A Dark and Stormy Night

So here I am in the kitchen, writing, and it certainly is dark outside. And raining. And windy. Not sure that it’s quite a storm, but I’m going with it. My reasons, though, have more to do with the state of the world than the current meteorological realities of North Dublin.

This week was full of great class discussions but, as per usual, they were pretty depressing. Near the end of our first class this morning–an overview of the neoliberal system and how vast and awful inequality &ct is–one of my classmates just simply asked, in all seriousness, “Is there any hope?” And my first thought was good question. It’s not just our classes, which are pretty topical, but the variety of other things going on in the world that variously draw my attention: the US presidential race, the refugee crisis, Syria, the rise of the far right across several countries, climate change, drought, famine, disease, poverty, violence. And a whole slew of others. I’ve talked in previous posts about these issues and the occasional feeling of helplessness if not hopelessness. And I’ve explained why I do have hope. But it’s a tricky thing and I require reminding sometimes. As the old song goes, “I’m just a poor, wayfaring stranger a-traveling through this world of woe but there’s no sickness, toil, or danger in that bright world to which I go.”

The question of how to confront these challenges is a big one. Always I’m asking what to do. And solving the world’s problems is not the purpose of this blog, so I’ll forgo answering, at least for now. It’s incredibly frustrating, tiring, and not a task for an empty stomach. So I’ll leave it there and simply allow the preceding paragraph to both illustrate my mental state and serve as a public service announcement to those who may be unaware of these issues–or those that prefer not thinking about them. They’re tough, and you may not have anything to say about them, but you ought certainly to think about them. Thinking is pretty important in my estimation.

Anyway, on to other things. Tomorrow is our belated Australia Day party (perhaps I should say ‘Straya Day’). For those who don’t know, Australia Day was this past Tuesday so we’re gathering tomorrow in honor of the Australian member of our ranks to eat food and hang out. Should be good craic.

Ooh, there’s a fun thing. Ireland time. Okay, the word craic. It’s pronounced crack, like the cocaine, and it means fun. Sort of. You can use it in an astonishing variety of contexts such as “Missed you at the party last night, it was good craic” or “Ah, yeah, he’s great craic” or “what’s the craic?” Now the Irish (and occasional British) are welcome to critique that assessment (and/or supplement my examples) but everyone else will just have to take my word for it. Please note, it is not used in the sense of “Hey, what’s crack-a-lackin’?” but “What’s the craic?” is a fair translation for that phrase into Irish. Yes, I do know people who say crack-a-lackin’.

I don’t have a whole lot else to report. Things are proceeding and it is what it is. Ideas for my dissertation continue to stew, we’ll just have to see where that will end up. Just one final note from me on the state of the world. I try here, when urging people to just be better people generally, to use really simple and broad terms so that I don’t have to explain myself and so that people really get my point without their hackles going up. And I realized that what I wanted to say today (particularly in reference to issues like immigration and refugees but also broadly applicable) has already been said. The phrase is in such wide circulation, in fact, that it has a name. A phrase with a name.

The name is The Golden Rule.

So there’s my two cents for this week. Think about it.

I Want to Blizzard

Anyone else uncomfortable with how similar the words parson and parsnip are? And are just uncomfortable with the word parse, generally? Raise your hands (FYI, raising my hand). I thought that was sort of urgent. Don’t judge me. I think this week’s post, in following with last week’s spirit of silliness, will be a collection of immensely random things. Also, my life is random.

So, finished the first week of classes but still haven’t had two. One doesn’t start until next week and the other, in lieu of class this week, we attended a conference on Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism. The conference was really good, got to hear firsthand about what people are experiencing and what others are doing to combat it. A lot of the stuff we’ve sort of been talking about all year, but it was good. There was also free lunch. Otherwise, classes have been off to a great start. I really think I’m going to love the one on education, should be super interesting. We have a different professor for research methods and the structure is radically different–basically, it’s just to support us as much as possible in writing our dissertations. So while my confidence in myself has not increased, my confidence in the institutional process has. So there’s that.

