Monday, September 26, 2011


Anyone in the market for some apples? Need apples? I've got apples! This weekend Sean (my wonderful employed boyfriend) came into town for a very very very short visit. When we first started dating, we spent a lot of time chilling at home watching TV, before realizing that it was the most BORING waste of the limited amount of time you get together in a long-distance relationship. Since then, we've been better about brainstorming fun activities before we see each other so that the entire visit isn't "What do you want to do?" "I dunno, what do you want to do?".

This weekend was packed to the brim with fun, but the main event was apple picking on Saturday. We went to this place called Eplegaarden in Fitchburg. No, that's not a typo, it's an apple/other plants orchard that plays off of the Scandinavian American culture found around these parts, particularly Norwegian. Given my strange fondness for everything Norwegian (an ethnicity that I do not have any familial tie to whatsoever), I thought it would be a great place to spend the morning. (For the record, Sean thought all of the "Norwegian" written on the signs was waaaay too cheesy, and that's coming from a man who likes his cheese.) We planned on heading out to get to the orchard right when it opened around 9 AM, but a sudden craving for pancakes threw us off course for a couple of hours. We arrived around 10:30 and headed over to the information booth, excited to start picking apples. Seeing as we aren't super savvy when it comes to apples, we found it helpful that they give you a sheet with the name of each apple, a description, and a list of whether it can be used for "baking, eating, sauce" or all of them. We knew we wanted to make apple pie and also give apples to our friends to snack on, so we went with Cortland, Red Cort, and Spartan apples. They let you walk around and taste test, so don't exclusively go by what the sheet says. The type we originally thought we'd enjoy turned out to be not to our liking.
They sell 10 pound bags for $10 and 20 pound bags for $19. Let me tell you...20 pounds of apples doesn't seem like a lot when you're looking at the bag, but I gave apples to at least 5 people AND made a pie and I still have about 10 for myself. We also got a basket for raspberries for us and one for his brother and sister-in-law. Eplegaarden gives a list on their website of dates when certain apples are in season, as well as the other produce available for picking at that time. We missed the pumpkins by 2 days! We may go back when he comes to visit at the end of October. (What would I do without some pumpkins from a farm like Sonny Acres every year?) Anyway, we were pleased enough with the option to pick apples and raspberries.
The picking itself was fun! There were about 15 different rows of apple trees that you could walk down, and some that were roped off for later in the season. The only problem I had was that many of the apples were pretty high up in the trees, and they don't let you climb the trees at all or jiggle the branches too much. (An understandable set of rules) I felt bad for all of the little kids, because I wasn't sure they had enough apples to reach, but none of them seemed too upset about it. We had fun taste-testing the apples and trying the find the best ones for us (ie: Boyfriend-guy) to pick from the trees. It really does seem like a great outing for all sorts of groups. We saw other couples, families, and groups of friends. I think there was even a day care of some sort there. The raspberry picking wasn't quite as fun as the apples, because you're really just standing in front of the same couple of bushes for five minutes or so, picking all of the good ones. After a couple of minutes though, I got competitive and tried to find all of the really good berries before Sean could fill up his basket. They got kind of smushy on the bottom, so if you pick raspberries, expect that your hands will get stained! Overall it was a great way to spend a sunny fall morning. We made pie that afternoon and I'm still trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the apples! Trop de pommes!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A year passed...winter changed into spring. Spring changed into summer.

Summer changed back into winter, and then winter gave spring and summer a miss and went straight on into autumn.

If you don't understand what I'm quoting, you're probably anyone else besides my dad.

Dear crockpot, you are so good to me during these hard times.
I am absolutely baffled by the weather in Wisconsin. I really never imagined it could be so different from Chicago. If I can drive here in 2 and  a half hours from the city, how can it REALLY be so different? is. Evidenced by the fact that two days ago I wore a sweater and was, uh, sweating and yesterday I wore long sleeves and pants and was freezing. In Chicago, especially downtown, the cold is caused by the wind. Here it's not so much the wind, it's just actually cold. I have compiled a short list of things that I've encountered in Madison this September that have surprised me.

1. Ugg boots and shorts. (Note: No tights, topped with a sweatshirt.)
2. People waiting at a bus stop, one in flip flops, one in a parka and knit cap.
3. Contemplating turning my heat on in September.
4. Gloves. In September. (Am I making my point clear enough?)

