Everywhere But Home

News and musings from wherever my crazy life takes me. My body may be back in Illinois, but at least for now, my mind is still in Mongolia.


Leave a comment

Random Ramblings and Cold-Weather Acclimation

Duly noted: chicken tacos do not sit well when ingested immediately after working out. I knew they weren’t going to after the first few bites, but I finished my plate anyway; they were delicious, and I was hungry, and I was going to get my money’s worth. Besides, chicken tacos. An everyday thing stateside, but definitely a treat here.

And I can deal with some gastric grousing, so long as it’s not actual food poisoning. I leave UB in two days, and a train is not a good place to be when your stomach declares war. Not as bad as, say, a bus or an airplane (or worse yet, a meeker – see below), but still not good.

I've been packed into one of these with 22 of my closest friends; I think it legally seats about 14. Thank god it was only for an hour.

The cheapest form of transportation hereabouts, but you get what you pay for.

Besides, I’ve got stuff to do tomorrow: laundry, packing for my trip to UB, making cranberry sauce for Peace Corps Thanksgiving, baking cookies for the friends hosting me, acquiring the ingredients necessary to make said goodies, planning out my lessons for Thursday. Ironically, Thanksgiving is the only day I’m working this week; I don’t have classes Monday or Tuesday, Wednesday is election day (which is a national holiday, unlike in the US), and I’m taking Friday off to travel. Tough life, eh?

I used the first day of this non-work week to have the Americans over for dinner. The high school teachers among us midway through a two-week break, so we’ve been taking turns having everyone over for dinner. I made chili and cornbread, which were very well received by all but the Mongolians, who thought the chili too spicy. It’s the first time I had people over, and I think it went pretty well. I probably won’t play host to such a large group very often, though; there was barely enough space for us all to sit in my room, and nowhere near enough seating. And I think everyone now knows that I mean it when I ask them to bring their own cups/bowls/spoons if they don’t want to eat in shifts. I don’t even have enough bowls for us all to make one do double duty, as the Mongolians do (they don’t have separate words for “cup” and “bowl;” both are an аяга). Besides, that would have meant being unable to enjoy the chili and Nathan’s fantastic horchata simultaneously, and clearly, such things are meant to go together.

It could have been the body heat of so many people in such a small space, or it could have been a variety of other things: the extra layer of tape now gumming up the leaky seals in my windows, the fact that it’s actually stayed above 0*F for the past few nights, someone somewhere cranking up the radiators. But whatever the cause, it is now significantly warmer in my apartment. By “significantly warmer” I mean that my room now averages 75*F, otherwise known as “too dang hot!” It’s at least ten degrees warmer than I’d like it to be, seeing as a comfortable sleeping temperature for me is about 60.

And that’s before my body kicks into cold-weather mode, which it has apparently done. Today’s forecast high was only about 27, but it was a sunny 27, so I dressed appropriately when leaving the apartment: no gloves, hat, or coat, just a sweatshirt over a T-shirt. A short-sleeved T-shirt. I think my little brother would be proud. And no, as I repeatedly told Mongolians, I wasn’t cold.

This week’s teacher lesson is on weather, and for “snow,” I plan on showing them the picture of LSD (Lake Shore Drive, for the non-Chicagoans) during the Snowpocalypse. You know the one:

I really wish I'd been here to see this.

Never mind that this is not a typical Chicago winter, and that I was in a different state at the time. I just want some cold-weather street cred so people will stop telling me to put on a coat. I’ll put on coat when I’m cold, and I ain’t cold yet.

Nor, I’ll bet, are Mongolian babies. We have officially entered what Nathan likes to call “starfish baby season” – the time of year when Mongolian toddlers are so bundled up they can’t move. And I don’t mean they can barely move; they’re legitimately immobile, spread-eagled like a little starfish. Their parents sometimes carry them sideways under their arms, as you might a package. It’s an adorable and hilarious sight, and unfortunately it appears not to have made it onto Google Images. I’ll sneak some surreptitious pictures and post them when I get a chance.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Updates coming soon

I had intended to post about our visit to the countryside last weekend tonight, and maybe even put up some pictures, but those plans were forestalled. I will do my best to find some Internet time tomorrow afternoon to post the lovely long entry I’ve written on that trip.

This blogging business is complicated when you have to jump through hoops to get online. But I’ll brave those hoops soon, I promise!


Leave a comment

Opinion (Not News)

Today I attended a lecture by S.E. Cupp entitled “The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity.” At the end of the lecture, I was surprised to discover one of my professors sitting behind me. He asked me what I thought of the lecture; I told him that I would have found her more convincing if she wasn’t just as general and dogmatic as the liberal media she was attacking.

