Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's Crunch Time,

Which means life is getting difficult at RA. Presentations, essays, exams... well the exams come later, but they're looming on the horizon, which is, in many ways, worth. To add to all the academic stress, a few of my good friends and I have an addition weight on our shoulders: that of the soon-to-be-released media website. It's been a lot of fun, putting together this new website, but it's also a lot of extra work.

Add to that, the new issue of Tabula Rasa, which I am putting together with Martijn and Anne, who are both involved in the website as well, and you have a stressful few weeks.

Unfortunately the stress got to me Monday; I went home after my French class Monday morning feeling so incredibly exhausted, I slept for two hours, then wrote an email to my teachers saying I wouldn't be in class. I worked on an essay for an hour, then slept for a half hour, then worked for another hour, then slept for an hour...

I stayed home Tuesday to, except for a half hour or so in the afternoon when I went to pick u pa book at the Roosevelt Study Center and mail a birthday present to my sister.

The Roosevelt Study Center is a really nice place. It is in no way connected to the Roosevelt Academy - except that students are welcome to make use of their resources, etc. I am always amazed, however, at how welcome students are. In order to go to the RSC, as it is abbreviated, you have to email them and make an appointment. If you are going for a particular book (which you can find in the internet catalogue of the Zeeuwse Bibliotheek, the Middelburg's public library), they will set it aside for you. When you arrive, you ring a doorbell, and someone comes to get you at the door, then escorts you to the actual Study Center. (This is not a matter of being friendly and welcome, however; this is a matter of security.) In the Study Center, there are two large, round tables, and rows of bookshelves. It is not stock full of books, and the bookshelves have wheels on them - I suppose they are put away at night or something. Anyway, you select a book, and sit down at the table - and then they ask you if you would like a cup of tea or coffee! How civilized!!

But the purpose of the Roosevelt Study Center is Dutch-American relations, Zeeuwse history, etc. And it is fascinating. I went to pick up a book I needed for a presentation and got distracted by A one-volume abridged edition of H.L. Mencken's The American Language. It's from 1977, so quite outdated for linguistics, and absolutely fascinating. The first section is called "The Two Streams of English", and basically talks about the simultaneous developments of American and British English and how they moved away from point A - except that British moved towards B and American went in the opposite direction (would that be point Z?) or, anyway, a different direction.

I really hope RA doesn't mess things up so bad as to not offer any other linguistics courses. Professor Mark Janse, who taught my introductory course and is very well-known in the field, as well as being an interesting instructor, has left RA for Oxford. One can't really blame him for that career decision, of course, but as a result, the classes that he was supposed to teach have been canceled. So, although Ernestine is taking over the 300-level class on Linguistic Theories and Linguistic Practice, Professor Janse's classes on Historical Linguistics and Language Contact & Language Death both seem to have been canceled.

And those are the two aspects of linguistics that most interest me!
Of course, there is always the option of doing an Independent Research Project (as long as I get a 3.3 GPA), but that simply isn't as much fun as taking a course. The thing about linguistics, is that it's exciting and fascinating and fun, and what's the fun of it if all you are doing is privately studying a topic and writing a formal research essay about it? The only conversation you get is that which you have with your mentor.

And I could write a research paper anywhere with a library.

Ah well, no time to worry about that now. Next semester I have the linguistic theories class to look forward to, and if things work out well for me, I just might be able to go on exchange next fall. But in order for that to happen...

I better get to work on my two presentations for tomorrow: The first, on transportation and travel in Victorian England, and the second, on Moliere's Les Femmes Savantes (that one's for French class).

Friday, November 9, 2007

Hi Everyone!

I never post anymore. I wonder how that happened? I think of it often enough, but never get around to it.

Today I have nothing particular to say, so I will just write a few things as they come to mind.

In literature, we finished studying Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now in class yesterday. This is unfortunate, because I still have 200 pages left to go. Monday, we start reading Moll Flanders, by Daniel Defoe. This is also unfortunate, since I haven't started that one yet. I might as well also add that we finished Vanity Fair three or four weeks ago, and I haven't finished that yet, either.

I hate not finishing books!

Unfortunately, I have too much other work to do.

French is become a more and more demanding class, which is inconvenient because I don't feel like I am getting very much out of it. I should have gone into the 200 level, not the 100. I almost wish I could take the 300 next semester, but it doesn't fit in my schedule.

I have chosen my classes for next semester, and they are:
Introduction to American Studies (100)
Stylistics (200)
Linguistic Theories and Linguistic Practice (300)
Film in Context (200)

Originally I wanted to take Journalism in stead of film, but I have to take film because I have to complete another track, due to various complications with the way RA is revising the whole setup of the department, which is really messing things up for arts and humanities students like me.

Today we did our first debate in rhetoric; I was very nervous but thought I did pretty well after all. Then I got my grade and that made me think that I had done less well (but it was a B, totally respectable).

Last Saturday, I went to Brussels with my friends Eva and Dilyana. It was kind of hectic and unplanned... I've never been to Brussels before (at least, not recently). I went earlier then the others because they wanted to sleep, and intended to go to the comic book museum. Unfortunately, my sense of direction gets very muted when I am in unknown cities, and I instead spent an hour and a half wandering around trying to find it. It was further complicated when Dilyana and Eva missed their train and came an extra hour later.

But it was still fun, and worth it. I bought 400 grams of delicious Belgian chocolate. It won't last much more than a week, but that still isn't bad. And it is so nice to sit down in my armchair with Trollope, a cup of tea, and a chocolate. Actually, the chocolate doesn't really go with the book, because when I actually eat it, I have to put down the book and think about the chocolate I am tasting, because it is just so good.

Today and yesterday seem to have officially brought us into winter, weather-wise. It's been hailing a lot. I had forgotten that it does that here. It's kind of unpleasant when it does that at night, since I live on the ground floor - and by ground floor, I really mean ground floor. The houses are not even slightly raised above the streets outside. I can sleep through anything - anything, except really loud, hard rain (and, apparently, breaking glass, but that's a very old and different story). What's more, the spout from the gutters dumps all the water right outside by room, from one or two stories up, and it makes really loud splatting sounds.

Ah, the inconveniences of student housing. If I didn't like my housemates and house so much, I would try to move to Roggeveen.

The reasons I like my house so much are because, first of all, I get to live with and know people who I would otherwise never talk to. I'm not only the only second year student in my house, but also the only arts and humanities student (except for Romy but she does singing at the conservatory half the time so she's also rarely around), and would hardly come across the other students. Also, we have house dinners. From Monday-Thursday, we take turns cooking. The food is usually pretty good. Last night, for example, Daan and Jesse made red cabbage, fried potatoes, and meatballs. On Wednesday, I made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon bits. It only costs ten euros a week, and you get four meals, plus bread. That's a pretty good deal. All you have to do is wash dishes one night and cook another night.

Also, our house is very spiffed-out. (I think I just made up that phrase but it works well for what I am trying to say.) There are too many housemates for everyone to cook each week, so one of us just pays ten euros a week for house expenses and extras. So far, we have bought an extra fridge, a computer for the living room (for music, quick reference, movies and TV shows online, etc.), an X-Box, and other things.

