Why didn’t anyone tell me about Kentucky?

A brief debate about boxing with my nephews combine with an urge to education led to a fun fact trip to Louisville, Kentucky. Just a few hours away from Chicago, a day trip to Kentucky is a must! One of the first item on my agenda was to expose and explore the brilliance of Muhammad Ali.

It’s safe to say that both Marcell and Tre enjoyed their time at the center as well as left with a different perspective of true champion and leader.

Just around around the corner from the center, we toured the Louisville Slugger Museum.

We got the opportunity to explore the slugger making process in the factory as well as explore the different selection of game winning bats from many historical baseball figures. While the trip was a success, I plan to do much more on my next visit!

From Day One to One Day

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I can remember the first day I was exposed me to the world of traveling abroad. My sixth grade teacher shared her summer vacation experiences traveling through Asia.  She brought in Polaroid (hand-held photos for you New Schoolers) pictures of her family in Japan, Vietnam and Hong Kong, which at the time seemed so weird to me and other classmates to learn of a black people traveling to a place so far away. During her presentation, she spoke of how she enjoyed the journey, learned to speak Mandarin, dine with the locals and even dressed in the traditional wear during her visit.  It would be years later that I would learn of another teacher that would experience going abroad, many classmates nor family never wanted embark on the challenge.  When asked by my international colleagues why many Americans never traveled, especially African-Americans, you’re bomb rushed with a plethora of reasons such as some not having the resources, poor decision-making early in life, illness, lack of knowledge and exposure can account for large amounts of individuals not experiencing a life time treasure.  While I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity the leave the United States, I often think of my community as I am now collecting my souvenirs and garments to share once I return back to my neighborhood one day.

I was 35  when I entered the globetrotting community and Asia was the first place I visited, who would have known!  I’ve grown so much as an educator and even discover outside of the beautiful monuments, art work and food tours, I grown to enjoy people-watching.  I admire large families who expose their children to the world of travel at such a young age.  Although they may be too young to realize it, later in life many go on to develop into global citizens, speak many languages either verbal both non-verbal which also prepare them for rewarding professional careers.   Being a realist, I know the thought of hopping on a plane and traveling across the globe for many young pupils in poverty-stricken communities are mere dreams but I strive to do my part by sharing and promoting the joy of travel with my old colleagues, students’ nieces and nephews.  I dedicated much of my summer vacation traveling through the states, taking them on trips outside of the community and when time permits, weekend road trips will soon become a staple.  I’m impressed with their language when they speak about our staycation in passing, I am certain they will develop the desire travel much sooner than later.

I met an avid traveler during one of my frequent  airport layovers that spoke about the best birthday present she had received was a passport application  along with a money order of the amount needed to complete the registration.  It’s a great idea I plan to adopt for my family members in the near future.   It’s as if history is repeating itself but with the help of technology and a more globalized society, dreamers are now becoming believers! If I could find that teacher, I would like to thank her for opening my eyes to a world outside of Chicago, Illinois, Midwest and the United States.  A place that once seemed so large to me as young student, has now become so small.  Yes, as clichéd as it sounds the sky’s the limit and it’s through the clouds you will begin to discovered that true learning comes from just observing the world, even if it through the experiences of others First!

Little Rock Arkansas: Retracing the steps of “The Little Rock Nine”

Nearly 5 years ago, I decided to explore my options, take a risk to travel across the globe to teach abroad in the Middle East.   At that time, the state of education had

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A collection of items donated from each of the students to the museum that was built to honor their legacy.
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These shoes belong to Elizabeth Eckford, a young  women who was brazen enough to withstand the anger, yelling and rage from segregationists when she made attempt to enter school.
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I had to capture this moment as I truly admire these unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.
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A portrait created a art student from Little Rock High School.

it’s troubles but I learned to adapt and persevere to become a passionate Special Needs Educator. I took for granted the restorative natural of travel and how easy it is to explore the United States without a passport or visa.  That’s why every Summer I create an agenda and go on a road trip to visit places and/or states I’ve never seen.  This year, one of the many places I traveled to  was Little Rock, Arkansas. I had the liberty of walking the same route nine students took nearly 60 years ago to force their way into high school to get the educated.
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The Little Rock Nine were a group of nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Their enrollment was followed by the Little Rock Crisis, in which the students were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by Orval Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas.

