Wednesday, June 22, 2011

мальчик читает!

This is my old Greek workbook:
All that messy little kid Greek scribble? I used to know what that means. Not that it was anything brilliant, I'm sure it was something that I thought was hilarious like "I'm going to the bar to drink five beers" or "Kostos ate six goats"...something like that. The point is, I've forgotten all of it. Granted, as you read further on you get to pages with "I don't know what's going on" written in French in the margins, maybe that's where my Greek lessons started to falter. I quit Greek class. I hated it. It was on Thursday nights after my piano lesson and I was tired and cold and I sat next to this Albanian woman who thought I was adorable and looooved talking to me about Albania. Finally, after faking sick several Thursdays in a row, I think I convinced my parents that I was NOT interested in returning to Greek school. Now...I wish I hadn't.

I'm good at languages. It's my thing, I get them. I speak French and German, and I took a little Italian in undergrad. Language learning has played a big part in my career path. I want to work in international relations, and eventually the United States Foreign Service so I can use what I've learned to help people. Had someone told me that enduring that cold, cheese-smelling classroom for a few more months would significantly impact my career later in life, I'm sure I would have stayed. I had no idea at the time. Nobody knew what I wanted to be. In a college interview when asked if I was interested in taking any particular foreign language, I said "Yes, Swedish, Norwegian, and Russian..maybe Swahili if possible". My dad, trying to ease the shock-factor, explained to the interviewer in words that I think still fit me quite well. "My daughter sees foreign languages as a buffet, she can take as much as she wants from each platter." It's true.

I'm worried though. I feel like as I get older that serving spoon is getting heavier and heavier and now there's a giant sneeze-guard in the way, making it harder for me to grasp the dishes.What if this talent is only useful for a couple of years more? What if once I turn 25 my gift for foreign languages disappears? So, I'm learning Russian. And it's hard! I figure I might as well do something productive while I'm waiting for my graduate school life to start, so I'm picking up another one. So far I can only say things like "He is eating an apple" (он ест яблоко!), but it's a start. The grammar is very confusing to me, it's unlike anything I've previously learned. I'm sure my studies in Russian will provide a few more blog posts. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Getting Fresh Air...and Getting Lost!

Ahhh...back when the path was well-defined.
In an attempt to cure boredom, the boyfriend-guy and I decided to go for a hike on Saturday! We went to Morton arboretum in the suburbs, which has a total of about 9 miles of trail. In the morning we bought some key trail mix ingredients (ie: peanuts, M&Ms, and Craisins), mixed it all together, and headed out on our way. We drove by a couple of garage sales before getting to the park, all of which were pretty disappointing. We're both moving into new places this year, so we have lots of things we need for our apartments, but most of the stuff at these sales was for little kids. (Items which we DO NOT NEED.) We got to the park around 11:30, ate some of our trail mix and watched families run around, then we took the nice little path around the children's part of the park before trekking out on our own.

We got lost.

Of the 9 miles of trail in the arboretum, I'd say we hiked about 11 of them. This being due to the fact that I, completely useless at reading maps, handed it to the boyfriend-guy, who apparently is also completely useless at reading maps. To his credit, eventually he did get us to a place where he could look at the map and say "See? We're right at this part!", but it took a lot of back tracking to get there. Part of the problem is simply because the parks have a not-so-great signage system. There are signs pointing in the right direction, but it would be helpful if there wasn't both a "visitor center" AND a "visitor station". We parked at the visitor center. After about an hour our mosquito repellent was wearing off (but it was heavy so I didn't want to carry it in my backpack) so we decided to walk back to the car and get some more before heading out again on a different trail. Well, as luck would have it, we ended up walking to the visitor station. Which is...of course...the other side of the park. So we back-tracked there, and a few other times, before finally getting back to the visitor center. We bought some sno-cones and collapsed on a bench. Boyfriend-guy's neck seems to have taken the majority of mosquito attacks, which is lucky for me. Not so much for him. I'm still scratching my legs, back, face, and arms, but I think the outing was a success. We met working at a summer camp, so as much as both of us squeal at the sight of bugs, we're pretty excited when we get to be outside for prolonged periods of time. (Except there was this one part with a really gross marshy pile of mud swarming with bugs that we had to cross twice due to back-tracking. That part was not so nice.)

The arboretum itself is a nice setup. It's kind of expensive, $11/adult to get in, with free parking. I just made it $5/person in my head and $12/parking and it made me feel a little better, but it was still pretty pricey. I mean, we brought our own food (minus the sno-cones), and all we were doing was walking around outside. We pretty much found ways to entertain ourselves. On Wednesdays they have discounted admission, so if you want an afternoon of fun or something then it's only about $7/adult I think. Overall, it was a great outing!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Lapse in Blogging...because I haven't done anything.

I'm at this weird point in my life right now where I'm waiting for things to happen. I can't move into my new place until August, and so looking for jobs where I am now isn't going so well. Likewise, attempting to find work in a new city when you can't start for a few months and you don't know your class schedule is proving to be a lot harder than I thought it might be. I fill my days with random things...running, walking the dog, helping with dinner...a lot of Netflix, but I graduated COLLEGE! I should be doing something incredible right now! I know in a few months things are going to start happening so fast and I won't be able to find any time to spare. I should be enjoying the summer vacation I'm getting now, but I'm finding it hard to relax.

