Thursday, May 21, 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ahem.

Dear Disgruntled Pedestrians and Idiotic Motorists,

From the DC Bicycle Code:

1200.3 Operators of bicycles have the same rights as operators of motor vehicles.

1201.9 There shall be no prohibition against any person riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk within the District, so long as the rider does not create a hazard; Provided, that no person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within the Central Business District except on those sidewalks expressly designated by Order of the Mayor, nor shall any person ride bicycle upon a sidewalk in any area outside of the Central Business District if it is expressly prohibited by Order of the Mayor and appropriate signs to such effect are posted.

Oh, and did I mention that the Mall is National Park Property, and bicycling is permitted? So my 15 group members and I have just as much a right to be taking a tour of the place as you and your 15,000 bratty middle-schoolers in obnoxiously bright shirts.

Thanks.

Warmly,
Rachel
I get the weirdest feeling when I listen to Stan Rogers' music (Witch of the Westmorland is my favorite). It's something that's vaguely like homesickness, but not quite. You know when you listen to certain pieces of music that you relate to particular times in your life, and listening to them conjures up some resemblance of whatever emotion you felt listening to it at the time?

Yeah, kind of like that.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Yes, I DO actually love my job.

Oh my goodness. I have had 2 tours in the past week who are the reason I can continue to do my job without wanting to cry. That's 2 out of many, but it's enough to keep me going. The first was a group of National Junior Honor Society girls from a creative arts school in Tennessee. They kept calling me "ma'am," and one girl told me she could hear my (non-existent) "Canadian accent, ma'am." We geeked out about musical theatre and they asked me oh so many questions. The kind of goofy questions middle schoolers ask that no one would know, but they were just curious.

This evening, I had a group of 16. Among them was the most adorable elderly couple from Chicago in my group. After the husband came back from the Vietnam Memorial (I was standing watch over the bikes, as I always do), he said to me, "You know, you're such a wonderful tour guide." They tipped me very well at the end, but the real joy was hearing them tell me that. They also asked me to come to the Chicago location of Bike and Roll and give tours.

Also in the group were two families from Montreal. I was trying to suppress my joy at having Canadians on the tour because I wasn't sure how sensitive they were about that whole Quebec-not-Canada thing, but I did speak some French with them. The kids were ADORABLE. The little girl was 4 and kept coming up and telling me things in French, only some of which I could understand (her telling me she needed to go to the bathroom needed no translation). Later, she looked up at me and told me she wanted to be next to me as I was talking to the whole group.

My favorite part was when she saluted me and told me she was "comme un soldat!" ("like a soldier," which made sense, give that we had just seen the Korean War Memorial). At the end of the tour (at the Jefferson Memorial), she was telling me about her "petit velo rouge" (little red bike) at home and how she wanted to go sit in her "chateau" (the Burley trailer attached to her dad's bike). And I had a conversation with a 4-year-old in French. Given that young'uns are just expecting that you, too, speak their language, I felt positively fluent. I told her mom this very excitedly, and she laughed really hard (in the nice way).

I've had a couple of real zingers of tour groups in the past couple of weeks--like the group from St. Louis who looked positively bored the entire time, no matter how goofy I was (the chaperone later told the girl who does all our administrative work that "The kids didn't enjoy the tour, anyway")--and have been having a couple of really terrible days for no particular reason at all. So to be able to connect with these groups like that reminded me that I'm in the right place, doing the right thing--at least for now.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm running off to Canada. Later.

The hardest part of my thus far hour and a half-long day was changing the location on my blog profile back to Washington, DC. I don't really care that half my friends are ready to kill me for talking about Canada too much; I miss it. Most recently, I've decided I'm moving to Vancouver, in spite of the fact that I've never been there. I just really like the idea of the city.

This blog is quickly drying up of cheerful material, I've noticed, so I promise to type out something happy soon.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

This evening

I was headed to a friend's house to go gallivanting off to do something or another, when I realized I was about 30 minutes early. (I'm a bad judge of distances when it comes to walking.) Deciding to wander towards Tenleytown rather than be awkwardly early, I wound up walking by the Subway on Wisconsin Avenue. There was a guy outside who asked me for a quarter. I generally don't make a habit of giving away change--because really, what's someone going to do with a quarter? Buy a gumball?

The guy seemed nice, though and he wasn't making lewd comments at me (I'm careful about that sort of thing because if there's one thing I can't stand, it's being blatantly hit on). So I told him I didn't have any change, and I was about to keep walking (which, as much as I hate to admit it, is my programmed response when someone asks me for change), but he asked me where I was from and seemed genuinely interested in having a conversation with someone. Predictably enough, so was I. I wound up buying him a sandwich instead and chatting with him for a bit...I would have liked to stick around longer, but at that point I was going to be running late and I had to hop off...

I had mentioned I was of German descent (he had asked), and he said that Germans are big-hearted people. But I don't think of myself as big-hearted at all; I just think of myself as a conversation whore when I get lonely.

This is the second or third time this has happened. That last post about opening oneself up to conversation? Yeah, that's what I meant. It's like the time the Street Sense vendor gave me a hug outside of CVS when I was having a really bad day. It's just...I dunno. Refreshing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

From Point A to Point B, passing Point Banana along the way

Trust me, the title of this post makes sense. Point Banana is a term a friend of mine came up with to refer to weird and random tangents.

Do you ever look back on certain periods of time in your life and wonder what the hell you were thinking at the time? I'm a big believer in everything happening for a reason, but I'm equally convinced that the reasons might remain hidden for a very long time. Which is unfortunate, because mentally shaking your head at yourself for sustained periods becomes rather disheartening.

I don't mean this in the sense of regret; more a sense of confusion and wondering what would have happened if things had gone differently. Like if your train of thought had switched directions at one point, sparked by some (seemingly) insignificant event or something someone said. Or didn't say.

And of course, there's the corollary to this--wondering what would have happened if you'd just said exactly what you wanted or meant to say at just the right moment...which, in the real world, never happens. You can imagine again and again in your head exactly what you should have said to a co-worker that was pissing you off, to a friend who needed a confidence booster, to the guy you secretly liked, to the girl in the grocery store who caught your eye one time, and a thousand other scenarios like that--and never know what would have happened. Seems to me that regret comes more from this path. Because at least you know what the results of actually doing something were, versus being left to wonder about all the conceivable "what ifs."

Perhaps that's part of what pisses me off so much about communication that is purposefully avoided...like when you pass someone on the street and they look in the other direction just to avoid your eyes, and all you're trying to do is say hey. Or people who blow off store clerks. Or people who don't even smile and say hi to the person they're stuck next to on a plane for five hours. Granted, I don't expect to make friends with every single person I encounter, but to me, opening oneself up to the possibility, even in the most minute way, is part of common human decency.

And those are my thoughts on this frustrating Tuesday night.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

On dealing with dumb tourists

Dear Puma/Nike/Under Armour/Adidas/Coach Wearing Woman from Chicago,

Excuse me. Please, CUT THE ATTITUDE. Just because I'm covered in bike grease and sitting your skinny, over-fake-tanned ass on a bicycle, you do not have the right to look down your nose at me.

No, it is not necessary for you to bring your Adidas windbreaker because the low is going to be 80 degrees tonight. But if you insist on bringing it, it will not fit in a handlebar bag along with another bag to hold your Coach fanny pack (really?). The handlebars are designed to fit ONE bag, and kindly don't say to me "Well, let's get a bike and we'll try it" in that obnoxiously snotty tone because, despite the fact that I look like a grease monkey and am a third your age, I've seen a hell of a lot more bikes than you have in your lifetime.

If you were less of a stuffed peacock, I'd be much happier about bringing out a bike with a rack on the back to fit your expensive outdoor equipment. I am here to help you, so please stop treating me like I have an IQ of 3.

Thanks.

-Rachel

I hate. hate. hate. pretentious and snotty people.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

OhmygodohmygodohMYGOD

...is what's going through my head right now.

I'm going to be a senior? Congratulations (so much) to everyone who's graduating, but WHY does this now put me in a position of being in your shoes in a year????

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Oink oink...panic!

