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.

SAUSAGES!!!!

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
Dance
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

Booyah.

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.

Notice

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

Thursdays

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

Reflections

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.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Birthday Party = Success

I skipped Quick Takes this week. And I say "skipped" only to disguise the fact that I actually meant "missed". Because I'm working on a presentation for tomorrow that I've been working on for way too long and should be working on right now in fact, because it's nowhere near done. Therefore, you get the unusual treat of a blog post on a Sunday.

Self-reflection moment: You know that no matter what you do, how good your intentions are, and how early you start you only ever get things done in the last few days. Accept this and move on, and stop trying to start things 4 weeks in advance. It makes absolutely no difference to the quality of work you produce or how much cramming you spend during the last weekend before it is due. It only makes you stress for four weeks under the guise of "getting a head start on it". It's baloney. Stop.


Thank you for accompanying me on this little side journey into the inner recesses of my brain.

And so, I spend the last day of my 25th year of life doing what I spent pretty much every other day of my 25th year of life doing: reading and writing about seventeenth century Ireland. Whoopie hooray.

BUT, I did go out and have a seriously good time last night. I gathered a small group of friends from the foyer where I live, and we went out to eat fondue by the lake, where we met up with a friend of mine from judo and her friend who was visiting from Luxembourg (!). The place was pretty sketch, actually - thank goodness we had someone with us who francophone because the bitchy lady kept screwing up our orders and then yelling at us for it. It took, literally, 15+ minutes to order a fondue for two people, a bottle of wine, and 5 soups. But, finally, it worked, and we went inside and squeezed ourselves onto tiny benches and had ourselves a nice little bilingual party. The fondue was good, and then my friend from judo brought me a little present of a chocolate cauldron that has something to do with something on Dec 12th ... anyway, point being, you all put your hands on it and then the youngest person gets to say "And so perish the French!" and then you smash it. Lol. So we did that and had a nice little smashed chocolate dessert.

It was still pretty early so we went to a bar just around the corner from the judo club, which had delicious shots for 5 francs that had the most ridiculously pornographic names ever. But they were really tasty - I sipped mine, because they were like mini martinis more than anything. It was a chill place, good atmosphere, good music - I'll have to go back for sure. Then at about 10:30 we headed over to the salsa place where we were obliged to buy very expensive drinks in order to secure a table but then we stayed until 1 am dancing. (Not much salsa actually, mostly bachata and reggaeton, but lots of fun nonetheless.) Awesome awesome awesome, and everyone had a good time (and I was not obliged to kick any creepers in the junk, as I had been warned might be the case, ha!).

And so once again I prepare to spend my birthday in a new place, with new friends and new things to do. Tonight the choir sings at Mass, then tomorrow I'm going to give the most awesome presentation ever (LOLZ) and go drink some beers in the park to celebrate the official tick towards the end of my first quarter century on this earth. Just because I can. =)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Just A Thought ...

If a potluck is called a repas canadien or a buffet canadien, what does that say about how the real French perceive Canadians? I'm just asking ...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday Night Ramblings

Oh Gawd, I spent like a million bucks on new glasses today. I'm surprised my credit card didn't catch fire in the process. Whatever, I've had these ones for three years. The problem is, I'm practically blind, so it's not so much the glasses which are expensive but the damn lenses cost over $200 apiece. If I were to get laser eye surgery, it would pay for itself in 2 or 3 years. The problem is, if I continue as an academic, I'll just ruin my eyes again by reading and working at computers. Bah.

In other news, we had a petit appertif tonight after judo, because two of the guys had babies in the last few months. It was really nice. The beer and wine was flowing, there were classy little hors d'oeuvres, and I got to hold babies which is obviously the most important thing.

Oh, and one of the guys decided to launch an apologetic to me about why he doesn't go to church. That was partly my fault; I made the mistake of telling him I study theology. But seriously, do I have to walk around with a sign on my forehead that says "Yes I wish you would go to church but only if you mean it and otherwise I don't care so let's just enjoy our beers"? I cannot even tell you the number of times this has happened to me. In bars. With strangers. My goodness. The number of evangelization opportunities I waste ... I hope it's not counted against me. Saint Anthony, pray for me. A lot.

Dear everyone: I am not a priest. You cannot confess to me. Also, I am socially awkward. Thank you for listening.

The end.

Monday, October 31, 2011

An Artistic Interlude

The art in this little video is just gorgeous. Watch, and enjoy the sublime music by Josh Garrels while you're at it (or better yet, download the entire album for free!):

Friday, October 28, 2011

7 Quick Takes


- 1 -

Welcome to this week's mind-blowingly exciting edition of 7 Quick Takes. I would like to set the tone for today by offering this most awesome little GIF:
How awesome is that??? Help my identify them: I see Megaman, someone who looks like a cross between the Hulk and Aladdin, Michelle Kwan, and Spiderman. All doing a dance that I must learn to do because it's so cool! Whoa! Whoa!