 I'm  bored. I need to go somewhere new, especially now that I have a place for the fall. I spend my spare time (of which there is quite a bit) planning out what my new apartment will be like. I've re-read countless books from my childhood, including All-of-a-Kind Family, Witch Week, and a couple of Harry Potters. I've been switching my brain to different languages the past few weeks, so that whenever I come across a weird vocab word that I don't know, I can look it up online. I'm really torn with what language I need to be practicing right now. Obviously, my graduate program is in French...but that's sort of like riding a bike to me. I'm not going to forget French, it's like forgetting English for me. German, I think, is where my interests should lie this summer. After completing the courses in undergrad, I feel like I'm supposed to have a firm grasp on the language...but I find myself slipping up a lot, having to look up words I already knew. Italian...well...Italian is just going to have to wait a little longer. I need to get my German up to speed with my French first.

I'm not really sure why I'm awake, but I realized I hadn't blogged in a few days and felt like I should keep up to speed. They say it takes doing something 3 days in a row to make a habit of it, but I'm not so sure that's true. I've tried that strategy with a few things...exercise...blogging...eating the same thing every day...Not sure how effective that strategy has been, as I've only run three times this week.

Boyfriend-Guy is coming into town this weekend, so I should have something interesting to write about. I think we're going to go to some museums and the park and try out a couple of restaurants but really...these suburbs are tough on somebody who has lived in the city for the past 4 years! More later, I should pretend that I'm going to go to sleep now, even though that's not happening...(I think it's the iced double shot espresso I knocked back on my way home from the grocery store...)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Living simply....could I actually do it?

Well folks, it's official. I won't be living on the streets of Madison next year. (Not as though that were ever really an option, I have plenty of people in Madison willing to house me) I found my apartment! It's adorable and classic in that typical Madison style and I'm anxiously counting down the days until I can move in. While I'm a sucker for hardwood floors, bright classic white windows, and charming old world hex tile I've come to realize my adorable kitchen lacks a certain something. It has plenty of cabinet space, a cute little breakfast nook area, a refrigerator, and a GAS stove (something I dearly missed in my last apartment)...but no microwave. It also lacks a dishwasher, but I hardly ever used the dishwasher in my last apartment and usually prefer to wash things by hand. By no means is a microwave necessary. Most people who have occupied this planet did not/do not own a microwave. When I was in Senegal my family cooked all of their meals over a little kerosene cooker and they tasted fantastic. I've been spoiled. (Not that I didn't already know that) Even my first year of college I rented a MicroFridge combo.

Upon further reflection of this Microwave quandary, the idea formed that perhaps lacking this appliance could in fact enhance my culinary endeavors. I've always enjoyed cooking, it's something my dad said all of us kids needed to learn before we moved out of his house. When I moved out on my own for the first time I assumed I would be doing a lot of it, and I did. I cooked meals for myself several times a week, but I ran into a roadblock. The Microwave Dinner. It was the perfect solution for a working, full-time undergraduate student. I would come home starving, pop something in the microwave, and be eating in minutes. Practical...definitely. Healthy? Not so much. I would buy "healthy" (ie: low-cal) frozen dinners and assume that eating them was making a smart choice for my body. Not so, naive former self, not so. This article from MSNBC explains some of the downsides of frozen meals. Highlights include the lack of fruits and vegetables, high amounts of sodium, and the inability for one to cook a healthy meal for themselves. Plus....have you seen the meat in that stuff? Gross. Not that eliminating a microwave would eliminate frozen foods altogether for me, but it would definitely cut out the convenience factor and probably cause my to choose something else.

After recognizing these benefits, I start to like the idea of living without a microwave. Immediately all of the uses for a microwave run through my mind. Heating up leftovers...making beloved kettle corn. None of these things really proves to be a problem for me in terms of limiting myself to no microwave. I usually like leftovers cold anyway, I own a tea kettle, and ways to make popcorn without using a microwave certainly exist. (That being said, I would probably positively cut down on my popcorn consumption if making it took more than pressing a button). Yes, I certainly believe that living without a microwave will be an improvement for me. So I've decided that, come move-in day, I'll try living without a microwave for a full year. This doesn't necessarily mean eliminating processed foods from my diet, but it's a step in the right direction. We've become slaves to our microwaves, and I'd be doing my dad a disservice if I threw away all of the cooking skills he taught me for a couple of Lean Cuisines.

(PS: I'm certainly not the first to do this, one quick google search for "living without a microwave" brings up sites like Learning to Live Without a Microwave)

edit: Forgot to say I also spent some time gardening with my parents today. On the agenda: Tomatoes, Sage, Rosemary, Basil, Cilantro, Chives, and JALAPENOS! I didn't even realize jalapenos could grow in Chicago, but we'll see how they fare. I may have to buy my own potted plant to stick in the window of my new place on move-in day. I'm sure Madison has community garden plots that I can dabble in as well.