Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Time of Transition

The Spring Semester
What's the point of making the obvious even more pointed?  Yes, January was my last post and I will not apologize this time because I have survived, even successfully, one of the most difficult 5 months of my academic career.  Here is an enumeration of the events of the term:
  1. Betty came to teach a 2-week course that had to be truncated into 10 days rather than 14.  It was difficult for all concerned.
  2. Jan came to teach a 3-week course followed by Spring break.
  3. My sisters came at Spring break to visit.  All  I drove our mini-van through all of the Baltic States, managing to arrive back in Klaipeda intact.  More on that later.
  4. The new president was inaugurated with much music, ceremony, and many events along with the annual Board Meetings. 
  5. I presented a paper at our annual Academic Conference.
  6. I spoke at the Baccalaureate service.
  7. The whole semester was overshadowed by the emotion of the constant decision-making process that went on until after Spring break.
There was extra effort and time spent on each item in the list, above the overload I carried in teaching, departmental work, and institutional committee work.  So, I feel good about what was accomplished even though things like the blog, communicating regularly with family and friends, and any personal goals I had, fell by the wayside.  All of this, of course, pointed up the need to leave my position here in Lithuania but even that took a great deal of emotional energy and was not an easy decision to make.

Spring Break with my sisters and Jan was a wonderful sightseeing adventure during which I was very nearly ticketed for driving smack-dab into the Riga Old Town city center but, since it was International Women's Day, the policewoman let me off and, not only that, led us to our hotel safely.  Thank you Google Maps!  Useless!  Tallinn is a wonderful city of meandering streets with no place to park.  After unloading our car, the taxi we paid to lead us to our hotel (yes, another Google Maps failure) led me to a parking lot where I could park the car for 2.5 days while we wandered through the city.  We arrived back in Klaipeda in time for Jan to catch her flight back to the states and for me to show my sisters around the campus and city before they had to leave and before the semester resumed at a faster pace than before.  That is the first time I'd actually taken a break in mid-semester.  I spent the rest of the semester being grateful for the break and trying to keep up with my classes and the extras that fell after the break.
Deciding to Leave
It was clear to almost everyone else, both friends and family, that I needed a change but when you are here, it is very difficult to see.  I have tried to imagine why that might be.  Almost everyone who comes here falls in love with the campus, the students, and their colleagues.   Why is that?  I suppose it might be because people find that when they come they are very appreciated and fill an important need for us. Another point might be that,  like a dysfunctional family,  everyone becomes so dependent on each other for survival that losing one member creates the hole-in-the-dike syndrome. I know that several things I was covering simply cannot be added to anyone else's load. On the other hand, a new chair of the English department will most likely take on things I didn't.

None of these reasons get to the heart, and I mean heart, of the real difficulty, what has made the decision to leave so difficult.  In the four years I've been here I have made some very good friends--among faculty, staff, and students--and I will miss them terribly.  Yes, our university is understaffed and our faculty, administration, and staff overworked but I will miss the place.  It's become a very comfortable place to be--supportive, collegial, and even fun at times.  The students here are very appreciative of the help and let us know that in very dear, touching ways.  I am sorry to leave.  I have a great deal of respect and affection for many here.

Lebanon, The University of Balamand
On the other hand, I will not miss the dreadful weather.  I am looking forward to the Mediterranean climate, the blue, not gray, seasides.  I have been told that faculty housing faces the Mediterranean and, from what I can see, that is true.  The climate website I checked lists temperatures between 55-86 F.  I can live with that--easily!  Here is the photogallery of the University of Balamand: http://www.balamand.edu.lb/english/Photogallery.asp .  I will be working in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences building (FASS).  I believe faculty housing is in the buildings covered by the four red roofs in the foreground of the overview picture on the home page of the gallery.  When would you like to visit?  My classes are limited to 15 students and I will be teaching 3 classes this coming semester.  I have big plans for the personal time I will have--playing the piano and violin, writing, traveling to Jordan to see friends, to Damascus for the same reason, and other places close by too.

Several have asked about Rabea.  I have not been successful in finding her.  I have heard that she has moved to Germany with her "new" husband (4 years now) and son, leaving no forwarding address.  I hope to see her again someday but none of my efforts to find her have been successful so far.

Almost 5 Weeks in Nebraska
Does it go without saying that I had a wonderful time in Nebraska with family and friends?  It does!  I always do and this time my sister held a lovely open house with Marilynn M. for my birthday.  It was a wonderful opportunity to see people I would never have been able to see in the short time I was home.  There are a few pictures here, on the blog, though I'm not a very good photographer.

As usual, my time was filled with visits to visit my mum, my family, and coffees, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with good friends.  I was especially intentional about getting to Nebraska in time to be present for Rachel Benson (Goodale now).  As it was a Medieval/Renaissance wedding guests were encouraged to come appropriately attired.  I heard from some who believed I had taken orders.  The answer is "NO!"  Any vow of silence, poverty, or penitence would be a sacrifice too great to make...as you should all know! Well, I think I've got the poverty thing down though it wasn't in my original plan. The album I created for that wedding is on the blog as well.

Packing, Sorting, Leaving

My current life has been limited, mostly, to packing, sorting, and figuring out what to do about shipping, especially books.  I have moved my office also and have pitched and will continue to pitch old files that are irrelevant, things that no one has asked to see in my four years, things that are now electronically generated and so forth.  I think it will work well for the incoming chair as s/he will not have to deal with stacks of files to find the things s/he wants.  What that means though is that both at work and at home my mind is consumed with the nit-picky details of what stays, what goes and where it goes.  Isn't the decision-making process the hardest part of moving?  Of course now I'm thinking too about shipping costs, customs and import taxes.  I do not think Lebanon makes exceptions for educational material.

In the middle of this, I have been spending time with the June faculty who came to teach for me in the English department.  They are a wonderful group of three who, it seemed to me of course, were the life of the faculty residence--organizing two trips and two meals together.  Lydia K., a friend from UNL days, came and was the instigator for much of the activity.  Presently we are in Vilinius together as she photographs her way through a city she already loves.  The weather has, amazingly, been absolutely perfect for her peregrinations.

On the leave-taking front, I have said good-bye to several students, several times!  One more coffee, one more lunch, one more tea time.  This only makes things more difficult but I won't say no.  I do think that living overseas is made possible by the connections we make with each other and, even more important, by the connections we maintain with each other.  I think it's part of feeling comfortable in the world.  Where is home?  That's a problematic question, always.  I think it's wherever I'm laying my head that night.  I feel as close, closer probably,  to everyone I've left in the States as I do to those I'm seeing daily where I live.  The longer history I have with everyone in the States explains the degrees of closeness  I feel, I suppose.  Electronically, no one is very far away, something I must keep in mind for the year ahead.

Love and Hugs,


Medieval-Renaissance Wedding 5/22/10 9:29 AM

Birthday Open House