Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Summer 2007 (Colorado Springs)

Amber arrived in Colorado Springs, coming from Minnesota, on July 3rd. But she only spent one night there before heading up to Boulder. Beginning July 7th, I had been at conferences - first in Charleston, SC and then in San Diego, CA. I arrived in Colorado Springs after that on July 15th (Amber picked me up at the airport in Denver after my gorgeous flight over the canyons of puckered old Arizona, the baked sands of Utah, and the mountains -still with some snow- of southwestern Colorado).

I love going back home not only because of all the great childhood memories, but also because it is a place to just do nothing, which I had great success at doing for about three weeks before flying back to Nederland. Parts of our time in Colorado were spent in Boulder (see other post), but I spent most of my days in the Springs.

On our first night home, I handed out some souvenirs to my mom, dad, and brother Matt and we shared our big news about baby Briggle. My family was almost last to know about Spruitje, because I wanted to be able to tell them in person. They were so thrilled to hear the news, and during our whole trip they got us flowers and lots of little gifts (clothes and blankets) for the baby.

A typical day involved sleeping-in a bit, maybe getting a little work done, petting cookie and emmitt, reading, relaxing, and then topped off with either a game of Shanghai (a Briggle tradition), dinner out, or a movie in. We did go out once to see a movie toward the end of our stay followed by dinner at the Macoroni Grill. Sometimes we would visit my ma at work or drive my pa to his work and get the car washed or something (or regrettably eat the mean green chili at Jose's without thinking that may be a bad idea after a year of nothing but mild northern European food), but all in all it was just the lazy experience I was hoping for - just time with family. I was also able to see some of my good buddies from my childhood and from our days in Boulder, including one housewarming party and one birthday party, both in Denver. We also saw Amber's sister Katie, who decided to move to Las Vegas on a whim and was driving through Denver - it was great to see her, and I am sure Vegas is even bolder and brighter (and weirder) now that she is there.

My dad was in the middle of finding a new gym when we visited and while we were there, he settled on a place and got Amber, Matt, and me some guest passes. So, from time to time we would head down to the gym and buff up a bit. I am pleased to hear that Matt has become a regular gym rat since then.
One of the real highlights of the trip was a visit to the Flying W Ranch - a favorite Briggle hang out. The Flying W is an old ranch in Colorado Springs that is still operational, but way smaller than it used to be. Over the past fifty, but especially, twenty years or so they have sold much of their land for development. But they still have a place that brings you back to the old west and lets you walk around outdoors, watch a horse getting shoed, and breathe in some fresh mountain air...all while doing souvenir shopping, of course. The main attraction is dinner and a live show. The dinner is always the same - real chuckwagon beans, beef, baked potato, applesaucse, biscuits, and icetea, lemonade, or coffee. The show features real cowboy music by some of the top western musicians in the world. It was a great time, as always.

We also got a chance to drive up to Winter Park, a mountain town where my great aunt Alice lives with her son Don and his wife Mari and their giant, loving dog Bella. We ate at their favorite German restaurant in town and then visited with them in their beautiful home out in the woods. Amber and I love visiting with aunt Alice; she is so thoughtful and kind and she really enjoyed listening to all of our stories about life in the Netherlands. Mari gave us sherbet, and Don taught us all about the terrible pine beetle infestation that has decimated nearly all of the lodgepole pines over huge swaths of Colorado. The trees have turned a rust-red-brown as far as the eye can see. They will all succumb to the beetle and then there is a good chance that catastrophic fires will follow.

Our last couple of nights there, my ma went all out with some of our favorite dinners - including a fondue, which is our traditional Christmas dinner. That was a real treat. We were heartbroken when we had to leave, because my family is the best in the world and I feel most content with life when I get to be with them. But we are also happy to be back and continuing with our adventure, knowing that soon we will get to visit home again to smell the nighttime rain in the ponderosa pine...and this time we will be with our little baby Briggle!

Monday, August 27, 2007

summer 2007 (boulder)

you know, so much of this blog is meant for my friends and family in the usa, so that they can see what we are up to across the pond. but this entry is really dedicated to my european friends who have heard so much about boulder, that sunny paradise in my rocky mountains. "the sun shines 300 days a year there!" i exclaim to them. "but, when does it rain?" they ask me confusedly. so, for all of you who have been wondering about this hippie utopia that i call home, this entry is for you...

i spent much of my time this summer in boulder, colorado. i kind of hopped around when i was in colorado -- sometimes i was in boulder for a few days, sometimes i was in colorado springs with my in-laws (colorado springs is about a 2 hour drive south), so some of these pictures are not quite in the right order because i was not in boulder for a whole consecutive amount of time.

