San Antonio Sabbatical

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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

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I’ve attended a couple of Meetup gatherings within the last few days.

First, on Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. I was at La Taza Coffee House again for my Spanish Language Meetup.  We had a bigger group this month.  There were 14 members in attendance, including several new members.  While drinking iced green tea and eating chocolate-filled cookies, I chatted with several people.  We started out having one large conversation in Spanish about news events (the rescued miners in Chile), then broke off into smaller groups or one-on-ones.  During these individual conversations I spoke mostly in English because the people with whom I was speaking had less knowledge of Spanish that I do.  The conversations with two women in particular — (1) a returned Peace Corps volunteer and social worker who is new to San Antonio, and (2) a long-time resident of San Antonio with a strong desire to travel and learn Spanish — were particularly satisfying.  We have things in common and shared some resources.  We also exchanged contact information and plan to keep in touch.  After the 1½ hour official Spanish Language Meetup meeting had ended, I stayed for an additional 1¾ hours in order to talk with them individually.

Second, on Friday (yesterday) my Book Lovers Meetup group met at 5:30 for “happy hour” at El Jarro de Arturo Mexican Restaurant.  This was a new restaurant for me so I was really looking forward to attending.  Initially, there was some confusion regarding seating because we didn’t have a reservation (there were ten of us) and we ended up being placed together at small tables inside the restaurant rather than out on the patio as several of us wanted.  Despite this glitch, which was clearly our fault, our El Jarro experience was a good one.  The service was very good and the food was delicious.  I ordered a virgin Strawberry Margarita (I don’t like alcohol) and the Sombrero Salad (crispy flour tortilla bowl with lettuce, tomatoes, jicama, and beef taco meat — no cheese).  Others in the group ordered drinks, appetizers, and entrees.  We enjoyed casual conversations about an assortment of topics such as work, home, books, news, hobbies, and travel.  I appreciated getting to know some of the group members a little better.  I was pleasantly surprised to meet another writer.

I’m glad that I was able to attend these latest Meetup activities because I won’t be able to attend my regularly scheduled Meetup meetings in November due to a schedule conflict.  The NLPA conference will be held during those times.

Other recent activities I’ve done include reading another book and watching a movie.  The book was a memoir, Weekends at Bellevue: Nine Years on the Night Shift at the Psych ER by Julie Holland, M.D. (2009, Bantam  Books/Random House).  The movie, which I saw this morning after doing my grocery shopping, was Waiting for Superman (2010).  Both the book and the movie contained troubling “deep thought” content.  Weekends at Bellevue is a chronicle of a psychiatrist’s professional and personal struggles.  Waiting for Superman is a documentary about the failing public school system in the United States.  I usually read books and watch movies as entertainment, however, these most recent selections were so emotionally gripping that they were more freaky than fun.  But, sadly, this is the world in which we live and sometimes reality is harsh.

(Slightly Off Topic) — A Good News Story:  Wednesday, October 13th marked the completion of the successful rescue of 33 miners trapped underground for 70 days in Copiapó, Chile.  This incredible feat is unprecedented and gained worldwide attention.  These men are a hardy bunch and they and their rescuers deserve the praise they are getting.  So glad this story had a happy ending.  ¡Gracias a Dios!

I’ve officially lived in San Antonio for one month.  Only three months left to go.  So far, so good.  I’m slowly venturing out to new areas.  This is a lot easier with my car, although I’ve gotten lost a few times on the huge Texas highways.  Getting lost is not uncommon for me since I have a poor sense of direction.  Thankfully, there are lots of labeled “turnarounds” for U-turns so I’ve always been able to find my way back home.

My OLLU classes are going well.  I like Classroom Professor and Clinic Team Supervisor, and am learning interesting things about Hispanic/Latino cultures.  Prior to Monday evening’s class, I settled my bill (my tuition discount had finally been applied) and got my vehicle tag so that I can park my car on campus.  I tried to get my student identification card but was told that the machine was out of ink, so I will try again the next time I’m on campus.  Then, right before class, one of my classmates invited me to join her group for drinks on the River Walk over the weekend.  Although I politely postponed my involvement for another time, I thanked her for inviting me.  It felt good to be included and I look forward to getting to know my classmates better.

