Monday, December 12, 2011

I'm Still Alive!

I come up for air long enough to tell you that yes, I still exist, and to describe for you the reasons why I haven't been blogging, and probably won't again for another week or two. To illustrate this point, I will simply outline my day so far:

11:30pm-ish In good Jewish/Catholic/medical fashion, I start the night before. Because all the Catholics and Jews know that the day really starts the night before, and all the doctors know that a good night's sleep determines the awesomeness of the next day. So, go to sleep later than planned, because I've been going to sleep too late ever since I got back from Paris (another story for another time), and also because the girl in he next room is on the phone until way too late.
6:45am Wake up earlier than usual, because it's the day of my Latin final, and also today everyone on the 4th floor gets new bedsheets so I have to strip my bed. Feel not-rushed, but this results in me wasting all the extra time I had from getting up early. Also, drop my hardboiled egg on the floor during breakfast, so I have to (literally) run up four flights of stairs in my boots to grab some yogurt so I don't starve, and also my umbrella because I realize after I go downstairs that it's pouring out.
8:00 Trot off to class in the rain, and get there with enough time to grab a tea and set up all my books (Latin dictionary, Latin grammar book, French dictionary, French grammar book) and papers just as I want them.
8:29-10:09 Try not to panic as I do two sections of grammar and one section of translation. Laugh internally at all my other classmates panicking, because we're a room full of adults acting like keener 5th graders. Finish about 80% of each section, which is definitely better than the guy next to me did, so I guess I'm alright. I don't think anyone finished, actually. Also, note that my watch is slightly behind Swiss time.
10:15am-12:55pm Skip class so I can go to the archives to work. Justify this by noting that of the three classes I have on Mondays, I'm the least likely to run into this prof during the day. Also, I lost a full day last week because I was sick.
1:00-2:00 Head to the cafeteria for lunch, and more coffee. On my way in, run into the prof whose class I just skipped. Oops. Whip out my computer to do the readings for my 2:00 class which I didn't have time to print. Thank God they're in English so I can read them quickly.
2:00-2:05 On my way to class, pass the Arts Students Association kiosk in the main hall. Realize I've just missed the breaking of the marmite, but grab a cup (and a half) of vin chaud to warm the entrails. It does me good. (Seriously - vin chaud, a.k.a. mulled wine, is the best thing since sliced bread as far as I'm concerned. Actually, it's better, because bread makes me sick sometimes.)
2:15-4:00 Class. Be able to speak French. Have stuff to say because we're covering Ireland today. Yippee.
4:00-4:15 Quick meeting with prof. Get shooed out because he's on his way to a meeting.
4:15-5:45 Go back to the archives. Learn that the whole collection I'm using is on microfilm, which means I can just print the images I want. Rejoice abundantly because this is going to save me days of work and worry, and many dollars to boot.
5:45-6:15 Run to 2 other libraries to make copies and print things. Rejoice that they are still open.
6:25 Miss Adoration, but make it to Mass. Realize that it's the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Rejoice in the awesomeness.
7:30 Go home. Update blog. Joyfully anticipate my dinner of sausage, onions, red cabbage, and goats cheese. I had it last night and it was glorious (and quite German). Nums. Afterwards, work on secondary sources and/or assignments. Plan tomorrow. Sleep.

In other news, my French is getting better. Well, at least today and yesterday were good. Better than Thursday, for instance, when I was having one of my I-don't-speak-French days. The highlight (lowlight?) came after Mass when I was talking with some people from the young adults group, and I informed them that there was no choir that evening because the choir director had cancer. What I thought I was saying was that he had a concert. The first vowel not being pronounced with all the care and loving tenderness it deserves, apparently. The worst part was that I was with a group of people who I really want to think I'm cool and awesome. And two of them speak enough English to probably get this. (Whether they actually think I'm cool or not is another question, but at least the potential is there.) But the third person speaks zero English. So basically, instead of projecting the image of "cool American smart-person", he repeatedly gets exposed to my alter-ego, "retarded blabbering foreigner".

Some day. Some day. I will be awesome.


