Friday, October 17, 2014

Torch Singer 101: The Finale

Remember back in the Star Party report when I told you I looked at those stars and wondered how I would ever find the right words to convey how amazing they were? Well, as I've experienced the Torch Singer 101 class and performance, words have been hard to come by as well, but for different reasons. And so far, I haven't been able to even put those reasons into words, let alone describe the experience.

So here is my best try. . . 

Those of you waiting for a report about the performance will have to ask someone who was there.  I can't objectively report on my own performance, but I will tell you that I was enormously proud of everyone in my class. And video clips are never the same as a live performance, so I have not watched any of them that were shared with me, nor do I intend to. I do know that I did the best I could do, and I lived to tell about it.

It's no secret that the Torch Singer class was the most challenging thing I've taken on in a very, very long time. While some of you are rolling your eyes and no doubt think that's an exaggeration, some of you who have patiently responded to text after anxious text for months, asked me hard questions about why Torch Singer was even on my Brave Project list, or wondered out loud to me what it means to succeed or fail at a challenge such as a public singing performance . . . you know.  

Even though singing is not your thing, and never has been, you fully supported this challenge from the start. You sat across from me when my heart was pounding and I couldn't breathe as the performance date approached and assured me everything would be okay. You mailed off a package that would arrive for me to open after the performance that was full of congratulations and affirmation so I'd know you believed all would be well even after the show. You shut the door to the conference room, or circled up after Refit class, and prayed for me. You had dinner with me the night of the show to help keep my mind off the upcoming performance. 

You raced off to get me a glass of ice water after you watched me sing the opening number with the group looking like a scared statue, knowing my solo performance was up first. You sent me encouraging texts and Facebook messages and blog comments. You told me which dress and shoes looked best. You loaned me jewelry. You drove to Lincoln from all over everywhere for the show. You fit the performance into a busy night when your beloved Royals were playing a make-up game to win the pennant. You insisted you couldn't even tell that sweat was dripping off me so profusely my dress got a whole extra set of polka dots. You didn't post video of the performance to Youtube. You helped me find Beyond and Sea, and told me that Fly Me To the Moon is one of your favorite songs. 

And I love you for that.

Or you said as little about it as possible because you knew how worried I was about performing. You didn't come to the show because you thought it would be less stressful to me to have less people there. You skipped over the whole experience.

And I love you for that too.

Because it turns out that while Torch Singer 101 was about having an audience for a few of the students, or for living out a bucket list dream, or creating your own fairy tale for others, for me it was about facing fear. And finding my voice again. Even if it was not the one I expected. And accepting that things change. And taking risks. And working through insecurities in very public ways. And very private ways.

And letting you help me.

So thank you. For everything mentioned above. And thanks...

  • to the 7 of you who taught me - Jackie Allen and my fellow students in the Torch Singer Class. 
  • to the 37 of you who came to the performance to support me. 
  • to Kevin, who sent roses, told me I was beautiful and was patient with my insecurity as always. 
  • to Olivia, who texted me from her first parent teacher conferences as a student teacher reminding me she was there in spirit. 
  • to Eric, who not only chipped in with his sister to send flowers, but also sent two texts in one day that had multiple words in each one. Including:  YOU DID SO WELL.  I'M SO PROUD OF YOU!

It turns out that the Torch Singer experience wasn't about singing. It was about learning. And growing. And courage.

And, most of all, love.

Thanks to Jena Nicole Lambert for shooting the show for us, and sharing her photos.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Torch Singer 101: Progress Report

Last week was my third Torch Singer 101 class.  We're half way through the class already, and many of you have asked me how it's going. So here's my mid-term report.

General info:  The class itself is great. Jackie Allen, the teacher, is gracious, kind, encouraging and talented.  The other students are great too. It takes a special bit of chutzpuh to show up for this sort of thing, and it's fun to be around people who are willing to put themselves out there.

The day of the first class, I was such a nervous wreck before class started, I barely got myself to the door of Jackie's home. But I did. Right after I sent this text to a few of my friends:

Have I mentioned how wonderful my friends are?  

