Saturday, June 4, 2011

Open Mic Night!

Yesterday was Friday and I wasn't in the mood for going out and doing anything extravagant. Just happy that the weekend had finally arrived. One of my friends, Lindsay, called me and we decided to go for a walk and then try to find a place to go for a quiet dinner. Well, we were definitely in for a treat. First, we were joined by another friend (Jen). Together the three of us went for an exciting walk right outside my apartment. We saw lots of fireflies! Then we found a Thai restaurant and to our great surprise it was open mic night! There was a band and people could just go up to the band and request a song. I'm definitely not the type of person to do something like this, but I knew I needed more stories to keep my blog audience intrigued. After many other people in the audience had gone up to sing, they started asking us to go up to sing too! I was sure that I couldn't be brave enough! Then my friend Lindsay (who is super confident) stood up. I knew I couldn't just sit and watch so we braved the audience together. We sang Don't Know Why by Nora Jones. The audience liked it. There were lots of claps and no booing. In fact, they encored us! So I got brave enough to sing a second song. I never thought I could do it, but I did. It was so much fun to sing in front of an audience. The best part was the live music! What a fun Friday night!

White House

I've been to the White House!

Assateague Island

The weekend before going to Duck Beach I went camping on the beach in Maryland. The place is called Delmarva because it is close to Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The camp ground we went to is known for the wild ponies. We got to see a few. We also camped on the beach. We got there at 2am and set up tents at that time. I was a tired camper so I fell asleep soon after the tent was up. The next day we enjoyed the beach and headed home. The most adventurous part of this trip came later when I realized that I had left my wallet in Delaware. I had to go all the way back to Delaware, 3 hour drive, and get my wallet the next day. Sad! Fortunately, my friend Kalee came with me but we had some rough moments when the GPS decided not to cooperate with us. I will never forget this adventure! I think Kalee won't either!:)

The best part of driving back from Delaware was that I had my wallet with me AND we got to see the temple from the most beautiful view right off of the freeway:

For more info on Assateague Island click here.

Duck Beach

Duck Beach... Well, what can I say. It is a Memorial Day weekend packed with lots of beach time and lots of LDS singles. It was really fun. I got lots of sun, friends, and pics. Here they are:

Choir Music

Here is the link to all of the choir performances we had with the NOVA Institute Choir. I will forever cherish the memory of singing in this choir out here in DC.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Teaching Sunday School

I have been teaching Sunday School in my ward for the last couple months and have learned more about the teachings and nature of Jesus Christ. It has been a privilege to teach and I will be sad to leave this ward and this calling. There are a number of lessons I've learned in regards to being a better teacher and I want to write them down here before I forget them:
  • I've learned to start the class even if there are only a few people there.
  • I've learned to ask open ended questions like "What are your thoughts on this?"
  • I've learned to be present and in the moment when people are commenting.
  • I've learned to relax in front of a crowd.
  • I've learned to let people talk and to talk less myself.
  • I've learned to always keep the purpose of the lesson in mind.
Today I taught about the parable of the unjust steward. Imagine my joy and surprise when I found out that my sister Raquel was also called to teach this week and would be teaching the same lesson! She shared the link above with me. I think one of the biggest lessons I can take away from teaching the New Testament during all of these months is that Heavenly Father doesn't just care about the things we say or the things we do even, he cares about us becoming and being. He wants us to be, not just to do. I love that. I sometimes wonder if I am becoming. I've tripped and failed many times. I do need to work harder at becoming. Teaching this class has helped me see where I fall short so I can strive to be better.

Rock Climbing

This weekend I went rock climbing with three other girls from work. We went to Sport Rock in Alexandria and got a pass and rented shoes. It was fun to be with the girls. I really had never done rock climbing in an indoor place before so that was a good experience. I actually got to the top of a rock pile! It was fun to cheer for the other girls and take pictures of everyone. At one point they mentioned going drinking and I had to explain about my religion and how we don't drink. Later we went to Olive Garden and celebrated. It was a good weekend activity. Rock climbing takes lots of strength and determination. It reminded me of my dissertation and how that's taking me so much strength and determination. As I watched some of the other rock climbers, it was evident that people really enjoy the challenge of getting to the top and I realized that when things get tough, we can change our perspective to learn to enjoy the challenge. Here is one of my friends:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Virginia Beach

I went down to Virginia Beach last week. It was a three hour drive from where I live but it was so nice to see the beach. I am happy to say that now I have been to the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. It was fun to walk on the beach and to see all the water and be in a beach town. I didn't see any surfers. I don't think there are many surfers out here on the east coast. It didn't feel completely like Cali, but it was better than nothing:) I didn't really get any pictures of the beach, but I went down to visit a friend at the Marine Base so I got to go into the base and to see some of the marine monuments and history. It was a good trip.

