Day 100 - Juli (3rd person I approached)
April 10, 2014 - Juli was sitting alone, texting when I approached her. She told me she was just having a conversation with someone, and put her phone down when we started to chat. Juli was born in Kisumu, on the west coast of Kenya.
“My father was a professor, so we moved around a lot,” she says. “I grew up living in Kenya, Nairobi and Uganda. My father was exiled from Uganda. Everyone wants to pin a location on you. Some even go to the extent of saying ‘I know where that accent is from,’ I tell people I grew up in Africa.”
After high school, Juli went to college in Springfield, Illinois.
“I lived there long before the Simpsons did,” Juli says when I ask if that’s the same place. Juli took general studies for almost two years while living in Springfield. She then moved to Vancouver and began a degree at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Creative Writing.
“What did you do in the real world, after school?” I asked. Juli was brief and to the point about life after graduating from UBC.
“Marriage, parenting and then supporting a spouse going for his phD. Then divorce. I remembered that the real world sucked. So I went back to school.”
Juli returned to UBC, working toward her Masters degree in English Literature.
“At that time, I was obsessed with the work of Edwidge Danticat,” Juli tells me when I ask what she read. (*Fact Check - see links below.)
“Her examination of belonging and not belonging, resonated with me. It was a time of me finding my place in the world. Not just who I am, or where I fit in my community, but the bigger picture. When you’re the child of exiled parents, it’s hard to say where you’re from.”
Juli went back out into the world after getting her Masters degree, only to be “reminded again that it sucks,” she says laughing. Juli is married again, and has two children. Her son is 21 and her daughter is 14. I said to her
“So these are the good years then, though there’s still time to have challenges with your daughter.” We both laugh and Juli says
“We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs, like any family. They are both good human beings. And yeah, we’ve all had to learn and accept and grow. There have been times that we’ve gotten through things and said ‘wow, that was something else,’ but we’re all in a good place.”
The tables have turned somewhat for Juli.
“Now my husband is supporting me as I continue with my education working on my phD in Interdisciplinary Studies. I get to see the other side of it," she says. I asked if it is a struggle for a spouse when supporting someone who is that far into their education. Juli tells me
“I think the other person has to definitely be self-confident and sure of their place in the relationship. So they don't feel like their taking second place.” Juli's phD started with a focus on the lives of women who were formerly abducted by The Lords Resistance Army in Uganda. Now, in the third year of her studies, she says that the scope of her work has broadened to a wider perspective.
“It’s Interdisciplinary so I haven’t declared what my discipline will be yet. I’m working on the planning and the preparatory research. I’ve found that as I get older, I’m getting slower. Slower in the sense that it may take me more time to understand a concept or something, but once I have, I feel it makes much more sense to me now. I'm taking time to plan. I’m about half through getting my degree.” Of course, I have to ask juli what she wants to do when she’s done. Without hesitation, Juli tells me,
“I already feel that I’m doing exactly what it is I want to be doing.”
Juli is a writer and we talk about the difference between artistic writing and critical writing, of which she does both.
“I think that either form can be both. Critical writing is usually the dissection of something, the examination and understanding of it. Artistic writing can be more than just beautiful and have a strong, important message. Writing doesn’t have to be critical to have depth or move someone.”
Juli is a published author, essayist and poet (**Fact Check - see links below). She teaches 1st year English Literature at the Liu Institute for Global Studies, UBC.
“I love teaching,” Juli says. “I teach there times a week, and I don't do a lot of lecturing. In class I’ll reference books and essays that they’ve all read, and will open things up to discussion and sit back and let it happen. Then for the third class of the week, one of the students takes over, and they present what it is they’ve learned to the rest of the class. It often turns out to be ‘Wow, I would never have thought of it in that way’. It's really magical” #notastranger