Friday, April 13, 2018

My Daughter's Adjustment to Life Abroad

As a teenager, it is hard to leave friends and family behind and start over in a new place. Especially when you are in high school. I thought it would be easier for my daughter if she went someplace warm, with lots of family, somewhere she had been before-so in July of 2017 she went to live in Guatemala. At first, there were lots of tears, arguments as to WHY, and negative thoughts. She had just finished her Freshman year in Maine, and was in the top 10 percent of her class-and here I was, sending her to a place she visited every Summer vacation but had no real firsthand knowledge about. Granted, she is a dual citizen of the US and Guatemala, due to my being American and her dad being Guatemalan. I explained the positives, warm weather year round, a different school experience, additional fluency in the Spanish language, new friends, and a closer proximity to her dad's side of the family. The negatives of course were leaving home, her grandmother, her Dad, her friends, teachers, brother and nephews and a whole lot of things that only she understood. She was worried about her grades, school in a foreign country and how well she would do. To make matters worse, the Guatemalan school year for Guatemalan schools is January to October. I planned on making her start school in July, halfway through the year and to make matters worse, repeat her Freshman year. Basically that was a trial run for her, and while the first month or so there were plenty of tears and frustrations, she eventually found and made new friends, joined the school band and began playing a new instrument called the Lira which took the place of her beloved flute she played in band back home. Her grades were decent, and she actually graduated from Basicos, 7-8-9 grade education, got a class ring for it, and took entrance exams to get into the private school she is currently in now. Due to the Guatemalan system, the Ministry of Education made her learn some new classes and took her US transcripts and applied them to equivalent Guatemalan classes. As a 10th grader now, her new school assisted with this so she would be current and up to date. Amazingly, she finds school harder in Guatemala than back in Maine, due to the number of classes and the strict grading. Perhaps not all schools are like that, since I know the public system is not very good unfortunately. For years, she wanted to be a teacher and had advanced classes back home, which actually help her out math-wise here. While in Guatemala she discovered a new career, that of graphic design and architecture which is what she is pursuing. Back in Maine, a 4 year teaching degree would have left her in debt as the costs ran about $25,000 yearly not including room and board. In Guatemala the University of San Carlos is low cost or free, although you will need to pay for materials and other incidentals. There are also some expensive schools there, for expats and their families, so it all depends on where and what you want to study. It makes me sad to know that her friends back home are studying but also doing drills to protect themselves from a shooter situation in the school. You don't see that in Guatemala, and schools are pretty much locked down with security guards or huge metal doors. Yes, there are dangers from gang members, robbery and other things you will find in a large city in any place in the world. And the traffic accidents with both vehicles and pedestrians are on a daily basis, which is scary. But she can study and concentrate on her studies, not on whether someone will come in to shoot her during class. After the Florida incident, there were 3 students, all known to her, who were arrested for threatening/terrorizing the school. And that is just in her school, other reports throughout Central Maine and Maine in general showed a rise in bomb threats, shooting threats etc... which is sad because schools were evacuated or closed. So, I'd say after some tears and pretty decent arguments she has adjusted okay, and looks forward to going back to visit friends this November. She also knew that if she wanted to return she could at any time. But she gave it a shot, and found out that she likes it and wants to continue where she is. I am happy that she has adjusted nicely and fit in with other students and is doing well in school despite the challenges. Moving from a small city in Central Maine to a huge city like Guatemala City also has its own set of challenges and advantages and disadvantages but I'll leave that for another post.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Life Changes-The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It seems like forever-or at least a long, long time ago that I last wrote in my blog. It's one of those things that you say, you'll get around to doing it but you keep putting it off until finally the day comes and you realize that so much time has gone by that you don't really know where to begin. These days I spend my time between the US and Guatemala, I wanted to retire here eventually and due to health issues gave up my full time job last year. Trust me, getting old is NOT fun. But the writing was on the wall, I couldn't continue doing what I loved due to changes in the workplace, more demands, and my body refusing to keep up with it all. Rather than get the pink slip, I left gracefully. My way, the way I needed to do it so I could at least feel that the time I was there meant something. At home, I can pace myself, take a break, sit, stand, or lie down and not have to worry about completing the daily workload. Fibromyalgia and Myofascial Pain Syndrome along with arthritis really make things difficult sometimes, and I often have to take a break not just when my aches and pains are unbearable but also when my brain gets a bit foggy. There are good days, not so good days, and days I feel like a truck hit me and I will lie in bed all day and wallow in self pity. Days I let the housework go because I couldn't do it AND work. I had to make choices, which went on for years until I realized I needed help with housework, day to day activities, and dealing with the depression from all of this crap. You can only hide behind a smile for so long until you crack, and eventually I did. But it's all good, because I know eventually it will make me stronger in the long run. Right now Easter week is upon us in Guatemala, and while much of the country is still rooted in Catholic traditions, there are processions in the city center and in Antigua, Guatemala. Yesterday the church in my colonia (aka neighborhood) had a procession around the streets carrying a Saint while singing hymns. This is also vacation week for many here in Guatemala and the schools are closed (kind of like April Spring Break) and everyone heads to the beaches. My 16 year old studies here in a private school (which is why I am here so often!) and is glad for the week off. So, as time goes by life changes. Things happen, some of which we have control over, others we don't. We have to go with the flow, take things as they come and see what the future holds for us. My daughter certainly never imagined that her Freshman year in Maine would be her last at her high school. But, given the violence that has been happening in schools back home it was important that she be able to study without worrying about getting killed at school. You're probably laughing and thinking but Guatemala? Isn't that one of the dangerous countries? And I have to admit, yes it is-but any place can be dangerous in the world today. The key is being aware of your surroundings, avoiding dangerous areas and situations. School violence is a common occurrence in the States, here it is not. Just a few weeks ago after the Florida shootings 3 students were arrested from her old high school in Central Maine for threats made, and others in surrounding towns as well. Teachers are showing her former classmates how to do lockdowns and defend themselves in an active shooter situation, something no child should ever have to learn in school. Life here, life there-things change, people change, attitudes change. But in all situations, life goes on and we make the best of what is given to us. Or we become a leader, and change things to make life better for everyone. Here's to a great day, new beginnings and new challenges ahead!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

