Beginnings, Getting settled, photography, S-bee


Today was a good day.  It was sad to say goodbye to some close family, but in return, I got a lovely apartment confirmed to move into this weekend, I was handed a brand spanking new Macbook Pro and I started the first day with all the colleagues.  We’ve been invited to so many friends houses here.  I am feeling super positive about the school I am working and the fit in this role, which is pretty huge.

In fact, I never realized how important.  I think all one has to do is have a toxic workplace to realize that not all places of profession are created equal.

I’m also happy that my dognose will be reunited with family and that the trip with family was successful… and financial details are worked out!

Hopefully we will celebrate tonight–I have no idea how that will look?


Butterfly farm–new friend.


Beginnings, culture, Getting settled, language acquisition, papiamento

Where speaking 4 languages is normal.


a Spanish Creole language with mixtures of Portuguese and Dutch, spoken on the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.

With my whole family here, finishing up part one of Montessori training (the final submission will be about 100 pages long, questions and answers–close to 500 of them), getting a car and an apartment and trying to make my family love the island, I haven’t completed a single one of the half a dozen posts I have half written.

And then there is island time.

found in a market here.

One of the things that was most of a draw for me in making decisions about bringing the family here had to do with the languages of this little island.



The official language is a creole called Papiamento (pronounced poppy-mento).  It is a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and native languages with a little bit of French and a couple other languages mixed in for good measure.  If one speaks Spanish, they will understand the lion’s share of Papiamento, but there will be words in Dutch (which is also, like English, a Germanic language– so words are often not so difficult to guess) and it has a Portuguese flavor that is unmistakable.  Words are often shortened (ayo=adios, ta=esta=is) or change one letter to another that sounds very similar (por fabor=por favor).  Sometimes words are straightforward phonetic (awa=agua=water)


The government, however, is Dutch speaking along with Papiamento and schools educate the students in Dutch, which from my understanding, creates a genuine need for the GED program that is run out of the school where I work.  There is something in the works to have kids in school start out in Papiamento and introduce Dutch slowly, but the teaching materials in Papiamento are scarce.

Natives who work in the tourist sector which brings in over a million people a year to this small island nation of about 100,000 people must speak 4 languages fluently to have a chance to work with tourists.  All people in tourism speak Dutch, English, Spanish and Papiamento, which Papiamento being the home language.

Cruise ships at port in Oranjestad stand enormous offshore with their enormity of size and cash inflow to Aruba.

It’s difficult for me to not draw comparisons to my home country.  I have been told before only the smartest kids could learn a foreign language in the U.S., but it seems that is more a function of the way foreign language as taught, as an academic subject much of the time.  It’s also tempting to speculate that the knowledge of a foreign language (or not) says something both about the way we educate: who is fortunate enough to receive an education that comprehensively includes foreign language from the earliest years, and the rest of us who haven’t received that education.

On the street here in Aruba, all the language diversity gets equal representation.  Signs are either in English, Spanish, Dutch or Papiamento.  In the Northern part of the island, it is not hard to get by speaking just English because the area is dominated by wealthy homes, high rise hotels and the white sand and clear sea salt turquoise waters.  The East side of the island, the windward side, is mostly undeveloped and is home to Arikok Park which is a reserve that takes up a good 1/4 of the island.

A sign in Arikok park demonstrating the linguistic diversity of Aruba.

What are the reasons you believe that the US is known to be a monolingual country?  Is it really because we believe that other countries all speak English, so we don’t have to learn other languages?  Why is the US one of only a handful of countries in the world that is persistently monolingual?


Beginnings, vocation

Making the road by walking

brown-couch-beforeSurrounded by several large books sitting on a ratty couch next to the large windows of a studio apartment sat a young woman. The studio was student housing of a university. She could be described as being unsure of herself and slightly anxious about this fact.  She didn’t know she was intelligent, she didn’t know she was hard working and she didn’t know she might actually make it out of everything ok.  She sat on that damn couch for so long she thought she would grow roots out of her back side.  The task at hand was translating antique words from Olde Spanish texts from the late 1800s and before in order to hope to grasp at the meaning the author intended through so many years.


Hours upon hours for a great many classes in Spanish Lit, the young woman estimated that she absorbed perhaps 40 percent of the texts after translating 8 to 10 words per page, and perhaps 40 percent of what the teacher lectured in Spanish in class.  The whole process required a desperation for something better than what life may look like if she didn’t push forward.


One day with a new class and a new text, the student almost fell off of her couch entirely after reading something that not only made sense to her, but struck her as being Very Important.  It seemed improbable, at that point, that anything she was reading might be important or even mostly comprehensible.

Through the course of twenty five years, the poem has followed her in her pocket where she kept important various sundry things.  Because the Spanish contains all the nostalgia and echo of the culture from which it came (scroll down for English)…

Caminante no hay camino

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar.

and in translation…

Traveler, there is no road

Traveler, your footprints are

the road and nothing more;

traveler, there is no road

the road is made by going along

By going the path is made

And in turning to see what is behind you, 

it’s clear that the trail will never 

return to be tread.

Traveler, there is no road;

Only wake-trails on the waters.


Especially as one graduates college, finding footsteps to follow helps to know what to do next.  But sometimes, there is not a path that is clear to follow, or maybe the path hasn’t yet been tread.  Young people, as they step out of college, as they are trying to figure out what they want to do with their own lives are in the middle of this.

“Vocation at its deepest level is, “This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.”
― Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Ending up in this place has whispers of this.  A dream that even as I gave it up, couldn’t forget.  I couldn’t let it go.  When all the questions were answered about how this would impact those around me, the answer was still, “Go”.

“Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.” —Frederick Buechner.

Anytime one follows their own relentless inner call they will have to make their own road.  Anyone who is remembered for being a voice of change had to make their own road.  Our own small lives might not make it into history books, but nonetheless, we all still need to make our own paths.  We have but one gift of life, and an endless number of ways to spend it.

Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (said Mary Oliver)

This collection of observations, learnings and found wisdom tells of an experience I am sure others have done in parts and pieces, but I am not sure has been done before by someone like me and with my own set of circumstances and ways of looking at my surrounds.  So I will make the path by going.  In writing about it, I hope that I will be able to embolden others.  To travel to invent to do art to write…

“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
― Parker J. PalmerLet Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

culture, island culture, language acquisition, montessori, parenting overseas, photography, S-bee, Uncategorized


The title makes it sound basic…

But arriving to where I am this evening with the fan palm fronds crashing together at the whim of the tropical trade winds has been anything but basic.  I have been planning some semblance of this since about 1996 as a college graduate:  to work in an international school in South America.

This goal has centered me when my ship was tossed on the waves, has been given up as unrealistic and caught again through persistent daydreaming, and has been delayed because sometimes it’s more important to be present in the lives of others.  My goal has been at times the reason to wake up the next morning, the reason to persevere, the reason for hope and a compass to help me understand who I was and where I was going.

Studying Spanish and Applied Linguistics, professional choices, personal choices, financial choices were all held to the degree to which they would facilitate or postpone the desire to bring the family with to live in a community entirely apart from the small world of bedroom community America.

For the next couple years I will be a guide in a lower elementary Montessori in the Dutch Caribbean.

Now that I am here, what will be?