I accomplished a few assorted tasks this past week such as:

  • (1)  Opening a savings account at a Texas bank in order to make it easier to get cash.
  • (2)  Trying a new restaurant.  I ordered a Chinese takeout lunch from Mencius’ Gourmet Hunan Restaurant located in the Medical Center area where I live.  Chinese food is not my favorite, but I enjoyed my meal of Lemon Chicken, fried rice, and an egg roll.  This restaurant was a lucky find for me.  I just happened to be in that shopping plaza and stopped in (it was crowded with diners); only later did I read their great food reviews online.
  • (3)  Attending the Thursday Book Club meeting (Sept. 16th from 12:00-2:00 p.m.) at the Cody Library of the San Antonio Public Library (which has 27 branches).  I had applied for and received a library card a week ago.  I learned that the Thursday Book Club would be discussing House Rules (a book about a boy with Asperger’s syndrome) by Jodi Picoult so I read the book and went to the meeting.  The group’s leader (Susan) introduced me to the group of about 20 bibliophiles (several of them are former teachers and librarians) and handed me a list of titles that will be discussed at future meetings of the Thursday Book Club.  We had a good discussion about House Rules.  Opinions about the book varied (I really liked this book).  I plan to return for next month’s meeting.
  • (4)  Watching Thursday evening’s season premiere of The Apprentice.  I enjoy television and this is one of my favorite shows.  (I wrote an award-winning poem about it a few years ago).  For this season, Donald Trump has selected victims of our bad economy to compete for a job with his company.  I really like this timely theme.
  • (5)  Turning in my first assignment for Jennifer Lawler’s six-week Write Your Book Proposal E-Course which started on September 13th.  I’m working on writing a self-help book and have heard many great things about Jennifer’s course.  Also on the topic of writing:  Last month I participated in a free teleclass offered by “Renegade WriterLinda Formichelli with featured speaker Kelly James-Enger talking about Six-Figure Freelancing.  I’m so happy to be able to spend more time on my writing this semester and to have found some wonderful role models.
  • (6)  Signing up for 20 hours of private Spanish lessons with a relatively new (2006) local language school — Spanish, English and Foreign Languages for America, Inc. (SEFLA).  The longer I’m here in Texas, the more I’m realizing I need additional practice with conversational Spanish and that taking a separate supplemental class — in addition to my two OLLU courses — would be helpful.  I found SEFLA online, did some research, and called and spoke with the director, Clara Pérez Peláez, on Thursday afternoon.  She invited me to come observe a 1½-hour class on Friday morning (This particular class is part of a special 4-week intensive course for military personnel).  So, yesterday I observed the class (this portion focused on reading — lectura) from 10:00-11:30 a.m. and I really liked it.  I liked the teacher (Elvia), her teaching style, and the written materials/texts used.  Afterwards, I took the written placement exam (40 multiple-choice questions) plus an oral exam administered by the director herself.  My score placed me at the advanced level (my problems were with the conditional and subjunctive verb tenses) and there were no group classes at this level being formed at the current time, so I was offered the more expensive, yet flexible, option of private lessons — which I accepted.  Even with the 10% discount I received, the cost is more than I wanted to spend.  But, it’s an investment in my professional development and I really need the lessons.  Someone will contact me once a teacher and time have been arranged (I put in a request for Elvia for Monday or Wednesday mornings so that I can keep the latter part of my week free).  It seems like I will be able to begin my lessons next week.  While at SEFLA, I purchased a copy of one of the paperback texts I saw being used in the classroom.  It’s called Streetwise Spanish: Speak and Understand Everyday Spanish (with Audio CD) by Mary McVey Gill and Brenda Wegmann and published by McGraw-Hill.

As you can see, I’ve had a busy few days.  I still have to do my reading homework for my class on Monday.

(Slightly Off Topic) — Congratulations to Spain’s top tennis player, Rafael Nadal.  On Monday, September 13th, Nadal won the U.S. Open, completing a rare career Grand Slam.  What an accomplishment!

