Monday, December 27, 2010


Page 36 of Uganda guidebook, "Should you encounter any other large predator on foot, the most important thing you need to know is that running away will almost certainly trigger it's 'chase' instinct and it will win the race."


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Africa? Africa. AFRICA!!!!

In my last epic (and tipsy) e-mail, I wrote that I finally was invited to the Peace Corps. I think it speaks for itself, spelling errors and all.

I thought a bit of explanation might go a long way, however. On Monday night I received an e-mail from my placement officer finally requesting I fill out a questionnaire about the challenges of teaching in a developing country. And similar to when I get word from anyone or anything Peace Corps related, I had about 6 hernias, and then frantically completed the questionnaire in like an hour, refusing to take any breaks to eat dinner or talk to my parents. All so that I could e-mail the questionnaire back, completed, at like 9 pm at night. I'm a very reasonable human being. They asked some tough questions, like why I wanted to be a teacher in a developing country, how I felt about corporal punishment (something I was bound to encounter), and how I would deal with primarily being around rote memorization teaching methods. Tough questions.

The next day when on a break from making carmel latte macchiatos for angry middle-age women, I received an e-mail from my PO asking when I was available to talk to her, and I of course responded with the soonest time that she given an option for.

The actual phone interview was more difficult than I expected. It was almost as long as my initial interview back in July. We covered everything; why I wanted to join Peace Corps, what I'm doing currently, the different forms that teacher training could take, loneliness, geographic isolation, family support, alcohol, geographic flexibility...

My favorite questions were, "So, how do you feel about biking up to 20 miles a day on rough terrain to get to work?" Haha. Luckily, I feel really good about that.
When the questions were beginning to wind down, she asked me about my geographic flexibility. This was when I started feeling more positive. Earlier on in the interview she had prefaced one of her statements with, "IF and when you are invited..." and I remember thinking to myself, "all is lost," and seeing images of my future life, a hideous montage of me as an aging barista who lived with a pet ferret in my parent's guest room and reads romance novels for the rest of my life.
BUT when she asked me about possible locations, I told her that one of my original promises to myself upon joining the PC was that I would be a flexible applicant and go wherever they need me/wherever fits me best. Then she asked me how soon I could go. I interrupted the stream of silent "ohsweetjesuses" to tell her late January.
After a moment of hesitation, she told me that there looked to be a program that fit me in Africa, leaving in early February, and congratulations you have been invited. Because the only word that made sense to me in this sentence was "invitation", I told her thank you with gigantic eyes and trembling knees.

After we had both hung up, the word "africa" took on new significance. I almost immediately started crying, then laughing, then crying-laughing. Africa. It felt perfect. The next realization was the word "February", once coupled with the modifier "early." The math, like usual, took about 2 minutes longer than usual, but suddenly it became blindingly and terrifyingly evident to me that I would be leaving for Africa in 6 weeks. Holee shit.

Peace Corps is hilarious. I thought I was going to go to C/S America, and probably not for several months (based on my conversation with placement last week), and now I'm going to Africa in exactly 6 weeks. Awesome.

Did I mention how excited I am?

Hang in there if you are waiting to hear from the Peace Corps process. You can always be surprised. And, they really do want to place you as soon as possible. It's so worth it.

Now, I just need to wait for my invitation packet to arrive in the mail, to see where I'm going. I suspect it's Uganda, but I can't be sure ,and I don't want to get all excited about a country again (like Paraguay) only to discover it's somewhere else. I'm a little nervous about the prospect of being a teacher trainer; I think I'm probably one of the only ones who has never formally taught before and I definitely do not have a teaching degree/license, but I am comfortable and experienced in school settings and with mentoring and tutoring so...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Holy shit, I'm going to Africa. Like, really soon. Like in less than 6 weeks.

I have had 1.7 glasses of white wine and .45 glasses of champagne so I m compltely unable to tell you excatly what happened or how this took place. BUT.

The tables have trned. They have turnred mightily, and with force. I am not going to Latin America. I am not going to have to wait for months on end to receive an invitation. I reicieved one today. I am going to Africa (possibly Uganda?) in early February. WtF???

