Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Life with the street cows

I forget I'm still a student sometimes. Other times, I absolutely chafe at being one.

Have mere months passed since I lounged in fallow fields chewing leaves and ducked through waking-dream-surreal banana groves at Solitude farm with Lowell, talking about growing up, growing out, wearing skirts and reverse culture shock?

We talked about skiving and slouching through school, dropping out and finding alternatives, learning through non-academic experience, learning crafts for their sake alone. Lowell has a homemade foundry and is an aspiring blacksmith. Blacksmithing is brilliant, and grand. We laughed about how an African in full traditional garb doesn't get a second look on New York City streets but a boy in a skirt, well, does. We talked about bicycles, teenage years, low-cost low-complexity adaptation-friendly technology, music, educational systems. And reverse culture shock.

Today, I grind through school, adding degrees and course loads, trying to best prepare for a career, and life? in world changing. I can't remember the last time I ran off to do something glorious, reckless or life changing because I knew I wanted it. I can't remember the last time I learned something-- a skill or an art-- because I was completely captivated by it.

Yet I know people who did, and they are frickin COOL. Ironically, on the other side of the fence from me, there are people who know so much more about the things I wish I knew, because they decided that they learned better than they were taught, learned things for the sake of those things only, and found places they absolutely wanted to be.

It just happens that I found one at the strange and chance intersection of our lives and travels in a developing country.

All too quickly, it's screeching reverse culture shock, and back to Singapore, back to Boston and school. It's gut wrenching how I wish I could expand myself in ways the education system (but mostly my school) doesn't permit, the things I wish I could do but for lack of time and too many other things to do. But for such good, awesome people around me to show me, help me, and support me without even realising, I'm sure I would have collapsed and imploded ages ago.

I have a nagging feeling that I would not "be legitimate" without a college degree. I wonder how many times harder it might be to world-change without that-- maybe not at all. Could I run away, live where and how I want to, learn with my hands, live with nothing to prove? "Maybe later."

Part of me wants to believe I'm somehow being groomed by this very-expensive-education that I'm still not yet at peace with.

Banana flowers stewing at Solitude farm. They take forever to pluck out of a big red bud that hangs off the plant, and after that, your fingers are all sticky. They taste like mushrooms, sort of?