Sunday, July 01, 2012

Travels to Innsbruck--Part One


I teach an Introduction to Literature class at Central Methodist University that focuses on Travel/Journey. We start with the epic poem, The Odyssey, read Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and some other texts, and end with Octavia Butler’s haunting novel Beloved.  One of the things we emphasize in this class is that it’s not about the destination, but rather about the journey itself.

I’m finally starting to believe that I may actually be full of crap. The journey sometimes sucks.

FRIDAY JUNE 29, 2012
Columbia, MO – Columbia, MO (leg 1)
The first leg of my trip to Innsbruck involved being taken to the location from where I would pick up a shuttle to St. Louis – Lambert International Airport.  I asked my friend Sharon to take me to the location, which is only a few miles away, mostly because I’m cheap. I’ll admit it. I know when I’m acting that way. This was by far the best leg of the journey. I got to spend a few minutes with my friend and she is a delight. I also expressed to her my unusually high level of anxiety for this particular trip. It was unusual because two years ago when I went to teach in Innsbruck, I was in a particularly precarious situation in that days after I returned I would move to Columbia, MO, attend a faculty orientation and start a new job & a new life. This time I am coming home to a good, stable job, lovely friends and a great life. Perhaps I am prescient.

Columbia, MO – STL (leg 2)
This leg started out quite nicely. There was a white guy with Dred locks playing the guitar softly and it was lovely. I finished up some Words with Friends games and then decided I would try to take a nap. Yet there was one woman on the shuttle who talked nonstop. She was talking to a person, but he rarely interjected, so it seemed more like a monologue than anything else. The things she was saying were not clear even with her explicating them in detail. I did manage to nap a little on this portion of my trip, but that’s woman’s voice was irritating me to no end. There were also a lot of loud phone talkers on this particular shuttle as well.  I enjoy my phone as much as the next person, but I do think there are times when it’s appropriate and when it’s not. Also, it depends on how many people there are who are doing the same thing. For example, it seemed very natural for me to partake in a long cell phone conversation on the train from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station because everyone else was.  There were eight people in this shuttle, so it made it extremely awkward and weird.

STL  - DTW (leg 3)
Upon arriving at the airport, there was already a scene in progress. A woman had collapsed near the Delta baggage drop area. It was unclear exactly what was wrong. The other passengers in the line were surmising that it could have been heat stroke or dehydration because of the 90-odd degree temperature already at noon. Two kind military personnel along with one of the baggage drop customer service agents were tending to this woman, which was nice, but this caused our wait in line to drop off our checked baggage to be even longer. Finally, when I did get up to another customer service representative, I put my bag up and it weighed 55 lbs. The limit, mind you, is 50 lbs. If I were going to try and send the bag as is, it would have cost me an extra $100 (notice the theme of my frugality here). So I removed some items and put them into my checked bag. She would allow a bag that was 52 lbs without charging the fee, but that was all she could do. After 2 attempts at removing things, I finally decided I needed to wear my sweatshirt and then my luggage was checked directly to Munich.

In STL, I didn’t have a lot of time to sit down. I think I was only sitting for about 30 minutes before I had to board the plane. Of the many benefits of my SkyMiles Delta Gold Card is that I am automatically put in Boarding Group 1, in addition to checking my first bag for free, which gives me more time to settle in to my seat. Once I got to the front, however, I was told that my regulation-size roller bag needed to be checked and I would be able to pick it up on the jetway in Detroit. This is one of the things that is a perk about flying, but also a disadvantage. Airlines charge people an excruciating amount of money to check bags, so most people now travel short trips with only carry-ons and even those end up being checked. The only good thing about this is that the airline can NOT charge to stow the carry-ons.  Thank goodness for small favors.

The plane ride to DTW was fairly pleasant. The woman sitting next to me was reading The Hunger Games, while I was reading a copy of Marie Claire that I hadn’t gotten to read when I was at home. I didn’t sleep this leg and finished the whole magazine. I even offered it to my seatmate since all I was going to do was leave it in the seat pocket for the next passenger—paying it forward, if you will.

Our trip to the Detroit Metro area was lengthened because the plane was diverted away from some of the thunderstorms that were taking place in the area. This made us about 15 minutes late for our arrival.

More on legs 4, 5 & 6 in my next blog.

