Friday, July 19, 2013

By The Hands of Men

So over four weeks ago I began the following blog post:

Things have been busy. I'm in DC now for our predeparture orientation, and I just wrote this entire post only to have it erased by the lobby Internet! This might take me the next few days to write then...I am writing this while waiting for Lizzy to come by so we can see each other a bit before bed. And I am going to be ready for bed pretty freakin' soon...

Being at home was warm and comfortable but fleeting...time went by so fast and there are still people  I have not gotten to see (Morgan and Mikal in particular!). I hope to catch up with Quynh while I am in DC. The people I did get to see I do not feel like I saw enough...I think two more weeks would have more adequately satisfied my home fix, but I will take what I can get!

I have had a great time. I loved spending time with family at my grandad's river home, thrift shopping with my grandma, talking to my mom face to face and enjoying one of our favorite shows together (True Blood!), going to the park with Dad, Yvonne and Ripley, visiting the old high school stomping grounds with Anna, meeting my newest nephew Landon (who is a sweetheart!) and so many other much needed visits with friends and family.

I only wish I had taken more photos! Especially with the parents and grandparents, and at our sleepover. It does not look like I can add photos here using the IPad though, so you might not get any photos from me for a while.

And about two weeks ago I began to update/complete that blog post:

Obviously I never finished that post. I got caught up with orientation, with getting some last minute visits in with DC friends, and with dealing with sudden apprehension about going away. This happens to me before nearly everything I sign up for; I find myself thinking, in the moments before, "Is this really a good idea? Really?" I find myself doing what my sister's husband, John, always does when they get in the car to go away: "For the record, this is a bad idea."

But the flight went smoothly, everything, in fact, has gone fairly smoothly, aside from inevitable illnesses and bouts of homesickness. We are all well taken care of and already have a solid routine. In actuality, my routine here is much better than at home when it comes to having a real schedule. I have a pretty consistent sleep schedule, even if I am not getting enough of it, and very consistent meal times and daily happenings.

So we have been here for a little over two weeks. For those two weeks I have been thinking a lot about what to post here. But it is difficult to decide. What do I focus on? Classes? Food? Field trips? The city itself? Our daily life?

It is funny the things you get used to very quickly and the things that are difficult to get used to. I am used to the looks I attract as a bideshi, an obvious foreigner. We are all uncommonly used to sharing poop stories with each other. I am used to the sounds of a foreign language around me, and am almost used to being that person in the store who can only communicate with an assortment of words and gestures rather that sentences. I am used to washing my rear with a hose, which is actually quite nice.

I am not used to passing on the left. I am not used to not having a car and to not being comfortable roaming about alone, for fear I will get lost and not be able to find my way back.

Apparently I am also not used to managing a whole new life schedule, or attempting to keep in touch with friends and family while also struggling to keep up with language school, making new friends, field trips, and staying healthy. The staying healthy part I have been particularly bad at. I have actually been fairly consistently under the weather ever since we arrived, though I fortunately do not think I have gotten anything particularly serious. I of course had horrendous jet-lag, my first jet-lag ever. I had the stomach rumbles for about a week after I got over jet-lag, and then the day my stomach felt better I woke with a sore throat. It has been about a week and a half since then and I am fairly certain I have developed a sinus infection. I am going to the doctor tomorrow morning with our very wonderful and extremely helpful resident director. The people here are all tremendously friendly and helpful. If it weren't for them I think I'd be feeling a little crazy (crazier)! I have met people from America and from Bangladesh I will never forget and will always appreciate.

But in spite of the sicknesses, which are relatively mild compared to some, I am still absorbing and learning so much, more, I think, than I even realize. If someone asked me what I like best about Bangladesh I would say the people and the colors. I absolutely love hanging out with my language partner, Amrita, who is an absolute sweetheart and is very kind to me, as is her wonderful and welcoming family. I love the colors and the clothing, which are bright and beautiful and comfortable. I love the lushness of the vegetation and the country itself. Dhaka is a city that thrives all on its own; it has a city personality more independent than any other. Its streets are full of people, dogs, goats, cows, and the occasional cat or even elephant (haven't been lucky enough to spot one though). Intermingling and living together, all usually calm, in their own worlds, everyone going about their business, through often impassible traffic and drenching rains, or, conversely, empty hartal days and beating, brutal sun. It is always humid and if you are outside you are always sweating. I love the tiktikis, the tiny lizards, in our apartment, and feel safe under my mosquito net.

If someone were to ask me what I don't like about Bangladesh, or Dhaka rather, it would not be anything against the city, but merely feelings of missing home. Being away from Dominic, not talking to my Mom regularly, not immediately knowing when something happens at home etc. I also must admit that I miss free time and comfortable sleep. The former is lacking just because we are so, so busy (this is our first free weekend). The latter I have been lacking in either due to stomach rumbles or a stuffy nose. I do miss food from home, particularly as I'm sick and would really appreciate some comfort food. I might even give a kidney for a BLT right now. And I miss coffee. But the food I have had at Amrita's home is the best I have had since being here, and it is always fantastic and comforting and makes me feel better. Her mother is an amazing cook.

Everything everywhere is torn down and built up by the hands of men. Often by their bare hands things rise and fall; big buildings and dirt roads, tiny cups of tea and massive Iftar meals. I have watched two old men break bricks into gravel with hammers, taking days to do so, and men tearing down brick buildings with their hands. This massive city, and every massive city, is built by the hands of men; men we often forget to consider. How often do the men who built our houses and offices, our hospitals and schools ever even cross our mind? Our lives are in their hands; they are more important to use than we realize.

I am glad I have finally posted some update that everyone can see. I apologize for being out of touch with most of you but please know that you are all on my mind and in my heart and I am always thinking of things to share with you. If anyone has any particular requests they would like me to write about, please let me know! It is overwhelming for me, trying to decide what to share. There is so, so, so much! The city is vibrant and alive, my schedule is busy, and I have never learned so much in such a short amount of time. I hope only that I can remember half of it.

I have managed to upload a small fraction of the over 400 photos I have taken. I am taking requests for particular photos as well!


