I am supposed to be in bed. I tried to go to bed an hour ago. I tried to go to bed an hour before that. In fact, I have made three unsuccessful attempts at bedtime within the last four hours. I’m not actually sure that the cake is responsible–I think it was rather the combination of cake, pictures of baby animals from zoos around the world, and French. A heady mix at any time of the day. You see, I finally got around to doing that French House application that I’ve been putting off all break. Mainly because I felt silly doing it, since I basically live there anyway and they’ve known that I was moving in next year since about November. Also, since I lived there my freshman year, this is the second time that I’ve filled out that application. But since it’s a necessary bureaucratic step for me, and a necessary bureaucratic step for them, I decided to make lemonade and in other ways have fun with it.
There are two essay questions. One is the predictable “Why do you want to live in the French house? Why do we want you to live in the French house?” I answered that question with the gravitas that I felt it deserved: shared love of French language, I practically live here anyway, leadership roles, extensive knowledge of AYA program, blah, blah, blah. The other question is a much more open-ended “Who are you?” that is intended to suss out your interests and activities. Like I’ve said, for the upperclass(wo)men that go to French house activities, it’s a bit of a formality. Basically they are trying to make sure we’re not Hannibal Lector. After all, it’s a girls-only house.
Now, that has the potential to be very boring. I decided to make it less boring. I pity the person(s) who will have to read all those bland answers to bland questions. And when asked about your role in the living-learning community and your contribution to the atmosphere of the house, it’s always better to show than to tell. What follows is an English translation of the second question, “Qui etes-vous?” Who are you? Please bear in mind that this is a translation. I have to say, although I may be biased, that the French version is funnier. I managed to work in a rhyming pun on a French proverb that just won’t work in English. Also, idioms don’t translate well. In some cases, I was able to replace them with English idioms of roughly equivalent meaning. In other cases…it’s four in the morning, cut me some slack. Still, I like to think that I captured the humor, the spirited, gripping narrative, the POETRY of the original, as is the task of any dedicated translator.
“Who are you? Tell us about yourself, your activities, and your interests, to help us get to know you better.”
“I spent my first seventeen years on the family orchard, where I developed certain necessary skills for adult life: apple-picking, forest navigation, ram-boxing. I come from the glorious state of Wisconsin, where cheese is served alongside more cheese, and, at sporting events, is considered rather fetching headgear. I am slightly mortified to admit that at a tender age, I wore such a hat. So I suppose it isn’t surprising that in later years I took such an interest in France, the land of a thousand cheeses, where fashion has a slightly longer shelf life.
Beyond the realm of dairy products, my interests are diverse: French, sociology, traveling, languages, culinary adventures, photography, music, chocolate, literature. I consider myself a well-rounded person with broad interests; to name just one example, I would particularly enjoy photographing chocolate desserts that I had made somewhere in the Alps while listening to French music. It’s an ambitious dream, one that I have yet to fulfill, but I aim for the stars.
I have a marked tendancy to juggle any loose piece of fruit; keep a watchful eye on your oranges in my presence! And yet I am an honest thief–I always return pilfered food. [in the original french, there was a wordplay here involving a french proverb that, loosely translated, is something like “cheaters never prosper”] In fact, since juggling and honest theivery are not particularly lucrative, I intend to join the Peace Corps after graduation, and then study for my doctorate in sociology. My goal is to eventually become a college professor, researching the most successful strategies for fighting poverty, protecting human rights, and resolving ethnic conflict, in the US and abroad.”
Spring break is essentially over–classes are looming. My sociology text is staring dolefully at me from the dresser, wondering why I’m not reading for my exam on wednesday. I’m doing what I usually do when I don’t feel like doing work that’s due soon: I am making plans for after graduation.
You may have guessed from the video that those plans involve the Peace Corps. I went to a presentation on campus a few weeks ago, and the Peace Corps bug, which has been lazily circling me for years, finally bit me.