Unfortunately, we recently had a house invasion/robbery, and the X-box and all of the DVDs (including my copy of Borat!) were stolen from the living room. Ah well, it is probably good for the sake of the grades of some of my housemates (who will remain unnamed ;).

Now it's Friday and I feel a little bored and restless. I haven't done anything this afternoon/evening, including any reading. How silly! I watched "Asterix & Obelix: Missie Cleopatra", so that's at least good for my French, and two episodes of "Frasier". (Maybe I could pass that off as preparation for my American Studies course?) Now I'm hungry again, but it's 11:20 so not exactly the best time for cooking! I guess I'll go to sleep and get up early. I have to go to the library tomorrow to stock up on books for my short literature essay and find a book in French, that has to be French literature, but can be the children's version, and I have to read it by November 22. I don't have time for all this!

Easy to say, when I've spent an entire afternoon/evening on msn, facebook, and watching episodes of "Frasier"!!

Monday, September 17, 2007

A quick overview...

You know you're back in school when you start talking and writing about things as if you were giving a presentation or writing an essay.

I keep meaning to post about various things, and figure I had better get it done before time zips by (too late, that's already happening) and I forget about them completely, or they are too far in the past for me to post about them on a relatively up-to-date blog (hahaha, as if!).
Attention: This blog entry is baseball-heavy!!

My trip to the Twin Cities to visit Koko at Macalester
or
An experience with baseball in the Midwest


My summer vacation ended on a high note, as I was able to fly back to the Netherlands through Minnesota and stay with my friend Koko for three days in the Twin Cities.

I think perhaps the best possible way to convey this experience to my faithful readers is to publish clips from my journal about the experience. So, enjoy...

Monday, August 20th, 2007
9:02 a.m (I think), Central Time (I think...)
Koko's House! (Duplex, I mean)
St. Paul, Minnesota (!!!)

I haven't been to a new city like this in AGES.

Well, wait, I guess Brugge and Rotterdam were new, and Middelburg was new when I got there last year, but I had been to the Netherlands before, and it wasn't that different.
Okay, so I've been to Minneapolis/St. Paul before, too...
Let me rephrase that: This is the first time I've been to a "new" city in the U.S. since I don't know when. I never go on exciting new local trips, just Seattle and California (Seattle's practically an old friend now).
Koko met me at the airport last night - such a treat! People only ever meet me at the airport in Portland. We took a cab back to her place at about 11, talking and laughing and having fun. I called Mom to let her know I made it, and Koko and I stayed up past 2, talking and gossipping.
And I woke up at nine! I might as well get up and get ready now, because then... EXPLORING!
Tuesday, August 21st, 2007
around noon, Minnesota time
MINNY-SODA!!
Koko's working, so I have the day to myself to explore. Kind of scary. The funny thing is, it's easier for me to be thrown in a foreign city, with it's compact, centralized city center, unknown (or only slightly familiar) language, and easy-to-locate maps, easy to understand subways, buses, public transportation.
I haven't been to an unfamiliar American city since I don't know when. Isn't that strange? Paris? No problem for me. I don't know it like a local, but then again, I don't carry a map around with me, either.
Minneapolis/St. Paul, though? Not so much. It's not one but TWO interconnected cities, huge and sprawling, with (according to Koko) a relatively useless lightrail, and clusters of interesting shops and restaurants spread hours away from each other.
Right now, however, I'm at a great little cafe, Kopplins. Mom & Dad found it on a google "espresso map" - one of only two entries in the Twin Cities. Crazy.
But it's so nice! There are cups hanging from the wall, with a description of the drink that comes in them: "ESPRESSO RISTRETTO: A double shot pulled ristretto-style to extract all of the sweetness of the bean." Or what I got: "CAFE LATTE: More milky than a cappucino, with about one part espresso to five parts steamed milk"(they only sold 16 oz.) - very good, definitely equal to the better Portland lattes. Unfortunately, I ordered before I saw the "CAFE MOCHA: Our dark (about 70%) house-blended hot chocolate with a double espresso. Available traditional or sweetened."
I shouldn't have gotten orange juice with my latte, because I'm afraid I'll have to try the mocha as well. Gosh, I could sit here all day (as long as my pen doesn't run out of ink...).
My plan for the day, I guess, will have to be adjusted. I just want to sit here and write. It probably took me about an hour to get here... Whoa. According to my (shiny, spanking new) pedometer, it was a two-mile walk! Crazy!
Oh yes, I could sit here all day.
You see, my original plan was to walk down here for breakfast - a nice, Portland-style coffee, maybe a muffin - then continue further, back up to Grand and over to Victoria to look at a few stores I found in my handy-dandy "eat.shop.twincities" book. Afterwards, I would walk back to Koko's house by 3 so I could catch a glimpse of her when she comes home after her shift at the Japanese restaurant, before rushing back out to her job as publications assistant at the Macalester church for a couple more hours. That way, I could take a nap, relax, maybe post something to my blog or re-organize my suitcase.
But it's 12:30 right now, so... I dunno. We'll see...
Oh, look at that! "ESPRESSO MACCHIATO: Our espresso 'marked' with a small amount of creamy steamed milk. Available American (4 oz.) or traditional Italian (2 oz.) style."
That is the best solution to the macchiato problem! Starbucks makes a latte macchatio, which is like a latte but with less espresso (I think, I've never had it). Most places I've worked or bought at, however, serve an espresso macchiato, and people always come and order an espresso macchiato, expecting a LATTE macchiato, and instead ending up with an ESPRESSO macchiato, then raise hell, thinking we didn't take the right order.
But anyway. What happened yesterday...
...I need a mocha first. :D
Teehee, I feel like a combination of pig and coffee freak... and I love it!
Yesterday morning, Koko and I got up and showered, etc. I woke up around 9, this after staying up till 2:30 or so the night before. Jet Lag/Bakery time at work!
We went out for coffee first, at a place near Koko's house. I had.. was it Turkish coffee? It was like a latte with condensed milk instead of regular. No foam or design or anything, so nothing like the mocha I just got. This barista is good... it's a combination tree/rosette and heart, like I never learned to do. Yum.
Oh that is so good. What is better than unsweetened chocolate mixed with unsweetened espresso? The only thing I can think of is when it's spicy, too. ;)
I wonder if people here would think me weird for taking a picture of this... I don't think I care...
After coffee, we met with Koko's friend Jalene for lunch.
Man this mocha is driving me to distraction. I can't take a sip without losing my train of thought and thinking about this delicious blend of bittersweet combined with milk for this... this.. this Perfect Thing!
Gosh, I can't even remember yesterday anymore. I guess after lunch, we went back to Koko's place, then to Uptown Minneapolis, which ad a cluster of eat.shop.twincities destinations I wanted to check out.
Seriously. This mocha is good to distraction. It's probably the best mocha I've ever head. Forget that remark about spicy mochas, that's a totally different thing. This is just delicious. It's like eating a fancy dark chocolate bar... only not. Mmmmmmmm...
Uptown was not what I expected. Doesn't "Uptown" sound sort of... fancy? Ritzy?
Well, it wasn't. Some of the shops were, but there were lots of homeless people at every corner. On the bus on the way back, there were at least two passengers that were severely under the influence of something - one so much so that he more or less passed out on the bus, and although several passengers, as well as the driver, tried to wake him up at his stop, he hardly lifted his head.
Weird.
But while we were Uptown, we did some exploring.
Our first stop was a used bookstore, full of books in good condition for a very reasonable price, that come with a history of previous readers. What, I ask, is better than a great deal on a used book that somebody else has read and loved (or hated)? (Besides this mocha, of course. It's still too much for me.) I found a book I had been fruitlessly searching for in Portland.
It was awesome. Almost as awesome as this mocha, which has reached the stage where it is a murky brown puddle at the bottom of my cup with no foam left on top, luke-warm milk with the thick chocolate and grainy espresso grounds that have sunk to the bottom of the cup over the last 45 minutes or so (because it is now 1:20. Yikes).
We looked at more shops, and my lucky streak continued with the discovery of an Urban Outfitters T-shirt I had been fruitlessly searching for in Portland. This shirt, which is a brick red color and says something along the lines of "Ho lasciato il mio cuore in VENEZIA", with the words dripping down into a bowl of spaghetti, had been a steep 25 bucks when I first saw it in Portland, and had disappeared from the store completely when I next returned. But there it was, in the Urban Outfitters of Uptown Minneapolis, on sale for only 14.98, take an additional 50% off!
I think it must have been my reward for so many hours of flight delay in Denver on Sunday.
Unfortunately, the shoe store only carried Minnetonka Moccassins up to size 10, but you can only be so lucky, right?
After Uptown, we went back to Koko's for a break, then we went to Izzy's Ice Cream for a very healthy dinner (I had a sundae with Dark Chocolate Zin ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream and pecans). Then back to Koko's again to talk, surf the web a little, and watch the documentary "Word Play", which is about Will Shortz, the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, and the National Crossword Championships, held annually. Also about the celebrities who enjoy doing the crossword (including MLB pitcher Mike Mussina puzzling it out in the dugout).
And I believe I will have to purchase a book of NYT crosswords and get hooked. (It would also be very beneficial to my embarrassing vocabulary deficiency.)
And the cherry that's on top of the nuts, whipped cream, hot fudge, and delicious ice cream that IS this three-day trip in Minneapolis/St. Paul? The Minnesota Twins are hosting the Seattle Mariners tomorrow at 12:10, while Koko is working. So I can go to the game without missing out on time with Koko or dragging her to an (unfortunately) indoor sporting event, which I know she doesn't want to attend, AND I can root against the Mariners, when they will for ONCE be the visiting team, with no obnoxious Seattle fans cheering whenever the screen tells them to or booing when the opponent's fans get too loud for Seattle's comfort. We'll see how Minnesota fans are cheering, though; I hope they're a bit more diehard than Seattle. Seattle has become second only to the Yankees in the book of Grace's Least Favorite Fans in Baseball.
But my hand, elbow, and shoulder are all aching from writing this novella-length entry; my latte, OJ, and mocha are all gone, and it's time for me to be moving along with my itinerary for today.
22 August
Twindome
12:17 pm

