Monday, 30 June 2008

I Might Be Taking This Too Far

Since football ended yesterday, I've decided to develop a fleeting interest in tennis. So tomorrow, Sarah and I are going to Wimbledon!

We just spontaneously decided to hop a bus at the crack of dawn and buy tickets there, and I had to consciously try to forget that I paid 90 quid today to start a three-course vaccination against rabies. As Abby keeps reminding me, if you think about how much I would pay to not get a series of extremely painful injections into my stomach after being bitten by dogs and cats during fieldwork, it's actually kind of a bargain. Still, it's strange to think that I'd better be attacked by at least a dozen cats in Manila or this is going to be a purchase I regret.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

In Which Hell Freezes

As of this morning, I'm a sports writer! Most of the commenters seem to hate me, so if anyone feels like backing me up, I would love you.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Bleak, Man. Bleak.

It's a very bad sign when your dad observes that you haven't mentioned any guys lately and asks how your love life is going, especially when it's totally unprovoked and out of the blue. Even my parents can tell that I'm not getting any. Worse, they seem to be concerned.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Another Suitcase in Another Hall

Yesterday at Abby's birthday drinks, I was telling someone about my summer plans and they were like, 'so basically, you have to move three times in three months.' And I shrugged nonchalantly, and made some dismissive comment about being a practicing nomad for most of my adult life. I think my famous last words had something to do with 'not owning that much that needed moving.'

Now, with four boxes and a garment bag in storage, two suitcases schlepped up to my new digs in Corpus Christi, and my gym bag and two plastic bags of assorted mugs and salvageable foodstuffs (because throwing away cookies is criminal) in tow, I'm prepared to renounce that statement. Did you know that I picked up like thirty books over the course of this year? Prior to 3am this morning, neither did I.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Back in Love with the NHS

Today, I went for an update on my vaccinations - and since I only needed a second round of hepatitis A, it only took five minutes. Nurse Jane and I spent the rest of the time talking about democracy in Zimbabwe, dengue fever and poverty in Sri Lanka, and whether it was possible to return to the kind of wartime cooperation that Britain saw in the 1940s and 50s. I told her about my chin injury and how she was out of the office when I came in dizzy and bleeding heavily from the face, and she looked at my scar and complimented my body's healing processes. And this is how I fell back in love with the NHS.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

I Know My Limits

"I'm a little worried about meeting this girl about her apartment."
"Why's that?"
"I don't speak Italian, and her English isn't that good. Here, read this."
"Yeah. Rachel, she totally just ran that message through Babelfish."
"How do you know?"
"See how there's a random D with an apostrophe, and the vocab, grammar, and idioms are all really weird? That's what it looks like when you just run a translation through without correcting it."
"Look, I don't do it often, so stop your judging."

Monday, 23 June 2008

In Which Nostalgia Gets the Best of Me, Again

I should preface all of this by listing the Let's Go entry for Wurmlinger Kapelle in its entirety:

"This modest, sunbleached chapel - whose naked simplicity is as moving as some of the most imposing cathedrals of Germany - crowns a hill otherwise covered in grapevines and green meadows with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. (Follow Kapellenweg to the hill from the Schloss, then continue up the hill through the vineyards; at the 1st fork take a left, then a right at the 2nd fork (6km); ask at the tourist office for the walking map 'Tubingen Promenades 2.' Or, take bus #18 (dir.: Rottenburg) to 'Hirschau Kirchpl.' (10 min., every hr., M-F, every 2hr. Sa-Su, Euro 1.50.) Chapel open May-Oct. Su 10am-4pm; Nov.-Apr. call 221 22.)

Rachel had a bunch of work for her presentation tomorrow, so I set off by myself to do the hike around 10:30am. And I'll accept responsibility for the fact that I did stop at the tourist office for a map, but got flustered when I couldn't remember how to ask for it in German, and then proceeded to get stuck in the automatic doors, and then blushed a very deep shade of red and left in a hurry without a map. How hard can it be? I thought. It's a hike with two forks in the road, and it's all to the top of a hill - when in doubt, go up.

