Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Admission of Geekiness

The paradox of graduate school: with probably 30 books on my reading lists for classes, four jobs to juggle, and research reports to complete, I'm having a hard time putting down a book that was (before this morning) on none of my reading lists, and that I merely saw while scanning the shelves of the library.

Go figure.

Unfortunately, for now the preface to Spivak's A Critique of Postcolonial Reason will have to remain in abeyance.

"...Thus the reader's place is as unsecured as the writer's. But is that not the status of all texts, resisted in the writing and the reading?"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Year Two Resolutions

Well, it's happening again. Year two of my M.A. in English has officially begun. I celebrated by discovering that I now associate the smell of the library, especially the study rooms, with David Lynch. When that happened, I have no idea.

As befits another school year, I have immediately commenced making long-winded and ridiculous resolutions that will be broken .2 seconds after I receive my first assignment. Nonetheless, for your reading pleasure, I present,

Resolutions to which Every Studious Overachieving Learner Under Thirty Is Obliged to Nominally Subscribe*

1) I will not, will not give in to the lure of Starbucks before every 3 p.m., 2.5 hour class.

2) Projects will not, will not be completed the night before they are due.**

3) I will bring an umbrella to school on rainy days.***

4) I will not, will not use Facebook as a reward for every sentence I type.

5) I will not, will not allow the stairs to have the last word.****

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? I can do this. I can. Really. Go. Done.



*Did you notice that amazing split infinitive? Mwahahaha
**Notice the lovely ambiguity that allows projects to be still incomplete the night (and morning) before they are due...
***But may leave it in the car.
****Even if all I get to add is "ouch."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's Back to Business

Someone should mass-produce sunsets, cooler mornings, gardens, bare feet, "Is it really midnight already?" conversations, and coloring books. It would make a great recipe for an energy drink. Grad student demand would be through the roof.

Classes start back tomorrow. I went to campus yesterday and re-immersed myself in the smell of freshly cut grass, dusty books, and very well-dressed students. (For the last, hearing faint strains of Finals will overcome [you]; finals will overcome playing in my head.)

Nostalgia for crowded parking lots and the "wedding march" stairs vanished even more quickly.

But hey, it's grad school. Welcome back!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When This All Began...

(*Jekyll & Hyde moment!)

With just under a week of homecoming under my belt, I guess it's that time to look back, have an "aha!" moment, and otherwise generally reflect on my trip. (Oh, PDP, you have me well-trained, don't you?)

Well, here goes.

On July 5, I wrote,

I think today for the first time, it hit me that I'll be traveling to New Zealand on a research grant in just over two weeks.

All of a sudden, "plenty of time" means very little. The stack of books I was supposed to have read seems very large. And my relative ability to speak coherently to individuals in an informal interview setting seems extraordinarily low.

Nonetheless, I will be departing in 15 days. Ergo, the map-examining, timetable-plotting, and various document-copying becomes as rampant as slouching teenagers in the mall in July.

Unfortunately for my sanity, the map-examining, timetable-plotting, and various document-copying actually hit fifth gear not on July 5, but on July 19. However, by July 20 I was packed and "ready" to go.

Over the course of the next three weeks, I traveled, visited museums, talked to professors, watched performances, and looked at diaries from 1880, director's notes from 1940, and handwritten lists of theatre performances seen over a twenty-year period in the late 1800s, among dozens of other things.

Highlights of the trip:

-Walking all over Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, (Picton, Christchurch) and Dunedin. The occasional chocolate boutique or bakery didn't hurt.
-Seeing Romeo & Juliet twice in Auckland.
-Good conversations with my roommates in hostels and other people I met through my research and wanderings.
-Botanic gardens: Hamilton and Dunedin.
-Waterfronts: Auckland and Wellington.
-Favorite archives: a man's painstaking records of his every theatrical experience in handwriting that would make Thumbelina proud; an honorary scroll presented to Allan Wilkie after one of his tours in Dunedin.
-Gradually getting a better sense of my research interests through successive attempts to explain them to other people.

And yes, coming home and seeing friends and family(!!!!), dancing again(!!), playing frisbee, not living out of a suitcase, and having free Internet.

It was good. :-) Thanks for following along.


Friday, August 13, 2010

In Transit

"There and back again"

Not just a hobbit's tale.*

Well folks, after a long-and-short three weeks, I'm back in the U.S. and feeling more than a little jet-lagged and woozy after right about 30 hours in transit.

Operation stay-awake-until-a-normal-bedtime is now in effect.

