Posts Tagged ‘monolingual Americans’

If this is true, then I’m golden

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone

- Blaise Pascal

Audrey Hepburn lookalike

Channeling my inner Holly Golightly.

In the last week and two days I have proven – in spades and in excess – that I am capable of sitting quietly in a room alone.

Hell, I thrive quietly in a room alone.

I’m like a low-maintenance houseplant.

Or a cat with access to a dripping faucet and an open feedbag.

Go about your business and don’t worry about little old me. Just leave a light on and let a neighbor know I exist, okay?

All the same, I’m kind of appalled at my own absence.

Five days?
How did five days get by me?

Well, for starters, I’m sitting quietly – minus the ticky tacky tapping of Macbook keys – in a room alone all the livelong day (and night).

I could be on Mars for all I (or you) know.

Secondarily, I’m writing a chapter a day.

I should be proud of this, but the thing of it is, my (overly, I now realize) aggressive schedule had me writing two a day.


Who do I think I am?

Joyce Carol Oates?

(I once read that on a real roll she writes 40 pages a day, so she is my Parthenon of big-time page quota writing)

Mexican laundry on the line

Doing my laundry old school. Feeling very salt of the earth and wondering to myself, "Do I own any clothes that aren't gray?"

Anywho, I’ve been writing a chapter a day, which honestly isn’t easy, and due to my own strange (inspired?) idea to have the first ten chapters be parallel and modern-day retellings of the life of Christ ages 30 to 32, they’re tedious as well. In addition to the time spent doing said writing, I spend about two hours a day reading Biblical interpretations.

Which I kind of hate.

Okay, I hate it a lot.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I hate Jesus…but when you’re dreaming about the man in a scholarly kind of way, you’ve possibly/probably/definitely gone too far.

Anyway, I’m working like a dog and making daily progress. Despite this, I’ve been growing increasingly despairing.

“Why?” you ask.

Well, if you’d been paying attention, you’d know I’m growing increasingly despairing because I thought I could write two chapters a day, and it just ain’t happening.

So self-admonition and “mañana, mañana” kick in until today, when the landlord sneeringly asks me, “So are you getting any writing done? Or do you have writers’ block?”

“No,” I told him, “I’ve written nine chapters.”

The sheer look of shock was enough to make me realize that although I may not be JCO (see above for secret decoder ring), but I am doing pretty darn good.

And then he stammered, “Wow. You’re a disciplined writer.”

Giant box of Special K

I only buy cereal that's at least four times the size of my head. And yes, the house really is as round and pink and freakishly fluorescent light lit as it seems here. I've grown accustomed...

And THEN he went and made my day (sort of) by adding that he’s happy if he writes a chapter a month.

I don’t have any clue what it is that he’s writing, but whatever.

Doing some quick math, I calculated that on his ‘aggressive’ plan, it would take me three years to write this book. So two or three months instead of one ain’t too shabby.

And it certainly isn’t three years.

So yay me.

In other news:

  • The first day I got a funky tan from my ever-present necklaces, but I have hence removed now-not-so-much-ever-present necklaces and evened that mess out.
  • Last night, in a fit of “I’m sick of corn tortillas and beans” I made cabbage rolls (any of you with any kind of Eastern European or Russian heritage know what I”m talking about), and they were wonderful. And I ate more for breakfast. And more again tonight for dinner. And there are still five left. Happiness…
  • I was trying to trim an errant hair with oversized scissors and cut a chunk out of my eyebrow. Oh well. It’s hair. It’ll grow back.
  • I have a girl crush on Ellie, the fast-talking Mexican maid. Not my maid, mind you. I do my own laundry and dishes and sweeping and cleaning. Not that I mind. It’s kind of a simplified, hand-hewn Little House on the Prairie-type existence. Anyway, back to Ellie, she’s so sweet and doesn’t seem to care a lick that I only understand about 30% of what she says. And she’s willing to try all kinds of words until she stumbles into some vocabulary I recognize. The same cannot be said for everyone…  Enough said.
  • I miss TV. A lot.
  • I am really damn tired (it’s a little after midnight here) due in large part to the aggressive ray of sun that shines directly on my face every morning at 7:00am and my persistent very late night bedtimes. In other words, I couldn’t let another day go by without posting something, but in just a few more words that’s all there is to say. Be good. More soon.