I got back around 4pm, dehydrated, drenched in sweat, and knowing for the first time why people lost in the mountains occasionally decide it's not worth it and lay down to die. It turns out that the chapel is actually about 9km away. It also turns out that the path is not clearly marked, which meant that my sole lifeline was that brief paragraph in Rachel's dog-eared copy of Let's Go. Ahem.

Firstly, there doesn't seem to be any street called 'Kapellenweg,' which didn't stop me from wandering up the Bavarian equivalent of Mulholland Drive searching in vain before reaching a bus stop and realizing that I saw neither vineyards nor fields. I doubled back twenty minutes, took a different fork, and settled on 'Kapitansweg,' which is the actual name of the street leading up the hill from the Schloss. It turns out that the street actually takes you back up to the same bus stop where I had given up twenty minutes prior.

From there, I kept walking upwards past these tony mansions and pint-sized castles until I reached a forest path with signs that I couldn't read, although the mini-phrasebook in the back of Let's Go was enough for me to figure out that they said not to do something. I just wasn't sure what. So I took the trail and ended up at this squat sunbleached chapel, where I patted myself on the back, sat for fifteen minutes munching on an apple, a granola bar, and the rest of my bottle of water, and read an essay by Deleuze. It looked like rain, so I looped around the back of the chapel to take another route down. And there, I saw a sign that said 'Wurmlinger Kapelle: 6km' and pointed off into the woods, and I crumpled a little.

So here's the second thing: I took the first left, which promptly led to another fork, and then took a right, which led to nothing at all. And I tried every possible route, until I found a path that continued onward after, oh, thirty minutes, which then proceeded to have about a dozen forks that I blindly followed on a trial and error basis. It was like a Choose Your Own Adventure, except that I wasn't choosing so much as blindly guessing and cursing Let's Go and there weren't any adventures.

I kept telling myself that I'd walk for ten minutes and then quit and turn back, and then I'd see something - a wooden arrow, a pile of rocks, a pair of German women in leggings powerwalking with ski poles - and I'd press onward, reinvigorated. Unfortunately, vigor is hard to sustain when you eat your lunch and drink all your water before the hike actually starts, and by the time I flagged down a jogger who pointed me in the right direction and finally laid eyes on the chapel - twenty minutes away, on a distant hill, and looking very much closed to the public - I was ready to call it quits. But I didn't, and I made it. And then I planned to take the bus home, but thirdly, there didn't seem to be any buses anywhere nearby. So instead, I sat and soaked up the beauty for a grand total of two minutes, and then plodded down the hill, wincing with every step.

It took a little under two hours to get back to Tubingen, which feels so much longer when you haven't just loaded the Evita soundtrack onto your iPod like I did when I was repeatedly lost in the Dolomites. And I'll grudgingly admit that it was pretty (and that a forest in Germany feels suspiciously like a forest in Minnesota in June), but I suddenly recall what it's like to be an RW for Let's Go. Don't get me wrong - I'm a devotee, it's just good to know that my emotionally manipulative and physically abusive relationship with the guides is still going strong.

Back in Tubingen

We made it to Zurich and back in one piece without anything going horribly awry, which surprises me as much as it surprises everyone else. And for not having any agenda whatsoever when we arrived, we managed to fill up the weekend really nicely. We're back in Tubingen and Rachel has a bunch of work to do this afternoon (seeing as she's just finishing her semester and actually employed), so I think I'm going to hike to a chapel. Some people think about hiking uphill for six kilometers to a chapel and say 'why?' and I think about it and say 'why not?' I think someone famous said that.

