Monday, September 6, 2010

It Begins

The Poop Neareth the Fan
Let the Games Begin

Dateline: St. John’s, Newfoundland (that’s in Canada). I went to Signal Hill today, desperately to avoid the MUN campus and its attendant crowds of undergrads and families carrying furniture and musical instruments into the dorms.

Signal Hill is a notably famous site among many such historical structures and localities in St. John’s – known as North America’s oldest city, the first North American city to see the sun rise, the easternmost community in North America, or occasionally sin city (from rural Newfoundlanders). Like many of these historical places, one cannot really talk about Signal Hill without starting at the beginning, which ‘round here usually takes one back to the 1600s if not earlier. I’m way too tired for that. Google ‘Parks Canada’ and ‘Signal Hill’ if ya want a tour.

Suffice it to say that I left Florida, where I lived among long-silenced coastal defense batteries, to live in the Officer’s Quarters of Fort Yellowstone, only find myself once again standing among coastal defense canons with a strategic view of my community. And yet I’ve never been a soldier.

Anyway, walking the hiking trails around the hill gives the observer great views of St. John’s Harbor, the city, the Narrows, the endless horizon of the North Atlantic and more gulls than I thought possible. A walker is also exposed to gale-force blasts of salt-laden air, which are locally termed ‘breezes’.

Being the tail end of the Labor Day holiday (excuse me, Labour Day), I was surrounded by tourists. Still, better that than the activity on campus, resembling as it does a disturbed anthill where the ants wear really big sunglasses and spotless white baseball caps.

Classes start on Wednesday, and it was only with some digging that I was able to determine when one of my classes meets, and where. I had to query students who’d already taken the class, as no such information is posted anywhere, online or otherwise. Sort of an academic oral tradition, I guess.

I don’t know which classes I’m TAing either. Makes it kind of hard to prep, as I see it, but I’m told not to worry. Teaching assistants fall in line after a Lead Lab Instructor and an Assistant Lab Instructor, both of which are professional, union positions. I’m sure you can imagine how important the contributions of grad students are under such circumstances.

Despite the promise of meaningless TAships, it was explained to me that, starting at sunrise on Wednesday, my future is best understood as ‘feeling like you’re running around with your hair on fire’. I’ve precious little hair to burn, but I have been a graduate student for eight months now and it’s probably about time that I actually spend some time in school. Minitab, here I come, ready or not.

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