I think it's already been almost a month since my last post but y'know why dwell on the past. Moving forward.
Okay just kidding we have to dwell on the past for a sec because that's the entire point of this blog. Recapping my past experiences of the last 3 months for whomever feels like reading my extremely choppy/awkwardly detailed diary entries. Which all happened in the past. So yeah, dwelling I suppose is what I'm doing to start this post off. Then we can get to the more recent stuff. Like being home (!)
But first, spoiler alert!
Here's my mom and me Budapesting
Back to Krakow, where we left off:
On Monday, October 28th, we had a seminar with Iveta in the morning on Emotion and Affect. We talked about the pieces we read by the neomaterialist writers, Gorton, Ahmed, and Saldanha (write about the body/body stimulations/feelings/emotion/affect). I guess the relationship between emotion and affect is that emotions are affects that already have names. DeLeuzians say that affects are physical, bodily responses, different from emotions, which are already organized/culturized. For example, an affect would be the physical bodily responses that happiness gives you. And happiness would be the emotion? I guess? But then they're also often used interchangeably so why did I even go through that excruciating process of attempting to explain a difference. w/e. After class, we watched a movie called Galerianki, which means something like mall girls in Polish. It was a pretty disturbing film about an apparently common trend that happened (happens?) in Poland where young girls like early teens would hang out at the mall to pick up older rich guys/men who would buy them things in exchange for sex. Really great heartwarming insight into Polish cinema! Great for the family! Just kidding it's kind of depressing be warned.
Don't remember what we did that night. It was a month ago.
Tuesday we had class at Krakow's Jewish Community Center which was really a cool place and I think really necessary especially in a place like Krakow, where the Jewish community was so greatly demolished. Edyta Gawron, a Jewish historian at the Jewish institute gave us a lecture on Ethnicity and Jewish issues in Poland. Really good class. For lunch we finally went to one of the stands that sells the open-face sandwiches that we always see people carrying around which look delicious and have a specific polish name besides open-face sandwich but I can't remember. It was a month ago.
cute sandwich cute Val even cuter Adriane in the background
Tuesday afternoon we had an optional seminar with Iveta on DeLeuze which I went to because again, I know nothing and want to know more than nothing. This was basically just a giant flawless recap of the philosopher Gilles DeLeuze's life/ideas/collabs (Felix Guattari bff <333) by Iveta because she's SO GOOD AT RECAPPING. He seemed like a pretty cool guy. To-read-list: A Thousand Plateaus by DeLeuze and Guattari.
After that, Michelle and I made vegan chocolate chip cookies for which Hannah gave us a sweet recipe (loosely followed).. super experimental but turned out pretty delicious (honey saves all especially when the vegans in the group aren't the kind of vegans who don't eat honey - phew). We even crushed up dark chocolate bars ALL by ourselves ouch hands hurt after that one!! lol!! Then we brought them to the group meeting that night at our apartment which was kind of to prepare for Auschwitz/achieve an appropriate mindset since our visit to the site was the next day. It kind of seemed like this was the last chill day of the program because every day from then on was filled with stressful things like Auschwitz, group presentations, final individual presentations, and (ugh) goodbyes.
Wednesday, the 30th: Bethany and I went running at 8am in the rain because why not?!?!?!? Then we all got ready for the Auschwitz visit. We took a pretty big bus, like the kind we would take to volleyball tournaments - luxurious and comfy with more seats than people so I got a row to myself and slept a lot of the way. Everyone was pretty quiet on the way there. Once we got there, we waited for a while for our tour guide to come greet us, then we all got headphones and he introduced himself and the tour. He started out by saying something like "looks like we've got all ladies today, am I right?" which isn't true because heyyy gender identity is personal/sometimes can't/needn't be visually determined. This kind of situation had arisen before on this program and I've noticed how gracefully Iveta handles it. With this guy she responded with a simple, "how do you know?" Such a response might politely cue most people to shut up and move on/maybe eventually rethink their ideas of gender, but this tour guide gave a chuckle and a "well I can see!" which was annoying. He was a good guide, though, in the sense that he knew what he was talking about and was good about giving us time to be alone and take some things in, but he had something about him that irked me a little. Like he was giving us the information as if he was prompting a response from us. Like using dramatic pauses and voice intonations and something that one might hear on a history channel documentary. It was just kind of annoying because instead of being real with us and interacting with us, he talked at us and almost seemed like he didn't trust us to take these things gravely. Of course, it is important to note that this man has been giving tours for about ten years now and has probably experienced all types of groups, some of which might need some type of prompting or indication of how seriously to take this experience. So it was understandable. I just didn't think that our group needed it at all. In fact, one of the thoughts I left the camp with was how glad I was that these Antioch folks were the ones with whom I experienced that with. I was really proud of how well everyone handled the tour. If I had to visit such an awful site, I'm so glad it was with these people. We had a guided walking tour through Auschwitz and Birkenau, which was an eerie and uncomfortable experience like walking the same grounds that millions of people walked just before being murdered not even 70 years ago. We walked through some of the buildings and then ended Auschwitz at the gas chambers before heading to Birkenau. It was pretty emotional for me, but I also had to keep in mind that while this was a personal experience for me, the visit's purpose was to remember the victims. What was pretty rough for me was that here I was walking into this gas chamber where a multitude of people walked before, but I was 1. walking in on my own will, not by order of the Nazi soldiers, and 2. able to walk out of it, which was not a possibility for those who walked in there 70 years ago. Like I proceeded to the crematorium and out into the sun. That didn't happen for those people. And then here I am getting all worked up about it just by the memories but I also acknowledge that I have to ability to go back to those memories, whereas most of the people who were forced to experience Auschwitz and Birkenau can't access those memories because they were killed. As awful as it is for me to revisit that place in my head, it's kind of a privilege for me to be able to do so. So so so horrible. The Birkenau site was also strange because there was a highway that ran right along the outside of the fence. Like people drove by these horrible death camps regularly. It was normal and accepted by many people. There were also a few houses around, although I don't know if there were that many houses 70 years ago. Our tour guide mentioned that some people did escape the camps, but the only ones that had a chance of actually making a successful escape were the Polish prisoners because they had a better idea of the landscape and might have known where to find a house nearby to hide in. At the end of the tour, we walked all the way down to the end of the Birkenau site where they had a really beautiful memorial, where we all kind of just walked around on our own for a bit. Really emotionally exhausting day, but I'm glad I got the opportunity to visit such a powerful and influential location to history.
Thursday we had a lecture at the Institute for AudioVisual Arts, Krakow's art school I suppose, by Professor Malgorzata Radkiewicz about Women and Gender in Contemporary Polish Cinema. We ran out of time with her lecture but she was so cool and was really impressed by our class discussion and wanted her Polish students to join in on a discussion with us. I think that would have been awesome. She also reminded me so much of my aunt Christy.
well maybe not. She did at the time idk
She was delightful and she talked about/showed clips of a bunch of films that seem pretty gewd and that I wrote down and can give you yes YOU the names of in a hot second if you want. Thursday night we had a little halloween fam dinner with quinoa and wine and candy and then I worked for all hours of the night on my presentation.
Friday, November 1st, we had class from 10 to 5pm because we had our group presentations on different situated feminisms topics. My group was Allie, Kalena, Kate, and me and our topic was Reproductive Rights so we each talked about the status of reproductive rights in each of the 4 countries we visited. I did the Netherlands and totally blew it out of the water (not really but I just wanted to say that because one of the things I talked about was Women on Waves so I thought a pun would be cool). Everyone had wonderful and insightful presentations THEY'RE ALL JUST SO SMART. We used my computer for the projector because I was the only with a PC who brought it to class that day so everyone got to see my cute Ben Folds desktop background in between powerpoints.
After class I napped. Then we all went to a huuuuuge cemetery with Iveta for All Saints/Souls Day which is a big deal in Poland I guess because it's so Christian but OMG it was one of the prettiest things I've ever seen. All of the graves were above ground and practically beautiful works of art in themselves they were like intricate statues allllll right up next to each other so it was just a crowded mess of stone beauty with a few paths here and there for people to walk through. There were a lot of people walking around but it was all so quiet and reverent it was awesome. I walked off on my own for a bit and there weren't as many people near the outskirts of the graveyard. So peaceful and serene and awesome and amazing like I'm amazed at these people and their dedication to beautiful burial sites. I guess one of the things for All Saints/Souls Day is they put little candles on all of the graves, so when we were there it was pitch black except for the pool of colorful flames everywhere you looked.
yeah there's no way I could have captured it in pics sorry guys you'll just have to believe me OR visit and see for yourself I suggest the latter
Afterward, I think a few of us went for a few drinks at a bar but I don't really remember. It was a month ago.
Saturday, I think I just stayed home and worked on my presentation the whole day and then Saturday night we had our Halloweeeeeeeeeeeeeen party at our apartment! Errbody came over dressed up and we had dranks and treats. I made apple cider with Sharon's recipe and it was all super delicious. Hannah and I had a pair costume of the girls from Daisies, the film we watched in Prague about the sisters who eat a bunch of old guys' food:
We're really happy
All of my newspaper fell off pretty much immediately and Hannah almost passed out but we got a good pic! Then Sharon and I fell asleep watching Moonrise Kingdom <33333333
Sunday I didn't leave the house all day because I presented Monday and still had so much work to do for my presentation.
Monday, the 4th, I had a Skype interview with one of the lecturers from Prague, Iva Smidova, at 8am. Really great chat with her. Then we had class from 10 to 5 again for the presentations. Again, everyone did really really well and I'm so impressed. I went last and was an absolute joke. I mean the presentation went fine but I was basically narrating my struggles of feminism to everyone, which I think everyone could relate to so they were all laughing about it and I was also just presenting myself as a hopeless feminist so it was a tad comical I guess. You can have a gander if you'd like.
|File Size: ||848 kb|
|File Type: || pptx|
Initially, coming into this program, I think I subconsciously shared the viewpoint that feminists are over-dramatic and simply think that all men are bad and women are better and that “gender equality” to feminists meant women greater than men– maybe why I wanted to research this to begin with – because I sort of thought that maybe there was a better way of seeing society that didn’t involve totally opposing all men or protesting everything that didn’t totally comply with one’s lifestyle. I don’t think I completely considered myself a feminist before this trip, even though I definitely agreed with some things that feminism preaches and I would be vocal about those things, but when the identity of “feminist” came up, I would sort of laugh or feel like feminists aren’t taken seriously so I didn’t want to totally identify as one. I don’t know, I was flaky.
BUT these wgse folks won me over. I now think I do identify as a feminist because I think I have a fuller understanding of what a feminist is and what feminism yearns for. Before, I think I was simply undereducated or ignorant to what feminism really encompasses, which is a lot and which is interdisciplinary and which is all positive for everyone.
In the midst of my research, I think I kind of changed my standpoint on the subject to be one of wanting to change the way feminism is viewed in society. In hearing feedback and analyzing observations, I came to see the problem as one of misunderstanding by the general public of what feminism actually involves, so I thought the best solution was to try to change these negative associations by better educating people (maybe if everyone took WGS courses, they’d understand and everyone would be a feminist and the world would be a better place) (also totally using myself as an example here). The problem then becomes getting people to be willing to learn about feminism – why would I learn about feminism when I think feminists are annoying and unnecessary and impractical – so since people don’t want to learn about it, they don’t realize how great it is for them and everyone else and then they still think feminism is stupid because they haven’t learned about it and then they don’t want to learn about it because they think it’s stupid and IT’S ALL A VICIOUS CYCLE.
So then I was like what if we changed the name from feminism or women’s and gender studies to something that won’t scare people away from it like freya suggested critical thinking or something. I don’t know I haven’t really gotten that far yet. But still like something that doesn’t sound so confined because really feminism is about way more than just women – gender is connected to so many other things like race and class etc.
BUT perhaps that would be totally counterproductive because it might then erase the importance of women in the history of feminism and such movements/studies which would then maybe play back into that patriarchal forgetting-of-women that was the very problem to begin with.
But I also see a problem with imposing feminist studies on people because that’s super patronizing in itself which is a major contradiction to the goal of feminism like who am I to decide what people should and shouldn’t study?
So I guess where I am right now is that idk.
^^basically my presentation. I'm smart!!!!
I don't remember what I did Monday night. It was a month ago. I think I was just really happy to be done with all of my work for the program.
Tuesday was our last day of the program. So. Weird. The rest of the people presented and we filled out evaluations and left our final European classroom. Again. So. Weird.
Tuesday night everyone came over to our apartment for pizza and wine and beer and candy and games all provided by Iveta. We gave Lauren and Iveta some handmade Polish soap that an adorably sweet woman next to our apartment sells and some candy and a card and we all sat around and chatted and played never have I ever and fishbowl (which I had never played but whoa so fun/funny). Then everyone left and I cried and hugged and cried a lot and everyone was just loving each other and I love everyone and I'm so immensely grateful I got to meet all of these people because holy moly have they all impacted my life super positively and in a way that I don't think anyone else could. They're just all such good people and I always felt like I was in a good space and those types of conversations aren't gonna happen again because it's not likely that we'll all be together at the same time so I'm kinda really depressed about it but also really happy that I know them. And Europe was cool too I guess ya sure (really frickin beautiful and exciting).
Wednesday was departure day. Sharon and Michelle and I took a seven hour bus to Budapest and my suitcase was practically just a houndstooth box that I dragged along the ground because it's so broken in every way besides the zipper pretty much. I stayed in a hostel for 3 nights and hung out with Michelle and Sharon which was so so fun and I'm so happy I got to travel with those two because I think we made great travel buddies. And then the moment we've all been waiting for happened:
GRAMS SHOWED UP!!!!!!!!! in an elevator full of luggage! followed by a bunch of other wonderful women!!!!
Mom, Grandma, Aunt Kate, Aunt Julie, Aunt Christy, and Aunt Christy's friend Diane came to Budapest to frolic through Europe with me! We stayed in a beautiful apartment in Budapest and did a bunch of touristy stuff for 3 days, then drove in a giant van (Little Miss Sunshine style) to Prague with a pitstop in Vienna! Then stayed at Marketa and Slavek's again (a few mishaps but great stories right? right) and then drove to Berlin and stayed a night with Stefan and Kumiko who I had never met but Stefan looks like Ben Folds and they're both wonderful people/incredible hosts and then we flew home at like 6am. See my facebook album for more pictures/sort of a narration of the post program trip with the old ladies, I just don't feel like typing anymore.
Overall, I am so so so happy. This has been an amazing experience and I would not have changed anything about it. I got to visit like 7 different countries and experience an unquantifiable amount of indescribable/unique opportunities which both opened my mind and expanded my perspective. I can't wait to take everything I've learned (k idk about that I've learned a lot.. most of what I've learned) and use/express it in my life back here in the states. I also can't wait to go back because really I have to. Thanks to all who helped me out with the program, and to all who kept me sane along the way. So so happy to be home in my cozy bed someone come hangout with me.
Love you all forever
As I type this, sitting in my full-size-over-the-top-comfortable-floral-comforter-ed bed, I am serenaded from below as the drunken citizens and/or tourists of Krakow, Poland occupy the club/bar beneath our beautiful apartment and sing John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" in a key so off-tune, I would love for the singers to be taken home by a country road or by a flawlessly paved cement urban road or by any road really.
^oops fell asleep without finishing after I started to post last time. I think that was like Wednesday. Idk people are karaoke-ing under us I think every night. Anywayyyyy I'm in Poland! Krakow is the bomb but that's for later. First I have to finish up my week in Prague because surprise (!?) I haven't posted in 8000 years. But first here are a few old Polish men and their dogs in the park whom I exploited for this adorable fall picture:
Last Wednesday (the 16th) was my mama's birthday so a big HBD to nee nee! I hope it was the happiest of birthdays and that all of your wishes came true because you deserve AT LEAST that. You're the best mom I've ever had.
Wednesday morning we had a lecture by Michaela Svatosova, who has worked at the Gender Studies center for 10 years. Her topic was Media and Advertisement: representation of women and men in the media. The lecture itself was rather basic and sort of things that we've all heard before. She talked about how misrepresented women are in mainstream media, which of course is terrible, but nothing really groundbreaking or revolutionary, and showed us some slides of examples of sexist or racist Czech advertisements. In the afternoon, Iveta gave a seminar on Judith Butler and the reading we had to do which was an excerpt from Butler's "Undoing Gender." We ended up just having a giant class discussion about gender and normativity and dehumanization and society in general. I absolutely lovvve these kinds of discussions with the people on this program because they all have such interesting and insightful things to say and I could listen to them go back and forth all day BUT I also feel bad because 1.) I never talk. I literally think I was the only person in the class who said nothing the whole time besides the occasional "mmm" or "yeah" or something like that. I think it's just because I'm taking in what everyone else says because a lot of it is stuff I've never thought of before and because the things that I think about to say seem to be kind of surface level or obvious and not really worth mentioning. I also seem to fall into this trap of having a thought or question that makes perfect sense in my head but then when I try to verbally articulate it there's just no chance. I babble and can't find the right words and then my face gets red and everyone just kinda moves on with the discussion so it's perfect! I'm pathetic. 2.) I feel reeeeally bad during these types of discussion because it just seems like there is no hope for society sometimes! Like every situation seems like a lose-lose for everyone and then I'm like ugh I don't want to think about it anymore because it's depressing but then I'm like no Eileen that's exactly the kind of ignorant unconscious "unexamined" mindset that has screwed everything up in the world to begin with! It's so easy to just be lazy and not think about the problems because I may not be directly immediately affected by them but that's terrible because there are so many people who are and because in the long run, it does affect me because I live in this society so obviously I'm going to feel its effects uggghughghughughggjkskjfsladjhf. But still. Judith Butler. Great stuff.
Wednesday night, Slavek took us to the theater he works/acts with!