Thursday, 19 June 2008


Rachel and I just got back from the bar where we watched Germany sneak past Portugal in the EuroCup quarterfinals, and it was nuts. We leave for Zurich tomorrow, but since Switzerland is neutral (that's Switzerland for you), I can watch the game and just pick whichever side I feel like picking. (Realistically, that'll be whichever side everyone else in the bar is cheering for, to avoid being killed by a roomful of patriotic drunks at the end of the night.) I stopped talking after I realized that all of my comments had to do with one of the German players' skeezy platinum blonde dye job, the landscaping of the grass on the field, and the fact that the first goal of the evening was 'like an athletic ballet.' Some people are cut out for viewing sports, others are just cut out for rioting afterwards. I like to think I fall in the latter category.

Hi, My Name is Ryan, And...

"I think I'm going to make a cup of coffee - do you want any?"
"I don't think I have any coffee."
"...Oh, okay."
"But we can pick some up tomorrow, if you want."
"Yeah, that'd be great."
"Hey, Rachel?"
"How far away is the nearest supermarket?"
"Probably about ten minutes?"
"I'll be right back."

And this is how, around 9pm last night, I wandered into Tubingen to get a jar of coffee, some artificial sweetener, and apples and bananas. The grocery store was like a German Wal-Mart, which was sort of overwhelming, but it was totally worth it. I went home, had a cup of coffee and finished Peter Swirski's excellent 'From Lowbrow to Nobrow,' and promptly fell asleep, because a) caffeine does nothing for me anymore, and b) I'd been awake for about forty-eight hours, which mostly included travel by planes, trains, and automobiles, shopping for shoes in Stuttgart, and getting so deep into conversation with Rachel that we missed the end of the line on the subway and were trapped on the car for fifteen minutes. It was hella fun (I got a new pair of Rocket Dog sandals, and had kebab that didn't make me immediately sick!), but that apparently doesn't mean I can go without soft drugs.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

This Is, In Fact, Bananas. (B.A.N.A.N.A.S.)

I'm off to Germany! My friend Rachel (who I nicknamed Bananas in high school for reasons that I won't explain here, but apparently stuck to this day) is studying abroad there, so I'm (cheaply and painfully) catching an overnight bus to Stansted, an 8am flight to Stuttgart, and an afternoon train to Tubingen to hang out with her for a week. And then we're going to Zurich for the weekend, where we have absolutely nothing planned. Hanging out with my favorite people in places that we may or may not understand is like my favorite way to travel.

Monday, 16 June 2008

It Was Nice Knowing You All

Oil shot up $5 to almost $140 per barrel today, which increases the likelihood that I will never be able to afford a flight back to the US and will only see everyone in Fargo when I can afford to row across the Atlantic and walk from the East Coast. (I was going to try to go back to Fargo at the end of September, and it turns out that that costs just about as much as it did to book my roundtrip flight to the Philippines. I just keep reminding myself that they do pay for me to fly home at the end of this fellowship, so I'll theoretically get back to the US. It just might be years from now.)


My lunch today mostly consisted of Erika's leftover pasta, broccoli, courgettes, mushrooms, and spicy pasta sauce, with a couple of my own tiny carrots and half a yellow pepper thrown in for good measure. With all the stuff I've inherited from my neighbors as they move out one-by-one, I could totally open a small, understaffed restaurant this summer. (If that doesn't pan out, I've also inherited enough generic ibuprofen to open a small meth lab. At least then I'd have something to talk about at cocktail parties with my friends who do science.)

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Sometimes, Derailing is Fun and Educational

After spending the better part of the morning doing ridiculously boring end-of-the-year administrative stuff at my laptop, I finally trudged into the city centre around 1pm to sell my books to Blackwell's, return library books to Hertford and ISCA, pick up some cardboard boxes and Sharpies, buy bus tickets for my trip to the airport on Tuesday, and (maybe) treat myself to Starbucks on the way back to the Grad Centre to drop everything off before hitting the gym.

