:: eye of the storm ::

About Me

A 27-year-old PA student who wants to visit all seven continents, write a book, work at a pediatric clinic in Africa, and basically meet as many of the world's challenges as possible.

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current mood:
current mood

Life List

(already accomplished)

Become a PA

Visit all 7 continents

Take a SwimTrek trip

Bike through Western Europe

Raft the Grand Canyon

Improve my Spanish proficiency

Go on safari in Africa

Trace my roots at Ellis Island

Vacation in Hawaii

Work on a hospital ship in a Third World country

Celebrate New Year's in Times Square

Visit all 50 states (29 to go: AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, RI, SD, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY)

See the ruins at Pompeii

Swim in Capri's Blue Grotto

Tour Mt. Vesuvius

Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain

Tour the Colosseum

Visit the D-Day beaches

See the Mona Lisa

Visit the palace at Versailles

See the Acropolis and Parthenon

See the Egyptian pyramids

Hike the Inca Trail

Walk El Camino Santiago

Take an Alaskan cruise

View the Taj Mahal at sunrise

Hike Table Mountain in South Africa

Climb through the Amazon canopy

Walk at least part of the Great Wall of China

Get laser hair removal

Learn to surf, ski, and snowboard

Learn to drive a stick-shift

Learn to play the piano

Go on a tropical cruise

Ride horseback on the beach

Ride in a hot air balloon

Get tickets to the Olympics

Go to adult Space Camp

Witness a shuttle launch from up close

Build a full-sized snowman

Sew a quilt out of my old race T-shirts

Update and continue my Life Scrapbook

Become the oldest person to ever do the River Run

Live to be a happy, healthy 100 years old - at least!

(unlikely dreams)

woensdag 28 september 2005

Okay, well, I've made considerable progress on the senior thesis front - I'm up to six pages on my outline. The problem is really that I just don't know exactly how I should attack this. I mean, I'm not exactly presenting anything new - I'm just looking at word order changes in subordinate clauses in Dutch and English and, working from the assumption that the two languages once had a common ancestor, basically just reporting the changes. Is a senior thesis supposed to actually be proving something? If it is, no one's mentioned it. So it's kind of hard to figure out how to set this up.

But the thing is, there are several theories I've come up with which I actually didn't read anywhere, but which I'm sure are proven somewhere. For example, English uses a Place-Manner-Time order for prepositional phrases ('I'm going to Utrecht in my car tomorrow'), whereas Dutch uses Time-Manner-Place ('Ik ga morgen met de auto naar Utrecht'). French, like English, uses Place-Manner-Time. So my theory is that this is yet another product of the Norman French invasion of England in 1066 (which sparked the shift from Old to Middle English, changed a lot of our vocabulary, lost our case markings and tightened out syntax, etc.) You know, it really seems like the damn Normans were responsible for everything that changed in English, which sucks, because it makes the 'answer' to my paper (why English changed) too simple. Bad Normans. Grrr.

Anyway, another theory of mine has to do with Afrikaans. Afrikaans was born when the Dutch colonized South Africa ('between 1652 and 1705', according to Wikipedia). Although it is to an extent fairly mutually intelligible with Dutch - at least in my experience - it also has long been hailed as the only Germanic language to have a double negative. Well, Middle Dutch also had a double negative. So why have I not seen any literature that suggests that that double negative was CAUSED by Middle Dutch? It must be out there, but, like the previous example, I just haven't seen it. I don't want to build a thesis on something that's already been exhaustively proven, but I also don't want to give everybody else credit for these ideas if by some weird chance they're really NOT publicly known.

Bah. Enough for one day.

You know, I said upon arrival that I was never going to want to go home. But you know what - that's not true. I'm having an awesome time here, and, as always, there are lots of things that I like a lot better than the States. (When I think about Bush and all his backward proposals and behaviors, for example, I really could just stay here forever and pretend I'm not a member of such an ignorant, arrogant country.) But the fact of the matter is, that's where my life is, and I miss a lot of things about it. For instance, I keep getting swim team e-mails from Anna and Jenna about the Georgia meet in a couple of weeks, and I won't be there for it. I get the Honors Opportunities List every day from UF, and I read some of the things on it and go, 'Wow, I wish I were there so I could do that.' I miss wearing shorts, being able to see the Jags games, driving my car, choosing what and when I want to eat, swimming in the O-Dome, watching current versions of ER, Gilmore Girls, and Commander-In-Chief, being able to do as much laundry as I want whenever I want, and having enough American plugs for all my electronic devices at once.

I wouldn't call it homesickness, because I don't exactly feel sad or melancholy about any of it, and it's not like I'm unhappy or uncomfortable here, but ... well, put it this way. When I fly into Orlando airport on December 21st, Mom and I are going to Cracker Barrel and I am getting fried okra, juicy green beans, creamy mac & cheese, hot buttered biscuits, and a salad with tomatoes, decent dressing, and GREEN LEAVES. Then we're going to drive home and I'm going to sleep in my own bed with a plump, firm pillow (not flat). The next day I'm going to choose how early or late I want to eat breakfast, and then have some Kashi cereal and REAL ORANGE JUICE. Then I'm going to put on a pair of shorts, get into my car, and drive to go get Christmas presents, a haircut, etc. When I get home, I will choose a book or ten from my vast collection - none of which will be one the five books I brought here - and read them. Two days after that, I will sit in front of the TV and both listen and watch the Jaguars beat the Texans.

Yeah... by that time, I should be okay again. :)

(Of course, when that day actually gets here, I'll be whining about having to leave the trains, the chocolate, the second language atmosphere, the extensive bike paths, my huge room, the homemade pepper pizza, my friends, my creative writing class, frikadellen, Breakers, the colorful, stylish fashions, the two-minute walk to the academic buildings, kruidenboter, the fifty-meter pool, patajes met, the simplicity of living out of one suitcase, shoarmabroodjes with garlic sauce, and my cool saddlebag-bedecked bike... but hey, the grass is always greener, right?) :)

maandag 26 september 2005

Swim 6000 meters.

Do creative writing assignment.

Finish Travel-World translation.

Finish Spanish assignments.

Turn in Zinkstuk registration and meet entry.

Play in basketball game (19:15).

Work on thesis.

zondag 25 september 2005

I'm still working on that site translation. My eyes are glazing over, but I still think it's going pretty well. (This is the site, by the way, if anyone's interested - only the Dutch version is up at the moment, but you can still get an idea of what it is.) I'm done with the first draft of everything except the (three-page) Terms and Conditions, so that's my next task.

There was a pretty good movie in the bar last night: 21 Grams. (Supposedly we all lose 21 grams of weight at the instant we die - the weight of a stack of five nickels. Not sure where they came up with that concept, and not sure if it's true, but entertaining nonetheless.) It's a rather depressing movie, and pretty hard to watch, but definitely not boring. However, I must say - no matter how judgmental it may sound - that watching little children blindly follow their parents into wacko religious ideas is the most disturbing thing in the world. In the movie, for example, a little boy, six or seven, smacks his little sister during a disagreement. "He hit me on my arm," little girl wails.
"Which arm, baby?" asks father. Little girl shows him. "Then hold out the other one to him too," father demands. Little girl shrinks away. Father lunges over table, grabs her arm. "Turn the other cheek. If someone hits you on one cheek, you turn the other one to him too. Hit her," he says to little boy, holding out little girl's arm. Tense moment of silence. "Hit your sister, now," father repeats. Little boy finally does, hard. Little girl, crying, gets carried away by mother; little boy and father continue eating, until father smacks boy over the head and says, "There's no hitting in this house!" Smack. "You understand?" Smack. "Get in the corner!"

I know a family - who shall remain nameless - whose family dynamics are a bit similar (although I hope not quite as extreme), and this reminded me of them. I know it's not possible, but I wish children were allowed to grow up away from all that and decide for themselves what they want to believe once they're old enough. I doubt we'd have as many crazies and messed-up people as we do if that were the case. I know religious zealots are the exception and not the rule, but it still bothers me to see little kids blindly repeating after a preacher, or running around the UF campus in Hare Krishna dress with shaved heads and scalp locks. I think it bothers me because so many children are never given the chance to question what it is they're believing in; they're simply told that 'this is the truth and that's the only right way; everyone else is wrong and we have to help them see the light'. Obviously, not every child is raised that way, but many, many are, and I just don't agree with that.

