March 31, 2004
March 30, 2004
Anyway, I've hit a gumption trap. In the past I have used some of my old examples of writing in class for discussion because, well, because I am a masochist. I think that my students deserve to see how I write before they entrust me to teach them to do it. I did this when I taught ESL, and the students appreciated it, but in that setting I didn't really think too much about the topics. But tonight I have spent the last hour vetoing papers.
It seems back in college I mostly wrote about controversial stuff, and I'm not sure I want to open myself up in that way. It's different teaching a heterogeneous group of Americans instead of a group of middle-aged Koreans. That paper about gay marriage? Perhaps not in a military setting. The one on how Malcolm X is a racist? Not with half of the class being African-American. OK, how 'bout the one on hate speech? But what if they disagree and we spend the class debating the First Amendment instead of talking about the thesis statement?
All of a sudden, everything I've talked about before in my ESL classes seems controversial and scary for this class. Why do I feel like I'm walking on eggshells when most professors in our education system have no problem laying out their beliefs in class?
March 29, 2004
March 28, 2004
March 24, 2004
It was kind of cool. A room full of Iraqis were jumping through their ass
trying to impress your husband as they told him about [Problem X]. They
invited me to dinner and tea but I told them I had to go. I never thought I
would be a civil administrator in an Arab country while fighting an insurgency
against the only democracy in the region. If you would have told me that five
years ago, I would have called you crazy.
I'm going to see another town tomorrow about the same stuff. The only
translator available is yours truly so we'll see how it goes.
March 21, 2004
I started 1984 last night and had a little chuckle in chapter one: I imagined Lefties reacting to the new Bush campaign ads much like the Two Minutes Hate. Ha.
March 19, 2004
I found that out today, and it's been eating at me all evening.
There's something about the uniform that makes all soldiers look upstanding and dignified. The uniform is the great equalizer, and all soldiers who come in my office are treated the same. But on a training holiday, like today was, we often help soldiers in civilian clothes.
A soldier came in the office today dressed straight out of 8 Mile who wanted to sign up for my English class. My gut reaction as he said this was that he was never going to pass the grammar placement test to make it into the class. I handed him the test, and he brought it back to me with a nice side order of humble pie.
He got the highest score I've ever seen. And he wanted to look back over the ones he'd missed and try to figure out why he missed them. He shocked the hell out of me. We had a great discussion about grammar as we corrected his mistakes, and I told him I'd be incredibly happy to have him in my class. He shook my hand as he left, and I felt like a complete jerk on the inside.
I consider myself an open person. I actually loved 8 Mile. I even went through a stage when I was 18 where I dressed a bit "alternative", so I should be the last person to judge someone based on how he's dressed. But I did it without thinking today, and I'm ashamed of myself, especially since I was so obviously wrong about this soldier. I really don't feel good about my gut reaction today, but how do you change your instinct?
March 17, 2004
My brother is a gambler. A good one. He paid for his senior year of college by playing poker; he developed a reputation at his school until no one would play him after a while. So he had to go online; he plays Texas Hold 'Em night and day. My mom is less than thrilled that her son's part-time job is online gaming, but she's trying to deal with it. I was leery until I watched him play over Christmas: he plays three hands at a time and is able to keep track of all the cards and bring in the money. It's damn impressive, I must say, though the miser in me fears it could all go terribly wrong someday.
He had never been to Vegas before, so he and some friends went down for Spring Break. He went smart, though: he took a set amount of cash and left the ATM card at home. And my brother, balls of brass, walked into the Bellagio, sauntered up to the $200 minimum table, and played his heart out. He was up a lot, he was down a little, he told a great story of his 3 kings getting beat by 3 aces and missing out on a $1200 pot, and the thrill of his life was earning the respect of the other players at the table.
He also got to meet and get his photo taken with such poker greats as Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan. I wouldn't recognize these men if they knocked on my door, but my brother couldn't have sounded more thrilled. I told him to write all this up in a letter to send to my husband because it's a great story. He brought a huge smile to my face and then hurried me off the phone because he was on the way to a job interview to work for an online gaming company.
He's a trip; I love him to pieces.
March 15, 2004
Overall, I agree with Bunker that it's a book that should be read. I considered myself a pretty good student in school, and I never heard anything about the atrocities committed in Stalin's Russia. And I even took a Russian literature class in college! This stuff was horrifying, and I wish more people were aware of just what happened during those "glorious" Communist years.
If one takes the view that Latsis is not deliberately understating the real figures but simply lacks complete information, and that the Revtribunals carried on approximately the same amount of judicial work as the Cheka performed in an extrajudicial way, one concluded that in the twenty central provinces of Russia in a period of sixteen months (June, 1918 to October, 1919) more than sixteen thousand persons were shot, which is to say more than one thousand a month.
This passage is highlighted with a revealing footnote:
Now that we have started to make comparisons, here is another: during the eighty years of the Inquisition's peak effort (1420 to 149 , in all of Spain ten thousand persons were condemned to be burned to death at the stake -- in other words, about ten a month.