Some of you may be aware that there’s a ginormous blizzard headed straight for D.C. While car accidents and hypothermia are bad things, I’m sort of bummed to be missing it. I love snow, and storms, and snow storms. Also, D.C. is hilarious when it comes to weather because the city really just can’t handle it. My final winter in D.C. we got some decent snow and it got really cold (which is awful to be in but awesome to experience from inside a warm apartment) but this is definitely going to surpass that. So I’m a little jealous, no one’s perfect. To all my readers and friends in D.C.–take luck! And take pictures. And get everything you can out of it because I want to blizzard vicariously through you. Also, important aside, it should always and forever be referred to as D.C. and never Washington because the other Washington is more important and better in every way. When people argue with me about this, I land the low punch and ask them which Washington has voting representation in Congress and they usually go quiet. Don’t do that, though, it’s mean to people who live in D.C.

Had a lovely weekend. On Friday I did, in fact, visit that museum and it was lovely. Very eclectic, but enjoyable. Housed in an old military barracks. I went rather early in the morning, just after opening, and it was very cold and frosty/icy. When I entered the main gate and walked into the courtyard, I was totally alone in this huge space glittering in the pale light just peeking above the clocktower. It was cool, so was the museum.

Also this weekend, I saw the movie Brooklyn with some friends–highly recommend. It’s up for two Oscars at least (Best Picture and Best Actress) and they are richly deserved. I also had Sunday lunch with some people from church and it was, as always, lovely. A great deal of laughing was involved.

Also, categories that I have no problem identifying favorites: animals. No question #1 Musk-Ox #2 Narwhal #3 Walrus. Not certain, but giraffe and owl are probably #4 and #5 respectively. Also, in the movie category, for those of you who were uncomfortable with my inclusion of Australia, I take it back and replace it with Moulin Rouge which I can’t imagine what temporary insanity possessed me to leave out in the first place.

In some ways, for me, the highest form of flattery is rereading. Obviously, this isn’t true for things that aren’t written and it doesn’t hold true even in all cases of written things. But. I’m a rereader. There are some things that I reread because they bring back a feeling either inspired by what’s written or because it reminds me of something else that was going on when I first read it. Other things I reread because I cherish them. They may not necessarily be superb writing, or even express important things, I simply love them, the way I love Kinza teriyaki, regardless of how the taste compares with what others might mistakenly call better teriyaki. Some things I do reread because they are excellently written and/or express meaningful, insightful, and important things–unfortunately many of these reside in the ‘classics’ and in lieu of rereading the entire gazillion pages, I often turn to Wikiquote to get my fix. Still other things I reread because I can’t survive without doing so. Some things are so important, so inside of me, so something that they sustain me. Help me, heal me. And I hope that everyone has some words like that. Maybe from a friend. Maybe from a book. Maybe from the Bible. Or a combination thereof. I don’t know, maybe other people get something similar from another source. But I am convinced that everyone needs it, whether they reread it or not.

So there are some observations, happenings, and musings for the week. No promises on this one, I’ve had a long day and sort of just want to cozy up and Netflix into the wee hours of the morning. Until next time, then.

Be Silly–Everyone Else Is

Ta-da, back in the Ireland. I’ve always thought that countries we refer to with ‘the’ (excluding word-countries like the US and the UK) are super cool. I feel like most of them in English have sort of gone out of common usage, but I still like to say the Ukraine and the Sudan. In German, I know that it’s the Switzerland (die Schweitz). Russian, of course, doesn’t have any articles, so it can’t do that. But I don’t know, I think it sounds cool. Some are pretty silly I guess (the Canada, the China) but I do really like the Ireland. The Morocco. The Azerbaijan. There you have it.

I miss my cats terribly. Also human people, you know, but cats.

Anyway, here I am. After saying my farewells, I hopped back on a plane and flew back on Sunday and arrived on Monday. I’ve done basically nothing since then. The first few days were pretty rough. I’m not normally super effected by jet lag, but I had it something fierce this time. I think I’ve gotten over it at this point, now it’s just laziness. But I’m determined to go to a museum tomorrow. There’s one quite close to my house and, as a baby step in going back to actually doing things with my life, I think it’s ideally suited. You all can check to make sure–if I don’t mention The National Museum of Decorative Arts and History in next week’s post, I give you permission to…say something to me. The website makes it sound pretty intriguing, if a touch eclectic: “Discover weaponry, furniture, silver, ceramics, glassware, Asian art and the Asgard, as well as folklife and costume artefacts.” So look forward to that, sounds like it’ll be fun. Not sure what The Asgard is, wondering if it’s any different from Asgard (no article) of Norse mythology.