This deserves an explanation later. For now, suffice to say, that I am going to Africa in a far too close future.

Does anyone have any mosqito netting?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Searching for peace.

Damn it.

Today I found out that my program in early February is full. This means many things. Most importantly, it means that I will not be leaving in early February, and probably not in February at all. It means that either I was too slow in being medically cleared, or someone else took my spot. It means that my near future existence just became a lot more boring and over-wrought. It means that I will not be contacted by my placement officer for the next month, and probably will have to leave a lot later than I originally hoped. It also means that I may not be going to Latin America. At this point, I could be going anywhere. This means that now, I will not see my boyfriend for more than 2.5 years. And I thought 2.5 years was bad.

I have never been so fixated upon something in my entire life. The minute I officially applied for the Peace Corps, I knew that I was going to do it. I have wanted to do the Peace Corps since I was a little girl. I went through a period during college when I was both intimidated by the application process and too unwilling to be separated from my significant other (at the time) to go through with it. It's funny how those childhood dreams always come back. I also have always wanted to be an author, and although I am on an extended hiatus from this, I still firmly believe that writing will be a part of my life. Same with Peace Corps. The thing with Peace corps, though, is that I want it to start. Now. Writing will come, or deepen with age and experience. The Peace COrps needs to happen, right now, when I am young and full of adventure, and relatively unattached.

It seems silly because what are a few more months, really, in the grand scheme of things? Why do I want to start on this journey as soon as possible and not instead focus on soaking up being home in the Twin Cities?

I don't really know this, but I do know that the last 3 months have been the most emotionally-wrought that I have ever experienced. Despite being in a very comfortable living=situation in a city that I grew up in with many people around who I love, I feel completely uncomfortable in my own skin. I have never before experienced such a black-hole of inactivity, creative-hiatus, and social isolation as I am now. I need to be taken outside of my comfort zone and quickly. To think of spending the next 6 months here in Saint Paul makes me want to break down. IT also makes me feel incredibly ungrateful to feel this way.

I regret that I am in this itchy-neurotic-overwrought post-grad period, because it causes me to zero in on my pathetic spectrum of anxieties and desires. I want to forget about myself and become involved in something, like I was last year in AmeriCorps. I want Peace Corps to suck me in like a UFO from the sky and spit me out somewhere far-away, I want to be surrounded by people my age who are doing the same thing, I want to be challenged beyond what I could imagine.

Ah. Now it is a waiting game, again. It could be months before I leave. I have no idea how I am going to distract and fulfill myself until then. For the short term, I already purchased the last Stieg Larsson book today, right after I heard the bad news. I feel like this is a good start.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Fresh-Water Pirate

Does anyone else notice that the older they get the more obviously and painfully aware they become of the depressing state of our nation? I guess that's just part and parcel of self-development and adulthood (adulthood...giggle), but my main observation over the last few months, is that it really sucks. A lot.

I was a lot happier when I didn't know about the stupid, petty games that our government plays, oftentimes just to prove a point that they have already proved countless times before. I was a lot happier when I was playing with my dinosaur models or discovering boys then discovering that it is a frighteningly small number of Americans that care about helping each other. WTF on not repealing the ban on Don't Ask Don't Tell? It'll probably take us another 500 years as nation before we are able to collectively accept that gay people are people, too. I don't want to think about when we will finally get that giving breaks to the extraordinarily wealthy does not, in fact, help poor people. Or the nation.

I was just about to spiral off on a long rant about the public transportation and systematic racism but then I got really tired and forgot how to form a sentence. And think.

