03 August 2006

Hey, guess what?

Well, I've passed yet another "adult" milestone. I quit my first job, and for reasons other than "the school year ended" or "it's after Labor Day, no one wants to come to the pool."

I'm glad to report that I got another job in my field, located in New York (for those keeping score, this is where Frenchy lives!) and am moving in less than a week. I totally should be packing right now, but can't be arsed. It reminds me spookily of the evenings when I was supposed to be researching.

The story of how I was delayed on the way home from my (current work-sponsored) trip to England, extended my layover in Newark, fought with the damn Transit Authority ticket machines, got myself into the city and interviewed for the new job, barely made it back to the airport, and then flew through tornadoes to arrive home doesn't need to be repeated. Oh wait, I just did. Be thankful that you were spared the details of how the St. Louis airport was completely without power when we landed, including lights to see where you were going, electricity for the baggage carousel ("We're taking everyone's baggage to the Burger King," because every good St. Louisan knows where the BK is in the airport) and the sensors on the automatic-flush toilets weren't working. Fortunately my mom got to find that one out, not me.

The actual quitting process wasn't nearly the drama I was afraid it would be. I did hear one under-the-breath "well, we could see that coming," but really, they could see it coming from a thousand miles away. 1,024, if you believe MapQuest. Do they really think I'm going to be able to drive that myself in seventeen hours? In a strange U-Haul? And why, for the love of Weezer, don't they put a CD player in those trucks? Or at least a tape player. Everyone loves them some old skool mixed tapes. Anything to avoid the endless country music channels on the AM dial, which must be the only radio stations in Indiana. When you New Yorkers see a greasy, squinting girl with chocolate smeared on her face, hyped up on the sweet, sweet Dr. Pepper, narrating every billboard she passes, you'll know I've arrived.

Reasons why this is a life-changing event:
1. I'm throwing out armfuls of clothing. Me. The one who saves something if I've worn it in the past five years. Or if I might wear it before 2015.
2. And shoes. I dumped seven pairs of shoes, all at once.
3. (I'm moving in with a boy!)
4. I bought a cell phone. This is probably the one that will shock the most people. More so if I tell them that I actually have owned a cell phone before, when I was teaching English in Dijon. But that was France, and we all know that what happens in France stays in France.
5. I actually agreed to reduced the Eiffel-Tower-themed decorations in my apartment. This is love, y'all.

I barely recognize myself anymore. Brooklyn, here I come!

30 June 2006

The Mother Land

So I'm off soon for my trip to England and Scotland. Ostensibly I'm going to attend a professional conference in Durham and to visit two of our university partners there, in Lancaster and Manchester. I'm also planning to spend four or five days backpacking around Scotland.

By now, I would think I have all the international travel preparations down. This is my sixth trip abroad, for Pete's sake. I know where my passport is, don't need a visa, have made sure my bills are paid, have bought proper squishable clothes, have told the credit card people that it is actually me who will be suddenly purchasing random items in a foreign country and please don't shut down my account, bought exactly the size of shampoo etc so I won't run out but won't be carrying extra weight, loaded the MP3 player with my best music, packed a ziploc bag of laundry detergent so I can do daily laundry in the sink and torn out the "England and Scotland" pages of an old guidebook. And yet the feeling remains that I have forgotten something.

Perhaps it's because I'm relying on ATMs in England to provide me with money. I have always gotten at least some cash before I left, but not this time. Am I pushing my luck? I do feel like a hypocrite, since I tell all my students to get some local currency before they go, so they can get used to what the bills look like.

What have I forgotten?

14 June 2006

Committee on Un-American Activities

It's official: my Frenchy has had too large an influence on me. I never was interested in sports before. Baseball? I'd glance at the Cardinals' score if the sports page happened to be lying around. Basketball? Had enough in high school and college when I had to sit through every home game and pretend I was interested. Football? Gimme a break.

But now I find myself at the head of the office cheering section for the World Cup. I'm actually reading the sports page--on purpose! I'm learning the names and stats of players. I'm drawing brackets and putting money on my choices. Good grief, I barely recognize myself.

