So I'm pretty much hating life right now. Because I, who have not been sick for an entire year (ever since I started drinking DanActive), spent the weekend feverish, shivering, nauseous, and headachy. Now that the flu- and meningitis-like symptoms have settled into something a bit less debilitating (I must admit, the weekend timing made my life a lot easier with regards to making up homework), I now conveniently have no voice. All that comes out is a hoarse, croaky half-whisper, like a bad case of Teenage Boy Voice Cracking crossed with a Frog Playing A Pipe Organ. Not to mention, it hurts. This means I have effectively been rendered quite mute, a fact which many would have to see (hear) to believe.
Also, the foot pain is back full force, after giving me a two-day reprieve over the weekend. I suppose the fact that I didn't have to walk more than ten steps at a stretch for 48 hours did some good. However, I effectively erased all that good when I went to weight training class yesterday and was told to find my one-repetition maximum on the leg press. (155 plus the not-inconsiderable weight of the carriage - 145 pounds heavier than my workout partner's max, LOL!) So I'm forced to resign myself to the fact that the River Run is all but out the window. Monique will still come home with me next Friday, we'll pick up our race packets, have a sleepover, and get up early to go to the fairgrounds... but the difference is, she'll be running; I won't.
I know exactly what's going to happen. The foot is going to improve, slowly, little by little, but hold off just enough so that I can't compete. On Saturday, the day of the race, it will feel so good that I'll think, "Almost. Really, I almost could have done it." And then on Monday, when I finally have my doctor's appointment... the pain will be gone. You mark my words.
Can you tell I'm a little frustrated?
To change the subject, I just filled my birthday into an online form which told me I am:
67 years 3 months younger than Walter Cronkite, age 89 62 years 7 months younger than Nancy Reagan, age 84 59 years 8 months younger than George Herbert Bush, age 81 52 years 4 months younger than Barbara Walters, age 74 50 years 2 months younger than Larry King, age 72 44 years 0 months younger than Ted Koppel, age 66 40 years 7 months younger than Geraldo Rivera, age 62 37 years 7 months younger (and wiser!) than George W. Bush, age 59 32 years 6 months younger than Jesse Ventura, age 54 28 years 3 months younger than Bill Gates, age 50 23 years 5 months younger than Cal Ripken Jr., age 45 17 years 7 months younger than Mike Tyson, age 39 13 years 6 months younger than Jennifer Lopez, age 35 08 years 1 month younger than Tiger Woods, age 30 01 years 7 months younger than Prince William, age 23
and that I was: 17 years old at the time of the 9-11 attack on America. (I was taking a bio exam during senior year of high school... didn't find out until I walked into calculus class second period.) 15 years old on the first day of Y2K. (Yeah, I guess I sort of remember everybody worrying about something that was supposedly going to happen to all the computers, but I wouldn't have my own machine for another month, so I didn't really take much notice.) 13 years old when Princess Diana was killed in a car crash. (I definitely remember this, because for some reason I took it very hard - played Elton John's song over and over - even though I don't think I'd even known Princess Diana existed before the accident.) 11 years old at the time of Oklahoma City bombing. (This, I do not remember. There's no excuse for me, I know.) 10 years old when O. J. Simpson was charged with murder. (I have exactly one memory of this trial, which is of my science teacher sneaking a TV into our classroom and desperately trying to work through the static and get a clear picture - after we'd been expressly forbidden by the principal to watch the verdict - and the classroom exploding in screams at the words "Not Guilty!") 9 years old at the time of the 93 bombing of the World Trade Center. (I don't remember this at all, but I guess a nine-year-old can't really be expected to take that much notice of world events.) 6 years old when Operation Desert Storm began. (Ditto the above.) 5 years old during the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Ditto the above.) 1 year old when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. (Obviously, I don't remember this from when it actually happened, but I got really into space when I was 11 or 12 and started collecting articles and memorabilia about the whole space program, including Challenger. There was a "10 Years After Challenger" article in the paper that I saved; that kind of started it.)
It's Friday! Friday, vrijdag, viernes, vendredi, ajjuma... in whatever language, it's one of the best days of the week.
And what am I doing with it? Cleaning.
On the three days per week that I don't have weight training - including Friday - I get home by 1pm. I don't have to leave for swimming until 6:30pm - leaving me a full five and a half hours in which to get myself into mischief. So when I got home this afternoon, I started the 'cleaning ball' rolling by attacking the computer - specifically, my e-mail. I decided to make the switch back to web-based Gmail, because I want to be able to access my most important e-mail account from other computers without having 400 disorganized messages in my Inbox and an overflowing Spam folder. So I filtered all my old messages by date, deleted old address book contacts, made an Excel .csv sheet of the 93 contacts who made the cut and imported them back into Gmail, and cleaned up Outlook to access only my UF and UCU email accounts (the non-essential ones).
Then, once all the mail was done, I updated iTunes and my iPod to the new software versions, then backed up everything on my hard drive for the first time since before I went to the Netherlands in August. I'd made a few small backups since then, of course - one major computer crisis was more than enough to teach me the importance of copies - but I hadn't made one huge backup of EVERYTHING onto my big fancy 80 GB drive in almost six months. And I'd accumulated a good 3 gigs of music since then, not to mention school and miscellaneous stuff. I didn't realize it was that much. It's good to have it all protected again.
See, when I was 19 and studied in the Netherlands for the first time, I was dating a Dutch guy named David. We 'met' over the phone and online via a mutual acquaintance, and he was my first love, first decent kiss, first everything - in short, the guy I thought I was going to marry. I haven't felt like that about anyone before or since. We'd been together seven months by the time I finally got to the country for an extended period, in August 2003, and then two weeks after I arrived, he broke up with me out of the blue. It was the first, last, and only time that I have ever had my heart truly broken, and I dealt with it the way I deal with a lot of major events in my life: I wrote. Over the course of the next three or four weeks, I filled up Word file after Word file with diary entries, stories, poems - anything and everything I felt like writing. And even as it was all pouring out of me, even as I was hurting, I was thinking, This is really good stuff. Now I know firsthand what all those authors meant. I can use this material in future writings, for sure. Or maybe it'll be useful to my daughter someday.