Sweet February featuring “Miss Sharifa”

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Miss Sharifa is a student at United Arab Emirates University majoring in Primary Education. U.A.E. University is one of the largest educational institutions in the Middle East.

Since starting my blog over a year ago, I’ve been fortunate to have visited and experience places around the world I’ve only read about in magazines and history books as a child. I also manage to take the time to speak to the local residents, who are quite friendly, to learn more about their culture and experiences.  A great meeting could start with a short tour around the villages, to studying different art pieces and clothing and ending with an opportunity to sample great food items happily prepared by a member of a family. In my short time here in the United Arab Emirates, I’ve met many interesting people and learned more the history of Dubai from listening to their stories than from visiting the museum.  Being the cultural junkie I am, I enjoy sharing my addiction and decided that outside of sharing the amazing photos of different places, it’s now time to share their stories.  Just off the brink of winning the Expo 2020, the city of Dubai, as well as other neighboring emirates, celebrated with a spectacular fireworks show and displays that let up the skies to let the world, WE HAVE ARRIVED!!  I was very excited for the city and hope to be around to enjoy the experience, but I know the feeling of the local residents were much more exuberant. I love chatting with many of my local friends here in Dubai when I’m out for coffee or strolling along the creek. To began my conversation series with these “Special Gems”on the rise, I decided to have a quick chat with my colleague Miss Sharifa, a future educator born and raised here in Dubai:

What brought you to the field of Education?

I enjoy teaching and like to help people. I want to become a part of a team of looking to help the education systems in the U.A.E. I am also working to build a strong career for myself by focusing on gaining knowledge and climbing high on the academic ladder to achieve a Phd.

Give me 2 words that describe you.

Friendly and Tenacious

What was your most memorable moment in Dubai.

I remember when my organization won the reward as the best medical institute in the Middle East, it was a great accomplishment for my city and we were all very proud.

What is you favorite place to visit in the U.A.E.? Why?

The Al Ain Zoo. You have to visit this place to understand that it’s not just a zoo but a wild life resort.

If you were to give advice to someone visiting the U.A.E. for the first 1st time, what would it be?

My advice would be to explore the Old Town part of the city before enjoying the nightlife and malls.  If you are here for a short time, visit some of the cafes to have tea and dates and chat the people in the community.

How do you plan to prepare for the Dubai 2020 Expo?

I am thinking of starting my own business, so it could grow internally and I could promote it internationally at the expo.

Good luck to you Miss Sharifa, we at Sandy Treasures are wishing you all the best!!

Meet Ms. Evelyn Vutage

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On my visit to Kenya, I was fortunate to tour the community and meet one of the teachers at the Primary School on Maasai Mara Reserve. The teacher, who also lived in the community, explained the daily duties that  of the students in order to make sure the school stayed tidy. I learned that not all of the students on the reserve can attend primary school with their siblings, because there are simply not enough resources to teach, cloth and feed most of whom already attend school. So students who are selected are must share their teachings to their siblings once they get home after a long day in class. I listened to the daily tales of  students in the 3rd grade, where I learned that each one as young as 8 years old must arrived to school thirty minutes early to help clean the school grounds before they could eat breakfast and start class. The typical instruction day last seven hours with one short break after lunch, followed by students cleaning the school grounds before the break period was up. The facility had very little electricity, running water and resources. The school recently received a generous gift of three computers, but since there are no staff trained to use them, most of the time they remained unused.
Their textbooks were in such poor condition, all the seating was falling apart and there were barely  any writing utensils available for the students to use, I was heartbroken. As a young child growing up poor in Chicago, I know how it feels to not have much and feel helpless, I could only pray and hope that things would get better for my family. But after my visit to Africa, I now look back on my situation and realize that it was not at all as worst as I thought it was. I was so touched by my experience that I know it was my time to help someone to reach their goals and make their dreams come true.

After researching different agencies and speaking with friends, I learned of an agency that offered opportunities to sponsor students in the small village. A good friend referred me to a trusted organization named, URAFIKI, an organization that supports students in secondary school in Yala, Kenya. I was fortunate to have coffee with one of the organizers here and Dubai, just to get some reassurance that my child will receive every dollar I donated.  I received information from our meet that I felt secure enough support a beautiful, young and outstanding student name, Evelyn Vutage.

Evelyn has just been enrolled in the Ikobero Secondary School, where she just received word that she would be getting support to help with her education.  I’m told she was very excited and has already took photos to send to me along with a portfolio of some of her best classwork  and letters.