School is now in session.  This is the first week of school for the local children; I’ve seen and heard several yellow school buses outside of my window.  Monday was also the start of the fall semester at Our Lady of the Lake University

I am auditing two graduate-level courses, (1) Language and Psychosocial Variables in Interviews and Assessments with Latinos (PSYC 8331) and (2) Practicum 1 (PSYC 8390) where I serve as an observer on the Spanish treatment team at OLLU’s Community Counseling Service.  My lecture class meets on Monday evenings from 6:00-8:45 p.m., and my clinic practicum meets on Tuesday afternoons from 1:00-5:00 p.m.  So, I’ve been to both classes already.  It looks like it will be an exciting semester.

My Language and Psychosocial Variables class has 12 students (including me), most of whom are Latino (not me; I’m African-American), and a very experienced Latina instructor/psychologist.  In this blog I will refer to her as Classroom Professor.  She provided an introduction to the course and background information on herself.  We were then asked to provide our own brief introductions in Spanish.  For example, I said, “Me llamo Sybil.  Soy psicologa…”  [There should be an accent mark over the first ‘o’ in ‘psicologa’, but I haven’t figured out how to insert these within the blog post.]  Classroom Professor then distributed and discussed the course syllabus.  An additional required textbook was listed.  It is Hispanics and the Future of America by the Committee on Transforming Our Common Destiny and the National Research Council and edited by Marta Tienda and Faith Mitchell (The National Academic Press, 2006).  I ordered the book from Amazon.com since their prices are often cheaper than those of bookstores.

This course has four student academic outcomes:

  • (1)  Increase awareness of the variables that impact service delivery. 
  • (2)  Explore methods and techniques for overcoming barriers to service delivery.
  • (3)  Increase ability to providing professional communication in Spanish.
  • (4)  Explore individual skills for conducting interviews, communicating technical information, and exploring assessment needs with Latino clients.

Although the class meets only once per week, there is plenty of work expected — assigned readings and discussions, interview role plays in Spanish, research paper and presentation, ongoing glossary and journal documenting awareness in personal/professional development, and a final exam.  The textbook readings are in English, but the class will be conducted primarily in Spanish and the oral and written assignments will be in Spanish.  The Instructor’s Manual is available online so I reviewed it prior to attending class in order to better understand the structure and goals of the course.  The challenge for me will be learning the technical terms that pertain to counseling.  I think I’m really going to like this class.

My clinic practicum has six students (all Latino I think, five of whom for which this is their first practicum) plus me and an experienced Latino faculty member/psychologist.  In this blog I will refer to him as Clinic Team Supervisor.  He described the requirements of the practicum and distributed a six-page handout on clinic procedures.  Clinic Team Supervisor had previously e-mailed the practicum students the complete Clinic Manual which I had read prior to attending yesterday’s clinic team meeting.  We then made introductions (in Spanish, of course) and mentioned our expectations for this practicum experience.  We had previously received a tour of this outpatient mental health facility.  Yesterday we received an explanation on how to prepare the necessary paperwork for documenting client sessions and payment.  Additionally, we were given a demonstration on how to use the TheraScribe computer software for writing case notes of client sessions.  (I’ve seen ads for TheraScribe in psychology publications but have never used it; I prefer to write my session notes by hand) .  Reminders were given about confidentiality and professional ethics. 

Given the population being served by the Community Counseling Service, the theoretical approach to training here is somewhat unique.  There is an emphasis on postmodern approaches to Spanish-Language psychotherapy and solution-oriented methods.  Student therapists, working in pairs, are encouraged to use a nondirective style and to refrain from forced interventions.  Instead, the clients are encouraged to focus on their strengths and discover their own remedies with the support of the therapists.  Initially, some time is spent on small talk (chit-chat) in order to put clients at ease and develop trust.  Live supervision is provided by the clinic team who is viewing the session on a video screen in a nearby room.  Clients have also consented to have the sessions recorded for training purposes.  The reflecting team approach with periodic consultations is familiar to me as it is how I was trained during graduate school twenty years ago. 

Two clients were seen during this first clinic team meeting, a couple with relationship problems and a male with depression.  The student therapists in training had good first sessions with their clients which we processed afterward as a team.  Clinic Team Supervisor has a supportive and comfortable supervision style.  I found that the clients and the team members spoke quickly and used some unfamiliar words so I gathered only bits and pieces of the conversation.  I certainly hope that my comprehension increases as the semester progresses.  This practicum is a nice complement to my lecture class and will allow for integration of theory and practice.  It will provide me with valuable experience.