You believe in something because it gives you comfort or hope or what-have-you, not because you want a way to set yourself on a pedestal apart from other people. Religion is fine in small doses, but not if it's used as a superiority complex.


zaterdag 24 september 2005

I think if someone were to make a movie about an American in Europe, they'd have to start out by showing the shoes. Shoes pedaling bicycles, shoes standing in buses, shoes walking down the streets, shoes seated on trains. Pointy-toed women's shoes, thin canvas gym shoes, high heels, business shoes, folded-over hightops. And the American would be the one in the big thick sneakers. Can you see the scene in your mind? I can.

That, however, is one trend I refuse to follow. I have three pairs of shoes here: sneakers, flipflops, and black boots - and in true American fashion, I tend to favor the sneakers. Sure, I may stick out, but at least I can walk comfortably. And hey - has anyone noticed that the elderly population in this country is not only extraordinarily large (in number, not in physical size), but also extraordinarily unsteady on their feet? Wheelchairs, walkers... you see them a lot more here than at home, or so it seems to me. Coincidence? I think not. :)

Anyway, one interesting tidbit of news: I got a job, or sort of. It's just a one-time thing, though. See, when I ordered those Samsonite anti-theft bags, I accidentally ordered the smaller version of the backpack my sister appropriated. (I'm not that good at mentally measuring centimeters, and also, that backpack seems small to me in comparison to others I have, so... honest mistake.) So I arranged to go to Hoofddorp and exchange it for the larger one, which I did today. When I got there (and I did not get lost! Unbelievable!), the owner (Erik) happened to have Dutch-English dictionaries at his desk, so I commented on them while he was working on making up a new bill for the transaction. "Yeah, I was trying to translate the site into English, but I think I'm going to have to hire someone; it's not going so well." My ears pricked up, but I kept silent; after all, I was just there to get my stuff, drop a couple of extra euros, and get out, right? Well, no; we finished the transaction and had some coffee and I took a poke around the warehouse and eventually he (yes, HE, not I) came up with the idea that I could translate the site in exchange for a nice suitcase. I think I'm going to go for a couple of smaller bags instead of a big suitcase, but still, it's pretty cool. It's only about 8 pages in Word, and it's not like I'm unfamiliar with the 'website ordering' jargon. :) So I'm going to take a crack at it and see how it goes. Should be fairly easy.

Other thoughts:

- UNC, U Pitt, and Yale need to answer my e-mails. Now.
- Why did I never realize that English 'above' and Dutch 'boven' are almost identical? Duh.
- I want to finish watching Finding Neverland. It's good so far.
- This week's creative writing assignment is all about setting and imagery, one of my specialties. Bring it on!
- How did I fall into the 2/3 of the class who didn't realize that we were supposed to be doing Spanish homework all along (and, related, that the Workspace site isn't the only one for the class)? Duuuh.
- Hmm. Guess I should probably put in another thesis-directed library day here pretty soon.
- The Irish horseback riding people need to answer my e-mails, too. I want to make that trip next weekend, but I really want the riding to pan out!
- What do I want to swim in the Nijmegen meet besides the 50 free? Eliminating the events I would never survive (400 IM and 100 butterfly) the choices are 50 or 100 breast, 50 or 100 back, 50 fly, 200 free, or 200 IM. Vote in comments, please!
- Jags versus Jets tomorrow!

woensdag 21 september 2005

All the separate streams of consciousness trading off places in my head right now:

Good, I made a separate mail folder for all my grad school stuff, and everything seems to be in order. Except where was the confirmation for applying to UNC? Oh yeah, and why hasn't Yale gotten my GRE scores yet? Very weird. Need to e-mail those two.

Maybe I can split the England and Ireland trips; that way I can still do the swim meet on the 15th. Maybe I can do Ireland over a weekend and make England be the longer break trip. If I do it soon, maybe the horseback riding beach trips will still be available. Gotta check EasyJet.

Oh, bah, I have to read a bunch of linguistics stuff and think up a somewhat intelligent-sounding question for it. Don't want to.

I have a Spanish test on Friday and I have to read about a million texts and basically look up every word I don't know and learn it well enough that it would come to mind during a fill-in-the-blank test. Ha.

I have to finish filling out these forms and give them back to the Zinkstuk people tonight at practice, but I don't want to give them my bank information until I know they'll give me a discount, since I'll only be here for half the season. Also, why didn't I get a Zinkstuk sticker on my Olympos card? This paper says I can't train without that. Does that mean I have to go back to Olympos? Now?

I still haven't paid anyone in Waddinxveen for swimming, and I keep forgetting to ask how much.

I have no food left except tea, a box of macaroni, and a few peanuts. Need to go to the Albert Heijn, but don't really have the initiative to get up off my butt.

I'm thirsty, but I want to finish what I'm doing before I get up.

I hate our washing machines. They take forever. And there are only three of them while there are 40 of us. Or maybe 80; I'm not sure if there are people living on the other side of the building or not. Anyway, I finally got both loads into washers, but now I need dryers. Grrr.

dinsdag 20 september 2005

Wow, that was the easiest one yet!

I am officially DONE with ALL SEVEN graduate school applications now... WOOHOO!!!

Now the only thing I have to do is (a) stay on my professors' backs to make sure they submit my recommendations, and (b) stay on the schools' backs to make sure they get all the supplementary materials.

But that can wait until after I sleep. :)

Well, today was decent. I really love my creative writing class. There aren't many native English speakers in it, so I'm at a real advantage, and the teacher has really liked everything I've done so far. Today he was going around to each person, handing back assignments and discussing them. It was taking a long time, but when he got to me he said, "Hmm... uh, I like all of this, actually," sounding a bit surprised. It was cool. And he's read The Time-Traveler's Wife too, and liked it just as much as I did; he says he's going to use it as an example at some point. I know there are lots of different writing styles and lots of different tastes when it comes to books, but so far it seems like he and I do things pretty much the same way on all literary levels, and that's an advantage when it's the person grading you. :)

I was rather annoyed at myself during swimming today, though, because I started getting that tightness in my throat that I get sometimes while exercising. No doctor has ever said that I have asthma, but my sister has it, and I seem to get mild symptoms of it every once in a while near the end of a jog or after a particularly tough swimming workout. (It's usually when I first stop exercising, though, not during exercise - it's like the adrenaline holds it back.) I guess it could be attributed to any number of things - temperature, hormones, sickness, fatigue level - and it's never gotten to the point where I've felt my life was in danger or anything, but I do have a rescue inhaler (Albuterol) left over from when I was sick last spring, and I carry it in my swim bag. I've never had to use it, but it's good to know I have it. (Even though it expired in October 2004... LOL!) I'm reluctant to use it, actually, because I'm afraid I may become dependent on it, and that's the last thing I want. Anyway, it's quite infrequent, and the better my physical condition is, the less it seems to happen - and this is the first time I've noticed it here - so it should taper off as my fitness level rises. I'll keep an eye on it. (Yes, Mom.)

Speaking of which - boy, am I tired. I was counting today and I realized it's actually been five full months since I was on my nine-times-a-week swim training schedule. It doesn't feel that long at all, but that explains why I felt like such crap in the pool tonight. I swam 6k yesterday and almost 4k today, which isn't that much when you take into account that I was doing 25k every week at school, but I've had an incredibly long 'break', what with the summer and all. In meters, I went from a weekly 25k (school) to 13k (summer) to nothing (Utrecht), and now I'm trying to build back up to about 30k. That's not going to happen all in one shot. But I'm building up - by week, 0k, 5k, 8.5k, 10k, and this week 9.6k and climbing. I figure I should be back to where I was in about a month, but I'm not going to just jump in all at once this time. At school, four of those weekly training sessions were actually for course credit, so slacking off or skipping them wasn't an option. But now I can build up at my own pace, so that's what I'm going to do. (First step: tomorrow morning's planned training at the Krommerijn isn't going to happen, LOL!) I tend to get very impatient with myself - in every area - and want to have everything be perfect 'now now now', but I'm starting to learn not to do that, at least not with swimming. If I'm smart about it, it'll just happen when it happens. At school, I dropped eight seconds off my 50 free in six months, which is pretty awesome. It's not always immediately obvious, but I do make progress. I just have to remember that.

Anyway, speaking of making things perfect, I just got an e-mail that the Brown application is online, so I think I'm going to go fill it out.

