Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Well, THAT was different!

I finally got back today from my travels to Boston (had to present a paper at a conference) and I've come to the conclusion that I'm just not a "big city" gal ... especially an east coast "big city" gal. Maybe it's because the east coast was settled first and there's not as much space over there than on the west coast. Okay, just stay with me for a second. Have you ever noticed that the state sizes on the eastern part of the U.S. are (generally speaking) A LOT smaller than the west coast? I mean, what's with Rhode Island!?!? It's like a pocket-sized state compared to those on the west coast! Okay, so maybe that is a bit size-ist of me, but I'm a westerner -- and proud of it. Of course, I'm also proud that I was born in Alaska, I come from a large family, and can burp on command. Yes, it's true, and no, I will not burp for you. *burp* Okay, I had to!!! My mom is sooo proud of me right now.

Anyway, for all my complaints about the size, I really did appreciate touring around the city. As I took my first taxi cab ride I couldn't help thinking about the bit Jerry Seinfeld does:
  • "To me the really funny thing about New York cabs is that you never get that much scared... when you're in the cab. I don't know why, something about being in Manhattan. No matter how dangerous it seems... it's all quite amusing in the back of that cab, isn't it ? He's flying around the road, he's... doing 90 up a one-way, and you're going... (amused) "I've never tried that in my car !". It's all a huge joke ! It's your life. And somehow it's all happening on TV there, it's all not quite real. The dumbest thing you can think in the back of a taxi cab is "well I'm sure the man knows what he's doing." Have you ever thought that ? "He is driving fast. And quite recklessly. On bald tires. But after all he's a professional. I guess he does this all the time. He's got a license, I can see it right there".
I will admit that I was a bit freaked out by the speed my cab driver was going, especially when I compared the speed limit signs to the speedometer, but then I totally went into the "I'd never try that in my car" mind set.

One of the most memorable things, other than the AMAZING museums, streets and streets of brownstones, and just the history that permeates the city, was a restaurant I went to called "Betty's Wok and Noodle." I was a bit apprehensive considering they're an "Asian-Latino" restaurant. Um, Asian AND Latino? This had all the makings for a catastrophe. So I walked into the retro-feeling establishment with songs from the Rat Pack playing (great, just one more indication of the schizophrenic identity of the restaurant) and wound up having one of the best meals of my trip. Who knew that mixing fajita seasoned meat and vegetables with rice noodles and peanut sauce would taste so good? YUM! I highly recommend the place if you're headed to Boston (it's located by Symphony Hall in the "arts" section of Boston).

All-in-all, I had a good time, but ultimately happy to be home and I already feel the tension and stress starting up again. Less than two months until I graduate and I just plopped down a chunk of change for my cap and gown. Now it's really getting official!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

One down, one to go!

So yesterday was the culmination of months (and I do mean months) of hard work, stress, collaboration, and hoop-jumping-through-ness of a number of AMAZING people. The 2nd Annual University of Idaho Graduate Literature Conference is done. Yay! We had over 30 participants, from Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Arizona. Without all of them, the conference would not have been as awesome as it was.

Now, I'll admit, that usually conferences put me to sleep. I get bored and I struggle more to stay awake than to pay attention, but such was not the case yesterday. So, maybe I'm partial because I know how much was put into this conference, but I honestly don't think so. Every panel that I went to was really interesting and the presenters (for the most part) did great jobs. I didn't detect any nervousness and some great questions were asked by audience members. There was more than enough food (if the leftovers crammed in my fridge are any indication) and I think everyone had a good time.

That being said, I didn't really how stressed I was over the whole thing until this morning. I slept in until 7:30 (yes, that is sleeping in for me, so don't judge) and woke refreshed and without a care in the world. I no longer had continuous thoughts of whether or not there'd be enough people in the audience, imagining minor and major crisis scenarios that may occur and how to deal with them, if there would be enough food, if the presenters and moderators would all show up, etc. Can you tell I've been stressed? I woke up this morning and read a short story FOR FUN! Did some work on my thesis, took my dog to the park as an apology for me abandoning her this week, and am now just surfing the web without a rudder...and loving it!

The week will begin again tomorrow, but that's a new day. Right now I'm enjoying my "day of rest" and focusing my attention on my thesis, classes, teaching, finding a job after graduation, etc. You know...same ol', same ol'.

That's not to say my conference attending days are over. I still have one more to present at in Boston two weeks from today. Luckily I don't have any responsibility in its success beyond my own presentation. Phew! By then my thesis rough draft will be done, the revision process will begin, and the countdown will really start in earnest to graduation day, Saturday, May 14th, 2011.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Where have all the words gone?

"I've lost my words!" Honestly, how does that happen? I'm finishing up my M.A. in English and I can't find words to express myself? You may think I'm being facetious (I know, big word, but right now, not the word I was looking for), but it's the truth.

I've found that lately I'll be teaching a class and trying to explain something and when I'm done I stop. Think for a second, and then ask my class if what I said just made any sense. It never sounds quite "right" in my head as I'm listening, so I wonder sometimes if I'm finding and using the right words. Admittedly, my students say it does make sense, but I wonder if they're just smiling an nodding, hoping I'll finish talking soon so the can leave class early. Sometimes it's a toss-up and I have to force myself to keep class going.Yep, sometimes teachers don't want to be in class either.

I found this amnesia of words very alarming when, yesterday, I was in the midst of writing a short paper (only about 8-10 pages), had been working on it all day and so many times I had to bother my office mate and use 60,000 words in an effort to find the one word I was looking for. Okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but it felt like all I could do was talk around the word I was looking for. Usually I'm able to use thesaurus.com to plug in the word stuck in my mind and, in looking at synonyms, find the actual word I want. Yesterday, however, I was unsuccessful.

What word was I looking for? Transcendence. How did I describe it? "Christina, what's that word that you use when you're trying to describe how things aren't cognizant of borders or limits? It's not boundless or infinite. What's that word?" I then gave a bunch of other words that are like transcendent, but have negative connotations, and it took us a couple of minutes to find just ONE WORD.

Yep, I think the hamster in my head is dead...or just taking a really long nap. Between my thesis, teaching, writing papers, helping to organize a conference, worrying about presenting at said conference (and another one in Boston), grading papers, applying for jobs, etc. I think my wealth of words has been stolen from me and I'm left in poverty.

Poor me is right!  :) I think I just need a break. I hope I get one after May!