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It’s dark in China – educating with social networks

Heading to China to teach, the new life of reaching children in a country as restrictive as China. 

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For nearly a year, I had been waiting for the email that would change my life. Post-grad, I picked up four jobs, the PULP was the only one closely related to my English degree. I was eager to use this piece of paper for something other than a minimum wage job.  

That Thursday I had tagged my second item of clo…

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

For nearly a year, I had been waiting for the email that would change my life. Post-grad, I picked up four jobs, the PULP was the only one closely related to my English degree. I was eager to use this piece of paper for something other than a minimum wage job.  

That Thursday I had tagged my second item of clothing, at my second job of the day, when my phone buzzed and lit up. Across my screen was an unfamiliar email address. My curiosity always gets the best of me, and without a thought I swiped to view the message. I glanced at the Peace Corps logo and then read the chipper, “Congratulations! It is with great pleasure that we invite you to begin training in China for Peace Corps service.” I read through a paragraph before my brain woke up. 

I’m moving to China to teach English. My immediate reaction was that I needed to call my parents. I also needed to tell the entire world. Everyone I know. I tagged two items of clothing before I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I called my dad and told him the great news, while jumping up and down. I shot a few texts to the people I am closest to, and then I told the world. Everyone I know. My “I’m moving to CHINA!” Facebook post blew up. Texts were piling up in my inbox. 

That kind of news is overwhelming. I couldn’t believe it, after a year, I got the email I was waiting for. After the excitement faded, I started to joyfully cry, but then that joyful cry turned to a sad cry. 

I thought of everyone I was about to leave. Little did I know that it would be the whole world. Everyone I know. 

Over the next few weeks, the excitement still burned. I spent time researching and devising clever ways of teaching college students English. I compiled ideas from some of my favorite college professors: books to read, theories to apply to writing, creative writing prompts, Guerilla Recitations, even book reports. My strongest tool would be social networking. It’s the way my professors taught me. 

I want to provide the kind of education I had. Cutting edge. So, I took everything that enhanced my learning experience and wrote it down. I researched and Googled. I surfed blogs and watched Youtube videos. 

Then, I found information that would throw a giant wrench in my plans for teaching.

China has banned Google+, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and virtually every other social network platform thinkable. Even Blogger, where I keep my blog, is out. 

How am I supposed to teach people how to communicate effectively when a good chunk of how the world communicates is banned? I’ve lost my main tool, I thought. I am doomed. And even worse, I won’t be able to communicate back home. I’ll be offline to the whole world. Everybody I know. 

I can handle two years without Pueblo Chiles, two years without the site of the Rockies, two years without driving a vehicle, even two years without the sweet luxury of Starbucks; I can even handle my future language barrier struggles, but two years without the use of GYFT? I am in no way ready to give them up, but unless I bow down to China’s only social network, MySpace, it looks like I’m going dark in June. 

In moving forward with my career, I discovered many fears and insecurities around separating from GYFT. 

I rationalized that I would not as easily talk to people, or that by the time I returned home, I would be way behind American culture. In my search for alternative teaching methods, I also found myself more and more curious about how prevalent social networks are in everyday life here and around the world. In my efforts to just ‘know,’ I was hopeful that somewhere along the way I would find a way to get past the Great Firewall of China. 

I found, well, Pew Research found, that people in other countries have the bug way worse than I do. Eighty-eight percent of Egypt’s population uses social networking sites. Both Russia and Turkey beat out the U.S. too. Seventy-three percent of Americans use social media. 

Of course, just my luck, China has the lowest percentage of GYFT users with only 48 percent. And it’s not just that they are pretty much considered non-users compared to Americans, it’s that their strict communist government doesn’t want the people to experience the power of social media. A social media site can cause a revolution, as recent events have taught us. So, the big social networking sites do not exist, but there are alternatives. 

There are networks like WeChat and Weibo, most of them in…

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Stapleton, Polis jab each other over energy differences

The two candidates traded the usual barbs with the Republican saying the Democrat will hurt oil and gas jobs and the Democrat saying the industry needs to be a better partner with communities.

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton warned Wednesday that Democrats want to impose job-killing restrictions on oil and gas development in Colorado, while Democrat Jared Polis said the state has to try to settle persistent conflicts between the industry and neighborhoods. Polis was interrupted three times by protesters as he and Stapleton made separate pitches to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual Energy Summit in Denver. The protesters stood and asked Polis about fracking and climate change. The audience booed, and the protesters were escorted out. Polis didn’t address the protesters directly. But he drew laughs when he pointed out the third interruption came just as he was lamenting the strident tone of the debate over oil and gas in Colorado, where drilling rigs and storage tanks intermingle with schools, homes and hospitals. That proximity fuels disputes over public health and safety. Polis, a five-term congressman from Boulder, and Stapleton, in his second term as state treasurer, are campaigning to replace term-limited Democrat John Hickenlooper Stapleton and Polis both said they oppose a ballot initiative that would increase the minimum distance between new wells and occupied buildings — called setbacks — to 2,500 feet (762 meters). The current minimum distance is 500 feet (150 meters). Both said the measure would essentially ban new hydraulic fracturing or fracking wells in Colorado. Hydraulic fracturing uses a pressurized mix of water, chemicals and sand to loosen underground rock formations and release oil and gas. Stapleton, who spoke first, said Polis once financed …

