I hate traveling. That’s a strange thing for me to admit, since I travel so much and I love seeing new places and old friends.
I guess what I really hate are all the hassles associated with traveling and getting ready for a trip. There are so many things to remember to do! I am officially in what Ryan Damerow, our newsletter editor, refers to as “Kathi’s pre-departure melt-down” phase.
For example, to fly to Chicago this week for the AAAL Conference, our TIRF Board meeting, and the TESOL Convention, I had to leave my house in California at 4:45 for a 6 AM flight. That meant setting my alarm for 3 AM so I’d have time to finish packing. But that planned wake-up time became totally irrelevant, since I couldn’t sleep. I finally quit tossing and turning and got up at 2 AM.
It’s a good thing I did, too, because I realized I needed to wash the dishes. While I was standing at my kitchen sink, I noticed that it was raining hard and the wind was gusting, so I would probably have a very bumpy flight. I was also feeling sorry for myself that I had to wash the dishes, because my 27-year-old dishwasher had died a month earlier and I hadn’t had the money to replace it.
Doing the dishes reminded me that I had to check the refrigerator and make sure I’d tossed out any food that would spoil while I was gone. Oh, and I had to remember to turn off the house heater too. But then I remembered that the thermostat has been broken for a month, so there hadn’t been any heat in the house. And the list goes on. These hassles are why I hate getting ready for a trip.
But wait a minute. Let’s look at these problems from a different angle. Recently I heard a radio interview with a man who lives in East Ghouta, in Syria. He is the father of two young children. He and his family have been living in the basement of their apartment building with eighteen neighbors, because the airstrikes and gunfire make it too dangerous to stay above ground. His infant daughter is sick, but it is too dangerous to leave the basement and take her to the hospital. Even if he tried, it might be a wasted effort because the hospitals are short-staffed and overwhelmed.
And yes, it’s been cold at my house for the past month, but at least I have power, and how cold is it really in Central California? My friend Kimberlie Hansen is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who was evacuated from the island nation of Dominica when Hurricane Maria hit in late September. The people in her village haven’t had power since then. And that point reminds me of the people in the northeastern US and eastern Canada, who have been hit with storm after winter storm, with massive power outages and terrible driving conditions.
So let me take a good, long look at myself. The fact that I need to check the fridge and deal with my unwashed dishes is because I have food to eat. I can get medical care if I need it and, yes, my house does need some repairs, but it is not being bombed. And a kind neighbor drove me to the airport in spite of the early hour and the storm, and the flight departed on time. And furthermore, even though I don’t like travelling, I am free to do so, unlike the teachers and researchers from various countries who wanted to come to the AAAL Conference and/or the TESOL Convention but were denied visas, and therefore could not attend.
So what do I really have to complain about?
This reflective piece has allowed me to reevaluate my attitude toward my own situation. While it is true that I would prefer to not travel as much as I do, going to the AAAL and TESOL events this year has been an amazing experience. A common complaint I heard at these conferences is about how the United States’ shift in visa policies has affected so many lives. Not only the lives of international visitors, students, and immigrants, but also of the people who work at institutions which serve our international colleagues and friends.
Therefore, rather than complain any further about travel, I wish for positive change to take effect in the United States. There are thousands of people who would love the opportunity to travel as I do, so that they can participate in events like the TESOL Convention and the AAAL Conference. It is my hope that members of these two organizations – along with TIRF supporters – can work together to overcome the current challenges we as a community of language educators are facing.
Now I need to pack to get ready for an early departure from the hotel. And yes, I am looking forward to the trip.