Earlier this week I began reading The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow.  I saw the author on Oprah a couple of years ago and was inspired by his positive attitude and courage while dealing with his terminal illness.  It seemed appropriate to start the semester with Randy’s uplifting message of enjoying life and pursuing one’s dreams.  One of mine is to learn Spanish.  That is why I am here in San Antonio.

My box of books (sent via parcel post, the cheapest way to ship them) has still not arrived.  I’m hoping it arrives soon as it contains my Vox Compact Spanish and English Dictionary and Medical Spanish:  A Psychologist’s Guide by Craig Alan Sinkinson.  These items will be of great help to me as I attempt to translate words and sentences.

Finally, my car arrived last night at 9:30 p.m.  I’m happy and relieved.  Over the past week I’ve spent almost $200 on taxis (airport pickup plus three roundtrips to OLLU).  Taxis were cheaper than renting a car for the week (which I did during my July visit), but this mode of transportation came with limited flexibility and high inconvenience.  Now that I have my car, I have more freedom and can do the errands that need to be done — grocery store, bank, library, pharmacy, etc.  This afternoon I spent almost three hours at the grocery store (H.E.B. Foods is the big chain here) stocking up on a variety of items needed for setting up a home.  It’s great to have my car again and to now have a full refrigerator/freezer and pantry.

(Slightly Off Topic) —  During the semester I will continue to mention the recent accomplishments of Spanish speakers and their countries (e.g., World Cup, Dora the Explorer, etc.).  In particular, I will focus on those of Hispanics/Latinos as this is the population I am studying this semester.  Here’s a recent victory for Mexico.  Two nights ago the Miss Universe Pageant took place in Las Vegas, Nevada and Miss Mexico (Jimena Navarrete from Guadalajara) was crowned the winner.  This is a nice victory especially given all of the recent controversy in the United States regarding immigration issues (with an emphasis on Mexicans).  Congratulations, Miss Mexico!!!

This was the big week.  I have now relocated to San Antonio.  So many preparations went into this move and it has finally taken place.  When I arrived in Texas on Tuesday — following weeks of stressful prep work, a couple of days of packing, and extreme traffic delays on the drive to New York (traffic was so bad that I drove only two miles in two hours as I was approaching the George Washington Bridge) — I was very tired.  I knew I would need some time to just relax.  After my two flights (NYC/LaGuardia to Atlanta, then Atlanta to San Antonio), I took a taxi to my apartment complex.  I picked up my keys and gate remote control at the leasing office as well as a box of non-perishable food (dry cereal, pasta, canned goods, etc.) and paper products and another box of cleaning supplies that I had shipped here.  A third box — books — is due to arrive today; the longer delivery time is due to the cheaper parcel post rate I paid to have the books shipped.  It was 1:45 p.m. (Central time zone) when I finally arrived at my small furnished apartment.  I felt so relieved to walk through the door with my belongings (including a brand new Travelpro suitcase compliments of Delta Airlines) and a fast food take-out lunch of chicken fingers, salad, and apple juice purchased at the airport after landing, and knew that I was now home.  I did it!

I’m not an avid astrology reader and believer, but my horoscope on the day of my move — Tuesday, August 17th — was particularly fitting.  According to that day’s edition of the San Antonio Express-News (page 7D), the 5-star horoscope (“dynamic” day) for Aries reads:  “A willingness to forge a new path is nothing new for you.  Still, others need to see what happens when you do just that.  Many will demonstrate interest and admiration.  Tonight:  Let your mind wander.”

On Wednesday morning the cable guy came and hooked me up to the Internet.  (All other utilities had already been activated since they are included in my monthly rent.)  Later that day I did a little cleaning and unpacking, and completed my apartment move-in inspection/list of damages (“Inventory and Condition Form”) and returned this to the leasing office as required in exchange for my mailbox key.  At 3:30 p.m., a UPS package arrived.