That all changed when I ran into Casey and Josh in front of Christ Church not five minutes after leaving my room, and when they invited me to tag along with them to the arboretum, I shrugged and did that instead. And this is how I learned that there are redwoods in Oxford, that it is not all that uncommon to find a peacock in a tree, and that packing an apple when running errands is always a good idea, just in case you unexpectedly end up in a forest twenty minutes outside of Oxford without a chance to pick up a misto and a peach and raspberry muffin. (I also recalled why I like Josh and Casey, to the point that when they suggest that I get on a bus to a village I've never heard of, I'm like, 'meh, okay.') The afternoon made me feel better about reading Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost this past week, because she spends half the essays ruminating on nature and I kept sighing and being like, um, the closest I get to nature nowadays is when the swans on the Isis scream at me and I shout curse words back at them. Sorry, Rebecca, your poetics are kind of lost on me. But then I saw flowers and vistas and redwoods and peacocks and knew beauty, significance, awe, and unadulterated terror, and I understood a little better.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Old Stomping Grounds

And speaking of places loved and left, I just found out that Cambridge Common is up and running again. It's got a new crop of killer writers, and reading their entries is making me all fondly nostalgic about progressive advocacy at Harvard, and now it's back on the sidebar where it belongs.

Separation Anxiety

We had our end-of-the-year barbecue today, and while it was tons of fun (because sunshine, veggie burgers, and watching people get nailed in the shins playing cricket have that effect on me), it also suddenly and forcefully hit me that my first year at Oxford is ending. Erika left today for Dublin, and when I went into the kitchen, all that was left at her countertop were the half-eaten bags of pasta, couscous, rice, granola, and other assorted carbs she left to me. I ate some granola and got all mopey. R. Dave leaves for DC tomorrow, James leaves in two days, Abby is already talking about a farewell party when I get back from Germany, and at dinner tonight, Genevieve and Julie realized that in a week, they'll be back in Vermont and California. (And because I'm switching rooms for my teaching post, my room is pared down to bare essentials and cardboard boxes, which doesn't help matters at all.)

Less that two months ago, I was bitching about how I needed to make Oxford feel like home - and actually, I think I pulled it off. But when everyone starts to leave, it turns out that that sense of uneasy rootlessness returns full-force. It's like the equivalent of homesickness for someone who tends not to think twice about geography, but gets totally lost without a recap of the day over coffee every night in the kitchen. You'd think that this would stop sneaking up on me after two graduations and a couple of transatlantic moves, but you'd be forgetting that I've got the emotional memory of a goldfish.

Friday, 13 June 2008

The System At War With Itself

In the vein of working hard and playing hard, it occurred to me last night that every term has ended with a bombastic night which I might immediately regret but eventually remember fondly. This term, the boat party was that night.

- I ate a ridiculous amount of canapes, if only because we were told not to eat anything because a meal would be served and then boarded to find that the meal was tray upon tray of hors d'oeuvres. And while I probably ate a meal's worth of tiny quiches and salmon toothpicks, it wasn't much of a firewall against an open bar of cheap wine. (We also had a smoothie bar, which I made a beeline for early in the evening for a banana, raspberry, and strawberry smoothie, then toward the end of the night for a pineapple and grape smoothie, mostly because everything seemed like a good idea at that point.)

- After being there for five minutes, Erika and I realized that after a year of doing this at most events, the two of us had either voluntarily or involuntarily ended up talking to each other in a corner. I pointed out that at we deserved some credit for branching out and taking our anti-social tendencies to sea, since we usually confine them to bars and bops. As she sighed, it's a different genre, but a familiar theme.

- It took all of ten minutes for someone to spill red wine on somebody else. James lost that game.

- We managed to stay above deck and hang out with Abby, James, R. Dave, and Daniel for the first hour of the trip, and then it started to sprinkle and became freakishly cold and everyone crammed into the cabin underneath. It looked like a hurricane had swept across the canape table. Dan responded by cleaning up after people, while I helped by eating the sad, misshapen eclairs that everyone else left behind. I like my kind of helping better.

- If inclement weather is a British staple, so is bitching about inclement weather:
R: "If I wanted to drink and get wet, I could have just stayed home and sat in my shower with a bottle of wine."
D: "Naked, with mascara running down your face, crying."
R: "Basically, a typical Thursday."
D: "TGIT!" (They toast.)

