I have free time and I feel like panicking.
My brain is still moving at a pace faster than the speed of light (or however fast it is that neurons do their thing) while I find myself sitting in front of the tv watching reruns of Friends eating bag after bag of fat free popcorn. It’s a Friday night verging on Saturday and I have no plans, nothing to do, and nowhere to go. Of course there is homework to do, but if I start now I’ll be finished by tomorrow morning and left with two days of nothing but idle time to waste away.
I can see my friends, I can get drunk, or get coffee in a quiet, anonymous corner and pick up where I left off in Atlas Shrugged more than a month ago. I can take a walk or ride a bike without any particular destination or time frame, or watch tv and Disney movies for hours. Or, my friends, I can node. And noding I am.
These past few weeks have been hellish, involving nothing but studying, class, work, eating, biking, sleeping, and most of all, worrying like a pro. I wake up at 6:45 every morning to the sound of my roommate getting in the shower. I rush to detangle myself from layers of blankets that refuse to budge, and then try to study for half an hour til the bathroom is free when she leaves to go running at 7:15. I get ready, sometimes I’ll put on makeup but not often, turn off the AC while she is gone, make my bed, pick up clutter and check the weather. Then it’s either off to class at 8 or study through ER and The Price is Right until class at one, depending on the day of the week. I like to spend my mornings with Bob Barker, even if it is only with the soothing sounds of his voice from the other room while I sit at my desk, memorizing frantically.
My roommate will get back around 9:30 or 10 most days after running, take another shower, make coffee and eat so loudly that I am forced to hide in my room. I don’t know how one should go about confronting a roommate on the subject of chewing with one’s mouth closed. I have discretely discussed several possibilities with many people, but have come to no conclusions. Some of the options included such ideas as :
- Abruptly leave when she opens her mouth to take the first bite and see if she gets the hint
- Plug my ears when she sits down to a meal
- Start singing loudly when she goes near the fridge
- Remove all things from the apartment that require teeth to eat
I wish I could just get up the nerve to say something like “Can you chew more quietly please?” but it feels so rude (not that any of the above suggestions are better – in fact most are far worse, albeit funnier). Many of you probably think I am making a huge deal out of a minor issue, but I assure you, even with my door closed and keyboard clicking, I can still hear her chewing in the other room over the blaring tv. I don’t think me saying anything will have an effect anyway, as she is 26 and most likely set in her ways. And the girl runs twenty miles a day and does three hours of Yoga and three hundred situps on top of that, so I should let her have her pleasures, however loudly.
But I am still annoyed.
Another minor problem in my apartment life involves my neighbors – Alpha Delta Phi, Alpha Epsilon Phi, Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Gamma Delta, Delta Upsilon, Sigma Delta Tau, and the worst: Kappa Kappa Gamma. Living on sorority/fraternity row, I know the exact time it takes for the bars to close and drunken, underage, screaming, incoherent girls and boys to walk home in the dark, every day of the week. I have heard every pick up line spewed forth from between the lips of inebriated guys at girls three blocks away from “HEY! WHERE AM I?” to “Don’t I know you?” in the past month than I managed to collect during a summer of being the only non-married young thin female in two factories full of men.
But I still manage to get some sleep after four when things settle down a bit.
Classes are harder than I expected. Here’s the run down:
- English 125: The University of Michigan has left the subtle teachings of the English language to its beloved and prized students in the hands of a woman from India who has lived in the United States for exactly one month. I thought it was bad when I could not understand my GSI (Graduate Student Instructor) who ran my four hour chem lab last year (despite being the cutest thing ever she barely spoke any english besides repeating what we said to her first in a broken, British accent), but to entrust the teaching of English to someone from a foreign country was a bit of a shock. However, she has surprised me with her knowledge and depth of understanding of the language, and has spoken it for most of her life besides.
However, she is a screamingly adamant feminist and insults the guys in our class without end. In my opinion, overdoing the man-hatred in the name of feminism undermines the entire movement. But I can’t tell her that without risking my grade.
I got an A- on my first paper. I was the only A anything in the class. I had to read my essay aloud, as well as every written assignment we have had thus far (“to show the perfect usage of the semi colon”). It was humiliating.
But I still got an A-, which angers me. This class was supposed to be a joke, I am only taking it because it is required to get a degree. My writing skills are the one thing I have ever believed in and trusted, but even that is not reliable anymore.
- Japanese 225: We have the same lecturer this year as last, due to an overwhelming majority of students who begged him to keep teaching us. He is very cool, mostly because he is not Japanese. For learning the basics of a language, it is sometimes easier to hear it from someone who’s been in the same position and has a complete mastery of English as well. There are two senseis who teach my recitation class, neither of whom can understand our questions unless we stumble through them in Japanese. Either way, I’ll figure it out.
The language is still hard, and I still have this class five times a week, but I love it and most of the other students have good senses of humor (necessary for when the overseer of the Second Year Program, the evil and dreaded Emori Sensei, writes the exams and corrects our homework). No one can get an A in this class, but we all try really hard. The Korean and Chinese kids usually pull an A- without trying as hard as I did, but they had a head start with either kanji or sentence structure and vocab.