EDIT: I started this entry at 22:10 and am just now finishing it, because I was distracted by (a) a Michel-versus-AnneSjoerd cardboard fight in the hallway, (b) pictures, music, and random conversations in my room by some of the people from 'our group', and (c) a short trip to the bar for the 'Upside Down, Inside Out' party (which has a really horrible DJ, which is why I'm already back). Bart, one of the guys from our group, is in the process of making out in the corner of the bar with this girl none of us knows very well; we're currently taking bets as to what's going to happen later. (To clarify: 'our group' is pretty flexible, but it basically consists of me, Dia, and a bunch of guys: AnneSjoerd, Jac, and sometimes Trung, who live on our hall, and Benjamin, David, Bart, and Michel, who don't, but seem to spend most of their time here anyway. Eddy, another dormmate, fades in and out of that as well, as do a couple of the guys' girlfriends. But Dia and I are the only girls on this hall apart from Bamshad's wife Somaya, so we hang out with the guys a lot.)

Okay, and now I really am going to do the Brown application... or at least start it.

I guess I forgot to talk about the Krommerijn. Anyway, overall, it's a really nice pool. (50 meters, YAY!) It's kind of strange that they don't have any lane lines at all, not even ropes - people just follow the black lines on the bottom - but it works out because 95% of the people there are old people doing the breaststroke with their head above water, so they're not making waves. Also, the water is cooler, more like the temperature at school, which is also awesome. I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror after swimming yesterday and I didn't have the bright red face that I always get in hot pools (and sometimes even in cold ones, LOL). Anyway, so I've been working out a schedule. I'm going to aim for 30 km a week - at least 7k in Waddinxveen (since I'll only be there two days a week now), at least 2k with het Zinkstuk (but it'll probably be more like 3; I don't think the first day was very typical in terms of distance), and 21k or so on my own at the Krommerijn (6k Monday, 5k Wednesday, 4k Friday, 6k Sunday). We'll see how long that works. If I have to keep dodging old people, I might have to make some changes, LOL.

Oh, by the way. When I get home, I want to eat:

Salad with DARK GREEN lettuce (or, even better, spinach leaves),
Pasta with CHEESE, not just plain,
Seafood that isn't fried, and
Meat I can identify.

maandag 19 september 2005

A lot more grad school stuff has fallen into place over the past few days. It started out panicky - I got an e-mail from Georgetown saying they hadn't gotten my transcripts yet - so I started trying to figure out how to send transcripts (requiring my signature) from overseas. In the meantime, I sent emails requesting the status of my supplementary materials from other schools, and I got confirmation that Yale, UNC, and Pitt had all received transcripts. Then someone at UF sent me an e-mail basically saying 'my bad', that they had somehow missed Georgetown even though I had clearly requested it, so now that's handled, and as a bonus, I now know for sure that my application is complete at all those schools.

And then the Harvard application came online, so even though it took an extra day to submit because I had to get tech support to fix something, at least it's in. It was kind of weird - in a way, it was a lot more detailed than the others (I had to list all my linguistics courses and linguistically-related courses, describe all my jobs since high school, plus give a lot of financial information) but in other ways it seemed a lot less nitpicky than the others. For instance, there was only one small section for 'published materials or patented inventions' (riiiight). (Which is great, obviously, seeing as I have NONE of that and some other applications devote a whole page to it.) And, as a bonus, the fee and recommendations can be done online after all! I thought they had to be on paper. That helps me out, because otherwise I was going to have to print the sheets, fill them out, and mail them internationally to my professors, plus mail a separate check to Harvard itself. Anyway, so the only thing that's a bit disturbing to me now is that Yale apparently hasn't received my GRE scores yet, while I sent them in May. Need to follow up on that. And I'm still waiting on the Brown application, of course, but that'll fall into place too.

Anyway, I got my 'abonnement' at the pool, so I swam 4k this morning and then 2k this evening with het Zinkstuk. I was actually really impressed by them - I was expecting a little club who just swam a few laps and then went and partied, but there were a LOT of people there and the group I swam with (the highest one) had four or five really hardcore girls in it. So I think this will be really good. And they do meets, too, although not very often.

Anyway, so now I have to go play basketball - why is everything on Mondays? - and then come back and read a bunch of Spanish articles. At least I got the creative writing done on Saturday.


zondag 18 september 2005

So Christine and I went to Fort Vechten today, just outside Utrecht. Apparently September is 'fort month' in this country. I'm not sure how I've lived over a year in Utrecht without knowing these details, but apparently the Netherlands' primary defense system a couple hundred years ago was made up of a series of forts and bunkers which stretched through the middle of the country in such a way that if they needed to, they could open the dikes and flood part of the country. Not Katrina-style, but knee-deep or so, just deep enough that foot soldiers would be pretty much helpless to make any progress. The line was called the Waterlinie. Now that I've written that, the phrase 'open the dikes' sounds familiar, so maybe I did know this at some point, but it was news to me this afternoon. Anyway, I took pictures, which I've just posted, so go have a look.

Christine and I had a good time; it was great to see her again. She's one of those people that I can lose contact with for months - I've barely spoken to her since Christmas - but then pick up again right where we left off with no effort whatsoever. We chatted about this and that and reminisced about Ton-A-Wandah and 'our girls' ("Who was that chubby little dark-haired girl with the loud voice? She was so rude and annoying." "Not Jennifer?" "No, no, the one that you said had such a weird name? There were seven letters in her name." "How do you remember things like that? Umm... for some reason 'Chelsea' is coming to mind, but we didn't have a Chelsea, did we?" "Chessly! Thank you!" LOL.). It was also great to speak Dutch for an extended period, because I was really able to get into the swing of the language in a way I normally can't at school because of the large international presence. (Even if a group of us are speaking Dutch at first, when a foreign student sits down, we have to switch to English so we won't be rude.) Christine and I have spoken approximately four English sentences to each other in our lives, all of which were in 2004 - "Hi, I'm your co-counselor Jess." "I'm Christine." "Where are you from?" "Holland." "Echt waar?!" ... and that was where it ended, LOL!) But anyway, we ended up with 'slappe lach' multiple times today - love that Dutch term - it means laughter that starts out normal but for some reason just keeps going until you barely know what's funny anymore, but still can't stop. Example: we were strolling through one of those low tunnels and saw a large hole in the ground with a barricade to stop people from falling in. "Whoa," I said, stopping short. "Hmm. A hole," said Christine, peering into it. For some reason that struck me as insanely funny, and off we went. (Other catalysts: the guards at the gate - that was the first one - and a group of women at a cafe who were (a) extremely old, (b) exceptionally ugly, and (c) from the sound of things, rather crazy. One came running up to the other shouting, "Ik heb de vogel!" - "I have the bird!" - and then ran away again. We were dying, trying to laugh without letting them see.)

But I actually got everything done that I wanted to do today - swam (10k total for the week), got money to pay for the membership tomorrow, got my Olympos card, hung out with Christine, and am currently listening to the Jags game. I still need to print and read my linguistics reader, make a copy of certain pages of The Time-Traveler's Wife, and read my Spanish texts, but none of that is especially pressing - my first and only class tomorrow is at 4pm.

Oh, I love these radio announcers, LOL! They're totally on our side. Colts' coach John Tierling (sp?) apparently has a history of masterminding dirty plays, and he just cheered when one of his players tackled our quarterback right at the knee and injured him. He encouraged the crowd to cheer, and even made a 'throat slash' gesture. The announcers are up in arms. "That was a dirty play." "That's going to be a huge fine. John Tieling should be fined right now." "This is outrageous." "When you have the option to hit high and choose to hit low, that's a violation of the rules!" "That hit was dirty, it was low, and it hit him right in the back of the knee." The way things are looking right now, 2:39 left with the Colts up by 4 and running down the clock, I think we're going to lose, but it's nice to know that people are on our side. And you never know - I mean, our backup quarterback is in many peoples' eyes better than our starter, so we might have a shot.

zaterdag 17 september 2005

I just tried for the second time to get an Olympos card, and the guy behind the desk told me his colleague had gone home sick and that I'd have to come back tomorrow. Sigh. Third time's the charm? I hope so, because I need that card in order to play basketball and swim on Monday night.

Speaking of Monday, the Krommerijn will finally be open then! I've been told to bring 70 euro cash and a passport photo (see, Mom, I told you I always end up needing extras! Good thing I got 4 before I left) to the reception desk and they'll make me a membership card. That's going to be a busy day... swimming on my own in the morning, swimming with het Zinkstuk for the first time in the evening, and then a basketball game right after that. But at least I'll be back into a somewhat normal routine as far as physical activity goes.