- 2 -

Glad I got that out of my system. Now onto more mundane matters. Like, I'm going to Paris the first weekend of December, bwahahahaaha! Mundane THAT, ese! I'm super excited. Getting in Thursday evening, staying till Sunday lunch because I have to sing that Sunday evening back here in the G-dot. (No, I'm not going to expand on that completely obvious dirty joke. Go somewhere else. Or just wait two minutes until my resolve crumbles in a ridiculous bout of "But it's so funny!!!") I'm going to visit my friend from Dublin who works there as a journalist. Can't wait to see her!

- 3 -

In other awesome news, I did it! I got through a whole judo practice, only had to sit out 3 or 4 times, went two rounds in a row each time between rests, no major or minor injuries, only made a minor ass of myself, AND got tips on where to go dancing in the area to boot. Wooo! Wooooooo! 

- 4 -

Halloween party tomorrow night, then I'm trying to decide what to do for my birthday next weekend. I'm thinking go out for fondue at Les Bains de Pâquis with some girls from the res, then head to Jonction to one of the clubs for some dancing. I'm wicked excited, yo, should be great! I just have to remember to make reservations at the fondue place in the next few days; hopefully they'll have space.

- 5 -

I think I figured out what gave me my near heart attack the other day: coffee. I'm not generally a coffee drinker, but here I've been drinking it at least once and often twice a day. And I went for lunch a couple days ago and had a coffee after, and my heart just started racing like crazy again, and I started to panic. And I realized, holy crap, I've practically developed an allergy to caffeine! So, from now on I will be having tea with breakfast, and no coffee mid-afternoon snacks. Hopefully that will help. I skipped the afternoon coffee today (though I had WAY more sugar than I should have, that's another thing I don't metabolize well) and I felt much better (after I got over the sugar crash, lol). 

- 6 -

French has been going better. (I'm going fine, and you?!) I haven't necessarily improved, but I get less embarrassed and flustered when I screw up. So a mental rather technical improvement, but the more important one by far, I think. I still get lazy and speak English at judo, but people have been just speaking back to me in French, which makes it easier for me to remember to reply in French. To make the effort. And I don't mind when they laugh at me.

- 7 -

I had a LOL moment this week (actually my life is a series of LOL moments, but only when I'm in a good mood). The book I had to read for my methodology class was so boring that ... and I kid you not ... I had to read it out loud to myself in order to keep from falling asleep. I have never, in my extensive and sometime extensively boring academic career, had to do this. Have I told you how much I hate philosophy, and philosophers in particular, and philosophers who write books that I am compelled to read most of all? I promise to write a post on it someday. But today has just been too awesome to bother. I'm going to go wallow (or whatever the positive-connotation word for "wallow" is) in the awesomeness for a bit. It will involve a can of Coke, 2 small pieces of chocolate, Têtes à claques, Les Trois Accords and Switchfoot, and possibly CFCY. And a comfy pillow.

Have a great weekend, and head over to Jen's for more Quick Takes! I'm going to go practice the superhero dance.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A List

Things I want to do in Switzerland:


* Take a picture of the rapids/tiny waterfall near where I live
* Visit Paris
Visit Rome
*Apply for (more) grad school
Visit Interlaken
Visit Ticino
Go swimming in the lake
Visit Lausanne
Go into the Alps, somehow
* Finish my Huguenots-in-Ireland research
Go salsa dancing
Become comfortably fluent in French
* Eat cheese fondue
Eat raclette
Try kirsche
Learn German
Learn Italian
* Take more pictures
* Do something fun for my birthday
* Visit Carouge
Stop drinking so much coffee
* Find Calvin's grave
Get through a full two hours of judo
Stop procrastinating on the interwebs

* A star means it either is likely to or it must get done


And finally, completely not in relation to anything above, please enhance the next five minutes of your life by listening to this video. Turn up your speakers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kryptonite

Dear self, you are not made of iron. Stop being retarded, take your damn ibuprofen, and drink a Coke before working out. And speak more French while you're at it, stop being so lazy.

Yeah, I should listen to myself more often.

I'm not really sure what's going on; it's the third practice in a row that I've had to stop because I was getting dizzy. Tonight I was actually starting to black out before I sat my ass down. What the hell, I should be getting better, not worse. Oh yeah, and my hips have decided not to rotate. Again. Last time that happened it bothered me for months.

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

In other news, the sisters here at the residence threw us a little potluck party tonight. It was really cute; they were clearly all very excited and dressed in their nicest skirt and sweaters, and everyone brought something to share, and the sisters had even made little flag indicators to show what country the food was from. I hope they were happy with the turnout.

I've been gathering girls from the res to go to what is apparently the really super cool awesome omg Halloween party organized by Glocals, that expat pseudo-Facebook website. But girls who have gone in past years tell me it's actually a lot of fun, and I already have two people who will definitely go. It's from 10pm to 3am though, which is, you know, normally the time I'm sleeping. I hope I stay awake enough to have a good time. I'm going to have a sleep-deprivation hangover for the next 3 days, I'm sure. Should be fun though. In fact, the last time I went to a club was also at Halloween ... 2004. Organized by McGill Rez Council. At La Boom. When I was 17. ... Wish me luck, everybody.

