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Back to school…

13 Oct

(Preface: I’m aware that this blog is becoming a bit of a funny beast, originally I intended it to simply be a record of my ‘American Adventure’, then I got distracted with Museum stuff and now it’s all got a bit pedagogical! So yeah, evolution in progress!)

So as of tomorrow I will be starting my second quarter working as a Special Education Paraprofessional at a High School in Denver. Having now got almost 4 months of experience under my belt and about to jump into another term I feel reflective and in a blog-writing mood. Also as I like lists, and the internet likes lists (almost as much as it likes cats) I will be making a list. In fact two lists! So without further ado, here are the 3 best things I’ve learnt from last term and the 3 biggest mistakes I made. (Let me underscore that 4 months as a paraprofessional does not make me some expert teacher or child-whisperer, far from it. Please see these lists as a beginner-teacher muddling his way along rather than some cribsheet handed down from a teaching guru!)

USEFUL THINGS I LEARNT!

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1. There are students you struggle with, who push all your buttons and can make your day a misery. I had students who (and it shames me to say this) when they were off sick I would internally breath a sigh of relief. Without battling with these ‘problem students’ I knew my day would be that much easier. Weirdly, my experience has also shown me that these kids end up being your favourites! I had a student who 2 weeks into the job had me pulling my hair out, he would not do any work, he was rude, dismissive and generally found my presence in his classes to be an irritation and embarrassment. Having tried every technique I could Google, from bribing him with cake to long heart-to-hearts I was at my wits end. And guess what, he’s still a difficult kid, but all that effort has paid off in that now we have this really cool relationship. I know now that when he tells me he’s ‘bored’ (for this particular student EVERYTHING is boring) all I have to do is roll my eyes and he’ll snigger and get back to work. When I kicked him out of class for making farmyard noises (this is a surprisingly frequent occurrence…) whereas before he would storm off calling me every name in the book, instead we actually had a mature conversation. I even got an apology! So here’s the thing, I know now that no matter how much I may struggle with some students, to the point of total exasperation, it’s those kids that you end up really getting to know. So for next term I will try to stay patient, I will know that the harder the fight the better the reward and I will never label a kid as a ‘problem’ again… or at least I’ll try…

Anger2. The next thing I’ve learnt is this, it is NEVER about you. When a student tells you to eff off (in a mock British accent no less!) it’s not about you. When a student questions your teaching credentials in a patronising and mocking fashion, it’s not about you. When after an hour long talk with a student they disregard everything you say and break all the promises they made it’s not about you. You get students for 8 hours a day, that’s all. You don’t control their home life, their friends, family or hormones, you are simply a small blip on their radar. My students come from a real mix of backgrounds, and some of these backgrounds are incredibly and frighteningly toxic. Therefore to imagine that, when a student screams at you, it has anything to do with you is incredibly arrogant. I think taking the ego out of teaching is hard work but it’s important, it sucks when students are mean, cruel, stubborn or rude but it really has nothing to do with you. So I’ve learnt to be less sensitive and self-obsessed and this term I hope to continue to not take the bad stuff to heart.

tumblr_m1rpykN54F1qdjogeo1_5003. PLAY GAMES! Yes, the best way to forge relationships with students is to play, or at least have fun. Particularly the more difficult students. One of my greatest experienced teaching was playing capture the flag with my students. It’s those moment  away from the classroom where you can enjoy being around your students and they can see you as a human. That translates back into better relationships IN the classroom. By the end of last term I was tired, real tired and I think I forgot how to have fun. No surprise my relationships with my kids suffered. I need to make sure next term that we have time to play games.

