San Antonio Sabbatical

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Well, I guess this is goodbye.  I’m doing my final cleaning and packing since I’ll be leaving San Antonio tomorrow morning.  The guy from Time Warner Cable will be coming by this afternoon to disconnect my Internet service and take back the modem I rented, so I’m getting this post out while I’m still able to get online.

This blog was A LOT of work, but I really enjoyed writing it despite my discomfort with public sharing (I’m a private person).  It has become a great travel journal documenting my activities during this sabbatical semester as well as a marketing tool for advancing in my career.  I’ve had quite a busy four months.  For a quick recap, see these blog posts:

As I stated at the beginning, the intended audience for this blog is broad — my family and friends, psychologists, faculty, writers, tourists, relocators, language learners, and book lovers will be the primary readers of this blog.  I hope that you have learned something from my posts and been inspired by this blog.  My first sabbatical leave has been an amazing success and San Antonio and Our Lady of the Lake University have been wonderful hosts.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.  Enjoy the holidays and be well.

Note:  To read the blog in chronological order, go to the Categories box on the right side and click on Introduction.  This will take you to the “Welcome!” post.  Click on the title.  From there, use the top arrow keys to proceed through the entire blog in sequence.


(New York) — My enjoyment of Latino culture continues.  The day after Christmas, at the start of the historic 2010 winter blizzard, my sister and I took the train into the city to see a Broadway show.  First, we ate a delicious lunch (arroz con pollo) at a wonderful Times Square area Cuban restaurant, Havana Central Restaurant.  The menu contained a variety of appetizing dishes; I want to go back and sample more of them.  Then, we walked to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on the next block for the 2:00 p.m. Sunday matinee of the Tony Award-winning musical, “In the Heights”.  This great production about people living in the New York City barrio of Washington Heights was the creation of Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Puerto Rican composer/lyricist who also played the main character (bodega owner, “Usnavi”) for this particular show time.  What a treat.  The talented cast and crew gave an excellent — energetic and entertaining — performance.  “In the Heights” is a spectacular work of art.  I highly recommend it!  🙂


MY VIDEO:   The Sabbatical Project


In August I posted my Summer Reading List of books I read while preparing for my move to San Antonio.

Leisure reading continues to be one of my favorite pastimes.  Here are the books I have read during the last four months while on sabbatical:

  • General Reading

(1)     The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow

(2)     Finger Lickin’ Fifteen, a novel by Janet Evanovich

(3)     House Rules, a novel by Jodi Picoult

(4)     Hunger of Memory:  The Education of Richard Rodriguez (an autobiography)

(5)     Love Story, a novel by Erich Segal

(6)     Friendship for Grown-Ups:  What I Missed and Learned Along the Way, a memoir by Lisa Whelchel

(7)     Weekends at Bellevue:  Nine Years on the Night Shift at the Psych ER, a memoir by Julie Holland, M.D.

(8)     It’s All in the Frijoles:  100 Famous Latinos Share Real-Life Stories, Time-Tested Dichos, Favorite Folktales, and Inspiring Words of Wisdom by Yolanda Nava

(9)     The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

(10)   Like Water for Chocolate:  A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel

(11)    When Do They Serve the Wine?:  The Folly, Flexibility and Fun of Being a Woman by Liza Donnelly

(12)    The Help, a novel by Kathryn Stockett

(13)    Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart:  28 True Stories of Love, Loss and Everything in Between by Freelance Success

  • Spanish Children’s Books

(1)     Cinco de Mayo:  Se celebra el orgullo (in Spanish) by Carol Gnojewski

(2)     Hairs-Pelitos (bilingual) by Sandra Cisneros and Terry Ybáñez

(3)     Mi primer libro de dichos/My First Book of Proverbs (bilingual) by Ralfka Gonzalez and Ana Ruiz

(4)     Too Many Tamales (in English) by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez

(5)     My Very Own Room/Mi propio cuartito (bilingual) by Amada Irma Pérez and Maya Christina Gonzalez

(6)     Tu cuerpo, de la cabeza a los pies (in Spanish) by Núria Roca and Rosa Maria Curto (Barron’s Educational Series)

(7)     Gracias, El pavo de Thanksgiving (in Spanish) by Joy Cowley and Joe Cepeda

