Exciting things

The first exciting thing I wish to mention is that the publishing company I’m hoping to intern with has gotten back to me again and said they’re now starting the process of looking for an intern, and am I available for an interview? Hey, my first real interview! It looks like it’ll be early March, so I have some time to practice and get myself looking nice. The Career Development Office here has a service where they’ll actually do a mock interview with me and give me pointers based on that. So I guess I’ll be going to Chicago for a little while soon.

The next exciting thing is my off semester. I’ve been gradually planning it out to be the most awesome thing I’ve done quite a while. I’m making a list of things to do that are things I wish I could do during college but that I never have time for, and other things that I just generally want to do. I figure if I’ve got four months to do pretty much whatever I want, I should seize them and do, well, pretty much whatever I want. My list isn’t very long so far, but I’ve been asking friends for suggestions. Here’s what I’ve got:

I want to start out going around the US, probably working at a few different WWOOFing places across the country. But above the WWOOFing places, I want to go to a wilderness skills school. There are several of these scattered across this country, and I’m still yet to figure out which one I’d go to. (I actually only remember the name of one, but that one is headed by a guy who seems to be a bit questionable, from what people on the internet say about him, and from the strange way he writes, like a really exaggerated stereotypical Native American. There are others.) I know some wilderness skills already, but I’ve never put any of them into practice in real living, and there are also a lot of skills that I don’t know. The one that I want the most help with is how to identify edible wild plants. I have a book on that, but it’s really tough to learn that subject from a book, and there are very few plants I’ve actually tasted. For transportation around the country, naturally, I want to use trains. For all the talking about trainhopping that I’ve done, I’ve never actually succeeded at it. So that’s one of my goals for the coming semester. I may also try other means of transportation: hitchhiking, long-distance biking, or something I haven’t thought of. I want to avoid driving.

Once the weather starts getting a bit nippy up here in the States, I’ll head south. At the moment the country I’m thinking about going to is Ecuador; I talked with a guy here who WWOOFed there, and he said he enjoyed it a lot. It’s not quite free, but $20 a week is a pretty nominal fee, just meant to keep the farmers from going broke feeding you. Also, if I decide to go bakpacking there, hostels are $5 a night, and buses go all over the country for $1 an hour. Ecuador, he informed me, uses the US dollar; all the Sacajawea dollars that you don’t see here are floating around in Ecuador, where it’s pretty much the only kind of dollar they use. I still may change my mind on the country; Costa Rica is still a solid option. While I’m there I’ll do farm work and possibly a little backpacking too, so I can actually see the scenery. The guy who told me about it has a pretty awesome picture of himself looking out over a broad rugged valley covered in bright green trees and reaching off through fog to a horizon of mountains. That sounds like something well worth seeing. Hopefully, I’ll be able to turn in my JET application without coming home first, because they’re due in Late November; I’ll probably get the application done as much as I can before leaving the country, and then mail it super early in case of postal mishaps, and keeping a duplicate, and staying in contact with any relevant people, like Professors 浅岡 and 山田. Maybe I’ll even be able to get it done entirely, in which case I can just entrust it to someone here in the States to mail it on a certain date. I’ll probably get to work on it during the summer. I guess it won’t take a huge amount of time. So, after having fun in Ecuador, I’ll put 43 degrees of longitude between me and it, and have Christmas, and then wait for my last semester of college, which might seem pretty boring in comparison.

The way I see it, this coming semester will be an education of a different kind for me. Here at college, I’ve lately been feeling like I know a whole lot of things, but a great many of them are things I’ll never use: Frege’s symbolic system of logical representation; the postmodern critique of ethnographic writing. Of course, I’m still learning some things I genuinely like knowing, and some other things that’ll actually come in handy. A lot of the things that’ll come in handy seem to come to me from outside of classes—for example, I’ve signed up for an ExCo (Experimental College course, taught by a student, who I haven’t actually met yet) on crocheting. And I’m learning how to cook and how to be economical here at EcoHouse. (I made some great scones yesterday, and that chili I mentioned at the end of the last post turned out great.) On balance, I’m definitely glad I came to college, but four years is starting to seem a little excessive. That’s one reason I’m glad I decided on 3½ years. Next semester, though, I’ll be learning things college can’t teach me. How to eat well in the wilderness. How to grow crops or harvest them. How to interact with people who don’t speak my language, in a foreign country. How to stay inconspicuous on a freight train. I’m looking for a bit more intangible an education, too. I think I’ll take along very few books when I go, and instead of reading I’ll do, or make, or enjoy the scenery, or talk with people I meet, or write a book or two, or think. I hadn’t even thought about an off semester until last fall, but now that I have one, really I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This time of my life is irreplaceable, and I’m extraordinarily pleased to have the chance to jump up and wear myself out exhausting (but only for the moment) the list of awesome things I can think of doing. I’m twenty years old, I have my vitality, and I’m itching to experience life outside of what I’ve been doing, sitting in a dorm room, reading books full of the hypothetical, theoretical, and forgettable. I have four months to do something that I’ll never forget. So I’m pretty excited about getting started.