No More GPS

I am starting to be able to get around without a GPS. That is a great accomplishment that I wanted to share with you. I went to visit a friend this week and realized that I didn't even use my GPS when I got home. I was amazed at myself!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Crusing with Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad came to DC and it was a relief to see them. Finally, someone who knew me! It was so much fun to go with them downtown and tour all the sights and laugh at ourselves getting lost and riding around on the famous Trolley Tours bus. It was really fun. Here are some pics, but bear in mind the really good pics reside in mom and dads camera:Food at the end of the day!

DC Young Single Adult Institute Choir

I feel so lucky to have been able to participate in the DC Regional Institute Choir. It has been so uplifting and fun. I love to sing and the songs we have chosen to sing are all new to me, but very fun. More than the fun, this choir is accompanied by an orchestra, narration, and slide show. A sound system and speakers are also set up for us at every performance. Yesterday was our first performance and it was so much fun. I haven't performed anything for a really long time, but this was really fun. There's nothing like being the one singing the words. I know you can feel the spirit when you listen to people sing, but when you're singing, it's another level of "feeling it". It's like the concept of "flow" described by Daniel Pink, when you're totally in the moment that you almost lose yourself in whatever you are doing. It's a natural high that everyone should experience in their lifetime. This Saturday we will be performing at the DC Visitors Center at the Temple. I'm excited. We practiced for so long and now we get to reap the rewards. This picture shows me in the Soprano section. The girl sitting on my right sat next to me and when she found out I was a 1st Soprano, she said "Good. Divas!" It was hilarious. The top picture is Brother Toma our choir director. He has also been my institute teacher since I got here. He's inspiring.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dinner with Megan

My friend Megan is the best. She has been such a great friend. She is so willing to help and so fun to be around. I am so lucky to have met her. We were introduced by a mutual friend and we first met through the phone and now that I live here, she is in my ward and I'm always wishing that I had more free to time to spend with her. She is the type of person you would like to hang out with for fun. Last week we went to dinner. Megan treated me to dinner. I met her at her place and then we took the path next to her house and walked for a few minutes (enjoying the sun and the conversation) down to the Vienna Inn. This restaurant is one of the best. I ordered a quesadilla. The price was way low and the atmosphere was way relaxed and almost contradictory to the usual DC standard. I loved it! We had so much fun eating and talking about good sightseeing and monuments and memorials to visit. Our walk back home was fun too. I got scared a couple of times since it was dark. It was the perfect dinner outing. And I still got home in time to take a shower and get some sleep:)

The Cherry Blossom Festival

I was lucky enough to be in DC during the cherry blossom festival. What a time to go downtown. On one trip down to DC, the metro train we took was packed with people holding on to the metal poll for dear life. It was so much fun to be part of this festival. I was secretly celebrating the arrival of spring and soon summer. I just love summer. I live for summertime. During the festival you can watch shows on the stage in front of the Washington Monument and enjoy the cherry blossom trees which I learned were given to the us as a gift by the Japanese. I will never forget the Cherry Blossom Festival because it comes at the same time that the YW General Conference is help. Funny!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teaching Experiences

