Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Throwback Tuesday

Update: Since my last post I got a new job!  I'm going to be a TA for a cinema class.  It's a general education class and a good friend of mine has been a TA for this class for the last two years and he loves it.  I'm pumped and very grateful to have a job. 
I've been at my parents' house for the last two weeks and it's been great to be home because my family is rad, my bed is comfy, and the tap water in Washington is delicious.  I got bored recently and started going through some old photo albums.  I've found a few treasures that I've scanned and uploaded.  My brother and sister-in-law have a teenage girl from Japan who lives with them and when I saw her two weeks ago she asked, "Were you a nerd?  I saw some pictures of you at your parents' house and you looked like a nerd."  Judge for yourselves. 
If you look closely at this picture you'll notice that I'm wearing a shirt that says "TUCSON."  Apparently even in the 80s I dreamed of living among saguaros.  Also, notice that tree in the photo?  It fell on our house during a huge windstorm in 1990.  

This is my parents on their wedding day.  They'd been dating for two years, suddenly decided to get married and got married a week later.  There were only about ten people at the wedding.  My parents weren't into fancy parties back then and they're not into fancy parties now.  Also, my oldest brother was born five years later so we can assume it wasn't a shotgun wedding despite it's suddenness.

The early 90s weren't a fashionable time for me and my siblings.  I love that not only am I wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt, but it's tucked into my shorts that are pulled up way too high.  Also, note my brother Jessen's super-trendy Walkman. 

Oh my, it's been more than 12 years, but this picture still embarrasses me even though I was very proud to have been voted most spirited. 

Just my sister Lindsay and I hanging out on the roof with our three legged cat Blackie.  We named her Blackie because she had black fur and we were really original.  I'm sort of surprised my parents didn't veto our name choice.   

This is what computers looked like when I was seven.  My brother Jay totally rocked a t-shirt with a dolphin on it and my mom's hair was grey back then.  

Prom 2001.  I'm sure I thought my Tigger tie was super-cool.  And it was. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

At Least I Didn't Buy an Eraser

Two days ago I got a phone call from the Spanish department informing me that because of low enrollment I hadn't been assigned any classes to teach next semester.  I was stunned.  Mostly because we'd been told that we'd hear by Thanksgiving if we'd be teaching or not and since Thanksgiving had come and gone without any news I thought I was good to go.  I immediately started feeling nervous and then I was in denial for a little while.  Then I started to feel really worried that I had just become unexpectedly unemployed which was followed by feeling sick because I had eaten half a box of doughnut holes to mask my feelings.  And then the missionaries came over for dinner (I only left four doughnut holes for them) and after we chatted I felt hopeful and optimistic and that's how I've felt since Tuesday night.  I do, however, occasionally feel sad because teaching was my favorite part of the day and I'm really going to miss it.  I haven't found a new job yet, but I'm confident that I'll find something I'll enjoy soon.

While there are suddenly a number of uncertainties in my life, what has been bothering me the most is what I'm going to do with all those whiteboard markers I bought that I no longer need.  I still plan on putting them to good use.  
Markers make a great foot massager.  Okay, not great, but they're not half bad.
It's also fun to see how high you can stack them.  Five is easy, six is tough.
They also make a great sword.
And they're great for writing notes to yourself on the bathroom mirror.  
Markers are also great at distracting me from studying.  Maybe I'll come up with a few more uses for them now that I won't be using them to teach young minds how to conjugate the future tense in Spanish (¿Qué haré con mis marcadores?).  And while I'm bummed that I won't be teaching next semester, I'm just grateful that I got to teach this semester because it was a blast.  Teaching Spanish at the University of Arizona was a real treat.  I sent my students an email today with reminders about our final exam and I included this poem I wrote to reinforce the important information.

