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November 2002

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March 4, 2002

I'm sorry to have gotten off to late start this month, everyone, but as many of you may know, I have been sick since last Thursday. What started off as a cough gradually grew into a horrible "viral syndrome" that, combined with my dehydration, has led me to spend most of my time these past few days resting.

I just got back from the infirmary, where I was informed of the nature of my condition and where, more important, they gave me a powerful prescription expectorant/decongestant combo. I'm writing this after having swallowed one of those huge pills, which supposedly will keep me awake for a while. I'm also downing lots of liquids to combat this persistent dehydration, which not only gives me a dry mouth but is likely the reason for my bouts of lightheadedness. Not that I mind feeling slightly dizzy most of the time, of course, but I believe putting myself at constant risk of passing out on the floor or something similarly hard is not a good idea.

All right, the happy energy boost from my drugs is wearing off, so I should rest now. I will do my best to update the site again sometime in the near future.

March 5, 2002

Thankfully, my illness seems to be wearing itself down -- that, or whatever the doctor prescribed for me yesterday was truly a wonder drug. My efforts at rehydration probably helped my immune system to fight off this nasty bug as well. Those efforts have also produced the side benefit of an end to my recent bouts of lightheadedness.

Dehydration is a terrible, terrible thing. It's made me feel like I've been walking around in the Sahara (without the benefit of warmth). I never realized how easily this problem could sneak up on me. Maybe the air's just not as dry at home, even in the winter. I intend to be more cautious in the future here. My refrigerator is fully stocked with water and other beverages, and I have resolved to drink nothing caffeinated until I feel completely better.

Of course, I'm not sure when that will be. Although I've been carrying water bottles around with me for the past two days, I'm still not completely over the dry mouth phenomenon, and it doesn't seem to want to leave me anytime soon. Also, to get into more disgusting details of my personal health, my mucous membranes are still apparently quite dry. I can't tell you how lovely it is to have a runny nose and a bloody nose at the same time. I've also been stuck in my glasses for the past several days, as my eyes feel so dry that I didn't have the heart to subject them to contact lenses. As for my lips, I think I'm actually going to finish off my lip balm before this problem goes away.

Right now, my room is still in sickroom mode. I'm currently trying to air out the stench of medication, but everything else has been left in place. My desk, which is right next to my bed, has become a pharmacy of sorts. Lined up are my bottle of pills, my lip balm, my enormous box of tissues, and my big bottle of water. On the floor is a rapidly filling trash can. My bed itself hasn't been made in days, since I've been spending so much time sleeping in it that it never seemed worth the effort.

But now, now I am feeling much better than I have the past few days. For one thing, I am fully conscious and have been since 8:40 a.m., and I have no intention of napping. Well, at least not right now, I don't know how dinner will affect me. I also think I might actually manage to complete my first paper of the week and possibly outline my second. Perhaps that's expecting too much of me, knowing my tendency to procrastinate by, say, updating my web site, but I have hope.

March 7, 2002

Two papers down, two short ones to go. It figures I'd be forced off of caffeine just as crunch time has rolled around.

But I plan to stop complaining about my illness now. No one, I'm sure, wants to listen to me go on and on about my various ailments, so I will relate more interesting stories from now on. Besides, I'm just about well anyway, so there's not much left to complain about.

We settled on yet another housing scheme for next year last night. This one was Britt's idea. As it seems that Kim, Laura, Katie, and I will not all be able to live in the same suite next year, we've been arguing for a while now over how we should place ourselves around the dorm otherwise for next year. However, everyone has different priorities. Some people wanted us to be together no matter what floor we ended up on, some didn't want to live on the higher floors, others (and I certainly won't name names, Kim) have an inexplicable fear of the ground.

March 8, 2002

It is very early in the morning as I write this, so please excuse any incoherence.

I had hoped to get around to finishing yesterday's entry, well, yesterday, but as usual, life and the slacker ethos intervened, so I will continue somewhat where I left off and perhaps this entry will grow from there. Fortunately, I outlined in a notebook most of what I wanted to express in my latest entry, so I should be able to reconstruct my thoughts at the time.

I will finish now describing the happy housing situation. Yes, it is again happy, after a slight crisis emerged around lunchtime today when we learned more people would be staying this year than we had anticipated. Luckily for us, those people have decided to choose rooms that will not affect our latest scheme. And that scheme works something like this: Laura and I will take the two girls' singles on the first floor, right next door to our friend Kathy. Kim and Katie will end up in the big double right above Kathy on the second floor, and Britt will take the single next to that. Matt, if all goes according to plan, will get the available single in the suite next door to them, and Scott will, of course, have his huge single down the hall on the first floor. True, it's not quite the same as having a whole suite to ourselves, but in this scenario, most of us will be separated only by one staircase and we'll be able to share a suite with Britt as well, who would have been separated from the rest of us in the original scheme. All in all, this plan has survived the obstacles presented and seems to have been accepted by the other people planning out next year's housing arrangements. I'm very, very happy to have this matter settled in a way that suits everyone nicely.

I also can now look forward to having a room that requires no stairs to access. When I first came here, I did not regard the first floor with much favor as it is somewhat disconnected from the rest of the dorm and just because sleeping on the ground floor seems somewhat unusual to me after years of sleeping upstairs. But now, after several months of living on floor four, I can confidently say that I would never like to have to climb another stair again as long as I live. Having recently carried two weeks' worth of laundry up from the basement, my arms are still aching from the strain. But next year, when I live on the first floor, I won't even have to use the stairs to get to the basement laundry room. There is, in fact, an elevator connecting these two floors, for which I am eternally grateful.

I probably should be working on my last paper now, but I really don't feel like it. I am feeling extreme burn out after having written so many papers in the past few days. Just yesterday, I wrote two articles for my editing class. And that doesn't include the early morning hours I spent working on my comparative politics paper due yesterday. Now, I have yet another comparative politics paper due in several hours, even less for me as I will be having a visitor early today. Although this is one of my shortest assignments, I just can't work up the motivation to work on it.

Speaking of my visitor, I'm going to be gone for a couple days. Hence, there will be no updates until I get back on Sunday or Monday. I'll try to make this one especially long to make up for that scarcity ... well, and to avoid doing real work for a little bit longer.

I don't know if perhaps I am becoming contemplative now because of the hour or for some other reason, but I feel like sharing my thoughts of late. Here's where it might get sentimental in a sad attempt at profundity, so if you do not care to wallow with me in some syrupy reflections, skip the rest of this entry.

Thoughts strike me at the oddest moments. I might be taking my hairbrush out of my wardrobe or climbing the stairs (which I do a lot, in case you didn't know) and suddenly, the cumulative effect of days of unconscious pondering will hit me. It can be overwhelming, but these sudden insights provide invaluable new understandings of my life and my current situation.

Recently, I was struck by the fact that I have not been here very long. I can't say what prompted me originally to think this, but it made me marvel at the fact that I have only known my best friends here a matter of months. But despite that, I can't imagine my life without them anymore. It seems like these people I have formed this intense connection with have always been with me somehow, or perhaps that I didn't really exist before this or that someone else existed and who I am now is someone new with no history.

It's incredible to think how much my life has changed in such a short period of time. I guess I don't think about it much because I'd probably lose my sanity among the enormous number of new people, places, and situations otherwise. But sometimes, when it's quiet and I can turn inwards, I wonder how I got here, what has brought me to this place in my life. And at the same time, I feel thankful that I am where I am, that I have found a place I love and people I love, and that I can be happy.

I wish I knew how to share my feelings of happiness with others. I wish there was some way to simply transfer a little contentment from myself to someone else. I want everyone to experience the good feelings I have found. I want everyone to feel loved and appreciated. I wish everyone did. Though I have trouble saying it, I can't really tell everyone enough that I love them and love every precious moment I get to spend in their company. Perhaps this sounds over the top, but perhaps that's what's necessary to get some of what I feel across. I want all my friends to feel confident in my affection, and I am glad to feel something of the same in return.

All right, my insanity this morning has continued long enough. If I don't write my paper soon, it simply will never get done and five percent of my grade will go out the window. And it's a long drop from the fourth floor.

March 10, 2002

It is extremely cold in my room right now, as I had the "foresight" to leave my window open for the entire weekend I was gone, so I'm not sure how long I'll be able to make this entry, as I am sure I will soon start looking for someone in more pleasant climes I can beg to let me visit.

I spent much of this weekend running in a circle around my aunt's house, chasing my two-year-old cousin Grace as we played "tag." Her version of tag includes saying, "Tag, you're it!" many, many times while someone chases her -- or no one chases her, she's all right just running in a circle by herself and yelling her phrase whenever she sees you. She also liked to play "jump rope" with me, which usually involved grabbing one end of the measuring tape she held and swinging it wildly. She did get a real jump rope on Saturday -- but the game remained the same.

Grace was very happy to have "Cousin Colleen" around to play with for a whole weekend, and I was happy to play, because she's such a little sweetie. How can you resist a little bundle of energy who bounces up with a big smile on her face as soon as you walk in the door, even though you haven't seen her in several months and expect her to have forgotten you? But she's a smart girl. She talks like a parrot, willing to repeat everything you say. You'd begin to think after a while that she doesn't understand what she's saying, but in fact, she just wasn't paying attention. When she wants to, she has a great command of language -- she knows perfectly well how to tell people what she wants. "Get up, Cousin Colleen, stand up! Tag, you're it!"

She also apparently is learning to read. I didn't get to see much of this myself -- she only read me the numbers on the measuring tape. In addition, she has a fascination with maps. She takes the weather map from the newspaper every day. When I arrived on Friday, she took the liberty of showing me where she lives, where Grandma lives, and where her Seattle cousins live. She's still working on learning where I live, though.

On Saturday, we all tried to go to downtown Milwaukee to see the St. Patrick's Day parade (yes, it was one weekend early -- go figure). This plan didn't work out so well, however, as it was not only very cold but winds that day reached speeds of 50 mph. When my aunt and uncle opened the minivan doors, they were almost blown off their hinges. We instead spent the time we would have spent watching the parade inside a nearby bar, craning our necks to see the corner of the street through the front window. Grace, her dad, and our aunt did attempt to go outside again at one point, but as soon as Grace saw a man dressed up as St. Patrick, she decided she had seen enough and wanted to get out of the cold. I spent most of the time at the table, reading that week's issue of The Onion. Good times for everyone.

I finally managed to catch up on all the sleep I've been missing last night, when I didn't budge from bed for a full ten and a half hours. I also took a nap in the car driving back to Chicago, which put me at about twelve hours of sleep for the day. Considering how little I've slept lately, I, for once, do not feel the least bit lazy. Of course, it helps that I did wake up at around 9:30, and when you drag yourself out of bed that early in the morning, you're bound to feel you're being unusually energetic.

My muscles are, I think, starting to freeze into position. Must go hide under many blankets.

March 11, 2002

It is finally here: Reading Week, the best time of the quarter. That seven-day cushion of nothingness separating the intensity of classes from the intensity of finals. Seven straight days of staying up all night, sleeping all day, and doing nothing in between. It's like collegiate heaven.

I just finished off a bowl of Easy Mac, my breakfast/lunch/pre-dinner snack for today. It's hard to determine what to call the meal one eats at 2:00 in the afternoon after getting out of bed a mere half hour before. I truly achieved Easy Mac perfection with this bowl -- just the right level of creaminess. That thin line of cheesy goodness separating a watery mess and a lumpy catastrophe is often hard to hit, but this time, I landed right on the mark.

An excellent bowl of Easy Mac is a great comfort to me, as I am now feeling the effects of the cold I think I picked up while visiting my relatives. Yes, that's right, I have recovered from the dehydration and the "viral syndrome" only to go straight into another illness without the benefit of even a few days of wellness. I know that this is a different disease because instead of a hacking cough I have a stuffy nose, something far more annoying I think as it's with me all through the day, instead of for a few violent minutes every so often.

Hmm, I just lost a great deal of hearing in one ear. I hate congestion. I think it's time for a tissue break.

Okay, that's somewhat better. At least I can hear again.

I want to say hello to all my friends from home reading this. I'm afraid I've been neglecting you guys lately. It's not that I don't love you, I'm just so busy between classes and all my friends here that I often don't have the time to sit down and chat. I try to keep a record of the daily events in my life here mostly for your benefit, as a lot of people here already know about that stuff, so I hope you guys know that I'm thinking of you when I write. Enjoy your spring breaks; I hope to catch up with you all soon.

I hope the cleaning staff has finished with the bathroom now, as I absolutely must take a shower so that I can rush into Evanston and check if the Girl Scouts have set up their cookie table outside Barnes and Noble. Apparently, there were there early yesterday afternoon, and I missed them. I am now obsessed with getting my hands on some Samoas to take with me to New Mexico -- assuming they last that long. It will be my mission for today, or perhaps for the next few days if I miss them again. Wish me luck!

Later: Well, the plan to go searching for cookies was foiled by my innate laziness. My excuse is that it's cold outside and that would aggravate my illness, but whatever, I just don't feel like getting up. It takes too much effort to walk those two or three blocks to the bookstore. Besides, my shower took too long, so they've probably left. Perhaps I was more tired than I thought when I went to take that shower because I completely forgot to bring a towel. Therefore, I had to walk back to my room in my pajamas, dripping wet. Thankfully, no one was around in the suite to witness this spectacle.

The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things, of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax -- and cabbages -- did you know the French consider calling someone "a little cabbage" a term of endearment? I think calling someone a frog is supposed to be affectionate, too. I suppose it's no worse than calling someone a pumpkin, though I think that's kind of odd, too. Perhaps I am not the right person to judge all these idioms, though. I've always had trouble calling people by these cute little nicknames. I manage best with small children -- it's easy to refer to the youngest in the family as "baby" or to a smiling toddler as "sweetie." But with other people, it just doesn't come as easily.

It's just about dinnertime now. I've spent way too much time on today's entry. I guess I did accomplish some useful things, what with eating, showering, and changing my sheets. Otherwise, I have managed to do nothing. I am proud of myself.

March 14, 2002

It is now Thursday, and I have managed to do nothing academically productive for a full two days now. I feel rested, relaxed, and just excellent overall. Although I learned yesterday that my sociology final will require a lot more studying than I thought, I still don't really care. I don't intend to pick up a book until I absolutely have to -- which would be on Monday, the day before the test.

Yesterday was pretty eventful. Kim seems to have come down with the condition that has been going around the dorm, that struck me down last week -- dehydration. I don't know what it is about this place that seems to breed an intense lack of bodily fluids. We're all becoming like raisins -- completely dried out. Of course, it's not certain this is what's wrong with Kim. She has thus far refused to go to the infirmary. However, the symptoms -- feeling weak, dizzy, and lightheaded -- seem similar enough that as I sit here writing this, I am periodically ordering her to drink her Gatorade. For an exciting account of Kim's brush with blacking out, visit her ramblings (which may not be updated for about a week as her webmaster is on spring break).

Ah, Gatorade, the sick person's faithful friend. It's amazing how many diseases this sugar water is purported to cure. I wonder if its reputation for foulness comes from its association with sickness or inherent bad taste.

My friends and I celebrated the end of the quarter today by going out to eat at one of our favorite local restaurants. I've had an unbelievable amount of real food in the past week. Perhaps this is why the dining hall has seemed so incredibly awful lately. Anyway, we all went to Olive Mountain for falafel and other yummy food after the PARC fellows reception and a couple rounds of euchre. Of course, the euchre probably goes without saying, considering how obsessively we play that card game.

Scarily, we're starting to dream about playing euchre now. I find all this dreaming of cards frightening ... and rather boring. Tonight, I intend to have far more entertaining dreams. I think I will have an adventure dream, those are always fun. High stakes intrigue and high risk chases -- much more interesting. Maybe I'll be able to fly, too. I enjoy the feeling of floating away into the sky. Too bad it can't be real. At least not without a very unpleasant crash at the end.

March 15, 2002

Reading Week, my break before spring break, is finally drawing to a close. After so many days of so little productivity, I feel relatively content and just restless enough to perhaps pick up my studying materials before long. It's been a good week on the whole, and I'm sorry to leave it behind, but time keeps on moving and I have to keep up with it. Besides, I'm sure the future holds many more happy stretches of doing nothing.

Scott left campus this afternoon, the first of our little circle to depart for break. He's gone home to sunny California, and I am jealous because even though I am going to New Mexico, it will very likely be cold there. This frustrates me. I simply cannot escape the cold weather. Oh well, at least Kim, Britt, and Matt will be enjoying the mesa cold fronts with me.

I really do look forward to our trip to the Southwest. For one thing, I've never been there before. I've made only one trip further west than Chicago, and that was to stay with my uncle's family in Washington. I spent most of my time there either in the house or in the little community surrounding the base. I did see Mt. Rainier and the Pacific Ocean, but only from a distance. Such is the extent of my acquaintance with the western half of the country. Now, I'll get to see landscapes that our hosts guarantee are spectacular. I hope to find a beautiful environment where I can sit, stare into the distance, and feel at peace with the world. Something like that would make me happy.

We've spent some of the past few nights watching U2 concert videos, as is likely obvious from our nightly conclusions. Best was the night we watched the video from the ZooTV tour, the tour promoting Achtung Baby and Zooropa, likely my two favorite U2 albums (I know, I know, I'm forgetting The Joshua Tree, but in many ways, that's a very different album deserving its own category). I got way overexcited when for the encore, they played the song "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car," the greatest and most messed-up song on Zooropa, with Bono dressed up as Mr. Macphisto. Laura and Kim were laughing hysterically as I practically jumped up and down in my seat the whole time. Ah, but nothing beats a little bit of twistedness.

I'm listening to U2 right now. That's not surprising. The Best of 1980-1990 is not the album I play most often, but it has its merits. For one thing, it has "The Unforgettable Fire," a song I appreciate more every time I hear it. It's not really catchy, like "Angel of Harlem" or "Desire," but that song makes me stop what I'm doing to listen. It's hard to describe, but it's a song I can feel. It's charged; it's a physical experience.

I do have the somewhat unpleasant sensation right now of not being able to sit still. I almost want to pace. I wish I could relax a bit, but it doesn't look like that will happen until I finally go to sleep. I feel inclined to take a nap -- but who takes a nap at 11:50 p.m.? But I can't go to sleep so early when I have nothing to get up for tomorrow. I really just don't know what to do with myself tonight. I should go try to figure that out.

March 17, 2002

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I hope everyone is enjoying the wearing of green and the eating of corned beef and cabbage. I fortunately will be missing out on that last one. I think you really have to be drunk today to enjoy that meal. As someone more than half Irish, I'd like to take the opportunity to say that getting drunk on green beer once a year does not make you truly Irish. But it does make you a good source of amusement for the rest of us.

I feared going to the dining hall for dinner today because I expected to be served another one of those awful "theme meals" they bring out for the holidays. Signs for a St. Patrick's Day feast had been posted for a while. Fortunately, it turned out to be only a lunch thing, and since I slept through lunch, I completely missed the corned beef. I will go ahead and attribute that little miracle to the luck of the Irish.

I didn't get up until around 3 p.m. today. This is a disturbing trend. My lateness threshold keeps creeping closer to the morning hours. Back before I came here, I considered staying up past midnight late. This quarter, it's become more like staying up past 3 a.m. More recently, 5 a.m. has been my target bedtime, but in the past week, I've seen myself consider it late only when the clock hits 7 a.m. This is insane, I tell myself. Of course, I have good reason to stay up so late -- I mean, it has been a week off from school -- but still, I should really adjust myself to going to bed before the birds awake before finals.

Speaking of finals, they start for me on Tuesday. I'm not too worried about sociology, but I know I need to manage at least a 65% on my calculus final Thursday in order to get a passing grade in that class. Curse that midterm I bombed! Without that horrific grade, I would be averaging an A- right now. As it is, I will be happy to pass. And I will hope for a curve for the final grades. It frustrates me on one level to be getting such a bad grade in that class because I know I could have done better. But on the other hand, I think it's probably beneficial to me to miss the mark finally, so that I don't feel anymore like I can slide by with doing very little and that I will always have something to strive to top.

Of course, my life could be worse. At least I have only two finals left, two finals that are spaced very far apart. I also do not have any computer troubles. Poor Matt has to have his laptop's hard drive replaced. He can't even reformat it. No one knows for sure how it got messed up, but it is apparently physically damaged and beyond repair. Matt's computer problem is a tragedy, indeed, since he will lose all his documents and his congressional database, something he's worked hard on for a long time.

Kim's computer problem, on the other hand, is rather amusing. She seems to have picked up a virus that makes her browser display porn whenever she opens it up. No kidding. Of course, this is a serious problem for her; she needs to run virus scans and delete this thing before it does anything more malicious. But I thought I would die laughing when the IM came saying "My home page was set to gay porn!"

I spent much of last night watching Kim and Shannon attempt to knit. Kim's decided that she needs to learn this craft to have something mindless to occupy her time with on the way to New Mexico and to make scarves. She and Shannon found a tutorial online that showed them how to cast on, but after that, the task became problematic. I showed Kim what I remembered about knitting, which was only the basic stitch, and she eventually got the technique down and made a lot of progress. Shannon stuck with the tutorial and figured out knitting and purling, but hers ended up looking a lot looser than Kim's, and we don't know why. The looseness plus the many stitches both of them dropped when they started led to one request for knitted air-conditioned pants.

It's now much later than I think it should be, and I haven't even started the studying I intended to do today. Oh well.

March 21, 2002

It's really been a while since I've been able to rant on here. Finals Week left me with far less free time than Reading Week. But now, finals are done (thank God), and I don't have to think about my subpar schoolwork for the past quarter at all for the next ten days.

That's right, ten whole days. I'm afraid everyone will have to be deprived of my priceless wit and insight on this page for more than a week. However, since most of my readers will either be with me in New Mexico over break or enjoying their own fun break activities, I hope people won't miss my diary entries too much. At any rate, I'm going to try to keep an old-fashioned handwritten journal while I'm away and then type up all the entries and post them online when I get back. So when April 1 rolls around, look for a deluge of updates.

I've been doing a lot of writing recently, and it's hard to remember what I've already said in here (that is, without going back and rereading previous entries, which I'm really too lazy to do). I wonder as I'm typing what the substance of this entry will be. I often think of things I'd like to write about in my diary during the day, but the problem is, I almost never write them down, so I usually have to improvise. Whether this is good or bad for the overall quality of my entries is a mystery to me.

Anyway, after finishing my final today, I commenced my celebration of the end of the quarter by buying myself some CDs with my Easter cash. Normally, I wouldn't spend the money my relatives send me right away. Now that I'm in school, I like to save what I have and use it to pay for social activities throughout the quarter. Most of it therefore gets spent on food, which is really a necessary expense considering the low quality of dining hall food. However, I've been pretty good about not buying myself presents so far this year, so now that I won't be home for the holidays, I figured it was about time for a special treat. Also, I was prompted by the fact that I will be stuck in a car for a significant amount of time in the near future and my current CD collection is getting a little overplayed. Thus I went shopping with Katie and Kim, first stopping at the bookstore to check out how much damage next quarter's books would do to my budget and then moving on to the music store. I ended up not straying too far from what I already had, picking up two used R.E.M. albums (Murmur -- which I've wanted for a while now, having heard many good things about it -- and Monster -- which was a mere $5). I did decide to be a bit creative with my third choice, Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American. Although I'm familiar with their music, I haven't bought any of their CDs before. Kim, at least, approved of my choice (after having ridiculed me for picking up two more R.E.M. CDs -- so who cares what she thinks, right?). I have Murmur in right now, but I'm not sure if I'll listen to the others tonight. I need to save something for the long, long ride to New Mexico.

I really am pretty excited about this trip. I mean, I can think of few things better than spending more than a week hanging out with my good friends without all those pesky classes. Of course, I am slightly worried about the potential for tensions within our little seven-person group, but I think the experience will draw us all together more than drive us apart. I look forward to spending quality time with my close friends and getting to know everyone else better. And, of course, to playing many, many games of euchre.

Euchre breaks last night helped push my studying well into the wee hours of the morning. I tried to compensate for the lack of sleep by ingesting caffeine for the first time since I got sick at the beginning of the month. My mom sent me caffeinated mints in my Easter package, and Kim and I went through at least half a tin last night. I was shaking for good few hours after that. As I tried to fall asleep later, I could almost feel my heart beating at an unnaturally fast rate against the pillow. I think I might just throw out the rest of those mints.

During my caffeinated craziness last night, while Kim and I were wading our way through practice problems, we started talking about home. I seriously feel like I've made myself a home here at school. I've never experienced any homesickness while here. In fact, I miss this place a lot more when I'm at home than I miss home while at school. While I've only known the people here for about half a year, some even less, I often feel like they're a second family. I care a lot about the people here, and I miss them a lot when I'm not around them, like over winter break. All I could do was be thankful for AIM when I thought I'd go insane from being shut up in my house all alone every day.

Well, I think I've reached the end of my rambling for tonight. I wish everyone a good break, and I'll be back here soon to detail all my fun times.

March 23, 2002

So I'm trying to make updates the traditional way, via pen and paper, and now that I've started, I've realized that my fountain pen has leaked inside the cap. Now my fingers are covered with ink, which will at best keep me from searching around in my backpack for another pen so I can continue writing.

I'm getting the feeling that by handwriting this I will be much more prone to run-on sentences since I can't edit as I go. I suppose I could make adjustments when I type all this out in transferring it to my computer, but then I might impinge upon the integrity of my purpose in keeping this journal, which is to keep record of my unedited thoughts. I mean, that's why I don't go back and change some of my most embarrassing entries of days past. You can't really track personal growth without early thoughts to look back on.

Anyway, let me begin my account of our trip so far. After finishing off my packing ten minutes after I was supposed to meet the group downstairs yesterday, I dragged my bags and myself down from the fourth floor. This action was completely unnecessary because Alex and Kim had not yet arrived with the van and because I had apparently not packed enough, as I made two trips back upstairs in order to retrieve sheets, a hat, and another deck of cards. The van finally arrived around 3:30, an hour and a half late because it seems that it wasn't there and ready when Kim and Alex went to pick it up. We loaded it up quickly -- far more quickly than my family could ever load our minivan -- and then we hit the road.

Traffic was rather heavy leaving the Chicago area, which made me very glad I was not driving at that point. Fortunately, Eric had volunteered for that task. I certainly hope that boy likes to drive because so far, he's ended up with three shifts at the wheel (to my none). However, I will be taking my turn sometime today, hopefully when there are few people in the area and when it is light out. I realize that these conditions rarely coincide, but this is my dream, and until I drive, you can't take it away from me.

Speaking of dreams, I dreamed while sleeping on the floor of Eric's living room during our nightly stop that I was not traveling to New Mexico but actually traveling back to Chicago. The strange part was that although, in my mind, it was more than a week later, we hadn't actually done any Habitat work. In fact, I remember explaining in my dream why we had not been building a house. I don't remember what the explanation was, but it made total sense at the time. I don't know what this dream means for my feelings about actually doing work over spring break, but I hope it's more a sign I will have so much fun hanging out with my friends that the work will be hardly noticeable and not that the work will be so horrible I'll want to avoid it.

March 24, 2002

Today we began the last leg of our road trip at around 11 a.m. Mountain Time. We had the pleasant experience this morning of feeling distinctly nonlazy, as, although we slept in as always, we have not yet made the adjustment to our new time zone, so by dozing until what we felt as 11, we actually only slept until 10.

We spent the night in a Howard Johnson's Express in Colorado Springs. It wasn't nearly as sketchy as I expected after hearing the name of the place. I have had bad experiences with Howard Johnsons. The one my speech team pulled off the highway to stay at during a snowstorm that hit on our way back from Chicago was a frightening place, where the person checking us in went out of his way to recommend we bolt our doors at all times and where we found bugs collected on the carpet beneath the radiator. Fortunately, last night's motel wasn't nearly as scary. I even felt safe taking a shower, although that end up being a bad idea since the drain didn't work very well (so I ended up taking a bath and a shower simultaneously) and the water pressure was insanely high (so I also got a "massage").

But the hotel is behind us now, as we are on the road again, working our way toward the Colorado-New Mexico border. Despite the abundance of crap cluttering our already cramped minivan, our time spent driving has really not been at all unpleasant. Fortunately, all of us seem to get along pretty well together and have easygoing temperaments, so despite our close quarters, we have not driven each other crazy. That's a definite advantage over my family's yearly vacation, when the only thing that keeps us from turning back is the fact that it will be about the same amount of time locked in the van either way.

I had my first driving shift yesterday afternoon. Now, I have driven on the highway before -- but that was in my home state. Out in the West, the speed limit is 75 mph, ten above what's legal in Pennsylvania (twenty above what's legal in most parts of Pennsylvania). For the first time in my life, I hit speeds in the 80s -- and I was truly terrified. I've never liked driving much, and this added speed, along with the visions of horrible crashes that flashed before my eyes every time I passed another car, were almost enough to paralyze me with fear. Paralysis, naturally, is not a good condition to suffer while driving, which only, of course, raised me to a new level of terror.

Another problem I had while driving was just staying focused on the road and the task at hand. After so many hours spent staring into space, it was tough to suppress the daydreams.

Now my friends are all probably as frightened of my driving as I am.

Someone's brought some food in the car so I'm starting to feel hungry. Must go now to search for munchies.

March 25, 2002

Today -- at least until 4:10 -- was a truly awful day. I actually wished at some points that I had gone home for spring break. As it is, I do not look forward to Wednesday.

The awfulness really started yesterday. We found our dorm (after Kim had thrown the directions out the window) without much trouble. Our "dorm" turned out to be a converted warehouse/shed building with twelve bunk beds upstairs which we would share with the group from the Air Force Academy. But it wasn't too bad until night rolled around and I, having brought only sheets with me, could hardly sleep for the cold. It actually was better when the lights were still on because the fluorescent bulb above my head functioned as a makeshift personal heater. However, someone eventually found the light switch, so I spent the remainder of the night shivering under my sheet. In the middle of the night, I ripped up my fitted sheet and got under that, too, but to no avail. At least I didn't actually become as icy as I felt.

Earlier Sunday evening, we decided to make a grocery list so that we'd have food for breakfast and lunch. Wanting to make sure we bought stuff everyone liked, we had everyone's input -- and that was a very, very bad idea. We spent so long arguing over every detail that it took us an hour to produce this list: 1% milk, cheese, white and wheat bread, peanut butter, jelly (but not grape), cereal, sandwich bags, and breakfast bars. We didn't even bother to plan dinner.

After the frigid night finally ended, I awoke much earlier that I had in many weeks (not counting those times I stayed up until those small a.m. hours). I woke up to the news that it had snowed during the night and that it continued to snow this morning. Now, when I packed for New Mexico, I brought only relatively light clothes with me; I didn't bring long-sleeved shirts, let alone a hat and gloves. I tried to make do by layering as much as I could. I wore my pajama top under my shirt, a sweatshirt over that, and my spring jacket on top of everything. But I soon realized after stepping outside that it was not nearly enough.

Fortunately, our job for the day did not involve the outdoors. We were sent to work on a nearly completed house. Our tasks there mostly ran toward cleaning. Somehow, I ended up with many jobs involving the ceiling. I spent much of the morning and early afternoon perched on a ladder, scraping off excess plaster, removing tape, and cleaning wooden beams. I think if I end up in a similar situation in the future, I will say I'm afraid of ladders.

After lunch, we spend an hour or so sweeping dust. If only I had realized how this time spent with dust foreshadowed the rest of the day, I might have run away right then.

When our coordinator realized that we had little left to do, he sent us to a local hardware store that donates construction materials to Habitat. We had no idea what we would do there, but since our work so far had been pretty light, we were unafraid.

We were wrong.

The nice man at the hardware store (perhaps deceptively nice) led us to the store's attic, warning us as we progressed to watch our step and our heads. But it was hard to do so in the dim light streaming through the gaps between the rafters and the roof. As we walked, we sent up little clouds of dust from the floor. And all this came before we learned exactly what we were in for.

Our task this afternoon was to hang chicken wire in the gaps to keep pigeons out of the attic so it could be used for storage. However, it was not as simple as putting up screens. The area in front of all the gaps was full of old shelving -- old hardware-store shelving, which consisted of multitudes of pegboard and huge, heavy nail drawers. All of it had to be moved across the huge room and lined up against the other walls. Moving the stuff involved dragging it up a step while ducking a low-hanging metal beam directly above. I hit my head on it one or two times -- it's hard to remember now.

And none of this -- none of it -- was the worst part. That honor goes to the dust, all eighty years' worth of it. Every shelf on the floor unleashed a cloud of dust that even particle masks could not fully protect us from. In fact, the particle masks were a problem in themselves since it was extremely difficult to catch your breath through them after lifting and moving heavy items. They led to frequent "air breaks" at the door opening outside. It's surprising that no one fell onto the cinderblocks on the ground below considering how we all crowded around the small opening. But I did manage to hit my head on the door frame a couple of times.

People wearing contacts had an even worse time with the dust, leading me to find at least one bright spot in my lack of lenses. Kim and Alex, though, not only dealt with staple gun bruises but also dust sneaking under their contacts, causing much irritation.

It was, all in all, a miserable afternoon. By the time we finished hanging the chicken wire, we looked so defeated that the man who'd given us our task let us go without sweeping up all the dust on the floor. Not that we could have dealt with more dust at that point anyway.

March 26, 2002

Today was our day off -- sorely needed after Monday's hardware store adventure. We spent the morning running errands -- getting an oil change for the van and washing our horribly dusty clothes at the laundromat. While there, we played what was probably the twentieth round of euchre since we arrived on Sunday night. Our excuse for all this euchre is that we need to help Alex make up for all the euchre he missed out on while studying organic chemistry winter quarter, but in truth, we're just really sad. For example, Sunday night we played the euchre "World Series," pitting Matt and I against Alex and Kim for seven games (Matt and I eventually emerged victorious). Last night, we played six games (and Matt and I lost each one to Britt and Alex). You would think that being on break in a cute little town with incredible scenery would encourage us to branch out a little in our activities. But no. We're not creative like that.

Anyway, we did spend the afternoon at least doing more than playing euchre. We drove out to see the Rio Grande gorge and visit the hot springs. We weren't entirely sure how to get there, and we ended up making a big circle through town before finally driving down a seemingly endless dirt road. After a while, though, we did reach the gorge, and we started down the trail to the bottom, hoping the hot springs would be there.

Well, if we thought the dirt road was endless, it was nothing compared to that rocky path. Fortunately, our long trip down was punctuated with stops to take pictures of the beautiful scenery. The landscape here is amazing, like nothing I've ever seen before. No matter where you are here, you can see the rugged peaks of the Rocky Mountains. The river gorge we visited was enormous, stretching as far as we could see. The Rio Grande is like a blue-green snake weaving its way through the rocky terrain. The sky is clear and pale blue, and sun floods every crevice.

When we finally reached the bottom of the gorge, we, to our immense joy, found the hot springs right in front of us. Unfortunately, we did not find any sort of changing facilities, so Kim, Britt, and I had to rely on towels and ingenuity to get into our swimming attire. Of course, I suppose we could have just stripped -- the hot spring next to ours was for nude bathing.

The water in the spring was warm and bubbly, and we had a very relaxing half hour before the arduous climb back up the gorge. After that, we visited the bridge stretching the gorge, where I took more pictures. Maybe eventually I'll post those online so everyone can enjoy the scenery.

The girls in our group spent the evening grocery shopping and cooking a spectacular chicken parmesan dinner (with some help from Matt). The boys will be cooking dinner on Friday -- but I hope we set the bar pretty high. Just kidding -- I hope they make a fabulous meal -- if only because I will have to eat it.

March 27, 2002

Today I discovered the joys of hanging drywall. With hammer in hand, I (along with Matt, Alex, Kim, and Britt) pounded nails into the walls like there was no tomorrow. Standing back and surveying my work, I felt all skilled, at least until Kim and Britt (who preferred mudding to nailing) came through and covered up all my hard work.

I also became a "mother" of sorts today as Matt, Kim, Laura, and I were incorporated into the PARC family tree. Looking at the family Matt and I now head, we can't help but wonder where we went wrong.

March 28, 2002

Today's tasks brought us to the Taos Holiday Inn, another company that helps Habitat. As is likely obvious from the fact that we were sent out to be donor slaves again, Habitat still hasn't closed on the lots for the two houses it wants to break ground on.

Britt and I spent most of the morning sweeping the parking lot so that two Air Force Academy girls could paint new lines. Kim and Matt spent their morning cleaning the swimming pool area. (Everyone else stayed behind to work on the dry wall in the Habitat office again.) Around noon we were treated to a delicious buffet lunch (the salad was excellent -- but I am, on the other hand, afraid that my opinion is skewed in favor of the hotel's food simply because the dining hall's food is so bad).

In the afternoon, Matt and I moved on to raking. Now the Holiday Inn in Taos, for some reason, has grass. Taos, like much of New Mexico, is desert. People generally do not plant grass on their lawns because in this dry environment, it turns yellow and straw-like. Like all the grass at the Holiday Inn. We raked the many lawns, forming large piles of tree leaves and lots of dead grass. Kim and Britt trailed us with garbage bags to collect the piles. It was all well and good for a while -- but then the wind started. Matt, with the wind blowing toward him as he raked, couldn't form a pile to save his life, and the wind blew all the grass he raked up down onto my section of the lawn -- or rather, up into my face.

Raking, especially this ineffectively, took a lot of time, so we stayed boredom by singing. Or "singing," I should say. Anyway, we stuck mainly to the Beatles and U2, as they were the only artists for whom we actually knew the lyrics to the songs. We decided that U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" best described our spring break experience, as it mentioned dust (twice), flame (the little heater at the site), sunlight, building things, wind, desert, and streets having no name (obviously). All we need now is rain.

March 29, 2002

It rained today. Now the song is complete.

Fortunately, the rain held our until we were done with all our work on the overhang we were building out at the site. Habitat still hadn't closed on the the property today, so we were split up again. Matt, Britt, Kim, and I ended up at the same house we worked on at the beginning of the week. We actually had a lot of fun today because we were really building something. I got to wield an enormous drill to make holes in the side of the house. (Don't worry, my friends, there are pictures.) I also got hammer huge screws into the holes and ratchet them in tightly. I felt like I accomplished something today.

Another reason for today being a good day was the weather. Until the rain came, it was an absolutely beautiful, sunny day. It was even hot enough for me to discard both my jacket and sweatshirt for most of the time we worked. It's amazing how we've gone from snow to sunburn in less than a week.

I'm feeling pretty tired now after my day of hard work. I think I'm just going to rest now until the guys finish pulling together dinner.

March 30, 2002

Today was marked by much driving. We decided to keep going until we hit Nebraska today, which translated into many, many hours in the car.

But since we're stretching the trip back over three days, we had time today to be touristy for a while. After making one last trip into Taos for shopping, we drove to Colorado Springs. There, we visited the "Garden of the Gods," which is the cheesy name for a spectacular collection of natural rock formations. I took as many pictures as I could when we stopped the car -- I couldn't take pictures through the windows because for some reason, the flash on my disposable camera is stuck on.

We got off track (some might say "lost") a couple of times today. First, we took a wrong turn leaving the Garden of the Gods and ended up the driving through Manitou Springs. Then, after finally finding the highway again, we missed the exit for the next highway and ended up taking a detour through rural Colorado. But it's all in the name of "sightseeing."

March 31, 2002

On the road again -- and expecting to drive today, unfortunately.

Kim woke up Matt, Britt, and I around 9:30 this morning when she got back from the hotel's continental breakfast. That's right, Kim got up in the morning -- voluntarily. This trip has screwed us all up like that. Not only do we fall asleep before midnight and awake well before noon, but we are actually are hungry for breakfast. Today, I even bribed Kim with the promise of paying for her food if she'd drive to McDonald's to get the rest of us Sausage McMuffins (and a bagel for vegetarian Britt).

Everyone woke up with strange dreams to relate this morning (but my dream about redecorating was just kind of boring). And while Britt's journey through desert caves to put famous people on shelves was strange and Matt's vision of having three lesbian mistresses was stranger, Kim's dream takes the cake. She and her friend (the one who had recently sent her a bible) were attending the funeral of Sigmund Freud (Kim bought a Freud action figure in Taos). Her friend (called John the Baptist) bent over the coffin, demanding to know if Freud had taken Jesus into his heart. Miraculously, the dead Freud sat up and told John the Baptist that he wouldn't accept Jesus because religion was a load of crap since it didn't involve sex. Then, even more miraculously, Christ himself appeared -- in the form of Laura. He (she?) told Freud not listen to John the Baptist, that Freud did not have to take Jesus into his heart. Apparently, Jesus went on about this for a while, and at one point, Kim turned around and when she turned around, and when she turned back, Jesus had become Scott. At the time, this did not appear strange to her (well, nor did the fact that Jesus initially appeared as Laura). At any rate, Jesus, Freud, and Kim took a walk, and Jesus continued his diatribe against religion and told Freud he just needed to go back to sleep. Eventually, Freud, convinced he was right in not accepting religion, lay down and became dead again. Finally, then, Jesus (who was Scott) turned to Kim, kissed her on the forehead, and ascended into the heavens.


Copyright © 2002 Colleen Fischer | Last updated October 7, 2002