Tomorrow is Sunday, so Christine and I are going to (finally) try to get together. We've talked on the phone several times but haven't seen each other yet even though she only lives a few miles away. If the weather's good we're thinking about going to one of the old Utrecht defense forts or something. We'll see.

Dia and I went to the centrum this morning to buy her a bike. That was interesting. I can't really remember how things were before I learned the 'lay of the land' when it came to biking in NL - it all comes so naturally now. But Dia was having trouble today - in the store, she didn't know what to look for in a bike (which is why she took me along) and then when we finally decided on one and she went to try it out, it took her four tries to get going on it without falling over. (The Dutch keep their seats raised high, which, granted, takes some getting used to, but I'm a good two inches shorter than Dia and I was able to ride it fine.) But even beyond that, there are other things you have to learn. Rules of the road (ahem, don't cycle blithely along the left side of the path), bike mechanics ("No, there's nothing wrong with the bike, that loud jolting from your pedals is because you're between gears. ... Gears. ... That little switch on the handlebars. ... Oh, just switch bikes with me!"), and simple tricks (like if the bicycle light is red but the pedestrian light is still green, you can still cross the road without getting killed). But there's also a certain 'feel' which takes some time to develop; you have to change your reflexes in a way. Like Pauline said, way back when, "The bikers know where they are going." And it's true; in whatever you do - walking, biking, merging, crossing a road - you can't hesitate or panic and double back, because that's what causes problems. You just have to go, and they'll adjust for you.

Anyway, at the moment I'm working on creative writing homework. We've finally moved on to creating characters and not just writing about objects; we have to fill in long questionnaires about the name/age/residence/habits/family/etc. of a character in a book we've read, and then we have to invent a character and do the same thing for that character, plus write a 500-word introduction to the character. In my case, the introduction will come first; I can't stick someone into all kinds of slots and then try to write freely about them; it feels too limiting, like I've already made all the decisions. I normally write in a very stream-of-consciousness way, by opening a Word file, typing random phrases and sentences that pop into my head, then sticking them together in different ways to make a character or situation start to take shape. I'm usually the same way with essays and papers; I always end up starting in the middle and building outwards. Oh, well, the teacher said he'd do it that way himself too, so I suppose it's fine.

Speaking of writing, here's something else no one will care about but me. There's been some debate as to whether or not Dutch is a Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) language like English or an SOV language, but the general consensus is SOV. Jocelyn (my thesis advisor) tried to explain to me why that is, but it still didn't make sense in my head, since at the simplest level of sentence in Dutch, i.e. Ik ga naar huis (lit. 'I go to home'), you get SVO order. (Unless there's inversion, but that's another story.) Anyway, but yesterday I realized that when one is making a To-Do list in Dutch, things are written as "tickets boeken, Christine bellen, sportkaart halen", with the verbs last, and not the other way around. So maybe there's some support for SOV in a way that makes sense. Cool.

Anyway, so I have to get all the creative writing stuff done today, plus print the first half of the linguistics reader and read the assignment, and then (if there's time left) also read as many of the Workspace texts for Spanish as I can handle. I don't have Spanish or creative writing until Tuesday, but I don't want to have all that hanging over my head tomorrow with Christine or Monday with all the sports.

Things to do tomorrow: swim in Waddinxveen, try for the 3rd time to get an Olympos sports card, get cash for my swim membership (no ATM fees here!), call/get together with Christine, listen to the Jags game, and do laundry.

Something else that's hanging over my head: my UK trip. I need to book my tickets, but I can't do that until I'm reasonably certain of my itinerary, and the one thing which does not want to drop into place is the horseback riding on the beach in Ireland. I thought I'd found a place, but they're closing for the season on the 15th, and even if I moved my schedule around a bit, the trip I wanted (the Two-Hour Trek) isn't available after the 9th. Bah. Back to the drawing board. If anybody from Ireland surfs across this site and can recommend a place, please drop me a line.

vrijdag 16 september 2005

Progress has been made on the computer front:

1.) I synced my UF e-mail account into Outlook Express, so when October 1st rolls around and they take away our e-mail forwarding, I can just use Outlook rather than the poorly-designed-and-inefficient UF Webmail site. And, using Google, I also managed to find the data to do the same thing with my new UU mail account, so I no longer have to log onto equally-irritating Solis every time. (I tried adding Gmail to the mix as well, but discovered that I much prefer the colorful, organized Gmail site to the blandness of Outlook. Gotta love Google.)

2.) After uninstalling multiple programs and deleting a ton of old files, I now have just under 9 gigs of free space on my hard drive. I'm aiming for 10, but I don't want to delete my downloaded movies until I have the hard copies. I bit my lip and deleted my fuzzy, tiny-screened, odd-colored copies of Love Actually and The Princess Diaries (both of which we have on DVD at home), but my crystal-clear Hannibal, Bowling for Columbine, The Green Mile? Nope, can't do it.

Anyway, time to go to creative writing. The only other noteworthy thing is that last night after swimming, I finally tasted a Breaker from Friesche Vlag, and they are soooo good! It's like yogurt in a CapriSun package, with sunflower seeds in it (trust me). I don't normally like yogurt that much, but this stuff is great. I had the cherry one, but I can't wait to try the peach.

donderdag 15 september 2005

Okay, well, yesterday's post inspired me to get off my lazy bum (or, rather, remain on it) and clean up my computer, so that's what I've been doing for the past 12 hours or so (with the exception of breakfast and 4 hours of sleep). First I went through and deleted all the programs I wasn't using, then ran Ad-Aware, Spybot, PCPitStop, Disk Cleanup, Disk Defragmenter... all those toys. Yet the system's still not running any faster, at least not that I can tell, so I've decided I have to bite the bullet and clean off the C drive. I didn't even have the required 15% of space to run the defragmenter properly last night, and PCPitStop has been giving me a red flag on that drive for ages. So. It's time. I have 15 gigs of music - those aren't going anywhere - and 17 gigs of movies, a couple of which may have to sacrifice themselves. But there really are things I don't need, if I look hard enough... the file of Shania and Shakira music videos, for example, or the chat conversations from high school. So as soon as I get back from class at 11:00, the real work begins. :)

woensdag 14 september 2005

Today is Wednesday, meaning we had a free day. I wanted a synthetic-leather Puma bag (which I've been lusting after for ages) and Dia wanted an internet cable and a computer microphone, so Dia borrowed a bike from Somaya, a friend down the hall, and we went shopping in the centrum. Dia got her items; I did not find my bag. Then we went to the grocery store and came home.

Well, okay, it wasn't really that easy. As we left, Somaya handed Dia the keys and said, "This one is for the rear lock, this one is for the main lock. It's parked in front of Jac's window, and it's purple." Okay, easy enough - the first bike we saw upon walking outside was a spray-painted light purple bike. Score.

But the keys didn't fit.

"Do you think she meant that one?" Dia asked, pointing to a dark blue bike.
"That's not purple," I said doubtfully, but took the keys and tested them. No dice. "Maybe she forgot where she parked it," I speculated. I walked systematically through the rest of the racks, testing anything that was even slightly purplish in color. Nope.
Oh, man, maybe it got stolen, I was thinking, but I didn't say that out loud.
"Do you think we should try this one?" Dia asked, pointing to a red-and-black men's mountain bike.
"Okay, now that is definitely not purple, Dia - it's red and black!"
"Yeah, I know, but see this red, it's kind of pink up here, so maybe... let's just try it."
We both laughed hysterically.
Purple. Right. Maybe it's an Iranian thing?

Other things on my mind:

Everybody who knows me knows I've never met a bar of chocolate I didn't like. Tonight, however, I did. Albert Heijn makes these wonderful chocolate bars with milk chocolate, honey, almond, and orange flavoring. They definitely rank in my top five chocolate experiences ever. But... I can't find them anymore. They were here at Christmas, but now they're not in the stores. So when Dia and I were shopping today, I picked up a bar of 'extra dark' orange-flavored chocolate, knowing that it wouldn't be the same thing, but hoping that it would be just as good in its own way. Well, it wasn't. Let me just say: ugh. That stuff was way too bitter for me. (Dia liked it, though, so she's happily munching away as she does her homework.)

