Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Regular Intern

Yesterday I arrived in Washington safe and sound. My flight went very well and I found the apartment without any trouble. Last night I practically fell into bed and went to sleep.

This morning I woke up early to run and explore my neighborhood. It is so great! The apartment is in a wonderful location--near a Metro stop and close to the sights. I found some essential spots, like a cellular phone store and also a grocery store.

After running I readied myself for my internship. My commute was pretty easy, once I found the actual metro entrance. It always takes me a long time to find those things--it was even a problem in Prague! After asking two guys sweeping the street, I figured it out and hopped on the subway (after paying my fare of $2.15, a huge increase from my fare in Prague, which was just $1.00). I arrived at the office and most of the workers greeted me upon entering. The office is pretty small but very friendly. I think this internship will be a lot of fun for me. The project on which I am working involves getting representation for D.C. citizens in Congress. I do a lot of research on the computer.

Tonight I figured out some cell phone business and unpacked a little. Tomorrow is another day at my internship!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Cousin fun

This weekend I went to my cousin Maggie's graduation party. It was pretty fun--I always love seeing all of my cousins. The picture above was taken at my cousin Colleen's eighth grade graduation last week (she is in the middle). Patrick, the dude on the left, beat me today at ping-pong with a score of 8-11. I want to play him again sometime and try to win!

Tomorrow I leave for Washington, D.C. For the next five weeks, I am interning at FairVote, a non-profit organization. Hopefully I will also meet with some PSP friends and see the city! I am excited about my internship but sad to leave home after being in the country for such a short amount of time. At any rate, I think this internship will be a wonderful experience. I plan to update while in Washington, so keep checking my blog! Here is a description of my internship, taken off the FairVote website:
Right To Vote Initiative - The Center For Voting and Democracy is actively lobbying to gain support for H.J. Res 28, a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution to add a right to vote. An intern with the Right To Vote Initiative will help in lobbying efforts for this amendment and assist in efforts to promote other electoral reforms such as same-day voter registration, provisional ballot standardization and improvement to voting machinery. The intern will have the opportunity to develop advocacy materials, draft press releases, help organize state-based lobbying groups and build support through outreach. As a benefit the intern should walk away from this experience with a better understanding of the legislative process and the constitutional reform movement.

Before hopping on the plane, I am going to lunch with some of David's family, which should be fun. It will be good to see him again before I leave. I will miss my family and friends (again)!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Out on a limb

Today David tried to teach me how to climb trees. We went to the quad where he saw an excellent tree for climbing, and as I ran to my car to get my camera, he climbed up so high that I could barely see him. "David!" I yelled. "Come on up!" he replied. He failed to remember that I am one of those people who do not like to put their lives in danger on a routine basis by climbing trees to the very top. Had he never seen the Winnie-the-Pooh episodes where Tigger gets to the top of the tree and can't get down or where Winnie-the-Pooh bonks his head on the trees as he falls?

Eventually David came down and helped me up by pushing my back as I struggled to the top of a branch. By this I mean that I was on the lowest branch, holding on to my dear life. By the end of the lesson I learned how to climb from branch to branch and how to jump off the tree. Even though I am not very adept at the art of ascent, I think I am better than Winnie-the-Pooh.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Visiting

I'm visiting Kirksville today and tomorrow. So far, I've had a great time--today I went back to the law office and worked. It was nice to be back and see all of my co-workers and I even found that I'd missed taking out the trash and doing the mail.
For supper David and I made queso dip out of Velveeta cheese we found in his fridge. The cheese was probably months old because now we are both feeling sickly. Yuck!
Tonight we fixed my bike and rode around Kirksville. At first the tires were flat and the brakes failed to work. We got everything in working order and even saw my old friend Alan at the gas station! That was a fun surprise.
We raced on the track with goofy steps including speed walking, galloping, and skipping. Then we headed to a playground where we teeter-tottered and sang musical tunes. Tomorrow we are going to a barbeque for my old boss, Karla, with whom I will be staying in Washington, D.C. Now we are going to make brownie mix, which will certainly help our stomachs.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Missing it

Today was the first day that I have missed Prague since returning home. The boys in my group apparently went sky diving this weekend and it looked like a ton of fun. I'm not sure that I want to skydive, but they would have come back into the hotel and told everybody funny stories about their experiences.