To be continued…

Friday, June 15, 2012

Reality; or When Dreams Die; or When “Eventually” Turns Into “Never”

[I'm not 100% happy about this blog. It still doesn't say what I want it to say the way I want to say it, but you can be the judge of that.]

It’s always quite disheartening when I realize that something I thought would always happen actually won’t.  (And no, I’m not talking about getting married and having babies—those dreams are still very much alive).  I’m talking about small seemingly irrelevant things that one may not consider even to be important or realistic, but are still things that have been anticipated. Sometimes these dreams become what we consider to be “eventualities.” The moment when one realizes that eventually never comes is to what I’m referring.

I think we all have moments like this whether we choose to categorize it or even contextualize it as such. Lately, I’ve had a few of these moments—none of them are devastating or life-changing[1], but just disappointing.  Some of these are connected to aging, while others are about our particular circumstances or the circumstances of those around us.

To paraphrase Langston Hughes, this is not about a dream being deferred.  Deferred suggests that it has been put off until a time more suitable. I’m referring to a dream which doesn’t simply wrinkle, change shape or even explode, but it disappears with only faint traces left when it once stood.

Here is an incredibly benign example from the recent past for context.  I always imagined that I would have a pet. I’ve known about my allergies to pet dander for many years now, but I thought that with medication and exposure I would be able to overcome them. When I was younger, we had a cat and with regular allergy shots, I would do medium to fair around her. I have also witnessed plenty of friends and relatives with varying degrees of allergies managee to bring dogs, cats, etc., into their lives, so I figured that eventually I would be able to do this as well. Recently, after spending a few hours at some friends’ houses with pets, I’ve found myself in such miserable shape (coughing, sneezing, and overall crappy asthmatic responses) that I finally had to reach the conclusion that it would not be; I could not be a pet owner. I kept trying to convince myself that there would be a way, though I practiced the following phrase with reckless abandon: “I’m not willing to sacrifice my health for a pet.” I thought I had convinced myself of this reality, but it took longer than expected.

It’s amazing how long we live with denial of the inevitability of certain things. We cling desperately to any hope that something is actually possible and that we can change the circumstances before us to suit our needs, when, in fact, any real attempt is, as the Borg would say, futile.

Realizing that there is no “eventually” in certain circumstances is difficult. I have often been accused of being a pessimistic person, but what I’m talking about has more to do with understanding the realities of a situation rather than being a “Debbie Downer” for no solid reason. It’s not even about “knowing when to quit” because many of these things are not things one can actually change. They either happen or don’t. This isn’t about lack of initiative, willpower or foresight. It concerns reaching reasonable conclusions about expectations which will not be met—some of which were unreasonable in the first place.

It was unreasonable to assume that somehow, something like my animal allergies would be alleviated by sheer will, determination, and pills.  I knew better.  I know better, but I was unwilling to foreclose on that particular dream, just as I was on many others. I’m not sure what has inspired the change, but perhaps I am more willing to foreclose on dreams that I know aren’t worth the risk—financially, socially, culturally, health-wise, etc. I must have developed a new barometer for calculating risk in my life.  Perhaps I am just looking for fewer scorch marks where dreams went unfulfilled.

This isn’t to say that I have called a moratorium on small dreams. Sometimes I think they are the best ones because they are low-risk.  Some of them are not nearly as low-risk as I thought they were because then even small dreams dying wouldn’t take such a toll.

[1] This is not to undermine when large dreams are unfulfilled, but I think that gets discussed much more. I am more interested in the smaller, sillier, fairly inconsequential dreams that we have.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Well, it's been almost 4.5 years since my last blog post. I won't even attempt to fill you in on all that's happened in that time, but here are a few things you should probably know: I'm an Assistant Professor of English at a lovely liberal arts university in central Missouri, after finally finishing my Ph.D. in English in August of 2011; I'm currently on a winning trivia team called That Team Over There; I work out semi-regularly (for me, at least) and I'm still single.

I tell my students that if they want to write, they should just do it and only recently did I realize that I'm not following my own advice. I did make a commitment to write a full page in my journal every day and so I'm also going to start writing more blog posts. I think the tenor of my blog will be similar, but I do think that the name change (Desipoem's Diatribes to Desipoem's Desiderata) does suggest that there will be less ranting and more exploring. I do hope to stick to that particular tenet, with regard to my blog.

