10 European Things (Mostly Food) I Wish America Had

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Forgive me. I apologize for slacking so hard. I’d like to say I’ve been incredibly busy. While that is true, I cannot evade that I have also been incredibly lazy and haven’t exactly been in the mood to write anything. But I am here now, so hopefully that’s showing that I’m at least trying a little. And I’ll be back in Georgia in, what, eleven days? Surely not being in Europe anymore will inspire me to reminisce a little and hopefully entertain somebody.
I hope this can suffice for the meantime. Here is a list of the things I’ve really come to love while in Europe and will miss once I’m back in America and drinking iced coffee in an air-conditioned setting (those are some of the things I miss now).

  1. Good fast food. One of my favorite things about Europe is that no matter how much you pay for food, it’s going to be good. Even the really cheap food is delicious, which was hard for me to grasp at first because, well, I’m not necessarily used to that. I’m not saying that all cheap American food is bad, but, you know, sometimes it is. I haven’t had a bad food experience here yet. Even the sketchy restaurants have good food. I’ll get to the important part now. There’s this chain sandwich shop here called Baguette, and they sell yogurt cups. Well, the first time I ate one, it was so good I almost cried. I’m not kidding.
  2. 20-Pack Chicken McNuggets. Maybe this wouldn’t be so good for America, because some people might eat a whole 20-pack independently, but I do like the concept. They’re fun to share, okay? Also the chicken nuggets here are much better than they are in America because the standards for food are so high. Speaking of which…
  3. Stricter food laws. Because if another country can make better Chicken McNuggets than the country that bore McDonald’s, that country is doing something right. Oh, and because lots of people in our food industry should care more about what we eat than how much money they make off it.
  4. Vending machine coffee. It’s good, it’s fast, and it only costs 60 Euro cents. And did I mention that it works? The machine will even give you 10 cents back if you return the little solo cup your coffee comes in. What’s not to love?
  5. A greater appreciation for other languages. Every local I’ve met here is at least bilingual and maybe even trilingual – several people I’ve been around are actually very fond of the English language. They don’t just read English books – some of the people I’ve met here actually aspire to write books in English. That takes serious dedication, especially for a language that isn’t one’s mother tongue – or at least I think so; I might not be the best person to consult on this since I’m only fluent in one language. But still, it’s very admirable.
  6. Beautiful money. Maybe I just don’t think American currency is beautiful because I’m so used to it. I’m not saying it’s ugly by any means. I’ve always thought the backs of dollar bills were pretty impressive, and when I was little and realized that a tiny Abraham Lincoln was on the back of the penny in addition to the one on the front side, I was enchanted. It’s just that some Euro coins have Da Vinci on the back of them and I think it’s really cool.
  7. Extremely well-behaved dogs. Most of the dogs I’ve seen in Europe walk alongside their owners without the strain of a leash. They come into restaurants and ride buses and underground trains and sit placidly on the floor. One dog I saw in Vienna even made a point to pee over a sewer drain so it wouldn’t make a mess on the sidewalk.
  8. Nice public drinking fountains. I’m a thirsty girl, and I like my free water. I don’t like how there aren’t any drinking fountains indoors, but the outdoor drinking fountains almost make up for it. These aren’t your typical, metal, rectangular prism beasts. These fountains are beautiful and made out of stone, and the water comes from the mountains so it is cold and pure instead of surrounded by a ring of algae at the spout like the water fountains at my high school were. If you ever come to Austria, drink the public water.
  9. Gelaterias. It might be possible that gelaterias do exist in America and I just haven’t seen one since I live in Georgia. And I’m not talking about chain pizza restaurants with a gelato booth next to the cash register; I mean entire shops dedicated to gelato that carry flavors like kiwi, melon, yogurt, passionfruit, and Nutella. I don’t know how I’ve actually managed to lose weight here, because I have eaten gelato at least three times a week since I’ve gotten here – I think I even ate it every day for a straight week a while back.
  10. Outdoor bars. Again, these might actually exist in the States and I might just not be aware of it because I grew up in Macon, Georgia for god’s sake. I’m not just referring to biergartens either, although those definitely exist here. One of the most popular bars here is in the middle of a park. It’s beautiful. And for somebody who is only really used to bars in Athens, outdoor bars are a really nice change.