Wow, the Twindome. MARINERS SUCK! Lose, lose, lose!


This is where David Ortiz used to play. You know, despite all that stuff people say about domed stadiums, this isn't so bad. The colors are pretty nice; I really like the blue seats against the green turf. The ceiling looks like a down comforter or something. Ichiro was just throwing fly balls with the left fielder (either Adam Jones or Jose Guillen), which I've never seen them do. Then I realized, it's because the ball must kind of blend in with the roof. It must be really weird to always see the ball against the sky, then come to an indoor stadium and have to judge a ball against a white ceiling.
And indeed, Ichiro, even the great Ichiro Suzuki, takes a few wrong steps on a routine fly ball. That's interesting.





Later - 3:10 pm
Koko's room
Wow, that was a fast game. It couldn't have been much more than two hours and 15 minutes. It wasn't a great game, either. The final score was 8-4 Twins. The Twins scored all their runs in the first two innings (7 in the first, 1 in the second) and the Mariners scored 2 runs in both the 7th and 8th innings. So there was a kind of exciting inning or two, then a bunch of boring innings where very little of interest happened and neither team advanced many runners, and then the last 3 innings were relatively exciting. Of course, by then, I found myself rooting for the Mariners a little bit, but I got over it. I just have to admit that I do like both Yuniesky Betancourt AND Adam Jones, their rookie outfielder.
However, several interesting things did happen, both on the field and off. Torii Hunter nearly collided with the left fielder, Jason Kubel, and when Torii made the catch, they hardly looked each other in the eye for an apology or anything. I've seen several near-collisions, and the players usually smile or say something or at least swat each other's behinds afterward. I wonder if there's any tension between Hunter and Kubel.
In the 7th inning, Ben Broussard hit a home run to left, which Kubel very nearly caught. In fact, he did catch it; he jumped and reached over the wall, and the ball hit the webbing of his glove, then slid out of it.
The Twins also have all sorts of players that I've never heard of, but that are apparently big hometown heroes, like a newbie named Tommy Watkins, and the leadoff batter, Alex Casilla. His at-bat song was "Gata Traicionera", which was nice as I'd never heard that song outside of the Dominican Republic or my iPod.

When Adam Jones replaced Ichiro in the 7th, he looked around at the fans and the dome in a kind of curious, surprised way. I bet he's never played there before this series, and it is a kind of funky place. But then he twisted to his left and flung his right arm around and under and released a small orange something, letting it fly into the stands. It looked like a mini bouncy ball, but he had thrown it pretty hard; I think a bouncy ball would have reached the stands with a light toss. Maybe it was a wrapper or similar trash, and he couldn't just leave it on the field...
But yeah, I gotta admit, I do rather like Adam Jones. He's always looking at the people in the stands, but he doesn't seem unfocused.
That's the great thing about watching baseball games in person: you get to see the players do all of these things, little everyday things, that just makes it all so much more interesting and entertaining, as well as making the players come off as much more real than they seem on TV.

