Early during the fall semester I became interested in joining a writing retreat to make progress towards some of the writing goals that I had for 2023. I have a few big projects that require time to outline, analyze the data, organize the ideas that I want to share, and just get the ball rolling. Having uninterrupted time is extremely beneficial for any writing project. However. having long chunks of uninterrupted time are tremendously valuable.
I started searching the Internet for writing retreats for academics. I do not know if I was just not very good at searching for this type of activity but most results were either very far into the future or focused on creative writing. I did not see myself as an academic engaged in creative writing so I figured I would not fit into those spaces. As any good blogger, I started reading blogs of others who had been in a writing retreat and what I notice was that some writer discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly of writing retreats. I also noticed one academic blogger mentioned how he first started by creating a solo writing retreat. The idea of a solo writing retreat attracted me. I have travelled solo in the past and enjoyed the experience. I figured this would be somewhat similar with a little caveat, I would be bringing my co-author Missy (dog) with me. So after figuring out a good week for me to take a leave of absence from home, I settled on specific dates to travel to a small cabin with my co-author.
When the time came to start the writing retreat, I packed food and comfy clothes. After settling into our cabin, the outlining, organizing, and writing tasks started to happen. The scenery in the location of the cabin was lovely. We even got snow. It was magical. But even more magical was that I was getting the work done. I was not expecting to have a completed product by the end of my writing retreat, but I was hoping to make serious progress. I can honestly say that I was able to do just that. Now, I am working on the remaining of one those projects on a regular basis and hopefully on track to reach the final outcome.
I think the one aspect about my writing retreat that I will change for next time is the length of time. For this first writing retreat I planned for 7 days. To be honest, at 5 days I was really missing mi familia. So, in retrospective the next writing retreat will be 5 instead of 7 days.
The year of 2022 gave me wonderful professional opportunities. After 9 years at The University of Tampa I accepted a position at The University of Tennessee Knoxville. It was not an easy decision from me because living in Tampa allowed me to surround myself with a large Latinx community. I spoke Spanish regularly, had a favorite radio station, and could eat all the amazing Latin American food that I wanted. I also just had to take a 3 hour non-stop flight from Tampa to Panama City. But there were also many concerns I had. Some were related to my family members (i.e. school district, future employment opportunities of partner, etc.) and others were related to my own career goals and aspirations as well as my changing level of satisfaction with living in Florida. When the opportunity came to apply for positions, with the support of my family, I decided to move forward with it. I accept a position and that meant relocating across states. I had an idea of the level of work and commitment the relocation would take but it was so much more than that. I am so glad I had cleared my schedule last summer. Selling a house was emotionally exhausted. The move itself was not as draining but dealing with one of the craziest real state markets was too much mentally. What kept us moving forward with knowing that the move would give better educational opportunities for our son, a career change for my partner, and a position in which I could further my career goals, while living a city and region that we knew we would enjoy exploring.
Long intro that leads me to say that unlike most people, last summer was anything but relaxing. So with lots of work and school assignments during the Fall term we decided that it was time to reclaim so rest and relaxation during the Winter Break. Those plans took us two sunny destinations: Panama and Costa Rica. After leaving Panama in such a rush at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, I wanted to go back to finish the trip that was cut short for us. We also wanted to enjoy beautiful Costa Rica. During his undergraduate years, my partner spend a Summer studying Spanish in Costa Rica and he is full of stories of his travels throughout the country. I had visited Costa Rica as a child with my parents but was limited to mostly visiting the capital city, San Jose (and surrounding areas: Cartage and Queretaro). So needless to say we were all very excited to explore Costa Rica as a family. Words can not really describe the beauty of these two countries. I would highly recommend them. I am so incredibly grateful and I know also privilege to have taken this time to rest, recharge, and give myself permission to have fun.
I really do not think that this pictures will properly depict the true astonishing beauty of the Valley of Fire State Park, but I wanted to share them because it was a wonderful experience. I was actually going to hike in Mount Charleston but my ride was cancelled and instead I was given the option to visit this state park. I knew nothing about it and almost decided to decline completely. I am glad I decided to move forward with the visit to the Valley of Fire State Park and I actually want to go back.
Recently, I went backcountry camping, which it is not to be confused with car camping (I just learned how there are two different names lol and now I guess I get to educate others). Camping culture is not something I grew up with at all. When I lived in Panama, people didn’t just go into the woods or the rainforest for no reason. However, now people in Panama are more into connecting with the tropical rainforest for weekend adventures such as hiking and camping. Personally, hiking and camping were experiences that I started to enjoy when I lived in Virginia. Some of my favorite hikes in Virginia were McAfees Knob, The Priest, and The Dragon’s Tooth trails. I also enjoyed camping and hiking at Crabtree Falls.
