I was dying. I literally collapsed about 2/3rds the way up. It was really embarrassing, but at least no one saw me or heard about it before I posted it online for everyone to read. It really felt nice after, though, and before the long trek back down (it's much easier to climb up than down) it was really tranquil just sitting on the side of the mountain, watching the sun set on the valley. I could get used to that.

This one (below) wasn't taken on the mountain. One cool thing about Utah are the gigantic flags that are milling around. They're huge and absolutely make any sane person feel like serenading the mountains with patriotic songs.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I came out to Utah about 2-3 days ago. It's amazing how many people I've seen and how much I've done since then. First off, if you don't know, I haven't been here in 12-13 years, and a lot of my cousins out here I haven't seen since then. It's been really great catching up with everyone and sort of meeting them for the first time as an adult.

Perhaps some of you Chicago/Elgin folk have noticed that I don't look much like my cousins and uncles out there. As shown . . .

The Akemann Crew

Out here, it all suddenly makes sense. For the first time, I'm standing around with a group of guys and I feel like I look like them and other people can tell. Also other things, like quirks and habits I've noticed in Mom but not really in myself because of the gender gap, I see in "man form" in the relatives.

But with the good similarities come the bad. Out here, we are pack rats. Today I helped clean my grandma's house. It's a very gradual process. I worked with my mom and my two aunts for eight hours, unloading junk from the basement. I have never seen anything like it. We threw out two truckloads, a garbage can, and an SUV's worth of trash and didn't make a dent. While we accomplished a lot, it's almost awe-inspiring to see how much we didn't accomplish in the grand scheme of things.

Word to the wise:

Never allow someone with Foster blood to have three basements. Note that the lineage may be disguised as Akemann, Balzotti, or Gleave blood, but the gene is dominant and very dangerous.

*Note- This picture was taken at the dump, not the basement.

So that was today, but it's been mostly fun besides that. Saturday I went SCUBA diving in a hot spring where my cousin and his wife work. There wasn't much to see, but the experience itself was really cool. The hot spring is in the middle of this random desert valley. It's basically a mound of limestone that was once overflowing with spring water. Then someone blew out a tunnel in the side with dynamite and now it's a 60-foot hole in the ground, filled with a constant supply of warm water. It was pretty neat.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Let's get this started...

So this one's real.

If you're reading this, there's a good chance you've at least dropped by my homepage before. (It's if you haven't) Unfortunately, you've also then probably noticed that it hasn't been updated since August. Sorry about that. I've actually been up to some cool things since then, too. I went to India. That's sort of the kind of thing people put on blogs... but... well, that's why I'm making this.

While I do enjoy building the pages from scratch and making the graphics and links myself, it's really not practical for this kind of thing, which for the most part is just keeping up with family and friends.

I'm not promising anything this time. The last blog was full of promises that never came to fruition. Some relatives are still waiting on that China blog. It will come eventually. Wait, is that a promise? Alright, while I'm breaking rules... the blogs for Japan, Hong Kong and India are coming, too! Check back soon!