Friday, September 24, 2010

City Mouse Country Mouse: The True Story

I've always had a dilemma about urban living. I grew up in the country, and I felt like that was who I was. I always wanted to be a city person, and when I got the chance I moved to a city. But I was never sure it was who I was. I wondered if I was just reacting to my upbringing, or seeking something different. And maybe I was. But I have become completely comfortable with my desire to live in a city. Whatever the reasons, whatever the origin of my need to be surrounded by people, I've accepted it. I'm a city person. I might even be an urban cowboy.

(On second thought...)

The reasons are complex. Lately I have been obsessed with the philosophical concept of emergent structures. Basically the idea of emergent structures is that a system is complex enough that certain properties arise out of the structure that are not inherent. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, and some features of the whole are not able to quantified into parts. My desire for cities, my need for cities, is an emergent structure. Everything I love about life is connected to people, relationships, and experiences. Cities give me that space in which to be me. I don't know if it is totally logical. But in cities I feel alive. The secondary factors, such as good food, Sufi centers, fun activities... they are all there. And they matter. But it's greater than that. Sitting at a coffee shop in the morning, watching the city flow past, I feel connected in a way that I can't in a small town. It isn't a critique or a judgment, even. It's just how I feel. I'm fully capable of admitting I'm weird. But I don't think I can change.

I think I've sold Jaime on the idea. Amazingly. Which either means I am a great salesman or it really does make sense for us. And I am certainly not a great salesperson. Jaime would cut through me like a sword through warm butter. So, it must make some kind of sense. In tribute, here is a song about going from small towns to big cities.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Everyone's Your Friend (In NYC)

Especially if you're playing the Mets. They like to let you win!

Jason and I had an exceedingly fun time in NYC yesterday. We saw a good game, even though the Mets lost. At least they helped the Braves. The weather was perfect, so we were comfortable. Citi Field is a great place, built along the modern ballpark lines of great views and decent concessions. Overall it was a great time, and it provided some much needed relaxation for me.

We had a fun little detour as well. We walked around looking for some vegan food, and we followed Google maps' wonderful walking directions. The directions led us through some strange and sketchy parts of Queens, filled with garages and staring faces. None of them spoke to us, but there was an implied question on every face. "What the hell are you doing, and do you hate your wallet so much you'd practically give it away?" We were not forced to answer the question, thankfully. But we did find out that Google maps is evil and dangerous. If we didn't already know that.

Between the danger walk and the plethora of ads papering the stadium, we explored two of the most horrible aspects of capitalism in one brief period. We were a traveling sociology project! I imagine people observing us could see APA citations floating above our heads.

Check out some pictures, if you wish!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Good Morning Cla- AAAH!

It's really hard to explain how insane the school system is. There are a lot of people involved, most of them care a lot, and kids come flying around like we're in the tornado scene from the Wizard of Oz. There are not words to describe it. Especially not if I want to capture that it is actually pretty fun.

The students are still in the process of settling in, and I'm completely at a loss. I don't think I've felt more confused about what I am doing in my entire life. Honestly the first few weeks of work in Japan were the closest, but even they pale in comparison. Because at least in Japan I expected to be lost. I was in a foreign country, I didn't have mastery of the language. I was hired and being trained after the first few weeks. And even then I had a clear idea of what I was doing, even if I didn't necessarily do it right. Or well. Or at all. The idea was there.

Here, it's bedlam. Students are lost and confused, other teachers are busy and excited. Fifth graders wander the halls looking seriously threatening. (Honestly when did fifth graders get huge and violent? Is it the cafeteria food? Some of these kids look like NFL linebackers. And that's just the girls. One of them called me by name last week. Minimum three weeks before I get shivved.)

I wonder if there are still movie of the week style PSAs that I can turn to. I feel the dire need for one. Maybe one about how huge kids are. Or one about the range of tears you get in first grade. ('Meredith Baxter in "Why Did That Fifth Grader Eat Me?' followed by a special airing of "WAAA! The Musical!"')

Once again the confusing thing about all of this is that it is FUN! Kids are great. Being in a classroom is great. The only places I have been able to walk into and feel happy to be working there involve kids. I wouldn't want to do anything different. But it does make you wonder why this country is so insane. Why are kids filled with so many problems? (And Cheese Curls, apparently?) I can almost sympathize with the insane political ramblings. There is a major issue with a country that allows seven year olds to experience the kind of life that these seven year olds experience.

But there is a beauty to it to. Because next to the kid relating stories of his mother's meth addiction is a kid whose mom is a physician treating that addiction. It's public school; the good the bad and the ugly are all lined up for lunch together. They are all ready to help each other face the challenges.

Except that one fifth grader. She's ready to eat you. But she's an exception.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Vectors and Luck

I spent the weekend ill. It was lucky, in a sense, because I have a very busy week next week and I cannot afford to be sick then. I'd much rather be sick now. I'm not quite sure how I got sick, since I haven't been exposed to the little vectors yet. But there it is. Like I said, lucky for me it happened now. I'm even feeling a little better today. Thanks to listening to Dr. J and getting some rest. (Not Jaime. Julius Erving. I always call him when I feel under the weather. He's a great help.)

Seriously it really reminds me how blessed I am to have Jaime's help, though. I could never accomplish anything without her help. The kids are so young, and it's a great challenge to keep them under control. I have an awesome family. Thanks to Jaime.
(If only we looked this good...)

Hopefully I'll feel much better this week and I can get into the classroom and do my work. I love the prospect of being in the classroom and working with the kids. It's an amazing chance to do what I want to do with my life. I'm happy to be taking these steps. I'm grateful to Jaime for the opportunity. Even my own little disease vectors, Captain and Crimson Death, are really excited and supportive. It'll be interesting to see what they have to say in ten years about my career. Or twenty.

Now it's time for more rest. More vitamin C. Maybe I'll check in again with Dr. J, see if he has any more advice. I bet it'll involve a foul line dunk. Everything does with him.