One professor walked out before she had spoken for five minutes, and I understood why. I stayed until the end of the Q&A session, though the rest of the audience probably wished I hadn’t by the time I had asked three or four questions.

I will grant her, she had some valid points – and she made them much more effectively during the Q&A session, when she was no longer reading from her prepared speech. Some thought-provoking points, and my responses:

  • We trust the media to be fair and balanced, but they’re taking sides, and our mainstream news is presented from liberal, secular viewpoint.

I’ll give her that one. She had plenty of examples of the the condescending, derogatory way Christianity is often portrayed in the media. The religious columnist for Newsweek probably has much more worthwhile things to write about than compiling a list of the hottest rabbis. Religion should be handled seriously and respectfully, at least by the news. Flippancy belongs to the talk-show hosts, not the reporters.

However, while I can see the objection in a the news being presented in a liberal slant, I see no inherent issue with the news being presented from a secular point of view. If you’re going to take a religious point of view, you’re going to have to pick a religion, and you will essentially be preaching its values to those who might not share them. The secular viewpoint seems to be the only fair one, provided it is not pro-secular.

  • America is 80% Christian, and a secular “mainstream” media no longer represents the mainstream.

This figure, she admitted, was taken from the CIA world factbook, which is great for overviews but less so for specifics. Most of the people I know who identify as “Christian” are so in that they espouse Judeo-Christian values and maybe go to church now and then. Now, that may have a lot to do with being from Deerfield, where the most religious people I knew were Jewish. But I think it’s something worth considering when you start throwing around big numbers like that.

If the mainstream media is indeed to represent the mainstream, does this mean that they are obligated to present a pro-Christian viewpoint? Because I find that idea profoundly distasteful. Is not being pro-Christian the same thing as anti-Christian, at least in the eyes of the Christian public? How should the media, and everyone, for that matter, ride that balance?

If that much of the country truly is religious, then they deserve to be represented. How does one represent religion without implicitly preaching it?

  • The separation of church and state is widely misinterpreted; forcing Americans to keep their religion private is exactly the opposite of the Founding Fathers’ intent.

Yes, America was founded by people who wanted to be able to be able to publicly and openly practice their religions. By this token, I think students and teachers should be allowed to pray in public schools. But once you ask students to pray, or set aside time for them to do so, you’re showing a preference for religion, and I don’t think that’s acceptable.

I guess the trickiest part of this is that evangelism is an inherent part of Christianity, and of many major religions. But once you begin to proselytize, you’re infringing on the religious rights of others – especially when you do so in an official or governmental capacity. I guess I don’t know how this balance can or should be struck.

  • Even those of us who are not Christian (she’s an atheist) share most Judeo-Christian values. Attacking Christianity is unnecessarily divisive and prevents us from recognizing what we have in common.

This is where I started to get a little fuzzy about what she was actually arguing. I agree with the statement above. However, earlier in the lecture, she mentioned how we had gone from a time when the New York Times urged Americans to pray for the astronauts of Apollo 13 to one where the government use of “In God We Trust” was under attack. So I asked her if she thought that retaining those same values while removing any explicit link to Christianity constituted an attack on Christianity.

I did not get a straight answer to this question. Her response was essentially that getting offended that your money says “God” or at being wished a Merry Christmas seems like a waste of time. I’ll agree to the second point, though I do espouse the public use of “Happy Holidays.” If you know that someone is Christian, then by all means wish them a Merry Christmas. But if you don’t, you’re making assumptions. Having grown up in a largely Jewish community means that I don’t assume that people are Christian. 

Christmas wasn’t really the point of my question, however. It was more about the explicit reference to Christianity in a more official capacity – in the pledge of allegiance, on our currency. It was about finding a middle ground. If atheists are offended if we mention God, and Christians are offended if we don’t, how can we ever find a middle ground? Does God have to be acknowledge as the giver of those values in order for it to be acceptable to Christians – can they be “American values” rather than “Judeo-Christian?”

I don’t think that removing phrases like “In God We Trust” and “under God” from government use encroaches on people’s personal faith. Americans can trust in God whether America does or not.


Leave a comment

Rambling Catch-Up

I have been in remiss in my blogging recently. So here is an attempt to catch up.

