Saturday, April 17, 2010


i've been trying to get my head around the maine vs. mass rivalry. well, not really rivalry because i never knew about it until i moved to maine. my mass plates have made it hard to blend in, and i've been constantly defending my homeland.

i was driving with a woman from maine, who suffered a few years in eastern mass, and she nonchalantly put it into language i could understand:

"in Massachusetts, when people see a yellow light they speed up."

doesn't everyone???

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gas Stations of Northern Maine

During my trips north I was really endeared with the roadside gas stations. Rugged exteriors, but the inside always felt like I was walking into somebody's grandmother's house. Particularly the bathrooms. Even the most run down ones felt like somebody wanted you to be their guest. I'm not sure what this says about 'Maine culture,' I just really like them.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Paradox of Choice

The main character in my story, Micah, is determined to stay in his hometown and make a life for himself. As I mentioned, he lives in a mill town - a one-horse economy reliant on a paper plant. And, the plant is shrinking. The paper industry in post-industrial America is dying, right? We use the internet for everything, and plants over-seas pump out the product cheaper and more efficiently (i think). The fragile economy in the whole area is pretty dependent on this plant - truckers who ship their orders, lumber outfits that supply their wood, chip mills that process the wood, restaurants that serve their employees. And the lumber industry isn't doing so hot itself these days with the housing crash etc.

So, Micah (who is my age), is still absolutely determined to make a life in his town. Though he's very aware that it's on the path to ghost town. He's a fourth generation mill worker, and has taken all the right steps to succeed in the world he knows. A good work ethic, a good family name, a plot of land to build a home.

Now that he's lost his job at the mill he's getting a second college degree - this time in gasoline mechanics, which in addition to his first degree in diesel hydrolics will make him a really skilled mechanic. He'll be able to fix your car, your truck, your tractor... but for who?

And he could get out. He was offered a job in Portland, but would rather suffer through his harsh local economy chasing after an ideal his forefathers set out for him than enter the world of men with soft hands and Abercrombie outfits (his words, almost). He's stubbornly warding off the future, and fighting for the past.

So anyway, his struggle made me think about my counter struggle finding a career path. He is fighting for exactly what I promptly fled at age 18, without much thought. Staying in my hometown would have felt a stifling decision, and actually probably would have surprised my parents. The world is my oyster, right? Why stay at home?

Like many people in 'my shoes' I've spent the years since high school wandering, learning, trying out lots of things in the hope that I'm on a convoluted path to find a lifestyle and occupation that meets my ideals and ambitions. And figuring out exactly what my ideals and ambitions are along the way. This is an angst I would be embarrassed to reveal in Madawaska.

When I was living in Marrakesh someone (Jordan?) brought back the best/worst book I've ever read from a trip home (I think he picked it up in the airport) - The Paradox of Choice. Have you read it? Probably don't, you might be embarrassed how hard it hits home. It's pretty much a self-help book discussing the difficulty finding satisfaction in a world where we have so many choices. How will you ever know you've made the right decision when people around you are making different, maybe better decisions. Can you really know what you want until you've tried them all? The book goes on for twelve chapters, and ends with a disappointing lack of conclusion. No answers, just pinpointing a somewhat embarrassing struggle that I had been feeling.

The book circulated through the young American ex-pat circle in Morocco like wildfire. Not surprising considering where we were and what we were doing. [Granted, most of my American friends were there on a Fulbright or some other prestigious research grant - I was there because I had saved up enough to buy a plane ticket, and pretty randomly found means to stay for a lot longer than I planned - see old entries on this blog. So, the self-helpiness of this book may have struck me a little harder].

Micah knows what will keep his soul-satisfied, but the invisible forces of a changing America are taking it away from him. I'm in a writing program that I love, and still have no idea what job I'm on the path to. We're both struggling, but if we were to have a conversation about our fears for the future I'm pretty sure we'd both be left mouth a little open staring blankly. Unrelatable.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Back In Action

Hi, I'm back. I've decided to revive this blog instead of creating a new one. Now I'm in Maine, studying Documentary Journalism at the Salt Institute. Apparently anybody who's anybody and anybody who wants to be anybody in the writing world has a blog. "You Blog?" "What's your blog?" Uh, hmm, let me get back to you.

