Hafta get the car inspected tomorrow. Major bummer. For starters, the damn thing is held together with coat hangers and duct tape, has two Telly Savalas tires and one with a slow leak, one wheel whose tie-rods are shot, according to the last mechanic who had it up on a lift, and is sure to fail the ever-more-stringent computerized exhaust test. Then there is the paperwork problem; between two years unpaid excise tax on a car I sold in ’01 out-of-state but forgot to bring back the plates for and assorted unpaid, lost or returned-for-missing-the-deadline, now-you-owe-us-twice-as-much tickets, I wouldn’t be surprised if they confiscate my keys.
Plus there’s a slight cash flow problem at the moment; squeezing money out of my budget is like getting water to flow uphill. Our students have gone missing, foreign students that is, some scared away by the increasingly dire predictions of terrorist violence, more simply unable to get the student visas which used to be automatic.
Before 9/11, a kid who wanted to study in the US simply had to show up at the closest US embassy or consulate with two letters. One, called and I-20, is basically a letter of acceptance from a licensed US school or university. The other was a letter from a bank saying that the student, or someone who was promising to fund them, had about $5,000 in a readily accessible bank account for each semester they wanted to stay in the States. That and a round-trip airline ticket, and the kids were usually told to come back that afternoon, or the next day at the latest. The S-1 student visas are good until 60 days after the last class, and the students have to be studying “full-time” (at least 16 class hours per week) to keep their visas valid.
Now, according to the stories we are hearing from our students, they are really grilling the applicants, asking for all sorts of additional documents and actually investigating people in many cases, which can take weeks or months. Of course, application of this new policy is less than even-handed. We have almost completely lost our students from the middle east, and they used to be 25-30% of our students. Men are more closely scrutinized that women, and West Europeans get in a lot easier than East Europeans. Talk about profiling.
Bottom line is that many students simply can’t get visas, or can’t get them in time (students being students all over the globe they frequently leave minor details like visas for the last minute). As a result many are staying at home to study English or other subjects, or traveling to other countries. Australia is a particularly hot area for ESL right now. At Boston University where I teach we have lost half our students, and laid off 10 of 31 full-time teachers this summer.
So the writing is on the wall. Even without another attack, I will certainly be in the next round of layoffs. I am already sending my resume around the world, and, as another New England winter gathers strength on my mental horizon, thinking of warmer, friendlier climes. Anything to keep my mind off of my poor car. Oh my, I have a dentist’s appointment tomorrow, too. Guess I’ll just slap the FAILED sticker on there and head for the House of Pain. $29 for a month of driving sounds like a good deal to me right now. Maybe I’ll win the lottery this month. So much to look forward to….