Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I am such a whinner. I shouldn't complain so much about what happened. I've been at the Tigre school for a week now, and the students are way cool. I like them a bunch, especially my middle schoolers (but that is my favorite age group anyway).
I spent a weekend at my place in Lecheria. It is nice to have a place to go home to. I've never really have had a place like that before, owning my own place, that is. Its a good feeling. I love my little apartment.
Fred came down from New Mexico and headed to Margarita for the month. Hopefully, Tania and I will get over there for a visit. We don't do Margarita very often.
I am feeling much better!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Kite Boarding

I got a new digital camera at Christmas. I bought the latest Canon ELPH, the SD1000. It is the size of a tin of Altoids, so I carry it with me everywhere.
As you can read from my previous posts, I am not really living in PLC anymore until work is done in June (coming to El Tigre was a mistake BTW). This was what I watched everyday when I got home. I'd watch these guys skim back and forth on the water.
Anyway, what I enjoy about digital photography is the instant gratification and the ability to tweek images via computer. The images posted are from outside my condo. The first one was from the apartment window in which I had the camera on a color swap setting.
With the others, I went down to the beach and got some action shots of these guys having some fun with their kite boards. They do this everyday.
Life is too short to be stuck in Tigre.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Maldita Bicicleta!

Watched this great movie yesterday dubbed in Spanish but from Quebec (so Canadians help out here since I didn’t see the title credits) that was about a woman mtn bike downhill racer-turned-bicycle messenger. Through the course of the movie, she stumbles upon a curmudgeonly bike shop owner, Leonardo, an ex-pro from the Eddy Merckx era, who eventually becomes her mentor, teaching her things like; old traditions (wool), Campagnolo, and the beauty of a hand-built wheel.

The best scene is when she is suffering on her bike when on her deliveries, she goes to Leonardo’s for some comfort. They end up telling each other how much they have suffered because of the bike. The best line of the movie is when Leonardo points to the classic Italian road bike hanging in the rafters of the shop, and yells at it “Maldita bicicleta!” Which can be translated as “F***’n bicycle!”

How have you suffered because of the bike? Both physically and emotionally. Worst case is probably death, or crippled, but how has the bike shaped you?

Physical Pain and Suffering

- Broken wrist from crashing my Schwinn Stingray when I was about 9 years old.
- Left index finger: nerve damage…from when I was about10 years old. Doing maintenance on the front hub of my Stingray, when I cut my finger bad, never told anyone, just put the skin flap back on, wrapped it real tight to stop the bleeding and then put a band aid on it. It still bothers me to this day…kind of tingles and itches, and doesn’t have the sensitivity of my other fingertips.
- Heavy scarring of both elbows from multiple crashes on the Stingray and other bikes…especially a bad crash on the first road bike in the early 70’s.
- Permanent trucker’s and cyclist’s tan.
- Chipped tooth from face plant on my new Fisher ProCaliber summer of 1988. Still have the emergency bonding on the tooth 20 years later, and it is starting to wear down, so one tooth looks slightly longer than the other. I need to get it capped some day.
- Sever concussion and neck injury. I woke up in the hospital…cost me over $3000 (at time when I had no insurance) in 1995. I don’t have full range of motion in my neck when turning my head to the left.
- “Cyclist’s neck”…a physical therapist pointed this one out. My head is out of normal alignment from my body. It kind of juts forward because of the muscles in the neck are over developed due to riding posture.
- Hyper-extended right elbow about 3 years ago when I crashed on Steiner’s Rohloff-equipped bike (steep head angle plus twist shift made for twitchy ride and an unfamiliar grip on the bar) on the Quaking Aspen Trail in Gallup. Rode back to the car using only one arm. Never went to the doctor…it still hurts when I ride…a dull pain in my right elbow.

Emotional Suffering and/or Guilt Feelings
- It is mostly what I think about…my bikes, wanting to ride my bike, where to ride my bike, etc…
- Alone time…I like being alone. The bike is perfect that.
- Relationships have suffered. My wife is understanding but still doesn’t get it. She got up out of bed and went to watch TV when I started writing this…(it was 2:00 AM when I started this)
- My professional career. I became a school teacher so I could ride my bike. My grandfather told me one day in 1982, “Boy…The only job what I can think of where you can ride that bike 180 days a year is school teach’n.” Good advice, so I took him up on the offer. I like my job, but sometimes I think I don’t have the passion for it like some teachers and I feel guilty about it. My real passion is still my bicycle.
- Sleeplessness…see above.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Out of the Frying Pan...

Yesterday was my last day. It was okay. The students made a surprise party for me during the last period of the day. I knew something was up but not the whole school. I was speechless...literally.

My former high school students were great! They hugged and cheered me. They made me posters. The best poster, I am going to frame. It was made by Nestor, Miguel, Eduardo, Andres, and Adam. It is a collage of everything they learned from me. There is a drawing of me in a lab coat riding a bicycle in a kayak with Tio (my parrot) on my shoulder while holding test tubes. There is a drawing of me in the bow of the boat for the Project b-Eagle. There is a drawing of my Leatherman, the ultimate science tool. There are photos of the Earthdial, me in wearing a PFD (personal floatation device) on our way to the Beach Olympics. A photo of me giving Carlos a certificate for winning the science fair. There is a drawing of a water rocket and a photo of me launching the rockets. They drew Chinoto (named for Venezuelan version of Sprite softdrink) and Hit Naranja (named for an orange soda like Orange Crush), our fish who died. We had a dramatic funeral for Chinoto when he died. I had it on video on my other computer. Hilarious! They remembered reading Abel's Island. They say it is the only book they have truly read and remember. They learned to love that book as much as I do.