Second random thought process: I've been considering what I'll want in my next laptop. I currently have a Compaq Presario x1000, with a 1.4 Ghz processor, 512 MB RAM, and a 60GB hard drive. Overall, I admit, it has been and still is a decent computer. If I took the time to truly clean it up and delete all these unused programs and program fragments, it would be even better. However, my hard drive is almost full (granted, I have some movies on it which will be deleted after I get the hard copies from Dad, but even so), and the machine truly doesn't run anywhere near fast enough to suit me. It also weighs a lot - about 7 pounds. I don't want to get a new one for another year or so because I've heard about all kinds of new stuff coming out (Windows Vista, for example), but there's no harm in shopping. In grad school, being able to carry my computer around everywhere will be a big asset, so I'm seriously lusting after the new three-pound teeny-tiny Sony VAIOs. However, those processors are 1.2 Ghz and I didn't realize I had 1.4; I thought I had 1G. So that's out, at least until they ramp up the speed. In whatever I get, I want a DVD burner, an 80-gig hard drive, at least 1GB RAM, a speedy processor, and a minimal weight - 4 pounds max.

Third random thought process: Dia just asked me, "Do you ever think about how different our lives are from our parents'? What do you think they were doing at this point in their lives?"

"Not sitting at their laptops chatting with people in other countries," I answered.

That sparked a discussion about, "What do you think our kids will have that we can't imagine right now?" I thought they'd have fully functional computers the size of Palm Pilots, fingerprint-identification systems for travel, and cars which ran on plant oils or other fuel besides gasoline. Dia thought they should have teleportation "like in Star Trek." I wonder? Anybody ever read Michael Crichton's Timeline? I really do wonder.

maandag 12 september 2005

My trophies from the evening of b-ball:

5 new teammates.
4 hours of gym time.
3 compliments on my Dutch.
2 20-minute matches.
1 very good time!

Oh, but the injuries, the injuries... forgot about that lovely aspect of playing a contact sport with nine guys twice your size. First, I took a speeding ball smack in the cheek, resulting in two bruises (glad my head wasn't turned another inch to the left, or I would have taken it in the eye). Then someone's knee or ankle (not really sure which) dug deep into my left calf muscle, which immediately cramped or stretched or did SOMETHING which didn't (and doesn't) feel great. And then there were the 2-3 times that someone stepped on my left ankle (always on the left side!) and their sneaker sort of 'slid down' my leg onto my foot, scraping the skin off the ankle. Ouch.

And let's not even get into this one pick I set... the guy was about 8 inches taller and at least 60 pounds heavier, but being me, I set the pick anyway... and literally felt my feet leave the ground and myself fly through the air for a second before landing smack on my butt. Ouch. Got some great stares, though. LOL.

By the way, there's a very nice and cute guy on my team... (mental note: never let him see this site!) ...but no, no, I know, I have been warned, by many people, to stay away from the Dutch boys this time... so I shall do my best.

(Besides, he's 18... that's practically cradle-robbing.)

Off to do the homework I should have done this afternoon. Finally decided on a creative writing topic: a child's security blanket. We'll see how that develops.

Someone said something strange to Myrthe and me at lunch today. This girl across the table said (in Dutch), "Did you guys know that your bread is painted?" (We had dark bread; she had very light brown bread. The Dutch are big on bread; UCU offers 5-6 varieties.) "Dark bread can't get any darker than this," she pointed to her own sandwich. "Yours is just artificial coloring. People think that the darker bread is, the better it is for you, but that's not true." With a little self-satisfied toss of her head, she continued eating.

Riiiiight. Okay, well, I admit that SOME bread gets molasses or other colored stuff put into it, but I also know that dark bread DOES exist which is made of all-natural stuff. (Example: Whenever you read about the Middle Ages you hear about dark, heavy 'peasant bread' - I'd guess they didn't have Red Dye #4 back then.) I'm not a baker, so I don't know the specifics, but the bread I was eating with my kroket was dark brown, had visible grains in the crust and little pieces of seeds and nuts embedded in it. Don't tell me that's not better for me than your one-step-above-Wonder-Bread crap (with Nutella). Puh-lease.

(If anyone knows something I don't know about this topic, do go ahead and enlighten me - leave a comment. Maybe Bread Girl is right. But I don't think so.)

As long as I'm talking about things that irritate me, can I just add that I HATE that song "The Little Girl"? You know, the one that goes, "Her parents never took the young girl to church / Never spoke of his name, never read her his word. / Two non-believers walking lost in this world. / Took their baby with them; what a sad little girl. / Her daddy drank all day and Mommy did drugs. / Never wanted to play, or give kisses and hugs." Yes, right, because naturally every atheist is an alcoholic or a drug user, preferably both. And any child who isn't exposed to Jesus from the moment of birth will grow up unenlightened, depressed, and probably abused. Yup.

*heavy sigh*

Anyway, I guess I'm in a bit of a skeptical mood today. Sorry. My only excuse is that the old-book fumes have addled my brain. I spent the morning closeted in the library, trying to find anything I could about word order changes in Dutch and how they relate historically to English. I didn't find a whole lot on the actual subject matter - yet - but I did find a good, complete-yet-succinct (~100 page) summary of the development of the Dutch language, which has some stuff I can use. (Does anyone know how to quote in a different language, by the way? Do I use the quote in the original language (Dutch in this case, obviously) and give a summarization in English, or do I translate the quote myself and just include it in English? That seems to be the only feasible option, but then how do I denote that it wasn't originally in English? Or do I even have to? I should have to, because of copyright, shouldn't I? I don't know. It's confusing.)

Anyway, tonight is the openavond basketbal = 'open evening of basketball' - meaning anyone who wants to join one of the Utrecht student teams (5 for each gender) can go play. I don't know that I want to actually join one, but playing tonight sounds like fun. Assuming I get this creative writing assignment done first, that is.

On that note: back to work...

zondag 11 september 2005

Yeah, Jaguars! That's the way to start the season... 2 TD passes, 5 interceptions, and a 26-14 win! Now let's just amp up the offense a bit against the Colts next week... okay?

Okay, I suppose I'll actually write this time instead of copping out and copy-pasting my homework into my blog. :) Anyway, whew. I'm home, and exhausted. Here goes:

So last night Dia and I just weren't sleepy at a normal time - go figure - so we stayed up and watched Mean Girls and played basically my entire iTunes library and ate chocolate and sang songs and talked a lot, etc. It was fun, but we stayed up until 2:30 and then I got up at 6 to go to the station and get the train to Waddinxveen, since I decided I was desperate enough for pool time that it would be worth the workout, even getting there 30 minutes late. Since I didn't have a bike yet, I walked, which was actually kind of nice; it was cool but not cold, dusky but not dark, etc. Anyway, so I got the train out of Utrecht just fine (which was filled with loud, annoying 18-year-olds heading home to Vleuten after a long Saturday night out on the town), but then in Alphen aan den Rijn, the second train ended up being delayed by 20 minutes. That cut my workout down to 45 minutes, and I seriously almost turned right back around and went back to Utrecht - what was the point of going on? - but I had already paid the 7 euro for the trip, so I just went ahead and went to Waddinxveen. And I was glad I did, even though I had to sort of make up my own workout... I did one of Kerry's sets, a mile (1500m) with every tenth lap being IM order, and then 5 x 100 IM. Only 2000m, not a great workout, but it felt good. I just hate the fact that every time I start feeling good, the workout ends. Eight more days till the Krommerijn opens. Until then, I get to keep sitting around getting fat. Bah.

Anyway, so after that I got the train back to Utrecht and ended up being right on time to buy a bicycle ticket, grab two ham-and-cheese croissants, and jump onto the second train, to Raalte. Getting there was kind of neat because on the Deventer-Zwolle connection, I ran into a (tall, broad, blond, very Dutch-looking) Latvian guy plus a family of Spaniards escorting their daughter to the university in Groningen. We, plus a random Dutch woman in the same general area, had fun talking about American politics, LOL.

Once I got to Raalte, Olga found me right away (yeah, not too difficult, considering the station has two platforms and I was wearing my blue FLORIDA SWIMMING T-shirt with the bright orange letters) and we headed back 'home' where she, Pum, and I talked, inspected the bike, talked some more, ate chocolate, talked, played with laptops and digital cameras, and oh yeah, talked. She's working on a sort of committee for this website project, Bo-Rush, a fan site for Boris (the 2004 Idols winner). It's not up and running yet, but will be on Sunday when they have the opening party (which Boris himself might even come to... how cool would that be?!) Anyway, I spent about two hours there and then took a train to Almelo so I could get the direct, fast train to Utrecht... except, because of construction, everyone was being rerouted to our traject, meaning that in Deventer, SO many people got on the train (which was already full) that the conductor came onto the intercom and apologized for it being "over-full", saying that we could use the first-class seats and that the young should give up their seats for the old and/or disabled. "I think they made a planning error," she apologized, making everyone in our 'tussenruimte' (space between compartments, where the doors and a few fold-down seats are) crack up. Never travel anywhere in the Netherlands on a Sunday.

