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.

18

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I never think any big events in my life are going to happen. I didn’t ever see myself graduating from high school or moving to Athens or accomplishing some huge task. I did it last week with Bonnaroo.
I’m currently doing this with Austria, and I’m becoming scared because I just realized that I’m leaving in 18 days. 18 breakfasts. 18 nights where I’ll wake up at odd intervals. 18 (well, probably fewer) showers.

I’m trying to pull together a list of things I need for this trip. Ideas. Plans. A level head. A plug converter. My big bottle of Ibuprofen. It’s hard to find Ibuprofen in Europe, so I’m going to bring a huge bottle and deal it. Just kidding. I’m going to share it, and that’s how I’ll win peoples’ hearts and friendship over there. 

I’m getting nervous because it’s hard for me to imagine what my life is going to be like over there because, well, I’ve never been to Austria. I hardly know any German – I’ve been slacking on studying it. It might get really cold there. I’m going to miss people and there won’t be anything I can do about it. I’ll be a whole ocean and several countries away. Mostly I’m afraid of ending up alone. What if nobody likes me there? I’ve got some bad qualities. 

The one thing I have complete confidence in is the literature class I’ll be taking. I’m great at English and I’m very passionate about words if you can’t tell. I know I can say something impressive and be able to bond with people who get starry-eyed over the same writers, books, and punctuation marks that I do. I think I will make a friend in my literature class. I need to, actually. I can’t be reserved like I normally am since all of this is going to happen over a span of six weeks instead of a semester. I’m got to give myself a crash course in branching out to other people, and that happens to be one of the things I’m worst at.

I just end up fantasizing every time I try to construct a controlled thought about Austria. Instead of thinking about how to make friends, I think about things like how often I’ll be able to eat gelato and how I want to rent a bike and ride it around Innsbruck every day I’m there. It’s funny that I’m thinking this way, because usually I’m very rational. Actually I’m never rational when it comes to thinking, because that’s how anxiety manages to take over me so easily. 

What is good advice for studying abroad? What is a good way to make people like me? Does anybody have any recommendations for where I should go and what I should see in Europe, particularly Vienna and Germany? Or anywhere that’s close to where I’ll be? What kind of food should I try? 
Any advice – or any statement that will calm me down, really – would be much appreciated.  

 

Required Reading

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I just looked up the textbook list for my study abroad classes. It was probably the best idea ever.
I love the expatriates, so I’m really glad I found out about this course. And I’m being serious. I was hyperventilating in the theater when I saw Midnight in Paris. Taking the expatriate literature course makes up for not being able to take the travel writing course. I mean, I think it’s a class at UGA too, but I’d much rather take it in Austria. I’m going to pretend to be an expatriate there. Maybe I’ll look into what the expatriates did and ate and mimic them. I’m sure they had good taste in food. I wonder which writers decided to get fat in Europe. I’d like to know who I share that fantasy with.
But! The list! I have to share it because I’m really excited about it.

  • Another Country by James Baldwin
  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • Daisy Miller by Henry James
  • Three Lives by Gertrude Stein

This list looks damn good. Like every other English major out there, I’m obsessed with the Realist and Modernist movements. In case you didn’t know, the writers on this list are associated with those movements. (I think James is the only author here who is really associated with Realism, though. The others are typically associated with Modernism.) I don’t think I’ve ever read any Baldwin, but at least I’ll be introduced to his work this summer. I’m very excited about all the books on here. I mean, I knew the list would have these writers on it, but I’m still just happy to actually read it. Hemingway! Stein! Fitzgerald! And Henry James? I read Daisy Miller in one of my English classes last year (hopefully this book is a collection of short stories rather than just one – I’m sure it is – it has to be!) and I really liked it. I think I read one of his essays. I don’t remember which one it was, though, and I had to read four essays that week, so I get them all messed up.
I really wish this class would have a field trip. I’ve already looked over the calendar, so I know it won’t, but it would still be so awesome. The class should just go to Paris and do a literary tour of the city. Beautiful. Hm, Paris is a little far from Austria. Did any of these writers ever touch base in Munich or Vienna? I do know my anthropology class is going on two field trips. One is to Dachau and the other is to Bolzano, Italy to see some frozen guy. I’m kind of nervous about visiting a concentration camp.All I know about the Italy trip is that I’m going to eat really good food that day and nobody is going to stop me.
My mind is really starting to wander now so I should probably knock some things out for my trip. I still have to submit this form (and I might have to fill out a few more, yikes) and buy a Eurail pass so I can go on the trains and actually go on trips. I also have to get my textbooks, which is why I ended up looking at – and fantasizing about – that list in the first place.
Also I have to start packing what I imagine is going to be a bulky suitcase and get a Typhoid vaccine tomorrow because on Saturday I’m going to South Africa, and boy, am I terrified. Oh, and I have to go to the doctor early tomorrow morning (it’s at 9:30, but anything before noon is early to me), so I need to get my face away from this computer screen so I can actually start trying to sleep since it takes me forever. I think I might actually write about going to the doctor tomorrow because this particular experience will be a first for me, ha.
Do you think I could just buy these books at Barnes & Noble or something since they’re not actually textbooks? I do have to get that anthropology textbook anyway, though, so I’m not totally convincing myself to just run to the mall and buy these books tomorrow.
My summer reading experience is gonna be so good.