Prague's Estate Theater, where Slavo is an actor but unfortunately he's neither of those half naked men being advertised
He gave us a tour of the theater before giving us free tickets to see the opera playing that night, Figaro, from box seats where I think tech people usually sit because there were tv screens and controls and stuff back there. Such a cool opportunity. At one point, the four of us were on the elevator and I was already kind of chuckling to myself at the situation just because Slavek’s so great and Joy, Allie, and I were all kind of silent because Slavo’s English isn’t very good plus we didn’t really have anything to say plus I have a dad-crush on Slavek so idk the combination of factors made the situation awkward and uncomfortable but still precious and so funny to me so I was just kind of making eye contact with Joy/Allie all while quietly giggling mostly internally. But then of course one of the actors walked on the elevator all dressed in his Figaro garb, like powdered wig and makeup and all - I think he was going down to take a smoke BUT I COULDN'T CONTAIN MYSELF I started almost cracking up and had such trouble stifling my laughter I don’t even know why, it wasn’t like it was that hilarious of a costume, it was just some kind of a reaction to the composite of events and I couldn’t stop laughing I had to like bite my tongue which still didn’t work. It was like being in church. I felt so bad too because poor Slavek’s nice enough to take us around this fancy theater and I laugh in his face probably got him fired or something way to go eileen ya blew it again. :/ But then he just took us around and showed us backstage and under the stage and above the stage basically every angle of the stage one could think of. He even showed us the spot from where he fell a few months ago and had to get surgery.
being a tour guide.. what can't he do??
this one's for Joy <333333333333 vanity <3
At one point, Slavek returned from somewhere to our box seats and told each of us to pick a hand and he had different mini bottles of liquor in behind his back for us, as any good father would have for his host daughters. Mine was Absinthe don’t worry I’m bringing it home we can all try it. Ugh so funny I was cracking up yet again.
The play was cool, of course it was all in Italian but they had Czech and English subtitles for us! Suspended above the stage on a marquee thing. Convenient. We only stayed for the first act (don’t worry, Slav told us it would probably get boring for us, so we could leave whenever) but it was still super fun. Stopped in Wenceslas Square on our way home to have a sausage from a vendor and to have a gander at the statue of St. Wenceslas. Cutie.
Thursday (the 17th), we had a lecture in the morning by Ladislav Zikmund-Lender, a Czech art historian/curator. His topic was Framed Stories: Queer art in the past, present, and future. His lecture was interesting, but I think he had a different idea of what the word "queer" meant than we have. He was basically just showing us a timeline of Czech male artists and their possibly homoerotic art. I liked him though, he was a good lecturer. After class, I had a nice Vietnamese lunch with Ezra, Kris, and Lauren, and then went home because we didn't have an afternoon lecture. Went on another satisfying riverside run and then I can't really remember what I did Thursday night. Maybe had dinner with Marketa? I don't know. I know that was when Marketa offered us (mom/aunts/grandma/me) her flat to rent out for when we go back to Prague! So I get to spend another 5 days in that beautiful space as well as introduce my fave fam gals to my fave Prague gal/family and their annoying cat!! So nice of her she's seriously such a peach.
Friday morning, I had a skype interview with one of our Berlin lecturers, Nita Prasad, who gave me some pretty dope info on her perception of feminism/ists in Germany. She's just a really sweet lady in general, too. One thing she said was referring to her identification as a feminist of color. She talked about how useful of a term it is because the term "feminist" by itself is so problematic because of the often racist and classist history/connotation of feminism and the negative stigmas attached to the term. She also acknowledged that it's difficult to have a distinguished term for feminists who don't want to identify with the racist and classist and otherwise discriminatory mainstream feminists, but who aren't people of color. Like I couldn't identify as a feminist of color, but I would still want some way to let people know that I try to be conscious of feminist issues of race and class and such. She suggested the term "intersectional feminist" which I think is perfect because it would still spark people's interest if I say I identify as that, so they would ask what I mean, and it would give me a chance to explain it to them and hopefully change their mindset of feminists for the better. After the interview, I went to class halfway through and joined in the discussion of recapitulation of the Czech Republic. In the afternoon, Ezra, Kris and I facilitated the class discussion on the readings by Anne Fausto-Sterling and Susan Stryker. Fausto-Sterling's article was basically an introduction/in-depth analysis of intersex people and the problematic determination of newborn infants' genders when the sexual organs/hormones/whatever else "determines" sex may not be clearly male or female. We watched a clip from the documentary "Sex Unknown" which everyone should watch. The Stryker article was an overview of Tans* and it was also really good and everyone should read it also. These two articles I think talk about issues that a lot of the general public misunderstand, and I think they are both really good intro readings for people to have a better understanding of them because it's important. It was a really great class discussion (yet again, frustrating because of how complicated society is and gender is and medicalization is politics are etc etc etc.).
Friday night, Valeria wanted to take Allie, Joy, and me out with Matthew and her to a light festival and a pub afterwards, but we had to politely turn down her invitation even though it sounded realllly cool and probably would have been super fun. We just had a lot of work to do like paper-writing and packing for Poland the next day and last minute souvenir shopping and all of that really fun non-stressful stuff (really completely preferable over ugly light festivals and beer honestly ew gag). Marketa made us a delicious dinner, and she and Slavek sat and ate and chatted with us for a lonnnng time. Really hilarious conversation though. Slavek is adorable in his attempts at English and dramatic animated hand gestures. I had no idea what our topic of conversation was for like 40% of the time. But I still laughed a lot. After dinner, they gave us a bunch of little candy bars as we still chatted and they told us we were their favorite group (which is saying a lot you guys, they've been hosting Antioch kids for 10 years) and told us stories about past groups they hosted. Then Marketa pulled out this giant candy bar that looked like it should have straps on the back to put on our shoulders and carry like a backpack because it was so huge. It was called Studentska, which made perfect sense for us students, according to Marketa. Ugh-dorable.
Saturday was travel day woooooo!!!! Just kidding I hate the travel days. Matthew and Valeria came (despite their obvious excruciating hangovers) at 9:30 am to help us carry our luggage to the train station because guess what they're also sweethearts. We left Marketa and Slavek a nice pink bouquet and hand-made card that will never match up to their creative decor but still it was worth a shot/the thought that counts RIGHT??? Right.
Long travel day but actually not as treacherous as Iveta made it out to sound. Also, I got to leave a few items at Marketa's since I would be returning in a few weeks, so my luggage was significantly lighter. After many hours on different trains WE MADE IT TO KRAKOW!
sunset view of the main square in Krakow, the land of churches
Poland is apparently super duper Catholic and it isn't hard to tell with all of the churches like seriously there's one on every corner at least. There are also a lottttt of young hetero/white parents with young kids, like a lot. I think there are more strollers in the streets than there are cars. Lots of tourists too, at least around the main square area, which is surprising because hi what's Krakow?
When we settled in our apartments (I'm in a super awesome super cozy super accommodating 6 person apartment with Valentina, Allie, Bethany, Kalena, and Sharon. Wonderful roomies), a bunch of us went to a restaurant down the street for some late night pierogies yeah I said it POLISH PIEROGIES omgomgomg. And then went for a jar (that's what they call pitchers here I guess) of beer with Michelle, Sharon, and Mayra and we had really awesome conversation about kinda everything and I just have been realizing how much I really am gonna miss these people and their conversation and their presence and their company and perspectives and SO MUCH MORE when we leave each other in a week. I like being around these folks a lot and I'm going to miss being around them because I'm not going to like not being around them. All of them.
Sunday, we had a tour of the city at 2pm so I got up and went for a run through the park that encompasses the main area of the city/our apartment but I still got lost trying to get back but again, it was a good lost. Beautiful city. I know I keep saying the cities we're in are beautiful but it's so true. They have so much history and are just super aesthetically pleasing but also Krakow seems really cool culturally like besides the aesthetics. I mean minus the whole over-involvement-of-the-church-in-government-creating-poor-quality-of-women's-rights aspect and like kinda not much of a feminist presence, it's a really great environment. I think the weather is playing a huge part in my affinity for this place too. It's been like between 60 and 70 degrees and sunny this whole week. Like what even is late October in Poland? I just want to dissolve in the Polish autumn sun. (notanoxymoron). Sunday night we had a big family dinner with everyone at our apartment with homemade chili and cornbread SO YUM and fun because like I said I love hanging out with these peeps.
Monday we had our first lecture here by our Polish site coordinator, Beata (who's a gem and helped me and Sharon and Michelle figure out how to get to Budapest from Krakow). The place where we're having our lectures every day is a building with 3 organizations within it, one being TIK, a crisis foundation for I think women affected by domestic violence so that's pretty (really) cool and another is eFKa, which publishes the only feminist magazine in Poland, called Zaldra. Apparently Zaldra just had a scare a few months ago of not having enough funds to continue, but they told their subscribers/other supporters and everyone moved up to prevent it from ending so that's really awesome. Beata's lecture was about the Women's Movement in Poland. I guess the women's movement here has always been a step behind others. It didn't really start until the 80s with come feminist conferences in hotels and parks and stuff (apparently they weren't allowed to hold them in universities because talking about "sexuality" was considered too vulgar. In the 90s, they had their later 2nd wave feminism and Poland started some women's centers. Beata said that feminists were seen as man-haters, ugly, and lesbian, and that they had these certain characteristics "in their blood," but Polish feminists tried to avoid this stereotype by being more pro-women instead of anti-men, but Beata said that they didn't really succeed. She also talked about how the Poles don't really talk about "gender." They generally see gender framed as destroying families, and that the word "gender" itself sounds similarly to the word "danger." Anti-feminists view gender as an ideology, which apparently is negative here because of the harsh connotations with the word "ideology" connected with the political past (communist/totalitarian). Another interesting thing Beata pointed out was that despite how highly conservative Poland is, 3 members of parliament are a feminist woman, a transsexual woman, and a gay man. After class, Allie, Kalena, Bethany, Hannah, and I went to the Wawel Royal Castle, which is like right down the road from where we live and is really beautiful and looks out onto the river which is also really beautiful.
And there's an adorable statue of pope JPII (we love you) who coincidentally is from a city just outside Krakow so he's beyond revered here. He's everywhere. So I admired:
We went inside the chapel there, which was really really gaudy but obviously pretty and had a bunch of saint relics which I think is weird. The church was full of tourists and I don't think mass is still held there, but I still had the sudden reaction to put my gum that I was chewing under my tongue and hide the fact that I was chewing it the minute we stepped in so that was funny. In the courtyard of the castle, supposedly the northwest corner is a chakra center, so I was super pumped to go and feel the spiritual energy emanation but it was pretty anti climactic because I felt nothing. Such a let down. I think I'm cursed or something. After we got home from the castle, I went on a run along the river and I don't even have to tell you how spectacular it was because I think you have an idea of my obsession with running along beautiful rivers by now. And it was during sunset let's just say my heart melted a little.
But I think my bones also melted a little because ever since that run my legs have been hurting like my shins and calves and bones every time I run or walk for a long time. Annoying. Still beautiful view so I'm prob not gonna stop. For dinner, some of us went to a place a few doors down from us called Pierogarnia but we call it Pierogi Narnia because it's fun to say and it is really a magical place full of surprises (like the two surprise spinach pierogies in my plate of mushroom/cabbage pierogies I ordered). The place is adorable and the woman literally turns around from the register and makes them on the little stove right behind her. It's like a home kitchen and we're in the dining room.
Tuesday we had a lecture in the morning by Dr. Bozena Jawien, a gynecologist/researcher, on the Reproductive/Procreative Rights in Poland. Basically there are none. She talked about how language plays a big part in this discourse, i.e. feminists say "reproductive" and Catholics say "Procreative," fetus vs. baby, etc. At all of the schools here, students are trained in Catholic discourse. Because the Church helped end communism, Dr. Jawien said Poland shows their gratitude by adopting Church positions for the government. For lunch, I went to an awesome restaurant with Kate and Kris and had a delicious/huge omelet and chatted about the "death drive" and the "universal child." Then we had an afternoon lecture facilitated by Kelsey and Patricia about the readings we had by Halberstam and Edelman about those two topics and oh so much more that was really interesting but also really confusing and I don't know if I'll be able to reiterate but feel free to gander at my notes. I'm also just really tired and don't feel like reiterating it. The class ended with someone saying that "everything is queer" so there's that. After class, the weather was so beautiful that I didn't want to go home, so I went and lied in the grass down by the river and read/slept which is also pretty high up on my list of favorite things to do so yeah it was a good time. Then I went on a run in the dark and it was really hard to see because there aren't that many lights and there are a lot of bikers/walkers so there were a few close calls but ya know I like to be kept on my toes so it was good (not doing that again). Tuesday night, a bunch of people came over and ate family dinner cooked by sharon again and then we all watched Schindler's List because Krakow is where Oskar Schindler's factory was/is and we wanted to watch the movie before we visited. Really good movie but also really heavy. I don't think I've ever cried harder during a movie. Oskar Schindler was a business owner during the Holocaust who basically hid Jews and saved them from Auschwitz by hiring them for his factory/"camp" and bribing Nazis to send him more Jews so he could keep them safe. Really really moving and is making me nervous for our visit to Auschwitz this week.
Wednesday, we had a lecture by Agata Teutsch about LGBT in PL and about facing homophobia. She said that in Poland, reality is much more progressive than law. For example, LG people will be married in another country, come back to live in Poland, not have their marriage recognized by law, but still live together/have a family/do everything else married-like. An interesting thing she said was that students here are much more conservative than the adults, which seems to be the opposite of most places. She said it's probably because now, the Church is so involved and is the biggest influence on Polish law and decision making, more so than when adults now were in school (when they were in school, religion was taught in Church, and everything else was taught in school). Now, education promotes homophobia. She said that textbooks tell of harmful effects of homosexuality and that there are no alternative textbooks. Since there is such a negative attitude towards homosexuality here, and since all feminists here are seen as lesbian, I'm assuming that the feminist identity is not taken to keenly either. After class, a few of us went to the museum at Schindler's factory. On the way, we stopped to get lunch and (surprise!) it was another gorgeous day so we did a little sitting/basking along the river while we waited for people to finish eating lunch.
So so so s o o o delightful. The factory was verrrry interesting and informative and also really sad and heavy as well. I really find the Holocaust so fascinating and extremely disheartening so it's hard for me to say I look forward to learning about it and visiting sites about it because it seems wrong to look forward to anything related to such a disgusting idea, but I'm increasingly intrigued by it the more I learn, so it that sense, I do look forward to such things. I think I spent about three hours in there and probably could have spent three more (mainly because I'm a slow reader but still).
On Thursday, we had a seminar with Iveta about the linguistic turn and the three readings we had by de Sausssure, Austin, and Hird. Linguistics are also very fascinating to me, and I always thought I was pretty good at grasping the ideas presented in linguistics, but these readings were pretty confusing. Apparently the Linguistic Turn refers to theorists who argue that language constitutes reality/materiality. DeSaussure argues that language is much more complex that naming (putting a word to a thing), rather it has to do with the process of linking a sound-image with a concept. In the afternoon, we had a film screening of a documentary filmed here called "Transgendering," and we got to sit and chat with the two filmmakers afterward which was awesome. One of them, Julie, was a student on the Antioch program like ten/eleven years ago but decided to move back to Poland because she liked it so much and according to Iveta, she fell in love here, which is absolutely adorable and awesome. Thursday night, Bethany and I went on a run together, which was really great because I could actually keep up with her when she's not keeping up with Iveta, and she provided nice conversation and company, which is not something I usually find in a running partner (I usually try to avoid running partners altogether), but Beth was great.
Another day another beautiful sunset along the river. There are also a lot of roller bladers here which 1. makes me really want to blade with them and 2. makes me really impressed what with all of the cobblestone here. Then a bunch of people came over for fam din again made by Mayra this time.
Friday morning we had a lecture at a Lutheran Diacony about Religion and Spirituality of women in Poland, by Agnieszka Godrejow-Tarnogorska, who is a Lutheran theologian and works in the Lutheran Parish. She is in the minority here because she said that 86% of Poles are Christian (however, this is simply on paper. Once Poles are in the book as Christians, they aren't taken out unless they actively choose to be and go through the processes to do so, otherwise, even if they don't practice or go to church anymore, they are still in the Christian count. On;y about half of Poles say they follow dogmatic Catholic principle). Since the church is so involved in society, it formulates norms of what is and isn't acceptable. For example, it polices sexuality/gender by saying that gender as an ideology is a violation of family and is against the church and that women have a particular role. Again, a lot of interesting information, but also a lot of information that a lot of us already knew and seemed somewhat basic. Friday afternoon we had a big discussion about our research projects and presentations. I'm getting pretty nervous because we present next week on the 5th and 6th (the day we leave), and I don't feel prepared enough at all. It's not that I just haven't prepared my presentation, it's that I still feel I have a lot of research to do. My surveys have been slacking hard core, as have my interviews, and ya know yeah my literature research hasn't been fantastic either so yeah I guess yep I'm scared. We also have group mini presentations this Friday which I also have to prepare for. My group is doing reproductive rights and my section is the Netherlands so I'm going to talk about Women on Waves, but I still just have to put together all of that too. AND we have Auschwitz on Wednesday, AND we're leaving next week. Idk I'm just getting stressed I guess you could say yeah that's prob accurate. Stressed. Friday night I did a river run and then some people came over and we watched a movie called Rewers which is apparently Reverse in English (who knew!) and was really strange but we are supposed to have it watched for class because I guess it shows what Poland was like post war. Creepy.
Saturday a bunch of us went to the mountains at Zakopane! We all thought we were going to be hiking up the mountain, but when we got there we found out you can only take a lift. Kinda bummed me out but we definitely got to go a lot higher than we would have gotten via hiking so that's cool. The view was absolutely breathtaking and I'm going to attempt to relay how astonishing it was with pics but there's no way it will give the full effect.
