Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Undergraduates Versus The Sorta Vegetarian

When I finished my doctorate and landed my first teaching position a favourite professor of mine had a few choice words of advice for me.

We were sitting in his office and he looked at me and asked: "Will you be teaching undergraduate students?" I said yes and he went on to ask: "Are you still a vegetarian?" I said yes and he laughed.

"You will be eating meat off the hoof in about a month of teaching undergraduates", he said with a huge grin on his face.

When I got to Portland in the summer of 1997 I informed anyone who would listen that I was a vegetarian and had been one for more than three years.

I filled my fridge with the usual no-meat goodies and was on the lookout for good vegetarian places to eat while remaining determined to prove my professor wrong.

As the term progressed I came to understand some of what he meant. I mean it is not like I did not teach as an assistant in my graduate days but now was decidely different.

Undergraduates have a way of testing your being in ways that are mostly worked out by the time they become graduate students.

By the end of my first term my old professor's warning found me eating chicken this and that at places up and down Broadway and elsewhere in Portland.

I have wondered in the more than a decade since then if it was my experiences with undergrads that turned me 'bloody' again :)

Yesterday a group of students visited me in my office to discuss a course I am teaching.

I started talking about the course and its expectations when the youngest in the group said very loudly, "I don't know a thing about politics and I am mostly not interested."

I looked at the student with irritation. The kind of irritation that made me remember my professor's words and it also reminded me that I was kinda laying off meat again.

My blood was boiling. I remained calm and leaned back in my chair and described what was needed to complete an assignment.

At that point I wanted to tell them about the words of my professor. I did not. Instead I let it go and let them go not too long thereafter.

As I crossed the parking lot to where I parked my truck I thought that it was late and I needed to eat.

A really big juicy steak with fries like the kind you get at those cheesy family eateries in the US southwest would be nice I thought.

Aaaaah, but since I'm in South Africa's North West province I settled for the leftover three bean curry and rice I cooked the night before.

Maybe I am getting the hang of undergraduates after all. Or maybe I am just delusionally optimistic.

I hope Mooi will have a braai (barbeque) this weekend in Joburg where we are gathering to celebrate his anti-45th birthday.

Dunno, but it would be nice. Hope you listening Guru and please don't invite any undergraduates, pretty please :)



Dade said...

Entertaining and revealing story, my friend.

Half of my family is vegetarian, but I'm part of the omnivorous half. Always makes holiday menus interesting.

As for your defiant undergrad, that sounds a little rough.

Just remember, when the frustration gets to be too bad, a rib-eye steak will make the world go away!


Ridwan said...

Thanks kindly Dade for your comment and advice ;)

I can imagine that a nice rib-eye would hit the many spots in my existential angst right now :)

I trust you are enjoying the Oregon summer still.

Oregon has the most beautiful summers of any place I have ever been ... well the Pacific West Coast really.

I envy you brother.

Peace to you.

Anonymous said...

I totally relate. Also, I never ate so much as when I was an assistant professor. It was as though I had become a truck driver or something -- just burning off energy, the only time I had to super-eat so as not to lose too much weight.

Ridwan said...

Thanks for your comment PZ. Great to hear from you and great to know I am not alone :)

Peace to you!


Eugene said...

Whatever you do...DON'T BECOME VEGAN! It seems that when one becomes vegan, they think themselves as having the right to kill all who eat meat. THANK GOD their diet provides them with scrawny arms and thus the inability to pick up heavy guns to start their Ustasha style mass slaughter. [note: all said tongue in cheek as I know of a few vegans who don't want to slaughter their fellow human beings.]

Cheese, man, I could never give up cheese.

It is hard to eat meat, or anything for that matter, as I have three molars falling apart on me making it difficult to chew. This, too, shall pass.

Ridwan said...

I know those Vegans you are pointing to Eugene.

The ones who think that they are saviours.

Naaaaaa I am not feeling the Vegan way or even some of the politics that some of them front.

I'm with you on cheese.

Get them teeth fixed while you still can my brother :)

Peace to you.