Wednesday, October 30, 2013

An EFLJ-Fueled Faculty Juggernaut Whips Media Types

For the faculty, it was nothing but net.
Once again the faculty basketball team schooled the media types at the MWSU basketball tip off party this evening in front of hundreds of students who, the faculty realize, were really there for free pizza, tee-shirts, and the actual basketball teams.

Nonetheless, the faculty squad made the most of their twenty-five minutes of fame. Of the five who managed to show up for the faculty, three were from EFLJ, which is something like fifty-five percent of the team. Bob "Only Faculty Member in Shape" Bergland, Bob "Hey, guys, I'm open!" Nulph, and Mike "Why Do I Keep Letting Bergland Talk Me Into This" Cadden represented EFLJ well. Well enough to notch a 28-25 victory.

The patented let-the-young-kids-try-crazy-crowd-pleasing-shots-and-miss-while-we-shoot-lay-ups-and-hold-the-ball-so-we-don't-all-die-of-a-stroke strategy proved the right call once again. After the game, Nulph summed up the feeling of the faculty when he wheezed, "Sweet Fancy *^&% I'm tired."

Tired, yes . . . but also champions. The trophy dedicated to this annual game is believed to be serving as a door-stop in the TKE house.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

EFLJ Welcomes a New Administrative Assistant

We welcome Ms. Deborah Treat to EFLJ as our new full-time administrative assistant. Deb started
Monday, October 21 and has been learning the ins and outs of the largest, weirdest, and best-looking academic unit on campus.

Deb received her bachelor of science degree from MWSU (HPER) and her masters degrees from Colorado State University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Deb has worked for over twenty years in higher education, as a coach, instructor, administrative assistant, and registrar. Deb tells us that she's delighted to be back on Western's campus again. 

In her spare time, Deb enjoys crafts (particularly making greeting cards), walking, and practicing Tai Chi. She has been married to husband Darrell for twenty-four years and has a son, Andrew.

Welcome to EFLJ, Deb!

Monday, October 28, 2013

High School Writing Day

High School Writing Day, now a fall semester event, was held on MWSU campus last week. Read all about it on News-Press Now and the St. Joe Channel.

Congratulations to alumnus Mark Henderson and Prairie Lands co-directors Susan Martens and Tom Pankiewicz for another successful outing!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Poetry Night with the Spanish Club

Ms. Bausset reads her work
 On October 22, at 5:30 pm in Hearnes 102, the Spanish Club had the Poetry night. Ms. Elvira Loyola de Bausset, Dr. Bausset-Page's mother, was visiting from Utah and read some of her poems.
Ms. Saundra Dibella reads from Mrs. Bausset's work
Dr. Bausset-Page and her mother the poet, Ms. Bausset
Bryce Freeman shares a poem

Spanish student Lauren Ferguson read Ms. Bausset's biography in Spanish and English. Spanish student Bryce Freeman read one of his own poems. Spanish instructor Saundra DiBella read one of Ms. Bausset's poems published in 1974, copies were given out to everyone. 
President Vartabedian visits with the poet

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Episode 6: The Dam Yangtze

Being the misanthropic absolutist that I am, I have decided to divide the world into two types of people: People Who Like Cruises and People Who Don’t Get Them (I refrain here from using the word “hate”).
I have plenty of people I love and care about who wax effusively and romantically about cruises: “Oh, it is so relaxing. So beautiful. So amazing. The food is to die for. I gained 15 pounds! The sound of the water is like a lullaby. The scenery is so beautiful! The ship is so luxurious!” They were never persuasive to me. I would smile and nod and think, “What about all the petrochemicals that are spilling into the waterways and ruining the marine ecosystem? Why would I want to gain 15 pounds? What if you don’t like all the privileged class white people who are cruising with you (only a misanthrope would have such a thought)? What about the exploited labor of the crew and housekeeping staff who never get to get off the freaking boat, but must nod, smile, and genuflect to rich tourists 24 hours a day?”

