Video: ‘Barton Hollow’ by The Civil Wars
People used to tell me that you don’t know what you have until you’ve lost it. I never knew what they were talking about until I encountered something called ‘life’ and now I am fairly well acquainted with the concept. I think this same thing holds true with traveling and the concept of ‘home’. You never truly appreciate your home until you’ve left it. When I was growing up, all I wanted to do was leave the US. I dreamed of traveling far and wide. I would have no ties to hold me back, I would come and go as I pleased, and the concept of ‘home’ would have no meaning. ‘Home’ would be the place where my family was located and where I was not. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that this is not as simple in practice as it is in principle. Like it or not we form attachments to the people and places around us. The goodbyes become a bit harder to say, the tears more difficult to choke back. The concept of having a ‘home’ is no longer quite as unappealing as it once was.
It is a bit ironic: my forebears made long and arduous journeys across the Atlantic from the Old World to the New in search of something – new possibilities, new freedoms, a new life. Several generations down the road, my grandfathers and grandmothers moved from the towns in which our family had settled to the cities of the north in the search of the same thing – new possibilities and a new life. I am the beneficiary of this new life and what do I do? Return to the same country that my ancestors left so long ago. I am changed for this experience, mostly for the better but not entirely, and the lessons that I have learned will remain with me throughout my life. The most important lesson (apart from ‘an expiration date is there for a reason’) has been the importance of my family, friends, and home. Yes, I may bitch about them quite frequently, and yes, I may hurt them with my careless words just as they hurt me. (I am, after all, a sensitive soul. Or a drama queen, depending on whether you are talking to my Mother or Father.) But in the end, they are always there. In good and bad, through thick and thin: they are there. And home is the place where I know that I can go when all else fails.
Why did I post this today? I watched the above video ‘Barton Hollow’ by The Civil Wars and it reminded me of when I traveled to Georgia in 5th grade for the Hendrick (my Dad’s mum’s family) family reunion. Georgia is the furthest into the ‘deep south’ that I have ever been. (I’ve been to Florida, but I don’t really count it as the ‘south’. It is a unique entity in itself, much like California). It was a strange trip…we stayed in a house that I was (and am still) convinced is haunted. We walked through the forest past dirt mountains that my Dad’s cousin poked with a stick to show me how quickly the fire ant residents could potentially overcome a human. In the same forests we unearthed the long-buried tombstones of ancestors whose names appeared as three brief lines in my Dad’s genealogical records: name, date of birth, date of death. In between lay a lifetime’s worth of memories and experiences, details that forever lost to the winds of time as soon as they passed beyond. We visited the now-demolished Hendrick plantation, saw the site of the farmhouse where ‘Great Grand-daddy so-and-so was shot for his Confederate gold’ (which has definitely not made it down the line to me), and ate a strange substance known as ‘grits’. Perhaps the strangest experience of all was hearing about the ‘war of Northern aggression’ as if it had occurred just yesterday. My 5th grade self was mystified at this strange culture of ‘the south’.
Unfortunately, the same winds of time that erode our physical landmarks on this earth have also been at work on my memory. I no longer remember what it was like to experience that culture so markedly different from the one that I had been brought up in. I don’t remember what it was about grits that I didn’t like (although, in keeping with my 10 year-old principles, I probably would not try it again) or why I found it so incredibly odd that my Dad’s cousins did not drink Diet Coke or Coffee (they’re Mormons). My point is that for a long time I’ve been searching the world for something…although I’m still not quite sure what. I think that after this summer I may have to start looking within the United States itself. I may road-trip it back down to Georgia or to Clifton Forge, VA (population -2…just kidding! It has a population of 4289 according to that venerable and completely unquestionable source of knowledge: Wikipedia).
It is time to come home.
(Except by ‘it is time’ I really mean ‘it will be time in a few weeks’. I’ve got 9 more weeks of classes, a month of spring break, and a month of exams to get through before this last rollercoaster ride is over.)