She's Growing Up Too Fast!

My almost 13 year old daughter went to the first dance of the year last night... it is amazing how quickly she is growing up. Fashionista that she is, she wore black skinny jeans from JCP, a Braiden top from prAna in terracotta and ankle boots she found online last year from Barefoot Tess (she wears size 9 or 10 shoes already, a far cry from the size 5 I wore when I graduated!) Sigh... time is flying by way too fast, soon she will be a TEENAGER. I can't wait to see what that brings! (I remember my teenage years, and shudder to think I'm now the mom, lol!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: Pong Rugged iPhone Case

I absolutely love my iPhone 5s... I've had smartphones before, but this is the first time I've had an iPhone and while I am still getting used to it, I'm really having fun downloading apps for shopping sites and fast food restaurants, and all that other stuff that helps me save money! I've had my iPhone since May, and while everyone is going crazy for the iPhone 6 and I've checked it out at my local Verizon Wireless store (hubby wants one and is waiting NOT so patiently lol) I am pretty happy with the size and width of my iPhone 5S.

Speaking of my phone, when I purchased it I got a rather cheap plastic case (in addition to getting the Applecare insurance of course!) and while the case was cute and all, it just didn't give my phone the protection it needed. Since I am always on my cell phone, I have to say that I worry a bit about radiation and have seen studies stating that cell phones emit a lot of radiation which can be dangerous.

I recently received a really cool case from Pong Research which was designed to withstand a 4' fall AND to also deflect radiation away from me while not interfering with my phone signal. I got a really cool orchid color, which looks great with my phone-and it also comes with a screen protector (which I haven't used yet, since my existing one is still good I'm going to save this one as an extra!)

The neat thing about these Pong cases is that they deflect the radiation the phone emits away from your head and body while still giving you a strong mobile connection. I've been trying mine out for a couple weeks now, and can tell you that my connection has been constant and hasn't changed a bit since I started using the Pong case.