(8)     My Name is María Isabel (in English) by Alma Flor Ada and K. Dyble Thompson

(9)     Sopa de frijoles:  una poema para cocinar/Bean Soup:  A Cooking Poem (bilingual) by Jorge Argueta and Rafael Yockteng

(10)  In My Family/En mi familia (bilingual) by Carmen Lomas Garza

(11)   A Gift from Papá Diego/Un regalo de Papá Diego (bilingual) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz and Geronimo Garcia

(12)   The Empanadas that Abuela Made/Las empanadas que hacía la abuela (bilingual) by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and Alex Pardo DeLange

(13)   Dancing Miranda/Baile, Miranda, baile (bilingual) by Diana de Anda and Lamberto Alvarez

(14)   The Everything Kids’ Learning Spanish Book:  Fun exercises to help you learn español by Laura K. Lawless

Last night I attended Susie’s end-of-semester potluck party for our Spanish clinic team.  The fun began at 7:00 p.m. and didn’t end until around 12:45 a.m. this morning.  There were ten of us — Susie and her boyfriend Chris, Rosanna and her boyfriend Diego (I had Thanksgiving dinner with them), Martha, Celina, Stephanie (my ride), Gabriel, me, and Dr. Ezequiel Peña (a.k.a. Clinic Team Supervisor).  We had a great time eating food that people brought, talking, watching a little television, and playing games.  I tried a sip of the champurrado, Mexican hot chocolate made with hominy flour that is served at Christmastime (brought by Celina), and an assortment of good food — tortilla chips and spicy guacamole dip, salad, fruit, chicken, rice, flour tortilla, tamale, chocolate cake, and a Coke.  The games — as well as the company — were engaging and enjoyable.  The first one was Rainbow Jumbling Towers, a set of 48 colorful wooden blocks that are stacked high in which each player tries to remove one without causing the tower to fall.  I narrowly escaped causing a collapse; it’s a good thing I’m not an engineer.  Then we played Boxers or Briefs?, a fun adult party game (we kept it clean) in which we got to learn interesting things, some true and some funny, about each other and teased with off-the-wall answers until there was a winner — Martha, who collected six “True” chips and six “Funny” chips.  I really like this game.  Finally, we sang karaoke courtesy of YouTube lyrics.  Since I can’t sing, I had fun observing as the group sang a variety of tunes including Spanish songs, “I Swear” (All-4-One), “Bad Romance” (Lady Gaga), “Tick Tock” (Kesha), “Like a Virgin” (Madonna), “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (Bonnie Tyler), and “Eye of the Tiger” (Survivor).  It was nice to see everyone so relaxed and in a good mood after their stressful semester.  This group is such a friendly and welcoming bunch and I will really miss seeing them in class and clinic.  At the end of the night, Dr. Peña gave each of us a small gift and Celina gave me an “Alamo” t-shirt as a reminder of my time in Texas.

I squeezed in some leisure reading over the past week.  I finally read the New York Times bestseller, The Help (a novel) by Kathryn Stockett and loved it.  Also, I read Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart: 28 True Stories of Love, Loss & Everything in Between, a book of essays by my fellow writers at Freelance Success.  This was a very good read too.  Tomorrow I’ll post a list of all of the books I’ve read this fall while on my sabbatical leave.

Christmas is quickly approaching and I’m looking forward to being with my Dad and sister in New York.  Holidays are more difficult now since we lost my Mom in 2001 to breast cancer.  Her loving presence is greatly missed and I didn’t want to conclude this blog without mentioning her since she has had a great influence on my life and would be proud of my work and travels.  I think of and pray for Mom often and she lives within my heart.

I will resume my packing and cleaning tomorrow so that I’ll be ready for Friday’s move.  Four days to go…

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  • In: Preparation
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One week from today I leave beautiful San Antonio.  My courses are completed and my sabbatical semester is coming to an end.  I’ve been spending this week getting ready for my move, first to New York to spend Christmas and New Year’s Day with family and then back to Pennsylvania to resume my job for the Spring 2011 semester.