And then, at the end of September... my computer crashed.
To make a very, very long story short, it got shipped back and forth between Utrecht and Friesland three or four times, and I got it back over eight weeks after I dropped it off... with the entire hard drive erased. All that pain, all those tears - gone. Completely gone.
To this day, I deeply regret losing all that material, for personal reasons as well as for purposes of future writing. I don't think the brand-new experience of being dumped by someone you love can really be recreated, even if it does happen again somewhere down the road (ugh). If it happens again, you have a new perspective. You've been there before. You're a little bit older and wiser. Your views have changed. I grew up immeasurably during my time abroad - I think of the high-schooler and college freshman that I used to be, and I cringe. I don't recognize that old Jess. And with that same sort of detached curiosity, I wonder what the nineteen-year-old Jess would have had to say about her first breakup. Even if the emotions and expressions in those Word files struck me as merely shallow or trite or even hilarious now, I know they would have been useful to me as a writer. I remember almost nothing of them now.
At any rate, I learned my lesson, so today I backed up my hard drive. Then I deleted some unnecessary programs, ran every sort of virus scan and adware scan and spyware scan that I own (uncovered two potential viruses hiding out in the registry), and defragmented the drive. I still only have 1.4 gigs of free space, and the machine isn't really running any faster, but at least it feels like I did something.
And now, post-swimming, post-dinner, post-Stepmom-watching, and post-chocolate extravaganza, it's time to tackle my room. This is partially because I'm hoping to uncover my Blue Cross insurance card hiding in some unlikely place - though I doubt it's here - and partly just because I'm in the mood. Unlike many people, I actually enjoy organizing. (Organizing, my friends, is very different from cleaning; this is an important point. If it involves Windex or a vacuum, forget it, but show me a file cabinet and I'll sit still for hours.) And Monique is home in Coral Springs for the weekend (it's her birthday), so I have all Marco Borsato's songs on shuffle and I'm singing along and straightening up. The mess has been accumulating for about a month now, so this is a long time coming. So far, I've hung up all my clean clothes from last weekend, organized my various swim gear, started a bag full of stuff that can go home to Jacksonville, made my bed (yes, at 1:00 in the morning), and shoved all the Internet paraphernalia (which I'm hoping to never need again) into the Cox box (hey, I'm a poet and don't know it!) and stuck it on the top shelf of my closet. I still have a lot of papers to organize, as well as some homework to do - and it would be nice if I could get this scrapbooking stuff off the floor and organize my (drawerless) desk a little better - but the nice thing about all this is that I don't have to wake up early tomorrow. Usually I have to play grown-up and tell myself to go to bed around midnight, since I have 9:30 classes every morning, and even on the weekends I usually have a swim meet or Jacksonville swim practice or a trip home or a skydiving adventure or something which requires my upright and alert presence. Tomorrow, no such thing exists. Therefore I plan to stay up until I get all the cleaning and some of the homework done, and then sleep the contented sleep of having NO obligations... or at least as few as possible, with my life.
The weekend: doing some scrapbooking, finishing allllll my almost-60 online Quia exercises for French (which are pointless), doing some Latin sentences and studying for a quiz, swimming on my own at the O'Dome on Sunday night (since we have no practice on Wednesday due to the basketball game), doing some pharmacy shopping, and possibly going home to Jacksonville tomorrow afternoon; we'll see.
Hmm. I feel awfully productive today. I made it home before 1pm (yippee for bikes!), stuffed my face as usual, watched the Cosby Show, made a bank transfer, went to Publix and stocked up on food, bought Monique's birthday presents (wine, different kinds of chocolate, and a funny card) and put them on her bed, made an appointment with Dr. Adler (my old podiatrist) for spring break, talked to my mom, and got a lead on finding a lifeguard recertification course. Usually I just sit around eating, reading blogs, and ignoring my homework until it's time for swim practice.
And, of course, the most important thing: I talked with the camp again and I'm hired! From June 20th to August 6th, I will be lifeguarding on a gorgeous lake in Maine and living in dorms with 10 to 12-year-old girls. And I can't wait! This camp looks to be a big step up from my previous one - I mean, they even have ICE SKATING as a sport and WHALE WATCHING as an out-of-camp trip. Unbelievable. And we live in dorms, not cabins, and the classes are 1.5 hours, not 45 minutes, and there are a salad bar and deli bar in the dining hall, and the counselors have FIVE high-speed Internet computers available instead of one ancient dial-up connection. Rock on! Also, I can still do the Key West swim on June 10th and the Boston Light on August 12th if I want to, since camp falls in between those dates.
To abruptly shift gears here, I have an e-mail dilemma: Should I continue using my Outlook Express account, or switch back to pure web-based Gmail?
Outlook Express pros: the address book is neat and easy, I can access multiple e-mail accounts at once, I can set a default font and color (read: I don't have to set it every time I compose a new message), and the program makes a cute little noise when I have new mail.
Outlook Express cons: the messages are taking up space on my hard drive, I can't look into my Spam folder, I tend to let things pile up in my actual webmail inbox when I have this nice shortcut, and I can't access it from any computer other than my own.
Gmail (web-based) pros: I never have to delete anything, the search function is amazing and fast, I can set filters on incoming messages, I can link directly to Google News (making me more likely to actually be somewhat aware of what's going on in the world), there's a new chat function, and the messages are saved as 'conversations', i.e. a series of replies about the same topic are saved together (which I really like).
Gmail (web-based) cons: the address book is sucky, UF doesn't forward e-mail anymore, I can't set a default font or color, and there's no cute noise when I have mail.