I’m cutting it a bit short, and I really apologize. I kind of have a reading journal due tomorrow, which isn’t really a big deal at all, but it’s due after I leave for my field trip so I need to finish it tonight, and then I have a paper due Thursday. Have I mentioned that I get really bad writer’s block? I feel like I have.
I’m off to Gertrude Stein and a paper about the decline of religious morality that is evident in Hemingway and Fitzgerald’s work (how fitting for my major concentration).

A Secret Party

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My local friends threw me a surprise birthday party in a secret location today. There was a homemade cake. There were homemade tiny pizzas. We are the only people in the world who know where the secret party happened. I can’t really say much because I don’t want to reveal anything.

It was pouring torrentially when I left my dorm today, so, as you can see, I didn’t take my camera and instead resorted to the camera on my phone.
Just some things I did and actually took pictures of today.

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I ate like an emperor.

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There’s so much more to the Hof Garten than the bar!

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The King and I. Get it?

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Austria is nuts about cards.

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I ordered some chai and got a whole teapot full.

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A view from the location.

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Cornelia and the cake.

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The beautiful darling pizzas.

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Cake.

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Our light.

20 Things It Took Me 20 Years to Learn

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I’m turning 20 on Wednesday, and oh my god that’s five days from now, isn’t it? Crossing over to a new set of numbers feels weird. I think turning 20 is a normal thing to feel weird about, based on the reactions I see from others who have crossed that threshold.
I’m trying to be somewhat philosophical about it or at least just feel like an adult and not a scared little kid in an adult’s body. Here are the important things I came up with.

1) Don’t waste your time on people who aren’t worth it. This is much easier said than done, but once you stop trying to appease people, you end up being a lot happier. Also, don’t change who you are to fit in. If you have to change, then the friendships you’re going to “gain” won’t be real.

2) Smile and mean it. I try to take the time to smile at everybody who makes eye contact with me. I look at it this way: say you’re just walking down the sidewalk and somebody smiles at you. It feels nice, doesn’t it? Making other people feel nice makes you feel nice.

3) Nothing is wrong with having different interests. Everyone likes something that’s a little “off” or isn’t mainstream or popular. There are communities of people who share your “weird” interest. Find one!

4) Know when to ask for help. I’m very stubborn. Perhaps its a Middle Eastern thing. Walking around a store and refusing to ask a sales attendant where something is one thing, but when I’m upset about something or confused, I need to remember that I’m not alone.

5) Eat and be merry. Two years ago, I cut my food supply drastically. I’m honestly not even sure why. I hated myself for doing it the whole time, and even though I gained the weight back, I still have a hard time forgiving myself. There is absolutely no point in depriving yourself. I’m not saying you should go eat a double cheeseburger every day (you’ll develop coronary disease or clog up your arteries, and you won’t appreciate how good double cheeseburgers are if you eat them every single day!), but please, don’t torture yourself. When you lose that weight, you only feel disgusted with yourself for the means you took to get there.

6) Don’t fear solitude. Years ago, I saw a girl about my age now sitting by herself in a restaurant. She ate Indian food by herself and read a book, and she oozed confidence. I’m trying to be this girl. Doing things by yourself is actually empowering because it teaches you not to wait around or depend on others.

7) What is painful is most difficult to write about. It’s also the best material. I’m talking about stuff that’s so painful it physically hurts your stomach to even think about writing them down. But try it. Nobody has to see what you’ve written, and you’re conquering negativity.

8) Manage your messes. I’m still at teenager at the moment, so I definitely have the potential to be messy, but I’ve noticed that I can’t think well when I’m around a mess. Just take a little time each day to straighten something up. It produces a good sense of balance.

9) Listen to your body. If you’re so tired you can’t keep your eyes open, you should probably go home. If you feel like shit, don’t go to class. You won’t be able to absorb anything anyway. Pay attention to the things that don’t feel right. I’ve felt overly weak or tired before, so I looked into it and started eating more protein and iron. It made a huge difference. The little things like that really make an improvement.

10) Don’t underestimate the power of small talk. I once asked a man if I could pet his dog and ended up with his business card. I asked my dad’s friend how his job was going and ended up getting a tour of Teen Vogue’s headquarters in New York. Just say something. You never know what you’ll get out of it.

11) Actively tackle whatever is bothering you. Complaining or feeling sorry for yourself won’t fix anything. Get to the root of your problem and try to solve it. Is the problem really big? Just pick a section of that root.

