OK, now that I've had my little outburst... Good things about today were:
1) IT SNOWED!!! Real snow, and lots of it! I took sooo many pictures!
2) I rode along for the last leg of M's shift and got to ride in the front of the train with the machinist (shh, don't tell, that's very illegal).
3) I made a new, nice playlist for my iPod.
4) The other M mailed to say that instead of the Nieuwjaarsduik, we can go horseback riding!!!
5) Plans for Thursday are almost finalized... I'm going to Utrecht (coincidentally, the 'heenweg' is free because M's shift takes him to Utrecht that morning) and seeing C, both Ls, and possibly P.
6) Only 150 more hours till I'm on my way home.
You know, I realize I'm a American, from the land of McDonalds and frozen dinners, but I could teach this family a thing or two about eating. First of all, I don't eat when I'm not hungry. Got that? You can disapprove all you want, but I know when, what, and how much food works for me and my body, and that's how I'm going to do things. Deal with it.
And when I do eat, I eat to the point of comfortable fullness - and then I stop. I don't stuff myself until I can't force another bite down my throat. Maybe that's the measure of a man in this household, but I don't operate on that system. You are not going to pressure me into eating more than I want.
Also, there is such a thing as lunch. If you people tried that, maybe you wouldn't feel the need to eat dinner at five o'clock every day. Speaking of dinner, every evening's selection should not consist of ninety percent meat. Can I please have a SALAD?! How about some orange juice at breakfast? And what's with all the white bread? Give me some fiber!
Oh, and lastly, my world does not revolve around food. Those constant questions of "What are we going to eat tomorrow?" and "What time are we eating?" and "What do you think about this or that for dinner?" ... they seem to take up all your waking hours. When you're not parked in front of the TV, that is. I'm sorry - food is nice and all, but I don't obsess about it every hour of the day.
...In case you couldn't tell, this is me saying that I'm fed up with the way eating works in this house and I'm not going to play their little games anymore. To hell with what they think of me. My body knows what it needs, and that's what it's getting from now on.
Okay, one thing that would make my Christmas a lot better is if the Jags would beat the Texans - right now - and keep our wild card hopes alive. We're in a four-way tie for that spot, but we're the only team in the tie who is up against two losing teams; all we have to do is win today and next week, and we're in!
Unfortunately, I'm following the game on the message board and Fred Taylor isn't playing due to an injury and Leftwich (quarterback) is hurt.
Can I just say that The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is a fantastic book?? I just finished it, and seriously, it has cracked my top five (my top five, so you know it's good!) It's not a book you can read without full concentration - it's complicated, with lots of little details - but it is definitely worth the effort! Wow! C, thanks for the recommendation - glad I followed through on it!
(I can't quite figure out what the other top four would be... The Clan of the Cave Bear, definitely, and also The Lovely Bones, and of course The Da Vinci Code, and probably also Angels and Demons. Anyone else have an opinion?)
Also: I have six new Gmail invitations, so if anyone wants a free 1000 MB e-mail account by the best service I've ever come across (it's through Google), give me a holler!
But - something happy - I fixed my digital camera! It was taking a long time to 'complete' taking a picture (long shutter speed), meaning it was very sensitive to shaking, plus the pictures just didn't look 'crisp' like they should. This is a Sony 5.1 megapixel camera and it was performing like my el cheapo 3 megapixel. But I fixed it by doing something very simple on the Setup menu - changing the zoom to Precision instead of Smart! Now the shutter speed is fast and the focus is crisp and clear. We're going to the zoo tomorrow, and now my pictures will be good. Yay for me!
P.S. I just mailed three more businesses - Virgin Atlantic, Delta Airlines, and the Jacksonville Zoo - for help with my trip. I know the airlines won't help, but they're travel companies, so I thought it was at least worth a shot... maybe I'll get a lead. And the zoo, well, I'm a J-ville native and I will be walking through rainforests and going on safaris and all... maybe they'd be interested... you never know.
Hmm, the words 'travel company' just made me think of another possibility: STA. Off to mail again...
It doesn't really feel like Christmas... I should have woken up at home, with my sister, in our new matching pajamas which we would have unwrapped on Christmas Eve, and gone and woken up our parents and waited impatiently while they stumbled around and made coffee, and then we would have gone and emptied out our stockings with all the little presents, and then everybody would have ripped into the pile of 'big' presents under the tree, and then Catie and I would have played with our presents while Dad made pancakes or cinnamon rolls or omelets or whatever we decided to have for breakfast, and then Grandma would come eat with us and admire all our new stuff...