Coming to DC has presented me a number of teaching experiences. Besides all the teaching I do at work. I have been blessed with the opportunity to teach Sunday School at church and to give a talk in Sacrament. As always, I'm the one learning the most. All of these opportunities have helped remind me of some very important principles to effective teaching:
  • The Spirit is always the teacher (even in teaching I do at work)
  • The student need to be engaged, active participants, and to be presented with problems to solve, not just be lectured at.
  • The best teachers are sometimes people without degrees or special training.
  • The most important tool in teaching is the teacher's attitude. (click here for more on this)
  • The best thing we can do in teaching is to make it very easy and simple to understand (even when teaching adults, in fact, more so when teaching adults)
Slightly unrelated to this post, but slightly related....I've decided that whatever I end up doing in my career, it needs to involve people interaction. Lots of people interaction. During the last couple of years, being in school has been tough, but what's actually been more tough is the feeling of alienation you get from sitting in front of the computer for long periods of time. Oh yes. We all know what that feels like! I know some of you reading this are agreeing with me right now. I thought I had learned this lesson back in the summer of 1999 when I had a job at Garcia research, sitting in front of the computer for hours at a time trying to get some hispanic ladies to detach themselves from their soap opera to answer some of my insignificant (and sometimes ridiculous) survey questions. Apparently, I needed to relearn this lesson, but believe me I have. I now know that Andrea needs people interaction. I would like to say that we all do, but there are some people who are happy working with the computer all day. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them.

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Mt. Everest

I have been a student at BYU for almost twelve years now. During these twelve years I have had the opportunities of a lifetime. I have met the most interesting people and have traveled to the most intriguing and adventurous places. I have learned so much and have truly become a different person than when I entered the university. I began as a timid and lost freshman and I will go forth as a confident doctor of technology and education. I remember the first day of my student journey at BYU. I got lost. Literally and physically lost. I couldn't find my way back to Fox Hall Apt 40. I just started crying. I remember how hopeless I felt and how homesick I was. And now as I look back to that day I just smile and realize how far I've come since then. On the other hand, sometimes I feel just as lost as I was that first day at BYU. Coming to DC has really been a turning point in my life. I have realized that we cannot know where we are going if we are lost and only doing what others tell us to do or what we think others want us to do. I think one of the greatest blessings of this journey I commenced twelve years ago has been finding out who I really am and what I want out of life. For some people that answer is simple and comes to them seemingly easily. For me, that has not been the case. This is evident to anyone examining my student record on AIM who can see my eclectic course choices (e.g., Don Quixote, snowboarding, Electronic Manufacturing Processes, Physics for Engineers, Beginning Woodwork, Portuguese and even Beginning Guitar). Hello! How lost have I been! The sad realization that I came to is that after twelve years of this arduous journey, I am still feeling lost! So I decided to stop doing what's next on the checklist and just confront myself and decide what I want to do. Yup. Just me. What do I want?
As I've had some extra time at my current job to think and reflect extensively I have decided that what I really want to do is work with kids again. I miss it so much! I miss feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, yes, even if that accomplishment also came with a sense of fatigue. I remember when I was teaching high school and middle school. It was tough at times, and I probably won't want my same job back, but I felt so happy working with the kids. It felt like life was fun. Besides the fun, I have a lot more to offer in the field of education now. I would like to work with kids and technology again. Hands on. I don't want to be sitting at a desk writing research papers. I want to get my hands dirty and be at the forefront of the education movement. I miss that in my life. So now, I still feel a little lost, but at least I know the right direction to head. I know what I want and I feel like I'm a hop, skip, and a jump away from getting there. That is a great feeling!
There is power in knowing who you are and what you want to do. So many times in life, you find yourself being labeled, being handed a checklist of things to do, or even being rejected ("rejected by the nerds" as Paula and I like to call it) . If you are empowered to know who you are and what you want in life, choices become easier and barriers to getting there much less intimidating. The trouble is so many people don't know who they are and don't know how to find out. Sometimes we know who we are, but we don't believe it. Deep, deep inside, we don't believe how great we can be. I am grateful that I am feeling closer to my end goal. It is difficult and I don't know if I'm going to get there anytime soon, but at least I'm making progress and that's what counts.
So when I first moved out to DC, my sister Raquel gave me some advice, actually homework. She told me to write down why going to DC would be a good thing and why doing a dissertation was a good thing. The purpose of this task was to remind me of the reasons I had chosen to do these things in the first place. I really needed a reminder of why on Earth I had chosen these things upon myself. I do this to myself often. I decide to do something great and then I realize it's going to be hard to achieve it and once I'm in the middle of doing it I wonder what possessed me to even want to do it in the first place. I loose sight and motivation. Does this happen to you too? Sometimes I wonder if I dream too big. I think I do. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Our society will tell you it's a good thing to dream big, but sometimes I don't feel like it is a good thing. I feel tired and ready to give up. Sister Dalton once said that the middle of the race on the uphill is not the time to make any decisions whatsoever. Your ability to make good decisions at this point of the race is diminished by the fatigue. The time to make the big decisions is before the race begins. This advice gives me some comfort (to know that it is normal to feel tired in the middle of the journey), but it also makes me feel like maybe I need to think harder at the beginning of my journeys. Why can't I be like normal people who don't dream big?
So to complete the task I've been given, the answer is coming to DC has been a good thing because it has helped me see myself more clearly and it has illuminated the path to my happiness. Doing a dissertation is a good thing because it is a tool that provides truth to the world and it is a tool that will open doors for me in the future. However, both of these things are not an end in and of themselves. There is so much more to happiness than a degree or a great job. I am grateful to know this and to have the opportunity to act upon it to create a better future for myself and those around me.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Smithsonian Museum of American History

