August 2010


ponder 

There is a curious juggling going on in my head right now, between whether I should continue on after my MA to get a Ph.D, or not. And it’s beginning to become clear that the real division here is between an almost purely intellectual pursuit, and you know, making money. I think.

Intellectualism isn’t the same as it used to be, it seems. Or maybe it is, and it’s only that the values of the surrounding societies and culture have changed. To me, continuing in school seems almost selfish, which is odd considering that career path is generally regarded as less-selfish in the eyes of others – after all, becoming a professor requires a certain commitment to others, perhaps more than being, say, an engineer. But to keep going, and to put off getting a “real job” will certainly require me to put my desires ahead of those of some others. It could mean moving away, not paying off debt, acquiring more debt, and not beginning my career for several more years.

phd 

For example, I already have a considerable amount of student loans at this point, while my boyfriend has little to none. This of course means that if we got married, he would be responsible for that debt, in part, and it would certainly restrict some things in the future, financially. They don’t bother me because I know that my education is worth it, but he’s the type of person who gets nervous about debt. And I know that regular non-school work could be years away, so there is nothing I can do about it now.

And it’s not to say that I couldn’t be happy doing a different job that doesn’t require a Ph.d, but the question, I think, is whether I could be happy in a job that doesn’t have the same academic, intellectual mood. But there’s always been a part of me that has wanted to have money; that sounds a bit awful, but I’d like to be financially secure, in other words, not the traveling scholar who carries all his belongings on his back. The stereotype of always being wrapped up in academia appeals to me, the stereotype of eating beans out of a can does not. But maybe both stereotypes are nothing but that; fallacies. alice,in,wonderland,films,alice,film-daaf98f939d869dcce68ef60e83a09fe_h

One wonders: in our modern world, is there still a way to pursue scholarly desires, and still pay the rent? Where is the happy medium?

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Despite this summer’s unseasonably-cold weather, I’ve been trying to visit a variety of places recently, or revisit those I haven’t been to in a very long time before school starts, and the mania begins. Here are 3 recent  reasons why I love California!

1. Kayaking at Valley Ford

0811101522-00  A lovely, quiet place to kayak through miles of marshways and waterways that eventually lead to the ocean at Estero. Easy current and a sense of privacy, since not many non-local people know about it. 20100811174038

2. Hiking at Sugar Loaf State Park

cLots of trails –some challenging, some definitely not – that wind up into Sonoma County. FYI: The “Hillside” trail can feel like a bit more than walking up a hill (it burns), but there are thousands of ripe blackberries to snack on, which helps. There’s also a really powerful telescope in the park that opens during certain nights for deep space viewing (think faraway planets etc.) It cost $8 to get in, where there’s lots of bathrooms and picnic areas, and camping as well. 13

3. Beaches along Pacific Coast Highway 1, above Half Moon Bay

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Seriously spectacular fields of flowers. Definitely worth a stop along the highway. I can’t remember the name of this beach, but it has gorgeous yellow sand. 0725101734-01

Happy Saturday!

On my trip…

Things I’m glad I did:

37244_504627653072_309100159_92190_4667758_nPay no attention to the sleepy/silky guy behind me…

1. Brought a large scarf/pashmina: this baby was my best friend – no joke! I used it on the plane, in airports, on the cold bus, to cover the pillows where we slept, for naps, and to keep me warm in general. It went with me every day on the bus in my large bag, and I could not have done without it. It was soft but thick material, so more like a blanket than a gauzy scarf, and I washed it out a couple times. Best decision ever! (P.S. as per the above rice-cake, buy healthy snacks when you can, because dang did I eat a lot of candy….)

gondola Yep, Hail. We smile because we have prosecco. 

2. Packed an UMBRELLA: It rained in every country we went to (my favorite had to be the crazy downpour/hailstorm during our gondola ride in Venice, when we didn’t have the umbrella with us, of course!) and Michael didn’t even want to bring it! I think one of those little purse-size ones are fantastic. Or you could pay 3 times as much in Paris when it’s raining!

DSCN6516Rain at a concentration camp: kind of depressing…

3. Packed over a dozen ziplock baggies; both small and large: perfect for stowing away snacks from breakfast, keeping dirty clothes separate, and avoiding spilling leaky bottles. Some bathrooms where we stayed got so wet from showering that there was no way to keep things like shampoo bottles and toothpaste tubes dry, so I just shoved them all in one bag. Also good for stowing things like over the counter meds to get through airport security; I had a huge bag of meds just in case – bring Pepto Bismol tablets and Tylenol, trust me – that were didn’t fit in my 3oz bag and TSA didn’t even look twice. Also pack any meds that are kind of specific, like lactose/lactaid tablets, because you may not find them anywhere.

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Everything in this bag? Please.

4. Used only one small suitcase: before our trip I was worried that size would be an issue, turns out Contiki only cares about weight, not size (some people had HUGE suitcases). Michael And I both took our suitcases on the plane (I like to keep important things in sight) and checked his backpack, which contained large liquids like hairspray and shampoo – there’s no way you can get by for weeks on the tiny supply of liquids they let you bring on a plane (we had to buy more toothpaste and deodorant in France and Italy).