So after my second trip in a week to the San Jose airport in Costa Rica today, after seeing EVERY customs officer wearing a mask, I'm so glad to read articles like this that actually seem to make some sense. As I was waiting for my plane in Houston on the 27th, I saw that 65 people in the USA had fallen ill with swine flu. Today, the count is up to 120 with ONE death. 120? Really? I realize that Mexico has something to worry about, but...come on. The above article mentions that the greatest effect was economic...I'm certain there could be a really intensive series of studies done on the affects of panic on societies. I guess there's a reason I don't work for the WHO or the CDC, but it seems to me that methods of prevention that aim on not inducing panic would be slightly more effective. Masks are just creepy looking and they freak me out...

In better news, I found myself (along with my two friends) riding in the back of a truck twice today. We were headed to and back from hiking around a waterfall, and the trucks stopped, honked, picked us up and drove us down the road. I just love the fact that several SUV's (Mitsubishi seems big here) drove by us, and the car that actually stopped was the beat-up pick up truck with piles of fruit in the back...

As always, there's more that I could say, but my time here so far has been amazing. We're headed off to Tortuguero tomorrow to hike some more and play in the Caribbean Sea...though perhaps minus the last part, seeing as apparently the water is riddled with sharks and riptides.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Riddle

So what do you do when your job doesn't pay very well (but you don't want to find another job because you love this one), you owe more money than you care to discuss on the computer that you had to buy back in September because your other one mysteriously broke, you're going on a vacation you thought you could afford but apparently can't, you're not too good at budgeting, and your rent has been raised to slightly more than astronomical levels?

...I wish there was a punchline for that.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dealing with customers

Had a group (all families from Massachusetts going out on tour) today...

Kid on bike: "Can I get a handlebar bag? You know, to put in tissues and mints and stuff?"

What I said: "Sure, no problem! Hang on just a second!"
What I thought: "What sort of prissy kid needs mints on a bike tour?"

Woman on bike, snippily (I was adjusting hers and her daughter's seats and hers was too high): "You know, we made reservations with our heights..."

What I said: "Well, ma'am, it all depends on the length of the leg."
What I meant: "Yeah, well, you're 5' 1" and it's not my fault your legs are short and stumpy."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Slightly hilarious conversation

Coming out of the Old Post Office this evening (our bike shop is right next door), I got stopped by 2 security guards who were just saying hey--they make an effort to get to know everyone in the shop. Security Guard 1 was asking about my cooking skills, and I happened to mention how I usually just cook for myself...

Security Guard 2: You got a boyfriend?

Me: Nah.

SG2: That's good, that's good. You'll get a lot further with that mentality...doing what you want, going where you want.

Me: Ha, I guess so. Though I was thinking of a getting a fish. You know, I can't have a dog in my apartment, so it'd be a good companion.

SG2: You know, a fish can't hold you at night.

Me: ...a really big fish could...

SG2: You scuba dive?

Me (really confused as to why he is asking me this): Um, no? But maybe I should learn so I can go cuddle with the sharks.

SG2: *laughs*

Security Guard 1: All right, I don't know where that came from, but I gotta go check something in the back...*walks away, chuckling at something about sharks*

Awkward? Yeah. Great end to the day? Yup.

Back in DC, officially.

OK, I've allowed myself a few days to adapt and here I am. Again.

Well, ice fell from the sky today, but not in the same form that I've gotten used to. This was pea-sized chunks of hail as opposed to light and lovely flakes of snow. Spent most of the day in the bike shop waiting for the weather to make up her mind. It hailed, it rained, it was sunny, it thundered...all quite frustrating yet endearing, in that way that the weather around here has.

Also re-discovered the joys of biking to work during rush hour. Practically getting launched off my seat twice in one morning by an errant driver who wasn't paying any attention to the bike (me) in the road...and witnessing a cab sideswipe a red Honda Civic in Thomas Circle...and a normally 20-minute ride taking 35 minutes or more...fun fun fun. Also remembering that people here don't stop in crosswalks for pedestrians, bicyclists, or anyone who isn't surrounded by 2 tons of hurtling metal.

But here I am, back in the land of weird weather, rude drivers, limestone, marble and granite monuments, 24-hour convenience shops with hoagies that are to die for, my school (ineffective student governance, on the whole, and all), my friends--all encompassed in that quirky DC charm.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The news is dumb and Canada is everywhere.

First thing I saw when I flipped on NBC this morning...

"Moose on the Loose--Edmonton, Canada"

Two things bother me about this--first, the only news that I heard about Canada this morning was about a moose (named "Bullwinkle"--ha ha ha) and about nothing substantial. Second, Edmonton, Canada? That's like saying Philadelphia, United States. Or Sacramento, United States. Edmonton is in ALBERTA, Canada. Not only that, Edmonton is the capital of said province.

Also, why am I watching 20 minutes worth of idiots quibbling about Miss California being anti-gay marriage? Why is this newsworthy? I don't really pay attention to beauty pageants, and frankly, I'm glad they're being asked "hard" questions. While I suppose it's good that she's strong enough to support her opinion, four months without even hearing about this argument makes me wonder (even more so than before) why we blow it so out of proportion. And while Perez Hilton has every right to be pissed, he's...well, he's a moron. A pro-gay marriage moron, sure, but he makes a living based on being a shallow, gossip-mongering individual.

Am I being too judgmental? Should I just shut up and simply watch the news instead of letting almost every aspect of it piss me off? Maybe I'll transition to reading the Post online instead...stay tuned for when I start griping about how many ads are in the paper.

ALSO:

I'm noticing Canada everywhere. It's scary. I saw a group of kids outside the Lincoln Memorial today with a huge Canadian flag and actually said, "Ooh, Canadians!" really excitedly. And a category on Jeopardy this evening? "Other Famous Canadians." Did you know a Canadian invented Trivial Pursuit?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

From MTA to AU

Well, farewell, New Brunswick. I'm back in DC, and we just had the spring seminar for the Killam fellows...so I know I'll be back in Canada someday, but for now, I've got to finish out my degree and figure out the direction that my life's headed in...

What I will miss:

-Seeing the Canadian flag and the sprawling countryside outside my window
-That Sackville charm
-My friends
-Grappling in circles about national identity in a few different courses
-Bilingual labels
-Meal hall conversations
-My friends

What I won't miss:
....

Um. Get back to me on that one.

What I'm excited for in DC:

-My friends
-Take the above sentiment and multiply it by about a million
-Working at the bike shop
-Playing the piano for church again
-Seeing what's changed and what hasn't
-Biking!

As for this blog...well...what does one do when a blog is supposed to be finished? Should I just leave it up? Continue updating it? Revert back to my old site? Stop blogging altogether?

Maybe I'll put the updates on hold for awhile.

So long.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A letter to a town, as I sit staring at my suitcase

Dear Sackville,

I can't begin to thank you enough for the experience I've had this semester. I came here expecting to enjoy myself, but I certainly wasn't expecting to fall in love as hard and as fast as I did.

The first day I took the Acadien Bus in from the grossness that is Moncton in the winter (sorry), I was intimidated by the amount of SNOW and the amount of GREY nothingness in the New Brunswick landscape, and I was fairly convinced that I was going to see a moose jump out in the middle of the road and attack the bus. The nervousness was too daunting for me to feel particularly homesick, but the moment I stepped off that bus, I felt fine. Whether it was the smile of the international adviser who came to pick me up or the fact that the Campbell dons lent me bedding the moment they found out mine was being sent in the mail, I'm not sure...but something clicked. Actually, a lot of things clicked.

And it just continued to get better. Yeah, sure, there was the occasional longing for the familiarity of my own friends and my own school. But it's hard to feel lonely when there are potlucks, concerts, art gallery openings and 2-hour meal hall conversations to attend, all shared with some of the most genuine, open-minded and unique people on the planet.

I've tried to explain you to friends and family, but they don't quite get it. "Oh, sure. A small town in Canada," they say. Those who actually get Canadian geography understand what it means to be in the Maritimes. And yes, that's all true, but there's something you don't understand about this place until you come here. A friend told me that on my first day here, and I see now what he meant. I could stand at the end of Bridge Street or Wood Point and take pictures of the endless sky and landscape, or write a poem about the view from the top of King, or try and describe to someone the feeling one gets upon walking into Ducky's or smiling at a stranger on the street--but it's not the same. I don't mean to lapse into cliches, but there's something different in the air.

I could go on, but I just wanted to tap out a quick note in a last-ditch effort to explain this place via a blog--it can't be done, but God knows I've tried.

