De vuelta en la República Dominicana 

Buenos días,
I debe haber por fin se relajó más de lo que creía posible en los últimos tiempos, mientras dormía casi 12 horas (y sólo una vez) después de llegar ayer. Después de despertar esta mañana, me duché y organizó el día. Me estoy reuniendo con Ana esta mañana para preguntar acerca de cualquier material en línea que puedan tener para ayudar con nuestra presencia en la web. Una vez más debo admitir mis errores y tomar nota de que el Sr. Galán era correcta. Yo tan atrapados en conocer las piezas correctamente que pierdo la imagen más grande. Creo que mi español era en mucho mejor forma hace dos años (que era la tutoría y que me exigía perfeccionar mi pronunciación de Melissa) lo que es ahora. Voy a tratar de leer un libro que compré hace dos años. Una hora de lectura de un día y 4 horas de la escritura. Entonces me puedo sentar y descansar o dejar que mi mente vagar.

Hoy es uno de esos días me siento particularmente solitaria. Es increíble para mí el que la mayoría cree Soy saliente y cómodo con la gente, pero realmente no soy. Creo que se ha vuelto más la regla que la excepción, ya que he envejecido. Esta mañana me he sentado en el desayuno y comió en silencio y simplemente observa. Me pregunto si la mayoría de la gente es como el contenido, ya que parecen ser. No estoy convencido de que los que son. ¿Es tal vez yo soy simplemente egoísta, después de todo? ¿Es que sólo puedo imaginar que la gente en mi vida hasta que se acercan demasiado, lo que me asusta? Es que no estoy muy contento con donde estoy en mi vida de lo que pensaba? Sobre el papel aparezco éxito, pero estoy? Creo que se pone de nuevo a las cosas que he escrito en blogs anteriores: lo que hace feliz a alguien? Soy yo de nuevo a lo que mi estudiante señaló que la melancolía que visita regularmente en realidad nunca deja? . . .

It is shortly after lunch and I have spent the morning with Anna, the wonderful person with whom we worked last year. She was so helpful, as always. More to think about, but so many things I need to still get organIed. I should spend a week this summer to get everything squared away. If we are gong to do this, I need to get very serious. It has been a good day to get some things in perspective. Perspective, as well as perception,  is an (are)  amazing thing(s). Even walking around the resort. What are the stories of each person. From where all of the people come? What about the 15,000 people who work here every day to create this illusion of paradise? While I know I am very fortunate to be here? What about those who might really be part of the rich and famous? Are they happy and do they really see the world for what it is or do they have that entitled view of everything? I imagine some people look at me similarly. It was interesting to speak with someone today about their life and children and how they have worked so hard to help their children to make it to college and to hopefully have a life that will make them both happy and successful. One of the young ladies working in the breakfast and lunch buffet is 7 months pregnant, but she is here every day with a smile on her face. She is so pleasant, and like most every single person, accommodating, doing her part to make the dream happen for the 1,000s of people who come here to forget life for a few days or a few weeks. I have listened to stories of people who want more and who seem insufferably unhappy regardless what is done for them. It is the third time I have been here, but the first time I am alone. It is both enjoyable and lonely at the same time. I was asked again lately if I would ever get married again. I am not sure I see much benefit in that at my age. That is not to say that I do not believe in the institution of marriage (an interesting phrase when you think about it critically) nor would I discourage those who want to be married to do so. It seems I am sounding again like Kierkegaars, Bonhoeffer, or even Paul in some of his epistles. 

It is now Saturday afternoon. was so caught up in managing other items that I did not get to this posting. I did post one earlier and know that I still need to answer for my independence and not always wanting to share some of the health struggles I continue to have. I have certainly gotten better, but I do not share  to the degree many might wish. I have heard this from friends and colleagues alike. I remember the paper I wrote about that very thing. I spoke about the dysregulation between the privat and public self. A sort of dichotomous split between what l feel comfortable sharing and what I cannot bring myself to share at other times. It is an interesting tight rope. I still try to imagine what my life would have been without Crohn’s or what have seemed to be other complications. The fact that Crohn’s seems to have found somewhere else to focus makes me wonder what next? . . . I spent a good part of the afternoon working on a variety of issues. It is amazing that I am down to my last two full days here. It certainly passes by quickly. However, I did get so much done. Tomorrow it will be a travel company day. A great deal of work to do. I did get quite a bit arranged and it should be possible to get the last few pieces tied up into pretty reasonable packages. Tonight I went to a Dominican restaurant and had an enjoyable evening. The former is generally very good (and I say that as a sort of foodie-no comments to all of you rolling your eyes). The service is quite impecible and the options both in variety and ethnicity are quite astounding. Esta noche comido ceviche de mero fresca, pollo de lemón con habichuela y arroz blanco, una poquito plátano sueñe con caramelo, y majrete de maíz. 