MISTAKES I MADE
personal-space1. Not giving students space. When a student is on the rampage, storming out of class or working themselves up into a rage I fear that I often responded badly. I would doggedly follow said student trying to ‘reason’ with them, or get up close and personal. I see now that this simply escalates the situation, and I regret that I have on 2 occasions made a bad situation worse… So my new motto is ‘give angry teenagers space’. I’m a teacher, not a negotiator in a cheesy action movie, I need to keep this in mind and not try and be superteacher!

clip_image00872. Being inconsistent. When I started working with my students I pretty much threw every trick I had read about, at them; A token economy today, then kinetic learning, then youtube videos, then trackers, stamps… etc etc. I think the novelty of a new teaching tool/gimmick held way to much sway and rather than sticking at any one technique I chopped and changed. The problem is double-fold, one inconsistency is confusing at does not help build stable teaching relationships and two, if you want to try a new technique and test it, you need to give it time. So, this term I will be less erratic and less influenced by bright shiny new teaching mcguffins!

Grumpy-Cat3. Negative thinking. I told myself I wouldn’t be negative, aaaaand….. I failed. I have to avoid negative conversations with staff and pointless ranting in the office. It doesn’t help and it’s just not good for me or my students. Teaching is hard, sometimes it sucks, sometimes the administration do stupid stupid things and sometimes it’s all just plain unfair, but bitching gets you no where. Venting once is fine, but if you vent over and over about the same thing all is communicates is that you’re not doing anything proactive to change it. So no more endless complain-athons!!

And that’s it, wish me luck for round two!

P.S. Talk about bad formatting, it looks like I just puked HTML over this page, sheesh!

Adventures in Teaching

10 Aug

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I am now a paraprofessional (Teaching assistant if you’re from the UK) and for better or worse my job has pretty much taken up ALL of my mental capacity. Therefore, I thought I would throw down a few thoughts, fears and things I have learned over the past month as a way of freeing up more of my brain to do other things.

I work at a High-School in Colorado with kids with exceptionalities (I know this my seem a hugely hyperbolic ‘PC’ term but ‘special education’ and ‘learning difficulties’ just don’t cut it). Let me be 100% honest, whenever I heard about special education I guess I imagined students in wheelchairs, unable to communicate, colouring with crayons and dribbling down their shirts. I know, pretty bloody ignorant. I always imagined those people that did jobs working with these kids must have incredible patience and that it was not something I could do. I have since discovered that my understanding of special needs and of myself was woefully incorrect.

For one, my kids are impossible to define. My students have such a variety of personalities, abilities and disabilities I don’t really know where to start. For one, many of my students don’t look, or sounds like ‘special needs kids’. These kids ‘pass’ in the school, many of them don’t want anybody else to know they are in ‘special ed’, many of them have been haunted by that label throughout their lives. Those who do seem to fit the ‘mould’, those kids who stand out as different are some of the most incredibly perceptive, sensitive and thought-provoking people I’ve met. The idea of the ‘short bus’ full of dribbling ‘retards’ is so far from my classroom that now the mere thought of such a stereotype is abhorrent to me. My students never cease to surprise me.

As for patience, yes, patience is necessary, but once I cracked open all my preconceptions about these kids I find that patience isn’t really what’s needed. When a student is puzzling over a simple math problem, 1+0=? for example, I could get impatient. I could think ‘Why can’t this kid do such an easy problem? Is there any point trying? We go over and over this problem and still nothing.’ in fact, I used to think this way. But when you have spent time with this student and you know that he or she has done the sum ‘9×5+7=’ with ease, then you know that the issue is not that the problem is too hard. Then it’s not patience that’s needed, its creativity. Trying to work out how to explain what 0 is worth becomes a puzzle. Explaining what ‘abstract’ means is a challenge. Helping a student to recognise ‘nouns’ and ‘verbs’ is a game. Using metaphor, and by scaffolding meaning on top of meaning, you work with the students to get to the answer. For me this process is hugely stimulating. True, sometimes you’re tired and patience and frustration make an unwelcome appearance, but never any more than with my general education students.

And that’s something else I believe about my students, none of them are stupid or dumb. Some may have low IQ’s, well below the average in fact, but taking into account their individual abilities and deficits they are incredibly smart. One student may struggle hugely with short-term memory, or have an incredibly short attention span, so when these students crack a problem, write a sentence or finish an artwork they are having to create connections and use strategies that most of us never even have to bother with. These kids are playing the computer game of life at hard, when the rest of us are content with easy, and they’re playing it damn well!