So, onto parrots. Yesterday I saw a parrot. I was depositing money in the skyway bank in Saint Paul and after my transaction was complete, someone behind me said "Hello!" in a loud, nasal grandmother sort of way. Upon turning, I discovered the enthusiastic greeter to be a yellow parrot on the shoulder of a man wearing tattered, weather-worn clothing. Amazing. The man was clearly a pirate, and a severely confused one at that, to find himself washed ashore in central Minnesota. Maybe though, there is a sort of off-brand pirate that hail and pillage from the Great Lakes. The fresh-water pirate. In other words, the pirate that failed the physical. Perhaps this tattered and money-transacting man was flat-footed, and so instead of pillaging tropical islands and seas, he sinks the motor boats of Scandinavians in Duluth during fishing season to get their Bud Lites. Either way, I left just as the two were beginning to do their bank transaction, but I did hear the parrot say "How are you?" to the bank teller. I guess Great-Lakes pirates adhere to Minnesota nice.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Paraguay or Somewhere Else?

It's getting down to it. My application is finally in the hands of my placement officer (specialist) at the D.C. headquarters.

A few days ago they had me send in an updated resume and an explanation of my relevant Spanish experience since I first applied. Yesterday, I was told that my application would be passed to my Placement Officer and that my preliminary review was complete. !!! I am much less panicked because my 8 week deadline is approaching and the lady I spoke with yesterday told me that placement officers are still working on Mid-January currently. It must be more of a 6-week deadline, after all.
I was also told that I was nominated to leave in early February....and although I had always known I was supposed to leave in February, I did not know it was early February. This is an important distinction. There is a Peace Corps wikki article that my boyfriend showed me that gives the dates of future country departures, as reported by volunteers who have already been invited. This same page also has a placement calculator that gives a better idea of where you may serve, depending on your sector (i.e. agriculture, education).
Here is the February time line:

February 2 = Paraguay
February 2 = Ecuador
February 9 = Uganda
February 14 = Zambia
February 15 = Guyana
February 18 = Namibia
February 22 = Honduras
February 27 = Malawi
February 28 = Costa Rica
February 28 = Madagascar

After using the placement calculator, I found out that Paraguay had volunteer positions in my specific educational sector (Primary Teacher Training), and that Ecuador didn't. So to me this means that I have a fairly good chance of going to Paraguay, that is IF I don't miss my original departure date or if Peace Corps doesn't randomly send me to Africa or something. This could always happen, and DOES happen fairly frequently. Peace Corps never guarantees that you will end up going to where you were originally nominated.

However, I needed to be swept up in something, so I immediately started researching Paraguay. If it ends up being another country, then I'll pour the same sort of joyful curiosity into it, as well. Some key things about Paragauy:
It's landlocked.
It's very impoverished.
It has widely varying geography and climate.
Meat (red meat) is the main staple of their diet. (Yikes)

I'll be happy wherever I go, whether I eat solely raw meat or mangoes. This was one of my original reasons for doing the Peace Corps. I'll go where they need me. BUt, it's still fun to learn about a potential country. And if I do end up going to Paraguay, I'm going to have to start eating meat sometime before to acclimate my body and so that my soul doesn't explode when my host mum feeds me some undefinable meat on my first day there.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I just realized that I awkwardly have a blog that no one reads or knows about. I feel like this will probably change, once I go to Peace Corps or once I give the address to people, but for's sort of uncomfortable. It's like I'm shouting in a dark room...or running in a deserted forest...or crawling on a silent sea floor, or maybe screaming my name in a limestone cave. One of those, at least.

I think I feel good about it, anyway. I don't really know how to be a blogger or network or anything, so if this blog is for Ilse-eyes-only, then I guess that's okay. Also, it's great self-affirmation. Like, for instance, today I am wearing a new red hat that my aunt(ish) Esther knit for me for Thanksgiving. And, it's really comfortable and looks awesome on me. This is something to celebrate, no? Today I also received the welcome news that I was finally medically cleared for the Peace Corps. This is really exciting news and I only hope that the remaining leg of the process (i.e. getting in touch with my placement officer and getting an official invitation) goes quickly because I do not want to miss my nomination departure date in February.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Slackerology, a way of life.

