Tuesday, February 26, 2008

School Update

School. It sucks. Just kidding. It’s not that bad. I am having a hard time staying motivated and I think next semester will be worse. I met with my advisor a couple of weeks ago, and we mapped everything out. If I take 3 classes each semester I’ll be done with classes in April 2010 and graduate the end of May 2010. Yay! But before I get to that point I have to pull a C out of Spanish.

So far I’ve done really well in Spanish. Better than I thought I would. The teacher has been very kind – very lenient. I’m getting an A so far, so I’m hoping I can keep that up. I’m not feeling very confident, and I don’t feel like I’m understanding anything, so I have hired a tutor. I meet with him for the first time on Saturday. I don’t know exactly what I need help with, but I’m hoping he can help clarify that for me.

My other class, The Reflective Woman, is going fairly well. I actually like the discussion that the class produces and LOVE the book we have to read (Also call The Reflective Woman). I just finished an interview paper (interviewed my brother-in-law - see previous post), and I am now working on a “Structured Controversy” paper. My group (well, one person in my group) decided to do it on violence on television (BORING). The other two group members snatched up the position that it causes violence in teens/kids which left me with having to prove that it doesn’t cause violence in teens/kids for my paper. It didn’t seem too difficult until I started looking for resources. Ugh. It seems every reputable organization out there has something to say about how horrible violence on television is. Should make for an interesting paper.
Anyway, overall I’m loving school. I love, love, love St. Kate’s. I never really thought about how going to an all-female school would affect me…didn’t think it would…and actually thought I would hate it because I’m not that big on being bff’s with a bunch of girly girls. But it really has been a great experience so far, and I find that I am way more comfortable and able to express my opinions in all-female classes (no offense to all of you men out there). So thank you to those of you who urged me to go back to school…and a special thank you to those who urged me to try out St. Kate’s…

Interview Paper

I recently wrote a paper about my brother-in-law and thought I would post portions (not all of it for various reasons) of it here...not my best work, definitely didn't do him justice, but here goes:

D. T. was born June 8, 19XX in Sarajevo, Bosnia to two doting parents, M. and M. T. D. had what he considers to be a “normal” childhood and adolescence. His family spent several months of every year vacationing on the beautiful shores of the Adriatic Sea. He spent hours eating delicious Domacica cookies as he hungrily poured through any book he could get his hands on. He enjoyed learning, attending school, and tinkering with computers. He loved to spend time with his beloved grandparents and other, often quirky, extended relatives, and D. loved his country.

D. voice booms with pride as he recounts all of the great things that made Sarajevo such a wonderful place to grow up: tree-lined streets, beautiful architecture, untouched nature trails, and several ski resorts minutes away, just to name a few. “I’ve been many places,” D. says with some intensity, “but I am yet to find a place like this one used to be.”

At the age of 20, however, the peaceful, happy world that he knew changed. Religious and political issues broke his country apart and war erupted. The area where D. and his family were living had a large mix of various religions, “Just on our floor alone we had Muslims, Croats, Serbs, and Jews. The only way to separate them was genocide.”

Like every other adult male, D. spent his share of time on the front lines defending his city. Much of that time was spent sleeping in the trenches and pretending that he and his fellow soldiers could actually defend themselves. D. tells of how under-prepared their meager army was: “For the first few months, I had as little as three bullets in my Kalashnikov (army-distributed weapon). If they (Serbian Army) ever attacked, they would have killed us all in the first three minutes. Luckily,” he says with a smile, “they never tried.” \

D. laughs as he remembers the fun he had with his fellow soldiers. He recounts one rule he implemented: “I warned others in my unit to never approach my trench during my shift as I would be sleeping. He didn’t, after all, want to waste one of his three bullet on them. His comrades were instructed to call him on one of the military phones to wake him up if they wanted to come up before his shift was over.

During the war, Sarajevo was a “sad place full of sad people.” The city was surrounded by Serbian forces for the duration of the war, so food and electricity were scarce. During the most intensive fighting (which lasted for three years) the electricity was only on for a total of 30 hours – “usually in one hour blocks separated by weeks or months of no electricity.” There were “bone-skinny people walking like ghosts collecting twigs and garbage to burn for heat and cooking or picking dandelions for food.” Getting water meant spending hours in lines with occasional sniper bullets whizzing past. On an average day 20 to 40 people would be killed “which meant 20 to 40 quick, flowerless burials on the soccer fields or in the city parks.”

Through all of the turmoil, D. persevered and found the good in all situations he was placed in. He laughs as he talks about his neighbor who was sitting on his toilet when an anti-aircraft cannon shell punctured three walls, went through his toilet, and went through two more walls before exiting the building. The neighbor came out of it with only a scratch.

When he wasn’t serving in the army, D. was working at a local publishing business. “Even the publishing business was sad,” he recounts. “One of the jobs we had to do every day was to scan bloody drivers’ licenses and other documents for the people that got killed that day so they could be printed in the obituaries.” Not lingering on the bad, D. quickly moves on to tell about one of the positives of working in the publishing business, “We had a satellite TV and generator in the store, so I tried to catch some English by watching David Letterman every night.”