This morning, I woke up and went downstairs and ate breakfast just like always. It's been no different than any other day. Hopefully tomorrow will be better; it's Second Christmas. There's a chance of light snow, and we're having fondue for dinner and opening presents afterwards. All I have is the Marco DVD from M and (I think) a little present from his parents, but nonetheless, it'll feel a little more Christmasy. As long as R (M's brother's girlfriend) behaves herself. She is the most annoying person I have ever met, hands down. She talks slowly, noticeably so, and I have yet to spend any length of time with her during which she doesn't mention how thin she is. Within ten minutes of meeting me, she remarked, "I'm taller than you, but I'm thinner, too."
M whispered to me once that there was a problem when she was born, that she didn't get enough oxygen or something, and that that's why she is the way she is. That doesn't keep us from wanting to wring her neck once in a while, though. Last week I made some comment in the car about M stealing the blankets at night and R droned, "So - you - two - still - sleep - in - the - same - bed?" M had had enough by that point - first off, it's none of her business, and second, she knows perfectly well that there would be nowhere else to put me anyway - and he snapped, "No, she sleeps in the basement!" R looked confused, so he added, "Yeah, we don't believe in sex before marriage, didn't you know?" O, M's brother, was in fits of laughter in the backseat, and I was doubled over myself. R is the first person I can remember about whom I really do not care whatsoever what she thinks of me. Honestly, I care more about what street passersby think. Let her stay in that confused little world. But she better not say anything rude to me tomorrow night, because she'll get an earful back, Christmas spirit be damned. I don't care if there is a biological reason for her behavior; she's twenty years old and if she wants to get along in the 'normal' world then she needs to learn how civilized people behave.
Just finished watching The Santa Clause; hadn't seen that before. Pretty cute; sort of Mrs. Doubtfire-ish. At least now I understand where that last -e comes from.
I've figured out the three swims I want to do this summer - the Lowcountry Splash (2.4 miles, in Charleston, at the end of May), Swim Around Key West (12.5 miles in, where else, Key West, at the end of June) and, assuming I can get up there, the Boston Light (8-10 miles, in, yes, Boston, at the beginning of August). Boston's kind of far to go, but I won't be ready for the Tampa Bay swim by then; it's 24 miles long (longer than the Channel). Since I can't really swim while I'm here (which is driving me nuts; I feel so lazy and fat), I can at least think about it... especially that nice warm Key West swim, seeing as it's below zero here at the moment...
I still need ideas for a Christmas present for my dad! Help!
I e-mailed two more newspapers (the Orlando Sentinel and the Tampa Tribune) today to ask for help with Semester at Sea - the Times-Union, as Mom predicted, didn't even dignify me with an answer. I also mailed two more TV stations, First Coast News and, yes, Channel 7 (laughing yet, parents?). My advisor said to 'go for broke' in trying to get money, so I intend to do exactly that. The worst they can say is no. Anybody got any other suggestions?
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!...
Well, it's past midnight, so it's officially Christmas Eve - here, anyway (it'll be another six hours or so for good old Florida). M has to get up at five to go to work, so he went to bed at ten, and I surfed on the computer for a while and then tried to go to sleep too, but couldn't. (That's because I slept too late this morning. My room in Gainesville has an east-facing window, so I'm usually up with the sun, but M has a west window and a thick shade, so his room stays very dark, making it easy to oversleep.) So after I heard his parents go to bed I grabbed a book and crept downstairs and fumbled around trying to find a light (managed to turn off a power switch in the process, too, which I am now afraid to turn back on, because doing so makes the phone beep LOUDLY and the 5-disc stereo begin to whir and grind). So now I'm on the downstairs computer, blogging, because I have nothing better to do.
No real plans tomorrow (or 'today', as the case may be), and then there's of course Kerst (Christmas) and Tweede Kerst (Second Christmas - yes, they have two Christmases here). Basic plans for those days: presents and lots and lots of food, including fondue. Then a new week begins - we're going swimming again on Monday (M bought new goggles and wants to race me again), I'm on my own on Tuesday (might go to Zwolle to go shopping or something), not sure about Wednesday, then going to Utrecht on Thursday to see C and L, possibly spending the night there, then Friday seeing the other L, then back to Emmen to celebrate New Year's Eve with M and his family, and then the next day to Scheveningen with the other M to do the Nieuwjaarsduik (literally, 'New Year's Dive'... thousands of people running into the freezing cold North Sea). Believe it or not, that was not my idea, but I couldn't turn down a nutty adventure like that!