fortunately when i was in the usa i was able to pick up several shifts at a health club where i used to work. before i moved out here, i worked very part-time at flatiron athletic club as a massage therapist. mostly i would pick up other people's shifts if they were sick or on vacation, and it was a good arrangement because i was able to focus on my own private massage business in the meantime. but i knew i wouldn't be able to stay in america for 2 months unless i was able to pick up some work while i was there -- so i emailed my old boss (who totally rocks) and asked him if i could sub a few shifts for july. which, to my great relief, he agreed to. i was able to work i think about 6 or 7 shifts while i was there, and i was able to fill most of those spots with a lot of my private clients from when i owned my business there. it was so flattering to be asked to come back for such a temporary stint and for so many of my old clients to clear their schedules to see me (especially because several of them had already found new massage therapists to work with since i've moved away).

other logistical stuff: i stayed with friends in boulder, which was fun but also hard because i didn't have a home to go home to. boulder is home to me, and to be there (most of the time without adam), sleeping in someone else's bed and eating someone else's food just felt really weird to me. it made it seem more lonely in a way, i guess. but i'm thankful for all the hospitality to be sure.

i did SO MUCH when i was in boulder and i can't even think of what to talk about next... farmers' market, i guess. the farmers' market is one of my favorite things in the whole city. it's seasonal, so it's closed in the winter, but when it's open it's well worth it. everything EVERYTHING there is organic and locally grown. which means that though you can't find a mango there in the winter (like you can at the market here in hengelo), you can find tomatoes, basil, corn, greens, beets, peaches, etc. when they are in season and taste the best. and it's all locally grown, so you're supporting local farms. there's also a few stands there that sell arts and crafts, goat cheese, and hormone-and-antibiotic-free-range meat from local ranches. i rode my sweet sweet cruiser bike (her name is tinkerbell) down there every time i went. (tinkerbell was in storage at my in-laws' house and i brought it up to boulder so i could ride her around town. i reallllly missed my bike.) i also ate a ton of food from the vendors there, my favorite being the dumplings from "the dumpling lady", the homemade tamales with green chili, and the fresh-squeezed lemonade. (oh, how i miss lemonade out here in holland. but fortunately lemons at the market here are super cheap so i just make my own, which is better for me anyway.) there were live performers there, usually playing bluegrass or some other type of folk music. so i'd get my food and either listen to the music in the food court, or i'd walk across to the park and sit in the shade, having a picnic with my neighbors and their children. it's so beautiful.

another one of my favorite things was walking in chautaqua park. chautaqua is this gorgeous park on the edge of town with miles and miles of free walking trails. which brings me to a tangent here, but not really: back in the day (i think 1960's or 70's), boulder established a green-zone around the city. the residents at that time began to see the sprawl that was taking over other cities in the area, especially colorado springs and denver. and they realized that the whole reason for living there (namely, the nature and the mountains) were going to be inaccessible or worse, inexistent, if they didn't do something soon. it would be impossible to hike in the foothills of the rockies if everyone built their houses there, because you'd be trespassing on their manicured lawns instead of hopping over boulders and through sage brush. so they established a zone around the city in which no one could build. they established these areas as free parks for anyone to use and created the open space and mountain parks department to oversee and care for these areas. and every year, there is almost always an item on the ballots for the residents to vote on, to see if we want to raise our taxes once again to pay for the maintenance of these spaces and to purchase even more land, to preserve even more space to enjoy in the future. and every year, it always passes. the downside of this being that boulder is an extremely expensive city to live in because the space is quite limited within the city limits. but it's well worth it, to live in a beautiful and small city like that. quite literally, you can walk 20 minutes west from any point in town, and be stuck in the middle of the mountains. it's just that great. this picture is a good example of the green-zone around the city: notice how the trees and the green from people's yards just ends when you get to the foothills. that's the city limit, and that boundary there is most likely open space for people to enjoy for hiking, picnicking, mountain biking, maybe even camping...

another great feature about boulder is the boulder creek, which is this gorgeous little mountain stream that cuts through the heart of the city. there are literally miles and miles of paved walking- and biking-trails that follow along the creek. it's just known as "the creek path" to locals. when adam and i lived in boulder, we lived just a stone's throw away from the creek path, and we'd almost always ride bikes along the path on a regular basis, either going down to the farmers' market (which was also near the path) or to get downtown for shopping or entertainment.

boulder has one of the prettiest downtowns i've ever seen, right along the pearl street mall. i think i like it so much because it's so european in so many ways. how many other american cities do you know of where there is a pedestrian-only area, a space used on a daily basis not only for shopping and dining, but also for gathering for community events (like festivals, art shows, or the boulderite's favorite, political protests)? i spent many evenings down there, enjoying the street performers (especially the bluegrass band and the singing cowboy who always stands near the bookstore on busy nights), eating sushi, and just generally soaking in the atmosphere of my adopted hometown.