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton warned Wednesday that Democrats want to impose job-killing restrictions on oil and gas development in Colorado, while Democrat Jared Polis said the state has to try to settle persistent conflicts between the industry and neighborhoods.
Polis was interrupted three times by protesters as he and Stapleton made separate pitches to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual Energy Summit in Denver.
The protesters stood and asked Polis about fracking and climate change. The audience booed, and the protesters were escorted out.
Polis didn’t address the protesters directly. But he drew laughs when he pointed out the third interruption came just as he was lamenting the strident tone of the debate over oil and gas in Colorado, where drilling rigs and storage tanks intermingle with schools, homes and hospitals.
That proximity fuels disputes over public health and safety.
Polis, a five-term congressman from Boulder, and Stapleton, in his second term as state treasurer, are campaigning to replace term-limited Democrat John Hickenlooper
Stapleton and Polis both said they oppose a ballot initiative that would increase the minimum distance between new wells and occupied buildings — called setbacks — to 2,500 feet (762 meters). The current minimum distance is 500 feet (150 meters).
Both said the measure would essentially ban new hydraulic fracturing or fracking wells in Colorado. Hydraulic fracturing uses a pressurized mix of water, chemicals and sand to loosen underground rock formations and release oil and gas.
Stapleton, who spoke first, said Polis once financed a similar measure that would have set a minimum distance of 2,000 feet (610 meters).
“As a numbers guy, I know that 2,500 is not 2,000, but it also isn’t too far off, either,”…
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Bistoro changes locations but maintains Mediterranean magnifique

The Dhamo’s change of location for the bistro doesn’t change their unique European sensibility

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“Eat well, live happy” are the words printed on the sign above Bistoro – a Mediterranean-style bistro located at 109 Central Plaza in Pueblo, owned and operated by Pellumb Dhamo and Joetta Ucar-Dhamo. Joetta attended high school and college in Pueblo, while Pellumb is a native of Albania. The couple met in Rome, and travelled and lived together in Europe for many years before moving back to Pueblo to raise their family and open their restaurant.

“It’s always been a dream of mine,” said Joetta, “When I met my husband that was one of the first things we talked about was owning a restaurant. Pueblo wasn’t necessarily our first choice. But after travelling around and everything we’ve found, it suits a family lifestyle – we have a four and a five year old – so we’re kind of rekindling our love for Pueblo so-to-speak.”

Formerly known as Neon Alley Bistro in the Union Avenue Historic District, Joetta says business has improved at Bistoro since the change in location. “That was a beautiful location. And we dreamed a lot outside those cast iron gates. But it was out of sight out of mind for most people. It was incredibly hard to get people through the door. So we realized it wasn’t sustainable.” Bistoro’s new location at Central Plaza is closer to Pueblo’s Riverwalk area and downtown hotels – keeping it on the radar of locals and tourists. “It’s been much nicer,” says Joetta of the new location.

The restaurant is closed Sundays and Mondays, making Tuesday the start of the couple’s workweek at the bistro. Both are hard at work after the short weekend, with Pellumb preparing orders in the kitchen and Joetta greeting customers and taking orders. Light music trickles through the air of the cozy dining area dominated by a large bar top with classic black and white stools, with booths lined along the opposite wall. The ambiance of the whole place is quaint, cool, fresh. There is an intimate charm about it that separates it from the typical Pueblo eatery.

