Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Life Worth Living…

Living, I don’t think we every really notice that we are living until life just opens up for you and swallows you whole. I’ve never felt so completely happy and relaxed in my entire life, and with that I’ve never felt so alive. Its odd how strange, random things can cause you to feel this way, especially things that have to do with a job. As I posted earlier, as I’m now writing in my room, today has been a really great day. First off, I finally got my cell phone, which makes me feel like I’m finally home; it also helps that I’m finally figuring how to use the phone system here, it’s a bit odd in my opinion. Not only is it my phone that makes me feel okay, but I had a conversation, a real conversation, with my mother earlier and that just grounds me – I don’t feel so far away from home now. Just hearing a familiar loving voice really helps.

I then held two lectures today, and one of them really went well. For the first time ever, I feel like I’ve connected with a group of students. It is hard to explain what this feels like for those of you how’ve never experienced this before, but those of you who have know what I feel like. It was during my lecture with the second year Law department students; they just were really responsive to what I was saying and they asked good, thought provoking questions. Not only were they interested in what I had to say, but I was also interested in what they had to say and what they had to ask me. I didn’t even notice the time, so I actually let them out later than I was suppose to because it was going so well. In fact, several of the male students, which it was nice to have contact with males because I’ve been lacking that, walked with me back to the main building of the University after the class was over. We discussed everything from the American government to the Russian government and more. Just being able to communicate, with no rules or regulations, with some of the students really made me feel like this whole teaching thing is worth it. You see in Russia, I think I’ve said this before but anyway, it is not normal for students to have an outside relationship with their teachers, so there is a sort of wall built up between them, which I see as a weakness in their system. However, being able to just spend some time with students outside of class, especially since I have not done that since the first week here, was really nice and I felt like they were really interested in me. They were the ones who offered to walk with me and I was more than willing to have the company. Three males in particular were very kind and very up front with me. They spoke freely about their impressions of America and our political system, because they are law students, and I was able to do the same. Being as opinionated as I am is somewhat a hindrance here because they really don’t speak of such things, so it was nice to be able to express my opinions with them and not feel they would be upset by what I said. Also to teach them, or I should say show them, that not all Americans believe in our current administration (sorry for those of you who do, but the Europeans really think that it is a bad situation) was something that I’ve longed to do. Everyone who has been brave enough to talk to me about this seems to believe like I do that our current administration is not making things better in the world, and they are extremely shocked to find that I tend to agree with them. Don’t get me wrong, I love America and being here shows me what I have that I should be really thankful for, but it also shows me the negative aspects of America too. This experience has made me reevaluate my previous beliefs about America, both bad and good, and has given me a better understanding of the country. Anyway enough of the political thing because I don’t want to start a fight. I’m just trying to say that making this connection with students, in whatever way possible, has really made me excited about teaching and I look forward to future conversations I have with students. They are going to teach me so much more then I could ever teach them.

Yet, it wasn’t all great today, because the first lecture I gave almost turned out as bad as my lecture on resumes. The reason for this, I think, was because they were first year students and couldn’t really comprehend what I was trying to say. Then if they did comprehend it they were too immature to care. Between the two classes, I could really tell when students didn’t care, which made me not care and want to finish quicker, and when students where interested which made me more interested in what I was telling them. I’m sure that Marina, the professor, could also tell how different I acted for the second class. I’m starting to realize that not all classes are going to be good, but that those tough classes will teach you a lot more about teaching then the good ones will.

Finally, a last note is that I meet a very intriguing woman, and if you’re a writer you should be so jealous of me because I have her for material and you don’t. She is an older teacher, I’d say about sixty, in the Law department, but my god was she funny. Within a minute of meeting her, she told me her whole life story, and how when she was in the University (during the Communist period) she meet a British man, Richard. Olga, which she said very proudly was a “true Russian name,” explained to me her and Richard’s whole dynamics together. It was beautiful how open she was with me, and only after just meeting me. For about a half an hour, while I was waiting for the classes to start, I sat listening to her story, which at times jumped form one subject to another but all had something to do with her overall story. Now I have to be honest, her story didn’t really interest me as much as she did. The whole time, I sat there just looking at her and thinking how truly amazing she was. If I could paint, which I can’t worth a shit, I’d have painted her portrait, because there was just something about her that struck me as so freakin’ amazing. Yes, I’ll try and paint her in a poem, but I don’t know if I’ll do her justice because she was a very strong, individual woman. I really hope that I’m able to speak with her again –her stories remind me of my grandfather’s, which might be why I feel so close to her. My grandfather, just like her, would tell a complete stranger a story about some previous time in his life, and most of them (including myself) would blow him off. But being older now, I see life there. I see how these stories, even though they may not be relevant to my life, have a worldly quality to them that will teach me all I need to know about life in the long run…


At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Sarah said...

To borrow a line from "Garden State," it sounds like you're really "in it," right now James--in that place where you just kind of let go and open to the experience. I'm so very envious of you. Enjoy the ride, and don't stop writing!


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