Sigh. In other baseball news, the Red Sox picked the player they want in exchange for Wily Mo: Chris Carter.
Okay, based on names alone, who would you pick: Wily Modesto Pena, or Chris Carter? I'm sad Wily Mo's gone, he was definitely the closes thing I had to a favorite.
In conclusion (there I go again, with the academic speak!) my trip to Minnesota was a highly successful introduction to the Midwest. I hope one day to return and experience firsthand Minnesota's independent league and the new ballpark, which will soon replace the Twindome.
At home with my family and the Portland Beavers (July - August 2007)
As you may know, I spent my summer working six days a week at a bakery and doing... uh... nothing, I guess. With the exception of becoming a great supporter of Portland's Minor League Baseball team, the Portland Beavers of the AAA level. I gotta say, the first time I saw the name "Yordany Ramirez" on the screen at PGE Park, I knew that a) Yordany HAD to be from the Dominican Republic, and b) that the Beavers were finally diversified. Besides Yordany, other international representatives included were two [French-speaking] Canadian players. (I had a real good time cheering for one batter in English, the second in Spanish, and the third in French, all in one inning.) It was also nice to see former/current Major Leaguers Shea Hillenbrand and Hiram Bocachica back in action, after having seen them play against each other in Seattle on numerous occasions (Shea for the Sox, and Bocachica, Franny's nickname-sake, on the Mariners).
Even though the Beavers had one of the worst records in the Pacific Coast League, it somehow happened that only one or two of the 6 or so games I attended were at all uninteresting. Others involved record setting grand slams, incredible defensive plays, and a particularly interesting game that involved the reversal of a called third strike to end an inning, leading to the ejection of not one, not two, but three Beavers players and coaches, including the manager. This in turn led to a shortage in coaches, so although I did not get to see Yordany Ramirez play ball that day, I did get to see him coach first base - something he had obviously never done before!
June 22 - 27 2007: Family trip to Seattle to see the RED SOX!
Ages and ages ago, at the beginning of the summer, my family took five days off of work and other obligations to go on our more or less annual baseball vacation: Seattle Mariners hosting our beloved Boston Red Sox. However, we also spent a couple of days in Seattle BEFORE the Red Sox arrived, allowing us to explore some parts of Seattle we can't get to on the days we spend 5, 6, or more hours at the ballpark.

On this particular trip, we spent some time in the parts of Seattle that I no longer remember the names of. I do remember that we went to Belmont, saw the giant Lenin statue as well as the troll under the bridge; went to Gasworks Park with old friends of my mom, had coffee at the Caffe Umbria that replaced one of our favorite Torrefazione Italias, tried several bakeries and cafes, and of course, returned to the famous (and delicious) Top Pot Donuts.






Baseball-wise, the Mariners swept the Sox, making it 8 (or 9?) consecutive games the Red Sox had lost at Safeco Field. How's that for a nasty streak? (Luckily they redeemed themselves in August with an incredible 4-3 win.) During Batting Practice, Manny did his best to avoid the fans (left). On the other hand, I made good use of my Dominican language skills by introducing myself to a man on the field who was talking to many of my favorite baseball players: Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Wily Mo Pena, and Julio Lugo. He turned out to be a childhood friend of Julio Lugo's from Puerto Rico, traveling around with a friend of Wily Mo's from the DR, catching all the games, all over the country. He was really nice, met up with us on the mezzanine and told all sorts of fascinating stories about the behind-the-scenes Red Sox. Franny got to ask about when the Red Sox players ate lunch during day games, and he explained that Modest Manny is misrepresented in the media.


So the losing was ALMOST made up for. But not quite.
Still, better to see a losing Red Sox team than to see no Red Sox at all... ;) (And we had really good seats!! [below])
But I may never forgive the Sox for getting rid of Wily Mo Pena, who was fast becoming my favorite Red Sox player. Okay, that's not true, I'm already over it, but why do they always get rid of a player right when I'm settling on him as my favorite? Now I'll have to go with Yordany Ramirez of the Portland Beavers, though I know that he's too talented to be stuck in AAA for long.Good-bye, Wily Mo! It was nice to have seats so close to you this summer (with a sign reading "FANATICA DE WILY MO") and to drop Dominican cookies and a note for you and Papi in your dugout in 2006.

Monday, August 27, 2007

And so... it begins

Ah, the work, the scramble, the hurry, the pressure, the weight hanging over you...
Good times, I tell you, good times.

Very happy with most of my classes so far. Much less happy with one, but I won't say which. I must say, however, that Rise of the Novel so far looks VERY promising. It turns out that several people in the class either did not KNOW they were supposed to do a lot of the reading over the summer, or simply didn't bother to do so. So, having read one and a half of the required books, I am actually in relatively good shape.

I mustn't let that go to my head! But really, it doesn't get much better than good books and good teacher. And a comparative essay at the end! I can almost do those in my sleep, they were so drilled into us at high school. I am very much looking forward to all of this reading. Tomorrow, I finish my classes at 11, so I will head to the library and read, and be done with Dickens before Thursday's class for sure. Then I can spend the weekend skimming over Emma by Jane Austen in preparation for the next few weeks, and spend those two weeks on the next two (much longer) books. I think I will be fine.

I am also very happy with my new housemates. They are all very nice and friendly. We had our first house dinner tonight and it was quite fun. I spend too much time at the table (and doing the dishes afterwards). Luckily, it is the beginning of the semester; plenty of time before dinner is sitting down for ten minutes, shoveling food into your mouth, and then pulling an all-nighter. That is what seems to happen the last month and a half of the semester!

My room feels like home again, and it is very cozy since I cleaned and did a little rearranging. I am drinking tea from my "Smart Women: Thirst for Knowledge" mug, sitting on my orange chair with my laptop, get to fall asleep hugging my positively huge pillow, and am back to tying back the burgundy curtains with my familiar green ribbons.

Soon, though, I will be exploring the newer things that are here in Middelburg. The new Illy Cafe, the new Koestraat building where several of my friends have moved, the new supermarket, and of course, meeting all of the new students. There is a student here for the semester from Georgia, and two American boys in my history class. Not to mention plenty of international students (though perhaps not so many as expected), including my housemate Dana, who is Belgian but has lived mostly in Panama.

So there is a lot to do. And the first thing?

Read Great Expectations.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

It's been a long time since I last posted, as multiple family members have been kind enough to remind me. (Hey, family members! If you post comments here, I may write more often!)

And unfortunately, I won't be able to change too much about that right now. This is why:

  • Classes start day after tomorrow, Monday
  • I have to study for the French qualifying exam, which takes place Monday at 845 am
  • For the third time since I chose my classes last May, the authorities have directed my attention to the fact that yet another one of my classes has been canceled: there will be no 199 Dutch this fall. After agonizing about the fact that there were very few classes left that I found interesting, I decided to see if I could get into The 200 literature class, Rise of the Novel. Luckily, Dr. van Werven was nice enough to let me in at the last minute (although he can, of course, change that); however, this means I have to catch up on all of the reading that the other students did over the break. (Thus the large addition to my "to-read" shelf on goodreads.com.)
  • I am the chair of the school magazine, Tabula Rasa, and have as yet very, very little to show for it.
  • I have to get up bright and early on Wednesday to take care of some residency issues in the Hague.

So I don't think I will be writing too much again for a while. Hopefully, I will read all of "Great Expectations" before 13.45 on Monday; maybe then I will be able to post another quick note. I would really like to tell you all about my three-day trip to Minnesota, so I will do my best...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Board elections, sociolinguistics & gender

Technically, I'm supposed to be working on my essay draft for human geography; I have a meeting with my instructor later today to discuss my draft for this 2500-word paper. So far I have 346 words. Sometimes I have a hard time motivating myself.