I would be willing to go pretty much anywhere they care to send me, but I’m hoping for a placement in Africa. Preferably francophone Africa, because speaking pretty decent French will leave me time and mental energy to learn the local language(s), and the more effectively I can communicate, the better. That’s the official reason–the other reason is that I am an incurable language nerd and I intend to pick up as many languages as I can, as well as possible while I’m there. Just to be cool 🙂
I graduate in December 2010, so I’m looking to head out pretty soon after that-February or March 2011 would be ideal, but I know this is one of many things that is out of my hands. It all depends on which country and which program I’m in. They send a whole group of PCVs (peace corps volunteers–although technically PCTs, because you’re not officially a volunteer until after the 3 month on-site training. so much lingo to learn!) who are all working in the same country in the same program. So if you’re a health volunteer in Mauritania (for example), you’re going whenever they’re sending the next group of health volunteers to Mauritania. Of course, you’re not going to know you’re going to Mauritania until you get your final invitation. I can already tell that high tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty are going to be VERY important over the next year and a half, not to mention the 27 months after that.
Luckily I HAVE a high tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity–a quality that has been reinforced by seven months of studying abroad. Apparently the application process is quite involved–which is reassuring, because if they’re sending people to remote places for more than two years, they’d better make sure that the PCVs can hack it. So the whole process is designed to weed out the people who are too impatient or undecided or unmotivated BEFORE the Peace Corps goes to the trouble of flying them to the country, training them, matching their skills to a community, etc. The communities have to apply for a volunteer in a certain field, and they often wait for a few years before they get one, so it’s really not fair to them if they FINALLY get a volunteer and then that volunteer leaves early.
It goes something like this: you fill out a ridiculously detailed application online, your regional recruiter contacts you to set up an interview, you pass medical and dental exams, you get nominated for a continent/region (which is usually, though not always, where you are sent), and finally you get the official invitation for a specific country, a specific program, a specific departure date. That can take anywhere from seven months to a year, start to finish, so it’s in your interest to apply as soon as possible.
It’s actually too soon for me to apply right now, since I’m not available until 2011. I’ll probably start my application in October or November. In the meantime, I’m looking into jobs in the university writing lab, ESL tutoring opportunities, and other community service stuff that will make me a better candidate. Realistically, I’m probably going to be an English teacher (although I suppose that with my farm background I have a slight chance of being an agriculture volunteer), so I’ll need at least 3 months of either English or ESL tutoring experience before I go, but the more experience I can get now, the less overwhelming the job will be later. There’s also a program in BG where they match international students with American students to help their English and encourage cultural exchange-it’s too late in the semester to start now, but it’s something to think about for the fall.
In other news, I’m writing the requisite essays, “Why do you want to live in the French House?” and “Qui etes-vous?”, so I can turn my Maison Francaise application in on Monday. Caitlin is moving in too, so we’re going to room together again, and Pam is planning on living there as well. It seems like we’ll have a decent mix of upperclassmen and freshmen next year, which is a very good thing. I’ll be sad to give up my private living room and VIP off-campus-on-campus-all-flexfunds meal plan, but I’m looking forward to a shorter walk to class, onsite printer (even though I know it displays all the error messages in french and is possessed by demons), and 90-second commute to starbucks.
Well hello there,
I’m blogging again! Partly to fulfill a promise to my mother, and partly because I never really intended to stop. I think I had to make the transition from blogging about chateaux, excursions, and all the exotic things that happen to you while traveling, back to everyday stuff. The little things, if you’ll permit me a fairly wretched cliche.
I’m in a good mood–a REALLY good mood. The kind of mood that involves giggling while doing the dishes, prancing around to good music, playing one-person foosball and making a spontaneous little dance of it…
I know, right? ME? DISHES?
