I don't even know where to start. EVERYTHING seems to be different here in the Deep South, even if mass media and chain stores soften the worst culture shock. A few highlights perhaps, to start out with.
My first days at school
We started last Thursday, a week before Labor Day, why, I do not know. I am still not "in the system." Our fabulous administrator managed to get me temp IDs for pretty much everything from library to Blackboard. At the same time, I am freaked out every time I am trying to enter my SSN to see if I am in the "system", so Orwellian, and incredulous at the same time that they are really still asking for my SSN...
My office is fabulously beautiful, I can see a couple of old trees and a bit of sky, it's large, too, with an extra work area for research, a sitting area for visiting students, and the biggest desk I've ever had. Built-in book cases cover most walls floor-to-ceiling, and my books do not even fill a quarter of the shelf space. Yay!
I am teaching a survey and an upper-level seminar and in both classes, my students behaved as expected: sullen in the survey and interested in the latter. While my deepest fears--that I won't understand my students--have not (yet!) come true, I am constantly reminded of the very different student body. They really are more religious, more isolated from the world, and far more ready to shed any vestiges of PC behavior they might have had. A colleague asked her students to jot down some ideas about Jewish humor. The responses: money-hungry, cheap, ugly... My students talked a lot about the "morals" that religion brought about. Hmm.
Jews at school
My school managed to schedule the meet & greet for the new faculty families on Yom Kippur and when I gently complained, I was informed that the event had been moved--to erev Yom Kippur. I guess they will have a steep learning curve! The Jewish holidays are not listed among the "please do not schedule exams today" days which did not stop me to cancel class three times.
But my biggest reminder that things are different here took place at a faculty dinner in a colleague's house last week. Held in honor of the incoming grad students in a truly lovely southern house, we were sitting around, chatting idly when, suddenly, all got up, my neighbors took hold of my hands and proceeded to sing grace before meals. This was not considered a Christian affair, as I was informed, presumably because Jesus was not mentioned. Next time, I will offer to say the grace AFTER meals, hehe...
Anyway, in addition to living here, I am hereby resolving to
* work out in the gym downstairs to lose all that dissertation weight, or at least some of it.
* work regularly on my book. Oy.
* drive regularly. Not that that is a stretch here, the locals basically live in their cars and after taking the bus these last weeks, I know why.
* stay in touch with my friends.