Forget The Alamo

I’ve only been in San Antonio a few weeks, but I decided to make a quick trip to Spain.

Many parts of what is now Texas were colonized by Spain. Between the years of 1690 and 1821, “New Spain” acquired many cultural practices of Spain, including the Spanish language and religion. In an attempt to convert the “savage” natives of the area, the Spaniards set up churches. These churches were more than just churches; the Native Americans lived at the compound, learned the Spanish way of life, and participated in Catholicism.

There were 26 missions in Texas. The most well-known mission is The Alamo. Many people visit this landmark while in San Antonio, but most miss out on the other missions in the city. These 4 other missions, in my opinion, are grander and more beautiful than the Alamo.

San Jose, known as the “Queen of the Missions”, was built in 1720. It is the largest mission in San Antonio and once hosted over 300 Native Americans.

San Jose Mission in San Antonio

Inside San Jose

Inside San Jose

Prayer candles

Prayer candles inside San Jose

Spanish architecture at San Jose

Spanish architecture can really be seen at San Jose

San Antonio churches

Walls surround the entirety of the mission

Tourist at San Jose Mission church in San Antonio

I felt like I had left the US!

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San Jose Mission door and carvings

The carvings were extraordinary!

Prayer Garden at San Juan Mission

In the prayer garden before entering the actual mission

San Jose Mission

A look at the church from inside one of the other buildings on the compound

Mission San Juan was established in 1731. This one stuck out to me because of its white color. Visitors are able to go inside each of these missions and worship services are still held.
Mission San Juan

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Mission Espada has been around since 1731. There’s really not too many building left that existed before the US was even a country!

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Not the Alamo

I was in love with all the doors!

Mission Concepcion is the oldest unrestored stone church in the US. This mission is the one that looks the most like it did in the 1700s.

Mission Concepcion

Mission Concepcion

Fresco inside on church wall

Mission Concepcion

I loved the palm trees surrounding this mission!

The missions are part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. Admission is free, and the inside of all of the churches are open until 5 each evening. Feel free to wander the outside of the missions after 5, but I highly recommend getting a look around inside each church. You will need to drive to each mission, unless you plan to spend a bit more time there by biking or hiking. We spent almost 4 hours there, so, if you go, make a day of it. Make sure you visit the visitor center first, close to San Jose. There is a neat 15 minute documentary that will explain some things to you before you begin.

So if you are planning to come to San Antonio, Texas anytime soon, please don’t miss out on these jewels of the city! And contrary to the infamous phrase, please do forget the Alamo!

My 1st Hanukkah Celebration

Blake is one of my new colleagues this semester. He is now teaching history at my university. He and his wife Renae are about the same age as me, and we have become close friends in these last few months. Renae asked me if I wanted to join them for their Hanukkah celebration. I was confused at first because they, like me, are Christian. She told me that this will be their 3rd year celebrating this Jewish holiday, and they began their observation of Hanukkah due to curiosity and interest in this Jewish custom. And you know me; I’m all about learning different customs and cultural traditions!

Eight of us gathered to eat a Jewish meal, say a few Jewish blessings, and light the menorah. Renae started by reading us a children’s book about this celebration, so that we could have a better understanding of it.

Christians celebrating Hanukkah

The story of Hanukkah is about the struggle of the Jews against a Syrain king to continue to worship their God instead of the Greek gods. Judah Maccabee got a group together to fight, who were called the Maccabees. The Maccabees prevailed and restored the Jewish temple. When the temple was reclaimed, there was only enough oil to light the religious lamp for one night. However, the lamp stayed lit for eight days. This is why Jews celebrate the eight days of Hanukkah and why eight candles are lit on the menorah. Menorah simply means lamp in Hebrew. The ninth candle is used to light the others. Hanukkah is also referred to as The Festival of Lights and can also be spelled Chanukah.

