Archive for December, 2013

December 30, 2013

Where are you going?

by Tabitha Kidwell

The last three posts answered the common Indonesian question Dari mana? (Where have you been?). Now, I should probably answer the equally common question: Mau ke mana? (Where are you going?). These questions seemed odd to me when I first arrived Indonesia – why did people care so much about my comings and goings? But I eventually realized these are basically just small talk, and weren’t inherently odder than asking How are you? when you don’t actually care. These questions, being fairly straightforward, are actually also much simpler to answer.

Usually, that is. My future has been up in the air for the past few months until plans all finally fell into place a few weeks ago. I’ll be going to Indonesia for the month of January, helping to lead Access micro scholarship camps like I did last year. I’ll do the national camp in Jakarta, then head all the way to Manokwari(Papua), Ambon, and Kendari in Eastern Indonesia for three regional camps.

Then, I’ll head to Pune, India to volunteer with Deep Griha, which has had a long partnership with my church in Ohio. I’ll work with the teachers at their English medium school to improve their English teaching. How exactly I will do that is unclear as of yet, but I’ll figure it out when I get there. What I am imagining is leading sessions where teachers workshop their language lesson plans, with me helping by providing resources, activity ideas, and English correction as needed. If I find when I arrive that that would not be helpful whatsoever, I will make a new plan.

I’ll be in Pune for 10 weeks, then I’ll go to Kuala Lumpur to spectate for some friends doing a 70.3 triathlon. My friend Jessica and I will travel somewhere around that area, then I will fly home at the End of April. And then I will know where I am going to grad school, and I will move to wherever that is. I got accepted at Maryland, so the decision is between there and University of Michigan. The future is much more clear now, and I’m very excited for it to become the present!

December 9, 2013

Where Have you Been Part 3: Christmisc.

by Tabitha Kidwell

Probably the most exciting thing I have been doing recently is opening Christmisc., an ugly sweater pop-up shop. Actually, let me revise that. It’s probably the most exciting thing I have ever done. That’s saying a lot – If you’ve read the rest of this blog, you’ve seen how many exciting things I’ve done!

This all started with a conversation my friend Nate and I had back in August. Nate owns Pursuit, a men’s clothing store that specializes in selling slim-fit suits to college kids and young professionals. Nate is the best spotter of trends and opportunities I know, and he saw that young guys were going to Macy’s and Men’s Warehouse to buy the same poor-fitting, low-quality suits their dads and grandfathers buy. Pursuit filled that gap, and it is doing great in its third year. Having also noticed how hard it is to find ugly sweaters in thrift stores this time of year, Nate would stock up on trips home to Wisconsin in the summer. He sold them out of Pursuit the past two Christmases, and could barely keep them in stock!

So, last summer, Nate mentioned to me how he was too busy doing his actual job to get sweaters for this Christmas. I pointed out that I was unemployed and a great funny-clothing enthusiast, and a brilliant idea was born. I spent most of the autumn buying sweaters at thrift stores all over the place. Nate told the boss what’s what (not all that hard when you are self-employed) and got out quite a bit himself, too. Even by October it was getting hard to find sweaters in stores; there are lots of other dealers looking for them to sell in vintage stores and online, where they can go for as much as $100!

We spent two hectic weeks in November setting up the store in the vacant storefront next to Pursuit. The landlords love Nate, who is the only local tenant, and realized that the store would bring in a lot of traffic, so they gave us a steal on the rent! After hours of painting, building, sorting, tagging, cleaning, decorating, wassailing and decking the halls, the store was ready to go for its soft opening on November 20! Okay, maybe not quite ready to go – we had a few kinks to work out before our grand opening on November 22:

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Since then, it’s been a jolly whirlwind. We knew people would love the store, but we were unprepared for how MUCH they would love the store. Some people literally freak out when they walk in. I’ve heard “This is the best store ever” so many times I don’t even care any more. Ha! Just kidding, I still love it! It’s so fun watching people getting excited over all the sweaters and Christmas apparel we lovingly selected. Nate compared it to an adoption agency – we brought these sweaters out of desperation to get them to people who will love them as much as we do!

So, if you’re in the market for an ugly sweater, you’d better get in to the South Campus Gateway soon! They are going faster than we ever imagined! We’ve been featured in Columbus Underground, Business First, UWeekly, the Columbus Dispatch, and Good Day Columbus. We were on Channel 4 with Monica Day this morning, too, so the sweaters will be disappearing faster than Frosty on a warm day!