Anyway, that's at least two and maybe three train trips to Utrecht, depending on whether or not I spend Thursday night there, and I don't have a discount card anymore because mine expired in October (when I was, of course, no longer in the country and so couldn't renew it). M thinks that's ridiculous - "That's crazy. Why can't they come here? Why do you want to pay three times? That's a dumb thing to do." I tried to explain that it's not just the people that matter; it's the city, too. I want to go to Utrecht - I lived there for a year, I miss it, I want to see it again and spend time there and see all my friends, and so if this is the way it's going to work, I'm fine with it. I'm on vacation; I don't mind spending a little extra money, especially since I have no idea when I'll see all these friends again. And, privately, I'd like a little time away from M, too.
But he just harped on about it, repeating the same things, until I finally just snapped, "It's my money; will you quit bitching?" At which he rolled over and went to sleep without a word. Sigh. I think he's having trouble accepting the fact that I'm not just here to see him; that I want to spend time with other people too. He's being really annoying about us breaking up - he tries to be cute about it, but it's not cute, it's whiny. I have had to tell him every single day since being here that yes, he's a great person, but no, I do not have romantic feelings for him anymore. At which he mournfully says, "Not great enough, then." Grrr. The problem is that he doesn't understand that you can like a person a lot, and think they're really sweet and nice and attractive, and yet not want to be in a relationship with them. It seems like we have the exact same conversation multiple times a day. At first, it just made me feel guilty, but now it's starting to get really irritating. How plain do I have to be here? Grow up!
And with my luck, he'll read this. Well, M, je mag niet boos worden - dit heb ik allemaal al (meerdere keer) tegen je gezicht gezegd, dus ik heb volgens mij volle recht om het allemaal op mijn site te zetten...!
But anyway, on to something else: Christmas presents. Shopping, shopping, shopping! I already know what I'm getting Mom (and she knows too, thanks to my big mouth) and I had a really good idea for something for my sister today while M and I were shopping in the center. I've already got lots of little things for M, his mother (my Secret Santa) and those five girlfriends in Utrecht, plus I've gotten a couple of little things for people back home - chocolate, etc. I wish the chocolate letters were still around, but I missed Sinterklaas (6 December), so they're pretty much gone. M has gotten me the new Marco Borsato DVD (I can't wait to watch it - part of it was taped at the concert I was at last June) and some Celine Dion body wash, and I think he's also planning to get me some perfume and this colorful scarf that I liked.
Anyway, I still have no idea what to get Dad - anybody have any ideas???
A basic recap of the past few days:
17 - left Orlando
18 - arrived in London, left London, arrived in Amsterdam
19 - biked to Emmen while M worked
20 - went to the Zwaluwhoeve (spa)... got a hot-stone massage and enjoyed the different saunas and tubs/pools
21 - shopped
22 - went swimming, made tacos for M's parents
23 - did essentially nothing...
One last note: turns out I'm getting an A in astronomy. I hadn't expected that; I thought it would be another B+. I wrote to the teacher to ask my grade on the final (he had already changed the website to reflect the Spring class, so I couldn't get it myself) and he wrote back, "You got an A. Good job!" Well, first off, there's no way I got an A on that final, plus, even if I had, he would have told me the numeric grade, not the letter. The fact that he told me the letter means that that must be my 'final grade', not my 'grade on the final'. But that's what I really wanted to know anyway, so - cool! :)
And showers! I can understand how some people could see daily showers as a waste of time and water, especially in the winter when you barely sweat, but as an American I am used to a daily shower, and most Dutch people I've met are the same way - daily or every other day. M's family, however, seems to be able to go for indefinite periods without letting water touch their skin. As disgusting as this may sound, I honestly don't think M has taken a shower since I've been here. (He has, thankfully, gone swimming.) His parents have taken one, just one.
I wouldn't call myself obsessed with cleanliness. I will quite happily wear the same clothes two days in a row if they don't stink, and if I've just swum in the evening and know I have to swim again in the morning, I'll often forgo a shower as well - because what would be the point? However, I just can't deal with going for longer than every other day. Even though I only have three inches of hair, it starts to feel incredibly disgusting if it doesn't get cleaned every day or two.
I'm not talking about camping trips or other extenuating circumstances, by the way. On Semester at Sea, I know there will be times in Africa and India when I'll have to skip a shower for four or five days at a time, and it won't be a problem at all - because it's all part of the experience. But at the moment, I am living in a perfectly normal living situation - in a perfectly normal house equipped with a perfectly normal bathroom - and I want my effing shower!
