Lycidas 3: Have Fish, Will Travel?

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Before you read this, please know that despite the absurdity of this post, I am being completely serious.
You all need to know that I adore my fish. I think he’s the cutest thing in the world. I talk to him every time I see him. I even wrote a haiku about talking to him (talking to my fish/probably is not okay/oh well, what the hell).

But I have a problem. As of two hours ago, it is officially December in this time zone. The last day I need to be here is the 10th, unless by some strange turn of events I finish my Ulysses project three days early – and that isn’t happening, because this project is worth half my grade and I want to make an A in the class, dammit!

For me, being on break isn’t just about being back in my hometown and hanging out with my sister and her cat – it’s also about much greater things, like free food, going downtown and begging my friends to get pizza with me, and sleeping until noon every day. The holidays are such a special time, and I really want Lycidas to be a part of my winter break, because let’s face it: if he isn’t, then he will die.

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If only this guy could take care of Lycidas.

Who would be in Athens to take care of my fish? Nobody. And it’s not like I could just give him one of those big fish food pellets that can keep a fish alive for a week, because I will be gone for at least three weeks.

Then there is the whole water question. I have to clean out his tank biweekly because the water gets really cloudy and Lycidas does not enjoy swimming around in a rave from the 80s. And do you know what else water does? It evaporates. If I were away from Lycidas for three and a half weeks, then half the water in his tank would evaporate in my absence. I could ask somebody to watch him for me, but I don’t really know anybody who would be here the entire break.

It may be crazy, but I feel like the best option here is to take Lycidas home with me. There’s just one little issue: Lycidas lives in a filtered tank – he needs those little air bubbles to live. He can last in a vase for 15 minutes whenever I clean his tank, but I don’t know if he’s strong enough to take on sitting in a plastic cup for two hours while I drive to Macon. To be honest, that probably classifies as animal abuse. Plus there’s the whole issue of him dying in my car. You guys know I believe my capability as a responsible person completely depends on my ability to keep Lycidas alive, and since I’ve managed to do so for three months without any trauma, it would break my heart if I killed him when I was doing my best to keep him alive.

Isolated of the gold fish on white

Note: Lycidas is not a goldfish. I just like this picture.

I am truly in a predicament. Do any of you know anything about fish care? What about fish transport? Would it be better for me to leave Lycidas in Athens with some kind of pet-sitter? Or would he have a stronger chance of surviving through Christmas break if I took him home with me? And this isn’t the only time I would be away from Athens for a long time. Even though it’s far off, I still worry about what to do with him when the school year finally ends and I go home for the summer.

What is the best way to handle this situation? Will my baby die if I put him in a plastic cup for two hours? Is it possible for him to handle the stress that comes with long-distance travel? Can I make the possibility of spending Christmas with my fish a reality?

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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).

Norman

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There comes a time every semester here when some students will walk around campus holding specific plants, and whenever that time has come in the past, I have been extremely jealous. “Why does she have a plant? I have to figure out which class this is,” I’d think to myself.
The first time I encountered Plant Day was during my very first semester of college. I heard somebody say that a certain introductory English class here had an assignment where students would have to take a plant home, watch it grow, and write about it. I thought that was an awesome assignment, and then I got bummed because I would never be able to write about a plant growing for a grade (I AP’d out of English 1101 and 1102, so there was no way I’d ever be in one of those plant classes.)
I tried to think of other ways to get a plant. I took a plant biology class the next semester, but I never got a free plant. It didn’t occur to me that I could just do the assignment I heard about on my own for months.

It happened to me in September. It was Plant Day again, and I finally decided to go up to somebody and ask what class the plant he was carrying around was for. He said ecology. I had already taken both science classes I needed for my degree, and I was not exactly keen on taking one as an elective, especially since I’m double-majoring, so yeah, I kind of can’t waste my credits. I decided then and there to get my own plant.

A few days later, I walked out of the local Wal-Mart with my plant, which I had placed into a pot that was a little wider than the plastic one he came in (the pot is more for decoration.)  I named it Norman. I would have bought a pack of seeds, but autumn was approaching and I didn’t want to kill anything. Plus this is one adorable plant. I sat him outside in the warm air, and marveled at the realm of botanical responsibility I had entered.

Me and Norm in his winter clothes during Christmas break

Norman’s growth was pretty, well, nonexistent for a few months. I didn’t think he would get any bigger at all, actually. After the semester ended, I brought Norman home to Macon with me for Christmas break. It worked out really well because Norman fits in my car’s cup holder perfectly. We drove towards home and the holidays excitedly.
I figured he’d die of loneliness at my dad’s house, so I took him to my mom’s. She was really excited to meet him – she was one of the first people I told about him, actually. My mother took excellent care of Norman. It was during one of my last days on break that she pointed out how well he was doing at her house – Norman had grown an extra leaf. My mom wanted to keep Norman, because he was obviously happier in Macon with her than he was in Athens with me. But no, I was selfish. I brought him back to Athens, where he resumed his old life: stable, yet complacent.
Little did I know that my decision to bring Norman back to school with me would almost kill him.

Two months later, spring break arrived. I decided to leave Norman in Athens for the duration of my absence. He really doesn’t require that much water, and I assumed my roommate would water him if he got too dry.
He didn’t.
When I returned to Athens, Norman’s soil was dry and flaky. It even looked like some had disappeared – I have no logical explanation on how that happened. My other ideas don’t make that much sense.
The first thing I did when I saw Norman in such a frail condition was stick him under the faucet. There wasn’t enough dirt in his pot to support his drooping stalks, so I went outside and put some soil from a dead plant’s pot and put it in his. Norman needed support: his stalks were hanging over, and some of his leaves fell off when i touched them. That terrified me.

For days I paid a ridiculous amount of attention to my plant. I gave him too much water at first – so much that the top layer of his soil looked like it was covered in either mold or rhizomes, I’m still not sure. Then I decided to make sure he got as much sunlight as he could so the excess water would get dried up. That worked a little.
Then I decided that maybe by having a companion, Norman could return to his health. I bought a pink hydrangea and named it Happy, and sat her next to Norman on the table on my porch. Happy was different from Norman – she required lots of water and actually produces flowers. Despite their differences, Norman and Happy have a beautiful friendship. They always sit next to one another and I water them at the same time. I think Happy’s presence actually improved Norman’s health, because he has started growing again. Now my baby Norman has six new leaves and a wonderful pink friend. And best of all, I didn’t kill my plant.