Before I left Pennsylvania, I ordered some dairy-free frozen meals from MagicKitchen.com (I don’t like cheese and my lactose intolerance makes milk products hard to digest).  I figured that after a stressful move and being without a car for several days — I had it shipped from my Dad’s house in New York and it’s due to arrive early next week — I wouldn’t want to worry about grocery shopping for a while.  This meal delivery service is a nice way to reward myself and it gives me some time to relax and settle in.  So far I’ve eaten three of the meals and they were delicious.

Thursday, August 19th was the day of Our Lady of the Lake’s new Graduate Student Orientation and Welcome Reception.  New students were grouped together at tables reflecting their various graduate programs.  The general orientation lasted for three hours in the morning and included several speakers representing different areas on campus.  They each welcomed us and provided valuable information about the school and its resources.  The school’s emphasis on service to others and spirituality (it’s a Catholic institution) resonated with me and reminded me of my nine years of Catholic schooling when younger.  Even though I’m not Catholic, I appreciate and follow the general Christian values advocated.  OLLU seems like a great fit for me.  The orientation was excellent and included lunch with professors from our respective programs.  In the afternoon the psychology students had a special department orientation/reception.  After this, I spoke with my department chair and met with my academic advisor to prepare my schedule of classes (one lecture and one practicum, both as an auditor) and officially register for them.  I then went to the university bookstore and purchased my one required textbook.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the textbook, Counseling Latinos and la familia:  A Practical Guide by Azara L. Santiago-Rivera, Patricia Arredondo, and Maritza Gallardo-Cooper; Sage Publications, Inc., 2002), is written in English, not Spanish, even though the course will be taught in Spanish.  The Fall semester begins on Monday, August 23rd.  I’m ready.  I’m also ready to get my car because my taxis that day were each 1/2 – 1 hour late and they were expensive.  I live about ten miles from OLLU and spent $50 on roundtrip taxi fare in order to attend the orientation/welcome reception.

The weather in Texas this past week has been hot with high humidity.  Temperatures were around 100 degrees each day and will continue to be at that level for the next several days.  I had been warned about the heat here.  Fortunately, my apartment has a ceiling fan and air conditioning so I’ve been able to stay cool indoors for much of the time.  I’m hoping that the outdoor temperatures cool down a bit with the arrival of the fall season.  I don’t like extreme climates.  Spring and fall in the northeast region of the U.S. are my favorite times of year.  Texas seasons are different and will require some adjustment.

(Slightly Off Topic) — Heard on the news:  Dora the Explorer, the popular seven-year-old Latina cartoon heroine, recently celebrated her 10th anniversary.  She has been described as a “trailblazer” and has a large devoted and engaged audience of children.  Here is a review of her TV show.  Congratulations, Dora!!!

When I was a child, I used to participate in the annual summer reading contest held at my local public library.  My slow reading speed kept me from winning the contest, but I had fun reading a variety of books — especially as a teenager.  My struggles with comprehension and vocabulary have improved with time and practice.  Today, leisure reading is one of my favorite pastimes along with watching television, writing, traveling, and doing jigsaw puzzles.  However, my time is more limited these days so much of my fun reading occurs during the summer months when I am on a break from my job.  There are many popular books that I would eventually like to read (for example, several from The New York Times Best Seller List).  But, for now, I will share with you books I have read recently while preparing for my move to San Antonio.

(1)     Speed Shrinking, a novel by Susan Shapiro

(2)     Outliers:  The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

(3)     Behind Closed Doors, a novel by Kimberla Lawson Roby

(4)     You’d Be So Pretty If…:  Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies — Even When We Don’t Love Our Own by Dara Chadwick

(5)     ‘E’ is for Evidence:  A Kinsey Millhone Mystery by Sue Grafton

(6)     Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou

(7)     Socially Smart in 60 Seconds:  Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts for Personal and Professional Success by Deborah Smith Pegues

(8)     The Difference:  How Anyone Can Prosper in Even the Toughest Times by Jean Chatzky

(9)     Commencement, a novel by J. Courtney Sullivan

(10)   Nothing but the Right Thing, a novel by Stacy Hawkins Adams

One book that I really enjoyed reading a couple of years ago is Eat, Pray, Love:  One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I’m looking forward to seeing the movie version starring Julia Roberts when it opens in theaters tomorrow.

