Diary for Mike Austin

 June 2001-May 2002

 June 18, 2001

I can hardly believe that almost one month has passed here at my parents’ home in Portland. I came here to spend more time with my mom, as she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Rather than do what I usually do---solo backpack during Latin America’s dry season---I had to see my mom. She is great, and this brings me a great relief! So far the tumors have shrunk under hormone therapy. She and I and my dad spend much time watching TV, eating and cooking, and generally just hanging out. I still get up early, as does my mom, so mornings are always spent in the computer room, she doing some work and I reading all my various news sources. It is the best time of the day. 

I do my usual shopping for CDs, clothes, backpacking gear---REI is a favorite hangout!---while in Portland, and this trip has proved no exception. My little room is full of stuff, including many Amazon.com. boxes. It will seem like Christmas when I get back to Argentina! 

And this will come in a few days. I had all sorts of fantasies to become so very efficient during my month in Portland. I was going to: finish my portfolio, prepare my syllabi, work on lesson plans for the first day of school---yeah, yeah, yeah, RIGHT! As Tolstoy famously wrote, “I yielded to sloth.” I got none of this done, alas! (But I had fun with my parents.) I am especially concerned about AP Economics, not the macro part but the micro part. I had asked the outgoing principal to assign Econ to another teacher, all to no avail. She feels that “it would be good for me” to teach microeconomics. But will this be good for the kids? At $14,000 a year each student should get the finest instruction, and I know that I am not the finest Econ teacher at Lincoln. I do not at all feel competent to teach this, and I truly dread it. 

August 15, 2001 

The first week of the new year has passed, but not without a few hitches. For one thing there is a new principal. No real problem here as all of us had expected one, but this is the seventh one in my almost nine years at Lincoln---not a great sign of school stability! Anyway, we all will certainly give her the benefit of the doubt, although some would argue that the first faculty meeting did not go too well. She is a bit prone to phrases such as “zero tolerance,” “command decision,”  “it is my strong expectation”  and their like. In other words it was as if she were talking to serfs and not to colleagues. Her words ooze threats; we will see how her actions are. No doubt she is a bit insecure as she has never been a principal before. I will certainly help her in any way I can. Still, until further notice my long-standing policy of “head down and mouth shut” will serve me in good stead with this one! (I have not become the longest serving ex-pat at Lincoln School for nothing!) 

My problems with micro I have been able to set aside for a while. I will begin the macro part of the AP course first, and then worry about micro in February. This is only a temporary solution, but at least it frees up some time now. I need to begin planning for the November backpacking trip to the Andes. This time I want to open it up to ninth graders as well. I hope that many parents can come, as teachers seem quite averse to spending their time over Thanksgiving with students! 

It is strange at times to see this senior class. I have known them for almost four years, and both this class and I feel attached to each other. Too much has happened, too much has been shared---and all of this served up with great oceans of laughter---to simply treat these guys as another senior class beginning its last year at Lincoln. When it goes off---to college, to the Marine Corps---part of me will leave as well. (Now, what was the reason I gave for wanting to stay one more year at Lincoln?) 

This December-February I am planning to climb Aconcagua, at almost 7000 meters the highest mountain in the world outside of Asia. First, I will break in my new gear in the Andes; then on to climb Lanin (3748 meters); and then on to Aconcagua! This expedition will take around 18 days. I had better be getting in the best shape of my life. (I should in fact be running now rather than writing!)

September 13, 2001 

A colleague telephoned on the morning of September 11. I listened and hung up the phone and went to cnn.com. I saw it all. At first disbelief, then horror. Later came the desire for vengeance, for those that had done this to suffer. School on the 12th was somber, quiet and serious. Some American teachers who had never evinced the slightest hint of loyalty to the USA now had flags on their doors, in their classrooms. It was astounding to see them and to hear them. Most had voted for Clinton---Clinton! He cut the military, decimated the intelligence services, sold secrets to the Chinese, ignored terrorism: Just exactly what did my esteemed colleagues expect from such a man? Eight years of pandering has led to 9/11. Their present ‘loyalty’ is a bit dilatory and cheaply won. But there is no more Clinton. Now the US had a real president. What next? 

If I were younger I would enlist---that is, re-enlist, as I have already served almost four years. How many of my loyal colleagues did this? What have they ever done to merit the benefits of US citizenship besides yap and complain? (If I sound angry it is because I am: angry at the weakness that has led to this, angry at the thousands of dead Americans, angry at so-called “educators” who never have a kind word to say about the military, about Objective Morality, about Republicans---to say nothing of Christians!)  What next? 

