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.

Jet Lag

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Never in my life have I felt like such an old woman. All I seem to care about is going to class, reading, writing, drinking hot tea, sleeping, and eating – my priorities aren’t necessarily in that order, though, because I’m finding that sleeping overrides nearly everything. I don’t even know if I’d be going to class if I weren’t subject to penalties for skipping; missing one class drops an entire letter grade, and I’m kind of banking on making A’s in both of my classes here – and I should, because they’re easy classes.
My sickness is finally subsiding, and for that I am grateful. Now sleep deprivation is the only thing that can make me feel like shit. Unfortunately, I’m not coping with my jet lag very well. I don’t think I’ve ever had it this bad, honestly, and part – well, most – of that is because I have complete liberty in what I do after my classes are over. After class, I should be eating lunch, walking around the city a little and taking pictures, eating gelato, and working on my plans for weekend travel. But am I doing that? Of course not. Because I’m waking up at 4:30 every day, my mind turns into complete mush by 10:00, which makes sense since that’s 4:00 a.m., the time I’m used to falling asleep, over in the Eastern Time Zone. Once I’m out of class, nothing matters more to me than going back to bed, and it sucks because unless I get at least five hours of sleep, I’ll remain in a complete fog. And that means I don’t really have time to walk around the city and learn things, and that would normally devastate me, but at this point I’m far too tired to care.
But it bothers me that I have barely taken any pictures here and haven’t even bought new shampoo (Garnier Fructis does nothing for my hair but clean it and make it ridiculously frizzy) or gone out and bought some of the things I forgot to pack. It bothers me that I don’t have many things to talk or write about. I feel like I’m not living up to my potential – hell, I know I’m not.
I know what you’re all thinking: “coffee exists.” I’m very aware of that, and coffee is definitely not scarce here. The thing is that ice is. And guess how I prefer my coffee? Iced and loaded with milk and sugar to help camouflage the bitterness. I refuse to grow up with coffee, and I know that isn’t good, but how am I supposed to like something that sends shudders down my back? It’s the same with alcohol! That’s another thing- everybody drinks here. No, let me edit that sentence. Everybody completely abuses the opportunity to get wasted every single night. And, you know, I don’t have much against going out. Nothing is wrong with being social, especially because I’ve never really been that social. Sure, I’m quieter than everybody else and not really making a fool of myself – but can you blame me? Every time I get drunk I end up in tears, and nobody needs to see that. – but I like to convince myself that people aren’t grieving my company. I mean hey, I’m the camera girl, the girl who is occasionally hilarious and has lots of great stories about colonoscopies and a Nazi housekeeper. People like that kind of stuff, right? Plus we took shots with a middle-aged Asian woman named Joyce and the housekeeper for our dorms the other night. Where else can I do those kinds of things but Europe?

I need to quit complaining. I’m in Europe! On a lighter note, breakfast opens in 30 minutes, and I am going to stuff my face with muesli and yogurt. I’ll drink some peppermint tea, and maybe they’ll even have those crazy good pancakes today. And I’ll be an adult today and drink multiple cups of coffee. I’ll need them.
Here is a picture of me at a pizzeria. Service in Europe is impeccably slow, and the kitchen actually forgot about my order. Nevertheless, my parma pizza was incredible.

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.

