Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Today was a rather short day where classes were concerned. My last class of the day (Environmental Health) was canceled -- a note from the professor outside the classroom read: "Dear Class, Due to a civil/legal issue (you don't want to know), I have to cancel class this evening." And went on to ask us to read up on biogeochemical cycles, etc. This, of course, has us all wondering what on earth he's gotten himself into in terms of a civil/legal situation (and of course made all the more curious by his mysterious "you don't want to know"). But it did give me some free time this afternoon, which was nice. I just wish I'd known about the cancelation earlier, because I'd taken the streetcar over to Powells to get some French books (dictionary, etc.), and then taken it all the way back to campus, when I could have hopped on in the other direction and been home 45 minutes earlier. But oh well. I still got home almost 2 hours before usual. This allowed me time to take a leisurely walk down to Food Front, the local co-op organic food etc. store a few blocks away. It's a nice store, and I get a very good feeling from buying (and eating, of course) organic foods. I also went for a jog this evening, for the first time in yonks. It was a very short jog, but it was good. I'll probably need that yoga class tomorrow morning. :}

Monday, January 26, 2004

Guess what came through my mail slot this morning -- my passport! That was quick! Now I just need a plane ticket and I can travel wherever I want. :P But first I need to figure out where to put my passport so I don't forget where it is.

I also got two more packages over the weekend, one from Mom and one from Monee. What did I ever do to deserve all this wonderful mail? Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, but it seems like I've been getting an awful lot of wonderful packages recently.

I've been trying out a new (to me) yoga studio that's just a couple of blocks from my apartment. I went for the first time on Friday morning, and took Ellie with me, since she didn't have school and was interested in yoga (she'd done a bit mixed in with highschool PE, etc., but nothing serious). When we walked into the room, I thought we'd accidentally come to the "Hot Yoga" class -- the teacher had set the thermostat to 90°. She eventually turned it down, but not until we'd been sweating like pigs for 45 minutes. It was a rather tough class and Ellie nearly died, but she actually did pretty well. I went again today, and it was a different teacher, so the room was at a slightly more comfortable temperature, and I liked the workout better. One thing I like about this place is that all the classes are an hour and a half long, rather than just an hour, so there's time to do more postures without rushing through them. Right now I'm just doing their "intro special," one week of unlimited classes for $15, but after that I'll probably keep going. I like yoga. :)

Monday, January 19, 2004

Look what I found -- the website for the City of Nice! (This the English version; you can get to the French version if you really want to, but I'm not quite ready for that yet.) Looks like a nice place. :) They've actually got some pretty fun little pages of history, culture, ecology, and gastronomy (not kidding!). It seems the city has been undergoing some pretty heavy-duty clean-up and conservation-type restructuring, so things have gotten a lot, well, cleaner, I guess. Looks like the snorkelling should be good. I mean, the studying.... :P Anyway, check it out if you're curious -- I spent about an hour poking around this evening, but now I have to tear myself away to finish my reading for tomorrow.
I spent a couple of hours online yesterday looking for other French language programs in France for this summer, and actually found one that looks even better than the EF International Language School I mentioned in a previous post. The program is called WorldLink Education. They've got programs in various places in France (and other countries, too, of course), but the one I'm looking at is the one in Nice. (Hugo's got me hooked on this whole Nice thing.) The overall program is pretty much the same as the EF program and many others I've looked at; the main differences are that class sizes are very small (5-8, limited to 10), and just about everything is included in the program cost -- tuition, books, housing, insurance (which is extendable after the program for leisure travel), and all "excursions" and activities through the program are included. Most of the other programs I've looked at offer insurance and excursions "at a discounted program rate," but that means you still have to pay extra for them. The WorldLink Education (WLE) program is a bit more expensive than the EF program, but that's because the excursions, etc. are considered part of the course material. I figure that if I do the WLE program I'm much more likely to actually go on all the trips, since I won't have to consider each one from a financial standpoint and think I have to make the decision about whether or not I can afford to go. Because even if the trips are offered at "discounted" rates, I'm sure they still rack up pretty quickly.

So anyway, that's where I am with France at the moment. I'll most likely be staying with a host family, since it's cheaper than getting a studio (they charge extra for studios/apartments in the high season), and living with a French family is a really good way to get French ingrained into your system. I can choose the option to have my own room within a homestay or share a room with another student. I'll probably still go for the single room, just so I can have a bit of privacy. That's important to a Lacey.