People were put to death for as little as shaking a fist at a Communist, or as vague as "wrecking", the simple charge of doing anything that might hurt the Soviet Union. And anything could be twisted into wrecking. An engineer suggests that they could research a way to save fuel: wrecking -- reducing resources. They would increase the size of train cars to make them more efficient: wrecking -- tying up funds. Suggesting that they buy cheap train cars now and then replace them later when the technology is better: wrecking -- suggesting the Soviet Union not have the best type of machinery. And so on. And all these charges of wrecking, twisted around no matter what you did or said, brought you a death sentence. Unbelieveable.
There was a great anecdote at the end of the book that made me laugh out loud. There are some who will just never grok when someone stands up for what he believes in:
When, in 1960, Gennady Smelov, a nonpolitical offender, declared a lengthy hunger strike in the Leningrad prison, the prosecutor went to his cell for some reason (perhaps he was making his regular rounds) and asked him: "Why are you torturing yourself?"
And Smelov replied: "Justice is more precious to me than life."
This phrase so astonished the prosecutor with its irrelevance that the very next day Smelov was taken to Leningrad Special Hospital (i.e., the insane asylum) for prisoners. And the doctor there told him:
"We suspect you may be a schizophrenic."
March 14, 2004
And the thing is that you never know when you'll have your last phone call. Tragedies occur every day, and my husband had just as much chance of dying in garrison as he does in Iraq. But I cherish him all the more now that he's gone. I write him long letters every day, explaining every detail of Reservists who bug me or a funny incident in class. When mortality is staring you in the face, you cherish what you've got. I encourage all of you to cherish your relationships as well, especially the ones who aren't deployed. They're the ones we tend to put on the backburner.
I also was thinking yesterday about how lucky I am that my husband is merely deployed. Last night I watched the movie Amistad and then read more Gulag Archipelago before bed; oh how much worse life could be. If you choose to look at life through the right lens, then deployment seems like a trifle. If fate had treated me differently, my husband could've been sold into slavery and taken from me for forever. Or he could've been put in a Stalinist prison for ten years simply for "failing to turn in a radio receiver" to the government. There are much worse things I could be facing right now, and the thought of that gives me strength to endure the simple one-year deployment we now face.
March 12, 2004
March 09, 2004
Tonight as I was working at a college fair, a female soldier came to find out information about classes and started telling us stories about Iraq. She just got back on Saturday, and she captivated the librarians and counselors with her tales from down range. The other civilians seemed horrified at the life she was describing, but all I felt was jealousy. I wanted to have her job so badly. Listening to her, I felt a sadness in my heart that I cannot explain; my heart was mourning the soldier I would never become. Everything this 21-year-old girl described was a reminder of how meaningless my life seems, a reminder that I have to watch others do the one thing I wish I could do.
Here on post, surrounded by camouflage, I feel like a gambling addict in Vegas, like an alcoholic in a bar, like a thirsty man in a lifeboat. Everyone I see is a constant reminder of what I will never be: the soldier in my heart. And it hurts in a way that most of you will never understand.
But god how it hurts.
March 08, 2004
So what's worse than feeling like a moron with the mechanic? Feeling like a moron mit dem Mechaniker. No matter how much/little I know about cars, I can't do any of it in German. I'm completely at their mercy here.
That may be why I just got a $157 oil change. Ouch.
March 07, 2004
March 04, 2004
1. File taxes
2. Bake peanut butter cookies
3. Bake two loaves of "freedom" bread
4. Make a salad
5. Dust, vacuum, and tidy up the house
6. Make tortellini soup for 15
7. Have a party where I teach everyone to knit
My schedule's full today, folks! Check back tomorrow.
The bread's rising, and I started thinking of a funny story to tell. When we first got married, I knew my husband really liked breads, so one Saturday I worked all day baking him loaves for dinner. We sat down to eat and I asked him how the bread tasted. He said it was good, and after a few seconds' pause, he said, "You know what else is good? Grands biscuits. Those are great!" I cracked up. I'd spent about five hours baking for him, and all he really wanted was a tube of ready-made Pilsbury! He still says that he didn't mean it the way it sounded, but I don't usually take the time to bake fresh bread anymore!
Oh my gosh, I have so much soup left over. If I ate soup for both lunch and dinner, it would take me 12 days to finish it all. Please send me your addresses so I can mail everyone some soup...
March 03, 2004
Last night though I faced a knitter's dilemma. I'm making this sweater, and I've finished the back and had about 8 inches done on the front. And then I realized I'd made a mistake at about inch 5. I struggled with my two choices while the sweater sat on the coffeetable for three days: leave it as it was with a mistake in the pattern or try to rip it out to inch 5 and risk not being able to put it back on the needles. Last night I finally decided I had to face the music; since the mistake was on the front and not the back, it would be best to rip it out. I unraveled it back to inch 5 and tried to put everything back on the needles. Unsuccessfully. So I had to rip the whole thing out and start over again. It takes a long time to knit 8 inches of cables, but I think I did the right thing. I feel better knowing that it won't have a mistake, because it bothers me to look at every other project I've done where I've left a little flaw.
Plus it's not like I'm in a hurry. I've got 14 months to kill and lots of projects in mind. Like a sweater for the husband; he's got two so far from me: one that doesn't fit and one that he doesn't really like. He needs another.
MORE TO GROK:
Tim got a little stressed out yesterday about the state of the world, and he asked me how I cope. "Have you ever tried knitting?" I asked him. "Knitting?" he replied. "No...I've tried drinking though...." Ha.
March 02, 2004
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