Vagabond Journey.com: Educational Autobiography
Wade from www.VagabondJourney.com has been continuously traveling around the world He is open to answer all questions - email Vagabondsong@gmail.com. Walk Slow.
Studying in India on a train.
I think that I may have been a touch awkward as a little kid: I had a really big head and I was obsessed with documentaries and books about the odd looking people that I knew lived in other countries. I was star-struck by atlases, and found that I was content just dreaming the days away map-gazing. I lived way out in the middle of the countryside, away from city or village, and just out of range of feeling the pressures of having to spend times with friends or of talking to anyone. My early education was found in books, Bill Nye the Science Guy, maps, and, later on, libertarian ideas and living strategies. This was the beginning of my education, and, oddly, I think that little has change to this day.
In grade school I performed well on tests but refused to do my work. I was much more happy in class daydreaming or reading a book than I ever was doing silly dittos, listening to instruction, or participating in any way. I was labeled a pathological daydreamer, and my parents were regularly called into to teachers meetings to discuss the reasons why I would not do my work. In those days I was often asked about what it was that I found so interesting outside of the window.
My teachers were bewildered until my mother told them that I was probably just bored with their lessons and that they should give me something else to do. So they threw me into 'gifted and talented' classes, where I could do work that interested me. I made a giant map of the world and memorized where all of the countries, natural geographic features, and seas were, started making a little video, made a model of an Iroquois village, and participated in the geography bee. I still did not do my work in class, though. My teachers passed me anyway.
Then, I could only shrug for an answer then as to why I did not do my class work, but now I think I may have an answer. In point, I grew up in a family that taught me that education and learning was suppose to be fun. Play time consisted of educating myself, and I therefore found myself unable to separate excitement from learning. The program of the public education system that I went through was tantamount to taking the joys out of learning and focused far more on discipline than teaching: it killed all passion.
Grade school was not set up to be enjoyable, and I found myself devoid of all passion for it. But I did learn in school. I learned that it was fun to stick my hand down the front of girls' pants on the school bus, I learned how to derive a sense of self from rebellion and getting into trouble, and I discovered that authority was little more than an illusion and that nobody could really make me do anything. I learned how to feel free, and I am sure that the works of Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, Emma Goldman, and the tales of Paul Avrich help me out more than a little. I was eventually kicked out of high school.
I began my college studies on a snowy Western New York day in January of 1999. As I had just gotten kicked out of high school I realized that I had to do something. So I went to college, and was excited about this new, mature form of education.
My first class was Statistics, and I learned jackshit. The illusion that I initially held for higher education vanished nearly as soon as it arose. But I did not give up that easily.
I then went to Florida Atlantic University for my first semester of university study, and promptly failed every class save for Intro to Anthropology. I learned more about human biology, particularly mitosis, than I would have liked and then, perhaps to take the course of least resistance, I realized that I wanted to pursue the study of anthropology.
For some reason unknown to me, I left my first fiancι in Florida and took a Greyhound bus up to Connecticut, and was physically present throughout a semester at a state university. I studied World Politics and Ancient History, passed both, but still, somehow, managed to only learn jackshit.
On another act of sporadic intuition I got the idea that if I returned to Florida for the summer I could again enroll at FAU and potentially learn something other than jackshit. I do not know where this feeling came from, but I took a flight back to Florida none the less, and embarked on a journey into the formal study of anthropology. I took a course called Culture and Society (unknown to me at the time, this was the first of three different courses by the same name that I was bound to take throughout my university career - I have come to think that professors just like the sounds of a class called Culture and Society). It was just a general anthropology course but it left an indelible impression on me and set me on the course that I am still following to this day.
I was in class listening to a lecture on the Mbuti Pygmies when the professor all of a sudden asked:
"By any chance, is anyone in here interested in doing an archaeology field school in Ecuador?"
I was immediately snapped from my Pygmy Africa daydream. "Yeah, I am interested," I spoke.
A few weeks later I found myself digging in the dirt on the coast of Ecuador. I had found the ticket that I was looking for. I found a profession by which I could travel while making money for travel. It was the perfect arrangement for an aspiring vagabond. I made my travel funds in archaeology for the next seven years, working in nearly 20 states in most regions of the USA. I had finally learned something in university, and was excited about this new prospect.
Upon returning to the USA, I knew that the last thing that I would want to do would be to sit through any more redundant university lectures delivered and prepared for a body of apathetic students. So, as happenstance works, I one day pillaged the mail of my sister and found a pamphlet for a school called the Friends World Program of Long Island University. The words in this little pamphlet told me about a four year international studies program in which I could live and study abroad for the duration of my undergraduate education. This was what I was looking for. The next six years saw me going to this school off and on in Japan, China, India, and Morocco.