and boulder is a great place to nourish your spirit. besides being in a beautiful setting, there are many opportunities there to explore your spiritual side. i revisited my old church, the unitarian universalist church of boulder on several occasions, and i felt like i never left. i was welcomed back by everyone there. it felt GOOD. and when it was time to recite our covenant, or sing "spirit of life" (which we usually always sing), i was still able to do it by heart. oh! i also made it up to the starhouse one evening to enjoy a "gong bath." (omg, what a hippiedippie thing to do!) it was this dude with a gong, playing it for about an hour, with about 50 people laying on the floor, being washed over by this sound and energy. it's more of an energy healing than a concert, i guess. but it was really really wonderful, and something i had never done before, and i even bought a cd so i could do my yoga and meditate to it. i also did this cool "spirit doll" workshop, which one of my former massage teachers (and now my beautiful friend) was leading. we got together on a sunday morning and made dolls out of socks and buttons and feathers and earrings and scraps of cloth and bundles of herbs and who knows what else. i made a doll which turned out to be a little boy doll, made out of children's socks. it wasn't what i had intended to make, but i think spruitje was guiding me that morning. i keep my doll on my bedside table here at home now, and when spruitje's room is finished he'll probably move into there.

and finally, no trip to boulder is complete without a good massage. or six. i was there for a month and i received 6 massages. half from therapists at FAC (who are some of the best therapists in the state), and half from students at the boulder college of massage therapy, the school from where i graduated. the student clinic is amazing, and reasonably inexpensive given what quality massages you can get there. so now my body is in good shape again for a little while, and my pregnancy-waddle walk is gone (i started waddling at around 2 months if you can believe it, because my hips were so tight!)... for now, at least. i was definitely a little piggy. i need my massages!

okay, i think that's it. now that i've totally talked up boulder, i hope you don't think that i don't also like it here in hengelo. because i really do. i realize now, after spending two months back in the usa, that my life here and my life there are really not all that different after all. all of last year, i was satisfied here, but not necessarily happy. i only saw the differences between "here" and "there." the food, the people, the language, the climate... it was all so different. and weird. and i wasn't sure if i really liked it or not. it just wasn't "home" to me. but i see now that the things i love to do in boulder, and the things i enjoy about america, are many of the things that i have here in the netherlands. i was really pleasantly surprised, when i came back to hengelo after this holiday, to discover that i have a lot of friends who sincerely missed me while i was away, that i have massage clients who i genuinely enjoy, i have a beautiful house, a great husband, favorite bars, foods that i crave, a daily routine... i realize now that "here" and "there" are not so far apart (both logistically and emotionally) as i once thought they were. and i can honestly say that i'm happy here. i love the people, i can speak a little bit of the language, the food is good (i really missed good croissants when i was in america! they're hard to find!), the weather is "cozy" (i used to think it was just dreary... but now i see it as cozy), the landscape is like nowhere else i've ever lived... it is beautiful, and scenic, and lovely to be here. i wish i would have seen it sooner, but i guess i just needed to step away from it to get a different perspective. and all things considered, i'm actually glad to be back home.

happy anniversary

this past weekend we celebrated our 6 year wedding anniversary. it was pretty quiet because next month we are celebrating our 10 year anniversary of the day we met ("a&a day"), and we didn't want to go all out and spend all sorts of money when we'd rather spend that money on a big trip for a&a day. but it was just a perfect day all in all, and i'm so grateful.

we spent the WHOLE day together! it was wonderful! we woke up, as usual on a saturday, to the sounds of the market setting up outside our window -- the smells of the mixed-nut vendor roasting and frying cashews and pistachios and walnuts and pecans, the singing voices of the textile sellers as they rock out to some song on the radio, the clanging poles and boards as everyone sets up their stands, the produce trucks escaping the pedestrian-only zone before the shoppers make their way down to the stalls... and after our usual cup of tea and checking our email, we got dressed and went to the bakery in the market square for our traditional "anniversary donut." (and though the donut was good, i think next year i'd rather take the train to germany to get a donut. i think those germans know how to do an amazing donut.) we ate at the bakkerij bart, a chain bakery, which sits right in the market square. we ordered our food and took it to an outside table so that we could watch the people on their bicycles maneuver their way through the market, laden with fruit and bread and children. it's always a treat to be here on market day!

