Our stint as house-sitters has been so totally hedonistic. The town is gorgeous and ancient- complete with an old clog factory and a canal walk to Hebden Bridge. Having visited Hebden Bridge, I now know where all of Leeds's coffee shops and tiny grocers have migrated to. (And poets for that matter.) We've had espresso, wine, and two course dinners every night. We've had lounge chairs. We've had a wide screen television. And we've had a full size bathtub. With all these and a two month old kitten punctuating our jeans, it is no wonder we've done no work whatsoever.
Friday, December 26, 2008
That's it. We're getting cats. Not this year, (imagine them in our bleak little apartment!) probably not next year, but by 2010 Zach and I will have rambunctious little bundles of fur of our very own. Cats are one step up to the ladder to settling down, so we just may get there one day!
Monday, December 22, 2008
We're back! Spain and Morocco treated us royally but we're happy to return to our old dreary flat on Archery road. Leeds is remarkably quiet today. The undergrads and most of the graduate students have all gone home. Christmas music jingles eerily in the empty student union hall. The computer lab is que-less and all the books I need and want are sitting obediently on their shelves in the Brotherton library. It's kind of nice really... though I maintain that the city center doesn't feel right without the usual throng of raucous costumed teenagers.
My very favorite souvenir from our journey is a book of Cristina Peri Rossi's that I bought in a dusty bookshop off the main drag in Malaga. I read Peri Rossi for the first time in English in Dr. Weathers' class nearly three years ago and loved her. I wish I could jump right into this one, but have to finish papers before my sister visits. So, until then, Por fin Solos sits on my own bookshelf reminding me of my vow of eventual Iberian fluency.
Happily Zach and I will spend Christmas week housesitting for one of his professors in a tiny village called Mytholmroyd, near the quaint and quirky Hebden Bridge. We're looking forward to central heating, double-paned windows, and feline housemates... luxuries of the academic life? The little sojourn, I hope, will make us feel better about missing our first Christmas with family. But as the day looms, I wish for one more year abroad so that I can fully participate in the festivities and literary culture of England/Europe outside the limitations of being a student. Maybe next year?...
Monday, December 8, 2008
Today is the final Monday of the semester. I've had my last Reading African Cultures class and turned in both preliminary essays. I came home this afternoon and fell asleep watching Pride and Prejudice, the six hour version of course. I've a few large things to do before vacation, come up with some kind of outline for the dissertation and read theory for Thursday's class, but other than that I am all but finished with classes.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
The world appears pleasantly discordant today. Tensions, misfits, and paradoxical whims whistle through my thoughts like a good emo song as I walk down the street to Uni. I've one paper left today and quite a lot of reading before Thursday, and I'm coming to terms with a few disappointments rooted in the academy. First, classes aren't all-inclusive or transcendental. Second, if I could express the wonder of a work or the greatness of a text, in a paper or in class, would it be so great? So I'm thinking, the thing I want to engage with, the experience of a film or a book, is not to be learned in graduate school. I've a feeling that everyone who has been to graduate school would read this and say, 'Of course! What did you expect?'
Yesterday I was walking out of the English library when a man of middle-height, a bald head wearing a sweater (jumper) passed out of his office in front of me. He was singing softly and he carried with him a great deal of preoccupied peacefulness. I instantly longed to be that type of professor, that type of English major. And I knew that man couldn't be a postcolonialist!
I meet with my advisor for the first official time this Thursday. I haven't a clue what kind of outline I will bring to him. I haven't a clue what I want to write about the films of Barry Barclay and Zacharias Kunuk. Right now, I only know I want to watch them with a bowl of buttered popcorn and an electric blanket, with friends and my sisters.
The men to my left right now keep repeating the word 'hobbit' in their heavy Yorkshire accents. Some LOTR is in my future this Christmas.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
We celebrated Thanksgiving with five Americans, three Brits, a Canadian, and an Italian. Everyone brought their best Thanksgiving day dish and hence the food was amazing!! I think the addition of wine was instrumental as well. I had two classes that day so Zach had to make almost all of our food. He did an awesome job and the pear, blue cheese, walnut salad was the talk of the table, while the squash pie (in the absence of pumpkins) only slightly overshadowed by an apple-cranberry cobbler. The British contribution to our feast was really funny. Misunderstanding the nature of Thanksgiving (having heard about it mostly through Friends episodes), they brought frozen vegetable medley, hamburger buns, and paper plates, as well as over-enthusiasm for Allen Rickman and Xena Warrior Princess.
What were Zach and I thankful for on Thursday? Receptive new friends and fellow ex-pats.
Being the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we have two weeks of class left. On December 13th, Zach and I are flying to Spain! We'll be celebrating our three year anniversary a bit early with sunshine. We're then going to dip down into Morocco for our first visit to northern Africa.
As far as literature goes this semester, I highly recommend Tsitsi Dangaremga's Nervous Conditions and as far as films, the Inuit-made and cast film Atanarjuat, on which I will be writing my master's thesis. I also met my first Bollywood film (if you don't count Fire) in the amazing Rang de Basanti. I foresee a guilty addiction to Bollywood in my future.
Finally, Zach and I are trying to figure out how to avoid homelessness as of June 15th. We'll not yet be done with our dissertations, but will be able to write them from abroad. Should we stay here another year, work and travel and enjoy being non-professionals just once more? Should we pick a city we love and move there? Denver? Portland? Seattle? Phoenix? Boston? And what types of jobs should we look for? Alternate teaching licenses? Libraries? Administration? I think we need a fortune cookie this time around.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I need a little help. I'm attempting to write my papers for the semester and I want them to be stupendous. But I'm a little rusty in the paper writing component to graduate work. In fact, that's the one part about school I never liked! Ask me to read 5 novels in a week and I will come through that dazed and unstable but having read every page. Ask me to read a book of criticism and I'll wander the streets looking for appropriate caloric accompaniments, ideal lighting, and perfect lounging cushions.
I'm writing something like an extensive review of the intersections of trauma studies and postcolonial narrative studies for my theory class. I think this requires me to read some trauma theory but I can't get past the introductions!
My goal is to finish the not-assessed essays by next Thursday, which is Thanksgiving for the homeland. Perhaps I need to accept my calling, that of quirky, nerdy high school English teacher.
As Thanksgiving hasn't made it over here yet, the German Christmas market is in Leeds city centre. They have strings of sausages and other meaty cylinders, hanging pretzels, and wooden children's toys. I must go back this weekend! In December a similar market will crowd the beautiful molding streets of York.
I've decided to try the Friends' Church this Sunday. I've been keen on Quakers ever since I learned my high school freshmen English teacher was a lapsed Friend. Recalling how the guys nicknamed her Kermit, I'm afraid to think of what my students will dub me!
I must go find a softer cushion, another cup of coffee, and some inspiration.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Early sunsets and late mornings have got me down the past two weeks. Also, the sedentary nature of graduate school and the isolation of reading four to six hours per day. Today, mid afternoon, I left the apartment in hopes of gathering up some of the yellow sheets of leaves clouding the streets. I walked left instead of right from the curb, followed the crumbling brick buildings into "little London." I walked past a community center, a boarded up, rubbage-in-the-yard, day care center that could have been an abandoned church, and blocks on blocks of ten story public housing buildings. The clouds were low in the sky, the streets were wet, my hands in my pockets.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
View of the Parsonage from this beautiful mossy cemetery
View of the church (right) and parsonage from the cobblestone street
Inside the church, lighting was poor but the space was ideal
I love the lanterns and the bench
This old wonderful street... the Black Bull was patronized frequently by Branwell Bronte. The weather was appropriately bleak and blustery.