Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Back to School Special

Here we are.
I am starting school now for the 18th time in my life. 18 isn't a particularly cool or monumental number, but it's better than starting this post off with the cliche "well, the weather is chilly, the leaves are turning and it's that time again." Shall we get on with it then? I had my first day of classes today as an MA student. It is a bold new world and let me tell you that we're not in Kansas any more Toto.

Last Thursday I attended the graduate student orientation at my new not-too-distant future alma mater. Now, I will admit I had some apprehension about the day to begin with: I'm not 18 any more and come to think of it, even when I was a freshman, I dreaded those ice breaker games. Perhaps I went in with a somewhat poor attitude. There was little tolerance for any sort of scavenger hunt, any type of "name game" or anything involving a cheer that would be or even could be yelled whilst in a pyramid formation. Thankfully, no relay races out on the soaking wet lawn- although there was a clapping-stomp thing to warm us up... considering I clap when I find my favourite pair of socks, I guess I can't complain. Too much.

My favourite quote of the day came during the information session on Teaching assistant positions from the guy representing the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU)- a tall burly blond who looked like an eerie cross between Dane Cook and one of my old youth leaders. The guy was probably 6ft4, and built like a lumberjack. I am not saying he was a hefty man, just muscular and manly. This is important to the punchline. He gets up in front of a room of probably 200 grad students and says totally deadpan, as if this is something he throws into conversation often- no kidding, he just ran through it: "So I'm here to talk about the TSSU... and as we all know, the TSSU was constituted as a democratic, non-hierarchical union built on feminist principles of equality and solidarity." I am pretty sure the term "grass-roots" also came up in there.



Right. So there was that day. And then orientation yesterday with the faculty and students of my program. Which was really just breakfast. Now, that's more like it! But then today classes started and I am not ruling out the possibility that I am already sort of failing. The reading is um, gulp, plentiful. Here's hoping they're all short chapters.

It is funny to start over like this in Vancouver- my "hometown." It is the first time I been based around downtown though. I feel like I have moved to an entirely new city, only I don't have to deal with finding my way around and I already know where a good pupusa place is located. It was a year ago (to the day) that I moved to Managua. Funny how things work out. I sat looking through some of my photos tonight just before bed, and with all this talk about poor countries and development economics and readings on this place or that, I am really missing it now.

I suppose though that missing it is the whole point. I had to remind myself why I am doing this so that I would not be nervous during all these schmooze events that the orientations turned out to be. I am not particularly shy or self-conscious- I am not easily intimidated- but even I don't want to make new friends that much, especially when these new friends have a Phd in the area I would like to have one and will be deciding if my master's project makes the cut. Why am I doing this? To prove I can keep up with Over-Achiever Sally who has spent the last 8 months jumping from Mali to Malawi and can wear even skinnier jeans than I? Good lord, no!

This is why I'm doing it:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

Is. 58: 6-7, 10

Let's get on with it then, shall we.