Anyway, but an Irish girl leaned into the train and asked me, "Do you speak English?" (LOL) and we got into a conversation which lasted the whole way to Utrecht, about American politics (yeah, again), sports, traveling, and who knows what else. She was heading to Rotterdam to meet up with a friend before they headed back to Brussel. And it was a good thing she met me, because she didn't speak a word of Dutch and had no idea that the train was going to split in Utrecht, half going to Rotterdam and half to Den Haag, and she was in the wrong half. I translated all the PA announcements for her (translations which I could tell everyone in the car was listening to and pretending not to). Funny. But anyway, I have a bike, and it's pretty and green and will hopefully NOT get stolen, at least not as quickly as the last one. It only has one lock on it at the moment, though, so I hope it sticks around until I can buy a second one tomorrow. I think it's pretty safe on campus, though.

Random closing note: today, for probably the first time, I was thankful to be short. I felt some cobwebs across me as I walked to the Waddinxveen station, and as I brushed them off, I looked up and saw, right over my head, a perfect, circular spider's web with a fat spider in the middle. I stepped away, reflexively running my hands over my head, and realized there were actually THREE webs, all with their own fat spiders. They missed my head by about two inches. Yikes.

Last, but certainly not least: does the UCU cafeteria really think that beef, bananas, and coconut is an acceptable stew combination?

vrijdag 9 september 2005

Ahh, this day just keeps getting better and better. Spanish was spent mostly on grammar - my forte - rather than conversation and article analysis, and I just came from creative writing where the teacher praised my Margaret Atwood imitation. He put up five examples, three of which weren't all that noteworthy, but he really liked mine ("Do you all see what's happened here? We've switched narration perspectives; now we're looking through Aidan's eyes, and look how it's written. It's like a whole other medium; it's very much like Atwood!") and only found one small phrase to criticize (which another student actually defended, saying it made the piece read easier).

Anyway, just to amuse you guys, I've decided to post it here. I don't know if any of you have read The Robber Bride, but I was supposed to be imitating a scene in the middle of the book which starts out in the past tense with a bit of foreshadowing, then moves to the present and depicts a less-than-comfortable married couple's interaction, switching back and forth between the two characters and using very little dialogue. It's not one of my very best pieces or anything - it's not a particularly happy piece and it's not written exactly as I'd have done it if I hadn't had to follow the imitation guidelines - but it was fun to do nonetheless. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy writing.


They could not have known, then, how it would turn out. It was one of those postcard-worthy fall days in October: sunny, with a crisp breeze and an impossibly blue sky framing vibrant red and yellow leaves. Anna had Claire out in the stroller, pushing her leisurely down the street. They were on no particular errand, but stopped every so often – to chat with a passerby, to pat a friendly dog, to admire a particularly beautiful leaf. Anna wished several times that she had her camera along, watching Claire wrinkle her tiny nose against the sunshine and smile, showing her newly acquired pearly teeth. Anna, in a sweater and skirt, was thinking about Aidan and their upcoming evening out; it was Friday, and for the first time since having Claire, they’d hired a babysitter. Straightening her baby daughter’s lace sunbonnet, she smiled.

* * *

Shaking the snow from his jacket, Aidan climbs the stairs heavily, his shoes thumping against the worn carpet of the flat. He walks past the kitchen, allowing himself one small twinge of hope before his gaze falls upon the tower of dirty dishes, stacked just as high as they’d been that morning. Sighing inwardly, he passes the bathroom – small, dank, and dusty – the living room – every light turned off – and then the closed door – Claire’s room. Even without seeing it, he can picture the white wooden crib, the yellow walls with moon-and-star patterns, the antique rocking chair.

From the doorway of his own bedroom, he stares into the dim interior, eyeing the jumbled lump of blankets which represents his wife. In the fading winter light, the green and white room seems to be washed in shades of gray. Teetering on the brink of indecision, he decides to give it yet another try.

He approaches the bed. “Anna.” The room smells sour, like bad breath and dirty hair.

“Mmmm.” She turns over, burrows back under the blankets. “I’m fine. Just let me sleep for a while.” She hears him hesitate, draw a breath as if to speak again, then give up and leave the room. Good.

Aidan doesn’t understand her, never has, and Anna knows it perfectly well. In the early years of their relationship, it hadn’t seemed to matter. They had looked good together: he tall, broad, and blond, she petite and dark-haired. Aidan and Anna. She used to love hearing people say their names together like that, each complementing the other, like a matched set. Collect them all.

Someone has a portable stereo set up on their porch. Music drifts through the open window, a man singing softly in a language Anna doesn’t know. Lacy snowflakes, light against the darkening sky, spiral gently downward. Anna straightens the patchwork quilt and closes her eyes again. Sleep is her solace. Claire. She slides mercifully away before the tears can come.

Aidan is upset too, of course he is. He has closed the door to Claire’s room, moved her Baby Bouncer out of the living room, turned all the family photographs face down. But in the nearly-three months that Anna has been like this, Aidan has forgotten how to reach her, forgotten the little patterns and day-to-day routines of married life. He is floundering, drowning right alongside his wife. He knows it doesn’t belong like this, but he just isn’t sure how to put it right.

After three weeks of not-so-patient waiting, my National Merit scholarship has FINALLY paid out! Woohoo!

donderdag 8 september 2005

Mom, by the way, it was great talking to you today, but our 28-minute conversation used up all 21 euros of my 'beltegoed', LOL... so I don't think I'm going to be calling all that often. :) However, should you need it, my number (for you) is 011-31-614170962. I don't know if you calling me hurts my pocketbook as much as me calling you, so we'll have to try that experiment sometime. (For the Dutchies, the number's obviously the normal 06-etc. Speaking of which, Christine, whatever happened to calling me back?!)

Swimming finally felt good again tonight. I don't know why it's taken so long to get into the swing of this team, whether it's the irritating wavy pool, the fact that I haven't been in the water anywhere near as regularly as usual, or what, but tonight I finally felt like I was back to my old self a bit. And I was leading the lane the whole time, which was great. Hope it lasts. There are some people - Angela and Sarah Sue from UF, for example - who can be out of the water for months and then hop in and break pool records during a meet - but I am not one of them. If I don't swim for a while, I get slow. When my shoulders were messed up after Key West and I didn't use my arms for 2-3 weeks, my speed was way down when I could finally use them again. (One good thing about my lack of pool time for the past couple weeks, though - my shoulders don't even twinge anymore, not at all, even when I'm lying on my stomach propped on my elbows reading, which I couldn't do comfortably before.) I can't wait until the 19th, though, when the Krommerijn opens, because then I can start going there in the mornings and then do my Waddinxveen team and the Utrecht student swim club in the evenings. It's hard to explain, but I just don't feel like me unless I'm swimming at least 20k a week. My appetite is off (I have to eat when the dining hall is open, so I'm being forced to eat when I'm not hungry), my sleeping patterns are off (it's harder to go to sleep at night and I wake up around 6 in the morning)... et cetera. So I'm glad things felt good today for a change. I'll sleep tonight.

My newest thing: finding a new apartment for spring. La Mancha is jacking their rent up by $100 a month, since they're turning into condos, and there's no way I'm paying $505 for my itty-bitty room. The only reason it was worth $405 is because of the proximity to campus; $505 is just not happening. Monique, awesome chick that she is, needs someone to share her rent with for spring and is trying to move from her one-bedroom into a two-bedroom, but her complex says they may not have space for her to do that and for her to check back in November. Well, that's obviously too long to wait. Anna also has a bedroom and bathroom in the house she and her brother share; it would be $395 plus utilities. Beyond those two tips, I've heard about Rockwood Villas and Oakbrook Walk (thank you Hayley and Annie), so I'll be checking those out too. If any of you Gvillers hear anything about a free apartment/bedroom/cardboard box for spring semester, please let me know!

One more random note. In a land of tall, blond, slender people, I am short, brunette, and, well, muscular. With the insane height of some of these people (like the guy I played basketball with yesterday, who could simply stand in the middle of the court and hold the ball above his head and make the rest of us helpless to do anything), you would think that they'd be big milk drinkers. And yet their milk is packaged in liters (quarts, or 1/4 of a gallon). I can drink a liter in a day. Actually, I can drink a liter at one meal. Or, if you prefer, I can drink a liter while walking to University College, as I did tonight.

