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I’m A Teacher! (Plus Essay Dedicated to Grandpa)

September 26, 2009

First of all: I am loving this job. My students (all four of them!) are awesome. I have to be careful because I could write a whole post about what great kids they are. Instead, I want to focus on my personal life as of late…

I lived in Almaty, Kazakhstan in August before making my way to Aktau. Almaty was a blast, and thanks Caleb for opening your house up to me! Here I am a day’s hike up into the Tien Shan Mountains (only 20 min. outside of the city!):

Me at Big Almaty Lake, complete with Tie-Dye Shirt.

Me at Big Almaty Lake, complete with Tie-Dye Shirt.

On the 18th of August I flew to Aktau to start my first year of teaching. It was great to see how prepared the school was for the coming year.

I work for Quality Schools International, a non-profit international school. QSI-Aktau is just one of 37 schools they have all over the globe. Check out my school’s video!

The school provided me with an awesome apartment… way more than I need actually. I have a remote control for my lights, just to give you an idea. And a couch in my kitchen!

Remote Control for Lights

Remote Control for Lights-- I used to think this was silly, but I have grown to love it. It makes reading-to-nap transitions veeery smooth.

Apartments here come fully furnished, but it’s always a surprise what you get. My landlord gave me one cup, two plates, but three (read: too many) ornate porcelain and glass tea sets. Maybe I’ll start throwing proper tea-parties (no guns or anti-Obama signs allowed!).

Some sad news, though. My Grandfather passed away last tuesday. He was a big part of my life. I wrote something for him. Here’s an excerpt:

Gathering Stones Together:

A memoir of change by Nicholas Drapeau.

Dedicated to my Grandfather.

Part One: Building the Past with Stones of the Present.

It was a Sunday in November, an early afternoon, and the sun was burning a hole in my shirt. What was the deal with this heat wave? I just wanted to go for a walk in the shade; through those tranquil trails in Grandpa’s forest. Those trails lined with large sticks shaken from larger sticks, surrounded by clouds of mist rising from the damp and timeless humus. I asked him if the dogs could come up with me to the elephant rock, if he wanted to come too, but Grandpa had some important things to do. He was building a wall, and the day was moving faster than either of us cared to acknowledge.

I think every once in a while about the rocks, the sun, the older and more distant man beside me –my blood— and I wonder, is there a deeper connection? I juggled this question as I handled each stone on top of another, fit securely into the carved red earth and itchy grass. There was a lot of granite buried there too. As I dug, my shovel hit a gray speckled chunk of the stuff with a –BANG— and my teeth tingled like I just ate one of those pink sugar flowers off a wedding cake.

I usually got to Grandpa’s house twice a year: once in the summer for a week and once for a long Thanksgiving weekend. It was a house situated precisely in Boonsboro township, Virginia but it was maybe fifteen minutes outside of downtown Lynchburg. Famous home of Liberty University; infamous home of the late Jerry Falwell. I must digress now from too many opinions. Just the facts. Stones stacking one upon another.

One of those stones said “Pomona”. I didn’t know that at the time, but it did. For those of you unfamiliar with this fine township, Pomona is a small piece of earth located exactly at  41°11′11″N Latitude, 74°3′20″W Longitude in Upstate New York. I have a claim in this town now. Yes, I know the town very well; almost by blood relation. This is the result of a long string of unforeseen consequences beginning with a Prussian man’s immigration to New York City and then to Upstate New York where he built a family of two.

This Prussian immigrant was my Great Grandfather Isaac. He was a big-hearted man with a Russian understanding in his eyes. I have recently come to the conclusion that Russians are the only people on this earth who understand the unexplored depth of humanity (See: Dostoevsky; See: Gogol; See: Tolstoy; See: Solzhenitsyn).

Grandpa returned only a few years ago intending to rediscover his nearly forgotten childhood home but arriving there, he said, was devastating. The home he knew, where Great Grandma Lottie lived above the garage in her own little apartment; the home where that same Great Grandma pawned her engagement ring to buy an outdoor patio (which she loved and used every day; reading her terminally half finished books and watching the humming birds dance carelessly around the sun-drenched lattice for hours) was no more than a bare foundation. He tried to find the trees he knew; the buried time capsule and other sacred relics, but he could not. Instead he found a stone, a part of the foundation, to add to his wall. Great Grandma Lotti’s diamond terrace was wholly dismantled, brought to ruin by time.

New things are built all the time with the neglected stones from the demolished foundations of what we have loved. Nostalgia numbs the deep senses, but reality is feeling everything for what it is. I hear Grandpa saying Nick, take your past and build something fantastic with it. Have a new and beautiful beginning that will blossom from sorrow.

Read the rest of my essay HERE.

That’s all for now. Love you all!


4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2009 3:48 pm

    Hey, glad to see you’re settling in. 🙂 Have a fantastic teaching experience!

  2. September 26, 2009 4:01 pm

    Hey Becky! Thanks! This experience has been really wonderful so far. How is your student teaching coming along?

  3. September 26, 2009 6:49 pm

    Hey Nick, it’s done! I’m finished my first placement and I’m back in the States. I start my second on Oct 21st in the Bensalem school district. I’m excited, although a little skeptical because it’s 1st grade. Haha. Not my favorite.

  4. September 26, 2009 7:06 pm

    Oh my. First graders can be tough. I teach music to the K/1st Grade class and every day I thank Dad that I survived! 😛 They can be a really fun bunch though. Once you develop a relationship with the kids and get to know them and what their interests are it will be a blast.

    F.Y.I: 1st graders here seem to love animal sounds. And the boys love putting each other in head locks… things to avoid…. lol

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