On Sunday afternoon, I made my first visit to North Star Mall.  No plans to buy anything; just wanted to look around and take a picture of those awesome Texas cowboy boots (a huge colorful eye-catching sculpture that sits by the I-410 highway at the mall’s entrance).  After snapping the desired photos, I made a planned stop at Luciano Ristorante, an authentic Italian restaurant (They also have an express version of their restaurant in the mall’s food court.  I ate at the large full-service restaurant).  Italian cuisine (minus the cheese) is one of my favorites and Luciano was no exception.  I sat in their mall seating area admiring the holiday decorations and shoppers while eating my lunch.  I ordered Spaghetti Bolognese and Iced Tea.  I was given a small complimentary bruschetta-like appetizer along with the usual basket of bread and butter.  The food (large portion of seasoned spaghetti that was attractively presented) was delicious and the service was very good.  I’m so glad I got to try the highly-recommended Luciano Ristorante.  This is a place I’d like to return to if I’m ever in San Antonio again.

Later that evening I signed my holiday cards and prepared them for mailing on Monday.  They’re already late for Hanukkah which came early this year.  Due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to include my annual newsletter for my college friends (whom I’ve been keeping in touch with for over 20 years), so I’ll have to send it separately at a later date.  I spent a couple of days getting my San Antonio pictures developed at CVS.  They processed several rolls of film; I had put in 13 Kodak Fun Saver cameras — love them! — and requested single prints, CD and index print for each (I’m nearing the end of my 14th camera and will develop these photos after I move).  The pictures came out really well and I gave copies of a group photo to each member of my Spanish clinic team.  I’ve been saying goodbye to people as the semester has been winding down.

I have to say that moving back to Pennsylvania is a lot easier than my August move to San Antonio.  The first move required many more decisions and preparations since I had to plan for four months away from home.  The reverse process is familiar having been through this stress before.  I’ve returned all of my library books; gave my change of address (mail forward) to the post office and also mailed a box of items (since I can’t carry it on the plane); made my last trips to the hairdresser, grocery store, and bank; made an appointment to have my Internet service disconnected next week; ordered a book to review for NACADA over the semester break; and made my car shipping arrangements via Phoenix Auto Transport Services (located in Vancouver, WA), the same company I used in August.  My 1999 Toyota was picked up at 8:00 this morning.  Knowing that I would be carless for the final week of my stay here forced me to do several errands by early this week.

My stay in San Antonio has been relatively uneventful except for a tropical storm in September and two annoying things: (1) one of the boxes I mailed from Pennsylvania to Texas was lost by the United States Postal Service — the box was insured and I have 180 days in which to file a claim for reimbursement, which I will do once I return to Pennsylvania and can gather the receipts, and (2) the inability to continue receiving my allergy shots in Texas — my health insurance company approved of the out-of-network coverage, but doctors in Texas required that I undergo the allergy testing all over again and have a new mix created based on allergens in Texas (the insurance company had not authorized this extensive procedure and retesting and remixing my serum would have taken too long and not been practical since my stay in Texas is only temporary).  Fortunately, with the exception of a couple of bad days, my allergies presented no major problems here in San Antonio.  I figure that if these are the worst things that happened to me during my semester in San Antonio, then I’ve done really well.

A surprise for me was how cold San Antonio can get, especially at night.  This is something that I underestimated and wasn’t prepared for.  I brought with me only one casual long-sleeve sweater and four casual long-sleeve shirts.  I had to buy a pair of thicker pajamas once here.  But, I didn’t want to buy too much because I won’t have room for it on the plane.  Since I have a washer and dryer in my apartment, I’ve been doing laundry more often during cold weather.  I’m glad that my furnished apartment includes heat and warm bedding.  People warned me of the heat in Texas (and it can be brutal in the summer), but not the cold.  So, if you come to Texas in the fall and winter months, bring some heavier clothes.  You’ll need them.  My winter clothes are in New York waiting for me at my Dad’s house when I arrive there next Friday.

Things are winding down and I’m using these last few days to do some leisure reading.  Soon I will need to clean my apartment and pack my things.  First, I’m giving myself a couple of days to just relax.  Then, I’ll get busy.  On Sunday evening one of my clinic team members will be hosting an end-of-semester potluck dinner party for the team and I will be going (another team member has offered to give me a ride).  Other than this event, I have no major plans.  My sightseeing is over.  I’m tired, so I’m actually looking forward to some downtime now.  And I’m really looking forward to reducing my expenses (i.e., not paying twice for rent and utilities each month) and paying down my credit card bill.  This four-month excursion to San Antonio has been wonderful, but I think I’m ready to get back to my normal life.

