Betwixt and Between

Two nights ago I sat with my love across a small cherry table in an empty, dusty living room, with new paint and a very bright light over head. It was not a moment for Thanksgiving feasting, but a celebration nonetheless. All the effort of our move and our regeneration of the house was around us. Three kinds of white paint has replaced the bright green and deep burgundy and vibrant yellow. I knew those colours were too intense 10 years ago when they went up, but there they stayed til now. I must say it was exhilarating to belt out a few harmonies and feel the reverbs run through the two of us. It was just there, between that wall and that arch that I learnt how to sing. I remember the night exactly. I remember the hearing the note like I’d never heard it before.


I keep expecting to burst into a flood of tears at the realization that I’m leaving a house I thought they’d have to carry me out of, but instead, I‘ve been laughing. I laughed out loud as I picked the raspberries before I left and calculated that I could fill an entire litre jar with the fruit of just one cane, and then I tried to remember what was that in pints. I smiled all weekend to think of how much we are honouring the house that sheltered me, and us, over all these years, by our work.


I say “our” but I really mean “his”.  In truth, I’ve hardly lifted a finger and all around me there are the final coats of paint and a new coco carpet on the front porch. Finally the foyer has been plastered and sanded and painted after all these years, and there is a new deck off a sweet yellow clapboard room at the back of the house. There are refinished floors and sanded walls and the afore-mentionned transformation in colour. New kitchen counters, newly scrubbed and oiled oak cabinets with fancy hardware. Traditional doors put on the closets upstairs and new cabinets and sink in the bathroom. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, and there is still lots more to do, but I’m far away tonight and only revisiting in my mind’s eye.


Now, why am I far away from my love on Thanksgiving, you might ask? Why am I down here and he, in a cloud of plaster dust in the kitchen tonight? Well, today was a great big teaching day and again, I can’t stop smiling. I am exhausted. I should be fast asleep, but I can’t believe that I could have had such a day as this. Today I held two classes. The first was a qualitative research methods course for activists and practitioners who are getting ready to go into the field for at least 6 months. Some of these MA students are studying international education, and others, conflict transformation. Many are in my area, which is sustainable development, and there are others who are doing an independent program largely organized around the themes of social justice. Today we were exploring strategies for analyzing and interpreting qualitative data. For those who might be interested in following this theme, the work of Rallis and Rossman is exemplary. What great teachers they are and I am so fortunate to be learning more deeply about how to teach new researchers.


In the afternoon, I taught Foundations of Social Change to the first year MA students. They read about Polanyi’s double movement, Tilly and Tarrow’s contentious politics, and Horton and Freire’s dialogue about education and social change. In their groups this week, they will watch and discuss a video of Panitch and Gindin analyze global capitalism and the American state. The weather was warm and sunny this afternoon, and because the day was so text heavy, I switched the assignment slightly. I gave them an hour (did I mention that classes here are 4 hours long??) and a scenario asking them to work in groups to design a workshop activity for community activists. The idea was to explain one of the key ideas above with the result that for the final hour and a quarter, we participated in about seven different activities outside on the hill overlooking the mountains.


I don’t think I will think about social protection vs the self-regulating market without the image of students shoring up the weaker side in various iterations of a grand tug-of-war. I was amazed by the ire that was raised and the potential for organizing that emerged with the arrival of the arrogant team of do-gooders from a fictitious country, and I soaked up the performance elements of a campaign that was quickly organized to prevent a Wal-Mart from setting up shop in a local community.


So, here I am in the Green Mountains, still pinching myself. I can’t believe that I have been welcomed into a graduate program in which experiential education and education for social change is at the heart of the project. It brings the best of union education and university education together.  Not only that, but it is education explicitly concerned with inter-cultural communication and issues of global justice. And …they have apple cider doughnuts!




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