From our weekly Skype sessions, my parents have gotten the impression that I don’t go to class much, which is somewhat accurate. Though I’m taking six classes (19th Century American Literature, Early Modern Literature [Shakespeare and Milton], Saints and Sinners in the Celtic World, Imagining Modern Ireland, The English Language in Ireland, and Irish for Beginners), each one only meets for two hours each week, with the exception of Irish, which meets for four. Fourteen hours of class per week in total, which really isn’t much. The classes are pretty forgettable, too, especially my Saints and Sinners class. I have never sat through a more boring hour of droning about Columbanus and, more recently, St. Patrick. But I’m hoping Miami will count it as a theology class so I can fill up my last CAS requirement.

There isn’t much in the way of homework, either. Only the Irish class features what they call “continuous assessment” – graded homework assignments and tests on a regular basis. For the others, my entire grade will be based on a final exam or paper, and maybe a midterm if I’m lucky. This, my friends, is TERRIFYING. November is not going to be fun. But perhaps December will be, as I’m pretty sure that I will be completely done with at least three of my classes by December 6th.

I do have a fair amount of reading to do; I’ve been slogging my way through lots of Shakespeare (Othello, The Merchant of Venice, and A Winter’s Tale so far; I missed Hamlet and will have to reread it sometime soon). I’ve also found, much to my own surprise, that I actually enjoy Hawthorne when I’m not terrified by the prospect of writing an essay for Tanimoto on it. And now I have about another 400 pages of Moby Dick to get through. How I’m going to find the time for that, I’m not entirely sure. But I like what I’ve read of it so far.

What I’ve been doing outside of classes and classwork might not take up as much time, but it certainly seems more worth talking about. Sadly, I think I have to limit myself to swing dancing once a month. There is a swing scene here, but I just can’t justify €10 per week for a one-hour lesson. It adds up way too quickly. The place and time are inconvenient, as well, and I can’t keep asking my friends to walk across town with me at 9 pm.

This is not to say that I’ve been going without dancing, however. Dansoc offers lessons in Irish dancing, breakdancing, salsa, and hiphop, but naturally I have class during most of these. I did manage to make it to Irish dancing last night though, and I would like to continue going. My calves feel otherwise about the matter, but they’ll adjust.

Going to Irish dance last night meant that I didn’t go to archery, but there are other times during the week that I can go. It’s a pretty relaxed club; you show up and you shoot, and the more experienced members give you tips on how you can improve. For reasons unknown to me, my form was great the first week and fell to pieces last week. Maybe it will be better tomorrow.

I’m also doing capoeira once a week. I’ve only been once so far, but it was AWESOME, and I mean to make every effort to keep going. Capoeira, for those who don’t know, is a Brazilian martial art that was developed by slaves who had to hide the fact that they were training for combat. In essence, it’s combat dancing. I really wish we had it at Miami, because I have a feeling I’ll be hooked by the end of the semester.

There’s also a mountaineering club here, which naturally I joined. They offer wall climbing twice a week and go on hikes on Sundays. Katie and I took the bus out to Leenane, in the hills of Connemara, on Sunday. Katie opted for the short walk; I decided I would take the medium one. Perhaps I should have taken the short one, as a short hike is preferable to none at all.

My walk got off the bus, and then the leader read off the names to make sure we were all there. At this point, one of the guys asked if there was time to go to the bathroom before we headed off. The leader said yes, so I followed the guy who had asked into the café across the street, and I think another girl from our group went too. I should have made sure the leader knew that I was going; you would think I would have learned this lesson by now, as many times as this has happened to me. But I didn’t, and sure enough, when I got out of the bathroom, the group was gone.

Katie wasn’t answering her phone, and this was my first hike with the group – I didn’t know the names of the exec board and hike leaders, much less their phone numbers. So I called Catharine, and she in turn called Arcadia and International Student Services to get hold of the mountaineering club’s contact information. I failed to make it clear to her that it was in the parking lot with the bus that I had been left behind, so by the time she got through to Ishvan, the club’s captain, I wasn’t just “left behind,” but “missing.” We got that cleared up eventually, but it had taken about 45 minutes for me to get through to anyone; the hikes had progressed too far for me to catch up, or for someone to come back for me. So I got to hang out in Leenane for another three hours.

Leenane is along the only fjord in Ireland, and even from the town itself, the scenery was pretty spectacular. My friends from New England say that it’s not that much different from being in Vermont or upstate New York, but I love mountains no matter where they’re found. I only wish I’d actually gotten to hike these. Another time, I guess.

I did spend my time walking the beach and exploring little creeks, going as far as I could without trespassing on what was clearly private property or straying too far out of the town, which I had been specifically asked not to do. Ishvan didn’t want me wandering off on my own and getting lost for real, which I understood.