Yesterday in sociolinguistics, we discussed language and gender. A tricky topic, but more fun because of the fact that it is sociolinguistics. Professor Janse was auditing the class, as head of department, but as he is also a) a linguist, and b) a man, he added a little dimension to our discussion. Also a little intimidation.

The discussion was, as usual, very interesting, and, as is even more usual, a little strange. Gender and language is one student's favorite linguistic topic, so she is very enthusiastic about it. We touched on all manner of bizarre subjects and the instructor constantly had to draw our attention back to the task at hand.

Janse left at the break, during which I ate strawberries with Liv and Ellie and talked to friends in the courtyard. Back in class, we got into a discussion of words such as "gingerbread man", the "Actor/actress" distinction, etc, which led to the topic of snowmen.

"Why are they called snowMEN?"
"Because they have a hat."
"But look at them. The first snowman ever did not have a hat at first. Now compare a snowman to a gingerbread cookie. A snowman looks more like a gingerbread woman, who has a skirt, than a gingerbread man, who has two separate, distinct legs. So if you had just built the first snowman ever, but had not given him any features yet, he would look more like a curvy woman in a skirt, than a straight man in pants."
"Grace, what happened to you! Your talking again!" said Dr. Lahey.
I blushed and jerked my thumb back to where Janse had been sitting. "He left."
"Oh is that what it was? I thought it might have been..."
So then we got into a discussion of how men affect our conversation, and I had two excellent examples in Janse's presence and absence and in my silence at home at the dinner table with my six male housemates. We also reminded the teacher how we had suggested, in our mid-term evaluations, that we be allowed to bring a date to our gender discussion to even it all up a bit.

That class is simply the best. I hope the 300 level is this much fun next semester.

In other news, elections for committee boards are coming up. Some foreign students want to make a new RASA rule stating that at least one-third of the RASA board be foreign students. It's a good idea, I think, but completely impractical, as I only know of one foreign student who is even running for board.

My main dilemma is which basket to put all of my eggs into. Unfortunately, they can't be split, and I have to choose between the RA yearbook and the RA magazine/newspaper, Tabula RASA (TR). I was originally planning to run for chair of yearbook, because I had a lot of fun doing that this semester but would really love to make the whole committee much more organized and thought-out, and have a lot of ideas for how to do this. I would love to arrange the committee from the beginning of the year, have a person specified as photographer for each and every event, etc, etc, etc. However, TR needs a new board, as none of the current members can re-run, and they are having a hard time finding candidates. Of course, I should not do TR because they need me instead of Yearbook, which I want to do, but when I think about taking a board position on TR, I realize how much work there is to be done there, too.

For starters, the attitude that this school has toward its magazine needs to be turned around. People are downright disrespectful of the work we put into TR, and then they turn around and talk about RA*dio -- as if interviewing the RASA chair about goldfish was a hard-hitting journalistic piece. Second, TR can change its image and focus to gain a lot more respect and readers from the student body, without turning into a popularity contest of grocery counter tabloid. I'm already thinking: letters to the editors, more opinion pieces, articles about more of the everyday occurrences that occur at RA, and less stupid things such as that article about "is it worth it to turn your A into an A+". As if many RA students were even in the situation at the first place - and then there's the fact that there is no difference between an A and an A+ in your GPA.

That's beside the point, though; I just meant that TR could be much choosier about its articles; committee meetings could be more frequent, more involved, etc; and it could gain back readers from the student body. But yearbook could also be much more organized, have a better jump start on the process, maybe even have an organized THEME this year.

What to do... what to do...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

FINALLY!

Oh happy day - by first A of the semester came on Monday, followed by another on Tuesday! The first was for a sociolinguistics quiz, and the second, for a geography presentation. It is really lucky that the presentation was so good, seeing as Nikky and I worked on it from 730 on Monday evening until 3 in the morning. We presented for the entire class, a combination of powerpoint presenting, a video, and discussion with the class. The best part, though, is that the teacher said in her assessment "presentation skills were excellent!" Especially since Nikky and I both count presentations as our weakest points, scholastically.

Monday I also had my Dutch mid-term. I think I got an A- or a B+. I hope... One girl said she talked to the teacher after class, and that she had said "I just flipped through them and I think a lot of people failed already." how do you fail that? In one exercise, you had to fill in the correct conjugated form of the given verb; in another you had to write in the correct possessive pronoun; then there were ten questions with short phrases and sentence parts to be arranged in the correct order, and finally a short essay on "a day in your life", of 140-150 words.

And let's not forget: we had dictionaries and grammar and vocabulary lists.

The only thing I'm even slightly worried about is my essay part, I probably put wrote some sentences in the wrong order.

Yesterday was the psycholinguistics mid-term. I think it went okay. For each question, I knew something about what he was talking about; there were only two of the 12 which I mostly guessed about. What got me was the essay question, concerning the "psychological process, physiological means and physical mechanisms" involved in language. Hmm... where does one of those start and the other begin? And which parts of language production are which? Creation of a message is subconscious... is it psychological? The only thing I knew for sure was that the motor control strip and auditory area are responsible for the physical aspects of language production and comprehension. Seriously, too many "ph-" and "ps-" words for me in that sentence.

Just what is physiology, anyway? I'll have to consult my dictionary.

Tomorrow I have a sociolinguistics exam at 4, then I have to cook dinner... I don't know what yet! At 830 there's a stupid yearbook meeting; our wonderful board hasn't been very organized and nothing has been done. So this meeting is absolutely necessary. As soon as it's done, though, Jeanine and I are watching the BBS version of Pride and Prejudice to celebrate the arrival of spring break! Because on Friday, all I have is one half-hour meeting concerning an essay outline which probably will not even exist by then anyway!

My other plans for Friday include lunch with Anne - we're thinking pancakes, but I'm also going to introduce her to Dr. Pepper and possibly fried green plantains (interesting combo, I know - and spending a good chunk of time at the library, getting my sociolinguistics essay started. Siigghh. That's going to be a tricky one!

Right now, though, I'm about to go out for coffee with Anne, and then study study study study study study!!!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Here come midterms, here come midterms, right down Midterm Lane...

Fun times. Only... not so much!

Tomorrow I have my Dutch midterm, for which I have not studied at all. This is because we are allowed to take a dictionary and grammar sheets with us into the exam, which gives little reason for studying.

Also that the things I really need to study are the things I hate the most: directions and telling time.

Ah well. Tonight I will conjugate some irregular verbs. I should be fine.

Mostly I worry about Tuesday. On Tuesday morning, at 845, I have to give a presentation with Nikky. This presentation was supposedto be on Friday, but the teacher was sick once and pushed everything back a class. So now Nikky and I have to present in the midst of midterms. It is an interesting topic, but I can't focus, because when I settle down to work on the presentation, I start thinking about the other things I have to do and comparing percentages: the presentation is worth less than 10% of the grade, but my psycholinguistics exam, to be taken at 1345 on Tuesday, is worth 20% of the final grade. That's a hefty chunk.

I think I will be pretty well prepared for that. I've studied about ten hours for it already; I just need to learn types of Aphasias and brain imaging. Then it's just reviewing, making sure I really know everything.