Right, school’s starting again this coming week, so that’s something that will be nice in terms of learning (which I honestly do enjoy), seeing people, and having a bit of schedule in my life. At the same time, it’s school, so it’s lame. This term, I’m taking six classes again, meeting Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Race and Ethnicity: Theoretical Concepts (Episode II); Colonialism, Conflict, and Liberal Intervention (Episode II); Research Methods (Episode II); Labour, Migration, and Conflict; Contemporary Sources of Conflict; and Migration and Education in Europe and North America. Joy of joys, more Research Methods! Though that one will have a different professor and I understand it to run very differently from the first term, so we’ll see. One way or another it will be related to writing the dissertation, so I can’t imagine it being a fountain of pleasure, but hopefully it will be a bit nicer than last term. I’m really excited for the education one because I think that’s where I’m drifting in terms of career and post-graduation plans. It’s going to be a crazy ride, one way or another.

Which brings me to my title for this week. It sort of just came to me as I sat down to write, and it fits a bit in with other things I’ve been thinking about. You often hear that you’re supposed to be yourself. One of my favorite quotations (no idea where from) is to be yourself because everyone else is taken. People have often praised me for being myself and not caring what other people think about me. This is not entirely true, of course, as I am not always who I am and I do care too much for other people’s impressions of me. However, I think something that I have been gifted with is the ability to be very silly. Now silliness is seen by different people in different ways (as things often are) but I often behave in ways that adhere to the mainstream definition of the word silly. My point, though, is that everyone is silly because we’re all different but we also share many things in common with any variety of other people. So it’s not always necessarily about being different from others that makes you yourself. Sometimes the things that link us to others are what make us the most unique. For example, I’m really into cats (surprise!). This has sort of become a mainstream bit of craziness–we all know crazy cat people. But we’re not all the same because we’re crazy cat people, we’re just brought together by our fearless manifestation of silliness (though obviously loving cats isn’t silly in the slightest).

Not really sure that any of that was intelligible, but it all makes sense to me. Which just proves my point. Don’t be afraid to be silly. I think people who like football are silly, and people who like football often think I’m silly for it. I think investment bankers are silly because they’re like the epitome of not-silly, and they likewise think I’m silly for the precise opposite reason. Like I’ve said in another post, we’re all maniacs down here on Earth. Who knows what any alien races might think of us, should they observe our collective silliness.

But who cares?

This Post is Thrilling

Entering the final few days at home, I find that it’s been a lovely balance of enjoying my time here and the urge to go back. People keep asking me about my dissertation and that in and of itself is reason enough to flee the country, I think. But it honestly has been a really good break. It’s been so important to me to keep up with certain people who (without naming names) are easiest to talk with in person rather than any virtual or written communication. One way or another, I think I’ve pretty well made the rounds of friends and family. There are a few I’ve missed just because life is hard, but I feel pretty good overall.

Of course, now I have to start thinking about school again. I do still have that one paper to write, though I have a week back in Ireland before classes start so it should be okay. It’s been particularly pleasant knowing that people are back at work and school already and I’m just hanging out, very much enjoying that. It does mean,  though, that I haven’t really much to write about this week. Like actually. I struggle to recall specific events of the past week, I just sort of have a general impression, mixed with a few details. I caught up with some friends, hung out with some family, watched some Netflix…

I have this unreasoning fear that they’re not going to let me back into Ireland because I don’t have all the necessary documentation or something’s wrong with my card or something. After all the nonsense that went into registering with the GNIB, I think I’m just paranoid that somehow it didn’t work, it’s all a sham, and I’m going to be stranded. Don’t worry, I’m like 97% certain that it should be fine, but there you have it. I’m also perpetually paranoid when I travel that I’ve forgotten something(s). I don’t actually mind the traveling bit at all, even planes and really long layovers generally, it’s the stress of remembering everything that makes me freak out. But there it is. Wherever you go, there you are. It’ll be grand.

Anyway, I really don’t have anything else for you this week. So obviously this post’s title was an outright lie. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, titles are hard and it simply couldn’t be helped. I trust that next week I’ll have at least a bit more to say, maybe I’ll finally get around to museuming in Dublin since the weather should be okay and there’s no school. We’ll see. Here’s to crossing a continent and an ocean. I’ll next be writing here from several time zones over.