Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tracking Gustav

Flooding of New Orleans levees, costly damage to the Gulf oil rigs off the Louisanna coast, thousands of citizens staying at home in the path of Gustav - so many concerns. Having just moved from the U.S., and the Gulf Coast more specifically, we can remember the feeling that so many people are having in their stomachs, hearts, and minds right now.

Gustav passed over Curacao a little over a week ago and was not even a Tropical Depression. It brought some exciting electrical storms, one unfortunate tornado, and a much-welcomed rain to the island, but not much else. It was gone, and then quickly forgotten here in the Southern Caribbean. However, Erin and I will go to work tomorrow with many fellow Americans on our hearts and in our prayers.

We managed to enjoy our weekend - a lively one filled with friends' birthdays, big family barbeques, scuba diving clean-ups, and a little bit of work around the house and in preparation for school. It's hard to believe that within a week oil prices may be through the roof (as if they're not already) and school's will be closed before really even getting started, businesses will be ruined, houses will be flooded, and lives will be 'destroyed.' It is so difficult to come up with anything to say when there seems to be nothing we can do. Perhaps we need moments like these to learn how to pray.

My prayers go out to the people who will be affected by this storm. My heart is with the communities that will suffer through this storm. My hope is that the damage is somehow minimized, and that help is quickly received where it is desperately needed. I beg those of you who read this blog to do something to help those who will be affected. If you don't have friends or family in the line of Gustav please make a friend, welcome them into your family, so that it can be said that Americans 'love' each other - that we bless each other - that we are not the self absorbed and emotionally detached people that many around the world believe us to be.

This storm, and it's effects, will be the focus of the news media for the next several days, and this will be especially true if the damage is as bad as they are trying to scare us into believing. Change the news stories, shock the reporters, give them a real story that is worth reporting.

Erin and I are busy searching out ways to help the island and communities of Curacao. Sports programs, building houses, island clean-up projects - we love to see the benefits of a few caring gestures. Gustav can be about something besides devastation - it can be about restoration and rejuvevenation. This will be my hope and prayer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

So Close ...

Curacao's Churandy Martina behind the new 200 meter
World Record holder, Usain "Lightning" Bolt from Jamaica
Click on the photograph for a news story on the race.

The families and supporters of this years
Little League World Series team from Curacao

I think a place becomes 'home' when you really know the place - when you can 'feel' your way around its corners and creaks, and sense it's joy and it's sadness, it's excitement and it's disappointment. There is something about 'home' that speaks to us: a sound of a floorboard or door, or wind running through the attic, or footsteps down the hall that we recognize in an instant.

This past week was an eventful one for Curacao, and we could tell we are getting more and more in touch with the island because we could feel it's ups and downs. Midweek the entire island went to work but did not have work on their minds - Churandy Martina, the island's world-class sprinter had finished 4th by a nose in the 100 meter dash at the Olympic Games in Beijing. Less than 3 hundreths (.03) of a second stood between him and Curacao's first ever Olympic track and field medal. It was an odd moment for Erin and me as we tried to celebrate the Bronze medal finish of our fellow American and ex-Florida State University star, Walter Dix, but also felt the disappointment that goes with coming so close (and achieving a national record no less), and walking away without a prize.

Later in the week, but early in the school day, it became even harder to focus as the entire island celebrated Churandy's Silver medal finish in the Mens' 200 meter sprint!!! The island's first track and field medal. The star of track and field around the world was Usain "Lightning" Bolt, the tall Jamaican sprinter who was demolishing world records; but here, in Curacao, fireworks were set off in downtown Willemstad, the country's cellular provider promised to double anyone's minutes who charged their phone before midnight, and this small island nation of the Southern Caribbean felt like it had seized a place on the global stage. Jamaica is already on everyone's map for a number of reasons, including it's track and field prowess, but Curacao is an abscure location - we're not sure if it's known more as a scuba diving destination or for it's namesake liqueor.

The rest of the story then, is absolutely heart breaking for an Antillean - and strangely, for me and Erin. It turns out that the man who actually came across the line in 3rd place was the American Spearman, who had been disqualified for running outside of his lane during the race. The American's protested the disqualification, and in the process, also brought Churandy into the spotlight with claims that he was actually the one to step out of his lane. As it turned out the judges decided that Spearman AND Churandy both stepped out of their lanes and would be disqualified, leaving the American Walter Dix to claim the Bronze medal again in the 200 meter sprint.