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Confessions of a chronic overpacker

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Through no fault of his own, my father has inspired a little bout of dread. Recounting some issues he encountered during his recent trip to Italy, he reminded me about how difficult and un-fun it can be to be

  1. A monolingual
  2. American
  3. lost in a foreign country
  4. all by yourself

Admittedly, in its own way, I suppose that’s the point of the whole thing: To be far removed from my creature comforts and my familiar creatures and utilize the challenges and alienation to find some clarity and direction. However, I had a vision of myself wandering down a Venetian alley with 35 pounds of clothes and books strapped to my back while the sun dipped in the sky, with no clue where in the hell I was, and a growing sense of panic. But I digress…

I have been busying myself and perhaps avoiding some of this worry by starting to make some concrete plans with respect to wardrobe. Who cares about agendas, maps, Eurail passes, international drivers licenses, vaccinations, train schedules, budgets, or other minutiae when I need to find a way to make a limited wardrobe (weighing no more than twelve pounds!) versatile and fashionable for thirteen weeks? Coming from a woman that packs ten changes of clothes and four pairs of shoes for a five day trip and who prides herself on possessing no small amount of fashion flair, this will be no mean feat.

A few key strategic moves have been established:

  • Only clothing that can be washed in the same load without turning everything pink, blue, or “I washed a bunch of different colored stuff together and it didn’t go well” gray.
  • A wardrobe focused on shades of brown and complementary colors
  • Layers, layers, layers!
  • Absolutely nothing white, cream, or ecru
  • Plan to ruin it, wear it out, or get so sick of it I can never bring myself to wear it again

Meanwhile, I ordered up a backpack online. It was not the largest pack on the market for women (the Gregory Maven, with a relatively diminutive 3000 cu. in. capacity), and I keep going back and forth on that decision. My reasoning was if I had a smaller bag it would be harder for me to overload it and give myself a hernia. However, the part of me that likes to bring three kinds of perfume, Tiger Balm (just in case), aloe vera gel (ditto), a hair straightener, a curling iron, an ion-charged hair dryer, shoe polish, exercise tubing (for workouts in your room!), and every hair concoction on the market intended for perfecting, polishing, straightening, and shining, wonders if I can pull it off.

That brings to mind another question: Do people run for exercise in Europe? (And on the same topic, why does the WordPress spell checker have a problem with the word “run”? Did someone nix that verb while I wasn’t looking? Isn’t it bizarre how the English language morphs? I mean the basic rules, not slang and colloquisms and such. I swear on my life, if you used the word “fishes” when I was in elementary school, that was marked wrong. Fish was pluralized fish, like moose and deer and sheep – and now ’fishes’ is an accepted pluralization! The mind boggles…) Anyway, while envisioning the contents of my making-its-way-to-me-via-UPS plum (!) backpack, I started to think about my plan to run as often as a can – at least twice a week – while on my journey. It wasn’t long thereafter that I began to recall all the times I found myself a wee bit off course while on long runs in strange places.

There was the one winter run in a Minneapolis suburb where – about ten miles into it and having crossed over a freeway three times and exhibiting the early signs of frostbite - I was starting to wonder if this is how I might die. I had to get myself out of that one by convincing a couple guys driving a Schwann’s truck to take me to my friend’s house.

Then there was the famous Central Park run where I’d agreed to meet my friend by the zoo at noon, with an emergency backup plan to return to the hotel downtown if I wasn’t back by 12:30 p.m. Lucky for me, she’s the laidback sort, because it was around 11:55a.m. when I realized I’d somehow accidentally looped the reservoir and was back in Harlem. Anyway, all this getting lost can only serve to make me that much more alert, right? Or maybe I’ll just run the same block over and over and over? Or drop little breadcrumbs to mark the path home? That strategy certainly panned out well for Hansel and Gretel…

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