And today wasn't all bad; I just get really frustrated at judo and my inability to make my corpus do what I want. In fact, one awesome thing did happen: I had a presentation to do in class for the most boring book evar omg and I decided that it would be easier to write out my points in English and then translate them, because the book was so confusing I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep it all straight in French. Well, of course it took me much longer than expected (mainly because I had written a lot more than I realized; the translation part was surprisingly, and reassuringly, easy), and I had to go to class with about the last 3rd of it untranslated. I was horrified - I had given up my whole weekend to work on this damn thing, and not only that, but this is the prof I want to impress the most because she's the one I want to work with if I come back here. (Her brain scares me, but that's a post for another time.)

Long story short, the first presenter took a full hour for her presentation, so by the time we were wrapping up the second presentation it was already five minutes to 6. I got off scot-free, and managed to ask some intelligent questions, in the appropriate language, to boot. (Actually they weren't even that intelligent - I pulled the "indignant historian criticizing a philosophical work" card. In academia, when in doubt, be indignant. It somehow legitimizes whatever stupid things might then come out of your mouth in the eyes of those who have to listen to you.) (Academia is so stupid.)

I'm going to read some Milton, and go to bed. And try not to think about all the other projects I have to do in the next 2 months.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Language Learning and Laziness

Latin class this morning was downright silly - in a good way. Half the class was missing because pretty much everyone but me and one other guy are in the Theology faculty, and they had some sort of theology practice this morning out of town. Yes, "theology practice", and no, I don't have any idea what it means. Being a Catholic, however, I have visions of Protestant wannabe ministers chucking Bibles at each others' heads. But I digress.

Basically, the prof started making jokes about how much she enjoyed making our lives difficult by teaching us irregular verbs (so sue me, just about anything is funny at 8am on 4 hours of sleep), and we all kind of came down with a collective case of the giggles which erupted during random translation bits, and it finished off with one of the guys buying us all coffee at the break, and then class ending early. It was pretty ridiculous, in a very fun and relaxed kind of way. Maybe you just had to be there. But I definitely hope we have class like that more often.

The translations seemed rather easy for the second week in a row. This led me to a disturbing conclusion: my inability to speak French here, I think, is an entirely psychological impairment. Allow me to draw the connection: The first few weeks we were doing translations from Latin into French. Normally this should be easier; it's always easier to translate from a new language into the language that you know. But during the last couple of weeks, we've been translating from French into Latin. To me, this is (comparatively) a breeze! It should not be thus. And in fact, when I realized that this was the case, I went back and tried some of the Latin-to-French sentences and nearly panicked. I could not, could not do it. 

Ergo, my problem is clearly twofold: firstly, I have totally psyched myself out and I need to get over it. Secondly, I need a lot more practice being creative with French. If I'm having an easier time creating sentences in Latin, a language that I've been exposed to for only five weeks, than French, which I use every day, this is bad. Ergo, assuming I ever become disciplined enough, I think the best way to attack this is to do translations of English writings into French, one paragraph at a time. They don't have to be perfect, it's more a matter of getting those neurons firing in my brain. For whatever reason, they've decided to go on vacation, and I need them working. Eleanor Roosevelt, your autobiography is soon to be françaisized. 

Also (part 3 of 2), I need to get over my fear of embarrassing myself, and just enjoy the chance to be the new girl with the cute accent. Soon (hopefully) I will speak well enough that I will no longer have that excuse when I say wrong things, so I should really milk it for all it's worth now, while I have the chance.


Now I have to go make myself read the last 10 pages of the damn philosophy book I'm presenting tomorrow in my methodology class, and draw up the presentation, so that it will be done and out of my life. I suffer, suffer, through philosophy.

Friday, October 21, 2011

7 Quick Takes


- 1 -

Remember that big presentation I had on Halloween? Totally in French, which I was getting all worked up about already? Well, it got bumped back by a week, so now it's on my birthday. Humph. Which is kind of nice, because it means I'm not trying to prep for it now, but still: the weekend of my birthday I'll be reading up on Irish dudes killing each other, and then trying to make a coherent (and long) French presentation out of it.

- 2 -

Proof that my brain has been completely turned to mush by this whole language thing (no one who has talked to me on the phone recently needs any more, I'm sure): on Monday I had my first inability to find the English term before the French term during a conversation, so I ended up having to use the French term due to a complete lack of mastery of my mother tongue. So I was talking to my (American) professor, and ended up saying, "I'm really sorry about doing the wrong readings, but I somehow missed the memo about the ... [pause] ... retardement par une semaine." At which point he looked at me very strangely. I'm not even sure if that was a correct phrase or not, but it allowed me to say what I had to. 

This was then followed by  a complete inability to speak French all day Tuesday. See yesterday's post for an explanation and short video clip.