IT IS SO COLD HERE! When I first started the program, I went along with the other Northerners, re-assuring our colleagues from the south that they would get used to winter. We told them that it's really only a few weeks of brutal cold and then it feels fine. I gave them advice on what to wear. WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR? (Seriously Northface? You're going to charge me that much to stay warm? I still dream about this.)Today is apparently going to be a high of 58 F. We've already had lows past the freezing point. If anyone feels like sending a nice little care package up to Madison, WI, please send gloves so that I may type my term papers without my fingers freezing and breaking off.

Anyway, long, cold rant aside, things are going well. I'm contemplating switching my concentration area from international development to business/marketing. It just feels a lot more versatile to me. I can still work for an NGO with this sort of experience, but if my plans change and I want to work for a corporation (and trust me, my plans have started to change even in the past four weeks), I'll have some business experience and seem more useful to a company. There are a lot of people in the program with a concentration in international development who seem on the same sort of wavelength with what they want to do, and I guess I've been realizing that's not really what interests me.

City Cat finds creative way to stay warm while hiding from neighbors.
I met one of my neighbors yesterday. Apparently Leopold has THREE neighbor cats that he didn't even know about! She's a med student and another girl is a vets student, so I guess if Leopold needs an emergency Weird Tooth Extraction I know where to turn. The girl was nice, she came by to see if she could use my parking space, since I don't have a car and she's had to find street parking all the time. (Which is IMPOSSIBLE on Badger Football days) Wishing her luck because that parking space is RIDICULOUS to navigate, I said sure, as long as the Boyfriend Guy isn't in town. SPEAKING OF WHICH....

THE BOYFRIEND GUY IS IN TOWN THIS WEEKEND! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay. It's not even a 48 hour visit, but it's a visit nonetheless. We're going to go apple picking and grocery shopping and have a few meals with friends. Hopefully I'll remember to report back on the apple picking.

Ok, I'm going to stop writing now because the whole reason I woke up early was to finish the insane amount of homework given to grad students.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Obviously, classes have started!

I'm busy busy busy now, hardly a moment to do my laundry, let alone write a blog entry! Ok, I know there are people out there who do a lot more than I do and still have time to blog. Things are finally shaping into a schedule around here, although I have yet to figure out when I'm going to do minor things such as homework and cleaning. There are still boxes here and there, but for the most part I've figured out how things should be set up. Thanks to some lovely donations from my awesome basically sister, I now have a desk and a lamp in my living room! (Believe it or not, my living room has a ceiling fan, but NO light fixture. It gets really dark in here.) After several angry calls to AT&T, my internet service finally seems to be up and running, with a $5.50 credit to my account no less. Yes, Leopold and I seem to actually be settled into our little 1-bedroom.

As for the homesickness, well...I don't really have time to be homesick anymore. Yesterday was my first day working at a French bakery, and boy was THAT crazy. (We'll see how  long I last there) The difference between grad school and undergrad has become apparent in the amount of homework that we seem to accumulate every class period, and also there's that whole "trying to be social" thing that's being thrown into the mix. I'm coming to learn that graduate school, working, and socializing aren't really a great combination. I don't know how some people do it! Although I will say that even in undergrad I wasn't well known for going out and partying on "Thirsty Thursday" or showing up to class drunk. I'd like to think I know where to focus my priorities and have a difficult time getting distracted from them.

Funny, we don't look related...
Yes, that's me...busy busy bee. Since starting classes, something that my Dad has been trying to tell me for the past few years has really smacked me in the face: I am becoming my mother. Why has this suddenly become so apparent? I make lists now. Let me explain, ever since I was a little kid, I would wake up during summer vacation, or on days when my mom had to go into work before she could talk to us (not very often, by the way) and there it would be on the kitchen counter- The List.
We each had one with our name on it and a set of instructions of things we had to get done during the day. When all three kids were in the house, I always kind of liked it because, as the youngest, my list was clearly shorter and easier than those of my siblings. When they went to college, it made me mad because I was the only one getting a list of chores to do. Through the years my mom has become more efficient in her list-making. When she goes out of town for several days, the lists are typed up with some money for pizza on the bottom. After adopting the strategy of saying "oh, we didn't see those lists you put on the kitchen counter", she began taping them to the refrigerator door, a strategy which I find to be GENIUS in our household. Nobody gets through the day without opening the fridge in our house.