The biggest problem - the only problem, really - is that UF has quit forwarding e-mail, so if I abandon Outlook, I have to check the Gatorlink site every day. Which I don't want to do, because Webmail sucks. I hope wherever I go to grad school has e-mail forwarding. But anyway... what would you all do? What's your current setup, and what are the advantages and drawbacks?
Yes, I know. The processor is slow slow slow and the hard drive is tiny. Not to mention the small fact that I have almost another six months before I'll start grad school (and, thus, before I need a new laptop), during which time they will have released another ten thousand new models.
But still. The teenyness... the prettyness... the battery life... oh, Sony, why do you treat me so? Just stick a Core Duo processor into this puppy, add a larger hard drive option, and let's get on with our lives, shall we?
This week, so far, has been all about injuries. I haven't posted about it until now because it just hasn't felt very important compared to other things in my life (such as the five quizzes I've had in the past two days, or the fact that the pool is closed tonight, or the magical wonder that is chocolate frozen yogurt + chocolate Magic Shell + chocolate sprinkles).
I think the reason most athletes deal with pain better than the rest of the population is that we pretty much always have something wrong with us, be it a pulled muscle or bone bruise or old injury flare-up. Pain on some level is involved in most of our daily lives, so dealing with it (and/or ignoring it) becomes the natural state of things. Swimmers, I admit, get off easier than most, since we have essentially no impact in our sport. But I have about ten years of 'history' with my right heel, on which I had an operation for a bone deformity at age 13, and for the past two weeks or so, it's been bothering me again. A lot.
The difference is that it's not in the same place, not the same pain I'm used to on the back of the Achilles' tendon. This time, there's one particular spot that hurts particularly badly - much the same quality of pain as when I had the problem before - and then the resulting rings of duller pain radiating from it. If the heel had a 'corner' where the inner side meets the bottom, that spot, near the back, is the place where it hurts. I've had X-rays, and the health care center insists that I do not have a bone spur - though that is certainly what it feels like, based on prior experience - but that I must have just messed up some ligament or another at the spot where it attaches to the heel bone. The doctor recommended trying crutches for a week, since two weeks' worth of ice, pills, and gritting my teeth and going on with my life hadn't done much.
So I agreed. OK, I thought. This'll be easy. I did this for almost a year in seventh grade, and it was no sweat.
What I was forgetting was that (a) I have had swimming-induced shoulder injuries since then, (b) I am now a good 40 pounds heavier than I was at age 13, and (c) a campus is much, MUCH bigger than a middle school building.
Those are all very subtle ways of saying that today, my arms couldn't take it anymore. I made it all day Monday and Tuesday (albeit with a lot of 'half-walking' on those crutches, where my foot wasn't fully off the ground), but last night, when I could no longer raise my extended arms above chest level without intense pain, I drew the line. The fact is, I need my shoulders and arms a lot more than I need my foot. For swimming, yeah, but for pretty much every other bit of daily life, too. And frankly, I'm used to having a bum foot. I'm used to the pain. I'm used to not being able to walk quite right. The crutches were probably a good idea, and it probably would have been better if I could have stuck it out until Friday like I was supposed to, but I just couldn't. I want the smallest number of dysfunctional body parts that it's possible to have, and eight weeks before the Tampa Bay swim, I do not want my shoulders included in that number.
So I'm biking to school - since biking doesn't hurt and actually involves less total walking than does taking the bus to and from campus - and popping Monique's Advil morning and night, elevating my right leg practically 24/7, and using ice packs like they're going out of style (although the foot now has to play second fiddle to the shoulders in that department).
So far, there isn't that much of a difference. And the only reason I really care is because I have the River Run in two and a half weeks. I see that race take place every spring - it's an institution in Jacksonville, drawing around 12,000 competitors each year - and I want to be a part of it at least once in my life. I'm not running to win - just to be there. This could possibly be the last spring I spend in Florida - for a few years, at least - and I want to participate.
What I've decided is to attempt the TriGators' sprint triathlon on the 5th - which I was going to do anyway - and see how that goes. The running leg is extremely short; only 1.5 miles. If I'm in a lot of pain during that event and think it would be better to scratch the River Run after that race, then I will. But I don't want to punk out if I can avoid it, because I don't know when or if I'll get the chance to do this again.
Anyway, so that's basically all that's been going on in my life this week. Plus I have my second phone interview with that camp in Maine tomorrow; I'm feeling optimistic about my chances. I'll let you all know how it goes.
Also, big things happening in the rest of the blogosphere this week: ALICE is headed to Amsterdam (*is v v jealous*), HAL is going back to rowing, and JULIA, who has one truly awesome and gifted kid already, is pregnant!!! This is pregnancy #11, and the whole Internet is crossing their fingers that this will finally be baby number two. So show her some comment love if you get a chance.
Saturday's meet was pretty much exactly the opposite of the one in Ohio. There, if you recall, we all did pretty terribly as individuals, but did quite well overall as a team. This time, we all swam excellent individual races - everybody dropped time off their events, in some cases a LOT of time - and yet we just weren't good enough to beat the other teams that came. I'm not sure where exactly we ranked in the scheme of things, but it wasn't great. Anyhow, I swam the 500 free for the first time in a meet and got a 7:16. I was originally hoping to break 7 minutes, but then I lowered my goal to just try to break my best practice swim of 7:26, and I certainly did that. I'll shoot for 7 minutes at the next meet. I also braved the 200 free for the first time since Tulane last spring (where I lost count and thought I was done after six laps...) and came away with 2:41, which is a 13-second drop! ("It looked awesome!" Anna said later.)
