Friday, May 29, 2009

A job, A chance, an E-mail, and Why Exchange Messed Up My Life

I almost died the last week of school. Not really. But there were a couple of days there where I wasn't sure that I was going to make it. The stress was absolutely insane! The good news, however is that I made it out alive and mostly intact and brought some interesting memories out with me. Which is all good.

The most exciting news during the last week of the semester was that I finally heard from the people in charge of the Language School. I got the job as a Teaching Assistant! I'm pretty excited about this although I haven't heard anymore details. I do know however that the camp runs from the middle of June to the middle of July. My guess is that I will be hearing all the details of what I'm supposed to be doing, two days before I'm supposed to be back up at SPU. But hey, I'm not complaining. Rather, I am very much forward to beating Russian into those little high schoolers. No, I'm just kidding. I'm not really that mean :P

It's ironic. I was writing a letter to Elena Ivanovna the other day. It's mostly done, just have to finish it up, put a picture with it, stamp and send it. This is ironic because today I checked my e-mail and there was a short note from Nina in it. I had gotten back in touch with her several months ago and she e-mailed me, but I never replied back because (My excuses were) my computer was having issues and then I got really busy at the end of the semester. But really there's no excuse. I'm planning on e-mailing her back within the next few days. It's just so hard sometimes. It's like there's a part of me that doesn't want to be in touch and I don't know why I should even feel that way...

In other news, there is a slight chance that I might be able to get a scholarship to go back to Russia and study in a university there for a year. I don't want to say too much about it at the moment, because I may not even get it, but hopefully there will be more details to follow.

Which brings me to the thing I've been thinking about lately. Namely, How Going on Exchange Has Screwed Up My Life. When I found out about, and got the application for this scholarship, I was pretty excited, but at the same time, I was hesitant. There was a part of me that definitely didn't want to apply for the scholarship (Perhaps that is related to the staying in touch thing?). I was like "yeah, I should apply for this" but it was like something within me said. "but you don't really want to." and I thought about it for a while. Exchange was a fascinating experience. It was filled with some amazing moments and experiences. So why did a part of me not want to take the opportunity to do it again? Then suddenly, it hit me. I realized that I was scared.

Though most of the bad things about exchange have been outweighed by the good, there was a part of me that still remembered it. Remembered how hard it was, how scary, how difficult, how lonely it could be. This part of me was projecting. I didn't want to go back to Russia because I didn't want to have to deal with those things. The Beauraucracy, the visas, breaking down the Russian facade. A part of me was going "NO! NO! NO!" while the sensible part of me was saying "Get back on the horse." And then, God stepped in. I had decided to apply, but wasn't as enthusiastic about it as I could have been. I was going over some paperwork with my mom and we were discussing things when I found something significant on the website for the scholarship. Basically what it sounded like was that the scholarship was going to be discontinued starting this next year. The wave of disappointment that washed over me was undescribable. I e-mailed my contact about the scholarship, asking for clarification and asking whether or not I should go ahead and reply.

I was in a mood the rest of the evening. I didn't even know for sure if I could still apply or not, but already I was really disappointed. Just the thought of not even having the slightest chance of getting to go back was heavy on my chest. I spent the rest of the evening playing all the Russian songs I know on my guitar and feeling rather down.

You may have guessed by now, what my contact's answer to the inquiry was. The next morning, I checked my e-mail the first thing and was overjoyed to see that I could still go ahead and apply. And that set it. I am applying. But I think it was necessary for me to have that moment of doubt. Because in that one moment, I realized that the overwhelming disappointment of not being able to go, completely outweighed the nervousness I felt about going back for a second round.

And this is how exchanged messed me up. I am forever tied to Russia. To the World. There will always be a part of me that takes great interest in what the Motherland is doing, a part of me that still lives there. A part of me that is always longing to go back. I am forever tied to the Global community, forever hungering to see and experience more. But is that necesarily a bad thing? I dreamed in Russian last night, and in the light of day, I cannot remember what the dream was about, but it was full of good feelings.