Finally, it’s not all personal growth and joy. I don’t skip home every day singing my students praises, there is a dark side. Whilst I wasn’t blindsided (I have friends and family in teaching and so was expecting some of the negatives) living them is something else. One thing is how depressing it is to see students who have gone so far down the wrong path, who have home lives that are so toxic, friends who do all the wrong things and live in a world of razorblades. As a teacher I can do very little to change that, we have them at school and then we send them home to fight their own battle every night. Some of my students are losing that battle, some have already lost. I have met 14 year olds who are already cynical, hardened individuals. To be honest I don’t really know what I can do to help. There are just no easy answers.

Aaaaaand that’s where my heads been at!

!kcohS erutluC

26 Mar

Nope, I didn’t fall on my keyboard. What I’m referring to is something I’d never heard of before tonight, something called reverse culture shock (get it?!). The reason I’m writing this is to try and piece together something odd I’ve been feeling these past few days, something I can hardly put my finger on and something that I think is fully explained by this term!
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So I have just returned to the UK for 10 days. I have been looking forward to this SO much! The past few weeks I have been so thrilled to see my friends and family, to be a Londoner again and to revisit all my old haunts. After arriving back in London I felt that familiar sense of madness that I felt last time I visited: Everything was moving so fast, more traffic than I remember, everybody’s accents sound so… so… ‘British’. Just like last time I decided I needed to sleep it off. The crazy feeling of dislocation was just the jetlag and strong painkillers (wisdom teeth and travel get on like a nerve on fire…). So I slept… and when I woke up, I still felt totally lost.

I met up with my friends, and seeing them all was fantastic. I couldn’t stop grinning, and after a few drinks I was convinced I had gotten over my weird unwelcome feeling of ‘otherness’. Then, after stepping into a nightclub it all felt so strange again. I had been there 100’s of times before, with these same people, but it felt so odd. Like a dream everything was a little ‘wrong’. The music was a little off (where was the cheesy country tracks?) and the drinks were incredibly expensive (What?! A Coors-, uh I mean Stella costs 5 bucks-, uh, I mean quid?). But there was something else, I just felt like a total stranger there.

This feeling of weirdness has persisted. Today whilst out with three of my closest friends, friends who I know like the back of my own hand, conversation and jokes kept slipping over my head. They were talking about things and places and people I had never heard of. Whilst I know that time has passed, that whilst I’ve been away things have happened (I’d be incredibly arrogant not to!) it left me a little lost for words. Seeing that I had withdrawn from the conversation (not like me) one friend asked if I was ok. I admitted that I had been feeling a bit out of it, a little bit like a foreigner in my own ‘home’ and that I wasn’t really sure what was up but that I’m sure it wasn’t serious. I left early and got the tube home in a daydream. I was not depressed or upset but definitely unsettled. I have always been very good at being a Londoner!

Now it’s clear to me. Travelling has changed me. Not that I have somehow ‘found myself’ or become some deep profound person. But, my view of the world has somehow shrunk whilst what I once thought of as normal and homely has stretched. I love London, but it doesn’t quite feel the same as it once did. I find myself constantly contrasting it with Denver in my mind, and in the end you feel a little untethered from both!

Don’t get me wrong. I am having an incredible time, and now I think I know what’s going on (and that it’s not just painkiller induced brain damage!) I think I will be able to relax back into being here. But as a brief word of warning to long-haul long-term travelers, don’t underestimate reverse culture shock! Fitting back into your own culture of origin after a long time adapting to a new one is definitely a bit of a shock to the system!

A year ago today…

21 Mar

I was doing this…
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…drinking a glass of bubbly in the Heathrow lounge, just about to board a flight to Washington DC en route to Denver-comma-Colorado. I am now sitting in Denver International Airport eating a burger king… yeah not quite as classy, how the mighty have fallen etc etc. Still, it is a very neat situation, flying back to the UK for a 10 day holiday on the exact same day I packed my bags for America.

