Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Week in the Life

I have always enjoyed descriptions of other peoples daily lives. It must be the budding anthropologist in me, but hey, my favorite book since I was 15 has been Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, and that is a perfect "a day in the life" kind of work. For a while I have been thinking about dedicating a blog post to a day in my life (as unexciting as it may be) but my days are so utterly erratic! Depending on the time of the year and the day of the week my days are completely different. As an example, consider this week, February 16 to the 22.

I typically wake up between 7:30 and 8:30, depending on the day. Everyday starts with a 15-20 minute walk with Ripley, feeding her and Mr. Kitty, making coffee and lunches as needed, and checking my email. From there the days diverge, though typically I put something on TV to listen to while I eat breakfast and get ready for the day. 

Sundays are my reading days. I spend between 5 and 7 hours reading, taking notes and writing comments for my Monday discussion class. Comments are due at 8 pm. If I'm not exceptionally burned out by the end of it I will try to read in preparation for my MA exam, but the time spent there fluctuates quite a bit. Anyway, Sunday revolves entirely around reading. If I have time or really need a break I will typically catch part of a movie Dom is watching (his day off) or watch an episode of a mind-numbing TV show. I caught part of the Chronicles of Riddick this week.

Mondays I have my first class at 11:00, which is a class taught by Dr. Shenk on social organization (kinship, marriage, gender, etc.) that I am sitting in on. Around noon I typically eat a packed lunch with Jeremy, who is in my 11:00 o'clock and my 1:00 o'clock class. We chat until class time, which is a discussion based class with Dr. Shenk on human behavioral ecology (a theoretical perspective which, essentially, explores how environment impacts behavior- with evolutionary underpinnings) that lasts until just before 4:00. On the way home I usually take care of whatever errands need to be done - gas, grocery store, Dollar General- before getting home and walking Ripley. I usually put something on TV or listen to music while I tiddy up around the house- make the bed, clean up any messes, prep for dinner. This Monday I got a call from Kristen asking if Dom and I wanted to come over for dinner, so I made a German chocolate cake and took care of some miscellaneous school tasks until we headed over there (Ripley included), around 7:30. We ate dinner (Jim and Kristen always feed us well!) and played a round of Settlers of Catan (we are only mildly obsessed with that game!). We got home about 10:45ish. Then my nightly ritual begins: getting ready for bed, walking Ripley, and reading before falling asleep.  

Tuesdays, barring inclement weather, are my part-time job days. I scoop dog poop for a family owned business (a great family!) which entails, simply put, driving to people's houses and scooping their poop. This Tuesdays was gorgeous; the snow was melting and the sun was out. Of course, snow melt meant a lot of extra poop (and mud)! I scooped from 9:00 am to 4:15 pm. I headed home, walked Rips, showered, and my cleaning/dinner prep ensued. Dom helped me make fish, mac'n cheese, fried calamari rings, and asparagus. I did some MA exam studying before reading in bed and crashing around 10:30. I was exhausted.

Wednesdays are my long on-campus days this semester. I have Stat class from 10:00-12:50. This week I met Jeremy for lunch at 1:00 at Ingredient (a pretty tasty restaurant downtown) before we headed to a MA exam study group at 2:00. Around 3:30 I printed articles for this week's HBE readings and headed to my 4:00-5:30 preparing future faculty class. This week's lecture was on non-tenure track positions. At 6:00 I had orientation for a volunteer program I will be starting next week helping kids in low income families increase their reading ability and comprehension. Next Thursday I will start my weekly volunteering from 3:45-6:00. The orientation only took 35 minutes, and I was home by 7:00. Dom and I walked Ripley and I made vegetarian burritos for dinner. We watched The Island with Michael Cain - strange movie! It's best if you watch it knowing nothing about will be consistently surprised/astonished/potentially mildly horrified. The woman was my favorite character. Then the nightly routine...