The final realization came yesterday when France was playing Switzerland. For some reason, our office has a TV with cable* which is kept in our conference room. Every so often (about every three minutes) I'll pop my head in and check the score (or stay for half an hour, ignoring my boss's dirty looks). But precisely at 1:54 Central Time, someone decided to have an unnanounced CONFERENCE in the conference room! I went ballistic. They're keeping me from my game on purpose!

I'm ashamed to say, I hovered. I kept it up for the entire first half. I made a piteous phone call to Frenchy, hoping that he would commiserate. Then I gave up and ran across campus to a pizza place and made them change the channel on their large-screen TV.

*How is it that my office has a TV, cable service and a DVD player locked up in our conference room, when I can't even afford to buy a TV in color larger than my hand span? I would like to know this.

So it's true, I have joined the rest of the world and become a football fan. I feel so un-American.

30 May 2006

30 Things

My sisters and I live at different ends of the Midwest, and it is rare that we all come together. Once or twice a year at most. Since some extended family were having a party for my great-uncle, we all came in for the weekend.

I can predict what happens each time. One arrives at home much earlier than the others (it was my turn this time) and gets the full update on all the neighbors' doings. As each subsequent sister arrives, the neighbor stories are repeated. The house becomes gradually noisier. Somebody starts in a fit of giggles, setting off the other two. There is almost always a lecture, wherein the others attempt to look interested.

And after about two days, we are all silent, since we have pretty much shared all the news that we want to share. There's nothing left to talk about, and we are perfectly comfortable sitting in a companionable silence. No one feels compelled to fill it, and we have been known to spend an entire meal without conversing. I'm sure to an outsider it seems as though we're angry at each other or sulking, but it's really because we feel that if we don't have anything worth listening to, then it's okay to not talk. As for myself, I learned that lesson in the previous post's anecdote.

Partway through the weekend, my older sister mentioned that she wanted to compose a list of thirty things she wants to do before she turns thirty, which will be in about five months.* We came up with only about 18 ideas for her, a few good ones, and a few that could more likely be called chores, like "painting the front door." She had a caveat that they couldn't involve a large investment of time or money. In my case, I have a little more time to consider, and so I'm reaching a little farther.

*It turns out that all three of us want to go skydiving. Who knew? Maybe we should go three times, once on each of our 30th birthdays.

1. Learn HTML for real and design a web page
2. Go to a screening of Letterman
3. Go to the hometown of at least one of my ancestors
4. Get married to my Frenchy (dare I say this?!!!!)
5. Learn something useful about car maintenance
6. Find a way to make some money from my creative talents
7. Gosh, this is hard.
8. Ride on an overnight bike trip
9. ummmm...
10. manque d'inspiration
11. Really learn Italian this time
12. oh, sod it, Letterman is on

19 May 2006


There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing around with scrapbooks.

For the ex-expat, or in my case, the exchange student long returned to her home country, it is uniquely fulfilling to share one's stories from abroad to a willing ear. A coworker and I have contracted that every Thursday night we will have a gourmet dinner and listen patiently to the other's scrapbook stories. It is a long-awaited release, a necessary escape valve, an essential therapy.

Note that I said a willing ear. It doesn't help to have someone held there by hostage. Sure, the gourmet dinner helps (brandy sours, salade de chevre chaud, roast chicken, goulash, four French cheeses and gâteau basque à la cerise) but we each understand the near primal need to share our stories. And we ooh and aah like the speaker has just stepped off the plane. God, it feels good.

During this last round of orientations, I told my little sister that she had become my favorite anecdote about re-entry. I remember the first time I came home from France after a full year abroad. I had just experienced the most life-changing, formative ten months, and every time I opened my mouth, a "Well, in France, we..." seemed to fall out. After a few (dozen) repetitions, my little sister would bodily run out of the room. I think that was the lowest point of my re-entry crash.

