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).
- 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.
- 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…
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
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.
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.
This is Stellenbosch. It’s beautiful, right?
After leaving Phinda, the four of us (me, my sister, my dad, and our friend Schalk, who lives in Stellenbosch and therefore showed us around) drove back to the Durban Airport. Our flight to Johannesburg actually got delayed for five hours because there was a crack in the plane’s windshield. It was okay, though, because we found another flight (shout-out to OneTime Air) and British Airways gave us a refund (shout-out to British Airways too, because that was really nice.) So that only left us an hour behind schedule.
And what did we do on our first night there? Oh yeah. We ate, and then we got drunk at a bar called The Mystic Boer. Well, they got drunk. I kind of took one shot of something that tasted atrocious (oh yeah, it was Patron!), looked around the room and saw lots of guys, and it made me miss mine. I am obstinately loyal, and all I really wanted to do was go back the hotel because it had heated bathroom floors and the bed… oh my god.
I slept beautifully, especially because I didn’t have to wake up at 5:00 the next day. And then I got to have coffee and French toast and fruit and yogurt (Bulgarian yogurt is the best yogurt ever, by the way) and I was so happy.
Then we went out to this place that um, has a bunch of cheetahs… I forget what it was called. All I know is that I got to pet a cheetah and his name was Joseph and I foolishly took a Doxycycline pill without a Tum so I felt really sick. Also I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures in the cage.
We thought the cheetahs there were drugged because they were so… calm. They weren’t, though. Cheetahs keep their activity to a minimum when they don’t have to do anything that involved running because running at high speeds takes up so much energy for them. Except I don’t really know how they’d get much running done in a fenced-in area.
Cheetahs also have a wonderful sense of humor, I’ve discovered.
And yes, I have to represent my country.
Stellenbosch (and greater Stellenbosch) is famous for wine and Stellenbosch University. I’ll start with the wine.
From my observations, Stellenbosch is South African wine country. And the wine is pretty good, which is saying a lot, because I can’t really drink alcohol without making a funny face and feeling shivers run down my back.
Personally, I think the cheese was better. South Africa is renowned for cheese as well. Heaven!
A giant wine bottle obviously means that my sister needs a new profile picture.
After all that, we just went back to the town and walked around a little. I think Schalk drove us around the university too. Lots of white buildings.
We made a few friends, too – part of it might have been fate, but most of it was my dad’s lack of restraint when it comes to talking about himself around people he just met. But it turned out well. We ended up going to Cape Town that night with them to see our new friend’s son’s band 3rd World Spectator play a show at a restaurant. It was pretty fun. I got to try pizza with bananas on it, which is actually really good. I knew it would be, too. And the band was great. They can do a mean cover of “Where Is My Mind?” by The Pixies, and I really like their song “Ambulance.” And then I sat by a fire and fell asleep sitting upright, which was a great new accomplishment for me. Ha!
The next day we actually went to Cape Town again (because we had actually planned it far in advance instead of mere hours before), so that means I’m out of Stellenbosch pictures and tales. Actually I have one more. We ate Indian food with all the people we met, and it was a really good time. I do have a picture of that.
Well, that’s all I’ve got from Stellenbosch. I need to go to bed – I’m kind of in trouble because of something my puppies chewed up. And I have tons of Austria things to do tomorrow, so I need to fall asleep within the next hour. The internet just loves to distract me.
Anyway, I’m out. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back tomorrow!
Here’s the book I made my dad for his birthday if any of you are interested in looking through it.
And yes, that does mean I managed to work through the Blurb software. Hope you like it!
One day when I was seven, I went to eat lunch at Carrabba’s with my dad – my parents had been divorced for a little while, so I was used to eating out with my dad by this point. I’m not sure why my little sister wasn’t with us, though.
We had just finished eating. I know exactly what I had, because I got the same meal every time I went to Carrabba’s until I turned eight or nine: chicken fingers with a side of penne. The penne was buttery and salty, and I doused my chicken fingers in ketchup: it was a really good course for a 7-year-old.
I remember being tired. I was never keen on sleeping when I was little, so this bothered me. I think I must have been tired for an extended period of time, because I was actually worried about it.
My dad recommended that I order a coffee. I’m not really sure why a 37-year-old man would recommend that his 7-year-old daughter order a coffee. He must have known that I wasn’t going to drink the whole thing. I ordered a cappuccino, because “cappuccino” was a big, grown-up coffee word and I wanted the waiter to think I was intelligent and mature.