When I left, I was definitely ready to come home. Now that I am home, my experience seems like it was a dream. I am so happy that I went--it will be a time that I will treasure forever.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Touring

Today my family and I traveled to Maryville for my brother's (seen above in the black and gold) first ever college visit. I was not very happy about this because we had to spend a total of 9 hours in the car. However, as my brother pointed out, my family, a cousin and I all drove to Marquette University (in Milwaukee) and then to Notre Dame (in Indiana) for me, so I really did not have room to complain about the drive. It was so weird to tour a campus for Ryan, and it just brought back terrifying memories about my college search. I didn't enjoy visiting schools very much. Maryville reminded me very much of my college town, and so the visit reminded me of my first visit to my college. This is how the day went:
1. We drove two hours to the college against my will and on the hottest day of the year because my mom forced me to visit schools in my state.
2. We spoke with an admissions person.
3. We got orange juice at the student union.
4. We left.
My first visit to my college lasted a total of 45 minutes, because I was sure that I did not want to attend the school. As my senior year progressed, however, it became my best option and now I love it.

Ryan's visit went more smoothly. As we walked on the tour I wondered how much the tour guide was making up on the spot. This is because I am a tour guide at my school, and I have to admit that sometimes I make up some of my tour and say goofy things. When I make up stuff, it is mostly imaginary friends about whom I jabber.

"So, do you know much about the University farm?"
"Sure! One of my friends works there! She gets to ride horses a lot and feeds them. She loves it out there and it is a great experience for her. The horses like apples."

I guess that I'm not really fibbing, because I do have a friend who works on the farm, and I know that one can ride horses out there from going to a horse club meeting with Amy my freshman year (we thought we would ride horses on Saturdays in our spare time).

Sometimes I fail to give the best examples and sound pretty goofy:
"How is the student health center?"
"Great! When my roommate had mono, she went there and got great care."
When I mentioned the word "mono", the parent cringed. Oops.

I also find myself telling really, really bad jokes on the tour. I won't regale you with those today, because I want you to continute reading my blog.

Anyway, the trip today was pretty fun and I think Ryan liked the school, which is important. Tomorrow we have to mow...again.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Golf

Today Ryan, David, and I went golfing in Vandalia. The day started out perfect for hitting the greens (is this even a saying?) but then it turned sort of windy and cold. Nevertheless, we had a great time. My brother allowed me to golf for approximately 1.2 holes after I tried to hit a ball off the tee, missed it three times, and sent it about five feet along with a clod of dirt. He was afraid I would take too long but I think he failed to recognize my golfing talents. At least I was able to balance the ball on the tee this time (last time I tried golfing this was a slight problem).

My official jobs were to keep score and search for missing balls while he and David played. We laughed a lot at my brother's imitations of bad golfers. As I played my one full hole, they got a good laugh at running over my ball with the golf cart. After I retrieved the ball, they started chasing me with the golf cart and laughing at my running skills. Apparently I am not a good escapee (I did not dart from side to side, but rather kept running in front of the cart).

My total number of strokes equaled about 15, while David had a 70 and Ryan had a 53. I think that means that I won...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Last day

Today is the last day of school. My substituting days are over--for now. It is also my mom's last day at Van-Far. I am helping her clean out her classroom, which I know is sad for her. However, she gets to get a fresh start at another great school next year as principal. I am so proud of how much she has accomplished in her career.

The kids in my class are watching Because of Winn-Dixie, which is a cute movie. They seem to be pretty sedate for their last day of school. My brother is at the state track meet as an alternate to a relay team. He was pretty excited to be an alternate--he thought it meant that he could eat nachos all day long.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bosnia

Earlier this week I read an article about an archeologist who believes he discovered a series of pyramids in Bosnia. The pyramids are buried under a hill, and could be an indication that European life originated in Bosnia. This is cool for me because a lot of my study abroad friends traveled to Bosnia over spring break and thought it was beautiful.