This is the accumulation of what I learned:
I danced and frolicked in Medusa's den and was just about turned to stone. The wicked glare of a raging, temperamental, half-bald, and sorta fat women fell upon me with burning haste. I was quickly identified as the rotten apple from the start of the semester, and was quickly picked from the bushel and tossed aside so I would not be able to spoil the bunch.
I was challenged to say the least, and I did not approach my difficulties with the center director head on. Rather, I absconded under the wing of my adviser and relied on him to be my liaison with the director. I did not take into account that my adviser, though a very intelligent, amiable, and capable man, did not possess a backbone. The poor fellow was placed in between two raging bulldozers, and, in the end, he was ran over by both. From this experience I learned not to rely on other people to mediate my problems - even if it is their job to do so. I also learned that people's intentions have the mercuric tendency to shift depending upon who they are speaking with: when my adviser spoke to me he was in my corner, when he talked to the director he was in hers. My academic studies faltered during this time, as hostiles rose to the point where I would have to sneak into the center through a window to attend class and then sneak back out again to prevent an out of control confrontation.
But I learned a lot from this conflict. Both myself and the director did not talk to each other about our differences because we wished to avoid confrontation. We both stewed in our own pots and stubbornly kept to our own ways. The semester ended with my adviser recommending me not to submit my portfolio to him because he knew that he would not be permitted to evaluate it fairly.
So it would be a year and a half before I would receive credit for the research projects that I did on Japanese tattooing and haiku poetry.
as I got a little older, I was able to reconcile my differences with the
China, Spring 2006-
I eventually returned to the Friends World Program for the spring 2006 semester at the China Center. This was by far the most fruitful and formative semester of schooling that I have yet to experience. The courses were solid, the center had real resources, and I had an adviser who really believed in me and had the ability and intention to really help me in my projects. I learned many of the solid aspects of academic study during this time, and my intellect was provided with a platform upon which it could blossom.
Throughout the course of this semester, I learned how to deal with bureaucracy through being hassled by the constant mistakes of LIU financial aid and the Friends World office staff, how to translate classical Chinese poetry, researched Tibetan nomads, and solidified my anthropological ambitions. The classes were good and the education model successfully bridged book learning and lectures with first hand experience.
This was what university education should be about. This semester at the China Center under Justin OJack shown brightly the reasons why students should study abroad:
We were gathered together in a foreign county, provided with a historic, political, and cultural background, and then set loose to explore on our own. When we had questions, we only had to report to our advisors, who were always just a step away. In this setting, the students were treated as adults and as serious researchers, and our work lived up to how we were treated.
This is how Friends World should be.
It is a real pity that no other center in the school was able to duplicate this experience.
India, Fall 2006-
This semester began as a disaster. I went to India because I had wanted to do a serious independent research project on itinerant Indian communities. This was what the director, Naveen Shaw, focused her own studies on, and I thought that I would be able to set up a very real anthropological study under her guidance. I was wrong.
When I arrived at the center I found that could not do my ethnographic study because I would be required to take 12 credits of required courses at the center in Bangalore. I was a junior student in the program, and, under the requirements that I began with, should have been allowed to study independently. But I wasn't. Instead I was forced to study call centers telemarketers -for three months. I can remember speaking sternly to the center director, I don't even like talking to telemarketers when they call my home in the USA, I definitely did not intend to travel across the world to talk to them in India." This semester was beginning to look like a total waste a colossal $15,000 joke.
I went to the director and told her that the curriculum was garbage. To my surprise she agreed with me, and told me that it was a result of intervention on behalf of Global College's world headquarters. It was clear that she was just as unsatisfied with what she had to teach as I was about what I had to learn.
What do you want to study? she asked me.
China, I replied.
What are you doing in India?
I really did not know.
We then came up with a plan that enabled me to make the most of the semester. I studied Chinese Mandarin privately with a great instructor rather than Hindi, I studied the Tribals of Arunachal Pradesh, I went on the center organized field trips and wrote very critically of modern India, and I began an ethnographic journalism independent study that was to change my Path, both academically and professionally.
The ethnographic journalism study was the first time that I dabbled in the intention of writing magazine articles with the intention of publishing. To combine my interest in China with my current position in Southern India I began studying the Chinatowns of South Asia as well as the Bylakuppe Tibetan refugee camp. To these ends, I befriended the rather small and very much removed Chinese community in Bangalore as well as visited the Tibetan refugees.