as we were sitting down to our table, there was an elderly gentleman who said something to us which we didn't quite understand. so, we asked him in our best dutch, "i'm sorry, i didn't understand that. can you please say it again in english?" to which he replied, also in his best dutch, "i'm sorry i don't speak dutch. i only speak german." which adam and i understand well enough, but when we're used to thinking all in dutch all the time, it's difficult to make that transition to german in an instant. we can do it, but for me it usually takes a day in germany before i feel comfortable speaking in german again. anyway, adam understood a lot more than me, but we both understood basically that he was kinda' hitting on me. which was hilarious, given that adam was standing right there. it got us wondering at what age a man feels comfortable hitting on another man's wife with the husband right there, without looking like a total jerk doing it. i was trying really hard to understand what he was saying, but then i gave up and just started laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation because it was pretty funny. well, the german seemed to think that was just great because i think he thought i was laughing at his jokes, but mostly i was just laughing at all of us. it was so funny! he totally made my day!

okay after our delicious donuts and tea, we did our usual shopping at the market: potatoes, tomatoes, lots and lots of fruit, a tiny bit of cheese, free-range eggs (always my most difficult dutch word: scharreleiren -- ouch!), peppers, and a half-kilo of brussels sprouts since they looked especially beautiful this week. adam even bought me a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers and some yellow calla lilies. topped it all off with our favorite market lunch, a big piece of fried fish! lekker! we sat on a bench in the sunshine, just enjoying the lunch and each others' company. all in the midst of our bustling, friendly, lovely market.

after putting all our groceries away we went into enschede to visit the rijksmuseum twenthe which we have known about for a whole year and which we have never explored. we've seen soooo much of holland, but have hardly spent any time checking out enschede, which is too bad because it really does have a lot to offer. anyway, the museum was virtually empty so we had the whole place to ourselves to wander through the beautiful pantings and gaze at the delicate delft pottery. there was this really neat exhibit of 18th century dutch paintings with this fabulous work by wybrand hendriks interior with a sleeping man and a woman with needlework, which totally made it worth the price of admission. it reminded me much of a vermeer, with the attention to light and the wrinkles of the woman's dress, the smoke from the sleeping man's pipe gently curling up towards his nose. it was really quite lovely. i could have stood there all day. the dutch painters surely do know how to work with light and paint. it's amazing.

we spent some time resting in the courtyard of the museum before we walked several kilometers to a dinner with friends. one of adam's friends and colleagues, stu, is moving back to the usa in just a few days. stu got here at about the same time as us and was working on a different project in adam's department. adam got pretty close to him and i know he's sad to see stu go, so it was important to us to see him off in style. there was a dinner party at a really cozy and delicious restaurant in enschede, and we ate and drank and toasted stu and hugged him goodbye and it was all very sad, but the party was sweet and the weather was fine.

then we took the bus home and slept in on sunday. this time, instead of being awoken by the sounds of the market vendors, we were gently rustled from our sleep by the singing bells of st. lambertus church, whose steeple is only maybe 50 meters away from the windows in front of our house. it was a great weekend.

oh! and before i forget! adam started working on the baby's room this weekend too! my awesome friend, debbie, let us borrow her wallpaper steamer (thanks, debbie! you rock!), so adam steamed and tore down wallpaper for about 6 hours on sunday. he's just about done and soon we'll start painting. we're thinking about a pretty butter-yellow color to accent the beautiful morning light that we get in that room. one wall is entirely windows and it has the best view in the house, so it will be just amazing when it's done. i'll share pictures of the progression of that process in a later blog...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Baby Briggle

She is great with child. Yes, we are the proud parents-to-be of a little baby Briggle, due to arrive in this world sometime around January 25th! Though if he/she is anything like daddy, it may be just a bit later than that. We are going to try to keep the gender of the baby a secret, because we love secrets! So, for the time being we are calling the baby "Spruitje," which is Dutch for "little sprout." Our midwife loved that when we told her..."Oh, jouw Sprrruitje!" she exclaimed with a smile.

It is not the kind of news we like to break on a blog, so apologies for those of you hearing it for the first time. We tried to tell most everyone in a much more personal way...but now we just cannot restrain from referring to Spruitje (or Sprouty according to Pops Briggle) on our blog. Baby Briggle is our new star and will play a leading role from now on in our lives, and thus in our blogging tales.

We have been blessed so far with a very smooth pregnancy. Amber has been feeling fabulous lately and has not been sick at all (except for some mild naseau and now headaches for some reason...oh and fatigue). Adam is hanging in there, and, not to be outdone, has developed more food cravings than Amber. He is now on a cornbread kick. Adam dotes on Amber and even cleans up her spills when she drops stuff, which seems to be another side-effect of the pregnancy. We are reading lots of books about nutrition and other health advice. And our families and friends have been very supportive - thanks to you all!

We are naturally just a wee bit nervous about the whole having a baby in a foreign country thing. However, we would not have gotten ourselves into this if we did not feel like we could do it. We are comfortable here in Hengelo and we know enough of the language to get by. There is a nice American gal who lives nearby who had her baby in Hengelo and has offered us advice as well as old baby clothes. We have a midwife all set up and have already had three appointments (including one in the U.S.). At these appointments, we get to hear the baby's heartbeat - whoosh whooshing in a submarine world. The midwife says that we get an echo (ultrasound) at twenty weeks (two weeks away now).