Anyway, I’ve been putting off this post for some time; the somehow obligatory ‘what I have learnt so far a year in’ post, where I flounder at trying to sum-up a year’s worth of experience into a  few paragraphs. I realise that one of the points of creating a blog is so that others may read what you write, and mammoth self-involved posts aside, this still makes me a little uncomfortable… A long list of all-the-stuff-I-did sounds pretty bloody tedious… a little like being forced to look through someone’s holiday snaps, or being told the plot of a film you have no desire to see. At the same time, I don’t want to get so self-analytical that I become too paralysed to write anything for fear of coming across as a royal bore. I guess I just have to live with the fact that by the very act of writing a blog I am (to all intents and purposes) doing the e-equivalent of standing in a busy supermarket whilst shouting my own list of groceries over a loudspeaker. So with this rather awkward preamble, I shall try and make this brief, I shall try and make it readable, and I will try and insert amusing photos.

(For those with a short attention span here is a short twitter friendly summary: IT HAS BEEN AMAZING, AND I MET PEOPLE AND DID THINGS!)

The Befuddled Beginning

To start with, moving abroad, uprooting yourself from all that is familiar is an incredibly strange and frightening experience. I had a lot of predictions of how I would feel when I landed in Denver, when I finally unpacked my suitcase, when I actually realised that this was to be my home for three years. But to be honest, I just felt very dislocated, detached and numb. Not unhappy, terrified or excited… at the most a little jittery, like I’d had a little too much coffee. In fact the first 2-3 weeks I think I was pretending to myself that I was on holiday, that this was just a little adventure and that I would soon be back in London.

Despite my detachment from everything during this period I was quite a sensitive soul. I remember two completely dichotomous experiences. Both occured whilst out drinking in those first few weeks. One was a thrilling blur of drag queens, friendly people and brightly coloured shots; I remember repeating to everyone I met ‘Christ, you’re all American, isn’t that weird? That you’re all American and that I am in America?!’. I felt euphoric.

The other night couldn’t have been more different; it was when I experienced my biggest moment of homesickness. Whilst out at a bar with a ‘friend’ (see previous posts on pros and cons of the British accent) I suddenly found myself feeling incredibly out of place. It was pretty much then, whilst inebriated on unfamiliar spirits in a noisy bar that I  discovered that I really missed my friends terribly. If there was moment where I honestly wanted to be back ‘home’ in London it was then. Luckily, that soon passed (along with everything else I ate that day…). The next stage was less schizophrenic and more stable but also difficult in its own way.

The Netflix Months

I spent a few months being a bum. I mean I did do some stuff: I traveled  I snowboarded a bit, and I felt like I saw a lot of Colorado and the surrounding states, but really I was still a bum. I didn’t work, I volunteered (a bit), I worked on some projects (Hardly at all. See post on ‘Lost Projects). After a month of this I started to feel a bit untethered from myself. Who was I without a job, without any real friends, without any purpose or aim? I watched Netflix, cooked chilli con carne and occasionally drank coffee. I started to look forward to grocery shopping simply because it made me feel purposeful.

Side Note: Here are my top 5 weird American food items (I say weird from the perspective of an English palate mind you)

1.Maple Bacon (Because sweet bacon is wrong)


2.Marshmellow and Sweet Potatoes (No explanation needed)


3.Riceroni (Rice, and pasta… hmmmm but also mmmmm!)


4.Mole (Mexican style meat stew… made with Chocolate and/or Pepsi and/or Dr Pepper!!!)


5.Tootsie Rolls (Chewy chocolate in a lolly… that is then removed from the lolly… and sold seperately…)

Finding Ones’ Feet
In the end I got a job. Not my dream job, but a job all the same. From then on my life started to become more cemented. Having a daily routine allowed my life to start to become more structured and more reminiscent of life back home. Both in work (and out) I also started meeting a group of awesome people. People who I could hang out with in an easy laid-back way, people who I could be myself around and not just be ‘Sacha the performing Brit’. Anyway I’ve since started to work in a position I love, and things really do feel settled now. Now, finally, I feel like a real boy!

