Friday, July 30, 2004

Defining My Affiliation

I never used to consider myself very political. I followed politics superficially, and I voted, but I never really put a lot of thought into my role in the whole political system. When I turned 18, I registered as a Republican, because that's how my parents were registered, and while I didn't vote the party line, if I didn't know much about the candidates, I generally picked the Republican candidate. As I've gotten older, however, I've taken the time to form my own political opinions. Last year, after much thought on the issues that were most important to me, I changed my affiliation to the Democratic party, and while watching the Democratic Convention over the past week, I've reaffirmed my decision. As the election approaches, an election that is of great importance to both the nation and the world (trust me, it's a huge topic abroad), I hope everyone takes the time to reconsider what it is they truly believe in and how these beliefs line up politically. Don't vote for a party just because you always have. Don't vote for the candidate whose commercials most stuck in your mind. And please, don't not vote because you don't think any of the candidates are worth a damn. Take some time to decide what is important to you and then decide which candidate best represents your interests. Read the paper, watch television, check out the candidates' websites, and in November go vote. (For Kerry.) Okay, while I really wish you'd vote for Kerry, I mainly just want you to go out and vote. It's your country. It's your vote. Don't waste it.

And for my own and your examination, this is why I'm a Democrat.
*I'm not in this alone. You're not in this alone. We're a world, a country, a community of people, and we each have a responsibility to each other. I'm not rich. I'll never be rich. And if I ever got to be that rich, I would be more than happy to have some of my money go to help those who need it. Yes, I'm not so naive that I don't realize that some people are poor because they are lazy. But a whole hell of a lot more people are poor because of situations they can't control. I/you/anyone I know personally am/are/is lucky. We were born to families who wanted us and who have done everything within their power to give us the best future possible. I have enough money that all of my needs and many of my wants are taken care of. I have been given opportunity after opportunity. If I don't "make it", it's no one's fault but my own. Many people, however, aren't given any of that. Their parents don't want them and can't provide for them. They've had to take care of themselves their whole lives and often education, jobs, health, etc. have fallen to the wayside. Can we really expect them to "make it" without help? I doubt I would, and if I were in that situation, I would only hope that someone would be willing to part with a little bit of their extra to give me my basics.

*The environment is in dire straits. Pollution is skyrocketing. And a lot of the damage is irreversible. I love our national parks, our wildlife, our oceans, our country's magnificent beauty, and I want future generations to enjoy it. Our parks aren't for mining, oil-drilling, or clear-cutting. Instead of asking for more and more, we need to concentrate on ways to use less and less. The technology is there, but it's not getting developed right now. And it's not going to be developed until people stand up and demand it.

*All people deserve full and equal rights, not just the people that a select group of us likes. Marriage is a basic human right that should be extended to ALL people.

*Our nation is built on the principle of separation of church and state. We are not a christian country, anymore than we are a jewish country, an islamic country, or an atheist country. As such, our programs and laws should be political and not religious. We cannot legislate morals, nor should we try to.

*My right to free speech, free assembly, free press, freedom from search and seizure, and my freedom to be considered innocent until proven guilty is protected by the Constitution. Don't deny it to me. Don't monitor my phone calls, my library books, my comings and goings. I'm not a criminal. I shouldn't be treated as such.

*War should never be the first answer. And war should never be entered into without a plan for peace. Yes, we should defend ourselves. Yes, we should fight terrorism. But we should attack the terrorists, not seek revenge or address old grudges. We should equip our soldiers with the best we can give, and we should never send them into a situation that could have been solved in any other manner. And we should not go at it alone. We are one country. We need friends. The world is bigger than the U.S. We need to remember that.

*Healthcare is a universal right. In the end this will save us all money. Prevention and research is much cheaper than emergency care and chronic and fatal disease.

*I believe in the little man. The little man is the heart and soul of America, and if we don't protect him, big business is going to kill him. And big business isn't anybody but the big man's friend.