Amber has lined up some birthing classes for us, in English, and we are both starting the process of getting the baby's room put together. Out with the old wall-paper and in with some fresh paint. We are also starting to look out for furniture (crib, changing table, rocking chair, etc.) - it looks like Ikea or (a Dutch-style Craig's list) are going to be our best bets. If everything goes as planned, we should be able to have some family visit us shortly after the birth, which will be a great comfort and a joy.

The Dutch typically deliver their babies at their homes, and we are warming up to this initially frightening idea. If all goes alright with the pregnancy, then we will take this option, which requires getting a bunch of equipment including bed heighteners! But there is also always the hospital option - we live about five minutes from our local hospital.

Spruitje will not, unfortunately, be a dual citizen. In order for Sprouty to be a Dutch citizen, one of us would have to be Dutch, which in turn would entail relinquishing our U.S. citizenships. No thanks. But we will have to take baby Briggle to the consulate in Amsterdam to get a passport and make sure there are no international snafus.

As for names, if it is a boy, we are leaning towards Leopold, which is a family name on Amber's side (her great grandfather was named Leo and he was the first generation to come to the U.S. from Germany). Adam likes Leopold in honor of Aldo Leopold the great poet defender of nature. Girl names have been a bit trickier and we are still open to suggestions. Amber, however, is certain it is a boy, because all the old wive's trickes point in this direction. She also has friends and family who get the "boy vibe" from her. And she has dreamt vividly of a little boy twice. Adam does not know what to make of all this as he is getting no "vibe" one way or the other and his latest dream was about a cool car chase. He is thrilled either way and ready to coach Spruitje's first hockey team (or even soccer team).

Check the right-hand sidebar of our blog for some links with information about baby stuff in Holland for those who are interested to learn more.


Silk of the Kine, old Erin, woman of the sea - her green cheek in the ocean breeze. Only a short flight across the water and the butt of England to get to Dublin from Eindhoven. My colleague, Ed, and I rented a car there after dining on muffins at the airport. We drove, first dramatically and assuredly in the wrong direction, following the signs to Wexford only to find out that is due South and our mission was to head straight west to Galway, city of tribes. Stopped finally outside of all the construction - Dublin is metastasizing across the eastern shore - at a gas station where a gent in a fine brough told us in ten-times the necessary number of words precisely how to get back on track. Driving now into the hills, sun setting and darkness creeping in, the road - never straight and never veering far from a little town and the front doors of its bars with Guinness signs - finally takes us into Galway, down along the dark intimation of water and the docks with scrapyards and fishing boats all around, their nets curled into them like the paws of a cat under his sleeping body.

We had a conference where I presented a paper on the concepts of embedding and networking to the great consternation of the audience. Well respected philosophers in the field scolded me - "Well, this troubles me greatly..." "This is the same sort of thing that tripped up Tonnies, don't you know, Geminschaft, Gesellschaft...bother" Ah the natterings of philosophers, great brained men exhausted, tossed against thet shores of their own intellects, marooned - help! The most well-known hardly leaves the confines of his own hobbyhorse, and when he does so, only to point out how it is far superior to whatever it is that others are doing. But we did have great wine that evening at a restaurant on the waters a cab ride away (driving on the left, it still has me confused). We spoke of the pre-Socratics and I said, what really, must I know about Kant beyond the synthetic apriori and the concept of a self-legislating will curiously bound yet freed by the categorical imperative. "Yes...a good start indeed." Chew the fine halibut - ocean once teeming with them. Now...? Well, to the apocalypse, then! Tip the dark food of Guinness. Geez, I mean, maybe technology will save us after all. Warm thought to go along with the drink.

Cab ride back an international affair - a young Irishman - "You know what they say - if the Dutch ran Ireland they would feed the world, if the Irish ran the Netherlands they would drown." Good chuckle. Ed asks the cab driver the name of the first hunger striker to die. He can't remember the name. Comes running after us latter all in a huff - "Bobby Sands!" he yells cheerfully. Aweful thing that - smeared their own cells with their own feces...but they salvaged their dignity. What is dignity? That's a philosophic question - saved it for the next dinner. Now on to more serious drinking and the Irish jigs. They really do play that hyper fiddling music and bounce up and down as if tied to an invisible pole. Walked home late through the Spanish arch along the Corrib river wriggling in a hurry to the bay underneath all the swans - white stars on the black waters.