12) Challenge your fears. This is especially useful if your fear is intense. Sometimes I get in these moods where I’m afraid to go outside or speak to people, and I give in, but it ends up making me feel worse. A good step to getting over your fear is stepping up against it and proving it wrong.

13) Break habits. Having routines is comforting. It can also limit you. Try doing something else or in a different way occasionally, just for the hell of it.

14) Let serendipity take its course. I’ve noticed that a lot of people go out and search for something, particularly a romantic companion. Major magazines will tell you the best places to meet future boyfriends. It’s ridiculous. Just step back. Don’t try. Some of the best friendships and relationships you have just come out of nowhere.

15) Follow your passion. Don’t let what others think allow you to doubt yourself. This one can be a little difficult, especially if your family is against you. I know that my family accepts my wanting to be a writer, but I don’t know how seriously they actually take it. Getting caught up on what they think isn’t going to help me out any, though. I just want to do what I love.

16) If you work hard, don’t forget to play too. For the longest time, all I cared about was school. I still put school way up there, but I’m not as insane about it as I used to be. Wanting to do well is a good thing. Wanting to be so perfect that you’re depriving yourself of everything else is a bad thing.

17) Being there for somebody goes a long way. People you care about are going to encounter painful situations that you might have absolutely no experience with or wisdom about. It might be bankruptcy. It might be divorce. It might be suicide. You can still help even if you don’t know the right thing to say. Just be there and show that you care. That is one of the most important things you can do.

18) Just because something isn’t real doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful or terrifying. Anxiety is a bitch. Oh, it is a bitch. Any possibility that crosses your mind can become horrifically warped and leave you hiding in bed. I always feel stupid because I’ll get hung on up something that isn’t real. But in a way, it is real, because I’ve come to believe it so strongly.

19) Everybody has problems. Some people are just better at hiding them than others. I learned this one years ago but for some reason, I keep forgetting about it. Try to consider what others are going through too. And know you’re not alone.

20) Love who you are. I went through a stage where I did not want to see my reflection at all. Then I started doing this thing where I’d stand in front of a mirror before I took a shower and examine myself, thinking I could be happier if and only if some aspects of my body were different. What do I do now? I think something nice about myself every time I look in a mirror. I’m working on building some positive reinforcement, because the last thing I need to be hung up about it a reflection. It’s just light. 

Confessions of a Luddite Part 2

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Prepare yourself for an ode to Chrome. Oh, and some more Facebook-bashing – I’m kind of in a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love being able to talk to people, share photos, and research others (ahem, stalk them) from my bed. Well, I can do it from other places too, but I usually set up station in bed. Fortunately I can’t do that here because my ethernet cable is pretty short, but I really like this table in my room. It’s like a booth in a restaurant and has nice windows next to it.
Anyway, back to hating things. My biggest issue with Facebook is that it wants to monopolize features from all the other social networking sites. Chat. Memes. Apparently Facebook is getting video chatting soon, evidencing its attempt to win Skype users over. If Facebook can’t copy something well, it just buys it – this opinion is, of course, coming from somebody who knew about Instagram ever since it first came out (I’m so damn cool, I know).  I like having multiple social networking counts. It helps me waste more time, and I can have a slightly different identity on each one. The Facebook Sarra is different from the Tumblr Sarra, the Instagram Sarra, the YouTube Sarra, the WordPress Sarra, et cetera.

I’ll get to my point now. Like I said, I upload an extensive amount of photos to Facebook, and that’s especially true now since I’m studying abroad. Austria is beautiful, and I want people to be able to see what I see. Plus people can know that I’m still alive!
I took pictures at the carnival the other day. If you keep up with this blog at all, you’ve probably seen them. After I got back to my room, I imported my photos to my computer and prepared to upload them to Facebook – a process, that should not be that difficult for somebody who currently has 162 photo albums on Facebook, right?
Not this time. When I clicked “add more photos,” Facebook told me that I needed to install the latest version of Flash Player. “No big deal,” I thought. “Facebook is probably just about to completely change its appearance again or accumulate a feature from another website.” I updated my flash player. I guess it took about five minutes. I wasn’t really paying attention.
Glad that the minor nuisance was over, I returned to Facebook so I could upload my photos. I went to my album and clicked “add more photos.”
Nothing happened. I kept trying for about ten minutes and decided that perhaps I wasn’t the only one facing this issue. Facebook’s help page didn’t really do it for me, though. There was an option where I could actually tell them what was wrong, so I clicked on the link, remembering how helpful Joey from Tumblr was when I randomly got locked out of my account, which really sucked because I put a paper I was writing on there and couldn’t access it. I ended up getting a C+ on the paper. Kind of stung.
Facebook emailed me back, and I have to say I’ve never had better help:

Hi, 

Thanks for taking the time to report this to us. We’re sorry to hear you’re experiencing an issue using Facebook. While we aren’t responding to every report, we may reach out to you for more information as we investigate this. 