Back to my packing.  The next time you hear from me I’ll be in San Antonio.

As the weeks of summer continue to pass by, my excitement and anxiety continue to grow.  OMG!  What have I gotten myself into?  While I have moved a few times in my life, both for school and for work, my last move was over a decade ago.  Like many people, I do not enjoy the process of moving.  However, once I’m settled in I’m fine.  On the positive side, this move to Texas is only temporary (four months) so I won’t have to endure a total packing.  Nevertheless, it’s still stressful.

I still don’t have a place to live.  The ad I placed in my college’s alumnae magazine resulted in zero replies.  Speaking to colleagues and friends about my plans and hearing their suggestions has been helpful.  I’ve been browsing the ads on Craigslist — and trying to weed out the perverts — and found a couple of possibilities that seem promising.  Hopefully this will all come together next week when I make a visit to San Antonio for the purpose of finding a furnished room or apartment to rent for the semester.  I plan to check out the newspaper classifieds, visit real estate offices, and follow up on Internet listings so that I can view in person the advertised accommodations.  Wish me luck!

Another part of this process involves making preparations for my current apartment — mail, newspaper, security, etc.  There are many details to which I must attend if I want my sabbatical to go smoothly.  Some of these — for example, budget, location, and language ability — I already considered at the time of my application as I had to secure the necessary approvals for this paid leave of absence.

It took me a few years to find a sabbatical activity that was interesting, appropriate, and reasonable to complete within one semester.  I also had to connect it to my job and show how my sabbatical would benefit the university and its students.  After all, this is a professional academic endeavor which I have earned and not a luxury vacation.

Here’s the abstract from my sabbatical application:

The attached sabbatical proposal falls within the “Continuing Scholarly Growth” area on which faculty members are evaluated, and would also enhance the fulfillment of my “Counseling Responsibilities”.  Given the increasing diversity of the United States’ population, and of Bloomsburg University students, it is important for psychologists to have an understanding of many cultural variables and to be well versed in a variety of effective counseling techniques.  The purpose of my sabbatical is to gain more knowledge about how to provide appropriate and effective counseling services to Hispanic/Latino populations.  I would enroll in two on-site graduate-level courses (i.e., either two lecture courses or one lecture and one practicum), at least one of which would be taught in Spanish, that is offered by Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas.  These courses are part of their Psychological Services for Spanish-Speaking Populations (PSSSP) certificate curriculum.

To this application I attached supporting materials to show my years of Spanish study as well as my level.  I was certified at the Intermediate-Mid level of oral Spanish proficiency by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.  This ACTFL rating is a requirement I had to meet in order for OLLU to grant me permission to take their PSSSP courses.

One of my favorite subscriptions is that to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the weekly newspaper about colleges and universities and their students and employees.  Over the years there have been stories about faculty sabbaticals from which I gathered ideas, resources, and solutions.

Two sabbatical books that I have found helpful and that I highly recommend are:

(1) Sabbaticals 101: A Practical Guide for Academics & Their Families by Nancy Matthews (New Forums Press, Inc., 2008)

(2) Six Months Off: How to Plan, Negotiate, and Take the Break You Need Without Burning Bridges or Going Broke by Hope Dlugozima, James Scott, and David Sharp (Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1996).

So this is the “setting the stage” post that provides some background on what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.  I should mention that this blog is not part of my official sabbatical project.  It is my own independent undertaking.  I’m a nonfiction writer so I want to write.  However, I never thought I’d be a blogger.  But times have changed, and so has the world of publishing, and blogging is the popular online medium for communication.  Please be patient with me as I explore this new arena.

Feel free to LINK to this blog.  Request my permission if you wish to publish any or all of it in any format.  Copyright laws apply.

Finally, a slightly off-topic note:  Congratulations to Spain for winning its first World Cup soccer title!!!  This just happened a few minutes ago in South Africa as I was watching their game against the Netherlands on television while typing this blog post.  A week ago I returned from Spain (where I completed another month of language study) and while there got to witness the joy and pride that fans showed for their team.  This championship title is a great victory for Spain and I share in their happiness.  Felicitaciones!!!


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