If Curacao ever makes it onto the world stage in track field, however, it would not be their most endearing athletic accomplishment. This small, dry, lively little island already has it's claim to fame - Little League Baseball. Curacao's youngsters are perennial powerhouses and have won the International Championship a couple of times in the past several years. Unfortunately, 2008 would prove to be a different story. The 12 and 13 year olds that took the field last week against Japan did not look like the confident and well-disciplined group that the people on the island are used to watching 'play ball', and they were routed by a methodical and talented Japanese team in the International Semifinal. For an island of around 150,000 people it may seem like we ought to be pleased with these accomplishments, but we have found that this island wants the 'prize' as much as anyone else.

Perhaps inspired by the amazing ability of this Olympic's 10 meter platform divers, or maybe just in need of some adrenaline after the depressing defeats of the week, Erin and I joined some friends on Sunday afternoon for some cliff-jumping. No back triples, or forward handstands - just back-flops and big splashes - a lot of screaming and laughing and cheering each other on. I also found our first seahorse, and brought it up to the surface so everyone could see it - a pretty cool discovery and nature lesson. Despite having gotten so close to victory and losing, it was a great end to a great week - great because we are at least a little closer to being 'home' than we were before.

It's hard to believe that we have traveled so far, seen so much, and now find ourselves here - together, and more in love than ever - after only 3 months since we said our vows. We can only hope the adventure continues ...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Life's A Beach

One of our better looking Antillean friends

Curacao's Three Amigos ... Calamari anyone?

Dan is adapting well to island life!

Sunset from our patio ... the oil refinery only adds to the romance

This tugboat isn't doing much work these days ...

but this yellow fin thinks it makes a great addition to the reef

One of our new favorite beaches ... you can jump from right here!

One our funny looking Antillean friends

Just to clarify we did actually go to work this week. In fact, the week at the International School with our students was wonderful! Dan has never had a class full of students with so many great ideas and interesting things to say; and Erin is off to an excellent start with her Journalism class. We are really beginning to feel at home, and even enjoyed a Saturday night out with all of our new friends and colleagues! Erin also got up early Saturday morning to run 17 km with the Curacao Running Club! The highlight, however, has to be our afternoons exploring the beautiful beaches and underwater worlds of the island. These adventures are also well-suited for the camera, which means that our lives in Curacao will seem like little more than never-ending days lounging in the Caribbean sun or splashing around with our new underwater friends if all you ever look at are the pictures we post. So every now and then, get a small dose of reality, and take a few minutes to read about the adventures we're having at school.

We have lived here in Curacao for just over a month now, and it is slightly overwhelming how quickly time is flying by. Work has completely captivated both of us, and we are (as usual) two of the first people in the building in the morning, and two of the last to leave every afternoon. Perhaps we both work too hard, but I think it's only because we honestly love what we get to do everyday. In my World History classes I have several students who speak almost no english - I must sound like a squawking parrot! Erin combined with the ESL (English as a Second Language) team has proven to be very helpful in addressing the issues surrounding these students' education, but it has been eye-opening to face a completely new set of professional challenges. My students (I teach 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades) are proving themselves not only eager to perform well and earn good grades, but also motivated to learn - just to learn! It's a face and an attitude I'm afraid I haven't seen in the classroom back in the States - at least not as a teacher.

From outrageously creative interpretive performances to dynamic and insightful round-table discussions, even these high school freshmen keep me on my toes. I certainly haven't had a dull moment yet, and I hope the streak will continue for a long while. I know it's only the first weeks of a long school year, but I do not think I've felt this energized by a group of students since I began teaching. They love to learn, and to think, and they encourage every desire I have to challenge them more - well maybe not with more homework, but certainly with more questions to ponder. I don't see me running out of questions any time soon, but it's a nice problem to have.

Erin's challenges are a bit different. She shares an office with a new ESL teacher on the Elementary and Middle School side of the campus. She has been working very hard to design a curriculum for her Journalism classes (the same class that will produce the school's newspaper) while at the same time testing and getting to know the many students who are labeled ESL. It is a daunting task when nearly the entire student body is made up of boys and girls who perhaps speak English, but spoke Dutch, Spanish, or Papamientu, or maybe all three, before ever saying their first word in the language they have to learn in.