- 3 - 

My research project has been encouraged, and I've been trying hard to (a) not get overwhelmed by it and (b) not get ahead of myself, like I have a tendency to do. For instance, it is very important right now that I read the secondary sources so I have an idea of what has been done and also so I can get some leads on existing primary sources. That way I can structure my paper in my head using existing background knowledge before I go trotting off to the four corners of Europe to get primary sources, thereby ensuring that I use them wisely and efficiently, and also that I don't miss anything. This makes me anxious because I'm going home in two months (aww/yay!) and I want to have a working draft done before I go to make sure there are no gaping holes in the project that can only be fixed with stuff I can get here. And also, the primary source work is the most interesting anyway, so I really want to get to it. But I have to be disciplined and hold my horses for another few weeks.

- 4 -

Concordia University has informed me that my degree has officially been conferred, hooray! My friend Matte picked up my bound thesis copy for me, and is holding it until ... sometime. She took a picture and sent it to me; it's so shiny and red and gold and professional looking. Since I'm in Switzerland, obviously, I won't be making it to my graduation on Nov. 22 (hey Matte - what color are our robes in Theology, anyway?), but Matte and I have discussed plans to just photoshop my smiling visage into random pictures that she will take on the day. Assuming the fax went through and isn't lost in the quagmire of Concordia Internal mail (which I can't at all assume), I will be receiving my (registered) mailed diploma a bit before Christmas. Then I can order a hideously expensive frame for it, and it can go on my wall above my McGill diploma. Take that, McGill!

- 5 -

During my bouts of being able to speak languages this week, I had two totally strange experiences. I will tell you about one right now, because the other one is still weirding me out. I met a guy who works in the Institute who had been away so I hadn't met him before. He came by to introduce himself, and we had a few-minutes-long conversation about studies and history work. While I didn't identify an obvious accent, it turns out that he's from just outside of Montreal, originally, and he did his two degrees at McGill. Later that day, two things occurred to me: first, he totally could have switched to English, and he didn't. That was very nice of him. Second, I had an entire conversation with him in which I did not once have to ask him to repeat what he said. This is in stark contrast to European French speakers, who I normally have to ask to repeat every sentence twice in order to give me time to figure out what they said and fill in the missing parts. This has nothing to do with my French getting better; it simply reconfirmed for me that there is something particular about the way Quebecers talk that matches the frequencies in my brain labelled as "French" and filed under "Languages I know, understand, and speak", which is not present in continental French. A dozen cookies to the first person who can pinpoint what it is, because I am at a loss.

- 6 -

That being said, I'm looking forward to one aspect in particular about going home and being in an English milieu: I will once again be able to use odd English idioms, complicated words, and the random smatterings of yiddish. They add such spice to my everyday language, and it's lacking here, amongst mostly non-native speakers. I miss them.

- 7 -

That's about it for this week. I have to go do my laundry and keep chugging away at a horrible philosophy book which I'm presenting on Tuesday, because tomorrow I want to go to Lausanne for the day and poke around. Two girls downstairs are going to Bern on Sunday for the same reason, but as much as it would be nice to go with people (especially ones who speak German), I think I will need the day to get some more work done. We'll see.

Don't forget to head over to Jen's for an extra helping of this week's Quick Takes!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Le vrai français

I think I hit the point this week where my brain has totally given up with the French. Hopefully this is just the point at which my brain is re-wiring, and that by next week everything will be functioning in tip-top shape and I'll be close to fluent. Or something. But on Tuesday I hit a low point: I was having such trouble expressing myself in class that my prof (who was trying to be kind, and reassured me that "it's not a language course") told me just to speak English. *sigh* And at judo it was no better, I simply could. not. speak. French. And just in the last couple of days I've found that I'm having an easier time getting words out in a reasonably quick manner (think: the chatter you get from an attention-starved four-year-old), but my comprehension has totally backslided (backslid? can we say that in English? Please add English to my growing list of "defunct languages". Soon I'll be at the point where I can only point at my own reflection in the mirror while I babble and drool).

Anyway, please watch this clip in order to better understand what my daily life is like here. I can't figure out how to embed the link, though it's probably not that hard. For those of you who understand le vrai français, I hope you laugh as hard as I did (okay, still do) when I first saw (and continue to watch on a regular basis) this clip. And for those who can't understand ... well, you'll have the more authentic-Kathryn-experience that way anyway, so don't worry.

"Je veux juste ... un sundae ... aux peanuts!"

Yeah, you and me both, buddy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Matchmaking: The Dead Art


Normally when people this of matchmaking, they think of yentas, overly-involved mothers, dowries, and nightmarish blind dates. Which stereotypes, like all stereotypes, are partly grounded in truth. But I think our culture has been deadened to the possibilities of the art of matchmaking by endless accounts and angry diatribes of gratuitously liberated professional women in their mid-30s screaming "I'm happy being single, leave me along already!" Which is fine, if that works for them. No one should have to suffer through 15 years of well-meaning friends and family members setting them up with guys who are just so sweet and, well, he's a little bit awkward but he means well and he has a good job, so just give him a chance, okay? If she's happy, leave her be.

