Sunday, March 12, 2006

Twofer plus

I got two pieces of wonderful mail this past week.

The first was an email from an advisee who'd graduated last December telling me that she's been accepted by a very good grad program. The bonus? She's NOT going into English literature, but into a field where there are a reasonable number of jobs for MAs and PhDs.

(What does it say that I discourage my best students from studying to do what I do? I love what I do, after all. But the job market is horrid, and anyone coming from Northwoods U, and competing against students from Ivies or near Ivies is going to have a heck of a time getting into the best programs or having any real shot at jobs. )

The second was a real letter from a Peace Corps friend. I'd written to N a while back, at the closest thing to an address I could find after some ten years about the reunion this summer, thinking N might want to go. But I was getting worried that either my letter had never actually made it, or worse, that something had happened to N and the letter had no destination anymore, despite Derrida's assertions to the contrary.

But no, there in my mailbox was a return letter from N.

N's one of those people I felt an instant connection with when I first met. I haven't had that feeling all that often in life, and certainly N and I had little in common when we met except that we were both Peace Corps volunteers in training, both spoke English, but we had that connection.

One of the hardest times for me in the Peace Corps was after my first Christmas. My fellow trainees and I had just moved to our service sites, and mine was pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. The closest volunteers were (so far as I knew at the time) 2+ hours away by bus, and while I'd heard rumors that there were American missionaries in the area I lived in, I didn't know them, and pretty much didn't have anything in common with them when I did.

Anyway, I went up to the capital near where we'd had training, having been invited to spend Christmas with the family I'd lived with during training. Christmas was quiet and nice, the family warm and friendly as always. I'd pretty much prepared myself for a hard Christmast, my first away from home, and I was fine.

The day after, I went into the capital to go to the phone office to call my own family back home. Basically, you'd go into the office, sign up, pay down a deposit, and then sit and wait, and depending how crowded things were, in the next hour you'd hear your name called, and go into a booth, and when you picked up the phone, it would ring, and if you were lucky, someone would be home and you'd talk for a few minutes. (Usually I arranged by letter with my family, promising to call every month or so on this or that day or weekend within a couple hours, after working out the time differences.)

So, I waited around the office, went into the booth, spent a few minutes talking to my family, an experience at once incredibly satisfying, and also a total reminder of how cut off I felt, and how alone. I hung up, and walked outside, and there, also leaving after calling her family, was N.

We hugged, and then I think we sat on the phone office steps for a good hour and cried together. Of course, we were young, stupid, and blah blah blah. But it's not everyone you can remember crying with like that.

(I should remember how lonely I was then when my students talk of homesickness.)

I need to go visit N again, and soon. Of the many incredible people I met in the Peace Corps, she's the one who stands out for me, still.

On the plus side, a friend from afar is actually visiting me in flyover country this coming break. No one willingly visits flyover country much, so this is a special treat. I need to find some great stuff to do!

And on the even more plus side: I went for a two hour bike ride today, and saw the first Robins of spring, and a Cardinal singing his heart out. There were people ice fishing, still, on one of the lakes along the bike path. (In case you're wondering, there's a sport I just don't see myself getting into.)

I also went to the pet store (where I haven't had much need to go lately) and got a new thistle bag feeder and some suet for the yard.

And now, for everyone who's been wondering: I made chocolate cake/chocolate chip cookies yesterday for the practice session for a team I'm on (to raise money for a local charity), and they went over well. So, thumbs up for the chocolate cake mix cookie thing! (The cookie dough itself also got an A!)

Okay, back to grading!


  1. Out of curiousity, what is the field your student is going into where PhDs and MAs can actually get jobs? Maybe I should switch (just kidding).

  2. Related to English, composition studies and sci/tech writing both have pretty good job markets at MA and PhD levels, so far as I can see.