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Battye Family’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 10 Oct 2009

Location: Port Republic, USA

MapHello Friends!
You are not being routed here because we've set off on another overseas escapade...it is an adventure of a different sort that prompted our family to move from New Hampshire to Southern Maryland a few weeks ago. We realize that in the flurry of real estate issues, truck loading, and school preparations; we have left some people in the dark as to what's going on. We hope to remedy that here.

Over this past year in New Hampshire, John took post-graduate courses in teaching literacy and searched locally, nationally and internationally for a teaching position in an inspiring school. After reviewing possibilities in places as diverse as Morrocco and California; he went to check out a K-12 school in Calvert County, Maryland. As many of you know, John and I grew up in Maryland but neither of us had ever been to that part of the state nor, frankly, heard of it. The visit went very well, the people were amazingly friendly, and the school seemed a lovely community to join. We broke the news to the kids who immediately expressed that John should have taken a local job...ANY local job...that would have allowed them to stay in New Hampshire. Since fluffing and folding shirts in the men's department of the local Macy's department store was not what he had envisioned for himself, that request went unfulfilled.

We visited the school ourselves and at the end of the day, my first comment was, "Is this the Stepford School or something? Are the people here REALLY that friendly or do you think the minute we pull away the smiles melt from their faces like wax and they get cranky and gossipy?" That line is one I remember because now that we're here, I can say that they really are that nice. It's not a southern thing, I don't think, I've lived places like that. Here people just seem to be enjoying themselves...like all of them down a handfull of happy pills before coming in each morning. Whatever it is, it's lovely and it's a big reason we're here. The school affords John a place to "shine in use" and plant his passion for teaching in fertile ground. He has a class of 12 third graders with Jenny just down the hall in fourth grade. Emily is with the first graders downstairs and Chris and Tim are in the middle and upper school buildings on campus.

We launched an unsuccessful real estate search here - Apparently we are a seller's dream as any house we're interested in will immediately attract truckloads of buyers, even in a down market. We bid on two (one with a full price offer) and were overbid both times. By the beginning of August, we decided renting seemed a fine way to get our bearings and make sure we didn't make a mistake we might regret later (sound familiar?) By some stroke of luck (and with alot of help from new friends at the school) we ended up renting a modest house that sits in a most incredible location.

The Calvert Cliffs rise along the Chesapeake Bay's Western shore draped in a profusion of sea grape, wildflowers, and sumac. Our house sits on a bluff with 180 degree views of the bay. As the sun rises, it shines onto our porch, the same spot where we sit and eat outside each night by candlelight watching the boats and hearing the crickets and peepers. I can hear the waves lapping the shore as I fall asleep at night, bald eagles and herons fly over the house, there is a bunny that lives near the outdoor showers and even now, as I look up from writing, I can't believe I live in a place this beautiful. There are steps down to a beach, quite a long beach actually, where we swim and kayak and search for sea glass and shark's teeth. We will rent here until we find where we want to be on a more permanent basis and I, for one, am enjoying every moment we're here. The lovely woman next door, Jane, has adopted me and brought me to the neighborhood book club. I was the youngest woman there, the oldest was 97. It was great fun-it's just part of the very unpretentious, funky quality that this neighborhood has. But I want you to see for yourself! Please know you are welcome to visit us anytime-we can promise you a beach house vacation with food, conversation, and a group hug from all of us!

As you read, you'll hear all the members of the family weigh in on how this new chapter in their lives is going (editor's note: Timmy was required to remove the word, "crappy" from his blog entry.)

Lots of love to all of you,
Susan
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Greetings (from John) from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay!

It is hard to imagine that less than four weeks ago I was in New Hampshire picking up Chris and Jenny from PAPA camp with school about to start… new school, new curriculum, new home, new everything! Exciting… and challenging.
Since then, I’ve thought on more than one occasion, “Exactly how much longer am I going to be putting in 15 hour days?”

One month in, I have learned a few things. I work with really nice... I mean genuinely nice people. My colleagues are interested in conversations about great teaching. My teaching partner, Kirsten, is fabulous. I’m so lucky. She is energetic, enthusiastic, interested in taking risks and puts her heart and soul into her craft. We help each other cheerfully. During our first week, Dan, the headmaster, and Debbie, his wife, along with Grace, the principal of the Lower School, spent an evening unloading our overly stuffed Budget rental truck and rearranging furniture throughout our house rental. Imagine that.

I have learned that I am truly resourceful- I don’t really need lots of sleep and can keep myself in good spirits, regardless. I love teaching third grade. The best lessons are always about process. How are we going to be a community? How are we going to be accountable for ourselves and our team? Important lessons for kids.

I have learned that I always get a kick out of third graders- they laugh at most of my jokes- I donned a cowboy hat and appeared as Dr. Livingston the other day and did a report on the African elephant as class pet- the kids were enthralled and after a couple of minutes said things like, “You’re not Dr. Livingston… You’re Mr. Battye! You’ll see, take off your hat!” I stayed in character until the stuffed elephant I was holding whispered in my ear that he had to go to the potty… a frightening thought! Coming back into the room as myself, I saw a sea of laughter from those great kids.

On another occasion I was reading from Roald Dahl’s, The Witches where children get kidnapped by evil witches. A wide-eyed little girl asked me, “Mr. Battye, is this real?” I realized that as the story came to life, she wasn’t really sure.