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Evelyn lives with both parents along and has one sister and three brothers.  Her parents are peasant farmers and do not earn more than a subsistence living.  She has done well on her primary exams, but seemed afraid to come forward to ask for sponsorship because her brother was already being supported and she didn’t think that they would allow one family to have two children receive help.  Her brother Ben is great!  He was very sick, almost died earlier in the year with TB and pneumonia.  Thanks to a fellow supporter, he recovered.  He wrote lovely letters of thanks and I’m sure his sister will do just the same.  I learned that Evelyn had begun to give up on school and began to resigned herself to a life of poverty.  When teachers had notice that she didn’t attend school in the first weeks, a fellow supporter reached out to the family and she was quickly rushed back into school.  Most secondary schools in Africa are boarding schools, which is great for Evelyn, because her school is a long walk from home and that carries the high risk of being attacked.  She wanted me to know that she was so happy that I have come to her rescue and, ASANTE SANA!!!  

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Off on a new journey……. to be continued :)!

 

The Arabic Student العربي طا لب

Hello All, or shall I say ” اهلا و سهلا ابا شيريز” 010Most of my teen years growing up was foster in Humboldt Park, a diverse Hispanic community on the north side of Chicago.  I attended several elementary schools and later graduated from Roberto Clemente Community Academy, a school respectfully renamed after a true pioneer and leader in the Puerto Rico community.  I was fortunate to have the chance to embrace the culture, attend many festivals, sample great dishes at the local restaurants and even tried to learn Spanish so that I can communicate with my Hispanic classmates.  At that time, the thought of being bilingual was all fun and games.  I loved being able to say short phrases and curse words in Spanish, however I lack the motivation to learn it seriously. So like a goal without a plan, it became a wish and my  hope to one day be bilingual disappeared, temporally. As years past and I began to branch outside of my comfort zone, I’ve learned of the career benefits of speaking Spanish in college and it was then I realized that I had robbed myself of a golden opportunity to learn Spanish early on.  017I started to noticed everywhere I looked, a context presented in some form of a language being Spanish, Polish, Urdu or Mandarin, the world had truly gone global.  I  still never lost the desire to be bilingual, it was on my to do list before I turned 50, but I will wrestle with reason.  Up until 3 years ago, I had never plan to leave the U.S., I had a good job,  so what’s the point of learning a new language now?  Besides 95% of my friends spoke English and many members in the African-American community couldn’t be bother with the task no matter what rewards they may reap in the end.  Why? well many have their reasons, for some it’s the ignorance to global opportunities, lack of resources,the time to put in and study, support from friends and family, motivation, fear and patience!!

001My first attempt at Spanish was very scary.  Although I hired a great tutor, her accent was thick and hard to understand at times.  Just learning to pronounce some terms were weird and because I chose not to put forth 110%, never studied and really felt awkward after every session.  I could tell my tutor was very passionate about her work, she had mentor in the community for years and I felt liked I had wasted her time.  Just graduating from college, I was a young adult very eager, but quickly cracked under pressure due to my lack of progress and laziness.  I dreaded calling my tutor to confirm our meets, in my heart I felt liked the world’s worst student.  Instead, I just stopped going to sessions and avoided her messages, til this day I still felt bad about giving up so easy.  Ironically since that time, I’ve become a teacher myself and one of my biggest pet peeves are when my students are absent.  I even hate when they come late and parents don’t have a good explanation its torture.

011I recently experienced my second attempt at learning another language here in Dubai, where I decided to give French a try.  I’m learning that being bilingual in the international community is very necessary for career advancement, especially for high paying positions in all fields.  So why French?  It’s a universal language spoken all across the globe, the institute had a great reputation, my neighbor tutored part-time and it’s one very sexy language.  I decided to complete an accelerated course offered on the weekends, that last three and a half hours, a decision that I later learned was a big mistake.  The instructor took a more immersion style approach to teaching the course, which killed my learning self-esteem from the very start.  I was not allowed to speak English in the class, until after it was over and he seemed impatient when you struggled to learn the new terms.  The vibe in the classroom was not warm, I didn’t feel comfortable which totally clouded my desire to stay focus.  As I matured being a life-long student, I realized that in order for me to retain information it takes interactive learning.  This situation was quite different from the time I tried Spanish.  Here I was in a class of 12 individuals with me being the only American and monolingual, it was very intimidating.  I struggled with the grammar, lost interest with the instructor, who talked for more than two hours and I again began to chip away at my motivation to speak it.  Although I studied, I couldn’t practice speaking it daily to anyone accept my neighbor taught it.  I had manage to attend 5 out of 7 sessions and completed the course, learning very little or nothing at all.

