On the Road, Again

April 29, 2006

The truth is, I lead a pretty sedentary life. I don’t travel much, I enjoy being at home, and I enjoy the opportunity to focus on my community, which is mostly the university. Trips are not an interference as much as they are an opportunity. Herein lies what seems to be an overarching theme – a chance to grow. This past week I’ve spent time in Utah and California, visiting with family and a university in that order. In the former I had the opportunity to spend time with two of our extended families and their children.

As I visited this morning with a former parks and recreation director he said, when it is all said and done, what is most important is family. That was refreshing to hear. I don’t hear it nearly often enough. We get so caught up in our day to day activities, in our goal to be or do better. It is families that we find an eternal perspective. I don’t know my great grandfathers or their great grandfathers, except as names on a genealogy sheet. However, I did know my grandfather and somehow I sense that he knew his grandfather and that through his life he honored both his father and grandfather. Okay, I know that is a broad and probably highly erroneous assumption, but some of us like to live in the world of assumptions – for good or bad.

Nonetheless, I do believe that the time I spend with my family strengthens their knowledge of me, strengthens me as I see their personal growth and development – physical, emotional, and spiritual. I revel in that personal growth – just as I revel in the personal growth of my spouse. I have come to the conclusion after my time in Utah that my wife’s frequent trips to visit children are all important.
I'm So Cool

Coming back to my theme – I do learn from my children and grandchildren. I’m also reinvigorated by their personal growth, by the knowledge they share with me (directly and indirectly). As I watch my children interact with one another and with their spouses I see reflections of their mother, and of their father, but I like to think the really positive things in their life come from their mother.

Learning, then is not always something new. Sometimes it is a feeling or a focus or a sense of time or place. Learning sometimes comes as a reinforcement to existing knowledge, other times as a side trip that turns into excitement, or yet other times as a rude awakening. Yesterday as I sat reading a report describing low enrollment in an academic program it was couched as “being at the end of a product life cycle.” I have always pursued enrollment declines as a cyclical issue rather than a marketing issue. This was startling to me and has caused me to begin rethinking who we are. If the park and recreation academic marketplace is at the end of a product lifecycle, then sport management is very much at the front end of its product lifecycle. The challenge becomes how do we reposition ourselves to reinvigorate the lifecycle? That’s a discussion for another time.

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Out and About. . .

April 29, 2006

I’m starting this entry in Amsterdam on a Saturday morning on my way to Limassol, Cyprus. I would like to suggest I’m on holiday, but it’s only a partial holiday as I will be very busy teaching and working on manuscripts. I teach 4 to 6 hours every day, stay in touch with the office, although when the office comes to work it is 3 pm in Cyprus and class begins at 5 pm.

Many are envious of my opportunity to spend time in Cyprus, and I suppose rightly so, but it is not the holiday they think it is. There is a certain holiday spirit that comes from being out of the office and able to take morning walks, not worry about interruptions by students, having time to do some reading and writing, and some relaxation. Yet, I really enjoy working with the students. They are all professionals and have a strong desire to do well in the classes we teach. They all work full-time or more. I admire their commitment and diligence. They are as good a students as I have had anywhere.
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It is the culture that fascinates me. I learn more every time I go to Cyprus, Morocco, or where ever. Sometimes we are wont to say, it is a British thing, or a Greek thing, or a California thing. But, what is a thing? I suppose it is, in part, an outsider’s perception or bias of another culture. We may or may not fully understand the culture, but we make assumptions about the culture and the people represented by the culture. Most likely they are not accurate. They may be a partial representation of the culture and they may be framed from our limited experience. The assumptions are often framed by what others have told us, what we have read, and from what the television has shared with us (rightly or wrongly).

It’s from these biases that when I enter a culture I find myself having to stop and take stock of the people. It forces me almost into an ethnographic approach of trying to observe and learn from the culture. I certainly learn a lot from my students. They are proud of their culture and of their country. They take me to places where I can see the history of their culture, where I can gain a greater feel for it. Had it not been for my very short time in Sparta and Athens and especially in Athens I would never have understood where John spoke to the Athenians about the unknown God and why the location he spoke from was so important to the Athenians. As I see the ruins from various locations in Cyprus I gain a greater understanding of the culture, of how they endured 400 years of Turkish rule and almost 100 years of British rule, and yet retained their strong Greek culture.

So yes, I am out and about and learning as I always try to do. I am anxious to see what this trip has in store for me. (Initially written 15 Mar 2006)