The hills are arranged in a triangle shape and contain large pieces of stone, which are surmised to be part of the pyramids. The archeologist, named Osmanagic, had studied ancient ruins in Latin America. After he asserted that the hills in Bosnia were really pyramids (which, if so, would be bigger than the pyramids in Egypt), and has become a national hero.

Some geologists are skeptical and say that the so-called pyramid is really a hill, and it is just a coincidence that the three hills happen to make a triangle. Osmanagic, however, asserts that the hills contain pyramids, are deliberately placed, and may unlock a new piece of European history.

I love ancient civilation studies! Here is the article from the New York Times.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On the right track

My brother's athletic banquet was last night. He came back with several awards, including Hurdler of the Year and an EMO All Conference track certificate, which was exciting.
Track is such a fun sport. Today my old track coach reminded me of a funny story about our track program. Sometimes, after track meets, our buses would stop at a fast food restaurant to eat supper. The people working at the restaurant would always get really nervous when a bus pulled in, because they thought that it meant they had to feed about fifty kids. However, when our team got off the bus, they could breathe a sigh of relief because there were only about four kids.

Right now I am substitute teaching. I have two boys in my class right now, and they are discussing their love lives, and how, after you get so close to someone and then break up with them, you just can't be friends with them again. I think it is so funny when high school kids worry about dating, especially now that I am older and hear their discussions while subbing.
"Let me ask you, I gotta know. How was your relationship? Were you open with each other?"
"Oh man, yeah. We were open."

Now I am subbing for junior high kids and they are coming back from lunch. I am feeling the same way I would feel if I heard a tornado coming from a distance. Help.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Father/Daughter bonding time

Today my poor dad stayed home sick from school. He was really, really sick--he kept coughing, sneezing, and blowing his nose. I had to substitute teach at his school, but I had seventh hour free and consequently went home at 2:15. When I arrived, he was still sick in bed, so I joined him for a little daytime TV viewing. This provided much entertainment for us.
If you do not have the pleasure of watching daytime TV, please do not feel that you are being deprived of anything. We flipped around and saw The People's Court, during which my dad said, "See, Abbie, you can go to law school and be a Judge like this!" Yes, that is my ambition in life--to settle cases between stepmom and stepson that involves flooring tiles, salt shakers, and $2,000. Eventually we discovered a daytime talk show.
The caption at the bottom of the screen said, "I'm blind and I need your help. Is my boyfriend cheating on me?" I said, "Dad, do you think they are really putting blind people on this show and saying their partners are cheating on them?!" After we watched the lady tell the guy she had been cheating on him for 13 years with over 100 men, Dad said, "but where's the blind person?" We laughed so hard, because they meant figuratively blind. Maybe we are just too goofy for daytime TV.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Home Again

This weekend has been great. After arriving home yesterday, I hung out and then visited Cindy for a while. Ryan, David, and I got Blizzards, which are my favorite dessert treat. This was way exciting for me because I had not even seen a Blizzard for three and a half months.

Today my family, David, and I all went to my brother's high school district track meet. That was pretty exciting, because he got third place in the 300 meter hurdles! Attending the track meet made me realize how much I enjoyed track in high school and how much I miss running in a competition. Don't worry--I'm not motivated enough to enter any races besides the Farber Fun Fest. There was some kind of hoopla about how I had always told David that I was All-Conference in track because I placed sixth in the triple jump one year at the conference meet. My dad asserts that I needed to place either first or second in order to be All-Conference, so now all claims to athletic fame are dashed, except for my Miss Track award my senior year. While I was in Prague, I ran about 50-60 minutes a day, so I hope to keep that habit going this summer.

Now that I have been home for a while it seems that my entire study abroad experience has been a dream. Nothing has really changed since I have been gone. Now I have to start unpacking, which is a pretty daunting task.

Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers who read my blog!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Finally home

Well, everybody, I made it safely back to the states. My flights went really well yesterday--the one from Paris to Cincinnati was very empty. I had an entire row (eight seats) to myself, and I slept for four hours! It was great.
I loved getting off the plane and seeing my mom. It was like in a movie, and the other people must have thought we were nuts because I said, "Smommy!" I wished I could explain to the passers-by that I had been studying abroad for three months and had not seen her.
Last night I came to Kirksville to visit my friends before they left for the semester. Amy lifted me up and hugged me so hard--it was great to see her again. On the way to Kirksville, I got to ride in David's new car that he's had since January (but that I had not seen). He also gave me some welcome home presents, including beef jerky. It was wonderful to see him, and I couldn't have asked for a better gift.
When I arrived in Cincinnati, I felt so good because I was in America. I loved it--a man was checking the European passports and a lady was worried that she would miss her next flight. He bellowed, "Ma'am, you have five hours to get on that flight. DON'T WORRY." Then a passport checker was talking to some Europeans and joking around. He said to the husband, "You're the one who brought her here...you can't blame me for her behavior!"
These quotes may not be as funny to you now, but I loved hearing them when I arrived. Everybody was so nice in that airport, and it made me even more happy to be home.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Smommmy

Tomorrow is the day that I leave the Czech Republic and return home. My flight leaves pretty early in the morning, but I hope to sleep a lot on the plane. Right now I am pretty worried about getting everything in my suitcases. Coming here was a piece of cake, but I did not really plan for all the souvenirs and clothes I would buy during my visit. I am one of the first people to leave out of my group. Another girl is leaving tomorrow as well.
It will feel very weird to be back in the United States. Everybody will speak English and I will be able to understand normal conversation.
Even though I am very excited to go home, I will miss Europe a lot. I have enjoyed traveling so much (I have visited nine countries in about three months) and living in a city. It is sort of a bittersweet departure.
Everybody keeps asking me what I will do first upon my arrival in the United States. I am planning on hugging my mom! I am so excited to see her after our being apart for three and a half months. That is a long time to go without seeing one's momma. I keep imagining seeing her for the first time. After we finish at the airport, I think we may eat at White Castle, our favorite fast food restaurant. I can't wait to see her and my house!!! (I am excited to see my dad, brother, and David as well, but they visited me, so it has only been about a month and a half since I've seen them.)
Even though I am leaving the Czech, please keep reading my blog, dear readers. Upon my return home, I plan to publish lists of my favorite places, back stories of Europe, and other fun trifles. Also, I plan to embark on another adventure this summer, about which I plan to blog.
Here is a little riddle that will help you determine my summer location:
I will be in the United States of America, but not in any state. Where will I be?

I fought the law, and the law won

I've been doing pretty well with not having any mix-ups with the authorities since coming to Europe. Sure, the museum ladies shook their fingers at me and sometimes the ladies at the grocery store glared at me for taking more than two seconds to bag my groceries, but all of the innocent bliss ended on Sunday.
All of our Prague tram passes expired last Wednesday. Some of the people in my group bought new passes for a month, which are not that expensive, but are way more expensive than just buying individual tram rides for a week or two until we go home. The rest of us chose not to buy the tram passes and decided to live life on the edge by buying one-way tram passes every time we wanted to get on the tram.
Since I made this decision, I have gotten even cheaper and thought to myself, "Gee, why don't I just walk everywhere? That way I can have a healthy lifestyle and save some money."
Sometimes being cheap is not a good thing. Buying a tram pass is an instance where spending money would be much better.
On Sunday, Colleen, Anna, and I went shopping for some souvenirs. I finished my shopping earlier than they and wanted to get home so that I could study for my finals. As I started to walk back home, I thought to myself, "Man, I should just hop onto a tram. They never ever check for passes, and I want to get home so that I can finish my paper on Nietzsche and his philosophy on lightness and heaviness." (I really just wanted to get home so I could make some brownie mix.)
Do you see where this is headed?
So I hopped onto the tram at a pretty non-descript stop. The tram was pretty much empty, so I thought again, "Oh man, no pass-checking guy is going to hop on this tram because there is nobody on it!" However, by the time I got to the next stop, I was pretty worried. I was sitting there on the tram without my pass and felt like such a criminal that I was literally squirming in my seat. I would make a pretty horrible bank robber, because I would probably stop in the middle of the act and say, "Oop, sorry guys. I know this is wrong. Let's just forget it and I'll leave."
Of course, after Hradtranska (a stop near my hotel), a man came on and checked passes, and he walked right up to me and asked to see mine. I didn't have one, and he knew it, so he showed me a ticket saying that I had to pay 500 crowns. Grrr. I explained that I did not have any money with me and that I needed an ATM. The man sighed because that meant that he had to spend even more time with me as we attempted to find an ATM.
We got off the tram and started searching. We found a sign that said "Bankomat (ATM) 300 M". He had to ask several people where the bankomat was, and after about ten minutes we found it in what looked like a hospital. Patients shuffled around in robes and slippers outside as he waited for me to get money to pay him. After that, the poor man had to walk all the way back to the tram stop with me. I kept trying to make conversation with him, but he could not understand a word I was saying. We were almost to the stop and suddenly he took off running toward a tram that was sitting there. I think he really wanted to get away from my attempts at conversation! The moral of the story is that one should not attempt to gank rides on the Prague tram system.