The administration is in a state of controlled panic: what to do? Lincoln School has a huge international population from over 40 nations. How to handle 9/11 with discretion, with understanding, with care? The emergency faculty meeting was OK, but just: the usual touchy-feely platitudes of “all cultures are of equal value” were on display. I wanted to ask---but of course I did not---“What of the culture that just incinerated the Twin Towers”? 

School goes on. I have a Kuwaiti student in my Ancient History class and there is an Iranian girl across the hall. If anybody bothers them…NO! I swear that this will not happen. 

My senior class in International Politics was quite a jaw session; even the superintendent appeared. We had every opinion except one that would excuse the murderers. Some wanted to kick out all Arabs from the US; some wanted to find some sort of “root cause”. Some wanted to strike back at someone, anyone: Iraq, Iran, Syria…name your suspect. For certain this class will be, shall we say, “entertaining” for the rest of the year. Already I am exhausted---as are we all. What next? 

September 20, 2001 

The principal is doing OK, I am happy to report. She still is a bit heavy-handed at times, but with time and patience on our part things will be fine. She is a very different type from our last principal, who was equivocating, had trouble speaking in public, and was seen as weak. This one is NOT weak! She is hyper-efficient, for one thing. For another, it is impossible to pull wool over her eyes---this of course keeps us on our toes, but also causes a bit of anxiousness in the staff. Still, the more important things---like trust, for instance---are as yet out of the equation, not because we think she is not worthy of it, but rather because nothing proving or disproving its presence has occurred. She has always treated me with respect and courtesy, and has also given me some advice on some classroom management things that came up. 

The aftershocks of 9/11 are still rippling through our school. By and large the students and their families are conservative; this contrasts with the dogmatic liberalism always on display among the staff. When my colleagues are in the staff room discussing some political issue and I wander in, boy do I feel like the odd man out! I stopped engaging in such debates with my colleagues long ago. Egos always get involved, mine included, and this poisons the atmosphere at work. So, mum’s the word. Besides, I really do not think my colleagues understand the issues involved, especially that of war. I very seldom hear any of them talking about a book or about a theological issue or an intellectual idea. Rather, they wax eloquently over the latest movie or sports or some undiscovered café downtown. They no doubt see me as anti-social and quirky, and they would be right. I am known as “the resident conservative,” an appellation always said with a slight laugh and a sigh, as in “Poor Mike! Will he ever learn?” Probably not, alas! Odd that I feel more at home and at ease with my students than with my colleagues. 

Which brings me to another thing: Why is it that I trust students more than most adults? Do other teachers feel this way? Perhaps the students have not yet completely  “grown up”; that is, they have not yet learned to lie effectively, to dissimulate, to pander, to treat the truth as a commodity, to hate. Most adults are past masters at these skills, myself included. I am not arguing for any return to childhood, innocent or not, but rather I would like to know when the corruption begins. 

Planning for the third annual backpacking trip is moving along nicely. Without question these are the finest things I have done at Lincoln. To see 40 parents and students spending three days walking and camping in the Andes is truly a great experience. I am making some changes this time: ninth graders can go, more parents will be encouraged to go, and we will do more walking and less carrying our heavy packs with tents up and down. Day hikes will be the order of the day. 

October 13, 2001

Wow! The Americans are exacting justice against al-Qaeda and Taliban---L’Empire Contra Attaque! Everyone is glued to CNN, to BBC, to the Internet, to get the latest on the war. It is all the rage in my classes, especially International Politics. It is the perfect syllabus, and the students can learn so much more about the world of power and of nations by following this war than by listening to me drone on and on and on. Odd, my colleagues keep saying things like “quagmire” and “another Vietnam” and how the Afghans defeated the mighty Soviet Union. It is almost as if they want the US to be defeated. I am familiar with this mentality quite well. I also know of Alexander’s campaigns through Afghanistan some 2300 years ago. I swear if you but change a few names it seems as if nothing has changed there. I welcome every American victory there with joy; there will be more. I exult in every defeat of Taliban and al-Qaeda; there will be more. 