Today’s post is a follow-up to my Mid-Semester Update.

This is final exam week at Our Lady of the Lake University.  On Monday evening the final exam was given in my lecture class (I went and looked at the exam, but didn’t have to take it since I’m an auditor).  Yesterday I attended the last session of my clinic practicum.  I have officially completed my two courses and will soon receive my OLLU transcript.  Before Monday’s class I picked up my letter from Joan Biever, Ph.D. (Professor and Chair, Psychology Graduate Programs) which documents my completion of a total of 90 clock hours (45 hours per course) of continuing education during this semester.  This is significantly more than required in order to maintain my psychologist license.

I have achieved my sabbatical goals of learning about counseling issues and strategies for working with the Hispanic/Latino population and improving my speaking ability with the Spanish language.  The two graduate-level courses I completed through OLLU’s Psychological Services for Spanish Speaking Populations (PSSSP) program were Language and Psychosocial Variables in Interviews and Assessments with Latinos (taught by Dr. Teresa Castaño, a.k.a. Classroom Professor in this blog) and a Spanish clinic team practicum at Community Counseling Service (supervised by Dr. Ezequiel Peña, a.k.a. Clinic Team Supervisor in this blog).  Additionally, I had weekly Spanish lessons at the SEFLA language school.  This educational activity was not part of my sabbatical proposal, but I found it to be extremely worthwhile as a supplement to my OLLU courses.  I met with Elvia Quijano for two hours per week for ten weeks for Advanced Conversational Spanish for which I received a grade of A+ as indicated on the diploma given to me by Clara Pérez Peláez, Director.  An unexpected and enjoyable professional development activity in which I participated was the National Latina/o Psychological Association conference that I attended last month (I earned 11 continuing education hours).  I wrote about this excellent conference experience in a previous post (English) and in a journal entry (Spanish).

For my Language and Psychosocial Variables in Interviews and Assessments with Latinos class, I kept a journal in which I reflected on issues and connected the readings and lecture topics to my own experiences.  This was a valuable exercise in which students were to document their personal and professional growth.  I’m a private person who normally wouldn’t share so much publicly in a blog, but I feel that it could be instructional to others and more clearly show my thoughts and feelings about my experiences and progress with the Spanish language.  So, here is the complete set of nine journal entries (in Spanish):

Journal Entry #1            Journal Entry #2            Journal Entry #3

Journal Entry #4            Journal Entry #5            Journal Entry #6

Journal Entry #7            Journal Entry #8            Journal Entry #9

In expanding my own education in the area of multicultural issues, I did some research and came across useful articles, videos, and books that can serve as resources and discussion prompts for others.  I posted several pieces about Hispanic/Latino culture which readers may find helpful.  Here are the eight cultural pieces:

Overall, I’ve had a great first sabbatical experience.  My classes and the NLPA conference were excellent!  Even though my main focus this semester in San Antonio, Texas was academic (it was a paid sabbatical leave, after all), I did manage to work on some writing projects — taking an online book proposal writing class, attending International Freelancers Day seminars, and writing this blog.  I also managed to have fun — joining social groups, eating at a variety of restaurants, going on tours, and doing leisure reading.  As you can see, I’ve been busy.  But it was a good kind of busy and a much needed break from my university job.  I am grateful to Bloomsburg University (my home institution) and Our Lady of the Lake University (my sabbatical site) for allowing me to pursue this personally enriching and professionally relevant sabbatical opportunity.  It has worked out extremely well, and I’m looking forward to future sabbaticals.

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Entrada #9 de diario:   domingo,  el 5 de diciembre de 2010

Esto es la última entrada.  El semestre termina el viernes.  A través de este diario he reflejado en mi aprendizaje y experiencia durante este semestre sabático.