A former "palace", now museum

Chilling in the street

Street art

Outside of Dhaka, old architectural beauty

Some beautiful traditional clay-made jewelry from wonderful Amrita!

Chicken biryani and eggplant, courtesy of Orin, Golap, and George

And a beautiful sunset from our apartment building's roof

Until next time, good morning to those in the States, and a happy upcoming Iftar to those in Bangladesh!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Near Where I Grew Up

I am sitting in a Starbuck's near where I grew up typing my first blog post on Dominic's IPad and wishing I had remembered the cheap keyboard I had brought for it because typing on this screen is hard to get used. I might not bother going back for edits on this thing so this post might be a little haphazard. It is so great that Dominic let me borrow this; it will be much easier to travel with than my large and heavy laptop. And I can still get a good amount of work done on it. And I can fit it in my purse! Why do I have a laptop again?

Anyway, we got back to Richmond 7 am on Wednesday. We left Columbia around 1 pm on Tuesday. It was an all night drive. No traffic which was nice. Packing felt flurried and a little overwhelming but not more so than saying goodbye to my boys (Dominic and Mr Kitty) which I did not like one bit.  Mom and I stopped and did a little shopping in Ozarkland in MO and she offered to get me this great bag that is brown with pink polka dots and white flowers. So girly I know. This best part of it though is that it says Missouri so I feel like I have a little reminder of Missouri with me, my new little town.

It is nice to be home. Everything is just like I remembered, though it feels slightly different, a little more full, if that makes sense. Cozy. It is difficult to explain but I imagine it would feel at least a little different after being away for 10 months.

 So yesterday was spent recovering from the drive. My grandparents arrived today and Anna should be arriving here any moment to share a cup of coffee with me. Tomorrow I will get lunch with my dad and Yvonne before some of my girls come over for a sleepover tomorrow night! I am definitely excited to see them and for some quality girl time. And in about two more weeks I will be in Bangladesh! Wow.

That's all for now I guess. I am enjoying the music in this Starbuck's- old classics like Dean Martin and Sinatra. I used to listen to this music all the time but I haven't in a while. I wish I could post some pics but I haven't really taken many and those that I have taken are still on my camera. Anna is here now! Bye!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Almost Adventure Time...

Starting tomorrow, the ball gets rolling. Mom and Darrell will arrive and I will have a few more days here in Missouri before I will be headed back the 16 hours to Virginia for a few weeks. I am super excited to show some more of my family our new town. I know the big adventures will come later, but I can't help but feel like this is where it all starts! Our so far cozy 10 months in Missouri will be interrupted by my spending 2 1/2 months traveling. It is funny how attached you can get to a place in as little as 10 months! Missouri certainly does feel like a home to me.

But I am just about ready to get this adventure ball rolling, if for no other reason than the waiting is starting to kill me! There is always a part of me that is leery to go, wanting to savor whatever time I have left wherever I am at that moment, but at a certain point the waiting gets to be enough for me and I'm just ready to get all the bummer parts over with (like saying bye to my boo!) and get the exciting parts going. I'm kind of tired of thinking of what I should be taking and am ready to just be taking it, regardless of what is forgotten or not. I vow to NOT over-pack. My mother is probably going to be appalled at how little I am going to take. I am probably going to be appalled too. But we always carry way too much stuff with us anyway. And that's the thing- it's just STUFF. I figure, worst case scenario, I forget some important stuff, or I lose all my luggage even; well Bangladesh has clothes and soap and suitcases too, right? It will be fine. I need a new Bangladeshi wardrobe anyway!

I will very soon be leaping out of my comfort zone and into some flurried times. Seeing as many family members and friends as possible while also trying to prep for Bangladesh is not going to be the easiest of time management tasks. I can pretty much guarantee there will be people disappointed that I did not get to see them very much or as much as they would like during my time at home. I apologize ahead of time but trying to fit 10 months of family/friend time into 2 weeks when I have a BIG trip ahead of me is going to be pretty unrealistic...If you feel slighted in any way it is completely unintentional and, well, you'll just have to come visit me in Missouri then :)

So anyway, it is almost adventure time!

Unfortunately I don't have a companion to do the Adventure Time fist bump with (it is probably kind of sad how disappointed I am about that). But mentally I'm fist bumping all of my readers!

Does that sound weird?

Anyway, here are some Summer in Missouri photos:

It seems like there are more rabbits around here than squirrels.

This photo was actually taken in color.

We've been having some pretty amazing skies after late afternoon summer storms; natural sepia tone.

Just a random object photo: the books Dominic and I have had our noses in for the past few days. I've been back into Dhalgren now that the semester is over. Dominic has started The Magus, its on one of those top 100 lists.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Return of the Blogger and Travel Prep

People have been popping in sometime in the last several weeks and have found a seemingly abandoned blog. I have been popping in too, every once in a while, to stare at a blinking cursor and wonder what to write about this time.

So where have I been? I've been consistently busy, somewhat overwhelmed, sometimes frustrated, sometimes tired, oftentimes procrastinating, always over-thinking, occasionally lazy and blah blah blah. Is "busy" and "overwhelmed" anything terribly new? Not just for me, but for everyone? Aren't we all a little overwhelmed? A little blah, blah? And anyway, it was tax time, it was the end of the semester, it was time to figure out what is actually happening this summer...

But mostly once you miss one is it easy to miss another and another. I kept putting it off for other things and ultimately decided to take a break from writing simply because I couldn't think of anything worthwhile to write about.

Now, however, it is time to get my butt in gear and to start prepping for this summer's travel plans and wrap up some final projects, etc. in the meantime. I thought a small blog makeover would help with this. Actually completing some of my pre-departure tasks would probably help with this a bit more...but I will get there eventually. I will try to keep everyone updated on my summer travel and adventures, my thoughts and feelings during my experiences, and just generally how things are going as I embark on a trip that is, for me, a pretty big deal.

