This week, I want to consider the etiquette of attending a writing conference. While last week I featured what to do; this week, I’ll stress what not to do at a conference. Both are equally important. Continue reading “Conference Etiquette”→
Madison Winstead, my Cousin Keith’s daughter, signed on with her local university to swim with their team as a high school junior last year. This year as a senior she asked her future college coach and then the NCAA the unthinkable—permission to suit up and swim with the team in competition this year.
Why did she ask? Why did they say “yes” for the first time in NCAA history?
THE ANSWER TO WHY
Madison’s mother, Shane, has a terminal diagnosis of cancer. Her mother wanted to see Madison swim just once in college competition. So Madison after talking to her dad, but months later secretly went to her future coach and proposed an unlikely scenario. The coach and Madison took the request to the NCAA and got the answer everyone wanted.
She suited up and swam as a high school student with the college team, before entering college, Saturday, April 22, 2016.
Madison decided her mother’s desire was worthy of pursuit. The family, which also includes her brother Clayton, has dealt openly and proactively with the outcome of this medical diagnosis. They are a remarkable family.
In researching the concept of agency, I found that there are three different angles on agency: business, philosophical, and sociological. As I have written before there is the business side of agency, in which one entity works on the behalf of another entity, like a health agency or advertising agency. This definition fits Madison, as well, because she became the agent of making her mother’s wish come true.
MADISON’S OWN STYLE OF AGENCY
On the other hand, Madison has learned to make decisions for her own life. She chose, using a careful and thoughtful selection process, the college-swim team she wanted. She knew the coming years would be difficult, some of which may be without her mother. She wanted a team that would support her during the anticipated loss.
Madison also had the courage and determination to ask the improbable question and enlist the appropriate assistance. She did this on her own without her dad’s knowledge at the time. She went prepared to her coach. She followed guidance of a mentor and helper, her coach. She did the follow-up work with the NCAA. She waited patiently and respectfully.
Agency as I use the word here is not a business term, but as Wikipedia says, “In social science, agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices.” Wikipedia goes on to describe agency as “one’s independent capability or ability to act on one’s will.”
Madison has developed a sound sense of agency at a young age in making things happen for herself and her family. May she learn to master the sense of agency in other areas of her life that prove as useful as it has in this part of her life.
Raul and Patricia’ hometown, Lima, Peru, houses 11 million people—an urban environment by anyone’s definition. They and their three children have lived in multiple locations and cultures in the United States, Puerto Rico and Peru. For the Raul and Patricia it is a return home. The entire family returns as fluent bi-lingual, global citizens.
A surprise when I arrive—Lima is a desert location, recording an average of 1 and 1/2 inch of rain a year. It is not apparent, until we drive out of the built-environment (city) and into the natural-environment (mountainous countryside), what the desert actually looks like. It appears as moonscape, barren of any vegetation, except where someone had planted a green living thing and watered it.
Our trip to visit them is a challenge for me, less so for Lynn. We have avoided urban areas as a deliberate choice to miss out on traffic, smog and big-city stress. We have each studied Spanish, but unfortunately have not mastered it. On the other hand, we have put ourselves in the world again and again to explore and meet others. We choose to do that again by visiting Raul and Patricia’s family, whom we met in Iowa years ago, now in Peru.
We celebrate our arrival with a Pisco Sour, Peru’s national cocktail. But Lynn cannot decide between it and a glass of wine. He has his own challenges.
A refresher on the Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell introduced the world to The Hero’s Journey. He discovered similarities of what happened in stories, fables, and fairy tales after years of study. He called these similar steps The Hero’s Journey. There are many ways to explain this layered epic journey; one way is to outline five stages, as Joseph Dispenza had done in The Way of the Traveler: Making Every Trip a Journey to Self-Discovery (2002):
the call to journey;
preparation for the journey;
the path and encounter;
and finally reflection in telling the tale to others at home.
HERO is meant, not as a male model; but an inclusive, universal archetype.
Archetype = a classic prototype
I have previously covered: Step 1: The Call and Step 2: The Preparation. Now, I introduce Step 3: The Path and Encounter through our trip to Lima, Peru.
Our path took us from the airport to their home, to the university where Raul works, to their Regatta Club, to a full-service grocery store and local open market, to their church, and to the sights of the city and their favorite haunts (restaurants, bistros, and bars).
Our purpose for this trip was not so much to play tourist, but to become a part of the family for ten days and experience their life as much as possible in ten days. They allowed us to share their life, specifically asking us to come when their youngest would celebrate her first communion. Wow, what an invitation to a significant part of their life!
Each of the three kids included us in their life in different ways. I’ll share our encounters with the two adult children Daniela, 25 and Ian, 20 at the time.
Daniela, the young professional working a day job, while creating her own business with a friend and earning a second bachelor’s degree in Business. She and her friend invite us to the garment market district, where they seek manufacturers of production for their beachwear line. They need fabric to make sample designs for a market fair. This includes a pattern designer, a seamstress, and the product finisher. They prefer to find all steps of manufacturing within one family, so they do not have to move their sample product from one manufacturer to the next.