Cruises are like golf. People who like golf, love golf. Other people, who don’t like golf, think “Are you kidding me? Shouldn’t we use this land for low-income housing? Isn’t that potable drinking water they are pouring by the millions of gallons onto the grass to keep the greens green? Aren’t all those chemicals they are putting on the fairways and greens to kill bugs and weeds leaching into the ground water and poisoning us all? Isn’t all of this waste for the sake of entertainment morally corrupt?”

Just for the record, golf is not a sport. People who play golf try to argue that it is a sport. It may be a game (like Monopoly, only played outside in the heat: long and boring), but it is not a sport. If fat, middle-aged guys with cholesterol over 290 and at least one blocked artery can play the game with any success, it is not a sport. I will stand by this definition. Skateboarding = a sport; ping pong not a sport; hula-hoop = sport; roller skating = sport; croquet = not a sport; ice-skating = sport; roller derby = heck awesome, kick-ass sport; golf = not a sport.

Regardless of my skepticism about cruises, after a couple months in China, the thought of sitting my gluts on a deck chair with reading material and baking in the sun sounded like a great idea. Plus, I was under the impression that if I wanted to see The Three Gorges there was only one way to do it: on a cruise ship.

The Three Gorges are actually a series of gorges that stretch for hundreds of miles along the Yangtze River. You may have heard of the Yangtze River. It is the longest river in China, a true force of nature. About 30 years ago, the Chinese government in their infinite wisdom, decided to harness the power of that mighty river and they built the biggest hydroelectric dam in the whole, wide world. It is the Three Gorges Dam. In doing so, of course, they annihilated several ecosystems and villages. The villages just drown (the government built “new” villages on higher land and moved people there, so everyone is happy, right?). The sturgeons, however, have not recovered. Pre-dam, the sturgeons would start their spawning journey in Shanghai and travel hundreds of miles up the Yangtze River to Chengdu to do their happy mating dance and create more sturgeons. The damn dam stopped them half-way. The sturgeons didn’t know what to do, so they died.

Apparently, the Chinese government is creating farms for sturgeons to try to re-train them to spawn in Yichang instead, the last village before the damn dam. Good luck with that.

I could make an analogy comparing the Three Gorges Dam eco-destruction and the Keystone XL Pipeline, but I fear I would lose my audience.

The gorges, however. Yes, the gorges. The gorges are one of those geographic formations that one doesn’t want to miss. It would be akin to going to Utah and side-stepping the Grand Canyon. The Three Gorges are on the list of everyone who comes to China: The Forbidden City: check. The Great Wall: check. Tibet, as long as it lasts: check. The Terracotta Warriors: check. The Three Gorges: check.
The gorges are the surreal, other-worldly scenery you see when you watch the filmCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. They are mountains that climb out of the water like enormous prehistoric beings. A human is so dwarfed by the sheer face of these humungous rocks that to crane your neck backwards and look up is to feel the perspective of an ant in relation to Shaquil O’Neal (and that is one of the very rare sports analogies you will ever get out of me).

Of course we wanted to see the Three Gorges. Or I did. I am not sure Zephaniah was much interested. But he was interested in being on a ship for four days, sleeping on a ship, eating on a ship, talking to people on a ship, doing jump rope on a ship, reading on the wee-balcony of our cabin, and signing up for all the events offered to pass the time (because we are on a freakin’ ship and can’t get off, so they try to distract us by planning “events”): learning to play Mahjong, watching evening cabarets, learning about Chinese traditional medicine, watching an artist meticulously paint the inside of very tiny glass bottles (no one showed up for that one; not even the artist — Z and I were there, looking at the bottles, though).
Zephaniah and the people who served our table every day.
The first night on the top balcony of the ship.

Our breakfast, lunch, and dinner companions (assigned seating). These German tourists spoke no English; me, no German, so I don’t know anything about them other than they all have the same haircut. Do you think that was intentional (that they all go to the same barber)? Or do you think, like women who live together syncing their periods, it just happened and they are oblivious to it?

Did you notice that all of these things involve sitting? This is because most of the people on cruise ships are geezers. They are winded by one small outing in the morning that involves climbing 400 steps to the top of a small hill. They want to sit. After even one afternoon of sitting, I feel the urge to bite my knuckles off my hands as a form of kinetic sensory engagement.

When we would get off the ship for our “daily excursions” to a village along the river, Z and I fell in line with the rest of the cruisers: Geezers on Parade. There is a guide who marches out in front with a little flag. We all follow the flag, like a bunch of shuffling lemmings, listening to curiosities and history of the local area. The pace is that of a slow walk, a very slow walk.

The first village we visited was Fengdu, which is called “The Ghost City.” Z and I actually enjoyed this outing (except for the slug-like pace that marched us up the hill). In the Taoist philosophy (a Chinese-specific spirituality), the village of Fengdu is where every soul must pass for judgment. When someone dies, their soul travels to Fengdu (I’m guessing on a cruise ship) and they have to pass three tests to determine their worth. First test: walk across the stone bridge in seven steps without slipping; second test: make water dance in a bowl by rubbing it; third test: balance on one foot for at least three seconds on a round stone in front of the God of Hell. Z passed all the tests with flying colors, but still was quite concerned about his fate in the afterlife and so immediately fell to his knees when we arrived to the top temple where sat the God of Hell.
God of Hell in the temple at the top of the hill in Fengdu.

Z falling down before the God of Hell
When dead Taoists get to the God of Hell, they must stand before him to hear their sentence. If they have been bad in their current life, they are sent to the horror chamber and specific punishments are inflicted on them until they are released and reincarnated in a life form that is considered “lower” that human (such as an animal). If their judgment is good from the God of Hell, they are reincarnated as a more evolved human or sent to paradise.
There are two detailed dioramas at the temple of the God of Hell that depict all the various sins/punishments meted out. This one depicts the punishment for a philanderer. That’s about right, I’d say.
This is the punishment for Playboys in the Taoist Hell.
The wonderful thing about Taoism is, even if you have to have your testicles crushed by a giant pestle, you won’t be there forever. Christians might want to consider this, being that they believe in a less merciful god who sentences people without redemption. In Taoism, once you pay your debt to the God of Hell, there is always a chance to reincarnate and do better the next life.

On the way back down the hill, you have to choose whether to cross the bridge of wealth or health, taking as many tiny steps as you can to secure your fortune in this life. As you can see, Z was the lone capitalist in our group, choosing the “money bridge.” He argued that with money he could buy medicine and health care if he was sick. I reminded him that not every sickness had a cure. Still, he went for the money.
Z, the sole person taking steps over the bridge of wealth; everyone else chose the bridge of health.
How did this child come from my body?
Z and his new hat, purchased from the hat salesman at Fengdu

Z walking across the bridge of the First Test on the way to the Tempt of Hell
After the first outing to Fengdu and about an hour on a deck chair at the top of the ship, I felt like a caged animal. Now what? Three more days of this? You have got to be kidding!
Z, however, was having a fantastic time. Mostly because he can sit on his bottom for hours on end reading. I have known this about him for several years and as a parent I love this about him. As a fellow traveler, it annoyed me. At one point I resorted to hiding the Kindle from him.
Z (back from a quick bathroom break): Hey, have you seen the Kindle?
K: What? Huh? No. Why?
Z: I thought it was right here.
K: Hmmm. I dunno. Why don’t we do something else.
Z: Like what? Play Mahjong!
K: Never mind. Here’s the Kindle.
Z on the wee balcony outside our cabin, reading (as usual).

This is how churlish and childish and small cruise ships make me. I was hiding reading material from my nine-year-old.
He is also the type of person who finds games like Mahjong fascinating and can’t wait to round up a bunch of ship-board grannies to play for hours on end. While he was chortling over his tiles at a green-felt Mahjong table in the “game room,” wooing a covey of white-haired women, I was in the pathetic exercise room, like a hamster on a wheel, trying to get my heart-rate up on a creaky stationary bike.

