Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Back to Nobbery

Well, it was a busy week, thus the absence of posts. The short version is that preparing for my International Relations course takes a lot of time. It shouldn't, but we're not exactly dealing with an English language library here, so my resources are much more limited than they would be in the US. Plus, the first week with the English classes took a bit of prep as well, just until I got used to the book and the system at Javeriana.

At any rate, I have to say I'm enjoying the IR class. Teaching it is giving me a refresher, which is good since I've been out of grad school for over a year now and my Intro class was the first class that I took (August 2005, yo). Plus, while my MA program was pretty decent, the Intro class was by far the worst class. Which is generally the case. Intro classes always have the reputation of sucking cow testicles, but I think that's mostly because of unimaginative and/or bored professors.

Case in point. I showed the first 7 minutes of Fellowship of the Ring last week to demonstrate the basics of IR - nations, alliances, wars, race, industrialization, etc. It's a great metaphor (which is why that Tolkien guy was the shiznit) and especially for an English as a second language audience. My strategy in this course, as I don't want it to be boring and no one taking the course has ever taken an IR or PoliSci course, is to convey the key concepts and ideas in the least boring way possible. Film is one way to do that.

In fact, I think that's the challenge with teaching. And I think that challenge really revolves around the amount of work a teacher does. Lazy or disinterested or otherwise-too-busy-to-give-a-damn-about-some-lowly-undergrad-teachers (which there are more than a few of in the world) simply have a failure of effort, if not talent. For I know from my experience that if I spend the time preparing, I'll give an interesting and full class.

Of course, the flip side of this realization is that I've quickly learned the real lesson of teaching: the financial rewards will never come close to matching the effort required to be a good teacher. Not that I'm all hot and bothered about that at this point. But it would be nice to make a decent salary (I've estimated that my yearly earnings for 3 classes a week at $8000).

Fortunately we live in Colombia and my wife makes a really great salary for here, so we're not pinched for money or anything. But that could all change in a few years (or less).

Anyway, I'm definitely enjoying myself so far at Javeriana. I really like being in an University setting. There's more thought going on about the things I like there than in the "real" world. Not only that, I feel like the classroom experience is educative as well. My students may not be IR people, but they're bright and quick and they are really interested (something that can't always be said about Intro to IR students). Of course, I do teach at the top (or #2) University in Colombia, so that means have some of the best and brightest students...

As it looks like I'm not going to be having any other job offers anytime soon, it looks like I'll be designing additional courses (in English) for the next semester. One course will definitely be Humanitarian Issues with an emphasis on Genocide and Humanitarian Response. I've already started preparing materials for that class. The other course I'm not sure about. I was thinking about a variety of subjects, but then I thought about International Law. I have an excellent textbook for Int'l Law in the US that I could use as a basis for the course and I think I could make it interesting. But, on the other hand, I'm not a lawyer and I wouldn't consider myself totally expert on the subject (for IR purposes "expert" means "knowing just a bit more than your average day laborer). So, I have to keep thinking about that one.

The idea is to only teach English this semester. It's not that I hate it or anything (OK, I did hate my previous English job), it's more that it's just boring to me. Plus, I find it hard to spend real time preparing for something I'm SO completely uninterested in. So I don't feel like I'm the best English teacher.

If I can design two more courses and make connections with the IR department (which I've heard through rumor "isn't that good"), then perhaps I can fill up my academic calender. And, at the same time, I'm eligible to take free classes (not for grade), so I'm thinking of either studying Arabic or French. (There aren't any more Spanish classes that I can take.) We'll see. I may just cop out and take an IR class in Spanish instead. But it would be nice to get some of that French back. It is a UN language and all.

Of course, the drawback from my current work life is that it's only developing an academic profile. Which might be OK. In fact, it might be just what I'm after. But, any good plan has a Plan B (see Sudan, Darfur, uh, I mean...). And my Plan B was going to be in a think tank or NGO. But nothings happened on that front yet and I'm not sure if it will. Of course, this being Colombia, where things move slower than melting glaciers, I may actually get an internship/job offer in 2010. We'll see.

Other things.

We bought a bad ass printer/copier/scanner last week. It's one of those giant ass HP's that pretty much every business has. I'm happy with new technology, especially when it makes my life easier.

Over the weekend, we went out with some friends from London. They're Colombian but we both met them there (and one of them introduced us). That was a good time. But those guys drink so much it's incredible. I know that when you come back from London, as they did recently, you tend to drink fast and have a high tolerance, but still. I returned from London seeking detox. These guys came back looking to drink more.

One of these guys is teaching English at Javeriana this semester as well. He's a good guy to have around. Likes to joke, but is very clever and is someone I can have intelligent chats with (before he hits the 5th beer, that is). Last Wednesday we discovered (with our boss who is also a good guy) a very small and traditional Colombian Soup restaurant that serves up bucket sized bowls of Ajiaco (chicken based soup) for about $6,000 (CP) or $2.75. Not only is that dirt cheap, but the soup was Fing awesome (not sure how soup rates on the Tasty, Delicious and Succulent Scale) and it didn't give me the Hot Diarrhea, so I'll be headed back there again, probably each and every Wednesday. Now if they can only give me a shovel so I can eat more efficiently...

*Editorial Note*

I added two new links to the left. One is for Juan Cole who is a really smart dude who basically breaks down most of the news out of Iraq with what isn't reported. And by that I mean, he was the one who explained why the good sounding Bush plan is actually little more than rubbish. I highly recommend this site as I don't think it's overly partisan and his writing has an academic feel.

On the flip side, I've also linked a highly partisan, yet at times hilarious site called Sadly! No. They've been fighting a battle with Right Wing Nutjobs about an AP story from Thanksgiving that claimed 4 mosques had been burned and blown up. The RightWingNut-o-Sphere went nuts and claimed that AP made it up, etc. Well, Sadly! No has basically bludgeoned the Nut-O-Sphere like a baby seal and, while funny, it ain't pretty. Nothing like getting your "serious new reporter/nutwing" ass handed to you like a comedy site.


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