Lauren, Kate, and Val got in the way of my pic of this beautiful scenery ugh annoying
Also, we found out that the mountains are the border between Poland and Slovakia so we were in Slovakia for a hot sec yesterday too! Unintentional country hopping is the best. I wish we would have gone earlier or not stopped as long for lunch or something because I don't feel like I was up there for as long as I wanted in order to truly take in the experience because we had to get back before the lift left us. I wanted to just sit and soak it all in for a long time but we didn't really get to do that. Still. It was absolutely remarkable and allowed us to literally see the world from a different perspective which I think is SO cool and I would do it every day if I could. There was also some snow up there too which was funny because some of us were in tank tops. Weather lol. When we got back, after napping on the two hour bus ride, Michelle, Mayra, Sharon, and I went out to a few different bars which was super fun because all of the bars here are awesome and huge and lead underground to cool dance floors and multiple lounges and we danced a lot and had loads of Polish fun. Or at least I did. I missed going out, it hadn't happened in a while.
Today (Sunday) I wandered around town for a little, semi looking for a flea market that I know exists but didn't know where, semi just going for a walk because again, the weather was phenomenal and I just wanted to be in it. Then Allie and I went to this awesome little book store/cafe that Lauren told us about and met Lauren, Kelsey, Patricia, and Joy there and did some work/drank some coffee. We had to move to a different room at one point because they had a scheduled speed dating session about to happen so that's cool. Then we came home and Sharon made us pasta with a yummy cheesy/roasted red peppery sauce and it was amaze. Then we watched another movie we have to watch for class called Ki, which I guess is a Polish feminist film, but it was also kind of hard to get. I mean I understood everything that happened, but the point of it all was a little ambiguous. I guess that's one reason it's feminist. Anywho. Now i'm gonna hit the hay. Hannah (Orlet Mueller) just told me the cardinals are up 1-0 so that's really awesome and fantastic and sporty!! Go birds! Gnight all.
"My theory is that modern science is just a new form of religion" is something I just overheard in this café I'm sitting in. #blessed to be surrounded by English speakers so I can eavesdrop on their deep intellectual conversations. This place is called The Globe and it's a bookstore/café and it's really awesome and pretty and big and inviting and it has free wifi but unfortunately Internet hasn't been working on my computer anywhere I go - only my phone. So I'm posting this all via thumbs-on-touchscreen (I know TECHNOLOGY these days amirite). Anywho. I'm not sure if it's called The Globe because it attracts foreigners because really all I've heard here is English. And like American English, not even a British or Australian accent or something. It's interesting because I now have to put in headphones so I don't get distracted by people's conversations whereas usually I don't have to worry about distraction because it's all in Czech so I can't understand it enough to eavesdrop.
Tuesday (the 8th), we took a 9am train to Olomouc! It was a 2 hour ride, but the train was super comfy this time. I had the intention of reading a bunch of Foucault but I basically slept the entire time. Like the kind of sleep where all of your muscles go absolutely limp and when you wake up you're all shaky and disoriented. It was awesome. I had a dream that I was eating pizza. When we got there, we were greeted by Ondrej (pronounced Andre but like with a long O at the beginning kind of I guess - ugh it's so hard to explain this language to all you non-Czech mere mortals ugh ugh ugh), who is a student at Palacky (pronounced Palasky you wouldn't understand) University in Olomouc. He took us to a restaurant/cafeteria type place where we ate lunch. Super delicious and super cheap. After lunch we had a little bit of time to explore the city before we started our tour. It's a verrrrrrry pretty city. Like prettier than Prague I think (if you can imagine such a sight I KNOW it's hard here I'll help)
Ezra, Val, and Michelle Olo-moseying
One of the squares which had a big plague tower in the middle to commemorate the plague victims
And also even more medieval looking than Prague which is also saying a lot. I felt like I should have had a gown/corset on or something. It's really really small, and it's covered in college kids and little kids. No parents just kids. Idk. I got some ice cream at a little joint in one of the squares and later found out that it's a place where Freud used to hang out/eat/chat/I hope he didn't eat ice cream there because it was not very good. I've only gotten ice cream in the CR twice so far and haven't been impressed with it either time. Probably better that way. After we ran around town a bit on our own, we all met up at the astronomical clock (apparently that's a thing here - astronomical clocks that display this big performance thing every hour on the hour. Like a cuckoo clock but cooler. I guess).
Then we started our tour of the town. SO much walking. We went into like 4 churches, which were all really beautiful, but one can only take so many churches in a day ya know? I thought about taking pictures of some of their interiors because they were so pretty and ornate and extravagant, but something about taking pictures in a church doesn't seem right to me, like disrespectful or something. Of course it's not, and there were plenty of people doing so which obviously is not a problem at all, there's just something about it that feels weird to me (which I think is also weird that it feels weird - I'm so weEeEeirRrd!!!*~). The first church that we went to was the home of the largest organ in Central Europe. It was absolutely enormous and absolutely beautiful. The organist even gave us a little history of the organ and then played us our own personal concert. SO so so awesome. I love that sound. We even got to walk through the organ itself.
After the church tour, we had a little lecture at Palacky University, which is where Iveta went to college (alma mater raise the roof whoo whoo whoo). Really pretty school. We walked through a courtyard with bushes like twice the size of us, which Iveta cutely reminisced when they were up to her knees (aw). The lecture was really short and apparently last-minute prepared, given by Ondrej and another student whose name I forgot but she had a funky black and white striped dress on with a cool retro pastel colorful striped sweater over it and mint green keds. Precious. They're both a part of OLLOVE which I think is supposed to be like a portmanteau for Ollomouc and love. They also were sort of translating it to ALLOVE for us English speakers. OLLOVE is a group at Palacky which "organizes cultural/social events for the dignity of all people regardless of gender, age, race, religion, ethnicity, etc." and everyone's happy. Sounds like a sweet organization. After the lecture, we went back to the train station to go home and my pizza dream came true!! Got a slice of train station spinach and tomato pizza so basically the highest quality of food I've ever had honestly. Slept again on the train ride home <3. Once we got home, Allie and I went to Val and Lauren's flat to use their wifi/watch Scandal. Good (long) day.
Wednesday we had a lecture by Maria Strasokova (Faculty of Art at Charles University in Prague) about Vietnamese women in the Czech Republic. The Vietnamese are apparently the second largest ethnic minority group in the CR after the Roma. With first generation Vietnamese, there was an attitude of an "economic migration," because they planned on staying in the CR long enough to make some quick money, send remittance home to their families, and go back to die in Vietnam. Apparently "no Vietnamese ever intended to die in the Czech Republic." But many haven't been able to earn enough money to follow through with this plan, so they've stayed. Because of this attitude, however, many Vietnamese haven't felt the need to integrate into Czech culture (don't learn the language, don't adopt the culture, use intermediary services) because they see their stay as "transitory." Second generation Vietnamese call themselves "banana children" because they feel yellow on the outside but white on the inside.
After class, I went home and made vegan brownies with this box mix that I bought in Berlin but never made. The homestay of Bethany, Sharon, Ezra, and Kris invited everyone over to their place to have a little fall-themed dessert party, so I figured why not bring some gross boxed German vegan brownies? I used banana instead of an egg substitute because I read somewhere that you could do that BUT of course when I try to accommodate one type of diet (vegan) I poison another person who is allergic to bananas (Patricia - patty mayonnaise my gurl - hope she's doing alright actually now that I think about it she did go home sick from class today so there ya go I actually did poison patty GREAT JOB EILEEN ya blew it again). Ugh. Before we went to the dessert party, Valeria (host-sis) made us dinner! So Allie, Valeria, Valeria's bf Matthew, and I all sat and enjoyed Val pal's soup and pasta. Very delicious. Kind of awkward lack of conversation. Valeria def doesn't take after her mom's chattiness. But halfway through dinner Slavek (host-pop) came in and told us that he got Allie, Joy, and me free tickets to go see a play at the theatre for which he performs! SO excited for that and he even said he'd give us a little backstage tour so he rocks and has my heart 4ever. After dinner, Allie, Joy, vegan poison brownies, and I all went to the fall party (farty lolz) and had some delicious (minus my gross brownanies - g bless Patricia) desserts. There was gingerbread, homemade vegan baileys and coffee, apple cider, gingerbread cookies, mulled wine, bacon bourbon pancakes (fave), rice pudding stuff, and probably more that I can't remember but it was all out-of-this-world-slam-dunk-phenomenal and also a special sweet nice reminder that hi fall exists it doesn't just usually go from summer to winter for most of us. We all just sat and chatted and are and drank and played music/watched old 90s music videos (ended up being a Beyonce love-fest but that's kind of a given at any gathering of people/one person/every day of my life) and had a super cute fun photo booth with wigs and hats and Hannah Montana stickers put together by Kris and Kate. Just a really great night with really great folks (including Beyonce and Han Montan).
Potobooth pic property of @KateAnthes
Thursday we had a film screening in the morning of a movie called Daisies by a Czech woman whose name I forgot, but apparently she and the film are really well known - Marketta was like yeah duh I've seen that movie. Really cool film. It was super strange because it was an "experimental" film from new age Czech cinema so there wasn't like an explicit plot line and it didn't make much sense but it was really interesting and had feminist tinges but apparently the director claims it's not feminist (she's wrong). It seems to be a recurring theme here in the CR that feminists don't identify as feminists. Ugh. After a movie I went on a run along the river and it was the greatest like half hour of my time in Prague I think.
It was just so great because I finally found a route that I like that isn't hilly and people don't stare at me/get in my way and it has beautiful riverside views and swans and an awesome old bridge/view of a fortress/castle thing and the sun was out and it was just everything perfect in one cardio-wrapped package. Put me in such a good mood. Then I went home, showered, ate lunch, went to the globe café and had some grogg, read some Foucault, and walked home in the rain.
Friday morning we had a lecture by Iva Smidova (Faculty of Social Studies at Masaryk University in Brno, CR) about Czech masculinities. She talked about research she did with Czech men who take maternal leave after their child has been born, instead of the mother. It was interesting because she said that all of the fathers she researched presented themselves as heroes for changing the gender order. She said it seems that if a Czech man does something that feeds into or supports a gendered society, it is excused because of the symbolic gender order (as if their actions are brushed off as an outcome of societal conditioning - they can't help it), but if they do something that challenges the gender order, it is glorified as a heroic and valiant action.
In the afternoon, we had another Foucault seminar with Iveta about the 3rd assigned part of the book, The History of Sexuality. Again, took lots of notes. Ask me about them and I'll fill you in <3333 also read the book seriously. Seriously.
Friday after class, Allie and I went to a wifi cafe, my computer still wasn't wifi-ing, so I phoned it again. Then I went home and ate din with Marketta. So delicious yet again. Such long conversation yet again. This time we talked about like abortion, birth control, gender in the hospital, home-births/midwives, ya know casual light dinner table conversation. So fun. Friday night, Allie and I chose to stay in and drink wine and paint nails and watch Moulin Rouge (!) which really is my ideal Friday night if we're being honest. Joy came home about halfway through the rouge so yeah great roomie night in W/ muh gUrLzzz *~*,~~!!!
Saturday was chill out day and we all slept until like noon and totally vegged. I went running at some point and tried to go down to my new fave river route, but it was overtaken by farmers markets/flea markets/a giiiiiiant snow boarding festival???? They actually had real snow and a hill that people were ripping shreds on with their gnarly board trix. And just endless booths of snowboard merch and Jaegermeister and random cheese and wine booths. A lot of people to plow through so I just gave up on my run until it cleared up a bit further down the path. It was also really cold. So yeah not ideal running conditions but still. Love that river. Saturday night we are dinner at our beloved Cafe Afrika because they were having Ethiopian night so a lot of the students went. Yum yum yummy yay yum Ethiopian. Had an interesting conversation with an admittedly drunk African/Londonian man whose accent was super thick and made it really hard to understand his already rather nonsensical annecdotes. Then we all went back to The Globe for dessert and drinks and karaoke. SO FUN. It was very American (forgot I was abroad for like 2 seconds) but still really fun because we knew all of the songs listed. A lot of us sang both by ourselves and with each other so that was awesome. Ezra has the voice of an angel and showed everyone when they sang evanescence and helter skelter and summer love just ugh so beautiful. I sang Train In Vain but the Annie Lennox version which is a little slower than The Clash's original but I love Annie's version and it always reminds me of my childhood so it was another fave moment in Prague. Then I sang I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney with Kelsey which was a crowd pleaser. Everyone killed it at karaoke it was so fun.
Sunday morning Joy and I went with Kate, Kris, Bethany, Patricia, and Kelsey to a little town, Kutna Hora - Sedlec, which is like an hour away and which has an ossuary aka BONE CHURCH.
Human plague victim bones. Decorating this chapel. Whaaaaaaat so cool/creepy/creative!! Had a nice Camembert lunch, visited another mediocre church, and went home. Beeeeautiful weather/awesome day.
Sunday night, Allie, Joy and I ate marketta's delicious dinner and then just chatted at the dinner table for a long time (just the 3 of us this time - marketta and valeria and Matthew were playin cards in the other room which was also cute).
Monday, we didn't have class until 2, so I got up early and ran along the river, showered, and finished the reading for class. It was a seminar with Iveta about readings by Judith Butler who is THE queer theorist and apparently everyone who has ever studied even the slightest bit of queer theory in their life has heard the name of Judy B. proclaimed on high (sidenote: Joy's new alter ego is Judith Bieber but that's for another time). Judith Butler is the one who coined the term "gender performativity," which plays off of gender as a performance, but isn't the same because it's moreso explaining how acts of heteronormative gender expression are constantly repeated in society as an active attempt to keep homosexual gender expression as the Other gender expression or the "copy" of heterosexuality. Gahh I probably explained that totally and offensively incorrectly but that's what I think I got out of it. Obviously there's so much more to it. Ask me (or one of my cohorts) about it. Also read Judith butler.
Monday night I went to the homestay of Sharon, Bethany, Ezra, and Kris to make/eat some family dinner of what we thought was quinoa (turned out to be some sort of bird seed which we found out is still edible and actually really tasty) and chopped veggies yummmm. Michelle and Sharon and I also started to try to figure out how we're getting to Budapest after the program ends (they're going just to travel, I'm going to meet my mom, 3 aunts, and grandma which I absolutely can't wait for). Then we all decided to go pub hopping before we realized that everything closes early on Mondays oooops so we just hopped into one pub and went home.
This morning (Tuesday) we had a lecture by Zusanna Stefkova (Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design in Prague) about Gender and Art. She discussed with us whether the gender of the artist matters, whether the gender of the curator matters, and whether the gender of the art pedagogue matters. Answer: yes. Gender matters in all of those areas.
For lunch we went to a pub and I got delicious potato pancakes. In the afternoon, we had a documentary screening of a Czech documentary whose title I think translates to "Matchmaking Mayor." It was a very interesting documentary about a mayor in a small Slovakian town who is obsessed with the prolonging of "the world" (his town) and is afraid that it's dying out because so many of the town's inhabitants are 30-ish and single and not doing much about it. It was pretty comical because it was so absurd but also really incredible and sad and eugenics-y so that's messed up. Everyone should try to watch it somehow. Afterward, we got to talk to the documentary's director, Erika Hnikova, and ask her questions/hear about her experience with the film and after the film. Very cool and interesting. Then the unmentionable happened: Iveta invited me to go running with her and Bethany. Love them both but hate their speed/endurance/stamina. I think I run pretty regularly, but woof. They're fast. We went along the river again but this time we cut over to this little secret passage to these stairs up to this giant beautiful park/castle/fortress/cemetery UGH so pretty and awesome I wish I could have gotten pics of it all for you but I didn't take my phone SRY but I can't wait to take my mom there when she comes because it's seriously all so beautiful and apparently the oldest part of Prague. Such an awesome view too. Then we ran some more and some more and HA more. We went across the bridge and ran around that side for a bit and then crossed back over and I'm surprised I didn't keel over. Iveta and Beth were chatting it up and I again was gaspingly trying to add in agreeing "yeahs" every once in a while but I think they could tell I was dying. Like I wouldn't be surprised if we ran for 45 minutes. At like 75% speed. Brutal. But like omg I feel sooooo gewd after it all!!!! #exercise #endorphins right? Then I came home and showered and found out that we finally have access to wifi in our homestay! So I did some long overdue emailing and other communication/social networking/surfing. Downside: still all has to be on my phone because my computer wifi still doesn't work. Ew I sound so annoying who cares about the internet. Falling asleep love you all talk soon <3 ahoj!
Made it to Prague!
Been in Prague for about a week now and it's absolutely gorgeous.
Since my last post, I've spent a week attending classes at the famous Humboldt University in Berlin, drinking a mug of beer at a mini-oktoberfest, traveling by train from Berlin to Prague, and attending lectures at Prague's oldest NGO (Gender Studies http://www.genderstudies.cz/
) and the reason for the possibility to now study gender studies in major Czech universities.
Last Wednesday (September 25), we had a lecture at Humboldt given by Bertram Schirr called Unified Resistance, Divided Visions. It was about the hierarchical gender order in East Germany, its counter discourses, and post "Revolution"
disputes. One interesting point I thought he brought up was the idea of women in the GDR (German Democratic Republic - East Germany during socialist rule) having a "double-edged struggle." There was an expectation for women to both maintain their labor roles in the workforce, but also to maintain their nuclear family roles and reproduce for the continuation of the nation-state. This obviously made it hard for women to perform their best in both spheres (public and private) because they had to spread themselves thin in each area of work. Bertram explained how this encouraged female stereotypes because family/"female work" became devalued to providing support for men's work.
