Saturday, January 31, 2004

It's a dying art

I was writing a letter last night (maybe to you, but I'm not making any promises), and I have to say, letter writing is way cooler than email. Not that I don't adore email, but seriously, how insanely wound up do you get when you see your name handwritten on an envelope in your mailbox?

That's why I find it so sad that letter-writing is a dying art. My mother and I have a whole running list of things that are dying arts, and letter writing is on it, along with making good pie crust, sewing, good penmanship, and baking bread by scratch. (M4's personal motto is something like "Down with bread machines and their...convenience.") I'd like to note that I have at least attempted all of those dying arts. I'm not good at the first two, but penmanship, letter writing, and bread baking, I have cold.

So write me a letter, and make me happy. Or buy me a bread machine, whatever.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Never let it be said that I'm not random

I was thinking about this in the shower the other day.

How many people actually follow the whole "lather, rinse, repeat" directions? Because I am not about repeating. Of course, I'm not about anything that keeps me in the shower longer than absolutely necessary, but repeating just seems pointless if you don't have like, concrete in your hair or something.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Um, thanks?

The weekend I went to Melk to see James off. James is the British guy we forced to hang out with us Americans at the training session. He's moving to Russia, so he was having a going away party. Anyway, interesting stuff that happened:

—Stopped in Vienna long enough to buy the coolest, most European shoes I've ever owned. They're green and yellow, and instead of laces they have a strap that zig-zags back and forth across the top until it velcros under my ankle. MaryT would call them "ath-leisure" shoes. Super comfortable and cute.

—Spent several hours discussing the weird shit that happens at school, including those kids who, as soon as you walk into the classroom, put their hands up and say, "Frau Professor, I forgot my sheet!" Good work, genius. You're actually supposed to try to hide that. Also, teachers, if you've known about a test since, say, October, please inform your assistant sometime BEFORE the five minutes prior to the test that she isn't needed. Thanks.

—Got the best/funniest compliment ever. James evidently told his friend that I'm "the only person who can outwit" him. This made me think two things: "aaww!" and "nice ego, jackass." Seriously, though, no faster way to my heart than to tell me I'm witty. I'll love this kid forever.

—Bought plane tickets to England. Well, technically I did that today, but I'm going to spend Feb. 7-14 in England, probably London, Bath, and Stratford. Whatever. I'm super nervous about travelling alone, but it will be fun times of me making all decisions with no argument.

Friday, January 23, 2004

As much as I bitch and moan...

I know I've spent a lot of time complaining about my students. Yes, they're lazy and tactless and uninterested—most of the time. But I do have one class that's absolutely fantastic.

My 3AK (the equivalent of juniors) class is outstanding. They're not the smartest kids in the world, but they're consistently enthusiastic. This is the class where the boys tease me about "goulash songs" because of something I read with them in an article two months ago. The girls in the back row do that thing where they nearly dislocate their shoulders trying to get my attention.

They read whatever I want them to with minimal moaning. They're the only class that I trust to do group work, because they all actually participate in whatever nutty task it is, be it making up a new environmental holiday or rating tourist attractions in the U.S. They don't swear at me under their breaths, they don't stare off into space (too much), and they don't talk when I'm talking, for which I could kiss every single one of them.

So I'm just saying, my life is not always as hard as I make it out to be. I see the 3AK one and a half times a week, and they're always fun to be around. Whether they make up for the bad behavior of the 4BK is another story entirely.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Even when I'm asleep... can't out-control me.

I'm a very picky sleeper. It might be because I'm also a rather uncertain sleeper prone to attacks of insomnia, but whatever the reason, I have to have things the way I like them before I can sleep, and there are very specific rules for how things should be set up.

1. Sheets Regular old cotton ONLY. No jersey, no flannel, no satin, no whatever-else-you-can-think-of. Cotton is the only thing that stays reasonably cool without sticking. (I've never slept on satin sheets, but it seems like they would stick if you got too hot. Do they stick? Who knows about this? Help me out here.) Also, NO top sheet. I'm a restless sleeper (one of my friends called me "feisty" after a sleepover once), and it's only going to end up tangled around me, or down at the bottom of the bed interfering with my foot movement. Not acceptable.

2. Pajamas I hate pajamas and don't usually wear them, largely because of the tangling issue mentioned above. Good thing I have my own room.

3. Pillows Two, or one that's high enough so that when I lay on my side, my neck is roughly in a straight line. Pillowcases follow the same rule as sheets, with the additional caveat that there be no seams or ribbons or decorations on them to annoy me and put weird creases in my face. I look strange enough already; I don't need extra help from my bedclothes.

4. Foot freedom People who tuck in blankets, sheets, and comforters are either mentally impaired or unable to feel their feet. Doesn't it bother you when the blankets are squishing down your toes? I'm not a letter; I don't want to sleep in an envelope. My feet MUST be able to get out from under the blanket. They get hot.

5. Breathing If I can't breathe, I can't sleep, although I think this is true of most people. What actually annoys me is if I'm breathing ON some part of myself (usually an exposed arm). And when I say "annoys," I mean "makes me insane to the point of tearing off body parts just so I don't have to feel my own breath." I think being breathed on, either by myself or by others, may be one of my top five pet peeves.