And now she, in turn, is preparing to spend the fall semester in England. I am torn between my professional urging to talk her through her entry and re-entry process, to help her benefit in ways that I had to find on my own, and my desire to revisit upon her all the hurt she caused me. I know what I will do, ultimately. But the eighteen-year-old in me wants to repay the fourteen-year-old sister. Will this relationship ever change?

20 April 2006


Wow, I actually got to a Dooce post early! When I read the post, there were 11 comments. By the time I got through the Typepad sign-in rigamarole, my comment was the nineteenth.

Makes you wonder how many viewers she has at any one time. I can't imagine.

12 April 2006


Don't you just love a new haircut? The fragrant products they use, the blunt, non-split ends, the bounce, the body, the sass? And it only lasts one day.

I don't know about you, but no matter how closely I watch what the stylist does--how she blows out my hair, what products she uses, whatever, I can never achieve the same result. Is it a secret that they learn in stylist school? I wish I knew.

There must be some lesson in here--take the time to appreciate the small luxuries, fleeting though they are, But the lesson I choose to take away is: Don't wait five months between haircuts.

Because I have worked at the same place for over a year now, and THREE separate people didn't recognize me this afternoon. Had to stare at me for a full twenty seconds before they recognized me. What does that say about me?

25 March 2006

05 February 2006

A Year in Euskadi

It is well known that once you come back from abroad, no one really cares about the awesome things you've done and the wonderful sights you've seen. It's probably the hardest part of the reverse culture shock, and the one I struggled with the most.

You learn pretty quickly to bottle up your thoughts and to try to be the person that everyone expects you to be, the one they knew before you left (but who you left, inexorably, in the airport). The only ones who can ever understand are the ones who have gone along with you.

So upon return, you latch onto those few who have traveled and you share your stories. A friend and I have been doing just this, alternating weeks, inflicting our twelve-pound scrapbooks and our mile-long stories on each other. It's emotional; it's rewarding; it's exhausting. Reliving such an integral part of my formative years takes a long time!

This is my story.

I took French in middle and high school. Around sophomore year, I realized that I was good at French, liked it,and wanted to study it more and maybe even make a career out of it. The idealism of sixteen.

Knowing that I planned to major in French in college, and having several older friends do a Rotary year abroad, the next step was natural. I applied, was accepted and went to Biarritz, France three weeks before I turned eighteen.

Biarritz is a seaside resort town, famous for its fashionable history and its surfable waves. This was the first time I ever lived by the ocean, and I believe I'll never be happy far from it anymore.

The Rotary Club prepared me well. All the students from my region got together three times throughout the preceding year, and we did exercises about cultural adaptation, emotional readiness and openness. I know that if I hadn't had the extensive support network of the Rotary Club, I never would have survived that year abroad.

In the next entry, I will relate some of the most memorable stories and moments from that first year abroad.

22 January 2006


The title of this post links to a very thorough website on writing systems. For linguists and others casually interested in language, it's worth a read-through.

I used to be able to transcribe IPA with reasonable accuracy, although I've pretty much lost the nuances. The one linguistics class I took (senior year of college, spring semester) explained so much to me that I wished I had taken it much earlier. Beyond cleaning up my pronunciation in French, it made me more aware of how sounds and words are formed, and how grammatical structures link together words according to a set of complex rules. If ever I were to pursue a doctorate (hah!), it would probably be in linguistics and second-language acquisition. Here's to dreaming!

21 January 2006

Essence and Existence

I'm having trouble finding my own voice for this blog, which is why there have been so few postings over the last almost-year. I don't want to write about my work, although there is plenty of material there, believe you me. I don't think it's nice to blog about anyone close to me who doesn't know that I'm doing it, and since I have told nobody about this blog, there goes that source.

So mostly I'm left with my own musings. Which don't really seem to amount to much. I'm not particularly funny. I don't even keep up with world events or politics to a degree where I would feel competent to write about them. I don't travel enough lately (serious lack of funding) to merit any reflection on intercultural experiences, which was the original intent of this blog. What's left that hasn't already been done? And that wouldn't bore any reader (including myself) to tears?

Maybe this is a hint I need to find a new hobby.