Last random note: No matter how un-American it may make me, I love the homemade Dutch pizza. I don't know what they do to it - or don't do to it - but it's a thousand times better than ours. Especially the kind with peppers on it. Bakkerij Barts has it and so does the famous stand at the Oudegracht with the broodjes Mario. Yum, yum, yum.

dinsdag 6 september 2005

This is a momentous occasion.
A turning point.
A step up in my Dutchification, as it were.
It merits its own post, even.

Today - for the first time, in the 13-or-so months that I've spent in Utrecht - my bike got stolen.


Good stuff about today:

1.) I got my thesis officially fully approved. That means I get to drop the Approaches in the Humanities class - hooray! It's going to focus on the Holocaust, so it actually sounded halfway interesting, but the first day was boring beyond belief, all kinds of philosophical terms and theories. The teacher also doesn't have the greatest command of English. "Okay, so, just as an example, suppose that in the coffee break, Mary suddenly kisses John overabundantly." "...So you see, the director was able to express the concept filmically." Um. Yeah. Oh well, I suppose I do the same thing in Dutch sometimes... but then again, I don't teach.

2.) I swam 3500 meters, which isn't very far, but I keep forgetting that I have to add 10 yards for every 100 meters. That is, I have to add 350 to that 3500 total, so I actually swam 3850 yards, which is just under a full Club Alligator workout. Not too shabby. A normal workout for me is about 5000 yards (so, uh... 4500 meters, or thereabouts), which I'll never get in Waddinxveen because the pool activities are very tightly scheduled (the minute the clock hits 19:30 they start hauling the lane ropes out for the water polo teams), but the Krommerijn opens on the 19th and I'm already deep in negotiations with their staff about 'adjusting' the normal yearlong membership for a student who's only going to be in town for three months. :) I'm going to aim for 25,000 meters a week... that should have me fit enough for meets in January. I hope the Krommerijn has the normal non-turbulent lane lines... or else that there aren't many people swimming in the mornings. I truly hate the lane ropes at the Waddinxveen pool - they're literally ropes, so they do absolutely nothing to stop the waves, so every time you turn to breathe, you get a mouthful of water. Ah, well, I'll just consider it good open-water training. Speaking of which, I still need to find a place to do that ... anyone know of any good swimming beaches in NL?

A few more minor good things:

- We get to finally write in Creative Writing; I get to write an imitation of Margaret Atwood's style. I'm going to be very good at that.
- The handyman is coming tomorrow to fix all our problems with the room, so my window shade will finally work and it won't be so effing hot in here in the mornings.
- There are no classes tomorrow, because it's Wednesday.
- I had my patatje speciaal, and it was very good.

Well, school is already in full swing - I have a presentation on a Margaret Atwood excerpt in, oh, 45 minutes... and then a Spanish article ('La vida del ama de casa') to read during lunch... and then Spanish class... and then a mad dash to the Humanities department head to get her to sign my thesis project form... and then another mad dash to my tutor's office to catch him before he leaves and get him to (finally) make the official Research course change to my schedule... and then a third mad dash to the train station to catch the train to Waddinxveen (yes, the TRAIN, imagine that!).

Just another day in paradise.

My reward will be a patatje speciaal for dinner when I get back to Utrecht Centraal after swimming tonight. (That's French fries with mayo, curry sauce, chopped onions, and who knows what else. Very, very yummy.)

And the cold is better - although not gone - which cheers me up immensely.

zondag 4 september 2005

Okay, so I did bike to Waddinxveen (and back) today - and I never want to do that again. See, I biked a really long way yesterday, 45km or so, scoping out the route for 'some future bike attempt' (since I was planning to get the early train this morning) ... and it made my knees kind of sore so I was glad I got to wait a while before I tried it 'for real'. But then I found out there were no buses running on time, so I just went ahead and biked it today. The way there was okay - a bit uncomfortable, but doable, even at that early hour - but the way back was hellish. My knees hurt a lot, my butt hurt a lot, my shoulders hurt from my bag (because I haven't gotten any bungee cords for the rack yet, so I had to wear the backpack the whole way), and I was hungry and thirsty and cranky (because that sore throat did indeed turn into the cold that the rest of the school had during the first week - bah). It's not a muscle ache in my knees; my muscles are perfectly fine (takes a LOT to mess them up) - it seems to be a ligament or tendon, whichever one runs directly over the kneecap. (Going up and down stairs, oh yeah, that's a good time.)

And to add to my irritation, this Masters team isn't really what I hoped it would be. I hate that it turned out that way after all the effort I went to to get involved in it, but the bottom line is that although I like the other swimmers, the team doesn't really seem to do anything to help its members improve. There's no real 'coach' to give feedback, there are no intervals in the workouts to encourage/help with speed (meaning everyone just swims at their own pace the whole time), we're not sorted into lanes according to speed (meaning I'm constantly passing most of the other women and getting passed myself by one or two speed-demon guys)... and the general philosophy is basically 'just jump in and do the posted workout'. The whole reason I like swimming with a team is because it tends to offer me challenges that I can't or wouldn't think of setting for myself, but this team really does nothing that I can't do on my own. Instead of paying 7 euro to spend hours traveling to and from Waddinxveen, I could pay a 3,50 entry and take a five-minute bike trip to the Krommerijn swimming pool right around the corner. I'm going to try that tomorrow or Tuesday and see how it goes (plus, starting 12 Sept I'll probably be able to swim with the Utrecht student swim club on Monday and Wednesday - only for an hour, though). I may still go to a couple more Waddinxveen practices - who knows, I might even stick around, if it proves too difficult to get into the Krommerijn's lanes for free lap swim - but it's far from ideal. Like I said, I hate that it's coming to this after all the effort I put out to try to find a suitable team - because I really thought this was going to be great - but there you are. Oh well, I guess I have to take charge of my own training at some point. Anyway, the whole point of trying to keep my condition up over here is to (a) be in shape for meets once I get back to UF, and (b) get ready for the 24-mile Tampa Bay swim in April... and I don't think anyone else needs that level of preparation, so it's probably best if I just do it myself, anyway.

Sorry this post was all negative, but you know - some days are like that. I'm about to go take some of the prescription decongestant that my UF doctor prescribed, which I had the incredible foresight to bring along - go Jess! ;)

Tomorrow: linguistics at 16:00 and (hopefully) swimming (on my own) in the morning. Also, a run to the store for milk, nuts, Actimel, chocolate, and detergent would not be amiss.

zaterdag 3 september 2005

Okay, so, just kidding - I just followed up on the Sunday train thing and it turns out there's actually no bus (or train) from Gouda to Waddinxveen until 9-something. So even taking that obscenely early train wouldn't help. Therefore, I'm going to try the equally crazy bike idea. I tried finding the route today (rode for three hours) and although I got lost and made a lot of circles, I did finally find a bike path on a country road (N228, for those who know) which seems to lead all the way to Gouda. (And I felt pretty dumb, because it actually begins very close to my apartment of two years ago, so I really should have known. Oh, well, I had no reason to be interested in Gouda back then.) And I saw the NS buses using it, too, so that's a good sign. Anyway, so basically I'm going to bed now and getting up at 5:30 to try to bike a 90-km round trip with a 1.5 hour swim in the middle. LOL. If the flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants bike idea works, great. If it doesn't, at least I'll get some exercise, and I'll know the route a little bit better for the next time I try. Here's hoping my knees hold out. :)

Other things to do tomorrow: print my linguistics reader, take a nap, read a Spanish article, plan a short presentation on a Margaret Atwood character (Mitch), and, possibly, do my first load of laundry.

vrijdag 2 september 2005

Okay, so I woke up with a sore throat - not surprising, considering half the school is sick, including my own roommate - so I made an early supermarket run to get my Danactive (or Actimel, as it's called here). We'll see if it works. I have literally not been sick at all since I started drinking it, back in March or whatever it was - no colds, nothing - and I'd like to keep my perfect record, thank you very much... especially considering I won't be able to get a flu shot this year since I'll be here. Two years ago when I was here (again, without the shot) I got the flu for the first time, and I would like to NOT repeat that, thanks.

