Friday, 24 January 2014

What a Wonderful Year........

The end of an era........ (yes, I'm calling it an era!)

This post finds me sitting in my home in Australia, free from jet lag and packing stress, with travel aches and pains but a fond memory (not quite but almost!). My year in Colorado is complete and I am feeling slightly off balance still. I'm beginning to get my Aussie life back together - bought a car, straightened out my health insurance, purchased a new mobile, visited my dentist....... but there is still a small part of me that wishes I was walking the halls of Nisley seeing my wonderful US friends every day. Instead, I am sitting through the hottest heat wave we have had in a century (I swear that's what they said on the news tonight!) and beginning to read through curriculum documents in preparation for school starting back in a week and a half. Then I remembered this blog. And while it seems not many people have been reading this over the last 4 months, there are a few steady visitors for whom I wish to show the last pieces of my amazing year of exchange. So here we go.......

Final Farewell

My gorgeous best mates Sara and Janel took me to the airport in Grand Junction on my last morning there. I was very strong and brave with them but I will admit here on this blog to having a few tears after I walked through security and was on my own. Particularly after reading a lovely card that Sara had given me. Thanks Sara - everything on there was completely and utterly true in every way!


After a delay in Denver due to my plane arriving late from GJ and thus having to be put on a later flight, I arrived in Vancouver where I found their security much easier than US Customs! :-) The officers just seemed much nicer as well. Aside from a terrifying taxi ride from the airport to the hotel - 90 km/h in a 60 zone and then dropped at the wrong hotel - I was walked to the right hotel by a lovely concierge who even took one of my heavy bags!! I settled in well that night for sure :-)

The first day I went for a walk around a few blocks during the morning, then came back and caught a bus to Grouse Mountain, the closest ski mountain to Vancouver being only 15 minutes away. I was a bit disappointed snow wise - they have not had as much as Colorado so there was a slight difference in the snow pack. However, it was nice and cozy in the lodge and very very busy since it was a Sunday!! You ride a gondola up to the top of Grouse - and this gondola fits 100 people inside each trip. It did snow slightly when we were up there which did make it more magical :-)

The Lodge at Grouse Mountain

Snowshoe trail

Ice Skating rink

Sky Gondola arrives at the top of Grouse Mountain
An entry in the Gingerbread House competition at the Lodge

This was my favourite :-)

Following Grouse Mountain, I again caught the bus to Capilano Suspension Bridge. It is 140 metres long and crosses 70 metres above the Capilano River. Walking across the bridge was slightly nerve wracking, particularly when some young children decided to walk really "strongly" across which caused some extra sway. However, there is a "monitor" who sits at the top of the bridge all day and night it is open to guests - and if they see anyone being nasty like running, jumping or being unsafe they use their PA system to ask people to stop! When I was there they still had their Christmas light display up and going, which was really beautiful. As the sun went down the compound got prettier and prettier...... see some of my photos below:

About to head out on the suspension bridge......

Misty view from the bridge over the river ......
the cliff walk can be seen on the right

There was a tree walk as well connected with mini suspension bridges

As it got darker, the lights made more of an impression

Heading down to the start of the cliff walk

Hanging out off a cliff

Suspension bridge in the background

Walking along the cliff face

A sparkling Christmas wonderland of lights

The bridge as dusk truly fell


The following day I took a small group bus out to Whistler, which is an hour and 45 minutes drive away on the Sea to Sky Highway. Our first stop was at a small waterfall called Shannon Falls, where I saw the green and misty forest we often see in movies set in this northern part of the American continent. The overcast sky and damp drizzle only added to the atmosphere!

From here we stopped off again for a short break to see an eagle habitat by a river. Very calm, very open, very quiet!! There were over a dozen eagles here - see of you can see some of them in the trees in the first picture!

At Whistler itself there was no snow at all in the village, which was demonstrative of the low snow season they had had so far. It did remind me of Vail, Colorado slightly in the "look" of the town. Once up on top of the mountains, there was quite a bit of snow for my Sketchers to compete with! My gondola pass allowed me to travel up to the top of Whistler Mountain, across to Blackcomb, return to Whistler and then travel back down to the village. The gondola ride to the village to the top of Whistler mountain (1809 meters) took about 15-20 minutes (from memory). I strolled around amongst all the skiers and snowboarders for a few minutes looking at the view, then jumped on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola to travel above the valley to the Blackcomb Mountain top. This trip was phenomenal! Taking about 15 minutes to cross the divide between the two mountain peaks, it travels 3.024 kilometres while remaining 436 metres above the ground. Needless to say - I did NOT have a trip in one of the two glass bottomed gondolas they had running amongst the regular gondolas! The P2P gondola sat above the clouds as I travelled over and back, meaning I had gorgeous mist filled vistas.