To be honest, the experience of backcountry camping is not something that I would attempt to do on my own. I like that I was going with mi familia because my partner has experience and knowledge on what is needed for the experience. He had also camped at this specific location a few weeks before friends. I definitely want do it again but there are a few things that I want to consider next time like bringing the camping hammock or being more creative with my food choices. I enjoyed been surrounded by nature and listening to water sounds. While I was out in the woods, I was thinking what it would be cool to see a bear but also it would be scary to see a bear. I was constantly trying to think of all safety procedures (how to scare a bear: yell like hell and act crazy — I can do that lol).
Here are a few photos from the backcountry camping outing, for some reason I was really into mushroom photography lol
I wrote my last post back in May after participating in OTESSA conference: The #OTESSA22 Recap and Resources and honestly I had no idea the craziness of a summer that I had ahead of me! It has been 1.5 months since we moved to Knoxville. The boxes are unpacked and we have settled. I think that has been the number one questioned I have received for the last month from friends and colleagues.
There is so much that has happened this summer, I really do not know if I can sum it up into a blog post but here are the highlights:
I completely deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts. Initially those were going to be temporary deactivations but every time I thought about reactivating my account, I hated the fact that I was going to fall into old habits or deal with the social media non-sense (one day I will write about this term “social media non-sense”). It has been challenging at times because there are connections that I really miss and some that I honestly cannot connect in any other ways (i.e., friends who live abroad). But, I am still undecided on whether I will rejoin again.
We no longer live in our Seminole Heights bungalow in Tampa. I can’t believe we sold our first house. The process of selling was difficult in so many ways. It was exhausting mentally. It took over our lives. I will miss our neighborhood. Seminole Heights will always have a special place in my heart (i.e., it is the house were I saw my son take his first steps and the neighborhood he learn to ride his bike) but I am happy that the house sold allowing us to move and fully focus on our new chapter in Knoxville.
I became a U.S. citizen. I remember arriving in the United States January 2004 and landing in Kansas City to attend school at Emporia State University. That was an absolutely crazy adventure. I took the Greyhound bus from KC to Emporia (a two hour ride) and when we arrived in Emporia I was dropped off at a gas station. I was like “What the hell? Where is the bus terminal?” I asked the gas station employee to please call a cab for me and he was like “Well there is only one cab in town so know that it will be a while” (Yes, this was life pre-UBER, imagine that!). I really should write more about my adventures as an international student. Anyways, glad I completed all the requirements and applied for citizenship. The best part is that I get to vote!
I did the bare minimum in terms of scholarship. Instead I focused on the relocation process and I am so happy I didn’t kill myself trying to do a million things. Early in May I was contacted about a project that “must be written over the summer because the institution was going to pay us $$ over the summer to write the paper”. My response was: “Well the institution can keep their $$ because I am not about to comprise my sanity over a paper I can write in the Fall”. Best decision ever!
I did teach a two-week course on “culturally competent design for online learning” as part of a grant funded project “Online Ready” by colleague Dr. Lucy Green and colleagues. It was so much fun designing the course and launching it. It was an online asynchronous course for K-12 school librarians. This was the first iteration of the course now we get to address the feedback and launch it again next year with a different cohort.
There was minimum travel this summer but in the road trip to Knoxville we did get to explore two other major Tennessee cities: Chattanooga and Nashville. Definitely visiting again!
I arrived in Panama at the end of February, a week before the first COVID-19 case in the country was announced by government officials. Of course, COVID-19 had been an issue in many other countries so there was plenty of news coverage in the Panamanian news outlets and different media outlets on the Internet. However, after the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Panama the Ministry of Health became the main source of information and updates regarding the government’s response.
The social media accounts, and in particular, the Instagram account (@minsapma) for the Ministry of Health provided all the necessary information related to new cases, new policies, and public health campaign. The updates would include press conferences, twice a day, that were shared via Instagram live.
Probably one of my favorite elements of the use of Instagram to keep a country inform were the public health educational campaign. I am an instructional design faculty and teach multimedia design so I was impressed with the infographics and visual representation of the content shared (example of Instagram post below). Of course, I was also impressed with the rapid response that was taken to try to contain the spread of the virus. New measures were taken quickly. In a three-week period Panama went from business as usual to a country under a major lockdown (that is still in place today).