You give, and you don't ask to be loved--though charming, you are completely and totally without pretense. But you secretly know that, once acquainted, certain people won't be able to help falling for you. That's just how it is.

Yesterday, I saw it hail, snow, and get sunny in a repeated cycle...and your personality (if you could call it that) changed with each change in the weather...and every one was truly and remarkably beautiful.

So...thanks, Sackville.

Love always,
Rachel

Monday, April 13, 2009

It's snowing here. Still.

Meanwhile, in Arizona...it's been sunny and warm. And my family was celebrating with homemade lamb-shaped cakes by my grandmother (for citation purposes, the photo was courtesy of my sister and the original version can be found on her blog, but I stole it to show anyone who happens to read this one....sorry, Rebecca).


Apparently, the spikes were there so that the head didn't fall off...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Dear New Brunswick,

The lyrics to that very famous song are "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas..." and NOT "I'm dreaming of a white Easter."

So nice try, but wrong holiday.

Love,
Rachel

Friday, April 10, 2009

A warning to my friends at AU

If, in roughly a week from now, you find yourself having the wind knocked out of you by a 135-pound object hurtling at you at roughly 100 kph that appears to be a 20-year-old female with dark blond hair and a fake Canadian accent who is either crying or smiling way too much...possibly both...

...it's probably me.

And a warning to my friends at MTA:

If, in the next week, you find yourself being smothered by a sobbing American female, with basically the same description as above...

...it's also probably me.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

6 weeks of pointless research + several books read + lots of agony + one discussion with a prof + one all-nighter =

MY LAST PAPER IS FINALLY FINISHED! And 1,000 words over the limit. And doesn't make much sense. Whoops. Oh well.

Lots of time with good friends and garlic fingers and blueberry beer consumption tonight (with the addition of a former American Killam fellow en route to Charlottetown!), then hard-core studying (God, do they ever take exams seriously here) all weekend. With bouts of partying to break up the monotony, of course...

I can't believe it's my last weekend here. And I'm entering into it on 1 hour and 45 minutes of sleep.

Also, cover your eyes if you're less than 9 while reading the following, but the quotes of the day go to Pat:

Me: "I apologize for my sense of humour. I have a frat boy somewhere..."
Him: "A frat boy deep inside you? HAAAAAA! That's what she said!"

Me: (upon seeing a stack of sandwich rolls on his plate) "You're seriously not going to finish those buns?"
Him: "Well, you know, there was so much meat to eat that I just couldn't get to the buns."
Both of us: "HA!"

God, I love meal hall sometimes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

You had me at chocolate eggs...

I love you Canada. Even more.

Why?

Two words: Easter candy. I'm buying a grab bag immediately after Easter to bring home and share with everyone in the States.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I hate cell phones and iPods.

Before I get down to work and actually finish up this last paper, I'd like to take a second to gripe about something...

I really don't want to go back to a permanently plugged-in culture. By that, I mean people walking around, neglecting to make eye contact because they're staring at their cell phones while walking around campus, talking on said cell phones, emailing on their Blackberries, and/or not hearing a friendly "hello" because they're walking from class to class with earphones in (are you really that scared that someone might strike up a conversation?).

Yes, people do that here, but not quite to the same extent. One of the first things that I noticed at the Rideau Centre in Ottawa back in September was that not a single person in my range of vision was on a phone. Not one. I got self-conscious and put away mine.

Here at Mt. A, I leave my cell phone in my room 90% of the time (with how expensive calls are, I sort of have to), and I feel free...granted, it's made me a little more reliant on my email and Facebook and Twitter and all that, but when I go for a bike ride or a walk or something, I don't feel compelled to constantly wonder if someone's going to call me. Or to check to see if I have a signal when I'm busy staring out at the gorgeous scenery because ohmygodsoandsomightcallme. This is also due to the fact that I've been separated from most of my extracurricular responsibilities here, but the point remains the same.

I also haven't texted in about 4 months. And I really don't miss it. Or miss the constant buzzing of "Hey, what's up?" or "Hey, where are you? I miss you!" seventeen and a half times a day. Useful for planning to meet up with someone? Yes. Annoying as hell? Yes. Did I do this all the time? Absolutely. It leaves no room for spontaneity...and with all these new things they're coming out with (Google tracker???), the sudden jolt of happiness in your stomach upon seeing someone that you really enjoy will no longer happen, because you'll have known they were coming at least 5 minutes beforehand.

I suppose that's kind of a separate rant...but I get a crawling feeling of annoyance whenever I'm trying to talk to someone and they can't hear me because their ears and eyesight are stuffed with plastic.

Being addicted to my laptop really isn't any better, I guess. Maybe I'm just being self-righteous. Especially because I know that I'm going to revert right back to my phone-caressing ways the moment I get back to DC.

Thank you, ZooLoo, for reading my thoughts....watch the following. It's hilarious.

Monday, April 6, 2009

We have a flag code?

http://www.ushistory.org/BETSY/flagcode.htm

Who knew?

So as for Canadians who go and get their US flags signed by Americans....Shame. On. You.

To be fair, you're not supposed to do it in Canada, either, but they don't seem to be threatening punishment. I could be wrong--maybe I just can't find the Canadian flag code...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Finding hyphens.

So I'm working on an essay on a work by Franco-Canadian Italian (Italian Franco-Canadian? Canadian Franco-Italian?) author Antonio D'Alfonso entitled Fabrizio's Passion. The man is a brilliant writer and thinker, and the fact that he denies being an academic in the essays that he's published on ethnicity and identity have really drawn me to his ideas.

Anyway, this has got me wondering about my own family's origins. One of our family names is derived from an Italian word that, when I looked up, meant "pug." I also found this:

"also a term denoting a medieval Italian coin, and it is possible that in some cases the surname arose as a nickname, possibly for a worthless fellow, since it was a coin of low value, or as an occupational name for a moneyer."

The ending of the name was changed to -ini, which according to other sources, means "little."

So my family was either a bunch of little worthless people or little bankers...

Or, on the other hand, the root "Carlo" could also mean that we're descended from some monarch by the name of Charles.

Internet research is so inconclusive sometimes.

Though according to my grandmother, they came over from Italy to Virginia to work in the coal mines--which means that Virginia (next to Washington, DC, where I spend most of my time), is closer to my family origins than Arizona...

Anyway, based on my grandmother's email and brief Google searches (the accuracy of the latter are completely suspect) of various family surnames, I'm from:

-Krakovany, (western) Slovakia
-Cambridgeshire, UK
-somewhere in Ireland, possibly
-the Ayrshire district of Scotland
-a village near the Carrera marble mines in Northern Italy (this is the only certain one)
-Germany somewhere, "on the branch or tributary (dell or tell) of a small river (bach, brok or brook), or from a place of the same name."

So I'm Italian-Irish-Scottish-British-German-Slovak-American-wishing I was Canadian. Hrm.

Whoops.

Phone calls to the States from my land line: Impossible.

Phone calls to the States from my cell phone: $0.57 a minute.

Having someone call you from Pennsylvania for a lovely and rather long conversation: Priceless.

Price of that phone call: $60.

His confusion about the listing of "New Brunswick" on the phone bill then realizing that "Canada isn't just called Canada everywhere up there": Even more priceless than the phone call...

Price of that phone call after explaining confusion to phone company: $30.

(Sorry, J. I had to share.)

Also...another gem by Kate Nash. Because everyone has been through this at least once in their lives, and the way she describes it is HILARIOUS.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hearing voices and seeing things...

A had a friend of mine from the States phone me this evening so I could find my cell phone...not because I often use it to call anyone, but because it's my alarm clock. She said to me, "Well, it's nice to hear your voice," and put into words (part of) what I realized has been making me miss home.

I don't know if it's a common thing, but I get attached to voices. My head perks up when I think I hear someone that I know based solely on vocal recognition. When I first met one of my good friends here, I was drawn to her immediately because her voice reminded me of a girl I had known from AU. And I really miss hearing some of my friends, and I'll look forward to being able to use my cell phone again, if only for that reason.

Similarly, I've started seeing more and more people that I think I know from the States. It happened a bit when I first got here, and I recognized some of my closest friends in people here, but I'll see people and upon first glance think, "Oh, that's so-and-so," then remember that I'm in the wrong place. The same thing happened the summer after my parents moved out to Arizona and I was working at Kohl's. I wonder if the merging of what you knew and where you are now is a sign of adaptation or a sign of being ready to go, come to think of it...