I mean, those aren't great times, not by any standard - I'd ideally like to raise them to about 6:20 and 2:15 - but they represent significant personal improvement over the past year, and especially over the last six weeks (is that all it's been?) since I've been home, lifting weights and swimming Brandon's 5000-yard practices. I came away from the meet feeling physically and mentally tired, as always, but also rather satisfied with myself. That's a novelty for me. Like I said, I usually sign up for the sprint events (50s and 100s) so they'll be over faster, but the small detail I've been ignoring is that I am not a sprinter. I always come out of those races (a) last, and (b) very frustrated. At this meet, I finally got up the guts to do an event which is more suited to my abilities, and as a result I was neither last nor frustrated.
Let the record show: from this day forward, I will no longer deny that I am a distance swimmer! Admitting it is the first step, right? Hear me now, Internet - I'm one of those chicks who swims the 'boring' events, the ones nobody wants to watch, the races where the spectators take snack breaks and strike up conversations... and I'm proud of it! :)
Well, grad school decision letter number one has come and gone, and I didn't get into Yale. As you'll recall, of the 36 linguistic applicants last fall, only TWO were accepted, so I wasn't holding out much hope anyway. My official personal predictions, again, were that I'd be rejected from Harvard, Yale, and Brown and accepted to UF, U Pitt, and UNC. The jury's still out on number seven, Georgetown, which is my number-one choice - they have about a 38% acceptance rate for graduate students, so I have a decent shot, but I truly can't even make an educated guess on my chances at that one.
Truth be told, I'm a little relieved. I know I'm going to have to work hard wherever I go, but I'm realizing more and more these days exactly how easy I've had it throughout my entire college career so far. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I barely have to work at all here at UF, especially compared to what I did for IB in high school. Had I been accepted to Yale as one of those lucky two Ph.D students, I would have spent the next six months being horribly nervous as to whether or not I was up to the challenge; all my awesome credentials here mean nothing there. That's not to say I didn't want to get in - of course I did, if only because they would have given me a full scholarship - so it's a disappointment, yes, but something of a relief too, if that makes any sense.
Anyway, one down, six to go. We'll see if my predictions hold true. I've said all along that I'd be happy at any of the schools, since they all have their own big pros and cons, and I stand by that statement. But... keep those fingers crossed for Georgetown, anyway.
My mom, who has had the same e-mail account for about ten years, is suddenly experiencing problems with her account; mail is delayed going both in and out. She also swears that she hears clicks on the phone sometimes, plus a number of other weird things have happened, i.e. my sister and I both ordered credit cards - from two different companies - which never showed up, and I posted something on an online profile which appeared with an anti-Bush comment erased. Mom's conclusion is that we are being monitored, since we are a family of 4 registered Democrats who were active in the last election (or, at least, Mom was) and who all receive numerous listserv emails from JohnKerry.com, NARAL Pro-Choice Network, ActForChange, etc. Some days I think she's being paranoid; other days I think she could very well be right. Anyway, here is the e-mail she sent me yesterday, which I found highly amusing despite the possible circumstances:
Jess, It just took a full 30 seconds for that last email to send so I guess I am being monitored again.......I feel so important..... Hi to whomever is reading this......we are not subversive people or a danger to society in general so maybe you could find somebody else to fuck with who might be a real problem....and then maybe our idiot president will tell you that you are doing a heckuva job. Or maybe he will send you on a hunting trip with Dick Cheney.... CJW
Today was a good day. We finished the Faat Kine movie in Wolof, I got my Latin exam back (98!), and I had a good day in weight training; I was able to move the weights up a notch on almost all the machines. I'm really seeing fast progress in that class - my arms are bigger and more defined, my calves are tighter, and my strength is increasing - which I can see reflected in my performance in the pool as well. I know it's because I've never lifted before, and that I'll reach a plateau sooner or later, but for now I think I'll coast along and enjoy the ride.
I also learned a couple of interesting things about my body today. One is that, according to the weight training instructor, I apparently have less estrogen and/or more testosterone than the average female, since I carry my excess fat mostly in my abdomen - like a male's 'spare tire' - rather than on my lower body like most girls. Which means I'm at a higher risk for diseases (guys who have lower-body fat deposits like girls are not at risk, but we girls with guy-like fat deposits are), but it also explains some things, like my broad shoulders, or the fact that I've always been stronger than most of my friends, or the fact that I've gained visible muscle mass - not just strength - in my arms just since starting this class (even though the instructor keeps telling us that girls won't get bigger, just stronger). The only other girl I've known who reacted that way was Renate; she had massive arms too. Anyway, I may be reading too much into this, but I thought it was really interesting.
The other interesting thing I learned today has to do with this on-again off-again exercise-induced asthma. I haven't needed my inhaler while swimming since the meet in Ohio last month, and I had a couple of really good weeks of practice, so I had hopes that whatever it was had sort of gone away. But last night I had a terrible practice - my muscles felt weak, like a sponge that someone wrung out, and I had a little trouble breathing, though not enough to need my inhaler. Then, tonight, I had only swum 50 yards before I went, 'Whoa - this is not good.' I had to get out and do a puff. It was really frustrating because I hadn't had any problems for so long, and then suddenly wham!, there it was again.
But then I started thinking about it, and realized that today is the exact midpoint of the three weeks of 'white pills' in my birth control pack - i.e. almost time for ovulation. So when I came home, I got on Wikipedia and looked up the female menstrual cycle, which led to pages on progesterone and estrogen and all that fun stuff. And guess what I found out?
"In women, progesterone levels are low during the preovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle, rise after ovulation, and are elevated during the luteal phase. In women progesterone levels tend to be < 2 ng/ml prior to ovulation, and > 5 ng/ml after ovulation."
Which, we all agree, is quite a significant difference. So then I read:
"Progesterone also has a role in skin elasticity and bone strength, in respiration, in nerve tissue..."
And then the clincher:
"Progesterone has multiple effects outside of the reproductive system. ... It reduces spasm" - bronchiospasms, anyone? - "and relaxes smooth muscle tone. ... Bronchi are widened."