I just recently sat down to read VITAMN, a great local Twin Cities guide that you can usually find piled in coffee shops. Usually, I just browse through to see upcoming shows or events in the cities, but this week the featured article caught my eye. Leif Pettersen, a local Minneapolis dude is an experienced travel writer, and blogger in the area. Not only is he a very interesting guy, he also has a rather rare Norwegian name like I do. And, he once lived in Rome. These things make me excited.
Anyway, in this article he writes about "Slackerology" which he defines as 'A countercultural, modern, minimalist lifestyle choice built around sensible consumption, judicious work habits, increased personal time and reduced stress." I'm not sure that I'm sold on the name because to me it recalls images of ska and punk bands- which aren't necessarily bad, but I have been in a skaband before, and believe me---it's neither relaxing or judicious.
Here is a link to the article:

The article is essentially about how Leif, in the start of a very prosperous career, decided to quit his job, pack up a few belongings, attempt living as a traveling writer abroad. While there, he discovered the simpler and happier existence of people in other countries. We Americans fill our lives with so much unnecessary shit that sometimes it's hard to sort out where our lives end and our belongings and technology end. In addition, we put so much emphasis on working and increasing our salaries and prosperity that we sometimes kill our spirit. Taking a step back, Leif writes about how we can diminish the stress and distractions in our life by cutting down on our consumption (shopping, starbucks, etc), getting rid of shit we don't need, living in smaller, more manageable and energy-efficient houses, working less, and ditching our cars.
These are all subjects that have become increasingly interesting to me within the past year or so. When I moved back to the cities a few months ago after 5 years of living in the green Madison where I got into an automobile maybe 10 times throughout, and walked/bused/biked everywhere, I experienced some whiplash. (And that's only moving 4 hours away in the U.S.!) Like I have written earlier, I haven't really lived in the cities for more than two weeks since I was 18. The life that I live here now is immeasurably different from when I was in high school. I'm trying to reconcile myself to these differences, make some important changes from my previous lifestyle, and find a good way to spend life here until I leave for Peace Corps. The Peace Corps itself will throw me into a completely different lifestyle than I have ever experienced here, in Madison, or in Rome. I know I will be living without starbuckses, shopping malls, a pervasive car culture, and hopefully many other things.
I think it's important to examine my current lifestyles and figure out a way to make it greener, simpler, and less packed with stuff. For me now this means using a car (read: my parent's car) as a last-ditch resort, taking advantage of living downtown, and downsizing all the stuff I somehow own after 23 years.
Anyhow, ranting aside, this is a great article.
For more about living car-less, here is a link to Leif's recent blog about the perks of ditching your vehicle. I realize that this simply isn't possible or realistic for some folks, but it might be interesting to some

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Michelle Bachmann is the worst.

Today we found out that we are going to be in a even greater political gridlock in Washington, which will lead to absolutely nothing substantive getting done (which is exactly what we want from our government, right?) except for maybe the repeal of the new healthcare plan. Great. We just can't stand the thought of poor people getting more accessible health care for more than a few months, I guess. How can people vote for candidates whose main platforms include a complete disregard for poor people, the environment, and civil rights?

The only bit of hope is the gubernatorial race here in Minnesota, which is so close that it may lead to another recount.

It's a godawful depressing day when people like Michelle Bachmann and Ron Johnson get elected. I have nothing else to say, except to show a winsome collection of sound-bites from Michelle, herself.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Obama and electro-dance punk.

I had two revelations this weekend. The first one, is that Obama has the most winsome and beautiful smile I have ever seen. Whatever the golden ratio is for teeth, gums, jaw muscles, and lips- he has it. I went to the Mark Dayton rally at the U of M Fieldhouse on Saturday with my parents. It was incredible to see how many people were lined up for the event, there was at least a mile of a line snaking around campus. Inside, we stood for more than two hours waiting for the rally to begin. Around us were people of all age, race, and gender. Children were perched on their parent's shoulders, there were canes and walkers front and behind us, married couples, groups of students with backpacks, men in business suits... It was wonderful to see the diversity that the DFL party in Minnesota had-- quite a bit different from the Tea Partiers that we saw while standing in line outside of the rally (read: old, white men). As part of this rally, both senators, the city mayor, a priest, and Mark Dayton spoke before Obama came on. Although every part of the rally was exciting, the downside is that because of our lucky front position, we couldn't hear any actual words coming from the speakers. The acoustics were pretty terrible, so I just clapped and "WOOT!"ed whenever everyone else did. It was incredible being 30 feet away from Obama, and although I couldn't hear much of what he said, I could still admire his poise and skill with public speaking. And, his smile. I hope that this rally got Minnesotans excited and committed about voting in the upcoming elections. It's high time that we replaced Tim Pawlenty with someone who values health and education in Minnesota. I think that Mark Dayton, although not a perfect candidate, at least is dedicated to progressive issues, and will not carry the same incredible disregard for disadvantaged people that Tim does.

