Saturday, March 29, 2008

McWay Falls

After some more sketchy details about when the beautiful waterfall would be open, the final conclusion was that the only way to find out would be to just go down there. So on Wednesday afternoon we drove down to Julia Pefiffer State Beach again and fate was more on our side this time (although it seems fate was on our side before, given that it sent us on the amazing Ewoldsen Trail).

The best word I can think of to describe McWay Falls is "magical." I'll let the pictures say the rest.

The view in the other direction wasn't too bad either.

I wasn't sure I'd gotten enough pictures, so I took some video too.

6/10 of a Mile

After Pfeiffer State Beach we drove down to Julia Pfeiffer State Park to check out a beautiful waterfall. And the beautiful waterfall was closed. A park volunteer who was very sketchy on the details of when and why the waterfall might open again told us that there was if we went on another hike, there was another waterfall sixth tenths of a mile up the trail. So on we went through the sun-dappled redwood forest.

As we met other hikers coming the opposite direction, we asked (1) if we were close and (2) if the waterfall was cool. Most of them smiled and nodded and kept walking. Hmmm... I'm not a good judge of distance or even time, really, but after awhile it definitely felt like more than 6/10 of a mile. Luckily the trail kept us entertained with wild irises.

Finally we met some hikers who told us what the volunteer had not: there is no waterfall. There is a small stream that makes some mini-rapids, but definitely no waterfall. They also told us that the end of the trail was only about another hour, so we figured that if we'd already one "6/10 of a mile" what's another hour?

Another hour = another hour of uphill climbing. But it was definitely worth it for the view at the top.

The first time I'd ever see the curve of the Earth:

Honestly, I don't think we'd have tried this hike--that turned out to be 4.5 miles--if we hadn't been sent on a wild waterfall chase. But how else would I have gotten this deep picture?

Good work, ladies.

Pfeiffer State Beach

When we were trying to figure out what we should do on Tuesday, Mary pulled out a list of recommendations she'd gotten from her brother. One description read: "There's beach with purple sand. Purple sand!" Purple sand? How could we resist?

There were also some not too shabby rock formations and crashing waves:

I couldn't resist the video:

Wilderness Girls

I've done my share of camping over the years, but I definitely don't consider myself a "camper" per se. Yet somehow I ended up as one of the more experienced campers on this trip. I have to say, I was pretty proud of use four city girls not only making our way in the woods for four days, but doing a pretty darn good job with it. Not only were there no disasters, we even had some pretty gourmet food. Nice job, ladies.

By the time the tent was set up, there was only piece we didn't know how to use:

We discovered that one of Sarah's multiple intelligences is setting fires:

Unfortunately, Sarah is not as skilled at judging water depth:

As I mentioned, camping did not keep us from delicious meals. Yes, that bread is toasting.

"We just wanted to prove that we're real wilderness girls?"
"Well who ever said you weren't?"
(Name that movie, win a prize)

The Next Best Thing

As we got into the Big Sur area on Highway 1, the coastal drive slowly transformed from beautiful to fantastic to stunning. "Is this what New Zealand looks like?" Sarah asked.

Good question. More than anything it reminded me of the drive along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia, which was pretty amazing. I tried to think of comparable experiences in New Zealand, and first came up with the cliffs and water color around Takapuna and Long Bay--it wasn't too much of a jump to imagine Big Sur with bright red pohutukawas dotting the hills. I also made some mental connections to Cape Reinga, Abel Tasman National Park, and the Coromandel Penninsula. But really, no matter what I tried, Big Sur just doesn't quite compare to any of them.

But it tries. And it comes so close.

There are beautiful coastlines:

Cool plants and beautiful flowers everywhere:

Even some koru:

I guess until I can get the courage (and my loans paid off) to move back to New Zealand, weekends in Big Sur will have to do. Luckily, it seemed to know how much I miss Godzone and sent me a little message that the California coast will be a sufficient surrogate: On our last night, we stopped for sunset drinks at Nepenthe, a restaurant that overlooks the ocean. There, on the wine list, was my favorite NZ wine, Spy Valleny sauvignon blanc. It's one of the few things that I will happily use the food miles for, but I haven't been able to find it in the US. But there it was, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Thank you, Big Sur. Nothing will ever be New Zealand, but this certainly makes a pretty good second best.


Somehow I got lucky enough to have my school's spring break coincide with Stanford's spring break, so I actually had five full days without any formal obligations. Something had to be done to commemorate this momentous occasion.

Even luckier, my friend Sarah invited me along on a camping trip to Big Sur, a place I've been meaning to visit since I got to California. The entire trip was exactly what I needed. Four days surrounded by breathtaking scenery, fresh mountain air, giant redwoods, and amazing people. Perhaps more importantly, it was four days completely cut off from email, phone, Stanford, and high school students--all things I love, but that I definitely needed a break from.

The next few posts highlight just how much we packed into four days.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Elect This Man

I set up this blog as a way to keep friends an family informed of my whereabouts, adventures, funny stories, etc. as I'm off traveling the world and having adventures and funny stories. As such, I've tried to keep the political commentary to a minimum. There are enough political blog out there and it's not like I have a unique perspective to add to the lot.