Twas the night before finals
This week was way hard
All the students remembered
To bring their CatCard

The professor he worked
To get the grades entered
He was hoping for A’s
For all the students he’d mentored

An A would be great,
A B isn’t crumby
A C is fine too,
But D stands for dummy

So go onto D2L
And check your grades twice
Report errors to the professor
That would be nice
I really want to find another awesome job soon, but mostly I just hope all of my students remember to bring their CatCard to the final.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Greek Life

Yesterday at age 30 I walked into a sorority house for the first time.  On Tuesday after class one of my students approached me and said, "We're having a dinner tomorrow at my sorority house for our professors and I was wondering if you'd like to come."  I'm sure I had a puzzled expression on my face that showed I was caught off guard by this invitation.  I replied, somewhat confused, "You want to give me dinner?"  She said, "Yeah, we're supposed to invite a professor we like."  I immediately went from being confused to flattered and considering that her offer included free food I accepted without putting much thought into it.  She handed me an invitation that referred to invitees as "inspiring mentors" and my ego was stoked. 

When the initial flattery wore off I became more and more confused.  Why would sorority girls want to have dinner with me?  Don't they realize I'm no fun?  It made no sense.  Basically everything I know about sororities and fraternities I learned from movies and I couldn't see how I would in any way fit into a place like that.  I started wondering if this was some kind of prank trying to lure me into a trap.  Instead of getting a free dinner I'd end up leaving the sorority house covered in tar and glitter. 

I was also worried about what we'd talk about at dinner.  Three of my students are in this sorority and they had all agreed to invite me.  After I got passed asking them where they were from and what they were studying I didn't know what we'd have to talk about.  True to form, I imagined myself asking stupid questions like: What's it like being 12 years younger than me?  Are you a Belieber?  Is that still even a thing?  Are you aware that your major is one of the lowest paid majors and that you'll likely never find a job?  I was mildly apprehensive about the whole thing. 

Since I teach third semester Spanish I typically only hear my students speak in broken Spanish which is why I was pleasantly surprised when all three girls from my class were articulate, engaging, and well spoken.  I might have also harbored some biases regarding the intelligence of sorority girls.  Chatting with them at dinner was an absolute blast and I really enjoyed getting to know them better.  They also answered a myriad of questions about sororities and Greek life and I left with a much more positive impression than I entered with.  They even gave me a tour of the sorority house which was actually pretty cool.  They said I was welcome there whenever I wanted to come, but I probably won't take them up on that offer.  It was a remarkably pleasant event and I'm so glad I went (and not just because of the copious amounts of shrimp I ate).  And they gave me a free mug!

I also learned yesterday that freshman who live in the dorms are allowed to take one of their teachers out for a meal on campus each semester and that the school will pay for it.  I have loads of freshmen in my classes and I need to figure out how to convince them that giving me a free meal is a good idea and that chatting with me for 30 to 40 minutes will only be mildly awkward.  I'm not good at subtlety and will probably end up announcing to the class, "Hey, freshman, you should use me to get a free meal. It's a win-win, amirite?" 

On an unrelated note, two nights ago I found a plastic mustache under my bed and I have no idea how it got there.  But I assume it belonged to Phil since he lived in my room this summer while I was in Peru.  Or maybe someone gave it to me and I have since forgotten.  When you press a button on the mustache a cowboy voice says, "Well hellooooo there!"  It's been a good week.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fun Merit Badges

Fun Laura and I on the first day of school
About a year ago I started hanging out with my classmate Laura at the same time that a friend of mine had a crush on a different Laura.  We started calling his Laura "Foxy Laura" ('cause she's pretty, I guess) and I started calling my Laura "Fun Laura" because she's incredibly fun (she could also be described as "foxy").  But seriously, she's a hoot.  The addition to her name has become so ubiquitous that all my friends call her "Fun Laura" because just plain Laura doesn't sound right anymore. 

This is what hanging out with fun Laura is like.  On Saturday we decided to get dinner together and I said we should get Vietnamese food "to put the pho in fun Laura."  The pho we got was delicious.  As we were walking across campus after dinner we started singing a duet from Frozen as we are wont to do.  There could have been people around and being caught singing by freshmen might have been mildly embarrassing.  We stopped singing and fun Laura pointed to a large black spot and said, "Is that a person?  Oh, it's just a big rock.  Okay, we can keep singing."  Like I said, she's way fun.

