The US-SEE Teacher Exchange

Apr 24, 2007

Teacher Exchange

Ann's stay with us was the second part of the teacher exchange that was organised as part of the School Connectivity project. In September 2004 all the participating teachers were invited to apply for a three-week visit to an American school. The applicants underwent a competitive selection process and in the end, 18 teachers, two from each of the nine South East European countries spent three weeks in the US. I just couldn't believe when I was told I was one of the two from Croatia.

Schools from Montana, Virginia, Maryland, N. Carolina, Utah and California offered to host us. It didn't matter to me which school I'd be assigned to, the most important was that I was going to lead a life of an American teacher for a while. Still, I had a secret dream, and when Myra sent me her first email, welcoming me to Los Angeles, I was totally overwhelmed. On a scale from 0-10, my level of excitement was 11. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I was looking forward to it immensely.

In January 2005 we flew to Baltimore where we stayed for a three-day orientation seminar. My new school, Foshay in South Central L.A. was an unforgettable experience. The students helped me overcome my uneasiness of not being a native speaker before my first presentation. They were very friendly and totally supportive and encouraging, absolutely fantastic. They asked many questions and were really interested in what I was talking about. My host teachers, Leslie, Myra and Ann were wonderful. They made NYC lose the lead as my #1 city of dreams. Because it's people that count. When I think of NYC, it's only streets, buildings, monuments, whereas with LA, it's Myra, Leslie, Ann and their families and friends.

The School Connectivity project ended later that year, but the links between our two schools are still strong. In October 2005 our students and teachers visited Foshay, and right now we're all looking forward to hosting Myra and two students who're coming to Croatia on June 7.

New York City

Apr 15, 2007

I’ve been to NYC three times, in April 1998 with my husband, in November 2003 with my cousin who won a glamorous weekend in NYC in a cell phone company contest, and in February 2005 with my family. Every time it was freezing cold with icy winds, but the unfavorable weather conditions couldn’t diminish my love and fascination for this amazing and incomparable city. It has been my city of dreams since I was 13, and although I have doubts today about it still being my number one, there will always be a special place in my heart for NYC. Am I being a bit slushy romantic?

Anyway, my first encounter with the city was also my first step on the American soil. Not knowing anyone in the US, but knowing a lot from movies, I was so frightened of being mugged or killed that I was constantly looking over my shoulder to see if someone was following us. I didn’t even dare to go for a ride on the subway, although I wanted it badly (mostly because of the scenes from the Warriors). Can you imagine that? Such is the power of influence exerted upon us by movie makers. And all this with no CSI at that time.

We stayed at the Arlington on 25th and Broadway and spent five days exploring the city. I had read extensively about the sights before the trip so I knew that the best way to see the NY skyline was not from the Twins, but from the Empire State Building, because of its location in the center of Manhattan. A bad choice, though, because next time the Twins were no more. However, we were clever enough to climb the spiral staircase of the Statue of Liberty and saw that there was no restaurant in Miss Liberty’s head. Although the Statue is a sight I’ve seen a million times, I was surprised when it gave me goosebumps, just like Stonehenge did a year before.

Five years later I was there again, but this time I flew business and stayed at the Chambers on 56th and Fifth. This trip was a glamorous four-day weekend for two, the first prize that my cousin Kristina won. She asked me to go with her since I was, in her opinion, so well-traveled , and I just couldn’t say no. We were accompanied by a person who took care of everything and a cameraman. Yes, we were on TV later that year. We were driven in a white limo all over the city, saw Chicago in the Ambassador, dined in fancy restaurants and went clubbing. It was a totally OTT weekend. Don’t we all deserve something like this at least once in a lifetime?

Less than two years later I arrived in NYC with my family. We stayed at the Best Western on 49th and Third and this has been my most leisurely visit. We had a great time, saw many sights and felt safe all the time. But let the pictures speak a thousand words.

New York City

Brijuni, Croatia

Brijuni


Ann came to Croatia in June and stayed with us for two weeks. This was the second part of the School Connectivity Teacher Exchange. The main purpose of this exchange was to shadow a Croatian teacher, to see what it's like to live and work in Croatia. Ann participated in my school's life completely. She visited classes, talked to the students about schools and life in L.A. and discussed the differences with them.

The first Thursday of her stay was a holiday, so, as it's commonly practiced here, we also had the Friday off and we decided to take Ann on a trip to the most beautiful coast. On the way there we stopped in Karlovac where we were greeted by Marina, one of the heads of 'Domachi', the organization in charge of the project for Croatia. Marina showed us the sights of Karlovac, a city badly damaged in the 1991-1995 war.