Monday, November 28, 2011

A List

* I leave Geneva 4 weeks from today.
* I cry inside every time I think of this.
* I really like my toes. They are proportional and cute. Most toes that I see are not so nice as my own.
* I drank something bright blue from a shot glass in the very early hours of Saturday morning.
* This is all I can tell you about this particular incident, actually.
* I can buy beer here for 45 cents per 1/2 litre can.
* I love this country.
* My ability to waste time is stupendous, truly.
* Today, I craved peanut butter and celery sticks.
* Tomorrow, I will have to make that happen.
* On a related note, I'm out of groceries. Again.
* Eating fish and rice for dinner always makes me feel very Japanese.
* I love the feeling of having fresh clean sheets on my bed, but I hate being the person to put them there.
* I miss playing music.
* I am concerned that I will not get all my work done on time.
* I love having my own room.
* I miss my cats.
* Strepsils Honey & Lemon coughdrops are the best ever.
* It's almost December.
* Is it weird that I think my toes are cute?

Thank you for sharing this meander through my brain. I promise to tidy it up a little the next time y'all come through.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Successful Judo

Truly, a successful judo practice looks like this:

Light workout for an hour and a half
An hour of socializing with quiche and wine
Return to hotel to gather belongings
Leave again at 11pm for more fun

Over the next four hours, do the following:

Go to tiny hole-in-the-wall bar with a barefoot old guitar player to play ping pong upstairs
Leave because everyone is famished
Buy excessive amounts of beer at a convenience store
Visit the take-out window (think walk-thru, sidewalk style) of a place called "Quality Burger Restaurant"
Consume large amounts of burgers, fries, and beer on the sidewalk at midnight
Go to an Irish pub
Hang out with drunk, singing Frenchmen
Go to salsa bar
Leave at 3am
En route to the hotel, climb hundreds of stone steps
Swear loudly and profusely at the steps, and at the nice guy from the Lyons judo club who is walking us home for making us climb the steps
Drop into bed at 3:16am

Next day follow-up:

Get woken up by pounding on the door at 9am. First words out of my roommate's mouth: "On arrive bientôt!" First words out of my mouth, before eyes are even open: "Bientôt ça vaut dire quoi, exactement?"
Be a half hour late to breakfast
Eat lots of breakfast. Include toast.
Drink lots of water. Lots and lots and lots.
Wander the Old City of Lyons during the morning
Periodically lose people, because they keep having to stop into stores for re-hydration
Eat the grossest food I've ever had at a restaurant for over 2 hours
Fall asleep on the ride home


Friday, November 25, 2011

7 Quick Takes

- 1 - 

Well, I guess I can come back to the blogosphere long enough to do a Quick Takes. Especially since apparently "wasting time" is a zero-sum equation in the universe, and so when I stop doing one activity (like blogging) in order to not waste so much time, I automatically and irresistibly begin doing something else stupid for equal amounts of time - like checking Facebook, for instance. So here we are, and I will try to update from time to time.

- 2 - 

I missed Thanksgiving entirely again this year. Didn't even mark it with a celebratory sweet potato or anything, because I forgot. Maybe next year I'll be somewhere that has enough kitchen and fridge space so that I can do a proper American Thanksgiving - We Do It Right! (TM) à la my Montreal days. 

I love this picture, which was taken at the dinner my roommates and I threw in rez during our first year at McGill. I think it really sums up the Thanksgiving spirit.

- 3 - 

The Escalade is coming up! I'm actually not sure exactly what goes on, but it sounds like a city-wide Purim-type celebration, where people dress up in costume and have a rollicking good time. They've been building basically a tent city in Parc Bastions (where the university is) for the last few weeks, so every day I get a little more excited. I'm going to miss the Course d'Escalade next weekend because I will be in Paris - apparently people dress up in costume and run around the Old City. Run, literally. Hence the course. I'm kinda bummed I'm going to miss it, but at least I'll be here for the major festivities on the 10th and 11th.

The Escalade celebrates Dec 12, 1602, when the French army attempted to invade Geneva and were repelled when the citizens followed the example of a housewife who panicked when she saw the French soldiers scaling the walls of the city, and dragged her cauldron over to the window and dumped boiling soup on them. So everywhere, in all the shops, are chocolate cauldrons (marmites), ranging from little fist-sized ones to huge, highly decorated ones. Leave it to the Swiss.

- 4 -

So as I said, I'll be in gay paree next weekend, which will be my third trip to France in as many weeks, following the retreat in Voirons last weekend and the judo training in Lyons tonight. Should be good. Obviously I can't see the whole city in 2 1/2 days, and the point of the trip is to visit my friend/former roommate from Ireland last year, who lives in Paris with her sister. And while I'm there, too, another of the sisters (there's 5 of them) will be there, with her husband and new baby. I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone again! So I will definitely take lots of pictures in Paris, but I don't know of what, yet. 