Do you believe that??? So this crap IS hormonal - probably, anyway. I'd thought so all along. I also read something which said that low levels of estrogen can contribute to a respiratory disorder which causes shortness of breath upon exertion, but that seemed to be mostly in older women, so it's probably unrelated. Interesting, though.
Anyway, we'll see how many more days of 'asthma' I have before this clears up again. Hopefully it'll be gone tomorrow or Friday and I'll be proven right. (I hope so, anyway, because we have a meet on Saturday and I'm swimming the 200 and 500 free!)
Oh yeah, and the other nice part about today? A good friend of mine, Hayley, who good-naturedly protested, "I like Bush!" last spring while some of us were bashing him, has had a change of heart. As we rested between sets today, I said, "Hayley, I haven't talked to you about this since I've been back, so I want to ask you a question, and I promise I won't make a single comment after you answer it. ... Do you still like Bush? Still?"
She thought for a second, then twisted her mouth and shook her head ruefully. "No. Not anymore."
Hmm. May is a good month to go to Europe. I've been doing some research this morning, and it may actually work out more cheaply for me to just fly EasyJet between countries rather than getting the Eurail pass. That wouldn't be the case during 'real summer', but right now, airline tickets are dirt cheap; almost all of them can be had for between $15 and $30. (RyanAir is cheaper, but they don't fly to the major airports, so you usually have to pay the difference and then some for regional transportation to get where you wanted to go in the first place.)
Granted, I would need to pay for in-country city-to-city transportation in a couple of places, i.e. from Paris to Normandy or Rome to Naples, but those are day-trip distances, so the fares wouldn't be astronomical. The Eurail pass (for 3 countries) costs $275 for six travel days or $325 for eight travel days, so the actual difference in cost - after adding the airline taxes - will probably work out to be negligible, but the difference for me lies in the ease and speed of travel. I would much rather just fly all the way from Paris to Rome, for example, than take the 12-hour overnight train - especially for 15 measly dollars, which is what the flight costs. Also, this would indirectly save me money in the form of daily costs like food, etc., because the trip will take less total time. Decreasing the travel time will also do a lot to preserve my sanity. I like trains, but there's a line, and I think three solid weeks of trains would cross it. Besides, you can't travel for free on any train you feel like, even with the Eurail pass; you still have to pay supplements on any of the 'good' trains like the Eurostar, ICE or Thalys.
So, I'm leaning towards flying. That was really the point of this entry. The only problem I have now is figuring out what order to do the countries (France, Italy, and Greece) in so that I (a) get the cheapest possible rate from the States to Europe, (b) can get back out of Athens (with its appalling lack of out-of-country flight destinations) without having to go back to a country I've already been to, and (c) can stop off in the Netherlands for a few days either before or after the trip (or both :)).
Oh yeah, and getting my answer from the camp, and figuring out what in the world Christine is going to do, since she still hasn't answered my e-mail.
(...And resolving the nuclear crisis, and obtaining world peace... sigh.)
Today was the first day since I can remember that I have not had someplace to go or something concrete to do. Sure, I had homework, but I had the whole weekend to do it in, so I could structure it as I pleased. And I didn't have to do anything athletic today, because I switched my day off from Sunday to Saturday (after discovering that there is no Saturday rec swim but there is Sunday rec swim). Thus: vrijheid.
So Monique and I ate popcorn and watched The Interpreter last night; then I slept until 10:30 today and then knocked off all the rest of that online French crap in one shot (a feat of both endurance and patience). Then I read blogs for a while (the list keeps growing, my time keeps shrinking) and then decided that since it was rainy and nasty outside, I needed something constructive to do inside. So I decided that I'd finally start to work on my Life Scrapbook. I've had the materials collected and sorted for a while now, but I was afraid to start, for fear that the images in my head wouldn't turn out as beautiful once I actually started snipping and gluing. But today I finally got brave and decided to do it.
So I went to Target and bought scrapbooking materials (and a purse and a magazine, I confess... that store sucks you in!) and then came home around 4pm, plopped down on the floor, and essentially did not look up for the next seven hours. And even then, I only snapped out of it because my stomach was growling ("It's 11pm, were you planning to feed me anytime soon?!"). When I was a kid, I could literally block out the entire world - the TV, the passage of time, people calling my name, whatever - while I was reading, and every once in a while, that level of concentration comes back to me. Tonight was one of those times. And the result was that I got all the 'childhood' pages done, up to about age 10. The best page is the first one, my 'baby' page, with pink-striped paper and little pictures and my baby beaded necklace. I'm really proud of that one. After it is a page for my sister, with her birth announcement and a couple of cute pictures, and after that it's pretty much just a few 'miscellaneous' pages. I'm trying to do it in true scrapbook fashion - one page for every important event - but it's hard, especially with the stuff I was doing tonight, because (a) I don't have a whole lot of stuff from any one particular childhood event, and (b) I just don't really remember that many big events in my life from before I was ten. I know the Safety Patrol went to Washington DC when I was in fifth grade, for example, but I remember practically nothing of it, and any photos I may have will be at home in Jacksonville in my actual photo albums, not here in Gainesville in my memory box. And I know I went pretty far in those godforsaken Scripps-Howard spelling bees that same year, but the only proof I have is a pin and a handwritten note from the teacher who coached me. So I'm having to make what I'll call 'compilation pages'. I guess things 'condense' into more recognizable lumps when you get older.
So the 60-page album currently looks like this:
Inside cover: my school photo record, which I got back right before my HS graduation Cover page: my baby page Back of cover page: life goal list Page 1: title page Page 2: Catie's page (birth announcement, pictures) Page 3: little-kid pix, Grandpa's funeral card Page 4: Camp Immokalee group photo Page 5: short story I wrote as a kid, about a girl named 'Merry Cherry' Page 6: ribbons and a pin from elementary school, YMCA Shark certificate Page 7: drawing of stairs Page 8: note and pin from spelling bee, fake driver's license I made when I was 10, picture of my baby cousin, great-grandmother's funeral card
Still to come will be pages for, among other things:
miscellanous middle school stuff Space Camp (another group photo) my 'medical drama' with my heel at age 13 Camp Ton-A-Wandah (8 summers'll take a lot of space) Gabby (our old corgi - lots of cute pix) miscellanous high school stuff Spanish State Conference high school graduation my UF acceptance letter the 2004 election the Netherlands (LOTS of stuff) my 'collection' of Dutch boys Auschwitz Paris and Monet's Garden the Key West swim London and Ireland (again, LOTS of stuff)
... the list goes on, so I'll stop boring you with it and, instead, get back to it.