File under: work, adventure, trains, hitchhiking, plans


Oxtrox

History

Your semester off sounds great! I would suggest that one weekend this summer or sometime you have a couple of days to burn, you should try traveling with your load of gear without your car. I suspect you will find that your adventure may turn out to be a constant search for transportation, costing you precious time for more interesting things. I just know that transportation in the U.S. is pro-car. ALL other modes are cumbersome at best. If you want to take a real adventure without a car I have one word for you - EUROPE!

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Anonymous

History

Glad to hear you have an interview in Chicago! Way to go! We'll be pulling for you, all the way from Arizona.

I also remember feeling the same way about college at just about this same time during my junior year. The end is in sight but too far away to seem real. The feeling lasted a couple of weeks and then I got back on track for the rest of the semester.

Aunt E.

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Chuck

History

My load of gear will consist of one backpack. Yes, it's hard to get around the US without a car of your own, but I think by going without I'll get a lot more personal sense of the scale of this country. A landscape will seem more real from the seat of a bicycle or from the porch of a grain car.

Incidentally, I was told the other day about a program called CELTA, which is something like "Certificate for English Language Teaching Awesomeness", but with a different word at the end. The way I understand it is you get accredited through this, and then you can go most non-English-speaking places on the planet and someone will invite you to teach English and pay you for it. I'm still planning to do JET, but if I ever decide to do the CELTA thing, Europe may be a possibility as well. Who knows?

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Anonymous

History

Please NO hitchhiking! It's dangerous, especially in the US. I think the eco-farm idea is a good one, and teaching English is a good idea. I just want you to stay safe. Mom

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Chuck

History

I don't intend to rely on hitchhiking. To me trainhopping is way preferable, because you don't have to ask permission (in fact, not asking permission is kind of the point, although there are occasional times when a conductor will let you ride in an unoccupied locomotive if it's cold or he's feeling generous). I know it can be dangerous, and that's why I'd take every possible precaution if it ended up being avoidable: probably no rides from semis, look unthreatening but be ready to defend myself, and such. Hopefully I won't end up in hitchhiking situations much.

Congratulations on your new job! It's been a long time coming, but you've finally got it.

Also, if I end up going to Japan, I want to check out the Sapporo Snow Festival (札幌雪祭り). It looks like one of the most awesome things ever for someone interested in snow sculpture. For those of you who haven't seen it on Facebook, yesterday I built a whale out of snow. It's life-size, and surfacing in the middle of the campus's central field. It made me achy all over, but I'll take pictures sometime when I'm less exhausted and before it becomes shapeless, and post them here.

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Anonymous

History

I can't condone the trainhopping. It's silly. Take a Greyhound. I will give you the money since I will have some. PLEASE don't go do something foolish! I want you to see things but be safe in doing so. And legal.

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Anonymous

History

It all sounds too fun! If I could rewind the clock, I would go train hopping too. Hitchhiking is probably not as hazardous as one might think. People seem to think that this generation invented kidnapping, violence, things like that. Kids of a young age used to run about cities and countries un-abated in the days before local and national scare you to death news. I would bet money that the rates of crime hitchhiking have not changed much in 100 years. It just gets reported and sensationalized, and we react, clinging to an imagined improved safety.

Ecuador is a good cheap place to be. I have heard it has a sizable US retiree population. 20k a year in the US is poverty. 20k a year in Ecuador is a house and staff to boot. Stay away from the Colombian border and you will be fine. They have the best shrimp in the world too!

I say go for it!

Dave

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Anonymous

History

Interview!!! I have suggestions. Where polished shoes, shave, cut your hair, take a bath and wear a suit white shirt and tie. Remember they are a corporation with an image. You are now an image without a corporation. The two must meld for a job offer. Fuddy Duddy Grandpa

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Chuck

History

I did all of those things, except: the shoes weren't polished, just black; I took a shower instead of a bath; and I didn't shave entirely, just tidied up. I think the interview went about as well as I could have expected it to, especially since it's my first real interview with a real company. I stalled a few times, but I think I generally conveyed a pretty good impression. The only thing is that the internship isn't quite what I'd expected—it's mainly proofreading, and not really any design. I can deal with that, but I think I'm also going to ask the guys who founded Press where they did their internships. Those seem to have given them a pretty broad overview of everything to do with publishing. But they also might have happened somewhere in New York City, which would be pricy. Possibly I could stay with them, because I think they're still living there. If I get offered the internship that I just interviewed for, can I accept it and then back out if I get a different one? Seems risky. I wish I'd looked at other internships sooner instead of putting all my eggs in this basket, but I didn't have any time for that, and I forgot about the lead that I had in the founders.

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