“My Father’s Father’ by the Civil Wars
I’ve not read the book and probably would not have watched the movie had I not been stuck on a plane for 5 hours at Heathrow prior to actually departing on our 8 hour flight to BWI. But since I have been forced to re-evaluate my spring break plans now that things in the Middle East are shaky, I have been considering going on an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ trip of my own, albeit with different destinations.
In the movie, Julia Roberts ends up going to Italy and essentially having a love affair with pasta. Indeed, I spent the majority of this section of the movie marveling at the enormous quantities of food consumed. Now, I am a fan of pasta…but my waistline is not. And with the added threats of gelato and pizza, a trip to Italy would see all of my marathon preparations disappear in a haze of carbohydrates. (But hey! At least I would die happy!)
Possible alternatives to fulfill the ‘eat’ section:
Norway (except maybe not since a Google search for ‘Norwegian food’ revealed this: I may not know much about vegetarianism since I am still relatively new to it…but am pretty certain that the dish below is not kosher with the veggies)
Italy (because of the whole ‘Catholic’ thing). Sadly, I won’t have Elysa, Brad, and Tony to run around Rome with. Which means no ‘God Save the Queen’ BBC news casts in the Vatican. Maybe I will go back to Venice? Or to Naples again to see Pompeii again.
Alternatively, I could go to Greece, where the orthodox tradition is still going strong. (And by Greece, I really mean the Greek Islands. I want sun!)
The final third of the movie dealt with ‘love’. Julia Roberts/the author heads to Bali, Indonesia to practice her newfound spirituality…but finds love on the way.
I guess this third one is out since I am not looking for love and, indeed, probably would not welcome it at this point. I can’t even manage to successfully be broken up (as in no contact, no feelings, etc.) with my ex-boyfriend, so there is no ‘moving on to the next one’ until that situation is resolved.
But if I were going to look for love, I would probably head to:
Ireland (specifically in the Wicklow mountain. If love can’t be found here, then it isn’t anywhere)
Denmark: They know how to color coordinate.
Slovenia : Just because it tends to be ignored. (And look at those mountains)
In reality, however, this would fail as an ‘eat, pray, love’ trip. Why? Because I really have no intention of doing 2 of the 3. I will eat, of course, but not to the excess one would expect in devoting an entire trip to eating. This is even more true since the vast majority of this trip would occur before my marathon and I need to be very careful about what I eat. (Also because my digestive system has zero tolerance for unexpected foods (heck, it has zero tolerance for foods I eat on a daily basis) and would go into active rebellion, thus making me miserable). I also have no intention of falling in ‘love’ on this trip. Indeed, it would be an unwelcome occurrence since a) it would mean that I’ve lost my damn mind, and b) could only bring heartache as I will be heading back to the US in June. This just leaves ‘praying’ and even though the G-man and I are on better terms as of late…I still don’t know if I’m comfortable going on a trip for an extended pilgrimage.
So there goes the ‘eat, pray, love’ theme. Guess I will just have to travel for the sake of traveling. And once that starts, who knows where I will end up?
Note: I would like to point out to certain readers (you know who you are) that all of these countries are in Europe and none are in active conflict/rebellion. Aforementioned readers should also note that their cautions were heeded and should be happy with the tentative choices I have made.
Today has not been a good day. I was going to post about overcoming adversity, but my current mood is not one which makes me feel like I actually could overcome a challenge.
Things currently pissing me off:
1. It is cold, windy, and miserable. Inside my room. With the heat on. (And my space heater has yet to arrive at Argos…despite the fact that I ordered it before break.)
2. Being assigned a philosophical topic for my Concepts & Methods seminar presentation. I present on March 4th (the day after I have another presentation for Middle East class) on the question: ‘Is the Habermasian account of emancipation a sustainable approach to problems of world order?’ Er…what? Guess that is what I will find out. (And, not so luckily, the assigned reading for this topic consists of 30 articles and books…so I will be finding out what this is in a lot of detail.)