After his lecture, I had lunch at the same cafe as the day before (delicious lentil soup) and went back to HU for lecture number 2 by Eveline Kilian. Her lecture was about Queer Theory in Germany and had a big focus on Judith Butler, a famous feminist philosopher and queer theorist from the States. I think that almost any time gender studies are discussed, Judith Butler's name will almost undoubtedly be mentioned and/or praised. Butler coined the term "gender performativity" in her book, Gender Trouble,
which explains gender as a performance, meaning it is the outcome of the repetition of gender roles, as opposed to being an effect of a single person's specific gender actions. Eveline was a wonderful lecturer and really had interesting things to say about queer theory, gender vs. identity categories/any kind of norm/heteronormativity (critical of binary gender order and heterosexual matrix), and good old Judy Butler. A problem that was brought up at the end of her lecture was the mainstreaming of queer aka "homonormativity". We talked about how you cannot have inclusion without still having some sort of exclusion. No matter how much more "inclusive" something becomes, there will still be something that is excluded, simply by nature of the terms. One example of homonormativity is the growing acceptance of gay marriage. If an area makes gay marriage legal, it is nice for those who want
to get married or for those who want to be monogamous, but anyone else is still excluded and thus misses out on all of the legal benefits offered by marriage. Also, the simple act of playing into the norm of marriage being the main goal of everyone goes against the idea of "queering norms," so gay marriage isn't really queer. It's normative. I think. I'm sure I totally messed all of that up but that's how I understand it.
Also, we talked about how queer is an infinite movement. So, is there ever an end goal? Can queer people ever be satisfied? We discussed how to be queer is to be in love with the struggle and with the idea that a person doesn't have to be stuck in a world that might not be his or her* world. It can always be queered if it's not what he or she* wants. This might become problematic/confusing, though, because what happens if society somehow adopts a well-functioning democracy that actually works for everyone (as far-fetched as that seems)? Is it unethical, then, to queer it? When does the movement reach its goal and when is queering ever unnecessary? Food for thought, I suppose.
*Tangent regarding the use of "their/they" vs. "his or her/he or she": I've been going through an internal struggle as both an English major/avid grammar enthusiast as well as a trans ally
who doesn't want to succumb to the gender binary of there only being a "he" or a "she" option when speaking/writing. I was taught long ago that when writing, I shouldn't use second person (i.e. "the idea that you
don't have to be stuck in a world that might not be your
world") and I also shouldn't just say "they" when referring to a singular noun (i.e. "the idea that one
doesn't have to be stuck in a world that might not be their
world"). Being on this gender-studies-focused trip, I am constantly reminded that there aren't just "he" and "she" terms to describe a single person. There are multiple genders. Some trans* people actually prefer the pronoun "they." This is making it hard for me to write/speak in a grammatically correct manner, while simultaneously trying to fight the gender binary. skfhwwefkhweencnshjwelasjalkjsfhtkw struggles.
Last Thursday the 26th, we had two lectures again (one morning and one afternoon) but both were given by the same two people, Urmila Goel and Kathleen Heft. Urimla was the one who conducted the white privilege workshop we had a few weeks prior. The morning lecture was about Issues in Critical Racism Theory and Critical Whiteness Studies in Germany. We talked about how Germans don't use the term "race" to describe someone's ethnicity because it is connected with the Holocaust and it also is just more of a word that describes dogs and stuff. It's like if we in America were to talk about a person'e breed. Very dehumanizing. I think this is one reason that Critical Racism Theory in Germany is a precarious field of study. If one can't say the word race, how is he or she supposed to talk about race theory? The afternoon lecture was about Privileging the West and Constructing the German. The part of the lecture about privileging the west focused on discrimination of the "East" both in terms of East Germany as well as East Europe. The lecture about Constructing the German was about Infanticide in Germany and how infanticides that are classified as "East German" have been associated with assumed consequences of the GDR abortion policy or GDR-induced social deviance from implicit (West) German norm. Although infanticides are a nation-wide practice, they are linked to E. Germany.
Friday the 27th, we had a lecture in the morning from Konstanze Hanitzsche called Perpetrators and Victims - Debates in German Discourse of Remembrance. It was about how the media can influence people's memories. We watched clips from the movie The Reader with Kate Winslett which I want to watch all of at some point, if anyone wants to have a movie date with me <3. In the afternoon we had a lecture with Iveta about our Germany Situated Feminisms section. A big topic was language. We talked about the connotations with the word "race" in German and about the gendered language of German. It's interesting because gender was in language before gender was related to sex. Perhaps this is why the German word for "door" is feminine (die Tuur) - I'm pretty sure there aren't any sexually female characteristics of a door. English is such an androgynous language, which is appropriate since it is the global language for Women's and Gender Studies.
Friday night Adrianne and I went back to Laura Merritt's apartment, to sit in on her weekly meetings with people who like to chat about feminist issues. Laura was the woman from the first week of Berlin who was an ex sex-worker and who now offers information on prostitution/her brothel. The language barrier was difficult when trying to be involved in the discussion, but at the end I got to hand out my surveys to some people there, so that was very very helpful. Then Adrianne and I went back to my apartment because my hostmoms, Marie and Sue, were having a dinner party with all of their friends and invited Hannah, me, Adrianne, and Joy to join in (Adrianne and Joy were also technically in the homestay of Marie and Sue, but in a separate flat down the street, more on their own). That was sooo nice and they made very good food for us including a delicious vegan pumpkin stew, tabbouleh and couscous, and a marvelous chocolate mousse made by Marie's adorable mom, Claudine. It was really nice getting to meet Marie and Sue's friends. Marie's mom and Sue's mom were being adorable bonding with each other so of course I had to document:
That’s Sue standing in the corner. Also such a gem. After dinner, Hannah and I went out to meet up with her friend from school who was in Berlin for the week, Chris, and his friend, Sadaf. The four of us met Michelle at a bar where Ipek was DJing that night. I just really love when Ipek DJs because it’s so so so fun to dance. After the bar closed, Ipek took all of us around to check out different bars around the area, most of which we just peeked in and then left. Not really sure why we didn’t stay at some of them, but we just followed Ipek wherever she went. Ended up at a place called Rose’s which was an awesome, small, crowded bar with pink shag carpet covering the walls. We stayed there for a loooong time and chatted with a guy from the States for a little bit who I think had just moved to Berlin a little bit ago with his small (I think like 4 years old) daughter. We ended up talking to him about yeast infections for a little and then headed home at about 6:30 am. It was an overall good night I’d say.
Saturday morning a bunch of people went to Baad Sarrow, which is a place with a bunch of hot springs where you just sit in them and soak up all of the good vitaminy water and it’s supposed to like heal you of your toxins or something. I remember learning about them in my German 101 class. I didn’t go, but it sounded nice! I just hung around the house all day Saturday. Went on a run when I woke up, showered, and then went to a vegan café a few blocks away from our homestay. I really wish I would have gone there more often during our Berlin stay because the people there were really nice, it was an awesome atmosphere, it had good wifi and good coffee/goodies, and I just really liked it there.
I got a cookie and a latte and was very happy. When I got home, Hannah was back from the springs and she said they were very nice. Then her friend Chris came over with Sadaf to our place and we all just kinda hung out before going out to another Ipek DJ party. This one was even cooler because it was at this club place that apparently has this party once a month, and every time they have it it’s the biggest party of the month. Ipek totally killed it yet again. I think she played (spun?) from 2am to about 7:30. Really good time.
Ipek doing DJ stuff
Sunday morning I went on a run, showered, and met up with Hannah, Chris, and Sadaf at the Mauer Park flea market. Another gorgeous day for the flea market but we didn’t get to stay very long because we had a scheduled end-of-Berlin picnic for the students/Iveta/Lauren, Ipek, and the hosts. It was precious. Also fun and also delicious picnic food. Not all of the hosts could make it (Marie and Sue both had to work ) but it was still nice. We ended up staying in that park for a while, until we couldn’t bear the sunny cold any longer. Then a few of us went to a café in Kreuzberg and had some delicious vanilla chai lattes.
Sunday night, Sharon and I really wanted to make up for the fact that we were in Germany during Oktoberfest and didn’t make it, so we went to Berlin’s smaller version of Oktoberfest! It was Sharon, Michelle, Hannah, Chris, Sadaf, and me. We all went and bought huge mugs of overpriced beer. It was great.
Then we went to the inside part and danced to a bunch of German songs with middle aged drunk parents, which was a blast. Lots of middle-aged table dancing and middle-aged line dancing. Super authentic German mocktoberfest experience and I’m really glad we went.
Monday was travel day :( :( :(. Packing was no biggie at all. I’m actually really proud of myself for how easily I fit everything in my suitcase and bag and how time-efficiently I did so. I even had time to send my postcards and pick up some flowers/card as a goodbye gift to our host mommas. Schubert, our hostcat, liked them too:
Saying goodbye to Marie and Sue was of course sad, but they’re such sweethearts and we exchanged emails so I plan to keep in touch with them and I also told them I’d see them soon so I guess that means I have to return to Berlin in the future. Shoot. The real struggle of travel day was during the travel part. I was transporting my suitcase/bag to the subway station which was always a short, easy walk when I did it every day for class and had a mere backpack containing a single notebook. This time had an overwhelmingly heavy suitcase with small, crooked wheels to roll along the cobblestoned sidewalks for multiple blocks. Eventually my suitcase couldn’t take the stress anymore and my handle-thing broke! Like the long handle that extends upward, making transportation a typically easier process. So that’s a bummer. Had to like bend over/squat and push-roll the suitcase on all four wheels the rest of the way. I was a mess and probably a sight to see/really entertaining for all who watched me struggle. You’re welcome, Berlin. It all worked out, though, and we all made it on the train to Prague!
I sat in a cubby thing with Val and Iveta and had an absolutely lovely time. Val played us some of her ukulele to pass time, Kris and Kate came and sat with us for a short time, during which Iveta told us all about her crazy experiences during her solo roadtrip across the United States in her twenties. Like it was novel-worthy. We all told her that she has to write all of this stuff down but she said she doesn’t want to. I might just write it myself because it really is incredible and must be documented and shared with the good people of the world. They deserve to hear it, ya know? Then they all started talking about gun control and having an educated, intellectual, political discussion/argument that was very riveting and interesting, but I must have zoned out because I fell asleep and woke up a while later after the convo topic had changed to the beautiful scenery that we were passing. It really was beautiful.
THEN WE ARRIVED!!! We were picked up at the train station by our hosts. I’m living with Allie and Joy at a beautiful flat in central Prague (Praha 2, right by Wenceslas square) with our hostmom, Marketta, our hostdad, Slavek, and their calico, twenty-year-old cat, Iggy. I don’t like Iggy.
Purposefully annoying me AS I'm trying to write this post for you guys honestly she's all of our worst enemy I swear
She’s really old and skinny and at first seems nice and cuddly when she jumps up onto your lap, but then she reveals her true sinister nature and takes your hand that you were petting her with and holds it with both of her paws/all of her claws, and looks at it and hisses as if your hand is the root of all evil and the only way to salvage the rest of humanity is to hiss and claw-grip/puncture in the meanest way a cat can do so. I miss Schubert. On the upside: the flat is absolutely perfect. Absolutely. Perfect. Like straight out of Pinterest except it was decorated by Slavek so it’s not even like it can be compared to Pinterest because Slavek’s older than Pinterest and he’s just creative on his own, without the help of other people’s boards or websites. His is pure inner creativity that couldn’t be conjured with the help of any outside sources (that’s right, not even Sally’s “My future apartment <3” board) like Pinterest.
At the train station, we were greeted by Marketta, her daughter, Valeria (I think she’s 23), and Valeria’s boyfriend, Matthew. Luckily, Matthew brought his car and could drive us home so that I didn’t have to squat-push my broken suitcase across any more cobblestone. Matthew’s kindness even extended past his possession of a car (if you can imagine such a benevolent human being), and he proceeded to carry each of our suitcases up the 5 flights of stairs. Talk about a keeper. After we somewhat settled down from our initial infatuation with the flat’s décor, we picked rooms. Allie and I are sharing the two –person room and Joy has the single to herself, but we usually all three hang out in Allie’s and my room. Soooo so so nice. Like the room even smells nice constantly. It’s like walking into a pile of fresh laundry every day coming home from class. The weird part is that the rooms are so simple and crisp and clean and white-ish and in no way cluttered, but you can tell how much of a collector Marketta is. There are little trinkets and knick knacks everywhere, but not in a hoarder-ish way. They’re all displayed in a strategically decorative way that is so very aesthetically pleasing and impressive to me. Like there are a bunch of perfume bottles and hats and jewelry strewn about the flat, but in a way where they’re all on display, not just being stored. There are hints of doll collections in some places, but I don’t think it’s at a creepy level, at least that I’ve noticed at this point in time. Well. Some might be creepy to some people but I think it’s cool. For example, the doll eye ball that hangs in the place where a peep-hole might normally position itself on the front door. Or the other doll eye ball that replaces a mirror in the bathroom above the sink (as if it’s suggesting that you don’t need to look at yourself, this eye ball is doing that for you! So thoughtful of that eye ball). Or the small Barbie-ish doll head that sits in one of the hard-boiled egg holders (of which there is also a small collection).
Then Marketta, Valeria, and Matthew prepared dinner for us. AMAZING. Marketta is apparently a really awesome cook. She made us this wonderful soup and chicken pie-ish thing. So delicious. After dinner, Valeria and Matthew left (I guess went to Matthew’s? I think Valeria usually lives at home but is sacrificing her room for us this month so I guess she’s living at Matthew’s for now), and Joy, Allie, and I sat and chatted with Marketta for a very long time. Marketta is a big talker. It was wonderful, though, she has so many stories and experiences to share. I could listen to her forever. She told us about some of her careers. I think she started out as a nurse, then did some food writing with her sister who has many published cookbooks (and who also translates Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks – mad cred), and now she is a medical journalist for a popular magazine which she explained as being a magazine that sort of explains medical issues in laymen’s terms. She said that basically doctors and experts will give Marketta information about certain medical topics, and Marketta will “translate” the information to be digestible to the public in an article for this magazine. So so cool and interesting and like I could totally see myself doing something like that (maybe not medical topics, but I like the idea of being fed information that I can put into words that are appealing and digestible to readers – not actually having to think up subject matter, but still getting to write creatively maybe? Idk. Sounds cool).
Then she talked about her husband, Slavek, who was unfortunately at work that night but was really excited to meet us. Slavek apparently has done everything under the creative sun. He’s been a photographer (some of his pieces are hung around the flat and they’re absolutely stunning), a tech support/stage manager guy for a theater, then somewhere in the midst of that also did some design for like posters advertising concerts (the example “Lady Gaga” was given) as well as CD cover designs, and now he actually acts in two theaters in Prague (also doing some travelling for shows). This past week I think he was working on two separate plays, one at each theater that he works at, so he was super busy all the time. Apparently, a few months ago, he was doing stage work and he was on some ladder or scaffolding or something and fell from pretty high up and had to get surgery. The impressive part was that that didn’t happen too long ago and he’s already back working again and is very lively and sprite. I got to meet him briefly that night when he came home super late, right when I was getting ready for bed. Joy pretty accurately described him as looking like a marionette. Kinda tall, pretty lanky, gray hair, bold facial features/eyebrows, wears really stylish outfits and has a booming deep loud voice. He immediately apologized for not knowing much English but I was like no way dude I’m in your country I should apologize! Except I didn’t call him dude because that would be disrespectful. Anyway, he’s wonderful. And so is Marketta. Lovely lovely host parents and I couldn’t be happier.
Tuesday, we had a tour of the city. It was a good tour, but so so cold. One of our stops on the tour was actually one of the theaters where Slavek works. He and Marketta both told us that he would take us there later this week with free tickets to see a play! Super excited for that. After the tour, we came home and had dinner with Marketta again. Another delicious dish. She really is an amazing cook. And she actually told us not to do our dishes because she likes to do all of the dishes herself because she says it helps her fingers and hands, after sitting at a desk and typing all day. I have a feeling it might also be a control thing. My mom likes the dishes done a certain way sometimes, too. Such a bummer because I really don’t think there is anything I like doing more than my dishes (totally kidding. I am always ecstatic to let someone else do my dishes, especially if it makes them happy. Props to mom and Marketta!!!!!). After dinner, we went on a quest to find a café with wifi because our homestay just borrows wifi from the neighbors, so it’s not very reliable, especially when multiple people are trying to use it. Mega bummer because I don’t like having to go somewhere else just to check my email or the weather or something (and facebook, but I suppose that’s not a necessity). BUT guess where we chose to go! Starbucks. The actual root of all evil. Not only were we going to a corporate café, but to an American corporate café, while in the Czech Republic. And not just any American corporate café - Starbucks. The lowest of lows when it comes to coffee. I’m like thanks Starbucks, but I can burn my own cheap Robusta beans….. (*lofty condescending barista-y eye roll*). I really just hate how obsessed everyone is with Starbucks and that I can’t even escape it when I’m in a different country. Alas, Starbucks has won this battle, though, because they have really good wifi and are open late. Marketta said she ordered wifi, though, and it should work in a couple days (!).
Wednesday, we had our first class in Prague! We will be having all of our lectures at the Gender Studies place that I mentioned earlier. This lecture was given by Karolina Ryvolova about Roma Women and gender roles. The Roma are a racialized group in Prague (sometimes interchangeably referred to as gypsies) who apparently have an extremely patriarchal community. In the afternoon, we went to Jirina Siklova’s flat in a different part of Prague, to listen to her talk about her experience as a dissident and as the “mother of Czech feminism.” Really cool. She was the one who started the Gender Studies department in Prague. She’s really old now and has a very thick accent, so it was kind of hard to understand everything she was saying, but she was such a peach. She offered us tea and showed us around her flat (where she would secretly host dissident meetings before the Gender Studies place was opened). Marketta knows her children and grandchildren, and had told us about Jirina’s trademark red lipstick. Sure enough, her lips were stained red when we showed up to her apartment, just like we expected. So great.