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Now Denver does feel like home, and so does London. With the power of the internet I feel like I can live my life in both. I am SO excited to be going back to London, but I think I will also be excited about coming back to Denver. At the start 3 years seemed like an awfully long time. A year in, well it seems like no time at all.

To finish here’s a quick breakdown of my Top 3 moments in the USA!
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1. Winning the pedal boat race for the Museum of Nature and Science. Me and my coworker won NOT ONLY the race (pictured) but ALSO a prize for best costume. Dressed as the Mars Curiosity Rover and a Martian we had such an awesome time. It wasn’t the winning (although that helped) it was the combined joy of having a job somewhere I loved, feeling like I was making friends and doing something totally mental!
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2. Las Vegas. Well I wrote a whole post about this so it probably comes as no surprise! I loved my time in Vegas SO much more than I anticipated. It was thrilling, relaxing and totally memorable. My favorite part of the trip? That’s tough, but I would say wandering around the themed hotels on my last day and going on the New York New York rollercoaster!
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3. I’ve had my ups and downs with snowboarding, and a good few bruises too, but the ups have been awesome. Whilst I’m no pro, and learning hasn’t been easy, there have been some truly awesome moments on the slopes. One particular snowy day at Keystone and a fresh-powder day at Vail stick in the mind. Anyway I’ve spent almost $500 on a brand new snowboard so I’m committed to many more seasons to come!

And that’s it. There’s so much to say about the past year that I can hardly scratch the surface. And whilst I try and keep other people’s identity private on my blog I feel I have to say a BIG thanks to Terryn (I’m sure she won’t mind) but also to all the other AMAZING neighbors  friends, coworkers and randomers, for making Denver a home. HERE’S TO ANOTHER 2 YEARS!

The way you’d imagine heaven must look at night

29 Oct

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They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. It’s been called: Sin City, Lost Wages, Disneyland for grown ups and the desert mirage. When you tell people you’re going to Vegas people raise an eyebrow and smirk, as if you just told a dirty joke. When Stephen King wrote his end-of-the-world epic ‘The Stand’, all the good guys go to Boulder (obviously) and all the bad guys go to Vegas. So having now spent 4 days and 3 nights in that big-little town in the desert I thought I’d try and surmise my experiences.

To start with, as shown in the titular Chuck Palahniuk quote, Las Vegas is a place of contrasts, light and dark. So I’m going to try and divide this into the dark and light side, the things I love and the things that made me feel less comfortable (and occasionally frightened.) So without further ado here’s why you definitely should/shouldn’t go to Vegas.

Vivaaaaaaaa las Vegas!

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First let me start with this, I had an amazing time in Vegas. From start to finish I enjoyed every moment of it. Whether it was indulging in Margaritas by the lazy river, enjoying some cava by the fountain at the Wynn or simply strolling through the indoor reproductions of Paris and New York, I loved everything.

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The Strip itself is a lot to take in; brightly coloured signs glare and flash, jarring with reproductions of world wonders in glitzy neon, all crowding for your attention. And it’s not just a visual assault, there is constant noise, whether its 90’s power ballads, gushing fountains, shouting pirates or the merry clinking and boinging of the slot machines. I can honestly say I spent my time perpetually stimulated, euphoric and excited. It all took my breath away!

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And Christ on a bike it’s fun! Rollercoasters and waterfalls at every turn, boredom just isn’t an option in Vegas. Other than a few quiet hours by the pool I think I spent the entire time in pupil-dilating hyperactivity! Also whilst Vegas is famous for being tacky and over the top, if you take in the scale of everything it somehow stops being tacky, it becomes amazing. Not only this, some of the design and sheer imagination that went into Vegas is staggering: The lightshow at the Wynn was incredible, we were completely taken aback when a giant woman rose out of the water, or when two giant flowers appeared and danced in front of us. Nothing in Vegas is subtle or small scale, yes, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have moments of incredible artistry and beauty.

