Taking a break

For the first time in weeks, I’ve gone a day without making any serious effort to do anything academic. Not coincidentally, I’m feeling pretty content right now.

Not that I’m going to be able to lounge like this all through spring break. Mainly I’m going to be catching up to deal with how behind I am with my MAP. Taking a MAP and a seminar at the same time, I knew I was going to end up being behind about halfway through the semester, so I had planned from the beginning on staying at college for break to have a nice, relaxing time spent catching up and probably drinking a lot of tea and going outside. Tomorrow I’ll start doing such things as work, but today has been my day for not doing much of anything. For example, the remaining dwellers of EcoHouse had a cuddle session where we put two couches together and lay there relaxing and talking and eating pancakes with powdered sugar on them. This is something that doesn’t really happen when classes are in session. Everyone has to go to the library or something.

Besides work, there are other things I’ll be doing in the coming couple of weeks. Finding a school in Korea to apply to, for instance. This is the way the Korea system works: Schools that need English teachers post a job posting somewhere or other. Recruiters—who are based in Korea and staffed by either former teachers or Koreans who maybe know something about the process, or maybe not—collect these job postings from wherever they are, and wait for English-speaking college students to write to them. Then they work with the college student to find the school he/she wants to apply to. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. I’ve only written to one recruiter so far (I’ll explain in a moment why this isn’t cause for alarm), one whose name I got from the guy I mentioned in the last post, B. I wrote to them because if I get a job through them, B. gets $100. But they seem pretty lackluster, in most respects. They sent me a list of about a hundred job postings, obviously not filtered in any way or annotated as to which ones I might like more, and they didn’t respond to any of the questions I asked in my email. So I’m thinking I’ll go with another recruiter. Sorry, B.

Another thing I’ll be applying for is a camp that Willie told me about, called Flying Cloud. He went there when he was a kid, and still raves about the place today. It’s apparently the awesomest camp in the country, or at least that’s what I gather from everything I’ve read and been told about it. They teach kids primitive living and wilderness skills, mainly. There’s no closed-toed-shoe rule, nor really any rule about most clothing. At the end of camp, the kids all get new names, but they’re not allowed to say those names themselves, because they’re descriptions of the kids’ most awesome characteristics. Willie, and also another person who knows FC, Julia, tell me that I’m exactly the kind of person who should work there and that it’s definitely what I should do this summer.

Originally I was planning to be in Korea in the summer, so I could come back after one year and it would be summer when I got back, and I’d be able to start my Year of Adventure on the high note of the Rainbow Gathering and stuff. But I had also been told that most programs start in August, so I figured I might have to adapt the plan. Now I know that there are openings popping up all the time, but FC sounds great enough that I should do that. Also, there’s a chance that I wouldn’t be able to start in Korea in the beginning of June anyhow, because of the FBI background check.

This thing is a problem. Not in the sense that it’s hampering me, but in the sense that it just shouldn’t be a thing that needs to happen. I finally applied for it a couple weeks ago, on a Friday. The first step is to get fingerprinted. So, go to a police department, any one will do, you’d think. But the one in town was charging $20 for a fingerprinting. They recommended I go to the next town over, where they were charging just $5. I jumped at that, and drove to the Jasper County Jail. It’s several miles south of the town, and recently built, so that on Google Maps it still shows as a cornfield among many other cornfields. They’ve got it set up so that you don’t see any inmates unless you’re visiting them, so all I saw was the dead, clean geometry of the inside of the attendants’ office. One of the attendants—both were women who seemed jovial but probably a little haunted underneath—told me that I needed an ORI number. They had no way for me to look it up online, so I had to drive to the library in town. There was nothing about an ORI number for the FBI, no matter where I looked, so I told the attendant this. She called the FBI and they told her they don’t need an ORI number. Thanks for wasting my time. They fingerprinted me with a very expensive-looking machine the size of a podium. The prints they took didn’t look so hot, which left me a little concerned, because I’ve heard the FBI rejects unclear prints sometimes. I don’t know yet if they were good enough.

So once I got my fingerprint cards, I sent them with $18 and a form to the FBI’s fingerprinting place. It’s in Clarksburg, WV: go figure. Now I wait for about a month. Once I get it back, I have to get it apostilled, which is a fancier, more hot-shot version of notarized. It can only be done at a few places in the country, and they take a long time to turn the forms around too, apparently. Once it’s apostilled, I send it to the South Korean government and they give me a visa, assuming they’re okay with my criminal record, and they don’t think my passport photo is too yellow. I’ve put the Post Office behind me in life, and once I put the process of applying for this visa behind me too, I hope I won’t have to deal with the federal government’s bureaucracy anymore. Although there’s the chance that I’ll work as a park ranger in a National Forest at some point, so I may be disappointed. Things like these—another is the BMV—are parts of a highly stratified, mechanized, blocken1, industrialized society that frustrate everyone. They frustrate me perhaps even more. I wish people would get irritated by the more important frustrations, like the way you can’t get through even the most important environmental legislation because of all the businesses that don’t like them. But I digress.

