Okay, now that I got the rant below out of my system, let me say a little about how wonderful it is to be back in Puddletown. This is a very, very easy city, filled with kind and generous people. Although I have not yet returned to my own home (it’s sublet until the middle of September and I am living in a hippie commune 2013-style; more about that later), I have returned to my own city and my own job, and both of those have been very welcoming.
My first full day here, the one after I arrived, I set forth on a set of multiple errands and a goal of trying to work off an 11-hour time difference as quickly as possible (with a lot of exposure to the sun.) My first stop was Radio Shack for a cell phone. Yes, dear ones, I will keep a cell phone. And yes, Radio Shack has quite a variety, and you can get them on a month-to-month basis, which is what I wanted. I walked out with a Blackberry wannabe with 1500 minutes for $30/mo. (I don’t think I’ve managed to hit 400 minutes yet, so I may scale back to the $20/mo program.)
Anyway, I only managed to escape R.S. after a 45-minute chat with the manager, a lovely young many with a reptile business on the side. Ball pythons, to be precise. I learned *a lot* that day about ball pythons, how easy it is to care for them, how much the most desirable colors can go for, a little about their their feeding and excreting habits (one mouse a week), as well as an overview of his business goals as well as those of his fiancee. And before you scream “TMI!,” know that I thought it was simply charming. That certainly wouldn’t have happened in Batumi by a long shot and it probably wouldn’t happen in many cities across America. It’s just part of what makes Portland, well, Portland.
Other stops that day included the credit union, the salon for hair and feet, the shoe store, the drug store, everything you can imagine to begin the transition from an overseas to a domestic life after not being able to buy anything for nine months, each with an accompanying substantial conversation with the employee working with me. And then *the next day* I went in to work to help with placement tests for summer school and registration and orientation and before you can say “Jack’s your uncle” we were off and running with our intensive eight-week summer session. No rest for the wicked.
Every year about now I swear I’m not going to teach summer school NEXT year and then every year about April I start thinking it’s not so bad (and neither is the paycheck), but it’s really a lot of work for both teachers and students. This year is particularly challenging since Ramadan, the month-long Muslim holiday *that requires fasting – no food or water – from before sunrise to after sunset* runs right through the middle of the term. So most of our students, on top of taking a full academic load in a foreign language, are dealing with the logistics of trying to eat two meals and seriously hydrate themselves between the hours of 8:00 pm and 4:00 am and then fit in sleeping and classes and homework during the rest of the 24. I don’t envy them, and they bear it with remarkable grace and a noticeable lack of complaints.
So, even with weary students, it’s great to be back teaching at Portland State. My colleagues have been welcoming, the computers and printers all work, my students are attentive and motivated, and every once in a while I get tackled in a big bear hug by a former student happy to see me on campus. We’re just about to start Week 6, and then on August 17th I will head off for a holiday in Maine for a month with my bestie. Life is good. More about the commune in the next post.