Finding a Voice
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
My advice. What are the dos and don'ts when preparing to check out of a hotel? Your reputation is built in public places, which include hotels. The fact that you're paying for the service is no excuse for leaving your room looking like a pigsty. Common sense dictates that cigarette butts go in the ashtray and makeup swabs in hte wastebasket; simple courtesy dictates that you give the bedding a cursory tidying up in the morning. I should like to dissuade the more absent-minded among you from "accidentally" putting away the hotel's bathrobe, towels or silverware in your luggage. Lastly, remember to leave an envelope with a little something on the dresser or the pillow for housekeeping, who have so diligently seen to the cleanliness of the room. (Louise Masson, p. 30)
Of course, cigarette butts are not an issue for me, and mom has always emphasized leaving a room as tidy as possible. But truthfully, it has never occurred to me to tip the largely invisible housekeepers. Hmmm. Bellhops, yes, but maids, no. (Except for the first bellhop I ever encountered in a Hong Kong hotel on my first trip to Taiwan. The little guy nearly collapsed--or at least acted like he might--under the weight of my luggage, and I didn't realize I should tip him. But then I was very young and inexperienced, so it's forgivable. I was also so disoriented and jet-lagged that I nearly drowned myself falling asleep in the tub that night!) I'll keep housekeeping in mind next time I stay in a hotel.
Another interesting bit is about books, airports and travel:
"Books," wrote Anthony Powell, "do furnish a room." The erudite English novelist was, as any interior designer will verify, quite right, but books also define an airport. In the world of modern travel, where little is memorable or even ceremonial, there are few things as ritualistic and satisfying to me as a visit to the airport bookstore. (Dominic Patten, p. 59)
Patten goes on to explain his family's "tradition ... to treat yourself to a new book before boarding a flight," which has led to many delightful discoveries!
What an appealing tradition. I have discovered one gem that way: The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan, purchase in Regina before a recruiting trip for ELIC. With many fond memories of reading on planes, I like this idea. Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord stands out in my mind, and more recently, articles on in-depth interviewing and a book on qualitative research for my thesis: oral histories of women involved in the early days of Briercrest Bible Institute. The last two might not sound gripping, but really I found them quite stimulating in light of my research.
bought a book before a flight
June 6th, 2005
I treated myself to a new book. It was recommended at a women's conference in Saskatoon a few weeks ago and sounded intriguing. Browsing in a Watermark bookstore in the Toronto Pearson Airport, there it was onthe shelf, the face of the author saying, "Well, here's my story. What are you waiting for?"
Somehow the conference presenter made the book sound slim, or at least slimmer, and judging by the cover I was unprepared for its size: 651 pages of text, followed by 35 more for the Epilogue; Selected Chronology; a list of International Travel, 1993-2001; Acknowledgments; and Gratitude. (It makes sense to put acknowlegments and gratitude at the end.) Then a surprisingly detailed index, I thought, for a memoir.
The book is Madame Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright, and the idea that intrigued me was her practice of active interruption in order to have a voice at the political table.
Marilou and I talked about the importance of reading biographies and autobiographies of women. I'm sure I have heard and considered that before. I have certainly read a goodly number of women's life stories. Browsing in Watermark I also saw an autobiography of Ann Coleman (I'll Tell You a Secret, I believe it was called) about her relationship with the author Hugh McLellan. In it she writes of wondering what it means to be a woman and of Emily, who was an example of womanhood. Emily ran an antique shop and sometimes employed Anne. She also acted as a kind of confidante. But she didn't have children, and Anne wanted at least two, though she was sure that she didn't want to get stranded in a domestic swamp.
What does it mean to be a woman? Girls need role models. Women need role models. Reading in Money Makeovers today I was reminded how our educational system has tended to emphasize men's experiences and stories. (Though they say the tables are turning.) It's funny-strange to me how some people are afraid of trying to rebalance that, afraid that the boys will get overlooked, left out. What do they think has been happening to women all these years, centuries, millenia? I think that if both women and men had a wider array of options for how to live life with and for others, we might have more cooperation and less frustration and less loneliness.
That's idealistic, I know. Never underestimate the darkness of the human heart.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
At the end of my time there, I got in on some of the General Conference of the Free Methodist Church in Canada. I must say, the Spirit of God is stronger in this denomination than it has been for a long time. Marilou and I were astounded by the freedom and variety in the Sunday morning worship service. At the same time, we've got very active theologians, keeping us solid and grounded in the truth of God's word. I came away very sure about remaining Free Methodist and very excited to see where God will take us.
