Monday, June 16, 2014

Down Day

Today was a down day for me. I don’t know why, but I was depressed and homesick all day. I didn’t want to get out of bed, then I looked at the calendar and counted the days until I go home. I’m on the beach, in a beautiful house, leading students on a writing and teaching adventure – in other words exactly what I wanted to do with my life. So why am I depressed? Isolation and exhaustion. My students are wonderful, funny, sweet, adventurous, but they’re still students. I have to maintain some professional distance. This can be a delicate negotiation – I need them to talk to me about any problems they’re having, but I can’t tell them about any issue in my life. Plenty of non-students offered to go with me, some more seriously than others. Next year, I’ll see what I can do about having at least one-more faculty member with me, or at least one other non-student. Because here’s part two: I’m exhausted.

Zanzibar, like most of Africa, doesn’t work on the internet. I can’t email people and expect to make arrangements that way. Only the most expensive tour operators and hotel have websites, and those are increasingly foreign-owned. I can get better deals with locals, but I can’t take anything on faith: I personally inspect everything.

 I’m up before the students every morning making calls and arrangements, negotiating prices, and having follow-up meetings (in person). While the students have free time in Stone Town or Kikadini to shop, I’m looking for wifi so I can correspond with UA and people back home. Then I’m leading a class activity, observing the participants, or something else. Don’t even get me started on the accounting. After we get back home, I pay the driver and do any follow up paperwork. Then I sleep with the phone next to my ear, in case there’s an emergency. I’m on call 24/7 for the entire trip, and business hours in Alabama equal the middle of the night in Zanzibar. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing this. I knew this year would require much of my time and energy. Like I said, it’s a down day.

I lectured on Home and Sappho in the morning, making comparisons between their versions of the Trojan War. Also looked at how the Odyssey can be read as lessons in respecting femininity, since so many warnings and dangers come from female characters. In the afternoon, we looked at the Epic of Sundiata. We talked about the construction of the epic hero. Called it a day.

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