Fun Laura is older than me and I often make fun of her for not being a real adult or having an adult job.  We often have conversations like this:

Me: You should come with us tonight!  It only costs $6.
Fun Laura: Six bucks!  Do you realize how long it takes me to make that much money!?  Like 45 minutes.
Me: You only make $8 an hour?  I haven't been paid that little since 2005.
FL: I make $10 an hour, thank you very much. 
Me: Then you are not very good at math. 

Fun Laura was shocked when she learned that I'm a Mormon male and not an Eagle Scout, especially when I told her that I don't even have a single merit badge.  She decided to make up some merit badges for me the do which I was very excited about.  I've already finished my first two: the 30 Rock merit badge and the Sonoran Hot Dog merit badge.  To complete the Sonoran Hot Dog merit badge I had to eat at three different venues and write a review on my blog.  So here it is:

The best Sonoran hot dog I've had in Tucson was at a taco truck at an abandoned gas station on Golf Links and Pantano.  However, since that is on the other side of town I would recommend the hot dogs at El Guero Canelo out of convenience.  In my opinion, the hot dog buns at BK Tacos are more delicious than the buns at El Guero Canelo.  However, BK Tacos is a sit down restaurant which makes the Sonoran hot dogs there slightly more expensive.  The best bang for your buck is El Guero Canel where the hot dogs are fast, inexpensive, and pretty delicious.  Also, the tables there are painted like Mexican flags.  

A Sonoran hot dog at El Guero Canelo right before I ate it

My completed merit badge form

I had way too much fun filling out this form.  

I'm only two steps away from getting the Being Tall merit badge.  I just have to help two more short people grab things from high places.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

House Hunters Peru

On Saturday, May 10th I showered and got dressed at my house in Arizona knowing that I wouldn't change my clothes or shower again until Monday.  I took a red eye from LAX to Lima (sleeping on a plane is not super-awesome) where I then got on a bus and took a 14 hour overnight bus ride to Piura, Peru where I'll be all summer.  Sleeping on the bus, however, was actually quite comfortable and I slept for eight hours.  And the food they served was so delicious.

When I got to Piura, Eliana's brother-in-law Kenny picked me up at the bus station and I stayed at his house for two days while I looked for a house for Eliana, volunteers and me.  I thought it was going to be a cinch since we already had some leads on a few house.  We looked at a house that had three bedrooms and three bathrooms that was within our budget and sounded perfect on paper.  I got there and it was super-nasty.  I've lived in a dozen or so houses in Latin American and this house would have been by far the worst I would have ever lived in and I didn't want to live there and I knew the volunteers wouldn't want to live there so we kept looking.

It really was like an episode of House Hunters International.  One house was under budget, but only had one bathroom.  One house was in the perfect location and on budget, but they would only sign a year contract.  Another house was in the right location and absolutely perfect, but it was too expensive.  We finally found an apartment on Tuesday afternoon that was right on budget and the right size that they were going to finish remodeling it that day.  After talking to the landlord I walked outside with Kenny to discuss our options, we crossed one house off the list, and then I picked the last apartment and signed the lease. 

It hasn't all been rosy since then.  They said that all the remodeling would be done on Tuesday, but it wasn't done on Thursday when the volunteers arrived.  Apparently in Peruvian time "tonight" really means "probably next week."  One of our showers doesn't work so they've had to turn the water off a bunch while they redo the piping.  We have a window that's a little broken.  There no lights or outlets in the living room.  The toilet has no toilet seat and neither toilet flushes yet so we have flush them with buckets of water.  I felt so bad as I explained the unfinished nature of our apartment to a bunch of girls who have never lived in South America, but everyone seems really cool with it and just see it as part of the adventure.  Oh, and the windows don't have curtains yet (they were supposed to be put up on Wednesday) so the sun wakes me up every morning at six. 