Can I just say that as much as I love being back, that the food is driving me insane? M and his brother are both perfectly thin and their parents are both perfectly round, so none of them pay much attention to what they eat. Bread with Nutella or hagelslag (sprinkles) in the morning, no real lunch (just grabbing snacks while you're out, like French fries), and then a huge dinner with (usually) no dessert, and then later in the evening another snack, like chips or bread with flavored cream cheese. It's all GOOD, don't get me wrong, but I DON'T EAT LIKE THAT! I want my fiber cereal in the morning, and I want orange juice, and I want Lean Pockets and protein bars and SKIM milk and salad! All this sugar and carbs is getting to me. I don't suppose I've really gained that much weight in six days, but it feels like I have because I can't CONTROL what I'm eating; I'm at the mercy of M's mother and what she chooses to make.
We finally went swimming yesterday and the first few laps felt awful. It got better as I went on - I think I swam a total of about 2500 meters, with breaks in between for the hot tub and slide, and I did eventually start to get 'in the zone' - but I really hate this. I'm thrilled to be back in this country - because I still love it here despite everything, and the language is actually easier than ever - but I want my normal schedule back, with twice-a-day swimming and normal, healthy food.
I forgot to mention that my astringent came open in my bag and emptied all over the place. I had it in a Ziploc bag, but apparently that wasn't good enough (what do they DO with luggage at those airports?). Anyway, the long-sleeved white Adidas shirt that I threw in at the last minute turned out to be my savior; it absorbed most of it. (Luckily that's not one of my favorite shirts; it's an old camp veteran that's already stained, so I'm not crushed.) That's annoying, though; after trying to pack so carefully...
Well, I made it. The trip was relatively uneventful, except for the hours of sitting in Florida traffic jams, positive that we weren't going to make it to the airport on time. But we did, with an hour before my flight time, and then it turned out that the plane was a little late arriving anyway, so it all worked out.
I ended up in the very last row of the first plane with nobody next to me, so I had two seats on which to curl up and doze. I wouldn't call it sleeping, exactly, but I closed my eyes and a lot of time went by...
Then came the seven looooong hours of layover at London Gatwick - where the only things to do were buy duty-free stuff, eat paninis and chocolate, stare at the Departure monitors, and sleep. (I fell asleep on a bench for an hour or so, using my bag as a pillow.) However, the problem with that airport is that they don't assign gate numbers until your plane is practically already leaving. There's a looooong list of planes and times on the monitors, but only the top six or seven of them have gate numbers, and there is of course no gate number on your boarding pass, either. So, when my plane was scheduled to leave at 15.35, I was still perched on a chair, eyes glued to the Monitor of Truth, at 15.10. But again, it all worked out. (Hey, Dad - and my iPod is still almost half full! Yay for the better battery...)
Anyway, that last little 'hop' was no problem at all - they barely had time to throw some food at us before we were landing again. Oh, yes, and when the snack carts finally cleared the aisle and twenty or so people jumped up to use the bathrooms, we hit some really bad turbulence and were falling all over the people at the back of the plane. (I was helping an English woman with her crossword puzzle and practically fell into her lap.) They made us all go and sit down again (no easy feat; I was in row 6), so then there was of course a mad dash for the toilets when we finally got to Schiphol. But that was only after they managed to unlock the doors of the connecting tunnel... we all stood packed in there like sardines for a few minutes, making claustrophobia comments, while the attendant banged helplessly on the door. Pretty amusing. But my seatmates were cool; I was sitting on the aisle with an empty space between me and a girl by the window whose boyfriend had somehow ended up assigned on the other side of the aisle. I heard them talking in Dutch to each other, so I asked, "Wil je liever hier zitten?" and after the plane filled up we worked out an arrangement that suited us all. They were nice - I never did catch their names, but they were about my age and from Hoofddorp (close to Amsterdam). When I said I had just flown from Florida, they started asking things like, "So you traveled alone? Was it a vacation?" and I had to explain that no, no, this was my vacation; I actually lived in Florida. Even then they didn't get it - "Yeah, I can hear that just a little bit," the guy said - then said (statement, not question), "But you are Dutch, I mean originally." When I said no and explained the situation, they both looked impressed and the guy started looking around for their friends in other rows, "I'm going to tell everybody I know!" :)
And then came the line for customs - unreasonably long - where I had time to make friends with the Scottish guy and South African girl behind me, and to crack up the French guys behind them when talking about the employees' retinal scanner on the other side of the rail. "Wonder what would happen if I tried it? It'd probably open up and tear my eye out or something..." I was getting pretty hyper by then - lack of sleep and too many fatty foods. Anyway, but I got through, met M (despite everything, it was still great to see him), got on the train, collapsed onto an orange seat... and was struck by how normal it all felt. It's like I've never been away. I was literally skipping through Zwolle when we changed trains - I'm back!