- You have to be having a very, very good time (and be at the point where you're completely oblivious to social conventions) to attempt to dance to "The Girl from Ipanema." I was unstoppable.

- A boat party ending at 10:30pm is awkward, because it's not quite early enough to catch any other parties, but not quite late enough to call it a night. Instead, we all just crashed into the Head of the River, because we were at the point where proximity trumped expensiveness. Luckily, one of the perks of playing gay wingman for a female friends is that men who hit on them and know what's up will buy you a free drink, too.

- Somehow, the hardiest of us ended up at the Purple Turtle - and by the hardiest of us, I guess I mean myself, Erika, Ambika, and a bunch of the MBAs. About twenty-four hours after skipping Dwayne's birthday party, I ended up in a basement rocking out to "Gimme More" with pretty much that exact group of people. And it was a blast. I think the trick is that I need to get MBAs on my turf, so I'm going to start inviting them to some queer theory lectures and socialist rallies to see if we become BFFs.

- In a nasty case of being careful what you wish for, I woke up this morning to a bright, sunny day, and proceeded to mash my head between my pillows and silently curse the heavens for not being cloudy and overcast. I also not-so-silently cursed the people doing recycling outside my window, who were throwing garbage bags of glass bottles into a dumpster and shattering them. I need to be more specific when I make requests of God.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

You Scratch My Back, I'll Stop Skipping Birthday Parties and Earning Hell Credits

It's the boat party tonight, and it's been pretending like it's about to rain all day. I spent the first part of the afternoon getting a salad box with Abby at Alpha Bar in the Covered Market (which is as close as one gets to looking into the face of God at Oxford), then the second part of the afternoon making improbable bargains with God about postponing the rain until tomorrow. They already took the milkshakes off the program because apparently it costs like $500 to bring a milkshake freezer on a boat, but now I'm worried that it'll rain. The thing that sucks about rain at a boat party is precisely what generally sucks about a boat party - when things go south, you can't leave. And since I also can't drown my sorrows in processed dairy products, I've been promising God that I'll do something nice if I make it through the evening without getting wet. Like, I'll try not to push people overboard when I get tired of them, which is something I usually only forego during Lent.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Like Bears, They Charge at Random

Earlier this evening, I went to Pius Langa's lecture at Rhodes House on the Constitutional Court's role in promoting the social contract and the future of socioeconomic rights. For someone who's really into South Africa, comparative constitutionalism, and law as a tool for social change, it was awesome. I don't go to nearly enough lectures at Oxford, which is a shame because I sort of suspect that crazy stuff like this is happening all the time. (Instead, I've been busy trying to figure out if I have life insurance, which is still up in the air. It appears that I have it for illness but not accidental death, which is unfortunate because if I die doing fieldwork, it'll almost certainly be accidental death. It's not my immune system that's the problem, it's my propensity for running into things.)

On the way back from the lecture, I realized that I could swing by the Turf for this guy's birthday party - but I didn't, for two reasons. One of them was pretty sensible. It's Trinity Term, and if I don't arbitrarily declare a couple of non-alcoholic nights, there are enough end-of-the-year parties and goodbye drinks and that I could easily drink a couple of glasses of wine every evening, which I'm getting dangerously close to doing. My body asked for the night off, so I obliged. And the other reason is my irrational fear of MBAs, who probably made up the majority of the party. They're like my social Kryptonite. It's something about how friendly and direct they are, which I respond to by panicking and freezing up completely. I can't help it, and my usual social awkwardness is unusually bad with MBAs in particular. Maybe it's because they make me realize that most of my default topics of conversation are wildly inappropriate in polite society, or maybe it's because I know that they'll be able to buy and sell me in about two to four years. Either way, I have a social anxiety disorder that's only triggered by MBAs, which is fine as long as nobody tells my (possibly non-existent) insurance provider.

