Sunday, October 8, 2006

Grumpy hiraeth

  • I wholeheartedly apologise for the lack of blogging this week. It can be directly attributed to the strain of the past several days. I've written a tedious and whiny post about it in Welsh and don't feel like repeating myself, but suffice to say this week has really sucked.
    One of the many endearing things about the Welsh is the fact that they take a sort personal responsibility for everything that happens in Wales. They are an "If-I-knew-you-were-coming-I'd-have-baked-a-cake" sort of people, and if they didn't know you were coming, they usually feel a sense of guilt about it: "I had no idea this American would be at the pub, but I really should have baked a cake anyway. Oh, I'm such an awful person."
    Similarly, I have found myself feeling the need to reassure friends that it is not their fault that I hated my first week of classes.
    Repeat: No one in Wales is to blame. The English, maybe, but for the most part, this week was shit because I am a dummy. I am in over my head in my classes and I am unsure as to whether I will improve fast enough.

  • All of this has caused a weird sort of homesickness; weird in the sense that I have no desire to go back to the United States, but there are a load of things that I miss:
    - Driving or biking across the Mendota Bridge and seeing the Minnesota River Valley stretch out into the horizon; especially at this time of the year, when it is lit up in the vibrant colour of autumn.
    - Oktoberfest at Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit.
    - Running along the Mississippi River.
    - Walking up and down Grand and Summit avenues.
    - Conversations that don't centre on my being an American.
    - Conversations in which I understand more than 70 percent of what is said.
    - People who don't have ridiculous hypersensitivity about identity, which is all just made up, anyway (the whole of fucking Europe has got their head up their ass about the fact that they're from blank-blank place and therefore it is impossible for them to have a meaningful conversation with people from blank-blank place).
    - Barbecue.
    - Mexican food.
    - Vietnamese food.
    - Cheeseburgers that aren't overcooked.
    - Proper American-style pizza (Pizza Hut and Domino's do not count).
    - Being able to drive and, by extension, being able to go to a place when I want to go to that place.
    - Being able to isolate myself from depressingly stupid people (the stupid and the brilliant are more integrated here; one minute you'll be talking to a bloke who knows 15 languages, and the next minute you're talking to a woman who can't see what's wrong about putting Coca-Cola in her baby's bottle).
    - Not constantly worrying about money.
    - Going to friends' houses to watch the Vikings.
    - Children who are not allowed to swear at their parents.
    - The smell of fireplaces at night.
    - Laughing really hard.

  • On the bus Saturday I sat next to a kid who plays a character on the Welsh-language soap opera "Pobl y Cwm." He was with a woman I presumed to be his mom and a group of people I presumed to be his mom's friends. It wasn't exactly the biggest celebrity spotting in the world, but there you go.

  • Wales completely lost the plot Saturday against Slovakia, making me happy that I made no effort to see the match in person.

  • I don't know why, but nonsense phrases are inherently funny in Spanish. Example this good name for a band: "Los Gatos Cumpleaños" (The Birthday Cats)

    Rob said...

    For what it's worth:

    1) Hang in. It will get better.

    2) Yes, 8 classes is a boatload.

    3) Regarding language study, someone wise told me "Everyone learning a language, including native speakers, makes thousands of mistakes in the process. There is no shortcut around this process, so you may as well just start making them..."

    Anonymous said...

    I don't know what's worse, sitting next to a woman feeding her baby coca cola in a bottle or sitting next to dumb teenagers who think Ohio is Hawaii . . . .

    Regarding bad weeks, if it's any consolation, one of my direct coworkers accused our team of trying to get her fired at the all-staff meeting last week (note, she's doing it very well on her own and doesn't need help from us), AND I found out my recent ex-boyf of 1 month was trolling for women on and was dating one about 2 months ago. do the math.

    who wins?

    tanita✿davis said...

    Hey Chris, been out of the loop, planning my sister's stupid wedding thing for the past week, and just caught up with your first week at school. Somehow you manage to make even depression and grumpiness seem funny - horrible but funny nonetheless.

    Have you found out when/what you can drop, if you're feeling like the 8 classes (!!!!) is a bit much?

    David T. Macknet said...

    I'm trying to wrap my mind around going to school in Wales, working on getting truly fluent in Welsh, and learning Spanish at the same time. Perhaps there're some mental gymnastics better off left unperformed?