I know the number-one question is going to be 'is it weird to be staying with a guy who is actually officially your ex?', and surprisingly enough, no. We talked a little bit about it on the train last night - I was by that point basically in a sleepy fog, but still coherent enough to make it plain once again that my decision is final, but that I still want to have a good vacation. He eventually agreed with that, and I don't anticipate any more 'issues'. My main worry is actually that I'll 'start liking him again' during these two weeks, but all I have to do is think about Semester at Sea and swimming and school and all my other plans and that's enough to get rid of those kind of thoughts. Because it's not just him; I just don't really want to be with anyone right now. I have too much going on to try to make time for someone else. It'll happen again sooner or later, but right now I just want to focus on me without all the baggage and limitations that other people bring to your life. That's not always bad, but I'd just like a break right now, thanks very much. :)
Anyway, I've mostly slept off the jet lag (I didn't even stir when M left for work this morning; I slept until almost eleven) and now he's still at work and I'm messing around on the computer and wrapping presents. Tomorrow we're going to the Zwaluwhoeve, that spa we went to last year and liked so much, and next week I'll probably make the rounds in Utrecht. L and C have answered my e-mail saying 'sometime next week', but L and M and P haven't yet seen fit to answer me at all (*cough*hint*cough*). M's parents are going to a birthday party later and I'm going to bike into town, since it's koopzondag ('shopping Sunday', when the stores are open), and try to find an agenda and a few other things. Then I'm hoping we can go swimming tonight - I miss it already, especially with all the chocolate and sausage and white bread and stuff that one gets to eat around here.
Well, today's the big day! "I'm all packed!", as L would say (right Mom? ;)). I have an astronomy exam at 10 - my last exam! - and after that I'm going to go get my check from work and drive to Jacksonville. I'll deposit my check, drive home, hunt for the missing PIN for my credit card (LOL), and then I'll leave my car there and Mom will drive me to Orlando in the van. Two hours in the car, approximately three hours to wait at the airport, eight hours to fly to London, seven hours layover in London (I should really hop on a bus and go DO something), and then an hour to Amsterdam. And then two hours on the train. Sigh. 23 hours of being 'on the move'. Oh, well, I'll survive.
I have essentially no real plans (yet) - M and I are going to the Zwaluwhoeve on Monday, and I'm trying to set up time to see L and L and C and M and P, but beyond that: nothing. Two weeks suddenly seems like a very long time. Come on, you guys, read your e-mail and rescue me! :)
Guess I better get going now... there is, after all, still studying to be done *retch*.
(P.S. R's ankle is doing much better, by the way - thanks for the good thoughts, if anyone even bothered. However, we were leaving practice last night talking about it and I said, "Yeah, I was just gonna say - be very very careful on these stairs!" And right after I said that, she tried to step over a curb, missed, caught her toes on the edge and nearly fell flat on her face again. Am I a jinx, or is she just clumsy?)
Yes, I know I have an exam in seven and a half hours and I should be sleeping, but I just wanted to write for a second about what happened tonight. R and I were leaving practice, heading down the stairs to the parking lot, shivering in the cold darkness and talking about who knows what, when she suddenly rolled her ankle and pitched forward off the next-to-last stair (thank goodness she was so low down!). She hit the concrete sidewalk with a pretty spectacular crash, stuff flying everywhere, and started rolling around holding her ankle. I dropped down beside her, but there wasn't a lot I could do. If she had been a little camper of mine, like Sofi a couple years back, I would have had her take off her boot and try to stretch several different ways, etc. Just my presence and calmness would have been an asset. But this is R, who like any serious athlete has dealt with countless injuries already, and who studies and works in the fields of anatomy and physical therapy. I couldn't tell her anything she didn't already know; all I could do was tell her to try to move it around and to take her time getting up. Her Friday graduation and her much-anticipated Christmas trip to New York with her mother were the furthest things from my mind until she started crying. "No, no, no, I can't be hurt now, I have to do so much walking, no, no!"
Anyway, we got home and somehow between us got her foot iced, wrapped, and elevated (if there's one thing I know about, it's how to treat a foot), and I convinced her to take some Aleve (pain med as well as anti-inflammatory... my wonder drug for about two years straight), but it still hasn't really gotten much better. And all she can think about is the fact that she hasn't seen her mom in a year and that she planned this wonderful vacation for the two of them and paid for it all by herself, and that now she's gone and 'ruined it' by hurting herself. I didn't even need to understand Afrikaans to interpret that tirade I just heard through her bedroom door.
Anyway, I feel really sorry for her. She really deserves this trip - she's never been to New York, she hasn't seen her mom in forever, she's worked her butt off all year long, and she's graduating in two days - "and now I'm going to have to do everything on crutches!" I heard her wail in Afrikaans to her mom. Boy, have I been there and done that, let me tell you. Maybe a miracle will happen and it'll get a lot better overnight, since she won't be moving it. I personally thought she should have quit trying to stretch it out and just wrapped it tight and propped it up - sometimes movement can do more harm than good, especially with a new injury - but like I said, this is her field of study, so I wasn't going to tell her what to do. We'll see how she is tomorrow.