My second revelation this weekend is to never go to shows alone. I went to see LCD Sound System with opener Hot Chip this Saturday at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. I was really excited because LCD's new c.d. "This is Happening" was my favorite album this past summer. My boyfriend Casey introduced me to them when I was living in Madison, and I fell in love with their dancy-dance beats and incredible lyrics. It's great music to dance like a maniac to. One of their best songs in my opinion is "Dance Yrself Clean," and that was exactly what I planned to do at their show two nights ago. IN general, the show was great. I loved the opening band, and I had floor tickets for the show, so I was able to get right into the action. LCD played a great show and opened with my favorite song. Great, right? The only problem was that I was alone. Sure, I had an acquaintance who I met up with, but he was with his girlfriend, so I drifted away after a while to let them be alone. And that was exactly the problem. Everyone was in a couple. I remember going to go see punk shows at the Qwest Club in Minneapolis when I was in high school and how they were really just musical dates, and how the fun of it all was leaning back into your boyfriend (who happened to have green hair and gauge earrings) during the concert. Well, nothing has changed. All of the indie underworld of the cities are apparently in committed relationships. I dodged couples for what seemed like hours, trying to find an unassuming and non-monogamous place in the crowd to do my thang. It felt a bit discouraging, especially considering my own boyfriend is currently 80,000,000 miles away in Turkmenistan. For the first time since we said goodbye, I felt really empty without him there, especially because LCD Sound System was one of the bands that we bonded over. During Dance Yrself Clean (which is his favorite song too) I danced through tears. Embarrassing. But, in a way, I felt o.k. being the awkward crying girl who was dancing alone in a corner. I felt clean afterward.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Non-fat, Sugar-Free, Half-Caff, No-Whip Latte.

In the words of my friend Fran, I'm now a "coffee bitch." Sorry, mom. "Barista" also works. The thing about working in a coffee shop is that people take their coffee seriously. Coffee is serious. For some people it is the difference between a good and bad day, or between sleeping and being awake. You don't mess with people's coffee. You give it to them, quickly as possible, and as dark, or light, or whipped, or foamed as they want it.

This is a good experience for me. Mostly, because I needed a job. The last customer service job that I had was at a Deli in the UW-Madison Union, where the majority of our sales came from our homemade ice cream. I feel as though this new job partially redeems my past of less- than-sterling customer service. At the Daily Scoop Deli during college, I spent a large majority of my time sneaking spoonfuls of ice cream, and allegedly scaring way senior citizens by sticking straws in my cowgirl hat and pretending that I was a goat, according to one less-than-glowing customer review. When I was 15, I worked at the MarketPlace Deli and candy counter at Marshall Fields, in which I specialized in making terrible wraps, eating more ice-cream and candy (!), and staring at customers when they would ask me things like, "I want .74 pounds of the dark chocolate peanut butter cups, an eighth a pound of sour patch kids, a mixed bag of .15 pounds of liquorice niblets and .35 of cherry blossoms, but please make sure the niblets are mostly on top." It changed me, knowing that candy could be so complicated. Candy should never involve measurements. It should just be eaten, often, with no questions and a lot of smiling. These were all slightly traumatic experiences, in which I had to confront entirely new worlds filled with complex details, many numbers, intricate processes, and cleaning.