Thursday, our TA, Lauren facilitated class in the morning. It was about film and the different ways filmmakers portray women, positions of power, scary ideas, etc. We watched a bunch of clips (Carrie, Lost Highway, Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, The Semiotics of the Kitchen, Work of Art – by Chris and Greg of Falling in Love with Chris and Greg, and some shorts filmed by Laurens friends, like one called “Oooo Mojitos” which everyone should watch right now) and analyzed them to accompany our readings by Mulvey, Hooks, and MacCormack from the night before. Good class. Got me in the movie-watching mood (more specifically the scary-movie-watching mood, more specifically all of Carrie because I haven’t seen it and I know I need to). So props to Lauren. Thursday afternoon, our lecture was by Nina Bosnicova, who is part of the Gender Studies department. Her lecture was about Women and Men in the Czech Society, Labor Market, and Social Infrastructure. A lot of this lecture was about Czech society under communist/socialist rule. This era was negative for the women’s movement because feminism was seen as unnecessary because “everyone is equal.” Now that Communist rule has ended in the Czech Republic (btw - it ended as a result of a peaceful revolution by students. WE CAN CHANGE STUFF, YOU GUYS it's possible. Also, after the revolution, a world-renowned playwright/the Eastern Bloc's most famous dissident, Vaclav Havel, was elected president of Czechoslovakia which is pretty dope. Another btw - the revolution became known as the Velvet Revolution both because of it's peaceful nature and because Havel was a big Velvet Underground fan. So really just a lot of cool stuff happening in Eastern Europe at the end of the 80s), women are rather anti-feminist. There is sort of a backlash because under Communism, everything was public, even family, so people now find solace in traditional gender roles, where they can have a private life. This is all super interesting to me and will be verrrry helpful in my research project to finally get some feedback that is somewhat different than what I've been getting a lot of lately. I'm interested to interview and distribute surveys here because I think that I'll get some interesting, very non-western results. We also talked about early childhood education and maternity leave. Apparently, there is a law here that allows for 3 to 4 years of parental leave (paid leave, but not that much - women would still be dependent on husband) where employers are required to save the spot of a new parent for 3 to 4 years and then that parent is guaranteed the same spot they had when they return. Of course this might cause some discrimination from employers if they're thinking of hiring a young woman, but don't want her to leave because of children.
After class on Thursday, some of us went to a bar around the corner with our "rent-a-friend" Christina. Iveta said that in past years, students have complained about not knowing things (especially queer themed) to do socially in Prague, so Iveta started hiring a young, queer, anarchist-circle girl to show/tell us of stuff to do around the city. Funny concept but I suppose it works! I ordered a hot wine at the bar and it was delightful. I can't wait to try to make it at home. It was a mug of hot red wine with oranges and lemons in it as well as some cloves and a cinnamon stick. They gave me sugar to put in it too. So so yummy and warm and pretty much the Fall season in a cup.
Friday, we had a lecture by Irina Konecna about Human Trafficking in CR. It was basically a lot of the same stuff we've been talking about in every country about human trafficking, but it was good to hear how it worked in the Czech Republic. In the afternoon, we finished up some of the film lecture that we didn't get to finish with Lauren the day before, about the readings that were assigned. Then we moved on to discuss Foucault. We were assigned to read the first 35 pages of Michel Foucault's book, The History of Sexuality; Volume 1: An Introduction. I've never read Foucault, but apparently he's just a jack of all trades and was very ahead of his time with this book. He's very interdisciplinary because people were talking about having encountered him in history classes, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, WGS, science, etc etc etc. I could delve into a summary of what we talked about, but it was a lot. I'm also still not sure if I understand it all correctly. BUT I do know that I took pretty good notes, so if anyone's really interested, hmu ;) or there's also Sparknotes.com which always has good analyses. Or just read some g-darn Foucault ugh fine you can borrow the book if you really want.
After class, I went on a run around the area where our flat is. Still not sure if I like the area in terms of running. it's confusing because the streets aren't set up in a grid format AND the entire time I'm either going uphill or downhill. Running uphill is okay for me, but downhill is just awkward and fast and I know I'm gonna fall on my face soon enough.
Friday night, Iveta took us all across the Charles bridge, which is a really touristy but beautiful bridge that leads to more of Prague including the beautiful castle that we climbed the brutal, grueling hill (jk wasn't that bad) to get to. Really awesome sights and even awesome-r gargoyles.
After seeing the beautiful views, some of us ate some tradish Czech food at a restaurant on the way down the hill. I got some beef dish with knedliky (bread dumplings) and of course, more hot wine. Perfect. After that, Allie, Joy, Val, Lauren, and I went to Val and Lauren's apartment and hung out and chatted and just had a nice little night in with each other.
Saturday, I went on another run, still didn't find a good route, and showered before Allie, Joy, and I went back to our beloved Starbucks to do some wifi work/read more Foucault. Saturday night, Lauren made us all a vegan feast at Iveta's, which was delicious and getting to see Iveta's huge apartment was fun. We ended up having a ukulele sing-along-sesh where we sang some classic Ingrid Michaelson as well as some T-Pain and Brittney Spears. Ya know, the traditional uke tunes. Then some people arm wrestled and called it a night. A few of us went to some bars and talked about going dancing but never actually did.
Sunday, I was so lazy all day and it was awesome. Did some Foucaulting, some napping, some facetiming with mom and Louise, as well as some attempt at tackling this blog update. HA lol that it's taken me so long.
Today (Monday), we had a lecture by Zdenek Sloboda about LGBTQI in the Czech Republic. In the afternoon, we had another seminar with Iveta about the next few Foucault chapters we were assigned. Really good discussion. After class, I came home, worked on this post until dinner time, ate dinner/chatted with Marketta forever, then came to Starbucks to post it. Really long again WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF. sry luv u all bye <3 <3
Tomorrow we're going to another city a few hours away in the CR, Olomouc, home of Palacky University, aka Iveta's alma mater (raise the roof). Should be a blast TOOTLES! jk here in Czech we say ahoj (pronounced ahoy - ya know. like pirates <3)
This one's for @TheAbbey on West Main Belleville (more specifically my mom on W. Main Belleville): talk about fancy gelato presentation. Take note, Renee. The Europeans do it big (I actually didn't even get any of this gelato, YET!!!! lol! It's right around the corner from Humboldt - it'll happen soon enough)
It's not even midnight yet and I'm in full bed-time-garb I LOVE IT. Going to bed early is so underrated (by myself - I'm sure others openly rave about it, but I never seem to give it much of a chance). Of course, Sue and Marie (my host moms) and Marie's mom (my host grandma) are still hustling and bustling about the flat. I think they're making an 11:45pm dinner. They're the best - so lively and fun.
Sunday was an awesome day. Didn't get out of bed until like noon, made some eggs for Hannah and me, and went to the park for a flea market! Apparently every Sunday there's this flea market in Mauer park in Berlin that you can't miss if you're here for any period of time. I totally see why now. It was SO awesome. It was like the flea market I described in Paris, but possibly better. Actually I don't know. The Mauer one was really great and you could tell it was really rich in culture and had so much to offer, but the prices weren't quite as great as the Paris ones. I mean don't get me wrong, I still totally scored and got some sweet stuff for super cheap, but I also turned down some other sweet stuff due to prices. I think Mauer had a few higher qual things. Paris was more like a giant trendy garage sale whereas Mauer was like that plus a bunch of vendors selling things they made and stuff. There was really good people-watching though. So many cool outfits and haircuts and piercings. Also, every Sunday at 3, Mauer park holds karaoke. I wish I would have gotten picture of all of the people sitting on these cement steps in the hill surrounding a platform where people sang Alanis Morissette, Pink Floyd, whomever it is that sings "Stand by Me," and oh so many more. So fun. I worked up the courage to pass out one survey but that was it - I only did one because 1. I ran out of time because I was so nervous that it took me forever to muster up the confidence to even approach them, so by the time they were done, Hannah and I were ready to leave the park, and 2. I accidentally only brought one pen out with me, so I couldn't pass more out to other people until I got my pen back. Oops. The lucky contestants were two 20 year-old German girls and they took forevvvver filling it out as I awkwardly waited on a little cement bench thing, occasionally glancing over to see if they were still writing, also occasionally making eye contact with one of them regretfully making it seem like I was rushing them (perhaps I was rushing them?). I'm actually glad they took so long though because they gave me some really insightful, well-thought-out answers to the questions. Go them! Then Hannah and I went home, made some rice/tomatoes/carrots/lemon juice and ate it for dinner. Not bad. Then Joy and her friend from school, who is studying abroad somewhere else this semester but came to visit for the weekend, came over and chilled out. They were locked out of their house so they didn't know what to do (turns out Joy had been turning the key the wrong way the whole time. Stupid key right?). I chatted with my mom for a bit - G bless the poor soul and her aching back. Get well soon, Nee Nee.
Monday (yesterday) we had class at 10 for the last time at Meringhoff. I really like that place and even more so I really like the Turkish food place right next to it as well as the ice cream place right around the corner. Needless to say I'm going to miss it. Class entailed all of the students teaching the book we had to read, called Racism in Europe by Neil Macmaster, to each other. We had split the book up into part one and part two - one half of the class read and taught part one and the other half did part two. Really interesting stuff about the history of race as a social construction in Europe.
After class most of us took advantage of our last chance to eat at the Turkish place as well as the ice cream place. So delicious. Then I walked down the street with a few of the girls to a music store. Valentina wants to maybe get a ukulele which would be so fun. I want her to learn Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips. Then Hannah and I came home, watched a few episodes of As Told By Ginger, Even Stevens, and That's So Raven as we drank tea and Hannah put a thread hair wrap in my hair and then I fell asleep for a mini nap. Pretty nice afternoon. Then some of the girls came to our flat before we all headed down the street to walk along the Berlin Wall. Really beautiful murals as well as some rather unimpressive spray paint graffiti and sharpie tags.
We all decided it would be awesome to have a guided tour along the wall. I'm sure there are a lot of cool interesting political explanations to a lot of the pictures, but we couldn't figure them out on our own, and I assume it would be rather difficult to google a picture.
After the wall, Hannah, Ezra, Adrianne, and I went to a cool hookah lounge right under the u-bahn station. Got some delicious blueberry shisha, some pina coladas, and had a mega hard core super extreme post wall chill sesh. We actually stayed there for a really long time just passing the hookah hose and chatting the night away until they kicked us out. Then Ezra came and slept over at our flat because they didn't really have a means to get home (apparently the u-bahn doesn't run all night on Mondays? Who knew).
Today we didn't have class until 2! I planned on waking up and running before class but of course it rained all day from the moment we woke up until STILL RAINING. Sorry not bitter love you Berlin xoxo. I just wanna run. So I made eggs instead. I ate my eggs as I communicated via facebook message with Sharon, one of the girls on the program, who wants to go to Oktoberfest with me! We're still figuring out the logistics, but I think we're gonna make it happen! If so, I get the once-in-a-lifetime chance of snuggling with RIley Keltner in Munch, Germany, in a tent, at Oktoberfest. So #blessed. Riley's studying in a town near London this semester so she's been planning on going to Oktoberfest with some of her friends for a while and Sharon and I thought we'd stop by! Should be lots and lots of fun. LOTS and lots.
Today we had class at Humboldt University. Very cool mod architecture at the school. Class started out with a lecture about the Gender studies department at HU and then proceeded with a screening of the movie Audre Lorde: the Berlin Years, followed by a talk/question session with the filmmakers, Dagmar Schultz and Ika Hugel. That was VERY cool. Dagmar and Ika first of all are precious and I would love to listen to the talk/watch them interact all day. The film was a documentary about African-American, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet, etc. Audre Lorde. It followed her around as she spent years of her life in Berlin, reading her poetry and inspiring many black women and people to write about their experiences. Such a cool woman and a really great film - I highly recommend it to you all.
After class, a few of us grabbed dinner at a sandwich place down the street from HU (delicious) and then I went with people as they set up tattoo appointments. Apparently Berlin is like tattoo capital of the world so that's cool. After that, I came home, got ready for bed, planned on going straight to bed, and got sucked into the internet void - where my fingers have a mind of their own and uncontrollably scroll through reddit post after reddit post or facebook picture after facebook picture. Actually I did some productive things too, like write this blog post and send some emails asking for interviews. I think I've been doing alright with balancing my work/leisure time. Maybe. Could always be better. My balance could allllllways be better. Goodnight, meine Freunden
Turned 21 in Paris and opened wine with a boot instead of a corkscrew along the Seine to celebrate!
It's been a busy week and a half since my last post, but like in an awesome way so it's cool. Sorry for the delayed blogging though! Catching up starting now:
Last Thursday (the 12th) was big bro Davey's birthday and he's 24 and that's weird. Mom gave birth to David when she was 24. Like whaAaAat ya know?! So yeah bday shoutout to David Lawrence xoxo 4everyoung.
We didn't have class until 2pm on Thursday so Hannah and I tried to meet some of the other girls in the morning at a cafe by where they live, but got lost and ended up shopping/grabbing breakfast wherever it was that we landed. I got some sweet fleece lined patterned leggings and some colored thread for Hannah to do a hair wrap on me. Then we got on the train to go to the NGO where our lecture was for that day, unfortunately the BVG u-bahn police were biting that day and stopping EVERYone and asking to see their tickets. I lost my month-long pass pretty early on in the Berlin stay (salty about that, I never lose that kind of stuff) so I got busted and got a 40 euro fine!! Woooo! But don't worry I made it to the lecture on time.
The lecture was at a place called Ban Ying, which is an NGO based in Berlin. Ban Ying is Thai for "House of Women;" the place acts as a coordination/counseling center but also as a shelter for trafficked women. The lecture was on trafficking in Europe with a special emphasis on Germany and it was very interesting. Apparently a big problem area in trafficking in Germany with diplomats, because they are basically immune to the legal system, so if a diplomat is exploiting a woman for her labor (all the way from unpaid domestic chores to sexual exploitation), it is verrrry difficult to report. I think a big focus of Ban Ying right now is finding ways to help women being trafficked by diplomats by inviting the embassy/media to the conversation in order to create pressure expose the diplomats. One way they try to bring awareness is through advertisements like this postcard they gave us:
Cheery!! Haven't decided who the special someone is going to be who gets to receive that postcard. Might be me because I like it. After the lecture a few of us went to a second hand store which was awesome and I got a sweater and a hat. That evening I wanted to go to live band karaoke in Goerlitzer Park but it ended up getting too late and apparently that's a sketchy area at night. So I stayed in and read for class the next day.
Friday morning I got up super early to go to the BVG place to pay my ticket but I was there too early and had to go to class by the time they opened so that was the pits. Friday's lecture was facilitated by Iveta (I love her lectures because she explains things in such an accessible way and doesn't try to complicate things by using giant words or anything AND she speaks slowly enough/pauses so that I can take adequate notes and I just really love her) and it was about the readings we had about psychoanalysis and feminism by Rowley/Grosz, Freud, and Lacan. It was a lot to read and take in, but I really enjoyed reading it all so it wasn't bad. Just took a while. Also, Iveta's lecture really clarified everything for me and I now think I more fully understand how messed up Freud's theories were. Really messed up. But really interesting and I have like 6 pages of notes from that day if anyone wants more in-depth info about it. Friday afternoon we had a workshop at Humboldt University given by Urmila Goel on experiences of racism, focusing on white privilege. If anyone hasn't attended a workshop like this, I highly suggest it. I hadn't ever done anything like it before and it really made me think about my privilege and situate myself in terms of my race both here in Europe but also back in the U.S. A lot of people on the program didn't think they got much out of the workshop, but I think that might be because they had attended things of that nature before, or had taken class on race and/or cultural studies, so they thought about privilege already and didn't think the workshop was necessary. I personally liked it because, while it made me step out of my comfort zone and become more aware of my whiteness and of race in general, I think everyone needs to do that because it's so easy to ignore that it's an issue if you're not directly affected by it. After the workshop I went back to the BVG to try to pay again and they were closed. Again. It's as if they really didn't want me to succumb to the system #anarchy.
Friday night Hannah, Michelle, and I went to a DJ event down the street from where Hannah and I live, where Ipek (our Berlin homestay coordinator/princess of the Berlin lesbian DJ scene) was DJ-ing that night. Danced a LOT. Like so much. and we found a side room where not many people were, but we could still see Ipek doing her thang, so we danced in there the whole night and since it was less crowded it meant that I got to do my flailing thing and jumpy thing and kind-of-dancey thing. My bangs were dripping sweat by like 3 songs in so that's a nice picture for you all xoxo.
Saturday was our travel day for PARISSSSSSS! Our flight didn't leave til like 2pm so that was nice. Got to Paris by about 4, checked into our hostel in Montmartre, and walked up a bunch of stairs to the Sacre Coeur area and ate dinner.
Allie, Hannah, Ezra, me, and Michelle pre French feast by the Sacre Coeur. Kate and Kris also came to Paris with us but they went elsewhere for din.
Really beautiful view of the city from up there. That night (turned 21 at midnight (!)) Kate, Kris, Michelle and I went to a bar down the street from our hostel and they bought me my first alcoholic drink ever omg so gross. Actually it was a mint mojito so it was delicious. Nice people my friends are. We met a woman named Fanny who totally used us to practice her English. She was nice though and she had a funny name so we liked her.
Sunday was the 21st anniversary of my day of birth WHOA so old. I think it might have been one of my fave birthdays ever (tied with my surprise 20th last year - I have really good friends). Started the morning off with a two hour walking tour of Paris (beginning RIGHT in the middle of the square where Marie Antoinette was beheaded - so cool) and ending at the Eiffel tower. The day was beautiful too, it was pretty much totally sunny and cloudless the entire day. After the tour, we went to a flea market that stretched along an entire street and was sooooo big and cool and vintage and inexpensive (I even haggled a dress down from 4 euros to 3 so if I didn't have street cred before, well..). I was swept off my feet. I could have spent 3 days going through every item of clothing, trinket, poster, jewelry, etc at that place. AHHH so much love for French flea. After we finished rummaging, we climbed a hill in the park to come to this awesome open area right under the Sacre Coeur with a fountain, stairs, grass, cement platforms with a cute string band jamming, and another beeeeaaauutiful view of the city.