Summertime Clothes

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You know how clothing stores will start displaying their warm-wear apparel when the last thing you want to wear outside is a swimsuit?
I hate that. I don’t even really understand why they do it to us. Oh boy, fashion is so complicated that the clothes have to be shown off half a year in advance. All you’re doing is distracting me! I just started school again, don’t get me daydreaming about spring break or summer. I do understand why stores start showing off clothes an entire season ahead from a marketing perspective, but that doesn’t really motivate me to buy anything. Why would I want to buy something I couldn’t wear or use?
All those displays do is make me daydream about summer and going on trips. The time when I’ll actually have an opportunity to wear the vibrant yellow hat or sundress I’ll ogle over but refuse to buy, because I actually can be rational. I just remind myself that I have school the next day and won’t be going anywhere and the weather won’t be warm enough to wear whatever I’m looking at for a long time, and force myself away from the summer clothes.
Now it’s actually happening, though. The opportunity to actually wear these clothes and live out my daydreams, I mean. School is actually almost over. I will be en route to Austria in 63 days. And that’s just one of the places I’ll be going this summer. I’ve got two beach trips, a weekend in New York, Bonnaroo, and a week in South Africa to get through first.
All of those locations are going to require different types of clothing, especially because there will be some drastic temporal changes. Like the beach? I’ll probably be in my swimsuit or a dress the whole time. Plus I’ll be with a bunch of guys, so there’s no reason to dress elaborately or even bathe – okay, I’m kidding about that part. Then comes New York, which isn’t really that tricky except for at night or if I actually want to dress like a young woman. Bonnaroo will be the complete opposite. I feel like everybody there will practically be naked. I’ve got to figure out the best way to keep cool without getting a sunburn. Lollapalooza was hot enough, but this is the south. I stand a much higher chance of getting heat stroke in Tennessee than I did in Chicago. I don’t want to look like I’m trying to be a slut or anything, but I don’t want to be uncomfortably hot, especially since I get dizzy easily.
I have more anxieties about South Africa and wherever I end up going in Europe because those places can get pretty cold. South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, after all, so it’ll be winter when I go. Okay, I just looked up the weather. It’s not too bad. This website I found says the average low temperature for Cape Town is in the 40’s. I guess I will be wearing pants between now and October (and I just pledged that I wouldn’t do it yesterday in celebration that it finally warmed up again here, rats!) and will just have to get over my stigma towards them.
For some reason (and a stupid reason at that) I thought Austria would have perfect weather all summer long since it’s so damn beautiful. Apparently this is not the case. At the Innsbruck trip orientation, a few weeks ago, we were instructed to bring warm clothes because the weather there can be unpredictable. It seems I had forgotten a very important factor while I daydreamed about how beautiful Austria’s weather would be: mountains.
The town is in the mountains. It’s right in the middle of the Alps. I can’t believe I overlooked that, especially because I’ve been in mountainous areas before. It gets cold. Winter is freezing. Summer isn’t, obviously, but it gets chilly and I still classify that as freezing because I can’t really tolerate any temperature under 75 degrees.
I guess I’m worried because we were advised to pack lightly. Usually packing lightly isn’t a huge deal for me. I’m really good at it, actually, minus the toothbrush or socks I’ll forget to throw in my suitcase. I can pack a bag for a weekend in Destin or New York in five minutes. Packing for Utah takes a little longer, because I have to pack anything that can withstand snow (rain boots are actually really good for that).
I feel like packing for Austria is going to be a nightmare. I’ve got to bring my own towel, my school books, and enough clothes for six weeks (I will obviously be washing them). I also have to bring all my prescriptions and any medication I might need since I’ll be in Europe. Apparently Ibuprofen is really hard to get in Europe. I guess I’ll be popular over there because I plan on bringing my bottle with 495 Ibuprofen tablets in it to Austria. You know, for uterus issues.
I have packed for a really long trip before, but it wasn’t as far away or in Europe. Plus I actually goofed and didn’t pack enough warm clothes (apparently winter doesn’t end until July in Massachusetts – at least it felt that way, because it rained the first two weeks) so I had to get my mom to ship me pants and sweaters. I just don’t see how I’ll be packing lightly when I have to account for radical changes in weather. It could get up to the 90s and down to the 40s. I pray to God it won’t get down to the 30s, because that range starts to mess with me. Ice becomes involved in that range.
I don’t exactly plan on sticking to their suggested guidelines, because there is no way I’m bringing two pairs of pants, three pairs of shorts, and one dress to Europe if I’m going to be there for six weeks. That is just not going to fly. I hate pants, so I’m not really concerned about that part, but I’m going to be in other countries! A different continent! I’ve got this huge country and multiple cultures to represent in Europe. I want to look nice for it, you know?
What is the best way to pack for a six-week trip to Europe? Do I need more pairs of pants than I think? How should I dress if I want Europeans to respect me? And should I just not wear that fanny pack of mine anywhere outside of a music festival? It was a hit at Lolla, but will it be appreciated in Vienna or Munich?
Does anybody have good packing advice? I could give you some of my tips in return. All I do is throw some outfits, undergarments, one pair of pajamas, and my toothbrush in a suitcase. What else is good to have in Europe?