If you are familiar with the Bible (Old and New Testaments) or the Torah (the Old Testament), you may be wondering where this can be found in those books. Well, it can’t. It is found in the books of First and Second Maccabees, which are Jewish apocryphal books. Jewish apocryphal books are Jewish traditional texts written in the time period between the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. Many of the Jewish festivals are based on happenings from these texts. Jesus himself, as a Jew, celebrated Hanukkah. That is something I have always wondered about…what the tradition was based on and where the story could be found. Ah ha!

During these eight days, Jews eat special foods made with oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and doughnuts. We had chicken (no pork is a must!), salad, brussel sprouts, latkes, and several traditional desserts. Yum!

Latkes

Hanukkah food

Special games are also played during this week,so we couldn’t pass up a chance to play one of them- the dreidel game! It’s basically a 4-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side. The letters stand for the acronym “A Great Miracle Happened Here”. Each person takes turn spinning the top and each letter landed on has a corresponding action, like take half the pot, put one of your items in the pot, etc. You can use coins, chocolate, nuts, etc. as the “pot”.  My dreidel was not so lucky, and I lost all my Hershey Kisses quite quickly.

Celebrating Hanukkah Dreidels

I really had a nice time learning about Hanukkah, and I hope you did too through this post! Please share this with others who might want to learn a little bit more about this Jewish tradition.

I’ll leave you with a Hanukkah song that I remember singing in my middle school holiday pageant called  “Oh Hanukkah”. The scary thing is, I don’t think I’ve heard this since the 5th grade, and I still remember every word!

A Teacher Has to Entertain Herself

Well, it’s finals week at my university. It’s hard on the students, but it’s also tough on the teachers. We’re all busy; we’re all stressed. Therefore, I have to think of ways to entertain myself and keep myself sane this week.

In my college composition course, our final exam ended up adding up to 99 points. Normally, I would just give my students the 1 point. However, this time, I made them earn it. They were instructed to draw a picture of me to earn that last point.

It was hilarious to watch them when they read that last question. The tense shoulders loosened. The giggles began. And then, as they seriously began their artistic work, they all started staring at me in order to really capture my likeness.

The results made my day.

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I suppose she thinks more of me than her poor drawing skills will allow her to express.

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This is the Asian me.

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That is some curly hair, and those are some big ol’ eyes!

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In the running for my favorite. I am a queen! *flips hair dramatically*

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I think I look like another race in this one. Like my ever-present podium?

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Good ol’ “no nose Ashley”

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Apart from the football player shoulders, this it’s pretty good! (I’m going to have a complex now…)

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I had a LOT of stick figures like this one.

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No arms and no nose, but I love this one.

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This one is probably my favorite. One question though- do I have a tail??

Oh man. I love my college freshmen. Now I think I can survive the rest of finals week.
Be sure and tell me which one is your favorite!

Whom is Stupid

English is changing. Constantly morphing. Whether you want it to or not.

I was telling my college composition class today that I firmly believe that the word “whom” will be completely gone from standard American English within 50 years. Grammar rules are in place, because of how we talk- not the other way around. The rules were written to explain how we speak. If we stop speaking in a certain way or words fall out of use, the rule will be defunct. I want to start a Kickstarter to defunt (yes, I just made that adjective a verb, because I do what I want!)  the word “whom”. Is that possible? Will you donate 5 bucks to that cause? If so, go to www.whomisstupid.com. Just kidding. Don’t click on that link; it’ll probably give you a virus.

Let’s talk about verb tenses, such as the verb “to help”. The tenses actually used to be help , holp, holpen. For realz. They have know become regular- help, helped, helped. I think some other irregular verbs are moving that way as well, such as drunk and swum. Have you ever heard someone say, “I have swum in the ocean many times.”? Uh, no. They say swumpt. Just kidding. But swum sounds just as silly to me. What about brung or thunk? The less often a word is said, the more likely it is to change. That’s why go, went, and gone are probably around to stay I’m afraid.

Next on my list is the word “well”.

“How are you doing today?”

“I’m well. How about you?”