We are also both excited about our responsibilities with soccer and basketball coming up. Erin will be helping with the Girls' Soccer team and I'll be coaching both the Boys' and Girls' Basketball teams. Our experiences and adventures on the field and in the gym will be topics here I'm sure. With such an exciting beginning I'm sure we'll hit a few flat spells in the future, and we'll be counting on visitors to help us through! We're already hoping for friends in October, and family and friends in Curacao to celebrate Christmas and the New Year Curacao style. Don't wait until it starts getting really cold - book those tickets to paradise now!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Finding Dan and Erin: a Pictorial

The Kinzer Wagon at Playa Kanoa - surf's up!

Takin' a tour of the Ostrich farm

Feeding time!!!

Who's cuter? This baby ostrich is no match for Erin!

The ostrich farm's 'green' garbage disposal

Dan's very proud of the Curacao bookshelf he built

On top of the hill ... Pimpiriweg 17

Time to bring out the hammock and call it a day

One of our friends at the Tropikal Parke

The Lions we hear roaring every night wouldn't
come out to play, but this guy is almost as scary

Mr. K's International School classroom

The new gym at the International School

Erin getting settled into her new office

Packin' the wagon and heading home

This local has the idea ... sit back and relax

Exploring the Hato caves ...
Hey! Who turned out the lights?!

The Middle School yard

The International School of Curacao's Emblem

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words ... so we won't say anything. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Life in the Fast Lane

There are times when life comes at us really fast, and the last few months have definitely been one of those times for Erin and me. From getting married; to wrapping up a school year; to moving out of a house; to spending a month traveling between Los Angeles, Singapore, and the Maldives; to packing 12 suitcases; to celebrating the life of Dan's grandmother in D.C.; to teaching workshops in Atlanta; to the drive from Pensacola to Miami; to moving our lives to the island of Curacao; to starting our new jobs at the International School - this has been a time of little reflection and a tremendous amount of action.

The kids arrived today - early, eager on their first day of the new school year - and suddenly I was back where I belonged. I am not sure if I've ever had such a clarity about my place in life, about the notion that I may have been meant to be a teacher - in fact, I don't remember having felt this way before - but I certainly knew today. I arrived at my splendid occupation entirely by accident, and although I've always enjoyed it tremendously I have also always thought that it was one of many things I could do. This line of thinking was, and perhaps in some regard still is, accurate, but I now think that I would in some way be cheating myself out of a great deal if I someday decided to stop being "Mr. K" and tackle some new occupation. Today my words, actions, exchanges, and direction came so naturally, and watching the responses of the students was so much fun; it drew out an energy that I hope I've always had in the classroom but never really appreciated. I should be tired, perhaps exhausted, but I feel renewed.

And I feel blessed. A beautiful, brilliant wife who loves me more than I will ever deserve; a family that will always be there; a group of friends that is inspiring beyond words; and a life full of adventure. It is nice to be in a place that feels like home again - after several months of transition - and to sit down and give thanks for the blessings that have entered my life. I hope, and pray, and believe the same for all of you.

Friday, August 1, 2008

First Day of School

Cas Abou Beach ... beautiful above and below the water

This well camoflauged flounder couldn't hide from Dan

Neither could this little leopard eel

Sunrise over Curacao from our bedroom window!

Well, our summer adventures are officially over. Today was our first day at the International School of Curacao, and we spent several hours with the new faculty getting acquainted with the policies and resources of the school. Although the students won't arrive until the middle of next week it certainly felt like our first day of school all over again - so much is new and there is so much to learn. We both agree, this has been one of the best summers of our lives, but we also agree that this upcoming school year will prove to be just as exciting and rewarding. Our next update will contain a lot more information and photos of the school as well as a peak at our new ride and apartment.

Our last week of summer was filled with a lot of logistics - acquiring a car (1991 Mazda 626 station wagon); setting up our bank account; installing our DSL (you can now find us on Skype just about every night - dan.erin.kinzer - go to and follow the free download instructions); getting car insurance ($300/year!) - but we managed to squeeze in a trip to the famous Cas Abou beach and also went diving for the first time on Curacao. We actually used our recent certifications to go by ourselves - just the two of us, no instructor, and our International School connections got us all of our rental gear for free! It was great to be really under water again, and we look forward to many more dives in the future.

Now that this new chapter of our lives is well under way I think we can both look at where we have come from and where we are going, and honestly, and simply enjoy where we are. Being married - going and growing through this adventure together - is a source of pure joy every day, and I don't think either of us could imagine doing this without the other. It will certainly prove difficult to be so far from so much of what we've known, but with the addition of Skype into our lives, as well as the adventurous nature of the people we call family and friends, I am sure we'll always feel closer than we are in physical reality.

Don't forget to download Skype, and look us up - and book those tickets to paradise!