Buenas lunas días. It is my last full day of my third journey to this amazing country. The resort is a respite like no other. Also for the third time I have found my way to the spa. For those who feel such a thing might jeopardize their man-card, put those thoughts away and rethink. This time I had a coffee bean exfoliation and massage. I am currently sitting in the tranquil garden watching and listening to a thunderstorm (amazing what happened to the weather in the hour and a half they I was in getting the treatment), now drinking a cup of coffee and feeling more relaxed than I have in ages. I smell like I imagine Juan Valdez must have in those old commercials. Jerry Wemple, I know you have that reference down, you trivia guru. I got up early this morning and spent time at the beach. While it is warm, it is neither crazy busy nor too calor. Last night I went to the Welcome Party at the new Dome. It was quite amazing. I have video and picture though I have not been able to get the pictures to upload to Facebook yet. I tried to do too many and now it is stuck in a loop. Not sure what will happen if I will have to wait until I get back in the states tomorrow evening. Again, in spite of being alone on this trip, it has been quite amazing. I know Josè and Melissa will be astonished that I have met new people. I was invited two nights to sit with other people because I was alone. Last night at the party I met other new people and made some more contacts. It is always interesting to me. No one wanted to believe my age. It is not like I am at the age where I want to try to be older. Nothing to lie about in telling things as they are at this point. . . . 

I am dinner for the last evening and while I am on an outdoor patio of sorts, it is raining steadily and there is persistent lightning and thunder. It has cooled dramatically and is really quite pleasant. Tonight at dinner I saw one of the couples I met last night, and I spoke to a couple from Lancaster, who sat close to me and the couple immediately next to me, the young lady just graduated from West Chester. Just another normal day in my life. Dinner tonight was called Sinpky Gourmet VIP. It is a seafood restaurant and quite good. On a more frustrating note, they changed the password to the wifi and supposedly told us last Thursday. I did get it to connect to the phone earlier, but no luck at the moment, though the iPad connected. Dang!?! I am going to data roam for a moment, but then it will go off again. It has been a good week, but tomorrow back to the real life. 

Thanks for reading. 

Michael (this week)

How did we become so blissfully or willingly ignorant?

Hello from Starbucks in the Andruss Library,

I have spent the great majority of my week either here or at the Fog and Flame and grading. I have made good progress, but my mind needs a break from reading papers and trying to understand how some of my students seem to be listening in class, but when I get their work I am wondering if they are harder of hearing than I am at 60. I have made very good progress on the end of the semester onslaught, but there is still work to do. It is Friday and I had hoped to be done by about three hours from now. That is not going to happen. I have two classes complete, but waiting on one straggler in one class. I have a couple of things needed from a couple of students in my Rhetoric and Professional Writing class. If I had merely said you did not do it and “too bad,” some individual grades would be in serious jeopardy (and that is not a game). Before the day is out I do expect to have three of the four sections completed except for the minor things just noted. . . So it is about 10 days and graduation has passed and grades are done more work is been done in the yard, but the “to do list”never seems to stop. 😱 The amount of planting and landscaping in the yard was somewhat expensive again this spring; however, good progress has been made in the yard is looking quite manicured and professional. I think my father would be proud. The end of the semester and grades are always an interesting thing. I had a student or we can a half late ask to still turn things in; I had a complaint about a grade for failing a student, but it was an issue because it will keep the student from graduating. Some other minor questions, but for the most part no big problems.

