Monthly Archives: February 2011

Thesis Party! Part II

I heard back from my thesis advisor today, and while I now know that Spaniards can be very enthusiastic by nature, I don’t think this was merely a cultural response to my plans.

“You surprised me,” he said. “I sincerely think this is an excellent idea.”

“Anibal Nunez?” he said. And I’m thinking, oh no. He’s going to tell me there’s not enough literature written for me to use in a substantial research paper.
“I met him!” he explained.


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Today is Belgium’s 250th day without a working government.


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Career Planning Day

Yesterday there were no classes for senior assessment, so, given that my life has taken several unexpected turns since September and I have less clue what to do with it than I would with raw meat if someone told me to cook steak, I made an appointment with our university’s Career and Academic Planning Center.

“Help,” I said. “I don’t know what to do when I graduate.”

I got a few things out of this session:

1. Take the GRE. Now. If you retake it, it’s not like the SAT–it’s an average of the two. This is slightly more information than I got when I took the practice GRE last Saturday and the representative from Kaplan told us all that unless we took their practice course we would die in a horrible conflagration caused by the piles of rejected grad school applications which the admissions officers would gleefully burn while dancing around them stark naked, and our applications Would be in That Pile.

2. Apply for both jobs AND graduate schools, and then decide. Since this involves a parallelism Faulkner would have been proud of,(the apps for US schools and European schools go out at the same time, followed by the resumes for both US and European jobs) and the need to bilocate (remember, I have to be in the library working on my senior thesis while simultaneously doing all these applications) I’m not sure how this is going to go.

I asked for information on student loans. “Ask so-and-so in the Finance Department,” she said. “I have no idea if the FAFSA can help you get loans to study in Europe.”

“Scholarships?” I said hopefully. Surely she had some information on Fulbright, or something.  Not to mention the fact that the fifth parallel path had emerged at that moment (Is this a Buddhist process?) since the scholarships have to be sent out along with the US grad school apps and the European apps and the resumes for US jobs and the resumes for European jobs (apparently not. In Buddhism you choose one of these.) “You would have to check the websites of those specific organizations,” she said.

I asked for information on jobs for Americans abroad. “Check the US government jobs website,” she said. “You might find something.”

I asked for information on internships. She didn’t even have a website to give me for that one.

Isn’t she supposed to know things like this?

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My Top Ten List of Things to Do on Vacation

My Personal Francophone was, of course, delighted to hear that I was coming in March.

“Am I supposed to make plans?” I asked him. “I don’t want to show up and make you figure everything out.” I know next to nothing about Brussels besides the fact that it is the E.U. headquarters, but figured courtesy demanded I do at least a little more research about landmarks I wanted to visit, other than the fountain of the little boy pissing.

He laughed. “Don’t plan too much,” he said. “I want to surprise you.”

I don’t know if I should have told him that most of my plans revolve around food. He knows I already like Belgian coffee, but he doesn’t know that thus far my list of things to do goes something like this:

1. drink coffee

2. eat chocolate

3. drink more coffee

4. eat fries with mayonnaise (I’m hoping this becomes a girl-time thing, since he hates mayo and his little sister loves it.)

5. drink more coffee

6. eat waffles

7. eat waffles while drinking coffee

8. eat more chocolate

9. eat chocolate and waffles while drinking coffee

10. drink Grimbergen (Vilvoorde, where he lives, is actually the next town over from Grimbergen, which is named after the abbey which makes/made the beer I love). Finish off Grimbergen with fries and mayo.


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Spring Break!!

The time-honored college tradition calls for spring break somewhere in Florida or California. Somewhere warm, with lots of girls in bikinis who shouldn’t have passed the eighth grade and guys in Speedos who shouldn’t really have passed the sixth grade, and lots of beer.

I might be drinking some beer this year, but when I do, it will be a darker, sweeter ale than Natty Light.

In a tiny country across the ocean famous for its chocolate and cursed for its frequent rain, my companion will be, not crowds of scantily clad beachgoers, but My Adorable Personal Francophone.

I am so very lucky.


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Speaking of Jacko’s Bar

What is WITH the Spanish fascination for Michael Jackson?

I admit, the man had some good music. Like, when he was young and black and could actually sing.

And even some of his later rock music is good. Though I admit to preferring Alien Ant Farm’s cover of “Smooth Criminal” to his original.

But, one evening in Salamanca, the mandatory Cultural Activity was a show at the CAEM, which is the Kennedy Center of Salamanca, only smaller. Said show was a tribute to Jackson.

HOW do Spaniards reconcile Michael Jackson the musician, who had some good stuff, with Michael Jackson the man, who was a probable pedophile, slept in a coffin, bleached his skin, and liked to grab his junk all the time?And yet, they do. On a street about two blocks down from Mari and Ricardo’s is a small, dingy looking daytime bar called Jacko’s, rather like a diner, only creepier and with more Jackson memorabilia. I never summoned the courage to go when I was there, preferring to stand outside on the curb staring in a horrified state of fascination, as one does at particularly gross roadkill or supermodels whose answer is “Like, world peace?”.

Now, I wish I had gone into that bar. I really do. Mainly because Jackson, like me, was vegetarian and maybe it would have been the only place in Spain with tofu.

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My coffee, was, apparently Not on Fire After All

Picture this: an innocent student enters a Salamanca bar. She orders a coffee-based alcoholic beverage, indulges her mild case of pyromania when the waiter sets her cognac on fire, and then enjoys her cup of caffeinated, yet alcoholic warmth.

Exit student, warm and considerably more relaxed than before consumption.

Six weeks later, she finds herself sitting in a translation course. Her professor asks the class, what is a carajillo? Translate this to English, please.

Betrayed! Shocked and stunned and metaphorically hit over the head by betrayal!

She tells the story. Her voice moves at all the right points, she smiles. The audience, also known as her classmates, laughs at all the right times. She is excited to actually know what is going on, for once. To have the answer.

“Well,” her professor says, “that sounds more like a quemado than a carajillo. Quemado is Galician, actually.”

She refrains from pointing out that she was living in Salamanca, in fact has never even been to Galicia. But inside she begins to suspect…

“It’s kind of a man drink,” he says. “Spanish men, sitting at outdoor tables with their cigars and their cards, drinking carajillos…”

She wonders why her female literature professor recommended it in the first place, then remembers said professor’s self-diagnosed weirdness, in the form of fondness for black cats and tombs of famous writers.

“Were there coffee beans and lemon peel in it?” he asks.

“Yes,” she admits.

Quemado,” he says.

Her memory crumbles into the dust and is swept onto the cobblestones of medieval Spanish streets, her opinion of said cafe now as grubby as Jacko’s bar, which she approached in fear and trembling but never entered.

Eva, I swear on the grave of Bertoldt Brecht, I am truly, deeply, sorry.


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