After Jackie welcomed us to class, we started through introductions, which included phrases such as:
  • vocal performance major in college
  • national jazz project in Nashville
  • perform in local community theatre productions
  • performed in New York
  • competitive barbershop
  • musical family where dad danced around the living room singing Sinatra
and . . . Brave Project...terrified  

(Don't worry Mom. I didn't mention that when you were a kid your church choir director asked if you would just mouth the words instead of singing them. We can't all dance around singing Sinatra, now can we? I also left out Dad's sweaty towel waving rendition of Kansas City at our wedding reception. Lord have mercy.)

In other words, I seem to have landed in the gifted class. My first thought was to stay after class to ask if I could be transferred to the November group. Let's just say it took a lot of fight to keep my flight in check. (The wine we were all invited to bring to class might have helped too.) As I left that night in the pouring rain and responded to a text from my friend asking how it went, my report included this text.

At that point, I put my chances at showing up for the public performance at about 5%. And only if I could get my hands on Roger's doctor-approved miracle stage fright beta blocker drug (which I ultimately chose not to do, but I did mark this as a life experience since it's the first time anyone ever leaned over to me and said, hey, I know about this drug you might like .  . . .) But I was so stressed about the performance that my husband and friends told me to just drop the class. That it was not worth this much stress and anxiety. Gulp.

This is where I mention that I may have overshot my brave on this challenge. It would have probably been a better option to just take a singing class or some voice lessons that did not involve the pressure of a performance at the end. But, pulling from Toby Boss's infamous phrase book:  "That train has left the station." And while there is an emergency brake on that train, I hope not to use it.

Week 2 built confidence. I went into the class this week having decided to make the performance optional for myself, but I didn't tell anyone at class that. We continued our group call and response scat singing while marching around the dining room table. We chose from piles of sheet music while Jackie worked individually with students at the piano to find our range, including the low and high notes we are solid on.  

We also drank more wine. And ate Jackie's cookies. And one by one, several of my new friends pulled me aside to tell me that they had read the blog and offered encouragement to me.  "I think you're just not used to a lower voice yet."  "We are going to be in the audience thinking you have so got this!"  "We just have to remember that this is for fun!"

Have I mentioned that my sense of fun is slightly underdeveloped? That sometimes I tend to take life a little too seriously?? (I know, crazy, isn't it?  So many of you right now are shaking your heads saying, "I had no idea you take life seriously, Lynne! When I think of FUN, you always are the first person to pop right into my head!")

We also talked about what to wear for the performance since we have an alum in our group. "Oh, really you can wear whatever you're comfortable in. Sparkle is good. New Year's Eve dresses are good."

Apparently Lee Ann doesn't kick off her Birkenstocks and hang out with friends around a dining room table playing Mad Gab in jeans and sock feet on NYE!  I can't remember ever owning a New Year's Eve dress. And I'm guessing that putting my hands on one that comes in tall in the next few weeks won't be easy. Aaaack! I left thinking I better work on that outfit because my new singing buddies were counting on me to be at the show. Odds of performing:  50%.

Week 3 opened with Jackie telling us that one of the students needed to drop the class due to unexpected challenges in her family, so we were all really needed to perform in the show. In the words of my wise friend, Kelly: "Drat!" It also brought more improv scat singing and individual time at the piano with Jackie running through our song selections, which for me are Fly Me to the Moon and Beyond the Sea. (No, alas, there are no Pips or rhythm section in torch singer shows so Midnight Train to Georgia is out.) We each also scheduled our individual one hour lesson with Jackie to work out our tempos, introductions, etc. for our charts. That's what we torch singers call songs.  Charts.

Then this show promo poster arrived in our e-mail this week:

Repeat after me: Fun.  This is Fun. This will be fun.  

Anyone know where I can find a sparkly dress in tall in the next 2 weeks?  It looks like I'm in.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Brave Perspective

There's brave.  And there's Brave.

So whatever way you need to be brave today, let your true colors show and get to it!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Brave Bonus: Tandem Poetry and More

When I was studying English at Nebraska Wesleyan University, I was blessed to take classes from Bill Kloefkorn, who was the Nebraska State Poet.  I had never had any interest in poetry before Bill's classes, and I was captivated by his infectious sense of humor and his accessible poetry that offered wonderful insights into being human. I even wrote some poems under Bill's coaching that won an award at NWU.