Top of Whistler Mountain

Whistler Village Gondola

Symbol of 2010 Winter Olympics sitting on top of Whistler Mountain

Peak 2 Peak Gondola - sitting above the clouds

New Year's Eve was the day after my trip to Whistler and I really just spent the day chilling out.  caught the Hop On, Hop Off Trolley around the city and spent a few hours listening to the information surrounding the area. I then went "walking" down Robson Street - the shopping district - and am proud to say I only bought a jumper and a present for my friend's little boy (my suitcase weight limit may have had something to do with my restraint as well!) From there, I chilled out at the hotel and after having dinner later on, welcomed the New Year with a drink and a toast to all the people I knew far and far away from me! :-)

Homeward Bound.........

New Year's Day saw me head to the airport with all my luggage and begin my trip back to Oz. My last travel leg of this amazing year was assisted by a lovely lady at Air NZ check-in who allowed me to reconfigure my weight so I didn't have to pay over weight charges. While this caused me some sweat, cursing and the threat of tears, I managed to finagle my luggage so I could get passed through the carry on weight limit and check in only two suitcases. I left Vancouver at 6:30pm January 1st and arrived in Melbourne on January 3rd at 10:30am. Very happy to be back on Aussie soil - but I did experience a really weird moment as I was lining up with my suitcases to go through customs when I realised that this was it. This was the end of the year. I was not returning to the States, or getting on another airplane. My year of adventure and travel was over. My life in Colorado was complete. My exchange year was was a very bittersweet moment for me. However, hopefully my adventures are only put on hold while the bank balance builds up again - many more plans and dreams afoot!!

The end of a ...... (insert positive adjective here) ...... year

To my friends and family who have been following along on my adventures this year through this blog, I hope you have enjoyed my updates and exploits. Thanks to everyone who left me comments or sent me emails - it was wonderful to receive contact from "home".

To my gorgeous friends and "family" in Colorado (you know who you are) - thank you for one of the best years of my life. It would not have been as great as it was without you. Friends forever!

And now, back to reality. Back to school - new grade level, new principal, new changes - which will make it an interesting year :-) Back to my home, back to my life here. Fingers crossed it will continue to be filled with exciting and interesting adventures even here in Oz!

This blog will be on mini hiatus - I am planning to blog with my class this year and possibly begin a teacher blog myself. I do plan on documenting any further travels I make -  however big and small! So do keep an eye on this space as I may post some small holiday trips I manage to complete over school breaks!

But now, for right now, without further ado, I say to you all......

"Good Afternoon, Good Evening and Good Night."
(Pick the reference if you can!)

Keep smiling,

Candice :-)



Friday, 27 December 2013

Saying Farewell........

Last day at Nisley

My last day at Nisley was the final day before winter break. The kids were hanging out for the break - but I am pleased to say (as horrible as that makes me) that they were not hanging out to say farewell. We had some nice moments in all my classes in the final week and I had to tell quite a few students that I was absolutely sure they would love Ms Drewer as much as they loved me! We also did a lot of "other" tasks involving Math this week - including this decoupage design using shapes.

The final day was filled with farewells, beginning with a staff breakfast. Here we celebrated the end of our Secret Santa week, revealing ourselves to our gifts recipient, and I was presented with a gorgeous painting the whole staff had contributed to. It was beautiful!

A staff member painted the tree and then each staff member put their own fingerprint on the tree as leaves. There are even bear prints leading up to the tree ( Nisley Grizzly!) and a C for Colorado on the trunk. Thank you to my wonderful colleagues for such a beautiful and thoughtful gift - I will always remember Nisley when I look at this in the years to come.

Saying farewell to the students was hard - it was a bit harder knowing I was not going to be seeing them again. Not quite like the end of the school year! However, what made my heart warm was the fifth graders who dropped by throughout the day to say goodbye. These were students I had January to May - and they liked me enough as a teacher to shed tears! My one moment of pure joy - when I turned around and three "tough boys" from last year were standing there, waiting patiently, to give me hugs  and say goodbye. That and seeing one of my fourth grade boys cry as he said goodbye made my heart melt - these kids at Nisley are special and I am proud to have been able to help them feel that here in any small way this year. Goodbye my Nisley Grizzleys - you are all superstars!

Some final pictures around the grounds of Nisley.........

View of drop-off/pick up lanes, cafeteria and Nisley sign from road

Staff car park :-)

Courtyard between the two buildings - always locked

Tetherball poles  and the play equipment (3-5 play area)

These Neos are Amazing!!!

Janel's house

That night a (fairly large) group of us went to Janel's house for another farewell get together for me. I was starting to think people were going to miss me! ;-)

It was an amazing night full of laughs, memories, stories and new discoveries. We were so busy talking that a lot of pictures I wanted I forgot to take, but below are some for you to see:

He is so happy to be having a picture with his former teacher! Not! :D

What really made me have a teary moment was the gift that a few of my friends had organized. They gave me a (working) compass with a map of GJ on the back so I can always find my way back whenever I wish. An extremely thoughtful memento......

