Wednesday, April 6, 2011

a day of loitering.

“The range of life must be determined by history rather than by nature, least of all by such tenuous factors as sensation and soul.”

“Languages are not strangers to one another, but are, a pirori and apart from all historical relationships, interrelated in what they want to express.”

Oh My. 

The thing about having a blog is sometimes you want to write about things that aren’t exactly the most flattering moments of your life. In general, the nature of a blog is it is public. Meaning, if someone looking to hire me really had the desire they could track this down and get a really good impression of who it really is pleading for the opportunity. I have two thoughts on this. Lets start with the fact I am not a good liar and in regards to my personal life, I have no secrets. Ask me a question and whether I want to or not, I’ll probably give you a truthful answer. Believe me, there are times when I wish I could lie, but it’s not in my nature. Perhaps it comes from my belief that when it comes down to it, I’m sure my stories, embarrassing or awkward or ridiculous as they may be, are not exceptionally startling. And that I believe the more people talk or share or are honest, the less people will feel alienated and alone—and ultimately I think we are looking for inclusion. Lets face it, it feels good to be part of a club (although, we also all cling to our ‘uniqueness’, which touches on my research.) So, in blogging, this translates to me wanting to write as openly and honestly—despite the social custom to put on a good face for the critical eye of acquaintances, internet stalkers, people from our past, and potential employers—as possible. Secondly, I’d argue, we all make mistakes, and if I out my own now, at least you’ll know the worst of it. Right? When I did submit my essay that I posted below to colleges I remember thinking even then that it was a bit risky and, I concluded, if they didn’t want me, the me in the essay, then maybe I didn’t want them after all. Although, now that I am typing that thought out at the age 23, I must admit, it sounds rather bratty.

So? What did I do that requires such a long preamble?  I missed my first flight ever. I’ve come close before. There was the time at the Dublin airport my boarding pass didn’t print right and I had to go back to ticketing, then they thought my bracelet made of a fork was a weapon, and at the end of it all our gate was literally the furthest gate from security. I ran the entire length of the airport in my socks only to find everyone still waiting. Then there was the time in Chicago when Travis drove me to the airport and I arrived pretty much 10 minutes before the flight and made it through security carrying a pair of adult scissors. But this time was different, there was no screwy boarding pass or someone else’s time schedule to blame, simply the fact that for some reason the sound on my phone had been turned to the lowest setting, meaning, I slept through my alarm and at least twenty phone calls. By the time I awoke I knew it was too late. Since my windows face the East I’ve actually become quite the pro at reading the angle of the sun, not to mention when I woke up there was no alarm going off. Fuck. I was guessing it was about 8 am and as I reached for my phone I hoped it wasn’t true. It’s was. I had missed two dozen phone calls. My flight left at 8.20 and I knew I couldn’t make it but I felt like I had to rush to the airport, just in case I could catch something earlier. In the taxi, and then again on the bus, I was on the phone with Austrian Airlines. “Four hundred and fifty Euros” What?! WHAT. I was not about to pay that much to get on the next flight. I called in some friends, who, thank god, woke up and diddled a bit on the Internet while I was in transit. “Take the train, it leaves at 11 am and gets in at 7 am” “Okay okay, maybe.” I get back on the phone with Austrian Airlines and they remind me that my whole flight gets cancelled if I don’t rebook my first flight—meaning if I train it there, I have to train it back AND I lose my plane ticket all together. I get to the airport feeling dejected, thinking of my options and how I had exactly one hour at the airport before I needed to head to the city if I wanted to take the train. I rushed to the counter, sized up the three people working trying to quickly judge who was having the BEST day ever and seemed willing to do a little bit of extra work in order to save me a few hundred euros. The guy had a teddy bear of a face and didn’t seemed shocked at all when I approached him trying to play it cool and not panicky—people miss flights all the time right? clickty clack clickty clack on his keyboard and then he said, “okay I can have you there at 11 o’clock tonight, it will be 50 euros to change the ticket.” After the women on the phone quoted me 450, 50 sounded like a steal. I committed right away and then I realized I would literally sit at the airport the entire day. Good thing I remembered to throw in an extra book and load my ipod up with podcasts the night before.

I know missing a flight is an error, but as I encounter these kinds of set-backs as an adult I am increasingly proud of myself for resolving them without panic, or tears, or causing a scene. When I was young, I remember getting so angry with myself over the littlest mistake, like losing a sweater, or wasting five dollars. While I don’t indulge these errors of mine I have come to terms with the fact that sometimes I screw up, and beating yourself up over it doesn’t fix the problem or prevent it from happening again.  What is important, is now I know how to rebook a flight, that you should always go to the airport and not through the airlines phone company (or maybe the lesson is always try both) and that even if I set an alarm, I should make sure it is actually going to make noise in the morning.
Several episodes of This American Life, The Moth, and a couple of chapters of Judith Butler later (not to mention a browsing of the duty free shop trying to resist therapeutic shopping), I am finally writing this from the Vienna airport. My only regret is I’ll miss a few precious hours in Sofia.