But what about the rest of us?

Case in point: I go to lots of weddings. Lots and lots of weddings. I love weddings. But how many times have I been seated at a table entirely composed of single girls, or, alternately, a table full of people that I already know really well? I mean, hello! Earth to the bride - your new husband has brothers/cousins/friends/frat brothers/cousins' frat brothers who are dressed in snappy suits and looking great, I just spent an hour doing my hair and I'm wearing a new dress and shoes that hurt, and everyone's liquored up, dancing, and having a good time - you will never have a better opportunity to have young, single, hormonally-driven people meet each other than at a wedding reception! So why, why, why must I sit with my friends (whom I love, don't get me wrong) for 3 hours while I awkwardly attempt to catch the eye of the dude 3 tables over who had the cajones to wear a purple shirt with a silver tie and who, therefore, I could potentially consider as manly enough to deal with the likes of me? If I wanted to date any of these people at my table that I know, I would be doing so already!

Matchmaking doesn't have to be in-your-face, and it doesn't have to be well-organized. In fact, it doesn't even have to be known to be taking place, especially if your single friend is the type to get very flustered and do things like get drunk too fast and/or say embarrassing things in an attempt to be funny and/or go hide in your bedroom closet, where she may or may not end up crying into your old stuffed animal collection. Let's not analyze the reasons why your poor sobbing friend is single, since, as you hear warbling strains of Yesterday floating down from some corner of the second floor, they are perhaps more obvious than anyone would like to admit. Nor should it be a double date with you and your long-term chum/hubby - in fact, it shouldn't be, unless your friend is the type who needs to be dealt with in a manner containing all the subtlety of a hammer to the face. No, no.

Just throw a casual party, make sure there's wine and beer, and some good (not classical or light jazz) background music to kill the awkward silences. Invite a friend or two who is good at talking and gregariously outgoing. Once Potential Guy and Potential Girl have eased into the atmosphere a bit, introduce them to each other. Get them talking. Then scat. If they wander apart, try again a bit later. Then stop trying. Sometimes it just won't happen. But if you can find a way to get them in contact in the following days, say by email, or a Facebook message about "Hey, weren't you guys talking about swing dancing the other night? A colleague of mine goes to this club for the lessons on Fridays and I was thinking about going - have you heard of it?" by all means, do so! If they were smart and/or savvy enough to have gotten someone's contact information during the party, they probably wouldn't be single, and you wouldn't have had to go through the effort in the first place. Help a brotha out, yo. 

Now, doing this too often is called being a pain in the ass. But every once in a while is totally called for. Especially in our modern age of tweets, texts, Facebook, and hook-ups, it has become almost impossible to meet an unknown person of the opposite gender and engage them in conversation long enough to learn more about their personality than she drinks Heineken. Seriously people, for all y'all who've been lucky enough to be self-made in this department, extend a helping hand to your old buddy who's just such an awesome person, I can't believe he/she is still single! What's wrong with this world? 

And for the love of Pete, have some foresight when organizing your wedding tables. You shouldn't be the only ones celebrating when the clock strikes twelve.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Boardinghouse

It occurred to me earlier today that I live in a boarding house. Coming from a place with a history like Lowell's, I found that thought rather startling and just a tad bit depressing (anyone who's read Lyddie will understand). I was actually just going to leave it at that, when it occurred to me that I had not, in fact, told you anything else about where I live. Hence, this post.

(Can you tell that this Monday didn't kill me? I can write full sentences!)

I'm staying at L'Accueil, a foyer (residence) located near Plainpalais in Geneva. It's a girls-only res run by the Sisters of the Cross. So, technically, it's a convent, since the sisters live here too: their rooms are located in the same halls as ours, throughout the building. There are 6 floors: the ground floor has the reception area, phone booths, laundry machines, a Coke machine, a small study room with a piano, and the cafeteria where we eat breakfast 6 days a week. Floors 1-4 are bedrooms for the residents and some of the sisters, most of which are singles (like mine). Floor 5 is only sisters. (This is the French system, where they have the "ground floor": hence, floors 0-5 = 6 floors!) Floors 2 and 4 have full kitchens, and Floor 2 also has the chapel and a library/TV room. Every floor has a big table for eating at and hanging out, 2 bathrooms, a hallway of shower rooms, a room for ironing and a room for hanging your clothes to dry (useful because there are two washing machines but only one dryer). There is an elevator in the middle of the entryway, but this being Europe, most people take the stairs. We also have a small gym in the basement with yoga mats, exercise balls, a bike machine, and a rowing machine which you can sign up to use at the front desk.

My room is long and narrow. When you first walk in, there's an area with a sink, mirror, shelves, towel racks, and a bidet (!) on your right, and two large closets on your left. Then a sort of half-wall partition, and I have my bed with a shelf behind, a desk between the foot of the bed and my nice big window where my computer is, and then another desk built into the wall opposite the bed (next to the window) that has shelves, and since it gets less natural light than the other desk, I just use it to toss stuff on. Outside my window, I have apartments with nicely-kept balconies to look at, and the ambulance parking for the hospital (which is just around the corner). We're on a sort-of dead-end street, so there's not too much traffic noise, which is nice. (The ambulances don't seem to use their sirens between about 11pm and 7am, thank goodness!)