When I could finally speak, we started reminiscing on all the cool projects we did. I told the students I learned right along with them. I came to ELA with science credentials, but I learned right along with them, i.e. when we built the wind tunnel. I had never built one before and it was fun figuring out how to do it. I also pointed out that so many projects we started had become traditions; water rockets, ice cream, etc. I thought the Project b-Eagle could have become big, but the school changed and we couldn't continue. But I feel it could have evolved into a huge, major, on-going project.

During this reminiscing, H. (the director) interrupted me, but I ignored her. I just kept talking. She doesn't have a clue what we did as ELA. More and more today, I saw that she viewed me as some kind of threat and was in a hurry to get rid of me. Petty woman!

I am frustrating by this BS of teaching...especially corporate thinking of teaching. I am not a corporate type thinker and least not education company XYZ type thinking. You should read some of their policies...they border on ridiculous! Example: 1. Teachers are not allowed to smoke at work, in public, or at home. 2. XYZ only hires non-smokers. What? What are they? NAZIS? I don't smoke, I don't like smoking, but what right do they have to say what I do in my house? There is nothing about drug abuse, pornography, or alcohol abuse...only smoking. That's nuts! During the interview (I wasn't interviewed, I was grandfathered in…) I have been told, they ask you if you believe in God. I don't know how I would answer that question. That's a very personal question to ask.

Anyway...I think I'll wrap it up with them at this outpost school and figure out what to do from there.

Other news from Friday…
Today I talked to a Ms. V., the new principal at my first school. She was very friendly to me. I told her who I was, that I was researching their website and that I was proud to see that Kialo F. was now the Gifted and Talented teacher. Kialo was one of my students from the 1980s and still to this day, he was one of my most outstanding! Ms. V. said Kialo was wonderful. She told me the school has changed status, a grant school, but also a magnet type school, and they want to make the school an innovative and special place. I asked if I could apply and she said by all means. I told her to talk to the "old people" who are still there from the days when I was there, especially Kialo. She said she would. So maybe...If I teach in the USA it will be back to some place like Torreon. Going back to Torreon (see Matthew’s blog on the GDR about the lawless reservation) could be interesting. I am hoping to get Kialo's e-mail so I can get the scoop.

As far as other jobs go, I am seriously thinking of it. I am thinking more and more about the bike industry again. I am making more and more contacts via the Internet. I am getting my name and the Mimbres Man name and logo back out there...who knows. I am getting all sorts of encouragement from all sorts of people to come back and work in the industry. Still scary but maybe…

Yep, Steiner is right…limitless possibilities.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

ELA is Dead...Long Live ELA!

Teaching is hard. I am in my 20th year of doing this…not counting a 4-year break. It never gets any easier…

My situation has been somewhat unusual. The last 8 years have been overseas. I have been working in a school that gives only one-year contracts which is not unusual. What is unusual is my school was bought by an international corporation 4 years ago. This corporation has several dozen schools in dozens of countries around the world. They have their own brand of curriculum and own brand of assessment. All schools are supposed to be on the same page at any given time. To me it is a very inflexible way of thinking, but that’s just my opinion.

This corporation also prefers teaching couples over single teachers. They don’t even provide basic insurance for my wife.

Last year they hired a new teaching couple. The wife was hired as an English/language arts teacher and the husband was hired as a math/science teacher. Funny thing was, I was already was the science teacher, so I was moved to teach 5th and 6th graders. This was mainly due to a large drop in the student population. It has steadily shrunk since the corporation bought the school.

We’ve also had 3 directors in 4 years. The latest director, a woman, is nothing but trouble. She is at her level of incompetence. I got word from her last Friday that I would not be getting a new contract for next year. I don’t know if she got orders from above or if she was acting on her own, but anyway, in the place where I have bought a home, have a residency visa, I will no longer be working.

To complicate matters more, our sister school, 80 miles inland, needs a science teacher and math teacher, since their previous science teacher/director was recently deported, and took his math teacher wife with him. So as of Monday, I will be the math and science teacher at this outpost school far away from the coast and my home. My wife is pissed.

The real losers in this are the students. My class will have to adjust to having several teachers covering them. The 3rd and 4th grade teacher will take over reading and language arts. To teach 2 grade levels at once is difficult, but to teach 4 different levels, has got to be almost impossible. The other teachers, who need their prep-times to prepare for their other classes, will now be teaching math and science to my old class. So, everyone suffers.

What I have found the most insulting from this, is the cold nature in which my current director has treated me on jumping on this grenade. She comes out smelling like a rose in this.

This morning she had snacks in the teacher’s workroom for a “Bon Voyage” for me. It was so lame, it was insulting.

1.) No staff was aware of this. We are a very small school, it would have taken no effort to rally the staff to have a little impromptu gathering in the morning. At least I could have said a few things.

2.) The presentation was totally half-ass. The “sign” above the snacks said, “Good Luck Barin” written with a used-up white board marker, so the ink was barely legible. It was so insensitive. It was just one more slap in the face with this. It was as if the director was saying “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass as you leave!”

I am glad I am leaving this school. I made this school a part of my life for the last 7 years. I defended and cheered this school. I was proud to work here, and now I am being treated like rubbish and being tossed out as such. I will finish up the school year at our sister school and I don’t know what’s in store for me after that. Maybe I’ll be heading back to the USA or staying here and taking a year off. I am uncertain of many things right now, but what I am certain of, I will be okay.

No worries.