Ok, ok, ok, being a self-proclaimed luddite only holds its charm for so long.

So, here I am. Back in your cyber-vision.

This state is amazing. I've got lots of fun stories to share, but will leak them slowly. This is just a 'hey' post.

In short, I've been exploring Maine in the name of research. I've heard Salt compared to long-form narrative boot camp, and outward bound for journalists. Both seem to be holding true. They actually encourage us to go on a whim, get in our cars and see if we find a story we believe exists. It's awesome.

Currently I'm writing about a shrinking paper-mill in northern Maine, and a shrinking town that depends on the mill. Way Northern Maine. Madawaska. It's about six hours north of Portland, I'm starting to feel like a truck driver and am really sick of everything on my ipod.

Canada stares at Madawaska across a small river - silently bragging better health care, government support for small businesses, and a functional rail system.

More specifically I writing about a guy who is my age and was laid off. He looks like Paul Buynon. He loves work, loves work, loves getting his hands dirty and his back sweaty. He would fix your car if you broke down on the road, and refuse to take the money. He might be able to lift your car up to look at the underside. But loves his hometown too much to leave, even though industry is fleeing as are most young capable people.

It's a downer. I've been learning a lot, and have been made ashamed of my ignorance to rural america. this country is huge! i think i understand like 5.5% of it.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

ghost city

maura ewing fails at blogger skills. more frequent posts coming sooooon. promise.

kids are cute, but also vampires of time and energy. that's my excuse.

anyways, the little devils are really starting to grow on me. there has been more laughing and less scolding recently, which i think is a relief for everyone involved. also recently the kid-Os have been trying to get at who this ms. ewing character really is... they've been asking questions like, "ms, have you wanted to be a fifth grade teacher since you were a kid?" " or "are you going to be a fifth grade teacher here for the rest of your life?" both of which make me feel like i'm keeping a dirty secret. and of course i only answer them honestly, "yes, i have wanted to be a fifth grade teacher my whole entire life, and i've been doing it for just about a hundred years already, so i don't see any reason not to do a few more."

what else? ramadan is about half way over now... i think i'm actually going to miss it. granted i'm not fasting, just observing. but i love the way it has synced the whole city: days are slooooow- no one really expects much of anyone else, it's like a communal understanding that nothing much is going to happen while the sun is shining. and then at night the city comes back to life full force- eating eating eating, laughing, yelling, singing...whatever.

but my favorite time is fitour time- the breaking of the fast. it's around 6:30 pm, just as the sun sinks away. this is my #1 favorite time to cruise the streets... EVERYONE is at home eating so the streets are mine! it's almost creepy. of course there are a few other white faces here and there, but in general marrakech is a ghost town. i like to do things like explore neighbrohoods in the medina on my bike and ride down the center of normally crazy streets. it's liberating if you can imagine. this precious moment doesn't last long- maybe 20 or 30 minutes... soon soon soon the sleeping baby of marrakech wakes up and is in full tantrum. the calm before the storm, whatever.

ok, back to real life. it is sunday afternoon which means time to get ready for SCHOOL next week.

Saturday, September 15, 2007



i'm back. i'll try to keep this thing up, but no promises... anyways, marrakech is lovely if HOT, and i'm doing well if BUSY. oh man.

teaching is going as well as to be expected i think... i've still got a lot to figure out. like for example how to make kids stay in their seats, also how to make them like, learn stuff. these are #1 and #2 on my weekend "stuff to figure out" list.

though they drain my energy, the kids also keep me pretty entertained. ha, so i think my home-town readers will appreciate this- i'm setting up a penpal system with our class and leverett elementary's... so i thought it'd be good to introduce leverett a bit, just like size (2,000), and geography (lots of trees, big hills) etc. so, one of the kids raises his hand and says, "and ms, do they have electricity in this village you come from?" hahaha.

ok, i'll do a better job of updating this soon. hope everyone is doing well!

p.s. happy ramadan.