"Notes from Columbia" is not really a fitting title if I'm not in Columbia anymore, so I have attempted to rename my blog for the summer. I am actually quite terrible when it comes to thinking of blog titles, so if anyone has any ideas, please share!!! Right now I am using a line from a new song that I absolutely love: "From a Window Seat" by Dawes. I think it is better if you listen and don't watch the video (I personally think you get a different impression of the song from watching the video) but the video is good too:

So I will be in Columbia for another week and a half or so. Then I will head to Virginia where I will spend a few weeks with family and friends before heading to Bangladesh. This all feels surreal to me. Part of me is excited to the point of disbelief. I am thrilled that I get a chance to go home. I am overwhelmingly excited to go to Bangladesh and to finally get some serious South Asian experience under my belt. A lot is certainly about to happen in a very short amount of time. Some of my biggest thoughts right now are what am I going to pack for two months? As little as possible. What am I going to wear? I am going to have to start building up a new wardrobe very soon after arriving; I have very few clothes that are suitable for Bangladesh. And how am I going to work out the money, debit and credit cards, etc. I carry with me on the trip? I'm not sure how to manage that one yet. This is an exhilarating process; I love traveling, packing, and new places. This is the farthest I have ever been and I have been wanting to take this journey for several years. So much excitement!

But another part of me is a bit leery and a little anxious. I have actually always been a person who struggles with changes- even small ones- and once I get settled in it is often hard for me to make myself budge. This is not because I don't like going places or doing things, but it often stems from a loathing of leaving people behind who I want nearby. I don't mind where I am or what I'm doing- leaving places isn't usually a terrible problem for me; it's the leaving the people that gives me a rather heavy feeling in my stomach. Leaving Mason was difficult largely because I so enjoyed the people I met there- my friends, my professors- and I despised the idea that I would no longer see them on a regular basis, if at all. I still miss the lunches we had in the JC, the hours spent in collections, the coffee dates and open mic nights, and the goofy late nights with the roomie.

I was thrilled to come to Missouri to start my graduate program and there was no hesitation on my part: I knew, when I got in, that I would go. But saying goodbye to everyone in Virginia was tremendously difficult; I have had very few goodbyes worse than those. Our lives diverge, and the people I had seen on a regular basis, often weekly, sometimes daily, for my entire life would suddenly be many miles away. I would (and do) miss them tremendously: the familiar faces and places that are predictable simply because you've known them for so long, the small road trips to see family and friends, family birthday parties and gatherings, hanging out in backyards, and home-cooked dinners around the kitchen table...

But I was lucky (unbelievably lucky) enough to have companions through the move and transition and one companion who moved himself all the way to Missouri with me. I have since grown to love Columbia (honestly, it did not take very long) and really enjoy living here; it is probably the least stressful place I have ever lived. It is a calm, quiet town with little traffic and short commutes. It's clean and feels safe. The people are pretty, there's almost never a wait in restaurants, and the sky is shockingly big.

Now Dominic and I are about to have an interesting role reversal which, to be completely honest, I am not at all crazy about. When he was in the Navy we were always saying goodbye to each other because, of course, being in the military pulls people away and in all sorts of different and unpredictable directions. But now I'm the one whose going to be driving away and he's the one whose going to be standing on the stoop waving goodbye. It is odd to think about how different this separation from each other will be from all our others. It just sits uneasy with me that I'm choosing to leave my partner for two and a half months and I will miss him terribly.

Of course, as life goes on we will only miss more and more people, and I am sure when I leave Bangladesh at the end of August there will be people there I will miss. As we go along we just keep stacking up faces we may never see again, but it is still a wonderful thing to see and meet all of those faces. Each with a particular personality, history, and story to tell. The best way to learn in life is to learn from what others, with all their varied experiences and points of view, have to teach us.

I don't promise consistent blogging over the next few months, but I am hopeful for it. I am ashamed of my abandonment of such a simple and enjoyable task and so I hope that I am back for good. But as I am not certain what exactly the next few months will hold, I offer no guarantees as to whether you will find anything here or not. I hope you keep popping in to check, just in case, and I hope you enjoy whatever it is you find here.

This photo was taken by Dominic on our way back from our trip to Chicago for Sissy's birthday at the end of April. That was a great weekend!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Week 30 Living Happily

Over the past several weeks, my motivation to write here has been steadily declining. Interestingly enough, so has my readership.

I can't believe I have been blogging for 30 weeks now. I refuse to stop...even if my blogs become incoherent akenobiatnending! and my readership declines to zero. I miss keeping a journal and writing and since this seems to be the only form of leisure writing I can consistently do, I must keep it up. I was looking through some of my old writing the other day- journals, short stories, long stories, poems- and I was amazed at how prolific I once was. It is funny how easily we can abandon our passions.

Honestly, this past week was pretty rough. But I think that most of us have enough of our own problems and worries to not want to read/hear about everyone else's, and I have certainly had enough of talking about it. Suffice it to say that this past week was easily the worst week I have had in the 6 months we have been in Missouri (oddly enough I actually typed misery in place of about a Freudian slip). The fact that this week was a struggle has nothing to do with Missouri specifically, it simply has to do with being hit with too much at once, being overwhelmed, and having no idea where things are going to go next.

On Friday, Dominic and I had a discussion about what it means to live happily. I am always impressed when Dominic articulates his view of life, and when I think of many of the people I know (absolutely including myself) I think they could learn a lot from what he has done and been through in his life and what he has learned from it. From that discussion, I walked away with three things that have been floating in my head this weekend. Dominic truly has one of the best philosophies to live by of anyone I know, and while I am sure what I am writing here is not a perfect replica of what he said/says, and it is shrouded in my own personal worldview, I think you can get the picture:

1) You are going to fail. That's part of life. If you can't live with the fact that you are going to fail sometimes, maybe a lot of the time, then you are not going to be happy. Period.
2) Tied into number one, you have to wake up in the morning accepting the fact that not every day is going to be a perfect one.
3) Everyone dies.
4) Never take anything for granted.

