The Calm Before the Storm

I’m done with airports and trains for a while. I have a few things in the fridge, my clothes are in the closet and Willie is singing “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” (from my laptop, I’m pretty sure he is nowhere near here). This has been one long day getting settled into my apartment in Toledo (the one in Spain) and right now is one of those moments that never last long enough. Thirteen months of ups and downs, 600+ hours of work, writing and answering 1500 e-mails, filling out forms and going to workshops and attending meetings on this, that and the other. Indulge me patting myself on the back and feeling pretty good right now. Tonight I sleep with a sense of satisfaction and peace that is way too rare. I can sleep-in tomorrow, go down the block to one of a dozen cafes and read the paper, drink a very good coffee and watch a Saturday morning unfold in a very special place.
The calm before the storm.
Tomorrow night I go back to Madrid and find a hotel near the airport so that I can get up with before the chickens to be standing at the gate when the first of twenty eight of my students comes off the planes.  They will be arriving on nine different airplanes arriving at three different terminals from 6:00 a.m until 8:45. Somehow I’ll get all of them and their luggage on the same bus with Hannah Grace and Leticia from the University here.  From there we will all go to Toledo, passing into the walled city through gates built centuries ago to keep out some very determined armies. In a medieval building on a narrow, cobble-stoned street, everyone will be met by their families and taken to their new home away from home to begin what should be the one semester of their academic career that they will most remember for the rest of their lives.

I like my apartment.  It has everything I need and many modern renovations.  I am fascinated that the structure was built in the 16th century.  I have exposed ceiling beams that were hand-carved and placed there some 500 years ago by people who could have never conceived  of some guy from across the ocean sitting beneath their work and communicating to potentially anyone on the planet with a little machine. I doubt they understood much about the idea of a planet (or an ocean).  I’ve read that in medieval times most Europeans never wandered more than five miles from their home.  I wonder though, when they were done with their work, if they had the time to pause for a moment and feel this good about all they had built.  If so, what was the storm after their calm?  There’s always more work to be done, the next step to be taken.  I doubt that they were as excited as I am about the next day’s labors.  And the next, and the next…
The calm of this evening is really, really nice but, by tomorrow evening, I will be ready for the real work to begin!  Let’s see what develops.

To begin:

Hi!  I’m Keith Woodall and I am a Lecturer of Spanish at Ohio University and in a little over a month I have the privilege of leading a very special group of 28 Ohio University students to Toledo, Spain where I will teach and direct the program with the help of our Teaching Assistant, Hannah Grace Morrison, who is a student in our Master’s program.

Among our students we have several Business majors, Journalists, Photojournalists, one Pre-Dental School, one Pre-Medical School, one who is studying to be a Midwife, various people from Visual Communications, Speech Pathology, Psychology majors, one accountant and one studying Actuarial Science.  Several are enrolled in the Honors Tutorial College and all are either minoring or double-majoring in Spanish.  We are from all parts of Ohio but also have three connected to Alabama.  We come from as far east as Boston and as far west as Texas. There are eight musicians, four athletes, and twelve who have done a lot of great volunteer work in their spare time.  All are nervous and excited for the opportunity to travel to such a beautiful, historic and exotic place to study for a semester.  I am proud to be directing such a group, the best, I believe, that our University has to offer.  If Ohio University had a Seal Team Six, this would be it!

Hannah Grace and I will be arriving a couple of days early to make sure that all is ready for the most intensive, academic and cultural, life-enriching experience that any university could offer.  If this isn’t the best study-abroad program ever, I would like to see the one that is!  Big words, I know, but this group is going to accomplish a lot and I’ll be posting our achievements for the world to see.

Some of the students are also blogging and I have them linked on the right margin of this page so that everyone will have the opportunity to get a variety of perspectives on what is going on.  Stay tuned…!