However, I can't not mention Barack Obama's recent speech on race in this country. I have been an avid Obama supporter for a long time, but I worried that reaching his new political heights would tarnish his vision, idealism, and most of all his honesty. His recent speech on race is one of the most beautiful, honest, human things I think I've ever heard from a politician. Finally, someone willing to name the state of race in this country for what it is without dismissing the legitimacy of anyone's feelings, status, etc.

If you haven't read it already, I strongly recommend that you make the time for it. Or watch it on YouTube. I was in tears by the end.

Not that my endorsement means much, but as a teacher, as a student, as a woman, as a person of color, as a white person, as a young person, and as any other demographic I can think of, I whole-heartedly believe that giving this man the keys to the White House will send our country in the direction it needs to go.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Decider

My last post was probably a little unfair, because I had already pretty much decided which class I was going to take before I asked for advice. But I figured that if anyone found something amazing, I could audit something.

So here was my deciding process flow chart/checklist, in order of importance:
-Is the class offered on Monday and/or Tuesday afternoons? (I decided to eliminate Fridays because that's my nap time.)
-Is the class something I've been interested in on multiple levels?
-Will I have to take a final exam?
-Will I have to take any exams?
-Will I have to write papers? If so, will any require original research?
-Will the amount of time spent on homework be greater than 2 hours per week?
-Will the majority of my classmates be over age 20?
-Will this class make me a better teacher?

Pretty much the only class that fits all this criteria is the directed reading that will be taught by my Math Curriculum & Instruction instructor. The official title is "Mathematics Teaching and Learning in Urban Contexts." Yes, it's pretty much the class I would invent if I could invent a class. And it's taught by one of my favorite people ever. Sorry that I didn't use your advice.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Last Chance

Thursday was our last class of winter quarter, and by Tuesday I'll have all my assignments complete and turned in (god willing). Spring quarter will be nice because it should be a little lighter on the Stanford coursework end of things. We only have two required classes (as opposed to four), leaving the option of taking an elective. There are no restrictions on what I can take, which is pretty amazing. An entire university system, mine for the taking.

But that in itself is feeling more like a curse than a blessing. Luckily (in that it makes my decision much easier), I can't take anything before 2pm or that on Wednesdays or Thursdays. I thought about a math class, but then I remembered just how ridiculously time-consuming and difficult college math classes are. I thought about Spanish for Teachers because, hey, I'm a teacher who needs to know Spanish. But I'd rather just go to South America this summer. There are lots of interesting ed school classes, but I'm a little sick of ed classes right now. I thought about yoga or wine tasting to force me into getting away from teaching at least once a week, but is that really the best use of my thousands of tuition dollars? It hit me that this is most likely my last opportunity EVER to take a college class, especially one at Stanford. Should I go for econ, something I always wanted to do but never got around to in undergrad? Wouldn't it be awesome to take a class at Stanford Law or Stanford Business? What is the ONE thing I want?

Honestly, choosing an elective is a little more than I can handle right now. This morning I spent about 10 minutes just trying to decide what I wanted to order for breakfast, so I'm not really in a state to sort through the entire course catalog. However if you happen to have nothing better to do, I'm taking suggestions until the registration deadline on Friday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sixth Man

Sometimes I feel like my life is consumed by STEP, teaching, kids, and grad school. And by "sometimes" I mean "all the time." I was warned by previous STEPpies that in order to survive, you have have to make time for things outside of STEP. For me, there have been two lifesavers: Project Runway and Stanford basketball. Both give me an opportunity to get away from STEP, hang out with the people I love in a non-STEP related context, and just relax. Since I don't have pictures of Project Runway (and pictures of people watching TV wouldn't really be that great), here are a few of my favorites from last weekend's basketball game against Washington State. It was the last home game of the season, so we went a little more all out than usual.

Since it was a 1pm game, it was only natural to begin the day with homemade brunch. Along with being good teachers, STEPpies know how to cook.

Mountain of pancakes

Almond puff pastry (this was my contribution--I'm kind of proud)

The full spread

As I said, we went all out for the game. I was a little disappointed in the other fans when I saw that we were some of the only people with face paint, but, as I tell my students, you can't control what other people do so you have to think about your own actions first.

Is there a correlation between the fact that Kevin, the only elementary school teacher, was also the best face painter?

Sarah and I doing out best Brook Lopez poses. How do we compare to the real thing?

And a couple shots of the actual court:

The boys warming up

The boys in action

The ridiculous trees and "dollies" who "perform" during the time outs.

The old people's section is like looking into a crystal ball. These are the alumni we'll be in 20-30 years.

Finally, love from the Sixth-Man STEP crew. Definitely a source of sanity (or insanity?) from November through March.

With the Pac-10 Tournament this weekend and the NCAA tournament just around the corner, my only hope is that Stanford basketball doesn't turn out to be so disastrously disappointing as Project Runway was.