03 December 2009


Leaving a country sometimes can be tougher than going in, as I learned one time trying to leave India, in Chennai (formerly Madras). It was around midnight and Immigration was thoroughly and excruciatingly slowly searching everyone's luggage in an airport terminal lacking air-conditioning (can you believe it?) at 12 degrees north latitude during the summer. We learned later they were searching for stashed antiquities. I had lingering bugs performing hot Shiva dance in my intestinal tract, but no antiquities.

I did, though, have a piece of antiquity in my pocket while leaving Belize--if you can classify a pottery shard about 2x2 inches as anything worth confiscating at Immigration. It was a piece of a post-classic Maya bowl (I have it beside me now), the easy curve of the lip edge indicating it was part of a large, gray container. We were told they were arresting people going through Immigration who had antiquities, so I was nervous and sweating. Not sure anything would have happened to me with such a small piece that we were finding by the hundreds at the site (an island in a lagoon). You should not think I am so cavalier about removing antiquities--it is such an insignificant trifle that surely it has almost no value, both monetary and archeological. I did the same at the Roman Fort upon Tyne, England, site this last summer, pocketing a 1x1 inch pottery shard--again, the lip of a reddish Roman bowl (now beside me next to the Maya piece). They look good together, in a multi-civilizational sort of way!

I live about 500 yards from the beach. Hurricane Katrina surge missed me by a wide margin--about 200 feet!

I have not published anything personal and probably never will. I did win the best Secondary-article award this year for co-authoring an article for the Journal of Geography, the flagship journal of the National Council for Geographic Education. I also have an entry pending to be published in a new encyclopedia, Encyclopedia of Mississippi.

Daughter Sanjina Marie, who is as techno-cocooned (my new word for the week) as any teen today (her favorite musical groups now are all Korean boy-bands), I pick up each morning before school and take home in the afternoon. Sometimes she shows up at my classroom door seeking lunch money. That's when I do my parental best to embarrass her. Alas, she has become rather immune to my thespian antics (she, herself, is in drama class and has acted a bit).

The teen apparel de jour has them sporting wires coming out of ear holes. I remember when people actually tuned into phenomena around them. Now we are transported elsewhere electronically in co-presence with spaces removed. Where does that place us?--as I sit here communicating with far-flung people!

I teach geography--world, A.P. (Advanced Placement), and an advanced course for the 9th-grade students who will go into the I.B. (International Baccalaureate) program. Next year I will begin teaching the I.B. geography course. This also means that I will mentor any student who chooses me as guide for their research project. Two have designated me already.

Since it is bedtime, I'll hold off addressing the reasons why I chose geography as an academic focus. Think maps and picture postcards and adventure stories and daydreaming about life in the elsewhere.

I possess no photos of Machu Picchu, nor any of my South America trip, including the boat trip out to Isla de Luna, in Lake Titicaca (highest lake in the world navigable by large ship), where I stumbled upon a man winnowing grain surrounded by llamas, nor of the trek by jeep across the Andes--because my camera was in the suitcase stolen from beside my leg while I stood on a busy street in Trujillo (second-largest city), Peru. I'm sorry to even think about it! The other main archeological sites we visited in Peru were the big ones close to Cuzco: Sacsayhuaman with the large stones fitted together without mortar and Ollantaytambo.

I'm essentially a stay-at-home kinda person. But, like Frodo and Bilbo I periodically venture out of the Shire.

I liked Bolivia--as a country--more than Peru. La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, sits in a gash in the earth at 11,000 feet. You should experience drinking a beer at that elevation!

More time!--as they say in Jamaica.

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