Monday, May 08, 2006

VE Day

Today is a holiday in all of Europe, and that is because it is VE Day! Everything was shut down in Prague today, and some of my friends went to Plzen, which is in the Czech Republic, to celebrate. My friend John kept saying that he wanted "to celebrate the V in the E".
When they got home tonight, they said that the people there dressed as cowboys and people from the Wild Wild West because the Americans liberated Plzen after World War II. There were also people dressed as American soldiers. The celebration sounded pretty cool, and their stories about the costumes were funny. If there are any veterans of WWII reading my blog, rest assured that you are still very much appreciated in Europe (and in America as well). It is so weird to think that the war ended only 61 years ago. Happy VE Day!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Gaffes at the museum

Since arriving in Europe, I have visited a lot of museums and cathedrals. These places are always funny because of the tourists. There are always rules that confuse people, and always funny guards who try to quell the disorder caused by the confusion.

For instance, in St. Vitus's Cathedral in Prague, one is not allowed to take pictures unless one buys a picture pass. The picture pass only costs 20 crowns, which is about $1, but of course, nobody wants to spend their money on the pass. Because of this, there are a lot of people taking illegal pictures. Luckily, the Czech Republic has invested money in paying guards whose job it is to stop these crazy rebels. The poor guards have to run around stopping the tourists who either don't know about the rule or know about the rule, take pictures anyway, and pretend that they don't know about the rule. Another alternative is to be pretty sneaky. When David was here, I took a picture of him in the cathedral:

The secret is not to use a flash and to only take one picture or so. My camera is not an ideal camera for sneaky picture-taking because it makes a "whish-whish" sound whenever I take a picture. While I was in Greece, I got in trouble for this picture:

If you will look at the far right of the picture, you can see the museum worker's finger shaking at me. In my defense, Colleen dared me to pose like this. There weren't that many people in the gallery, so we thought it would make for a funny blog picture. The point of this post is really that I feel sorry for the museum workers. They probably get sick of people wanting to pose like the famous spear-thrower.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Everyone has a story to tell

While we were in Athens, I really enjoyed the archeological museum. When I look at the statues, I always wonder about the person who was the subject of the work. What was she or he like and did she or he have a family? Would she or he have liked Nutella? These questions baffle me.

Because of my wondering, I decided to make up stories about some statues and post them for you. I think this woman was probably an Athenian matron. She is fully clothed, which shows her chastity, and she was probably pretty rich, since someone sculpted her. Colleen and I often wondered if the ancient Athenian girls ever annoyed their mothers. While we were there, we noticed how the Greek girls had beautiful dark hair, but how some would dye it blonde. We kept laughing because we bet that their mothers had a fit when their daughters came home with the newly dyed hair, since the pretty dark hair was gone. Did this girl ever dye her hair and drive her mother crazy?


This picture is the face of a tomb. I read that the handing of a baby was symbolic of the passing generations. However, I like to think that the man is the father of the baby, and that they are playing airplane. The mother is probably hoping that the dad won't drop the kid.

Finally, I saw this guy. I love this bust. Why does he look so bewildered? Perhaps this depicts the moment where he sees his daughter after she dyed her beautiful dark hair blonde to keep up with the trends.