After the conference, I did some travelling in the area on my own. Day one I went to Inishmore, an Aran island in Galway Bay. Took a bus to another town from which to catch a ferry and met a woman from Rome who - honestly - writes the trivia questions for a popular Italian television quiz show. Said it is hard to find just the right questions. Socrates said love is the art of asking and answering questions. Boarded a boat - one of my favorite things to board- and scooted out to the island. Walk off and within five minutes I am on a mountain bike peddling in the faint ocean air along the open waters with Ireland hazy in the distance. Found my way out to cliffs on the West coast and sat for hours listening to seagulls and the crash of waves some 300 feet below in the azure and turquouise furious waters. Thought about home - just over that horizon. The island was lined with rocks, dug up to expose the poor soil for the crops and the sheep and arranged in walls that criss-crossed its entire area. Walked along the coast - could throw myself in - nervous to get too close to the edge. Sun was strong that day and I left sunburned. One of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Day two I took a bus tour through Connemara led by an Irish bus driver with a lilting voice that never stopped drizzling us with facts and tidbits about the area occassionally bursting forth into a storm of poetry. He was an artist and I did not know that leading lazy tourists was an art to master. Small lakes wound round hills turning to mountains covered with blanket bog in a kaleidoscope of greens cropped neatly by bleating sheepies (black faces and white bodies). We saw Kylemore Abbey and the whole area was sparsely populated - reminded me of the Alaskan tundra. Saw the penny walls built during the potato famine and the only Irish fjord.

Day three hung out in Galway while a massive storm darkened the sky, its winds ripping umbrellas. Ducked into a little coffee shop and spoke with a native Galwegian who loves to climb mountians all over the world. The waitress was from Vancouver. Walked the cobbly streets and looked in the storefronts. Saw a place where a tribal leader hanged his own thieving son - justice is treating likes alike...but is family like anyone else? Where are my philosopher friends? Would my Dad, the venerable Judge, do the same? Decided against one last Guinness. That night I ate at the Supermacs (Ireland's version of a fastfood joint). Hardly feel like dining slowly when you are alone. The next day I briefly stopped in Dublin and saw a statue of James Joyce - "Dublin. I have so much to learn." Old lugi of the industrial revolution.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

summer 2007 (st. john's and st. ben's)

one of my favorite things i did when in minnesota was to hook up with my homegirl, teresa. t and i have been bestest girls since we were both in college. it was the summer before our junior years. we had been kinda peripheral friends for a little while, but for some reason that summer we just clicked. we both stayed on campus that summer, she lived at st. john's university working with the paint department or something, and i lived at the college of st. benedict as a gardener. we were both trying to save money for our study abroad programs. it's amazing that we ended up being such good friends, because we really didn't see that much of each other for about a year -- just as we were starting to really hook up, i left for china for fall semester, and then i got back for about 3 weeks before she left for the spring semester in south africa. and yet, somehow, we ended up being best girls. and i'm grateful.

so, some background information: st. john's university and the college of st. benedict are two separate but very-connected liberal arts colleges in central minnesota. st. john's is "the boys school" and st. ben's is "the girls school." they're these great little catholic universities in the middle of nowhere, and every day i'm thankful that i spent 4 years there (even though i ended up going back to school for something else later). it breaks down like this: the boys live at st. john's, the girls live at st. bens, and both schools have separate administrations, like presidents and boards of trustees and junk. but the schools share one psychology department, one art department, one history department, etc. which means you can take classes on either campus, regardless of your gender. it works out fabulously because each school is tiny (maybe about 3,000 or 4,000 students on each campus when we were there), but because they have this partnership you have access to TWO libraries, TWO student centers, FOUR places to eat, etc. it's great! they're about 5 or 6 miles apart from each other, so there's this free bus that takes you between campuses several times a day. in fact, when i was a senior at csb, i drove the bus as a part of my work-study. it was really cool, because i'd make these mixed tapes of jimi hendrix, the doors, pink floyd, erykah badu, santana, utah phillips, ani difranco, etc. to wake everybody up and let them rock out a little bit on the bus between classes. i loved that job.

(a funny story about driving the bus: because st. john's is out in the woods, and st. ben's is "in town," all the boys would come into town to go out to the bars on friday and saturday nights. well, because the boys live at st. john's and the girls live at st. ben's, and the monks and nuns are pretty strict about no-opposite-sex visitors after hours, the boys would all have to go home as the bars were closing because they weren't allowed to crash at st. ben's for the night. and since they all took the bus into town to go the bars, they'd all have to take the bus home at the end of the night too. well, guess who the last woman is that they see that night? the bus driver. me. i got a lot of "heybusssssdriveryerrrrhotttt," and i would shout back to them, "just don't puke on my bus and we'll be cool." i remember them all drunkly serenading me to "you've lost that loving feeling" quite a bit. unless i was playing bob marley that night, in which case they'd all sing "no woman, no cry," regardless of which marley song was playing. it was really entertaining. ah, the good old days.)

okay, so teresa and i, and her fabulous boyfriend, nick (who went to st. john's) all spent one night up at sju to relive the glory days. we went out to eat at bo diddley's, a great pita/sandwich place, we went out to our old bar ("the midi," which i think got its nickname because it was midway between the other two bars in town), we had smoothies at our old coffee shop, we ate lunch at the refectory (aka "the reefer" by all the students), we swam in the lake, it was great...