Borders

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One thing that sold me on studying abroad this summer is how close Austria is to so many countries. UGA’s travel writing professor, who is teaching the class this summer – and hopefully I’ll get in during drop/add – calls Austria the “hub of Europe.” I don’t really like the word “hub,” so I’m going to try to avoid that term. (It’s just not a very euphonic word, you know? It’s boring.)
I’ve always been good with maps. When I was little, my parents and I would play a game where someone would name a country and I had to say which continent it was in, and I was damn good at that game. At 5, I knew things my 17-year-old sister still doesn’t know. The schools I went to before high school really pushed geography. I’ve labeled maps, pasted countries made out of construction paper together, and put puzzles where every piece was a different country together. And even though my high school curriculum covered very little geography (which wasn’t exactly a huge issue for me since geography has always made sense to me),  I have had to make a few in high school for my AP history classes. Well, I didn’t physically draw the map of Europe for my European history class. That one I filled in while riding an Amtrak from Boston to New York.
Anyway, back to the point I was discussing in the first paragraph. Here’s a map of Central Europe, just so you (and I, since I definitely don’t have it memorized) can get a clearer picture of it.
 Look at how many countries Austria brushes up against! I knew I’d be close to Germany (Innsbruck, where I’m staying, is an hour away from Germany) and some hours away from the Czech Republic, Italy (which isn’t in this map but borders Austria), and Slovenia, my latest obsession. I didn’t realize that so many countries are packed into Central Europe. (Actually that’s a lie. I’m fully aware that Central Europe’s demography has changed drastically since World War I. An easier way of explaining this? The pre-WWI map was way easier to fill in than the post-WWII one because I didn’t have to worry about all the names overlapping. So let’s just say that I forgot that so many countries are packed into this area. Literature and journalism are taking over my life, after all.) I’ve always wanted to go to Hungary – the name amused me when I was little, I’ll be honest, and I can just pull so many puns out of that one – and Croatia caught my attention a few years ago. The March issue of Conde Nast Traveler actually has a short story on Croatia, and oh good god that place is beautiful and so green. And Slovakia? I forgot that borders Austria.
So what’s the point? Well, I’d like to completely exploit the fact that I’ll be living somewhere so close to all these countries for six weeks. I can see places, watch people, eat different kinds of food, and get lots of stamps on my passport, which will make me feel really awesome about myself – I have this thing about passport stamps, okay?  My passport is completely naked! Oh yeah, and I want to get shot classes from each country I visit. Central Europe would be a nice start to the collection. I’m in college, okay? It’ll be awesome.
So here’s to chaotic long weekends in other countries, new passport stamps to fawn over, and yes, new shot glasses.