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I would also recommend wondering through Paris and New York New York. They’re complete fabrications, more movie sets than accurate adaptations of the real places, but walking outdoors/indoors never ceases to amaze. Also get the bus down to Freemont, the older side of Vegas, it’s seedier and less slick than the strip but the Freemont light experience and seafood buffet at the Golden Nugget are worth the trip alone.

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Finally, I felt like one of the Jetsons; If you decide to use the monorail, which is sincerely recommend, despite being in the middle of the desert you can spend the entire time in hermetically sealed air-conditioned bliss. I felt so space-age flying through the themed hotels in a glass bullet and never even having to even set foot outside. Yes, Las Vegas is luxurious and oppulant first and foremost it’s not ‘classy’ or ‘clever’, so forget any pretensions of ‘real culture’ just go with it: See the sights, ride the rides and be prepared to spend way more than you budgeted!

There are no clocks in Vegas…

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Vegas has a dark heart. There’s the friendly neon exterior that you see; the brightly coloured drinks and the smiling waitresses, and then there is the side you don’t see, at least not overtly. The underlying manipulation of people, the push to spend more, care less, keep gambling, bet higher and raise the odds. The music is always inane and optimistic and whilst having a coffee at 10am I noticed that the lyrics were packed with references to gambling and taking risks: ‘It’s taking me higher!’ ‘I can’t get enough, I can’t get enough’ ‘show them what your worth’ etc.

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As I stated in the heading, there are no clocks, the lighting is always the same whether it’s 4pm or 4am. The tinkling of the slot machines is endless and mesmerising. One game shouts ‘you’re the best!’ and ‘you’re awesome’ at every crank of the handle. I later found out that the exact pitch of the sounds is actually engineered to be reinforcing as they trigger the reward centres of the brain. So there were times, particularly when I was by myself, and I found myself listening to the heartbeat of Vegas, the chimes and tinkles, when I felt a little like I was sitting in a giant Pavlovian box.

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And it’s obvious, but worth mentioning, the pure extravagance of a place like Vegas is built on the fact that the house always wins. Over all, Vegas has to make more than it loses, it wouldn’t exist if it were any other way. Now, for a lot of the people that come and go in Vegas, gambling is just fun and you expect to lose. But what of the sad slumped figures at the slot machines, day or night, cigarette in mouth and money in hand? I saw my share of heavy gamblers, none of them in tuxedos surrounded by sexy ladies like in the posters on the walls, all of them vacant and radiating a sense of loss.

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Gambling is designed to be addictive and Vegas plays on this, makes it an art-form. The oxygen they pump into the hotels, the timelessness of the casinos and the bright lights are designed to tap into that reptilian part of the brain, the part that can’t say no. So there is definately a dark manipulative side, Vegas is designed to be fun, it taps into everyone’s inner child; the love of theme parties and magic tricks. Do you remember Pleasure Island in Pinnochio? Just like that, the fun is a vaneer, and underneath is a well oiled machine; Once you pass through Vegas, one way or another it will take the cash out of your wallet, just make sure that it only takes what you can afford to give.

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Mom and Pop

20 Aug

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So, mum and dad are currently hurtling across the sky somewhere over the Atlantic in a small metal box (Planes… hmmm… I’m still sceptical…) and are due to arrive in Denver late this evening. They’re here for the next 11 days and so it is my duty to show them a good time, give them a feel for the ‘REAL’ midwest and be an alround awesome long-distance son. No small feat! (SIDENOTE: Had to look up how to spell ‘feat’, 20 minutes later ended up on a wikipedia page on Boba Fett. When you’re an inquisitive but dyslexic nerd the internet is a dangerous labyrinth indeed!) So, here are some of the things I’ve planned to do.