I'll get into the boo-hoo-soul-split-in-two-oh-my-god-my-life-is-so-confused element of leaving later, but I just wanted to throw that out there.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Guess what?

1) I LOVE being an American! With blind patriotism! Go USA! Every other nationality sucks in comparison!

2) I'm transferring to a university in the American South so I can celebrate how awesomely AMERICAN I am!

3) I'm in a serious relationship and we're getting engaged soon!

4) I'm failing out of all of my classes!

5) I successfully fought off my caffeine addiction!

6) It was 20 degrees Celsius today!

7) It's April 1st!

Poisson d'avril! *slaps a fish on your back, laughs, and runs away* (It's a French thing--thanks, Gabo.)

....I'm so funny.

Monday, March 30, 2009

There's irony built into the weather

Dear Atlantic provinces,

Let me just start off this letter by reaffirming that I still love you. You could probably hurl a tornado at me, and after that a hurricane, and possibly a typhoon, and I would still love you. But I have a small bone to pick with you.

When I said yesterday, standing underneath a sunny, blue sky on a balmy spring day that "It's probably going to ice storm tomorrow," I was kidding. You weren't actually supposed to listen to me.

Either you have no sense of humour, or you have a profound sense of irony. I'm not sure which.

Sincerely,
Rachel

Sunday, March 29, 2009

SUCH a good song...



By Kate Nash. Give it a listen...it's a fantastic song, and the lyrics are very straightforward. Unfortunately, it's not the sort of song you can quote anywhere ("Thirty-five people couldn't count on two hands the number of times you've made me stop...stop and think why are you being such a dickhead for...") even though they're rather well-written...without people thinking you're really angry at someone.

But really. This is not a passive aggressive "OH MY GOD I HATE YOU" post because those are just annoying. I just like the song. I mean, sure, there are people who definitely need to listen to it from time to time, but I'm one of those people, so...anyway. Give it a listen.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Springtime bliss...in the Maritimes (and a touch of springtime sadness)

It's going to be 7 degrees and sunny today...I was outside in a fleece sweater and jeans, and a bike ride is being planned for this afternoon. Both of my windows are open and my heat is off. I never thought I'd see the day when I would consider the low 40's as warm. (When I was little and living in Phoenix, I distinctly remember thinking that it was going to be cold one day when the high was 58 degrees (14 C). My sister and I wore coats to school.)

Apparently it's been a rough winter for New Brunswick...more snow than usual and a giant ice storm that coated EVERYTHING in a glittery layer of frozen-ness. So now that we're coming out of it, I'm seeing more and more people out in the town, taking off mittens as they walk down the street...and you can't turn your head without hearing somebody talk about how nice the weather is.

I've always liked the springtime, but here, people (and I include myself in this) really appreciate it. And "appreciation" isn't a strong enough word..."rejoicing" might be more fitting. I was in Bridge Street Cafe a couple of weeks ago, and there was a note folded up on one of my friend's tables that said "Read me!" on the outside. On the inside, there was an excited "Spring is here!" with a butterfly drawn next to the words. I asked her about it, and she said, "Oh yeah, you're just supposed to take that and put it on a table for people to find."

It's hard not to be happy, and I can't stop smiling whenever I walk between campus and the downtown area--and I find excuses to go outside (like this morning, to the Sackville Farmers' Market to get some deliciously greasy veggie samosas--Ali Shott, if you're here on a weekend, you're coming with me). The other week, I stopped to watch a robin hop around, and I was thrilled when I saw a patch of grass on campus that didn't have a speck of snow on it. Then proceeded to stand in the grass for a second just to feel it underneath my sneakers--I realized that I'd been walking on nothing but ice, snow, and cement for the past 3 1/2 months (with the exception of last weekend, when I was in Phoenix, but I also wanted to die the first day I was there--it was 80/30ish).

The only problem is...when the warm weather comes, I'm gone. We were at the pub last night, and one of my fellow Killamer friends just randomly looks at me and said, "You can't leave."

Another friend told me that it makes her sick how "Canadian I am" (I asked for clarification on that one, and she meant that it's so clear to her that I fit here so well, and yet I can't stay). And to quote an invitation that's sitting in front of me, "Cool Americans are sometimes hard to find, so I'm so happy to have met you--and that you're cool!"--which makes my little star-spangled heart feel all fuzzy and warm.

So while I will be happy to go back to DC and the people and friends I love and that I'm missing there, leaving Sackville is going to be incredibly, incredibly difficult.

But again...it's going to be an awesome few weeks.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ponderings...but not really

Wow. 3 more weeks here? And it actually feels like it's going to end now, because I got 3 of my 4 term papers out of the way.

I'm not really sure how to feel about this. I'm going to go with "sad but excited."

But dwelling on reasons behind emotions and navel-gazing never helped anyone. With that whole brain/heart dichotomy that exists in the realm of emotions, sometimes it's just worth it to dispense of the brain (though obviously not in all cases). So it's going to be a fun, well-lived three weeks.

And I thought, hey diddle diddle
now isn't this a riddle, it's a proof of love
when the cakes hit the griddle
we'll dance a little jiggle by the stars above

and call this world our own

And all I want is to be a little part of the things that I love
And all I want, to make a little start at the things that I love

Seems there's lots of things that I could love

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Healthy lifestyle choices, by numbers

Late night snack:

2 Mars bars

1 can of Full Throttle

Coffee consumed today:

28 ounces, black.

Number of books surrounding me:

Too many.

Number of pages to write:

Let's not think about that.

Hours of sleep gotten in the last 24 hours:

Roughly 4.5. The .5 was on a plane.

Hours of jet lag to get over:

I've been in four different time zones in the last two days and spent three consecutive nights in different ones. You figure it out.

Sanity level:

Approaching 0.

In better news, I've finally owned up the fact that I am hopelessly addicted to caffeine. That probably won't change, but at least I'm now being honest with myself.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dear all 33,594,000 citizens of Canada,



I'd like to apologize on behalf of our idiotic newscasters. I realize that Fox has a reputation for being moronic, and the only reason most people I know watch it is because they're curious what the "other side" is thinking...and I know that there are idiots everywhere...but I apologize that we've put them on national television. I also apologize for their extreme arrogance, especially during an economic time like this, when karma is going to turn around and bite us in the ass (some call it a free market, I call it karma--well, not seriously, but you get what I mean).

(Along similar lines, flying out of Moncton, they didn't make me take off my shoes at security. They did at US Customs in Toronto. They did at regular security in Phoenix AND Newark. They didn't flying back into Montreal.)

I love and respect you as a nation, Canada, and I know very few people who would be so crass as to attack another nation's armed services.

Sincerely,
Rachel

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The warmest congratulations...


To my sister Rebecca and her husband Robert. I'd say more, but then I'd start getting gushy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The type of airport where you don't have to take off your shoes in security (no, really)

Why am I writing a blog at 5 AM, you ask? Well, I'm at the Moncton Airport (which consists of a few rather large rooms) after getting 2 1/2 hours of sleep last night and was convinced that I was flying Continental. Went to go check in at the Continental ticket counter, and they politely informed me that there was no "Cannon" on their flight.

Oh...shoot. Well, there go my sister's plans to have a maid of honour actually at the ceremony.

So I paid $7.80 to log in and check my email...which informed me that I was flying Air Canada. Continental's on the way back. Right. I suppose I could've spared myself the expense and just tried the other two ticket counters, seeing as there are exactly three airlines that fly out of Moncton.

So...note to self in the future...print out the itinerary. They're not kidding when they tell you that.

Though as I was standing in line for Continental, the man in front of me struck up a conversation (they do that; they're human here). He was Irish. Yes, with a brogue. And in the lobster business (he told me this when one of his competitors walked in and waved to him). Heading off to Vegas with some friends. And as I walked to security, d'you know what I saw? No, not a McDonald's or a Tim Horton's or any of those quick 'n dirty places you always see in airports. I saw a seafood place. And not the fast food fried kind of seafood. The sort of place that sells lobsters on ice. I guess that's just in case you want to bring a crustacean along for the ride--for people with Little Mermaid complexes, I suppose.