My flight from Zagreb to Vienna was chuck full of business men and only a grand totally of three ladies were on the flight. Mid-week day travel is for men in tailored suits, leather shoes, neatly trimmed hair and blackberries. It made me want to go into business, not because I envy their life style, but simply because it is such a boys club. Two men were talking about being away from their families, one shrugged, suggesting they go straight to the office from the airport, the other disagreeing. The other night, I was weighing life-paths (a fun game I like to play when I am procrastinating) I looked at the Forbes 500 list. All of the billionaire women in the top 50 or so are partially there because of inheritance. What if I gave up on all my romantic, creative, and humanitarian ideals and set my goal on becoming a billionaire? It could be a fun game, except I did get my lowest grade throughout all of college in macroeconomics. Just a thought.

Well. I guess there is a first time for everything, and honestly, as much as I have been traveling the last couple of years I am amazed this is the first time I’ve missed a point of departure.



A post-script.

After writing this I befriended a young businessman living in New York originally from Tehran. We spoke generally about school, careers, cultural differences in New York and Tehran. He asked me if I will get to my masters, I said probably I just don’t know what I want to do. He said “Humanitarian stuff.” Something about it seemed patriarchal, I know it isn’t but here is the international business man I was speaking about earlier, saying something that sounds like, oh honey, you can nurture people like women always have. I am, admittedly, reading into his comment, but that is what is expected, isn’t it? I would love to do humanitarian work, but why does it not ring with the same savvy as a, I don’t know, a CEO? The guy seemed nice, saying how it’s weird to go home and see women wearing headscarves and how he likes the nightclubs in NYC. He lives in Manhattan and has been there for about ten years. He has a green card-which means he cant leave the Vienna airport without a Visa and he doesn’t get to vote, but other than that he has the same rights as me. We talked about how the Vienna airport is so small, and strangely enough, I know it all too well. It’s the same airport I waited in two years ago to fly home to the US. There is a bar I sat at drinking expensive coffees trying not to tear up, knowing one of my friends was wandering around Vienna waiting to catch the train back to Zagreb and in only 9 hours I’d see Dan in NYC myself. I remember wondering if I would come back and how I didn’t know what I would do once I got home. We are always re-tracing our routes again and again and this in between spaces—non spaces of airports and bus stations—create a vacuum for meandering thoughts. A break in time. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

in this world, beauty is so common

"A lucky line here and there should not make us think any higher of ourselves, for such lines are the gift of Chance or the Spirit; only the errors are our own. I hope the reader may find in my pages something that merits being remembered; in this world, beauty is so common"
-Jorge Luis Borges, Foreward to "In Praise of Darkness", 1969

I am heading to Bulgaria tomorrow for a conference. I was compiling some notes on my methodology and I cam across a particularly poetic part for a research method paper. The first quote is a blip about my method; the second is something sweet to savor--the sort of thing I strive for in my work, a bit of reality a bit of contextualized, informed, historical contesting guessing, and a bit of documentation.

 “Thematic analysis is a method for identifying, analyzing and reporting patterns (themes) within data. It minimally organizes and describes your data set in (rich) detail. However, frequently it goes further than this and interprets various aspects of the research topic”  

“Thematic analysis can be an essentialist or realist method, which reports experiences, meanings and the reality of participants, or it can be a constructionist method, which examines the ways in which events, realities, meanings, experiences and so on are the effects of a range of discourses operating within society. It can also be a contextualized method, sitting between the two poles of essentialism and constructionist, and characterized by theories such as critical realism, which acknowledge the ways individuals make meaning of their experience, and, in turn, the ways the broader social context impinges on those meanings, while retaining focus on the material and other limits of ‘reality.'" 

 I posted a bundle of photos to FB today. You can view them here: PHOTOS... there are photos from around my Bday, a trip to Venice, a trip to Osijek, and a trip to Ljubljana.

The spell check on my computer is never working anymore. It ALWAYS thinks in Croatian. What is a girl supposed to do?

See you when I'm back. 


Monday, April 4, 2011

News Reel...New York Times Article

This article in the NYTimes looks at one woman who looks like she is facing war crimes charges. She is a Croatian women now living in KY who is suspected of war crimes against Bosnian-Serbs in the 1990s. It seems like there are three questions floating in the article, did she do these things she is being convicted of, are they justified during war, and if she did, does this make her a bad person.

Give the article a read, click here. 
The days keep on passing by. I asked a friend here once if he would ever like to work anywhere else. He responded --I dont think I could. In Croatia, we have a funny work ethic where we do one thing and then go have coffee.-- He was partially joking, but the pace of life here is absolutely different than home. You make time to spend with family, you make time to sit on a coffee. If you see someone only once a week, it means it is someone you dont see very often.