Saturday, June 20, 2015

Countdown to Qatar: Letting Go of Pork

My Farewell to a Staple Food

I recently described myself as a bacon-eating Buddhist.  I know.  The contradiction is not lost on me.

I grew up in the Midwest, the granddaughter of Illinois farmers on both sides of the family.  As kids, we would often visit the Drinkwater family farm located outside Virginia, Illinois.  The pig sty was not too far from Grandma Drinkwater's back stoop. Perhaps that made it easier to "slop" the pigs.

Their sharp hooves dug up the mud, creating a squishy mud wallow.  (You will like the definition of wallow.) They would  . . . well, wallow in it, much to our delight.

Sometimes, the pigs would lie up next to the wire fence.  We could reach our little fingers through the wire to rub their mud-caked hide that was covered in bristles. We watched their snouts probe the air and then the mud. We laughed at their squeals and snuffles.  Pigs!

Later, out under the huge trees over in the side yard, sitting in dense, newly mowed grass, we would eat fried chicken, green beans --cooked long with a big ham hock, macaroni salad, and watermelon. After that feast, we'd lay back on a quilt to watch the puffy clouds carried by that persistent Illinois wind.

Flies would buzz.  Cicadas would sing. Birds would chirp.  A dog would bark.

Later still, we'd have a slow-cooked pork roast with mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, and any beans left over from lunch.

The following morning, we'd wake to the smell of frying bacon. Sometimes, Grandma might serve up "scrapple" -- a pork-filled corn mush pressed into a block, then sliced, then fried, then served with maple syrup.

In other words, I have warm fuzzy feelings surrounding pork.  It's comfort food to me.

Recently, I posted on Facebook the image of a pink pig, with wings, flying across a blue sky.  The accompanying text read:  "If pigs really could fly, I bet their wings would . . . taste absolutely delicious."

I've eaten pork almost everyday of my life.  Lately, I've been eating it twice a day. Gorging on it, I guess, in anticipation of the cold turkey withdrawal I soon face when I move to Qatar. Qatarians are devout Muslims, for whom pork is not only forbidden, but perhaps even disgusting.

I'm eating grilled country pork ribs that are a local cut I did not know until I moved to the mountains.  Delicious!  I'm eating a St. Louis staple known as pork steaks.  Delicious!  Then there are the thousand of pork sausages I've eaten -- mostly the Italian variety, but also bratwurst.  Delicious, especially when grilled! Bacon. Oh my god, so much bacon.

And, then, prosciutto (which I can find here), salami in several iterations, and ham (mostly the country style and Black Forest).

I'm told that the expat store on the edge of Doha sells pork, as long as you have the right license to buy it. A new friend also suggested bringing it into the country, frozen, and stashed deeply among a woman's underclothes.  Apparently, the customs inspectors just won't go there.

Unlike Dubai, "pork rooms" at hotel and restaurants that cater to expats simply do not exist in Doha.

So, I recently bought these two little stone sculptures of pigs.  I'm taking them with me. That way, when I get to Qatar, I can say: "I have a little pork in the house."

Countdown to Qatar: Letting Go of ASL

So long ASL.  
It's Been Very Good 
to Know You!

Letting go of place also involves letting go of the law school I have called home for 13 years.

It involves letting go of my faculty colleagues at the Appalachian School of Law, many of whom are also in the midst of a transition to a new job and locale. 

It means letting go of students with whom I've built relationships.  It means saying good-bye to a certain type of teaching to a certain population of students -  mostly first generation college or grad school students from the central Appalachian region. 

It involves giving up a large office I've loved on the "library side" of the award-winning building that houses the law school.

It means saying best wishes to staff members who have always been helpful, hopeful, effective, dedicated, and cheerful.

It means leaving a community where service was at the core of operations for many of us -- service to the school, the students, the profession, and the community.

I joined the ASL faculty the summer after the shootings that left our acting Dean, Tony Sutin, a beloved professor Tom Blackwell, and a student, Angela Dales, dead from gunshot wounds.  The shooting also left three other students gravely injured.  I was prideful enough to think that my dispute resolution skills might offering some deeper healing to a community scarred by the tragedy.  Instead, I think I did help two of the victims -- just by being present when they needed me.

My many students have taught me how to teach.  Yes, I read just about everything published on the topic of active learning, but the once-semester evaluations always enlighten me.  I love my students and the successful professionals our alumni have become.  They created better lives for themselves and their families because they took advantage of the educational program we offered.

My faculty colleagues have worked overtime in so many ways these past three years to help ASL respond to the New Normal in legal education.  I appreciate their commitment to the mission of the school, but mostly I appreciate their concern and support for students.  They have acted with utmost care, concern, and ethical behavior.

I want to especially thank my Assistant, Sandy Baker, who is professional, timely, persistent, supportive, and smart.  She serves more faculty members than any one Assistant should and does it with patience and grace.

I will be letting go of the 300 flower bulbs I planted on campus the same day I fractured my leg in three places.  Those daffodils and other early spring flowers always make me feel happy and connected to all the other gardeners who love the message they bring.

I will leave behind to my colleague, Professor Priscilla Harris, my office (if the new Dean permits) and many of the furnishings that made it a productive intellectual home for me.  She has been a constant companion for many years.  Funny, dedicated, wry, scary-smart, and caring.  A complex assortment of characteristics that have made knowing her a delight.

Her husband, Stewart, has also been a good friend, rarely missing an opportunity to give me a warm hug.

I will relinquish the handicap parking spot I used when I knew no one else would need it so another space would open up in the Reserve Parking near the main building. (P.S.  I'm selling my car: 2011 RAV 4 Ltd, 4WD, 48,000 miles, leather interior, JBL sound system.)

Hardest of all, I have decided to pitch the ADR materials I have collected for over decade that now fill 12 lateral file drawers.  That's been a tough decision to make, but letting go is never easy.

I am cherishing the last few weeks I have teaching an online course on Practice Before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  I've got really terrific students in the course, and I am interacting with people -- invited experts --  who came into my life when I was a very young associate.  In so many ways, I am enjoying the "book-end" aspects of that course and its design.

I could say so much more, but won't.  As the firm day of my departure for Qatar approaches -  August 15 -- I have moments in which tears well in the corners of my eyes.  This place.  This path.  This learning.  These folks.