AP Economics is coming along. The macro syllabus is similar to the IB one, but narrower and almost lacking in an international component. I do not care for it all that much, but then I do not care all that much for classes that provide an external syllabus and exam. My freedom of thought and movement in the classroom are curtailed, and I feel that my talents cannot find their full use. Someday I might wish to teach only non-AP and non-IB classes. This is, or seems to be, going against the teachers’ ideal: higher and higher level classes, and leave the beginning classes to the incoming teachers. Not for me! I also reject the usual cursus honorum: teacher, AP/IB teacher, department head, assistant principal, principal, and so on. I have absolutely NO talent for bossing around adults or for administering anything. My place, my only place, is in the classroom. 

In less than a month we will be hiking and backpacking the Andes, and we will be forty! I know the route well, having spent more time backpacking through the Andes than anyone I know. These trips always inject a sense of balance, a calming effect on all of us who go. When we return to school it is as if we share some secret knowledge. We---and Lincoln---are better for this. 

November 1, 2001  

I am again astounded at the performance of US troops in Afghanistan. What the Soviets could not do in ten years the US appears able to do in ten weeks. The American troops---what a bunch of great men! As long as my nation has the ability to create such men the nation will be safe. When that ends, the USA will be as Europe: impotent, agnostic, timorous, irrelevant and grasping. And what a difference this president makes over the last! Of course all of this comes up daily in the classroom (though not in the staff room!); the International Politics class is in a continual froth about the war. No student is against it, though some have wanted to know the “root causes” of  9/11. All of us are engaged in a quick study of the Arab nations and of Islam, though very fortunately we went though a historical survey of both of these as part of the syllabus for this course. (One question: Why is it that those Islamic nations that murder women and children cannot provide clean water to their people? I was told that “all cultures have equal value”? Just a thought.) This class has become my favorite, and even some parents have come in to participate. 

I had an unpleasant experience this morning with the principal. Leaving out any gory details, I left her office wondering how one in a position of authority could speak to a colleague with scarcely concealed threats. How much of this is personality, how much is insecurity, and how much is inexperience? Who can say? (I do not believe---and have never believed---that there is a dichotomy in humans between the private and the public. Human nature being such----and History teaching such---what one does in private or public spills into the other. One who cheats in private will also cheat in public; one who is kind in private will be kind in public.) 

Anyway, principals come and go----seven in nine years---but the task remains the same: how to transmit to adolescents the accumulated wisdom of 6000 years of civilization. This is why I am here, and this will not change. Compared to this, why dwell on the personality traits of an administrator? I very much doubt that she dwells on mine! The one who should be dwelling on my personality is---Mike Austin. Which parts of him are kind and good; which parts are destined for the ash heap; which parts must be, like Isaiah’s lips, “burned with fiery coal”? Whatever problems there are at Lincoln---and such exist anywhere humans interact---the only one I can really deal with or control is my own personality, which I am sure is as obnoxious to some as theirs are to me. I need to remember to remove the plank from my own eye before I notice the speck in another’s. 

In a little more than two weeks we leave for the Andes. All the petty problems that swarm about will be put “on hold” while we walk with heavy backpacks, clamber over ridges and hills, set tents, build campfires and enjoy things not created by man. Cities and all their attractions will have no place then. More important things will be on our mind out there in that wilderness of cold mountains called the Andes. We will return at ease, refreshed, and ready to finish the year with attitude! 

December 1, 2001

Astounding as always, to observe the progress of American arms in Afghanistan and to trace the march of American diplomacy around the world. The Gulf War was a feat of military brilliance (except for the end, which left a monster in power. Would we have left Hitler in power? Tojo?), but this surpasses even that. The civilization and culture that could build such weapons and grow the men needed to arm them is a phenomenon, unique in history. 

Argentina has suffered another economic breakdown, this own the most serious in most people’s lifetimes. The problem is complicated and endemic, but it stems from the accepted corruption of Argentine political life, the lack of any property rights, and the oligarchs’ maintenance of a mercantile and feudalist economic system. It should be clear that Argentines in particular and Latin Americans in general have never been competent to run a monetary regime, to say nothing of putting in place the basic structure of capitalism. Thus: devaluation, depreciation, inflation, high unemployment, national bankruptcy, riots, uncertainty, capital flight, negative investment, coups d’etat, and all of this surrounded by the usual bombast, strikes and empty speeches. What a mess! 

The effect upon Lincoln is just beginning. School fees still are $12,000, but now are twice as much in pesos, where formerly the peso and the dollar were pegged. This means that those Lincoln families who have no access to dollars must now pay double. Clearly this is unsustainable. Just as clearly, Lincoln will lose students. How many is not yet obvious, and neither are the near and long term effects. Whatever happens here it cannot be good. 