I'm also writing more in anticipation of my upcoming trip to Innsbruck, Austria. I will be teaching at the University of New Orleans' 37th International Summer School in Innsbruck for the 2nd time. Back in 2010, I made my first journey to Europe. I taught two classes and in addition to seeing the sights in Innsbruck, I also visited Hall in Tyrol, Salzburg, Vienna and Venice, Italy. For some reason, I only posted a few of these pictures to Facebook. I think I was more interested in the experience itself rather than reflecting on said experience. Now I'm dedicated to the reflection part. This year I have trips to Paris, France & Prague, Czech Republic planned. I'm very excited about seeing both of these places, since I've been to neither of them previously.

Before I go to Europe, I will be doing some additional traveling--Columbus, Ohio (to my parents' place), Brampton/Toronto, ON (to my aunt & uncle's house), and then to New Orleans (reuniting with some friends). I'll try to post about those as well.

I'm not necessarily setting any goals regarding my blog, but let's just say the next blog post will be much sooner than 4.5 years from now. :)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year, New Resolutions, New ????

I’m not in love with the habit of making New Year’s resolutions. From time to time I do find myself making them but if I do, it is with the knowledge that I will not keep them. Ultimately, it seems they will only prove that I have been unsuccessful. Most of the resolutions I have ever made have been the tried and true ones that almost all Americans make regarding increasing exercise, lowering calorie intake, saving money, and in general not being a slob, in all contexts of the word. Every once in a while there is a resolution that is much more feasible and absolutely necessary for survival, on some level, that actually makes it important to acknowledge that the endeavor will be undertaken. For me, there are a few of these this year, which is why I decided that I would share them with you, my lovely reader.

My first real resolution is: FINISH MY DISSERTATION. This is not simply just a grand desire, but at this point it is imperative. I do not have until the end of the year to accomplish this feat, as the deadline is quickly approaching with May 15th, or so being my target. This may shift here and there, but overall, this is the goal that I have set and that I must achieve in order for the second resolution to have any hope of fulfillment.

Resolution Dos: GET A REAL JOB. Some of you may be confused by this resolution because as you may know I am currently contracted as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Capital University. This is all well and true, but said contract ends in August and after that I do not have anything that is full-time with benefits lined up. I have applied for a number of positions and am hoping that something will come through when it comes to this, so please keep fingers & toes crossed as well as an occasional prayer in my name, if possible.

Resolution 3.0: WRITE A MONTHLY BLOG. This may seem incredibly unimportant with regard to the other two, but I think there is something to this one as well. One of the things I really enjoy doing, but don’t do enough of is write. I am a writer overall, and I do keep my journal (though not as regularly as I could) and I think that keeping a blog is not only good for me, as I’m able to express to an audience other than myself what my thoughts are, but helpful to those with whom contact is sparse and/or sporadic. I figure that if I can pay my rent by the 1st, then I can certainly write a short blog that day as well. That’s not to say if inspiration strikes, or a particularly interesting issue comes up that I need to wait until the 1st to document it, but just to say that regardless of motivation the 1st will find a new blog either on blogspot or myspace or Facebook, or wherever else you, lovely reader, wish to access it.

Onze, dos, tres, catorce. (Yes, I know Bono and U2 got it wrong in the opening lines of the song “Vertigo,” but I still like it). WRITE POETRY. Or at least attempt to write poems like I used to do—without a moment’s hesitation, slightness of breath or even without looking at the paper or the screen. I need to just let the words flow straight from my head to my fingers and either let the pen/pencil or the keyboard take care of the visual translation onto whichever medium makes the most sense at the time. Sometimes I find that even in the bare space of my office at Capital the words pour out so easily. Even after a day of teaching students who don’t know the difference between your and you’re, the words really are able to enter my head and the screen with little thought or even prevarication. Yes, we must all lie to be poets sometimes. It’s the only way our craft makes any sense. The truth is too dangerous to reveal most days and even if we do, who will believe us? I just need to remember that I can think like this and write like this. This is the only way I can communicate to some to whom I can’t always bear my truth.