It'll be way nice when it's all done and nine people aren't sharing one bathroom, when we don't have to eat in the dark, when we can flush the toilets, and when Coco our landlord won't be walking around our apartment profusely apologizing for not having everything ready.  Here are some pictures:
Eliana and I had to buy 10 mattresses and the only way to move them was a mototaxi.  We only lost one on the trip back to the apartment (but seriously).  We had to go back and get it.

Our furniture was in storage for nine months and it was literally covered in dust and dirt.  Eliana and I were up until 1:30 am cleaning everything and putting the beds together.  It was tiring. 

We don't have internet in our apartment so our neighbor lets us rob his, but we have to sit outside.  The girls can't live without Instagram.  
This is what it looks like when nine people share a shower.

And this is what it looks like when four girls share one room.

This is view from my bedroom.  I love it.  

The view from one of the girls' rooms.  

My favorite part of our apartment is our rooftop patio.

The view from the roof

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Honesty is the Mexican Policy

On Friday I took a solo road trip to El Paso to visit some friends from my mission.  The plan was to spend the night in El Paso at Irene's house and then spend all day Saturday with my friend Lucero in Juárez just across the border.  Lucero ended up canceling on me so I just stayed in El Paso on Saturday and didn't even get to use my passport. 

Lesly is Irene's daughter and she was seven when I knew her on my mission.  She's 17 now and is way into looking elegant all the time.  She had no problem telling me how shabby I looked.  It had been a year and a half since I last saw her and when she opened the door the first thing she said when I walked in the house was, "Whoa, you have so many grey hairs, Schilaty!"  I told her I'd dye my hair when someone told me to.  She said, "I'm telling you right now that you need to dye your hair.  You look like you're 40!"  Irene walked in a few minutes later and gave me hug.  The first thing she said was, "Look, you have so many grey hairs.  How old are you now?"  I told her that I'm 30 and she said, "No, you look older."  She then told me that I look thinner than I looked the last time she saw me.  I asked, "Did I look fat then?"  She responded, "Not necessarily, you just look healthier now."  They also told me that my eyes super-huge and that my nose is large, but it suits my face.  Mexican honesty is my favorite.

I took the two of them out to dinner and they asked me if I needed time to get ready, but I said I was just going to go dressed how I was.  Lesly, on the other hand had taken two and half hours to get ready.  So I, a tall white guy in jeans and button down shirt, walked into the restaurant with two 5'0 Mexican women dressed like they were on their way to the Oscars.  We must have looked a little silly.  Luckily the power went out at dinner and we sat in the dark for 20 minutes so our lack of coordination was less noticeable. 

Since I didn't go to Juárez on Saturday I spent the morning answering Lesly's questions about how she
Lesly, Edgar, a white dude, and Irene when I visited
El Paso in 2009
should paint her nails and do her hair for senior prom that night.  She was very concerned that her hair wouldn't look good--very concerned.  She showed me tons of pictures on her phone of what she could do with her hair and I just told her what I thought she wanted to hear which seemed to calm her.  She said, "Schilaty, you're such a nerd, but you're cool anyway.  I don't like nerds, but I like you.  You should visit more often."  Lesly gives the best compliments and I really do want to visit them more often because I had blast. 

Even though I didn't end up going to Mexico, I got to spend the weekend speaking Spanish and now I feel much more prepared to be going to Peru this Saturday.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Worst Interview I Ever Had

In November 2010 I applied to spend summer of 2011 working for a non-profit in El Salvador.  To make a long story very short, I was positive I would get the job, I didn't get the job, but they never told me I wasn't hired.  Apparently they forgot to call me or something and I was a little annoyed.  I got over it and spent the summer in Portugal instead so my annoyance was short lived.

Last month I got a random text from my friend Suzanne asking me if I had summer plans.  She now works for the non-profit that didn't hire me three years ago and she wanted me to apply for the same position that I hadn't gotten before.  I told her I'd be willing to interview, but the non-profit is based in Provo, UT and since they usually hire local people I assumed they wouldn't hire me.  Still, spending 30 minutes in an interview wouldn't be that bad so I agreed to do it.