3. Self-doubt and lack of self-confidence. Can I actually do any of this? I have so much to complete in the next few (10) weeks…will I be able to tough it out? Will I meet my parents’ (and my own) expectations? Will I ever get a job or shall I be doomed to working at Target for the rest of my life?
4. Loneliness. When things ended with my boyfriend, I also lost one of my closest friends and confidants. Add to this the fact that my friends are scattered about the globe (quite literally – one is in St. Kitt’s, another in Mali) and it makes it hard to keep in touch, despite the wonderful advances in technology.
Things that make me happy:
1. Family and friends. Without them I would not be doing as well as I currently am.
2. Hot chocolate.
3. I have successfully completed my second week of deliberately being a vegetarian. Last term I did not eat a lot of meat because it was a) expensive and b) not possible to keep it for more than a day in my fridge (and certainly not in my postage stamp-sized freezer). But since reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer, I realized that I may as well make the commitment and deliberately choose not to eat meat (as opposed to simply abstaining for convenience sake). Of course, once one deliberately gives up anything, one begins to crave it all the more. This has meant that each time I walk through Clink and Wine Wharf where the Gourmet Burger Kitchen and the Angus & Blue restaurants are, and I smell the delicious scent of steak…I immediately have the craving for a burger. But so far I have held out, and the desire to actually consume a steak or burger has diminished significantly.
4. The upcoming BUCS Championship…and the free physiotherapist sessions that accompany it!
5. My Dad’s upcoming visit! Granted it is in mid-March…but that’s soon enough for me!
To whoever signed me up for eHarmony, London Loves, and Active Singles: I don’t quite know whether to be flattered that you believe my emotional fortitude so strong that I am ready to enter into another relationship or insulted that you doubt my ability to actually meet someone in real life. Perhaps a bit of both? Either way, thanks but no thanks. I’m not interested, not ready, and most definitely do not want. Check back in 2012 because at the moment I’m still a-hurtin’. (Also: you are sooo dead when I find out who did this. Revenge will be sweet.)
In other news: the London weather seems to have heard that MD was getting snow and felt obliged to mimic the conditions. Of course, all of this was on a much lesser scale (as in zero accumulation) than in the States, but it was still pleasant while it lasted. Much less pleasant was the fact that the temperature dropped about fifteen degrees overnight (which meant that my head felt like it was about to explode for half the day) and the wind gusts over the bridges became absolutely ridiculous.
Yesterday was the fifth London Colleges League race at Prospect Park in Reading. Since the course was only 2 miles (essentially a sprint), I ran 6.5 miles in the morning to keep on my marathon training plan. By the time I got back from the run, it was time to meet my team mates at Paddington Station where we took the mainland train to Reading. After a walk of a mile to Prospect Park, we were still really early for the race. We had a look at the course, essentially a giant football pitch, which was dominated by a rather steep hill. Perched at the top was a rather posh-looking pub that we were supposed to run to the left of before heading up another hill, dropping down a very steep incline, and then running around the long length of the park to the finish line. Since the race was quite far out (by London standards — in reality it took about 40 minutes to get there), not many teams showed up. There were only about 35 women participating, although it was hard to tell since both women and men race together, and the mass of bodies at the start line makes acquiring an accurate estimate quite difficult.
For me the race went ok. I finished 15th (out of that unknown number of women) and was 2nd on my team. I went out quite slow at the start as I got blocked in by some slower runners and entered into a brief right with some low-hanging tree limbs that delayed me for a few seconds. The giant hill was the worst part since by the time I arrived at it, rain had started to fall and enough runners had gone before me that the ground had been churned to mud. Even with spikes on, I struggled to find my footing and almost went down on several occasions. Luckily I was able to recover some ground on the downhill, especially on the steep drop, since I am not one for ‘playing it safe’ in terms of slowing down to prevent injury. I attribute my ability to stay upright on these harrowing plunges and bouts of speed to my larger than average feet (size 11′s…GAH) which, if they are not good for this, are good for nothing at all. After the race, I cheered in my team mates and then made the long trip back to London (made a bit more exciting by the fact that we arrived at Reading Central station only to find that we had 3 minutes to catch a London train located on the other side of the station).