*I need a job. A good job. And I need an economy that's going to provide me with one. I need an economy that is going to keep jobs here, not reward them for taking jobs overseas and further trample on the world's downtrodden by paying them very little for a whole lot of work.

There are more reasons, but that covers quite a lot of them. Take the time and think about what you believe. Then take your beliefs to the streets and to the polls. Our national apathy is disgusting.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Why Am I In A Handbasket?

Inspired by my brothers, I took the Dante's Inferno Test, and here are my results.

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Fifth Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Moderate
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)High

Take the Dante's" Inferno Hell Test.

I don't really think that's my best fit, but hey I'm not God. I guess answering that I hate a lot of people and sometimes laugh at other's misfortunes didn't do me a lot of good. The thing is there aren't really many specific people I hate, just lots of groups of people (dumb people, rightwing extremists, ueber-conservative Christians, etc.). But at least I'm not gluttonous, prodigal, or avaricious. That, I think, is worse. What good is not being hateful if you're still going to hoard everything for yourself??? Hmmm. I might hate, but I'll still help you out. And if that won't get me into heaven, then I don't know what will!!!

Where are you?

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Does Anyone Have a Big, Sturdy Box They're Willing to Give Me?

Why is it so hard to find somewhere to live? Why can't the place I'm imagining in my head just magically appear? Life would be so much easier then. It's really hard trying to find a place that meets my living criteria and also meets my budget...especially when I'm looking for a place in the DC area while living in Louisville. Jeff's been working hard looking at places I find online, but so far things aren't going that well. Nowhere has yet jumped out as "the place". And the fact that boys and girls think differently doesn't really help. What Jeff thinks makes a place good or bad isn't necessarily what I think makes a place good or bad. He's more practical while I'm more emotional. He's looking for functional, I'm looking for aesthetically pleasing (of course, I do think that functional is good too). It's rough. So keep your fingers crossed that something works out soon. I might go crazy otherwise.

And if you live in Louisville, thank your lucky stars. I was reading housing ads in the C-J yesterday, and I can rent an entire house in the Highlands for less than I can rent a studio apartment way on the outskirts of the DC area. Absurd! Ah, Louisville and its low cost of living, I will miss you.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Reunion Time

This past weekend was my five year high school reunion. I, along with about 1/3 of my class, gathered at Sacred Heart on Friday and then at Saint’s on Saturday to celebrate this occasion. As I wandered through the halls of SHA with the girls with whom I went to Panama City for Senior Spring Break (and with whom I haven’t really seen much of since), it seemed hard to believe that it had been five years. As we searched out our old classrooms and lockers, it felt like we could have still been students at Sacred Heart. But as I admired engagement rings, met husbands, and talked about careers, it seemed that high school was history long past. In some way, five years isn’t really a very long time at all. But in other ways, it’s quite a stretch of time. It is, after all, longer than the amount of time we actually spent in high school.

I had a good time hanging out with the groups of girls I had hung out with and floated between during high school. Of the girls who belonged to the groups I ran around with at SHA, there are some who I still keep in touch with on a regular basis, there are some I get sporadic emails from, there are some who I only run into on occasion, and there are some who I’ve never seen since the day we graduated. So the reunion was fun in that I got to see at least some girls from each of the groups I hung out with and got to catch up on what almost everyone I was interested in is up to these days. I liked my class when I was a student at SHA, and I still like it now, five years later. We have all types, but we’re a pretty good group that gets along despite differences.

One thing that it seemed many of the graduates of the class of ’99 had in common was that they had returned to Louisville for careers, law school, med school, marriages, and life in general. The majority of my friends are settled here, and of those who aren’t, it seems that many plan to return soon. And while they all told me how jealous they were of my adventures, I found myself a bit jealous of their lives. Those who have stayed close to Louisville or who have returned often have been able to take the bonds that were built at Sacred Heart and develop them much more than I have been able to. They meet for weekly dinners and after-work drinks. They always have someone nearby who they can reminisce with; someone who knows their history almost as well as they do. Like my parents, they will have lifelong friends. The people they will hang out with when they are fifty are people who will be able to recall what they were like when they were fifteen.