From Ontario I flew down to Chicago and took a bus to South Bend, Indiana where my dear friend Crystal picked me up. Crystal was my first roommate in Taiwan and one of my favorite roommates ever. Two years ago I rode Greyhound to her wedding in Idaho. (It was a 46 hour ... but that's another story.) She married Jim, who had lived in the same city we did in Taiwan (Kaohsiung), but after we were there. He married a Chinese woman, they had a baby, Grace, and when Grace was 2 years old his wife died. So he and Grace moved back to Indiana with his parents, but he has always wanted to go back to China, just not as a single dad. Meanwhile, Crystal was working with orphans in China, but getting so lonely. They discovered each other through www.christiancafe.com, had a whirlwind but very sane and intentional courtship and engagement, got married, and now, two years later, they have a 1 year old baby boy and are heading back to China where Jim will teach in an international school. Wow.
It was so good to be with her and to see her as a wife and mother. It seems so natural on her, though I know it's not without challenges. My goal was to fit in with their life. In fact, I fit in so well that the day before I left, Crystal and I realized we had hardly had any time alone, so we stayed up until about 2:00 a.m. visiting and praying with each other. So good. Jim was amazed:, asking, "What did you do all that time?" Crystal replied, "We talked." Jim: "You are such a woman. Men wouldn't do that. We'd rather do something together, but we wouldn't just sit and talk." :-)
Crystal and Jim loaned me their little car to drive to Ohio where I interviewed Jean Rohde Mahn for my thesis project on the history of women at Briercrest Bible Institute. Jean is the daughter of Sinclair and Isabel Whittaker, who were involved in the founding of our school. She is 88, still has quite a sharp mind, has a house full of beautiful antiques (I'm sure she didn't have any furniture less than 50 years old), receives 24-hour care, and lives with a Shih Tzu dog named Muffy. Muffy wears a bow in her hair and is, apparently, "a good Christian dog: she's a Republican and a Presbyterian." Well, she was certainly cute and she seemed to like me.
Jean was a very willing participant in my interviews. I arrived on Friday evening and we just visited over supper, then watched Barbara Walters interview Larry King before turning in for the night. It seemed appropriate to watch these two famous interviewers on the eve of an important interview of my own. In the morning, we had breakfast and visited some more, then we all went to the gym where Jean rides the recumbent bike. She likes to go twice a day. Just before lunch Jean went to her filing cabinet and pulled out some files of letters and articles, then I turned on the tape recorder for our official interview, which went through lunch. As I transcribe and analyze my interviews I'll post more in the future.
After the interview we were exhausted, so we rested. I napped hard for about an hour and when I went downstairs, Jean had arranged for a friend to come and take us on a tour of Ohio University, where Jean's second husband had been assistant to 4 university presidents. Beautiful, impressive campus. Lovely day for a drive around this Appalachian town.
On the drive home I missed the exit that would take me around the perimeter of Columbus and ended up driving directly through the middle of it. This was actually an interesting mistake, as I saw a lot of different neighborhoods and ended up stopping in a coffee shop called Scottie MacBean. One of my reference books on oral history recommended debriefing after an interview and, if one lives further than an hour away from home, to find a coffee shop or restaurant to sit in and write notes. With my Dell Axim X5 Pocket PC and foldable keyboard, provided by Briercrest, I wrote for over an hour, reflecting on the experience of interviewing. It was around 4:30 when I arrived, and while I sat there a band began to set up for their concert that evening. They had many interesting instruments, including banjo and mandolin, and I asked if they could do a number before I left, but it didn't work out. But the woman in the group gave me a demo CD. They're folk and they do a lot of coffee shops and country fairs. Off the top of my head I can't remember their name. If I find it I'll post it.
Then I drove north/northwest back to Indiana for one more day before coming home.
Friday, June 17, 2005
soon, my friends, soon ...
Soon, Michele (and anyone else who cares), soon. Right now, in fact, but this one is not so satisfying as all the stuff I've got to tell you about after my 16 day vacation to Ontario, Indiana, and Ohio. (Did you know that southern Ohio is in Appalachia? Neither did I until I got there and it felt like I was in "Christy" country, so I asked and yes, it was Appalachia.)
So, be patient and early next week I'll have a real update for you.
Can you wait that long, Michele? :-)