I read R.L. Stevenson’s “The Beach of Falesá” with relish, perhaps because (alone among virtually everything else I’ve been required to peruse) it didn’t contain any sentimental depictions of romantic love. It was a simple tale of treachery in an exotic realm, and it reminded me too much of certain experiences I’d had in Ukraine, especially as concerned Case’s “assistance” to Wiltshire. Wiltshire’s first-person account of Case’s “translations” had me deep in reminiscence.
But then you stop and think: what use is this knowledge to anyone? Why aren’t I studying something fun and useful, like urban planning or astrophysics? Well, I can’t finance the latter, and I can finance this (with a struggle) and attain a semblance of employability with relative ease. When I tell people what I’m doing, they invariably ask, “Oh, are you going to become a teacher?” Maybe I’ll have to, so that I can afford to take math courses in the evenings without fear of failure and thus prepare for a legitimate course of study.
I was feeling fine until a few mornings ago, when I got into a discussion with Fred, one of Paul’s home care workers. I had mumbled something about wanting to get out of here. Then he said to me, “Well, you need to get a job first before you can think of getting out.” I told him I had an idea of going away for school, for an education degree. “Oh, and how are you going to do that?!” I was more irritated than I care to admit now; I said something like, “A l-o-a-n… DUH?!”
“You know, you have to pay it back.”
(Of course I have to pay it back! What part of “loan” could anyone possibly assume I don’t understand?)
“I had a friend once who didn’t pay hers back, and they started garnishing her wages.”
“Well, good for her,” I bit back. “She should have made arrangements to pay it.”
I can’t readily describe how condescending the whole exchange was. He didn’t take me seriously at all. He even asked me how I would pay it back. I told him that I’d work as a teacher. I could probably make $30K a year, and pay it back in a reasonable amount of time. Then he wondered how I’d live; with only $30K a year he said that I wouldn’t be living very “high on the hog,” but that if I wanted “to go live in a rat-infested place” I should feel free. Fred himself lives with roommates. Later I paused to recollect that he also has to finance his new truck and his new motorcycle, and if I were him I would take that money and save it or find my own place.
Paul and I had met my mother’s cousin in a grocery store some weeks ago, and she told us how her niece went to Hong Kong with her education degree and paid off her student loan and even came back with some money. When I heard that story, I felt better about going ahead with the idea – it’s certainly a lot cheaper than graduate school, and you arrive at a much more practicable end.
But then I remember how the B.’s have always told me that they wouldn’t settle for anything less than a Ph.D. I’m not even speaking with them now, but I will never forget that challenge laid out for me. Maybe my identity is so wrapped up in my education (ironic, because I don’t really have one) that I think I need a graduate degree to feel adequate. That’s clearly ridiculous; Paul Lutus, for one, was a grade seven dropout who went on to engineer the electrical systems on the Space Shuttle and create Apple Writer, the proceeds from which enabled him to sail around the world in a 31-foot sailboat. (Other more modest examples exist, and I hope to become one myself. For instance, after I get some more life experience, I might be able to write a decent novel.)
I guess if I can’t please everyone, maybe I should just please myself, and others when I can. Why am I even in this academic rat race? I ought to be educating myself; the only thing I lack is the discipline. Well, all education is self-education, isn’t it? I’m not really going anywhere with this, and though convention behoves me to construct a thesis and conclusion (and hopefully something less puerile and more palatable and constructive than “I suck”), anything I create would be a sentimental fabrication. To put it simply, I’m just worrying too much.
* * *
It was Canada World Youth’s 35th anniversary on Friday. A gathering with refreshments was scheduled at the Halifax satellite office from 4-6pm, and I think we all had more fun than we anticipated, for we didn’t wind things down until 10! I met all kinds of cool people (and upon remembering them specifically, I’m thinking that I ought to have written about this first), and the evening helped me attain even “more” closure.
For one thing, I’m sure every participant remembers the “no driving” decree. In fact, it extends to anything with a motor – even an ATV, is, by the letter of the CWY law, strictly off-limits. When we ask the reason, we get a feeble answer about “insurance.”
But there’s more to it. (As M.M., the woman who first recommended me for a placement, put it: “There always is.”) 1) Many host parents have insurance that permits them to have casual drivers. 2) Many (Canadian) participants have valid driver’s licences. These two realities form the basis for the Canadian participants staying with my mother and father on PEI (this was many years ago) getting special permission to drive themselves to Montague to their work and activities. (Mind, it was just for that, they weren’t allowed to go cruising on Saturday nights or anything like that.)
Hmm, so why don’t they just give everyone permission to drive given the means? Well, that’s where the #2 reality comes in. Most foreign participants aren’t going to take the expense to get an International Driving Permit, and it would be the Canadian participant who would be doing all the driving. This creates an unequal balance of power in the counterpart pair.
I was amazed when I first heard this. I had never thought of it that way.
I also had the pleasure of meeting several project supervisors, who all had interesting tales to tell about their exchanges and (perhaps more to my interest) how they ran them. If I thought any of my programs had problems… Sure, my experiences could raise an eyebrow or two, and my first program seems almost as FUBAR as they come, but there’s always a better story.
Speaking of stories, I met two people who knew J. who was supervising the NetCorps program that was in Ostroh with us. I told them how she recoiled when I first told her I was from PEI, and we had a great laugh. I also told them how I became the only person not in the know about it, in the middle of this village in Ukraine, thousands of miles from the point of controversy. LOLs were muchly had, and I guess I don’t know the half of it, but I guess that’s how it has to be. But how can someone hate PEI; that’s just not right! =) Only Islanders can hate PEI. j/k
Oh, and I also met Aretha from the Equador program that… guess who? Daniel made it onto! Yeah, she remembered that Daniel had even mentioned us, all cooped up in the Edmonton House suite hotel for days on end. So that was cool. For those that don’t know, Daniel was on our program for about a week, joining us at pre-departure three months in as a replacement (no, I should say substitution) for Nic. We all thought we were going to Ukraine for three months, then thanks to the Orange Revolution we weren’t going at all (though in retrospect we would have been perfectly safe), then we were going to go to Poland for two months, after going home for a month. So after this disappointment, Daniel got dibs on basically whatever he wanted, and it’s awesome to hear they ended up having a good program.
So we all talked, and talked, and then I met Ca. and her 10-year-old son Av. Av. and I exhausted ourselves running races and playing tag in the empty corridors. What fun! It was like being a kid again – I would have been ecstatic to find myself in such a place when I was his age. I remembered having played similar games with fresh acquaintances in the halls of hotels and the aisles of empty arenas.
And this gathering, I must say, was very well appointed-for. We had all manner of snacks, a delicious “birthday” cake, and two well-stocked coolers of microbrew beer. CWY, Atlantic Style!