And the other thing? Airport employees are really nice. Even when idiot American college students are checking in with the wrong airline, and even when idiot American college students (who are proficient in French) are so tired they can't do anything but stare at the guy in security who asks "Tu parles francais?" which they learned in the first week of French class...

No better place to have a harrowing airport experience than the Maritimes. Because, really, the mere fact that you're in the Maritimes will prevent it from being at all stressful. The people are just that pleasant.

I love Atlantic Canada.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Question and random thoughts

Why is it the Toronto Maple Leafs? And not the Toronto Maple Leaves? Isn't "leaves" the plural of "leaf"? Is it a grammatical thing? Because otherwise it would be a Toronto maple tree in the process of leaving?

Eagles v. Villanova at the Wachovia Centre in Philadelphia tonight. Just in case I haven't said this enough--Go Eagles!

Also...I miss the days when I didn't feel immediately compelled to let everyone know what was going on in my life at every moment in time. Or when I didn't feel entitled to know everyone else's business, too. Twitter is the next big thing on the scene, it seems, and Facebook now wants to be like Twitter. I buy into it all (2 blogs, a Facebook, and now a Twitter account), but I just don't get why I do...

And in the unofficial rules of online social decorum...I think one that stipulates to NOT CREATE FAN CLUBS FOR YOURSELF ON FACEBOOK ought to be towards the top.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March Madness, indeed.

Wow. So this is the first year I've ever bothered filling out an NCAA bracket. I think I've got Michigan State slotted to win. I dunno. I just filled it out so that American would end up playing Duke, which I would find...kind of cool. Because, y'know, they're really good and stuff...

I wonder if the people who are all hard-core about college basketball actually know anything about the teams or if they just pick blindly, then proceed to defend their own National Champion with twisted/made-up statistics and other silly basketball lingo, which, if strung together quickly into a sentence, will safely be interpreted by NO ONE.

I've always been scared of hard-core sports fans because I assume they know whatever they're screaming their purple, enraged faces off about. It's only occurred to me recently how hard it is to keep track of one league, let alone the whole damn national championships. Therefore...I think much of the hullabaloo is bullshit.

Loyal faith has always been my route. And cheering for the person that not everybody else likes. So I love American University (well, actually, I don't--they often make me want to throw things against brick walls...like the fact that they're charging students $75 a ticket to go from DC to Philly when last year was $50 to go from DC to Alabama...way to price gouge, AU Athletics!!! It's like "Oh, look, they like us now. Let's milk THIS for all it's worth because we need to make money while we can!" Let's screw students over in a time of economic crisis because they're not already paying enough! What's going to be next, charging us for games?)

Ehm...where was I? Oh yes. I will cheer on AU until I myself am enraged and purple because they're my team. And also because they're 14th. And no one expects them to win. And also because they're playing Villanova, which is a Philadelphia area team. And we know how much I love Philadelphia sports fans and YES, I will gladly generalize that to include all college teams even kind of in that area. Which explains why I'm also rooting for ASU before Temple. As much as I hate Phoenix, I hate downtown Philadelphia more.

Last year, while watching a basketball game and playing beer pong with some friends, I rooted for Kansas because 1) their uniforms were nicer colors and 2) they were playing UNC (I think; I could be remembering this completely incorrectly), who everyone expected to win.

This is all to say...selections for teams are completely arbitrary. At least for me. And I bet the fat dude with the beer screaming things at the ref that no one else understands is being just as arbitrary and emotional as I am.

I am no longer intimidated by sports fans.

Whoosh...AU!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The dangers of waxing poetic about inanimate objects

You all remember my earlier struggle to find a pair of boots? Well, to bring that discussion to a close...

I found a pair of boots here. They're my favourite, even though they're old and worn. They certainly have their flaws--a scratch on the toe, some colour (I'm going with Canadian spellings here) worn off around the edges, they smell a little musty--but I like them.

I've thought about getting another pair to replace them (they let in some water when it rains), but nothing else is quite as warm, quite as comfortable, or works as well with most of my clothing choices. And all the new pairs that I'm looking at online are just way too difficult to ship to Canada, and I know they'd end up completely falling apart at the end of a season. These are holding together very nicely, and why bother going to all that trouble for a new pair when these are sitting right here?

Yeah, sure, they require a bit of maintenance. They need some super glue around the toes once in a rare while, but I figure it's worth the little bit of effort.

What's funny about these boots is that I wasn't expecting to find them. I had been looking for boots, yes, but they were all too glitzy--high-heeled, or made of patent leather, or way too expensive, or those run-of-the-mill Uggs that everyone and their mother seems to own. I didn't like any of the pairs I looked at or tried on...fun to wear sometimes, I guess, but really not worth it.

These boots, on the other hand, don't ask for much attention--they are black, plain, and flat-soled. They've got some decoration on the sides, though, and the general shape is very nice if you take another look at them. I found them in the back of a thrift shop sitting quietly amidst a pile of other shoes. A tight squeeze to get my foot through the top part at first, but the leather has since stretched a bit...and they fit perfectly.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lessons from trees

So I gotta say...a day full of Canadian history at Fort Beausejour, a romp through the sugar woods and a night doing homework (sort of) while listening to Acadian and Quebecois music? Excepting the fact that I have more than I care to discuss to write over the next few weeks, I'm so genuinely happy.

It's gotten to the point where I feel like I'm swimming between two very powerful currents--one that wants to stay, and one that can't wait to go back to DC. It's tough finding a middle ground, because there are aspects and people in both that/whom I love equally.

I could go on about that, but I generally try to avoid the overly personal here--I prefer not boring people to tears. The above photo is maple taffy, and quite possibly the most heavenly thing I've ever eaten. I'm new to this, but allow me to try and explain: The smell of freshly cooking maple (at least to me) is somewhere between and beyond buttery popcorn, burning wood and apple pie, though not at all overpowering. While it's sugary and clear, the taste has undertones and an afterteaste of creaminess and each texture (syrup, taffy, poured on snow, maple cream, maple butter, maple sugar) provides something different.

The process they go through to get this stuff is...amazing. The technology ranges from the primitive (scales made from milk jugs and excess steel parts) to the high-tech (thermometers, the solar batteries and hydroelectric pumps wired up to provide power for the entire camp)--it's a very intricate process. You have to make a lot to make any money off of it (a lot of sap makes very little sugar in any form), so most of the workers work for next to nothing or just volunteer. And, at least here, they were happy to show visitors around, give out free samples and let us take billions of photos.

Given a choice between which was more satisfying and heart-warming--the actual candy or the people who were working there--I'd go with the latter. They love what they do, frustrating as I can imagine it is at times, and they come back year after year. The owner of the second place we went to had a constant smile on his face--and fashioned their own particular pumping system himself. They even took us in to show us their house.















Not really sure where or how to wrap this up, I suppose...but it was a Canadian experience for the books, certainly.

Friday, March 13, 2009

73-57

What's that, you ask?

Oh, just the score between American University and Holy Cross.

In the playoffs for the Patriot League.

Which means we're going to the NCAA tourney.

FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW!!!!

LET'S GO EAGLES!

Some pride from home

So my home university (American) is in the Patriot League playoffs against our biggest rival (Holy Cross) today...and no one around here has ESPN 2, so sadly I can neither attend nor watch. (Last year, the quarter finals were against the same team, and it got to the point where we were yelling inappropriate comments about the referee's mother). This makes me sad, but....

GO EAGLES!
All hail the mighty AU Eagles
Where there's a fight we'll see it through
You can be sure we'll be triumphant
When we wear red, white and blue
All hail the mighty AU Eagles
We'll conquer all adversity
So let's all join in and give a yell
For AU and victory!


(Click on the last line to hear the actual tune performed by the pep band)

I'm writing in the lyrics because they're a little bit ridiculous (and really, what fight song isn't?)...but fun to scream at the top of your lungs.

Also...mildly hilarious...someone found my blog searching for "Shamrock Fest What to Wear" on Google. Um, honey? WEAR GREEN. SHAMROCK Fest. It's Irish. They like green.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A wee bit of an obsession.

OK, so the post that got deleted for this one was lame. So I'm writing up a new one. And I present to you...two of the world's greatest music videos.





