Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lakota Girl: Or How I Taught the Cornhusker Football Team to Talk About Menstruation

I am enrolled in a History course at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where about half the students in the class are on the UNL Football team. They are in the Big 10 this year, which, I guess, is a big deal.

I was so excited when my professor asked us to bring in a discussion topic about a traditional Native American mode of teaching/learning. I used the opportunity to present the Lakota practice of Puberty Ceremonies for girls at the onset of first menstruation. 

In this tradition, girls are removed from society and taken to live with a female elder from the tribe for a week. The elder instructs the girl in the way of female wisdom, socially appropriate methods of dealing with her menstrual flow, the goodness of being a woman, her connectedness to all of life through it's existence, and the beauty that can dwell with her in this state. Furthermore, the elder teaches the girl a few games that the girl will then come back to the tribe to play, further teaching them symbolically about the flow of life itself. The process is complete when the tribe holds a giveaway and has a feast to celebrate the girl's transition.

Tradition dictates that people learn through a combination of examples being given, stories being told, and the availability of advice and counsel, culminating in application of practice. This program is a fine example of these ideas, and I was excited to talk about the implications of this.

I find it useful to talk about my own experience (... and since this is my blog, i do what I want!). It is an interesting contrast to the awkward moment where all third graders are herded into the library of the elementary school to watch a severely outdated filmstrip about "becoming a woman", regardless of individual maturity and readiness.
There were a few squirms when I began, but I was surprised and elated at student responsiveness. We talked about the strangeness of dominant (European modeled) society's removal of elements of life, which elements are essential to human existence, from educational practice.  Even the football players had something to say! They commented about how it was interesting how we are taught to be separate from our bodies in the educational system of dominant society. There are two women in the class, sisters, who are Lakota themselves. It was very insightful to learn further, that this practice is still in use today.

May this people never "vanish" as Curtis so  unabashedly claimed they would.

Monday, August 29, 2011

right now

I think I believe that we are who we want to be. I have been wrestling about with this idea for a while, and I think it's making sense more and more lately. The idea is basically that each decision is a manifestation of our greatest aspirations, goals and desires. The moment is now. I am choosing this thing right now because it is the opportunity to create the me that I see in myself. Right now. 
And if I am bigger, if I need more time, I will make more decisions to become more the self that I want. 

I can give myself that at least.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

secret confessions of a weirdo

some days (today) all i want to do is eat mustard in any form I can get it.

Some days (...) I do just that.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The one where I was more freaked out than I thought I'd be: Emergency Preparedness Class

 Yup: that title was just as long as it needed to be.

Today, all the grad students at UNL had to participate in a mandatory Emergency Preparedness Class and Safety Training. We are being trained to take care of our students in the case of an emergency. I don't know why it hit such a nerve with me, but there were two topics that freaked me out pretty badly. Perhaps it's due to my stress levels and the overwhelming sense of vulnerability that I cannot seem to shake off.

The two topics, what  I was told to do, and why that scared me:

  For whatever reason, I never really felt effected by the threat of shooters before. I don't know why that was, but today, when Doreen was lecturing us about how tackling the shooter could be used as a last resort, it really struck a chord somewhere in me. I felt this immense wave of grief for people who have experienced such a scary event.

I don't know how I would cope with that.

I don't really consider myself a person who is frequently scared of things generally, and I guess I hadn't really ever thought about such a situation in any depth. I never considered how I would react, and the idea that the responsibility of others' safety will rest on me was overwhelming (at best). And to consider the utter helplessness one would feel in such a place, where a person was threatening you with a weapon that could kill you instantly and without any defensive action available to you. I'm generally not afraid of guns (I've shot my fair share), and I know how to be safe around them. This is sort of a different ballgame.

  I have never lived in a place where tornadoes were even a consideration. Really, the mountains and the ocean were always a refuge from the storms of the sky. I find a longing sense of solace in the mountains I used to call my home, and am finding myself feeling totally exposed, even raised, to the sky (in all of its majesty and beautiful power) out on the prairie. This is a great unknown to me in real life; the only encounters I have ever had with tornadoes is basically summed up in this movie:

You should probably watch all of it, because it is amazingterribleamazingterribleamazing.

Anyhoo. The story goes, tornadoes are crazy destructive and really unpredictable. This leads, embarrassingly enough, to an unquenchable fear in me.  Add to that the fact that I now live in the top story of a rather tall duplex. Seriously, it's pretty high up here.

Today we were informed that as teaching assistants, we are responsible for the well-being of our students when we have them in class. This does not bode well for me if there is ever a tornado. Mountains and oceans have failed me! I was told to take shelter in a basement or shelter in the event of a tornado, and I was also told that there would be plenty of warning, and that tornadoes rarely strike in the city.

This is all good and well, but i don't have a shelter where I live (top floor)... and we are currently (like, literally, as I type) in a double tornado watch/severe thunderstorm warning.

I'm going to go sit in the bathtub and listen for water to be sucked out of the toilets.
(why does that happen, science??)