La semana pasada escuché las demás de las presentaciones de mis compañeros de clase.  Los temas fueron interesantes: “La terapia de arte” (Edward); “Consideraciones lingüísticas en la prestación de servicios psicológicos a clientes de habla hispana” (Claudia); “Inmigración ilegal: una vista de la izquierda y la derecha” (Jeff); y “Adquisición de segunda lengua” (Diana).  Todas las presentaciones tuvieron información importante y útil. 

Reciente hice una actividad cultural.  Visité dos museos históricos en San Antonio, el Institute of Texan Cultures y el Museo Alameda.  Ambos son excelentes.  El primero muestra las contribuciones de casi treinta grupos étnicos que formaron la historia de Tejas.  El segundo es el más grande museo latino en los Estados Unidos y tuvo una exhibición muy educativa se llama “Revolution & Renaissance: Mexico & San Antonio 1910-2010”.

La combinación de las clases, las lecturas, la clínica bilingüe, la conferencia de NLPA, las lecciones privadas, y las experiencias culturales me ha dado mucho conocimiento y apreciación de la lengua y la cultura latina.  Pasé bien el tiempo aquí en San Antonio y quiero visitar otra vez en el futuro.

Muchas gracias para enseñar esta clase fantástica.  ¡Feliz Navidad y Feliz Año Nuevo!

  • In: Diversions
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I’ve recently read some more Spanish children’s books in order to practice using the language and to learn about Hispanic/Latino culture.  Most of these books were picked up at my local public library (Cody branch), but I also made a special trip to the Central Library downtown in order to read a recommended book that was not allowed to be checked out.  As mentioned in a previous post, even children’s books in a foreign language can be challenging due to unknown words, regional dialect, and creative sentence structure.  On a positive note, this batch of books was easier to get through than the last batch; I guess the practice helped.  I recently read six books:  (1) Sopa de frijoles: una poema para cocinar/Bean Soup: A Cooking Poem (bilingual) by Jorge Argueta and Rafael Yockteng; (2) In My Family/En mi familia (bilingual) by Carmen Lomas Garza; (3) A Gift from Papá Diego/Un regalo de Papá Diego (bilingual) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz and Geronimo Garcia; (4) The Empanadas that Abuela Made/Las empanadas que hacía la abuela (bilingual) by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and Alex Pardo DeLange; (5) Dancing Miranda/Baile, Miranda, baile (bilingual) by Diana de Anda and Lamberto Alvarez; and (6) The Everything Kids’ Learning Spanish Book: Fun exercises to help you learn español by Laura K. Lawless.

On a related note, when I stopped by the SEFLA office yesterday to pick up my diploma for successfully completing my course, I was pleasantly surprised.  I received a grade of A+ for Advanced Conversational Spanish.  I really enjoyed my weekly lessons with Elvia.  These private lessons were an added out-of-pocket expense, but they were definitely worth it.  Although several native speakers have told me that I speak Spanish very well, I still don’t have the comfort I would like in using the language.  This will come with more practice and time.

Earlier this week on the way home from my clinic practicum, I had take-out food again from El Pollo Loco.  I ordered their 2-piece chicken meal (leg & thigh) that came with two sides (I chose the broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot veggie mix and a corn cobette).  The meal came with tortillas.  I also ordered an individual serving of chocolate cake.  This dinner was delicious; it was very tasty for fast food.  I like this restaurant chain but we don’t have it up north where I live.  Yesterday, on the way to SEFLA, I picked up a take-out Chinese food lunch from Beijing Express (5203 Fredericksburg Rd. at Callaghan), a new restaurant for me.  I decided to try a different dish than usual so I ordered the Almond Chicken lunch special; it came with fried rice and an egg roll.  This meal was okay (Chinese food is not my favorite but I do like a few select items and order them occasionally).

This morning I went to AMC Huebner Oaks 24 to see Katherine Heigl’s new movie, “Life As We Know It”.  Since the movie start time was 11:30 a.m., I got the before-noon ticket price of $5.00 — a good deal.  But, the small popcorn I ordered was $5.75.  It cost more than the movie!  I remember reading recent survey results in which Americans named movie theater popcorn as being the most overpriced food.  I would have to agree.  Anyway, this movie — a comedy/drama — was entertaining, although I’m getting tired of seeing Katherine Heigl play the same type of movie role.  I really liked her on the TV series “Grey’s Anatomy”.



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