I don’t exactly remember what happened after my cappuccino was set on the table. I only know two things. The first thing I knew was that I did not like the way coffee tasted; the second was that my light-up pikachu keychain that my mom bought me somehow fell in the cappuccino, and after that incident, it never lit up again. The pikachu incident probably had a bigger influence on my dislike of coffee than the actual taste. Remember, I was seven. I pledged to hate coffee from that day on – before I tried the cappuccino, I’m sure I said I didn’t like coffee, but it didn’t really count because I had never tried it. But that cappuccino was associated with a sense of disgust and loss I never wanted to bring upon myself again.
Although I disliked the taste of coffee and didn’t really want to set any of my belongings near a cup of it again following the Cappuccino Incident, I could not deny that I loved the way it smelled. I remember getting hungry 30 minutes before lunch in 3rd grade and getting as close as I could to my teacher’s coffee cup – for some reason, the smell satiated my hunger a little. I also remember discovering the saltshaker full of coffee beans that lived at every perfume counter. I would smell as many samples as I could, and then take solace in the scent of the coffee beans. I still do it, too. I will make myself look like an idiot just so I can smell coffee beans: I’ll stick my nose into the dispensers at grocery stores and linger around any full coffee cups in my home.
When I was in high school, I realized that people thought drinking coffee was cool – I’m sure this belief was associated with Starbucks’ huge boom in popularity at the time. 2007, right? I was in high school then.
Whenever I think of Starbucks now, I think of dishwater, but back then, I only thought of Frappucinnos and those tacky ice-cream-like coffee drinks with whipped cream on top. Preppy, 13-year-old girl drinks and sugar bombs (and fat bombs too, since they were all doused in whipped cream).
I didn’t want to jump on the Starbucks bandwagon because I didn’t want to drink such unhealthy beverages (the whipped cream on top has 12 grams of fat, and that’s just the whipped cream – let’s not forget the rest of the drink) and I thought Frappuccinos were really tacky. Plus I still had a grudge over the pikachu. I think that’s a respectable opinion.
One night when I was 15, I was hanging out with a group of friends who wanted to go to Starbucks (a new one had just opened down the street). I didn’t want my friends to know I was a pompous, coffee-hating asshole, and I definitely didn’t want to be left alone at the house or anything, so I went with them. One of my friends ordered a chai latte.
Being half-Iranian, I have drunk a lot of tea in my lifetime. I could drink it hot. I could drink it without sugar. My grandmother didn’t filter all the leaves out of the tea my relatives and I drank. I could handle hardcore tea.
When I heard my friend say his drink was a chai latte, I became intrigued because chai is what my family called the tea we drank after dinners at my grandparents’ house. It’s pronounced differently, though. It’s cha-yee, not chye.
I figured I could toughen up a little and drink something that had such a familiar name.
I ordered one. I liked it. I got super hyper off it. I guess it was a sugar rush.
Gradually, I warmed up to coffee, starting with the girly drinks I hated thinking about drinking. For some reason, my mother is hooked on mocha Frappuccinos. Oh, I know the reason, because it’s the same reason I started tolerating other forms of coffee: chocolate.
Not surprisingly, college was what brewed my tolerance – and need – for coffee (like my bad pun there?). I found myself having a hard time concentrating while studying for midterms or finishing a paper unless I was jacked up on caffeine and sugar. I took classes that met at 9:00 or 8:00 in the morning. I had to drink coffee so I wouldn’t fall asleep while my Milton professor read passages from Paradise Lost and didn’t allow anybody in the class to start a discussion.
The stigma I developed that day in Carraba’s has evolved into a dependency. I drink the stuff regularly – I drink it several days of the week. Thankfully, I don’t have to have chocolate or intense amounts of sugar in my coffee to be able to stand it anymore. I can even drink it plain, although I don’t really enjoy doing that.
I’ve learned my limits with caffeine. I know what I need to drink to perk up a little (a latte) or get completely jacked up so I can have plenty of energy to get through my assignments or a particularly busy day (a mocha, because the chocolate will make me hyper, or plain old black coffee). Plus there’s actually really good coffee here in Athens, so I enjoy walking over to Athens’ corporate coffee stand (Jittery Joe’s, represent) or a cafe down the street.
Drinking coffee makes me feel more like an adult, and hey, it obviously keeps me alert too. It might have taken around 12 years, but I finally got what I wanted that day in Carrabba’s when I was seven.