Anyway, now I need to check if Blackwell's sells cards that wish someone a happy birthday and also subtly apologize for being afraid of them and their colleagues.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

You Stay Classy, Oxfordshire

I planned to go to Tanmay's goodbye drinks tonight at 9:15, and woke up at 9:20 to Erika in my room asking if I was ready to go, politely ignoring the fact that I was asleep on my bed with my face creased by a copy of Cannery Row after our last red wine-infused LGBTSoc meeting of the year. And I was drooling a little. (The fact that I'm reading Steinbeck in this scenario is officially the only thing keeping me firmly on the grad student side of the grad student vs. tramp dichotomy. Worse, I'm not entirely certain where I'll fall on that continuum by the end of the summer.)

Monday, 9 June 2008

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that the garden party was actually just catered with cups of chips, salsa, and guacamole from the Mission, which meant that I didn't have to rock a burrito and a hamburger within two hours of each other.

The bad news is that the veggie and camembert burger at Gourmet Burger Kitchen is like a foot tall, and I still insisted on powering through even when it became clear that I was full and could stop. I felt like Dagwood, except now I feel like Kane in Alien right before the alien bursts out of his stomach and scares the hell out of everyone. I hope that doesn't happen, because that would totally wreck my night.

The Worst Problem I've Ever Had in My Entire Life

So I'm just about to head off to a garden party fundraiser for the Rhodes Scholars' Southern African Forum, which is being catered by the Mission Mexican Grill. (The Mission is a carbon copy of Chipotle supposedly started by a Brit who went to California and fell in love with their burritos. They're basically the exact same - and in the US, I'm not entirely sure how this imitation-cum-flattery would fare in, say, an intellectual property lawsuit - but the important thing is that it is magical. Also, why is a garden party being catered with burritos? Unclear, but I'm not complaining.)

And right afterwards, we have our end-of-the-term dinner for the MCR committee at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, where I get a delicious hamburger for being in charge of the gays all year. Unfortunately, these are like back-to-back events, and I'm worried that I'll die if I do a back-to-back burrito and hamburger. This is like the hardest choice ever. And yesterday, I embarrassed myself when the MCR president was about to tell me what was on the menu for the boat party on Thursday and I was like, "if you say 'burritos' and solve this dilemma, I will kiss you on the mouth." She looked startled, and I was like, Ryan, why would you say that? Anyway, I think it's pizza. Meh.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Wind It Up

Now that everything's out of the way, I've got plenty of time on my hands to freak out about how quickly this year is coming to a close. Example? Yesterday, I realized that it's June, and I was startled.

The upside is that things are wrapping up nicely, and I'll mostly be in Oxford for about two months except for the occasional trip to London to get visas and passport stuff figured out. Milos and I hosted our last Queer Studies Circle yesterday, and I guiltlessly watched a double-header of TransAmerica and Chasing Amy and didn't think about work at all. (Unsurprisingly, TransAmerica is way better when you're not watching it on an airplane at a 45 degree angle because the person in front of you insists on reclining all the way and the woman behind you insists on having a baby on her lap that you'd prefer not to accidentally push back inside of her by reclining yourself. It turns out Felicity Huffman is not actually lurking in shadows for the entirety of the film, and her mother in the film is a disturbing shade of orange, not a disturbing shade of green. Fascinating.)

We also chose our rooms for next year, and as I checked out my choices, Lisa was like, 'so, do you want the secretary's room?' and I just blankly stared at her. It turns out that the whole 'flirting with homelessness thing' was kind of a blessing in disguise, because the secretary apparently has a room in the college if they want it. (This year's secretary didn't, which is why I assumed that I'd be at the mercy of my very low ballot number.) It's not huge, but it has a little kitchen, its own bathroom, a tiny fireplace with delft tiles, and my desk overlooks Broad Street. (It's in a turret, too, so I can check that off my list of things to do before I die.) And best of all, I'm smack in the middle of Oxford across the street from the Bodleian, two minutes from my gym, and two minutes from Starbucks, and ten minutes from both the Tylor Library and the Social Science Library. I'm sad that I won't be living with everyone from the Grad Centre, but I figured that I'd see them more often if I lived upstairs from where everyone eats lunch and hangs out in the afternoon than I would if I lived in a tiny attic room on Winchester Road, or if I lived in what are apparently our gigantic suburban flats up in Summertown. (If I'm wrong, I'll be in the market for a lot of ferns.)