This weekend will include a 12 mile run and then next weekend is BUCS!
For your viewing & auditory pleasure:
I made this video in February 2009 when I was studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh. My friend Elysa was celebrating her 22nd birthday and I wanted to make her a present that would commemorate our shared time at Oxford. What a blast from the past!
Adele’s cover of ‘Promise This’ by Cheryl Cole. She is such a wonderful singer.
How are these two videos linked? Adele (the singer in the second video) also sings the first song featured in my Oxford video.
Upcoming: (More for my benefit than anyone else’s)
Thur, Feb 3: Middle East paper #1 due (3000 words)
Friday, Feb 4-Sun, Feb 6: British Universities Cross Country Championships in Birmingham
Fri, Feb. 11: OSINT seminar presentation of collection strategy, analysis, and budgetary requirements in Democratic Republic of Congo crisis
Wed., Feb. 23: Last LCL XC race in Uxbridge
Fri, Feb. 25: OSINT paper #2 due (3250 words)
Sat, Feb. 26: Hyde Park Relays!
Thur, Mar. 3: Middle East seminar presentation on economic liberalization
Wed, Mar. 9: Teddy Hall relays in Oxford
Sun, Mar 13- Sat. Mar 19: Possible visit by my Dad
Mar. 23: Exam schedule released (I find out when I can come home!)
Thurs, Mar. 25: Middle East paper #2 due (3000 words)
Fri, Apr. 1: Concepts and Methods paper due (3000 words)
Apr. 25: OSINT paper #3 (3250 words) due
Apri. 26: Middle East paper #3 (3000 words) due
I started writing a new blog entry at 7:30pm when I finally finished eating, showering, and recovering after today’s cross country race, but, unfortunately (and not all too surprisingly considering my incredible time-wasting abilities), time escaped me and it is now too late to actually finish that post. Yes, at 10:47PM it is bed-time. Back in the day (as in less than two weeks ago), my family and friends used to accuse me of early onset elderlyism (this is a word as of right now) due to my fondness for single-malt whisky and penchant for reading AARP magazine (which I have a subscription to via my father). I used to laugh this off or indignantly reply in the negative but I am beginning to believe that this is perhaps more true than I would like to acknowledge. Even though I don’t actually fall asleep for hours due to my chronic insomnia, I still need to be in bed, lying down, by 11 or else I am absolutely crabbit the next day.
Fun Fact: Crabbit is Scottish slang for ill-tempered, grouchy, curt, in a bad mood (especially in the morning)
In the upcoming post to be released tomorrow:
1. Running (6.5 miles yesterday morning followed by a 2-mile cross country race in Reading)
2. BUCS in Birmingham (the excitement begins!)
3. Library Etiquette (or, why I don’t go to the library)
4. Life in general
Nothing too exciting, but at least it is something. (And proof to the parentals that I am still alive, kicking, and have not suddenly booked a flight to Morocco or Burkina Faso because I am 22 years old. (DISCLAIMER: I wouldn’t because I am very close to my parents…and because I hope to resume living in their house when I return to the US in four months. Pissing them off would be a very bad thing in that regard.)
I am still alive, I promise.
In the past few days I have:
1. Run 11 miles – my second ‘long run’ for my marathon training. My route took me over Tower Bridge…
past the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben…
and finally over Vauxhall Bridge to stop in front of the SIS (British Intelligence Agency) Headquarters.
