Monday, January 23, 2012

An Indian Market Festival in Colorado...

Today we set off for the Indian Market Festival - all very excited at learning more about Indian culture and the prospect of art and music. Unfortunately in the art and craft pavilions taking photographs was not allowed. Except, I guess if you purchase an artwork. Yes, I you know whats coming - what did she buy? There were thousands of amazing photographs, paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics and jewellery amongst other bits and pieces. Garry and I were really impressed with the quality of the art and could easily have spent the entire day wandering and talking to artists about their work.

I was particularly interested in the ledger artwork of Terrance Guardipee (Last Gun). He is a highly recognised artist who incorporates authentic Blackfeet images into his own contemporary form of ledger art.

I fell in love with the above artwork, "Yellow Eagle Woman". Unfortunately I could not afford the $4000.00 price tag. I spent time talking to Terrence about his work and he told me stories about the symbolism in the artworks. I was tempted to purchase a poster of another of his works, for only $50.00, but really I was interested in an original. In the end I settled for a much smaller piece, but still about the same woman riding the horse. The artwork has been completed on the surface of a ledger from 1916.

When I was about to pay for his artwork Terrance very kindly told me that he could listen to me talk all day and threw in the poster for free! I was about to say that he didn't need to do that when his wife explained that at a previous market he sold 15 of the large artworks and had also done very well at this three day event - so he could certainly afford it! The Aussie accent seems to be coming in very handy.

At the main stage the music and dancing were entrancing.  We were lucky to watch the band Brule, who are the most popular Native American musical group in the states. They really were great and performed their instrumental pieces along with traditional tribal dancers.

There was also a wild bird show - which was of course the kids favourite. We had the opportunity to see a Falcon, Spectacle Owl and a Bald Eagle called Magissiwa. Magissiwa came to HawkQuest in 2001, from a rehab centre in Washington which she was taken to as a six week old.  HawkQuest is a an environmental education program. I was more than happy to make a donation and have Yasemin and Max have their photograph taken with Magissiwa.

It was a great day and we really enjoyed looking at all the traditional costumes from all the different tribes. Yasemin  made friends with a little girl, and I couldn't resist a photograph.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A day at McKinley-Thatcher Elementary School...

McKinley-Thatcher Elementary School is my home school and also the school Yasemin and Max attend. On my first visit to the school, I was really impressed with the lovely presentation of the building. The school looks quite modern from the outside, but it is when you enter the entrance foyer that you are impressed with the beautiful mosaic mural completed by the parents.

When you go through the second doors you are standing in front of a welcome sign and indoor garden. All elementary schools have double door entry for security reasons, and except for morning arrival and afternoon departure all visitors must be buzzed in through the security doors to access the school.

Both schools have extensive fire, lock down and additional emergency procedures - it is great that the safety of all children is so high on the agenda here. It was after Columbine that drastic measures in safety improvement were implemented.

On my first day, which was pupil free, a staff breakfast was organised by my two wonderful buddies Ange and Susan. This included drinks and hot and cold food for the staff. Susan also welcomed me officially to the school with the sounds of Men at Work booming from the stereo. I was presented with two culturally significant items - Vegemite and Apple Pie - the best food our two nations have to offer.

I really enjoy the students at this school, they are super friendly and enthusiastic and can't get enough of our Australian accent. Below is an image of my art room at McKinley-Thatcher. An art room with carpet is an interesting design statement.

Ange presented me with a beautiful bunch of white roses and a beautiful necklace was also left on my desk in the classroom as a welcome. All the staff and parents have been so very kind, welcoming and supportive with all sorts of offers and advice.I was really spoiled, taken out to a lovely restaurant in South Pearl Street and shouted lunch by Ange and Susan, escorted to check out my other school and driven home by Susan to my house! What a day - Garry, Susan and I celebrated with drinks at Gaylord Street!


Monday, January 16, 2012

A weekend in Steamboat...

This was our first long weekend - thank you Martin Luther King! We set off on Saturday morning to meet our CITEL buddy, Dorothy for brunch. We arrived at Dorothy's lovely home and met her son Scott and daughter in law Sierra, both excellent conversationalists. Soon afterwards two other CITEL buddies arrived, Bill and Susan who exchanged to Belligen a few years back. We all chatted like long lost friends and shared travel tales over a lovely breakfast of homemade Coopers, (yes as in beer) bread, and a darker stout bread. Served with delicious home made quiches, fresh fruit, yogurt, sweet potato butter and champagne and orange juice.

 It was lovely to meet such kind and interesting people, who had loads of advise to offer us. Unfortunately after a few hours we had to hit the road and we set off for Steamboat. Thank you all for a lovely morning!

The names of fuel shops and other stores are really funny!

We enjoyed a two and a half hour drive through the rocky mountains to the beautiful ski resort town of Steamboat Springs. It was sooo beautiful. We checked into our luxury accommodation - amazing - and enjoyed a lovely dinner and sat down in front of the fire to watch our Broncos play.

No more talk is to be had regarding the broncos until next year.

We awoke to a beautiful day and set off to teach the kids how to ski, (I was also eager to try out my new skis and boots)! It was a beautiful spot to learn, thankfully away from the Olympic training session taking place nearby. Really!

The morning view of the swimming pool from out lounge room window

Yasemin and Max both had a great go and both made some progress. I had a few runs, but am looking forward to us all having some lessons next time.

Check out those ski jumps - no thanks!

The highlight for the kids was definitely the pool and hot tub. I can tick another goal of the list - swimming or having a spa outside in the snow! It was a fantastic experience with breathtaking views! We struggled to get the kids out of the pool.