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5. Used one cross-body purse: mine was brown leather (from Nine West) and surprisingly roomy but not heavy, good for both day and night. Cross-body purses are a necessity in Europe’s big cities; even though no one on our tour was robbed, it was nice to feel secure. Buying a leather purse is the best, because it will get a lot of wear (and dirt).

 

 

 

6. Brought a camera with rechargeable battery (and extra imagememory cards!): I don’t know how many of you use regular batteries in cameras, but finding them in Europe is not always easy – plus you can recharge on the bus with an adaptor/converter. I also brought 2 8G memory cards just to be safe, though surprisingly over 800 photos fit on one, but lots of people ran out of space during day trips.

 

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Right: My tour guide and bus driver. Yep.

7. Did most of the Contiki excursions: Since I can’t eat most of the food in Europe (gluten intolerant and all) I originally opted out of some of the activities, like the Tuscan dinner and the German Beer Hall. However we changed our minds about the Beer Hall, last minute, and it turned out to be an amazing amount of fun. The Paris dinner made me sick from all the bread and dairy but such is life. The Tuscan dinner was apparently not so great, so our choice to walk around Florence was a good one. We also didn’t go to the Paris stage show, because it was about 100 Euro, but a group of us took the tube to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up, which in my opinion was much better! But I would say not to miss any “cultural” experiences like the Beer Hall! (Though, if you aren’t into the live sex show in Amsterdam I don’t blame you.)

 

8. Brought things Michael didn’t think of at all: like, travel towels; regular ones imageget quite musty in a few days, and these dry quickly. We used large ones from   REI, that fold up quite small (though, after three weeks of use do get stinky inevitably). Like, a voltage imageconverted/adaptor set. Like mini appliances that were fantastic! I had both a travel hair-dryer and straightener that had built in converters. Straightener was a great deal from Overstock.com (It was a Mia Min Pro White Dual Voltage 0.5 InchTravel Flat Iron with Pouch). Also a watch: we kept the cell phone off to avoid expensive calls.

 

But, on the other hand, I wish I had…

DSCN6111 Pretty? Yes. Soap-less at times? Also yes.

1. Brought more hand sanitizer: You can’t find it anywhere in Europe, and if you can, it’s super expensive. There will be many times you will wish you had it, trust me (read: a bar in Florence that was out of soap…ewwghh)

DSCN6015Monaco = dressing nicely, and jacket purchase from H&M.

2. Packed more dressy clothes, more dresses in general: I ended up buying some more clothes on the trip of course (H&M PARADISE!) but wish that I had had more “going out” clothing on hand. That being said, I only had one pair of heels (dressy buy comfy wedges) and that was perfect, I only wore them once. I mostly wore sandals during the day and flats (dressy flats are great to have) during the night.

DSCN6007 Sandals can get wet; a definite plus.

3. Not brought tennis shoes, but more sandals: I thought they would be comfy, but my converse actually gave me a blister. It can be so hot that with all the walking your feet feel much better in sandals, and I could have used the extra space in my suitcase.

DSCN6574 See the super-skinny bottle? Honeyed-Heaven.

4. BOUGHT THE EISWEIN (in Germany): It’s expensive, but if you like it, DO IT. You can’t really find it in the US.

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5. Taken out more money at a time from ATMS: I used them a couple times to take out small amounts (like 50 E) and found out later that while my bank didn’t charge me (B of A) the ATM did – for $5. And by the way, the machine will not warn you about this. Next time I would take out all my money in maybe 2 visits, and then I could also keep track of spending better as well. Also make sure you tell your bank that you will return a couple days after you actually do, because my card stopped working in London the day we were flying out, not the day after I told them we would be home.

image Tis heavy.

6. Brought an un-tested book: as an avid reader, I carried around a large book to read on the trip, but got bored by about 70 pages in and ended up buying something else for the flight home. I also read a discarded copy of The Carrie Diaries on the bus one day, but such light reading only lasts about 4 hours.(Bonus: impress people with your speed-reading skills!) Denser books give you more bang for your travel buck. Next time I would test-read enough of a book to know that I liked it. Or else bring Harry Potter, for guaranteed entertainment, of course.

image Chug the Vitamin C.

7. NOT FORGOT THE AIRBORNE!!: I got sick. We all got sick. Heard of the Contiki cough? Well, I certainly got it – a cough and cold that lasted for awhile. The one thing I forgot on the trip was my bag of Emergen-C packets and my airborne – which are hard to find overseas, and if you buy them at the airport, are like $5 a tablet. Outrageous. I was too scared to take cold meds in Europe, because I don’t take decongestants, so was therefore kind of sick half the time. However, if you like to roll the dice, you can get some seriously powerful cold pills over there…

8. And most of all, STAYED LONGER! Many people on our trip stayed in Europe longer, traveling to other places. Seeing that it’s so expensive to fly, I truly wish we had had more time, and Michael didn’t have to go back to work. Next time, I would save more money, and stay way longer. Sure, we were travel-weary, but getting there is half the battle. Now all we want is to go back!!

DSCN5866 Next summer, let’s do it all again…