My trusty Garmin told me that it was 5.5 miles from my flat to the end of Vauxhall Bridge if one follows the Thames Path along the northern bank. It was lucky that I had my Garmin because if I had been going on ‘feel’ alone I would have thought that it was more like 16 miles. But I was tired that day after being ill, so I can’t feel too bad. Managed to do the entire thing in an hour and 25 minutes. (The run to Vauxhall was easy…it was turning around and running the 5.5 miles back that was a killer – ).
2. Signed up for the Edinburgh Half Marathon on April 10th. Why? Because: a) I need to run a half marathon prior to running my marathon, b) it gives me something to look forward to, and c) I ran my first ever race, the May 2009 Bupa Great Run, in Edinburgh. In addition, I sense that this will be the final step in ‘reclaiming’ the city for myself. Those readers who are aware (or who have worked out the details through their close association with me) of the devastating event that befell me during my study abroad in Edinburgh in 2009 know that returning to Scotland’s capital is a particularly hard task for me. I did so this summer for my internship, but it proved to be a challenge each and every day. Still, I was able to overcome many of the negative connotations that I had developed with Edinburgh. Running (and hopefully being successful) in a half marathon in Edinburgh will be, I feel, my way of demonstrating how far I’ve come, how life truly can move on even when the worst has befallen you.
3. Booked my bed and breakfast for the Shakespeare Marathon on May 8th. I’ll be arriving on Friday, May 6th so that I can look around Statford-upon-Avon (to which I have never been) before the marathon on Sunday.
Unfortunately, this is not the official image of the Shakespeare Marathon. I wish it was. The official one is much more boring and doesn’t even picture Shakespeare at all (rather it features the Rotary Club’s wheel since they are the ones hosting the marathon). I like this one much better. (I still entertain hopes of being able to recite Shakespeare throughout the entire race.)
4. Finished my research for my Politics of the Middle East paper on the permanent-status negotiations of 2000/01. (Now to write the 3000 word paper…)
5. Completed my CITI research certification course for my internship at American University’s COTELCO (so that I can now legally contribute to their projects). Teleconferencing is the future, my friends. I can have an internship based in DC AND go to graduate school in London. It’s marvelous. I just wish that long-distance relationships could be (or have been) so easy to manage.
6. Found out that I got a 67 (B+ and ‘merit’ equivalent in the UK) on my horrible (for me to write, at least) Theories of International Relations essay and a 71 (A and ‘distinction’ equivalent) on my Open Source Intelligence Essay. Just a May exam to sit for Theories (to make up the other 50% of my grade) and 2 more essays of 3,250 words for OSINT!
Did I get to the library today? No. Did I go to class? No. Why?
Two words: stomach flu.
I should have predicted this, of course. I get sick every single time I make a transatlantic flight. I think it has to do with the fact that my already-weak immune system, when faced with the prospect of being surrounded by germ-carrying strangers for 8 hours, simply gives up entirely. At the same time, it doesn’t exactly help that I keep forgetting to take ‘Airborne’ or any of the vitamin C tablets. Er…next time!
Hopefully I’ll kick this nasty illness by tomorrow. It is always depressing to set your alarm for 7:30AM, be sick for hours but continue to cling to the delusion that you might manage to salvage the night and be productive the next day, and collapse into bed only to have the alarm go off, reminding you that yes, you were up all night. Instead of the productive day that I had planned, I was instead forced to remain my room all day trying to sleep, read about Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and schedule my workload for the next few weeks. As it turns out, it is perhaps good that I did so because I have a lot more work due than I thought. I have a 3000 word essay and presentation on February 3rd, a 45-minute present on OSINT as applied to the DCR crisis on February 11th, and a 3250 word essay due on February 25th. I also have essays and presentations in March and April, but I would prefer not to list them out as this will serve only to panic me. Oh, and at some point I have to start my dissertation.
It wears me out just thinking about it.