To receive more information about on-going issues and updates when we fix reported problems, check out our Known Issues Page:

https://www.facebook.com/KnownIssues

Thanks again for taking the time to help us improve Facebook. 

Thanks,
The Facebook Team

“We may reach out to you for more information as we investigate this.” May. So nothing. 
Since The Facebook Team wasn’t nearly as helpful as Joey from Tumblr was, I just decided to see if I could try and fix this issue myself. For the next three days, I would randomly log on to Facebook and see if the photo uploader had decided to work in my favor. That didn’t exactly work. Then I though uninstalling and then reinstalling my Flash Player might do the trick. Nope. After sending The Facebook Team a slightly caustic report on my struggle, I finally decided that I couldn’t solve this on my own.
I, the stubborn little half-Iranian, asked for help. How did I do it? By posting a Facebook status, of course. I don’t know, I thought somebody monitoring posts or something (I’m sure Facebook is monitored. Can’t you see how much I don’t trust technology?) might see my wonderful little passive-agressive status where I called Facebook a bitch.
Help came in the form of Kevin Lobo Jimmar. I have to say, I had no idea he was good with computers. Or maybe that just reveals how bad I am with computers. He suggested that I enable safe browsing, because sometimes having that “s” after the “http” helps. It’s also a great way to get on Facebook in high school. Although enabling safe browsing did cause a reaction, I still couldn’t upload my photos. I couldn’t even get the simple uploader to upload photos, and I haven’t had to use that thing to upload photos in two and a half years.
Kevin suggested that I download Google Chrome. “Why the hell not,” I thought to myself. I didn’t really have anything to lose but time, and I am an expert at wasting time. Plus it had just started raining, so there was no way I would be leaving my room anytime soon.
I’ve used Chrome before and really liked it, but I never really thought to install it on my computer. Most of the reason I liked Chrome was that its icon looks a little like a poké ball. I’m a luddite, remember? I don’t need two internets! I never really had any issues with the internet except that time I got locked out of Tumblr for some mysterious reason – that was absolute torture.
Once the Chrome installation finished, I opened a window and got on Facebook. I went to my Austria photo album and clicked “add more photos.”
Something actually happened this time. Chrome had fixed what Facebook could not.
My Facebook issue wasn’t the only problem Chrome fixed. The internet is kind of slow here. So slow that one day it took me 20 minutes to check my email. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have to use an ethernet cable. I’m not really sure. I just kind of thought that Austrian internet didn’t like Americans. Now I just realize that Safari kind of sucks. I guess it doesn’t suck. I just can’t update it for some reason – yes, I tried doing that to fix my Facebook problem too.
But none of that matters now, because as of about an hour ago, I am a Chromophile.
Here’s to having an even better internet experience, something I thought I could only dream of.

Carnival

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I went to the carnival with Evelyn today. Carnival rides are definitely more expensive here. They also last three times longer, which is alarming. Oh, and I almost lost my cell phone on a ride, so I learned something valuable today: don’t go on carnival rides with shit in your pockets. Especially phones. Especially phones that aren’t technically yours. The fair food is way better here, and please notice the beautiful airbrush art. Some lady bitched at me for taking pictures, but I was able to salvage Michael Jackson.
Here are some things I saw and ate:

So cheesy, I know. It was just a really pretty day. The light was nice!

How I Found My Pride After Reading Amber Estes’ Article

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If you have a Facebook account and live in the South, chances are that you’ve read or at least know about an opinion piece written by a University of Georgia student that offends almost everybody who reads it.
Its title? “How to find that perfect husband in college.”

Estes offers sage wisdom on snagging a relationship with a future dynamo such as frequenting the area of campus that holds the law and business schools, taking lots of Instagrams, and dressing “like you’re not trying too hard.”