He also may have just eaten a bug. Perhaps he was walking down the street getting some water for his wife when he heard someone yell "look out below!" because they were about to throw their water out the window. He dodged the liquid and was very graceful in his nimble act. A gang of thieves saw him from afar and asked them to join their group because they could use a sure-footed men. He underwent training and eventually went on his first thieving experience. The thieves planned to rob a rich man, and even though the guy was pretty rich, he decided to tag along. After doing a lot of flips and other ninja moves, he realized that they were robbing his own house! Panic overtook him and his mouth gaped open. Suddenly, a small bug flew into his mouth and down his throat. As he saw a lot of his possessions being ravaged, he swallowed and big his lower lip to make himself feel better. He will decide not to allow a swallowed bug and a gang of thieves ruin his day, so he will go after the thieves himself, save his possessions, and bring the water to his wife.

Or perhaps he just swallowed a bug while eating breakfast. Maybe this happens on a daily basis, so his kids told the artist to portray him in that manner as a joke.

Going to the museum is almost as fun as people-watching. Speaking of which, I had a lot of fun observing people viewing this statue:


An old farmer man came up to this statue and said, "Well, lookie here. That woman is gettin' him with her shoe!!!" Who knew that I would hear someone from the midwest in the museum at Athens? Even though I was 3,000 miles away, it gave me a warm sense of being at home.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Athens


My trip to Athens last week was simply amazing. Colleen and I agreed that it was one of our best trips so far. We were there five days, from last Thursday to Monday.
We arrived on Thursday and found our hostel without any trouble. Our hostel was pretty nice: we had our own room with a balcony! We still have to share a bathroom, though. That night we found a grocery store and went shopping. I bought a tomato, apples, two bananas, Chee-tos, multi-grain bread, and cookies. We always get food from a grocery store so that we don't have to eat out for every meal, since that can get pretty expensive.
The next morning we took our time getting up and went downtown. I loved walking out of the subway station and seeing the Acropolis. We were on a mission to find a coffee place, but ended up in a flea market instead. We ended up shopping all day long! The shops sold useful wares such as daggers, helmets, and shields.
After our shopping, we ate a a fun little Greek restaurant. The food was amazing because we actually got a lettuce salad. Those are sometimes hard to find here in Europe. After that we decided to get ice cream. This was a disaster because I got something called The 4x4 from a stand on the side of the street. The 4x4 cone was so huge! Colleen kept laughing at me but I couldn't stand to waste ice cream, so I ate it anyway. After that I must have looked like I had Zeus in my tummy.
The next day we visited the archeological sites of Athens. We bought a ticket for the Acropolis, the Theater of Dionysus, the Roman Agora, the ancient agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and an ancient cemetery. I absolutely loved seeing everything, since I study it all in my classes. It was so beautiful. That evening we rode out to the 2004 Olympic park, so now we've been to the Munich and the Athens Olympic stadiums. We kept saying how, when we watched the Olympics in 2004, we would have never guessed that we would be standing there in 2006.
On Sunday we went to the National Archeological Museum, which was also amazing. I saw a lot of artifacts and could have spent an entire day in the building. However, we left because we wanted to see the ports of Athens, where we saw lots of big ships and ferries.
After all that we visited the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The guards there were so amazing. Their marching styles were the most impressive out of all that I've seen. That day, we also tried a gyro! I was a little wary at first (because I don't like to eat meat much over here), but it turned out to be really good! A gyro is a piece of pita bread wrapped around meat (usually chicken or pork--we got pork), tomato, onion, and a special sauce. I want to make gyros back at home.
The next morning I went to a Greek Orthodox service, which was interesting. The church to which I went housed a relic, so a lot of people were there.
Athens was an amazing place. The Greek people were very nice, and the city was beautiful. I think it was my third favorite city (after Rome and Paris). I will post more later. Right now I need to sleep!

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Monday, May 01, 2006

What happened to the neighborhood?

My neighborhood is going down the drain. It used to be very pretty until this thing moved in:Why is there a dumpster in the middle of the sidewalk? These fragrant flowers across the street make up for its being there: