Blogging from A to Z Challenge: J is for… (#AtoZChallenge)

Welcome to my April 2023 Great and Powerful Blogging from A to Z Challenge!

I’ve revealed my theme (My life in first drafts), but this year, instead of pretending there were ever plans, I am unashamedly blogging my theme letters on the fly.  So, here goes nothing!

So, without further ado, J is for Jan van Eyck.

Jan van Eyck was my Masters advisor. He was the one responsible for the topic I chose to explore and research and write about, and the one responsible for keeping me engaged and picky and excited about the work I was doing. He also inspired me to begin teaching linguistics once I completed my degree – we talked teaching and linguistics and had regular coffee conversations for many years.

Jan is Dutch and moved to Canada to study Indigenous languages in British Columbia, coming here with his wife, Sonja, and their two sons, and living in communities, working with speakers, and developing close relationships. At some point after he finished his studies and PhD, he moved to Regina, Sask and began teaching Linguistics courses at what was then the Sask Indian Federated College, which eventually became First Nations University of Canada.

Jan was and is a quirky guy. He has Asperger’s syndrome, and is quite open about it. As a result he does not have a lot of social skills – those were handled by Sonja. She was so warm and invited students and faculty and neighbours and newcomers to Canada over frequently for meals and looked after everyone. At least that’s what I remember. Jan never drove, Sonja had to drive. Jan never trusted himself behind the wheel of a car and basically ran to and from work every day (they lived fairly close but it would still have explained how he kept in such good shape.).

I thought, and still think, of Jan as a mentor. His work ethic and ability to work with people of all kinds (although he had many opinions) and just to not engage in bullshit activities that often abound at universities, I have tried to emulate to an extent. He supported me to get into a PhD program and when I dropped out (part of my life as a quitter series) it took me a few years to feel brave enough to tell him. He understood much better than I thought he would and we remained friends, although I lost touch with him eventually.

Back in 2017, however, I went back to Regina to spend time with a friend celebrating her 50th and I toddled up to First Nations U to see if I could find Jan. To my surprise, as I was wandering the halls (his door was locked and no one was answering my knocks) I turned a corner, and there he was! He was shocked to see me but as we both recovered, we sat in his office for a bit then wandered off for a coffee for old times sake.

I was fortunate to find him as he was just getting ready to retire permanently. In another month, he would not have been there. His Asperger’s seemed worse, but part of that was likely due to the sad news that his wife, Sonja, had died. She had suffered for years with severe depression and after a few suicide attempts and various meds, her body was too worn out. His bedrock was gone. He was no longer teaching. His sons had moved elsewhere. So, his plan was eventually to move closer to one of his sons, but as of now I don’t know where he went. Jan was never on social media, nor does he probably have a personal email.

I am sad that I have once again lost touch with him, but the years I spent learning from him, studying with him, being mentored, getting support for teaching – well, I will never forget everything he did for me, and I hope wherever he is, he is living well and content, enjoying some quiet retirement.

Thanks for visiting my 2023 A to Z Challenge – Letter J.  You can find links to more blogs participating in this challenge at Letter A, A to Z 2023 Challenge Master List (Google Docs).

Guess I’m kind of a rebel too…although I do like using the “official” letters…

Posted on April 12, 2023, in A to Z Challenge, photography, Photos I took, Writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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