Oh, and on an almost-but-not-quite random note -- I did a brief calculation and cost comparison of this language school and Stanford last night. I took one of my old Stanford bills (from Winter 2002, so I'm sure things have gone up considerably since then), added up the prices for tuition, housing and dining (leaving out health insurance, dorm fees, etc.), and divided by 3 to get the monthly cost -- it's over $1000 more than a month-long program through WLF. Yikes. I'm glad I'm going to PSU.

One last interesting note: I was talking with Graham yesterday, and he asked me what my angel card for the year was. Turns out it's very appropriate for everything that's going on for me this year -- Enthusiasm! Hooray! It's funny how angel cards work sometimes...

Friday, January 16, 2004

Wow! I had another package-ful day today! Gan mao ling from Graham, photos from Monee, and a card from Cass -- hooray! Thank you, everybody, I love you all!

So, as promised, here are further details of my future that have emerged from my plotting and scheming of the last week (and believe me, there's been a lot of that!) ....

So you know, if you read Tuesday's blog, that I changed my major, and dropped one of my ESR (Environmental Studies) classes and signed up for an anthro class in its place. Well, I dropped another ESR class (the uninspiring intro one with a terrible professor that encouraged us to be dumb). This brings me down to 12 units. I'm not going to sign up for another PSU class, but I'm certainly not going to waste that time. I'm designing my own French course, based on online tutorials, textbooks, audiotapes and tutors in the hopes of becoming at least marginally familiar with the French language before I go to France.

Now, onto the France bit. What I'm hoping... no, planning on doing is actually spending a good deal of the summer in France, starting with probably about a month of language school. I haven't quite figured out where I want to go yet; I still have a lot of research ahead of me. I picked up a bunch of catalogs and things from the International Studies department last week, and one of the programs that looks most intriguing is the EF International Language School in Nice (It's nice in Nice.) I would love to get some good language training there, and then stay in France for a while and travel and maybe do some sort of internship or volunteer work, but that's still a bit far away to think about concretely. The language school thing is definitely going to happen, though. I would really love to learn a language and have it actually stick with me. Also, if I do well enough, I'll be able to place out of some of the lower level French classes at PSU and come in at a higher level when I come back.

So, as you can see, I'm getting very excited about this whole thing. And I'm enjoying school and everything! (Did I mention I only have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays now?) It's all very exciting, and I'm thrilled! Okay, I'll stop now. :}

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

I was the only person to show up to the 12:00 yoga class today, so I got an hour of private instruction! It was a teacher I hadn't had before, and I could tell she wasn't quite sure how to deal with a one-person class; she said, "You get to decide if you want to be the only person in the class," basically meaning she wouldn't complain if I decided to chuck it altogether. I was thinking, well, it may be a bit awkward, but why on earth would I turn down a private lesson? She wasn't the best teacher, and I don't think she ever really got comfortable with the one-on-oneness of the whole thing, but it was still good. I always like hearing how different people describe the same poses and try to help you deepen them, and she definitely had some good insights and ways of breaking down the poses. And, of course, she was pulling and pushing me and correcting me all over the place, which doesn't happen too often with an entire class full of people that need attention. So it was good, but my lower body is definitely going to be sore tomorrow -- she was definitely a legs and hips person rather than an upper-body person. But that's good, since my upper body got its workout with the snow shoveling last weekend. :)

I went to the library today and checked out a bunch of French language books, dictionaries, etc., including a "Visual Language Guide" with pictures of carrots and aeroplanes and teapots and things in it. It's cute. I'm frantically ruminating (are those words contradictory?) about a bunch of academic stuff at the moment, and have some more changes in the works for myself coming up pretty quick. It's fun! But I'll tell you about those when the time is right. I should get back to school work now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Guess what -- I changed my major! Yes, after all that expounding and all those justifications for sticking with Environmental Studies, I've changed my mind. I'm an anthropology major now! Well, I haven't done anything official, but my mindset has shifted, which is the important bit. I did sign up for Anth 103: Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology, and I'm going to drop my Environmental Impact Assessment class. And fortunately, what with the storm closing campus Tuesday through Friday last week, and the anth class meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I hadn't missed any classes! I signed up last night, and literally got the very last spot in the class. The teacher is awesome -- the only downside is, she's a visiting professor and will only be here one more quarter. It's a one and a half hour class, but doesn't feel like it. The professor is very engaging, loves to talk, and has tons of cool stories about her field work and projects and things. The other interesting thing about the class is the location. It's held in -- and I'm not kidding -- one of the theaters of the 5th Avenue Cinema. Apparently the cinema has been transformed into classrooms, so we're getting a lecture in a movie theater! It's funny.