The backpacking trip was the finest yet. How can I explain the three days spent “away from it all” with forty students and their parents walking through the Andes? Truly, this was the greatest experience I have yet had at Lincoln. I decided to allow ninth graders to go, and those who went showed amazing stamina and maturity. We now feel as if we can do anything. We seem to share a secret that those who did not go cannot understand. They are jealous, and with good reason. I await our next journey. 

The December break will be upon us in two weeks! I am ready, so very ready, as this has been an exhausting year for everyone: terror, war, economic dislocation, a new administration---these affect us equally. I must add to that list a personal one, my mother’s breast cancer. Rather than spend all of the seven-week vacation backpacking and climbing in the south, I will spend a month in Portland simply being around my mom and dad. Nothing can replace this. 

January 10, 2002

Almost one month here in Portland with my parents, and I have little desire to return to Lincoln. Why? After every break, no matter what I was doing or where I was doing it, I would look forward to returning to school. And now? This will take some thought. Perhaps I will see things differently after classes begin. 

I have done nothing about the upcoming AP Microeconomics class, alas! Sloth is not the answer, and neither is procrastination---although I contribute my share. It is fear: I cannot believe that I will master this subject. What will I do this next semester? What I have always done in similar situations: struggle (or muddle) through and rely upon my intelligence to get me through. Fat chance with micro, but there it is! 

I will get back to Argentina in time to do a bit of solo backpacking on some difficult Andean trails. Without my time spent in “climes wild and sublime” I might go insane.  I recall how throughout history that men needed time alone, walking forty days and nights in the desert: John the Baptist, Christ, Mohammed, Akhenaton, Thoreau---all except the Greeks, who simply could not imagine any man as existing outside the polis. No poetic pastorals for them! Man without a public life was scarcely a man at all. 

The war continues, and the world sees the valor of American arms. It has gone from victory to victory without a pause. And next after Afghanistan: Iraq. A more hideous regime would need an Orwell to describe; come to think of it, he did describe one. What a world! 

The Argentine economy continues its descent into…what? The ruling elites share something besides theft: incompetence. Even the “Argentine in the street” at last sees these corrupt brutes for what they are, a criminal oligarchy who sees the nation as its private fief. There is no healing it; the wound is grievous. And as Nahum exalted about Assyria, when these monsters fall  “all who hear will clap their hands, for upon whom has not come your unceasing evil.” 

February 13, 2002

The economy has deteriorated even more. The peso, formerly at 1 to the dollar, has now fallen to 4. The effect upon enrollment will be deleterious; but the effect upon our local Argentine teaching staff will be much worse. With inflation at 40 percent since December and all peso salaries frozen, what can they do but suffer? This shows in their morale, in their motivation, and on their faces every morning. They of course realize fully that the ex-pat faculty gets paid in dollars, and that their salary has effectively increased at an unseemly rate. For example, what used to cost $20 now costs in real dollars 5. This cannot go on. 

All this was not really mentioned at the all-faculty meeting with the superintendent, but it was on everybody’s mind. The superintendent gave a rather somber appraisal of Lincoln’s economic difficulties, the most obvious of which stem from the collapsing economy of Argentina. Our enrollment two years ago was almost at 900; next year it might be at 600 or less! 

I managed to spend some time backpacking in the Andes, but whatever magic was needed to refresh me and get me ready for this semester has failed, as if there had been no vacation at all. Many of us feel this way, students included. I look to this term with anxiousness and trepidation. Also, that AP Microeconomics class has not gone away, and I finally must deal with it. 

This semester will prove to be a very busy one: finishing my Portfolio, preparing for AP external exams, arranging Saturday classes for review sessions,  plus all the usual senior stuff---how to keep them motivated and on task---plus the many school trips on the schedule: Knowledge Bowl, Band and Chorus, Debate and Forensics, IB Biology, and so on; plus Graduation, final exams, Talent Show: now is not the time to get lazy or in a procrastinating mood! 

Because of the on-going war and increasing problems in the Middle East I have revamped the syllabus for my 12th grade International Politics class. I have narrowed the topics to Diplomacy, Power and Law. This will enable us to take into account daily the latest happenings in Afghanistan and Israel, as well as the progress of America’s attempt to wipe out al-Qaeda from the face of the earth. My other classes are certainly affected by this war, of course; but it impinges less upon ninth graders than upon seniors---who will soon be going out into the world. It will be a good thing if they understand how the thing really works. Should they be surprised if their Civics and Government classes did not tell the whole tale? Do any of our classes tell it? 