It is basic, it is simple, and maybe to some it is not that super inspiring life motto you want to live by. But it works. If you accept the possibility and likelihood of failure, you open yourself up to take risks and try for difficult but rewarding things. If you accept that there are going to be bad days, you will not be knocked off your feet by them, and you will appreciate the good days when you have them. Additionally, I often find myself feeling guilty for having a "bad" day, because I feel so lucky in so many ways. But if you accept that some days are bad days regardless of how lucky you are or how good your life is, you can accept them and move on from them. If you remember that everyone dies (including yourself) you realize that sweating all the small stuff is really a big waste of your very short amount of time. And if you never take anything you have for granted, you will appreciate what you have and realize how lucky you are. All of us have our problems, our worries, but we all also have something to be thankful for. Every single one of us does, and to not be thankful for what you do have is foolish, selfish, and lacking in perspective.

In addition to this philosophy, I'd like to share a quote I found by one of my favorite authors, Tom Robbins, who describes the concept of failure in a way that requires no further elaboration:

“So you think that you're a failure, do you? Well, you probably are. What's wrong with that? In the first place, if you've any sense at all you must have learned by now that we pay just as dearly for our triumphs as we do for our defeats. Go ahead and fail. But fail with wit, fail with grace, fail with style. A mediocre failure is as insufferable as a mediocre success. Embrace failure! Seek it out. Learn to love it. That may be the only way any of us will ever be free.” 

Now for a few photos:

Spring Trees

The little tree Sissy and John gave us; back to life after a long hibernation! 

Dominic shaved his beard and cut his hair and I asked him to take a picture I could post. He has had to reintroduce himself to everyone at work because no one recognizes him. Hehe.

Have a great week everyone. Live Happily.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Week 29 Dragonslayer and an Excerpt

Alright, well, I'm all about writing at the moment, but I'm all about writing a paper that I have been fighting into existence for the past few weeks. It seems that I must fight it some more. Thus I decided to post something different today. I opened up the file that is my "book" or my "story" or really just my massive, fictional work in progress (which is a complete and utter unedited sloppy mess but is, at least, something) and pulled a random excerpt to share here for the week. Before getting to that, however, I want to share a photo of our new family member, Dolphinslayer (I wanted to name him Freckles, but Dominic said that sounded too much like the name of a creepy clown, so we settled on Dolphinslayer):

May you live long and prosper Sir Dragonslayer!

So here is my excerpt, enjoy, or don't, but hey, you can't say I didn't blog ;) :

Mary lay in bed that night staring at the ceiling. A pale pink ceiling. From the corners of her eyes she could see the shadows of her bookshelves, littered haphazardly with the books that she had chosen not to take with her to Sliding Hill. It had not been an easy decision. Choosing which books to take were like weeding out friends…who to leave behind? Who to take with you? It was not always an easy choice- beside the immediate ones, the automatics.
At that moment she felt nothing. She felt neither tired nor awake, sad nor happy. She felt mostly empty. Tapped out. There was nothing there, no emotions, no matter where her thoughts took her. For a moment she would feel as if, perhaps, she might be…but then it would go, as the thought went, and she would be considering another potential but empty feeling.
And then she thought of her favorite childhood movie. And it made her happy. It made her feel warm and comforted, just thinking of her favorite scenes, the music, the colors, all the things that drew her as a child. Those things that never changed. Do you ever stop loving the movies you loved as a child?
Bruce loved the film Never Ending Story. It was a little known fact. He had a huge poster in his room at home. She always knew when he was thinking deeply about something that troubled him, because he would rub his chin and look at that poster, eyes slightly narrowed. Considering it like an art critic examining a new artist’s canvas. It was such an intense examining look. It was as if he took comfort in the images there, the feelings they invoked, comfort enough to think of the deeper things he usually tried to avoid.
His letters to her sat on the bedside table, still bundled up and in the large manila envelop. They felt like another presence in the room- as if some creature were sitting, hunched on the night stand, staring at her with big, open Why-won’t-you-look-at-me?! eyes.
She rolled over to glare at a wooden file cabinet to the other side of her bed. One of the few things she had inherited from her father. In it she had stored all the stories and poems she had written over the years. English major, after all. She had been writing silly bits and pieces for as long as she could conceive of being able to do so. And even before then she had stories going in her head. Nothing’s better than that which you can imagine and be made real.
Still feeling that creature glaring at her back, she opened the top drawer and pulled out a file. A poetry file dated to her second year of college. Her poetry had never been very good. It had been something for her eyes only- a quick vent when she desperately needed to get something out on paper. Getting things out on paper was always a source of purging for her. It always made her feel better. It was as if putting it on paper got it out of yourself, you could look at it separately, distinctly, and then go about your life. Poetry was that for her. It served no purpose but getting out an emotion so that it could stop crippling her- get it out so that should could go about her business.
The flip side of this was that when you went back and read it, days, weeks, months, even years later those feelings all came back to you, crisp and clear, as you remember why you wrote it, what you were thinking, how you were feeling.
The first poem was dated to an early evening, Wednesday.

“Disjointed Faces”

I saw the scratches on his guitar
And knew that it was one of those weeks
Where life flows
Like a series of short stories

A warm week of rain and sun
I feel perfect and pretty
And you are shrouded
In silvery perfection

A series of days where I feel happy
And guilty
Because there are others
Who aren’t and can never be

But they lack a happy tack
And you(a)r(e) silent

{I dreamed last night
Of razors and hair
Of helping you shave
Of skin that was bare}

Daffodils rest
Beneath a sea of sky
The red on the white bathroom floor
Makes me feel as if I must, for a moment
Lie down

And I recall the shallowness of it all
The two sided faces
Those darting eyes
The conspiracy behind forced places

But the sun and the perfect blue sky
Under which dozens of happy Daffodils lie
Thanks to you
You and your silver
I no longer think about
The disjointed faces

It was a day where she had felt separated from the rest of the world because of her happiness. Her love for Bruce was so profound at that moment, in spite of his absence that she had felt guilty in her happiness. She had it so much better than everyone else.
She felt a shudder run down her spin and to dispel the oncoming feeling she quickly flipped the page.