Life goes on as it must. I wish I could say that things are getting better, but they aren’t, not really. Oh well…I will take it one day at a time. And thanks to the awesome support I’ve been getting from friends and family, I think I will come through this ok. What is going to happen will happen…I have no other choice but to sit back and wait. (Anyone who knows me well will know how incredibly frustrating this is for me! I am not patient!)
I’m back in the UK. I flew from BWI last night, arrived at Heathrow by 9AM, and was back in my flat by 11:30. I had a good cry for about half an hour (pathetic, I know, but I had to begin the rather emotionally devastating process of unpinning photos from my bulletin board, which necessitated a bout of crying), went to Sainsbury’s for groceries, and then high-tailed it over to Regent’s Park for XC practice.
In the recent film The King’s Speech starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush (which I saw recently and, if the Academy has any sense at all, will earn Firth an Oscar), the scene where George VI (Firth) and his speech therapist Lionel Logue (Rush) discuss Edward VIII’s impending abdication was filmed in Regent’s Park. I see this site every Wednesday (sadly minus the sexiness is that Colin Firth and with considerable less fog (still, I suppose the directors had to let the audience know that they were in London somehow):
Going to XC practice turned out to be a bit of an (overly) ambitious move for me. I made it through the track workout (1400m, 1050m, 700m, 350m) but was slow and tired.
Tomorrow it is back to class for, as Chris “the Ingrahammer” dubbed it, ‘King’s part 2′. I have International Politics of the Middle East from 2 to 5:30. Before that I will most likely be chained in the library doing reading. (I suppose it would be wise to take a day off from running/exercising considering that I’ve not done so for the last 2 weeks and feel my body is reaching the limits of its endurance. Also considering that I have an 11 mile run on Saturday. Gotta love marathon training!)
January 27: XC race @ Reading
February 3: IPME paper due (Bah…)
February 4: OSINT presentation on crisis in DRC
February 4-6: BUCS XC Championships @ Birmingham
“If you love me let me go
back to that bar in Tokyo
where the demons from my past leave me in peace
I’ll be animating every night
the grass will be greener on the other side
and the vampires and werewolves won’t seek their teeth
I’m sick of dancing with the beast” – The Wombats, Tokyo
“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”
And so during today’s run I watched as the times on my Garmin crept from their usual 7:15-7:30 pace down to 6:30 and then, for a very brief time, 5:30! Clearly I had a lot of anger and other emotions to work out. It snowed here in Laurel a few days ago, and while less than 2 inches actually accumulated on the ground, it was enough to make parts of my run rather harrowing. The snow has mostly melted by now, but was pretty while it lasted. They are calling for more snow next Tuesday, which should be interesting considering that I am flying back to London on Tuesday night. Hmm…
So…self-indulgent post over. I will not look back into the past, only towards the future. Come on 2011…show me what (or perhaps who?) else you’ve got!
P.S. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has called/texted/supported me during this tough time. You have no idea how much it means to me. Thank you!
2011 is here! I kicked off the first day of the year by waking up at the absolutely ridiculous hour of 4:15AM (made more unappealing when coupled with the fact that I didn’t actually fall asleep until 3:30). Seriously, I didn’t get up this early even when I was doing crew. Back then, I got to sleep until a somewhat more tolerable 4:50. Still, I managed to wake up with minimal (audible) grumbling and drove my Dad the twenty-five minutes to BWI so that he could catch his flight to Hawaii.
After collapsing into bed upon my return home, I was able to get another few hours of sleep, grab breakfast, and then go for my first run of 2011. Managed 6.44 miles (closer to 6.75 since I somehow managed to stop my Garmin early on in the run) at a pace of 7:36. Not too shabby. Now if I could only get rid of the lingering pain in my toes/ball of left foot, then I’d be set.
Tomorrow brings new adventures: making a cheesecake (my first time!) for my brother’s 20th birthday on the 3rd…and celebrating my 1-year anniversary with Drew.