On the back of the Pong case, there is a thin gold antenna, which works with the phone to re-direct the radiation away from you while keeping your signal strong. I also really liked the fact that this case has that rubbery feel, my last case was smooth and I have to say a bit slippery-I almost dropped it a couple of times due to that, but with this case I have had a good grip on my phone at all times. The cheaper plastic case I had cost me $15, and there was virtually NO protection at all. While the Pong case does cost a bit more, it offered me peace of mind that my iPhone would be protected should I drop it, and it would keep harmful radiation away from me. We all know the price a new phone costs if we have to replace it, even with insurance there is usually some sort of a co-pay!

My daughter doesn't have a cell phone yet, but she is hoping to get her dad's cell phone once he upgrades to a new one. Because she is young, and I worry about the effects that radiation from the phone may have on her, I'm thinking of getting her a Pong case just like mine.

The neat thing is they have cases for quite a few popular phones today, in addition to iPads-her school recently assigned her an iPad for use in class and at home as part of a program our Dept. of Education has here in Maine for junior high school students. The cases they give them unfortunately are flimsy and don't do any justice in protecting the iPad from damages if dropped nor the student from radiation. I'd love to see the students have Pong cases on their iPads!

My daughter really likes my case, but also loves designer cases too-so her wish is to see Pong come out with some cases with cool designs too. Who knows? Maybe they will.. ;) But in the meantime, I know I'm doing what I can to keep radiation away from me when using my iPhone and that suits me just fine!

Disclosure: I received a Pong iPhone case for free as winner in a blog giveaway, but it did not affect my opinion of the product. The above thoughts are mine alone and I was not required to write in my blog or do a review for receiving this iPhone case.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

First Girl's Night Out!

Sigh... I often wonder what I get myself into at times. But it's all good, I assure you. I'd won a blog giveaway over at Rita Reviews for a Dolphin Tales 2 prize pack a few weeks ago. This past week, the package showed up and I was pleased to see all the swag they'd included, buttons, dogtag necklaces, a small swim shirt for my grandson, a tee which was a bit small for my daughter but ended up fitting one of her BFF's, sunglasses which were claimed by my daughter, an awesome beach towel (also claimed by the tween queen as I call her), mini posters, a bigger poster, and of course 4 Hollywood Movie money vouchers to go see the show at the local theater. Lucky for us, the package arrived in time as the tickets expired Oct. 9th, and lucky for ME that the local Flagship Cinemas accepted the free passes AND was still having a couple of showings of the movie this past weekend. My daughter quickly got in touch with 3 of her BFF's and decided it would be a Girl's Night Out. After hitting Daddy up for $20 for the concessions, off to the movies they went. (I was of course the chauffeur!) Being Mom, I was not allowed to enter the theater and see if all was well with redeeming the free passes. After all, there were BOYS and other people they knew from school there. So I waited right in front of the theater and watched from the window... lol. After getting a thumbs up from my daughter that all was cool, she quickly came out to tell me to pick them up at 8:45 when the show ended. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about leaving all 4 of them there alone but my daughter is quite mature for her age and had asked the usher if that would be a problem since it was a PG movie, and he'd said no, it was just fine. Plus, this was to be their night out, I'm sure the first of many to come. When I got to the theater they were waiting outside, and lucky for me had just gotten there. Immediately when they got in the car, I know they'd had a great time. Sugar soda pop and candy overload...combined with massive amounts of buttered popcorn= 4 very hyper tweens. My daughter is a chatterbox to begin with, but once she got into the car she was a full blown motormouth. The other 3 girls in the backseat were pretty much the same, lol. I drove cautiously since it was raining but I couldn't help but laugh as they started taking selfies with my iPhone. I'm still recovering from the drive home last night, and still smiling when I look at the selfies on my phone. But I'm also glad the girls got to enjoy a fun Saturday night together, time flies by way too fast, and it's great when they can enjoy the little things and still act like kids. So, I leave you all with a photo of the girls, taken with my iPhone... after their first Girl's Night Out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

McDonald's Winner!

