- A photo of Vincent Schiavelli; they know why.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Your man about town
Yesterday evening at 8, as my last class was ending, a few students invited me to accompany them to a free movie playing at the Student Cultural Center. I had planned to head home, but I was feeling social, so I went along. After the movie (Raise the Red Lantern; beautiful, thought-provoking, tragic), my students A. and I. invited me to their friend J.'s house for something to eat. Again, I went along and ... well ... there was coffee, dinner (fried potatoes and beans), charades, music, a parade of languages (J.'s roommate doesn't speak English, so I spoke in my bad Serbian, which A. translated into better Serbian), and lots of (како се каже глупости?) interesting conversation. Those of you who know me well, know that nothing grabs my attention better than abstract discussion of big issues I can do nothing about. There was one memorable evening where Meaghan, her father, and I all went out for dinner together, and Bob and I tortured Meaghan for the entire evening with our endless political discussions. As an American in Serbia - often the only American that my students and friends have talked to at length - I regularly get drawn into conversation about politics. Well, last night's subject was worse than politics; it was religion. My students know what an American is, and they definitely have some idea what it means to be Jewish, but I'm not sure if they'd ever met an atheist before. I tried to describe for them my existential, materialist beliefs and to answer their questions to the best of my ability. We touched on the authority of the Bible, the nature of the soul, the structure of scientific thought (all the while with A. trying to convert me to the Serbian Church through the unusually superliminal technique of chanting "Orthodox, Orthodox, Orthodox" in my right ear) ... and before I knew it, it was 4:30 AM. I felt irresponsible to be out so late, as if I were reverting to student status myself. Isn't the professor supposed to be sober and temperate? (Although they did mention that while professors are untouchable, assistant professors are a little more human, and lecturers like myself are practically colleagues, if not friends.) At the same time, though, I consider this to be part of my work: fostering intercultural relations. Plus, they were speaking lots of English, much more than they usually do in class. (You can't really compare a five-hour gabfest to a 45-minute conversation lesson.) I had to go home in time to sleep for an hour, get up, and be in the classroom at 8:30 this morning, leaving certain threads in the conversation unfinished. So, I'm providing some links to follow up: