:: 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)

maandag 31 oktober 2005

Random thinklings:

One of the two other girls on my basketball team really sucks. She's very sweet, but watching her play, it seems like she's always a step behind everyone else, like she's sleepwalking. I think that's why I was (and am) usually very good on defense: because I have really fast reflexes. Marijn needs some help with that. The other girl, Samantha, is about on my level; Marijn, who worships her and follows her around, has the idea that she's 'the best' of the three of us, but in reality, Sam and I are about the same (and a couple of the guys actually openly prefer me, which gets the other two's goats). Hah. So there, you joined-at-the-hip Siamese twins. Sigh. First-years. So young.

The White House is collapsing from the inside out. Good.

Ten hours till class and I still have no creative writing short story topic.

I don't think I want to play paintball tomorrow after all. I can't justify the 25 euro.

Shakira has a new CD, and it's great. She went back to Spanish, thank goodness - her English stuff just isn't as good. I really want to see her live, but then someplace like Spain or Mexico, where she'd actually do Spanish songs.

I am gaining weight and I hate it. I want to go home and eat NORMALLY again - i.e. Kashi cereal, leafy green lettuce, Lean Cuisines, and frozen yogurt. I'm swimming six times a week and playing basketball every Monday, yet I'm still putting on weight, and it's absolutely not my imagination. Godverdomde Dining Hall!

I find out tomorrow how I did on Friday's Spanish exam. Cross your fingers.

I just looked at a Georgetown webpage called 'Georgetown at a Glance', and I realized that the scary 11% acceptance figures are in total, not just graduate. They received around 8,000 graduate applications last fall and took something like 2,500. Those are a lot better odds than I thought I was facing - 38% chance! Still, after I send my fall grade report and (improved) writing sample, I'll feel a lot better about my chances. (Assuming I get all As.)

Seven weeks and one day until I go home. 50 days exactly.

Happy Halloween.

100 Things About Me
(Edited 2/27/2011!)

1. I am an Aquarius.
2. My birthday, January 30th, is the anniversary of the date that Hitler came to power.
3. I'm a swimmer, runner, and triathlete.
4. One of my biggest goals in life is to go on a medical trip to a Third World country.
5. My favorite colors are green, blue, and purple.
6. I got my B.A. in linguistics, and was originally working toward an M.A. in the same.
7. Then I started to hate linguistics, and after a long, hard road, I'm finally in PA school. It's AMAZING.
8. My ears are double-pierced.
9. I love eggplant.
10. In 2007, I headed up a successful swim relay across the English Channel.
11. I've studied six foreign languages, though the only one I'm truly fluent in is Dutch.
12. I was a National Merit Scholar, though I've been in many academic circumstances where I haven't always felt like one.
13. I had a full undergraduate scholarship to the University of Florida.
14. I graduated from there on May 6, 2006 - a member of UF's 100th graduating class.
15. I spent a year and a half of my undergrad living in the Netherlands.
16. One of the happiest days of my life was when we got rid of George W. Bush and Obama became president.
17. I love French fries with mayonnaise.
18. For a long time, I thought I wanted to work as a government linguist.
19. I don't have enough faith in my own creativity to want my income to depend on it, but I'd love to be a writer.
20. European chocolate is one of my top ten favorite foods.
21. I love photography.
22. My iPhone is my lifeline.
23. I've met Shania Twain (got an autograph and a picture onstage), Josh Groban (got an autograph and a HUG!), Vicki Noon (got an autograph), and Teal Wicks (autograph, picture, and brief conversation).
24. My favorite actor is Johnny Depp.
25. But books are always better than movies. Period.
26. I had a bone deformity in my right heel when I was 13 - which was originally misdiagnosed as bone cancer - and spent a year on crutches.
27. I feel more naked without perfume than without pants.
28. One of my fondest memories of childhood summers is standing barefoot on the warm concrete of our driveway after dinner, eating Popsicles with my mom and sister, watching the Florida sun go down.
29. My thumbs are shaped like tennis rackets.
30. According to my mom, I could spell my name with ABC blocks before I could even walk.
31. I miss swimming, and really wish I were still working out as hard as I was in college -- nine swim workouts a week!
32. I'm not half bad at Sudoku.
33. I saw Titanic five times in the theater when I was 14.
34. One talent I definitely do not have is the ability to make music.
35. I was a 'spontaneous reader' at age 2, and I've written little poems, stories, and songs since age 4.
36. I work out six days a week, sometimes more than once.
37. We had a bench-press competition in weightlifting class once, with a 15-lb barbell. I did 63 reps - third-highest among all the girls in the class.
38. I've never even touched a cigarette.
39. My favorite book is The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
40. I kept diaries faithfully from age 6 through 13.
41. I take probiotics, krill oil, and vitamin D every day.
42. I love seafood, especially shrimp.
43. I swam 12.5 miles around the island of Key West when I was 21.
44. I drove a gray VW Beetle for six years, and I still miss it.
45. Left to my own devices, I am so organized as to almost be considered OCD.
46. I have never lived completely alone.
47. I used to want to do an Ironman triathlon more than anything.
48. Then I did a half Ironman and promptly shelved the idea of doing a full one.
49. I have done two marathons, however.
50. I love watching really good dancers go nuts.
51. I myself, however, am (sadly) not particularly rhythmically inclined.
52. Flip-flops are the most awesome shoes ever invented.
53. Cliche as it sounds, I would love to live in New York City one day.
54. I have a really awesome recipe for shrimp pasta that never fails to impress people.
55. However, it is pretty much the ONLY thing I can cook.
56. I'm a very talented writer.
57. I drink only occasionally.
58. The sound of rain puts me to sleep.
59. I once cut my hair so short that I had to wear it in gelled spikes.
60. I am obsessed with the play Wicked.
61. I get a flu shot every year.
62. I love fruit smoothies, colorful salads, fish, shrimp, nuts, whole-wheat and whole-grain breads and cereals - all the things 'they' say you're supposed to eat.
63. Yet I also absolutely cannot stand apples or purple grapes in any form, so forget the old 'apple a day' adage.
64. And if I'm really honest, one of my favorite restaurant meals is green beans, fried okra, hash browns, mac-and-cheese, biscuits, and a brownie sundae at Cracker Barrel. :)
65. I also go nuts for Starbucks' black-and-white cookies and Moe's burritos.
66. It was easy to get my fix in Gainesville - the UF club swim team usually went to Moe's at least once a week after practice.
67. We always got the Moo Moo Mr. Cow kid's meal.
68. Did I mention how much I miss swimming?
69. One of my favorite TV series is Modern Family.
70. I love kids. That said, I get really frustrated by people who don't control their kids.
71. Fried green tomatoes are the greatest food in the whole world.
72. Fried pickles aren't bad either.
73. I have a slight obsession with backpacks.
74. Also purses, suitcases, and anything with zippers and pockets.
75. Sometimes I think I have healing power in my hands.
76. Which sounds really wacky, but L swears she can feel 'something' when I lay my hands on her when she's hurting.
77. Animals seem to feel it, too, especially if they're sick or hurt.
78. I am undecided as to whether I want children.
79. I am so excited by all the career possibilities that are opening up for me.
80. Although it's the last thing I ever thought would grab me, palliative care is kind of pulling me in.
81. Aside from the big feet, 5'5" height, and double-pierced ears, my sister and I do not look one bit alike.
82. People who don't see the whole family together sometimes ask if one of us was adopted.
83. I'm really curious as to what my own children might look like.
84. Sometimes I worry that I'm too judgmental or too emotionally closed-off.
85. I love coffee.
86. I love the way my body looks when I'm doing a regular weight-training program.
87. Sadly, I'm not nearly as adherent to the above as I should be.
88. I love watching people do the things they love most in the world.
89. Now that I've experienced Mac computers, I don't know how I ever liked PCs.
90. I'm a procrastinator.
91. There's a part of me that would love to be a total minimalist and live in a tiny house with a huge organic garden and just a few material possessions.
92. Then I give myself a reality check.
93. I usually don't like playing board games.
94. An exception is Catch Phrase. If you've never played it, you're missing out.
95. Although I love to sort and organize, I absolutely despise actual cleaning.
96. I talk in my sleep -- usually nonsense. (Apparently, I recently said, "You have to be careful of the workers, 'cause the dog's head is made of Jell-O.")
97. If and when I get another Pembroke Welsh Corgi one day, her name is going to be Bella.
98. I am a liquor girl. Beer makes me want to vomit.
99. I desperately want the right to marry the woman I fall in love with.
100. My great-grandmother lived to be 100 years old - and I'm planning to beat her.

zondag 30 oktober 2005

So much to write, so little time. I'll try not to be as long-winded as I've been of late. Let's see, the last entry was on Thursday, so...

(1) Friday. Trung, a guy in our unit, had his 21st birthday party in our common room. It's hard to explain Trung unless you know him, but he is short, Vietnamese, NOT shy, does NOT have ego problems, and is convinced he is the most well-endowed guy within the Dutch border (and won't hesitate to tell you so) ... and yet we all somehow like him anyway. Don't ask me to explain. As a present, Dia and I wrote him a poem (which we read out loud) which included references to his cat obsessions, sexual experience (or lack thereof), pronunciation issues, unfortunate haircuts, and tendency to ask stupid questions. (But it ended on a sweet note, and everybody, Trung included, thought it was hilarious.) Anyway, so his party basically involved about 75 of his nearest and dearest, lots of (repeated) Lou Bega music, some chips and chocolate, a little dancing, and quite a lot of alcohol (of course). I didn't actually end up drinking anything myself because I was running around doing other stuff and chatting with different people (including a Danish girl I'd never met who speaks perfect American English and whom I got along really well with) but some of the other partygoers apparently did - well, at least one. At 5:00, pajama-clad, I stepped into our bathroom for a last pee and was greeted by... an interestingly-colored surprise sprayed over the walls, floor, and Porcelain God. Gross. I went storming back into the common room, where about 10 people (mostly from our unit) were still sitting, and demanded in Dutch, "Who puked all over our bathroom?" This caused (a) quite the stir, and (b) an immediate argument as to who had to clean it up. Ugh.

(2) Saturday. Today should have been spent working on my thesis but ended up with me meeting Marrit by the Dom for cappuccino (in the afternoon) and Christine at the Neude for hot chocolate (at night). Fun times, fun times. It was great to see Marrit again - she has a 'real job' now, even if she doesn't like it much, and she and DK have been together over five years now (wow)! And of course it's always great to see Christine. I'm glad she and I are actually getting together on a regular basis and not just meeting up once and then forgetting each other again. Meeting her was one of the biggest coincidences ever - the ONE Dutch counselor at Ton-A-Wandah 2004 gets paired with the ONE Dutch-speaking American counselor in (I assume) the entire camp network... and not only that, but we ended up getting along so incredibly well! We make fun of each other shamelessly, and never miss a chance to get in a 'dig', but that doesn't diminish our ability to talk about serious stuff. I'd probably have to count her as one of my best friends, and we don't even live in the same country. Oh, and if I get my Eurail act together in summer 2006, she's considering hopping on the bandwagon for at least the Italy branch of the trip. That would rock.

(3) Sunday (today). Efteling day! The weather was gorgeous all day long, cloudless blue sky and yellow-orange leafy trees. It didn't start so auspiciously, though - My planned 7:15 wakeup time became 8:03, with Marijt standing over me (thank goodness the door to our unit doesn't always lock completely!) and saying, "Jess, it's 8:00, we're supposed to catch the bus in 8 minutes, get up!" Reflexively looking at my desk, I suddenly realized my alarm clock was gone. Not on the floor, not pushed along the desk, just gone. Turning my attention to the task at hand, I got dressed, threw some stuff into a purse, and hurried with Marijt to the bus stop, at which point we realized that the bus we were supposed to catch did not even exist (thank you kindly, 9292ov.nl) and therefore we weren't actually late on account of me after all. The bus came at 8:21 and our train left at 8:34, so it was an extremely close shave, but we did make it.

Anyway, we met Britt and Hebe at the Den Bosch station (where it turned out Britt had been in our very same train, LOL) and took the Efteling bus. Hebe is nuts about the Efteling and had everything all planned out - where we would go first, where the lines would be longest, etc. The other three of us basically just followed her all day, but she turned out to be almost infallibly right, so that was actually kind of nice. :) We hit:
- the Python (modern roller coaster)
- the Pegasus (wooden roller coaster)
- the Sprookjesbos (lit. Fairy Tale Forest, with all kinds of fairy tale 'creatures' and displays)
- something that was exactly like the Mad Tea Party (spinning teacups, only in this case it was primary-colored cauldrons and the ride sang a song in French about cannibals and not wanting to die)
- Carnaval-something-or-other (like It's a Small World, but with a different theme song... 'DA da-da, DA da-da, DA, da-da...')
- a roller coaster in the dark with a falcon (or some other big scary bird) theme
- the famous, beloved Droomvlucht (takes you through an enchanted forest full of elves and fairies and trolls and such)
- a Pirates of the Caribbean-like ride involving Arabs instead of pirates
- the requisite 'swinging boat', seen at most modern-day American fairs
- the Pagode, a slowly turning wheel which lifts up and lets you see the whole park

...and more which I can't be bothered to remember right now. I liked everything, but my favorite was probably Villa Volta, which is like a haunted house, but more complicated. You go into a room where you hear a 'legend' about the Bokkenrijders ('goat riders') and all the evil things they did (they were like 'land pirates', basically) and about how this house belongs to one of them. (It's all done in a voiceover which is (a) very old-fashioned, and (b) in a very southern-Netherlands accent, which I found hard to understand. Marijt and Britt mentioned the weirdness as well; Hebe, however, who is from the south, had the entire thing memorized!) Then in the second room, an animatronic man (very well done, blinking and natural movements and all) talks to you about "This house, this cursed house...!" Then you go into a third and final room where you file into four rows of church pew-looking things, two facing two across the center of the room. And then... scary music plays and you begin to flip slowly upside down. Or at least you think you do. It's crazy - the rows of pews are on a sort of swing, like the swinging boat, so you do move (slowly) forward and backward, like a rocking chair, feeling the pull of gravity... but the room is moving as well, except they go so gradually and compensate so well that you can't see that at all! So at some points (for example), you're feeling the pull of gravity forward on your body, down to what should be the ground, yet it's actually the right-hand wall, which was across from you when you started, or the ceiling. Et cetera. It's incredibly disorienting, but at the same time very cool. I had to admire the work that had obviously gone into it; it was flawless.

Oh yes, and we also had poffertjes (tiny pancakes with butter and powdered sugar), which were wonderful, and broodjes kroket (purely Dutch, also wonderful) with mustard, and, for dinner, McDonalds. Healthy to the core, eh?

After a 20-minute search this evening, I found my clock. It was in my bed. I suspect that it was under my pillow, because in the rush to get ready this morning, I flung the duvet around all over the place trying to think of where that stupid clock could be. But my obvious question now is, how did it get there? It couldn't have simply fallen, like I hit it clumsily, because it would have fallen on the floor. So my guess is that I for some reason, instead of just hitting it, reached out and grabbed it and pulled it into bed as it went off, then shoved it into some fabric crevice or another and went back to sleep. I remember absolutely none of this. However, I am somewhat relieved, because it means I wasn't sleepwalking. (Would you believe I went and checked the refrigerator, to make sure it wasn't there?) Anyway, it's home again.

(4) Other random things going through my head:

- I found out the dates for some of my swims this summer. Key West is June 10th, Manhattan Island is June 24th, and the Boston Light is August 12th. Tampa Bay I have no date for yet, but it's always around Earth Day, so it'll definitely be in April. I'm not planning to do the whole Key West swim (12.5 miles) this year, because I want to swim Manhattan Island (28.5 miles) and I want more than two weeks' recovery time, but some of the J-ville Masters swimmers have gotten interested now (because of my trip last year) and they want to compete this time, so maybe we can put a relay together. Or, if I completely tank on the Tampa Bay effort, I may write off Manhattan and do all of Key West. We'll see.

- I had my creative writing review on Friday and it was really good. I'm trying to keep pretty quiet about the actual comments among the other class members when they ask my grade, but this is MY blog, so I can brag here. Anyway, the teacher said that the work I was doing was beyond the scope of the course, that in seven years of teaching, he'd had only one or two other students who came close to me, and that if I wanted to 'edit' any of his assignment ideas in the future and pitch my own idea to him to do instead, that that would be fine. Direct quote: "You'll end up with an A-plus for the course if you keep going like this." (pats my portfolio) Also, he said the last piece I wrote, the one about swimming, was the best I'd done so far; personally, I thought it was long-winded and dull, but he apparently loved it. I guess the old adage 'write what you know' really is true. But anyway, that stuff was all really nice to hear; I like that teacher a lot and really value his opinion, plus we all just need praise once in a while. Rock on, Jess! :) (In the same vein, however, I have to come up with a short story idea by Tuesday. The did-I-sleepwalk, where's-my-clock, what-did-I-do thing started to give me some thoughts, but does anyone else have any ideas?)

- I go back to school on January 9th, and my graduation will be May 6th at 9:00am. Funny to actually have a date set... then I can cross 'Earn a B.A. in Linguistics' off that right-hand column list...

- I get to play paintball on Tuesday!

- I am incredibly broke. I have E109 for the rest of my time here. Of course, there's still money in my American account, and I don't have to pay for any food (in theory), and I've already bought almost everything I was planning on buying, but still... I was kind of hoping to have some money left over.

- In response to that, I have decided to hold a 'garage sale' a few days before I leave. I'll sell my bike, my heavy American-European converter, my small red Speedo backpack (bet one of the Zinkstuk swimmers would want it), my bed linens, Celine Dion body wash, and a bunch of small things like hand lotion, extra batteries, etc. I'm trying to get ahold of the e-mail address of the next girl to live in this room, so I can ask her if she wants my bike and/or linens. If she's American, she might want the converter, too - who knows?

Guess that's all for now... I was long-winded after all, but oh well...

I just received an anonymous comment (via e-mail) which says: "Jess, it's 1 year and 2 months that you haven't kept us updated! How is K20 btw? ;)"

I have no idea who wrote this, nor can I find the comment on the site attached to a certain post, which might give me a clue. It's obviously someone who knows UC, since they mentioned K20, but I haven't got a clue what the 'year and two months' reference is about...

Anyway, whoever you are, I don't want to ignore you, but I would certainly like to know who you are and what you're talking about :) so drop me a line (or comment on this post), okay?

Summary of today's Efteling trip, and more, still to come.

donderdag 27 oktober 2005

Random things I'm thinking about:

(1) I saw Linde yesterday! That was great; she's one of those people with whom I can be out of touch for a year or more, yet when we finally see each other it's like we've been keeping up all along. (For the uninformed: Linde was my Ton-A-Wandah co-counselor in 2002, and the very first person to ever teach me any Dutch.) We chatted and shopped and drank white-chocolate cappuccinos and generally had a nice time. She did an internship in South Africa for six months this past spring and had some great pictures to show. She also brought me a pair of handmade salad tongs with carved and painted giraffes on the handles - very cool.

(2) Speaking of giraffes... I really wanted to see The Lion King on stage while I was in London, but I realized it too late - while checking the times online at the hostel at 14:30 on Sunday. The matinee was at 15:00 and there were no shows on Monday. Phooey - Renate saw it in New York last Christmas and some of the Americans saw it in London and they all said it was awesome.

(3) Something else I loved about backpacking was how un-picky everyone (well, most people) were. We had impromptu contests for who'd been wearing their jeans the longest. And when I accidentally left my shampoo and conditioner behind at the first hostel and mentioned that at the second one, someone said offhandedly, "Well, here they have soap dispensers in the showers." Problem solved - use plain liquid soap. Anything that foams.

(4) In contract to un-picky, University College claims to use the American grading system, but they don't at all. Oh, they use As, Bs, Cs and so forth, but the degree of harshness by which they grade is very different. The scaled system is something like 100-92 equals an A+, 91-84 = A, 83-77 = A-, et cetera - which looks easy, but it turns out they do it that way because they grade much more harshly. Spanish and Creative Writing aren't posing a problem, but Language & Development, well... I just got an exam back, an exam on which I felt I'd done very well, and the grade was a B- (percentage 68!) When I went to review it with the teacher, he said, "But I don't understand - that's not a bad grade!" (Others in the class had D-minuses.) "Well, for me, that IS a bad grade!" There were numerous comments of 'Good!' and 'Very nice!' in the margins, and yet he still found ways to chop off points for 8 of the 12 questions (all essays/paragraphs, which obviously ups the difficulty level as it is). In some cases, it was justified, but in others, I felt he was too harsh. That exam would have been an A by UF standards - it wouldn't have been a hundred percent, but certainly somewhere between 90 and 95. I know we're not in America, and I know I actually did really well compared to some classmates, but still. Ugh. My UF major GPA is a 3.9 at the moment and I don't want to lower it because of a hypercritical Russian. I have to submit fall grade reports to all seven grad schools when I get home, and a slip like that will not look too good. Mission: do a kick-ass presentation (on William's Syndrome) next month.

(5) Everyone probably knew this already, but, ahem, London is EXPENSIVE. Every time I thought something should be, like, a maximum of two DOLLARS (i.e. a one-way Zone 1 underground ticket), it would be two POUNDS (the pound is a little less than twice the dollar). And although I am certainly prone to doing so, this time I am not exaggerating. Everything, absolutely everything, was twice what it should have been. This is a public thank-you to my parents for helping me out with that trip, because otherwise I (a) would have far fewer pretty pictures and memories, and (b) would be about ten pounds lighter. (Wait, why am I thanking you again? ;))

(6) Something I forgot, though, is that I also went to the Science Museum (because it was free and I was in Hyde Park, just a short walk away). It didn't turn out to be all that interesting, but I forgot to include it before, so here it is - I went there.

(7) My linguistics exam just got moved from 19 Dec to 15 Dec. Wish I'd known that earlier, because I probably could have moved my flight up a few days. Oh well.

(8) I need to go to the grocery store today; the only food I have is cereal (but no milk), peanuts, tea, a chocolate bar, and three stroopwafels. I need milk, OJ, and Actimel, at least. Based on the budgets I've been sketching, I think that if I stop going to Waddinxveen to swim twice a week, and start going just once, that I will make my E4000 limit for this semester. (I transferred $5000 in August and that's what it came out to.) Although if I include the Cork/London trip and the extra $200 'gift' from Mom, I think it'll be more like E4500. Not terrible, although I can't wait to be home and living with Monique and paying $340/month. Yippee!

(9) I'm starving and the dining hall opened for lunch 25 minutes ago, so I'm off.

(10) I don't actually have a (10), but it just didn't seem right to leave it at 9.

dinsdag 25 oktober 2005

So, I'm back.

Where to begin? I half-composed so many blog entries in my head whilst pounding the cold gray streets of the UK, that I can't remember them all anymore.

Okay: begin at the beginning. Even if some of it is redundant.

18 Oct 2005: Got up at an insane hour of the morning - it felt like working for Runways all over again - threw the last few things into my bag, and walked to the station, bumping into several UCUers (returning from a night out) on the way. Caught the 5:25 train to Eindhoven, took a bus to the airport, flew to London Stansted, then continued on to Cork. Got to Cork Airport, disembarked onto the tarmac in the rain and the wind, was greeted by the aforementioned open fireplace (in an airport?), then got onto yet another bus to the city center. Went and found my hostel, taking a few pictures on the way, dumped my stuff, and went exploring. Discovered that (a) there are hills, (b) the houses are old, but brightly colored, (c) there's a river running through town, which I never found out the name of, (c) Pride and Prejudice was playing (yes, I went to see it), (d) they had my Belle de Jour book at Waterstone's, (e) the grocery store is a heaven of fried potatoes and salad buffets, and (f) getting used to everything being left-sided - including people passing on the street - is effing annoying.

19 Oct 2005: Got up and ate the hostel's 'continental breakfast' of toast, toast, and toast, then headed back to the bus station to figure out how to get to Blarney Castle. Wasn't sure I was standing in the right place - despite the large BLARNEY-CORK timetable in front of me - so asked the red-haired, green-school-uniform-clad, leprechaun-looking girl next to me if she was going there too. She was, and eventually more and more people gathered, including a Polish girl who'd been working in Ireland for a year and an Australian named Brenna who, like me, was just on vacation. The problem was that the bus apparently thought it was okay to pull into the shelter without alerting the people huddling in the drizzle next to the actual stop, therefore we missed the bus. Brenna, the Pole, and I opted to share a taxi rather than wait 90 minutes for the next bus, so we got there that way. Despite the weather, it was still beautiful, and yes, we did kiss the stone. As if I needed any help in the 'gab' department! Anyway, we ducked into a wool market and admired clothes and hats, debated the merits of getting soup at a neon-yellow pub, wandered through a jewelry shop, then caught the bus back and went our separate ways. I did some shopping, took a few more pictures, picked up some food, and went back to the hostel to use the Internet and read Belle de Jour. (Meaning I spent my entire time in London wondering if that girl was her, or that girl, or that girl.)

20 Oct 2005: My last day, and, go figure, the sun came out. So I didn't go to the pool/sauna/whole-shebang at the hotel next door, but instead decided to go to Kinsale, a coastal town not too far from Cork. I figured it would be nice to take some pictures of the water, and it was. The drive was nice too - we bumped along rural roads the whole way, winding through sunny rolling hills. Once in Kinsale I walked up and down the cliff road for a long time, taking pictures and trying not to get blown away - the wind was strong! I clambered down to the shore at one point (falling on my bum on a concrete brick in the process) and collected a small rock for Mom; the whole 'beach' was covered in gray slate-like rocks and I thought it might make her think of Roan Inish. :) When I went to catch the 14:15 bus back, however, it turns out that Thursday is an exception to the normal schedule, and that I had to wait until 15:30. Good thing I'd allowed myself plenty of time to get to the airport. So I sat down, and the elderly gentleman beside me started to make small talk (in the thickest brogue I've ever heard), then noted, "You're not from around here."
"No, I'm American," I said.
"Oh, American." He paused for a few seconds, then said, "Well. That Bush certainly is a failure, isn't he?"
I burst out laughing. Finally, someone who's not afraid to offend! Needless to say, I liked him immediately and we had a nice conversation to fill that hour with. He was a really interesting guy; he'd worked as a hotel construction worker in all different countries around the world, and had even met Osama bin Ladin's father in person.
Anyway, the bus came, I did catch my plane after all, and after some orange juice, a Mexican-style wrap, and some initial confusion as to how the British rail system works, I caught the Stansted Express out of the airport into central London. I plopped down in the first empty seat I saw, then noticed that the woman next to me was reading a book in Dutch. "Ben je Nederlands?" I asked, and we struck up a conversation which easily filled the whole 45 minutes. She got off a stop before I did, but after realizing that the TRAIN system and the UNDERGROUND system are two entirely different animals, I found my hostel without a hitch. (It turned out to be absolutely wonderful, FAR better than the one in Cork.) And I fell in love with the Underground. Another reason to choose Georgetown over Yale: the DC Metro! :)

21 Oct 2005: Am I touristy? You bet. It took a while to figure out how to get to the Thames, but once I got there I realized that there's a Thames Walk on both sides, kind of like the Riverwalk in Jacksonville, and that makes it really easy to get around. I went to the Tower Bridge first, then marched along the river all the way up to Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament. Click, click, click. I was dodging tourists and their cameras everywhere I went. Oh, wait, I was one too.
Anyway, I stood in line for the London Eye, then gave myself a reality check: I already had great pictures, my camera battery was close to dead, and was it worth paying $25 for what was essentially a giant Ferris wheel? I decided it wasn't, so I ducked into a souvenir shop, then realized I was right next to Waterloo station (which connects to the National Rail service) and so decided to check out the times to Stonehenge (which is in Salisbury). And luck must have been with me, because I was right on time for the 13:20 train. Ticket purchased (around $50) and off I went - to the wrong platform. (It wasn't my fault; it was the silly little timetable booklet!) I was told to go double-check the monitors. It was 13:18.
"I guess I've missed this one in two minutes, then," I said, sighing, pointing to the times, seeing my plans for the day go down the tubes because I'd bought an expensive day ticket that I obviously had to use but now wasn't going to be back in London in time for my 19:30 Jack the Ripper tour.
"You've missed that one, yes," the conductor said in tones of finality, turning away.
And just like that, I thought, Oh, have I, now? And I managed to dash back to the central area, double-check the platform number, race across the station to the correct platform, and dive through the doors literally right as the whistle blew. Go me!
And after all that, I arrived eleven minutes after the last bus to Stonehenge departed. Luckily, I was able to snag two Greek girls who were also trying to get there, and we split a taxi. Getting there was a lot like getting to Kinsale - a rural road through sun-dappled rolling hills, full of sheep and the occasional rainbow (from the misty rain). And Stonehenge itself was just beautiful; I can't seem to find a sufficient adjective. Most things like that, that you see all over the place (even on Windows backgrounds) seem a bit diminished when you finally see them in person, like 'oh, that's not really so special'. Well, that was definitely not true of Stonehenge (nor, I might add, of Big Ben - it's absolutely gorgeous; the postcards don't do it justice!). Every picture I took came out looking professional, just because the subject was so good. (Yes, they will shortly be added to the photo gallery, as soon as I finish typing this ridiculously long entry.) How, and why, did our ancestors ever manage to build such a thing? It would be a job and a half today, let alone in 10,000 BC.
Anyhow, I did make it back to London in time for the Jack the Ripper tour - at least, I was on my way on time, but had a delay on the Underground. So as I came skidding out of the Tower Hill tube station at 19:32, certain I'd missed the group, I was greeted by an absolute mass of people, probably around two hundred. And that was the group! In my head, it had been around 15. Apparently Donald (the tour guide) really is world famous. When Johnny Depp made the movie From Hell (which, according to Donald, "is about ninety-eight percent fiction"), he came to London and took a long private tour with Donald, to get into the role. ("My daughter was simply incandescent with envy when she heard," he laughed, to which I called, "So are all the females in tonight's group, I think!")
But the tour was amazing; it was one of the few things I did which I truly felt to be worth the money. Four pounds fifty pence (around eight or nine dollars) for a two-hour tour. And Donald told everything as if it were a story, describing the characters, pointing out the places where the victims (five East End prostitutes) had been found, describing exactly what the killer had been up to, right down to his last action. I was impressed. At the end, instead of tipping him, I bought a copy of his book (ten pounds) and he autographed it. He doesn't agree with Patricia Cornwell's so-called 'case closed' Ripper book, maintaining that she handles essentially no new material and that her theory (that artist Walter Sickert (sp?) was the Ripper) is an old one which has several flaws. I was rather glad to hear that, considering I got bored with the Cornwell book halfway through and never even finished it. "The case is certainly not closed, as she's maintaining," he said, sounding a bit irritated. He doesn't know himself who did it, but his speciality is in paring through the outrageous speculations (i.e. that Lewis Carroll was the Ripper) and reporting the hard facts. I haven't read more than a few pages of the book yet, but it should be good.

22 Oct 2005: I walked up to Oxford Street and did a whole lotta shopping. I bought stuff for all three members of my immediate family, but I'm not telling what! Then I hit the SLOWEST Starbucks in the entire world, then took the tube to the London Dungeon, which happens to be very close to my hostel. It's basically a glorified haunted house with a basis in history - the London Fire, stuff about Jack the Ripper, the Black Plague, etc. You're shepherded from place to place by actors - a doctor from Plague times, a torture chamber guru, etc. The student entry was 12 pounds something, so around $25, and it definitely wasn't worth that much, but it was still an amusing day out. At one point, we were in a 'courtroom' being tried for our crimes, and three criminals were called up. 'First criminal is... you.' The bailiff pointed. A black girl walked up to the stand. 'What's your name?'
'Where are you from?'
(to judge) 'She's been dancing naked - around fires - singing 'Beelzebub, Beelzebub, bring me a man, bring me a man as fast as you can!' - so I think she's a witch.' The judge entered into 'negotiations' with the criminal, finally deciding that she was insane and therefore must be released, 'but I'll need to see a demonstration of that naked dancing.'
'The second criminal is... you.' A twenty-something guy walked up.
'What's your name?'
'Where are you from?'
(to judge) 'He's been weeing in the wells! Poisoning our water supply!...'
'That was you? I've been sick all these weeks because of you?'
'Afraid so, your honor.'
(gavel) 'Guilty! You'll be drowned in the Thames.'
'And the third criminal is... YOU.'
That was, of course, me.
'What's your name?'
'Where are you from?'
'Jacksonville, Florida.'
(judge leans over) 'Oh, you're an American, are you?'
'Yes, Your Honor.'
(gavel) 'Guilty!'
Of course this was followed by wild laughter, me more than anyone. Although I did wonder what my crime would have been?...

23 Oct 2005: Didn't do a whole lot of city stuff today because there was the possibility of seeing Joanne, which didn't pan out. I spent a lot of time hanging out with the people in my hostel - there was a group of really nice Americans who were studying at Lancaster University and traveling around during their weekends, a chatty Canadian girl (coincidentally also named Jessica) who was a hair stylist, a Mexican guy whose Spanish I could understand perfectly (finally, someone who speaks MY Spanish, not Spain-Spanish!), a really hot Canadian guy who I might have gone for if he didn't smoke, and the requisite Dutch guy, Coen. He gave me a big ego boost - just like with the woman on the train, I saw that he was lying on his bed reading something in Dutch, so I asked, 'Ben je Nederlands?' and we started talking. About fifteen minutes into the conversation, he started listing all the places he'd been, "Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand -"
"America?" I interrupted with a grin and a pointing finger. It was meant to be a joke.
"No, not yet. You been there?"
Hah. The look on his face when he found out I was American... he kept on repeating that he'd never met any foreigner who could speak so well and that he hadn't heard me make even one single mistake. He was completely amazed, which made me feel good. The Dutch UCU students are the 'cream of the crop' when it comes to academics, so a lot of them can hear that I'm not native (when I ask them, at least), but your run-of-the-mill Dutchie tends not to realize, which I'd sort of forgotten. I love that. Love it. Anyway, Coen spoke (extremely broken) Spanish as well, so we got into a conversation with the Mexican guy which continually jumped back and forth between all three languages, depending on who was speaking to whom, and it was so much fun. And, oddly enough, I didn't have any trouble swapping on the fly like that. (Taking Spanish again this semester, even though it's a kick in the ego, was the right choice after all, I think.)

24 Oct 2005: Basically? Got up, got dressed, got out. There was a supermarket right across the street, so I got a bagel and a cheese croissant for breakfast and then went to Dover, which is the city where Channel swimmers start from and where they stay while they're training. The train ride in was gorgeous - first, valley houses as far as the eye could see, then through a tunnel and along the shoreline: white cliffs on one side, churning gray-green water on the other. The weather was terrible, but I was still glad to be there. I walked along the water for about an hour, and climbed down a rusty stairway at one point to collect a rock (the whole beach is made up of orangey stones). I couldn't figure out why the steps were so rusty until I almost slipped and crashed down them - at high tide, the water apparently covers those stairs. Wow. And I felt the water too, of course, and it strangely did not feel cold. Hope I think the same thing in two years. Anyway, it started to rain harder, so I used the last picture on my card with a shot of Dover Castle, high on the hillside, then (finally!) got my 'authentic' fish-n-chips - doused with salt and vinegar and wrapped in newspaper. Then: back to London and off to the airport.

25 Oct 2005 (today): This day actually begins at 20:00 on the 24th, when I got to the airport. I decided that if I had to sit there until 6:00, that I'd just sit in the bookstore and read. So I plopped down on the floor and polished off a Glamour, then started rereading Harry Potter VI. I say 'started' because I suddenly became aware that the shiny garage-style metal door was lowering - with me still inside the store! There was no one behind the counter controlling the door, as I'd hoped, and no one answered when I knocked on the metal door, calling "Hello?" I had about two seconds of, "Hah, I'm locked in a BOOKSTORE, and there's ice cream here, and magazines, and Harry Potter books, and the lights are on, and it's quieter than out there, and I could so just stay in here! Or take some books!" Then the rational part took over and said, "Do you really think there's not a security camera somewhere, watching you? And even if there's not, do you truly think it's a good idea to steal food and books? Just because you have the opportunity? No. You get out of here." So I did, clambering over and around tightly packed displays (normally outside, moved inside for the night), and found my way out of the employee entrance. Even stranger, I did not see an employee the entire time, and when I passed by a few hours later, the lights were still on (not so unusual) and the employee door was still unlocked (highly unusual). Odd.
Anyway, I spent the rest of the night (a) trying to sleep under the Departures screen, (b) freezing my butt off on the marble floor and giving up, (c) playing Hangman with a Dutch girl and Bahama-ian boy (how do you say that? I mean a boy from the Bahamas) who were in art school together, (d) chatting with a girl who turns out to attend Dia's old school (and knows her!), (e) eating, and (f) finding another - open - bookstore and reading more Harry Potter. Sleep was not in the cards.

It is now midnight and I have officially been awake - with the exception of a few cat naps - for 39 hours. Time to go remedy that situation.

But first, three notes:

(1) I got my schedule. Sign language isn't available for some reason - whether it's reserved for certain students or they're changing the times or something I don't know - but I'm unable to register for it, which made my job a lot easier. So now my schedule looks like this:

9:30 every day: Wolof
10:40 MWF: Latin
10:40 TR: advanced conversational Spanish
11:50 every day: French
12:20 MW: weight training
15:00 every day: Dutch

Of course, I'm not technically registered for Dutch, since I've already had it, but I like to keep that period free so I can drop in sometimes and keep in practice. The weight training thing works out well because it gets out halfway through seventh period, while Dutch is eighth, so Mondays and Wednesdays will probably be my 'Dutch days' in the spring. Anyway, I'm reasonably satisfied with this schedule. Hopefully I can take sign language, Swahili, and Arabic in grad school.

(2) You must check out these laptops. I love, love, love Sony. It's like they heard me complaining about the new T-series models - "Needs more processor speed, and what happened to the built-in webcam?" - and also heard the little voice inside me whispering, "Wow, I really like having color options!" Of course, it's five pounds, but that'll change by summer '06, when I can actually shop to buy.

(3) I am currently downloading Elizabethtown to feed my Orlando Bloom obsession, although I hear the movie's not actually that great. Ah, well, thus the joys of DLing - you don't pay! Something to look forward to for the morning. (Now if only I could find A Christmas Story. Nobody on this side of the ocean knows that movie and I fully intend to enlighten them.)

zaterdag 22 oktober 2005

Well, yesterday was a full day. I saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Tower Bridge, the London Eye, and a few other touristy things... and then I went to Stonehenge, which was amazing. After seeing it in so many pictures (and Windows XP backgrounds) it's absolutely incredible to be standing there in front of it.

Then in the evening I took a Jack the Ripper walking tour, which was really interesting; the guide was Donald Rumbelow, who's apparently the leading international authority on the Ripper. He made it seem like a story; it was like walking through a movie set. At one point, we were standing in front of a parking garage and Donald was describing the apartment building that used to be there, where Mary Kelly (the last victim) was murdered. Suddenly, a young man climbed over the second-story garage railing, shinnied down to the ground, and ran down the alley. It was eerie, like seeing a reenactment of what it must have been like to a passerby, even though the building was different.

Anyway, now I'm sitting in an internet cafe in Oxford Street. I shopped and hit Starbucks (the slowest Starbucks in the entire world!), and I'm about to go to the London Dungeon, of which I know very little except that it's supposed to be (a) entertaining, and (b) creepy. We'll see.

woensdag 19 oktober 2005

So here I sit in Cork, getting cold and wet, sleeping in a mildew-scented room, and paying obscene amounts of money for food and Internet access.

No, really, it's not that bad. Chilly, yes, but my clothes are adequate (my North Face rain poncho is getting another workout) and I admit that I like everything I've eaten so far (with the exception of a smoothie which, judging from the taste, was made with none-too-ripe strawberries). I'm a bit bitter about the bed, which has a sunken Grand Canyon-sized hole in the middle and caused me to walk around with a sore back all day today, but I have to admit that it's warm.

Overall, I like Cork better than I liked Ireland last time I was here (in Belfast and Kilkenny), probably because I get to do things myself rather than having Tara shepherd me around. On the other hand, I'm three years older now, and the difference between 18 and 21 is never so apparent as when traveling internationally. Ah, well.

I got here yesterday and will be leaving tomorrow - short trip, yes - but here are the high spots:

- I stepped off the tarmac into the Cork airport, and was greeted by a fireplace with an open-flame fire. Next to it lay a bellows, yes, an honest-to-god bellows. In what other public place would you find a merry fire than in an Irish airport?

- The grocery store has a large ready-made area where one can get, among other things, pasta salad, fried potatoes, and cucumber-tomato-feta salad. Needless to say, I have taken advantage of this. Multiple times.

- I talked with a shy Irish teenager with long red hair, wearing a green school uniform and looking exactly like how I'd imagine a female leprechaun to be.

- Immediately afterwards, I talked with a NOT shy Australian girl with long red hair who, like me, was heading to Blarney Castle, so we spent the morning together. Kissing the Blarney Stone, it turns out, means lying down on the floor of the roof of the castle, holding onto a bar, and hanging your head into 82 feet of open space and feeling the pull of gravity while a strange man holds your waist. LOL.

- I finally saw Pride and Prejudice, which many of you will no doubt think is a terrible way to 'waste' two of my 48 hours in this country. I disagree. First, the film was made in the UK and won't even be released in America for another month. Second, you can tell a lot about a country by the way they run their movies. For instance, I've learned that the Irish do not need a nicotine break in the middle like the Dutch (though that's not to say that they smoke any less!), and that they are relatively tolerant of amateur projectionists who can't get the focus right. Educational. (Okay, really, I was just walking past and saw that it would be playing in 20 minutes and couldn't think of a good reason not to go... happy?)

- I spent a couple of hours in a bookstore called Waterstone's (I think?) and managed to find my Belle de Jour book, which isn't available in the US. I'd been planning to buy it for months, and just finished it a few minutes before getting online. Funny, it's more like the blog than I thought - there are certain passages I remember word for word, from when she was still blogging. (Her link is over in my right-hand column somewhere, but I can't add it again here because I can't figure out how to make the double-quotation mark on this godforsaken international keyboard, and that's rather essential for link HTML.)

- Rain, rain, and more rain. Oddly enough, it seems to go on all day and then stop around dinnertime... never met a climate quite like that one.

- The hostel, quite conveniently, is next to a Quality Hotel (for the USAers, that's Quality Suites), and for 10 euro we can use the pool, sauna, gym, everything, as much as we want. I'm planning to take advantage of that tomorrow, since I don't really have enough time to make a full day of things (got to catch a bus to the airport at 3pm) and this weather simply invites being inside with soup and a magazine. Did I mention it's cold and wet?

- Gaelic is everywhere. Apparently there's been a big attempt to revive it as a first language in this country. Busanna = buses, labhair = please... and that's all I know so far.

- Who would have thought that orange juice, banana, and peanut butter - nothing else - would make a great smoothie?

- The accents. I love the accents. But it makes people surprisingly hard to understand if they're not speaking directly to me, especially if the background is a crowded street. It could almost pass for a foreign language in the sense that I find it to be possible to let it simply 'glide' over my ears without comprehension or picking out specific words, even though it's technically my native language.

- Those earrings Tara sent me? The triangular shape with the swirls? That shape is everywhere. I went in a jewelry shop in Blarney today and every other piece had something to do with that shape. Sadly enough, none of them were earrings, or I would have bought another pair - mine are almost dead, possibly due to the six months one of them spent lying on David's bedroom floor (in the Netherlands. While I was in America. And still I got it back.)

- The driving-on-the-left-side-of-the-road thing is driving me (no pun intended) nuts. I never know which way to look while jaywalking. :)

- The chocolate? Is wonderful. Why don't we have Malteasers or Aero in the US?

- The houses, at least around the hostel, are really colorful. I have a great picture of the uphill-slanting street with a rainbow of houses on the side. If only those parked cars hadn't been there.

- Speaking of hills, they make for great scenery. (NL and FL are both flat, so this is a nice change.) Especially when the leaves are changing, like they are now. I swear I filled up half my Sony card with pictures from the top of Blarney Castle.

I swear I had so many more details to write about, about how I might not have done much in the way of 'history' or 'culture' but how I still felt like I'd learned a lot about the country and people, etc... but it's just not coming to mind right now. And the timer says I have only 7 minutes left, so I guess I'd better go cross 'Kiss the Blarney Stone' off that right-hand-column Life List. :)

maandag 17 oktober 2005

I am currently in the midst of a last-minute packing and panicking whirlwind. It's currently 21:07 and I have to be up at 4:15. (The train leaves at 5:25, but there are no buses that early, and there's no way I'm leaving my bike at the station for a week, so I have to walk.) That means I want to go to bed NOW - correction, I wanted to go to bed an hour ago - but I keep remembering all the things I have to do:

- finish planning my schedule, so I can register for classes while in London
- look up other things to do in Cork besides Blarney Castle
- upload my creative writing journal to Workspace
- make a list of the last-minute things I have to pack tomorrow morning (phone, alarm clock, pajamas, birth control pills, bathing suit, moisturizer...)
- take my garbage out
- write Dia a note
- a thousand more things that I'm forgetting right now

And if I were really good, I would have:

- finished my ENTIRE creative writing journal, not just three entries
- printed the Pine Rush application, filled it out, found an envelope, and mailed it
- done all this stuff earlier today, while I was watching movies and reading books.


See you all on Tuesday the 25th.

zondag 16 oktober 2005

So Linde had to call off our 'date' today because she's sick. Not surprising, the way she spreads herself so thin all the time, trying to do a million things. Anyway, so she's at home resting and we decided to try again on the 26th, after I get back from the UK. So I have today totally and completely free. I can't remember the last time I had a day like that, where I was on my own (Dia's in Hungary for the break), everything could wait, and I had no real 'obligations'. I haven't done much with it so far, though - had breakfast with Julia, finished organizing my new planner, did some UK packing, and am about to do a couple of short entries in my creative writing reader response journal (because I have that class approximately four hours after I touch back down in NL next week, so it needs to be done today or tomorrow). But I'm planning to finish watching Jerry Maguire (which I downloaded), do some organizing and filling up of the big suitcase, look up directions for some of the things I want to do in the UK, and (finally) finish the Jodi Picoult book Marijt lent me, so I can get started on the other one. Plus the Jags-Steelers game will be on the radio at 19:00. LET's go JAG-uars! :)

I did just discover something cool, however, which is the World Masters Games. It's like the Olympics - very high-class and professionally done - but open to adults of all ages and skill levels. They have events for total novices all the way up to professional athletes. The minimum age for most things is 30-35 (no maximum - there are competitors over 100 years old!), but for swimming it's 25 (because that's the FINA world standard). I knew this existed, because they just held it this past summer in Canada, but I treated it as one of those things like FINA swim meets - to be kept in the back of my mind until I turned 25 (in 2009). However, it turns out the Games are more like the Olympics than I thought - they're held every four years, which means the next one is in - you guessed it - 2009! So I can actually attend the very next one, which is awesome. And it's going to be in Sydney, too, if you can believe that. Score! I'd obviously do both swimming events (they have pool and open-water!), but since you can compete in whatever you want, I might be interested in cycling too, or maybe basketball. Depends on the dates, times, costs, etc.

Anyway, it's a long way off, but I think it's awesome that they have something like that - it fills a real 'hole' in our sports culture. It gives people like me, who are pretty good but could never make the 'real' Olympics, something to do with ourselves, and it gives older people and novices a competition which is appropriate for them (plus some motivation, something to look forward to and work towards).

Anyway, I suppose I'm off to do my journal entries. They only have to be 300 words, so I'll be done fast. And then... Jerry Maguire! :)

woensdag 12 oktober 2005

So today I have three major projects.