Each day draws us closer
To what might be a permanent goodbye

The longer you are away
The more I feel
That you are only another
Perfect imagination

Questions appear
Encircling a little bit of everything
Am I?
Need I?
Tell me
Leaving, loving, seething
Going, knowing, seeing…
Years and fluttering hopes

Feelings stick between our toes
It is the last place to hide them
I never felt the negative about my passions
I realized there might be something more.

She took a moment to cope with a feeling she was not quite sure of.
Mary swung her legs over the bed and, carrying her comforter with her, like a child on a Sunday morning, shuffled out into the hallway. She opened one of the hall closets in which her mother kept all their old childhood movies. She dug around until she found it- a battered VHS. Walt Disney’s The Little Mermaid. How many times had she watched that movie? How many times after they gave Orleans away? How many times after a bad day at school did she come running with such a distinct purpose to that movie, that tiny VHS....
She made her way to the living room and stuck it in the old combination VHS/DVD player. Amazing it still worked. It would be sad when it broke. But the good thing about a childhood movie- as opposed to a childhood toy or blanket- you could go out and buy another one and it would be just the same- maybe even better. Digitally re-mastered with better sound, better picture quality.
As soon as it begun, the Disney castle, the foggy sea, Mary felt a joy rise up inside of her that she had not felt for a very long time. Everything else was nothing. Sliding Hill was an imaginary place: something distant and unknown. A bad dream perhaps. The only things that were real were Ariel, Sebastian, Flounder, and Eric- oh Eric! The sea witch- stab her with a boat, that should do it. The music with such soothing consistent familiarity that she could sing along with. She could feel Ariel’s passion for something more. Hope for that first kiss. So much love and joy and pain and recovery in such a tiny children’s movie. And she knew the whole time exactly what was going to happen. No doubt there; things are going to end well.
Mary watched until the VHS finally clicked off and began to rewind itself. This put her to watching a late night television show which broke her feelings and concentration on that other time and place, and she all at once felt profoundly depressed and utterly alone.


Well that's all I have for now. I hope everyone is well. Have a Happy Week! 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Week 28 The Impossible Paper and Easter

Before I start every paper, it seems impossible. You have word document open, the black cursor blinking on the empty white, and you think "It will never be." Whatever it is you are about to attempt to do will never exist; the words will never appear. You will be stuck in the perpetual loop of black cursor blinking on empty white paper. The impossible paper.

That can also apply to writing fiction, or blogs, or letters. But that is partly why it is so exciting, right? That blinking  black cursor- endless possibilities! It is intimidating but also terribly exciting. There is always so much potential in that moment right before you start.

Anyway, I'm about to delve into pretty serious paper writing mode for the next five weeks or so, and I've already started staring at the blinking cursor.

For some reason Spring has always been a time when I really get a craving to write fiction. Ever since I started writing-little silly and spoof detective short stories when I was 9 or so, I guess- Spring has always been a time when I just want to spew fiction. Maybe I will get a chance to write some short stories, or take another peek at my perpetually unfinished "novel."

But first, I have lots of other reading and writing to do! I don't really, truly mind writing papers- any type of writing can scratch that itch if you allow it. But getting started on writing academic papers is always much harder than getting started on writing fiction. And yet that fiction is so impossible to finish...papers wrap up so nicely...

Spring break is over, and it is time to delve back into the second big chunk of the semester. The semester is flying by at an alarming pace. And then off to the next adventure!

I hope everyone had a fantastic Easter, however you might celebrate it. I have always thought of it as a very family oriented holiday, but this year was very mild for us. Dominic worked most of the day and I read for a paper I'm working on. But I got us peanut butter filled chocolate bunnies for dessert tonight and Dominic brought home a gorgeous lily. Then after dinner we went up to the Deuce (every time I think of that place I get the song from their radio commercial stuck in my head) so Dominic could get his fill of some of the opening night baseball.

I keep forgetting when my camera is on the black and white setting, but I like this photo anyway. 

Of course I can't take enough pictures of this lily. 

And so, on to another week! Happy Easter everyone and a Happy April Fool's Day too ;) 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Week 27 The Missing Week and the Fanny Pack Faux Pas

Well, I finally missed an entire week of blogging. This weekend, however, was not a weekend for any sort of real or coherent productivity. I did the things I had to do- like grocery shopping, cooking, some cleaning. But other than that I took a major breather- I think I did about 30 minutes of productive work. I spent the weekend hibernating, watching movies (I really enjoyed Lars and the Real Girl, which is on Netflix...if you are interested in movies that are more on the unusual side), and catching up on sleep. I even did some one-player video-gaming; I've had L.A. Noire for over a year and still haven't finished it.

I also spent a good chunk of time last night making this fantastic Shepherd's Pie. Ohhh it was soooo gooood.  But it did take two hours to make. Usually I am really against meals that take such a long prep time, but this was actually worth it. I think the beer is what makes it. It makes it so full and rich. Yum.

By extension, that reminds me...thanks to Facebook I have discovered one of my favorite new websites: #WHATSHOULDWECALLGRADSCHOOL

If you are at all interested in understanding grad school culture, this is a great site to start. It is somewhat focused on more hard science based study, but a lot of their posts are applicable to all grad students and I spent a ridiculous amount of time one day browsing and laughing. Here are some good examples:
What My Stipend Goes Towards
Trying to Settle on a Thesis Project
When Someone Tells Me They Saw My PI [or adviser] at a Party

And this one just makes me giggle, every time:
When My PI Drops the F-Bomb

Oh and this is what we woke up to yesterday morning:

It looks like Virginia got some snow this time too though...I'd wonder how our inches compare? ;)

So in the past few weeks I have actually gotten some sizable pieces of the semester over with...I have finished two days leading discussion for archaeology theory, I did a presentation on photovoice in ethnographic methods, and I led my seminar in my violence and inequality class. Now all that's left is to research and write three pretty sizable papers...if I really get started on those this week (SPRING BREAK!!!) I may actually be able to maintain some semblance of sanity for the rest of the semester (haha I'm so funny).