I went to this museum and got there with a friend just in time for a documentary on Japanese Americans during WWII. The documentary, Day of Remembrance was about the 442nd Infantry of the US Army. The things that struck me the most during the movie was the courage of these men to stand up to prejudice and to prove themselves at a time when they were being victimized and racially discriminated. The movie shows passages of interviews with the veterans and it makes the viewer realize (made me realize) that our freedom and rights have come at a very high price, that we only get one life to live, that racism is one of the most evil threats to humanity, and that we have a lot to be grateful for.

According to Susan

My friend Susan from work gave me some great tips on places I must see before leaving DC

Mount Vernon
Arlington National Cemetery
China town
Dupont Circle
Adams Morgan
American Universities
The embassies

I'm going to try to go to all of them. We'll see if I get to them all from now till June.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Learners of the 21st Century

This Tuesday I was invited to a special documentary reception by PBS on educational technology at the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum. It was amazing! I loved going because it reminded me why I love education and technology. If you have some time, click here to watch a preview of the documentary. At the reception I was able to meet the president of PBS in Minneapolis/St. Paul and the Director of Educational Technology at the US Department of Education. After meeting the president of the PBS station in Minneapolis/St. Paul I was bold enough to ask him to take a picture with us. My friend Lindsey was very encouraging and helped me navigate the metro to get there. Some of the major takeaways I had from this experience are:
  • It is irresponsible of teachers to ignore digital media.
  • As adults, we try to control what kids are passionate about, but we should just allow them to be passionate because it is their passion that teaches them how to learn. Every kid has an interest and we just need to facilitate their growth and passion for that interest.
  • DYN- Digital Youth Network is a hybrid digital literacy program
  • There is a need for passionate and competent educators.
  • The need to prepare for an uncertain future and the need to help students survive and interdependent globally connected world.
  • The need to give students credit for learning they do outside of school and to help them integrate their outside life with their school life into one.
  • The role of families- Families benefit from their students learning technologies. Some families facilitate the funding of technologies for their students by participating in a leasing program where they pay and they are able to take the tools home with them.
  • The need to create smart systems that enable families (narrative based report cards, systems that foster longitudinal connectivity)
  • Parents need to be taught the value of technology. If parents know what tech can do, they will do what it takes to make it happen for their students.
  • Parents, teachers and students need to be considered one community, not separately.
  • The need to give students freedom to be creative and make their contribution right now. Going from consumption to production to participation. To give students a voice to tell their stories. There is also a need to explicitly teach digital citizenship.
  • Teachers should begin by asking students "So... what do you think?" and listen to their answer, then create.
  • Schools are wired for technology so they should be open to the public after school for the community to benefit from them.
  • We need to let our students know that who they are and what they can create matters now, not later when they get out of college, but now.
  • Different mediums allow students with different learning preferences to learn.
  • When kids learn technology, they share it with other kids, then they begin sharing it with their families, later they begin sharing it in their communities.
  • The criteria for the use of technology is: ubiquitous, necessary, invisible.
Some of the example assignments that were discussed using technology were scavenger hunts with the use of phones to allow students to take pictures of their findings and create scavenger hunts for other students. Texting was used in these scavenger hunts to give students hints. There was a metaphor assignment in a science classroom that asked students to create a metaphor for a scientific process using digital visual representations. The What If assignment. What if Martin Luther King had not spoken up? What if World War II hadn't happened? Teachers talked about the importance of digitizing all artifacts and making them public and sharable.

