Archive for January, 2015

Last fall I was privileged to teach Spanish at a Kindergarten and Lower School in Durham, the next town over, where that other university is.

Southpoint Academy is the school where my Course Coordinator of last semester sends her son. They needed a Spanish teacher on Thursdays – my day off last semester, and although I was a little nervous at first, I soon fell in love with the kids.

I taught three sections of half an hour each. The Kindergarten class with 17 5 year old students, then a 1st and 2nd grade class with 12 students aged between 6 and 7, and a 3rd and 4th grade class with 9 students aged 8 and 9.

Our classes were very intense and we had a great time learning Spanish! I loved the diversity and enthusiasm of the children! The school is conveniently located across the street from the mall, so after class, if I had time, I enjoyed having lunch and walking around the mall! Another great incentive if the weather was nice was to ride old Rocinante! It was only a fifteen minute ride, but it is better than nothing.

Unfortunately this semester I received an assistantship from the university to be a Graduate Research Consultant for my Thesis Director’s undergraduate literature class, so I had to give up my teaching at Southpoint.

Southpoint Academy

Southpoint Academy

For those of you not familiar with the oldest public university in the US, here is a short clip of what Autumn looks like (sorry its a bit late). PS: At minute 1:52 you can see, on the left, the grey spire of the church across the street from your Chapel Hill home. Enjoy!

This month marks the tenth anniversary of my moving back to the US. I do not really know if it has flown by or inched along, I have little concept of time, and more so of ten years, and ten years where so much has happened.

Ten years ago I closed my company in Madrid, my baby that I created from scratch, Inter Tape. I had no clue what to do. It was my then wife, Tracy – and I will forever be indebted to her – who proposed that we move back to the US and encouraged me to get into teaching, how right she was!

Our first destination, where Tracy got a job at was the quaint village of Newburyport on the North Shore of Boston. It was a tough winter: I was jobless – other than subbing at the local schools, we were whacked with a snow storm every week for two months, Tracy disliked her job and we were starting a new life from zilch. But the town was very cute and we enjoyed that.

That summer we moved to a prestigious private school outside of Boston. I got a break teaching Spanish at the local High School where one of the teachers had left for the year on maternity leave. It was a baptism of fire as I have said before, but I earned my wings before starting at the oldest private arts prep school in the country, Walnut Hill. For four years I thrived there, growing into myself as a teacher and loving it, loving my department, my colleagues and the dedicated and talented students!

That was professionally, my private life, unbeknown to me was slowly eroding. I did not make friends, missed the city life and its stimulation, things did not seem to move forward as planned, we lived as dorm parents in a dorm, which takes away quite a bit of privacy, etc. Not to bore you with details, but I lost it five years ago. I imploded my life, my family, my job. Starting from scratch again meant going back to college, this time for my PhD, moving away from Boston, to the South that fascinates me, and being the gypsy I am, setting up camp here.

So that is my tenth anniversary story of my moving to the US! (the abbreviated and concise edition)

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WordPress, the platform that hosts this blog has recently updated their software, making it easier to see the posts I have written. I was surprised to see that I cite Zog’s often but have never had a dedicated post. Here it is.

The reason I have not written about Zog’s before is that it is my hideaway, my cocoon, an extension of my living room, and I did not want to blow my hideaway, expose my little secret, or God forbid, bring in droves of tourists, camera in hand. But last fall when the Romance Studies Department could not find a suitable venue for their Pre-Halloween Halloween party, I sacrificed my closely guarded secrecy of Zog’s to offer it as a venue. Our department’s Social co-Chair Jordan organized a great party. Normally I do not participate in these activities (see below, under Sartre) but, since I was the facilitator of the venue I had no choice but to go. I just dusted my old Sheikh outfit (that my dad bought in Jeddah in the 70s when he met King Fahd. So now that my whole department knows about my watering hole, I guess there is little left to lose.

When I first moved to Chapel Hill in that distant June of 2012. I quickly had to stake my territory, run some recon ops, and establish myself. There were (are) two bars around the corner from my cottage, one on top of the other. The ground level bar had big windows, and a glossy, wannabe fancy air about it. Zog’s was literally an open (yellow) door with some creaky wooden stairs leading up to the bar. The choice was obvious. I have never regretted it. Of course I have had to go to other bars in Chapel Hill for social obligations, but I always go back to Zog’s. Most memorably, my dear friend Stjepan, before moving to Japan asked me to go to his favorite bar, a well-known Franklin Street purveyor of libations. Yes it was a pretty place, with an impressive bar, but it was, how can I say? Fratastic? The last thing I want is to have to drink surrounded by the kids I teach all day long, or a bunch of posers, or to pay more than I should for a refreshment. You guessed, I have never gone back to that joint.

At the end of the day it is not so much about the quality of the drinks – especially if it is only a Tanqueray and tonic when it is hot, or a neat Maker’s Mark the rest of the time (IMHO the best value in Bourbon) , or the music, or the atmosphere, although all those things matter, you can get used to different styles. It is always about the people. In this case awesome owner Mandey and her little brother James, and the rest of the staff, Michael, Reese, Josh and Jedd. I love them all. Top, top human beings, nice people, caring, funny, professional, and very good at their jobs!

Unfortunately I only go a couple of times a week, and I mostly read, but I have had some nice conversations, especially with James, as we share a passion for orchestral music. With Jedd I chat about Jung, spirituality and other silly stuff. With Josh we mostly talk about comedic techniques, with Reese we talk history, archaeology and love. And with Mandey, I can pour my heart out while she pours me a drink! Of course I also chat with other established regulars, Jeff – who has a drink named in his honor: the “Electric Jeff” – although I would rather drink sewer water than that neon green drink. The darts league people on Thursday nights, and a few other regulars.

It is a bit of a rule that I always go after shows, concerts, plays, etc. I need the time to digest whatever I have seen or heard and Zog’s is the perfect venue for that. Of course they have two pool tables, darts, fine cigars and a ton of local art for sale, occasional bands, they are dog friendly, cat friendly, even bunny rabbit friendly. But I go because it is my favorite bar.

Although I do not agree with everything Jean Paul Sartre said, I do agree with him in that “L’enfer, c’est les autres” which has been loosely translated as “hell is other people”. (Those who know me even a little bit, know that I am mostly against translations). So unless I am going to have a decent conversation, I would rather just read and drink.