- Japanese 228: this class is amazing, and I am so relieved I made it in (thank god for overachieving in high school and taking too many AP classes and getting 5s on the exams, thus boosting my standing in college by getting a million credits and letting me have priority during registration). It is the teaching of traditional Japanese calligraphy using a fude with a fudemaki, sumi ink or bokujuu in a suzuri, hanshi on a shitajiki with a bunchin holding it down, and lots of other fun stuff. The professor speaks mostly Japanese even though most of the students do not (which I found surprising to begin with – why take Japanese calligraphy when you do not know the language?), although she tried very hard to translate a few sentences in her endearingly strong accent. The name of our brush is “CC4,” which she calls “ShiShiFour.” It’s very cute.
So far we have attempted to do justice to san sen (thee rivers), go shuu (five states), sui sei (Mercury), and fu bo (father mother). It is incredibly difficult to relax and do well, but I love it nonetheless. To get a feeling for the look of what I’m talking about, check out the write-ups by Amoeba Protozoa in his kanji project.
- French 270: The official title of this class is Le Dix-neuvième Siècle: L’Ere des Révolutions. I took a more advanced version at Hope College (I bet I whined about it in past daylogs) my senior year, but U of M gave me no credit for it. So the class is easy as hell, if you ignore the memorization factor and the shear amount of material we are expected to read. We have four typed pages in a list format of dates and events to memorize from 14 juillet 1789 to 2 décembre 1848 to la population parisiene en 1901 (exactly 2 714 000). The professor is the coolest; I had her last year as well and fell in love with her style. She is in her late fifties or maybe early sixties, a tiny, thin, wrinkled woman with short blonde/white hair from Paris who knows everything and anything about what it is to be French.
- French 274: the numbering of courses in the Department of Romantic Languages here is shitty. This class is harder than any 300 level class I’ve taken, and yet it only carries the weight of a 200 level (and thus counts for almost nothing towards my major). And yet it is a pre requisite to many seminars in translation I wanna get into as early as next semester, so I am stuck. This class is entitled French Anti-Globalization and is the source of some severe headaches, since the professor is one of the oldest and most distinguished members of U of M’s French faculty, and has such a profound understanding of the language that he can relate the entomology of any word from memory… need I say he has ridiculously high standards? Several students in the class are native French speakers, which makes me implausibly nervous to speak in front of anyone, let alone argue a point and try to understand the French perspective.
We are expected to read such books as Scènes de la Vie Future, by Georges Duhamel, which was written in 1930, and Les Belles Images by Simone de Beauvoir from 1966, Pierre Bourdieu’s Contre-feux, and Michel Houellebecq’s Extension du domaine de la lutte. Also, we are reading La monde n’est pas une marchandise by José Bové and François Dufour, and Tout sur ATTAC (about ATTAC, an association that wants to have some sort of Tobin tax used to get rid of money laundering and such – read more about them at www.attac.org), both of which are written for someone who knows more about French politics than any American college student could be expected to. I am trying my best, with the help of a pocket dictionary, to wade through some of the tougher sections. And besides what I have listed so far, there a dozen more articles and books we still have to get through.
Apart from school, nothing too exciting is happening. A lot of the friends I made last year are gone now, off to California (Stef and Theresa) or New York (Steve and Amy) or just out of touch for the year this far. Then there are my peeps at home, who I still talk to on AIM
(without which I would be heavily indebted to my cell phone company) every day when I can. My family is okay; my brother is out of jail for the time being, and his PO (Probation Officer, for you less law-breaking-aftermath-experienced people) is actually allowing him to come visit me this next weekend, with my parents. But the rents will stay at a hotel and leave him in my charge, so we’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll bring him around to the Two States, Five Senses: The Michigan and New York Apple Gathering
, if no one objects and the women promise to keep their hands off of him (I had problems with that last year when he came to visit me in the dorm – my roommates couldn’t get enough of him, and didn’t seem to have the respect to leave him alone when they knew I knew what was going on). He needs to meet interesting people, but he is usually shy when he’s sober, so we’ll see.
I weigh one hundred and thirteen pounds today. I am eating well, however, so who knows why I continue to lose. I think it’s the stress, the excessive biking like a maniac between, to, and from classes, the running up and down millions of steps to get everywhere in a hurry, the not sleeping well. But then I look at my roommate, who we have discussed earlier, who runs twenty miles a day (she is training for the NY marathon in November? I don’t remember exactly), who is three inches shorter than me but twenty pounds heavier. Granted it’s all muscle on her, that still weirds me out.
I still want to weigh 107, but I would like to space the losing out over a few months, just as long as I reach my goal before going to Hawaii where I will be in a bathing suit in front of my potentially future in-laws and millions of gorgeous beach bums. I weighed 124 on Monday, September 30, after spending the weekend at home and going to my cousin’s wedding (and yes, the food was fantastic), but here I am four days later and eleven pounds lighter. I don’t know.
So that is my life, or at least a glimpse of a few angles of it. Now that I have spent my free time writing nonsense, I’ll do some work and call it a night.