- 5 -

My project is chugging along nicely. I have the skeleton of the paper already done; I've been reading secondary sources like crazy this week, and will jump into archives Tuesday. I think the following week I'll get my butt out to Zurich for a day or two to sift through their stuff, just to see what there is. I just hope I can find what I'm looking for in the time I have.

- 6 - 

French update: I'm still a fool, but I'm having more fun being one. Also, one of the goals I had set for myself was to be able to use, just once, the phrase quand-même appropriately in a sentence. Because it has no direct translation, and really doesn't even have a proper meaning; it's just a commonly-used phrase that people drop into sentences to add emphasis. Anyway, in the last week or so, I have successfully used it multiple times. Booyah! Goal achieved!

- 7 - 

In closing, please enjoy this picture that I captioned, of me and my sister playing around with the computer camera last year. I think it is the funniest thing to hit the earth since Jack Chick, and I laugh out loud every time I see it. At the very least, it gives you a glimpse into my twisted sense of humor, and a taste of what goes on in our house when I'm on the correct side of the Atlantic.

Don't forget to head to Jen's for more takes from this week!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Retraction ... Sort Of

Okay, so apparently I'm a giant liar. Because I haven't been posting, because I'm in the homestretch (one month and a couple of days left ... *sniff, sniff*), I've finished with all but one ... two ... major assignments ... not counting grad school apps ... and I need to work on my damn project!!! This week: secondary sources. Next two weeks: primary sources. Second to last week: working draft gets written and submitted. Last week: panic, cry, and fill in any missing bits of paper. And do my assignment.

Yeah, right.

It's just amazing how little I get done during the day (because I spend so much time on blogs and Facebook, blargh), and how much time my class readings take. And when I lose a whole weekend like I did this week (even though it was so worth it that I can't even describe how awesome it was) it's super hard, because I normally work on weekends. Because I normally don't work very hard during the week. Because I'm a schlump. Except, I'm not even good at being a schlump, because I'm a schlump with workaholic tendencies.

Alright, enough bitching, and how is it almost 11pm? It was 10pm like 2 minutes ago!! Gonna read a bit more, then try to sleep. And to not panic.

And my previous post still stands, despite my obvious and immediate hypocrisy.


I'm busy, and blogging may be on hold and/or sporadic for the next while.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Awesomeness Interlude

First, please enjoy the following music video. I loved the artistry to it - the variety of movement, placement, speed, direction, etc. It's striking and very interesting to watch.

Now watch the second video - where these people make the same effects with their bodies, live and in real time!!!!

My mind is blown, and my body is jealous. Please enjoy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Language Chaos!

Today's language update will be comprised of several parts. Please bear with me.

French: French is going well. Since I gave that paper last week in class, I've been much more comfortable about prattling along in my own silly way. It was a major hump to get over, apparently. (And I use "prattle" intentionally when I speak of my French capabilities.) I've generally been pretty good about speaking in French even with people who I know or suspect speak decent English, and with my francophone friends in the foyer I slip into French automatically, even after having to take a pause to say something in English. I had a minor setback on Saturday night when I was at a party and was having sensory ADD, so I simply could not understand (or hear, properly speaking) when people were speaking to me in French. But I did manage to have a halting conversation with someone I've been wanting to get to know a bit better, so that was a success at least. And then today in my British Revolutions class I was involved in the pre-class chatter with other students, which was nice and boosted my confidence enough that I spoke up several times during the class itself.

Latin: I'm still finding it easier to translate into Latin than out of it, which is strange, but not when I consider that it's just a matter of finding the parts and putting them together rather than trying to actually discern a meaning, haha. I've hit the stage already where I'm able to tell if something "just sounds right" in terms of word placement, etc. And my prof told me afterwards that I have made "very good progress", which made me glow, just a little bit. The grammar test is on Dec 12th. I'm going to start studying now, I think.