(1) Assemble my creative writing portfolio. This entails rereading and editing (if necessary) my four major pieces, tacking on a bibliography, and - the fun part - adopting a persona and writing an introduction/critique of my own work.

(2) Study like a madwoman for my linguistics midterm, which is tomorrow morning at 8:45 and which, judging from the review we were given, is probably going to kick my ass. Example: one random graph/diagram is going to be included on the test - unlabeled - which can come from ANYWHERE in ALL the readings. We will be expected to identify it, explain it, and label it. Wacky, impractical things like that. I mean, an essay, okay, term identification, all right, but rote memorization of pictures? How does that have any bearing on my future proficiency in the field?

(3) Do some more work on my thesis. As geeky as I'm going to sound right now, I am actually having a blast working on Middle English. I never realized this before, but seriously, Middle English is like normal modern English with lots of random Dutch thrown into it. It seems like I see something noteworthy in practically every single line, be that the word order, vocab, or (based on the rhyme scheme) pronunciation. It rocks.

I have made slight amounts of progress on the choosing-a-language front in that I've decided I must take sign language. Taking a modern language or ten in grad school is not outside the realm of the possibility, but seriously, when will I ever get the chance to do sign language again? Therefore, Spanish, Latin, and sign language are yeses and German is a no. That cuts the five schedule possibilities down to three:

1.) Spanish, Latin, sign language, weight training, Greek.

2.) Spanish, Latin, sign language, weight training, French.

3.) Spanish, Latin, sign language, weight training, Writing Systems, gymnastics.

If I could find a different Spanish class - a conversational class that didn't conflict with ASL, for example - the possibilities might be different, but ISIS is closed at the moment due to the fact that it's only 5:30 AM across the pond, so I'll have to wait on that till later.

At the moment, though, I'm leaning towards #2.

dinsdag 11 oktober 2005

Okay, so it wasn't the greatest day; I didn't get a lot of sleep, I still haven't worked out my UF schedule, the sausage roll at lunch made me feel really sick to my stomach, and my 'swimming shoulders' are starting to act up again, GRRRR. That being said, the day did get better as it went on. Here are the exclamation points:

- The weather has been sooo nice the past couple of days - we're back to T-shirt weather!

- The Spanish teacher and I 'wasted' an entire class period on linguistic discussion and theorization, rock on!

- I get to play paintball on 1 Nov!

- I had boerenkool met worst and a chocolate muffin for dinner, score!

- Marijt is awesome, she lent me two new books, including a Jodi Picoult!

- Britt is awesome too, she gave me a shoulder massage!

- Hebe is awesome three, just because she's Hebe and she's cute! ;)

- Gilmore Girls nights two floors up (K-24) rock my world!

- Just got confirmation that my linguistics class will 'probably' count for my major, yessss!

- I have a new iPod playlist!

- Sergey, my linguistics professor, worked at Yale for five years and says he'll put in a good word for me there!!!

- Um... I like exclamation points tonight! :)

I only do the short surveys...

Let's Play 20 Questions!

Top 1:

book: The Time-Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
movie: Bend It Like Beckham, Pirates of the Caribbean
tv show: Gilmore Girls (might be Commander in Chief if I were home to see it...)
animal: Pembroke Welsh Corgi
weakness: often mistrustful of others' ability to do a job right

Top 2:

actors: Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp
actresses: Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet
sports: swimming! and basketball
gadgets: laptop, iPod (come on, Apple, let's have a Nano with more capacity!)
accessories: dangly earrings, cool backpacks/purses

Top 3:

foods: tacos, Dutch pizza, mac & cheese
songs: currently: 'Fading Like a Flower' remix (Roxette), 'Get It On The Floor' (DMX), and a Hungarian song of Dia's that I can't understand, but love.
boys' names: Keith, Aidan, Andrew
girls' names: Anna, Bridget, Emma
articles of clothing: tank tops, flip-flops, my denim skirt

Top 4:

fruits & veggies: orange juice, okra, potatoes in all forms, spinach-leaf salad with baby tomatoes
hobbies: swimming, traveling, reading, photography
strengths: organization, determination, guts, ability to get up whenever the alarm goes off
addictions: my dayplanner, the Internet, my iPod, dark chocolate with hazelnuts
dreams: swim the English Channel, work for the NSA, go on safari in Africa, write a book.

(...Whoever wrote this survey must have been a positive person; they only gave me one spot for weaknesses, but four for strengths... I like that. :))

maandag 10 oktober 2005

Guess what? I have an apartment for spring! This is big news, because things were in flux for a long time and I was afraid I was going to have to bite the bullet and just go back to La Mancha with its horrible office personnel and now-ridiculously-high rent of $505. (It was only worth my $405 last year because of the proximity to campus, and it's not worth $505 in any conceivable universe.)

But anyway, wonderful Monique (friend from swimming and linguistics) wanted to move from her one-bedroom apartment (in Pine Rush) to a 2-bedroom, because the rent was killing her too, so we were on tenterhooks for six weeks waiting for the verdict, and yesterday we were informed that she got it! So she's paid the deposit and we're all set! That means one roomie (not three), my own double bed (not single), and $270 a month rent! (Moreover, a roomie I know and like, rather than some stranger.) It's a 15-20 minute bike ride to campus (10 minutes with the bus; there's a stop right out front), but that's not a big deal, especially since I just got a (free!) road bike which I can't wait to ride, anyway.

Bottom line: YAAAAAY!!!

And as for the language dilemma, well, I've picked Spanish and Latin for definite yeses and German for a definite no (it's not spoken widely enough to justify learning it over the others, plus I already speak a Germanic language fluently - two, if you count English). So, based on the times that the classes are offered, that allows for five possible schedules, all of which have pluses and minuses.

1.) Spanish, Latin, weight training, French, Writing Systems. This would give me three languages plus Writing Systems, a cool-sounding linguistics class which would be nice to take if my current class doesn't get counted. But even if it does, I might still want this - it sounds really interesting. This is the most compact schedule - everything is 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th periods, which is great - and it also gives me the 'good' Spanish class (conversation) instead of 3301, which is grammar/composition.

2.) Spanish, Latin, weight training, Greek, sign language. This would give me the 'worse' Spanish class, but it would also give me four languages and it would let me have Latin and Greek together (which, let's face it, just belong together!). Also, sign language is, from a linguistic point of view, incredibly interesting; that's why I can't seem to drop it. Another plus: none of these languages are likely to interfere with my Dutch or Spanish, since none of them are spoken.

3.) Spanish, Latin, weight training, French, sign language. This is exactly the same schedule as #2, but instead of seventh-period Greek every day, it would be French. Again, the 'bad' Spanish (because sign language and 'good' Spanish conflict), but four languages. I'm having trouble deciding.

4.) Spanish, Latin, weight training, French, Greek. Four languages, 'good' Spanish, but no sign language.

5.) Spanish, Latin, weight training, Writing Systems, sign language, (gymnastics). This one has a lot of pluses, too - I get Writing Systems and sign language, plus the 'good' Spanish, and the number of credits works out to let me take that beginner gymnastics class too if I want to. But: no Greek or French...

Anyway, vote in comments, please!

Funny anecdote for the evening: Tom playing basketball. I have no particular love for Tom - he's a pro-Bush Austrian chauvinist - but tonight he was rather bearable, and not only because he was making me laugh (see below). Anyway, he's a pretty small, skinny guy, and he was making all kinds of wild shots during the game tonight, many of which didn't even touch the basket (causing all of us on the bench to scream and curse and generally shake our heads). With one-and-a-half minutes left, standing practically on the sideline, he launched another wild toss. Marijntje, Frans, and I screamed with one voice, "What the hell are you--" only to be choked off as the ball dropped cleanly through the basket! "--oh." Seriously - all together. That, plus Marijntje's and my screaming fit at the scorekeepers, who counted the shot as only two points and didn't want to admit it, led to a laughing fit of at least five minutes.

Also, I will never again make fun of Dia for her lack of Dutch bike-riding skills, now that I've had experience with someone who has simply NO bike-riding skills whatsoever. In the course of this evening, Tom (a) forgot which bicycle was his, (b) took over five minutes to unlock it, (c) crashed headlong into two innocent Dutch bikers, (d) knocked the bike's light off the frame, and (e) swerved out of control on the slight bump up into the UC campus, careened wildly in front of Frans and me, and smashed into the gate. I still laugh when I think about that last one.