I took this ethnographic journalism study very seriously and began devising the journalistic techniques that I am still building. I dove into the anthropological texts with an intense examination of ethnographic interviewing techniques, and put my studies of field methods into practice. The Chinatown study resulted in a lengthy document of thick description notes and the refugee investigation resulted in my first published article, Seekers of Refugee in a Land of No Return, that was picked up by Abroad View magazine. In all, this was one of the most formative studies that I have pursued while in Global College.
Outside of the Ethnographic Journalism study, I dove into a few extensive research projects that I was initially proud of. One was the 30+ page study of the Arunachal Pradesh Tribals, others were a historical overview of Chinese linguistics and a series of investigations into the changing face of Indian cultural values. I was very proud of my work.
But this was all to change:
I met my family in Hong Kong and followed them to Hunan Province to pick up my newly adopted Chinese sister. In the hotel one night I tried to get my parents to take interest in the projects that I completed in India, which I put a large amount of time and effort into. They picked up my portfolio and tried for a moment to read it, but it clearly failed the test. My portfolio was exceedingly boring, so much so that my parents could not even pretend to be interested in it.
That semester in India I spent a lot of time in my room, reading, researching, studying, and writing. I let most of the great interplay of South Indian excitement pass by right outside my window: I did not go out at night, I made no friends, I was an ideal student. But this got me nowhere. All the work and effort that I put into my projects were a waste of time, for I received the same amount of credits as the other students who played the days away and submitted inferior work.
of misplaced hard work and dedication became apparent to me. I vowed
that I would never again write another unreadable research paper, as I
tossed my 250 page waste of time portfolio into an overflowing Chinese
China, Spring 2007-
Morocco, Fall 2007-
My entire intent behind the fall 2007 independent study semester that was to be in Morocco was to write to be read. This was the bottom line. I could no longer bear putting energy and life time into writing any more unreadable papers on unreadable subjects that would just be barricaded and forgotten about inside of some file cabinet or garbage can.
This was the semester that I began my venture into website construction, journalism, and began blogging seriously. I found that I was either writing or frustrating myself with internet code constantly, and lacked all form of mentor to guide my way.
My advisor did not seem to have much of a corner on what I was trying to do. You are not writing deep enough, she would continuously scold me about my Morocco work.
She was right. I took her words into account, though did not know how to delve deeper in the context in which I was living: I was a traveler in a hotel in Meknes without any books, who was trying to learn French quickly so that I could have a means of communication in North Africa. I was ill prepared for what I set out to do, and retreated to Portugal after only a month and a half.
As I previously stated, my adviser also did not seem have a clear view of my intentions. She did not seem to fully understand that I wanted to write for an audience and that strict university writing limited my ability to do this. My adviser was telling me to make my writing more academic while magazine editors were ordering me to make it less so. I went with the direction of those who were publishing my work and attempted to give full reign to the feelings of experience and impression - which I felt would be necessary to publish anything in magazines.
But my advisor did lend me this piece of advice, that I have carried with me to this day:
"You have to read and research everything you an about a place and a people, because even if you don't directly write anything about what you read, it will still give your writing depth."
I went on to publish five articles in three magazines during this semester which took seven months to finish. I felt that I arrived at my destination, though I did not get there through explainable means. I just kind of ran around like a headless chicken until - somehow - I managed to get to the right places.
Andy Graham, the Hobotraveler, also stepped in during this time and helped me out in a very large way. We met in Guatemala, and in an hour he taught me all the website construction skills that I had been trying in vain to learn on my own for five months. I look at www.VagabondJourney.com today and I know that it probably would not be like it is if it were not for Andy's lessons.
I continued writing magazine articles for study abroad magazines. From this initial exposure of journalism, which has been going on for a year and a half, I have also found great limitations. I discovered in this discipline that editors want articles that readers are prepared to read. As I continuously watched editors cut the me from my articles I soon arrived at the feeling that I was simply constructing written-word bridges between advertisements.
Though I know that I would not be satisfied to place the whole of my future activities into on-the-table journalism. Rather, I will continue to take the journalism work for what it is a job and have the website writing form a continuous undercurrent to the writing that I would like to do for magazines. So therefore I will feel no artistic pressures in the journalism as my real focus will me on my own websites: the journalism will just be fuel for my income as well as providing me with something to write about on the travelogue. So I will have a dichotomy between the official story the magazine pieces and the full story the travelogue, with my emphasis being on the latter.
I intend to follow this plan with the other lines of work that I pursue. I will continue to engage myself in English teaching, archaeology, journalism, and other forms of employment for the expressed purpose of adding content to the travelogue by gaining access to situations and people that I would not have under other circumstances.
Employment is just fuel for the travelogue writing.
This is where my education has lead me.