No. All kinds of no. Yes, I am an English teacher, but I feel so stuffy when I say I am well. I feel like a 19th century woman carrying a parasol when I say it. This is another rule that I give a good 20 years before it falls to the way side. Everyone always says, “I’m good.” “Things are good.” Except me, because I only reply with, “Things are poppin!” Mostly to my boss. Just kidding. He gets a “well” since he has a PhD in English. And he’s my boss. But really, things are poppin!

There are even some capitalization and punctuation rules that are changing. People argue over the oxford comma all the time for example. Did you know that the Chicago Manual now says not to write U.S. when talking about the United States of America. It is now just US with no periods. The word “website” and other technological words used to require capitalization and now don’t.

Some grammar gurus get angry for what they view as grammar infractions, but really, they just need to accept that English grammar is fluid and ever-changing, and it always will be. And, in my opinion, they also need to think about incorporating the word swumpt into their vocabulary. I better hurry and go get a copyright on that.

 

funny grammar

Image from onehorseshy.com

 

Do Cruise Ship Stops Count?

Sometimes when people find out that I like to travel, they’ll let me know how many states or countries they’ve been to and which ones. And I am genuinely interested to hear about it. However, I’ve found that everyone has different ideas about what counts as having visited a place. Here are some situations people argue about:

– airports

-driving through

-cruise ship stops

-living somewhere

I know that I 100% don’t count airports. All airports are the same everywhere, no matter the state or the country. You can see as much culture and as many different nationalities in the Columbus, Ohio airport as you can see in the Beijing, China airport. You don’t even step on the land itself. You see people from other countries more than you see the natives of that place while in an airport. I have been in more airports than I can count on my fingers and toes, but I don’t count a single one of them. Yes, I have been to the LA airport; in fact, I have even stepped on LA’s ground because you have to walk outside to change terminals. However, I have never been to LA.

Driving through. Oh, this one is argued about quite a bit. If you drive through a state to get to another state, does this count as having been there? If you’re going to South Carolina and drive through North Carolina, does that mean you can check North Carolina off your list? But what about if you stop to eat there? Or what if you just open your car door and plant your 2 feet firmly on the ground. Does it count? In my humble opinion, no.

When people tell me their cruise ship stops, I am a little hesitant to count those as countries visited. Yes, you may have stepped on the shore of Puerto Rico, but does 4 hours there actually count as having visited the country? Especially when you have only seen the touristy parts that your cruise guides you to….I know when I only get to stay in a country for a week, I feel like I haven’t got to experience even 1% of the country- its people, its food, its culture. How can a few hour stop allow you to understand a country’s essence?

I also wonder when people speak of “living” in a country. I heard a student say that she lived in Italy once when referring to staying for 2 months of the summer during a study abroad experience. I would venture to say that a person needs to have a permanent address before they can say they lived in a country. I guess my best bet would be to see if the locals consider you a neighbor, if they see you as a permanent part of their space in the world.

To know a place means to experience its food, its language, its religion, its people, its traditions, and its government. Perhaps you don’t have much time to spend in a country or a state. Well, spend some time learning about the place beforehand, so that you’ll know what you’re seeing when the time comes. Every time I visit a new country, or even a new area of my country, I try to read the history of the place, know what the racial makeup is, learn what the dominant religion is there and so on. When you get there, browse the local market or grocery store, walk around a college campus, try the local cuisine, and talk to the people. This will help you know the place you are. Then, you can say you have been to a place.

What are your rules about where you’ve been? Am I being too strict? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

State lines

I’m Sorry I Wasn’t in Class but…

Today I received the most epic e-mail since the interwebs have been created. I mean good. I mean I have reached the zenith, the culmination of my teaching career with this e-mail.

I teach at a small university. I ask my students to e-mail me when they miss, so I know that they didn’t just blow off my class and also so they can see what assignments they missed. Today, I received an e-mail from a quiet student, who I’m not sure I’ve heard say ten words since the semester started in late August. He wrote this very formal, professional e-mail. As an English teacher, I appreciate a student taking the time to do that. He apologized for missing class and went on to tell me why he missed the class:

“The reason I missed class was because I had diarrhea.”

