Truly, there are really nice people in west Tennessee, but when it comes to holidays, Veeka and I have not done so well. For the first time in my 57 years, we had nowhere to go. No one – neighbors, folks at church – thought to invite us even though it’s generally known that we’ve no family within driving distance. And so….where does one go? I didn’t want to cook as Veeka doesn’t eat a whole lot and I’d be stuck with tons of turkey and stuffing I don’t need. And so, off to Cracker Barrel, which was packed with folks. It was a half-hour wait to get in (which wasn’t too bad as it was sunny out and we could walk about) and the staff got us in and out in 45 minutes. Hardly a cozy get-together by a roaring fire with friends. We are strangers in a strange land here. It was like this last year, where no one in my department seemed to realize we had nowhere to go. It’s not just me; after more than a year here, Veeka has almost no friends. I was getting my hair done today by a very nice woman from my church and we were both wondering what do kids *do* after school. They sure aren’t in their yards playing and they don’t invite other kids over. One bright light has been the kids choir group Veeka attends on Mondays where Veeka does have a little friend – a boy friend, actually – and I finally got them both waiting for choir practice one day.
As for me, I’ve been overwhelmed by four graduate-level classes and buried in paper and projects which is why I have not blogged in nearly a month. I am happy to say I finally learned the basics of designing my own website using Dreamweaver. I was much impaired throughout the semester because UMemphis uses PCs and I operate off a Mac. Plus the textbook we had was for the version they had at the school, not the latest version that I downloaded onto my Mac. I realized early on that I would be hopelessly behind in this class, so a fellow student named Tyler was super-helpful at meeting with me twice to help me on my projects as was David, a graduate TA who spent time with me. I actually got to like Dreamweaver once I figured out what I was doing. For my second project, I designed a site showing off the beauties of Washington state. That was 3 pages. However, I’m not so hot on Photoshop. But that’s what I wanted to spend this year doing is building up some of those skills. My newest web site is my friends-of-serpent handlers site, so take a look! I had to build 12 pages for that one.
In other academic news, I and two other students put together a business plan to offer online education in Nigeria. One of our team members is Nigerian and he’s been saying for months that the higher education system there is a mess; that close to 1 million students who pass all their high school exams can’t get into Nigeria’s 104 universities because there is not the room. As for those who do get in, there are so many student or teacher or government strikes, little gets learned. Sounds like a natural spot for online courses but it was a ton of work trying to figure out how you introduce a concept like this to an entire country. Our Nigerian team member would like to find investors and eventually work full time on this project. He already has one Nigerian university interested in working with him.
Another thing I’ve been doing is following the serpent-handling beat. If you clicked on my web site link above, then scrolled to all the media pieces, you could read how one of the stars of this movement has been dragged into court on charges of illegal possession of wildlife. Being that he’s been at this for several years and the game wardens only just now showed up at his church, the whole thing is very suspect. He was told that it was the show “Snake Salvation” (a 16-part reality series that the National Geographic Channel aired two months ago) that got law enforcement riled up enough to carry off his 53 snakes.
He’s been told he’s endangering the public with serpent handling although his church is so hard to find, it’s not like he’s flinging cobras about in the middle of town. The gist of the charges is to make him stop handling serpents, which he refuses to do. There are some very interesting religious freedom issues here, so I’ve made it a focus of my master’s degree to follow what he’s doing. I drove a 700-mile round trip on Nov. 14-15 to cover his first appearance (which I covered for the Wall Street Journal) and I expect to drive back for his second appearance on Dec. 17 which unfortunately is Veeka’s Christmas play at school. I missed her Christmas choir performance Tuesday night because I had a final.