But along the way, I've made some interesting discoveries about the wandering life, including, not least, some words that take on a very particular meaning in the context of international travel.

With no (t much) further ado, I give you,

The Travel(l)er's Abridged Dictionary

Foreboding: (c.f. urgency). Polishing off a second cup of water, so you can hand the plastic cup to the flight attendant along with your empty coffee cup, at the precise instant that the captain turns on the seat belt sign and the PA system crackles on: "The captain has announced that we may be experiencing some pockets of turbulence for the next hour, so we request all passengers to remain in your seats, with your seat belts securely fastened, until the captain signals that it is safe to move about the cabin."

Willpower: (c.f. foreboding, with the addition of turbulence.)

Urgency: A repeated craning of the neck at an angle so as to see around or between the adjacent seats with the purpose of monitoring the progress of a food or beverage cart which, escorted by flight attendants, is moving at a dilatory pace down the aisle, effectively barring passage to the small neon sign at the other end of the cabin. (Closely related to foreboding, but without the seat belt sign or turbulence).

Disgruntlement: Opening the in-flight magazine to page 64 and seeing the tell-tale blue ink marks signifying that half of the Sudoku puzzle has already been completed--in pen--with an obvious logical error in the first box alone, because the former tenant of the seat mistakenly placed a 2 in the same row as a helpfully placed, pre-printed 2.

Obsolete: Reading in the in-flight magazine that the colors Mulberry and Yellow Green have long since been retired from Crayola crayons, and having a vivid memory of the triumphant discovery that what distinguished Yellow Green from Green Yellow was that Y-G was predominantly green, whereas G-Y was fundamentally yellow, based on the grammatical proposition that the first term in each example serves an adjectival (i.e. supplemental or secondary) function, which could be verified by adding the suffix "ish" to the first term. (Closely linked to trivial.)

Asymmetry: A specific physical condition applicable to a) the ratio of elongation and compression of the left and right sides of the neck, resulting from an attempt to fill in the space between the left (or right) ear and the shoulder with an insufficiently stuffed piece of scratchy fabric; and b) the degree of compression in the left or right shoulder and the muscles of the neck that occurs during an attempt to share evenly four armrests between six arms.

...and the additional possibilities are endless. What am I forgetting?

*Couldn't resist. :-P

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hostile Ferries and (F)ery Good Hostels

So last time I rode the ferry from Wellington to Picton, and vice versa, picture pristine, rippling water. Slightly hazy blue sky. A hilly harbor with small houses ranged over the slopes and a small, sheltered town with tall sail boats all along the forest-edged waterfront.

Today was a little bit different.

2:05 p.m.
Ferry exits dock at Wellington Harbour. Sailboats. Crisp, clean wind. Rippling water. Salt spray. Check.

2:20 p.m.
Ferry exits Wellington Harbour to cross the Strait. Wind picks up. Waves pick up boat. Jen's stomach registers protest. Onset of seasickness.

2:30 p.m.
Attendant from Interislander: "Ma'am? Are you all right? You should probably move to the back of the craft. You'll feel it less."
Jen: mute, green-faced, climbs to her feet and half-walks to the back lounge, breaking into a run to counteract the sudden vanishing of floor beneath her feet when the boat rolls.

Two hours of status quo with varying levels of misery. Note to self, trying to breathe with the waves (up--in, down--out) is only marginally and psychologically helpful.

4:20 p.m.
Jen realizes that she can now sit up without concentrating on not vomiting. Boat has entered the Marlborough Sounds and is now predominantly vertical. So is Jen. Fresh air on upper decks, green hue begins to fade. Commence appreciation of the aforementioned beautiful sights of the ferry trip.

5:15 p.m.
Disembark in Picton, shiftily avoiding sympathetic looks from the several passengers who witnessed ignominious flight from the front lounge.

The end. Of ferry rides. For Jen. Or other activities on open water. Without Dramamine. For a long time. Probably.


(Made up for largely by a lovely, cozy, carpeted hostel in Picton, with a fire. And tea. And free chocolate pudding. Which my stomach might actually accept.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Heading South

Well, I have to say this is the first--and probably the last--time I'll have had seven different men in my bedroom over a period of seven nights. Ah, hostels, how do I love thee? =P

Research "finished." Museum...museumed. Rugby match cheered. And down to the wire for my trip. In some ways it's gone by very quickly, but at moments it has moved quite slowly. Although it confirms my geekiness beyond the shadow of a doubt, I've really enjoyed browsing the archives more than I thought I would. However...

I'm excited to see some old haunts on the South Island. Getting ready to freeze also. Yay!