I was really nervous to start this new job, scared of my potentially disastrous existence as a barista. I thought about flying arcs of spilled coffee. I thought about confronting that little hot steaming wand that baristas use to heat milk, and the harrowing possibilities of such an encounter. There are a lot of hot things in coffee shops. There are also a lot of very impatient women who order drinks with 7 adjectives in them and then expect you to remember exactly how many squirts of non-sugar vanilla that they ordered.

All of this aside, it has gone well so far. After a week of opening at Dunn's (yep, 5:30 am), I feel fairly confident about some things, and in general I like this job a lot better than my previous ones. I have almost mastered the cash register, and have even learned several coffee drinks. I have made several terrifying encounters with the steamer wand, and I have survived. I am certain that it will always win. I can sometimes pinpoint what someone will order when they come up to the counter, and I love the people who always get just a cup of coffee.

I have always been a huge coffee-shop bum; during college I would go to a coffee shop practically every day to write or do homework and stay sometimes for hours. I still do this, but I think that my hours working behind the counter will make my coffee-shop slumming a little more moderate. Although I am free to make myself coffee drinks whenever, I think I will be sticking to my simple teas or chai tea lattes. Everything else still sort of freaks me out.

Something I can definitely say with confidence is how much stock people will put into a coffee drink. As someone who used to buy chai lattes almost every day, I can relate. I think that people love the idea that they can completely control and elaborate their coffee drink, until it is practically perfect and unique. Coffee shops have become an outlet of creativity for people before and during their work days. Maybe it's the only thing that some people can control during their days, hence the "double-shots" and "skinny" and "no-foam" and "no-whip."

I think I'm okay with slinging lattes in this interim before Peace Corps. It has been a few strange months and I know that this feeling of ghostliness and displacement will not pass away quickly, but at least I am busier now. I know that being in Madison right now would not solve anything, even though I desperately wish I was still there and that it was summer...But, I think this is more about a person who is missing than Madison itself.

Tonight my Varsity girls are off to play their first section game against De La Salle! Cheers for good soccer and a possible bid at state! Go SPA!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jane Austen is a trollop.

I think I’m at a cross-roads with myself. My yin and yang are showing, and they don’t like each other.

It’s Saturday evening. Last night I spent at home reading Sense and Sensibility (one of the last books in my house I haven’t read) and trying to get my dog to poop on walks. To be fair, my parents are out of town for a few days, so I am officially on Beppo-duty. It is still pathetic that these were my only plans, though.

Today my soccer team (SPA girls varsity) had homecoming against Blake, in which we held them off to a tie. This was exciting, and I really do love coaching and watching beautiful soccer. It was a lovely start to the day. I think the whole trouble started when I got home. It already looks like another night reading Jane Austen and talking politics with Beppo?

There is this huge push and pull in me these days. And I don't attribute it to the growing up process. Lets be honest; I am no adult. Inside of my body, lives an sometimes raucous and rowdy girl. On a Saturday night, she wants nothing more than to get happy on beer with friends and then dance to loud electro-funk beats. Or drink beer out of a boot and hop to the polka. This is the girl who has had the steering wheel for much of my life, although this is not always manifested through beer-drinking (don't worry, mom). She is carefree. She’s a good sport, social, quick to laugh, and magical on the dance floor.

The other part of me, however, is starting to show. Lets call her my stay-home-on-weekend-nights-and-read-sense-and-sensibility-girl. She also has a nasty flair of being environmentally conscious and asks herself such annoying and droll questions as, “is it worth driving 20 miles to go dance at a club?" or "Can I take a bus?”, or my favorite, “Would I be better staying at home, closely monitoring Beppo’s bowel movements and reading more about how to get a husband in 18th century England?” It's not that there is anything wrong with this. I just don’t feel that at 23, I should already be saying these things to myself.