We reached Fazana in Istria in the afternoon and got on the boat that was to take us to the biggest island of the Brijuni Archipelago, called Veli Brijun (Big Brijun). There we stayed for three days in the Hotel Carmen. Brijuni is a national park, no cars are allowed, there were not so many tourists, it was all peace and quiet. We rented bikes and rode all over the island, right through the safari park, along the beautiful shores of the island, in between the Roman and Byzantine ruins, across the green meadows with deer grazing, just like heaven. Because this is what Brijuni really is.

We left the island with a heavy heart but with a peaceful mind and arrived in Pula, an ancient city, home to the sixth largest Roman amphitheater in the world. We spent the night in Lovran, a cute little town in Kvarner. We were shown around Lovran, Opatija and Rijeka by teachers who live there and who also participated in the project. Tamara, Drashko and Petar showed us their hometowns from their own perspective, which is more than you can get from a travel guide.

Beli on Island Cres, Croatia

Apr 10, 2007

Beli, Cres, Croatia

I think the Croatian Adriatic is one of the most beautiful seas in the world. Its crystal clear, warm waters are exactly what I need after the exhausting school year. As soon as my holidays begin I pack my things and move to the seaside. Many would say Dalmatia is far more beautiful than the northern part of the Adriatic, but I don't agree. The northernmost island, Krk is my favourite. It used to be the largest of the 1066 Croatian islands, but recently, due to some new measurements (!) it's been overtaken by Cres, its neighbor.

Beli, a small town on Cres is what I want to write about in this post. We hired a boat, and Captain Ivo took the thirty of us on a day trip. The channel between the two islands is home to dolphins, and the northern part of the island is inhabited by griffon vulture. There is an ecological and educational center that protects animals. It's an NGO called Caput Insulae. Their activites have contributed to saving the vulture from extinction.

Amsterdam

Apr 9, 2007

Amsterdam


We visited Amsterdam, the city of bikes, at the beginning of November. We expected it to be cold and wet, but quite to the contrary, the days were warm and sunny. Total change of climate in Europe, but I don't want to write about global warming and all the other ugly things related to it.

Anyway, I'd been told the streets of Amsterdam were dirty and full of dog waste, bikers and tram drivers pay no attention at all to pedestrians, tourists are mugged at every corner, all in all not a very inviting city. How untrue is all of this.

Amsterdam was as clean and safe as any other city, and it is this enormous number of bikes that makes it special. It's amazing to see that everybody in Amsterdam rides a bike, even tourists. All the bikes are old, unappealing and cheap, so if they're stolen, which is not unusual, the owner won't lose a lot of money.

The houses are one of a kind, lining the streets along the water canals that are crossed by more than a thousand bridges. Some of the bridges are plain, the others are spectacular, all are romantic, especially when lit up at night.

We visited the Van Gog Museum and Anne Frank Museum, but there are many more worth a visit.

San Diego

We spent a wonderful week at my friend's who lives with her family in the San Diego area, near Ramona. Tanja's beautiful house was our base to explore Southern California. On the first afternoon we went to La Jolla, an elegant resort, whose beauty made me want to buy a house and move there. Since it was January it was very peaceful. However, I'm told it is overcrowded in the summer, a thing which would make me reconsider my intention to buy a property. But, I have enough time to think about it, until I win the lottery...

San Diego is protected by the Coronado Peninsula. Coronado is famous for its Hotel del Coronado, built in 1888. It has been the setting for many famous movies, Some Like It Hot, being one of them.

We went on a boat trip around the San Diego Bay, an excellent opportunity to see the whole city from the water and to take numerous photos. San Diego Downtown, like many in the US, has been rejuvenated since the 1980s. Horton Plaza, an interestingly designed shopping mall helped its revival. The once notorious Gaslamp Quarter is a new center of San Diego. It is designated a National Historic District. They say, the Quarter is particularly attractive in the evening, but with kids, we just don't go out at night as much as we used to. Instead, we went to the Sea World, where not only the kids had a lot of fun. The killer whales are amazing and beautiful. I could watch their performance for hours on end. However, I can't help feeling sorry for them being held in captivity just for the sake of people like me. Should we let them be free?

San Diego Photos

Apr 8, 2007

San Diego

Los Angeles Photos

Apr 1, 2007

Los Angeles
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