Springfield, Missouri: 4 July 2017

Springfield, Missouri: 4 July 2017

Greetings from CELTA bootcamp in Springfield, Missouri!

Art shop.

The odd timing had us starting our CELTA teaching on Monday, July 3, and now we have a day of rest, a hiatus, a stoppage, a pause before our teaching assignment begins in earnest on Wednesday. So I am taking this day to wrestle with some thoughts through writing. We’ll see where this goes.

For those of you who don’t know, I am finishing my CELTA Certification at Missouri State College by completing a 2 week on-campus teaching exercise with real ESL students who are taking a free, two-week course this summer. There are six of us in our cohort, and this is the first time we’ve seen each other in person.

I arrived in Springfield on Sunday, after a strange, disorienting drive through Missouri. I think all of my drives through Missouri have been strange. This time, it was the winding and turning and lane changing just to get through Kansas City that had me disoriented. I don’t think I’d have made it without GPS.

As it was, each time I pulled off to get gas or use the restroom, the GPS would reroute me to the highway by forcing me down back roads and gravel streets instead of just saying, “Go back.” And I was too turned around to realize my folly until it was too late. “Where are we going, Siri?!”

The landscape is rather interesting as you drive through rocky terrain with signs for some mysterious cavern up ahead. Lake Truman seems to cover the entire state as you cross this channel, that landing, this arm, and other parts of Truman you didn’t even know he had.

Getting to know a city while following GPS is impossible. I had no understanding of the size or make up of Springfield from my desperate attempt to find the apartment at 1030 Walnut street. My vision was tunneled in on not getting lost and just finding a place to unload and relax. I arrived with the help of my roommate Blake, a recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma who hopes to teach English in Israel some day.

You don’t really get to know a place inside a car, train or bus either. Prior to my trip to Springfield, I had coffee in St. Joe with my friend Susan who talked about going to New Orleans and doing some “ground truthing” via a writing marathon. Ground Truthing is this concept of knowing that a place exists on a map or in a travel guide, but you don’t really know that place until you go there and “truth it.” In this case, truthing involves writing in that place. So yesterday, I set off to “truth” my little patch of Springfield, Missouri. I hope I didn’t butcher this concept too much.

It began on Monday morning as I walked from our apartment on historic Walnut Street toward downtown Springfield where our class is meeting. There are some lovely Victorian houses on our block, and the coolest thing is that some of them are businesses like bars and restaurants and even a nail salon. To me, this sounds like the perfect urban environment. I am not sure why we got into this giant commercial zoning situation where we create concrete deserts that are unwalkable and completely life sucking instead of incorporating stores and shops into walkable neighborhoods. Oh wait, I do know why… CARS (and in Springfield and most of the midwest, pickups and SUVs).

I think I’ll write more about the teaching itself in another post, but let’s just say that seeing these students from all over the world who want to learn English is truly delightful and pretty amazing. It is a completely different vibe than teaching high school where it’s more like forced induction and prison. But like I said, more about that later. This is about Springfield.

2 blocks of Rt. 66

For those of you who don’t know, Springfield is on Route 66. I am sure the significance of that isn’t lost on you, so no need to explain. My walk was just off the highway, but there are still signs and significant little landmarks that are reminiscent of the old days, and earlier time when men were men and women wore dresses and other sexists remarks like that.

There are still some neon-signed diners and such that make one think of the good old days. On the other hand, there is lots of litter and some guy named Hammons who seems to own most of Springfield if signage is any sign of anything.

My walk back from the college took me down E. St. Louis street, toward a Walgreens which did not have a blanket (which I needed to buy because I forgot), but they did have a slime-covered razor (which I needed to buy because I forgot). The cashier insisted that she get me one not covered in slime. I acquiesced even though I didn’t really care. Then I walked to the Price Cutter because I felt that I deserved beer and a blanket. I bought me a “Mexican Blanket” which, apparently because it’s Mexican, is a multi-purpose linen that can be a blanket, a towel, a floor mat, a garden cover, and so much more! I just want to be warm.

This walk was the concrete jungle leg of my ground truthing experiment. In the heat of the afternoon sun reflecting off the hot asphalt, the city was almost unbearable. There was no shade, no other pedestrians, and it just felt oppressive to walk even a few blocks.

After gathering my bags from the Price Cutter, I walked back toward Walnut, which took me back to sidewalks lined with trees and nice houses. There were still no other walkers, but at least there was some shade and the traffic was much lighter.

Unfortunately, I ground-truthed a bakery that is right by our apartment, and it is by appointment only. I was so hoping to find this little bakery shop with something delicious for my walk home. Instead, I had beer and cold pizza which was just fine.

To be continued…




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