So I found a way to make it to swim practice on time on Sunday morning, but it's going to be really effing painful. See, the first 'normal' train in that direction would get me there at 8:35. Adding in 10 minutes of walking, I'd be half an hour late and have only an hour to swim (which, like last night, is way too short). If the other route were running (with a stopover in Gouda instead of Alphen a/d Rijn), it would take only 42 minutes instead of 58, and then I might be in business. But it's not, so here's what I figured out: that the trains to and from Schiphol run basically all night long. If I catch the 4:04 train out of Utrecht (yes, that's 4:04 AM! Just like work...) then it will make a two-hour-long loop through Schiphol and finally dump me off in Rotterdam at 6 AM, where I'll wait for another hour at the station and then catch a train to Gouda (which takes only 24 minutes, by the way). Once in Gouda, I'll take the bus to Waddinxveen. Like I said, really effing painful, but I'm reasonably used to getting up at that insane hour and my only class on Monday isn't until 16:00 ... so I'll give it a try this weekend and see what happens. If it's too awful, maybe I'll rethink it. But once classes get going, I can probably use the travel time to study or whatever. We all know I'm terrible at studying in my own room, so this might actually be a good thing.

Today: 11:00 Spanish, 13:45 Approaches in the Humanities, and 16:00 Creative Writing. Bring it on.

donderdag 1 september 2005

Before I forget, one more anti-Bush article exerpt:

"The director of the Food and Drug Administration's office of women's health resigned yesterday to protest the agency's decision last week to further delay approving over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill. ... In an e-mail message to staff members, Dr. Wood wrote that she could no longer serve at the agency 'when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled.'

In a hastily convened news conference Friday afternoon, Dr. Crawford announced that the [FDA] would indefinitely delay deciding whether to allow over-the-counter sales of Plan B ... Dr. Crawford's decision was highly unusual. An advisory committee, the agency's regulatory staff and even the head of the agency's drug center had recommended that the application ... be approved. The commissioner almost never over-rules this kind of collective recommendation. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington, both Democrats, released a combined statement yesterday, saying that Dr. Wood's resignation was "just the latest in a long list of examples of the Bush administration suppressing science when it doesn't fit their political agenda."

Heavy sigh.

Anyway, I'm back from swimming. Getting there and back was a long, complicated process, but it feels good to feel normal again, to have exercised. I've been feeling sort of 'off' this past week and now I know why - I've been missing my chlorine, LOL. Anyway, the team is small, the pool's sides are ridiculously high (I feel like I'm in a goldfish bowl), and they don't have non-turbulent lane lines, but those are all little things; on the whole it went pretty well and I'll definitely be going back. My only problem now is that the first Sunday-morning trains won't reach Waddinxveen until 8:35 (plus 10 minutes walking) while practice begins at 8:15. Bah.

The other negative thing about this is that I'll consistently miss the opening hours of the dining hall on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, so I'm glad I remembered to pick up boerenkool, milk, and chocolate this morning... at least I had something to eat tonight.

Here's the timeline:

15:35: Leave University College
16:00: Arrive at Utrecht Centraal
16:13: Utrecht-Gouda (stop)trein leaves on schedule
16:44: Train arrives at Gouda on time. (Here's where things start to fall apart.) Knowing I have 3 minutes to make my connection, I jump off the train, take off down the stairs, and run up and down the underground tunnel like an idiot looking for platform 2. Too late I realize that the NS website has lied to me and platform 2 does not exist. Obtaining the correct platform number (#9), I sprint back up the stairs and race towards the still-at-the-platform train, only to be greeted by a group of laughing girls telling me, "The train's not running; it's been sitting here since one-thirty."
16:50: I give up on waiting and go down to the bus terminal. I walk up and down all the stops - in the rain - looking for one that says 'Waddinxveen'.
16:55: By pure coincidence, I find one. I get on and spend the next 40 minutes wondering where exactly this bus goes and if I'm going to get horribly lost.
17:35: Coincidentally seeing a sign for 'Sniepweg', which is the pool's street, I get off the bus and start walking.
17:45: I arrive at the pool - and, miraculously, I (a) do not have to talk my way past an inquisitive receptionist, and (b) find the correct people without difficulty.
18:00: We start swimming. Our workout ends up being 3000 meters (so 3300 yards), which is decent for only an hour.
19:00: I nearly get smashed by little boys catapulting into the pool for water polo practice. Defeated, I get out, thinking to myself how incredibly short that felt (a decent workout for me these days is 5000 yards).
19:15: Waiting in the reception area, I start talking to the coordinator, who, it turns out, spends considerable time in Vero Beach and knows all the Florida roads by heart (and reads my website... hi! ;))
19:27: I accept a ride to the station and we leave the pool.
19:34: Right by the station, the railroad crossing flashes red, forcing us to stop the car and wait while the train I'm supposed to be on passes by, collects its passengers, and rumbles off into the sunset.
19:36: I get to the platform. And wait.
20:05: The next Gouda-aimed train arrives and I get on.
20:15: We arrive in Gouda.
20:39: The Utrecht-directed train finally arrives - a sneltrein this time, which shaves off a few minutes - and I get on.
21:03: We arrive in Utrecht.
21:10: I reach the Hoog Catherijne entrance and begin pacing the darkened rows, looking for my bike amidst the thousands parked there.
21:14: I find it.
21:35: I ride safely back onto the University College campus.

Total time: 6 hours. Total swim time: 1 hour.

I think I can do better next time. :)

Former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal writes:

"...Biblical in its uncontrolled rage and scope, Hurricane Katrina has left millions of Americans to scavenge for food and shelter and hundreds to thousands reportedly dead. With its main levee broken, the evacuated city of New Orleans has become part of the Gulf of Mexico. But the damage wrought by the hurricane may not entirely be the result of an act of nature.

A year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed to study how New Orleans could be protected from a catastrophic hurricane, but the Bush administration ordered that the research not be undertaken... In early 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war...

The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which before the hurricane published a series on the federal funding problem, and whose presses are now underwater, reported online: 'No one can say they didn't see it coming ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation.'

In February 2004, 60 of the nation's leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, warned in a statement, "Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking": 'Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world's most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy ... Indeed, this principle has long been adhered to by presidents and administrations of both parties in forming and implementing policies. The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle ... The distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease.'"

Good news upon good news!

1.) Just had my first linguistics class, and it rocks. There are only 9 students in the class and I've definitely got the most linguistic experience of anyone (this will be course #11 for me), so the teacher (a Russian named Sergey) liked me right away. He also loved the fact that I'm applying to Yale's linguistics department (where he worked for a while) and that I'm American (he claims to be as well, but who knows if that's true?). At any rate, he was pleased. Also, we got assigned presentations, and I get to do Williams Syndrome, which is great because we suspect that my second cousin Laura may have that disorder, meaning I could use her as a sort of subject. Awesome, awesome.

2.) Second piece of good news: I got into Creative Writing! That means that horrible philosophy course is gone far, far away and I now have Language and Development, Intermediate Spanish, Creative Writing, and Approaches in the Humanities (this semester's theme is the Holocaust).

Monday - 16:00 linguistics
Tuesday - 8:45 Approaches in the Humanities, 11:00 Creative Writing, 13:45 Spanish
Wednesday - OFF
Thursday - 8:45 linguistics
Friday - 11:00 Spanish, 13:45 Approaches in the Humanities, 16:00 Creative Writing

That's a good schedule as is, and it will be made even better after they approve my thesis topic and let me drop Approaches in the Humanities in exchange for Research 301. But even if they don't approve it (which they may not; apparently they're not in the habit of doing that for exchange students), I can still definitely live with that schedule.

3.) Third piece of good news: tonight is my first swim practice with the Masters team in Gouda (actually Waddinxveen). Apparently it's about a 45-minute train trip with one transfer, and the pool is within 10 minutes' walking distance from the station. That should work. I bought a discount card today (€55) so I can chop 40% off the train tickets... I wasn't planning on getting one, but if I'm swimming there three times a week, I need it - the fare is €7 with the discount and €11,70 without it, so I'll break even in just a month. Plus I'm sure I'll be taking the train to other places, at least occasionally, so it's probably a good thing I caved in and got one so early.

4.) More good news - while typing this post, I got an e-mail saying more of my financial aid has come in! That means, even though it's not there yet, that I get some money in my account! Hooray! Now I'm just waiting on National Merit, and that should come any time now.

5.) Other stuff I did today: bought my linguistics book (€33), bought a Spanish dictionary (€10), went to the Albert Heijn (€8,80), talked on the phone with Christine, and turned in my thesis research proposal and timeline for approval. Am I efficient or what?

Time for a little nap now, I think. :)

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