Ghost River, TN 

Early last week, Barry and I set out in a canoe down the Ghost River… these photos were taken before setting off – we have different ideas of canoe stability and therefore, I wasn’t about to leave my phone anywhere but a dry bag.

The Ghost River Conservancy is approximately an hour north of Oxford, MS in Tennessee  – there are various put ins, but we went off on a five hour La Grange to Bateman Bridge segment involving a meandering river, a cyprus swamp, a “lake” and a hell of a lot of snakes.

The Ghost River is full of trees (and spiders, and snakes) that have to be navigated around – for people who are not great with steering canoes (ahem, Barry), this can be rather challenging. It probably also didn’t help that I found some relatively random gentleman on the internet to take us out on this expedition, who shouted relatively helpful advise from the safety of his canoe.

We have now come to the agreement that for the sake of our relationship we will not be canoeing together – you can add this to my refusal to be his buddy on a scuba diving trip. Sure, we can both be underwater at the sometime, but absolutely cannot be paired together. It’s totally possible to have an argument 30 feet under water. 

Birmingham 

I am absolutely in love with Birmingham, Alabama…It could be that I’m starved for city life, because Birmingham doesn’t have that many great options for food, grocery, or walkable neighborhoods. It was also terribly cold – 

But… more than one option for decent coffee, and great beer! Incredible history that has been supported by both the city and the state! Friendly people who actually take the time to engage in conversation. It was a much needed break from small town living – I have threatened repeatedly to look for jobs in Birmingham. 

Perhaps the best part of the city is how much there is to do within the city and just outside it. Some incredible hiking, and plenty of outdoor activities… moreover, most activities are free! 


The only Ethiopian food we found was both mediocre and overpriced… coupled with people using forks (I’m sorry, what?) who proceeded to stare silently at me while I ate my injera and lentils. Luckily, the woman behind the counter gave me a thumbs up and complimented my eating etiquette. I find that most people I meet are baffled by my preference for, and skill at, eating with my hands. I often neglect to tell them that for the better part of two years I was reprimanded and coached over Kebsa like a small child on the floor of a Missoula apartment. 

No Knives in the Kitchens of this City

This fall I’ll be assigning No Knives in the Kitchens of this City by Khaled Khalifa for Honors 101 – “Self, Society and Identity.”

This is probably the best piece of literature I’ve had the chance to read in the last 6 or so months, and in my quest to assign my students readings from outside a western perspective, this is the obvious choice. My hope in assigning Khalifa’s book is that they begin to open themselves up, if even in the smallest ways, to the Syrian experience, and the reality of living under a brutal dictatorship for decades. I’ve noticed in two semesters of teaching that as much as they want to believe they’re sympathetic to refugees and aware of the Syrian crisis, there is still the tendency to lay blame and create an “other” that justifies a refugee ban.

This novel isn’t linear, and it isn’t easy – you have to give yourself over to the experience. Perhaps its easier to grasp if you’ve lived the parallel lives described by Khalifa to preserve your sanity, but university life isn’t supposed to be about easily tangible concepts and ideas – we are meant to challenge our young citizen scholars.

I’ll be pairing this with Adichie’s Danger of a Single Story, as well as two recent episodes of this American Life which explore refugee life in Greece.  This semester I assigned Cities of Salt by Abdulrahman Munif, and challenged them to think of  the death of a city, rather than a character, and the perils of oil discovery and American technology, rather than the glamor of it.

If you want to learn more about Khaled Khalifa’s wonderful novel click here and here.

Small Town Life

The reality of small town living in Mississippi often catches me off guard – by most of my student’s standards, Oxford is the big city. For me, Oxford is the southern living version of the town I grew up in. The equivalent number of streets, the quaint “downtown” area, and an oddly high number of both nail salons and below average Mexican restaurants.

Yesterday I went to the good will, grabbed a book that caught my eye, got home, flipped to the front page and saw that my office mate was the book’s previous owner. Curious about this, I grabbed the other book I bought, flipped to the first page, and found the name of one of my former students.

Shortly after the Good Will visit, I went into Walmart and ran into 5 different students. All of whom had come on their own, all of whom greeted me –

The night before that, I went with a co-worker to grab a glass of wine in an empty bar. The only other group to walk in was a group of our colleagues from another department. This makes me all the more aware of going for a late night grocery run in my pajamas, or venting about my daily frustrations.