With travel instruction from Daniela to look “local,” I tag along without purse, keys, money, except for a phone to take photos. Lynn and I need some soles (Peru’s currency) and ask Daniela if she can take us to a bank to get money exchanged. “Sure, we will do that on our way to the market district.”
We arrived in the market district and are looking for parking, when Daniela stops in the middle of a street. A man runs over to her car and she turns to us and says, “Where are your dollars?” Lynn pulls out a fifty dollar bill. She hands it to the man through her window. He exchanges the money, hands her the soles, then she gives them to Lynn. Both stunned, Lynn and I don’t even know how to ask, “What just happened?”
Daniela (far left) and her friend, Claudia negotiates with one of the manufacturers.
We learned from Daniela her take on the Peruvian economy. “The way we are going to grow the economy is not like most countries by building big companies; but we are a country of entrepreneurs, people starting small businesses online, out of their homes or cars. We are the future of Peru.”
On most days Daniela spends time with us before work over our mutual love of coffee and after work at a bistro or pub with a drink and/or supper. Once upon a time with our own daughter, we established “porch talks” when we discussed the mundane and the mandated parts of her life growing up. We found ourselves on the patio at their apartment discussing life, economics, politics, culture, work and college. Our “porch talks” became special time with each member of the family.
Ian, a typical college sophomore student, feels a bit insecure about college, his major, and even whether Peru is the place for him. You see, he is more an American than all the rest of the family, due to circumstances and perhaps his personality. Because Lynn and I have just recently retired from working with college students, we had several conversations about college course work, departmental requirements, peers and fitting in.
Ian is studying architecture at a local university and feels his creativity is stymied by academic professors (like many other students perhaps). He feels like an outsider in a new university with his peers, left out of cliques and circles. We discussed who he is and what he wants to do.
Lynn discusses the cultures Ian has lived in and why he thinks he is more American. Ian thinks out loud, “I’ve lived more of my life in the United States than in Peru. My first language is English, not Spanish. I’m part of this family, but everyone else feels more Peruvian than I do. And I feel excluded by classmates at college.”
Lynn asks, “Does you want to be included?”
“Then why let it bother you?”
Ian’s brow furrows. “I’ll have to think about that.” He is the kind to think hard and long about it. He is a soulful kind of person.
I visit with him about being a global citizen, like I did with my students previous.
“Because you have seen and experienced things that most Americans have not, this will make you an asset to employers and architectural design companies in the U.S.”
“Like what kind of things do you mean?” he asked.
“I have noticed several elements of design since arriving in Peru that I’ve never seen. And I’ve experienced things I never have before.”
“Like what?” Ian wants to know.
The toothbrush holder in the girls bathroom. (photo at bottom)
Daniela’s exchange of our $50 for 158 soles (their currency) from a man on the street from her car.
An appetizer of french fries with 2 sunny-side-up eggs and prosciutto
Another, mashed potatoes shaped into tiny square with tuna salad on top.
Experienced my first all “raw” meal at Punto Organico Restaurant.
Learned a new slogan, “PPP or the political power of products.”
Eaten a root vegetable, “olluco,” similar to a potato, carrot and turnip, but not.
Men with mobile washing equipment cleaning cars in parking lot at the Regatta Club
Toilets have paper by the sink, not in stalls; I must get it before going into a stall.
An hour and a half out of the city the air turns to dust—no vegetation.
In a restaurant seats have a “purse clasp” I looped my purse strap through for security (photo below)
Vertical gardens growing up the sides of apartment buildings 5+ stories high
Street signs for “telepizza” (pizza by phone) and “sofa cafe” (only sofas in cafe)
The buffet table setting with forks laid out with knives on their edge nested in the tines of forks. (photo below)
Ian’s head begins to nod, when he realizes he too sees the world in general, as well as specifically architecture, buildings and structures in different ways. All this because of opportunity to view different things in his world than many of his peers (and perhaps his professors, too).
College seems dull, not motivating at all. But he can see that his lack of fitting what the professor wants may be a lack on the part of the professor, not his.
Often the landscape and/or experiences of our travel offers metaphors to our inner lives. As an example, the desert territory I found in Lima. When my life feels dry and lifeless, I can remember the Peruvian ecosystem in coastal Lima and nearby mountains where citizens plant and water greenery to add life-giving lushness in the city or countryside. Meaning of metaphor: I can create my life and the things I want in it.
In another attempt to find metaphor from my travel for my own inner life, I can recall Daniela’s attempts to start a new business to add interest, motivation, and richness to her dull job. When I suggest to Ian that he use what he has experienced as a global citizen to create his own mark on the world, I can apply that advice to myself. Meaning of metaphor: I can use my unique travel experiences to understand characters in my novel to help me write them as well-rounded characters with inconsistencies and paradoxical behaviors.
As Dispenza states in The Way of the Traveler (page 83), “Travel transforms us … At the heart of that journey ‘out,’ we happen upon the deepest mysteries ‘within.” With the help of Daniela and Ian, I’m am being transformed.
QUESTION: What metaphors for your inner life have you encountered in your outward life of travel (whether to Timbuktu or to town meeting)?