Even more beautiful view of the trash cans. Kate and I picnicked on the grass with apples, cheese, nuts, raisins, and wine. Then just chilled out for a while before we headed out. We passed the Sacre Coeur as we left and there was a big crowd sitting on the front steps and a mime was performing in front of all of them. A mime. In Paris. Actually miming. In Paris. He was really funny, too like I was actually laughing out loud. At one point he came over to Kate and did the whole cheek kiss kiss thing but repeated it like 17 times. It was adorable. Then Kate and I walked through the flea market again as it was closing and Kate bought me a kickbutt sweatshirt that has "Natasha" airbrushed on the front and "DC or bust" on the back. It was for some high school's history club and it is hilarious and awesome and I love it. Then we went back to the hostel, I chatted with my mom for a bit, got dinner (escargot - delicious), drank more wine that Hannah bought for me with the pals in the hostel, ate crispy m&m's given to me by Michelle (I've been really good about expressing my love for those because they're super delicious AND because of the nostalgia they present from my childhood because for some reason they were banned in the US when I was like 7 - stupid - so I was really excited to find them here), and went to bed. Literally think it was my ideal day and it happened to be my birthday so that was cool too.
Monday we went to the Louvre! Got some tea from Mariage Freres which was absolutely splendid and made me feel pretty bougie. The museum was incredible. Literally got lost. But it was so cool and I loved every minute of it (minus the swarm of other tourists that were constantly surrounding me). Saw the Mona Lisa and the Mary Magdalene statue and the works. COol stuff.
After the Louvre, we got some crepes (tuna and cheese in a crepe. WHAT so good) and did some thrift store window shopping and went home. All of us hung out in our hostel room for a long time and chatted and giggled and drank more wine and figured out which Harry Potter character each person on the Program was (I was a mix between Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood) and then went to get some appetizers and drinks at a restaurant down the street. We just sat there forever and played cards and had a grand time. It was wonderful.
Tuesday was Versailles dayyyyyy so incredible. Incredible in a way where it was like so beautiful and fancy and HUGE but also incredibly sickening because all of that beauty and massive excessive grandeur was at the stake of the poor starving French citizens. Weird/kinda eerie feeling but also really really cool and fun to pretend like I was a princess or something walking through the hall of mirrors and stuff. We had a picnic in the garden at Versailles too (French chevre included). SO dope.
Then we went back to the hostel and hung out at a cafe/crepe place right down the street and had some hot cocoa, crepes, and wifi. Did some web surfing and some reading and went back and went to bed.
Wednesday we started our day super early so we could get in line for the CATACOMBS before it got too long. We got there at like 9:30 and still had to wait for about a half hour. Reeeeally cool down there though. As we were walking down and it was really spooky, I taught Michelle, Ezra, and Kate the "Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose, will I ever see thee wed? I will marry at thy will, sire. At thy will, sire" song so we could all sing it in rounds and be really creepy walking in the dark skull-laden halls of the Paris underground. It was indeed really creepy. And awesome.
After the combs, we decided to mosey on over to the Notre Dame and have another picnic-like thing along the Seine. We sat there for quite a while. A bunch of tourist boats kept passing so we would wave and usually they would wave back. Then we came up with the idea of making up a synchronized leg-crossing-and-uncrossing dance for every time a boat came by. Got mostly positive feedback. Look out for us in #NotreDame or #Seine tagged instagrams? We're probably famous by now.
Then we headed into the Notre Dame. So beautiful and very overwhelming. When we first walked in, I was overcome with a weird like nostalgic kind of sensation, I think due to the incense-y smell and just the church atmosphere in general. It's comforting and I haven't been in such an ambiance in a while. I also think it was kind of like reminding me of home which I miss a bit here and there. At one point I got a little emotional when I saw people waiting to go to confession because it brought back a slew of memories and I sort of had this inner tousle with myself because I'm not sure what my relationship with religion is and stuff and I just had a mini personal quandary about it I think. Like I was finding such comfort in this institution which I've for a while now been thinking is so deeply, intrinsically rooted in such problematic organization and practice. It was confusing. Really cool windows though, stained glass is beautiful. And I got to give a little fist-chest-tap-kiss-my-two-fingers-and-throw-up-a-peace-sign motion to the Saint Louis statue. Didn't end up climbing the church because the line was kind of long and it was rainy and stuff. Still sweet to be inside where Quasimodo lurked.
After the Dame, we stepped in Shakespeare and Company for a bit. That was so cool and cute and nice and fun and satisfying. I leafed through a few of the shelves for a bit, took a book up to the upper level to flip through it a bit while a dad guy played Happiness is a Warm Gun on the piano. Then I played the one song I remember from piano lessons and we left. Love that place.
Our next stop was the Arc de Triomphe. We climbed all the way to the top and saw SUCH beautiful view of the city. It was pretty rainy, but unbelievably gorgeous nonetheless. Spent a while up there. Had some good I'll-take-your-picture-if-you-take-ours interactions. Then started the descent down.
After the triumphant arc, we walked across the river to the Eiffel Towerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! First we had a little coffee/feet resting break in a cafe. Then we started the climb by Miley Cyrus to the top of le tour. The stairs were actually closed by the time we got there so we had to take the elevator. I thought the view from the arc was beautiful, but the Eiffel is incomparable. SO IMMENSELY MARVELOUS. We got to see the city as the sun went down, from like 300 meters above it. Unreal.
We stayed up there for as long as we could. So awesome. Met some nice Australians on the way down, who coincidentally are making their next travel stop in Berlin, so I think we might meet up with them if it works out.
After the Eiffel, we went to take the metro home. As we were down on the platform waiting for the train to get there, I decided to try a Kinder Bueno (a candy bar that I see advertised everywhere in Europe, and I'm pretty sure it's made by the Nutella makers, so I was automatically intrigued). I inserted my money into the vending machine and as I was grabbing it, I heard my name being frantically called from behind me. I turned around only to see the door of the metro closing on Michelle's face and wide omg-are-you-really-missing-the-train-for-a-candy-bar-right-now eyes. Oops! Had to navigate my own way home that night (never really did that because everyone else always directed me). Took me a while but at least I had a delicious Kinder Bueno to keep me company. Was it worth it? One might (would) say yes totally most definitely.
Our plane left the next morning at 7am, so we had to leave our hostel by 4. That was miserable. Valentina was supposed to be on the same flight as us but she had been staying with her uncle in Paris, so she wasn't on the same shuttle as us. Her uncle was driving her and they got caught in traffic and she missed the flight by 3 minutes apparently. That poor soul. I slept the entire 2 hour plane ride. It was awesome, but waking up on the plane was for some reason 10x harder than it had been waking up in the hostel earlier that morning. Anyway, we got back to Berlin and I went straight to the BVG and finally got (had?) to pay my ticket!! Raise the roof! Went back home to my homestay in Friedrichschein and passed out for a 5 hour nap. Love those things. Naps really rule. Then I woke up, ate some pasta that Hannah made, read a little for class, and then we went to that Silver Future bar to say hi to everyone who had just gotten back from their trips. Fun shtuffffff.
Today we didn't have class, but it was more of a retreat thing at a center just outside of Berlin, a really swanky fancy area called Wansee. They gave us coffee and tea and fruit and lunch and doughnuts it was awesome. AND Lauren's birthday was the 18th, so Iveta had cakes for Lauren's and my birthdays. She's such a sweetheart. The retreat was cool. We all talked about our trips, played a game of mystery dream theorist, had lunch, talked about our individual research projects, made a yarn web of affirmations where everyone said something affirming to someone else in the group and was also given an affirmation by someone else in the group. That was nice. Then we all watched a movie called Lola and Billy the Kid, which is set in Kreutzberg and one of the actors is the husband of one of the hosts in a homestay here. It was a really good movie about queer Berlin and love struggles between Turks and Germans and family struggles with queerness. All that good stuff. It was actually pretty sad/poignant.
Then we came home, and I started this post which has since taken me all night. I took little break to FaceTime with the loves of my life back at the UD stomping grounds, Maddie, Susie, Kathleen, Emily, and Lucia. Got to see a sneak peak of Alpha Phi's POTH dance. It was alright I guess. JK it was absolutely beautiful and I love the music mix. Loved hearing from them and now I'm falling asleep so GUTE NACHT
Took a three and a half hour long nap today so I guess you could say I'm really experiencing the city in the best way possible. But really I need to stop doing that, this is the third day in a row that I've taken a nap for at least two hours is something wrong with me?? Yeah hi iron deficiency. Note to self: continue to take iron pills I guess? Don't let myself fall asleep after class? Eat more veggies?
My nap was funny though because I had a dream that I was at some big space like a bar or something with a bunch of people around just hanging out and I heard my name called so I looked around for a while and then realized it was two of my friends from high school, George and Andrew! In Berlin!! I went over to them and was like oh my gosh hey guys what the heck are you doing here?? And they were like oh ya know we're just... wait we don't know, what are we doing here? And I was like oh I bet this is a dream. You guys are in my dream. And then they were like aw man Eileen we're in one of your weird dreams? Come on! And I was like haha I guess so! But then I thought it wasn't actually a dream so I was like hmm maybe this isn't a dream we're all just together in Berlin! And then we all danced in the bar and then I woke up.
Monday, we had class in the morning at Mehringhoff (the squat I was talking about where we have most of our lectures). It was a class discussion day where we discussed the readings we had done from our Comparative Feminist Theories reader. These readings were about sex work and trafficking so we started out class by viewing some of the "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" ads (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2n5jazoLQrM&list=PL95E64A6AEEED5718
) for the campaign that Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore apparently started against human trafficking. We just kind of talked about how problematic those ads are in general (using the phrase "real man" was their first mistake. What does that even mean? Also, using the word "girls" infantilizes women while simultaneously sexualizing children) and then how they are problematic in their cause (when someone sees "buy girls" they usually initially think of strippers or something), which I could discuss further if anyone ever wants to. Some people were saying that while they don't fully support prostitution, perhaps legalizing it would reduce human trafficking. A counterpoint of that was brought up that it is problematic to make it illegal to sell sex, but not to buy it. Another interesting comparison introduced in class by someone was saying that sex workers could be thought of similarly to therapists. I'm still not sure where I totally stand on it all. A lot of the things we have been talking about on this program I have been unsure about my stance and/or support. It's really great to be exposed to so many viewpoints though. I just wish I was more opinionated because I feel like I never really have anything to contribute to conversations except for like clarifications of concepts and whatnot. Monday afternoon, we went to Dr. Laura Meritt's flat to listen to her talk about her experience as a sex worker (we all thought she was just previously a sex worker, but some of the things she was saying were present tense so that was kind of confusing) and her brothel. She was super interesting and very nice and welcoming and smiley and gave us tea and sat on the floor with us while we all chatted. She described that sex work doesn't only mean prostitution, it also is informing people about sex and bodies and stuff (her speaking with us was sex work). Very interesting and such a cool person. Monday night, Hannah and I both napped for way too long. I got up and went on a run before it got too dark and came back and showered and by the time I was done Hannah was still napping. lolz. It was an exhausting day! Tuesday (yesterday), we went to a different part of Berlin for a lecture at a highschool by Dr. Nivedita Prasad about "Violence against women as a human rights abuse." She used a lot of statistics about complaints that have been filed around the world regarding human rights and different conventions and laws revolving around them. One interesting point she presented was that obviously, the people who experience human rights violations the most are marginalized groups/people (racially, sexually, economically etc.), but the people who complain the most about human rights violations in Germany are fathers in custody disputes, people of the Scientology church, and former E. German border guards. The website she got her information from was bayefsky.com, where you can look up all of the UN human rights treaties and all of the complaints that have been made about them. Apparently, the US and Somalia are the only two countries that haven't ratified CEDAW, the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which allows for people to actually directly report human rights violations via the website. Nivedita touched on her position as a feminist in Germany, which was really interesting and I think I will use what she said for my research, and possibly try to interview her for more information. She said that she would never say she is a feminist in Germany, rather she is a feminist of color. She said that mainstream feminism in Germany is very anti-Muslim and supports Germany's law that if you wear a headscarf, companies can refuse to hire you. Thus German mainstream feminists support the process which creates unemployed Muslims. When she says that she is a feminist of color, people ask her why she frames it in such a way instead of just saying she's a feminist, so that gives her the opportunity to explain and inform people. She seems to be a big fan of informing.
After class, I got Indian food with Hannah and Michelle. I'm really proud of myself because I stopped eating when I was full and then took the rest of the food home and ate it for dinner so I was being frugal AND somewhat healthier. When we left the Indian restaurant a tall, blonde, ponytailed man with leather pants (not tight like leggings, just pants) and a neon yellow/pink/I don't remember what other colors windbreaker on who was probably in his 50s but had pretty good skin and a nice German accented English (but British English, not American English) came up to us and I think was trying to either sell us something or just use us as subjects of some experiment/study because he went off on this poetic rant about what I really don't know but it was reeeeeally long and we all just kinda stared at him and walked away when he was done. Strange.
Last night I napped again for like 2 hours while I was doing my reading for today's class (surefire way to get me to sleep is to make me read - FYI for if anyone ever needs to put me down). Then I woke up and went on a run but this time I didn't shower immediately after because Hannah and Michelle came back from a meeting at a feminist squat/living co-op thing that they went to and then we all went to Val and Ezra's homestay to do people's hair!! There are quite a few shaved heads on this program so I guess maintenance is an issue to keep up with and requires clippers and friends. So we all gathered and shaved. Michelle even shaved her dreads! Big day
She ended up not shaving all of it and keeping the top in a bun but it still looks cool. I hope she shaves all of it soon though because I love shaved heads. That's Ezra doing the cutting. Don't worry, Kate and I reminded them that they looked like Mugatu in Zoolander when Derek's being brainwashed by Mugatu's video. That's also a dread in Michelle's hand <3
I forgot to mention in my last post about Saturday when Hannah and I were on the train to Goerlitzer Park. A guy (mid 20s, scruffy facial hair, kinda grungy looking but not unattractive) got on the train after us and stood next to us and kept making eye contact with me until finally he asked me if I was okay. I said I was okay. He asked if I had something on my mind like if I wanted to talk about something, or if I was just tired, because he said my eyes looked like I had something on my mind, but sometimes people tell him that they're just tired when he asks that. I told him that I guess I was just tired, because I wasn't sad or anything. He smiled and just kinda kept looking my way for the rest of the train ride. Weird but funny. I was thinking maybe he was the one who had something on his mind and that was his way of getting someone to ask him about it and I just totally blew it for him. Oops. Anywhoo. On the train to Ezra and Val's last night we saw that same guy from a distance. Hannah and I had our giggles and filled Michelle in on it so she could laugh too. Then, on the train back from Ezra and Val's, he was there again! We ended up sitting right across from him and I tried to acknowledge him but he didn't seem to remember me so that was funny. But when he got off the train he came over to where we were sitting and handed me a slip of paper with his facebook url and his okcupid username, Tom Toast. Again, Hannah and I had many giggles and couldn't wait to get home and look him up. Couldn't find him on facebook so I had to create an okcupid (never thought I'd see the day). Found him and apparently he goes to the same school where we've been having out lectures (at Mehringhof - he called it sfe Berlin and described it as a non hierarchic school). So we're basically classmates.
Today (Wednesday) we just had one session during the morning at Mehrringhof and it was a class discussion about the reading we did by Puar about homonationalism. Really huge topic that was super interesting to get into but also very overwhelming and frustrating when I couldn't pinpoint my thoughts on everything. Apparently it the whole topic was very pertinent to Obama's speech last night and to today's date being 9/11. We talked a lot about exceptionalism and the state of exception, about biopolitics and necropolitics, about homonationalism and capitalism, and oh so much more. I haven't gotten a chance to read the transcript yet, but apparently Obama actually used the "exceptional" terminology to describe the U.S. in his speech last night so that was disheartening for those with a global vision. The idea of homonationalism I've come to understand is sort of like a "skimming" of the population because it's sort of like protecting/granting rights to those of the minority (homosexuals, people of color, etc) who are most like the "norm" (heterosexual, white, "middle class"), therefore satisfying the minority group, but in a way that satisfies more the majority group because the members of the minority who are being satisfied are the ones who are most like the majority. i.e. gay marriage. I don't know. I might be totally wrong again but that was my impression of homonationalism.
After class, Hannah and I came home, I took a really long nap, was going to run but it was rainy and cold so I did this instead! I've been laying around all day but tonight I think I'm gonna go to a dancey place with some people on the program because we don't have class until 2 tomorrow! woohooooo
Here's an awkward pic of some girl in front of the Reichstag she wasn't even posing she's just that awkward and her arms are naturally that penguin-y I know ew what a weirdo. Cool building though
Okay yeah whatever it's been like 8000 years since my last post I'M SORRY I've been doin' things and stuff. So. Since my last post:
I did some more NatureCulture learning at NOISE (as well as a LOT of doodling). Wednesday, the lecturers were feminist musicologists. I had no idea there were so many feminisms but it makes sense since there is so much that goes into feminism (feminism really does encompass everything). One of the speakers, Jannie Pranger, gave a vocalecture. She spoke for some of it, but then to demonstrate what she was saying, she sang for some of the lecture as well. It was really cool and new. After NOISE on Wednesday, I took the train to Nijmegen, a city not too far from Utrecht,. On the train, I was sitting in a section by two guys I think around my age. One was a Dutch-Moroccan named Sufjan and the other was Dutch whose name I can't remember right now but ugh that's gonna bug me so much. Something with a G I think. But we were just having casual conversation about how the Dutch think Americans are all stupid and how Americans don't think about the Dutch and then I decided to include them in my research so I sneakily turned my voice recorder on and asked them to talk about feminism and feminists. Very informative. Sufjan actually gave me the phrase "angry bitches" so I think we're getting somewhere with busting the stereotype!! I explained my research project to them and they were very interested in helping me out but also kind of awkward because I think they didn't want to offend me or something. We ended up just talking about human nature in general so it wasn't totally pertinent but it was nice. When the G-kid was getting off the train (after Sufjan had already left) I thanked him for the information and he said "not information, conversation!" which I thought was precious and true. I'm really lucky because I can treat my research like casual conversations and still gain useful data. Fun stuff. Anyway, Nijmegen is where my friend Lucy from UD is studying this semester, so I got to visit her! That was very fun. She, her friend Thais (whose verrrry fitting nickname is the Dutch phrase for "pretty boy" -given to him by his friends, not himself, he made sure to point out- AND who I'm pretty sure is crushing hard core on Lucy and vice versa and they met by literally running into each other on their bikes so if they don't end up getting married then idk what love even is), and I all went to a few bars and danced a lot. It was awesome getting to see her and really weird/kind of disorienting since we were in the Netherlands. Not Dayton. Like whoOoOoaaa how'd that happen ya know? She even let me sleep on her bed in her dorm and then ride her bike to the train station at 7am <3 trufriend. Made it back just in time for class.