As I said, we get breakfast every morning but Sundays, which is really nice and takes a bit of hassle out of the beginning of the day. The sisters keep the common areas clean, and once every two weeks we get a change of bed linens and they come in to clean our washing-up area and to vacuum the floor. Also, there's "quiet hours" starting at 10pm, so even though we are free to come and go as we please (such an improvement over the place in Ireland!), we can't talk on the phone in our rooms or generally make noise after 10pm. Which is great for me, actually, because I usually go to bed around 10:30-11pm, and it's nice to have some quiet time to study and chill out a bit.

It's an older building, and like most post-WWII Catholic construction, it's ugly as sin. But it's comfortable and well-kept, and in a fantastic location. It takes me 12 minutes to walk to school, 5 minutes to church and any shop I could want (including groceries), two small blocks to the tram, 5 minutes to judo, 15 minutes to a lovely big park, etc. If I ever were to search for an apartment in this city I would want one right in this neighborhood. I might as well start selling my kidneys now, though. Geneva is such a touch place to find housing, and it's so expensive. But I like being in the foyer. Besides the great location, it's nice that I don't have to worry about major cleaning and upkeep, and it's also nice to have neighbors to hang out with sometimes. Especially between about 7 and 10pm, the place is really bustling, as people come home from school and work, and start making dinner and doing all sorts of other stuff. You always run into people in the hallways and kitchens in the evening. Pretty much everyone is friendly (and English-speaking!), so it's just really nice to have that option. If I lived alone I'd be depressed, bored, and lonely. So yeah, it's just really good here.

And that's the boarding house story.

Friday, October 14, 2011

7 Quick Takes


- 1 -

I'm wrecked. This is a very useful phrase that I picked up in Ireland to describe the level of my tiredness. I have to be careful not to have another flare-up. It's because I was putting in too much time at the library this week, trying to get information together for my paper. I'm a little concerned about my time frame, especially if I'm going to be getting things and/or going to get things in Zurich, Paris, and Oxford. Hopefully everything can be ordered. But it's also because the libraries aren't open all the time here, so instead of being able to work in the morning and evening and taking the whole afternoon off to rest and recupe, I end up having to spend all day in the library almost in one stretch because it closes at 6pm (and also for 2 hours at lunch - like, who does that?). So it's kind of rough on the system. Hopefully once I get over the initial beginning-research hump I'll be able to spread out my work in a more sane fashion.

- 2 -

Directly related to the above post, I left judo a half hour early this evening. I was so tired I was shaking (again). It was time to call it a night. I just get so frustrated that I'm not anywhere as good technically, or as in shape physically as I used to be. I forget what I'm supposed to do during sparring and I off-balance to the rear a lot well, because of my rear! There's a lot more of it now than there used to be, you see. Anyway, wicked frustrating. The guys are really nice about it though, I have to say. If they weren't I would have quit already. But they encourage me and take time to explain what I can do better, and some of the best ones loosen up a bit so we can work on techniques and timing instead of just muscling around. It's a really good club, I'm so happy to have found it.

- 3 -

On a related note, and then I promise that I'm done with judo stuff for the evening, I just signed myself up for a training weekend in Lyons with the club. Road trip! I hope I don't end up sharing a room with any dudes. If I understand it right, we'll drive in Saturday, hit the mat right away for training with the club there, and break for dinner. Stay in a hotel that night, see a bit of Lyons the next day, then go home. Should be fun, I think. 

- 4 + 5 - 

How could I forget this: Toni Morrison and Dick Marty were given honorary doctorates today at my university, and I remembered (and borrowed some headphones) just in time to watch their speeches by simulcast. It was supposed to be about human rights; Dick Marty spent 30 of his 40 speaking minutes dragging the US through the dirt and not really making a point. One more guy spreading hate and making it more difficult for people like me to live in places other than my own country. But Toni Morrison was actually very good. I was a little wary because her books are (very good but) kind of radical, and aside from the obligatory dig against "young white women who aren't feminists", she made some very good points. Basically, they were that she couldn't understand why she had been asked to speak about human rights and women's rights, as if, you know, women aren't human. [THANK YOU! Now can we abolish "Women's Studies" departments while we're at it? Talk about restraining the advancement of women - let's isolate ourselves so we can study and/or whine about how we're isolated.] She also said that women need to stop being violent to one another, and not just physically; and that when a women does violence to another person, it's a woman who needs to be the one to stop her. I was waiting for the obligatory "abortion is a good thing and a right!" nonsense, but actually instead of that, she even made mention to "when a woman slaughters her children", which I'm sure went over the heads of everyone listening but was an important point nonetheless. Baby steps, and all that. An interesting historical moment, watching these speeches. I can't say I was edified by them, but they were ... interesting.