Today, Thursday, I hung out about the house and started working on this thing until my noon lunch date with fellow grad student Gretchen, who is leaving for Bangladesh soon (exciting!). I drove Dominic's truck; he borrowed my car to take Ripley, a friend, and her dog to the park for a walk before the thunder and rain started. Gretchen and I went to my favorite restaurant downtown, a Vietnamese place with a quiet atmosphere perfect for casual conversations. Now, at 2:00, I am sitting in the campus Starbuck's with the intention of finishing this and working on some reading/work before a talk organized by the South Asian Studies Program at 3:30 by Samira Sheikh. The talk focuses on a kingdom in eighteenth century India. I suppose that will last about an hour. Then I will head home to swap vehicles with Dominic (he needs the truck to take the lawnmower a friend at work gave him for his small engines repair class, from 6-8 tonight). I will probably walk Ripley, do some reading, try not to waste any time (we will see how that goes). At 6:30 I will go to a reception for Samira Sheikh. I am looking forward to hopefully seeing some people I have met in the South Asian program in previous semesters; one woman is also from Virginia and I always enjoy talking to her. I suppose I will be home around 8:30. Then I hope to read, study, and get any work done I need to have ready for tomorrow.

Fridays are nice days. I will Skype with Amrita at 9:00 for an hour or so. Then I have the social org class from 11:00-11:50. From 12:00 to 2:00 I will eat a packed lunch and work on some of my projects in preparation for a meeting with Dr. Shenk at 2:00. We will meet for an hour, maybe two. I will be home by 3:30 or 4:30. Walk Rips (she needs lots of walking). Then I will relax a bit. Friday afternoons should always be for relaxing. I plan on watching this week's latest Walking Dead episode (right now this is my favorite show...I LOVE it, even though it stresses me out...). Then I will need to do some cleaning and laundry, so I will probably put some guilty pleasure TV on while I do housework (Prison Wives anyone?). Dom will be home at 6:15-6:30. I will make chicken, fried potatoes, and green beans for dinner. Perhaps we will watch a movie or read. 

Saturday morning at 10:00 will be my first book club meeting ever! Kristen is going too. It is an interfaith book club and we will be picking a book to read for the coming month. I am excited; I have been wanting to join a book club for years. At 1:30 Gretchen is going to come by and pick out some clothes for her trip to Bangladesh (it is nice to have at least one outfit ready for being in-country!). I will probably have to go to the grocery store at some point. Maybe later in the afternoon I will have a Skype date with Dad and Yvonne. I usually get at least an hour or two worth of reading done in the late afternoon on Saturdays. I will probably have some new data to work on for some of my projects this semester, and I should start on my stat homework...Dom gets home at 3:00 and usually takes a nap. Saturday nights we might hang out with friends, usually at our apartment or theirs. Typically we play games: Settlers of Catan, cards, etc.

On Sunday the cycle, with its respective stability and variation, begins again. I forgot to mention my obsessive email checking (always waiting for important IMPORTANT emails). Usually during my cleaning hours, cooking, or times throughout the day walking Ripley I try to catch up on phone calls but I'm not great at that. Next week will be the same yet different: the same classes, different meetings...

Each day is a little different, which makes establishing a productive work routine a bit difficult, but I have always loved the academic schedule. Sure it's always changing, but it is a perpetual feeling of progress towards something, and I never feel like I am stuck in a rut. Despite how difficult and challenging things can be, I am thankful for that! I love that I have so many hours during the day that aren't set in stone. I love the flexibility; though it does sometimes feel like you are always "on the clock". It is difficult to shake the feeling that I should be working on or reading something. And of course I probably always should...

But Fridays are for fun and relaxation. I am looking forward to my Walking Dead time ;) 

I hope everyone else is have a fulfilling and enjoyable week!

 An old building turned museum in a town just outside of Dhaka.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Deep Winter

And so here we are again. I find this blog is going much like many recent conversations. No one really has anything going on, no updates, just days trudging into days. The days pass quickly but without anything happening worth comment. Unless, of course, it has to do with the weather; nearly every conversation is about the weather. It's funny how people today often consider modern society separate from nature, yet we are massively impacted by the weather. Right now conversations are nurturing, but lives aren't about excitement, they are about stasis. This is a characteristic of deep Winter (I believe seasons should be capitalized, because they do, in most places around the world, play a huge role in our daily lives!). People are waiting - and preparing - for Summer.

Today I was given yet another reason to dislike the cold. Before moving to Missouri I never really had much of a problem with the cold; aside from the most basic desire for Summer. But the winters here are surprisingly much harsher than most Virginia winters (though this Winter is horrible, relatively speaking, almost everywhere) and I have seen what real cold can do! I can't even imagine how much worse it is further and further north (I can't even imagine how it is for Sissy in Chicago!).