 

Sprichst Du Deutsch?

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Once upon a time, there was a lazy little fuck who bought some German-English dictionaries because she signed up for a study abroad program in Austria. Being a post-Fall human, she had a tragic flaw – she took forever to get around to accomplishing things she wasn’t getting graded for. Perhaps she procrastinated on learning German because English is a Germanic language – this girl was an English major, you see, and a damn good one at that. The truth is that this girl was either too lazy to get off the couch and watch Regular Show and Degrassi some other time, too busy stressing over her assignments for her journalism classes, or actually reading Paradise Lost and exercising for once. She was mostly on tumblr, though.

Obviously this girl is me. Is learning German hard? I don’t know if I’ll be very good at enunciating certain syllables harshly. I had a huge issue with that during my first few semesters of Persian class. I kind of sucked at rolling my tongue, which apparently occurs in the Middle East.
Enough about Farsi, though. I’ll be done with my language classes forever in four or five weeks unless I decide to take Old English since I’m a nut for roots. And do you know what will be a deciding factor in whether I take Old English? How my experience with learning and speaking German goes.
Now that I’m finally back on track, I can continue to worry about learning a little German, and whether my abilities will be any good in Austria and Germany if I get to go for a weekend.
Is German a hard language to learn? From my experience, I have a much easier time learning languages that share English’s alphabet. Spanish in elementary and high school was obviously a lot easier than Farsi in college. Plus there’s that whole “learning languages when you’re older is harder since your brain isn’t a sponge anymore” dynamic. But I’m smart, right? I’m pretty smart for a lazy person. I’m like a year ahead in English. Maybe I’ll actually crack one of these books open tonight even though the last time I did, I had a nightmare about being able to read Old English even though I knew more about it than anyone else in my AP English class, because my dream took place two years ago.
I’ll do it. The letters look funny in the Say It Right in GERMAN book, so at least that’ll amuse me.
And what a good call! I opened the book to the dessert section!

The Pilgrimage

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I think it’s fair to say a fair bit of my taste in music is inspired by classical composers. I’ve been playing piano since I was 5, and when I got old enough to make more conscious decisions on what pieces I wanted to learn, I always begged for classical music – Debussy, Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, Field, you name it (but those are my favorites.) Fantasia was one of my favorite movies as a child – okay, it still is, and especially now since I appreciate the music so much more. My taste in other genres of music reflects my history and growth with classical music: I can’t stand anything that sounds dissonant, I’m a sucker for musicians who use the piano heavily, like Ben Folds and Elton John, and most of what I listen to sounds, well, pretty.
It only makes sense that I make a classical musicians pilgrimage to Vienna while I’m in Austria. Vienna used to be the place to be for classical musicians. Mozart and Haydn, Austria’s most famous classical musicians, worked and lived there, and even Beethoven lived in Vienna for a while. And he left Paris to do this, so that must mean Vienna was an important city for classical musicians. I have to go to Vienna.
I really need to research Vienna more, because it’s become a city of my imagination. In my mind, Vienna is a myriad of domes rising from brick roads that were built to string quartets and symposiums, and a wave of arias that flows as smoothly as the Danube. Apparently Austria is not covered very often in books or magazines. My local Barnes & Noble didn’t have a single travel guide on Austria. I searched through my dad’s collection of the past several years’ issues of Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure and found one issue containing a story on Austria – a feature on Vienna. I didn’t get around to reading it, though, because I made the mistake of taking a sleeping pill and ended up in another universe.
If anybody has any recommendations or pointers for the pilgrimage,  I would appreciate it more than an Adventure Time marathon, and that’s not because I’ve probably already seen every episode. I’d really like to go to Vienna without getting tragically lost or missing out on something incredible. I imagine I’ll stay in a hostel, since I’m planning on going with a group, but that’s all I’ve got right now. I still don’t know the best way to finish these things either. I just hope someone is reading this.