I went to go see Great Big Sea last night in Moncton. Will post pictures later (maybe), but I have two things to say: 1) They are the best band in the history of ever and 2) Alan Doyle is a gorgeous, gorgeous man (he's the dude with the long hair looking coyly at the camera in the "Lukey" video). Many, many thanks to Gabo and Carlene for making it such a fun time, indulging my ridiculous photographic habits and driving through crappy weather to get us there!

Saw GBS last year around this time in DC while the crowd was dancing around in a giant parking lot outside of a stadium drinking beer in the rain--and they brought along Russell Crowe to do a song--but I gotta say, seeing them in a hockey rink in the Maritimes? And now that I know pretty much all of their music? Uh. May. Zing. They'll be at the Wolf Trap (outside of DC) on August 21st, conveniently one day after my 21st birthday. Hence, I will be celebrating the birthday a day later and will somehow be obtaining a lot of Canadian beer afterwards (Brickskeller, anyone?--though it seems the only Canadian beers they have are Wyder's, Molson, Moosehead, and Unibroue....where's the other Maritimes stuff, guys???).

And then I'll go work on my grad school applications to schools in Canada.

I'm looking forward to going back at this point, but MAN, am I going to miss New Brunswick.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oh, c'mon guys...

(This is in response to two concerned Canadian friends and to a particularly fanatical American who has harangued me for this in the past...)

YES, I've had maple syrup. YES, I mean the real stuff. I actually can't consume Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth's or any of that crap because I think it's disgusting. I'd rather have my pancakes plain.

Do you really think I would be as obsessed as I am with Canada and never have tried the stuff? Sheesh.

On that note...sugar woods on Saturday!

On the dangers of the French language

Poutine (pronounced pou-TIN) = a delicious combo of gravy, fries, and cheese curds

Putin (in French, the "in" sound is nasal) = PM of Russia

Patins = ice skates

Putain = a whore

When I was in Montreal, I rented a pair of skates: "Je voudrais louer des patins." One slip of the tongue and I could have rented some hookers.

Ordering fries with gravy in Ottawa (or Quebec)?: "Je voudrais de la poutine, s'il vous plaît." If you're not a native speaker...Poutine...Putin....Putain...you see where I'm going with this.

Though I gotta say...the Quebecois equivalent of the mother of all swear words..."tabarnak," is the perfect combination of angry, hacking consonants and clipped vowels to create the ideal interjection. I mean, really. Why bother with a simple, one-syllable "FUCK!" when a forceful "TABARNAK!" is just fifty times more fun and dramatic?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Canadian moment of the day

I was talking with two friends--a girl and a guy--in meal hall today...

Me: "Yeah, my roommate and I pretty much live on Cheez-Its, Rice-A-Roni, Oreos, Cheetos...oh, yeah, and pretzel rods." (I have included a link to an image for anyone wondering what the hell a pretzel rod is.)

Them: "Pretzel rods?" *incredulous looks from both of them*

Me: "Yeah, they're like long pretzels."

Them: "Wait, so like breadsticks?"

Me: "Um...no. Take a pretzel. Now just turn it into a longer version of that." *motions with hands*

Them: "Oh! Like those things in party mix."

Me: "Yeah, sort of. But bigger."

Then a conversation ensued about the Smarties v. Rockets issue. (For my American readers: Canadians call our Smarties "Rockets." Their Smarties are little chocolate candies--click on the link. For my Canadian readers: Yes, we call your Rockets "Smarties." But in my opinion, your Smarties are kind of gross. No offense.)

Her: "So what do you call Smarties?"

Me: "We don't have them."

Her: "YOU DON'T HAVE SMARTIES???"

Other girl sitting next to me listening to this whole conversation: "So...I take it you're from the States."

How to dress for a Canadian winter and not freeze your ass off (at least in the Maritimes)

1) DO NOT (do not do not do not) wear canvas sneakers in the snow. Especially when that snow is melting and it's misting, so your feet get wet and freeze and you have to bum socks and really expensive hiking boots off your friend (who, fortunately, has not disowned you for being such a dumbass).

2) You can't just chuck on a jacket and head out the door. Especially when it's -15. Bring along (and preferably wear) your mittens, toque, and scarf.

3) Do NOT cheapen up on fabric choices. Wool is warm. Cotton is not. Base layers or long johns are a good idea for when it gets really chilly.

4) Don't worry about looking stupid or wearing something that might be out of fashion. You're in Atlantic Canada. In the winter time. No one cares, and no one's looking. Snowboots at a concert are perfectly acceptable and ugly sweaters are hip.

5) On that note, winter gear can actually be cute. Canadian girls know how to wear scarves and toques.

6) Girls who regularly wear high-heeled winter boots are not stylish and trendy--they are morons. Ever try to walk on a patch of ice with your heels elevated several centimeters above your toes with next to no traction? Yeah, I didn't think so.

7) Two words: WOOL SOCKS. (I recommend SmartWool...I borrowed a friend's pair when we went skiing, and they're warm and comfy and keep your feet dry. Expensive as hell, but worth it--I have a lovely green pair now.) Wool socks over tights with a pair of snowboots? You couldn't possibly look more Canadian.

8) Mittens. Double-layered. Not gloves. Trust me on this one.

9) Uggs still look silly (those of you who read my previous blog know my deep and undying love for them), but apparently they're warm. I would like to point out, however, that they're not waterproof. I must say, it's rather refreshing to see them salt-stained and worn...as if they're being used for their original purpose as boots and not pristine suede fashion accessories...

10) Have more clothes then you think you're going to need. The weather changes its mind like a girl changes clothes (thank you, Katy Perry, for that little quip), so you may end up wearing them. If not, you can always lend them to your idiot friends who like to wear canvas snakers through slush.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Touches of Canadianness

I'm going to see Great Big Sea with a group of lovely Canadians in EXACTLY A WEEK! I'm so stoked. I saw them at Shamrock Fest in DC last year, but after a year of listening to them, I know pretty much every single one of their songs by now. Though I'm not particularly nuts about their newest album, so hopefully they play more old stuff...

I mentioned that the temperature was negative 9 degrees today and got an abrupt, "Negative nine? Where ya from, the States or something??" from a girl in my French class. I said, "Yeah...I meant negative nine Celsius...." She laughed and informed me that in order to speak proper Canadian, one must tack a "minus" onto temperatures below zero. Minus nine. Not negative nine.

Washroom, NOT bathroom or restroom.
Tuque/toque, NOT hat.
Minus, NOT negative.
Mits, NOT gloves or mittens.
Bands, NOT tribes.
Biling-ew-al, NOT bilingual.
Bad-mint-on, NOT "badmitten."

T's are generally more enunciated. BeTTer, NOT "bedder."

A cross between "aboat" and "aboot" (tending towards neither extreme), NOT "abowt."

I know I'm probably missing a few.

And they said assimilation would be easy...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sweet Jesus.

Yeah...we're in trouble.

Well, on the upside, I guess it's a good time to go to Europe?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Canadian politics and public speaking? Oh, nice to meet you. I'm Rachel.

Well, that was humiliating. We had to present on a prime minister in front of our Canadian politics class this evening, detailing their life accomplishments and analyzing the successes/failures of what they did. I had Louis St. Laurent, which was fine...

Unfortunately, there are several rather brilliant and well-spoken politically minded folk in our class who know a hell of a lot more about Canadian history and politics than me, and I get finicky enough about speaking in front of large crowds. My mouth goes into overdrive, my brain ceases to function, and the feeble overtones of sarcastic humour worm their way into every other word. I breathe an internal sigh of relief if this ever elicits laughter.

So I end up saying really stupid things like, "Yeah, and that whole, uh,*insert name of really big historical issue here* thing....yeah, that was....bad. And, um, yeah. My nickname was Uncle Louis. And children loved me. The book says so." And make it sound as if I haven't put any effort whatsoever into the assignment, when I actually have.

I get similarly worked up when I'm talking to new people that intimidate me with their intelligence (whether or not they mean to be intimidating)....and end up saying things that, while I've fully thought them through, come out like complete mindlessness. And then I instantly regret saying them and wind up backpedaling my way through the conversation, then forward again to make it seem like I know what I'm talking about, then back up some more, until I just fall off the conversational unicycle.

I'm also terrified of ever sounding arrogant, so it's a rare moment when I will solidly back an opinion. This is also because I can usually see the side of a good counter-argument. So sometimes I tend to think that I have no opinions--but that's just stupid and untrue because, really, who in life is opinionless? I just can't argue what I think for crap.