(random picture of me, teresa, and jennifer, out for brunch at a funky place in edina, mn. jennifer and i lived on the same floor our freshman year. it's crazy to think that i've known her longer than i've even known adam! wow!)

i went to mass early one morning at the abbey church, which is always a treat. the monks encourage you to sit up on the altar with the rest of them, and they sing their morning prayers and we can sing along, and there are some readings, and we pray and meditate and it's just a lovely way to begin the day.

pictures from the beach: lake sagatagan ("lake sag") has only a few buildings on it, which is unusual for minnesota because whenever you find a lake, you also find a zillion lake houses on it because everyone in minneapolis has to have a cabin apparently. but on lake sag, there is the abbey church, the little stella maris chapel which is only accessible if you hike out maybe 2 miles, and the new guest house, where we stayed the night.

pictures from the midi: it's the townie bar. it's where i drank in college, because only the cool hippie kids like me and teresa would go to the midi, because that's where you could actually have a pretty decent conversation about the history of rock, the science of beer, the philosopy of jim morrison, etc. good stuff. the "other bars" were just places where the "other guys" would go to try to hook up with people of the "other sex." but not the midi. we'd drink cheap beer, shoot pool, and listen to the jukebox.

usually t and i wouldn't have enough money to buy our own drinks, so we'd go to the bar together and try to get drinks by doing stuff like this.

it always worked. :-)

so, that's the story of me and my homegirl. she and nick just moved to furano, hokkaido, japan, and i'm supercrazyproud of her. for as long as i've known her, she's wanted to live abroad, and i'm glad that she's finally doing it. she's teaching english there for a year, and we're not sure what nick is going to do yet, but he's a charming and resourceful man (such is the character of any man who graduated from st. john's), so i'm sure he'll fall into something without even having to try.

yay for girlfriends!

Monday, August 13, 2007

summer 2007 (rhinelander)

as long as i was in the midwest, i made sure to spend several days in the northwoods of wisconsin with the rest of my family (about a 4.5 hour drive northeast of minneapolis). my dad, stepmom, and two younger sisters were all there, as well as one of my bestest friends. as it turned out, an old boyfriend (my first boyfriend, in fact, when i was in 9th grade!) just happened to be in town that very same weekend for his wedding. he (craig) has been living up in alaska for the last several years and though we occasionally send each other an email now and then, we really hadn't seen each other in i think at least 7 or 8 years. so it was a really lovely serendipity that he was in town on the same weekend i was in town! (and no, i did not plan it that way. it just happened. that's what's so cool about it!) we met up briefly for an evening of shooting pool and hanging out at a bar that is owned by a friend from high school, and it was just wonderful to catch up with him again. AND because craig was getting married, another friend/old boyfriend from high school (matthew) was in town too because he was invited to the wedding! so i got to see matthew and his new fiancee, and all sorts of other people i hadn't seen in ages and ages, so it was GOOD.

and another good reason to be in town that weekend was because rhinelander was having its 125th birthday party! hooray! there were several small events held downtown on a saturday afternoon. they blocked off all the streets downtown so that folks could just walk around and enjoy the gorgeous weather and the street vendors, and it was really cozy and boring, but in a quaint sort of way. there was a beard-growing contest, which i thought would be more popular than it was, but was still entertaining. there were only about half a dozen people who were in the contest. (i was picturing 20 or more, with awards like "fuzziest beard," "dirtiest beard," "beard with the most crap in it," etc. but they only gave out one award, for "longest beard" and that was a whopping 2 inches!) apparently you had to shave your beard completely off in order to enter the contest, so maybe that's why it wasn't a very popular contest, because i imagine the only people who really wanted to join a beard-growing contest were people who already had beards, and maybe they'd been growing them out for such a long time that they didn't want to have to shave it off and start all over again. anyway, there was a man in a tophat with a comb and a ruler, measuring everyone's beards down to the 16th-of-an-inch, and it was all very grand in a stupid sort of way. i liked it way too much.

dad, rosie, and me all went down to the lions booth that morning because they were having a pancake breakfast, all you can eat, for $5! breakfast! yay! and i don't even really like american pancakes (dutch pannekoeken are much better), but the maple syrup and promise of sausages was too much for me to resist. we sat in the hot, bright sunshine, and everyone there was just so friendly and sweet to us, and i ate more than i should have, and they had to shovel me out of there when it was time to clean up so that they could hold their bingo game.

