Thursday, January 29, 2015

We Don't Need No Education...Um, Yeah You Do

This morning I saw a video titled "If We Treated Teachers Like Football Stars," of course I watched it and laughed. "If only" were my thoughts. Later at school I was talking with a friend and he asked, "You really want to teach, don't you?" and I nodded. Yes, I really do want to teach. Never ever ever ever did I think I'd want to be a teacher. I left my last life because it didn't have any meaning. I felt as if I wasn't doing anything important. Now, although some days are rough, I do feel as if I'm making a difference.

Now, I can go on and talk about why I'm being selfless and improving students lives, but that would be a lie. Not a complete lie, but a little white one. I don't help all students. That's not because I don't want it, it's because they don't want it. They sit there the whole semester with a bored and or smelling shit face, and I can't do anything about it. Instead of griping with other faculty about it, I try to focus on the ones that do want to be there and are asking for an education. Those students make me want to be selfless. They make me want to jump through hoops to show them books and stories and ideas they've never heard of. They fill the void I had in my past life.

There are other reasons, selfish reasons, I have for wanting to teach. Teaching gives me time to write. It gives me time to read. It gives me time off so I can visit far away places. It also allows me to meet like minded people that I can nerd out with and talk about books and writing for hours. Is it bad to be selfish? I don't think so. Does it taint my want for teaching? No, because I think of teachers that influenced my life, and I'm grateful. (Thank you Mrs. Duran, Mr. Scroggins, Dr. Terrell)

Earlier this week a professor at the college passed away. I didn't know her well, but most of her adult life was spent in those buildings and hallways. I've heard a few other professors and staff speak of her, and at first I thought how weird it must be to just disappear from somewhere after being there for so long, and how sad that classes and things are going on as if she never existed. But instead of thinking of it that way, I'd like to think that perhaps this semester none of the students will know her, but there are countless semesters that students did. Perhaps, she didn't touch everyone's life, but after 40 years on campus, 80 Spring and Fall semesters, I'd like to average she made an impact on at least 1 student a semester. Now, if after I die 80 non friend and family members still remember who I am and have a story based on a book that changed their life or an essay or... then that's not a bad thing.

Pink Floyd's video shows children being churned into a machine. A metaphor for the man and how we all become a piece of that machine. That happens. It's true. I've been a part of whole different kind of man and hated myself a little. But maybe it's what we do while we're in the man that can make a difference.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dear Colombia,

I want to tell you that before ever visiting you, I misjudged you. I misjudged all the things about you, and this year when I visited you again, I was still surprised. Even though I get annoyed when I see El Paso  misportrayed in movies, I still thought that perhaps Hollywood had the right idea about you. Now, I know that you are greener and richer than I could ever imagine. That while I'm there, I keep thinking, "How will I remember all of this vividly, in technicolor?"

Colombia, I love the endless green and the trees, your mountains, and roads that wrap around them like loose yards of ribbon. I love the vendors selling brightly colored fruits I'd never seen before, hotdogs sprinkled with potato chip slivers, hamburgers filled with so many things the buns are two distant cousins, golden brown empanadas stuffed with meat and potato goodness, aguacates the size of dinosaur eggs... all sprinkled on corners and sidewalks all around Medellín.  I also love the way these same vendors hug the roads on the way to other cities like Manizales, Pereira, and Aermenia. Tiny villages that I dream sprang to life because someone got tired of being in a taco (traffic jam) and just parked on the side of the road. I love the towns like Santa Barbara, Salento, and Guatapé. Each one of them "known" for something. Guatapé the town of colors and emblems that decorate every house with big bold shields, Salento the town of traditional Colombian homes with wrap around porches and hanging flowers, and Santa Barbara a mini Manizales with steep roads ending in stairs.

Colombia, you are really beautiful. It's a shame what Pablo did to you. A shame what media and Hollywood has done to you. Mostly, it's a shame what your own leaders have done to you. I'll admit there are some things I don't like. I hate your mosquitoes and their aggressive feasting of my skin. The red marks a tell to all natives that maybe I am not Colombian even though my skin is brown and hair dark. I don't like your houses without air conditioning when it's 31ºC (88ºF) and 100% humidity. I don't like that all your people eat so much meat and that it made my stomach crampy and uncomfortable even after a delicious meal. But these are little things. These are things that I forget when I take the first sip of a tinto (sweet black coffee) in the morning. I forget when I'm at my in-laws finca, (country home) and I'm napping in a hammock. I forget when my husband and I walk the streets of downtown. I'm surrounded by stands selling anything from stacks of porn to remote controls and a pyramid of leather shoes in one area. The vendors all call out "A la orden" even though the table is covered with dvd's with titles like 8 Hours of Anal. I forget when we walk to the book and music district, (yes, this exists in Medellín, and it smells like a papery open air library) and I see stores and street vendors all peddling books of every genre, old and new, wrapped in clear cellophane and dogeared edges. I forget when I dig through cartons of vinyl records and smell the dust of a possible treasure.  I forget...

So, I'm sorry I misjudged you. Aside from the havok you wreaked on my stomach, I think you've pretty much forgiven me. Mostly, I want to say thank you though, Colombia, for showing me something new each time. For always embracing me with open arms and a pico on the cheek.