- I'm noticing that one of my strongest foreign language skills seems to be the ability to make across-the-board connections. For example, during the first week or two of French, the teacher briefly mentioned that the word for 'head' was 'tete' (without the accent circonflexe, sorry), to which I immediately blurted, "Cool - so when we say two people are having a 'tete-a-tete', they're having a 'head-to-head', like 'butting heads'!" And then today in Latin, we (finally) learned two new tenses, one of which was the future. Applying it to the verb 'amare', 'to love', the first-person form was 'amabo'. Recognizing that word from the colloquial Latin phrase 'amabo te', meaning 'please', I said, "So does that mean that 'amabo te', 'please', literally means 'I will love you'? That's awesome! We still say that - you know, 'Do this for me and I'll love you forever.'" I always feel uncommonly smart when I come up with something like that.
- Oh. My. Goodness. The most horrible song just came up on my iPod's shuffle ... for those who know Dutch, here's an excerpt from the lyrics:
"Slappe tieten mag ze hebben, maar heel geil moet ze zijn, Geil moet ze zijn, geil moet ze zijn Een dikke reet die mag ze hebben, maar heel geil moet ze zijn, Geil moet ze zijn, geil moet ze zijn, dag en nacht!"
Long, long, long entry to follow. Here are the noteworthy items, before I get into the ranting:
+ I just applied to a different camp (not good old Ton-A-Wandah) as a cabin counselor, swim instructor, and lifeguard for a few weeks this summer, and I really hope they take me. It's in Maine, and they would pay for the flight and my lifeguard recertification as well as my salary. Keep your fingers crossed.
+ Assuming they do take me, my Eurail trip will most likely be bumped up to May, meaning right after graduation. I've got an e-mail in to Christine (my 2004 camp co-counselor and one of my two best Dutch friends) about that, since she wants to come with me for at least one country's worth of the trip, preferably Italy. I hope May works out for her, since the tickets - airfare and otherwise - will be a heck of a lot cheaper before the 'real' summer gets started.
+ Also, tonight I opened up the Word file of my old IB Extended Essay (which is in Spanish... see, at one point I was truly fluent, no matter what I sound like now!) and realized that not only can I read it with practically no difficulty - which I couldn't do a couple of years ago - but that I can actually see some of the weak points in it, as well. That's really cool. The judges gave me the highest possible score, but I always privately thought it was just because they couldn't read it.
+ I'm working on getting my UC thesis approved as a UF thesis, but I'm dreading all the hoops I'm going to have to jump through. I'm afraid I'm going to be told that there are tons of holes in my research, or that my simple comparison of language stages isn't complicated enough for a thesis, or something else that requires a lot more work on my part, which will then make me give up and rip the paper to shreds while crying my eyes out. I spent so much time and effort on that thing while at UC that I'm almost afraid to change it. Oh, well, nothing ventured nothing gained, right?
+ Speaking of which - only three more weeks until I start hearing from grad schools. I'm nervous, but I'll be glad to finally have some certainty. Here are my official predictions: I'll get into the three Masters programs (U Pitt, UNC Chapel Hill, and UF), be rejected from three of the four Ph.D programs (Harvard, Yale, and Brown) and maybe, just maybe, get accepted to the Ph.D at Georgetown. They have something like a 38% acceptance rate for grad students, which is pretty good compared to those other three, so I'm not giving up on that one just yet. So that's three yeses, three nos, and one maybe. We'll see what really happens.
Anyway, so here comes the long rambling entry, because I'm putting off doing my homework.
Yesterday was a good day, academically. Mamaram had a doctor's appointment, so he set up a movie for us, Faat Kine, and left us to watch it. The movie is in both French and Wolof, depending on what the characters feel like speaking - mostly French, it seems - but there are English subtitles, so we followed it fine. And it's a decently interesting movie, albeit not very creative (thus far).
Then I had a Latin exam, which went (I think) extremely well; I only forgot one word, 'foolish'. (Come to think of it, I still haven't looked that up. *grabs Wheelock* Hmm, 'stultus'. Okay, well, there's no immediately apparent linguistic reason I should have been able to guess that; I feel better now.) There must be some joke I could make about that - being so foolish that I forgot the Latin for 'foolish', or something, but I'm just not seeing it right now. Anyway, I think I got everything else right, all the declensions and dictionary entries and conjugations and translations - even my wild guess as to the translation of 'ager' (farm) - so I'm expecting an A. I'll find out tomorrow.
And then in French we had a writing workshop, to write a letter to a Belgian student talking about our families and activities, which was nice because we could work alone at our own pace and be creative to an extent. We were told to use dictionaries, the textbook, the teacher - "anything except each other" - so I grabbed Monique's (awesome) dictionary and verb book and went to work. I wrote at least twice as much as anyone else, and took certain creative liberties to try to eliminate that 'choppiness' that one always sees in beginning language students' work. All we've learned so far are descriptive adjectives, words for certain activities, and a few verbs in the present tense, so everyone else's composition is probably going to look about the same, but I focused on writing an actual conversational letter rather than regurgitating the words I'd been taught. That meant my hand was never far from those reference books (I needed a few complicated things like the future tense of 'to have', etc.), and the 'flow' did deteriorate somewhat as the last few minutes of class ticked away and I had to find a way to end the letter, but I was pleased with the end result. It was the first time I felt like I'd really done something to be proud of in that class, something that was finally somewhat close to my actual level of ability. My first exam was a 95% and I didn't even study. I realize this all sounds horribly arrogant, but my point is that it was a relief to have a challenge yesterday, even if I myself had to be the one to set it by not following the traditional route like everyone else. I'm always getting the comment 'tres creatif!' on the things I write on my homework and tests, and I bet I'll be seeing it again on this composition.