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December 8, 2013

Where Have you Been Part 2: Nana Bets

by Tabitha Kidwell

Another activity that has filled my time recently is spending time with my grandmother, Nana Bets. Last summer when I was deciding whether I should go to El Salvador or not, she was a major factor in my decision. My grandfather passed away 3 years ago, and since then, Nana Bets’ memory and functioning has decreased. She had basically stopped driving, was overdue for doctor’s appointments, hadn’t been eating much, and wasn’t getting out as much as she used to. I felt like I needed to spend a few months in Columbus with her to get caught up on all that and just spend time with her. I’ve gone over to her house every other day or so, gone to movies, brought food over, went to the hairstylist, took her to cataract surgery, and went to MCL more times than I can count. I’ve turned the heat back on after she accidently turned it off, got the microwave off of child lock, fastened her shoes, and taken her shopping. I’ve been surprised by her walking around he house naked. When she forgets how to do simple tasks, I find myself angry with this person who is no longer the independent, powerful grandmother I remember. It’s been time consuming, too– at times it felt like a part time job – but I feel really honored to be able to spend the time with her. When I was young, especially after my parents got divorced, this is basically what she did for us kids. She was always there for me, and now I can be there for her.

And it hasn’t been all me helping her. These six months have been rough for me, too. I have great friends here in Columbus that I did make plenty of plans with, but in the two years I was gone they got married, got pregnant, made new friends, started new relationships, and generally moved on with their lives. I don’t exactly fit here anymore, and I’ll be leaving in a few weeks to probably never live here again. So when I found myself without anything to do on a Saturday night, it was easy to push away any loneliness or self-pity by bringing over Panera and watching the Golf Channel with Nana Bets. It reminded me of Laura Linney’s character in Love Actually, the one with a mentally ill brother who called all day long. She was so consumed with that relationship that she couldn’t make any others. At a time in my life when it doesn’t really make sense to make new relationships, focusing my energy on Nana Bets helped sustain me. I know that she won’t be here much longer – in fact, and the Nana Bets I knew is already slipping through my fingers. Spending these months together has been a gift for both of us.

December 1, 2013

Where Have you Been Part 1: Freelancing

by Tabitha Kidwell

A standard greeting in Indonesia is to say dari mana?, or, as my students would often translate it, Where are you from? At first, I would answer with a confused From Ohio… (you know, just like the last time you asked). But then I realized they meant to ask something more along the likes of Where have you been? After 6+ weeks with no blog postings, maybe you, too, are wondering where I have been. Well, I have been very busy, and this is the beginning of a series of posts telling just what I have been up to.

Throughout the months of September and October, I spent a couple of hours a day searching the project listings on two online freelancing sites: elance and odesk. People looking for freelancers can post jobs on these two sites, and freelancers place bids telling how quickly they will do a job and what they would charge. I really enjoy the process of applying; trying to sell your qualifications and undercut the other bidders can be a really fun competition. I would rather bid on projects all day than sit down and do the work. Unfortunately, you are only paid if you actually, you know, do a project. And I have done quite a few, including:

Editing college application essays
Editing academic papers and case studies
Translating a legal contract from Spanish to English
Translating a government report from French to English
Translating vacuum instructions into French and Spanish
Translating self-help articles from Bulgarian to English. (I was very clear that I do not speak a word of bulgarian – they said that was fine, they just wanted me to cut and paste into google translate and then clean up what came out. Hey, if the price is right.)
Calculating a Brazilian student’s GPA for his application to American grad school
Researching scholarships for a high school senior in Illinois
Writing online English language arts lessons aligned to the new Common Core Standards
Writing reading comprehension quizzes for the Children’s Poet Laureate’s website
Teaching English via Skype
Writing a general English curriculum and a TOEFL prep curriculum for a start-up language teaching site

It’s been interesting to do such a variety of projects, and I’ve made a couple thousand dollars, which isn’t bad for two months of part time, flexible work. There was definitely a learning curve to it, though. You have to get make your profile appealing to people, take arbitrary “skills tests,” and find the right niche. You also have to figure out what jobs NOT to apply for or accept. There is a lot of shady stuff going on on these websites, including:

Doing people’s homework (Of course, no one says it in so many words, but there are lots of posts for “read these articles and give me a summary,” “answer these 5 questions,” or “write an essay on this topic.”)
Enabling plagiarism (Again, no one says as much, but there are tons of posting looking for people to “spin” articles, meaning to rewrite them line-by-line so they can’t be found by plagiarism checkers)
Writing dinosaur porn (I don’t think I need to comment on that. I wish I were joking.)

There are also less nefarious clients, like the many hapless writers looking for editors for their self-published eBooks. I only search the “Writing and Translation” postings, so who knows what is going on on the IT, Admin, Design, Legal, and Sales boards. I just hope it’s not dinosaur porn.