One little bit of other news: I've found a couple of cool open-water marathon swims that I could do this summer for Channel practice - one is short, 2.4 miles, up in Charleston, another is Swim Around Key West - just what it sounds like - for 12.5 miles, and then I have a choice of two up in the Boston area, one for 10 miles and the other for 7.8 miles. Even if I never make it to the Channel - although I sure hope I do! - those would be cool adventures, both to discover my limits and to gain experience. Ocean swimming is very different from a pool.
OK, bedtime now - anthropology awaits.
Send some good wishes R's way, if you have the time...
Two finals down, two to go. Swimming was yesterday (definitely a 100) and TESL was this morning. I was kind of worried about it, but I think it went well. I actually knew all of the definitions and sounded fairly coherent, at least to my mind. I'm a little worried about the "what did you learn" question at the end - that's a little too open-ended for my taste - give me some guidelines, please - but I still think I got an A, and my grade for the class is definitely an A. I'm getting a B+ in Sounds of Human Language, which is okay - if I had completely knocked myself out for the final project, I might have been able to pull an A-, but that would have required tons of outside help and a lot of work during what was already a very busy time for me, so I elected to just BS it and pass and not worry about it too much. I'm not unhappy with my grade in the class - I don't feel like I 'deserve' an A in there anyway, because I don't understand half the material. My forte is syntax, not phonology. But it's over, and that's all that matters.
(But speaking of syntax, my teacher for that class swims with R's team too, and R was asking her last week, 'So, E, how many finals do you have to grade?' 'A lot,' she groaned. 'Are you gonna be nice to my roommate over here?' 'Oh, yeah, she got a 100!' I did a little celebratory dance in the water, haha!)
Tomorrow is the anthropology final, which I should be able to do pretty well on - it's not cumulative, so I only have to learn the last two months' worth of stuff we've done, and one of the major units of that was actually linguistics (hooray!), so that cuts down on the work. That is, however, a 'true' college class in the sense that we have three exams and those are our entire grade. I know my first exam was a 100 because he canceled it due to hurricanes and gave everyone 100s (yay for Frances and Jeanne!) but I can't remember my second grade, and he doesn't put them online. I think it was a middling B, though, so this final will 'make or break' my grade. But I should be fine; we've finally moved on to the more social aspect of anthropology (religion, language, familial ties) and I'm good at that stuff.
And then Friday is the astronomy final - no clue how that's going to be, nor what my grade for the class will be - and then I go pick up my check, drive to Jacksonville, leave my car at home, jump in the van with Mom, and drive to Orlando... to fly to NL! Yay! There's a part of me that wishes I were just staying home for Christmas, especially since it's now 'officially' over between me and M; this will be the first Christmas I've ever spent without my family. But my ticket is non-refundable so I'm trying to make myself see only the good sides - I'll be back in that country I love so much, I'll get to see L and the other L and C and P and M and the other M, I'll get to celebrate New Year's in Europe (where it is SO much better than here...), I'll get to speak Dutch all the time, I'll get to go to the Zwaluwhoeve (spa) and ride the trains and go shopping ... etc. etc. etc. It'll be fine.
Updates on my two new 'exciting' things - Semester at Sea and the Channel:
I turned in my College of Liberal Arts and Sciences scholarship application, so there's a thousand dollars right there (I hope). I won't hear back from them until February, though.
I also heard back from the news anchor I wrote to at the TV station asking them to fund my trip; she wrote a very nice, encouraging note back to me with the name of the appropriate person to talk to, so there's still hope. No word yet from the newspaper.
I ordered the book I'd been looking for on swimming the Channel, Dover Solo. It's written autobiograpical-style by a woman who has done it (several times, I believe). Hopefully that'll provide some inspiration as well as give me some practical info. The reviews are very high, so let's hope it lives up to its reputation.
May I add that it was FREEZING this morning?!?! This is FLORIDA, people - it is not supposed to be in the 20s! (But I did get to try out my new North Face jacket!) My exam was at 7:30, so I got up at 6 and walked to class around 6:45 (I always go early before exams; I do better if I can discuss things with classmates ahead of time) and there were, believe it or not, actual ICICLES on the fence of one of the fraternities! They had left their sprinklers on overnight, apparently, and there were all these long, skinny icicles hanging along the sidewalk. Very cool - I haven't seen that since it sort-of-snowed in Florida when I was five or six.