Of course I've also been doing other research here and there...on dowry, on the TV show project, and I've been trying to tease out some potential long-term research topics (thesis/dissertation ideas...). I've also been trying to get stuff together for my trip to Bangladesh, as there are a lot of forms to submit and deadlines to meet, and that has been stressful just because I'm afraid I will mess up one little thing and not be able to go...that one clerical error could screw it all up is terrifying! [but that's just my paranoia talking, I know]

But let's not talk about scary things. Let's talk, instead, about fanny packs.

Or maybe you find fanny packs somewhat frightening as well. See, I've noticed that there is a lot of nose-crinkling disgust for the practical little thing we unfortunately call the fanny pack. I think this is largely because when we hear "fanny pack" we think of this:

Which is an '80s/'90s brand of cool, but I can see why someone would find this a somewhat unforgivable fashion faux pas. I's bad. The colors are wrong and it is not at all flattering- as a fashion accessory it is an absolute fail. 

But it terms of practicality, it is hard to beat. When I found out I would be going to Bangladesh, the fanny pack was one of the first things I put on my to-buy list. Bag snatching is common; I've read articles about how safety isn't a terrible issue, but bag-snatching is, and people have been pulled off of rickshaws and injured because someone tried to snatch their shoulder-bag or backpack. A fanny pack could prevent this; it is a safer location to keep your camera, money, and other important travel items (though under the shirt pouches are probably even better for things like your passport or credit cards). Not to mention you don't have to have your arms occupied carrying things and they aren't as bulky as a backpack. Plus you can keep it in front increasing your awareness of where your items are. Depending on the size of it, you could even hid it with your clothing.

To further my defense of fanny packs, some modern takes on the fanny pack have been absolutely awesome: fashionable and functional. For example:

The Steampunk Fanny Pack

Now, I am no fashionista and I really don't dress all that well; I have never been much into fashion, nor do I have enough money to worry with it, but I think these are very classy ways to pull off the fanny pack! This is just a handful of some of the actually pretty cool fanny packs I've found online. Perhaps it just needs a renaming? How about the fashion pack? ;) 

Anyway, that's all from me for now. Happy Spring Break to all the Mizzou students and a happy week to everyone!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Week 26 You Know You Are Too Busy When...

I would amend that title to "You Know the Semester is Kicking Your Butt When..." [because, of course, this semester is my life right now...]

1) While doing household or hygiene chores you formulate a list in your head of reasons why the semester is kicking your butt, only to immediately forget everything that was on the list as soon as you sit down to write it.

2) Every conversation you have with someone ends with some variation of "I hate to cut this short but..."

3) Going to lectures is a fun break from whatever it is you should be doing (though I did get to hear some really excellent lectures...more on that another time).

4) You can't wait until the next 24, no 48, no 72, no...well until the next two weeks are over so you can get a break to in respond to all the unanswered things you've put on the back-burner.

5) You literally find yourself dreaming about class projects or archaeological theory.

6) Your dog is at your feet whining to go to bed at 2 in the morning because she just can't stand sleeping on the couch any more.

7) You wonder "where you went wrong" in teaching yourself proper time management.

8) You fell guilty for taking time for practical activities like vacuuming, laundry, or prepping for things occurring in the distant future (you know two months ahead rather than two days).

9) The best part of the week is Friday afternoon when you get to take a nap (especially if the nap occurs with the sliding glass door open, 75 degree weather pouring into a normally freezing apartment, and a gradual sinking into a 1970s couch).

10) You finish a blog post with a "to be continued" or a "will return when I have a coherent moment" at 12:30 am because you still have work to finish up.

So I'll get back to better blogging when I have a coherent leisure moment.

But of course, Underdog pajama pants can get anyone through anything!

I hope everyone had a fantastic St. Patrick's Day! And a happy Monday to you as well ;)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Week 25 Buzzing, Humming, Soaring, Roaring

So this is actually the first week where I have genuinely forgotten to write my blog! It has crossed my mind at random occasions, but there was never a moment where I thought "meh, I don't feel like doing it." It just never crossed my mind to write it, when I had a moment to, until now. And of course right now, I don't quite feel like I have a moment. 

Of course I do have a moment or two- we all do, if we can only slow our minds long enough to take that moment. I looked up quotes in an attempt to tie my thoughts to something so that I could write coherently here, and of course Virginia Woolf provided the best words:

"My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery- always buzzing, humming, soaring, roaring, diving, and then buried in the mud. And why? What's this passion for?" [You can find this quote and a brief bio here]

She wrote this in a letter, and certainly her mind was much more active and much more flurried than my own. But I can't help but feel what she meant (that is part of why I love her so much- it as if I can feel what she means).

Your mind, your heart, your everything is racing by at a hundred miles a minute, thinking of all the things to do, all the things yet undone, and why?

Perhaps the question of why is far too much for me to address in this particular moment. Suffice it to say that I do not think that we stop to think about the why that motivates us quite as much as we should. What is that passion that motivates us? Most of what we do moment by moment or day by day is not directly related to our passions, but it is good to remember, every once in a while, what it is that our passions are, so that we do not waste too much time buzzing about with things that are ultimately not what moves us. 

The past week and a half has been exceptionally busy, and I know that the next two weeks will be as well. I am a bit overwhelmed with all the buzzing in my head, and am trying not to get buried in the mud. I feel a little bit behind on every little thing- assignments, research for classes and individual research, taxes, CLS prep, keeping up with family and friends, etc. etc. But there is always an end in sight. More importantly, I don't want to rush to the end, I want to enjoy the journey as well. Sometimes that just takes more focus than I am capable of at the moment.

Very, very soon I will have to officially start recruiting for my ethnographic methods assignment. I have done a little bit of haphazard recruitment in order to complete my weekly assignments, but I will need to obtain surveys and interviews from people in their twenties regarding their health behavior, their perception of illnesses-specifically cancer- and their cancer experience. If any of my readers would be willing to participate it would be extremely helpful and, of course, completely private/confidential. This isn't going to be published anywhere and is only for in class and practice purposes, but I hope that it will provide me with ideas and maybe a general framework for my long-term research later on. 