While some may think, "Oh God, who would want anyone to be able to remember that?" I think there’s something special about it. I’ve thought about this a lot, probably because I always seem to be running off somewhere, making friends who are scattered throughout the country and the world. While I spent the first eighteen years of my life here in Louisville, I went seventeen hours away to school for Texas. Then for one of those four years, I traveled thousands of miles away to Germany. After that, I again jumped across the ocean, but of course I had to go somewhere completely different. Now I’m on my way to DC where I repeatedly state I will only stay for a few years before moving elsewhere for grad school and then probably again elsewhere for a career. Different people hold different parts of my history, and it’s doubtful that all of these people will ever be in one place at one time.

I wouldn’t trade my experiences or my friendships. They are who I am. I’ve made my decisions consciously and willingly. I treasure the fact that I can go to so many different places and have friends waiting for me there. I envy my friends who have the consistency of the past as a part of their present and their future, but I wouldn’t be satisfied with it for myself. I have an urge to go that I can’t, at least at this point in my life, ignore. But with every year I realize that in choosing one thing I sacrifice another. It isn’t possible to have it all. You can’t be everything you want to be. I don’t always know that I’m making the right choice, but I don’t feel like I’m making the wrong choice either. I’m not certain that there’s a right or wrong. There are many paths, all of which branch millions of times, and each time you’re only given a moment to choose. Maybe the path I’m on will lead me right back to the home where I started. Maybe it will lead me to a home I have yet to imagine. I have no way of knowing.

Like Bobbie Ann Mason wrote in Clear Springs, "It's an old question - the call of the hearth or the call of the wild? Should I stay or should I go? Who is better off, those who traipse around or those who spend decades in the same spot, growing roots?...We're always yearning and wandering whether we actually leave or not. In America, we all come from somewhere else, and we carry along some dream myth of home, a notion that something – our point of origin, our roots, the home country is out there. It’s a place where we belong, where we know who we are. Maybe it’s in the past…or maybe it’s somewhere ahead…Maybe we'll never find what we're looking for, but we have to look."

And that’s just it. I have to look.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Giving the Real World A Go

Although many of you already know, I thought I'd make it official by posting it on my blog. I have a job for the next year. Okay, technically it's an internship, but it pays, so I'm counting it as a job. Beginning September 13, I will be working in the Division of the Senior Historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. I'm really excited, because this is exactly what I wanted. I will be working in a museum whose focus is the subject area I am most intellectually curious about. I will get excellent experience in museum work and historical research. Plus I'll get to put my German language skills to good use. And people thought a German degree was useless. Ha, I'm showing them!

The internship doesn't pay much (not really enough to pay my bills to be truthful), so I'm still looking for something on the side. I've got resumes out for ESL teaching positions and a historic home guide position, and if I get something like that I'll be set. I'm confident that things will work out, and I'm really looking forward to it. The job sounds interesting, and I think it will be great preparation for graduate school in history (where I hope to be next year). And I'm excited about living in DC for a few years. It's going to be fun.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Forget Oprah...God Has a Book Club Too

This evening I went to the Louisville Free Public Library for the first time in at least a year. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but was merely accompanying my mom and looking for a book that seemed suitable for poolside reading. In addition to using the Dewey Decimal system numbers, the LFPL also identifies books with little stickers that help readers who are searching for books of a particular genre. Mystery books are marked with a sticker showing a magnifying glass. Westerns are marked with cowboy hats. Sci-fi/Fantasy books are also marked, although I can't remember the symbol. (Maybe UFOs??) These books have been marked for as long as I remember, and I've never thought much about it. The markings don't create categories but simply identify books belong to well-established genres. Today, however, there was a new marker on quite a large amount of books. The new marker was a cross and was labeled as Christian Fiction. I looked but didn't find any books marked with Stars of David or other such symbols. There was no Jewish Fiction, Muslim Fiction, Hindu Fiction, Buddhist Fiction, Atheist Fiction, etc. So what, I wondered, makes Christian Fiction worthy of its own special designation? Is it really that requested of a category? If it weren't identified as such would Christians not know what to read? Kind of insulting, isn't it? It seems to me that it is saying that if you're a good Christian this is the kind of fiction you should be reading and all the rest is god-forsaken trash to be left for the hell-bound non-believers. God forbid they pick up something like The Power and the Glory (I'm sure the whisky priest didn't make the list) or Their Eyes Were Watching God (faith without what is that?).  I can't help wondering what exactly is Christian Fiction and who designates it as such? Is it fiction that has God (the conventional Christian God of course) as a central character? Is it fiction that deals with Christian churches, ministers, and evangelism? Is it the type of fiction that is reprinted in magazines like Catholic Digest?  Or is it the "Left Behind" series?
Now the "Left Behind" series is one scary set of books. Maybe they should be cross-referenced as horror. I haven't read them, and I have no intention to, but there are millions of people around the world turning the books into bestsellers. Perhaps these numbers are the inspiration for the Christian Fiction label. From what I've heard about the books, they are books that vehemently preach Christianity as the one true way. Anyone who is not Christian is not simply living in the dark, but is actually despised by God. Whatever happened to the benevolent God figure I grew up with? Anyhow, the scary thing about these books is that they preach hatred toward non-Christians. They not only depict the terrible destruction that non-Christians will fact at the hand of God, but they celebrate it. In a sense, it's hate literature. It's literature that had it been written by a group of Muslims would be denounced as terroristic. Being that it's Christian though, we accept it or look the other way. Now I don't think we should ban the books (that's the job of the Christian right towards any book that is not as close to Christian fiction as they would like it to be), but I do think we should take it upon ourselves to have open and loud discussions about such books and the implications they have for our world. I'm not going to go on any longer about this, because Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times already wrote a very thoughtful article on this that I can't better. I suggest you read it.
I find all of this disconcerting. Why do we all keep turning to religion as the answer when time and time again it has shown to be the most divisive thing this world has known? If you don't believe me, reference the Crusades, the Holocaust, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the current bouts of terrorism rocking the world. Why is our way (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or whatever)always the right way? Why can't we see that whatever God it is we believe in, there's no way this is what he/she/it could want for the world? Why can't we just drop all the designations?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Is This Reverse Culture Shock?

Well I've been home for over a week now, so I guess it's time to update my blog. I don't have anything really specific to write about though, so I'm just going to go with some random thoughts about things I've noticed since I've been home.
  • Americans are fat. That is one of the first things I noticed upon returning to the country. I've heard that stereotype over and over every time I've been abroad, but this time back I noticed that it is really pretty true. Of course, not all Americans are fat, and not all Europeans are thin, but there are a dispropotionately large percentage of Americans who are fat. The worst of it is the number of young people who are fat. In general, I've found that fat Europeans tend to be old. Here the fat can't be categorized. Half of the people who are fat probably don't even think they are. For instance, as Jeff and I were leaving this restaurant in Maryland, two guys in their twenties walked in. They were nothing special; they were pretty much your average Joes. But both of them had little beer bellies that you knew would one day grow into big pot bellies. Not really a big deal at this stage, but at the age they were you'd think they'd take more interest in their health and looks. I don't know if I would have noticed before, but I do now. It's not pretty.
  • Restaurants in the US really like to get you in and out as fast as possible. It's a race against the clock. As soon as you sit down, your waiter/waitress wants to take your drink order. Two minutes later they want to know if you're ready to order. Then once your food comes they hound you about twenty times to see if they can get you anything else. Then without you even asking they bring the check and then hover until you pay and leave. I find it annoying, but generally most people here consider that good service. I probably once did too. But after two year-long experiences abroad, I've come to really appreciate the European way of eating. You don't go out just to eat, but to socialize. You better not be starving, because your food isn't taking any shortcuts to your table. It's definitely different at first, but after a while, you realize how nice it is. Nobody is hounding you, rushing you. If you want to sit for thirty minutes before you even open your menu, fine. If you want to order in bits and pieces, fine. If you want to stay for hours after you're done eating, fine. When the waiters/waitresses aren't depending on tips for their income, they don't really care if you occupy their table for the whole night. Of course, as you might expect, this sometimes results in poor service, but actually that's quite rare. I like eating out being an event. I'm going to miss that.
  • Humidity sucks. Once Greece got hot, it got really hot. The sun has a strange intensity there that I've never encountered anywhere else. But it's not humid. At least nothing like it is here. Even Egypt with its extreme temperatures wasn't like this. Here I find myself covered in a layer of sweat just after being outside for a few minutes. It's ridiculous.
  • While it's nice to be back in a country where I understand everything that is going on around me, it does have its downsides. Primarily, I can no longer say whatever I want about the people around me and be pretty certain that they aren't going to understand what I say. In Greece, I wasn't in danger of offending people with direct comments about their clothes, hair, conversation or whatever else about them caught my attention. Even those who understood English usually couldn't understand what we were saying, because once we got going we talked way too fast for their comprehension. It was nice. In a way it was like being invisible. That's one nice thing about being a foreigner. You can do what you want even if it is strange, and people just attribute it to you being a foreigner. It's kind of like diplomatic immunity.

Okay, that's all I've got for now. I'll write a better blog soon. My brain still doesn't seem to be working 100%. Yeah, yeah, I hear you saying that it never does. Gosh aren't you funny.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

That's A Wrap

After ten months and one week, my time in Athens has come to an end. In less than twelve hours, I will be on a plane heading back to the US. It's been a good ten months, and I am sure that I will look back on this year fondly. I was lucky to find a job that was as close to a paid vacation as one can get. I got to travel to ancient sites and relax on beautiful beaches. I got to live with five people who made every day interesting. Of those five, I know that I will remain close to two of them for a very long time. I had the opportunity to try out teaching, and upon realizing that it wasn't what I wanted to do, walk away without any repercussions. I was able to spend a year thinking about what it is I really want to do. That's a blessing that most people don't get. Instead of being thrown straight from college into the working world, I was given a much needed transition period. Really, it's been a good year. I couldn't have asked for more.

But I am not going to leave here reluctantly or full of sadness. I am finished with this year. I did what I came here to do, and I got out of it what I wanted, plus more. I leave fulfilled. I am looking forward to what awaits in the next year and all the years to come after that. I've realized as the year has come to a close and everyone but Kate and I has left, that I'm not the kind of person who tears up over endings. It's not that I'm not going to miss the people I'm leaving or that I don't appreciate the experience I've had. It's just that I'm able to look at it as one adventure set among many. There's so much more waiting for me that I can't get caught up in mourning the end of one thing. I'll carry the memories with me wherever I go. It was a wonderful year, but now it's time to move on. I can't stand in one place too long. There's too much world out there.

I can't wait to see those of you in the US. I've realized that wherever I am and whatever I'm doing, it's always the people I meet and come to love that matter most.

Monday, July 05, 2004


Yesterday was a historic day not just for the USA, but also for Greece. Last night, Greece won the Euro 2004 cup, in what is being called one of the most monumental wins in soccer history. It is being compared to the 1954 victory of Germany over Hungary in the World Cup, an event that is currently the topic of a book and film, "Das Wunder von Bern". Again Greece secured the victory with a header off a corner. They beat the Czech Republic in the same way, and they also beat France with a header, although off a regular cross and not a corner. The unlikely victory (Greece had 100-1 odds going into the games) was decribed on this way: "No team in a World Cup or previous European Championships have done what Greece have done here.
They have beaten the host nation twice, knocked out the holders (France), beaten the favourites (Czech Republic) and won the tournament with a foreign coach. To add to that, they had never previously won a match in a finals (meaning any international cup)." Pretty impressive, don't you think?

The best part was that Kate and I got to be a part of it. We went downtown to Exarthia, the student area of town, to watch the game in a cafe with a Greek friend and his friends. Lambros got to the cafe at 7pm and got us great seats right in front of the huge television that had been set up. The place was packed, as was every other cafe in the city, and those who hadn't secured a seat were standing a few people deep just to watch. When Greece scored in the 57th minute, the crowd went wild, cheering and hugging everyone in sight. For the rest of the game, everyone was holding their breath. And when it ended, the place erupted. It was the biggest victory many Greeks had ever experienced. We, along with the 3-4 million other people who live in Athens, made our way to Omonia Square, the sight of the huge impromptu victory celebration. Everyone jumped up and down, cheered, sang songs, beat on drums (and pots and pans), hugged everyone in sight, set off fireworks, blew airhorns, and generally partied. I've never seen such a uniformly happy group of people. And although some people climbed up lamp posts and found other perilous perches, the celebrating, although exuberant, was well-behaved. There was no looting, turning over of cars, setting things on fire, or other ridiculous behavior that has been known to punctuate victory celebrations in the US. And all this without even the presence of cops. Yes, Kate and I looked, but we did not see one police officer. In general, surprising, but not really if you know Greece the way we do. We stayed for about an hour after the game, before deciding we'd seen what we came to see. People were still pouring in at this point, and neither of us being huge fans of big crowds, decided we'd get out while we still could. We had to walk about halfway home (over an hour) before we were able to get out of enough traffic to secure a cab. We were in good company though with most of the city out walking or driving the streets. Anyhow, it was a really exciting evening, and I'm glad I got to be a part of it. Plus I got my fireworks! If you want to check it out, google Omonia Square, and try to find some pictures. It was true madness. I know there's one picture on the slideshow accompanying the story on CNN. It's pretty good, but there's really no way to capture what it was really like. You just had to be there. Like I was.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy Independence Day

I hope everyone at home is having a good time celebrating my favorite holiday. Well, okay, Christmas might be my absolute favorite, but that's like a whole season. Fourth of July is my favorite one-day holiday. It's a celebration of all the good things about, food and our national ability to consume a lot of it, beautiful summers, our love of outdoor activities like baseball, swimming and going to the lake, and our God-given right to shoot explosive devices. Yay America!

It's not quite the same being in another country for the 4th. For some reason, no one over here seems to care, just as no one in Germany seemed to care two years ago. And with Kate and I being the only Americans left around here, it's hard to get a celebration going. But we have sung the national anthem, eaten watermelon, baked chocolate chip cookies, and consumed red, white, and blue M&Ms. We're doing our best. And we're going to cheer hard for Greece as they play Portugal in the Euro 2004 finals, because should they win, we will get to see fireworks, and we can ignorantly pretend that they are in celebration of American Independence Day. What fun!

On a side note, the American embassy sucks. We called them to see if they had any kind of event going on for the day, and all they had was some sort of celebration Friday night to which we weren't invited. Apparently it was for Greek politicians, American VIPs, and the "American Embassy Community." One..We're not VIPs? Two...Greek Politicians...Hello, it's not their independence day. And three...who the hell is the "American Embassy Community" if it's not the Americans living in Greece who the embassy is supposed to be representing. Now remind me again why I get so excited about a day that celebrates our country when it can't do any better than that?

But, all that aside, I do love Independence Day, and I do love America. It has its problems, and there are things about it that I hate, but it's my home. I might run away to other places for a while, but it's the place I'll always come back home to me. I don't know if it's the best place on earth, but it's definitely the best place for me. I'll see you all back there in a few days.