While I continued to follow the work of Bill Kloefkorn, and then fellow-student and now Nebraska State Poet Twyla Hansen, I haven't done much with poetry since I was in college. So I was excited to see that the Type Rider II:  Tandem Poetry tour would be traveling through Nebraska last month. Maya and Amy rode a tandem bicycle from Boulder, CO to Beloit, WI to dedicate Little Free Libraries and inspire more interest in poetry and creativity along the way.

A hallmark of the Tandem Poetry tour is for Maya and Amy to ask participants to give them one word, then they each immediately begin typing out a poem on their individual manual typewriters for that person that is on based on their word. Knowing that the Brave Project would be launching soon, I was looking forward to their poems for "brave."

While I was disappointed I couldn't make it to their stop hosted by friends Lisa and Harry in Hastings, NE, I decided to catch them at their next stop in Friend, NE.   Photos from the Hastings gathering, showed adults in lawn chairs sipping glasses of wine while relaxing on a beautiful summer evening with the poets.  Since Friend's event was promoted by the Pourhouse wine tasting room, I made the leap that it would be a similar event.  Clearly I should have paid more attention to the blog post "Inspired by Strangers" announcing the event! But when I walked into the Friend's wonderfully restored historical building hosting the event, I was surrounded by 75 children decked out in balloon sculpture hats and surrounded by stations for ice cream, root beer and popcorn. I had walked right into a children's festival with Amy and Maya setting up their card table and manual typewriters up front.

What's a Brave poem seeking giant of an adult to do?

Get herself in line at the poetry table, of course!  Which, at the beginning had no children because they were each basking in their balloon sculpture, sugar-induced glory and not interested in poems.

But then they came.

And crowded in front of me. 

None of them taller than my hip bone.

And since it was a children's festival afterall, I just let them shove their way to the front and waited patiently until Wilber teacher friend Connie came over to chat with me.

"Hi!  Which children did you bring today?" she asked expectantly.

"Oh... none.  Just me.  I didn't know it was a children's festival.  I just came for the poems," I said, hoping it wouldn't appear totally odd to be a poem chasing adult amidst children with sticky smears of ice cream and root beer on their cheeks.

Connie and I stood together and listened to poems written for "brothers" and " boing boing,"  - different words from the Hastings gathering to be sure - then I noticed Connie gently pull her grandson out of the kid table crowders and whisper urgently to him, "You let this lady go in front of you! She needs to get home to see her husband!" Ummm, didn't see that coming, but hey . . .whatever works.

Sigh.  Nothing like cutting in front of an 8 year old boy in line to get my poems!

So I kneeled down on one knee at the edge of the card table, at eye level with Maya and Amy, to be able to hear them read the poems they wrote for me above the din of children.

And oh how I love those poems!

It's fascinating to me that Maya and Amy could capture so much about the experience of those few minutes at the festival, as well as the intention behind the word I had chosen, with no conversation with me at all. And it's pretty cool to have a poem written just for you.

Part of the Tandem Poetry II Tour process, is to take a photo of each poem Maya and Amy write, then each author reads the poem aloud, hands it to you and moves on to their next word request.  Here are the poems Maya and Amy wrote for Brave, as well as their readings of them. (Note, Blogger is having trouble with spacing on these video clips, so you'll find Amy's poem at the end of this post.

The poems and experience meant a lot to me, and I encouraged my friends, via Facebook, to attend the Tandem Poetry event that was to take place in Lincoln during the same weekend. One friend, Jason, took me up on it.  I was out of town that day, so we texted back and forth while he was at the library waiting for the event to start. When I asked him, he told me he had his words narrowed down to "marvel" and "wonder", and looked forward to his poems too.
But he didn't get them. Maya and Amy only got to write 3 poems, and had to pedal off to Omaha for their next event. 

Knowing how much I loved my poems, that just didn't seem fair.

So, despite not having a type writer, and being a bit rusty on my poem writing skills, I decided that he should have his poems. Rather than write two poems for the same word, I wrote him poems for both words, then rolled my bike out of the garage, sat down on it and recorded them, then texted both the poems and my reading of them to him as a surprise. It was the launch of Ink Rider 1!  

With his permission to share, here is one of the poems I wrote for Jason:  Wonder.

