Wednesday, January 25, 2006

So here's how it went:

21:33 - arrive home, unlock door, enter, shut door, lock door
21:34 - remove shoes
21:35 - enter bedroom, remove outer jacket, remove inner jacket, store keys/wallet
21:39 - enter bathroom, brush teeth, resolve to floss, fail to floss, exit bathroom
21:41 - open fridge, remove iced tea, close fridge, open cupboard, remove glass, close cupboard, pour iced tea, open fridge, remove elephant giraffe, remove elephant, replace iced tea, close fridge, drink iced tea
21:42 - grimace, swish, spit
21:43 - place glass, greet couch, stretch
21:47 - stretch
22:03 - stretch
22:10 - yawn
22:12 - notice "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" on the coffee-table and despite a will of steel and certain knowledge of impending doom throw caution and sleep-related responsibility to the wind and resolve to read the back cover
01:02 - finish book, finish iced tea, finish blog entry, call it a night

And that's it really. Didn't quite stay up all night, but I can recommend the book, which is by Mark Haddon, and which is a fun read with just the right hint of sentimentality.

*******

You know those Mensa intelligence tests? They always make me feel dumb when I stall out on question three (usually something about UGAINA and whether it's most likely a river, city, or plant) and then have to go lie down because my head hurts. Intelligence is kind of a funky thing that way: "what does it mean really?" and all that. But I came across this other type of Mensa Test the other day and it was kind of fun. Besides, it called me a genius (26/33) and who doesn't like that? Of course, the next day they put up Part 2 and said a bunch of things about cultural bias and now I'm just a "sharp mind (probably a genius)," which is internet testing for you. Anyway, it's fun with words, so if you're into that sort of thing, enjoy.

*******

I realized yesterday that I've been away from Canada for just over 5 months already. It's extraordinary how much your perspective shifts. It's not that I've been dramatically enlightened by the experience... but I do feel looser, as though some things have come undone that I didn't know were there. A loss of certain cultural points of reference. An outside look at Canada's "footprint" on global events. It's enough to reassure me about my place here, to let me finally shake off the rust of the transition and get down to business.

A Conservative government? We'll survive.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Austria indeed. So now I'm left with the uneviable task of unburying myself from almost one full month of unanswered email, among other things. The end of a landmark semester, Christmas, New Year's, and the start of another term have all come and gone, carrying with them the people and places in between. I could almost let it go at that, considering the pull of looking back and the pull of looking forward are almost at an equilibrium here, today, on January 23. Though I believe I've promised a feature-length presentation. Well, a highlight reel will have to do. In thirty seconds, the ghost of Christmas past:

Christmas 2005:


Christmas 2005

Travelling:


Two travellers

Prague:


Charles' Bridge at Night

Austria:


From an Austrian Train

Schloss Mittersill:


The Schloss Street Boys - Rowing Away

And... done! Which pretty much covers our adventures, during which Ali came to visit on her way to Bangladesh, and during which we spent many hours folded up into bus seats in order to see as much as possible while spending as little as possible. All in all, a quality holi-dee.

*******

But wait, what about the action? What about the part where Ali finishes her job in Toronto in mid-December and with an ocean to conquer decides to do it all in one valiant run? The part where I wrap up a semester with muted heroics of my own and after a week in Lithuania, we cast off on a valiant expedition to find the lost castle of Schloss Mittersill (a Christian retreat centre in Austria) via Prague? Because I remember that part! It's cinematic brilliance! Prague is fascinating! Victor, our Canadian Study Abroad co-conspirator, buys absinthe! I buy chips! Ali buys--wait, Jared and Victor are already leaving! So much for the Christmas market!

Right. Well, go watch Speed again. Because learning about what to do in a hostage situation is more important than the fact that New Year's at a castle in the Austrian Alps is a lot of fun (and you weren't there). Because it turns out that Ali has all kinds of "family connections" with the peeps at Schloss Mittersill, and so with style and panache we could turn up our aristocratic noses as they rolled out the red carpet...

Fine, so mostly we just slept, ate, read by the fire, and spent some quality downtime (including Uno on steroids) with fascinating people from all over. There was also one, carefully calculated, precisely precisioned day of downhill skiing; the weather could not have been more perfect. Transportation to and fro went a bit awry, but what ski-story would be complete without an elderly non-English-speaking Austrian ski instructor and a hitched ride long after dusk?

*******

Yes, the whole shebang was glorious. And for cake-icing, a heavy Austrian snowstorm conjured delayed trains, a bonus day in Vienna, and another bonus day in Warsaw. In truth, Warsaw was a bit of a bleak return after the sunny days we spent at the foot of the Alps, but despite this, the older sections of town were well-worth our somewhat freezing and abbreviated walking tour:


Warsaw, Poland

And then it was all over, and we were waking up at 4:30am to drive Ali to the airport in Latvia and I was teaching classes with "English" in front of them instead of (well, as well as) "Business" in front of them and students were asking me who Michel Foucault was and grades needed to be changed and people were starting the first season of "Lost" again and Ali was landing in Dhaka and I was hitting snooze for the seventh time and suddenly we were four time zones and sixty degrees celcius apart and no, I still haven't answered your emails yet. Sorry about that. (It sincerely does mean a lot to me, and makes being so far from the comfort of the familiar just that much more possible.)

*******

So yeah, a great couple of weeks. Looking back, that first semester was a great experience: stretching at times, extremely educational (on both sides of the academic fence, I hope), and full of great people. Looking forward, I'm really glad I'm here for a second term, and with a schedule that isn't quite so "ow it hurts me," I'm looking forward to staying up past 10:30pm every once in a while. Though connecting that number with "bedtime," even only mentally, still makes me wonder at how much can change in a couple of months. Which is why I'm staying up all night tonight and blogging my experiences real-time. Wait for it...