Praise for Paradise

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To be honest, I signed up for the Milton class I’m taking on a whim. I had originally signed up for English 4000, because it was mandatory at the time, and Poetry, well, because I love it.
Then came the announcement that frustrated the university’s older English majors: English 4000 was no longer a required course for an AB English degree. I was ecstatic: my grade wasn’t going to go down the toilet this semester!
With English 4000 dropped from my class schedule, I glanced through the roster of English classes online. Then I thought, “Hey, why not Milton?” It was still a 4000-level English class, but the number wasn’t really what caught my attention. No, it was my obsession with His Dark Materials. I’m going to have to save my post concerning that said obsession for another time, because if I mention it now, it will overtake this post, which is obviously supposed to be about Milton and the Paradise poems.
On the first day of the semester, I learned that there was an available spot in a photojournalism class I really wanted to take. I’m lazy and get stressed incredibly easily (oh, and I have to limit my course hours so I don’t have to graduate early), so I didn’t want to take five classes this semester. Or any semester, for that matter. I did that my very first semester of college, and I was a little overwhelmed. I would have to drop Poetry or Milton.
I went to the bookstore, because, like the model student I am, I didn’t have my textbooks. Plus I wouldn’t have time to pick up the photojournalism textbook later that day. Obviously, I used this bookstore trip to examine my course loads for the Milton and poetry classes. The poetry class required that I buy nine books; the Milton class only required one. I was taking Milton.
I’m sure I would have adored the poetry class, but I’m really glad with the choice I made. I immediately decided to stay in the class when I walked into the room and saw one of my friends sitting in a desk. That meant I wouldn’t be the only sophomore in a 4000-level English class. We younger English majors who are a year ahead in our classes have to stick together. Will and I make great study partners. We are killing that class. Also we’re making the same scores on everything, which I think is funny. I think everything is funny, though.
There are a number of other reasons I like Milton. Firstly, we have a similar mindset. There is evidence in Milton’s earlier work, which he wrote when he was around my age, that he didn’t feel like he was doing enough with his life and work. Milton was a perfectionist and a worrywart, just like me! His environment was extremely competitive: He was surrounded by scholars and writers, and I think it terrified him a little. He must have put himself under a tremendous amount of pressure. I just liked that we have similar mentalities. It makes me feel a lot better about being in a huge creative slump (which is disappearing, by the way, if you haven’t noticed – I’m writing something every day now!).
I also have this thing for religious literature. I guess it’s because I wasn’t raised with any particular religious background. With an Iranian dad and an American mom, it’s pretty obvious that my parents didn’t have a similar religious background. I did go to Catholic school, but the only religious literature I was really exposed to was a little bit of the New Testament, books in the religion and literature class I took (and everybody in the class got to pick a book, and that’s how I got a Catholic teacher to assign The Golden Compass to his class.). Oh, and the songs I sang in mass for chorus. Aside from the New Testament class I had to take in the 10th grade, my other exposures to religious literature were optional.
I haven’t read much Puritan literature. My AP American Lit class read a few Puritan poems before we had to read The Scarlet Letter when I was in the 11th grade, but that was American Puritan literature (again, that exposure was completely optional since I chose to take the AP English class). Milton was a Puritan, and obviously he wasn’t an American Puritan. And reading an English Puritan’s literature is nice because I can read it without having to discuss the Salem Witch Trials or anything of the sort. It was a nice spin on things. I just really like reading religious literature because I’m free to make an interpretation without anybody telling me how to think or judging me. People don’t know what I’m up to because I’m just reading! Isn’t literature wonderful?

Evidence suggests that Satan was the original troll.

Okay, point number three. I love Paradise Lost. I made Paradise Lost my bitch this semester. Paradise Regain’d can be my little bitch. Or would that be my bottom bitch? I’m not sure. I can’t speak pimp. I’ve assigned myself all this supplementary reading material, like Utopia, His Dark Materials (of course), and the Old Testament, so I can research Paradise Lost and appreciate it even more. Paradise Lost actually helped inspire me to create my own concentration within my English major. Well, reading Dante’s Inferno and Pullman helped with that too.
Paradise Lost is one rich text. Sure, there are the obvious themes of knowledge, obedience, and disguises, but there is so much more. There’s history, sociability, fertility, heroism (well, atypical heroism), teaching, the power of words, and of course, blindness (these are all topics for the essay I have to write during my exam tomorrow, by the way). And there are allusions all over the place. There are geographical allusions, biblical allusions (well, obviously), mythological allusions, even allusions to Milton’s other poems. I read one in Paradise Regain’d today, for example. Milton’s texts are so rich! I’m rolling in literary dough! I just love literature so much!
I’m not so sure if writing about how much I like Paradise Lost helps me study for my exam at all, but at least it makes me eager. I have already planned out my essay, after all (I’m writing about the roles of sociability in Paradise Lost, Paradise Regain’d, and Comus). I’m actually kind of excited to write this essay, because I know I’m going to kill it. Since when do I feel this way about finals? I suppose I did feel this way yesterday.
I have a new theory! Milton’s work is slightly responsible for the route to happiness and stability that I’ve encountered. Yeah, why not? I’m sure I could argue it. At this point, I can argue anything.  And now I really need to end this post and actually do my work, so I’m going to end this as strongly as I can – so I’m going to use the end of Paradise Lost to close this up. Feast on this, lovers of literature.

            The World was all before them, where to choose
            Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
            They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
            Through Eden took thir solitarie way.