The point is, now I make those lists. I write them on notecards and tape them to my desk, so that any time I sit down to go on the computer, there they are. Staring me in the face. Reminding me of all the other things I should be doing. (They're staring at me right now, reminding me that my parents will be here in a little over an hour)

...So after writing about how my lists were staring at me I needed to get up and finish them! Then I was distracted by the arrival of my parents and you know how it goes...I have once again rambled for far too long and now I should stop, for fear of writing an extremely long post with no pictures that no one reads. Today was a good day! Mommy and Daddy came up to see me and they brought with them groceries, and cookies, and Panera. If only they could have stayed to do my laundry, my day would have been complete. haha

Next entry will be an update on all of my classes and my work, I promise!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Feeling a little homesick today. I'm not really sure what I'm missing exactly, the city, my family, having someone to see every morning and every night....I guess it's a little bit of everything. It's hard for me to justify my love for working internationally when I feel homesick. It makes me wonder if I'm really cut out to work somewhere so far away, and if that's really what I want to do. I love languages, I love learning about other cultures, and I love being able to help solve problems in any way that I can. I just wish I was able to take my whole family with me.
I miss the certainty I had before I graduated, the fact that I had a job and that I knew how to go wherever I needed to go. I miss my family. I miss walking to the park with the kids I babysat for.
 I miss my DOG. I miss looking out my window at the sailboats on Lake Michigan and eating the lunch special with my boyfriend at our favorite sushi place. I miss talking about the constitution with my dad on Sunday afternoons, watching crappy tv with my mom, and laughing with my brother about everything.  I know I was supposed to come here, and overall I'm really happy with the decision that I made, but being in a new place is hard.

I know this is normal, I've been keeping relatively busy but sometimes you just remember what you're missing. Moving is hard, whether it's across the globe or just a 3 hour drive away. I have people here who are just as close as family, but I'm missing the ones I left behind. Last night was fun, I got to spend it with one of my best friends that I've known ever since I was born. I love being able to see her on a daily basis and Madison really is a great place to live. I'm happy here about 98% of the time, the other 2% consist of worrying about finding work/getting work done and missing people. 

I guess it doesn't help that the boyfriend-guy has been back at school now for a few weeks. I knew things would get harder once he left, but after three years I'm also fairly used to this whole long-distance thing. I guess this is the first time I've had to make such a huge life transition since we've been together. The title of this blog is "Forever Wandering", and I do have this love of travel and wandering to new places, but do I want to be wandering around forever? It's something I'm going to have to think about anyway.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Getting to knooooww youuu, getting to know all about youuuuu....

I don't know if anyone else had quite the obsession that I did with "The King and I" as a small child. For as politically incorrect as that film is, I feel like my elementary school education was weirdly based around it.

He was really an integral part of the unpacking process.
Anyway, this week has obviously been one of new experiences. Léopold has adapted nicely to his surroundings. He enjoys the spaciousness of our apartment, and especially the abundance of windows. To show that he is pleased with this move, and in honor of my course of study he has added an accent aigu to his name. I've also met a lot of new people! They're not strangers, really, just my weird francophile clones that I've never met before. To be a seems to be a breed of it's own. It takes a certain type of person to pursue a master's degree in French Studies, and it takes another person of a completely different breed to do what we want to do. We're not really studying French, or French literature...we're  learning how to conduct business in French. While we all want to go different places and work specifically in different areas, the fact that we were drawn to such a unique program automatically means we have a lot in common. That being said, we seem to all be getting along well. While I'm ever so grateful of my little built-in community of support here in Madison, it's nice to know that the people I will be studying with for the next year are also fun to be around. We also all have weird things in common. Lots of us are affiliated with Lac du Bois in some way, we have several students from the South, and lots of us are in long-distance relationships.

Liking French itself is something a little strange in these parts, although I have been surprised by the amount of French culture and activity in Madison. I figured I would more often be in touch with my German roots than any sort of French here in Wisconsin. (Ok, so the interior of the Memorial Union is decorated as a beer hall. No surprises there.) There are, in fact several French restaurants and festivals that celebrate la France et la Francophonie. (de la France à la Francophonie...c'est bon le fun, c'est garantie..) I've personally been experiencing a lot of French culture simply by being in the program, but have been so busy that I haven't yet been able to experience these pieces of French in Madison.

I have been able to experience full-on native French culture in the form of our tutors! The program requires that we meet two hours per week one-on-one with a tutor to practice our French. We met them for lunch on the Union Terrace this Wednesday and they were all so nice. As usual, I was super shy at first, but now that I've gotten to know my tutor a lot more I'm excited to work with him and get to know the other tutors better. I know this is going to sound weird, considering my background speaking French, but I always feel so strange throwing my French out there with native speakers. It happened every year at Lac du Bois, and when I first arrived in Senegal. Last night we had a wine and cheese reception at the director's house and I felt much better about my speaking abilities than I had the first couple of days and I'm beginning to feel more comfortable with the program overall. I think this will be a very valuable year and a half for me.

This weekend consists of barbecues, barbecues, and more barbecues! More later, A+ tlm!