His two younger brothers, N. and B., had fled to Serbia in 1991 and were living there as refugees. His parents fled two years later. In 1995, as the war was finally starting to abate, D. and his family had an opportunity to leave the area and settle in a new country. To leave would mean safety and some sort of normalcy once again. It would mean having hope that his children might grow up in a place where war and killing weren’t prevalent. But to leave would also mean leaving their homeland, their extended family, and their friends. They would be giving up their property, money, and the ability to understand the language and customs around them. D. explains why the decision wasn’t as hard as it might have been for others: “I asked myself ‘what is the worst that can happen?’ I knew that I would probably never see my grandparents again, and that would be the worst thing, but even if I were to survive the war, I knew there would be decades of sadness and rebuilding and that my children would probably have to live through the hell of war yet again.”

And so, it was with the thoughts of his future children and the safety of his aging parents that D. and his family moved to Windsor, Ontario, Canada in 1996. Settling into life in a new country was not always easy for D. and his family, but his positive outlook and sense of humor helped.

D. is now a successful businessman and living what he considers to be the good life. He lives with his wife, R., whom he met shortly after immigrating to Canada. His parents and brothers live nearby. He no longer worries about living conditions, crime, or the constant fear of war, and he hopes that his dream of raising children in a safe, happy environment will soon be realized. Looking back on his life so far, he says he has no regrets. “It would have been nice not to have to live through the war, but I don’t think I would change anything. I am very comfortable in my own skin. I feel I am right where I am supposed to be. If I am lucky, I will have my three kids – that is the only goal I have not yet achieved, and then my life really will be complete in every way.”

Yes We Can...

For well over a year I have been a supporter of Barack Obama for president. I was a supporter before he ever announced his candidacy. Back then I loved his passion for people and for service to our country. I loved his candor and his openness. I loved his dedication to his faith and his family. That was a year ago. I still admire and support him for all of those reasons and so many more.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to hear him speak in person. I heard that he would be coming to Minneapolis for a rally, and immediately logged on to his site and requested a ticket. I encouraged Kristin to do the same (okay, so I practically forced her). We were supposed to go see him several months ago when he was here, but Kristin was sick that day and we didn’t make it, so I was adamant that I would go to see him this time – with or without Kristin. This time he was coming to the Target Center – which holds 22,000 people. I was a little shocked that they decided to have it there – 22,000 is a lot of people. The doors opened at 1:30, so we decided if we were there by 1:45 we’d be fine. We arrived shortly before 2 and were directed to walk down the street to join the end of the line. As we walked we looked up at the skyway – every one we saw was full of people waiting in line. We decided against going into the warm skyway – figuring the line would be shorter outside in the cold. So we walked. One block – the line wrapped around the building. Two blocks – the line went over a bridge. Three blocks, four, five. It went down a side street and back up the other side. When we were sure it couldn’t possibly go any further, it turned and kept going. Well over a mile later, we finally found the end.

We stood in the same spot for awhile. The wind whipped past us and the cold started to set in. Many people talked about whether to give up, walk the mile plus back, and just go home to watch it on tv or youtube later. Just when I was sure we or someone around us would make that decision the line would move a bit and slowly we made our way back up the path we had just come down. Eventually the Target Center came into view and slowly it was closer and closer.

After about two hours in the cold (no coat!) we made it into the Target Center. Our fingers were stiff and toes were numb with the cold, but we were there in the building. We were immediately directed to head upstairs. We were some of the last to arrive and were seated up high in the “nosebleed” section. That was okay with me. I didn’t need to see every pore on his face – just wanted to hear him and what he had to say to those of us here in the frozen tundra of Minnesota.
I know this is going to sound sappy, but when he was announced and came walking out and the amazing crowd of 20,000+ people erupted into cheers and applause tears came to my eyes, and I was completely overwhelmed with pride for our state, our country, and for this man that brought so many people from so many different backgrounds together. Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, old, young, fat, thin, rich, poor, democrat, republican, gay, straight…all brought together by this one incredible man.

His speech was amazing – he touched on things important to the nation like security and health care as well as things important to Minnesotans like Paul Wellstone. He has done extremely well in the primaries and caucuses and continues to gain momentum each day.

Why do I like Obama more than Clinton? His fresh look on how to get things done, his hopeful yet honest outlook on the future of this country, his solutions to the problems our country faces, his lack of “real” Washington political experience, and most of all, his ability to bring so many people from all different backgrounds together. Barack Obama is the first candidate of any kind to get donations from me. He is the first candidate I’ve gone to see in person. He is the first candidate that has truly inspired me.

No matter how the election turns out, I know he will change the world. As we were walking to find the end of the line that day a few weeks ago, two older men were walking ahead of us. One turned to the other after walking for over ½ mile and said “this is what change is.” Amen, my friend.