Saturday, 7 June 2008


I got up yesterday, made toast and read the Guardian, and then slowly realized that I had nothing else to do. Out of habit, I went to the library and got Clifford Geertz's The Interpretation of Cultures, Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors, Edward Said's Orientalism, Kate Crehan's Gramsci, Culture, and Anthropology, and Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen's The Quality of Life. Something about the weight of my bookbag was oddly comforting, because I always do better with an endgame.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Highlights from Exam #4

- The lowlight of the day is that I realized that I don't just need to score a 50 to go onto the MPhil, I need to score a 60. That's sort of stressful, but it's probably better that I sailed through blissfully unaware of that fact. Eep.

- I celebrated by splitting a Cookie Monster at G&D's with Kim, then going out for drinks at the Turf with Team Anthro. Incidentally, these would be the first drinks I've had for about a month. (I've been told that if I get sick tonight, nobody from my hallway will clean up ice cream, cookie, and wine vomit. I'm going to be grappling with the whole post-exam, post-partum thing for a while, but it feels good to have my life back.)

- I think today's exam might have been my worst, but that's what everybody said. Everyone except the guy at the bar who showed me a list of examples that he cited for every question, and then said, 'I bet you didn't cite this many examples, Mr. Harvard Rhodes Scholar.' And I was like, really? You want to do this now? Instead, I just shook my head ruefully. I didn't add that I'd rather fail my exams than be the kind of person who shows that off at a bar to make other people feel bad about themselves.

- It's entirely plausible that that will actually happen.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Highlights from Exam #3

- We were in a different room today, which totally threw me for a loop. I returned from the bathroom and literally had my hand on the door of Room 9 before I remembered that we were in Room 11, thereby saving myself from an embarrassing incident with a room of geologists. You don't want to relive that twice.

- My second essay would probably have looked better with a conclusion. I had just enough time to consider scribbling, ' I think this speaks for itself. I don't need to justify myself to you.' I didn't, but only barely.

- I got my gender question! And it was like, 'is gender really still relevant?' and I was like, yes, yes, a thousand times yes! (It had better be, or my BA is pretty worthless.) I'm actually not that confident in the essay, because I basically just finished by being like, um, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Suzanne Kessler, and Donna Haraway have lots to say about your so-called 'gender,' so go read something by all of them. I'm sure that'll play really well with the examiners.

- It was a huge relief to finish the third of the four exams because it's the last vague, amorphous 'social anthropology' exam, and my exam tomorrow is on my eight-week option on legal anthropology. It's actually kind of nice to sit down with a few articles and really dig into it tonight instead of flitting between capoira and the finer distinctions of Kabre and Tiv exchange spheres and the crisis of representation and just hoping they hang together in the end. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I left the exam, and then got shushed because the Exam Schools are strict that way.

- Sadly, I was all tricked out for questions on agency, resistance, and violence, and none of those topics were on any of this year's exams. I still had plenty to write about, but I'm really, really glad I revised for all the topics we covered and didn't only do twelve of the eighteen like I had planned. I would have bombed. You can't take a question about colors and answer it with your thoughts about the anthropology of genocide, although that didn't stop me from considering it.

- I walked into Starbucks after the exam and the woman at the register and I conducted our exchange wordlessly, except when I mumbled a thank you at the end. This is a bad sign.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Highlights from Exam #2

- Exams are way, way less stressful when you know what to expect. For instance, I filled out my test booklets correctly today. I paced myself a little better, so my conclusions might make sense. I nipped off to the bathroom right before the exam so I could use my bathroom break as a reward for finishing my second essay. You know, stuff like that.

