To the Theater

We bought tickets to the movies on Saturday! And there are even concessions!

If I’ve got to sit through a Disney kid movie about dragons, at least I’ll pork out on food. It’s the first time I’ll go in a year and 4 days. The last movie I saw in a theater before the lockdown was something about surveillance and abuse. Makes total sense now that I think about it.

Sense of Accomplishment

One feature of life in academia is that you rarely get to experience a sense of accomplishment. Or, rather, a sense of public recognition of your work. A few times a year when you get published, twice a year when student evaluations come in, once when you get tenured and twice when you get promoted, when you get an award, when a review of your book comes out. And you do learn to find motivation in daily little accomplishments nobody notices. The 300 words you manage to write, an intense reading schedule. But it’s lonely and hard.

The reason why I so absolutely adore being Chair is that I now feel successful daily. I can do things for people. I can help. I’m a Santa Claus on a daily basis. It gives me so much energy I feel like I could fly.

A colleague had immigration issues. I solved them for her in two days. Another colleague was assigned a classroom far away and she struggled to get there because she has back pain. I found her a great classroom next door to her office. A graduate assistant was suffering in a job that she hated. I swapped some people around and gave everybody a job that suits them better. They are all happy. A professor wanted a $300 book. I found the money. A retired colleague had her computer taken away because she’s now part-time and doesn’t deserve a computer. I got her a new one, exactly the kind she wanted.

It’s such a great feeling. I’m like a bottomless cornucopia of help and solutions. The funny thing is that I never thought I could derive pleasure from helping people. I’m a misanthrope, I thought. But it turns out that I really dig helping people. Even the ones I don’t necessarily like. Before I started this job, I was sure that I would get annoyed by all the pleas for help. But it’s the opposite.

The Longest Two Weeks

Today, by the way, is my first anniversary of “two weeks to flatten the curve.” Appropriately, I’m going to get my taxes done to celebrate. The accountant is a wonderful person. We’ve been with her for years. Unfortunately, she’s an MSNBC watcher. While I could put up with her “Trump is destroying democracy” rants*, it will be a lot harder to keep silent when she starts COVID-ranting. But we’ve figured out a way to do the taxes without involving N, who suffers hellish tortures when somebody pokes around his finances or other intimate affairs, so it’s worth it.

* I don’t enter into debates of any sort with people who can’t beat me. I smile and try to change the subject.

The Future of Democracy in Latin America

Please watch the interview of the president of El Salvador Nayib Bukele. He’s saying exactly what I’ve been saying this whole time: the US dragging hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans to feed its need for cheap, exploitable labor is a disaster for El Salvador.

He also said that the policy of trying to push as many people as possible out of the country (which was the official policy of El Salvador until 2019) is immoral.

The most famous Salvadoran writer Horacio Castellanos Moya says the same thing. Mass migration is destroying Central America.

The Biden administration has already started to show its dislike of Bukele’s administration. Bezos’s WashPo is calling him a dictator, which is ridiculous. The guy has a 75% support in his country, which any US president should dream of.

Will the US remain faithful to its tradition of removing anti-neoliberal Latin American leaders and destroying Latin American democracy?

Let’s wait and see.

Lessons Kids Learn

Little children attach their own explanation to everything they observe and often deliver it in statements as opposed to questions.

Once I said in passing, “oh, this is too expensive.”

Klara immediately responded with, “we don’t have money. We are poor. Don’t worry, mommy. We can go to the food box and get some food there.”

I spent the next 15 minutes in a garbled explanation of the vast distance between not being able to buy everything on the planet and poverty.

When the Kuwaiti gift arrived, I said, “look, this is from somebody who works at my department!”

“It’s because you are boss,” Klara concluded. “People need to give good gifts to the boss so that the boss will be nice to them. If you don’t give good gifts, the boss will not be nice.”

Another garbled explanation of how it’s not necessary to bribe the boss followed.

I have a very verbose kid who narrates many of the thoughts that occur to her. Many kids aren’t that talkative, so we never find out what they perceive about any aspect of life. It’s kind of really scary to think about what kids observe and what conclusions they draw on the basis of small things or comments that one doesn’t even notice.

I practically taught my own kid that not being able to buy something is a catastrophe and bribery is great.

Oh, and I will never forget the time when we saw a picture of a mother doing the dishes in a children’s book, and Klara gave a passionate rant about how “ladies don’t do dishes and gentlemens don’t cook, and this book is all wrong.”