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

“Eat well, live happy” are the words printed on the sign above Bistoro – a Mediterranean-style bistro located at 109 Central Plaza in Pueblo, owned and operated by Pellumb Dhamo and Joetta Ucar-Dhamo. Joetta attended high school and college in Pueblo, while Pellumb is a native of Albania. The couple met in Rome, and travelled and lived together in Europe for many years before moving back to Pueblo to raise their family and open their restaurant.
“It’s always been a dream of mine,” said Joetta, “When I met my husband that was one of the first things we talked about was owning a restaurant. Pueblo wasn’t necessarily our first choice. But after travelling around and everything we’ve found, it suits a family lifestyle – we have a four and a five year old – so we’re kind of rekindling our love for Pueblo so-to-speak.”
Formerly known as Neon Alley Bistro in the Union Avenue Historic District, Joetta says business has improved at Bistoro since the change in location. “That was a beautiful location. And we dreamed a lot outside those cast iron gates. But it was out of sight out of mind for most people. It was incredibly hard to get people through the door. So we realized it wasn’t sustainable.” Bistoro’s new location at Central Plaza is closer to Pueblo’s Riverwalk area and downtown hotels – keeping it on the radar of locals and tourists. “It’s been much nicer,” says Joetta of the new location.
The restaurant is closed Sundays and Mondays, making Tuesday the start of the couple’s workweek at the bistro. Both are hard at work after the short weekend, with Pellumb preparing orders in the kitchen and Joetta greeting customers and taking orders. Light music trickles through the air of the cozy dining area dominated by a large bar top with classic black and white stools, with booths lined along the opposite wall. The ambiance of the whole place is quaint, cool, fresh. There is an intimate charm about it that separates it from the typical Pueblo eatery.
The signature menu item at Bistoro is the bocata, which is a Spanish-style sandwich. The bistro offers a selection of steak, pork, chicken or eggplant bocatas. The most popular dish, Joetta says, is a steak bocata topped with Pueblo chile. There is also a diverse selection of tapas (appetizers) as well as a broad selection of Rustic salads that offer farm-fresh vegetables instead of lettuce. So obviously, locally sourced ingredients are an important feature of Bistoro.
“Eat well, live happy is our mantra. Really what we’re about is putting those famili…
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Music

Acoustic heartbreak in the Colorado San Juans with John Statz

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John Statz by Veronica Holyfield

Songs about heartbreak should resinate. And with John Statz they do. They’re equally soft and striking. His new full-length album “Darkness on the San Juans,” available May 11, takes an acoustic turn from his other recent work. Then, he had full bands in studios. With this project, he gathered a few friends in his living room to record. Like heartbrea…

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

Songs about heartbreak should resinate. And with John Statz they do. They’re equally soft and striking.
His new full-length album “Darkness on the San Juans,” available May 11, takes an acoustic turn from his other recent work. Then, he had full bands in studios. With this project, he gathered a few friends in his living room to record.
Like heartbreak itself, the album is more personal, more raw and more intimate. The Wisconsin native who now calls Denver home said he hasn’t done something quite as stripped down in a while, and when it came to get back into songwriting after the release of his last album last summer, there was also a reason to write.
It was the aftermath of a breakup.
“We retrace our steps. We look at what we thought we knew. We ultimately discover and face the truth under the stories we told ourselves along the way,” he says of the album.
In addition to the post-love songs, the album features a few songs Statz previously worked on but didn’t have a place on an album, and songs that are meant to be more acoustic. “Presidential Valet” is the story of Armistead, President John Tyler’s valet, or slave, who died alongside seven others in an explosion after Tyler and members of cabinet were watching the firing of the “peacemaker” in 1844.

So, this album is about heartbreak. Did that change how you wrote or approached the album at all?

Yeah. It just kind of comes out more — I don’t know — when you’re writing about heartbreak it’s just seems like the easiest type of writing. It’s just pouring out of you. You don’t have to come up with a concept or a story or any of that.

In the bio you released ahead of this album, it references a pretty famous Ernest Hemingway quotation: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Maybe as a writer I hear about this all of the time, but there’s definitely a writing style associated with Hemingway — to write very concise and clear. Did you take any of that with you into the songwriting or was it all about the emotion?

You know, it was the emotion part. I didn’t think about that, but the songs are fairly concise and short. So I appreciate that might also be relevant there even though I didn’t intend that.

The title of this album is “Darkness on the San Juans.” Explain that a little bit.

It’s a line in the song “Highways.” Geographical references are all over my songwriting. On every album I’ve ever written. So it’s a song about driving places with someone and either ending up back at those places later and having other memories being their previously. The San Juans was one of those locations that was important.

Why do you think you end up writing about places so much?

I mean, an obvious answer is that I spend a lot of time driving around to gigs, and I’ve been a lot of places because of that. And just for fun. I love roadtripping around Colorado, and camping and that sort of thing. So it’s not a planned thing. I’m living and breathing this lifestyle from A to B to C and that infiltrates the writing. But also, it’s a convenient rhyming scheme. Sometimes it can be hard to find a word, but there’s usually a city that will fill in.

How long did it take you to finish this album, being that the concept is fairly raw?

It all happened pretty fast. The two non-heartbreak songs, “Presidential Valet” and “Old Men Drinking Seagrem’s,” were older. They’re social commentary tunes. But I just hadn’t recorded them to yet and I was waiting for an acoustic album to do that. I started writing in the summer. I decided in December to record them. I called my friend Nate, flew him out in January. And we recorded it in three days in my living room.

Had you recorded like that before?

It’s been a while, but yeah. My first couple albums that I made when I lived i…
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One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

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