Monday, August 15, 2011

I really enjoy forgetting:

There's a part in True Stories where David Byrne, continuous driver of an incredible convertible, is reflecting on his first interactions in the fictional town of Virgil Texas. It's one of the most poignant scenes for me, where he says, "Well. I really enjoy forgetting. When I first come to a place, I notice all the little details: the way the sky looks, the color of white paper, the way people walk, doorknobs, everything. Then I get used to a place and I don't notice those things anymore. So only by forgetting, can I see the place again. As it really is."
(Sometimes, and in so many ways, that film is solid cinematic gold.)

This is my list of white paper about Lincoln, Nebraska.

-There is a constant buzz of  insect noise. People who are from here don't notice it anymore- I asked some. It is this loud buzz of a zillion high pitched voices chomping and celebrating and mating and living in the prairie. One person suggested cicadas. I don't even know what those are.

-One way streets. There are one way-ers in San Diego, but they aren't like these ones. These are the main thoroughfares through Lincoln, and they blow my mind. Every time. People drive fast on them ,and expect you to as well. They yell out their windows, over the heads of their babies if you aren't compliant.

-There are probably nine billion pounds of corn and soybeans growing around me. I get overwhelmed thinking about how monotonous and ecologically unsound it is to grow two things almost exclusively and so abundantly. The utter ocean of cornfield after soybean field after cornfield is mesmerizing at best.

-Nebraska is not a desert. I guess I got used to the desert of Utah, and forgot how green things can be. I guess I let myself slip into thinking that green things only grew in little hidden valleys, and never really considered the vast expanse of the central United States. It is so very verdant, so incredibly alive. It seems shameful to not know the livingness of this place.

-Lawns are very big in this place. I thought is was a falsehood that people really cared about their lawn this much, but it's real, and it's here. It makes for really beautiful looking neighborhoods.

-The sky is utterly expansive, totally engrossing, and engaging at ANY MOMENT in the day. I am beginning to think that I should have gone into meteorology with the amount of time I spend looking up. I live inside clouds sometimes. Sunrises. Sunsets. Mid- Day. Nighttime. All of it. IT is beautiful and huge, and carves itself onward, seemingly forever. I have never experienced a place where the sky was such a major element of things, it was always broken up by the mountains, or in competition with the ocean's largess.I hope I can focus. I hope I don't forget this one.

-People want to talk to me, but they don't really know how. I am trying to relearn the art of friend-making and talking. I forgot how to do that, I got comfortable and lazy in Provo with the immediacy and ease with which friendships were created there.

-Lincoln has a lot of tattoo shops. It follows, then, that there are a lot of tattoos. Mental jury is still out, but for the most part, they lean towards being overjoyed to see so much ink injected under the surface of the skin of my fellow Nebraskans. Beautiful.

-I have, with solemnity, replaced my preset radio stations. I found a replacement for KRCL, but with great trepidation and high expectations. I had to sort through A LOT of Evangelical Christian rock stations and classic rock channels to find it, but I can report a success nevertheless. The new station is... sub-par, but a college station, so I accept. They have a program where they play the music from movies. As in, all of the music. I have always thought someone should do that, so that program alone has me listening.

-The ward is a family more than any other I have ever experienced. I had a really wonderful FHE tonight, and I felt I made some in-roads to making friends. I am curious about the Elder's Quorum President. I think I have a baby crush, one of the variety that doesn't make any sense at all. That is all.

I cannot stop listening to this song (please click this link. The song is so good. I tried to embed it here, but failed miserably. Sorry. Just click. Just click.), because is it perfect for me. Add 800 miles to the part where she says "16 miles to the promised land", and you will understand. This is hard; I'm doing the best I can.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"embrace your introverted side"

I have been in San Diego for twopointfive days. It took my just as long to get here from Utah, a drive which normally takes about 12 hours. A few observations from my travels:
1. sometimes people are really really fantastic, lovely, and wonderful.
2. las vegas isn't sooooooo bad. I made a few friends there: a third, going on fourth grader, two tow truck drivers, and a shop full of extra caring fast and furious-making mechanics, one of whom has a brother who dances for the Jabbawockeez.
3. it feels about seventynine jillion times better to finally know where my mom, dad, and sister live. Respectively, I observed that their places are, in a word, awesome, interesting, and homey. I like all of those adjectives.
4. i think I will be capable of leaving Provo. I think i can.
5. it feels really good to carry people in my heart. There are a lot of people there... they hold a place because of a certain goodness and a love shared. Thank you to all of you, because you are certainly there (unless you are that weird guy in Malaysia who keeps reading my blog. WHO ARE YOU, MALAYSIA GUY!?!?!?!), and most likely to stay.
6. this family of mine, while vexing at times (to say the least) are mine, and I love them. I am learning to love the dynamic in my family, and learning to relate and fit therein. It has been hard, but I think it's going to be okay.
7. I can be fun. I am fun.
8. I like driving. I especially like doing it alone, fast and at dusk or dawn. These are the times when I feel most motivated, alive, and free.

with that, I say good day, sir.