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Monday, May 26, 2014

Off To School They Go

I know in my country, the Philippines, the school ended last April.  But here in the U.S., it'll end up in June.  We wanted to enroll them as early as possible (since we arrived in February), but there were other things to consider (especially the mode of transportation and we had less knowledge about the place).  Then, when we finally had a car, we immediately roamed around our vicinity to find and choose a school for them (with the help of a GPS device).  Then when we finally chose one, we found out it doesn't work that way... The school administrator told us the zone where we belonged to and what school should our kids go.  Furthermore, their school nurse told us that we had to comply first with their needed immunization before we can enroll our children.

Don't get me wrong, when we had the immunization taken cared of, we easily had our kids enrolled and started the next following school day.  And the best part was, we didn't spend a penny for it.  Yup, no tuition  fee!!!  Although, it's not totally free... We still had to provide for the necessities; basic things (like bag, notebook, pens and other stuffs) and packed meals or meal allowance.  Child transportation on the other hand can be free (through a school bus ride), but we are located within the range that the school consider near, so we can't avail it.

By the way, here is the list of school requirements upon enrollment:
  • Documents to prove the child's age and identity (such as birth certificate or other reliable documents like Permanent Resident (PR) card, passport, baptismal certificate, social security card, etc.);
  • Proof of residence (like your driver's license, utility bill, house mortgage or rent statement or any official document that show your name and address);
  • Vaccination/ immunization records. The school did specify to us what immunizations were needed;
  • Past school report cards;
  • And fill out necessary registration and other child information forms.
With everything made easy and provided free by the U.S. government, I think there's no reason for anyone not to bring their child to school.  And if I'm not mistaken, it's against their law to deprive a child of their right to education. Yahweh bless.

Friday, May 16, 2014

How To Increase The Likelihood Of Passing The Driving Test

I just recently passed both the written and practical driving exam here in Texas.  In fact, I just received a mail yesterday from the DPS (Department of Public Safety) containing my new driver license.  I was successful in both exams the first time I took them.  But I wouldn't have made it if not for the help of friends who taught and guided me along the way.  And of course, nothing would be possible if not for the blessing of our Lord.  So, part of my "paying it forward", let me share to you what I learned that increased the likelihood of me passing the tests:

The Written (Computer-based) Exam
There's really no special technique in passing this test but to study your state's (in my case, Texas) Driver's Handbook.  One can actually get it for free at the nearest DPS office in your city or download a PDF copy on this website:

In the exam proper, you'll find that all questions are from the handbook.  Just read and answer them carefully.  And if you did study, you won't fail.
The Practical or Actual Driving Test
If you passed the written exam, you'll be scheduled for the practical driving.  First, I'll assume that you already know how to drive a vehicle and you actually drove along with other cars in the highway.  Okay, now let's go to some points to remember before and during the test:

Get tips from those who own a driver's license.  You'll learn a lot from them especially the dos and don't(s) in driving.  A friend who helped me shared the mistakes he made (so I won't commit the same) and what are the things the examiner will give emphasis to.

Practice makes perfect.  You should know how to parallel park, as it's a vital part of the test.  There is a parallel parking in the DPS compound where the test is conducted.  One can practice there beyond office hours and during weekends.  Also, most likely the test will be conducted near the DPS office.  You may want to practice within the neighboring area that surround the office.

Be sure that you take care of everything you need to take the test.  I was rescheduled because I didn't notice that there was a defect on my car insurance and so as another applicant, during the car inspection, one of his rear lights was not functioning.  Anyway, the DPS will provide you a list of things to prepare and bring during your schedule test... just follow it.

Come on time.  Me, I was already in the DPS office an hour before my schedule.  But it's okay to arrive anytime, just don't be late in your appointment... or else, you just might be rescheduled (and it might take a while).
Try to relax and find your confidence.  Honestly, I was shaking when I took the test.  It was really uncomfortable that someone's watching (rating) me while driving.  I was telling myself, "I'll be doing this one way or another, and there's no way to escape this... might as well face it now".  I was drawing strength from my family, since it's for them and no one will be doing the driving for us but me.  Also, praying helped a lot.  I was talking to the Lord the whole duration of the test, and it calmed me and I was able to perform all the tasks smoothly.

Back to basics.  Things we always forget are those things we know for sure.  So let me remind you:
  • Keep everything in order before stepping on the gas pedal.  Check your side and rear view mirrors, your seat distance from your wheel and everyone should be wearing a seat belt (you and your rater);
  • Drive smoothly as possible.  Be gentle on the brakes and accelerator.  Watch out for the humps and the speed limits of streets.  The rater is looking on how well you can control your car.
  • Bring your car in a COMPLETE HALT before a STOP sign (in the case of a red traffic light signal, stop before the crosswalk).  Remember, it's not the same as yield that you can keep on moving.
  • Always use your signal light when turning left or right.  Also never forget to use it also when backing up during parallel parking and moving out from the parking area.
  • Make it obvious in turning your head left and right especially when checking if it is already safe for you to cross a street or intersection.  Moreover, don't just depend on your rear view and side mirrors when backing up and making a parallel park.  When doing it, you must slightly twist your body and look at your back.  For sure, the examiner will be looking if your doing it.
I'm no expert in driving but these were the things I did and it worked for me... I passed the driving tests and got my license.  It may not be applicable to other state or countries, but this is how I got mine in Texas.  Well then, good luck and hope this can be of help.  Yahweh bless.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Long Agonizing Wait Is Finally Over

Ever since my practical for my driving test was rescheduled, the days were somewhat uneasy for me.  I was actually asking myself why.  Did I need to learn more?  Would I have done something wrong if it pushed through?  No matter what the reason was... I knew it's for the best.  But it also meant that I had to endure 2 more weeks of anticipation and it was  such a torture.  I knew, I've been driving here for 3 months already, but the thought of someone (especially of different nationality) watching (rating) me while I drive... almost gave me a heart attack(lol).

When the day of the test finally arrived, I just couldn't understand what I felt.  I was glad that the wait was over yet the uncertainty kept me trembling inside out.  Good thing my family was with me that time, they became the source of my confidence.  I made it clear in my mind that I needed that license for my family's sake.  I just didn't know how many times I prayed to Him while waiting for the one who's  going to rate my driving.  And what I asked our Lord was to calm me so I could do what I had to do to pass the test.

And after months of hard work (yes, I practiced a lot just to prepare for it) and with the Lord providing me wonderful friends to help me, everything paid off. I cannot describe how sweet and fulfilling it was to hear the words: "You did well... you passed the test." from your a foreign land.  I knew the test only took more or less 15 minutes, and it assessed if i knew the basics of driving... but it's also the very thing that made it hard.  One have less room for error and indeed. Everybody knows the basic of driving (one should) but many don't practice them at all, so when they take the exam, they miss to do it and fail.

I'm glad I have brothers (Ryan, Joey and Nong Titoy) and uncle (Kel Matt) who taught me how to drive... found friends (Larry, Kuya Ver, Buddy and Toto) here that shared with me some tips in driving that helped me in passing the exam... and a very supporting family, the source of my strength... truly I'm blessed.  With this new milestone, I will also use it to be of help to others (as part of me paying it forward).  Thank you Lord for everything.  Yahweh bless.