I’m on spring break. In…Bowling Green! yeah, not too tropical, not too exciting. But it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made lately. I only live in BG during the school year, so I never have a lot of time for myself here. There’s always an impending paper and so forth. Not that I don’t have some of those now anyway. But I don’t have anything major going on until my sociology exam on wednesday, and I don’t have much in the way of papers until the week after. So I’m taking this week and just hanging out. Yesterday, I went to Grounds and did some homework, enjoying the relative calm–usually it’s packed with people studying and professors grading papers. With almost everyone either gone home or somewhere tropical, I had a whole table to myself and plenty of space to think about the necessary traits of an ideal education, une affaire d’équilibre et de reflexion sur ses modalités.
Today I strolled over to Finders, our local cd store, and picked up Begin to Hope by Regina Spektor and two albums by Joshua Radin, my newest muscial obsession: We Were Here and Simple Times. Not without a slight twinge of guilt–I don’t usually buy cds. I usually just pull up a video on youtube and leave it running in the background. But I’m calling it a spring break treat to myself. It’s not as if I have a trip to Cancun to finance. Besides, I’m supporting an (awesome) local business, so I don’t mind paying a few dollars more than I would on itunes.
So, I am puttering around the house to the accompaniment of songs with titles like “Fidelity,” “Sundrenched World,” “Vegetable Car,” and “Baobobs” (the latter is inspired by The Little Prince. If you haven’t read it, you need to. It’s only the most wonderful children’s book of the century.) I just watered Aaron’s solitary houseplant (one of two conditions of my staying here, the other being my recipe for chocolate-chocolate chip-nutella biscotti). I’m “apartment-sitting”, which is a nicer way of saying “mooching,” since my apartment is technically university housing, and closed for the week, unless I have some burning desire to fork over $200 to the powers that be.
My host and his girlfriend are in Montreal for the week, so I have the run of the place. Before he left, he gave me the ceremonial tour of the spice rack, the stereo, and the foosball table, leaving me inspired to cook while singing…and scoring goals against myself? (I like to mix it up by occasionally thwarting myself and deflecting a shot or two, to keep me guessing) Of course, this has led to some interesting adventures in the kitchen, like finding a pan to cook the chicken for the stew I had already started.
Unconventional cookware aside, it turned out very well. I took mom’s recipe and ran with it–a 8 oz tray of sliced mushrooms and an onion, sauteed. I added a can of chicken broth and a half cup of cream, three chicken breasts, roasted and shredded, rosemary sprigs, a couple of carrots, and A LOT of cooked potatoes. Between the potatoes and the addition of the mushrooms it was pretty thick, so I added another can of chicken broth and another half cup of cream. Then, instead of baking it for 12 minutes (because I couldn’t find a suitable pan, and the soup pot had plastic handles) I just simmered it. Then to serve, I grated fresh mozzerella cheese on top and let it get all melty. Served with country loaf from Panera. I’ve been eating it for three days–it tastes just as good, if not better, microwaved a bowl at a time.
All the more impressive because I carried all those ingredients on my back from Kroger in a thunderstorm. Plus strawberries, a bunch of bananas, a box of bow tie pasta, a bundle of leeks, three packages of ramen, some kiwis, and a gallon of milk. And an umbrella. If you ever want to elicit amusing looks from people, buy a cartful of groceries and then stand in the rain-soaked entryway of the store, stuffing produce into a backpack. I felt like a sherpa. A well-fed sherpa.
Five more days of vacation left: just enough for drinking coffee, watching movies, studying for tests, and working my way through the stack of library books on “my” dresser.
Happy New Year’s.
Tonight’s entertainment: contemplating all possible meanings of “calm before the storm.” I’m of the opinion that a day without wind in BG is a harbinger of doom, and the good folks at the Weather Channel seem to be backing me up on that.