Pulling my car into an icy spot in the parking deck today, I bumped my front bumper into the concrete barrier. A chunk of my bumper immediately cracked and snapped off. My bumper snapped! The purpose of a bumper is to bump into things, and since 1999 this car has certainly done some bumping. I'm convinced it was due to the FRIGID temperatures we've been having. I can't believe I am at a point in my life in which 25 degrees feels downright nice. The past few days (weeks!) have been unbelievably cold. And I know it gets so much worse in other places! Weather is such a relative experience.

Of course the cold this year has also prevented my dog from going on walks because it hurts her feet. And I've never had such dry skin in my life! Permanently dirty cars. Never warm enough gloves and aching, burning fingers. Oh and the falling. Lots of falling. Falling snow. Falling ice. Falling me.

But the great part about Winter is the crispness right before the beautiful newness of Spring. We wouldn't appreciate how wonderful Spring is without the Winter!

One thing that has really helped me cope with the cold is remembering the hottest I have ever been. This was standing at the elevator waiting to go to class in Dhaka surrounded by dozens of sweaty college students; this, after walking the dirt/gravel road - which was crowded, often muddy and sometimes flooded -  from the apartments. My face and body glistening - all of us glistening - and sweat dripping down my linen encased legs (the first time my legs ever dripped sweat). We often mentioned how ungodly hot it was standing there. It was worse, standing at that elevator, than standing in the sun.

That was the hottest I have ever been. And by golly, I never thought I'd miss it. The next time I am standing at that elevator, I will remind myself of days like this!

This is not the road from the apartments to the university, but it is a road very nearby. It was newly paved (concrete I think) and was, at least for a little while, easily one of the smoothest roads in Dhaka!

Stay warm everyone!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Conversations with Neighbors

Ah I didn't post! I had much of this written up and then I dropped the ball. Oh well, that isn't unusual. I'm picking it up again.

The weather has been pretty wintry this week, and classes were cancelled yesterday and today due to snow. The weekend was far worse though - we got ice!

So my Fall Count for the 2013-2014 Winter season is ever increasing. I was at three - one fall downtown, one walking Ripley, and one in a friend's driveway- until this weekend's ice storm. My count is five now. I got bruises. We should appreciate dry sidewalks and roads more than we do; ahhhh traction!

Recently I have been thinking a lot about a potential move. Now, the logistics of that would be problematic if I end up going to Bangladesh this summer, but right now I'm in still in the decision making stage. My main motivation is that I feel like we could find somewhere a little (though not dramatically) cheaper, especially if rent here goes up again like it did last year. My second biggest motivation is the carpet. There is a spot where Ripley seems convinced it is perfectly okay to go on (it's not okay). I suspect this is due to previous pets going in this spot (it is the only spot in the whole apartment she wants to go on) and since we were told there would be new carpets when we moved (um, no, not even remotely new) this has disappointed me. Also, it would be nicer to be a little closer to campus - I could save some decent money if I could walk or bike to campus.

Okay, well, I suppose none of that is all that interesting (I'm grasping at straws here) but it terms of weighing the pros and cons of moving (cons including logistics, and, of course, the actual move), one big con to moving has been weighing on my lately. I love this neighborhood. I feel safe here and it is such a nice little community. I hardly go a day without talking to someone, and there are some neighbors I see and talk to almost on a daily basis. Granted, I know them by the name of their dog rather than the name of the human, but I still think that's a pretty good track record...

We, as humans, are not meant to live next door to strangers. If you don't believe me, I recommend reading the The Moral Animal by Robert Wright. It is very readable, and is full of fascinating discussions regarding a lot of the reasons humans act the way they do. Why do we go after certain partners and not others? Why is there a double standard for women; a Madonna-Whore dichotomy? Why do we have friends? Why do we feel guilty or jealous? Why do some people have low self esteem and others massive egos? This book tackles these topics - and many more - from an evolutionary perspective. As in, we evolved to be the way we are. And we did not evolve to live next door to strangers or crowd onto subways full of people we've never met. When you think about it, this makes sense, and I think it explains a lot of our anxieties (if you read the book, it will explain it a lot better...I think it is a good read for any and everyone).

Anyway, I value my small daily conversations with my neighbors, and I am reluctant to give that up to move to a different neighborhood. Alas, there are always things we have to give up when we make changes in our lives, some much smaller than others. This one's pretty miniscule in the scheme of things. Just some things I have been thinking about.

I don't have much else to share. Cold, classes, ice, reading, snow, grad school anxieties...that is pretty much it for me now. So I suppose I will get back to it.

Bangladeshi train through the jungle...

Happy Snow Day!