Posts Tagged With: English

School

I am officially a stay at home mom these days. At least for the next year or so. How am I managing that on our pared-down lifestyle? I’m going to school.

I have been thinking about babies and careers for a long time now, and when it all came out in the wash, it came out English teacher. Not only are the benefits great and the hours conducive to kids, but I really couldn’t think of a better way to spend my days than surrounded by books and writing. I’m hoping my enthusiasm will be infectious.

I got my fieldwork assignment, though, and I panicked. Because somehow in the middle of all this, I forgot how much I loathed high school. Like, I hated it so much that I graduated in three years just so I wouldn’t have to be there anymore, only allowed because I threatened to drop out. And now I was going back? Voluntarily?

Careers and I have always been uncertain bedfellows. I have worked the longest at Disney costuming, and it took me years to realize it wasn’t going to work. I could put up with bad pay, lack of advancement opportunities, and the horrible commute. What tipped me over was the hours – 12 hour days, midnight parade rehearsals, never a break. In short, no room for children.

I remember feeling, on my last day, not exactly sad, but nostalgic. I looked back through the white steel gates to take it in one last time, the yellow swoop of the Team Disney building, the boxy windows of the Eat Ticket, the gray concrete parade building, where I worked, beyond. I watched dozens of people in different uniforms scan their passes and go though the gates. ‘you’ll never be a part of anything if this scale again,’ I told myself, not unhappy with the prospect but still lingering. Eventually I turned and drove home.

My first week returning to high school just ended. And it was ALMOST just as I had thought it would be, with one major difference. It was like attending your very favorite class in high school all day long. The kids were smart little assess. I enjoyed myself.

As supervisory teacher was showing me around the campus, the quad full of trees and planters, the tan cinder block buildings tucked under the mountains and the blue California sky, I found myself returning to that last day at Disney.

And I realized… I might be embarking on something of that epic scope again. I’m looking forward to the rest of it.

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What I’m Not

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Sometimes you can’t see what a thing really is until you’ve seen what it isn’t.  I felt this way about English when I learned American Sign Language.  I love Sign, the way hand shapes suddenly become something pictorial, like a movie in front of your body, the vast expression and freedom that gives.  But English has many synonyms where Sign uses just one word.  I realized that I loved that about English.  The ability to pick a synonym by sound or subtle meaning, the freedom of language that English provides.  Telling a story verbally in English is so much flatter now that I see the cinematography that Sign provides, but I never knew how much I would miss those vast options of expression until they were limited.  I fell in love head over heels with Sign, but I also fell in love with English at the same time.  I didn’t know what it was that I loved until I saw what it wasn’t.

I thought I would feel the same about being an American, which is one of the many reasons I’m dying to travel to Europe.  My quick trip to Montreal last Sunday night, a flighty three hours when I was not in the States, proved my assumptions to be true.

When I asked Brian if he would be OK with us nipping over to Montreal for dinner at 4:00 in the afternoon, I don’t think either of us had any idea what we were getting into.  I expected it to be like crossing state lines but with more security.  Things would be mostly the same on the other side, of course, but we wouldn’t have the GPS to guide us.  I copied careful directions from Google Maps, and we were on our way.

The line at the border crossing was long.  It took us almost an hour to get through.  There was more than one car with Canadian plates having a dance party, though.  Brian and I laughed at the boys in the brightly colored shorts and backwards baseball caps as they slid open the doors of the beat up blue minivan and had a Hammertime dance break on the shoulder of the highway.  The border patrol agent asked us, “got any bombs in the car?” with a jocular grin.  And then we were speeding through the most beautiful farm country on route 133.  Hot air balloons flew over silver silos amid green fields.  Stone farmhouses with white Victorian trim peopled the roadside.  Things went downhill from there.

The signs were in French.  Why it did not dawn on Brian or I that Montreal was the FRENCH part of Canada, I will never know.  I feel like I’ve failed the Chapman University history department with that one.  The only French I know is limited to telling people that the chickens are disguised as cows.  I failed high school French in a travesty of garbled verbs.  Neither of us could read the street signs.

Street markings were different, too.  Thick white lines did not mean that the lane was ending.  Signs above the highway with arrows did not mean that you had to pick one of those options – if you followed none, you just stayed on the current road.  I misread the directions, and we were suddenly lost on a back road in a foreign country with no cell phone service, no GPS, and no way to pull over and ask for directions.  It took us only a few minutes to turn around and find the highway again, but we both realized the full implications of what we had done, and how terribly ill-prepared we were for this jaunt to have dinner.

We parked just off the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal.  Brian had looked at Trip Adviser for the best restaurants in the area, and we found ourselves standing outside the first on the list.  I never felt more hickish than when we walked in and asked for a table.  No reservation, in jeans and t-shirts.  They fit us in.

I realized, sitting next to Brian in that restaurant, what our essence was and what America had made us.  There we were, boisterous, full of jokes, too casual for the environment, barely able to bumble through the menu.  We misunderstood the word “Sortie” to mean bathroom – the exit was evidently down the hall from them – and embarrassed ourselves in another store.  Brian wandered into the woman’s restroom because he didn’t know whether to pick the H or the F.  By the end of the night, every subsequent mistake just set us giggling.  We cajoled the waitress with the stories of our embarrassing exploits.  I understood just a little why the rest of the world sometimes hates us.  Put this vibrant ignorance together with the conviction that all others want to be American, too, and it is easy to see how we become insufferable.

Old Montreal was the most beautiful city I have ever been to.  It was like something out of a movie, out of a history book.  I bought postcards in a kitschy tourist trap and took a million pictures in the yellow glow that surrounded the gray, opulent buildings and spilled into the slim alleyways.  Brian and I drove home, fearful in the darkness that we  would lose our way again, and crossed the border with no wait back into the States.  We sped through the border checkpoint with a sigh of relief to be back in a place where the GPS worked, where we could ask for directions, where we weren’t total idiots.

It is the Fourth of July today, and I can honestly say that I love being American with all my heart.  It is nice to be able to fully appreciate what being American means.  It was a flighty trip, a scant three hours in a foreign country, but it gave me something.  It makes me eager to travel more and explore other facets of the identity I gained simply by being born in this beautiful country.   I usually use the 4th to quote sappy lyrics of my favorite American songs, but I’ll skip it this time.

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