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.