there were also stands for corn on the cob (sponsored by our local public radio station, wxpr, which is also managed by matthew's dad), and another one with deep fried cheese curds. mmmmm... deep fried cheese currrrrrrds.... aaaaahhhhh.... check out this picture of the cheese curd stand parked in front of the gym. very typical rhinelander!

one night me and my parents went down to the bandshell by the grocery store. it's about a three-block walk, so we strolled down there with our lawnchairs and spare change, and found a place in the shade alongside the mighty wisconsin river. (also conveniently situated a few feet from the very same deep fried cheese curd stand. it's one of those mobile, trailer-style stands, so the same merchants are everywhere. it's quite convenient.) there was a free concert that evening featuring a bluegrass band, and i love Love LOVE bluegrass! it was cute and fun, and everyone there was over 65 and was either wearing flannel, a seed cap, or packers gear. ah, my town. follow this link to watch a very brief video of the band and my neighbors enjoying a free concert in the cool evening air. (notice the rosie is already eating her cheese curds in the video! tasty!)
i stayed with my best friend, jami, who has been friends with me since 8th grade. her mom was my first cheerleading coach, and jami and i were cheerleaders together all through high school. she just bought a house a little while back and it's so cute! unfortunately, we didn't stay at her house because she was housesitting for her aunt who lives several miles out of town, in the middle of the woods. i mention this because i got locked out of the house my first day there. jami had gone in to work, and i had to let one of the dogs out because he was being a fart and wouldn't go out earlier when jami tried. so i grab his collar, lead him outside, close the door behind me, and as i turn to go back in the house, i realize that i just locked myself out. and i'm in the middle of nowhere, in my pajamas, with no car keys and no cell phone (cuz they're both inside the house). and jami wasn't planning on being back until suppertime.

so what do i do? i break in, of course. i break in to a house i've only stayed at one night, the house of people whom i've never met, with four crazy dogs barking hysterically at me as i try to do this thing. (good dogs! they knew something was up!) i look around everywhere for a spare key, but no luck. so i try one of the garages. it's locked too. fortunately, there was another garage that was unlocked, so i snooped around in there until i found a ladder and a knife. so i propped up this ladder against the house, slit the sides of the screen, pulled out the screen (which i could only do if i also removed the storm windows attached to it), and then somehow shimmied my way, cat-woman style, in over the kitchen sink. (good thing it was my first full day in town so that i hadn't eaten any of those deep fried cheese curds yet, or i might not have fit through that window!) it was ridiculous. i felt so bad. and then i couldn't figure out how to put the window back together, so i just left them some money to get it fixed themselves, because i just couldn't bear to get myself back on that ladder again to put everything back the way it needed to be. i'm such a bad houseguest.

let's see what else? ... my gramma ended up coming to town. (she's the one on the left in the pretty, pale pink shirt. see? always stylish, my gramma! the other lovely lady in the picture is my great aunt mary, but we all call her "auntie babe." i don't know why we call her that. but we do.) because she was on a road trip with her girlfriends. they went to door county and were on their way to a llama farm in phillips, so they decided to pass through rhinelander to do some boutique shopping and have some lunch. so i got to go boutiquing with gramma and her girlfriends! how fun! we went to those kinds of stores that have all those stupid little signs for sale that say things like "i childproofed my house but they keep getting in" and "if momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy", and all sorts of crap that only people with cats could love, and lots of little stuffed animals drinking tea and wearing hats and stuff. it was sweet. i had a really fun time.

i also saw my sisters, but realized that i didn't take any pictures of them when i was there. so here's a couple of older pics of me with katie and kelsey. when i was there, kelsey was living in an apartment a few blocks from home with her boyfriend, and was still working at the subway restaurant where she had been working for the past several years. katie at the time was living and working in rhinelander, but just a few weeks ago ended up moving to vegas. the phone message on my voice mail went something like this: hey, big sister, it's me. ummm, i'm moving to vegaaas, like, um, toniiiight. and i'm gonna drive through denverrrr, and so, like, i wanna see you. okaycallmebackbye. um, okay. and she actually did. i really thought she and a friend would get as far as minneapolis and realize that $100 and a half tank of gas wouldn't get them as far as they had imagined. but no, she ended up making it the whole way. i'm really proud of her. it takes a lot of guts to get up and leave everything familiar behind, with no money and no job, but just a hope to get out and do something different. rhinelander, for better or worse, is a hard place to leave/escape, and she just had to do it or it wouldn't have gotten done. you need to take control of your life or someone else will do it for you. so i'm proud of her and inspired, and i hope she gets it all figured out cuz it's a big, scary thing to do.

and i think that's about it. just a few short days back home to see everyone i wanted to see, and i did it. it was good.