Overall, 2007 has been a very interesting year for me, with a number of highs and lows and as many of you (perhaps too many) know certainly a year of “ridiculousness.” My year had many events such as: interesting trips to Stony Brook and New York City, separate alliterative and oddly-rhyming groundhogs similarly making my decisions, the dissolution of an ad-hoc affiliation, myriad explorations of Columbus with childhood friends, surprisingly fun and eventful weddings, goodbyes to new friends, a lovely vacation with the whole family to India, a waxing and waning dra-mojo (drama + mojo), seemingly innumerable student papers, moments of great weakness coupled with moments of great strength, familial bonding, visitors to my humble apartment, and too many situations in which the only appropriate response could be “holy crap” or something worse. I look forward to 2008 holding some of the same for me, along with the accomplishment of my resolutions.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Kavita gets banged!

And yes, I chose this title specifically because of its provocative nature. I sent a bulletin on MySpace and titled it "Bangin' Kavita." My third choice was "Banged Kavita?" All of which are highly amusing to me, which should not be surprising to my readers. I'm hoping that friends of mine who have not checked out my page as of late will be curious enough by the title to read the bulletin and comment on the picture.

As you can tell from the accompanying picture, the title refers to my recent (though now it's been almost 2 months) haircut in which I got bangs. I only recently received my digital camera back from repair, so I can now share with you this lovely picture of me be-banged (kind of like bespectacled), but a new coinage nevertheless. Share your comments with me and let me know what you think. I am curious to know what my friends think of the new and improved (kinda) me.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Teaching Adults

Eighteen is the age when people are officially considered adults, yet somehow, when it comes to certain issues, people will still be children. Unfortunately, for me, when it comes to receiving an appropriate, albeit failing grade, in a class, the person is still just a child who needs a parental figure to fight his/her battles for them. I checked one of my many school email accounts and was astonished to find an email from a parent regarding his/her student’s grade in my course. The syllabus for this course was designed by the institution and not me, and so truly, I have no real control over it. In the syllabus, it is plainly stated that a student will not pass the course if all assignments are not completed. That means, even if the student, does an assignment unsatisfactorily, he/she will still be able to pass the course.

A few of my students neglected to do their Oral/Powerpoint presentations, which were only worth a small fraction of the total grade. These presentations are a requirement of the course and the institution requires this assignment for two of its general education courses. Thus, according to the syllabus, the students could not pass the course. So, I acted suitably and gave the students Fs, as required. I received a few emails from one student requesting clarification for the grade. I explained the situation, but the student still wished for me to change the grade to the one he/she thought was deserved. I decided not to take any action because I was following the syllabus. Then I received an email from this student’s parent chiding me for the failing grade and for not doing my duty as a teacher. I have sent all of the emails to the Chair of the Department and I will abide by his decision, whatever that may be.

Truthfully, I think that making all students complete every assignment is not a bad thing to have in a syllabus. Oftentimes, however, there are assignments that are not worth as much points-wise and students often have to make the decision as to whether they should do multiple assignments in different courses shoddily, or if they should do one well and just neglect the other. Part of the college experience is learning to make difficult decisions. Inserting the requirement of students completing all assignments takes away that decision, in some ways. Regardless of what I think about it, as the instructor in the course, I must act in accordance with the syllabus. All of the students need to be held to the same standards and fairness is one of my biggest concerns with regard to students. I always hated it when I felt like someone else was given better treatment than me as a student and I vowed not to do that with regard to my students. And I haven’t. I think the fact that some of my students who have requested me to be their friends on Facebook, or on MySpace (after the end of the semester) did not, in fact, receive an A in my class, suggests something about that.

What irks me the most is the fact that the student did not handle it him/herself and instead involved a parental figure. It is entirely possible that the student does not know that the email was sent to me, but in this case, I have a feeling that the student is aware of the situation. What would have happened had the student not gone to college and instead was hired for a job and consequently, got fired for not completing the work required? Would the parent have emailed the adult’s employer (note the 18 year-old IS an adult) and reproached him for terminating the adult’s employment? Certainly not. It seems irresponsible on the parent’s part to allow oneself to become involved. I understand that when it comes to one’s child one will do whatever it takes, but the fact is that once that person is 18 years of age, he/she is seen as an adult and no doubt wants to be treated as such. The parent’s involvement undermines the student’s agency in myriad ways. And to boot, technically, I am legally not supposed to discuss the student’s grades with a parent because the student is an ADULT and it is violating privacy regulations!