- 6 -

Experiment Skinny Jeans was a success today - I wore them for the first time just with regular sneakers, and I didn't feel the need to go home and change all day! That was the last hang-up I had about wearing them, that is, wearing them with regular shoes and not just ballet flats (which kill my arches after a while). I have strange neuroses. Don't ask; I might just tell you. It would seem, more than 6 years after they first appeared on the style scene, that I've finally come around to wearing skinny jeans. It helps that I have great legs, if I do say so myself. May as well show 'em off from time to time.

- 7 -

I need a massage, like whoa. In lieu of that, I am going to go eat a cookie with chocolate on it, and go read in bed. Because, you know, that's what someone in the last few weeks of her first quarter-century does in a happening European city on a Friday night. 

Actually, that was depressing. Now I'm really going to bed. 

Don't forget to head over to Jen's for more, less depressing Quick Takes!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Playing Hooky

I played hooky today, kind of. Yesterday was a stunningly gorgeous day, and I spent it almost entirely in the library. Today was more of the same. Ergo, despite the fact that I have lots of work to do, I decided to take the afternoon off. So, so glad I did. I'll be extra productive tomorrow as a result, I'm sure.

Oh gosh, how can I describe the beauty of today? The sun was shining, the only clouds were little puffy ones hugging the tips of the mountains that ring the city, and the air was clearer than I've yet seen it (in general, the air quality here is pretty bad).

For some reason, I got hungry today way earlier than usual, to the point that I was afraid I was going to faint during my second class. I ended up leaving 15 minutes early so I could go downstairs and get a sandwich and a coffee. I sat outside in the sun and fresh air, ate some lunch, and felt ten thousand times better. I then decided that going back inside to read would be one of the Stupidest Things Ever, and that I should go wandering instead. Fortunately, I had remembered to bring my camera with me that morning, because I wanted to take a picture of the Reformation Wall, and morning is the best time to do it, because by noontime Guillaume Farel's head (guy on the far left) is obscured by shadows of tree branches.

Anyway. I proceeded to hop on a bus to see what "Genève Plage" was. As far as I can tell, not actually a "plage", though there were a large set of stone steps leading down into the lake. I must be spoiled, coming from the coast. Then I decided to hop on one of the little across-the-lake ferries and just ride around for a bit. It was really windy on the water, and the lake was super choppy. I sat right up front and got facefuls of water in between snapping photos of the vineyards in the distance. It was totally awesome. After a while I got off at "Parc Mon Repos", which is actually a rather large green space along the edge of the lake, and I laid in the sunshine and read a chapter of a book relating to my paper, and got some good ideas, and felt very rested and productive. Rejuvenated, really, is the term to use here. I kept getting distracted though, by the gorgeous panorama of the green lawn and purple flowerbeds rolling down to the blue blue lake, with the green mountains across the way and Mont Blanc appearing out of the clouds in the distance.

I'm home now, to update my blog and eat some dinner. Then I have Adoration tonight, and choir right after. How could today get any more awesome? Seriously. I'm going to get so much done tomorrow, all because I took a few hours off today. Awesome awesome awesome.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Eureka!

I think I've hit on a topic! For my major paper, that is. I was hemming and hawing because I wanted to do something that was related to Geneva, but continental reforms are totally not my specialty and also I really just don't know what sources are available here. But, I'm here, so I should really take advantage of the local materials and not just stick to EEBO like I've ben doing. The other problem, too, was finding a topic profound enough to be of publishable quality, but small enough to fit into 30-40 pages. (I can hear you all reacting out there, and you are divided into two groups: those who have not yet written a Master's thesis are scoffing and choking in disbelief, while the rest of you are nodding solemnly in agreement.)

So I spoke with my professor, who suggested I look through a collection of books just published by another one of our professors, which catalogues a set of correspondence (about 5,000 letters) written by a guy who lived in the Old City at the turn of the 18th century. Long story short, after lots of speed reading and flipping through pages, I think I will be examining something to do with the French Huguenot refugees who came through Geneva on their way to settle in Ireland during the 1690s.

Whatever, I think it's exciting. Cover your mouth when you yawn, would you?

So now I'm all excited to finally have a direction to move in. It's really hard when you're first trying to think of a project or a question, when you don't really know the area or what materials might be available to you. I'm also feeling the pressure because I'm leaving in 2.5 months and I need to have all of my primary research done by then so I can write my paper in the comfort of my home. At my desk in the kitchen. In between milkings and class prep. I live such a strange life.

One very fortunate thing was that I had gone into the professor's office to return her books, and I figured I should ask her now, while she was there, how to access the letters held in the private collections. She proceeded to tell me how difficult it was, but then said, "Oh, but I have photocopies of all the letters here which you can use!" and drew my attention to the hundreds of manila folders that took up most of her massive bookcases, where every one of the 5,000+ letters is photocopied and filed according to month and year. It was a researcher's dream. She's going to become my best friend, this prof. If she doesn't mind the drool spots on her floor.