The only person more miserable than me on the cruise was the trophy wife of the 60-something former CFO, who went by the unlikely name of Nacho(?!). The difference between me and the trophy wife is, however, her hell never ends.
On our way in a wooden boat to see more gorges (yes, we got off a boat and onto another boat). Can you guess which tourists are Nacho and his wife?
The last day the morning outing was to the dam. Seriously? Who wants to see a dam? I especially did not want to see the dam because the night before, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., I had to see the damn dam up close and personal as our ship passed through it. It takes four hours for the ships to pass through the dam because they have to go through five chambers. In each chamber, they hitch up to giant hydraulic lifts that lower the ships as the water drains out of the chamber so they can sail through to the next chamber. The hydraulic lifts make the sound of a merciless Giant scratching his fingernails against a humungous chalkboard. This sound continued for four hours and our cabin was right across from a lift (we could reach over the balcony and touch it; Z did so much to my immediate horror and panic). The screech of the lifts grinding against concrete, dear reader, was molar-rattling. I felt like I was on the top of Fengdu, facing the God of Hell, and his pronouncement was not good. In the diorama of hell tortures there must be one featuring fingernails on a chalkboard while one is trapped inside a cruise ship cabin.
Z, somehow, slept through it all. Just before he drifted off, as I was grinding my teeth to the first minutes of metal-on-cement-scraping torture, I asked, “Do you want some ear plugs?” “No need,” he mumbled, drifting off to sleep. Who is this changeling?

The next morning, sleep deprived and owl-y, I refused to go on the Geezer Tour to see the damn dam. Instead, Z and I got off the ship, walked around the village, found a quasi-foot path to the river and kicked around in the water for a couple hours, finding Yangtze River rocks, examining shore-washed crabs, and scrutinizing flotsam and jetsam. It was, without a doubt, the best part of the trip.
Throwing rocks into the Yangtze

Some time off the ship on the shore of the Yangtze River.

Oh, and the bread and butter was good, too. Chinese bread has too much sugar in it; it tastes like cake to me. But the bread on the cruise was real bread. And butter. So, there was that.

Yes. And the gorges were pretty

Friday, October 11, 2013

Association of Latin American Students Activities

F. Eduardo Castilla O. as the Advisor for ALAS,  Association of Latin American Students, has kept busy making sure these student groups can accomplish their goals for the Hispanic Heritage month, yearly celebrated from September 15 to October 15. As part of such festivities they organized a couple of events: 

ALAS brought to campus a motivational speaker, the Cuban Guy. On Sept. 19 he engaged the audience with many activities in learning the importance of pursuing their goals and success. Coverage of this is found in the newspaper of Saint Joseph.   Thought it was a rainy evening, many students did have the benefit of being energized by this great motivational speaker, who additional shows the presence of Hispanics in the USA.

On Sept. 25th there was the first Hispanic Heritage Month Banquet, a well-attended event, for which Dr. Castilla Ortiz thanks the support of his colleagues Dr. Bausset Page and Dr. RiveraTaupier.  This banquet was appropriately organized around Hispanic dishes, and counted with the presence of our Provost, the Associate Provost, and Vice President for Student Affairs, in addition to some members of the community and students from MWSU.    The entertainment was provided by Marimba Sol de Chiapas, a teaching performance ensemble directed by  John Currey .  This band had among its members  Jim (James) Schank, an alumni who graduated some decades back in MWSU, who for the first time came back to play in this banquet, which was his last performance with Marimba Sol de Chiapas.

Also as part of this Hispanic Heritage Month, there is a video featuring  Dr. Castilla Ortiz  addressing Latino parents (in Spanish), and how they can contribute to their children success in going and pursuing a college education here in the United States.    How Latino Parents Can Support Their Children In College: Consejos Para Padres Latinos (Spanish) 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Foreign Language Potluck

Note the absence of any plastic tubs of macaroni salad
On Sunday Sept. 29, the foreign language faculty met at Ana Bausset-Page's house for a potluck. It would be disappointing to learn that there was anything other than delicious dishes from Germany, China, Spain, Argentina, Costa Rica, and France. The pictures here suggest that authentic dishes were served

English and Journalism faculty were not invited as they are infamous for bringing things like fried chicken from the grocery store or take-out pizza to department potlucks. Really, they are much better at Happy Hours and Poetry Readings.

