Summer in a Suitcase

It’s finally time for a new blog post! This summer has been very busy and full of great things so far. The 3 main parts have been going to Jamaica, an Air Force National Guard tour, and the latest news in the hunt for a job. In a nutshell. Here we go!

Jamaica was incredible. One short blog post won’t do it justice but I’ll do my best. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here we go…

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It’s a beautiful country. I never got tired of looking at the coastline, or the sky, or the trees, or the people. It was a fascinating and gorgeous place. The guesthouses we stayed at (which were really like treehouses/huts) had their own cliffside pool that I just loved. Here’s a shot of the pool and you can see the coast in the background. The Jamaican beaches are so blue and pretty.

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Teaching in a Jamaican primary school was an amazing experience. Here’s what our “classroom” looked like:

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The school is in the background – it’s basically a couple of trailers put together and dirt “hallways” that connect them. One thing I’d like to make clear about Jamaica: it’s a very poor country that needs a lot of help. Yes, it’s beautiful and the resorts look picturesque, but that’s not the real Jamaica. The people there need food, clothes, medicine, everything. I’d like to think that we made a bit of a difference by being there for our trip, but so much more could be done for the people there.

My team comprised of 6 music education majors from various colleges. We worked for 5 days and taught a variety of things to the students there.
For 4th, 5th, and 6th grade: traditional Jamaican drumming and singinging with guitar accompaniment
For 3rd grade: recorder
For 1st and 2nd grade: nursery rhymes and a simplified drumming lesson

We usually split into 2 small groups and co-taught the lessons. The kids were so receptive to us. They were ecstatic that we were there – teaching kids who are enthusiastic is so much better than teaching kids who don’t want to be there! The first day they were a little timid around us – many of them had never seen a light-skinned person. A lot of kids kept coming up to us and just touching our skin then running away! But they got comfortable with us very fast. Despite the incredible heat and humidity, we made sure to go out into the courtyard during their breaks between lessons to get to know them. (Even though sometimes all we wanted to do was sit in the shade!) By the end of the week they were practically knocking us over with their hugs!

Here’s a picture of the 6 teachers and some of our students on the last day:

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Here’s two more pictures from lessons with the younger kids. Three of the teachers played a drum beat called “Panlogo” while the kids had the chance to solo over top of it. They loved it.

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Of course, I spent this entire trip with my partner in crime, Ali. Between Jamaica and tour, we weren’t more than a mile apart for almost a month straight. We reached a level of friendship I didn’t think possible – I think we know absolutely everything about each other at this point!

One of my favorite things that we did while in Jamaica was drum in the evenings, which is what this is a picture from. The entire team (of about 35 college kids plus staff) learned traditional drumming patterns every evening, and we would layer them with multiple parts and even sing over top of our playing. Our final night in Boston Bay included us going into the village and playing for the local people. I will never forget these evenings of drumming.

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I really hope I can go back to Jamaica someday soon. It was my first time out of the country, and it was incredibly eye-opening to see how these people live their daily lives. The Jamaican people are so kind and are very interesting to talk to. At first, it was tricky understanding their accent but I got used to it! One of the songs called “Mango Time” we taught in the school was in the Jamaican Patois dialect – it was one of my favorites.

Part two of my summer included going on tour with the Air National Guard band! I had about 4 days in between Jamaica and leaving for tour, so it wasn’t a whole lot of down time. I basically lived out of a suitcase for the month of June!

I loved tour. What could be better than getting paid to play my flute while serving my country and travel with some great peoeple? This year’s tour brought us up to New England – we performed in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. My favorite performance was in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. We had a wonderful crowd and we had gotten to spend the entire morning at the beach. Here’s a picture of the stage during the rock band portion of the show:

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One of my jobs as an airman was to pass out programs before each concert, and to give out surveys during rock band. Ali and Katie both had the same task. We got to talk to a lot of super nice people! I enjoyed being someone that our audience members got to interact with.

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My grandparents came to one of our performances! They go up to Massachusetts every summer, and they were close enough that they could come out to hear the band. It was so good to see them and it’s great to have people who are supportive of what I do! Another memorable thing was me and some other people ran a 5k in MA. Apparently it’s turned into kind of an annual thing to do some kind of race during tour, which I think is really cool. I’ll definitely be participating in any future tour races! Overall, I didn’t sleep enough and I ate WAY too much good food, but my first Air National Guard tour is in the bag! I got to know a lot of people better and I just really enjoyed my two weeks of active duty. It is such an honor to be a part of this group.

I spent a few days at home before packing my bag again – this time, the destination was Cape May, New Jersey! My family spent a few days camping and going to the beach there. It was beautiful and relaxing, despite one morning of rain. We stayed in a little cabin in a campground, and we cooked over the fire. (but also went to several restaurants!) I read a ton of books (what else is new?) and went running a few times, and just enjoyed the peacefulness. Brett and I played our ukuleles are couple of times – in this picture we were actually in the car driving home. We were learning “Let it Go.”

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Since I got home, I’ve been helping out with my high school’s marching band. This week we had a three-day mini band camp, which I really enjoyed. I hadn’t taught anything in a while, and I missed it! The kids are just really good kids and marching band in general is just one of my favorite things to do in any capacity. I’ve repaired a few instruments, led some sectional time, and am helping with the visual side of things as well. I loved marching band during my 8 years of actually marching it, but I absolutely love being on the teaching side of it as well.

Speaking of teaching…I’m still working on the job thing. At this point, I think I’ve applied for about 40 jobs from as far north as Massachusetts and as far south as Virginia. As much as I am able, I try to complete at least one job application a day. It gets very frustrating because job applications aren’t standardized, although there are similarities among them. Every day I check and check my phone, waiting for a phone call about an interview, but nothing new yet.

Before I started helping the band, I was getting pretty fed up with the whole thing. I was kind of losing sight of what my ultimate goal is: to teach kids music. I was getting so bogged down with all the paperwork and online applications and google searches. I was also beginning to doubt myself as a music educator – I was questioning whether I was brave enough or qualified enough or a good enough teacher – but those doubts have diminished. Now that I’m helping with the band and remembering what it’s like to teach, I realize it’s all going to be worth it when I land an amazing job that I’m passionate about.

If I have to substitute teach for a couple of months or a year, it won’t be the worst thing in the world. But I have NOT given up yet. There are still so many positions out there waiting to be filled. I am really excited about a couple of applications that I put in this week in particular! No matter what, things will happen the way they’re supposed to.

I’m so grateful that I have such a big support team. People are constantly telling me about positions they’ve heard that are available: my friends, professors, even my neighbors across the street and several of my relatives who are not musical at all – they’ve been checking the newspaper for music ed postings for me! I appreciate it so very much. I’m just going to keep applying, praying, and doing what I can now to teach and continue to be the best teacher I can be. As much as I’d like to have a set plan for the next year, or even the next month or two, I don’t. I’ve just got to trust God, keep my head up, and enjoy whatever life throws my way.

My adventure is truly just beginning…