The weather was nuts, which I guess is fairly typical here. I saw at least five rainbows that day, which isn’t terribly surprising, because the weather went from dark and rainy to bright and sunny to bright and rainy on a fairly regular basis. This attempt at putting together a panorama is crudely done, but it should be enough to give you the idea:

That’s Ireland for you right there. 


Leave a comment

Let’s Play Catch-Up!

So for the last five weeks, I’ve been at camp, where internet access is very limited. I could go online when we went into town every week, but that sort of spoils the aura of camp. While I’m up in the North Woods, the internet does not exist; or at least, it only exists when I have to take care of Very Important Things, like arrangements for my study abroad next semester. 

But camp did give me a lot to write and think about, and a fair amount of it made it into a paper journal I kept. So over the next few days I should be transferring that onto this account.


Leave a comment

le 3 juin: An Absolutely Marvelous Day

Robbie and I recently discovered that we both fairly active (and cheapskates to boot), and thus would rather walk most places than take the bus, so we walked into town together this morning. Though, of course, we had to get breakfast first. We did so in the French manner: stopping at the local boulangerie for a pastry. This time I tried a beignet pomme, which was rather like a donut with applesauce in the middle. Not bad, but not my favorite. That honor (so far) goes to what is alternately called an oreillette or a croissant abricot – it’s something like croissant dough with lemon curd in the middle and half an apricot at either end. Delicious. Croissant amand are not to be scoffed at either, though the best ones I’ve had are sadly at the other town. These are croissants containing chocolate and slivered almonds and dusted with powdered sugar. Now that, my friends, is a good breakfast! Cheap, too: prices typically range from 80 centimes for a basic croissant to 1E40 for a fancier pastry.

Class met at Notre-Dame de Dijon and then continued on to La Musée des Beaux Arts, so we got to spend class standing in front of the works we were discussing, rather than looking at bad photocopies of black-and-white pictures. It was really nice. I’m finally starting to learn the French terms for different aspects of Gothic architecture, which makes it MUCH easier to talk about what I’m seeing. And it’s nice not to have to say, “uh… um.. un…” while I look for a way to circumlocute.

Best of all, it was over at noon, and then we were free for the day! So we met up with the people who weren’t in the art and architecture class and all went out to lunch. We found a very nice Italian place near Les Halles, though I don’t remember what it was called. In any case, the service was great (and very friendly), the pesto pasta was marvelous, and the prices were fairly reasonable, if on the higher side of mid-priced.

We split up again after lunch, and Robbie and I headed over to the planetarium and botanic gardens. Well, the gardens were something of an afterthought, but they took precedence once we got there. It was a beautiful sunny day, not too hot so we wandered the gardens for a while. There was a quiet pond and stream down the middle, which played host to a number of ducks. The shade provided by a number of bushes and a couple of truly enormous sycamores (the trunks are probably a good five feet across!) made it lovely and green and cool.

Most of all, I think, we enjoyed the rose garden. It seemed to be past the season for roses, as most of them were past their prime, but I think I still got some good pictures. I’ll post one here; the rest should be on facebook shortly.

The planetarium was cool, but nothing particularly spectacularly. About half of it was devoted to a special temporary exhibit entitled “Lune et l’Autre,[1]” and the other half featured a good deal of geology. The fluorescent rocks were pretty cool, I have to say.

We sat down by the duck pond for a few minutes before heading back, because it’s at least a 40-minute walk back to the dorms, and we were both in the mood for a nap. Robbie discovered that the raspberries he had purchased from a stand after lunch had gotten a bit smushed, so he ate them while we sat (and I helped, a bit). “C’est la bonne vie,” I said. “Manger les framboises and regarder les canards.[2]

We stopped for ice cream on the way back; there’s a place across the street from the ever-popular Fnac (think French Barnes and Noble) with some truly wondrous sorbets. I’ve never had apricot sorbet before, but it was marvelous: sweet and tart and not a bit artificial. The place has 24 flavors, and I strongly suspect I will end up trying them all before we leave. I’m already plotting out combinations that sound good together: strawberry and rhubarb, green apple and caramel, mango and banana… and probably red and black current together, so I can compare the two. Reasonably priced too: one scoop for 2E, 2 scoops for 3E. Not cheap, but not bad. And well worth it for the quality.


[1] For you non-francophones, it’s a pun; “l’un et l’autre” means “one and the other”

[2] “This is the good life… to eat raspberries and watch the ducks.” It sounded more intelligent at the time.