- I was all prepped for questions on agency and violence, neither of which were on the exam. Instead, I panicked and answered questions on nationalism and the politicization of history that I was surprisingly proud of, then answered a question on religion where I basically said it didn't exist and hoped Talal Asad would back me up. I don't feel particularly great about that one.

- When I got home, I was digging the change from my misto out of the pocket inside my jacket and found a slip of paper that said "8:40-9:00" on it. I was like, 'where the hell did this come from?' before realizing that it was the slot I drew for my Rhodes interview. It reminded me that maybe I am a capable person with interesting things to say, and also that it's probably time to get that suit dry-cleaned.

- I made a comment about blowing my wad on a halfhearted kinship question yesterday when there were two awesome questions on it on today's exam, and then was very embarrassingly forced to explain the etymology of the phrase to everyone in my kitchen. Between this and 'balls to the walls' (which is surprisingly not at all crude, but has to do with fighter jets), I'm not sure I'm contributing a lot to the slang in this country. (The question yesterday was sort of kinship related, but I was like, '...while that is an interesting question, one might also look at something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT' and then answered my question instead. We were explicitly told not to do this, although I thought it made sense at the time.)

- I washed my shirt, because I only brought one white shirt and I have to wear it to all four exams. I only wear it for three hours at a time with rotating undershirts underneath it, but it still feels horribly wrong to put a shirt on four days in a row. It's washed, and I realized that I should probably not audition for Survivor.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Highlights from Exam #1

- I look angelic in a white bow tie. I was almost late for my exam because I passed a reflective storefront on my way to the Exam Schools, and I was captivated by how precious I looked.

- Taking an exam in a suit actually kind of makes you feel like a rockstar, especially when they let you shed most of the suit, roll up your sleeves, and take your exam. I just thought, 'as the son of a mill worker, how would John Edwards tackle this exam?' I've gotta say, it's kind of exhilarating.

- About 45 minutes into the exam, I realized that I was recounting the entire history of anthropology beginning with WHR Rivers' thoughts on fieldwork in a Notes and Queries edition of 1913. So I inexplicably jumped ahead to the present day and talked about artificial insemination and chosen families instead. Whatever, most of the 1970s and 1980s are overrated.

- I got to the gender question and panicked. This was my gimme, and I totally froze. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for it to come up again, because usually I sneeze and an example of the social constructedness of gender comes out.

- They only let you pee once, so it was the most calculated, well-timed bathroom break of my life. I waited until my bladder was actually blocking the flow of blood to my brain and then went. It was almost artistic in its execution.

- The woman at Starbucks afterwards made my drink (tall skinny misto, best with two and a half packets of Sweet 'n' Low) before I ordered, and I realized that I've gone there way, way too much as I've been revising for this exam. I refuse to change my habits until Thursday, but then I might check into some sort of rehab.

Standing in the Way of Control

I was chatting up the cashier at Sainsbury's yesterday and she asked if I had exams coming up, and I told her that this is the big week and she was like, "ooh, and you're out grocery shopping!" I felt like I should explain, so I said, "the way I see it, the only way I'll avoid a meltdown is having every other aspect of my life under control, so I've spent my morning going to the gym, buying overpriced pens, answering two months of neglected correspondence, withdrawing all the cash I'll need for the week, doing all of my laundry, and stocking up on any groceries I could possibly need." And then she looked at me like I was insane and I smiled and took my vegetables and went home.

But I did all of those things, and my fragile truce with the Fates seems to be holding up. Our last MCR meeting was last night, and I survived the hustings, including an unexpected point-blank challenge in the question-and-answer portion that involved humming the theme to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. (On Thursday, I'll finish my exams and find out if I lost to nobody, which is entirely possible.) After the meeting, I received the final proofs for my first scholarly publication with a request to return them ASAP and handily got that out of the way, slept, and then woke up and had a peach and raspberry muffin and finished all of the puzzles in the Observer. I feel very capable and clever at the moment, which is why I refuse to try anything new until Thursday. Until then, I will be writing about anthropology.

And! the joke went off without a hitch:

How many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
...What, you don't know?