What are you doing this summer?

It’s been a while since I’ve had a real summer “break”. It has taken me some time to get used to the academic schedule, but I’m enjoying its benefits right now, just like I struggled under its consequences a month or so ago. Last year and the year before, I was working fairly close to full time. Now I’m just happily working part time, floating around the (very hot) International House, and enjoying my listlessness. (Most of the time.) That doesn’t mean that I don’t have big plans, though–relaxation and creativity, though, are at the top of the list.

So what am I up to this summer?

1. I’m finishing up my Americorps term of service with Jumpstart by working at the Woodlawn Freedom School. It’s a summer program run by the Woodlawn Children’s Promise Community, which is modeled off of Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone. I’m currently working with about ten older kids, kind of by accident. It’s teaching me a lot. I remember from Korea that the older elementary aged children were both the most fun and the most difficult. This is definitely true for these kids. It’s amazing. I’m flashing back to my years in 5th and 6th grade, questioning ideas that I had back then, and trying to imagine what emotions I had. I’m not sure that would really help, though, because what these kids do every day is so different from what I did every day at that age. One thing I do know, though, is that when people ask me: “How are these jobs connected to your studies, anyway?” My answer is going to be, “The problems that we face in answering to these communities are theological.” The mistreatment, the segregation, the education of our children–these problems are much more than issues of correct social service and adequate civil society. I am quite certain that these things have gotten to the point where the chasms here are a matter between us and our God.

2. I’m working as a Summer Community Fellow here at International House. Right now, that means a lot of ESL Administrative work, Fourth of July activities, and attemping to beat the heat. It’s been consistently in the high nineties and this building really isn’t built for it. It would be next to impossible to get air conditioning in the resident rooms, but it is really, really, really uncomfortable. So we bear it, and put ice in front of fans, and sit in the air conditioned public spaces. However, I’d really like to know what in the seven hells Aramark was thinking when they set up a “hydration station” that is nothing but an empty pitcher and some plastic cups. Really, guys? Really? <<< all that aside, though, I’m enjoying the work and I’m glad I can do it. I get to prepare for the new people next year by making resource binders, and I get to theorize about what I’ll do for next year, and how it might work together with my Field Placement.

3. Re-doing my website! I’ve got a new idea for a theme which will be simpler but, hopefully, pack more punch. It’ll be incorporating my newest marker piece and a simple streamlined white and grey color scheme, with an accent color. The code is pretty hard for me; I never learned it appropriately (I mean, that’s how I learned to draw, too) so it can be a pain sometimes. But when I figure out how to do something that I didn’t know how to do, or didn’t know was possible… that makes me feel great. So I press on.

4. I’m planning on purchasing a new computer with some of the left over money that I have from my 2011-2012 student loans. I’ve been holding it tight in my savings account and I think I should be safe if I purchase a nice, pretty, decked out computer after Freedom School has finished. It’s going to be my reward to myself, I’ve decided. Apple just announced new MacBookPros. I was dead set for a while on returning to a desk top, but as a student, I’m just not sure that that is a smart idea. So I suppose I’ll have to make a bigger investment and stay portable. Anyway, I’ve agonized over it, since it has such a price tag, but I think I’ve finally got enough saved. Or I will, at least, after Freedom School is done. And then, I will also invest in shiny new software, since I am a student and now qualify for student pricing. I’m thinking of switching from Photoshop to Painter, which is catered much more to folks like me. Then I can play with my tablet again and produce even stranger works of art.

A photo from the Henry Horner Projects, with one of the characters from There Are No Children Here.

5. I’ve also got an ongoing booklist, but it’s not moving very quickly. Currently I’m working on There Are No Children Here, which is on Jumpstart’s list of acceptable billable-hours research books. It is terrifying. It is written by a journalist who spent ages watching two children in the Henry Horner Homes, a project on the near-West Side. The author is good, and the children’s stories are immense, horrifying, and make my imagination run wild. I’ve got tales of dystopian science fiction children’s epics running through my head when I read it. The sad thing is that you wouldn’t have to change much of the story for it to be that particular genre. Add a few robots and some alternate history, and that’s really all you need. And this is twenty years ago. Otherwise, the books on my list are my Very Short Introductions to Anglicanism, Economics, and Theology, as well as the other Systematic Theologies that were recommended to us by Professor Hector, “The Secret History of the Mongol Queens” (which I’ve started but feel somewhat skeptical of, writing style leads me to disbelieve a lot of what is said), and A History of God by Karen Armstrong (thanks for letting me borrow it, Sean.) I’m not sure that I’m really going to get anywhere on this list, though, because I’ve really been aiming my focus for:

6. Art, art, art, art!!! I’m drawing! I felt such a dry spell over the whole year. It was a challenge to complete even one drawing. Now I’ve been drawing like mad, watching episode after episode of “White Collar” and dreaming about things in vivid sharpie colors. You’ve already seen the fruits of a lot of that. I’m also investing a lot more time in Deviant Art, Fine Art America, and other sharing sites.

7. I’m (gasp) dating. After a long, long, time of whining about not knowing how to get a date in America, I finally did what other desperate people do. I signed up for an online site. I am pretty apprehensive, but I’m trying to keep an open mind and meet new people that I wouldn’t meet otherwise. So far that’s gone fairly well. It’s a new adventure.

8. And after all of that is done, I’m just relaxing in the I-House courtyard, feet in fountain on hot days, drinking with friends and discussing the finer points of relationships and gossip with the hardcore I-Housers who are here over the summer.

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