I've been wanting to continue Ink Rider I since the summer, but set it aside to do things like study the stars, search out songs appropriate for the Torch Singer class and progress on all of those immunizations I need for the trip next spring.  But recently, though, I decided it was time to get back to it, and asked my friend Jackie to think about her word and send it to me when she had chosen it, so I could see if I could still write "instant poems" or if Jason's was the Ink Rider I version of a one-hit wonder.

Again, with her permission to share, here is my poem for Jackie's word:  Grow.

Next up?  Your poem.  If you'd like me to write a poem for you in the spontaneous, unedited, style that Maya and Amy modeled for me, leave me a comment with your word, and any background you'd like to share about why you chose it (optional). I'll do my best to write you a poem and share it with you over the coming weeks.  If you prefer, you may email me or text me your word, and I'll grab it from there.

Not sure you're a poetry kind of guy or gal? I'm fairly sure Jackie would never voluntarily trek to the library on a Sunday afternoon to hear poets read.  But she still likes her poem.  :) 

So be brave. Send me your word.

Amy's poem for Brave:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Vulnerability and Bravery: (Swimming) Lessons

By Laura S. Logan

I’m honored to have been asked to contribute to this blog. Lynne’s Brave Project is a source of inspiration and comfort to me. Although I am not engaged in a “Brave Project” per se, I am engaged in a process of deliberate personal and professional development. To that end, one of my goals this summer was to learn how to swim.

Why swimming?
I’m an overweight 50-year-old college professor who spends a good bit of time sitting at a desk or hunched over books to read and stacks of papers to grade. One of my goals was to find a form of exercise I’d enjoy. Swimming is good exercise and I thought it would be fun or relaxing. It’s also a form of exercise that’s easy on the body, relatively. I wanted to exercise but I wasn’t keen on taking my large sedentary body out for a run – yet I wanted something more than walking. I also wanted to do something that would require me to leave the house, wear some kind of exercise gear, and otherwise take deliberate and unfamiliar action aimed at improving my physical health and managing my stress. Finally, I selected swimming because I wanted to learn something new to me, to be a student and have a teacher. In the college classroom, I am the teacher. To some extent, I wanted to place myself in the position of my students. Each semester, I ask students to learn new material, to push themselves to think more critically, to see more of the world’s complications, to imagine more sustainable and equitable ways of addressing the world’s challenges – and to display not only what they know and what they are learning but also what they do not know, what they are still learning, and what they don’t understand. As someone with years of college education, I know firsthand that being a student is often an exercise in frustration and vulnerability. I suspected learning how to swim would put me in touch with those feelings, would foster even more empathy for my students. I wanted to be not only a learner but a vulnerable learner. So I decided to learn how to swim.

What did I learn?
My first couple of lessons were focused on getting comfortable in the water and learning how to submerge and breathe without panicking when I got water up my nose. But there were many lessons unrelated to the pool. For instance, I never played sports in school and had little experience with a locker room or exercise facility. Although others may find these things easy to navigate, it was challenging to figure out what to bring with me, how to dress when I left the house, and how to carry a wet swimming suit home without drenching my car seat. I learned those things largely through trial and error. On my first day of swimming lessons, I wore my bathrobe home because that seemed like a good idea (it wasn’t). I received more than one surprised glance from other swimmers and early morning exercisers as I dripped home in my wet suit and my overly large, floor-length bathrobe. More than once, the lessons outside the pool prompted me to imagine what it must be like to leave home and come to college, to learn not only how to think critically in my sociology courses but do so while figuring out how to navigate the new environment of the college campus. I felt a sense of awe about and appreciation for my first year students, especially.

As I mentioned, my first swimming lesson goal was to get comfortable in the water and learn how to submerge and breathe without panicking when I got water up my nose. Once I learned how to blow bubbles, which I do at the start of each lesson, my instructor asked me to show her what I do know about swimming. I laughingly (nervously) told her that I knew how not to sink but she had me show her how I do not sink and then she told me that I was doing a stroke very close to the breaststroke so that’s where we began. I learned that we sometimes know more than we know we know.