(By the way, yes, I know that 'tres' needs an 'accent grave', but if I put accents into Blogger they come out as weird symbols. But maybe that's just me. Okay, testing: 'très'. You people in the computer, do you all see an E, or do you see the weird symbols that I see? Leave a comment!)
Anyway, the only problem was that today we peer-edited those first drafts, and the weaker students were paired with the stronger students. Well, that's great for the weaker students, since they get corrections and feedback right away, but the guy proofreading mine didn't have the slightest clue what to do. In the end, he complimented my 'grasp of the French language' (ha!), but admitted he couldn't really find anything wrong with the composition. So I turned it back in without rewriting and was the first to leave class. Whatever. I just couldn't be bothered. With the bluntness I develop around one AM - frankly, if she isn't going to pair me with a student who's advanced enough to handle me (and there are a couple), then it isn't my problem.
I half like the class because (and this sounds terrible) it gives me a chance to feel superior, but I half hate it, too, because I feel like I'm being forced to crawl along at everyone else's pace instead of being able to take full advantage of the learning opportunity and work at my own level. Why, oh why, aren't there Accelerated Beginners courses for French the way there are for some of the other languages? I asked the teacher for extra work during the second week of class, and she said she'd try to think about things I could do, but she never came up with anything. Now I'm starting to see flashes of the recalcitrant high school student in myself, the one who sits with her head propped on her hand and that half-bored, half-challenging look on her face the whole time, mumbling all the answers in an indifferent monotone. We all went to grade school with people like that - heck, my first boyfriend was the embodiment of that type of student. I just never really thought I was that way myself.
One of the most influential teachers I ever had, who taught our Gifted-track World Cultures class in sixth grade, once mentioned that it takes average students 10 repetitions before they can memorize something and use it effectively. He then said that it takes Gifted students only six repetitions. Using that as a model, and throwing in the facts that (a) I'm a linguistics major and (b) I already speak Spanish, I think we can knock that number down even further when it comes to French. But if I mention that to the rest of the world, or complain about the slow speed of the course, I sound like the most arrogant stuffed shirt on the planet. And, you know, maybe I am. But right now, I don't really care. Hey, that's what a blog is for, right?
Anyway, on to another subject: swimming. I was angry at myself tonight, because I did something dumb. I snuggled into bed for a nap, like I do on the afternoons when I haven't gotten a lot of sleep the previous night, and I set the alarm for six, a half hour before I had to leave for the pool. And double-checked it. And triple-checked it. And... set it down on the floor beside my bed, instead of back in its normal position on my desk, where I have to physically push back the covers, get up, and take a step or two to turn it off. This should be sending off a red flag.
Then I woke up. First thought: It is way too dark in here.
Sure enough, it was 19:36. Apparently I'd done that thing again, that thing where I turn off the alarm in my sleep and have absolutely no memory of doing it. Anyway, after a moment of indecision - to go or not to go? - I got up and got my butt to the pool, and swam a little extra after the rest of the team had left (including a 500 free for time which was a 7:26, ten seconds faster than last week, yahoo!), but I still only got 4000 in before the pool closed. Bah. That makes me angry, because we're going to be tapering next week (my 30k week) for our meet on Saturday, meaning I'll get only about half of my yardage goal, so I really wanted to try to make 28k this week, or close to it. But then the pool was closed last night for a men's basketball game (Monique and I went running instead), and then I overslept tonight. Grrr. So even with a Sunday night practice, I'm probably still going to be at least 4000 yards short.
As I've said before, general fitness can, to an extent, make up for a lack of sport-specific training (boy, do I sound like a physiology textbook or what?), and I knew going into this whole add-2k-every-week thing that there would be weeks when it wouldn't work out, but I'm a perfectionist and it bothers me. All the biking, running, and weightlifting aside, if I don't make it across Tampa Bay, I'm sure I'll grumble for weeks about how 'I just didn't train enough.'
Of course, realistically, if I don't make it, it'll more than likely be because of my shoulder, in which case no amount of swim training would have helped and in which case it may also very well be bye-bye English Channel 2007. Josh, my weight training coach, says that there are specific exercises you can do for rotator cuff injuries (which my friend Brittany, in the same class, has), but that for biceps tendon injuries like (we suspect) mine is, the best thing is just ice, ice, and more ice, and not doing anything that hurts. So, in accented My-Big-Fat-Greek-Wedding father voice: "There you go!"
Hmm. Which means it might actually be better for me to train a little less - a consistent 30 to 35k per week, say, instead of building all the way to 42k - in hopes of 'saving' my tendon for the big day. Note to self: ask Josh what he thinks about that.
Okay, enough with the whining. I have French homework that has to be turned in on paper tomorrow and I haven't even started, because I've been sitting around eating, talking to Monique, looking at old research papers, eating some more, watching Fear Factor, reading blogs, eating still more, and writing this long whiny entry. But really, I'm not going to be able to sleep anyway, due to my little unscheduled three hour nap this afternoon, so I guess it's really not a problem.
Hi. Um, what's everyone doing on April 22nd? I don't know, why do you care? says you. Well, y'see, me, I'm going to be swimming 24 miles across Tampa Bay on that date. And, well, I need a crew member or two. Don't panic, there's no boat-driving or swimming involved on your part - goodness knows I've forked over more than enough dough for that stuff already. (Yeah. All that money I was saving by living way-the-hell-away from campus in a $270 apartment? Gone.) All you'd have to do is help me sunscreen and Vaseline myself at the start, hand me food and drink every 30-60 minutes while I swim, give me anything else I may ask for (ibuprofen, mouthwash for the salt water, a hand grenade, etc.) and make me keep going when that sixth-hour dip sets in. Simple, really, and I'd even take you out to dinner as a thank-you. (You would still be paying half the hotel room and gas, but really, doesn't the pleasure of my company offset all that?)