It has been a very work focused week and the coming week will be as well- perhaps even more so. I won't outline it all here- it would be more constructive to actually go work on it than ramble on about it here!

So that is what I will move on to...though I haven't shared a photo yet. Of course I haven't taken a single picture this week. However, I have been meaning to write a post regarding one of my favorite artists for quite a while now. I have not gotten around to it yet mostly because I haven't gotten to scanning enough samples of her work, but she does have some of them online. You can look at some of them here and I do have a few scanned versions of some of her ink drawings. Like all art, they are of course better in person, but I think you can get a decent feel for her style and uniqueness by looking at them digitally. And of course forgive my scanner for bad cropping. She is thinking about getting prints made, so if you see something you like or would like to see more, leave a comment here or shoot me a message and let me know. I have plenty more to scan and upload.

Anyway, here are a few original pieces from Karma Rhodes to help us kick off our new week. ;) 

Have a great Monday everyone!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Week 24 Never Give Up, Never Surrender

This may be showing my geeky, silly side quite a bit, but I think this is one of the best life mottoes anyone could have. It is the best advice anyone could give. Whenever you think of your dreams, this is what should follow: "Never give up; never surrender." I know it is perhaps not the most original advice, and is perhaps one of the most obvious tidbits anyone can give, but it is simple and true.

This is the life motto I've been living by for a while now, and I can honestly say it has worked better for me than any more complicated religious faith or detailed life philosophy. It works because it is easy to remember and it is actually easy to do, once you get the hang of it. It reminds you to breathe and keep going. If your dreams are real and realistic, they can happen if you just keep trying (I'm saying "realistic" not to be negative or shatter someone's dreams but to remind you to keep your head in the game- if your dream is to be president well...think about that realistically...maybe your dream should be to get into politics and see where it goes from there. If your dream is to be the next Stephen King, maybe your dream should be to finally finish that novel you've been working on...see where I'm going with this? I'd love to be the next Margaret Mead or Nancy Scheper-Hughes, but I think I'm gonna focus on getting my PhD first). If you choose to believe in God, whichever one or multiple that you prefer, I am sure he/she/they will help you out, but you are still the one that has to do the work. Doing that work requires dealing with failures and setbacks and never giving up.

And then it is funny, when things finally start to fall into place. You maintain a sense of fear; you are waiting for that next setback. You know it will come, it is only a matter of time. But you can't let the potential for failure stifle you, and sometimes it is more successful than any failure itself in holding you back. You cannot surrender to that fear. You cannot let it keep you from taking the risks necessary in making your dreams come true. Never surrender.

In November of 2011 I was having my doubts regarding my own dreams. I was doubting what I was going to do next, where I was going with my life, if my hopes and dreams were worthwhile or if they were just childhood remnants of idealism. I honestly was not sure. The year before I had applied to five programs for graduate school and had failed to get into a single one. I wasn't surprised by this (I knew the competition was intense) and decided to try again, but by November I was extremely anxious about reengaging with the process. Extremely is a understatement. I remember one night talking to Dominic and trying to decide if this was what I really wanted to do.

I think I was so anxious because I knew, deep down, that anthropology was absolutely positively what I wanted to do with my life but I knew it was also a very challenging path. I was terrified of not getting into school again, and I knew that going for my PhD without funding would be more stress on my debt level than I would be able to handle. So there was the additional fear that I would get in but would not be able to go because I would not get funding.

And then what? Try again the next year? Keep waiting, indefinitely? When do you know you should give up and do something different with your life?

And was I ready to make the sacrifices I would need to make in order to continue towards my dream? There would be many. I would have to move. I was (am) so lucky to have Dominic, who said he would be willing to move anywhere with me. He is important enough to me that if he had said he was staying in Virginia, well, I probably would have too. But the move would mean being away from my family and friends. It would mean I would not be there for them when they needed me and vice versa. I would have to indefinitely postpone a nice wedding and having children so that I could live in relative poverty to get my education. This would further mean watching many people my age get on with their adult life- getting career jobs, saving money, going on fancy vacations, buying houses, getting married, spending on nice clothes, food, and weekends, etc. etc.

But what was my alternative? At the time I was working part time, just barely making $17,000 a year (before taxes) and just paying bills, not really saving for anything. Already I had friends far surpassing this measly income and I was feeling pretty worthless. I knew I could try for something more lucrative...I could get a 9-5. I could get my own little cubicle and come home every night to a glass of wine and a good meal. I could save up for a nice wedding and then start having kids. I could go for that American dream with the house and the white picket fence and instead of feeling lesser than many of my peers, I could live like them.

Cue the panic attack. Sure I could strive for all that- but that kind of 9-5 was extremely depressing to me. During the two years between undergraduate and graduate school I had one of the worst jobs I have ever had, and I was extremely depressed with it. I dreaded it. I had to leave work early one day because I was sobbing; someone there had told me they hated me- that everyone hated me- and I should not be there. Really, I agreed with him. I should not have been there. But at least that job taught me something. It taught me that having a 9-5 that I hated would genuinely ruin my life, and I knew that that lifestyle was not worth it to me. I'd rather live in relative poverty than live everyday with dread, anger and fear of a job that felt empty and pointless.

I moved on from that job to another that was absolutely heaven in comparison, but it was still a dead-end; I had no solid future there. I really enjoyed it and I loved the people I met there, but I knew it was not a long term arrangement. I kept wondering, how long was it okay to work part time? How long was it okay to not work towards anything at all? How long should I take to decide? I think the answers to these types of questions depend entirely on the individual and that each of us is different in our life course and our comfort level with our life course. I don't regret either one of those jobs because I learned something from them, and they were absolutely what I needed at the time. But I was getting restless. I need to be making some sort of tangible progress towards something or I feel wasteful, twitchy, uncomfortable...

I decided, despite my almost crippling fear, that I would try again. I decided that if it didn't work out, then I would decide what to do next. Baby steps. But I learned from my initial attempt at getting into graduate school and the experience I had gained the first time around paid off. I had worked harder on my GREs, I had gained more experience, I had written better essays. I applied and I got in to 4 of the 5 places I applied to.