I learned the breaststroke first, which requires thinking about how I use my arms and legs at the same time. Whew! Thinking about how my body moves in this way was so new to me! It’s quite the challenge! Through the lesson and my practice sessions, I can now comfortably (if not also gracefully) do the breaststroke. I have also learned how to do the flutter kick and freestyle swim, and I am working on the backstroke. Here’s something interesting about the flutter kick. It starts at the hip, not the knee. I didn’t know that. But it makes a world of difference in how efficiently and quickly the body moves through water. If one kicks from the knee, the body is working hard and moving relatively slowly. If one kicks from the hip, the body is working hard but moving relatively quickly.  To the untrained or unobservant eye, both ways of kicking look the same. There’s more than one lesson here. What must it be like for my students who know how to complete a paper but who do not know how to do so without inordinate and exhausting hours of labor? Metaphorically, are my students doing the flutter kick from the hip or from the knee, I wondered. I vowed to be more observant and make sure I was as good a teacher for them as my swimming teacher was for me.

I’m still working on breathing while swimming, which is surprisingly difficult for me. I’m not used to thinking about breathing. I just breathe, right? In some ways, swimming is a somewhat meditative practice because I don’t think about anything except my breathing and my body movements. I don’t think about what I need to do that day, or what I look like, or about the long list of people I will see and think about that day. I don’t even think about others in the pool. I am more in the moment while swimming that I can recall being at any time in my life. Yet each lesson and each practice session builds me into a better swimmer, connecting those moments that seem so singular at the time. I am simultaneously swimming and learning how to swim. I wonder if my students see themselves as learners who are becoming learners, if they are immersed in moments of learning but also aware of how they are building knowledge and skills moment by moment.

Final Thoughts
I don’t know all the ways that these lessons will ultimately benefit me personally or professionally but this experience has been about pushing myself beyond my own boundaries as well as some boundaries that are imposed by external social and structural forces. Ultimately, my swimming lessons are about learning. Necessarily, they are also about trying and failing. I can’t even count how many times I’ve sucked water into my nose or mouth; or how many times I swim a crooked lap; or how many times I fail to pause long enough to glide when I am supposed to do so; or how many times I forget to kick from the hip. So much beautiful failure accompanies my lessons, my practice, and my learning.

In the earliest days of my lessons, I thought often about how hard it was, about how much I hated water in my nose, how frustrating it was to try to coordinate my legs and arms only to forget one or the other as I fumbled across the seemingly never-ending expanse of the pool. I admit that I silently grumbled about the list of things to remember as I dashed from the house each morning and that sometimes I didn’t want to go to the pool at all. Am I brave? I’ve never thought of myself that way but reflecting on my life as a leaner and my recent experience with my swimming lessons, I have come to at least one conclusion. To learn is to be vulnerable, and to deliberately learn despite being vulnerable might well be the very definition of bravery. For me, this means we are all brave because we are all learning something. As I prepare to greet students this week, I will look upon them with new eyes. I will see their courage.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Be Brave! Guest post by Jason Rushing

It's been so encouraging to have friends who have embarked on their own Brave projects after learning of mine.  Today's post is written by my dear friend Jason Rushing, a technology integration specialist at Humann Elementary School in Lincoln. Jason, thanks for your incredible support of me and my project, and for your heartfelt dedication to growing your "littles" into amazing bigs.  You. Rock.  I pinky swear.  :)
I encourage you to follow Jason's blog:  Create. Connect. Inspire. to learn about some great tech tools and get a glimpse of an awesome teacher in action.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Be Brave!

Be Brave

The new rule in my classroom.  Be Brave.  
Dream.     Create.      Dare.      Risk.      Plan.       Build.

Be. Brave! 

Last week was the start of school in my district.  I spend the first rotation (five days of 27 different classes) going over expectations, rules, and procedures.  Over the years, my rules haven’t changed much, so my “littles” (a.k.a. Students) were surprised when I said I had a new one for them.  Can you imagine the reaction I got when I said my new rule was “Be Brave”?  Exactly what you thought — silence.  Confused silence.  So — I asked them to give me the definition of the word brave.  

I got some great answers:  To not be afraid.  To be strong.  To be powerful.  Merida from “Brave” was Brave!  Yah, but so was Elsa from “Frozen”!  My grandpa is brave — he fought in a war.  

I loved the answers I was getting.  But then — one of my more vocal students asked “What does being brave have to do with Computer class”?  This question was followed by a few gasps and even more giggles.