Parting question: Am I twenty years behind everyone else because I've become obsessed with Roxette's "Fading Like a Flower" dance remix? LOL... I've been a fan of "Dangerous" for years, but never knew about this one!

donderdag 6 oktober 2005

Okay, well, UF has granted my wish... in my LAST SEMESTER. Thanks, guys. *sarcasm*

What I mean is, they've started offering beginner language courses in the spring, not just the fall. This is great, but what it means is that I now have six available languages, all of which I've long wanted to learn, and room for only three, a max of four. Help! The four I really want are French, German, Latin, and Greek, but American Sign Language is also being offered - when will I ever get that chance again?! - and then of course there's Spanish. I know I'm taking it this semester, but I'm afraid that if I start more languages, I'll lose Spanish again, and I really don't want to do that. I want to do the 3301 class, companion to the one I did in my first semester. But if I did all 6, it would be 25 credits, and that's way too many. The limit is supposed to be 18. Dropping Latin out of the mix, I might be able to get them to approve 21 - read, MIGHT - but no more than that.

And we haven't even started talking about Senior Thesis, Gymnastics, Weight Training, Writing Systems, Intro to Morphology, or any of the other factors that are coming into play here.


If anybody can help me make some choices here... please do.

woensdag 5 oktober 2005

Yesterday was awesome because:

- My package arrived!!! Reese's cups, dayplanner refills, fuzzy socks, a new book... what more could a girl want?

- I gave my Spanish presentation on The Time-Traveler's Wife, and it actually didn't suck. I had notes in front of me, but I only had to glance at them twice. And I only threw in one Dutch word - 'sorry' instead of 'lo siento' - in a moment of surprise. So, go me!

- We had muffins at lunch, and because I was wearing a sweatshirt, I was able to sneak an extra one into the kangaroo pocket, so I got both a yellow one and a chocolate one. Yummy.

- Simon liked my creative writing piece ("I'm finding it awfully hard to bitch, actually!") and Julia asked me if I'd ever considered making a living as a writer.

- I got an e-mail from Erik, and he's ordering my red messenger bag and Dad's blue backpack (payment for my translation work). But shhh, Dad's is a Christmas present, so don't tell!

- I got to hang out and watch Gilmore Girls with Hebe, Marijt, and Britt (even if it was last season, we had fun!)

- I met an American girl from Washington DC, Laura, the only other person I've met who speaks accentless Dutch after learning it as a second language. A group of us were jabbering in Dutch for a good twenty minutes, and then she remarked (while eating) that it was weird that the term is 'pine nuts' in English, but 'pine tree nuts' in Dutch. That tipped me off, because who would know that but a native English speaker, and I asked her what her native language was.
"He, van mij ook!"
"Echt? Waar kom je vandaan?"
"Amerika?!" *pause* "...What the f**k?! I've been sitting here speaking Dutch to another American this whole time without realizing it?!" Turns out she has a language-learning story equally as twisted as mine, but her mother is Dutch, so the weirdness factor of her learning the language was a bit lower. We were both absolutely amazed, however, because neither of us had heard a single clue tipping off the other's non-nativeness. Wild.

- I got to swim in Waddinxveen, and so did not have to find the initiative to get up early and go by myself.

- And... there was a stripper at Ladies' Night in the UCU bar. Yes, I mean it. Really, ya gotta love the Dutch.

zaterdag 1 oktober 2005

Hey, this isn't fair - Europe gets a major movie before we do! LOL.

It's yet another remake of Pride and Prejudice, but this one's with Keira Knightley (one of my favorite actresses), and it's getting rave reviews. It's already been released here, but I haven't seen it yet. I was looking for a DVD release date, to see if it could be a potential Christmas present, but couldn't find one... and now I know why... because it's not being released in American theaters until November 18th (3 months later than here). Oh well.

By the way, I got offered a job yesterday, which I unfortunately couldn't take because I'm leaving at Christmas. Simon, the creative writing teacher, found out that I'm a linguistics major and started asking me about the various teachers I'd worked with at UU, etc. Then, in the break (Dutch classes are always 2 hours long with a 15-minute break in the middle), he told me that although British English was the 'standard' version of the language taught at UU, and that most of the students preferred to learn that, there were still always some who wanted to improve their American English, and that UU normally used a native speaker to help correct American pronunciation and help with fluency aspects. He said he thought I'd be great for it and would I like to do it? I immediately said yes, "but I don't have a work permit."
"Well, we could probably arrange--"
"Oh, and I'm only staying till Christmas."
"Oh. Well, that's a problem," because the UU block of classes doesn't end until February.
Damn. It would have been a great job. Would have looked good on a résumé - hello, graduate schools! - plus would have been nice to have some extra money. Oh well.

Stuff I'm really glad I brought:

North Face raincoat. Granted, I've only used it a couple of times so far, but both of those times have been when I needed to go to the station on my bike in a downpour, and it performed marvelously. Plus the water runs right off it with a good shake, so you can roll it up and stuff it in a bag (and it does squish down to practically nothing). I still think charging almost $100 for the things is criminal, but I'm happy with it.

Zip-up robe. This has been awesome for getting to and from the showers. I used it at camp for eight years and it's still going strong! Granted, if I had brought two or three big towels and no robe, I could just wrap my towel around me - I mean, the shower is about thirty feet from the door of our room - but this is thinner and saves space. Plus it's a great color (mint green) and has pockets for toiletries.

Speedo chamois. I've loved this thing since the first day I got it - it's sooo much easier than carrying around a heavy wet towel all the time - and it's coming in extra-handy here, since twice a week I have to employ multiple trains in order to go swim. For those who don't know what it is - it's one of those teeny towels you always see the Olympic divers use on TV, the ones that can absorb tons of water, then be wrung out and used again, indefinitely. Now that I think about it, I have two of them, and I probably could have brought the second one and used it for the shower, too, and skipped the 'normal' towels.

Also: portable laundry basket, travel alarm clock, Fossil purse, multiple DVDs, Stain Stick, small notepads, and my external backup hard drive. (I was extremely glad I had this yesterday, when I thought my computer was dead AGAIN. But then, for some reason, unplugging every single cord made it work. Go figure.)

Stuff I really didn't need:

My iPod speakers. I use them all the time at home, but here I only have one American plug, the one on the shoebox-sized converter, and that, 99% of the time, is used for my computer. (The other 1% of the time, it's for the Sony camera charger.) If I want to play music, I just play it through iTunes; that way I don't have to unplug my computer. As much as I complain about this laptop (its newest trick is freezing during recovery from hibernation), it does have truly decent speakers.

2 extra bathing suits. My Endurance one is made of special material so that it just keeps going and going without becoming see-through or stretched out. (My former roommate, the Olympic swimmer, claims she used one for a full year and a half, 10 practices a week, before it died.) I guess it's always good to have insurance, and they don't take up much room, but still - they weren't necessary.

Bikini. I don't know why I thought I would need this, but I did. I guess if I end up at one of those indoor water-park places, I'd use it - Dutch girls never wear one-pieces unless they're swimming competitively - but that hasn't happened yet, nor is it especially likely to.

Miniature converter (for things other than computers). Not only is it a piece of crap, but it is simply unusable. European plugs, by and large, are not flat against the wall the way American ones are, but are set in a circular frame and sunken into the wall by half an inch or so. More difficult to get your fingers in the way or accidentally do something stupid, I guess. The converter, however, is a simple gray cube with two round pegs jutting out of it. Ahem. Nothing to account for the circularity or the sunkenness. Therefore, the contacts don't reach the plug, and therefore, it's getting pitched out.

Beach towel. I did have the good sense to bring only one, and a thin one at that, but still. At the pool, I use the aforementioned Speedo chamois, and I brought two smaller-sized towels for the showers. I really didn't need another one.

Also: body lotion samples, iPod arm strap, Dutch grammar book, and all those 'but-they're-my-favorites-and-I-might-need-them' T-shirts.

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