I'd do so much better in life if I could just write everything down. I'm better at saying what I mean that way.

For my Canadian friends

Below is an excerpt from the DC Alert system--one of six that landed in my inbox due to the snowstorm they had last night.

"(Washington, D.C.) - Weather forecasters are predicting an additional possible 2" of snow entering the District through the morning rush hour. District crews have been treating and plowing roads since Sunday afternoon and will continue as this next band of snow moves through the region. Currently, the District Snow Team has over 200 pieces of equipment deployed including heavy and light plows and sprayer trucks.

District of Columbia Public Schools open two hours late today. The District Government is open. Liberal leave policy is in effect for employees.

Commuters and residents are advised to use Metro. Updated information on Metro rail and bus service is available at www.wmata.com.

Motorists and pedestrians should anticipate minor delays due to slow moving traffic during the morning rush hour. Please proceed with caution and provide for ample time to arrive at destinations.

High gusts of wind up to 25 mph in addition to below freezing temperatures are predicted and motorists and pedestrians are cautioned to be aware of possible icy conditions.

Residents are reminded to please clear their sidewalks, to shovel slush or snow and to assist disabled or elderly neighbors by helping to clear their steps and walkways. Also, please help and clear catch basins and fire hydrants.

Please do not put snow in the street. Put all cleared snow, from parked cars and sidewalks, in the "tree box," front yard, or between the curb and sidewalk."

Thought you might get a giggle out of that.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Oh my god, I'm resorting to emo blog entries....

OK, so I heard this song and it reminded me of my friends from home/DC. Kindly ignore everything but the chorus, because that's the part of the song I like. The rest is kind of sappy boo-hoo romantic crap. Miss you guys!!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Disjointed update

"I do not wish to imply that every person I meet is a potential enemy; that would be paranoia. What I mean is that one does not meet many friends in life. You have to do with the company of strangers. To be the very best of yourself, try to be loving, caring, generous, and at the same time know that all of this intensity might last only that one instant, and that the moment might never arise again." -Antonio d'Alfonso, from the intro of Gambling with Failure

And in other news...apparently there are not only divisions in the French language, but also divisions within the divisions. "J'ai parké ma car dans la ditch" (a sentence at which I laughed hysterically for a good two minutes), for example, is a perfectly acceptable phrase in certain parts of northern New Brunswick (Moncton) but not in other Acadien communities...

In other other news, I love Montréal. Not nearly as much as I love Sackville, but it's just one giant explosion of a city where you don't quite know what you're going to get from corner to corner. The highlight of the trip was finding myself on ice skates at the top of Mont Royal...and in my ongoing struggle with the French language, I think it improved after only a few days there.

Returning to Sackville, it was sort of weird to not be frantically stringing together French phrases in my head while standing in the check-out line. I had to buy new headphones because I somehow managed to lose mine and I'm standing in Jean Coutu pharmacy thinking, "Crap, how do I say 'Where are the headphones' in French?" when it dawned on me that I was back in an English speaking community...(Où sont les écouteurs?...I think).

I need to stop falling in love with places...while I suppose everyone has roots somewhere, I seem to have a strange and shallow root system in really random places, constantly finding other places to land myself...which sort of makes it seem like I don't have any.

Anyway.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A partial list

I love life because:

1) There's a solid chance that I could stay at Mt. A next semester. Apparently the director of AU Abroad agrees with my idea in theory. I just need to find money. Lots of money. And decide how badly I want to apply for that Fulbright. Because I would be just as happy with grad school somewhere in (probably Eastern) Canada.

2) I'm going to Montreal for reading break! I've never been, and at least ten people have told me that I have to. This means I'm going to have another set of 7 million pictures!

3) It's snowed for 2 days in a row.

4) "The Witch of the Westmorland" just came on my iTunes.

5) I'm holding out hope for the results of President Obama's visit to Ottawa.

6) It's my half-birthday! (I still observe those.)

7) I love my friends here, even when they decide to push me down icy stairs and into piles of snow because apparently that's a "Canadian" experience. Apparently falling up stairs into a bowl of fruit salad is, too.

8) I found a group of wonderful wonderful friends who like to sit around their living room and play the piano/fiddle/viola/mandolin/sing a cappella folk songs. And have tea. And cucumber sandwiches, which are oh so very good.

9) I find myself missing summertime DC a little bit--my friends and my job and the chance to go for really long bike rides on days off. This makes the list because it's nice to have a sense of happiness wherever you are....

10) Someone taught me how to turn and stop on skis so I no longer have to careen down the hill at 7 million kph and just collapse at the end when I think I'm going to ram into the lodge. Well...I mean I still do that, but not for the entire way down.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thoughts on dead cats

Sane people do not put their dead cats in the freezer. Am I correct in saying this?

Putting dead cats in the freezer is creepy. Also correct, yes?

Therefore, if I know someone who has stuck a dead cat in the freezer, I can reasonably assume that this person is 1) insane and 2) creepy, right?

And if this person happens to head up one of the departments at American University (see a few posts below for a fun rant), then I can also reasonably surmise that this department is run by insane and creepy people and could potentially be the reason why it's so...hm...ineffective?

In relation to this, I'd like to include an excerpt about the same person from my previous blog:

"Second of all, when you walk into an office and somebody has put four cans of Diet Coke in the freezer (one, ok, that's understandable, but four? In what dimension or lifetime is that ever necessary?) and forgotten about them...and the freezer is covered in frozen Coke slush....this is annoying.

It gets even more annoying when you realize that the person who put the Coke cans there is one of the directors of that particular office. Moreover, of an office that's suppose to represent the top academic students at AU. Moreover, of the same office and director that have been driving you crazy because of their inability to function effectively for several months now.

Sometimes I wonder how the hell people get put in charge of stuff. I really think squirrels could do a better job of managing the world sometimes. And if they messed up, it would be forgiveable because they're cute, fuzzy, and they're not egocentric maniacs who think they know everything simply because they have a PhD."

Maybe if this person wasn't so busy sticking shit in freezers, they would get stuff done.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The fickle lover

Cher Français,

Vous êtes inconstant. Je cours après vous pendant huit années maintenant--vous êtes si beau que je ne peux pas vous résister--et vous m’évitez toujours. Vous et moi, nous irions bien ensemble, mais évidemment, vous ne le pensez pas. Nous avons l’air d’être contents aux autres, mais ces problèmes profonds avec notre relation ne résoudront jamais.

Mais je vais continuer de vous aimer...et vous aimer...jusqu’à la fin. Je voudrais habiter avec vous, je voudrais apprendre tout de vous...je voudrais vous connaitre !
Pourquoi vous m’évitez comme ça, mon chéri ? Pourquoi ?

For those of you who are going to yell at me for posting in French, let me just sum up: I love French. It hates me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

iTunes and crusty metaphors

Before the midterm--

As I'm studying for my Canadian Culture exam, I get to the section about La Revolution Tranquille, and what song comes on? "Toune d'automne" by Les Cowboys Fringants. They even mention "la grande noirceur" in the song, I realize...

And after the midterm--

Wow, I need to keep better track of my time. I got so excited about the fact that I actually knew the short answer questions that I wrote probably double what I needed to, though I definitely had to gloss over several details...like who exactly Duplessis was... (though when it came to the Quiet Revolution, I had one of those "oh boy!" moments)...then I had to discuss and fully explain the "Janus-faced" attitude of Canadians towards American culture in a grand total of 30 minutes...and unfortunately, that's a topic that I could ramble on about for awhile.

I wound up comparing Canadian views of American culture to "a giant melting pot...like a big glob of cheese fondue that's crusted over." I thought the dairy analogy went well with the idea of homogenization...and cheese being a French thing and how, you know, the States wouldn't exist without France's help during the American Revolution...hence the crusting over...though what Canadians don't always realize is that that whole French-English blend of cultures thing also exists here....so there are similarities...but it's crusted over so they can't see them...

Though that all may have been just a tad too obscure. Though now I'm tempted to go and write something about the metaphorical implications of cheese fondue...or maybe to just go eat a giant pot of it, I'm not sure which. Possibly both.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dear American University administration,

You know...if I'd known you were this bureaucratic and protective from the outset, I probably would have gone somewhere else. I'm sure all universities are guilty of this, but because I'm having to put up with you, it's you that I'm going to gripe about.