I, like most of those who read the article, find this advice extremely offensive. And I think we have every right to feel this way. I’d like to think that most of us came to UGA so we could enrich our minds and get a good career. Sure, many of us probably invoke a fair amount of damage to our brains through social alcohol abuse, but most of us are in college for intellectual reasons.

Naturally, Amber’s article has generated a slew of backlash. Occasionally, a comment mocking the offended for taking a “joke” so seriously will surface.

I get that the article was supposed to be satirical. I think most of us do. The problem is that the sarcasm failed, and once you strip Amber’s attempt at humor, all you get is a piece that degrades women our age.
And do you know what that does? It makes UGA look really bad.
UGA doesn’t have the greatest reputation. The students are typecasted as raucous Bulldog fans, belligerent drunks, and members of Greek institutions. In 2010, the Princeton Review crowned us the number one party school in the nation. As a result, thousands flock to Athens each year to include themselves in the wild parties and downtown bar scene they hear about. Trust me, it’s a little overrated.

I’ve seen people who go to other schools use the article as an excuse to mock UGA.

Like with any school, there is so much more to UGA than the Greek community and partying. Some of the most fascinating people I’ve been exposed to are UGA students. I’ve met incredible actors, singers, writers, and artists, brilliant mathemeticians and linguists, and several girls in sororities who stand apart from the “sorostitute” label – one of these girls inspires me incredibly. I might not walk around campus wearing Nike shorts and a sorority t-shirt, but I am going to take The Beach Boys’ advice and stay true to my school.

So why didn’t you, Amber?

 

Victory!

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Last night I turned in early yet again because all I could think about was how exhausted I was and revising something that I’m writing. Determined to top four and a half hours of sleep, I popped a whole sleeping pill in my mouth, grimaced because it started dissolving before I had swallowed it, and plopped into my bed.
When I awoke, my first thought was, “fuck, it’s 4:30 and I’m awake.” My alarm went off five seconds later.
Realizing that I actually had gotten a full night’s sleep for the first time in a week gave me an added surge in my energy. The window didn’t feel too chilly, so I could wear a tank top, I hadn’t lost any sleep, and I was about to drink some tea and enjoy my breakfast. You know how I love my breakfast. I wouldn’t even need a cup of that wretched coffee!
Since I wasn’t a zombie, class went better than usual. I aced my Daisy Miller quiz, and even though I fully expected it since I’ve read the story before, I still felt a brightness as I looked at the 20 with the smiley face in the 0 scribbled on the top of my page.
Evelyn said she would go to the lake with me tomorrow. I haven’t done much with any locals aside from talking to creepy older men in bars and impressing our housekeeper and Joyce, so I really want to go. We can talk about things I actually care about: food; literature; places; our families. And why shouldn’t I befriend a local?  We have common interests, and I haven’t really been able to bond extensively with many people here. Well, girls at least. It’s so much easier for me to talk to guys here. They like food, and good food at that, and they don’t give a fuck about counting calories. I should probably hang out with more guys.
After my class ended, I walked around the city for a while. Aside from a store where I could buy tweezers and a gelato stand, I had no destination in particular, and that was really nice. I haven’t managed to find a portable keg like the one I saw somebody wearing the other day, but I did see a Mozart shot glass, and that amused the hell out of me. I want to say I walked past a few useful places too – a bike shop, a Thai restaurant, places that sell sunglasses. Even going out was okay, because the dollar drinks for today actually tasted good and I befriended some guys who really like food. Maybe I’ll go eat with them one day or something, because they are the only other people I’ve encountered who are as excited as I am about a Thai restaurant being here. And I ate a grilled cheese sandwich.
All that’s really been on my brain is editing and producing. I really want this story I’m working on to be good. I mean, it is good, but I really want to make it the best it can be. I’ve been rereading it relentlessly – learning about Hemingway’s revising techniques is getting to my head.  At the same time, I’m really excited because I’ve never thought about writing so much. Sometimes all I want to do here is separate myself from everybody else and expand my ideas, edit my story, and churn out some reflections to post on here. Sorry if this post didn’t really have a point. I’m just in a great mood. I’m finally starting to feel like an active writer.
If I go to the lake with Evelyn tomorrow I’ll put some pictures up. I don’t really feel like the pictures I’ve taken so far are very blog-worthy.
And for now? A shower, a little The Sun Also Rises, and ideally, some more writing and editing.