OK - first exam, done. It was just swimming, though, and I'm sure I got a hundred - it was even easier than the midterm. I'm kind of sorry that class is over, but at the same time I'm glad I'll be moving on to Aerobic Swimming next semester. I didn't sign up for that at first because I thought it was like water aerobics, but that's not it at all - it's the 'workout' swimming class. Looking forward to that. :)
Tomorrow - nothing, Wednesday - TESL (bah), Thursday - anthropology, and Friday - astronomy... and then I'm DONE!!!
I've been doing some more research on that Channel-swimming idea, and I really think I could do it. It's not going to be easy, though - it's a distance of 21 miles, which is made longer by the currents and tides (you end up swimming something of an S-shape) and the water is very cold, usually between 58 and 62 degrees. You also have to do a qualifying swim of at least six hours in water no warmer than 60 degrees. (There's a swim around Manhattan Island every July which a lot of swimmers use as preparation - the water isn't as cold, but other than that, the conditions are very similar. I don't know if I'd be ready for that by this summer, but definitely by next year.)
And you obviously have to train a lot, in pools as well as in open water, with the focus not on speed but on being able to swim nonstop for hours. I gave that a go today (in the #$%^& 88-degree pool - ugh! Too hot!), but the important point I forgot was hydration. You don't realize how much you sweat in the water. Rehydrating has usually not been that important for me because I don't swim for longer than an hour and a half or so and I've never swum longer than about a half mile without stopping for a few minutes, just because there was no reason to do otherwise. But today I swam 2700 meters (about 1 and 2/3 miles) and then started feeling nauseous, so I stopped, drank a little water - and then was perfectly fine within a minute. Even swam a few IMs after that (with butterfly). Guess that boat is important for more reasons than one - not only do they pull you out if you can't make it, but they feed and/or hydrate you every 20 minutes or so. Plus they're your support group. If and when I get to the point where I'm sure I'm going to at least attempt this, I bet R would go along as coach/masseuse/friend all rolled into one, haha.
Oh, and as a side note: another plus to all this is that my build puts me at an advantage - a lot of smaller people have to gain as much as 30 or 40 pounds to insulate them against the cold. I didn't know that when I first started looking into this, but it turns out I have pretty much the perfect body makeup to do it. Cool.
On to another topic... P is gone - vacation in South FL for a while, then back home to Finland; I won't see her again - and R's mom is here. She got in this afternoon after traveling for over 24 hours (Cape Town to London to New York to Orlando, plus an airport switch in London). She's never even been outside South Africa before, so this is a major deal. She and R are going to New York for a week at Christmas - I've forgotten the date, but I think they're leaving after I do. And then she's staying until the 12th before she flies home again. I haven't really talked to her at all yet, but it's really funny to hear her and R jabbering away in Afrikaans. I can understand a lot of what they say, so it's fun to try to eavesdrop. R and I speak Afrikaans and Dutch to each other sometimes, if we're talking about someone or if we're just being silly, but it's cool to hear it 'for real' again. Reminds me of J, my friend from camp in 2002. If this Semester at Sea pans out, I've got to try to look her up when we're in Cape Town.
Speaking of Semester at Sea, I got a couple of things done for that today - my official transcript and my disciplinary clearance both got mailed, so now my application is complete and they can process it and give me the yea or nay and send me the scholarship info. (I debated waiting until after break, when my Fall grades would be in, but I'm above a 3.5 already so I suppose it doesn't really matter.) I also wrote to two teachers and got them to agree to write letters of recommendation for me, plus got another copy of my transcript, which I needed for a different application (there are five in total). So the only things I still have to do are write three essays (for various scholarship applications), pay the $150 deposit (waiting until my Spring aid is in before I do that!), and get passport photos taken. Oh yeah, and do the Academic Advising forms saying what classes I'll be taking, but I can hold off on those - I'll have basically no requirements left, so it shouldn't be too difficult.
I know I shouldn't count my chickens before they hatch, but I'm fairly certain I'll get a $2000 scholarship from the International Center and a $1000 scholarship from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (so both from within the university). That plus my normal scholarships makes about $7000... plus I've applied for a lot more things, plus I'm appealing to businesses, plus applying for a scholarship through Semester at Sea itself, plus I'll have some money of my own after next semester and after the summer of working... so we'll just have to see how it plays out. The goal is $20,000 - 15k for the cabin and 5k for in-country trips and airfare to and from the departure and arrival points - and more would not be remiss.
OK, this is a long, random, stream-of-consciousness entry... so... goodbye!