March 15, 2002

More parents came into my International Relations class today. This was an Argentine family who has been in journalism for several generations. The patriarch (the grandfather of my student) recently died. I did not realize until then that I had read some of his work---quite a famous book---in college as part of a political science course. How odd, this strange connection stretching over decades. 

There will not be a backpacking trip this March, alas! For one thing I am too busy with school and some outside projects; but also due to the economic uncertainty and war many parents would rather have their children at home instead of traipsing through the Andes. Who would blame them? I plan on going again this November with a bunch of students. I hope and pray that things will be better then. 

I have been giving much thought to this vacation June 14-August 6. Of course I will go home to Portland to see my family, especially my mother. (All the news I get from her is good. She and I e-mail at least once a week. It seems the cancer scarcely bothers her. She believes that she has another ten years.) But equally as obvious is that I will need time alone in the wilds. More and more this has become a great part of my life, a part that brings meaning and depth and experience. Teaching, solitude in the wilds---be they jungle or mountain or desert---Catholicism: What more could I ask from life? I believe myself to be the luckiest man in the world. (Of course, I might be wrong.) 

So where should I go for my “forty days and forty nights”? Perhaps Peru: there are many jungles and mountains I have yet to explore. Or Brazil, in her Pantanal grasslands to the east? Or Bolivia, where I have never been? Time to think hard about this, as June will be here soon enough. 

Perhaps not soon enough. This year---and this semester!---has been so very tiring. Much is on all our minds, and it does not seem to be going away. So far it has not impinged upon my teaching, but only made it more difficult to do lesson plans, grading, and all those teacher things. We could all use a break. Besides, seniors being seniors, they have all come down with a strong case of “senioritis”. It is hard to get them to do much of anything in the classroom. Who can blame them? They are accepted in colleges, their next four years are planned out; their time remaining at Lincoln no doubt seems as a chore, something to be over and done with as quickly as possible. But my International Relations class has only seniors in it. Normally I would scramble to find a method to retain their attention, but Osama bin-Laden has done this for me. 

April 3, 2002

Mock exams for the AP begin in two weeks, and I am quite relieved! At last my long “micro-nightmare” will be over---no more teaching of AP Microeconomics! (I wonder if other teachers feel this way about certain subjects?) Without question this AP class was the most trying I have ever had to teach. Since college I have had a kind of mental or intellectual block concerning micro. Now that it is over, I no longer suffer from this---I even understand the subject somewhat!---and I am no longer frightened of teaching it again in the distant future in a galaxy far, far away. I made a fool of myself more than once in front of the class, but the students were patient and kind. But I did mange to teach everything on the AP syllabus. I feel, thought some have their doubts, that the students are well prepared for the upcoming AP exams in macro and micro. The grades will come out in July, and I hope to be pleasantly surprised---but it might be unpleasantly so, as the case may be. 

International Politics has been a bit slow, as many seniors have “checked out” of school already: many absences and tardies, work undone or handed in late, little homework time, a air of unseriousness---I understand the reasons for all of this, but it makes the class less interesting for the students who do show up and more difficult to keep interesting. All the teachers are experiencing this. (Maybe if I take up juggling, serve pizza and bring in some dancing girls…) 

I had a talk with the principal about things I say in class---my mouth again! This time it was concerning Objective vs. Subjective Morality. I believe as the Socratics did, that there is an overriding moral law governing everything in the universe, no matter the place or time or culture. All laws and moral codes must therefore be measured against this natural law. The principal believes, like the ancient Sophists, that there is no such thing, that all codes and laws are simply reflective of their time and place, and these change according to circumstance. Obviously there is no possibility of compromise between these two mutually exclusive ideas. What this has to do with my teaching is this: When a student asks me about some moral issue, I answer with as much clarity as I can; that is, I refer to Natural Law. Simply put, students deserve to be told the truth about things. (And yes, I know the retort, “Whose truth?” But this is not so much an argument as it is a statement of gross ignorance. I would respond to such barbarism with, “Pick one: Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Mohammed, Moses, Confucius, Christ, Aquinas, Buddha, Joseph Smith---they agree on the essentials.”) 