Thursday's lecturers at NOISE were activists so it was cool getting to listen to the other end of the whole academia-vs-activism thing. One of the lecturers, Niamh Moore, is an ecofeminist and during her lecture she played a clip of a video that featured Vandana Shiva, who is a food activist (among other things) and who I loooove. I quote her all the time in my papers about the organic food movement. Niamh's whole lecture was really interesting and about her involvement in a peace camp at Clayoquot. The other lecturer was Joan Haran who was an amazing speaker and very inspiring. She was really good at keeping my attention (I have a tendency to drift off during class a lot even if I am interested in the given topic). I think a lot of it had to do with her sense of humor. The topic of her lecture was Screening Naturecultures: Eco/feminism and Green Film Production. She (along with almost everyone at NOISE) referenced Donna Haraway a lot. One Haraway quote that she used which I liked was, "we seem terribly afraid of patience, we mistake it for passivity." During our lunch break on Thursday, Iveta set up a small informal interview for me with 3 feminists from Greece, the Netherlands, and Finland. That was really cool and I got a lot of good information about different countries' feminisms. At the end of the day I approached one of the directors of NOISE, Iris Van der Tuin, and had another short interview about Dutch feminism. Makin' some headway!
Friday at NOISE all of the small groups had to give their presentations which they had been working on all week. All of the presentations where reallllly cool and creative and entertaining. A lot of short play type things about naturecultures and such. Had another little interview during lunch break again. On the walk home I got an ice cream cone and put french fries in it, which has been a dream of mine for a while now so you could say I was happy. Then I went on a run and got ready for the night. Friday night was the NOISE party since the week-long summer school was officially over. SO FUN. Probably one of my favorite nights in Utrecht. I ate meat. But there was a face painter and dress-up clothes and an amazing dance floor that led out to a canal and I danced with Iveta and it was just so so fun.
almost all of the antioch folks minus two people
so so so fun.
Saturday was a paper-writing day for me. I also ate a lot of cookies. Strowis was completely transformed on Saturday because it was their 15th anniversary and they were having a giant party. Major decorating and setting up for live music (almost everyone that works there plays music so they were all really cool and fun). That was a very fun party as well. Did a lot of dancing to fun live Strowis music.
SUNDAY WAS MOVING DAY! As much as I hate packing, I was very excited to because we were leaving for Berlin! Really sad to leave Utrecht and Strowis, though. They will always have my heart and I told Strowis I'd see them soon because I have every intention of going back. 8 hours of travel later and we arrived at our destination! We were greeted at the train station by our homestay coordinator (Ipek Ipekcioglu, a Turkish German lesbian DJ who I'm pretty sure runs the Berlin DJ scene and is really kewl) and all of our hosts. My friend Hannah and I are roommates in our homestay, which is really fun because I like Hannah and we have a plan to blare The Clash while baking cookies sometime this week. Our hosts are Marie and her girlfriend Sue. Marie is a DJ and a translator and a cinema worker and is Portuguese but has lived in Berlin for about 20 years now and Sue has lived here forever but she grew up in the DDR (east side of the Berlin wall) so there is a lot of cool DDR stuff in the house. They also have a really cute cat named Schubert who is awesome and loves me but also has scratched me when we were playing one time so idk.
Berlin has been awesome so far. I live pretty close to the longest part of the wall that's left and it's reeeeally cool looking with all of the murals and graffiti and whatnot. We also live right next to the river Spree which is pretty. Our classes and lectures are held in a big squat called Mehringhof theater. Our whole situation is very unconventional and nontraditional and I love all of it. Totally queer-ing study abroad norms.
Monday was Iveta's birthday! We had class in the morning and then went to lunch at an awesome Indian place. In the afternoon we had a 3-hour walking tour of the city. It would have been soooo much more enjoyable if it wasn't raining and freezing cold out. I was very miserable for a lot of the tour but I also think that could have been aiding in my experience because a lot of the tour focused on the Wall and the Holocaust, so I was often overcome with sadness and since the weather was also sad, it seemed appropriate, as terrible as that sounds. I wish I had journaled or blogged that day, though, because I learned a lot of cool and interesting things about the city and the country and I'm afraid I might have forgotten it now. One interesting thing is that apparently the Nazi Germans set the Reichstag on fire years ago, but all of the German tour guides will not admit that. Two days later we were proven that because we had a tour of the Reichstag and the guide said that it was a "mystery" who set fire to it. Funny. I also never knew that when JFK was here and he was talking about the US support of Berlin, he said "Ich bin ein Berliner!" thinking that he was identifying the the Berlin people by saying that he was one of them after just one day of being in their city, what he said was actually translated into "I am a jelly doughnut!" because he used an article. I thought that was pretty lol-worthy. I'm actually realizing that I'm better at the German language than I thought I was. I still am intimidate to use it in public, I think mainly because I know all of the locals would make fun of my yoga
Tuesday, we had class until 4 and then I had skype dates with my mom and Debbie.
Wednesday, we were finished with class at noon so I came home and ran around our neighborhood a little before our tour of the Reichstag. I found an adorable park right around the corner of where we're staying and also a sweet corner store which has everything anyone would ever need including 79 cent dark chocolate bars. There are a few cool bars and restaurants on our street too so that's nice. The Reichstag was awesome and HUGE and sooo mod and futuristic looking it was very cool. At the end of the tour we went up to the roof and took some cool pictures.
Then some of us got dinner at an "authentic" German restaurant in a very tourist-y part of the city. Overpriced but still really good food. I ate meat again because I thought I should try some German wurst. I have zero regrets because it was so worth it. Delicious currywurst and potato salad.
My pal Bethany was pretty delicious too. Thursday we had a lecture on "Trans* in Germany - from violation of human rights to supportive alliances" which was really interesting and also easily kept my interest. Really cool and disturbing stats and facts about policies regarding transgender rights. Apparently Argentina is the best country for trans people because they have next to ideal identity laws and stuff. We were off in the afternoon so I went on a jog and then Hannah and I did our readings in the park because the weather was BEAUTIFUL and there's a kindergarten or something next to the park so there were a bunch of little kids playing on the sets and they were absolutely adorable. I soaked up some nice sun and got my readings done at the same time, it was perfect. Thursday night a lot of the Antioch people went to this bar called SilverFuture (gay bar - frequent activity for me these days. If anyone knows some fun bars in Berlin that aren't specifically gay, give me a shout. Nothing against the gay bars, I've always enjoyed that kinda crowd, but it's nice to mix it up sometimes ya know?). Fun night though.
Friday we had class all day. After class, a few of us hung out and go a drink at a bar in the same squat quad as our "classroom," called Clash. It's a really cool place I'm excited to return. They were also playing a German cover of Blister in the Sun when we walked in so that's a good sign. We met a girl named Zsofia from Budapest, who told us about a free concert in a park this weekend and who might sit in on one of our classes just for something to do. She just got to Berlin a few days ago and will be here for 3 years studying cultural studies. She's nice and we became facebook friends so obviously we're now bff's until the end of time. Then we did a little exploring around that area of the city. Went in some shops, got some big soft pretzels from a bakery, and went home. Friday night, we went to Lauren's (our TA) favorite bar from when they came on this trip 5 years ago called Barbie Deinhoffs. Really cool place with awesome music but unfortunately just sitting, no dancing.
Yesterday (Saturday), I went on a run and then Hannah and I went to Goerlitzer park so meet Iveta and some of the other Antioch folks. Suuuuuuch a beautiful day yet again. Iveta brought some blankets, chocolate, and a foam hello kitty ball that a few of us used as a volleyball. Really all of the ingredients for a perfect day I think.
Last night a few of us went to another squat called Tuntenhaus which apparently only has these parties 3 or 4 times a year and they're always a big deal. When Hannah and I got there, we had to stand in line for a loooong time but eventually got in and met up with some pals and danced a lottttttt. So sososo fun. I love how much dancing we do here all the time. This place was really cool and alternative too so of course there was some really good people watching. I've come to the conclusion that Europe I think is just the people-watching capital of the world. I know this because I'm an expert on Europe because I've been to two countries so trust me. Just kidding. I actually have noticed that Berlin generally is not that fashion forward. At least compared to Utrecht and even the big cities in the US. I would expect differently - it seems like Berlin would have lots of well-dressed people. There are some, but far fewer than I expected.
Today (Sunday) I planned on going to one of the Sunday-only flea markets here and then to the free concert that Zsofia told us about. But of course, I was overtaken by the lazy Sunday syndrome and I stayed home the entire day. I went on a jog and showered and did some facetiming with some peeps. Hannah went to the flea market and got a sweet dress for one euro and a scarf for one euro so I'm feeling pretty regretful. Oh well. Next time.
Again - apologies for the length. Will write again soon. Til then, Tchuss!
Here's the back of Kris, one of the people on the program. <3 (sorry grandma it's powerful)
One of the things I'm realizing on this trip is that a lot of feminism is either academia or activism, and it's hard to find a balance. Kris, pictured above, I think embodies a radical feminist activist anarchist and probably a bunch of other -ist's that I don't know about. Cool stuff. Now on to the updating:
Sunday night I ate a delicious dinner of stir fry prepared by Sharon and Kalena. Some people on the program went to see a play called "Up Your Ass" in Amsterdam, but I stayed and did a lot of phone-talking and reading and sleeping. Fell asleep with my laptop on my lap (again) with the readings for the NOISE summer school in Adobe Reader and luckily when the peeps came home from the play, some of them took my laptop down and set it in a safe place. I'm on the top bunk so that could have been bad (repeat of freshman year first semester when I fell asleep and woke up to a crashing noise, only to find my shiny blue Dell laying on the floor with no bruises except a slight chip in the corner which still remains and I think gives my computer character).
Monday morning was the first day of feminist summer camp!! Just kidding. It's the week-long NOISE summer school. It's not a summer camp but it's a feminist conference of all Masters and PhD students (Antioch students are the only undergraduate students who are allowed to be included each year). All I could think of before it started was an introduction of a bunch of feminists running into the room enthusiastically chanting "let's make some NOISE!!!!" with "baas in eigen buik" written on their exposed feminist stomachs (http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolle_Mina
) and throwing matching pink bandanas into the crowd. Didn't happen :( It's much more professional than that. Some would argue it's too professional. That's where the problem in the "academia vs. activism" distinction comes in I think. A lot of us Antioch students have been finding the manner in which the NOISE information has been delivered quite problematic. It has been kind of a repeat of what I talked about in the last post, when some of the lecturers seemed to be talking "at" us and feeding us a bunch of feminist theory, instead of viewing us as just as valid as they are and giving us examples of how to implement these theories into society. The atmosphere is just pretty conservative and a lot of the questions or critiques that we undergrads have posed don't seem to be being taken seriously and are responded to in a rather condescending and hopeless (for the asker) manner. It's creating sort of a common enemy for us, which I also don't think is good. I agree that we shouldn't just automatically praise authority because of their position behind a podium, but I do think there is value in respect. I think that, just as there should be reason in order for people to respect authority, there should be equally valid reason for brushing off authority, instead of simply ignoring authority figures solely because they are authority figures.
Anywho. Monday was the first day and we had a lecture by Iris Van der Tuin in the morning, followed by a bus ride to the Hague for a stroll through a museum exhibition called Ja Natuurlijk!
or Yes, Naturally!
The whole theme of NOISE this week is Naturecultures, which (if I'm picking up on it correctly) refers to the idea that the natural elements of the world and of society are not separate from the cultural aspects of the world. It sort of breaks down the previous idea that society is made of things in either the natural
category or the cultural
category. Like "nature vs. nurture." Naturecultures takes away the "versus" aspect and instead brings the two categories to attempt to help humans realize that there is an equal-planed relationship between things like dogs and humans etc. The art exhibit was awesome. I just really love museums I think, and I never have as much time as I want to go through it all carefully. One of the installations at this exhibition was a series of garbage cubes, which didn't have an explanation plaque that I could see, so I'm just assuming it has something to do with how much waste is created by humankind. They reminded me of the cubes of garbage in Monster's Inc (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_j1OeqabbYQ
) so I sat on one:
After the museum, we had a little discussion with the curator and all of the students about what we saw and relating it to feminist topics. Then there was a little NOISE social mixer under tents in the garden with snacks and drinks. Quite lovely.
Monday night, Lauren and I (met later by Michelle) went to that "Up Your Ass" play in Amsterdam (Lauren saw it the night before, but they described it as a religious experience for them, so of course they had to see it again). It was really great. It was a play that was written by Valerie Solanis, who was apparently a very radical feminist in the 60s whose only surviving works are this play, and her book, Scum Manifesto. Lauren is an avid Solanis fan, so I learned all about the life and death of Valerie on the train on the way. I guess Valerie Solanis wrote this play, gave it to Andy Warhol to produce, Andy lost the play, and Valerie unsuccessfully tried to assassinate him. I think there's also a movie about that event, called I Shot Andy Warhol. I don't think the play is performed often because it's kind of impossible to get it, but these people acquired it illegally so I got the privilege of seeing one of the only performances of "Up Your Ass" and you should all be jealous.
Today (Tuesday), we had more lectures at NOISE. One was by Maaike Bleeker, whose article we had to read before. It was about reenactment of art pieces like dance, historical events, song covers, etc. I loved the reading because I kind of covered that topic in my Philosophy of Art class last year so I knew what I was reading about (a rare occurrence it seems these days). However, Ms. Bleeker turned out to be another member of the read-straight-from-your-manuscript-and-never-look-up-to-notice-that-we're-all-yawning club. Bummer because it could have been a cool presentation given the topic. The next presenter was Dr. Roger Kneebone, a surgeon who puts on simulations of surgical procedures sometimes to reenact how they were done years before, when the process was different. He was a phenomenal public speaker and totally captured everyone's attention. The critique of him (of course there has to be one! duh) was that he was an older white male in the field of science giving a lecture to a crowd of mostly women in the humanities whose whole goal is to change the white male patriarchy. Interesting. I found a good way to connect what he was saying with what we've been discussing in feminism terms was to look again at the academia vs. activism idea. One thing that Roger stressed was that one can't learn everything he or she needs to know about surgery from a book. He gave the example of, during one of his surgical reenactments, the older surgeon who was the subject of the simulation, had a younger surgeon helping him out, sort of acting as a mentee to the older surgeon. At one point, the older surgeon is showing the younger one how to feel inside an incision if everything is right. The older surgeon feels around in the open wound and explains to the younger that he just has to "stick your finger in there and feel the... uh..." and he never finishes or gives a term to what the younger surgeon is supposed to be feeling for. What's interesting is that the younger surgeon seems to understand, and even Dr. Kneebone (I'm convinced that's not his real last name and that he and Alicia Keys are on the same wavelength with the whole giving yourself a pseudonym to match your passion in life) attested to the fact that there is indeed just something that you can feel, which doesn't need a term or explicit phrase, but every surgeon can do it. This is an example of needing to have that embodied experience in order to fully be able to perform surgery. The same seems to be true for feminism. One can't simply sit and listen to professor after professor reiterate theories and referencing old philosophers or feminists and be a well-rounded feminist. He or she must actively insert him or herself into the world of activism to truly have it all covered. There needs to be that balance between study and action. I think this balance applies to all aspects of life.
After the lectures, we broke off into our small groups to discuss even further what we all got out of the lectures. This was really helpful to me because I loved hearing what others had to say about it, especially these graduate and PhD students who undoubtedly have so much more experience and knowledge in the field than any of us do. I actually even participated quite a bit in the discussion and even volunteered to pose our question to the entire NOISE group once we all convened into the plenary session, which I think is just a European thing and it means everyone meets after meeting with smaller groups and has a giant discussion. It was fun.
When everything was over, we all came back to Strowis and ate dinner. Then I took my surveys and went to the park to ask some peeps about feminism (finally). It went really well I think! I got a bunch of responses and a bunch of "good luck!"s so that's exciting. People were pretty interested and willing, which is reassuring. I also leaned more towards handing the surveys out to girls around my age, which is a problem. I need diverse results. What I did end up with is very interesting though. Some responses were kind of funny. One pair of girls didn't want to fill out a survey, but were okay with me asking them the questions and transcribing their answers myself. That was actually really fun and I think probably more productive because they didn't restrict their answers to the space provided. And it was nice for me to chat with some girls outside the realm of WGS, even if the topic of conversation was WGS... I can't escape it. After gathering a few surveys, I went back to Strowis (got some ice cream on the way which rocked), trying to make it in time to leave with the group for an evening lecture back at the NOISE place. When I got back, however, everyone had already left. I tried to find the place on my own but got lost and ended up coming back to Strowis and going for a really long, really nice night time run.
Off to bed. Gonna meet Lucy (UD friend who's also studying in the Netherlands this semester) in Amsterdam tomorrow to go to the Anne Frank museum! Super stoked.
