Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Local News Article

My local paper did an article about my sabbatical. Here is the link

Staff photo by Sam Yu Helen and Ken Kerr of Frederick have many books on Argentina and the Spanish language. They will come in handy as the Kerrs will soon spend six months in Argentina.
And here is the text:
Professor to learn Spanish in ArgentinaPublish Date: 12/12/06
By Clifford G. Cumber News-Post Staff

FREDERICK -- When Ken Kerr was 40, he made a list of things he wanted to do before he died.
He ran the marathon (17 of them, in fact); he got his doctorate (at age 46); he's in the process of writing a book.

He has yet to meet a sitting president, or get elected to political office. He doesn't own a racehorse, and has yet to build a house with his own hands.

Next month, when he turns 50, the Frederick Community College English professor can strike off two of the dozen or so items left on the list.

He will live for an extended time in another country -- he leaves for Argentina in 17 days. And he can say he's fluent in another language -- Spanish.

Mr. Kerr will spend six months on sabbatical from his FCC post with his wife, Helen, in Argentina, totally immersed in the culture and language of Buenos Aires. Mr. Kerr has never left the United States.

He spent 18 months in research and preparation for his time abroad. But the idea had its genesis before that.

"I noticed that we have a growing Latino population at the college, and even if somebody calls the college on the phone and doesn't speak English, there are only about five people on campus who can take the phone call," he said in an interview Monday.

So, Mr. Kerr pitched his idea to FCC. Fund the trip, and he'd use the sabbatical he earned after six years on staff to travel. The faculty will then have one more fluent Spanish speaker. They agreed.

He began looking for a country. Europe would be too cold this time of year, so he turned to South America. With Helen along, a small village with few amenities was out of the question. The place had to have a stable government and a safe city he could afford (he will continue to pay a mortgage on his home while away).

"I found Argentina," he said.

And in Argentina he found Buenos Aires, a city about the size of Chicago, with a cosmopolitan atmosphere, museums, libraries, opera and all the intellectual trappings.

But after a military government in the 1980s, the city has not been popular for tourists. And no tourists means very little accommodation for English speakers.

It was just the kind of total immersion Mr. Kerr was looking for. He found an apartment through the help of a former colleague.

"I have to learn Spanish to get by," he said.

Now he speaks more than enough of the language to get by.

"You could drop me in the middle of a Spanish-speaking country, and I could do more than survive, I could thrive."

But whereas now he can converse, by the time he comes back he hopes to be able to talk about ideas and what people think.

"For my own personal growth and understanding of the world, my challenge is to see what's it like to move to a place where you've never been, where you don't know the language well, you don't know the culture, you don't know the customs, and try and establish a life," he said.

He hopes the experience will change him, alter his world view.

"I hope to be more aware, more thoughtful, a more tolerant person who understands the world a little bit better, that I'm able to see myself and my country as somebody else might see me."


emilyeffinconrad said...

good article.
I miss you come home now.

Ken-o said...

I am impress , but after all , he is a Kerr

one of the three Ken Kerr s in Longview , Texas

Ken and Helen said...

From one Ken Kerr to another:

Thanks for visiting!

Ken and Helen said...

From one Ken Kerr to another:

Thanks for visiting!