Saturday, June 6, 2009

Pomp & Circumstance

Congratulations to the graduating Class of 2009!

This morning I attended the graduation ceremony for the seniors at Colegio Bolívar and I decided that I like graduation ceremonies. Other major life events and celebrations I can take or leave, pick or choose. But graduation ceremonies, I decided, are something special.

I think I like them because of the hopeful and determined energy of those in the mortarboards and their parents coupled with my own nostalgia. I like listening to the speakers talk of the future, where they as a collective group have come from, and where they are independently going. I like hearing about these coming aspirations, recollections of friendships, and important memories.

I like hearing these things because I picture, not only my own high school graduation ("double O!"), but also where my life has indeed taken me in the past nine years since then. Looking back, I don't recall a lot of the things I'm guessing one is supposed to be able to remember about graduating from high school.

The few things I can recall about my own ceremony was that I was at the end of my row and my name was written on a large piece of paper in the staging area to let everyone in my row know this is where they needed to be, lest I not show up to indicate it with my presence. I remember one of my best friends, Annie Taff, gave one of the commencement speeches. I remember thinking it was good and being proud of her, but most of all I remember she ended it with her trademark "have fun, kids" line. I also remember being terrified of tripping on my robe in front of the 500 people I was graduating with as I descended the stairs. Fortunately, I also remembered how to walk. There are other tiny things too but those are the main memories, the lasting ones.

One of my other best friends from high school, Laura Hammer, had made her own memory book with all of our senior pictures in it and a survey next to each one. Over the course of the summer following graduation she made us answer the survey, which consisted of future predictions and various favorite this or thats. I only remember that I had said that I wanted to become a teacher and work in either an inner-city school or abroad. (Part of me wants to see that book again now to see what else my optimistic 18 year old self thought to document.)

At 18 I am not sure what I thought, or if I even cared, what being 27 meant. I probably thought it wasn't young but I don't think I thought it was old either. I know I didn't see myself as being married yet and definitely without children. But I do remember being ambitious and wanting to get out, spread out, and find out...about everything. I still feel that way.

I saw that today in the eyes of the graduates and heard it in the words of the speakers. The valedictorian, a guy I got to know through the musical this year, is going to London for school next fall. I went 90 minutes into Wisconsin. But dreams are dreams and I think it's good to be reminded of them. It's good to be reminded of how you felt when you wanted them.

This year is also special for me personally because the freshmen that I started my fledgling teaching career off with back in the fall of 2005 at Washington Junior High in Manitowoc, Wisconsin are also graduating. Four years goes by quickly! I still remember standing in front of my first hour class on the first day of school holding the syllabus in my hands and all 27 of them silently staring back at me, questioning my very existence. I can actually still picture where some of them sat and, if you gave me a list, I could probably put each and every one of them in their respective periods.

I have a special place in my heart for everyone I had that first year; they taught me more about how to be a teacher than I have learned in any one year since then. Some of them have stayed in contact with me since I left for Colombia through random emails and I love knowing what they are doing. I was definitely thinking about all of them today as well, thousands of miles away and almost a week early.

It is my hope that these graduates, both in Cali and Manitowoc, and everywhere else this spring, remember years from now not the words that were said, but the feeling that was created from those words. I think the real reason I like graduations is because, despite the excitement of graduating - the speeches, the college acceptance letters, the tears, and the tossing of the hats - it is what you do afterward, consistently, that leads to the circumstance. I'm now far enough away from the pomp to see that.

¡Felicitaciones a todos del año 2009!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Whip it! Whip it good!

"An iguana's tail can cut you like whip. It is extremely dangerous when provoked."

With these words the lady from the zoo who visited my class in elementary school terrified me forever of those spiky gray-green lizards. Ever since then, every time I've seen an iguana, and up to two years ago that was primarily in captivity, I've pictured that woman and her giant glove holding this grumpy-looking reptile with it's potentially dangerous tail dangling toward the floor, ready to leap into action and slash gaping wounds into all of our flesh at any moment.

Dramatic enough? I was eight. Some things stay with you.

The track at school where I log much of my running time is usually a place I can space out. I don't run with music but I'm used to the circular monotony from years of going up and back in the pool for swimming. The biggest hazards I have to be aware of are errant soccer balls and the ugly little territorial dive-bombing birds when they have eggs or chicks to protect.

The evil chick spawn have flown the coup and soccer season is over, so I was mentally prepared for an obstacle-free run when I rounded the corner and two (plural, mind you) very large iguanas darted across the track in front of me. They had been sunbathing on the side of the track and conveniently camouflaged right into the gravel and grass. I know my adrenaline kicked in, I'm pretty sure I jumped, and there is speculation that the security guard near the gate heard me yelp. (The later is all hearsay and gossip, of course.)

On my running routes in Minnesota and Wisconsin the only thing I had to worry about looking out for were cars and leashless dogs. I suppose this is a good reminder to start preparing again for random attacks from, well, anything.

Next year I'll ask the guards to start shooting at me if I start looking bored maybe...