Friday, December 25, 2009

Holidays Upon Us

Happy Holidays, folks! After two years spent out of the country and away from family, it's fun to be back stateside to experience the all-encompassing blanket of holiday decorations and Christmas music that jams the airwaves through December. I'm a bit out of practice regarding the consumer frenzy and angry traffic jams that seem to grow exponentially in the days leading up to Christmas, but I've been greatly enjoying myself nonetheless. We've kept our shopping to a minimum - in fact, last week we ventured into the Providence Place Mall, which is, I suppose, a fairly impressive mall as malls go, and after wandering about for an hour or so, left empty-handed. I simply couldn't think of anything I wanted. Maybe it's because I'm just getting older and gifts are no longer the thrill that they used to be, but more likely it's due to the fact that, for a while now, we've gone out of our way not to acquire anything that couldn't easily fit into suitcases. Whatever the reason, it's difficult to think of anything to buy that isn't for the continuous furnishing of the house. Am I crazy, or are housewares unduly expensive? I think my concept of how much things are supposed to cost dates back to 1999 or something.

So, in lieu of buying things, I've just been cleaning and eating and basking in the rosy glow of being (mostly) done with my schoolwork for this semester. I've only got about one and a half projects to complete, both of them highly enjoyable, so I can finally breathe again after the intensive first term. (On a sidenote, at long last I found out the results of my MA program - graduation with distinction! Success!). I can finally enjoy relaxing without the nagging feeling of More To Do, just in time for the holidays.

Despite the fact that we don't know too many people in the area yet, we were able to go to a couple gatherings in the last few days, and the eating - oy, the eating. There were some intense spreads at both of the small parties that we attended. I've eaten, in no particular order, beef wellington, deep fried octopus, clams, oysters, brie baked in puff pastry, catfish dumplings, shrimp empanadas, crepes full of porcini mushrooms and pancetta and cream, and a whole array of debilitating desserts - chocolate ganache, pumpkin cheese cake, and rice pudding, to name just a few. Though I'll be making a resolution to myself at the beginning of the year to seriously minimize my meat and dairy consumption (no easy task, residing with a chef and all that), I figured I would allow myself this final week of gluttony. It's been delicious; it'll be difficult to part ways.

Also eventful - our first New England snow storm. It was, as they say, a real doozy.

Our street, Dec 09

I've never had to shovel my own driveway or front walk, but 18 inches of snow in a 24-hour period is a good time to start. Locals assure us that it isn't usually this extreme, which is good - though I like the look of the snow and I'm not particularly bothered by the cold, road conditions get pretty treacherous, even with the city doing their best to plow and salt the main thoroughfares. This is the sort of thing that I never gave much thought to in Oakland, or even in Berlin or Norwich, where we relied on public transportation to get around - backing out of a driveway on an inch-thick patch of ice is less than ideal. I basically beat the same path from my door to the campus every day; nevertheless, clear roads are fairly important.

That's all I have to report, for now. I'll be heading down to DC for New Year's, a city that I have incredibly never seen. I'm very excited, and I'm sure I'll return with a bunch of generic pictures of Washington landmarks, but I'll try to weed out the most interesting ones to share with you here. In the meantime, stay warm and well, and enjoy all the leftovers of any holiday feasts.

Xmas 09

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Last Week of Classes

Things have been somewhat hectic, folks. This first semester has been very intense, but incredibly gratifying, and the end is officially in sight. One more week of classes and then, thankfully, a break. I will, of course, still have some papers to write over the next few weeks (one on the Bolshevik thinker Aleksandr Bogdanov, one on Nabokov's translations of Blok, and one on Akhmatova's Poem Without a Hero, which brings me to tears nearly every time I read it - so that'll be a fun one to write, yeah?), but at least I won't have any pesky classes to distract from the matter/s at hand.

Thanksgiving provided a break, for sure. There was quite a feast here - ham and sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie from scratch, among other things; very American fare, to bask in our location. I took the chance to actually enjoy a couple days off, pushing down the feeling of guilt that I get when my attention turns to anything but schoolwork, and it was wonderful. Thanksgiving visitor invited sightseeing.

downtown providence

Downtown PVD. Rhode Island seems to be a state that's been plagued with more than its fair share of corruption (like most states, I guess), but it seems that things are slowly starting to shape up (despite the Crippling Unemployment and General Economic Malaise...). We've found a couple of excellent little movie theaters and some very delicious restaurants, and the central public library is fantastic. I need to get to know the area - I can't let the fact that I'll be here for a few years lull me into ignoring the surrounding cities and states.

In the meantime, though, our tree is up, I'm still hard at work, and we've acquired these little companions:

lucy and charlie

That's Lucy and Charlie. They're about 5 months old or so, and they're amazing. They're siblings - they were found abandoned by a friend of a friend, and we got them a couple of months ago. One of the major perks of moving back to the States was the ability to get animals.

Expect a little more out of me over the next month - despite all the work I have to do, there are some fun little travels planned for December and January, and I can't wait. Hope everyone's holiday season is well and warm...