Monday, November 1, 2010

Teaching and Burning Torches in a Medieval Village

OK, I'm in my cool European village.  From my (dorm) room bed, I can watch the sun rise over mountains and a castle tower.  I'm across from an old church, the steeple clock of which I can also see from my window while lying in bed--the clock is perfectly framed through a funky triangular window high on my wall.  And it first chimes at 6:30AM, a very reasonable hour.

I'm recovering from my 24-hr trip getting here (door to door; I got to the airport early for once, and found out the flight was delayed 3+ hrs. Grrrr.).  This time around, I tried to sleep every chance I got (in the airport, in the flights, in the 90minute taxi).  Though I did watch 2.5 movies over the Atlantic.  I should have slept more--but I'm too busy to watch movies at home, especially non-kid movies!  (I watched Date Night--love that Tina Fey!)

This teaching gig is no picnic.  Changes in funding have meant fewer students from the developing world and more from wealthier countries.  I'm paid about $1,200 U.S. for a week of teaching (15 hrs teaching, plus the travel time, prep, student discussions outside of class, grading...).  Plus I now have European taxes taken out!  So I'm receiving less than last year, and it is harder to justify (given most students are from relatively privileged backgrounds now).  But I should withhold judgment until the end of the week.

I observed a ceremony on the church grounds this evening.  It involved tubas and priests.  But also a large group of military-uniformed youth carrying burning torches.  It confused and disturbed me a bit. (I speak two languages--but not the one that these folks do). Was this about All Saint's Day?  But then how does that fit with the military uniforms?  And frankly, in this formerly fascist country, youth in military-looking uniforms with burning torches? Yikes?!

Turns out, the uniforms were for the volunteer fire department! (Though seriously, they look military--with medals, etc).  And the priests were talking about peace!  Sheeeez! Me, thinking the worst. 

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