I mean, there are 18 year-old men and women fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, yet one student can’t take it upon him/herself to fight this measly battle over a grade in a college course? I understand that there are sociological changes in the way that college students are now in comparison to how they have been. I remember hearing one professor mention how much more attached students are to their parents because of cell phones. Students do seem to talk to their parents daily, if not hourly, and I have witnessed students talking to their parents between classes, pledging to call them during their next break. As a parent, I’m sure it’s wonderful to have one’s adult child so close, but all it does is foster a potentially unhealthy dependence on the parent. When will the student actually grow up? Isn’t that what college is about, in a lot of ways—growing up?

What’s interesting to me is that oftentimes it is these same students who would like the drinking age to be lowered to 18 because they are adults and should have the same rights as other adults. But apparently, they want things both ways. They want to be children when it comes to receiving a poor grade they clearly earned with regard to the requirements of the class, but adults in cases where they are not being afforded the right to imbibe the same beverages as other adults. Be consistent. Or perhaps the government needs to be consistent, I’m not quite sure on this one.

If the grade is overturned, it doesn’t help me or hurt me in the slightest. But it would make me question why we have syllabi in the first place if we aren’t going to actually abide by them. It will also make me wonder about the role of the teacher and who has the power in the classroom, the student, the teacher, or the student’s parents.

I just sent the student an email which said that I would not change the grade. I received an email from the Chair of the Department and then later I spoke to him. Based on my syllabus, we concluded that it would be fair for me to keep the grade as is. The most important thing is that the Chair is going to support me in this decision without any hesitation. I appreciate this a great deal as oftentimes I have heard of situations in which the student, like the customer, is always right. I am glad that this is not the case.

I’ll keep you posted on this situation. I hope that there will be no more addenda.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Surprisingly Monumental

Today was a surprisingly monumental day. I wasn’t expecting it at all, but three major things happened today. The first was the most adult, I think. Yesterday I turned in my contract at Capital University. I have been hired as a Visiting Assistant Professor of English beginning Fall semester of 2007. What’s exciting about the job, besides the fact that it’s an actual job with a reasonable salary, is that there are benefits associated with it. It’s not like I haven’t had insurance before, but the benefits package which was explained to me today by a woman in HR, is way more than that. I get Life Insurance, a retirement account (TIAA-CREF), a flexible spending account and more. This is probably all completely normal for most people my age, but for me, this is ALL new. Not only is it exciting, but it’s also a little terrifying. It means that I’m a real adult with an actual job and a reasonable salary. As much as I like to complain about the difficulties of being a student at my age because of the obvious arrested development (and yes, I still think the song “Tennessee” whenever I hear this term, though I did really enjoy the TV show about the Bluths) I seemingly suffer, I’m almost more concerned about truly becoming an adult in this way. It seems almost as significant as graduating, but I’m sure when that actually happens I will disagree with myself.

After I heard about my benefits I went for a routine haircut, or so I thought. I went in just wanting to get the ends trimmed, but I did something more bold, something more significant, something utterly life-changing. I GOT BANGS!!! For my male readers, I realize that you may not understand the significance of such a move, but it is such a big deal. I have not had bangs since I was in third grade and those were feathered. Yes, I said feathered. I look completely different and I apologize to those of you who were big fans of cute little forehead because now it is obscured with my shiny, shiny bangs. It’s a new look for me, but I’m loving it though I do find myself a little more obsessed with my mirror.

The third monumental thing I did was attend a poetry reading/open mike/slam contest here in Columbus. I was trying to remember the last time I went to one and I think it was when I was back in Toledo and was a Co-founder of Toledo Poets which met at the now defunct Bagpiper’s bar and Pub in downtown Toledo. It was a lovely experience that my friend encouraged me to attend. Although I didn’t participate in the open mike portion, I was a judge for the Grand Slam, in which the four winners would represent Writer’s Block (the name of the poetry group) at the National Slam contest in Austin, Texas in August. Being a judge was fun and reminded me just how much I love poetry and writing. Before the poetry even began I found myself coming up with some ideas, and I wrote a poem on the receipt for my haircut. Here it is:

Writer’s Block (05/30/07)

Kept my words to myself
On my first night
Back in the saddle

I’ve never ridden horses here
And not sure I remember
How to climb up
Much the less
How to gallop
Without stumbling

Tripping on my feet
And on my phrases

The now unfamiliar ring
Of poems in my head
Reminds me

That somehow
I’m destined for this
Or at least named for it

Kavita means poem

I mean poem
I mean poem
I mean poem

The name Kavita does mean poem. Look it up on wikipedia if you don’t believe me.