Well played, foreign language faculty. Well played.

Cathy Pankiewicz didn't even tell English Instructor husband Tom about the event

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Episode 5: The Eight Wonder of the World, and Showering

It took us almost two months of living in Xi’an to finally make the trek out to see the Terracotta Warriors. The warriors are what most tourists come to Xi’an to see, although there are a lot of other fantastic sites in Xi’an. This field trip involved just two bus rides: a city bus and then a bus from the train station to the warrior site, about 30 minutes outside the city. We were the only non-Chinese on both buses because we were traveling to the warriors on a Tuesday, not a popular tourist day.
Maybe it was because I had heard too much hype about the warriors. Maybe because I was traveling with a nine-year-old, but instead of ancient wonder, it felt a bit commercialized.

The warriors are billed as “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” It makes me wonder who decides these things? Discovered in 1976 by farmers digging a well in the middle of a field, designating them as a “wonder of the world” is a relatively recent moniker. I tried to imagine the scenario:
Farmer with drill pole: (chink, chink, chink) I think I have hit something.

Farmer standing by with well-making materials: What is it?

Farmer with drill pole: I don’t know. Maybe the eighth wonder of the world, like the Great Pyramid of Giza, only a few thousand soldiers carved out of baked clay?

I also tried to think of what North America could offer as the Ninth Wonder of the World. Dolly Parton’s boobs? Steven King’s publication record? Donald Trump’s comb-over? Little Richard’s hips? France could offer Surya Bonaly’s split back flip for sure (and her gluts for extra measure). But what could we offer?

In order to gain access to the warriors, you have to wind your way through a rather large bazaar selling all sorts of things they think tourists will buy for outrageous prices. It was clear the moment we stepped off the bus, the main event for Zephaniah was going to be the bazaar and not the warriors.
Me: I think we get tickets over there.

Z: Can we go to the bazaar? I want to look at stuff.

Me: We can look later. We are here to see the warriors.

Z: That’s boring. Can I buy a wooden sword?

Me: No. Here. Now. Tickets. Warriors.

A fresh faced guide in a blue blazer: Hello! May I help you? Do you need a guide?

Me: No, we are just going to buy tickets.

Fresh Faced Guide: Oh, certainly you need a guide. You have come all this way with your child. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You need to know about the two-thousand year history. You don’t want to come all this way and not have her (always “she/her” for Zephaniah) know the story.

Me: Clearly you have never traveled with children. My son would sooner pitch himself into a pit than listen to the details offered by a guide. We. Just. Need. Tickets.

Z: Mom, can I look at the bazaar while you are buying tickets.

Me: (snarl, roar, chomp).

We made it through the bazaar, sans guide, without Z losing an arm to me yanking it out of his socket, finally arriving at the warrior pavilion. The pavilions are surrounded by a lovely garden with mountains as the backdrop. There are three “pits” in various stages of excavation with different warriors in each pit. The warriors are amazing, but after a while, they all look the same (although one of the purported reasons they are a wonder is that each one has unique facial expressions and poses), especially if you are nine, more focused on the looming purchase of cheap toys made out of rough-hewn pecan wood in the nearest bazaar.
Me: Wow! That’s amazing. That is the site of the original well where they found the first warrior. Isn’t that cool?

Z: Can we go now? How much longer do we have to stay here?

Me: Oh, look at the chariot driver and the horses over there. See how all the horses have a little bit different  stance? 

Z: Just out of curiosity, what is my budget for the bazaar?

Me: (ignoring that question with feigned enthusiasm) Come over here and stand. Look down the rows. Isn’t that fascinating? That they are all different, yet they look so much alike? Can you imagine being the artisans who created each one? They have to be uniform enough to be in exact rows, yet each an individual upon closer inspection?