The sad thing, is that I actually do have some friends here. Some really close ones. It has been much more shocking than I thought it would be to go from having friends who live blocks way in Madison, to here in the Twin Cities where my closest friends are a 20 minute drive away. I love being able to stumble out of my apartment at a preposterously late hour in Madison and meet friends at a bar or restaurant three block away. Something inside of me dies when I need the use of a car in order to have fun. I’m determined not to let this happen.
In Bill Bryson’s book, “I’m a stranger here myself” (A book about his return to the United States after living in the U.K. for some 20 years) he meditates upon our dependence on cars in the U.S. We are one of the only cultures where people drive their cars a block to get from one store to the next instead of just walking. It has come to the point where most of us take our car for granted. It is another necessary thing that we always keep on our person. Wallet, cell-phone, gum, car within a 20-foot radius, check.

I can be pretty stubborn, and this is something I am completely stubbornly committed to being stubborn about. I want to consider using a car as a privilege and a last resort. There is a decent bus system here. I have a bike. I live in the downtown of a (somewhat) bustling city. Not to mention that I don't even have a car, so I feel even worse for bumming one from my parents. This stubborn rule applies always. Except, maybe for tonight.

When it comes down to it, I may just need to stop mythologizing my former life in Madison and try to forge something for myself here, even if it sometimes requires a four-wheeled vehicle. I got a little nostalgic today and yesterday at SPA homecoming watching all of the high schoolers wander around in large breathlessly- happy groups. High school was certainly not always positive, but at least most of us constantly had groups of friends around us. I think that the major thing college does NOT leave you prepared for, upon entering a post-school existence, is the lack of a group of friends or peers that are often around you.

I really should get out of the house. I think even Beppo senses my antsy state, because during our last two “poop walks," he resolutely did not poop, despite my usually brilliant tactics of yelling, “Poop!” and “Focus, Beppo!” every few minutes, and varying my speed to increase the suspense and aid to his peristalsis. One thing I cannot stand is when Beppo is definitely doing his “I’m-about-to-poop-but-first-I-must-sniff-the-sacred-spot walk, and another dog enters stage left. I then do my best to shield Beppo’s sight of this other creature for the second that it takes for a dog to forget that something exists, because dogs can absolutely not poop within sight of each other. I don’t know if it’s stage fright, but I know Beppo needs some peace, some zen, when he’s doing his thing. And with those wise words, I am off to drive 15 miles to a movie theater in a distant suburb.

Screw you, Jane Austen.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why Hello!

I'm right-brained. Or left- brained. Or whichever brained which means you absolutely cannot deal with numbers or directions with "North" or "South" or really any compass directios. Or any directions in general. When called upon to do simple addition, my brain usually defaults to projecting old Disney Movies. This is one of the valuable things about myself that I have learned since graduating from college.

Yesterday presented a good, albeit unnerving example of this. I've recently been called upon to get a new credit card. Once or twice a year, my dad will shock me into real life by saying something ludicrous like, "Alright, Ilsers, its time for taxes! Do you have your W-something 125er forms?" Things like this terrify me. The other day, my dad said something like, "Okay Ilse-Pilsa, it turns out that your old credit card company, old-bank-so-and- so, are terrible people and have been charging you interest for every purchase you make even though you have been paying them off in time!" Upon hearing that this was NOT a good or normal thing, we set up an appointment with another similar-sounding bank to get a credit card.

Now, I took a financial-literacy 101 seminar through AmeriCorps last year, which told me enough about taxes and credit history so that I can sound passable talking about them in conversation, but in general, I'm not wired for this sort of stuff. I spent a half hour seated across from a tiny woman who barraged me with questions like, "Do you want an over-draft protection that will only kick in when you have gone 20% over your balance, but is completely free except for the 13.6% fee if you don't pay us back in time?", and "Would you like a credit/checkings account or a checkings/savings account or a buffalo/savings account?" At a certain point after saying yes without any notion of what I was agreeing to so many times that it felt potentially dangerous, I finally bothered to call myself out. "Look, I am kind of lost. I thought I was just getting a credit account?" Then, I pulled out some financial literacy 101 stuff to wow her. "I know that usually you just pay back credit card bills at the end of each month, so...why would I need 50 dollars to start that account?" Cue blank stare. "Actually," she informed me, "we are just APPLYING for a credit account. The 50 would be for your checkings account. Those are completely different. And, speaking of that, I just got your application back from the over/under writers. They say that they can't accept you because you are not making enough income to have a credit card with us."