Wow, it's been over a week since I last posted, and it feels like forever. Here are the high points:
I broke up with Martin. I'm still going over for Christmas - it'll be great to be back in NL, to see my friends, and to see him - and we're going to have a great vacation and act just like we always do, but after that, it's over. It hadn't felt perfectly 'right' for a long time, but that didn't matter so much until recently. Now it's getting to the point where I have to decide if I 'love him enough' to change my entire life and limit my options while I'm still so young, and I decided I don't. And I feel no regret whatsoever - only relief.
I applied for Semester at Sea. Check out that site - I'll hopefully be going on the Fall 2005 trip. This has the potential to be the most amazing experience of my life; however, it's also going to run me about $20,000 - yes, for ONE semester - and Bright Futures and National Merit only pay about $4000. I'm hitting up every single business and scholarship site I can think of - my best idea so far has been to e-mail the newspaper and see if they'll sponsor me in exchange for my writing a feature about every country I visit - but it's going to be tough to raise that amount, especially since I refuse to take out a loan. If anyone has any ideas for me or knows of any scholarships out there that I might have forgotten about, please let me know!
School is out! So I'm back in Jacksonville for a few days - until Sunday night, anyway, since exams start Monday. I went to the dentist and eye doctor today (need some new sealants done on my molars, and I'm apparently now actually a tiny bit FARsighted in my right eye due to that overcorrection) and have a haircut appointment tomorrow. I love getting my hair cut - I know Mom likes it better when it's a little thicker and longer, but I love how it feels when it's short - I don't even need a swim cap.
My size 8 jeans fit me again. Yes, they're still a bit small, but I can wear them. This is a major coup. For those who don't know, I swim two mornings a week (for a class) and five evenings a week (for R's team) and I love how it's going - my shoulders and arms are getting really strong, I can swim faster and farther all the time, and my butterfly stroke gets better every day. I've toyed with the idea of swimming the English Channel someday ever since I first read National Velvet (in the book, Velvet's mom swam the Channel) but now I'm starting to think I may actually do it. Maybe that'll be my next fundraiser... :)
I went for a run today and didn't have to stop once. That, too, is a big deal - I went on approximately a two-mile run and didn't have to slow down at all. I just kept going. So the swimming is helping me there, too. Even better, I did not feel a single twinge from my foot. This physical therapy stuff is amazing - why didn't they recommend this when I was first recovering from the surgieries? That amazes the people in the PT room too - "If you were immobilized for a year -" which I was, "- you should really have had something like this done before now!"
That's all for now... - But I promise I won't leave you hanging for so long again. And if I get to do the Semester at Sea, you can bet I'll be keeping you guys updated through here!
Well, it's officially December! Are we excited? :)
I'm sitting in one of the campus libraries, killing time until 16:00... I didn't see any point in going home. I had my normal Wednesday regime, plus an out-of-class linguistics quiz (perfect score, yeah!), and in an hour and a half, I have my first physical therapy appointment. I'm not sure there's all that much they can do with such an old problem, but it's free and can't hurt. At least now I can say I tried.
Actually, maybe I should make them extend that massage to the rest of my body. I went and swam with the Masters team (the group R coaches) again last night, and this time I swam 3000 meters. You can tell she's an Olympian - jots down individual workouts for every level like it's nothing. She knows exactly how much we can do and how fast we can do it, almost right down to the second. I like seeing that other side of her - normally, all I see is my friend, lounging around the living room with me, watching the WB and talking about everything under the sun (including making comments about other people in Dutch/Afrikaans when the mood arises - we can understand each other fairly well). She very rarely talks about swimming at all. So this 'professional' R is new to me. But still pretty cool.
Anyway, the point of that ramble was that I did 3000 meters last night without really thinking about the fact that I had to get up early this morning and go swim for my class, too. So K, the instructor, divided up the pool, with one lane for each of the 3 strokes our class has done, told everyone to go to the lane for the stroke they needed the most work on... then sent me and four others down to the last lane to do a 2000-meter workout (including some butterfly, yay!). Which made my shoulders burn at first, but it got better. But I have now swum 5000 meters in the last 18 hours... yeah, a bit much, that. I messed up my left shoulder/arm a little bit in the process, too. Oh well, I'll live.
Oh, and I finally got a babysitting job in Gainesville - tonight, for E, one of the babies I take care of at ACA. She's about eight months old, and she used to be so cute - you had only to LOOK at her and she would break into an face-splitting grin. But lately she seems to be going through a stage - she screams a lot for no reason at all, and wants to be held all the time. Lucky me. Oh well, she was better yesterday, so we'll see.
Hmm, still an hour and 15 minutes, and I've already done everything I can think of to do on the computer. Maybe I'll have to give in and go do some work on that 3201 project... can I get a BAH, anyone?