Italian: Italian! you say, Wait, what? We're going to have to put up with ANOTHER round of whiny language learning experiences? Spare us! Okay, okay, cut the dramatics. (It's very drama-ful in my head tonight.) No, I'm not formally learning Italian, and I have resisted the urge to go out and buy myself an Italian Bescherelle ... at least until I can buy one in English. But tonight I was at a talk given in French and English by an Italian guy, who during the question period ended up just answering in Italian (apparently everyone there could understand). So it was an Italian/French conversation with some English tossed in by the resident anglophones. And I found, to my pleasant surprise mixed with slight dismay, that I understood the Italian at least as well, if not slightly better than the French. As in, I was getting 95% of the Italian and only maybe 91% of the French. (Did you know that 87% of percentages quoted on blogs are made up on the spot? But only 42% of bloggers admit to doing this.) I'm not sure what to do with this information, actually. But there you have it.

Spanish: Despite my repeated recent attempts, I can no longer speak Spanish. This is kind of a good thing, because it means I have suppressed it enough that I am no longer having to wade through it in my attempts to construct French phrases. I certainly haven't forgotten it; I still think in Spanish quite easily. But my brain now refuses to connect itself to my tongue in that language. Ergo, I should apply for doctoral programs in Madrid, Barcelona, and Buenos Aires. And other Spanish-speaking places that may or may not have beaches. Obvs.

English: I've given up almost all attempts to retain my English grammar and have let myself just enjoy the ride of improper Romance-language-inspired syntax. I'm having a lot of fun noticing the mistakes I make in sentence construction and even more fun making up words when I can't recall the one I want. I'm sure you've noticed this even in this post. And I'm going to read some Milton tonight, whose sentences read more like Latin than anything else. By the time I get home I'll just be a babbling idiot. But whatever, the cows don't mind.

Friday, November 11, 2011

7 Quick Takes

- 1 -

Holy crap, it's Friday already! Noting (and being surprised by) the Quick Takes up on Jen's blog (go there to see more!) was the third or fourth time today that I thought it was Thursday. Time flies when you're having fun and/or on a deadline. Therefore, today's post will be picture-heavy, instead of me at some vague time in the future doing a picture post.

- 2 -

For the further enlightenment of my readers, I offer you this update: I have found a new use for my otherwise-unused en-suite bidet.

Dirty dish way station!

- 3 -

My super-amazing awesome friends Amy and Tony SENT ME FLOWERS ON MY BIRTHDAY!!! a) the last time I got flowers on my birthday was my first year in university, from my boyfriend. b) I'm in Geneva. They ordered flowers online to be sent to me here. Just ... wow. Points for effort times a million.

There they are, sunflowers enjoying the sun!

- 4 -

Grad school application stuff is underway; I'm hoping to prep my research proposal some more this weekend (and by "prep" I mean "do lots more research right now on the topic which I want to research in the future and have researched in the past and therefore shouldn't be having to research now"). Some profs are quicker at responding than others, but everyone has been quite helpful and encouraging. The last guy, especially, sent me some really super helpful tips and questions to think about in order to expand my proposal and make it more ready for submission, which was really great and thoughtful of him. The whole process just takes so much time! But at least most of the apps don't have to be done until after I get home, so I'm not stressing out about it, just trying to stay on the ball.

- 5 - 

And for those of you who requested (ahem, Matte), here's a picture of my desk-that-I-use-just-to-pile-things-on:

You will, of course, notice the striking difference between it and my desk-that-I-use-for-current-work-and/or-snacks:

Or perhaps not.

- 6 - 

Extra training session tomorrow afternoon with a judo team coming in from Paris, so I left practice a half-hour early tonight and didn't feel too guilty. I should have stayed though, they only went for about 15 minutes longer I think. It sounded like they were wrapping up as I left. Ha, and sensei caught me talking in the back at the water fountain - oops! I was on my way to the changing room anyway. My partner in crime probably got a look though. Whoospie.

- 7 - 

And finally, a French update: Nothing to report, really, which is great! I can now prattle along comfortably and with less thinking involved, and while I'm still making a ton of mistakes, I catch them more frequently and I don't get all flustered about it. Hurrah!

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I love Thursdays. I never write about Thursdays here. It's because, at the end of a Thursday, I feel so happy and relaxed that I feel no need to write about Thursday. So tonight, as I anticipate another Thursday, I will share with you why Thursdays are so special.

Thursday - it's such a synaesthetically-to-me pretty word - it's a deep deep blue with a deep violet undertone and a shimmer of lilac on top, with the tiniest bit of clear at the end. The day itself is more of a periwinkle blue, but of the same intensity. In case anyone is interested.

Thursdays are like mini retreats for me. A mini retreat each week; how lucky am I? (On a side note, I've distracted myself - talking about the colors is making me see the colors much more consciously, and I keep stopping while I type to look at them.)