True Random Number Generator Min: Max: Result: 4 Powered by RANDOM.ORG Out of 5 valid comments, the winner is #4 which is Rhonda Martin, or @exotic1 as she is known on Twitter! Thanks for playing along, and congratulations :) Please send me an email with your address to micaela6955 at msn dot com so that I can forward it to the McDonald's PR Reps and they can send you your prize. I certainly love their new #baconclubhouse and I know you will too! We've tried the crispy chicken, which was good, the grilled chicken which is also good, and the burger which we LOVE! Once you get your prize pack, let me know and try them out for yourself and let @McD_Maine know your favorite!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hungry? Check out McDonald's NEW Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich! (and local giveaway for ME/Eastern NH residents!)

As most of my friends and family know, I enjoy eating out alot. One of my favorite places to visit is my local McDonald's restaurant. I love the great value, and great tasting items on the menu. And they are always coming out with something new as well, this time around it's the New Bacon Clubhouse sandwich, which looks as great as it tastes!

They started off with a new, Artisan roll, added applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, caramelized onions, white cheddar cheese and a special sauce and added it to a quarter pound of 100% beef, grilled chicken, or crispy chicken to make it a simply delicious meal choice. If watching calories, the grilled chicken sandwich would be the best bet-with the beef burger and crispy chicken burger following. I was very surprised to find out that the special sauce on this sandwich is the same as they have on the Big Mac-how cool is that?

Lucky for me, I had the chance to try this courtesy of the Maine McD's team-be sure to check them out on twitter at @McD_Maine and follow them for local contests and giveaways too! Oh, and if you decide to try one of these yummy new #BaconClubhouse sandwiches, be sure to tweet them your opinion! Make sure you use the hashtag #BaconClubhouse too! Disclosure: I was provided with an Arch card and other promotional materials to give my honest opinion on the product. Please note that all opinions are mine based on the product I have tried.

The first two sandwiches hubby and I decided to try were the grilled chicken Bacon ClubHouse sandwich, and the beef quarter pounder Bacon ClubHouse sandwich. Both were delicious, but if we had to pick a favorite, we'd go with the 100% beef Bacon ClubHouse-my husband says that is actually his new favorite sandwich at McDonald's now because it tasted that good! We've yet to try the crispy chicken Bacon ClubHouse sandwich, but that is next on our list for lunch tomorrow or the next day. The sandwiches are pretty filling themselves, and when combined into a Value Meal it is a satisfying (and filling!)combo, so be sure to bring your appetite along when you try them out.

Still need help deciding what to have for lunch or dinner tonight? Check out the photos below and see if they help you make up your mind:

Like I said, DELICIOUS! I liked that the new rolls weren't soggy and that the toppings were plentiful, especially on the beef burger. My hubby loves tomatoes and lettuce on his burger, and it did not disappoint. The special sauce was a great added touch, and it went well with the sandwiches too. Have any of you tried one yet? And if so, do you have a favorite? I'd love to hear about your experience with the new Bacon ClubHouse sandwich at McDonald's. In the meantime, my local McDonald's team has offered a giveaway to ME/Eastern NH residents. Please note, in order to participate in the giveaway you will need to have an address in the area, since you will receive coupons for use at your local McD's restaurant. I will make entry simple, just a comment or two (a mandatory entry and an optional one) and choose the winner using on April 15th. The prize ($15 McDonald's Arch card, Bacon ClubHouse sandwich coupons for use in the local area, and other goodies/brand items) will be fulfilled by the promotional agency once winner has been chosen.

Ok, for the first MANDATORY entry- Please follow @McD_Maine on twitter and leave me your twitter name and email (you can leave your email in this format micaela6955 at msn dot com to avoid spammers getting it if you'd like. So, be sure to connect with them on Twitter for the first mandatory entry, this will be checked! Your second optional entry is to let me know in a comment below your favorite McDonald's item. Or, when was the last time you had something to eat at McDonald's? that's it! Be sure to leave an email address in your comment so I can contact you-I'll be choosing 1 winner on 4/15. Good luck!