023At this point, the average person may have given up, but not me. For some reason, I believed that I was capable of doing this. A good friend of mine questioned my psych (ha! ha!) and wanted to know why don’t I just study the language for which I’m currently immerse in now, which is the most culturally language spoken today, Arabic.  A language currently in demand, has a rich history and is very difficult to learn.  It ranks among the top 5 most challenging languages to speak and now I’m being encourage to give it a try, why not?.  This time I decided to do a bit more research about the institute I had chosen to attend, the instructor, reviewed the syllabus and looked through the textbooks.  After touring the campus and observing the positives vibes from the students in the yard, I register for my first course in Arabic.  I again started off at a beginners level, but this time it was different, to say that my instructor was amazing would be an understatement.  She was MAGNIFICENT!!.  She was patient, intelligent, outgoing and witty.  She made my learning experience fun.  I was able to leave the class practically remembering everything taught, as if it engraved in my memory.  I even scared myself, when I began to write and join Arabic scripts and was able to decode what I wrote.  I guess my biggest fear of all was being able to recite basic Arabic words aloud and making mistakes.  My instructor informed us one of the greatest fear of learning another language was getting comfortable with failure it will take a while to master any challenge.

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I recently attended a workshop on Dyslexia, where I learned that it takes the average primary student 3 years to master the Dolce Sight List, 3 years!!  She even challenge the crowd on the usage of the word “bat”, which could be used in several forms when constructing a sentence.  With all this said, I have decided to take the primary student approach to learning Arabic.  I made sure I attended each session and successfully completed the course with a high “B” average.  I enrolled in the next class, which I found moved too fast, so I decided to find myself a tutor.  I changed my schedule to meet my sessions and are now practicing and studying everyday.  With the benefit of living in an Arab country, I can now develop my spelling by reading everything in Arabic script.  My colleagues in the Arabic department were amazed and happy that someone from the U.S. has taken an interest in their language, they challenge me every chance they get.  I have fallen in love with this language so much, that I have already envisioned my future being able to speak fluently to my students and friends.005

I’ve achieved one of my greatest goal of reading a 1st grade Arabic picture book on fruits and colors. (Excuse me for a second while I jump and down!!)  So despite having to give this language thing one more try, I am now comfortable with my level and ability of learning a foreign language, الحمدللةاباحيد.

It’s SNOW secret, Christmas is here!

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“Santa? You’re here?”  At least that’s what my inner child said  out loud as I strolled through the mall this past week.  There he was, seating among his helpers in their make shift North Pole, made of white felt, cotton, glitter  and cray paper.   The theater theme  stage consisted of a huge  beautifully decorated Christmas tree, perfectly wrapped presents and the noticeably large Santa chair.  Just like a child standing in line with my mother at Sears, I watched as the children ran up to take a picture on his lap and receive their gift from the elves. The parents seemed so excited right along with their children, it’s great to see small kids get excited about telling Santa their wishes for the year.    While still in the festival mood, I decided to stroll through the seasonal light show exhibit where I admire the Arab’s world attempt to add a snow effects to their displays.

I enjoyed a very relaxing and peaceful cup of evening outside on the cafe’s patio, drinking my espresso and watching many shoppers take photos along the pathway.  It was very necessary for me to stop and appreciate this moment, as I am aware I very fortunate to experience Christmas on the other side of the world.

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Bright snow-white plants laced the path going through the garden.

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I never seen lite birds in trees, thought this gave the Light Garden a cool look.

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Up close the birds gave a special glare.

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Horses are very special and profitable animals to the elite in the Arab world.

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And lastly, the hardest working animal in the desert, the Camel.

 (Here’s one fun fact, did you know that there are over 160 words for “camel” in the Arabic language.)