This is the answer I had in my head:  Over the years I have seen kids (and many adults) become complacent in their lives.  We have become list makers and checkers.  Our mantra is to do what’s on the list and nothing more.  I blame that on time.  We are all so busy with everything life throws at us.  I know that there isn’t nearly enough time in my day to get everything I want to get done even STARTED — let alone finished.  It’s got to be the same for our kids who are going to school all day and then seem to have another days worth of activities filling their night.  Soccer, dance, piano, homework, art class, taekwondo, church….the list can go on forever.  It’s so easy for us to not stretch ourselves beyond what we have to do.  I also blame this on the fact that our kids are being tested and tested and tested……and tested again.  Many students are so “test stressed” that school isn’t fun.  It’s not a place where they feel they CAN make a mistake…. a place where they can be brave and explore and question….a place that will allow them to find not just the quickest answer — but maybe the most creative or FUN answer.  

This is the answer I gave to the class:  Because I want you all to NOT be afraid to try your hardest.  Because I want you go beyond what is expected and do the extraordinary.  Because I want you to not be afraid to try — even if you fail — because that is how we learn.  Because thinking outside the box is FUN!  Because coloring outside the lines is even MORE fun!  Because I believe in you.  Because I know you can do remarkable and wonderful and amazing things if YOU believe in yourself and are Brave.  

Eyes were wide open everywhere.  Smiles on all the faces.  Not a peep in room.  They listened to my words….but more importantly, I think they HEARD what I said.  

One of my “littles” said we should pinky swear to all be Brave.  So we did.  A pinky swear is serious business.  We will be brave in my classroom this year.

NOTE:  The inspiration for this new rule came from a dear friend of mine who is challenging herself to do some amazing things.  She calls it the Brave Project.  I think she is a pretty amazing person already — but I can’t wait to see how wonderful she is after she experiences and conquers all the challenges she sets before herself, and becomes even more brave than she already is.  I believe in you, Lynne!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Volunteering in Bali - Q & A, Part 2

What do you do there when you aren't teaching?
Every Sunday, photos of volunteers enjoying
Bali are posted to the Facebook page.
As teachers everywhere know, there is a lot of prep time required outside of class, so I'll likely be preparing lessons.  I also hope to be taking lots of classes myself on topics like batik, silversmithing, local cooking, yoga, snorkeling, etc. that are offered in Ubud. Bali is a worldwide tourist destination with amazing natural beauty and wonderful things to do, and volunteers have the opportunity to travel around the island on the weekends.  From my research, Bali seems similar to Hawaii, and I loved visiting there.  (Even though I was only there for 4 nights!) I also hope to visit and learn from local schools through Katie who just began teaching in Bali and is a friend of Scott Foster, my friend who taught at Waverly High School before he left to teach in Cairo, Egypt for the past 5 years. Scott has already been a great help to me as I plan the travel portions of the trip, and Katie has sent me a note that she is located about 45 minutes from Ubud, and when I arrive she would love to go explore the island with me. Patsy (the past volunteer I have chatted with via Facebook) recommends hanging out in a rooster-free hotel with hot water on the weekends, too. 

What if you get sick there?
It turns out that there are four Blue Cross/Blue Shield preferred providers on Bali. Huh. Never would have thought that! So, not only do they have healthcare available, it's even in-network. And I bought travel insurance to cover any additional costs, or other travel emergencies such as lost luggage, theft, travel delays, etc.

What will you eat there?
Patsy told me the fruits and juices are amazing. From the program web site, here is a run down of other food:  

* Breakfast is provided each day as part of your home stay

  • eg. Breakfast option :
  • Pancake
  • Tomato or vegetable omelet
  • Toast bread
  • Scramble egg
  • eg. Drink option :
  • Fruit juice
  • Fresh fruit
  • Tea or coffee 

* Lunch and dinner can been purchased for Rp 20,000 (approx $2.00 or 1.50 euros) per meal with drinks from your home stay or nearby balinese eateries. Lunch consists: fried rice or fried noodle or gado gado (vegetarian) or noodle soup + juice (depending on the season) 
* Dinner consists: rice + saté chicken or deep fried chicken / rice + deep fried fish or fish saté or gado gado

Yum! That gado gado salad looks wonderful!

