Tag Archives: snow

Tracks across the Midwest

Ever since I started looking for work in Detroit, I’ve alternated my means of travel to and from the city between the train and the bus. Whether I book my tickets with Amtrak or Megabus depends on several factors, including ticket prices, the weather, the length of layovers in Chicago (because unfortunately neither company offers nonstop service between Milwaukee and Detroit), and scheduled arrivals and departures, which must coincide with the availability of those taking me to and from the stations. If I didn’t have to take into account all of these factors in my decision to ride the train or bus to Detroit, it would be the locomotive every time. Hands down.

I was first introduced to trains when I was studying abroad in Spain and since then I’ve been a rail enthusiast. It all started with an overnight train from Madrid to Paris. Pulling into the Gare du Nord in the early morning hours—bleary-eyed and achy from a second-class good night sleep—I was hooked. Since then I’ve relied on trains to tour Scandinavia, reach postcard-worthy beaches along Thailand’s peninsula, and cross the great geographical expanse of the United States between Los Angeles and Milwaukee. For me there is no better way to see countryside, enter a metropolis, or most accurately experience the local vibe of a region. Trains also afford a more comfortable ride than buses with bigger seats, ample space for luggage, and a snack car! One trade-off? Time. As it turns out, riding from Milwaukee to Detroit by train or bus should be about the same time, and in practice, I have found that the Megabus more often makes its arrival times than the train. Another trade-off to a more comfortable ride is cost. However, when demand for the Megabus is high, prices for the train and bus are about equal.

As you may imagine, I was thoroughly disheartened at the loss of federal funding for a new train route in Wisconsin between Milwaukee and Madison. This line was a step towards an eventual link between Chicago and Minneapolis, and a step in the right direction to provide Midwesterners with more public transportation options. Opponents of the federal rail funds argued that it was a bad deal for taxpayers, that it wouldn’t be sustainable, and that the current Badger Bus already provides such a public transportation service. Now I’m not above riding buses; anyone who knows me also knows I’ve spent my fair share of time on buses (and after traveling Southeast Asia primarily by bus, a seven and a half hour trip between Milwaukee and Detroit, with a comfortable layover, is a breeze—trust me). But given the option, I will always opt for the train. I don’t think there is anything wrong with providing public transportation-goers with options. In fact, I think it is a state’s responsibility to provide its citizens with a variety of choice when it comes to transportation. The Midwest is a long way from an environment in which living car-light or car-free is a viable option, but beginning to build up the railways infrastructure is a necessary step in creating such an environment.

Yesterday’s train ride east across Southern Michigan was beautiful. For the first five and a half hours at least. It had been snowing steadily since I boarded in Chicago and there was a light dusting across the landscape. It wasn’t until a combination of inspections, traffic interferences, and poor weather conditions, putting us nearly two hours behind our scheduled arrival, did I consider re-evaluating my love affair with trains.

So will I be booking my next trip by train? You bet.


The Hokey Pokey, Bingo, and other daily surprises

Living in Thailand, it’s often easier to post about the traditional ceremonies I take part in or interesting places I visit than it is to reflect on why I moved to Southeast Asia in the first place. Today I thought it would be good to share some of the daily experiences with my students, especially since the time in which I have to do so is quickly winding down. It is hard to believe that ten months ago today I began my journey, parting ways with my parents at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee to meet who I now refer to as my WorldTeach family in Los Angeles for our departure flight. With only a handful of weeks left to teach I am becoming increasingly aware of what little time I have to spend with the students I have grown to adore.

It is impossible to pinpoint one specific aspect of my day that keeps me looking forward to the next. It’s really a combination of all the little things: the daily bouquets of flowers presented to me, freshly picked from trees lining the school grounds. The way my students hide behind my desk as I’m walking into my classroom and shout “Surprise!” (one of the vocabulary words from our emotions unit) to startle me. How my students exclaim “Bingo!” now when they are finished with their work (the game was apparently a big hit). And how I catch them practicing the pencil-bending trick at their desks when they should be paying attention to the lesson at hand. Each day brings a new twist and I never know what I am going to expect.

Today was a great example of this. One of my favorite first graders recently discovered that he could close his mouth and suck in  his nostrils, a trick he felt the need to show me several times throughout the day. My third graders were appalled to see pictures of a snowman, which was a part of our weather unit activity in class, and were also really interested to know whether or not they could eat the snow. I said yes, but I probably should have mentioned to stay away from anything yellow. And I was surprised to get my first encore after class from a second grader, who requested The Hokey Pokey as a closing song to our alphabet lesson.

There never seems to be a dull moment at my schools, which makes for exciting (and often comical) days. I’m hoping to soak up as much as I can during the following weeks as well as fit in a few more magic tricks and songs to leave for them after I return to the States.

What? It’s no big deal…

I am off for the second time this week because it is Constitution Day in Thailand. With the extra free time I thought I’d take a moment to blog about some of the things I have become accustomed to doing on a regular basis:

  • Carrying a wad of toilet paper in my pocket every time I use public bathrooms (including bathrooms at my school)
  • Rolling up my pants every time I use a squat toilet so as to not make a mess of my outfit
  • Looking right then left when crossing streets
  • Finding small animals and insects in my dishes at lunch (which belong there) and then eating them
  • Picking tiny red ants out of my hot water before making tea or coffee (no, these do not belong there)
  • Constantly placing heavy objects on any loose papers to keep them from blowing away
  • Strategically searching for and standing in any shade possible during the day
  • Adapting to the broad temperature changes in my room throughout the day, which drops to about 60F in the morning and can spike at 95F by midday
  • Explaining to people that my family is not wealthy, and despite being from the United States, no, I do not own a plane

I’m sure I will continue to add to this list as time goes on but I just wanted to share a little insight what parts of my life look like here. Also, check out the WorldTeach NOW blog that features stories of volunteers around the world. On December 5th they reported on our Thailand Thanksgiving feast and some of my pictures made the story!

I hope everyone in the Midwest (especially in Wisconsin!) is having a blast with the blizzard. From the pictures I’ve seen it looks like some good packing snow for snowball fights and snowpeople. Miss you all!

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