I was amaze at how well this American celebratory tradition has been well received in the Arab world and how the holiday color scheme seem to pop up all across the city. Christmas time in here Dubai and the locals did not disappoint with their way of showing appreciations for the many expats, who still love and cherish the special time of the

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year.  Back home, right about this time, my city would be well decorated in Chrismassy holiday decor.  If you not too careful, or get blown away by the Hawk(strong winter wind), you just may confuse Michigan Ave. for a scene right out of the Christmas Ca

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rol movie.  I felt at home as I drove down Sheik Zayed road, everything  seemed to be in its right place minus the snow.  The buildings are all decorated in green and red lights , homes are lite up with different decorations as if their competing for a grand prizes and schools all across the city were having special holiday assemblies and concerts.  A very young city with a huge spirit,

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Earlier in the day, I enjoyed a great time with my students, as I became part of the Christmas scene dressing up as a “Sweet Candy Cane Diva”.  It was great listening to students sing and act out different traditional Christmas carols in their beautiful crafted costumes.  My administrators also marveled in the fun, with dressing up to play the parts of our staff sing along, greeting students and passing out gifts to the parents. Even our hard-working school assistants looked great in their costumes and were having fun in their Chrismissy get ups.

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It’s always a treat to see the bosses joining in and having fun!

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Bright faces are one of the many reasons why teachers show up to work everyday to give their all.

The entire primary school celebrated in the spirit of Christmas, over 600 students dressed in costumes, singing songs and dancing their way into the holiday.

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My assistants and I having a little fun!

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The winning team, the Chimneys and Chimney Swipes.

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To end my night, I decided to stay for the Seasonal Light show that displayed different Christmas scenes while the music told a tale.  I enjoyed the special effects and even tried my hand a singing some the carols, under my breath, but I felt like I was right at home as I watched the skies light up with beautiful colors, rhythm and sound.

It was interesting as I polled and talked with my colleagues about their Christmas traditions,  I learned that many nationalities celebrate it in their own special way.   Unlike the U.S., where most families spend until their heart is content and later miss the true fortune of the spirit.   Many countries do acknowledge December 25 and treat it as a gift, just to be able to say I’m happy to experience another festive moment while spending very little or no money at all.  I think the only thing that feels awkward about my experience here, is the fact that there’s no snow or cold weather to bear with, not that I’m complaining.

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Merry Christmas!!

Many Faces, One Nation!

Like many Americans, I look forward to celebrating the 4th of July with my family and friends.  In many cities across the U.S., several events take place to commemorate the day our country declared its independence from Britain, on July 4, 1776.  Some cities host picnics, parades, barbecues, family reunions, carnivals and fairs.  Locals historians host ceremonies giving the history of Independence Day and ironically this day falls within the period of when many city elections are taking place.  During the election season, you’ll find politicians participating in parades, hosting dinners and giving speeches connecting our history with current hot topics in government.  The one staple I love the most about celebrating the Fourth of July is our city’s fire works show.  Why celebrate the Forth of July with a grand fireworks show?  Because John Adams, our 2nd president wanted us to, making Independence Day the National Day of the United States.

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Since moving abroad, I’m fortunate to share in another Independence Day celebration.  On the 2nd of December 1971, the U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates) was formed and has now celebrated its 41st year.  Just like the states, leading up to this day, many events take place throughout the city.  Schools host assemblies educating students on the history of the U.A.E and provide opportunities to share in the celebration through art and dance.  The locals decorate their homes and cars with the colours of the U.A.E. flag, which are red, green, black and white.

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Visitors and expatriates, such as myself dressed in an Abaya for the day, a traditional garment of Muslim women in the Middle East.  The city hosted the Dubai Rugby Sevens, a huge sporting event where people come from all around the world to get dressed up in crazy costumes, drink and have a good time with friends.  This year, we was shocked to receive our first thunderstorm in two and a half years here in the desert, it caught us all by surprise.  The U.A.E is one big international hub, one nation and many faces.  There are so many individuals from all over the world that currently resides here. It’s also a wonderful place to develop and grow in any passion you  so desire, Happy National Day U.A.E!!

The Mandawa Village

This spring, I toured India and visited a town five hours away from New Delhi called Mandawa.  The town is best known for their famous medieval themed Havelis, a term used for a building of personal residence.

 The streets were busy with merchants, vendors and children, playing with it seemed to be was hide and seek, but I’m pretty sure they had another name for it.  Today most of the Havelis were empty and had deteriorated throughout the years.  The town Mandawa has no electricity, so students have very little time to complete their homework, have dinner and go out and play.  Although they seemed a bit winded, they were very welcoming when I introduced myself.  They asked questions about the States, touched my hair and beg for money.  I didn’t give money, but I did donate a couple bucks to a family who had allowed me to tour the inside of their residence.