...family trip

Summer is almost here!  Well, not really here in North Western Pennsylvania; we had snowflakes in April and even the first days in May were gloomy and cold.  Fortunately, most years are not as cold as this one (knock on wood!); at least they haven’t, in the five-plus years since I accepted my Professor position in Clarion.  My recollection is that we’d usually have several days in the mid-60s (degrees Fahrenheit) in April, but this year, we’ve had only an occasional day or two reaching the upper 50s. Why isn’t the global warming thinking locally?

My family and I are looking forward to a few weeks visiting my wife’s relatives in Cuernavaca, Mexico.  We haven’t been there in almost four years and last January we found an airfare we couldn’t resist.  The Aztec Emperors’ summer residence used to be in this city, and later, Spanish conqueror, Hernan Cortez’s palace as well. 

Cortez's palace behind my daughter and me
The city’s nickname is “the city of eternal spring” though I am not sure we’ll find temperature in the 90s very springy.  In fact, after the first few days in Cuernavaca, I feel as if we were in Phoenix (AZ) or Monterrey (Mexico), where surpassing the 100s is not at all unusual.

Still, visiting with our extended family, tasting flavors that we haven’t had for years, and just experiencing the sounds, sights, and scents that at one point used to be so familiar, is a wonderful way to start a much needed summer “break.”  I feel that I have to surround this word in quotation marks, as I am traveling with books, computers and a “To-Do” list that is longer than usual. 

But I really cannot complain; there aren’t many professions that offer the flexibility and autonomy that a University Professor has.  Add telecommunications to the mix and all we need is a bit of discipline and systematic task controls to be able to keep on teaching from anywhere in the world.  Indeed, in the past few years, I have offered segments of my summer courses from Germany, Spain, and Brazil, in addition to different states within the USA.  It may take more front-loaded time and organization, but for students and instructors, this is a great trade-off –again, as long as there is a modicum of self-control and method.

I have often wondered why it is that I just cannot enjoy a full summer break like common “wisdom” suggests that academics do.  It may be that I feel an obligation toward my profession and toward my field; I know that once the semester starts, my research will take a second priority, relative to my students and the urgency of committees and other service obligations.  It may also be that I don’t remember seeing my father completely disconnect from his occupation as a bookkeeper; or I might be trying to instill a strong work ethic in my children and my students through providing samples of behavior I find desirable.  On the other hand, those who know me close enough know that I enjoy my work more than I perhaps should!  I would probably be bored if I didn’t have enough things to do, things I find valuable and helpful for my professional stakeholders.

But I digress.  I am finally ready to share these thoughts with you, after several days researching and navigating the options that broadband internet service providers offer here in Mexico.  As I described in a previous column, finding open wireless connections is much easier in the US than in many other countries –though various restaurants –not always the same brands, I must warn you—seem to be offering this service in an effort to attract and keep customers satisfied.  In addition to that, I am still surprised by the high cost of electronics, vehicles and some food; by the wonderful service attitude that many service providers have; and by the customary kissing and hugging that so strongly distinguish Latin cultures.

I sure hope you also have a chance to visit family and friends during the summer that’s about to start.  It’s also a good time to remember why it is that we work, and what the best use of the resources that we are earning is!

As always, I'd like to invite your thoughts on this; your suggestions, comments or reactions via email or on my facebook page are very much appreciated!  (Don’t forget to let me know that you’re a fellow NSHMBA member so I can honor your friend request.)

¡Hasta la próxima!