I relearned that Susan is an amazing person. One night last week she woke up and talked with me about all the things on my mind- between 2:30 and 5:30 am. Thanks, honey, for that and the myriad of ways you have supported me. I’m proud of my children for fitting in so well and being flexible. There’s no question that we miss our friends. When we talk about vacation time, everyone is interested in Portsmouth as a destination.

We have less time together, but the family part is closer. Weekends are really cool. I am soooo grateful for my family… troopers one and all. We are regulars to DC and Alexandria. I seem to need that happenin’ environment, being much less of a nature lover than my wife. For example, we ate Mongolian food in Chinatown last night. The local restaurant scene does not replace that vibrancy I enjoyed in downtown Portsmouth. With that said, I often appreciate pulling up in our little driveway and looking out over the waters of the Chesapeake. I take a calm cleansing breath. Dinner is always hot and tasty and the cares of the day melt away.
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My House
by Jenny

Our house is so cool. We are right in front of the Chesapeake Bay. You just walk down around 100 steps and you’re at the beach. The steps are wooden. While you are walking down them you are looking at a lush and leafy sloping cliff. You feel like you’re in a jungle. The beach is BEAUTIFUL!! There is sea glass everywhere along with really cool shells. When I go down for breakfast, I see a beautiful sunrise sparkling on the water. Our house isn’t looking out on sand. It has grass and trees all around. From our porch, you can’t see the beach… just water. Ahhh. Our screened porch is awesome, too. Our house reminds me of a vacation house- just so peaceful. It is smaller than our old one, but so much more amazing. You have to see it.

Yesterday we went to the National Mall, in Washington DC to listen to famous authors speak! We got to hear Megan McDonald who wrote the Judy Moody and Stink books. I learned that Megan was a lot like Judy and Stink. She used stories from her real life as seed ideas for Judy. It started raining and became crowded, so we went to the Museum of Natural History. Afterwards we ate Mongolian food!

In school I’m making lots of new friends. People like Livi, Emily, Eileen, Sidney, Brittany and Jordan. They are all really fun and funny. I’m learning different things from them. We play a game called gravel at recess. It’s a little like tag or dead man. My teachers are very nice. Last Thursday I did a report on the passenger pigeon. Did you know that passenger pigeons flew in flocks of a million birds, took hours to pass over houses, and were massacred by people trying to save their crops? They made pigeon pies out of them! The last one died in 1914.

In art we made pinwheels for the International Day of Peace, and are currently painting different flowers with cool painting techniques. In music we’re learning to play the guitar. In science we are learning about trees. One of my gym teachers is mean. Every Tuesday and Thursday we have clubs. On Tuesday I do theater games with my mom and dad (they are the teachers.) On Thursday I learn knitting. As something extra, every Tuesday and Friday I play violin. I also take ballet and tap. I’m learning lots!
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Tim's thoughts:

So far the move is going just o.k. Our house is pretty good, conveniently placed on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. There’s also a good backyard and a nice screen porch. But the bad part is that the house is placed right on a cliff, so any bad throw in football or big hit in baseball is gone forever. Also our house is in a kind of in a natury spot with lots of trees so there are a lot of spiders and stuff around. Our driveway is made of gravel so we couldn’t bring the basketball hoop on it, and the closest basketball court away (7 minute bike ride) is pretty lame.

I’m playing soccer on the school soccer team, but we’ve lost all but one game and we’re pretty bad. At school most of my teachers are really strict, and I have a crazy German French teacher. Eighth grade is really small (40 kids) but I’m making new friends well.
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Chris Battye

Three high schools, three years. An interesting experience to be sure. Having to start from scratch every year socially and academically is both a challenging and rewarding experience. In addition, I run cross-country which means not returning home until 6:00 every day. On the second day of school (and second day of cross-country) I had to run a meet. Though out of shape, I placed third on our team and got a decent time of 22:13. The rest of this year is starting out well; I’m making new friends and feel successful with my schoolwork. This is Junior year however, there is additional pressure. I am taking two Advanced Placement classes (English and US history) and this is the year colleges really focus on. Getting good grades becomes less of a habit or chore and much more of a priority. I feel I am doing fairly well, but until I get grade reports, there is no way I can know. I will spend a good chunk of this Sunday preparing a 4 minute presentation on cuba (in Spanish) as well as study for a test I didn’t take due to illness. Well, I guess with that it’s adios amigos, me and Fidel have a little appointment…
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We are in my dads classroom. We are riding in are grnls. I hlpt with my dads class room. By Emily

That's the part I wrote in my journal at Daddy's classroom yesterday. This part I told to Mommy and she typed it in here. In in first grade. My teacher is Miss Alvarez and she's from Peru. We have 8 frogs in our classroom and they eat crickets that are alive. I'm learning Spanish-like all the days of the week! My friends are Olivia, Amber, Summer, Josi, Sarah and Trinity. I love Science-we're learning about spiders and my favorites are orb spiders. We go on spider walks at school to find big ones. Spiders have 8 legs and some have 8 eyes. Also I'm doing tap and ballet and my teacher is Miss Heather and she makes us wear our hair in a bun. Mommy says my hair doesn't like being in a bun but she shoves it in there anyway. I like where we're living. I wake up and the sun is sparkly on the water and we see bats swooping and lightning bugs when we eat dinner every night. I learned that vampire bats can bite people sometimes (to suck their blood!!) but Mommy says bats don't eat girls named Emily. Me and Jenny play teacher alot and ride our bikes. Next week we will go to the county fair and see animals and ride rides except Dad won't go on any spinning rides because they make him want to puke!
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