Tearing up as I show Amber.....

All in all I was net off with a bang and am so very grateful I met these wonderful people this year. They are an amazing bunch and I am proud to call them my friends.

Dinner at Dos

The night after I was with my school friends at Janel's, I went for dinner to Dos Hombres with my "outside" school friends :-) It was a great couple of hours of talking about every topic under the sun. I love hanging with these guys  and can't wait to catch up with them when I come back to town!

Montrose and Shooting

The three days before Christmas I headed down to Montrose with Janel, Russ and their three boys to stay at Janel's dad's house. Their house is absolutely gorgeous and has an amazing view over the town of Montrose and the hills surrounding it. I was taken for a quick (and snowy) look at Black Canyon outside Montrose and we also went and spent the afternoon in Ouray at the hot springs - where I was dared and successfully met the dare of swimming laps in the cold water pool. I swam up and back and then quickly hopped out back into the warmth - but I did it! :-)

Janel's boys have been flabbergasted all year by the fact I have never shot a gun. As they have grown up hunting, they have found it a bit hard I think to comprehend how in Australia we don't all go around with gun licenses and own our own guns. So while in Montrose they decided it was time I learned to shoot - before I went home. I had a explanation of each of the three guns I shot - safety, targeting and reloading - from Russ, and then the boys became my reloaders and "mentors". I think I surprised them - with my second turn of the pistol I shot 5/6 targets! It was extremely weird handling the guns and there was nowhere near as much kickback as I expected from each one. However, by the time I shot the two guns a few times each and then tried the rifle (which was not very comfortable to set up with!) I had a slight tremor that I knew was a reaction to doing something that for me was competent foreign :-) Despite this, I felt very American and even looked kinda like I knew what I was doing.......

(Apologies if these pictures offend anyone..... Feel free to scroll down to the next section of the post)

Hit the left circle target 5/6 times on my second turn...... Beat the boys (but not sharpshooter Russ!)

I had to kneel on one knee and bend over the rifle to sight it - it was a tad uncomfortable.....


Christmas Eve I spent with Sara and her family. I completely enjoyed my afternoon/evening with her family. We all went sledding at the end of the street - even her 18 month old nephew - and had some great laughs as we went down the short hill. I will upload some pics as soon as my computer behaves :-)

Following sledding, we ate a cooked (hot) ham dinner with brown sugar and marshmallow sweet potatoes, green bean casserole and crescent rolls from a can. Completely American all the way! :-) We then watched Sara's nephew open presents for himself  and his little sister, in between stacking the boxes of course! They were much more interesting than what was inside Lol. The night wrapped up with a few games of 'Apples to Apples' and 'Heads Up' (the Ellyn game). Overall I had a wonderful night of laughs - thank you Sara and her family for welcoming me to your family celebration.

Christmas Day was spent enjoying a relaxing morning watching White Christmas, then heading out to the Longs for the rest of the day. I had a great time with the boys helping them set up iphones and laptops and showing them some tricks and tips. We chilled out in front of a movie for the late afternoon along with loads of laughs and chatter. Dinner was cooked ham again but more familiar sides - mash potato and green beans. I did however make the crescent rolls this time - very very strange! Thanks to Janel and her family for making me one of your family this year - and I'm glad you all liked your Xmas presents :-D

Last few days

My last two days in Colorado were spent packing, sorting and cleaning :-) I took a large bag of clothes to spread amongst friends and charity and the. Squeezed the rest of my belongings into two  and a half suitcases and a backpack. I did post another box home as it was a third the price of paying for a third checked suitcase...... Airlines really don't want you past two bags each!

My last night was to be spent having dinner with Sara - but it was actually a small surprise dinner with a few of my friends! I had no idea and was very touched by the gesture. I have always wanted a surprise party or dinner, so this was even more special :-) I had a great night chatting and laughing with my new friends from this year - and was very disappointed when dinner ended and it was time to say goodbye!

Farewell Colorado 

Here it is. After 12 months, countless adventures, many many laughs and amazing friendships, it is time to say farewell to GJ and Colorado. As I write this I am sitting in Denver airport waiting to fly to Vancouver for one last weekend stopover before heading home. I am so very very lucky I was able to work and live here this year. I am in awe of my colleagues here in GJ, seeing what and how they work - they make school count for their kids and that is amazing. I have made wonderful friends, both in and out of school, and I am certain these friendships will last for many many years to come. This has been by far one of the best years of my life. Thanks to social media and the internet, it is not goodbye in any sense - and as I was told by a work collegue, indeed it is never goodbye, only "until next time".

So until next time Colorado - thanks for the memories xxxx

Keep smiling,
Candice :-D

**Vancouver and Australia to come.....