Anyway, I'll be back in the library bright and early tomorrow. Which is good, because it's just starting to get chilly so I'm not so inclined to go out and nap on the lawn when I'm supposed to be working. I just hope I can find enough good material here to build a good case.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Facebook Poaching

But whatever, because it's my blog and I can do exactly as I please. I posted this on Facebook and thought myself so witty that I decided to repost it here, mainly so I can make myself laugh again.




I'm going to show off my mad German-reading skillz, and interpret for you this sign that I saw on the bus in Zurich. By "interpret", I mean more along the lines of "liturgical dance".


The rules for riding the bus are as follows:
1. No exploding and/or setting fire to the head of the person in front of you.
2. Don't not know why you are poor.
3. If you play guitar, we will put a large hole in your face.
4. No carpentry permitted.
5. Skating: ur doing it wrong.


Aren't you glad I can read German?

Friday, October 7, 2011

7 Quick Takes


- 1 -

I feel so moron. Every time I go to judo I end up getting a minor injury. Like nothing bad - the worst is my repeated sprained ankle and big toe. But for crying out loud, today I got laid up with a leg cramp in my calf. And on Tuesday, it was - get this - a friggin stretched tendon ... in my butt. No, I did not attempt to explain its exact location while I was limping around the mat. The worst part is, whoever I happen to be working out with at the time always is some guy who feels awful that he just hurt me, when it wasn't even him, it was just my body being retarded! And then they spend the rest of the evening apologizing to me, and then never work out with me again because I'm so fragile and delicate. Gah.

- 2 -

This is not related to anything, ever (hence its being in the Quick Takes), but this summer my hair has decided that it wants to be curly. Like, I sometimes get Shirley Temple-esque ringlets, especially in the front of my hair. It's so weird - I was the only kid in my family who didn't have curly hair when Iw as little (which was, in fact, because I didn't have any hair when I was little, but let's not get hung up on the details here), and as a general rule my hair was always very fine and stick-straight. In the last few years it started to get wavy and thicker, and now voilà the curls this summer. I love them, and I wish they wouldn't go limp after a few hours. Has anyone else experienced major hair changes as they've gotten older?

- 3 -

I should just rename this blog "I Love Switzerland." Because seriously, who wouldn't love a country where every grocery store has a chocolate aisle? And I mean real, good, quality chocolate, not the too-sweet North American crap. A whole aisle, dedicated to the stuff. 

I would also like to add that I bought two bottles of wine and a bar of chocolate yesterday for less than 9 francs, total. The wine was cheaper than a sandwich. I love this country.

- 4 -

One more Switzerland thing and then I'm done, I promise: I think its hilarious to see men in expensive business suits zipping along the sidewalk on little scooters. Not like Vespa scooters, though there are plenty of those (and sometimes on the sidewalk, I kid you not), but I'm talking the little metallic fold-up ones with neon green wheels that were all the rage when we were 10. Those kinds of scooters. Cracks me up every time.

- 5 -

Because I am the world's most ADD person ever, I've decided that I don't already have enough to do, so I just joined my church's choir. They only sing once a month, but the two guys in it are AMAZING omg omg omg. The rest consist of a handful of screechy old ladies (who put their heart into it, I must say) and some younger girls who whisper-sing. So the guys are excited to have a soprano, and they have already given me some short Palestrina-and-co. pieces to sing with them. I am, like, out of my mind excited. I heard them sing on Sunday evening (luckily I happened to go to the one Mass they've done since I've been here) and I was literally crying, they were so good. I've cried over church music before, but never, ah, as a positive reaction. I thought I was going to float away during the Our Father, it was so beautiful. So now I'm in. And I wish we could practice 6 times a week.

- 6 -

I've started doing Language Tandems this week. It's an online thingy run through the university that hooks up people who want to exchange languages on their own time. It's basically just one-on-one with a native speaker, and free, and so it's a lot more intense and can be more frequent than a hour-and-a-half, once-a-week, 50-students-in-the-class oral French course which I had intended to take originally. I had a Spanish meeting with a doctoral student, and even though I was mistaking a lot of French words, it just feels so much more natural to speak Spanish. Physically, it's comfortable, whereas with French I feel like I'm constantly in danger of choking on my own tongue. I'd like to be able to practice my Spanish more just so I don't lose it entirely. It's all in my head; after a half-hour I could already feel it flowing more easily. And I've also had two French meetings so far with a secretary at the school (and her friend, today), which is great, again just to get the language flowing. I make a lot of mistakes but they correct the worst ones, and it's good just to get my tongue moving and wrapping around the words. And it's nice, too, to be able to make mistakes in a comfortable atmosphere like that. So, so far, so good. 

- 7 -

Wow, Quick Takes flies when you ... uhh ... don't post all week. One last piece of awesome: my mom sent me an email the other day - in Latin. To tell me, in fact, about an online radio station where you can listen to the news in Latin. I defy any reader out there to out-geek my mother. Go ahead. Just try.


Thanks for reading, everyone! I promise to be a better blogger next week. Don't forget to head over to Jen's for some more awesome Quick Takes!