Suzanne passed my resume along to one of the directors of the non-profit who promptly emailed me inviting me to come into the office in two days for a face to face interview.  I guess I was still a little peeved that I hadn't been hired three years ago so I responded a little rudely, "I don't know if Suzanne told you, but I live in Tucson so I can't come in for an interview.  I'll happily do an interview on the phone or via Skype."  I thought my living in Tucson would put an end to all this and he wouldn't want to interview me anymore, but we set up a Skype interview for two days later.

I was really disinterested in the whole thing.  I didn't want to get my hopes up since it'd been really disappointing when they had rejected me before.  I also hadn't even applied for the job and since it hadn't been on my radar I wasn't invested in it at all.  I spent zero minutes preparing for the interview.  Ten minutes before the interview I decided that I should probably change out of the t-shirt I was wearing and at least try to look professional.  I put on a shirt and tie, but kept my jeans on just because I could.  I thought it'd be funny to not wear pants at all since the interviewer would only see the top half of my body, but I wasn't quite that gutsy.

The interviewer called me 10 minutes late which really annoyed me.  He was in a swivel chair and kept twisting back and forth and looking around the room.  He didn't seem super-interested in what I was saying and I used more hyperbole and clichés than anyone should use in an interview (e.g. "It was the best experience ever").  While we were talking about my international experience I mentioned a city I'd lived in in Mexico which just so happened to be where the interviewer grew up.  He asked me what I thought about the city and I said, "Meh, it's not really my favorite place.  Of course, I've also lived in Juárez and I like it more than Juárez, but anything's better than Juarez."  As I was disparaging this man's hometown I realized that saying negative things about where my potential boss is from was a really bad idea, but I just kept going.  I felt like a derailed train that just kept going. 

The interview was less than 15 minutes long which is short for an interview.  The last question he asked me was: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you want this job?"  I answered, "Honestly, like a six, I guess."  He said, "Oh?  Why's that?"  I then got very frank and said, "Look, I just heard about this job two days ago so it won't mess up my plans if I don't get it.  And I got my hopes up for this job before and I'm not gonna do that again.  If you want to hire me, great.  If not, that's fine, too.  I don't really care either way."  And with that the interview ended.  I wrote in my journal that day: "I'll be shocked if they offer me the job and I'm fine with that."

Two weeks later I got an email offering me the job.  Usually I would be excited to be offered a job, but I just read the email feeling very confused.  I didn't get it.  I had given such a bad interview that I couldn't understand why they'd want to hire me.  Perplexed, I called my friend Suzanne to ask what the deal was.  I told her how I couldn't understand why they wanted to hire me and she said that the interviewer had been impressed with my honestly and had really appreciated that I hadn't tried to suck up to him.  I've also got a lot of background and skills that they feel will make me very successful at this job.  Plus, Suzanne knows me and knows I'm not a dummy so she was really in favor of hiring me.  I was still a little confused.  I then spent the day trying to decide if I even wanted the job.  Since I hadn't thought they would offer it to me I hadn't even taken time to consider if I wanted to do it.

The job is with a non-profit called HELP International.  I would spend three months this summer working as a country director in Peru managing projects and the volunteers there.  The more I thought about it the more I realized I really wanted to go.  I then became baffled that someone was offering to pay me to spend three months in a foreign country making a difference in people's lives.  I like adventures, but I love being paid to go on adventures.  I had to say yes.  So I accepted the job and I will be spending my summer in Peru.

As I called people to tell them about the job I got more and more excited.  I went from being super-confused to incredibly excited.  It's an amazing opportunity that just fell into my lap.  I hadn't been excited about it before because it hadn't felt real, but telling people about it made it real and now I'm totally pumped. 

Here's what I've learned, if you want a job act really disinterested during the interview.  But it only works if you truly don't care.

Also, if you want to do international development work you can totally come with me to Peru.  We've still got spots available and there are also spots on the teams going to Uganda, Belize, Thailand, Fiji, and India.  It's going to be a great summer.  