Yasemin loves to take photos of herself while underwater

To top off a great day we had a gondola ride up the mountain, (courtesy of our amazing accommodation), and enjoyed the fabulous views.

We spent Monday morning in the pool and spas - surprise, surprise! We had a late check out and headed for home around 1.30pm when disaster struck. A massive snow storm, which turned a two and a half hour drive home into almost six hours. At times it was scary as we really struggled to see - thank goodness for the truck which guided us through the mountain passes.

I begged Garry to stop in the minus 15 degree temperature so I could take some photos of the amazing scenery - it really was a photographers dream.

Our trusty Subi coped well in the conditions

I froze standing on the Colorado River to take this photo

We have vowed to return to our new most favourite place - I think I might even love it more than Byron - is it possible? Their is a fabulous Cowboy shop that begs for further investigation, with more fabulous boots! Yasemin and Max begged this morning for us to stay and requested that we live in Steamboat forever.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A day at Lincoln Elementary School...

Lincoln Elementary School is one of the schools I work at. I teach here 2 and a 1/2 days each week and over a fortnight I teach the entire school of 13 classes ranging from prekindergarten to grade 5. The class sizes are very different to Australia, they range from 34 students down to a more manageable 18.

Lincoln is a fantastic school which is ranked in the top 5 DPS schools in Denver - this is a very good result that the school is very proud of. The really interesting thing about this school is that it is made up of both Traditional classes and Montessori classes.

The first lesson of the day with 33 4 and 5 year olds

Teaching here is very different from OFHS in Oak Flats. The real difference I have noticed is student engagement. Here, all of the students are engaged and eager to start whatever it is you ask them to do - this is most likely an age related issue, but it makes a big difference to walk into a classroom filled with excited students every lesson.

The school day is also longer than I am used to, all teachers are expected to be at school by 8.00am even though classes don't start until 8.55am. School finishes at 3.40pm and staff are expected to be on the grounds until 4.00pm. One week I teach 7, 40 minute lessons and the alternate week I teach 6, 40 minute periods and take playground supervision. Playground supervision is also different because all classes have staggered lunches, due to seating requirements in the cafeteria. So their are three playground shifts for students and two for staff. Their is only one large break per day for staff and students. Not having the whole school on break at the same time makes the playground much more manageable for all.

I was very warmly welcomed to this school with flowers from the principal and staff, along with many cards and gifts and even hand made soap from one student. This school is a happy place to be.

All the children think that having the same name as Clifford the Big Red Dog is really cool!

Today is also a very special day in Denver - Tebow  Day or Denver Bronco's Day. The mayor of the city encouraged all residents to wear orange as a sign of support for the big football match tomorrow night. Tebow fever is everywhere here at the moment. If you aren't aware Tebow is a player who proudly promotes his love of God and gets down on bended knee during games etc. All over Denver it is now popular to do the Tebow. Do you do the Tebow is the question everyone is asking!  Go Denver Broncos smash those New England Patriots!!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I wanna be a cowboy......

Today we ventured out to enjoy some country culture - a visit to the National Western Stock Show.

We arrived to find loads of parking options - the close car park was offering spaces for $25. We decided to give this a miss and instead were persuaded by a ten year old Mexican boy to follow him down an alley way and park in his yard for only $10? We were dubious, and ignoring Garry's warnings we gamely followed. We were directed to park in a space by a group of Mexican children and adults to park and I handed over our $10. We were assured all would be good.

The show was very interesting, and we bumped into a famous outlaw and his girl.....

The kids really enjoyed the petting zoo....

But my personal favourite was definitely the cowboy boot stall - I could not believe the vast array of multi coloured boots in all shapes and sizes. Garry left me to look with a very strict warning not to buy anything, ( more on my inevitable purchase to follow)

Garry was quite taken with the monster food selections, so we decided to fatten up our prize lambs.

A good day was had by all - tantrum free - amazing. We will be returning one night this week to watch one of the rodeo events. I was interested to see if our car was still intact in our special parking location.

The car was fine, however I decided it was not wise to look to closely at the maroon car in front of Garry and Yas in the alley, which was full of people waiting and had the number plates spay painted black? Today was another great adventure.

Let It Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow...

Thank goodness the weekend has arrived! I can't remember ever being so tired.... Saturday is a cool day and we are hoping for snow on Sunday - a 60 percent chance ???? I hope the weather predictions are better here than in Australia.

The main item on the agenda today is to go and collect our new car - it has been a little bit of a saga. Garry found these guys called Suba Pros - who are passionate about Subaru's and both service and rebuild and sell cars. We were supposed to collect the car a week ago but whatever could go wrong did go wrong. I am a little anxious about the car collection as it means I will finally have to drive - I have managed to avoid it so far.

The car looked great and we all arrived home safely - it was a really weird feeling driving on the wrong side of the road. The Subi is the same model and year as my old green one back home - I thnik we got a great deal. With a brand new engine and paint job we paid $6,900 and I sold my old one for $10,000 and it had a few issues. We were out the front admiring our new car when the first snowflakes began to fall! The kids were so excited!!!!

What a difference a day makes!!! I woke this morning, (Sunday) to Yasemin excitedly telling me that she had spotted squirrel footprints in the snow. I went outside immediately, armed with my trusty camera to a chilly, but sunny, icy zero degrees morning. Not sure if my thongs are the best choice in footwear.....

View from our bedroom window of backyard....
I am standing on the front porch working up the courge to go out in the cold....

I still can't believe how beautiful our surroundings are, especially with a fresh dusting of snow! I love Denver!!!!! I am off to enjoy breakfast in front of the fire....