1. Banjo Billy Bus tour of Denver

I’ve seen this around downtown and it looks mental! Basically a rickety bus, with a crazy guy with a banjo shouting facts sbout the city. Normally I wouldn’t go in for the whole ‘tour bus’ routine but this seemed just weird enough to be entertaining. “Hear ghost tales, crime stories, and history while sitting on a couch, recliner or saddle as the bus rolls through the core of the city”. Here’s hoping my parents can leave their British cynicism behind… otherwise this could be excruciatingly awful…

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2. Waterworld! (Sans Kein Costner… actually you know what, hands up, I liked that film)

So this is honestly one of my favourite places in the whole of Denver, plus I have a season pass so it’s cheap. This could be a bit hit and miss, mum and dad aren’t exactly the extreme waterslide types. (I have this terrible image of my dad going down ‘Flat Line’ and only his swimming trunks coming out the other end…) Still, we used to go to a small waterpark in Greece all the time and I know mum and dad loved the lazy river. Also the Burittos are really really good! So I think as long as we can get a nice spot by the pool (shade for dad, blazing sunshine for mum) I think it could be great. Fingers crossed I don’t kill my parents…

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3. Drive to Wyoming

So I’m trying to tick as many states off as possible whilst I’m here, here’s my (depressingly empty) map so far

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So it makes sense to get all the adjoining states to Colorado in the bag, we’ve already done New Mexico. Wyoming is the next one on the list. Therefore a 2 hour drive should get us to Cheyenne… of which I know absolutely nothing. When I have told Denver locals that I’m taking my parents to Wyoming the general response has been ‘Why?’ and ‘Do your parents like wheat fields or something?’. Oh well, that’s what everyone said about South Park, that there was nothing there worth seeing, and that turned out to be AWESOME! Anyway, even if Cheyenne turns out to be really dull I think it will be cool for my parents to see more than one state during their trip. (If anyone knows what’s good in Cheyenne drop me a comment please)

4. Trip to a dive bar

So I had never heard of a ‘dive bar’ before coming to the US but it basically means a small, intimate, cheap and rather eccentric liquor bar. The kind of place where the more colourful local characters hang out. My favourite is called ‘Nob Hill’ (snigger) on Colfax Avenue. The bartender is always friendly and full of sexist/racist jokes, plus they serve my favourite brand of Whiskey. I think dad will like the idea of drinking in a ‘proper’ midwestern bar and I think mum will love being chatted up by the locals! And if they’re up for it I might drag them both to Charlies (a gay cowboy bar) and get them linedancing… if this happens the photos WILL be on facebook!

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5. Boulder

So with a name like Sacha and with a sister called Sunshine you might guess the kind of people my parents were back in the 60’s/70’s. So, whilst neither of my parents sport dreads and (thankfully) they’re not you’re archetypal hippy parents I really think they’d get a kick out of Boulder. For those who don’t know Boulder is a smallish town outside Denver that is known for being a hippy eco haven. There is, I hear, a sign as you leave Boulder which reads  ‘Now re-entering reality’. I’ve been to Boulder a couple of times and to be honest the whole gaia-earthmother-hippy-potsmoking-rainbow-faery thing is all a bit put on, all the same it does remind me a little of Camden Town in London (where I grew up) so I think mum and dad will like it. Other than looking at the shops and drinking chai lattes I’m not really sure what to do with them. Any suggestions?

6. Eat Bullock Bollocks

Yeah you read that right. So since moving here I’ve wanted to go to the infamous Buckhorn Exchange in Denver. At this rather pricey restaurant you can eat pretty much anything that once had a heart beat. From alligator steaks to moose burgers. Not only this they have a speciality called ‘prairie oysters’. Remember, Colorado is landlocked… yup, these ‘oysters’ are deep-fried bull’s testicles. We’ll see just how adventurous mum and dad feel. I know I’m game!

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Audience participation time please: So have I missed anything else? To those people from Colroado what have I neglected? What do you do when your mum and dad come to visit? To those Brits reading this, what would YOU want to do if you came to Colorado? What would your Denver bucket list look like?