Z: Are you almost done? Why are you taking so long?

Me: Oh, I don’t know. Probably because this is considered the eighth wonder of the world.

Z: How many more of these pits do we have to look at before I can go to the bazaar? 

Me: (wondering why the hell anyone bothers having children or, once having made the grave mistake of having them, trying to educate them) If you ask me even one more time about that freakin’ bazaar I am going to pick you up like a shot put and hurl you into that group of Chinese tourists over there and you can find your own way out.

Z: That would be preferred to this.

Me: (gritting my teeth and knowing that somewhere on my head a vein is popping out like a bad omen) Could you at least pretend to be interested? This is a once in a lifetime experience.

Z: Stop speaking in hyperbole. You know I hate it when you exaggerate. We are probably going to come here again with Aunt Dona in November. Correction: You are coming here with Aunt Dona in November. I am staying home.

We made it out of the pits without killing each other. Z bought a pecan wood cross bow with rubber-ended arrows. We ate some over-priced street food from one of the stalls and were accosted by numerous women trying to convince us to buy pomegranates the size of baby heads.
On the bus ride back into Xian, we stopped at the Hua Qing hot springs. 

It felt great to sink into hot water up to our chins. Not having a bathtub in our apartment, we had been missing that sensation. Because Z has no expertise at shower taking, I was  quite certain there was some ingrained dirt on Z’s body that finally soaked off in the hot springs.

Getting clean in a shower, as opposed to soaking in a bathtub, has been a learning curve for Zephaniah. I hadn’t thought much about “teaching” him how to get clean in a shower, but after we had been here for about three weeks, Z and I were snuggling in his bed before lights out and I said, “What is that smell?”

Z: “I dunno.”

Me: “You took a shower, right?

Z: “Yup.”

Me: “Shampooed your hair?”

Z: (getting indignant) “Yes! Mom! Jeez!”

Me: Washed with soap and a wash cloth the rest of your body, head to toe?

Z: Mom! Come on! The shampoo washes down my body when I rinse. Isn’t  that enough?

Me: Hmm. You don’t mind if I do a little, you know, quality control sniff around some key body parts?”

Z: Oh, for crying out loud!

I hit pay dirt when I got to his feet (and regions a bit north). Holy smokes. So, back to the shower we went with a detailed step-by-step to washing oneself. He has greatly improved over the past few weeks, but we are still working on it. There are quality control checks every night before he steps out of the shower. At some point in the not-so-distant future, his roommates and sweethearts will thank me for these lessons in shower protocol. Or even the people he sits next to in class.

Tomorrow is another “Pretend Sunday is a Friday” because we are coming up on National Holiday. National Holiday is a three-day holiday where every one of China’s 1.2 billion people gets three days off. People are asking me, “Where you are going for National Holiday,” closely followed by “Don’t go anywhere for National Holiday. Too many people.” I am taking the advice. We are going to stay here and see some places around Xi’an. Maybe go on a day trip into the mountains.

Because of the Moon Cake holiday and “make-up days” (what is the point of having a holiday if you have to make up the days off on a weekend?), there were nine days in a row of school last week. I took Z out of school one day to go on a Xi’an field trip to the Small Goose Pagoda. When his teacher asked him why he wasn’t going to be in school, he said, “Because my mom thinks if I have to go to school nine days in a row my head will explode.” 

Two student stories: In my First Year Oral English class there are only a few students who go by English names, but one of them is JackBob. When he told me his English name on the first day, I thought, “Who was your high school English teacher that assigned you that name? Granny Clampett?” I kinda liked the idea of a “JackBob” in my class. He’s a smart one, so I call on him a lot. “What do you think, JackBob?” and “Great, JackBob. Tell me more.” Last week, as I was reading over their first papers I came across a paper by a student named Jacob. I thought, “I don’t have any Jacob’s in my class. Who the hell is Jac. . .  OHHHH!” The depressing thing for me is the realization that even when a student throws me a bone of an English name, I still can’t get it right. I had grown very fond of JackBob. Now I have to get used to Jacob.