My work towards something better had paid off in spades. Not only did I get in, I was offered some form of funding from all four places. Two of them had a great deal- one was Kentucky, offering full funding for one year and then likely more after that, depending on my performance. The other was, of course, Missouri.

Another difficult decision to face. Kentucky was a lot closer to home, which was a huge plus. But Missouri offered guaranteed funding for five instead of one year. What if I went to Kentucky and then I had to pay for the next four years? This was a surprisingly difficult decision to make. I honestly didn't want to leave home- if I had been able to fulfill my dreams by staying in or close to Virginia I would have stayed. I love my home state and Kentucky was appealing to me because it was so much closer to home. Not to mention I had never once set foot in Missouri.

But I don't regret the choice I made for one second. Missouri ended up being the better choice not just because of the funding; I have a fantastic adviser here (not to say that at Kentucky I wouldn't have, but my research interest in Bangladesh is much better represented here), I absolutely love Columbia, and I am still making great friends here. Being relatively far away from home has been less challenging than I thought because Dominic and I have wonderful family and friends. We've already had tons of visitors, countless Skype dates, and hardly a week goes by where we don't get some form of good mail: a package, a letter, etc.

I'm going on and on about all this for two reasons. 1) The more I push past my fears and continue moving forward, the more I realize how fruitless fear is. Even if you fail, it is not the end of the world. This is an absolute truth. 2) I know some people who are struggling right now, like I was less than a year ago, and I want to show them, the best way I know how, that things can get better and sometimes the harder path really is the better one. You do have to make sacrifices- you absolutely positively do- but sometimes it is totally worth it.

So what inspired me to go on about this now? One of my biggest dreams is about to come true, and I so want other people to know this feeling. I want other people to work towards their dreams and then have that moment when suddenly that dream is a reality. It is such a wonderful feeling, and part of the reason it is so wonderful is because you worked so hard for it and you were so uncertain about it for all those years: people questioned you, people doubted you, you doubted yourself. And then suddenly there it is, right in front of you, and you can hardly believe it. I can hardly believe it. I literally woke up the other day and thought I had dreamed it. Sometimes I'm terrified that somehow it won't be true- that something will happen blah, blah, blah...but no. I shall not surrender to that fear.

Instead, I'm going to go to Bangladesh. There are not even words to explain how shocked and elated I was to find out that I got into the CLS program [I will go ahead and say this now, though I will probably say it later as well, but this blog is no way affiliated with, or representative of the CLS program- all opinions are mine and mine alone, etc. etc.]. I have actually applied to this program before and did not get in, and as a first year grad student I had expected that I would need to apply again next year or the next before actually being presented with the opportunity to go. I couldn't believe it when I opened that email. When I saw that "Congratulations"...Wow!

Going to Bangladesh is a dream come true for me. I have always wanted to see that part of the world. I can't believe that I am now presented with the opportunity to do so. Learning the language, experiencing the culture, living there for two months. I am so insanely excited!

In sum, this is what I want to say. I did work hard for this. I did experience failure and rejection to get where I am. And I am going to experience so much more. I am going to get turned down for grants and funding. I am going to get rejection letters on papers I write and proposals I submit. I absolutely am, just as I have before. There will be times where I struggle to find a job, where I can't quite get where I need to go, where I will need to make sacrifices. But I will keep moving forward, I will never give up, and I won't surrender to fear. And neither should you. We all have our down moments. We all have our moments of pessimism, of depression, of frustration. But don't let it cripple you. Accept that those moments are part of life and then get on with it. There are plenty of things standing in your way; don't let yourself be one of them. Plow through them. Be flexible. Bend as needed. Keep moving forward.

Okay well, enough of that I suppose. Let's do photos...

This is our new chair. Yes, we did find it on the side of the road. Still sits just as well ;)

Ripley enjoying a toy shipped all the way from Richmond!

Dominic started experimenting with the black and white option on my camera this week. He took a lot of really cool photos, I will ask if I can share them next time. This is just one of them.

Snow Round 2

Enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone. And remember- never give up, never surrender!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Week 23 Thunder Snow 2013

I think most of you are quite aware of the snow storm that hit a good chunk of the Midwest this week: Thunder Snow 2013. Our area was graced with about 9-11 inches (more or less depending on where you were). Most of you have probably heard my rant or particular story, either through Facebook or just my talking to ya, so I won't go into that in detail...except through pictures! I had my camera with me on Thursday during my 2 1/2 hour, inch-by-inch drive home so I was able to get quite a lot of photos. And of course I have been taking photos ever since. I will try to share some of the best ones here. I guess this post will be more of a photo journal sort of thing:


From the top of the parking deck

Do I look cold here?

Time for the 2 1/2 hour, 3 mile drive home.

Lots of cars were abandoned...and rightly so.

Made it- but not gonna make it into our parking lot (especially as, in this picture, you can't even see that I'm taking a picture of the parking lot; the lot has since been cleared, but Granada hasn't- it is a lot of slush now)

Dominic, after a 3 1/2 hour walk home.

REAL icicles in his beard!

The rest of these were taken either Friday or Saturday

Shadows and the moon

I know these two are pretty similar, but I couldn't decide which one to I posted both...

Saturday night we had a Lazer Tag night! We had a really great turn out and it was an absolute blast. We had enough people for a team of 5 and a team of 6. These pictures aren't great because of course I didn't think to take any until after we had run around the arcade for probably 2 hours or so and played our round of Lazer Tag, so these are all just after the adventure ended. I am totally looking forward to doing this again and was so glad so many people made it out! It was so much fun. Of course the one group picture I got is mostly everyone's back...

Just imagine it looks something more like this:

I am hoping I will have some exciting news to share this time next week- or some news one way or another, so fingers crossed that I hear something soon! We are also supposed to get some more snow Monday night into Tuesday...5-10 inches? It all seems pretty uncertain, so we will see how it goes...

Enjoy your last week of February 2013 everyone!