The thing that really spoke to me about this presentation was the motivation, happiness, love, passion, and creativity of the teachers. It reminded me of when I was teaching middle school and high school and how much I loved my students and all the fun I had teaching them and learning from them. Working with middle school and high school kids is tough, but if done correctly, it can provide a huge sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Elder Cook

Somehow, I've been inspired and supported by Elder Cook. He has really motivated me in my research. Last General Conference he gave this talk Let There Be Light! I loved how he talked about the community and the need for good people to speak up and be heard. I felt like he was talking directly to me. At the time, I'd been working on my first article for my dissertation on caring and caring communities. Publishing an article is no easy task. I felt discouraged by all the feedback I was getting from my committee and I felt like the process was very difficult for me. Then, when I heard this talk, it just helped give me the extra energy I needed to continue. This talk helped me realize how important my message was and how important it was for me to get it published and out for others to read. My article has now been submitted and is in review. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will be accepted for publication.

Well, that is not all about Elder Cook. Last Sunday, my first Sunday here, I was told that Stake Conference was going to be today and that Elder Cook would be speaking. I was also told to get to the stake building early so I could ensure a good seat for myself. I did just that and I learned so much from Elder Cook. He talked about the man who had faith but pleaded with the Lord to "help thou my unbelief". He talked about the woman with the issue of blood, my favorite story in the scriptures. But beyond his message, I felt great comfort to see someone I recognized from my past. Funny that it would be Elder Cook, but in a sea of new faces and new places and cold weather, I have learned to value anything that feels remotely familiar. Just seeing Elder Cook and feeling the spirit he brought to the meeting reminded me of all the General Conference meetings I've been to and the Christmas devotionals in which I've also been able to partake of that same spirit. However, on this occasion, I did not take that spirit or that familiarity for granted. I was so happy and comforted to feel the way I've felt so many times back home. Here is a picture I took of Elder Cook after he shook my hand. I didn't have the courage to ask him for a picture with me. Maybe next time...

The Arthur Sackler Gallery

Another museum we went to, right next to the Smithsonian Castle is the Arthur Sackler Gallery. Here we saw Chinese, Iranian, Persian and Japaneses art pieces. Very beautiful art. I learned that the the Chinese flowers in pictures are symbolic and have meanings depending on the type of flower. Here is a piece we saw at that museum:

The Smithsonian Castle

Yup. I've been to a castle. Now I can say I've been in a castle. This building is a fun museum full of interesting facts. In here, we found a Visitors Information Center so it was a really good choice for a place to start our explorations. We met some great people at this museum who took our picture. My favorite was this Gibson guitar that looks so new but it's pretty old, one of the first made. It reminded me of my guitar playing adventure back home. I gotta get myself a guitar...

Riding The Fast Train

It's fun riding the metro. Or as my friend's 3 year old nephew would say "the fast train". It's fun to buy a ticket and think that you can go anywhere downtown DC and not get lost or have to worry about parking. You can also go people watching and trust me... it's fun to people watch on the metro because there are some really interesting people in the world. Here I am with my friend Chrissy. We decided to go for another trip downtown and explore. The metro here is great because you can always tell which one you should get on by reading the posts at the stations. Here you can buy a ticket at these machines:

Monday, January 24, 2011

The United States Botanic Garden

Well... now I can say I've been to the United States Botanic Garden. I went with my friend Chrissy and her little 3 year old nephew (who is super cute). We were adventurous and took the metro. It was only the second time I'd been on the metro, and it was really fun. It increased my confidence knowing that I can't really get lost on the DC metro since there's only one stop that takes me home. There are some interesting people who ride the metro. The walk to the metro was freezing. Colder than Utah cold, but when we finally made it to the Botanic Garden, it was a dream come true. It is an indoor garden and the minute you step in, you feel like you're in the tropics down in some South American jungle minus the animals. Here are some pictures of the outside...

And a picture of me in the inside. Can you see me in there? I'm right in the center there.

Beautiful flowers...

Driving in DC

Driving in DC... Well, let's see...what can I's just CRAZY out here. The streets for one aren't the nicely organized coordinates that Utah goes by. I have no idea how people got around in this place before GPS. Every street is different and sometimes one street has more than one name and there are small streets and curvy streets everywhere! It's just one crazy street mess. Then, the people here are not very patient with newcomers. I haven't had any major incidents yet, but I've quickly learned that DC people are busy busy people. What's even scarier is that I'm soon to be one of them:)