In the morning I audit a Master's level English class on images in John Milton's work. We're going through Paradise Lost book by book, and we'll finish the semester with Samson Agonistes. It's in English, which is a nice relaxing atmosphere for me, and the class seems to have cohered well (the people, I mean). But reading Milton is such a treat. I attended a Shakespeare camp the summer I was 13 (yes, I was one of those kids), and it was one of the most formative experiences of my life. Seriously. Because I was taught how to read Shakespearean writing, starting with finding the period (thus identifying the whole sentence without paying attention to the line breaks), then finding the verb, then finding the subject, after which all the extra phrases and descriptors fall into line.

Reading Milton involves the same process, and I am just so, so glad that I know how to do this. Most people never learn to do this, and I can't imagine the trouble it must be to read early modern English poetry without being able to move freely within the language.

I love the prof who teaches the Milton course too, she's just fantastic. And I love to listen to the different accents of everyone in the class. And for the first time in my life, I'm enjoying picking apart and analyzing the little bits and pieces of poetry, putting things into linguistic and historical context, trying to think as Milton thought, trying to tease out all of the little nuances that he slips into the text. Every other class in which I've had to do stuff like this, it always felt so contrived and stupid. But in this class, it isn't, and it's really, really great.

I read the books from Milton the day before, and it's like retreating into a different world. In fact, I learned last week that I can't go down to the beautiful spot by the river and read, because I get sensory overload - there's too much beauty happening both outside and inside that I can't handle it. I get lost in the poetry, and I feel the words roll around in my mouth like smooth marbles. It's a meditative exercise, getting into Milton. I have to make the conscious effort to engage with the imagery, texture, and rhythm of the text, or else I get lost and just pass over the words, and I can't see anything. So I have to take the time to slip into it, to slide below the surface of the writing and locate myself within his world. It's like if you slowly slid into a swimming pool, only to find that, once under water, you aren't actually in water at all, but rather in a beautiful, shimmering, pulsating, intensely hyper-colored alternate world, where time and space are not the same as here, and so you can see and hear things that should be too far away, and move three miles in a step, and take in the vastness of a landscape in one glance.

It reminds me of an exercise I did once on a retreat day. The woman giving the talk was going to explain lectio divina, and to start she passed around a box of fancy chocolates and told us to take one, but don't eat it yet. She had us sniff it, and then really smell it. Roll it around in our fingers, feel the shape, look at the design. Smell it again. Then take one small bite. Roll it around your tongue, pay attention to all the different tastes, see how they interact with each other in your mouth. Then swallow, and smell again. Repeat.

And that, my friends, is how I read Milton. And for an hour and a half every Thursday morning, I get to do this with other people. We wallow in it, except it's whatever the positive version of "wallow" is (can someone please provide me with this word?). And I surface from that pool, perfectly dry, and totally refreshed. Amazing, amazing.

And that's only Thursday morning.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Gosh, 25 is just such a big number! It got me thinking, now that I'm old and gray, what would I tell myself ...

... at age 20? I promise, one day your hair will be as nice as hers.

... at age 15? He's not even that cute; just stop.

... at age 10? Brains are good, friends are better. Cultivate both. (Also, they're lying - homework is so totally not worth the effort!)

... at age 5? SANTA IS REAL!!!

Also, I love looking at the things that people send me, because it helps me to understand how I present myself(ves) to the world. 

For instance, my mom sent me an e-card that included Fabio, on a unicorn, playing the flute. On a tropical island beach. So I could add him to my collection. Ahem.

My friend from Montreal sent me a cynical drag queen: 

My sister wrote "Hepi burtdert!" on my wall ... and I understood it immediately. 

And another friend sent me an e-card that was full of prayers, Bible quotes, and words like love, peace, and joy

All are appropriate, but I can't help but sing One of these things is not like the other...

Lolz. Happy my-Birthday to you all!

November 7

Just, you know, in case you were wondering.

Actually, what I want is for it to be yesterday again, before I knew what it felt like to eat a can of "Mexican salad" (tuna + bean salad, I think) after pulling a legit all-nighter because I still have no way to gauge how slowly I work in French.

I might even make it to all my classes today, if I'm truly stupid.

Welcome to age 25, dude. If I'm still pulling all-nighters 25 years from now ... uh ... I will be the stupidest person alive. And then I'll quit my job and go fix cars in Hawaii.

Happy my-Birthday.