Sunday, October 24, 2010

Miss Robertson Goes to Grand Forks

So it finally happened--I'm a teacher again!  After months of filling out paperwork, getting my fingerprints processed through the FBI, and countless calls to the state education department in Bismarck (not to mention several frantic calls to Amy), I received my North Dakota state certification, complete with a gold emblem and all.

In my mind's eye, the cover letter for my certification packet would read something like this:

Dear Miss Robertson,
         Y'betcha you're qualified for teaching in the state of North Dakota!  We are extremely excited to enclose your North Dakota teaching license, and we know that our students will benefit from your skilled teaching.  What is more, you sound like a cute, fun girl.
         Come visit us in Bismarck any time,
         The Education Board

In the end, the letter I received proved a little less personalized and folksy--although I like to think it is just as glowing an account of my teaching, looks, and personality if read between the lines.  Unfortunately, though, instead of cordially inviting me to tour their state capital, the Board has cordially invited me to register in classes in American Indian Studies and Space Science.  Ladies and gentlemen, there's a Space Race afoot, and, alongside testing their reading fluency, I need to examine my kindergarteners for the potential of The Right Stuff.  I could have the next Chuck Yeager or John Glenn or Sally Ride on my roster, after all.     

None of this really matters, though, because I'm now in the Grand Forks Public Schools substitute teacher pool and have a snazzy clip-on teacher ID to prove it:

Here I am doing my best impression of Lulu from To Sir with Love.  I suppose more modern media figures like Rihanna also sport the single earring look, but why go for the less obscure celebrity reference when I can instead compare myself to a 1960s British pop star?

Here's hoping that some day one of my students will compose and perform a song in my honor.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Why North Dakota: Musings on Life, Love, and Sweaters in the Dakotas

For obvious reasons, I spend a lot of time fielding questions about why I chose to move from the big city of Chicago to Grand Forks, North Dakota.  Chicago, after all, is home to several pro sports teams, its own brand of pizza, and the Magnificent Mile.  All of this makes it difficult to explain why a city with a population of 50,000 located 80 miles from the Canadian border jumped out at me as the Happening Place to Be without getting into the vagaries of my psyche.  As a result, I generally answer this query with lots of smiling, discussion of the friendly population, my love for winter, and a little hemming and hawing. I'm beginning to learn more about my new home, though, and I think I can narrow down my response to an elevator speech with a few key, if eccentric, reasons.  Here's what I've compiled so far:

1.  Shopping

First, corduroy is a year-round fabric here.  Second, most thrift-store clothes are in my size and color.  An unexpected side benefit of being a Scandinavian-heritage gal moving to a land populated by Norwegians and Germans, all donated sweaters here come only in those colors that bring out a healthy amount of rosiness in my cheeks and accentuate my eye color (for your viewing pleasure, I model one such sweater below).  Anything that shortens the amount of time I spend in dressing rooms, thereby increasing the amount of time I can devote to Cinnabons and soft pretzels, is okay by me.

2.  Cream of Wheat

An enterprising bunch of wheat millers invented Cream of Wheat here in 1893.  If your favorite breakfast food were scrapple, you might move to Pennsylvania; granola, Dansville, New York; or Graham crackers with milk, New Jersey.  My idea of a perfect morning is a strong cup of coffee and a bowl of cream of wheat tempered with milk.  Thus, Grand Forks.

3.  Driving

I won't give you another long diatribe, but this warranted a second mention.  I mean, as Professor Syverson writes on his website, just look how empty and flat this North Dakota highway is.  That's my idea of driving heaven.

4.  My Blog

Moving here gave me an excuse to start a blog, which I have thoroughly enjoyed and which additionally has allowed me to sustain fantasies of my life being turned into a Hollywood movie.  Produced by Clint Eastwood's production company Malpaso, this charming adaptation of my stunningly insightful blog stars Dakota Fanning (as me), Sandra Bullock (as my mother), and, inexplicably and in a yet-to-be-determined role, Peter Sarsgaard.  The movie will premiere at the University of North Dakota's Chester Fritz Auditorium.  As the only two other people to have set and filmed a movie in North Dakota, Joel and Ethan Coen will be in attendance, and I will meet Frances McDormand.

No. 4 probably won't make the elevator speech cut, but nos. 1 through 3 are definitely compelling reasons to move to North Dakota, as I think we all can agree.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Driving and How to Spice up Your Life with Clam Juice

If you know me (and I'm just going to go ahead and be honest about the current readership of my blog--you know me), you probably also know that my driving is a hybrid of that of a gum-chewing teenager and a squinting, hunched-forward old woman.  It doesn't help that I look just a few months shy of my eighteenth birthday and that I drive a 1996 Buick LeSabre--no doubt a "friendly and cheerful" car, as my uncle puts it, but also definitely a grandpa car:

(That's not a picture of my actual car because either my car isn't very photogenic or I'm not a very good photographer.  I choose to believe the former.)

Luckily, the good people of North Dakota have put in place a system designed just for such a driver.  I've faced a few tough decisions, most definitely.  Last night, for instance, I had to call upon my tractor protocol knowledge to decide whether or not I should go around a tractor on a gravel road.  (I actually discovered that I possess no tractor protocol knowledge, so if you know the answer to this, let me know).

In general, though, North Dakota driving does not even rate on the same driving stress scale that Chicago is on.  Within the city proper, the farthest to possibly travel seems to be about 2 1/2 miles, and the parking spots are so wide that I have the option of parking either straight or at an angle (I generally waver between the two and park as though perhaps I chose to go Irish with my coffee that morning).  What is more, the fastest posted speed limit is 45 miles per hour, and on any given street I can drive 25 miles per hour without one person sending dirty looks, honking, or swerving around me.  One time the person in front of me decided to drive 17 miles per hour on a major roadway, and everyone just rolled with it.  My mother and I encountered one aggressive driver--and quickly noticed that his license plate read "Da Bears."

Speaking of which, if you're looking for a new Sunday Night Football drink tonight, might I suggest the eternal favorite: Clamato and Miller Lite?  You can buy it either as a six-pack or mix your own.  Nothing says "Go team!" like clam juice, tomato, and lite beer.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Green Gear (and Goose Meat Part II)

I don't know what it is about moving to a major college campus, but a person basically gets molded into an insta-fan of its sports team.

(The exception to this rule is, of course, the University of Chicago where the sports teams have to bribe students with pizza and free plastic leis to get even half of the seats filled. For evidence of this phenomenon, see basically every article that Joe Katz wrote during his tenure at The Maroon, or just ask Rachel and me, who copy edited every other one of those articles.)

But I digress.  Newly  minted Fighting Sioux fan that I am, one of the first things I did when I moved here was stock up on some gear.

First, an academic planner.  Day planners make me feel contemplative. 

Next, a mysteriously floating coffee mug with a logo apparently designed by my friend Lauren's great uncle.

And,  last but definitely not least, a multi-tasselled hat.

I'm pretty sure my tassels and I are going to contribute to a lot of hockey victories.

In other news, I know that many of you out there are thinking, I've made delicious goose meat tacos, but I still have a lot of leftover goose.  Now what?  Our friendly Goose Expert at the local hunting station suggests serving the shredded meat with a simple cream sauce over German spaetzle or a nice linguini.  Both are very authentic.  Bon apetit!