Monday, May 04, 2009

May 4th

So much for anonimity, but this is something that weighs on me. May 4th is an important day in the history of SPU. It was on this day, 39 years ago that some students were protesting. The National Guard was called in and shots were fired. As a result, four students were killed and 9 other were wounded.

I like to see events. Last fall I went and watched a protest against the Iraq war. May 4th is kind of a big deal here, so I decided that I would observe some of the events of the commemoration. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. I thought that if I went and listened to the speeches given by those who were there and those whose lives were forever affected, I would learn something. Maybe something about the events. I'm big into listening to people's stories. So I went and stood on the hill where the guardsmen chased the students all those years ago and I learned, but I didn't learn what I thought I would.

It didn't take me long to realize that what I thought was going to be a memorial, a rememberance of those tragic events actually wasn't. I listened to two and a half speeches before I couldn't stand it anymore. The first guy, talked about zombies and how the guardsmen that day were zombies, and how the University President is a zombie and how our former president was a zombie and how if you stood by and let things like may fourth happen you were a zombie too. I wouldn't have a problem with this, except he was so venemous about it. The next person I heard speak was a woman whose sister died that day. I was expecting a celebration of life. Of a cause, a speech about how this tragedy should not be repeated. Instead I heard about how evil the government and guardsmen were, how wrong they were, how right the protesters were, after all they were "Burning down the ROTC building in response to Police brutality" Does anyone else find something wrong with that sentence? Two wrongs do not make a right people... This woman also went on to talk about all of the social protesting she's done because she was inspired by her sister. Perhaps I would've been able to relate to her better if she hadn't been so much about "Stick it to the man!" The last speech I listened to was a very loud, angry man. He basically spent a long time talking about the "May 4th Conspiricy" the "cover-up" and how a new tape had been found in which the order of the national guardsmen to shoot had been revealed. He also talked a lot about people who had mentioned hearing the order to shoot.

It was at this point I decided to leave. I waited for the man to finish, and as I began to head back to my room, there was a campus police officer standing there. I went up to him and I said "Sir, I'd just like to thank you for every thing you do," He kind of laughed. "It must be hard some times to be a police officer here." He said "thanks" and I left. I started crying when I got inside and couldn't figure out why. It wasn't the speeches. I mean they didn't move anything in me. I thought maybe it had something to do with the police officer? No, not really, other than the need to thank him, he really had nothing to do with it. I just felt really upset and I couldn't figure out why. And then I realized.

SPU is a liberal campus. Everyone is always going around talking about how you can't trust the conservatives, how they use people to push their agendas. They are preaching the purity of the left. How they aren't like that, they just want peace and love and all that. I realized they are hypocrites. They preach peace and love, while all the while, trying to stir people into violent action. "Down with the Iraq war!" They talk about the tragedy of four dead students, yet they place them on the pedestal of political martyrdom, and use them to focus their own agendas, to push their propaganda. Because that's what today was. It was a liberal propaganda fest, and that's what bothered me the most.

It's not that I hate liberals. Please don't think that I'm just a stuffy conservative. Understand that I am a people watcher and if it had been conservatives up on the stage today doing the same thing, please believe I would be condemning them just as much. It bothered me that what I saw as a time of rememberance was being manipulated to push a political agenda.

May 4th was a tragedy in the history of my University. I am not saying that the National Guard was completely innocent, nor am I saying that the protesters were completely innocent either. There are two sides to every story. I was looking forward to today's events because I thought it would be a time of reflection. I wanted the speeches to focus on what happened, why it happened. I was expecting people to be gathered around, remembering, perhaps discussing how we can prevent such a tragedy from happening again. What could we have done? What can we do so history does not repeat itself? I felt like it should have been a quieter time, that the gaggle of high schoolers who were filling out worksheets could have been taken aside and been told "Look, this is what it was like, this shouldn't happen again..."

Our school has a really good conflict management program. Did you know that? It was started because of the events that happened 39 years ago today. That, right there is something. That right there is someone saying "Look, this didn't need to happen, this is what we are going to do to keep it from happening again." I feel like that is what May 4th is about, and today it broke my heart to see that other people don't feel the same way...