I’ve been doing this activity where we meet incoming students and hawk our programs to them for 6 years. And this was the first year when several students stopped me right after I started waxing lyrical about the benefits of our language courses and said, “I’m interested in literature. Language is great but I want to study literature.” Usually, we lure students in with language and then spring literature on them. But things seem to be changing, and that’s very heartening. Maybe we will soon be able to stop apologizing for doing literary studies.

Cultural Radar

At a recent faculty event, I met a new colleague who immediately made me suspect that she was one of “us.” Her English was flawless but she had such a big presence that she seemed to occupy the whole room.

She asked the presenter dozens of questions, never looked or sounded apologetic, didn’t make her affirmative statements sound like questions, never faded away by the end of the sentences, and behaved as if the whole event existed to serve her purposes. She was loud, oblivious,  and occupied half of the table with her stuff. In short,

I couldn’t get rid of the insistent suspicion that she just had to be one of us even though her name sounded anything but familiar. And then I met her again today and discovered that she is Mongolian and got her education in Novosibirsk.

My cultural radar is infallible.

Sans Vacances

If I ever get another urge to go for a year without a vacation,  please do me a favor and hit me over the head with a Teflon frying pan.

I have no idea what possessed me to do it this year but I’m now seeing that this was a really stupid thing to do. I feel completely exhausted, I have trouble sleeping, on Sunday it got so bad that I could barely stay on my feet.

” But look at all of those people who go for years without vacations, ” N said yesterday. “Maybe we should become more like them.”

” Why would we want to do that?” I asked.

” Well, maybe they are tapping into the inner resources that we haven’t learned to access.”

“Or maybe they are idiots,” I countered.

Right now I can’t even remember why skipping this year’s vacation seemed like a smart thing to do back in summer.

Selling Spanish

The only time I get to meet students’ parents is this time of the academic year when prospective students visit campus.

I always volunteer to represent our department at this event because I have an unexpected and rare gift of making people feel very comfortable around me. Often, people come up to the table to enquire about French or German but after talking to me ask, “So what are you teaching?  Oh, Spanish. My daughter has never taken any Spanish. But maybe she could start now because I’d like her to take courses with you.”

This is a very fun activity because the parents are even more terrified than the prospective students, and I enjoy putting them at ease. I’m not naturally a warm person, especially not around strangers but I can turn the warmth on like heating.

If the system of higher education collapses, I will not be averse to trying a career in sales.

The Liquid Generation

I often encounter articles where fussy old people of my age project their fear of the increasing liquidity of life onto the younger generation. They hide from their own anxiety behind misplaced and dishonest worrying about the young people’s chances at finding good jobs or managing to fashion a good life for themselves.

In itself, the belief that the young people will suffer and live in misery is a sign of nothing other than the terror of aging. The reality,  however, is that the young are super comfortable with liquidity. When students talk to me about their life plans,  it is obvious that they are not only aware of the liquidity but are joyfully embracing it.

We should just stop fussing and helicoptering and let the young people enjoy their liquid lives even if we can’t do the same.