So I think I've gotten pretty settled here in Maryland. I came up to Annapolis a few days before Christmas to sign paperwork with Human Resources, meet with a couple of my colleagues on the faculty, and find a place to live. All were accomplished reasonably well, so when I drove back here on the 28th with my Civic loaded to the hilt, I was able to start the settling process right away.
Last weekend I visited one of the local spanish-speaking churches, and I think tomorrow I'll go visit another spanish service. In addition to looking to connect with other believers in the area, I'm excited about sharing life and practice spanish with them. I met lots of Salvadoreños (people from El Salvador) last Sunday, and they invited me to eat lunch - a chicken and rice dish flavored Salvadorian style - with them after the service. Even though many are immigrants, most of them have lived here (in MD) longer than I have, so it's been fun to ask them questions about life here!
This week brought the much-anticipated start of spring semester classes, and my 3 sections have all begun well! I have about 60 students split between the three sections, and I think the biggest difference so far (as compared to my classes from Oklahoma or Austria) is that the students are in uniform and have to use more formal language ("yes sir", "no sir", "Professor Barrett", etc.) And they are all in great shape physically, with many playing varsity or club-level sports. I jogged around The Yard on Thursday after class, guided by one of my students who offered to show me the 4-ish mile perimeter route.
I've also already run into the (in)famous gov't bureaucracy: the ID card is important for faculty members to gain access to various parts of campus (although I can get most places by my driver's license), but to get the ID card, you have to be "in the system". Of course there is no easy way to find out if you are "in the system" - and I found out that despite completing the paperwork on Dec 22nd, I was still not in the system on Jan 9th. By "find out", I mean that I was informed of my absence from "the system" when I showed up for my appointment. I reckon I'll get the card eventually?!
I also found out that bicycle helments are required on campus (I don't yet have a bike helmet), so I was kindly "asked" to walk my bike, until I got to the exit, by the campus police. (Why is it that, regardless of what campus you're on, the campus police are never far away? Actually, the police forces in Graz and Santiago were refreshingly quiet.)
Thursday night I stayed up to watch the OU-Florida BCS game, and I think it can be best described as a disappointment: many fewer points than I thought, and of course, the Sooners squandered 2 great scoring chances inside the 10 and lost. My personal sports focus now shifts to basketball, where hopefully UNC can recover from their dismal conference-opening *home* loss to BC and win a few games into March/April.
Finally, I celebrated New Year's Eve with a friend from UNC. It was the first time I've ever jogged across a state line (he lives in far northern Deleware, and our Jan 1st jog took us into southern Pennsylvania). It was great to reconnect with him and share stories from the past years. I was surprised to find out that he might accompany me on a trip for Spring Break, which would be a neat thing for us both to travel together again!
I'll try to get some photos up soon -- I know I owe lots! If only blogger were as easy to upload as Facebook was (my pics are mostly already on facebook).