Though I'm sure I don't know when I'll do that, besides right before class on Tuesday.

And then on Thursday, I have the sociolinguistics midterm. For which I have not begun to study. And we have a review session tomorrow. For the psycholinguistics review on Friday, I had already studied most of the material, and thus felt very good and confident, especially next to my friends who had not yet begun.

But sociolinguistics... well, sociolinguistics will be easier because half of it will be multiple choice questions, of all things! I never expected that here. Most teachers/professors scoff the idea, so who knew?

And then Friday morning, I have an essay outline due in geography. An interesting topic: migration and Diasporas. But still, yet another thing to do. I might skip it all together... terrible idea, I know, but quite likely. And when that's done, and it's finally spring break, I have to get to work on my sociolinguistics midterm paper. That will also be very interesting, but very, very complicated and difficult.

Anne invited me to her place this weekend. It would be so much fun but I still find myself searching for excuses... mostly I'd just feel guilty if I didn't get a good start on this socio essay this weekend. Perhaps I will spend Wednesday at the library doing research for the two papers instead of studying for sociolinguistics...

It all comes down to the balance of the percentage worth of the final grade...

Five days to go!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Last night, while I waited for Anne to finish something so we could start our movie, I saw part of a documentary about September 11th. Each time it said a time at which something had happened, I thought about what I had been doing. "10:15 am." hmm... that was when I was catching the bus to go to school.

Why did I go to school that day?
There are so many things about that day that seem strange now when I look back. First of all, in a way, I am surprised that I even went to school that day. It seems strange that I didn't stay home to watch the news - I've missed a million days of school for baseball.

And why weren't Mom and Dad and I listening to the radio? Was the TV on in their bedroom? Were we just checking internet updates? I remember Dad coming downstairs and saying what had happened, but I just thought it was an accident, you know, a plane hit a building, that's sad. I guess we were less wired then than now, but it still seems strange.

But the weirdest of all is what happened at school. Why did we go to French class and study French? Why did I then go to Composition/Literature and do comp/lit? Why did we only listen to the radio and talk about what was happening in global studies, and then once I moved on to biology, we did biology? As if, in global studies, we were studying something that had happened on the other side of the world, or some war that took place a hundred years ago. Not a major event, happening at that very moment.

Doesn't it seem strange that everything didn't just freeze, and all eyes turned to the news, the radio? Shouldn't it have been, in some way, like a snow day, including the sort of muffled quiet?

You hear about other big occurrences in history, and how everybody just listened to the radio, wide-eyed, scared, maybe...

It just got me thinking.

And now I have to start thinking about the difference between so-called 1st and 3rd world cities.

Oh - and another thing I wonder about: Why wasn't the commentary of the final out of the 2004 World Series much more exciting? I'm thinking the Shot Heard 'Round the World. I'm thinking immortal, prototypical fame... Instead of "And the Boston Red Sox are the World Champions. For the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox have won baseball's World Championship. Can you believe it?" and barely a shred of excitement in the guys' voice. Pathetic. How about "THE RED SOX WIN! THE RED SOX WIN! For the first time in EIGHTY-SIX YEARS, the RED SOX WIN THE WORLD SERIES!" Any fan would have done better.

17 days till the Sox play again, and only 16 till the season officially opens...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Midterms

I hadn't realized just how much work I have to do... but now it's getting real. Three exams, a presentation, an essay outline, all due next week.

And the weather is gorgeous! I shut myself in the library for almost four hours today... I've had enough. I'm about to go for a walk. I'm considering changing into a skirt... that would be so nice... a spring breeze, sunshine, etc...

And I'm supposed to study in this? The only way I can imagine studying is grabbing a blanket and my books and notes and lying on the grass next to the canal. But I don't know if I'd get enough done.

So now, instead, I think I'm just going to go for a walk, and maybe stop at the store and buy some... cookies. ice cream. cold drink. Something refreshing and tasty.

I'm considering quitting house dinners. But that's a completely different story, not one for a fine day like this one!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Some nice/funny things about the Netherlands

There are a few things about the Netherlands that I really appreciate and like. There are a few things about the Netherlands that I also really dislike, but let's focus on the nice things.

I love the cheap price of (most) groceries. People here complain about the Albert Heijn monopoly and their insane high pricing, but I love that I can go to the store and buy yogurt, applesauce, cereal, milk, pasta, canned tomatoes, chocolate, cookies, etc., etc., and still spend only ten euros.

Today, for example I went to the Albert Heijn and bought a big bar of dark chocolate (it's really nice to let it melt in your mouth as you drink hot tea through it), two different kinds of cookies, and a bag of salted peanuts, for LESS THAN TWO EUROS.

Makes my day! Less than the price of a cappuccino at de Vriendschap! I love it!

Another thing I love about the Netherlands is a very funny one: The doors on the bathrooms stalls open OUTWARDS. You know how in the U.S, the doors all open inwards? And you have your purse (or if you're at the airport, two overstuffed carry-on bags) and you have to try to squeeze in the door without brushing up against the toilet or anything.

But in the Netherlands, everywhere I've been, you casually open the door, walk in, and shut it. no problems. No tricky maneuvering. Nothing.

But then again, we have hot running water in just about every bathroom that isn't a rest stop.

And another funny thing about the Netherlands is that here all of my friends have the same birthdays as friends at home. Laura has the same birthday as Julia, Yael has the same birthday as Koko (and Dilyana is only the day before), and Jeanine has the same birthday as Devin. Besides that, my friend Charlotte's birthday is the same as mine. I have never met anyone with my birthday before! And Charlotte and I aren't even the only ones; there's another first year who also has the same birthday.

Isn't that... weird? Freaky? Strange?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Shame...

Okay, so I just got and imported Justin Timberlake's new CD.
So sue me.
Some of the tracks are really very... relaxing.

But okay, okay, not high quality stuff. It's kind of cool, though, because it's not really like a whole bunch of songs, but kind of an endless flow of sorta changing music... it wouldn't work very well on shuffle.

Last night I went out in earnest. I've gone to the RA club Divine on Tuesdays only once or twice this semester, and each time it was just a "go for an hour, say hello to people, leave and get some sleep" thing.

This time though, it was the whole thing: spend hours primping and running from house to house for wardrobe consultations, arranging walking buddies, "who are you going with", etc, high heels, not just tennis shoes, etc. etc. etc.

Anne, Dilyana and I went around 12:30 or 1, and no one was dancing until later. But it was definitely fun, even though the DJ will always put on lame Dutch-style techno in the middle of a fast, upbeat song to kill a perfect groove and make everyone stop mid-dance to figure out what the heck he's playing this time and how we're supposed to dance to it.

It ended at only 2:45 - that's when they turned the lights back on. Pathetic.
Luckily, though, just as Dilyana and I reached Bagijnhof, she said, "Grace, I have a beer in the fridge." So I was up until four with Dilyana, sitting in her common room and talking over a beer that was not Heineken. :)

This afternoon, it's out to the HEMA cafe for ice cream with Joy and Lia and whoever else might come/show up. Lia wanted McDonald's and I said NO. They were surprised because apparently Natasha (American) also says no to McDonald's, and the other two are all into it. Or at least "just the ice cream".