Anyway, I thought my dad was going to do it, but he didn't sound too stoked about the idea of ten hours on a boat (whoops, did I forget to mention that?), so I'm casting my net a bit wider. I need to book the hotel ASAP before the management gives away the race's block of rooms, so can you help me, Internet? One of you people living inside the computer has to be just dying to waste spend a Saturday with me, right?
My skydiving video arrived and it is AMAZING. Dad hijacked the picture CD, and he's in Detroit for the Super Bowl, so I still have nothing new to post, but the video is just awesome. I'll let you know if I find a way to rip it into an uploadable form.
Also, Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) rocks, even if this quote was only scripted:
(Lorelai is stealthily attempting to put a leash on her dog) Sookie: What are you doing? Lorelai: Uh, he freaks out if he sees his leash. You have to make sure you hide it from him, make sure he doesn't see you putting it on him. Sookie: How is he once he's on the leash? Lorelai: Oh, he's totally fine having his personal freedom slowly stripped away, as long as he's completely unaware that it's happening. Just like a true American.
Hmmm. I'm having an I-miss-the-Netherlands day. In Spanish class, we were talking about culture shock and study-abroad programs, and in my group we were discussing the political differences between the two countries (mostly, how incredibly conservative America is compared to the Netherlands). Someone asked, "Would you go back?" and my "Si, absolutamente!" was so emphatic that it made people laugh. Then, just now, I was talking to Dia via webcam, and over her shoulder I could see our ugly orangey door frame leading out into the hall, and the dark night outside the windows, and it struck a chord. It's all just so familiar, and still feels so much like my home, that it's odd to look it. It feels like I'm right there with her, back in my room, digesting after a Dining Hell dinner, listening to our Dia-Jess iTunes playlist, and downloading movies. But I'm not - I'm over here, where it's still only two o'clock, where no one appreciates the European trance and house music, where DC++ doesn't work half as well, and where I have to speak English practically all the time.
What I want, you see, is a combination. I want to be able to take my UF courses with their 50-minute periods, walk around the big, sunny campus in shorts and a T-shirt, and then flash my OV at the train conductor and get a free ride home to Jacksonville for the weekend. I want to swim a 5000-yard practice with my team every night, and then still be able to go to the grocery store at 10pm after practice if I haven't had time that day. I want to be able to drive my car over the large, wide, plainly marked roads, and take a nicely designed, punctual bus through its own specially marked bus lanes when I don't feel like biking to campus. I want to celebrate Christmas and my birthday with my family, but Sinterklaas and Koninginnedag with the Dutch. I want to wear shorts and flip-flops every day, and yet still see snow once in a while. I want to have access to all the latest music and movies when they first come out, but I also want the unbelievable speed of multimedia downloading that the Dutch university students have with their DC++ hub. I want to have Moe's burritos after practice with the team, yet I want to be able to buy the occasional patatje met or broodje kroket at the train station or a stukje pizza from Bakkerij Bart's, too. I want to speak English sometimes, but I also want the thrill of speaking my second-best language twenty-four-seven in a country where almost no non-natives can speak like I do. I want to spend time with my friends here, especially Anna and Hayley and the rest of the team, but I also want to see Linde and Christine, two of my aller-beste friends, on a regular basis.
In Wolof class today, Mamaram (the teacher) was giving us the vocabulary for family members, and when he said 'relative', something clicked in my head and I remembered the punch line of a story that I'd been trying to recall for the longest time. It's about my twelve-year-old cousin Megan. Her family is in the military, so they moved around a lot while she was growing up, but whenever I saw her, we were inseparable. When I was 10 and she was 1, I carried her around the house all day. When I was 11 and she was 2, she followed me everywhere on her toddler legs. When I was 12 and she was 3, I spent a week in Pittsburgh to help out with her while her mom took care of Megan's newborn baby brother, and she pitched a window-shattering tantrum when I walked away to get on the plane to go home. She has always been my favorite extended family member. Now that I'm 22 and she's almost 13, and we live closer to each other than we used to, and we're involved in the same sport (she's 3rd in the state for the 11-and-12 100 butterfly), we're starting to forge a different kind of relationship, more like friends or sisters instead of 'babysitter and kid', and that provoked a humorous incident this past summer.
I am well known in my immediate family for mispronouncing words. I started reading when I was three, without anyone teaching me, and as a result, I've read a lot of words that I've never heard spoken. Thus, when I try to use them in conversation, I often say them wrong. 'Fetish', for example, came out of my mouth as 'FEET-ish'; 'opacity' was 'o-PASS-ity'; 'Deborah' was 'de-BOR-ah', and 'intravenous' became 'in-TRA-ven-us'. My parents and sister tease me mercilessly about it, but it's not something my extended family really knows about, since they don't spend as much time with me. Anyhow, this past summer, Megan and her brother Michael were at a swim meet, which I attended. In between prelims and finals, we went back to the hotel. Michael and his mom went down to the gym and outdoor pool (the kid just couldn't get enough water) while Megan and I stayed upstairs and played board games on the bed. We started talking about various things - school, character traits, et cetera, and we started realizing that we had a lot in common, personality-wise. After a bout of laughter over some anecdote I can't recall, Megan flopped back onto the pillows, smiled, and said, "It's nice to have a re-LAY-tive that you have so much in common with!"
Needless to say, I laughed till I cried - wanting to explain that I wasn't laughing at her, per se, but just that we'd found another similarity - but not being able to catch my breath long enough to do it. Oh, I love that kid.