I want to acknowledge that I appreciate the efforts made by the Panamanian Ministry of Health to use these medium to keep the citizens inform and educated. I know that other traditional outlets are been used to disseminate the message to Panamanian citizens such as the radio and television; however, this is great because I know that there are folks who spend more time on social media than watching TV or listening to the radio.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful country of Tunisia in June as part a faculty member participating in the international faculty professional development (IFDS) seminar titled: “The New Tunisia: Migration and Democratic Consolidation” organized by SIT abroad. My participation in the seminar was sponsored by an IFDS grant awarded to faculty members at The University of Tampa by the Office of International Programs and the International Programs Committee. I was honored to received this grant. Participation in this seminar gave me the opportunity to learn more about topics related migration in the African continent, specifically the Maghreb region. Several of our meetings with experts and NGOs focused on conversations that allow use to learn more about the social, political, and economic effects of migration in the Maghreb region, sub-Saharan Africa, and European countries. I plan to write more about the seminar in the near future; however, for now I want to share some of the photos taken during the seminar.
One of the many reasons I am sharing this photo blog is that in the months prior to my departure to Tunisia, I mentioned to a few colleagues, friends, and family members the destination of my IFDS. I was amazed by the number of people who do not know where Tunisia is located or that it even a country. So, I feel that it is important to let others see (even if just through the lens of my camera) a bit of Tunisia.
It is well past my bed time here in Tunisia, but I wanted to put together a list with the links to the organizations that we have interacted with or have been mentioned as part of the international faculty development seminar in which I am participating. The title of the seminar is: “The New Tunisia: Migration and Democratic Consolidation.” Over the last three days, we have talked to several experts on the topic and we have visited several NGOs. Below I am sharing the links to the organizations and also other resources mentioned during the seminar. I will update this blog post at the end of the seminar in case there are other links or additional resources.
EuroMed Rights – TunisiaThe focal point of this NGO is the rights (social and economic) of migrants and refugees in Tunisia.
AMALThe focus of this NGO is to empower Tunisian mothers by providing accommodation, legal advice and vocational training to unmarried mothers [News Article]
Maghrib Past and Present PodcastThis podcast is a forum in which artists, writers, and scholars from North Africa, the United States, and beyond can present their ongoing and innovative research on and cultural activities in the Maghrib. The podcasts are recorded at research centers, universities, and cultural venues across the Maghrib (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania).
Rahma Ben Mansour recommended that we learn more about this place. She discussed how issues related to migration are sometimes dealt with by local communities. This cemetery and the burial of many migrants is one example.
One of my colleagues in the program mentioned these great pieces of Jazz. Although they are not from Tunisia, I thought it would be good to share them in the blog.
TRAVEL COURSE ALERT! Prof. Merrie Tankersley will be leading a group of students to study abroad in Belgium next May 2019. Dr. Enilda Romero-Hall will participate as a assistant coordinator. This program is open to ALL UT students. The program includes potential side trips Ghent (Belgium) & Amsterdam (Netherlands)! For info on dates and cost, please see flyer. Also, feel free to email us. Never too early to start planning for next year 🇧🇪 ✈️
I feel like I have neglected my blog a bit this summer but I have to be honest it has been a busy summer (just like every summer — this is starting be a trend in my life). Anywho, this post in going to be nice, sweet, and short post because its going live today (enough of neglecting my blog).
I attended the Hong Kong AECT conference a few weeks ago. It was amazing! I mean this very honestly. I like learning from others and connecting with different people. I know for a fact that I will experience this (learning from others and connecting with colleagues) at the conferences that I attend regularly, AERA and AECT (this is why I go back to those conferences every year). But I also like to put myself in uncomfortable situations that force me to talk and meet people who I have never connected with in the past. So I made a promise to myself that I would aim to attend a conference that I have never attended before because: a) I want to know what others, who are outside my network, are researching and b) because I think it will expose me to topics that are new to me.
With this in mind, last year I attended the Social Media and Society conference in Toronto which by the way was an absolutely fantastic experience (if I had the budget, the time, and the energy, I would have gone to Copenhagen this year — where the conference was held — and then to Hong Kong to attend HKAECT). This year, I decided to attend HKAECT18 conference. I saw that a friend and colleague attended last year (Dr. Ana Paula Correia) so I reached out to her to ask about her experience. I also saw that the theme of the conference which aligned well with my research interested so I submitted a conference proposal. It was accepted and a few months later I was on a plane to Hong Kong.
I wish I could put into this blog everything that I experienced and the topics we discussed but since I have other things I should be writing, I am instead going to share the link to conference program: http://www.hkaect.org/hkaect2018/programme.html (some
A few things I do want to mention:
All sessions were well attended and we had some really good discussions about the topics presented
Presenters were prepared, addressed questions, and engaged with the audience
There were several social aspects to the conference that allowed us to continue conversations outside the presentation rooms in a more informal manner (coffee breaks, lunch, and dinner)
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