Okay. Excuse me? Anyone making under 12,000 a year (which is many Americans) can't even HAVE a credit card and build a credit history? Although my past year of AmeriCorps which has left me with 22 dollars in my savings account, and my two years of Peace Corps looming in the future are not exactly profitable, I should still be able to have a credit card especially considering I have a nearly perfect credit history! How do low-income people and families ever build up a credit history if they can't even qualify for a credit card?

I left the bank in Highland Park irked, not only because I was denied a credit card and confused, but also because I was the only person walking in Highland Park (a neighborhood in Saint Paul). The bank didn’t have a door on the sidewalk part of the street, only one in back by the parking lot. There were several parts of Highland Park that didn’t have a sidewalk at all, just more space for cars to drive. People drive across the lot or street from one shop to another although it's a beautiful autumn day. How cars are less an alternate form of transportation and more a way of life now? How has walking become old-fashioned and discouraged and frankly a nuisance?

Contrary to initial impressions, this blog is not intended solely as a forum for bitching. This blog is supposed to be for this confusing limbo of my post-college life, when most of us are trying to figure out who the hell we are and what the hell we should do with ourselves to lead productive and happy lives. The curse of the 20-somethings, and the blessing. But part of it will also be about my disillusionment with the places and things that I have grown up around. This blog is also about my eventual departure and life as a Peace Corps Volunteer, which will hopefully begin this winter, and the less interesting but more emotionally-wrought period of waiting in between. And on being generally disheveled in appearance and conduct.

I’m living at home now, for the first time in years. For the first time since I have been 17. It’s a strange thing, having family dinners every night and going in to wake up my mum when I get home at night. After 5 years at Madison, and especially after this summer, it’s something to get used to. I know that I won’t have this opportunity probably ever again, and although I tend to castigate myself for living off of my parents, and although I tend to mythologize my former lifestyle in Madison and in AmeriCorps, I want it to be a positive experience for my parents and I. Most of all, during this interim before Peace Corps, I want to be a good person, and not spend most of my time on Facebook or watching the Office. Not that there is something particularly bad about this, but after a year of living on my own and “getting things done for America”, I feel wildly inadequate sleeping in my old queen-sized bed and spending my days reading on my couch with my dog and eating my parent’s hummus by the spoonful. When I pass days like that, it widens the gulf between what I want to be doing and who I want to be. I feel 17 again, but this time, with more of an annoyingly present conscious. I’m trying my best to figure out ways to fill my 5 months here. I have a job at a local coffee shop that I’m starting next week, in which I am sure to bring some chaos and spilled drinks to, I’m assistant coaching soccer at my old high school, I’m looking into tutoring...

But still, such a twilight zone. To go from my social existence at Madison, my lifestyle of walking/biking/busing, and my general collegey style of living to this, is shocking to say the least. I haven’t been seeing any friends but a few close ones, and I’ve been sleeping 11 hours a night. I think I’m done feeling sorry for myself, seeing as I was living a very fun and lucky lifestyle the last few years, and that I’m lucky as it is to have generous parents to live with until I embark on my next journey. But, every once in a while, I can’t help from meditating on this strange state of existence after college for almost everyone, unless you happen to be one of those kids who comes out of the womb convinced of being a doctor or engineer. And so, in a roundabout sort of way, I guess I’m writing this blog to reflect and ruminate on the difficulties of starting life after 18 years in school, or at least of trying to figure oneself out. And possibly on the absurdities of a culture where people drive a few blocks to walk on a treadmill, live on their cellphones, and have trouble caring for things and people that don’t directly affect them. And on the Peace Corps, if and when I am invited to go. And on the difficulties of going through life with a minimal amount of logic, street-smarts, and togetherness, and the basic inability to perform simple everyday tasks like dry my hair. And basically what all kids my age are writing about on blogs.