And just for fun, here are some pictures:

Violeta, Cristi, and I when I spent the summer of 2008 working in Mexico
Deliciously named Peruvian crackers
My mom and I in Peru last May

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Nicely Wrapped Birthday

I turned 30 earlier this month and to celebrate I went to Disneyland for the weekend with my mom, brother, sister, and sister-in-law.  The trip was heavily subsidized by my parents and I'm grateful for that.  The weekend was a hoot and here are some of the funny moments.

When she travels my mom keeps important stuff (passport, money, credit cards, etc.) in a pouch that she wear around her neck.  It goes under her shirt and hangs at waist level which allows for convenient access.  When she was going to pay for my birthday lunch she reached into the pouch and her credit card wasn't there.  She looked on the table and it wasn't there and she looked in her purse and it wasn't there and she crawled around on the floor and it wasn't there.  She finally stood up and a bunch of stuff, including the credit card, fell out the bottom her pants.  It turns out that she'd been taking things out of the pouch, but instead of putting them back in the pouch she'd accidentally been stuffing them down her pants.

Minnie gave me an awkward birthday kiss
Jay and I loved the California Screamin' roller coaster at Disney's California Adventure.  The girls were kind enough to ride it with us a few times, but we mostly went on our own.  We started using the single rider line because it was way faster than waiting for 30 minutes even if it did mean that we had to ride with a stranger.  The first time we tried it Jay was told to stand by two empty seats.  The ride operator then asked Jay, while pointing at me, "Do you know him?" and Jay responded, "I've never seen him before in my life," which was ridiculous since we'd just been talking and laughing together.  The ride operator told me to sit with Jay on the ride and a lady just behind us said, "They look like twins!"  I'm pretty sure the operator knew we were brothers and just sat us together to be nice. 

When we got off the ride the cast member in charge of the Fast Pass line told us he'd let us in if we could answer a Disney trivia question.  Feeling very much like characters in a Mighty Python movie we accepted the challenge.  He asked us how long the Genie was in the lamp before Aladdin found him and we correctly answered 10,000 years ("10,000 years will give you such a crick in the neck!").  We got right on the ride again.  Even though the line was 30 minutes long we managed to ride the roller coaster twice in 15 minutes.  We really feel like we cheated the system. 

The whole weekend was a blast and the second best part of it (the first being spending time with my family) was that I didn't have to spend my birthday watching the Super Bowl.  That would have been the worst. 

We looked pretty silly wearing ponchos on the water rides,
but they kept us dry and Laura's hair looking spectacular
When I got back to Tucson I walked into my room and everything was covered in wrapping paper.  My first thought was, "This is hilarious and my friends love me."  My second thought was, "Wow, look at all those presents they bought me!"  My third thought was, "Oh, they just wrapped up the stuff I already had."  I actually had a really fun time unwrapping stuff because I had no idea what most of the "presents" were.  For example, I excitedly picked up a long, cylindrical "present" wondering what it could possibly be.  It turned out to be a highlighter.  Not exciting, but still fun.

Look at all those presents!
I love that Phil wrapped my lamp
And Michael wrapped my fan

Since I was in California on my actual birthday I had a few friends from church over to have a little party.  Amy Flood prepared a game called "BEN"GO that we all played.  It's just BINGO, but instead of numbers and letters the spaces were things about me (tall, reality shows, Disney movies, espeak espanish, etc.).  It was a hoot and I was impressed with Amy Flood's witty title. 

Sarah planned a little quiz about me for everyone to take.  Phil and Michael won each getting 10 correct answers out of 15.  Here are a few of the questions (correct answers below):
1) What is Ben's favorite color?
2) What is Ben's favorite TV show?
3) How tall is Ben?
4) What countries has Ben lived in?
5) Unlike most normal people, Ben doesn't like to hold ______.
6) What is Ben's favorite Disney movie?
7) Name something that Ben collects.
8) What would Ben say is his greatest talent?

It was a great birthday and being 30 feels pretty much the same as being 29.

Jay and I brought the exact same red shirt, but we wore it
on different days

Quiz answers:  
1) Blue
2) 30 Rock
3) 6'3"
4) Mexico, Bolivia, and Portugal
5) Babies
6) Mary Poppins
7) Magnets
8) Making puns