What immunizations do you need to travel there?
Once I bought my plane ticket, I called my doctor to schedule a visit to plan ahead for this trip and she referred me to the UNL health center where they have a travel medicine clinic  (Who knew?!) I met with Szuhua, the main care provider there, in July. She ran a report for me of the potential diseases I could encounter in Bali, and we set up a schedule for me to receive all of the suggested vaccines to prevent getting any of the major illnesses. So far, I've had a tetanus (Tdap) booster, two doses Hepatitis A and B and one dose of Japanese Encephalitis. Also on the list are Thyphoid fever, more Japanese Encephalitis and Pre-rabies (dang those rabid monkeys!). With the travel medicine clinic housed in a University health center, I think I have set a new record for coming in to see Szuhua before a trip as she blinked a few extra times when I told her I wouldn't be leaving for 8 months from the first visit. I don't think most UNL students who visit her plan quite that far ahead. 
Even with the challenges of the culture, volunteers post 
often about their love of the program and the plac
Mosquitos carry the most potential for spreading disease while I'm there, and Szuhua has both a lotion mosquito repellent and a substance to treat your clothing that she keeps on display on her desk because she recommends them so commonly. I'll be buying several of bottles of both. Dengue Fever, carried by mosquitos, is probably my biggest concern. You can't be immunized against it, and it's not uncommon. While it can make you very ill, it is not considered life threatening as long as you seek medical care, and I will have the 4 BCBS providers addresses memorized by the time I leave. I will also take along whatever treatment my doctor here recommends.

How does this impact your work at ESU 6?
Have I mentioned that I have one of the best jobs in the world?  Toby and the leadership team at ESU 6 believe this project has great potential to positively impact our teachers and school leaders, and they have supported the project from its inception. I am so grateful to work at such a great place, with wonderful colleagues. I will still be on contract with ESU 6 while I am in Bali, and I will be staying in touch with our schools via email, and assisting them with their tech professional development needs the best I can from afar. I will be available via email and video conference. I will also be blogging to share the experience with anyone who is interested in it, and I will be speaking at our schools about the project as requested.

Typically, I have about 2-3 weeks of non-contract days each year that I don't take due to the demands of the work at ESU 6 and the volunteer work I do for ed tech groups and conferences. This year, I may also use some of those days while in Bali to travel and experience the culture there.

Will you still be teaching your online UNL grad courses that you teach each spring?
At this point, I still plan to teach those two courses in the spring semester, but that has not been finalized.

What do your friends and family think about this trip?
So far, the few who know about it have been supportive despite their own fears about me traveling alone to a far away place. They know I love adventure and learning, and think it's a great opportunity to do both. I imagine they share my concerns over getting to and from Bali, but agree that those concerns aren't reason enough not to go.

Is it safe there?
I have researched this issue extensively and believe it is very safe there. The only concern I ever see mentioned centers around drinking some weird local alcohol that can poison you or make you vulnerable for crimes, so I plan to stick with those juices that Patsy assured me are amazing. You can read more about the safety of the region on the Lonely Planet site.

Will you be able to stay in touch with people at home while there?
Apparently hot showers aren't widespread where I'll be staying, but wi-fi is. Imagine that! I will have wifi at my home stay, and at school. I can also visit internet cafes for web access. There is a 13-hour time difference, so you might get to hear from me right after dinner, while I am just getting up and ready for my day.

How are you getting to Bali?  
There is no US airline that flies all the way from the US to Bali, so I am choosing to fly on Qatar Airways. I fly from Omaha to Dallas on American Airlines, then on Qatar Airways from Dallas to Doha, Qatar, where I will stay overnight near the airport due to a long layover. Then Doha to Bali.  Nearly 40 hours of travel time and crossing the international date line. Qatar is a small country in the middle east, and it is also the richest country in the world. It has one of a handful of 5 star rated airlines in the world for safety, reliability and service. 

Since this is the Brave Project afterall, and I don't like to fly and tend to get quite airsick, why not include a flight that is ranked as the 6th longest flight in the world? Sigh. Let's just hope they have more than one of those tiny bottles of wine on board. (This article from US News uses Houston as the US point, but I'll be flying into and out of Dallas.)  

