My last week of school had been mostly unremarkable. The same somewhat-inane classes, boring discussions, the minute hand seemingly stuck in place - until tonight.
My Thursday night class never fails to deliver! What a perfect last class it was. We started out with class evaluations which took a few minutes.
Some of the students in class had decided it would be fun to thank our professor by buying him a goat through World Vision (which is where he works). Everyone was secretly passing money around so the whole class was in on it. Our teacher was really touched by the gift.
He had announced last week that tonight we would have treats and if anyone wanted to bring stuff we could. So there was a huge spread of sandwiches, chips and dips, muffins, cookies, veggies, bread and cheese. It was such a party atmosphere!
And then the guest speaker, Angela, began. She was a wonderful woman who works with World Vision on women's & children's issues. She's from England originally so has a great accent - and you all know how much I love accents! =)
She started out telling us her personal story, how she had been a successful actress in England and then moved to San Francisco without any real skills and no money. She managed to get a job as a receptionist of sorts at a job agency and in a number of years managed to rise up to be one of the most successful head-hunters in the US.
Then in 1990 she was flipping channels and came across the Barbara Walters special about the orphanages in Romania. She was watching these horrible images of children with disabilities living alone and virtually uncared for, naked and hungry, with no one ever touching them. And she suddenly knew without a shadow of a doubt what she needed to do with the rest of her life.
She described to us how she went to Romania to help the people, how she started a non-profit to take in funds, how she helped send money and resources to Romania, and how lives were improved and now all of this care is done in the country and the non-profit was ended.
She eventually went to work for World Vision. She talked about work she did in Bosnia when the war was going on. She told the story of a woman who had returned to her village with her husband and child to check on their father. Soon after they arrived the militia/army/whoever arrived. Without asking questions, they shot all the men in front of their wives and children. They burned down the houses (this woman's father was burned to death in the house). Then they took the women to a local school and made them prisoners there and raped them until they were almost all pregnant. I guess they wanted to start a new generation of a specific ethnicity. They kept the women there and tried to keep them from aborting. When this particular woman was 8 months pregnant, they kicked her out with nothing in the middle of winter. She had the baby and named him after her dead husband. But many women tried to abort. Some gave birth and put their babies in the icy river and let them float away. Some gave up their children for adoption.
The horrible things people did I just can't imagine or believe. So Angela goes into Bosnia to ask the widows what they need and how they can be supported - since they aren't talking to the men relief workers. She meets with some of the women and they ask for Prozac! Angela doesn't have any, but you know what she did bring for them? She says to us, you're in a war torn country, you're a widow, everything is wretched...what do you want? Angela brought a suitcase full of sexy underwear! It was so simple, but it made the women feel like women again.
Angela also worked on issues like female genital mutilation in Africa and a host of other things.
Relief work, transformational development, stuff like this - it is incredibly hard. It's hard just to hear what is going on! Someone in class asked her, what does she do to keep from going crazy? Because some people do - they can't take the stress and the horrific nature of what they see. They turn to alcohol, smoking, becoming emotionally cold and turned off, they have anger problems. So Angela shared what she does.
During the day when she's doing work she keeps her heart at 1 and her mind at 10. She's not cold or heartless, but she keeps her heart and emotions under control.
At night, she puts her mind at 0 and her heart at 10. She makes sure she has a room of her own so she can have alone time. She cries her eyes out and prays. And then, she pulls out a trashy romance novel!
Anyway, she went on for almost three hours about her experiences, what she'd learned, answering questions from us - all with humor and passion. She was an incredible speaker, very encouraging and uplifting. I laughed, I cried (okay, I almost did anyway).
What an incredible way to end my graduate school career.
Well, it's not quite over yet. I have two papers to finish, but by next Thursday I'll have turned it all in and I'll be done.
I'm not quite sure what to think. It seems somewhat anti-climactic - probably because graduation isn't till next summer! I wasn't sure whether to be happy or sad when class was over. I know, I know. I've been counting down like a maniac, obviously I've been excited to get this over with! But, while there are a lot of things I won't miss about school, there are plenty of things I will miss.
I'll miss all my peers that are so intelligent and the incredible class discussions we sometimes have.
I'll miss that camaraderie around big projects and dumb homework.
I'll miss the passionate professors.
I was passing the time in a class recently and trying to write up a list of what made for a good prof and what made for a bad one. It hit me tonight finally - and it seems sort of obvious, and perhaps too simple - what makes a good professor is someone who is really passionate about what they're teaching! I can look back at some of my favorite classes and favorite teachers, and they were so good because the professor was passionate about the subject and that came through in their teaching.
I don't feel like I often meet fellow co-workers who are gung-ho passionate about their job. So I'll miss that a bit.
I could go on, but it's too late to keep putting sentences together. Don't worry though, I'm not quite done with this whole blog just yet! More to come...