So I basically have to start from ground zero in anthropology, but even with that, I can still graduate in less time than I would with ESR -- the major has half as many required credits, and I don't have to do a minor (I was going to minor in anth anyway, so I figured why not major in it and cut out the chemistry?) I do have to have foreign language proficiency at the 2+ year level, which will take a while, but I'm actually looking forward to that bit as well -- I'm going to learn French! And I'm going to go to France! I got all my passport stuff taken care of and sent off today, so I should have my passport by March -- hooray!

Anyway, the basic point I'm trying to get across here is that, finally, after all this time, I'm actually really excited about school! Wow! I never thought that would happen. I think most of this stems from the fact that, somewhere in the last couple of months, I made the decision that I was going to make things work for myself -- that I would be proactive in finding and pursuing things that spark my interest, and to turn possibilities to opportunities for myself, and make some changes in my attitudes to allow and encourage good things to come my way. And, what do you know -- it's working! So thanks to everybody who's been with me through this process -- especially to Mom and Hugo for letting me bounce all sorts of ideas off of them and giving me encouraging insights. Where would I be without people that love me?

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Wow -- I feel special. I went away (up to Hugo's house) for three days, and I came home to find four packages waiting for me! One from each of Mom, Graham, and DeMara, and one from big bean music -- the Kris Delmhorst c.d.s I ordered last week. Thanks to everybody who sent me packagelets. Hooray for people that love me! :)

School ended up being cancelled for the entire rest of the week last week, so I went up to Hugo's house on Thursday night to spend the weekend, since I didn't have any homework to do. I ended up spending a few hours each day shoveling snow from the driveway in the hopes of making a passable route to get Roger (Hugo's dad) down to the van, which was stuck at the bottom of the driveway. Small tangent here to describe the geography of Hugo's house so my reader can understand what this means. It is a very long driveway that runs from the road uphill around to the back of the house where the back deck leads to the kitchen. (Key word here is uphill.) The front door does have steps down to a path that leads to the bottom of the driveway, but that route is even steeper, covered in even deeper snow, and extremely unconducive to wheelchair access. So we were trying to make it possible for the van to get up the driveway to the back of the house so we could get Roger into it (the van, not the house -- he'd been stuck there for four days.) Back to story. "The Big Thaw" was supposed to begin on Thursday, so we were hopeful that the ice would melt and allow the van up the drive. Unfortunately, it still hasn't happened, so we couldn't. Also as a direct result of this, they had to reschedule their flights again for Saturday, and we decided to skip the Portland airport altogether and just drive them up to Seattle instead. We spent Saturday breakfast brainstorming ways to get Roger down the driveway to the van, one of the most innovative (and the way we very nearly did it) being to sit him in an opened hard-case suitcase and pull him down with a strap. This was after discarding the stretcher idea and the carrying in a chair idea. We ended up being able to wheel him backwards all the way down (verrrrrry sloooooowwwly) in the wheelchair, but it was not a pleasant ride. Anyway, the upshot is, we got them to Seattle, their plane left, and we all got home safe and sound, if rather worn out and exhausted. I don't know why I felt the need to recount that entire story to you poor people reading this blog, but there you go. I think I was talking about shovelling.... In any case, I'm quite sore and I'm going to take a nice hot bath tonight. Mmmmmm......

That's about all I've got to say for now. I have to go to school tomorrow. It's almost like having to start all over again with the first day of school, since last week didn't really happen. Silly.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Oh, yeah. I forgot. I posted some pictures of the snow. Mostly of things up at Hugo's house before the storm, but a few of the last couple of days at my apartment. See them here.
Guess what I didn’t have today – you guessed it – school! It’s been another “inclement weather” day, though not nearly so actively inclement as yesterday was. I actually went outside today, and though I chose to jump over my front steps rather than try to find them beneath the snow, I did manage to make it to the post office and the grocery store, both of which were fortunately open. One woman I passed on the street remarked “It’s like walking on sand. This is our beach.” I would like to modify her statement somewhat to include the fact that, although it was like walking on sand, you had to crunch through a layer of ice on top, and even then it was very cold sand. All in all, it hasn’t been an unpleasant day out, but that’s probably because I wasn’t trying to do anything silly like drive in it.