Those are the sleeping rules. Oddly, I don't care so much about room temperature (I can self-regulate by sticking my feet out of the blankets) or ambient light (whatever, close your eyes) or noise. But if everything else isn't exactly right, I tend to lie awake for hours, composing blog entries JUST LIKE THIS ONE.

Friday, January 16, 2004

School is funny

"He goes to the fridge and eats someone. Then he surprises his wife with parents."
—One of my students describing a series of pictures

"We're doing drugs."
—My teacher, upon being asked what we were doing in class that day

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

I'm alive

If you were wondering. I'll be going back to work tomorrow, trying infect as many of my kids as possible. Payback's a bitch.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Screw You, Dante

I have decided that the ninth circle of hell, instead of being Frozen in Ice, is actually Being Sick in a Foreign Country. First of all, you're thousands of miles from home, so there's absolutely no chance that your mom is going to come and feed you flat 7-Up, banana popsicles, and Children's Tylenol (grape flavor only, accept no substitutes).

Second, you can't possibly figure out how sick you really are, because the damn thermometer is in Centigrade and you think in Farenheit. I mean, you're smart enough to make the conversion, probably, when you're not suffering from a SPLITTING headache.

Which leads to another thing. You cannot get aspirin or some equivalent drug in this country, because the pharmacist hides them all behind his eight-foot-high counter, and then looks all cock-eyed at you when you ask for them and offers you pumpkin seed pills with goat cheese oil or something. Not okay!

Mostly I just want my own bed, my own drugs, and my own flat 7-Up. Is that so much to ask?

Evidently so, Satan.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Pressing Question

I have semester break coming up in a little less than a month. I get a week off, February 7 to February 15. I'd like to take a trip during that time. All things considered, it will probably be the most significant bit of traveling I do while I'm here. So the question is, where do I go? Things to consider: I'll be traveling alone, I only have a week, and my budget is somewhat limited. Here are the options I've come up with so far:

England (Bath and Stratford-on-Avon would be included)

I'm open both to other suggestions and to comments on these possibilities.

Friday, January 09, 2004

A little piece of advice

This is one big lesson I've learned in the past three and a half months: don't give the students any ammunition, because they will shoot you dead before you can blink.

Of course, knowing this and following it are two entirely different things. I woke up late today, and walking into class 20 minutes after it's started is not the best way to maintain authority. Especially since it was my class of rowdies. They all—every single one of them—said "Ooooooh!" in that sarcastic teenage way when I walked in.

So I gave them a pop quiz.

I win.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Hey, God, it's me. No, not Margaret.

I don't know whose bright idea it was to dump a foot of snow on Vienna today, but let me tell you, it wasn't funny. I spent the entire day trying to shop for presents with one eye closed because it had been pelted repeatedly by GIANT STINGING SNOWFLAKES. My feet were wet, my ears were cold, and my knee hurt from where I twisted it multiple times slipping on the slick slush.

I'm aware I've been complaining about the weather in Burgenland lately, about how it's all dry and colder than a rude phrase that doesn't make sense (Witch's tit? The hell?), but I have not been complaining about how my life is a little lacking in the irony department, so I feel like snow in VIENNA while I'm trying to run errands OUTSIDE is a little uncalled for.


Saturday, January 03, 2004

Dear...Entire English-Speaking World

You absolutely CANNOT use "of" after the word "hadn't."

No, you can't.

No, you can't. Not even if it's "had not."

Also, not after "would" or "off." Mmm-kay? Peachy.


Thursday, January 01, 2004

New Year's Resolutions

I usually don't make New Year's Resolutions, because I know that I won't keep them, and then I'll feel guilty, and if there's one thing I don't need, it's to feel guilty more often than I already do.

But this year I figured I'd give it a whirl, just to be bold and adventurous.

So without further ado, may I present:

Erin's 2004 New Year's Resolutions

Re: Books I will make a monthly book budget and stick to it. In aid of this resolution, I will remind the Houston Public Library that I have not, in fact, had The Sun Also Rises since August, and make them reinstate my library card.

Re: Cooking I will not, on any given day of the year, eat cereal for all three meals. I will concede that there is no practical difference between "pasta" and "noodles."

Re: Blogging I will worry less about the comments I get (or don't get), and more about posting interesting blogs. I will not blog just to blog. I will back up my blog somewhere.

Re: Teaching I will stop telling Peter in the 5A that he is "talking his fool head off." I will come up with a scheme to make the entire 3G talk.

Re: Major Life Decisions I will finally decide whether I want to be a teacher, a professor, or a therapist. I will not discount options because I think they might be "too hard." I will not decide to study social work just because it will get me out of taking the Literature GRE.

That's really quite enough, I think, considering my past rate of success at keeping resolutions.
Please, like you've never kissed anybody a foot shorter than you are.

I don't know what you did, but I feel like for the first time in my life I did New Year's Eve (Silvester, here) up right. I watched fireworks in the cold, I drank champagne, and at midnight I was kissed by a tiny Austrian man with spiky hair.

2004 is so gonna be my year.

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