They’re predicting 2-4 inches of snow tonight, with a nice helping of sleet and freezing rain, followed by a 1/2 inch coating of ice. Oh, joy. Naturally, I have an exam at 8:30 am tomorrow, which I wasn’t thrilled about in the first place. It probably means I have to leave my apartment around 7:50 am, to give myself plenty of time to navigate the ice floes. It will still be snowing/sleeting/raining frogs and locusts until 3 or 4 pm, so it could be an interesting day of exams. I wonder what happens if there is a severe weather closing on an exam day? Probably they’d give us incompletes for the time being and have us take the exams after break. I don’t know what they’d do for graduating seniors, though.
On the bright side, if this was all happening a day later, I would probably be marooned somewhere. Again. (I have no desire to repeat the Thanksgiving airport debacle.) University housing closes at 10 am Saturday, and then I’m hopping on the Megabus. Seeing as my entire trip is in the path of this storm, having exams the last day was probably a blessing in disguise, because I would have been heading out tomorrow morning. Our winter storm warning lasts until 4 pm tomorrow afternoon, so I imagine the roads will be pretty clear by 11 on Saturday.
So we’re being pretty zen about it. Our friend Janelle is staying with us tonight since she commutes from Toledo and she’s worried about driving to her exams tomorrow. I’ve been studying for my sociology of the family exam and trying to winter storm-proof the apartment–I did the dishes, I did my laundry, I found my flashlight, I charged my cell phone, I filled up our water pitcher and tea kettle in case the power lines get coated with ice and the power gets knocked out.
I have a confession to make. I usually oppose any Christmas advertising, decorations, or music until at least Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time, people. But this year, I’m feeling a bit more indulgent. It’s actually not bothering me that Sears is already running ads for Christmas sales. It’s not even bothering me that one of the local stations is exclusively running Christmas music from now until December 26. You know, you can’t appreciate an all-American, disgustingly commercialized, three-month Christmas until you spend one somewhere else.
Gingerbread and gluhwein on the centuries-old cobbled Marienplatz, while a 5-piece brass ensemble serenades me from an ornate stone balcony? Okay, if you’re into that sort of thing. But where are the inflatable reindeer? Where are the 7500-Watt, 80-string Christmas light frescoes that keep an entire neighborhood sleepless from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day?
Where is the kitsch?
So now that I’m having my first stateside Christmas in two years, I am going to make an exception. Just this once, just for one Christmas, I’m not going to complain about the cliche, the tacky, the absurd, the inflatable. Don’t worry, I’m experiencing nostalgia, not a personality transplant. By next year, everything will be back to normal and I’ll be resenting celebrity Christmas albums like my good ol’ self.
But since Christmas starts in November this year, and in honor of the first snow of the year, I post this NYT story:
Excuse me, I need to go put “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas” on a continuous loop in my bedroom.
I voted on Monday. It was glorious. It was transformative. It was the very pinnacle of my existence…
Ohio is an early voting state, so you can go to your local Board of Elections and vote anytime in the month or so before Election Day. I walked to the courthouse, I stood in line, I displayed ID and proof of address, I pushed some buttons for democracy, I scored a “I Voted” sticker and I went on my merry way.
So imagine my confusion today when I opened my mailbox and found an absentee ballot I never asked for. It looks legit, my address is right, both the mailing and return envelopes say ‘Official Election Mail’, and the Board of Elections address is, to my knowledge, accurate, but there’s just no damn reason for me to have an absentee ballot at all. It’s postmarked Monday, which is the day I voted.
I’m trying to call the Wood County Board of Elections, but I keep getting busy signals, which doesn’t surprise me considering the volume of early voters this year. Is it a clerical error? Is someone trying to sabotage my vote, hoping I’ll be confused, fill it out, disqualify myself, and unwittingly perpetrate voter fraud?
Now I sound like a conspiracy theorist. But I’m living in Ohio, a battleground state with a history of voting shenanigans. Also, I live east of main street, in a student neighborhood that leans Obama, in a year with historic student and early voting turnout, both groups that trend democratic. So maybe a little paranoia is called for. Anyway, updates forthcoming, once I talk to the Board of Elections.
This is my first presidential election, and I am not going to let anyone disenfranchise me, damnit!