Where There’s Smoke…

We aren’t threatened with many natural disasters here in Idaho. We get a minor flood here and there, the occasional tremor of an earthquake, and one tornado watch when I was a kid. The one thing we have to be very aware of is wildfire. As I write this, wildfires in northern Idaho, Canada, and Oregon are raging and filling the Pacific Northwest with a thick haze of smoke. It’s so bad that an orange air quality alert has been issued for Boise, meaning that those who are particularly sensitive to air quality may suffer more serious effects, but all are advised to stay inside. Smoke tends to linger in the valley, so this weekend my friend Molly and I decided to take a trip up and out of the valley into McCall, Idaho.

We had expected the air to be clearer in McCall, as it so often is when Boise is plagued by the dreaded “inversion”. As we drove further into the mountains, we realized that would not be the case. In fact, McCall is under a red alert for air quality, meaning that not only those sensitive to air quality could experience serious negative side effects from being outside. Sure enough, by the end of our mini road trip both Molly and I had headaches and felt vaguely ill. The whole journey we couldn’t help but remark on how awful the air looked, and how weird it was to not be able to see the foothills and mountains clearly.

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Actually from the night before the trip to McCall, this is the sun setting through the smoke in Boise.

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Molly and her gorgeous hair. You should be able to see so much further!

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This is Payette Lake in McCall. It’s so eerie when the smoke and the water blend together.

Despite the poor air quality, Molly and I had a nice little day trip. We wandered around the little shops, petted as many dogs as owners would let us, had a nice lunch, and goofed around on the beaches. It was nice to see McCall again before I go, and it was one of the little adventures I had planned on my Very Idahoan Summer Bucket List. I suppose the smoke just made it more typical of an Idahoan summer.

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Aside from the little McCall trip, I also have been hanging out with family and friends this past week. Last night was the Bachelorette finale (boo) which I enjoyed watching with Molly and her boyfriend, as well as Grandmother. I also got to swim and have dinner with my aunt and cousins this weekend.

IMG_2659Reagan and I, the oldest and youngest grandchildren.

I’ve also been working on some photography skills. I usually like to take wide shots of landscapes, but I’ve been trying to get better at some more detailed shots, and with the macro setting on my camera. Here are just some shots of smaller objects that I liked, coincidentally mostly of flowers and bugs.

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The water lily in our backyard pond.

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Lucy ❤

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Just taking a little swim.

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That wraps up the adventures for last week, but I have a few special things planned for this week that I can’t wait to share….

Sandra.

Photos taken by Sandra Walker. McCall, Idaho. August 2017.

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What Are You Doing After College?

As a senior in college, the question you want to be asked the least is also arguably the most important. “What are you doing after college?” After years of investing in yourself and your future, what will you make of it all? What’s the first step? What’s the big picture?

As graduation loomed, I felt pressure to focus in and make things happen. I felt like I needed to have a polished plan waiting for me right out of college, which is a pressure I think many graduating seniors feel. There seems to be an expectation, whether it be self imposed or not, that after graduation it is time to immediately get a real, adult job and have your life settled and figured out. I decided that I wasn’t ready for that yet. I was interested in becoming an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, but I wasn’t ready to commit to further education to get certified in the States. All I knew for sure was that I enjoyed teaching, traveling, and talking, so I decided to keep doing just that and see where the road took me.

After months of research, weeks of working on applications, and a lot of waiting I had cultivated a number of postgraduate options. I happened to be one of the lucky ones who had some sort of answer to the big question before my diploma was actually in my hand. In December, a full 6 months before graduation and thanks to a recommendation and nomination by a particularly incredible professor, I was offered a job in my field. I accepted a project based position working remotely for an English school in China to develop English language learning materials and provide online tutoring and have been working on for them since. Not only that, but I was under consideration for the Peace Corps and had interviewed for a position in Uganda as an English Literacy Teacher. I had a few things developing, which is more than many have, but nothing really solid yet.

Just a little under a month before graduation I got my concrete answer: I have been offered and have accepted a position as a U.S. Teaching Assistant in the Teaching Assistant Program of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education (BMB), administered by Fulbright Austria (Austrian-American Educational Commission) Vienna, Austria. Say that five times fast. For the sake of brevity, I refer to this program as “USTA”. I will be a U.S. T.A.,  a USTA!

This program is a way for the Austrian government to provide their high school students with native English speaking teachers who can also speak German. It strengthens the relationship between Austria and the United States, and gives aspiring teachers like myself a chance to hone their skills in a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) environment. There are less than a hundred and fifty positions across Austria, and each year they select a hundred or fewer new TAs, so the positions are highly competitive. It’s kind of a big deal.

I am honored to have been selected for the program, and busy getting all of the paperwork done and finding an apartment and gathering teaching materials, etc. etc.  I have been placed in Reutte, Austria, which is a little resort town of about six thousand people in the Alps. I’ll be living and working in Reutte for at least one Austrian school year, October 2017 through May 2018. If I do a good job and want to continue, I can extend for another year either in Reutte or in another city. I have already been busy researching a lot of opportunities that would shape the next five years of my life, so we will see where I end up!

To anyone still feeling the weight of the post-graduate unknown, just know that it may take some aggressive googling, a lot of application paperwork, and the full extent of your patience, but good things will come your way eventually and it all sorts itself out!

Sandra.

 

Photo by Molly King. Lowman, Idaho. April 2017.