Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Role Models, Part II

We arrived in Boston late night on a Wednesday after some trials and tribulations, including one speeding ticket - before we even left home - and an iPad that wouldn't turn on. My voice was hoarse because in the absence of our e-book (Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, which was on the iPad), I decided to e-read my research essay, '"But it's our story. Read it": Stories My Grandfather Told Me and Writing for Continuance,' to R.J.

We stayed at the John Hancock Hotel, which I'd recommend to anyone who wants to stay in Back Bay on a budget (but be warned, it's a little *ahem* rustic). We settled in and went straight to bed, excited for what the next day would bring.

The alarm rang at 7 a.m. and I woke with a start. Normally, I'd hit snooze least three times, especially on vacation. But not this day! We got ready and headed to the Starbucks on our hotel's block, but I didn't need the caffeine. Already, my heart was pumping and my legs were shaking.

Although I did my best to hide it with a smile.

We boarded the T (Boston subway system that R.J. takes great pride in navigating) and got to Harvard University an hour early. Just enough time to take a stroll around Harvard Square and try - fruitlessly, I might add - to calm my nerves.

By the time 11:25 a.m. (t-minus five minutes) rolled around I could barely catch my breath.

What if I'm not smart enough? I wondered. What if I can't hold a conversation about her book? What if there are awkward lulls in the conversation? R.J. reassured me that things would be all right, but I was about to meet my academic role model - what if things didn't go perfectly?

By the time we walked into the Faculty of Arts & Sciences building and turned the corner toward her office, my heart had officially entered my throat. But as I passed her nameplate and knocked on her office door - knowing I couldn't turn back now - a wave of calm washed over me. Upon seeing her face, her height (tall) and her birchbark canoe earrings I could tell immediately that she wasn't the type of Harvard Professor I'd worked her up to be. Above all else, she was Native. And a woman. And an academic. A Native woman academic - kind of like me!

From that moment on our conversation flowed freely. Our first stop on the Lisa Brooks tour of Harvard was the plaque that comemmorated the original building that was Harvard College, its first Native graduates and its mandate (recorded in their Charter) for the education of Indians:

We had lunch with the Harvard University Native American Program's (HUNAP) Liaison & Recruiter, Jason, then headed up for a tour of HUNAP. Although I didn't view myself as a prospective student, they treated me in that way, which was very kind and flattering. We spent the afternoon chatting with a great mix of staff, students (grad and undergrad) and alumni. Of course R.J. and I couldn't leave without one cheesy tourist photo:

We stopped at the gift shop, the Coop, where I bought a couple of baby things for a friend who's expecting. No pressure or anything, unborn child. Then we said goodbye to Harvard.

R.J. and I celebrated the amazing day with Thai, wine and dessert to go (our guilty pleasure!).

The next day, Friday, we went for dinner at Lisa's home outside of the city. That part of the trip was so amazing, I believe that neither my words nor photos could do it justice.

But I'll say this much: we had a great kitchen table conversation.

No comments:

Post a Comment