Modern teaching pedagogy cannot make---that is, it has lost the capacity to make---value judgments (as in: "Any culture that practices child sacrifice is inferior to one that does not.”) It simply refuses---has abandoned---any claim to certitude. Questions about what is “right” and what is “wrong”  are now forbidden, and any answer to these is shoved aside into such bland and saccharine terms like “tolerance” and “lifestyle choices.” (Hitler’s “lifestyle choice” was to toss Jews into ovens.) Any attempt to give a student an answer about morality is called “making a value judgment” or worse---you might “offend” someone! God forbid we do that! (And let us try real hard not to offend those who incinerated the twin towers and 3000 Americans. After all, their feelings might be hurt.) 

A teacher has a God-given responsibility to pass on to the young the fruits of his learning and experience---and if he have any, his wisdom. (If he does not know, after adolescence, college, work and all that these things entail; after all this, if he still cannot tell right from wrong, he should find another profession.) Now, all that is out of fashion. Nowadays teaching seems to be nothing more than giving students a keyboard and mouse and telling them to research an equation, some arcane topic in American history, or the mating habits of a tropical fly. Real teaching has been tossed aside, like an old coat. Six thousand years of history and ten billion people now dead have left a message for the living: about what works and what does not; about a moral code that applies to us all. All we have to do is read it.  Why is the teaching profession so afraid of doing this? Are not our students worth it? 

May 1, 2002 

My two Saturday classes for AP Economics preparation went superbly. As usual I had for the students gallons of coffee and dozens of medialunas and vigilantes, Argentine pastries much desired by hungry students. These classes went from 10 AM-1 PM, and almost everyone showed up---an amazing thing here in Argentina when most adolescents stay out until 4 in the morning! The classes were great fun, and at times I almost felt that I understood microeconomics! 

It is now official: Next year will be my last year at Lincoln. This decision was made gradually over time, but now is confirmed. I will have been ten years here, the longest of any ex-pat in the school’s history. Ten years is a nice, round number---a number that I would like to work at my next school, which will be---who knows? I cannot imagine---I do not wish to imagine---living anywhere but Latin America. My first choice would be Peru, then Brazil, and then Ecuador. I know these countries and have heard good things about the American schools there. Leaving Lincoln will be hard, but it will be the right time to do it. 

Besides, Lincoln is changing. All of us who have been here a while---and this, of course, includes students---have noticed this. I wish that I could say that all these changes are for the better---as if I would know something like this. What I can say is this: any new administration has the right to design its own vision for a school. If that design is unpalatable to any faculty, then the options are: be miserable; rethink priorities; change jobs. 

All this will be pondered at length in the jungles of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, three countries I will visit between June and August. I plan on going overland from coast to coast, that is, from Lima on the Pacific to Rio on the Atlantic. There will be three stops for solo backpacking, each taking between seven and ten days. All three will be tough and demanding, and I must be prepared---I AM prepared. All three required special gear: a new ultra light tent, a lighter pack, and GI jungle boots. I am also in the best shape I have been in a long time. I await the day to leave for Peru, where this journey will start. I hope to be renewed and refreshed when I return to Lincoln in August, for I want 2002-2003 to be the best year in my teaching career.


June 1, 2002

Conclusion and Summation

Reading this diary---my first---of one year of my life gives me an odd sensation, as if I were somewhere outside myself or looking at some stranger’s secret life. Whoever the fellow was that wrote this diatribe, he certainly fits the description a superintendent once said of someone: “Every school should have a teacher like him, but only one.” Nothing could be truer. 

Now I see a year filled with mistakes and corrections, with glorious victories and glorious defeats, of things done and undone. Perhaps all years are like this, just diverging in tone and style and content. 

What was accomplished? I wonder. Should I even be the one to make this list? Perhaps my students---the senior class is tonight graduating---or my colleagues or the administration should attempt it. 

So next year will be the best of my career. I say this to myself, I write down the words. But I am not sure. For some time now---years, in fact---I have been threatening my students that I would take a year off from teaching, that I would hike every jungle in Latin America that I have not yet hiked (yes, there are some!), and that I would write a book about it and then come back to teaching. In another year, would this still nascent desire be as strong as it is now? More than likely it would be stronger. 

In a bit more than one month I will be standing among the ruins of Vilcabamba, the last redoubt of the Inca. To get there will take eleven days of walking alone through jungle. There and then will be the time to decide what to do after another June has passed.

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