As I work on this blog and must admit a failing. I was less than totally candid in a situation because I did not want to try to explain a ridiculous schedule and s’more more health issues. However by not doing so, I created another dilemma. It is more difficult than some might imagine to share the extent of, and by extension, the consequences of my Crohn’s Disease. In addition it seems the Crohn’s has started to create more problems. One issue, while to some extent expectable, intuitively I believe the other issue, which is more neurological, could also be a consequence of this insidious and painful, literally and figuratively, disease. Disease is to sickness, sort of like county prison is the county jail. One just sounds more tragic and painful. It is hard to believe I have actively fought this thing for over half of my life. I must admit I am working on two posts at the moment. I need to finish this one, which is really about school, education, our general willingness to think beyond the surface, or unwillingness as the case may be, and why, in my personal opinion (and I realize it is mine to be accountable for), why European students are so much better at challenging classes than many of their American counter-parts. Even when I was in seminary, we had German students and they walked circles around me in systematics and language classes. I was pretty decent in my language classes, but not as capable in systematics. I have since learned that I might have been better than I realized, but I certainly felt inadequate. I still remember the first time I was in Dr. Juel’s Galatians class and he wrote on my final paper, “it is my sincere hope that you learned more in this class than you have exhibited in this paper.” Ouch!! Unfortunately, he was correct. I had a lot yet to of the best things I have ever done was go and speak with him. I certainly do not want to bash public school teachers; I know some excellent ones. However, the push to pass standardized tests, which has precipitated this teaching to the test, is garbage. I realize this is the consequence of funding, parents, state and federal mandates and Lord knows what else, but the result is merely jumping through hoops to get them through. So it begs the question: what is required? I see in my own first year writing classes and beyond a typical student who depends on Google for their scholarly work. I see students who cannot integrate from one class to the next. Everything is compartmentalizations. How does that prepared one to think critically, analyze carefully, or synthesize wholistically? 

I remember the first thing one of the Polish professors told our students in the Winter term: I want you to think critically. This requires that students pay close attention and learn to take careful and thorough notes. It requires students to read outside of class and to review what they did in class. It means that school is, indeed, a full-time job. That too is complicated because too many students need to work more than one part time job, but then their studies suffer if they do not know how to be disciplined and prioritize their tasks. I am always astounded by students who believe merely sitting in a desk means they have done what is necessary, and necessary means I deserve an A. In the words of Sherman T. Potter, “Horse Hockey!” There is a show I still miss. It was a show that used humor and life to make us think. Another such show was Northern Exposure. While I find it unbelievably depressing that Janine Turner is a conservative talk show personality, Maggie was extraordinarily beautiful. And debating her about issues could be interesting. It is only in arguing (and I do not find spirited, but informed argument to be a problem, as long as it is respectful) that facts become known and mutual growth and benefit can occur. The eclectic group from Cicely, Alaska not only grew on the Jewish doctor exiled to them, they grew on anyone who watched the show. What was so amazing was the topics and issues that they took on long before people were going to think about them. The social issues that were at the core of the show caused anyone who watched and was willing to think a need for pause. I believe any show or movie worth the time it takes to watch it should do this. This is not to say there are not moments or shows that can be 90% entertainment. I enjoy mindless once in a while. However, when life becomes sound-bytes and most of our response it pathos- generated, not surpassingly (and etymologically apparent), we become societally pathetic.

All of this, for me, is depressing. For the first time in all of my time teaching, I failed a student in the final semester.  While my chair backed me when the student complained, it was made apparent that somewhere that might be a difficult one to get through.  Regardless that the failing grade was well justified, it was determined that somewhere I would probably lose the argument for this terminal decision. Indeed, the student would have to return in the fall. I knew when I assigned this earned grade that I would be probably facing some stiff resistance. My intuition was correct. Let me say a couple of things concerning the situation. As I have noted before I take no pride when someone fails my course. I have always felt that way. Even if it is apparent that the failing grade was more because of what the student did, or didn’t do, I am prompted to wonder what I might’ve done differently and thereby help the student pass my class.  I know the arguments of they did it to themselves; I know the arguments of a grade earned. And yet I want students to succeed. Particularly when a college education is so expensive. sometimes I’m not sure if it is a lack of maturity or lack of intellectual ability.  It is not always apparent witat, or who, the culprit is, and more than likely it is some of both. It is one thing to come to class; it is quite another thing to actually learn while you’re in that class. I am actually stunned at the amount of money spent on books never read and glasses never attended. And I do not believe this is merely naïveté nor simply idealism. I think it is a consequence of our believing that everyone needs to win. It is our desire to protect people growing up from the consequence of their choices. It is in requiring the school to do what used to be the parents’ job and then blaming the same school teachers for not doing theirs. I would write about this for hours, but suffice it to say, ignorance is not an innate human trait. It is allowed. It is perpetuated. It is something with which we have come to be accepting as reasonable. It is time to stop and it is time to once again value thinking, analyzing, and synthesizing.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin