December 31, 2009

Alphabet Game

Ever played this alphabet game? "I'm going on a trip, and I'm taking..." The first person says an A-word; the next person repeats the A-word and adds a B-word, and so on...

Well, it just so happens that in one week, I will be taking a trip, and I have a lot of things to take with me! Here's the A to Z of it all:
  • Apprehension: Considering where I'm going, I think this is an understatement.
  • Babytop: A mini laptop to stay connected.
  • Curiosity: It may have killed the cat, but I think it has better things in store for me.
  • Dictionary: for all the words I still don't know (or can't spell...).
  • English: Kind of the main idea of this trip.
  • Flip-flops: No more snow boots!
  • Glasses: After a major ordeal, I have two shiny new pairs--all the better to see you with, my dear!
  • Humor: My most valuable possession.
  • Inoculations: Here's to hoping I avoid major illness.
  • Journals: Duh.
  • Kitty Stickers: A kitty sticker makes anything better.
  • Luxury: From the lap of it, to a lack of it.
  • Magic: Sometimes things just work.
  • Naivety: It's naive to think I'm not bringing a lot of this.
  • Optimism: If I couldn't bring this, I wouldn't go.
  • Plantar Facetious: I just can't outrun this one.
  • Questions: Since I know almost nothing...
  • Resume: A paying gig is the goal.
  • Sunscreen: The equator nears...fair skin beware!
  • Tattoo: One accessory you can't take off.
  • Underwear: More pairs=less laundry
  • Voice: Corny Women's Studies moment.
  • Wanderlust: My favorite German/English word.
  • Xenophobia: Just kidding!
  • Yoga: Perfect mind/body exercise in any country.
  • Zest: Not the soap, but the feeling.
I love this game--The best part is that most of these things don't take up any room in my suitcase!

December 24, 2009

Lincoln, NE

Since graduation I've been pummeled with parties. My parents' annual Christmas party brought its usual fervor to our house the day after I moved in. Ninety-six (count 'em!) adults came to our home seeking the German-inspired cuisine, delicate desserts, and poly-alcoholic drinks served from our bar. Cambodia served me well as a conversation piece, but talking about the bold uncertainty of the next months grew tiresome as the will's, might's, and maybe's began to sound more removed from my real life.

I'm tired of living in the future. I can't help but think of that oft-quoted John Lennon quip, "Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans." Or was it the other Lenin, "one man with a gun can control 100 without"? Either way, I guess we end up dead at the end of it all, and it would be a big mistake to rush through this holiday. In just 12 days, I'll be leaving Lincoln to live in the most present of all present tenses, and besides the scenery change, the change in verb tense will be welcomed.

I like Lincoln. It's a city of refugees. They've come to escape genocide and war in former Yugoslavia and Vietnam, they've come from Mexico and latin America in hopes of a better existance for their family, they've come from out-state Nebraska with dreams of big-city living. It's the generous Bosnians from the tall man's tailor shop (thanks for the socks!), It's the heavily side-burned, slightly broken out banker who greets me with "hey, what's up?", It's the yet-to-come winter storm frenzy in the supermarket. As my hometown, I wouldn't trade Lincoln for anywhere. This city is big enough for traffic, but small enough for friendly service.

We may not have a smooth Jay-Z/Alicia Keys anthem about our town, but New York (or Phnom Penh) has got nothing on good ol' Lincoln.

Merry Christmas, ya'll.

December 19, 2009

Wishful Thinking Achieved!

Sometimes wishful thinking is just that. Wishful. Emphasis on the part where you don't get what you want. Other times, thinking wishfully leads to accomplishment via hard work.

Secretly, ever since Takeshi was the commencement speaker at his graduation, I wondered if I would be the speaker at mine. Wishful thinking, I thought.

Wishful thinking indeed as I was chosen to speak at the Honors Breakfast on Graduation Day. Though initially I felt slightly second-banana to be the Honors Breakfast speaker rather than the main event, I crafted a speech for the occasion that I felt good about. I practiced almost daily for two weeks, and I had the thing memorized by the time I stood in front of the large breakfast-eating crowd this morning.

Hoping to avoid the emotional paralysis of the night before, I allowed the adrenaline to take over behind the podium. Legs a-twitter, knees a-knocking, I delivered the finest speech of my life thus far. I mean, there were no trumpets playing (as I often imagine), but it was far from the shaky-voiced, stumbling spectacle I often put on in front of a crowd.

To tell the truth, I enjoyed my five minutes in the spotlight. I was so glad to have been chosen for this event rather than the commencement because this audience was full of students who hold themselves to the same standards I do. My crowd was intimate and interested, and best of all, I didn't have to wear all the goofy graduation garb while giving my speech. I think my ideas were well-received. Even though I'm sure that such comments are somewhat compulsory, many esteemed faculty congratulated me afterward. The best moment of all was the sincerity with which my grandpa, a long-time public speaker, mimicked taking a crown off his head and placing it on mine to indicate my new post as family speech-giver.

The positive remarks from people who have known me for all of 15 minutes are wonderful, but the appreciation from people who have know me my whole life--those who have watched my varying degrees of success--that kind of congratulation means infinitely more.

Today was a big day, a milestone in my life. To the clinking of the trio of honors medallions around my neck, I made my way across the stage to the Chancellor's handshake to become a graduate. It was very pomp and circumstance, tassel and all.

I'm now an alumnus. I have no job as WC Consultant, no spring class schedule, and no identity as College Student. Dang, I probably shoulda put this one off a little longer!

December 18, 2009

Tears (for Fears)

Today I found out what college is about. Somewhere between bleaching the black part out of my hair and feeling too nauseus to finish my spicy green beans at the Thai restaurant, I felt it. Whatever that thing is that makes life worthwhile--that feeling that is all at once happy, sad, grateful, regretful, wonderful, and horrible. I felt it as I hugged my roommate and constant college companion goodbye. I choked out a few promises to stay in touch, and wished she would just leave so I could bawl without her watching.

I felt it as Collin and I shared our last coffee (iced soy latte and seasonal chilly beverage) and our well-wishes.

But I felt it most as I stood in front of a crowd of people, my family included, and listened to not one, but two of my favorite professors list off my accomplishments and potential. I was being honored as a top senior in my department (well, actually two departments--Sociology and Women's Studies). I knew the water works would soon appear as the keynote speaker found that spot in my heart that always gets me. Damn him. When it was my turn to be publicly praised, I held on to a straight face by a floss-thin nerve. When Dr. Maughan pulled me a little closer, my face burned red-hot as that feeling flooded my already shaking limbs. The stone-faced audience didn't seem impressed, but I guess it wasn't their moment. By the time the second professor got up to talk about me, I was a hot mess. Even after the public praise, talking to a long-time friend and non-traditional student made us both teary. Once I start, it's like a leaky faucet--or maybe like what happens to faucets after you've shut off the water supply to the house. An unpredictable burst of noisy water--What?

Tomorrow morning, I will give a speech about what I thought college meant a month ago. I still stand behind that speech, but the past two weeks have given me a renewed perspective on my education. College is not about the coursework, or at least, that's the bare minimum. College is about finding yourself through other people: friends, mentors, and family. College is about growing up (sucky as it is) and discovering that you can do more than you thought.

As much as I detest crying in front of people, at least I feel something powerful. I care deeply about my relationships, my work, and my future. Any and all of those things deserve my tears, and doggonnit, if I've got to cry in front of a bunch of people, so be it.

Now if I could just find a way to keep my make-up looking stellar while crying...

December 16, 2009

My Desk 10:50pm

My days in college are numbered--two left, to be exact. Today, facing the prospect of a comprehensive final in Advanced German Grammar, I thought, I am going to miss this. I will look back fondly on the hours I spent doing anything but studying, the coffee that washed down many good conversations, and the tests that seemed so important at the time. College was a liberation for my inner Jena. I made peace with my height and awkwardness and found a way to make it work.

The hokey (pokey) speech I wrote for the Honors Breakfast will suffice. It gives the people what they want, and I guess that's enough. Nothing like a bout of early morning public speaking to cap off an undergraduate program.

I feel that I have, in a way, cheated my last semester of college. I was in such a hurry to get as far away from Kearney as possible that I forgot to appreciate some of the things that I value here. Now, in my last week, I am feeling the need to hang onto my friendships, my professors, and even my classes (but the iced-over snow--I won't be missing that!) I've written many thank-you notes, which are important, but I don't know if they do it all justice.

Friends, teachers, mentors, coffee pots, and honorary family members: you have brought so much to my college life. Cambodia had better be something ubergreat because I'm leaving a place full of people I will never be able to replace. This is my big "Thank You" over the blogosphere. I hope you have some type of receiver for that.

December 14, 2009

A Conversation Worth Having

That darn coffee maker. I bought it last year because I thought it would be a nice upgrade. It was, but recently, the snail's pace brewing and thick black coffee have been too much for me. I'm an instant gratification, quick-fix kind of gal who likes to drink many cups of coffee, not just one super strength.

...frighteningly similar to how I feel about relationships. Maybe. I'm still working on that one.

This morning with my semi-solid coffee, I thought seriously about the previous night's viscous conversation with Takeshi. I'm a stubborn lady with a pension for the darker side of things. We flung open the big questions about our current standing, Cambodia, and the possibility of losing each other in the shuffle. It sounds awful, and it was, but we needed to go there.

By the way, I'm in dire need of a kick in the pants to adjust this sad, sad attitude. I'm on the edge of the adventure of a lifetime, I have the best family (biological or otherwise), and the most supportive friends I could ask for.

December 11, 2009

LateNightRamblingsofaWanna-beWorldTraveler or Good Advice

Collin's text typo turned out to be some of the best advice yet.

Keep your head on

It's prolific and appropriate today, a day when I would have taken my head off, had I only the opportunity. Keep your head on, you're going to need it to figure out what to do next.

Perhaps I have yet to grasp that CamTEFL is not an option anymore. My friends seem to think that this is just a fate-thing. One of those cliches that people say when something lousy happens: when one door closes, another opens, or everything happens for a reason. Maybe they are right. My left ankle sports a tatoo about this idea that some things defy all explanation, but somehow it works out.

I don't know, even when I think of magic, finding and getting the paperwork together for a reputable TESOL program among the hundreds in Phnom Penh within three weeks (including graduation, moving, and Christmas) seem like wishful thinking.

Maybe I'm not meant to teach English. Maybe Phnom Penh isn't my destiny. Maybe this is all a sign that I should just stay in Nebraska with my head on, and stop all this nonsense.

No thanks, i'll set off on my adventure, plans or no plans, and I'll take my head with me. I'll need it!

Where's Free Hug Guy when you need him?

Today, in the middle of my second cup of coffee, and one bite into my health food granola bar, I received an e-mail that ruined my day and some (if not all) of my plans in Cambodia. The short message from CamTEFL let me know that the January course--yes the same course that I paid for yesterday--would not be happening due to a shortage of trainers, a lack of students, and a new school. No course. And all that blasphemy at the bank yesterday. And all those plans that I had so carefully laid out. Useless.

It's t-27 days and I'm pretty much back to square one. I can still volunteer teach with CWF, but that doesn't start until late February, what am I going to do until then? And, what will I do after that, as I won't have any TEFL certificate?

Collin offered sincere condolence, but I let out a few disenchanted tears anyway--much to my chagrin. Crying at the workplace should be used only in emergencies, or during your last week, whichever comes first.

It's well-understood by people who know me that I'm a plan person. I thrive on organization, schedules and follow-through. I had been feeling pretty brave lately to think that I had only a four-month plan--and now, well I don't even have that. I've got the rest of this week, and then graduation. After that, my planner shows only one event, Jan 7: fly to Cambodia.

My real friends understand how important this Cambodia thing is to me, and the really close ones understand that it took me a long time to find and settle on CamTEFL as my certification. This turn of events, my friends know, is something of a catastrophe for me and my pride, and they were sympathetic to my disappointment today.

Even hottie from French got in on it today. He happened to stop by the WC this morning as I fell victim to another batch of panic. The combination of holding in screams of frustration, caffeine, and hottie made me shake and tear up even more than usual, but the warm hug I got at the end was so worth the embarrassment! Sometimes a hug is worth a thousand commiserate ears. And this guy is much less creepy than free hug guy.

December 10, 2009

Me vs. The Bank

If you remember the post "Scambodia vs. Intuition"--this is part 2.

Still frantic about the CamTEFL course fee wire transfer, this morning I was doing a little online banking and I noticed that the $1500 was back in my account. Okay, something is amiss. Why is the money back in my account, and why does no record of any wire transfer attempt show on my statement?

So, I angrily dug my car out of the snow embankment, drove slowly (but with purpose!) to Wells Fargo and marched up to the next available banker. A dizzying 20 minutes later, after being shuffled around between bankers, listening to half a phone conversation, and putting up with some of the poorest customer service I have ever seen, I was correcting typos on the second version of the wire transfer. Beyond flustered that a lack of intra-office communication and a possible typo had prevented my uber-organization from working the first time, I hurried out of the bank with the taste of rancid customer service in my mouth.

My mom says that this is exactly why small banks stay in business.

Through my blog, I have wanted to document the steps to going abroad, but this is more like a major vent session. My point is that there is no substitute for customer service, and no excuse for a lack of it. Earning the money to go abroad is the easy part. Getting the moeny where it needs to go is apparently one of the more difficult things.

December 9, 2009

Snow, Wind, and Sentence Fragments

There is something magical about snow days. It's like a little present. Something wished for, yet unexpected.

Deviating from my usual (and very dangerous) snow-bound adventures,today, I laid low. I slept in, drank an extra cup of coffee, and caught up on some administrative things from my to do list. It was a welcome change from the usual routine. I even cleaned the bathroom.

Actually, by mid-afternoon, I was bored and restless. I went outside for ten minutes, just to see the state of affairs around my car--it's buried. The dry, knee-high snow and whipping winds sent me back inside chilled and snowy, but no less restless.

No snow days in Cambodia... Maybe they have monsoon days, or rain days. I think I'll miss the snow. I like the periwinkle haze of a snow-filled night sky, and the little shimmery flakes blowing under the street lamps. I don't love getting snow in my shoes or having my face go numb, but from my cozy recliner, tea in hand, winter is charming.

The wind is really picking up, and if I know Kearney wind, we ain't seen nothin' yet.

December 7, 2009

Light Snow in Kearney

Take a deep breath, I tell myself, it's about to get crazy.

Waving goodbye to the last semblance of normalcy, I begin the hellish last two weeks of school and holiday mayhem chaos. The prospect of the change of schedule for Finals week, the preparation for and presentation of my little speech, and just the thought of moving all my junk out of this apartment is so unappealing at the moment. Not to mention the rigmarole of Christmas. Oh, and moving to Cambodia.

Today I enjoyed the light snowfall, and the Christmas decorations that my roommate put up last week. Babytop is everything I wanted, and fortunately, she arrived just before dinosaurtop bit the dust. I also liked browsing for gifts online, even though I didn't decide on anything. I even liked watching the little wisps of snow slither across a darkened 30th avenue on the way home from the Writing Center. I imagine my Scandinavian ancestors battled many a snowy night, and looked darn good doing it. Blondes are meant to be snow-bound. Except me. I'm looking forward to hot and sticky.

The money transfer to CamTEFL is not for the faint of heart! It's been nearly two weeks and I haven't heard anything. "Seven working days" could mean almost anything though--right? I mean, I transfered the money right before Thanksgiving, so that cuts out a few American working days, I'm not familiar with the Buddhist calendar, but there's perhaps a Cambodian holiday, and maybe even British holidays affect the confirmation e-mail on which I am desperately waiting.

For a gal who likes to plan ahead (and who worked all summer at Target to pay for this), the wait time is disconcerting. I'd like to know where my $1500 went.