For me, though, it isn't just that I don't want to eat the food. I don't want to support the business. I saw "Supersize Me", and that was crazy stuff. I don't like that business. It ties in with Starbucks too - Starbucks is a much better company, they support workers, they give benefits, they use (relatively) good products, etc. They're still nasty and stand for things I don't like.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Little to report....

Since my trip to Rotterdam on Wednesday, not very much has happened that seems especially noteworthy.

On the other hand, anybody who likes to write should be able to describe the smallest, most unimportant occurence or thing in an entertaining matter, right?

Not that I can think of a certain one of these occurences or things to write about.

Dutch class is back on, which means we're back in the grind, which means I'm back to being annoyed about having to take a beginning language class. I won't bore you with what you already know, but I just have to once again open up the subject of the way languages are taught.

It seems so strange to me that there is a "normal, given" way of teaching languages, at least in "the West" (that term is incredibly useful in Human geography, but I never understand why, when every other term must have it's definition defined and redefined, but this one passes as an easy way to separate people and cultures and societies and all those other words which are picked to death - but I'm getting off topic), and that that way is this one. It must be obvious to anyone who has ever spent time around babies that people do not naturally learn languages by memorizing phrases and the fill in the blank answers that go with them. (In this case, that would be "Hoe heet je?" "Ik heet _____.") Surely this is not something that only people who study linguistics and/or learn a language by immersion realize.

When I learned Spanish in the Dominican Republic, I had a whole week after I arrived before I started working at the politecnico. I spent a bit of time each morning studying Spanish, and the things I chose to study were the things that seemed most important to know. I studied irregular verbs, but the first words I learned were not "household chores" or "how to ask for directions" (which is an absolutely ridiculous notion, I think. Everyone knows that if you are lost and don't speak the language, you just ask people and follow the directions their fingers point in, and keep asking until you arrive). In fact, I think the first two words I learned in the Dominican Republic were colmado, which is the name for the little corner stores in the DR, and subir, which means to go up. That's because my bedroom was upstairs, and each night when I was going to bed, my host mom asked if I was going up, as in going to sleep. Voy a subir came to mean I'm going to bed, not just I'm going upstairs.

The first thing I learned in France, similarly, was not gas station terminology (something I distinctly remember the French 5-6 class learning the year after my exchange). I finished breakfast my first morning, and in an attempt to say "I'm finished," I said je fin. I doubted this was the correct tense, but I knew that je means "I" and that fin is what they say instead of "The End" in the movies.

But when I said "Je fin," my host mom laughed and explained that I had just said je faim, meaning "I hunger".

Not that this proves anything I am saying.

This is why I hate prescribed sentences: If, in Dutch, someone says "Hoe heet je" or "wie ben je", it means essentially the same thing. But if you reply to the first "Ik ben Grace" or the second "Ik heet Grace", you are answering incorrectly. If you are left to simply understand the general meaning of the sentence, you can answer correctly: "Grace, en jij?" If you learn the building blocks of the language, you will know which verb to choose because you can distinguish between their meanings. If you learn simply that one means "What is your name" and the other means "who are you", the meanings will become mixed in your mind and you don't care which is being asked because they mean the same thing.

Basically.

I also hate learning how to ask for directions. That is not useful information to me. I live in Middelburg and have for over 5 months now; it is unlikely that I will get lost here. What I do want to know is how to ask "how late are you open?" and, more important, how to understand the answer!

In psycholinguistics right now, we are learning about lemmas and traces and deep structures and complicated things like that. It is all very interesting and not quite too scientific for me; the subject (and teacher) are interesting enough for me to follow. But it adds to my frustration with ACC 099 Beginner Dutch. Obviously this is not how my brain picks things up.

Maybe I should become a ground-breaking, innovative, foreign language curriculum and textbook writer.

That actually doesn't sound too boring. (Well, maybe the textbook part.)

I am 30 pages away from finishing Northanger Abbey, and I can't remember the last time I read a book this quickly. I've decided that next will be "Long Ago in France", but maybe it would be better to put that off until April and focus on studying for midterms, which are two weeks away.

However, I need something to read before sleep each night. Although I suppose reviewing psycho- and sociolinguistic notes might do...

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Rotterdam

On Wednesday, I went to Rotterdam with Eva and Dilyana. We caught the train at arount 930 and arrived in Rotter-dam at noon, with no plan or itinerary except to somehow make our way over to the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, eventually, in the course of the day.


The main point was simply to get out of Middelburg for a minute and spend a whole day without the subject of "school" or "work" crossing our minds or weaseling into conversation.

We left the station and were on a windy street with lots and lots of people and big tall skyscrapers. I felt silly but I immiediately took pictures of the buildings. Not that I've never seen tall buildings before; it's just been so long! (Okay, only a month or two... it's still nice and surprising.)
We got orange juice at an Orange Cafe (Orange as in the cellular telephone company) and started walking. It was very, very windy. This is a hard part about the Netherlands: I can deal with the greyness and the raininess as well as I deal with it at home, except that the wind can make it impossible to use an umbrella, and drives the rain sideways so an umbrella wouldn't do much good anyway.




Luckily, it wasn't raining. In fact, we had very good weather the entire day: it rained for a few minutes in the morning but at that point we were already in the Free Record Shop.

What is it about traveling that turns otherwise unreasonable and thoughtless purchases into a completely necessary object that you absolutely couldn't live without? At any rate, Dilyana and I left with two DVDs each. (Mine were "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sense and Sensibility", so they weren't really thoughtless because I had been thinking about them for a long time.)

We passed an ice cream stand, and Eva looked desirous, so I immediately justified the stop and in we went. (I am very good at justifying the consumption of ice cream at any time of day and in any season or weather condition.)
Inside, we were served by a very friendly, funny young man, who spoke excellent English, advised on flavors and introduced Dilyana to passion fruit. What is even stranger than the fact that she had never heard of passion fruit is that she didn't like it when she tasted it.
"It's too sweet," she said.
"Sweet?!?" said the man, surprised. "You mean sour."
"No, too sweet," she said.



Eva and I had the same flavors, and the man teased us about copying each other. He asked where we were from, and got very diverse answers! He reminded me of me when I worked at Mio Gelato. Man I would love to work again.

We sat and enjoyed our ice cream. First really good ice cream I have had since coming to the Netherlands for this semester, and quite probably only the second or third time since I came here in August.

And only the first of the delicious taste of the day...


We walked some more, went to more shops. We had the idea that we were slowly working our way towards the museum, which Anne was very enthusiastic about and sounded very interesting.

We considered buying matching underwear, but it turned out not to be on sale. Eva bought a dress. She had no idea when she would wear it, but it looked very nice on her: grey with silver sequins around the hips and a low keyhole back. We went to a giant H&M, which makes the Middelburg branch look sadly pathetic.