Wait! He just told me he missed class because he had diarrhea?!

Did this just happen? Did I really just laugh so loudly alone in my office? Can I look him in the face on Wednesday without crying with laughter?

He went on…

“I’m sorry I couldn’t word that to make it less awkward.”

Uh, yes you could have. You could have said:

-I’m having stomach problems.

– I’m experiencing digestion issues.

-My intestines are hurting.

– I have a tummy ache.

Can we work on synonyms in our next class? At least he spelled it right, I suppose.

Well, I’m not going to work tomorrow, because I have diarrhea. Or just because I can’t deal with freshmen.

Your Resume Needs Help, and You Don’t Even Know It!

I don’t know how it happened, but people have started asking me for resume help- friends, co-workers, family.  It may be because I am an English person or that I work with university students. I am a jack of many trades in my current job, and I do have the chance to help students create or update their resumes. As I have done this, I have learned the newest requirements of resumes and also what should be left off. If you already have some experience, these resume-writing tips, should be helpful. 

Don’t:

-put references directly on your resume. In fact, there’s no need to even put the line “references upon request”. That’s a given; you better be willing to give those!

– put an objective. Sorry to say, but employers don’t care about what you want. They care about what they want. So an objective should only be added if you’re trying to fill up space. Even then, let’s admit it- they’re boring. And, if you have a great deal of work experience to include, you want to save this precious space. Let your experience and skills speak for themselves. If you must add it, make it a profile statement. This should just tell what you most want to be known for or as. 

-limit yourself to one page. It is unlikely that you’ll only have enough info for one page at this point in your life. 2 pages is the norm and 3 pages is the upward limit. Usually it’s only fresh college graduates who have 1 page resumes. 

– add photos or graphics. This makes resume vetting programs confused. Do you want your resume thrown out before a real-life person even gets a chance to look at it? No? That’s what I thought.

– list high school education or experiences. Unless you are still a college student, there is no need to. If you have been in the work world for a while, there’s not even a need to list college experiences. 

-use Times New Roman font. It’s tired. It makes my eyes hurt. I don’t even like when students use it in papers. Calibri and Arial are both nice choices. 

-include your address. Do you think this potential employer is going to write you a letter? Probably not. It may even cause discrimination based on how far away you live from the potential job. Instead, in this spot, you may want to include a clickable link to your Linked-In profile. There, you can give more professional information about yourself in a more informal way. 

 

Do:

– make your resume easy to read. There needs to be plenty of white space. Bullet points with phrases instead of full sentence contribute to ease of reading. A recruiter doesn’t have time to read your life story in essay format.

-Google yourself. This technically isn’t a part of your resume. However, once your resume passes the initial scan, that potential employer might look you up online to see if you really are who you say you are. They can get a general sense of you from your online presence. Therefore, you need to know what’s out there. Make sure you put your name in quotes when you search. Otherwise, Google will bring up every Bob on the internet, not just the ones with your last name. 

-tailor your resume to every single job you apply for. You should have a 4 or 5 page resume that includes allll your experiences and skills. Each job is looking for different skills, so pull those out of your big resume and pop them into your tailored resume. Don’t include things that aren’t relevant unless it created a major hole in your work experience. Make sure you try and use the same key words used in the job description (assuming they really do relate to your experience). 

– include most relevant job experience first. Yes, some like to see work experience in chronological order, but most want to see if you’re a good fit for the job right away. 

-write out any abbreviations at least once. I know what TESOL stands for in my degree when I put it on my resume, someone else in my field does as well, but the person doing the first run through of the resumes may not. So, write out Certified Public Accountant the first time, and then use CPA throughout the rest of your resume. 

 

The average time your resume will be scanned by a potential employer is only 20 seconds, so you better make that resume easy to scan, stand out, and able to make the next round. If you found these tips helpful, please share!

 

resume tip

Photo from greatresumesfast.com