6. Doha to Houston on Qatar Airways (Tie)

  • Miles: 8,047
  • Scheduled Duration: 16 Hours 15 Minutes
Qatar Airways operates a marathon flight route between sunny Doha, Qatar, and humid Houston, Texas. Flying westward to the United States, the journey usually takes just over 16 hours. Economy passengers receive an amenity kit with an eye mask, toothbrush, and even socks to make them feel more at home. They can also follow the "Fly Healthy, Fly Fit" guide and perform some relaxation techniques onboard, such as deep breathing and stretching. While they're not sleeping or dining, travelers can view hundreds of films on their personal 10.6-inch TV screen.

You are flying through the Middle East?  On a Middle Eastern airline? Are you sure that's a good idea? 

Okay.  Deep breath here.

For what it's worth, I did not choose Qatar Airways because it would be the scariest option I could find. The cost was most reasonable, the reviews of the airline are stellar, and there are 3 extra inches of leg room in coach. If you aren't 6 feet tall, you might not realize how important leg room is on flights. 16 hour flights. I have spent a lot of flights with someone who insists on fully reclining their seat in front of me, even when there is nowhere I can move my knees.  Each coach seat also has both electrical and USB plugs at each seat. I consulted with family friend Andy, a pilot who has also lived in the Middle East, and he assures me it will be a fabulous experience and that he would not hesitate to travel to Bali on Qatar with his family. I also chatted with Shawn and Scott, both Americans who live in Cairo, and posted a question about Qatar Airlines on the VP Bali Volunteer FB page, where a young woman who also plans to volunteer consulted her dad who is a pilot, and all recommended Qatar as an outstanding airline. 

Qatar Airways also offers a great option for passengers with a layover longer than 8 hours that includes entry visa, transportation, meals and accommodation at a nearby hotel to allow you to get some reset.  I plan to take advantage of that option as well since I will have likely been up for about 24 hours or more once I land in Doha. (And I gotta tell you, the service I've had over the years on Delta and United doesn't compare to what I've seen offered by Qatar Airlines. If they follow through with everything promised, and I believe they will, you'll probably want to sign up for your Qatar Airways frequent flier card too!)

I checked with Andy again after the Malaysian passenger jet was shot down when I saw that the flight path for my Dallas to Doha segment was scheduled to fly over the Ukraine. Andy again reassured me that it would be safe. He knows my parents and how sad they would be if I get blown up, so I believe him. Also, the web site for Qatar Airways has added a statement that they will no longer be flying over the Ukraine.  

I am also paying close attention to the ebola outbreaks in the world. As you see via the travel alert link on Qatar Airways' web site, they are also closely monitoring the ebola virus situation. Also, ebola is not transferred through air. 

I have also been continuously monitoring travel alerts through the US Department of State, and would absolutely follow any warnings posted there.

I know this travel plan portion of the trip feels a bit risky. But during the week the Malaysian aircraft was destroyed, 2 people, in separate accidents, died on a freeway I drive every time I go into the office in Milford. As Kevin says, if it's your time, it's your time. 

WHAT?  You aren't even scared?
Yes, I'm scared. A little bit. And sometimes a lot. Remember that this whole project is about being brave, though. To me, part of being brave is to make informed decisions based on the most accurate, logical information you can find, rather than on all of the what ifs you can think of.  (And trust me, I've thought of them all!) 

To be fair, at the time I booked the flight, the world was a bit calmer. No planes had recently been shot out of the sky, no new explosion of violence had flared up enroute to Bali. So I have been paying very close attention to everything.  And sending lots of "please reassure me" texts to my friends who knew about this part of the Brave Project from the start. They don't want anything to happen to me either, and they trust my decision making skills even if they aren't comfortable with international travel. They still think this is a good idea - okay, in full disclosure one sent me a text assuring me I can still find adventure and fun in the good ol' USA and a few others have gently asked if I am paying attention to world events as I move forward with this project. And I am. Kevin is confident that it is safe for me to travel. I also have mighty prayer warriors through this whole project, and that helps calm my fears.

Bottom line:  While I have purchased my ticket, it is mostly refundable right up until the scheduled departure date. I also have travel insurance to cover other costs I would incur if I need to cancel the trip. I will not go if there are valid reasons to stay home. And I will change airlines if I believe it is warranted. To be honest, flying across those large expanses of ocean scares me as much as flying into the middle east via the Ukraine. I have always been afraid of flying, especially over oceans. But I do it anyway, because I know it is not a rational fear.

If you have questions or concerns that I haven't addressed here, please let me know and I will add them.