We wandered around and looked for a place to get lunch.



Eva wanted french fries. I ate part of one of my sandwiches. It's not that I'm healthy or much of a planner, mostly it's just that I'm stingy. But when we passed a poffertjessalon, I insisted that we return after we found a lunch for the others. I was not passing up on real poffertjes, which I have only had once or twice since moving to Middelburg.

We wandered further in search of French fries and ended up at the big, funky library. It was at this point that we realized we were not walking towards the museum, and it was even later, as we were eating poffertjes, that we realized were walking in quite a different direction.



But no matter. We gave up on the French fries, turned around and walked back to the poffertjessalon. We were waited on by a surly, big, tall, young-ish man, who gave us a lot of information about the menu while we all smiled up at the him. At the end, Dilyana said, "English?" in a pleading voice.



"Please," I added, and he said, "Oh," and said a lot less in English.


I must admit that I am more and more pleased with my ordering skills. On Friday I went to the Coffe House St. John with Anne and not only ordered the coffee I wanted in near-perfect Dutch but even asked to replace the plain whipped cream with the Mocha kind. The real problem comes afterward, when they say something in return and I have to admit that actually, I don't really speak it - or rather, that I can say certain sentences involving food and cafes, but have very small chance of understanding!

We had tea and coffee, and Dilyana and I each ordered poffertjes. I think I'll let my pictures do the talking...


Poffertjes:

Dilyana and I, happy with our poffertjes:




Dilyana and I, eating poffertjes:

Ah, good times.

We walked back towards the central station the way we came, and from there, towards the museum. Only really towards it this time.

Of course, we arrived there after three, which didn't leave us much time for wandering. By the time we had gotten to the more recent pieces, which is what I am really interested in, the guards were kicking us out. We couldn't even buy postcards. Luckily, though, most museums are free on Wednesdays, so we got in for free instead of having to pay 7 euros, and therefore we were not too disappointed about the time shortage.

We went for a walk in the garden, and then looked in a few more shop windows.

We went for a walk in the garden of the museum, and afterwards, we looked into some more shops.
We spent some time in a nice bookshop which made me especially happy because there was a black cat sitting on the stairs near the counter. Almost completely black; just a little bit of white on a few of its paws. I am always thinking about how nice it would be to have a cat her ein Middelburg. It could sit and sleep on your lap while you were up late studying and curl up on the carpet under the window on sunny afternoons. And I, who has my own door, could let it in and out of doors.



Unfortunately, students at the Roosevelt Academy are not allowed to keep pets, except a select few who get special permission and those who have small caged creatures and can therefore sneak around the rules. However, I have no interest in anything that forces me to clean up after it.







We passed another nice window with the best T-shirts ever:



And silly me, I forgot to write down the name of the store! How much I would love to have a T-shirt that says "spinach" on it in Dutch! For all I know, though, it was only a promotion or ad campaign... but I long for that shirt!

For dinner we went for Chinese food at a place that seemed pretty fast food-y to me. Originally, though, they had wanted to go to KFC, but luckily the line was too long. I wasn't hungry so I just bought a soda and nibbled on their food. Eva was disappointed with the quality, said it wasn't really like this, usually it was much better... I could have told her that, before we went in! But she says she has had pretty good Chinese food in similar places before, and I suppose she would know.

After this, we worked our way back to the train station. It was cold and very windy, and it was starting to rain a little, just enough to make it somewhat miserable. Our last bit of excitement came on the train platform, when an old couple approached us and the man said, "Well, see you tomorrow, in Middelburg!"

We all looked at him with very confused expressions on our faces, and he explained that he had seen us this morning in Middelburg and now he saw us again, getting the train back home.

We played a Bulgarian game, very similar to M.A.S.H., on the ride home, and said good evening to the man and his wife as we crossed the bridge over the first canal and into Middelburg.

Another nice thing about leaving Middelburg is that when you come back, it feels more like home.



Please forgive any awful and/or inexcusable typos; I had a hard enough getting the picture layout right and no patience remains for capitalizations, punctuation, spelling, or grammar, so please excuse me.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Dutch class on pause; We drown our sorrows in coffee

There was no Dutch class last Monday because Paul was ill. Wednesday, he emailed again to say that there would be no Dutch class on Thursday. And yesterday, we received an email saying that he will not be teaching ACC 099 "for the time being".

A moment ago we received an email from the Academic Affairs Council saying that the head of the Academic Core department is currently looking for a replacement; there should be one by Monday, but possibly by Friday.

Hopefully it will be a good teacher, and not an easy teacher, and hopefully he/she will at least be funny like Paul was - because sometimes, if it weren't for his humor, I would have died of boredom.

Two weeks without Dutch class is not an effective way to learn a language!

On Sunday, when I went out for coffee, I was disappointed in my linguistic abilities because the waiter forgot my order and I didn't understand when he came back to ask again. He responded by looking confused and almost offended. I also realized how much I would love to work in a cafe again. I know it would be hard to work and study at the same time. But I could work 6-8 hours on Saturday and Wednesday, easily. I love working like that. Mostly, though, I would like to talk to people who aren't in the 18-24 age range. I realize that at home, I only have 3 or 4 good friends who fall into that age group. Most of the people I talk to are my parents, my parents' friends, regulars at Costello's Travel Caffe, and, when I worked there, at Mio Gelato. The people I worked with were often older. In addition, there are so many children on Northeast 8th avenue! Here, there are none that I ever talk to.

RA is like its own little world. People I know here are people from RA; few people know Middelburgers who aren't RA students, and few RA students are actually from Middelburg (although I know of several from Goes, which is only 10 minutes away). RA is getting attention in the press right now as "kindergarden for rich kids", because it's trying to get it's accreditation. Nobody likes this new label, but I find it especially annoying as money seems to be going faster than ever for me and many of my foreign friends, and we feel anything but "rich".

Today, instead of Dutch, Dilyana (Bulgaria), Eva (Hong Kong), and I went to the St. John's Coffee Shop. We had tostis and apple cake and I had dark, unsweetened Arabian coffee with Mocha whipped cream on top. Laura ran into us there by chance with her student for a day, Roxanne, so we all sat and talked and gossipped and explained things to Roxanne, and speculated about what would happen with Dutch class.

And even though I have now received the email from the Academic Affairs Council, I am still irritated. I hate living somewhere and not being able to speak the language. I am perhaps too impatient... but I have already been in Middelburg for a total of 5 months. I know I am not submerged in the language, but it is still annoying to think that if I was, I would be relatively proficient by now.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Way to Live


At the Valentine's party




Chinese New Year dinner, cooked by Eva, Sunday






Dinner with Anne last night



And today, Dutch class was canceled, so I spend most of the day reading Sense and Sensibility and the rest of it having coffee and buying groceries with Anne. Then at 4 I'll go to sociolinguistics, come home and cook dinner for the house, and at nine I'm going out for a drink with Dilyana, Eva, and possibly Anne. I am so much happier right now than I was when I was constantly worrying about grades. (It also helps that I have very little work right now, besides reading articles...)