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.