I am a control freak. Every day is a battle between my dictatorial urge to exert complete control over every aspect of my life and my battered, overly stressed psyche. I moderate whatever I can: how much work I do in a certain day, what kinds of food I eat, the amount of food I end up eating, how much money I spend on food, how much time I spend in my room, and when I want to get things done. You should see my day planner – it may be adorable and uplifting on the outside and come with stickers (I know, it looks so harmless here), but on the inside, it’s a sentence for anxiety attacks. I’ve scribbled pages and pages of to-do lists that range from my academic tasks for the week to what I need to buy at the grocery store to certain ways I want to think. They’ve taken multiple forms, too – I’ll draw a calendar next to an obsessive bulleted list to remind myself that my tasks aren’t simply jarred strings of words, but real actions that are chained to deadlines and time. That’s right, I have multiple lists for the same thing. My attempt to become more organized and subsequently think more clearly has only thrown me into an even larger spiral of worrying. My motion to reduce my anxiety has not only backfired, it’s managed to stress me out even more.
Did I mention that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder? Yeah, that plays a huge part in this.
I’m a worrywart. You probably inferred that from the tone I used earlier in this post. I will worry about anything – I worry about everything, actually: grades, whether I’m marketing myself enough, what I eat, my cholesterol intake, time, my friends, my family, my weight, not getting enough sleep, sleeping too much, my performance, my car’s MPG, you name it. It can take me a matter of seconds to trap myself in a cycle of anxiety, and once I’m in there, it’s very hard to pull myself out. I have to take pills for it – pills that are supposed to mellow me out, which just make me tired all the time, and bipolar pills, because I can’t stabilize myself when I get anxious.
For some reason, I love worrying about things I have absolutely no control over. This category namely includes quarrels within my family (and since it’s divorced and partially Iranian, that happens very often), what other people think of me, and any negative situation my friends get into.
Of course, it’s only logical that I cope with situations I can’t control by taking it out on myself. Here’s where my nature as a control freak comes in. I tell myself that by achieving perfection, I can fix things that I honestly can’t do a thing about. I’ve tried to cope with my school-based stress and ignore the series of intense fights my dad and sister had a few years ago by cutting off a chunk of my food supply. That worked stupendously. Then I’ll bottle everything up and crack weeks or months later. That method helps me out too. Ignoring my anxiety or covering it up with a control-based issue is my go-to method is coping with a stressful or depressing situation.
The thing about my coping mechanisms is that they don’t work. They make things much worse, actually. There’s also the matter that they’re completely inappropriate methods of stress management. Since when has shutting myself away from the world and hiding in my bed helped me get over something? It hasn’t. It hasn’t helped me at all, but for some reason, I am set on doing it every time something troublesome comes my way.
I cannot do this anymore. I can’t! It’s driving me crazier. Even thinking about my anxiety is stressing me out. I have to change. And it’s not just so I can make it past May 7th in one piece – I don’t want this interfering with the rest of my life. I want to be a journalist. I want to travel and write and get paid for it somehow. How am I supposed to get my stories and interview people if I’m afraid of talking on the phone? I’m afraid that if I can’t tame my anxiety, I’ll be living with my parents or something and not be able to work efficiently. That isn’t exactly my dream.
I have to tackle this on a short-term scale right now because my finals are creeping up on me and I’ve got two projects due within the next week. They’re both for my journalism classes, so that means I’m going to have to talk to people I don’t know and sit at a computer for a long time. I can’t have any distractions, especially not anxiety.
I’ve started by eliminating my sources of stress. It’s proven to be pretty easy so far. With school, it’s getting things out of the way and setting up meetings and interviews for my projects. I don’t have to worry about my Paradise Lost test anymore, so that relieves me a lot, especially because I think I did really well on it. So that’s one issue out of the way. I’ve got some leeway on my projects, and I’m in the process of finalizing setting all my interviews and appointments up. I’ve got one tomorrow, one on Friday… I have to set my other two interviews up, but that shouldn’t be a huge deal, especially because I figured out how to record phone conversations (that one was a bit of a lifesaver.)
Then there’s studying for finals, which I’m actually not too concerned about. But I’ve got all my notes typed up, so I don’t even have to let any senses of impending doom concerning not having studied for my news writing final at all bother me. That’s good.
I’ll get my projects done. I’m typing that again to encourage myself. It’s working, just so you know.
I have to say that the easiest adjustment I’ve made was shutting off all my worries about food. I mean, yeah, food is important. But for these next few weeks, I’m going to try not to worry about what I eat as much. I mean, I’m not scarfing cheeseburgers down for every single meal. And at this point, I really believe that a slice of bacon is healthier than all the stress I’ve endured over the years from fixating on food so much. So for now, all worries concerning food will be shut off, and I’ve made a good start. I drank one of the best iced lattes I’ve ever had today, and I spontaneously took 15 minutes aside yesterday to sit down and have a few scoops of blood orange gelato.
It was definitely worth it.