Response from my international adviser regarding extending my stay at Mt. A: "
AU only has a relationship with Mt. Allison through Killam. If you were to stay, you would have to apply for a permit to leave AU, and enroll directly at Mt. Allison as a visiting student, and pay your tuition and fees there. As you would be taking a leave of absence here, you would not be eligible to receive an AU based financial aid. There is a process to do all of this, so let me know if you want to pursue it."

OK...c'mon. It's an undergraduate education. I'd be graduating from you either way. Why must you be so difficult to deal with? Why must you be a giant corporation?

On a similar note, goooo Housing and Dining for wanting to install extra security measures in the residence halls. I'm willing to bet a lot of money (say...the amount they're going to waste on the installation of these systems) that they're doing this for 1) image and 2) the parents who send their precious babies off to university in the middle of a scary city (for those of you who haven't seen AU, the campus is extremely suburban--yes, there have been security issues in the surrounding town, but those have to be dealt with by the MPD). Because students might be sneaking into residence halls to, oh, I don't know, go see their significant others without them having to walk six floors down to "claim" them. How horrid!

This is coming from the same university that spent God knows how much for Public Safety scooters--I spoke to an officer once who got banned from his scooter for doing wheelies. You know why he was doing wheelies? Because he was bored. My best joke on tours of your campus involves point out how silly they look whizzing around campus with their bike helmets. Maybe I'm just not paying enough attention to the police blotter in the Eagle.

This is why I pay $30,000 a year. In tuition costs alone. (I hear the resounding "But you're getting a good education!" cries in the distance--I would like to point out that international costs for Mt. A are 13,000 a year and I have classes with some of the foremost Canadian Studies academics in the country) I'm fairly certain that a large chunk of this is also going to the ridiculously high costs of catering for the "Strategic Plan" meetings that I keep getting emails about. Sure, as a student, I could have been attending these meetings--where they're discussing how to best update the website (among other things, but I'm choosing to point out that one because it strikes me as the most pointless). Here at Mt. A, they had a student-run forum on how the campus and its students can be more environmentally friendly/efficient/non-destructive...I couldn't go to that, either; I had rehearsal. I know there's a sort of lack-of-legitimacy critique for someone who complains about things she hasn't been to, and the issues will vary between universities...but...c'mon. Really?

I don't miss you, American University administration.

Kisses,
Rachel

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why I don't want a job with a suit (and other thoughts)

There's a song by Old Man Luedecke called "I Quit My Job." The lyrics go like this:

Oh bright minds of poverty
Hold on to your hard-won liberties
And discard your store bought realities

Don’t let them take the joy that you make
On your own

Work when you need to, maybe
Don’t let ‘em bleed you, baby
They do nothing more than feed you lady

Don’t let them take the joy that you make
On your own

Don’t fuss, don’t fight it, no
Take that wrong and right it (ho?)
Can always live on rice and potatoes
Take your heart’s candle and relight it

I quit my job,
I quit my job,
I quit my job,
I’m free today

Should be proud of where I am
All my friends work their dreams with their hands
And truly this is the promised land

If you don't let 'em take the joy that you make
On your own

Don’t kill yourself about making it
Just be takin' it easy but be takin' it
There’s enough out there who are fakin' it

Don’t let them take, the joy that you make
On your own

Don't fuss don't fight it, no
Take that wrong and right it...
Can always live on rice and potatoes
Take your heart's candle and relight it

I quit my job,
I quit my job,
I quit my job,
I'm free today.

I have a new-found love for this guy. He has another one called "Proof of Love" which I highly recommend listening to for a new outlook on life. Actually, all of his stuff rocks.

And on a slightly unrelated note...what's up with everyone getting engaged and wedded and popping out babies and all that stuff? By "everyone" I mean people I've known for forever/friends my age from school. It's wonderful, really, and yay for them, but all these huge and permanent life events are sort of throwing me off. Can we all just go back and play on a swingset or in a sandbox for a minute?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Some thoughts on Valentines...

Historically, I have set myself up to abhor this holiday. I haven't quite broken out of the angsty middle school angry chick-lit loving black-wearing "counterculturalism" mentality that generally makes a bigger deal over Valentine's Day than those who actually observe the holiday the "correct" way. It's kind of fun being an outspoken grump.

Last VD (I would also like to point out that the abbreviation is the same for "venereal disease"), I found myself stuck in an elevator. It was only for a half-hour, but I had a lovely chat with the other guy in there (I get eyebrow wiggles when I say this, but I assure you, we were just talking, otherwise I wouldn't be blogging about it). Actually, I think I still have his phone number, but we never did get around to hanging out after that. Regardless, I highly recommend getting stuck in elevators as a pretty solid way to generate life-long memories.

This year, however, there's a lesser degree of cynicism...definitely haven't verged into the appreciative category, either, but more...apathetic, I guess. I suppose holidays in general invoke fewer and fewer emotions as you age. Though oddly enough, we have two performances of Dido and Aeneas today. This means two things: 1) Because I am in the pit, I actually have to wear black all day, and 2) I get to sit through two episodes of tragic Roman love gone wrong.

I also had to laugh at the menu at meal hall tonight--corn dogs (pogos), onion rings, and french fries with chili and cheese sauce. Some guy pointed out that they're catering to the crowd without valentines...I agreed, though I think they also ought to be passing out cans of Reddi-Whip and cheap boxed chocolates, along with tissues for dramatic effect.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dear Canada,

I would like to file my first official complaint.

Ahem.

Rain? In February? All day? With the temperature just straddling freezing so parts of the sidewalk are invisibly slick?

Could you at least make it snow instead? It looks much prettier.

Thanks,
Rachel

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Also...


That's right. INTERNATIONAL.

In which I find a sense of myself, lose it, but still try to articulate it (aka My Love Letter to Canada Continued)

Yeah, long title.

I have found a country whose general sense of politics agrees with my own.

I came to this discovery this morning while talking to one of my Canadian Studies profs. It was one of those flashing moments where, in that instant, I could have explained everything to you, and then lost the exact details, but....it has something to do with the fact that strict/loose readings of the constitutional documents and judicial review don't exist in this country.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms only seeks to define civil liberties to the extent that they can exist in a "free and democratic" society...so whether the text of the documents is, in essence, banning gay marriage/abortions/whatever...those debates don't happen like they do in the States. (If you've ever heard me say that I don't think abortion and gay marriage should be political issues, that's exactly what I mean.) It's just assumed (or so I think the train of thought went) that individual choice is part of a "free and democratic" society...I can't articulate it like he did, but for a moment, life made sense in my head.

Then I got distracted by a bug on the wall or something and lost everything, but I've never experienced a moment of clarity when it comes to politics, and that finally happened today.

Actually, I was talking about multiculturalism after skating with a friend yesterday, and he said "You know, I don't quite get why they make such a big deal about it. Why can't everyone just be nice to each other?" I agreed with him fully, but at the same time figure that not everyone thinks that way...but this idea of "hands off, leave it alone and just be nice" seems to pervade here. And I like that. Very much.

My quest to have a really kick-ass answer to the next person who asks me "Why Canada?" continues...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Culture shock (of approximately 10 million volts)

Today in class, we were discussing what is meant by the term "violence." One girl accused Americans of "violently" going in and taking away the culture of India by diverting customer support and industry there. Not the US or the government. Americans. I had my objections to raise about that, but unfortunately, the discussion had to move on.

The conversation after class boiled down to America's apparent tendency to kill other cultures. I mentioned that yes, I'm an American and I'm going around wielding my cultural knife. Someone suggested a scythe as a better weapon, and someone else mentioned the grim reaper...this is the image it sparked in my mind, put onto paper (sorry for the crappy quality, but I only have a webcam, not a scanner).



Then, for fun, I googled "America as grim reaper" and found this (keep in mind mine came first in my thought process, thankyouverymuch):



I really can't decide if that's a blind declaration of patriotism or a political comment. It's actually a fairly insightful idea, but in my book, people who get tattoos of grim reapers aren't likely permanently etch insightful observations on their skin--"fuck the institution" ideals maybe, yes, but not ones that require a lot of thought.

And while this was all supposed to relate to culture, I wonder if the grim reaper should be holding a dollar bill and beckoning at the rest of the world.