That application is one thing I did last month. I guess there were some other things. Mostly they were academics. This semester has been busier for me than I ever realized a semester could be. I’m having fun, but I’m also doing an awful lot of studying and not very much other interesting stuff. I went to an a cappella group’s concert the other day, and all I could think was, “I wish I were in an a cappella group. I could have so much fun at this. And I’m way better than that guy who has the solo in ‘Never There’.” I’m going to FTP (Free The Planet), the campus environmental group, but I’m not contributing much because I don’t have much time to give and I also don’t feel invested because I won’t be here to see the effects of most things. It’s a shame. But I’m doing interesting things where I can.

For example, yesterday I went foraging for wild edibles with my friend Jordan, who graduated last year but decided to live in town for a few years. He’s writing a guide about wild edibles in this area, and he borrowed my Samuel Thayer books and said they were even better than the guy he thought was the real top of the line, Steve Brill. We went to a restored prairie south of town and walked through it to see what was sprouting. It’s still pretty early in the season, though, so there was precious little green, mostly the brown of the dead grass. Jordan spotted some tiny sprouts in a bare area under a bush, though. We bent down. They looked like parsnip sprouts, which we’d been expecting to find. We pulled out the guide books. Then they didn’t look so much like parsnip sprouts. They looked a lot more like poison hemlock sprouts. So that was disappointing. But now we know that poison hemlock is the earliest sprouter here, and that we have to wait a little longer for cool things like parsnips and wild carrot to show themselves. We also phound some pheasant pheathers and some old corn that I might try to make hominy with. It was a nice way to get rid of a little stress at the beginning of a break.

Another thing I did was Imaginary Week in my journal. It was a much more complicated story than I’ve ever really done before. It started out with protests in DC that happened as a me-too reaction to the Mideast unrest. Then some agents protecting the White House made the mistake of shooting someone who was going to throw rocks at it. That made the protests really take on a new vigor, and she was an environmentalist, so it took on an environmental tone. Meanwhile I had been kicked out of the college because I didn’t make a payment and didn’t get their warnings because of my spam filter, so I decided I’d hitchhike to DC and join in the protest. A guy who gave me a ride told me his daughter had some friends who were really into the protest, so I met them, and we hung a banner from a government building. But then the last guy coming down from the building got arrested, and the banner got taken down, so we decided to get the crowd that was protesting at the White House to go somewhere where their energy could be more effective. This was the headquarters of what we saw as the do-nothing EPA, although if I were to write it again I’d probably go with the Chamber of Commerce or something. We ended up storming a press conference and telling the camera what was going to happen now that we were really speaking for the people. It was kind of an unrealistic plot, and my choice of venue was a little inexplicable, but it was fun to write.

And for my MAP, I got people to respond to my test-survey thing. I had kind of a small turnout, but decent, except that it was mostly college students. Hopefully I can get a few more responses from non-students. It’s difficult to convince people to take the survey if they’re not the type of people who are interested in language and words, which is a type of people that tends to be a lot more prevalent on the college campus. I need data. I guess I can make do with what I’ve got, but I’m going to be on the lookout for more people who’ll do my study. …Anyone you know? I’m looking mostly for adults who haven’t gone to college. I figured out a way for people to do it on their own time.

That’s about all in the way of interesting things, and I probably had to stretch the definition of “interesting” even for that. Hopefully the next time I write it won’t have been a whole month. I’ll probably be 22, though. I know I’m not allowed to feel old among a readership that’s probably made of only people older than me, but I still do, a little. Anyhow, this fogey will write more another time.

  1. Yes, I made this word up. It’s “made out of blocks”, like “wooden” is “made out of wood”. 

File under: college, work, plans

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Sorry - it's a long time before you can lay claim in any way to the word fogey. And enjoy it, because it will seem like a nanosecond and you really will be a fogey.

Just so the fogey has done something interesting with his life, and I have no doubt you will.

Sorry you won't be home for break, but we understand.
We're making plans to come to Grinnell for your graduation. Tell us more about it if you can. Grandma




People who do take any risks, live to have the most regrets. It is true, that if at first you don't succeed, try. try again. G.Pa. SEZ


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