Slightly further down the list of exciting things I’ve done today than my walk to the store include yoga this morning, hearing about the Portland storm on NPR, catching up on correspondence, making egg salad (but I forgot to buy tomatoes – bother), cleaning the toaster oven, and experimenting with baking tofu (I don’t want to hear a word, Graham). Not an earth-shatteringly exciting day, but a good day. Not much to blog about, though.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Okay, I'm not even going to apologise for not blogging for forever. I'll just go ahead and do it. But be warned -- it's going to be a long one!

Official News: I've transfered to PSU, so I'm finally a student again -- and after only one day of classes, I already have a snow day! We've had a massive snowstorm all last night and all day today, and just about every school in Portland is closed, along with most of the businesses, I believe. I've been a little house-mouse today, hiding in the apartment and only sticking my nose out occasionally to affirm that, yes, it's still snowing out there. Actually, it's turned to freezing rain now, so it's much louder, and much more unpleasant if you actually have to be out in it (which, fortunately, I don't -- yay!)

It's nice to stay home for a day, but it's kind of silly to have a day off right after 3 weeks of vacation -- couldn't it have waited until I had piles of homework and sleep to catch up on? Oh, well. I suppose storms come when they come. I've done a bit of reading today, and started knitting a hat -- it's coming together and looking pretty good, but it's also looking pretty small, so I am beginning to worry that I'm going to have to take it all out and start all over again.

Hugo's parents have been in Portland since before Christmas. It was a bit rough meeting them at first, but we got used to each other and things worked out pretty well. They were supposed to fly home today, but all flights out of Portland were cancelled because they couldn't de-ice the planes due to extreme wind chill. So they're still here.

Okay, enough about the snow. Just in case any of you are actually interested, here's my course schedule for this term:
- Applied Environmental Systems: Preparation for Problem Solving
- Environmental Health
- Environmental Sociology
- Environmental Impact Assessment
I'm going really heavy on the fine arts this quarter, as you can tell. :) I'm also taking yoga at a studio not far from campus -- they've got lots of classes, and exactly one of them fits into my schedule every day, so I'm very excited. It will be nice to have yoga in my life again. The two PSU classes I've had so far were less than impressive, so I'm hoping the other two (that I should have had today) will be more inspiring. The Env. Impact Assessment class is mostly grad students (trust me to pick that one out for my first term) and the Problem Solving class is being taught by a civil and environmental engineering professor because the regular prof is on sabbatical this quarter. Both have terrible handwriting. :)

I probably have at least three more years of college before me still, but that's okay. The Environmental Studies program is pretty different than Stanford's Earth Systems program, so a bunch of my classes don't transfer. I also have to take a whole lot more chemistry and biology than I would have at Stanford. Ugh. Oh, yeah, and I have to do a minor as well, so that's going to take even longer. :) Interestingly, I have actually fulfilled all of the requirements for a BS at PSU .... I just haven't fulfilled the requirements for any particular major. :P

I'm kind of in an interesting emotional place with school now. I think I decided to take time off of school mainly because the opportunity was there, and then later justified it with reasons. I didn't hate Stanford at the time I left, but I think that's why I was able to leave, and why I'm okay with not going back. If I had left after freshman year when I really wanted to “get out of here” I think I would always have questioned whether that was the right choice. But leaving at a high point as I did left me with a more realistic view of what Stanford held for me, so I was fully aware of what I was giving up when I made the choice to transfer to PSU. I still don’t have any specific academic goals, and will readily admit that I am only continuing with Environmental Studies because it is the easiest thing to do, and I haven’t found anything else that grabs me. I think that was what I was waiting for all along – when I took a year off after high school, for two years at Stanford, and in coming to Portland – something to grab me and tell me “this is what I want to do with my life!” (or at least my education.) It hasn’t come, but I’m not worried about it anymore. I’m at the point where I need to finish college so I can complete that stage of my life and move on. It doesn’t really matter if my degree doesn’t drive my life; I’ve realized that it doesn’t have to, that it’s very possible that education will not be the way I find what I love. But I do need to finish, and I think I’m finally in a place with myself and my life that I can just push through and do it. And then I can move on to the next adventure.

But first this storm has to stop so I can get to school. :)