A view from my bike while on the island Texel (pronounced "Tessel") in North Holland. I thought it was a good prototypical Dutch picture with the Netherland flag and sheep and such. I was surrounded by so many beautiful scenes like this the whole day in Texel, which was nice because in Utrecht and Amsterdam it's very urban and not what one might picture when thinking of Holland
I think it might be a long one today, folks. Sorry. I need to do these more frequently so I don't have to pile a week's worth of thoughts and experiences into one post. So bear with me for this novel of an entry and then I'll start to do more short and sweet and frequent posts from now on.
Last Saturday (the 17th) I could have slept in soo late but Strowis stops serving breakfast at 11AM and it's free on weekends so I felt like I should take advantage of it. As if 11AM is even that early. I'm such a wimp.
After b-fast I went pretty HAM on some class reading for a paper due Monday but then I got distracted and a bunch of us went to look for kayaks/paddle boats to go down the canals. There were some that were 4 euro an hour (my arms turn to jelly after an hour of kayaking anyways) which is totally awesome but those were all booked so some people went to another place and got a paddle boat but it was more expensive and I like the idea of getting a kayak to myself so I got some ice cream and walked home (by myself - pretty proud of myself for not getting lost). When I got back to Strowis I grabbed my reading stuff and went to a park that's kind of right around the corner but also kind of farther than I thought. It was such a beautiful day. I sat against a tree and read and read and read (only pausing once to take a vine of a man serenading some picnic-ers). The readings were pretty interesting - topics like Dutch tolerance, Amsterdam and the history of its prostitution, the decriminalization of marijuana, euthanasia, and sex work, etc. Eventually I had to get up because a homeless-looking man (who I have seen all around town since) kept stumbling/standing around me and either just watching as I read or talking to me in Dutch and it was hard to ignore. I suppose I could have asked if he spoke English but I wasn't really interested in striking up a conversation with anyone at the moment. It went on for a while until I decided to just walk back to the hostel. Then on the path along the canal on the way back, another homeless man started walking next to me and speaking Dutch so I said I'm sorry I only speak English and he stuttered out "I need money - from you - can you help me?" and it kinda broke my heart but I said I'm sorry I can't and he sauntered off. I've only seen him I think one other time around the park since then.
When I got back to the hostel, I read some more and then a few of us went to get some Turkish food from Ana's Kuzin. So delicious. Got some Turkish Delight too which I had never had before but omg so in love. I got some rose water ones and some vanilla ones. I've come to the conclusion based off observation that there isn't really a specific Dutch cuisine (besides stroopwafel), but there are so many Turkish places so I think that might be the food of the Dutch - Turkish. I'm not opposed, I love a good falafel and stuffed grape leaf. The rest of the night I was very anti social and stayed cooped up in my room reading while some people watched a movie, some played games, some went to a lesbian dance party, and all had fun. I think that was a weird little funk I went through though because there were a few nights that I opted to stay in which is uncharacteristic of me but since then I've been better about fraternizing and getting back to my normal p@rTy G!Rl self (kidding).
Saturday night I fell asleep listening to music instead of white noise like I usually do here and I had a dream where I was at a party and I couldn't hear anything anyone was saying because I could only hear this music. I remember in the dream frustratingly telling someone that I couldn't hear them - that all I could hear was this Arctic Monkeys song that I didn't even know. Funny.
Sunday after breakfast, I did some journaling and reading outside until I finished what I needed to for the paper due the next day. Then fell asleep in a chair in the sun and it felt phenomenal. Every once in a while the clouds would come by but for the most part it was absolutely beautiful and my skin did some major sun soaking.
Then I started my paper, but paused because I wanted to make some dinner (fried egg and sauteed spinazi and toast yum) before my run with Iveta (!!!) and two other girls on the program, Bethany and Allie. Iveta made fun of Allie and me for even questioning if we should bring our music/headphones ("that would be so not cool"). I thought we were only going to go for like 20 minutes, because when I was talking to Iveta a few days before, we were both saying that we only do like 20 minute runs. However, I realized during our jog sesh that Iveta's "20 minutes" was an approximate, give-or-take-15-minutes, 20 minutes while mine was a strict, I'll-probably-pass-out-mid-stride-if-I-run-at-your-pace-for-any-longer-than-exactly-20-minutes, 20 minutes. We ended up going pretty far and pretty fast. Bethany used to run cross country and Iveta is just perfect so they were nonchalantly chatting and effortlessly trotting along as I tried to keep up and force in some gasps/words (?) as an attempt to join the convo. I think I need to stick with my solo-running policy.
Then we came back and I finished my paper, did a little grocery stop (peanut butter, cookie things that were on sale for 1 euro, spinach, eggs, and cheese that was also on sale. Most cheese here is like upwards of 15 euros. I always get the 3 euro kind but yesterday there was some for 1 euro! Bargain!! Probably moldy!!!) then FaceTimed for a long time. First I talked to Aunt Katey and Mama Jo and Papa John (b-day shoutout to ketey). Lovely convo with lovely people. Then chatted with Samantha, whose birthday was also that day (S/O!!!!), for a long time. That was an alright convo with an alright person (just kidding sam you're so lovely too. And smart <3). After that I started transcribing my paper from typed on my computer to written on loose-leaf (Iveta's letting us turn in hand-written papers if we don't want to find a printer) TOOK SO LONG. ATE SO MANY COOKIES AND PEANUT BUTTERS. I seriously thought it would just be a minor, mindless task I could finish up real quick and go to bed. No. I got blisters on my fingers. I sat there and stuffed my face and listened to David Byrne and St. Vincent and occasionally got distracted and talked to people. Mainly Hannah. She and I ended up being the last two in the common area in the wee hours of the morning but I'm pretty sure she stayed up even later than I did.
Monday morning we had a lecture with Iveta at 9:45 (early. I kept falling asleep and I felt so bad. I hate when I do that it's so rude) about a Rosi Braidotti article on Identity, Subjectivity, and Difference. It was mainly a session to clarify any questions on the article because Rosi was going to be giving us a lecture later on that day. Everyone was super excited about that. Iveta even got her this giant beautiful bouquet of flowers. She's like a celeb. Anyway, after Iveta talked, a grad student talked to us about LGBT topics in the Netherlands. Interesting term to look further into: homonationalism. Something about how ethnic groups in the Netherlands must have a problem of mistreating queer people. So some politicians and people use this as an excuse to keep immigrants out - "protect our gays" - which isn't right. I don't know. I don't fully understand it yet but I think it could be interesting.
Then we came back to Strowis, I took an awesome nap, and we headed back to UU for Rosi's lecture. Of course we were all talking about how excited we were the entire way. Iveta went to Rosi's office to get her (she's a lecturer at the University so her office was close) because she was late and we played feminist hangman while we waited. BUT then Iveta came back with the bad news that our site coordinator messed up and never actually scheduled Rosi. Womp. Everyone was pretty devastated but especially Iveta, I think. We rescheduled for Wednesday. Since we had the room, though, we stayed and discussed odds and ends about Germany and stuff. We also talked about where everyone is going to go for our 5 day independent travel. I think I want to go to Paris for the first night (celebrate my birthday) and then the rest of the time in Biarritz in southern France with (Aunt Veronique's parents) Lillian and Francois Lavabre. Not sure yet though. I still have to hear back from the Lavabres to see if that would even be okay with them. It would be awesome because first of all, I love Lillian and Francois and I think it would be really nice to visit them since I have the opportunity; second of all, I wouldn't have to go through the trouble of finding a hostel and stuff which would be very convenient especially because apparently Biarritz is kind of an expensive city; and third, BEACHES. Apparently the weather there is constantly beautiful and there are beaches so I could do that sun-soaking thing again. I was also talking to Simeon and Diana about it and they said they would love to go to Paris and meet me too! That would be so so fun.
Then we came back to Strowis and I had some toast and cookies, did some flight research/facebook chatting with David (says his job's going great, so proud of him), and went on a run. So much better by myself again. I also saw a place for Bikram yoga and picked up a brochure. That would be so great. When I got back, I ate a panini made by two girls on the program, Sharon and Kalena. Delicious. I'm part of the meal share schedule most of the girls have been doing now. I wasn't before because I don't like having a specific eating time but I realized how much money it saves people and the food is delicious and vegan and gluten free.
After my shower I came down to the common area to journal/read but ended up practicing German with Hannah. I love having a little bit of an idea of how to speak it. Then my favorite old man who looks like a baby giraffe and is the most socially awkward person ever asked if he could sit and journal at the table I was at.
My heart melted he's so precious. Then a bunch of us went to get ice cream.
Tuesday we had a lecture in the morning by Iris Van der Tuin, a lecturer at UU. Her lecture was about generational feminism and she's also a prodigy of Braidotti so she referenced her a lot. I liked the things she was saying in her lecture, but the frustrating part was that she was literally reading off of her manuscript (which was legitimate, don't get me wrong. She's actually in the process of getting it published but apparently the publishers keep telling her that "they don't publish epistemology"? Stupid). It was hard to hold my interest in what she was saying because she wasn't engaging. It was a big doodle day for me. I just feel like that's the first thing they teach you in public speaking - not to read straight from your notes or at least make it seem like you're not reading straight from your notes. She didn't even try to play it off, she hardly looked up. AND the whole topic of her lecture, generational feminism, kind of revolved around not focusing on placing feminist ideas/theories/eras into these "waves" or generations. Rather we should realize that it's more of a matrix - that each generation of feminism plays off of the others, so they can't be separated from each other or categorized independently. Part of this means not being condescending to the generation after yours/not undermining younger feminists just because they're younger or their ideas are new-age, because there is validity in every generation's feminism. AND the next generation's feminism most likely plays off of the one before, so an older generation can't critique too harshly because they'd partially be critiquing themselves. I think. I might have just totally butchered the premise of that lecture. Ugh.
ANYWAYS. Kris, one of the people on this program brought up an interesting point. Iris was sitting there telling us that being "generational" is bad, but the entire time she was talking at us and really seeming to belittle us as if she's so superior to us, even though generation isn't supposed to matter. The way she was reading/not really letting us be involved was really condescending and thus hypocritical of her theme. But I'd like to read for myself the stuff she was reading to us because I think I liked what she was saying, I just didn't like the way she delivered it and I had such a hard time paying attention.
Then we had lunch back at the hostel and then had another presentation in the afternoon by Koen Leurs about migration and digital media. Basically a bunch of techy research stuff.
After that I tried to print my surveys at a copy place but my phone didn't work as a flash drive like I thought it would so I didn't get to print them. Bummer because I was ready to start surveying people.
When I got back to Strowis I skyped Jimmy for a while until I spilled my dinner all over myself and then Iveta asked me to go running with her so I couldn't deny (even though I wasn't planning on running that day and it was like 20 minutes after I had just stuffed my face but like my idol was asking me to run with her so how could I say no?)
Pretty awful run. I mean, the convo was wonderful and I loved bonding with Iveta and hearing all about her home life and her childhood and her cats and her Utrecht apartment and her Utrecht cats and her tree-identifying lessons, but she's just so fast and goes so far, I was dying. Again. Eventually she asked if it was alright if she went ahead of me a bit and I managed to gasp out some sort of approval/plea that she actually go ahead of me ASAP because I couldn't pretend like I could keep up with her any longer. Then she looped back around to me and we walked and identified trees. She rocks.
On my way back to Strowis I got lost but it was a good lost. I saw some good stuff. When I got back, I started to read a little then skyped Maddie, Kath, and Suse for a while and then Hannah for a while. Both wonderful conversations. It seems like I skype a lot on this blog but I promise it's not holding me back from experiencing stuff. I don't think. They're usually pretty late skype sessions so if anything I'm just sacrificing sleep which is overrated anyways. When I was reading at a table pretty late at night, I was interrupted by two Swiss guys as they were coming back. I think they were kinda drunk and one wouldn't stop talking to me so reading didn't last long. Actually it was just the blonde guy who wouldn't shut up. He was talking about how Americans only like small talk/ritual introductory surface talk, but all he wants to do is get into real talk/deep talk. Then we were discussing the value of one-time-encounter friendships, like the ones you make in hostels. They can be very meaningful/impactful. When I told him what I was reading (black feminism and how black women are in their own category of oppression - they're not included in "black people" because that implies black men, and they're not included in "women" because that implies white women) he didn't really agree/understand or something. Small discussion about that. He started talking about the small talk thing again and said that I was lucky because I'm a girl and any guy will come up to me at a bar and start a conversation with me but it will only be to flirt and stuff so small talk is acceptable there. I argued against that because he's dumb.
Wednesday we had a student-facilitated discussion in the morning about race/gender in a cultural context. Really good discussion. I just love the student-facilitated discussions the best because I love hearing these girls talk about this stuff because they're so smart and I think I learn more from them than I do from the lecturers. We talked about the experience of black women and how they are not in the feminist dialogue or the race dialogue because they are the Other in both situations. I was thinking about how, if the problem is that the language of feminism is assumptive (when feminists talk about "women," they are implying "white women"), then what if feminists started saying just "women" even when they are talking about black women? Would that change anything? Or like maybe people would notice it so it could change the language for the better? I don't know.
In the afternoon we had Rosi Braidotti's lecture! I don't think it lived up to people's expectations. There was basically a giant bash session back at Strowis immediately following her lecture. It was about this idea of a Posthuman. A lot of people were arguing that so many people still haven't reached the level of being considered "human" so how can we have a posthuman?
Then I asked Joy, one of the girls on the program, what Femme is because it's a recurring topic around here. She gave me this really awesome really long explanation that I'm never going to be able to properly reiterate. Something about dressing overly feminine in a kind of satirical way in order to counter this idea that "butch" is the lesbian aesthetic because butch is sort of like supportive of a patriarchal society because it's assuming that lesbians want to look like men. So I think that Femme is this idea that people can still be queer without conforming to this masculine appearance. Just because a girl likes a girl doesn't mean she wants to look like a man (because that feeds into the notion that it has to be man+woman). She can find power in femininity - and play it up with pink, floral patterns, lipstick, etc, in order to make a point.
Wednesday night Kate (one of the girls on the program) and I made dinner for everyone. Stuffed peppers and coconut rice - so good. Then I went on a really long and really slow run. By myself. Lovely.
Thursday morning I dropped my honey jar on the ground when I was about to make tea. So instead of tea I made a glassy, honey-y mess and had to clean it up before class. Oops. Everything here is glass. Thursday morning's lecture was cool. It was by Domitilla Oliveri, another UU lecturer, about film. We talked about/watched clips from two documentaries. One was apparently like the US documentary Misrepresentation (which I still need to see), but more personal and about cross generational beauty. The second one was about Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), who is apparently the black-faced helper person (kind of comparable to Santa's elves in the US, except Piet isn't an elf, I think he's an average sized character) of the Dutch version of Santa, Sinterklaas. Pretty racist and interesting. It sucked because my stomach was killing me the entire time, so after class, I ended up not going to Amsterdam like I planned. Bummer. But I read a bit and talked to my mom on the phone for a long time and had a mini breakdown about my sudden lack of social skills or desires. She's really good at saying things that make me feel better. Shout out to Renee.
Then I was feeling motivated so I borrowed Joy's flash drive and went to print 30 copies of my survey (still haven't done anything with them, but baby steps right?) and then stopped at a thrift store on the way back and got a cool shirt and a cool scarf. Then I came back and chatted with the girls about sexual assault and consent (casual convo) and then ate wayyyy too much peanut butter.
Thursday night some of us went to acu (the place where we all danced weirdly in my last post. Apparently it's kind of part of Strowis, like I think it's run by the same people or something so it's right around the corner which is nice) and danced weirdly again. It was like Afro-beat drummy music so it was soooo fun to dance to and I got very sweaty from jumping around.
Friday we all had to move into a 14 person room together because Strowis is so booked that we couldn't keep our smaller rooms. It's been interesting so far. So many alarms in the morning. I got top bunk this time thank god because now I can sit up in my bed.
After moving, we had a lecture with Kathrin T(something) about a "Different Difference." Then I went to the farmer's market and got organic cheese with herbs in it from a guy who had pictures of his goats at his stand. And I got some muesli. Yum.
Then we had a student-facilitated discussion about the cross cultural section of the feminist methodologies reader. It was cool to hear what people thought about tokenization and taking up space if you're not a member of the group you're vouching for and how to be a proper ally and stuff. Then Lauren and Iveta did a mock interview about Iveta's cats which was pretty funny. Iveta was cracking herself up pretending like her cats were there. Friday evening I went on a run, showered, and cut my bangs! Big hit. People love when people cut their hair here. Friday night I went back to acu with Kate, Michelle, and Kris. Danced a lot and it was (again) very fun. One random really tall guy came into our group and started dancing with us. His dancing was very punchy and kicky, it was hilarious. Eventually it was as if we were all brutally beating some invisible object in the middle of our circle. Poor invisible object. Then we went up to the bar area and sat at a table and started talking to some locals around our age. I chatted with an artist named Mitchell (Glitch) for a while until I heard Michelle talking to Mitchell's friend, Robin (Robby-boss) and getting into a heated discussion about the gender binary so Mitchell and I observed and listened and commented every so often. They were kind of going at it and everything they were saying was so interesting so I creepily started recording it as a 50 minute long voice memo on my phone. So absurd but I listened to it the next day and it's hilarious and really interesting. At one point, Mitchell jutted in and started talking to Michelle and then Robby came over to me and we were talking about the same kind of stuff, but I think I realized that he and Michelle were basically saying the same thing. So funny. Then I came back to Strowis and slept for about 4 hours until I got up at 7:30 to go to Texel!!!
Texel is an island in North Holland that is about an hour and a half train ride and then short ferry ride away. Allie, Kate, and I all went with Iveta. Such an awesome place. On the train we kinda just chatted the whole time and I brought Spot It, so we played that and everyone loved it. Iveta told us all about her Czech life, which was cool. A group of loud teenagers were sitting next to us on the train and we thought they might be going to Texel, so Iveta asked them. They all got awkward and looked around at each other and one girl goes "Texel?" and then they all cracked up. Apparently it was the girl's birthday and her friends were surprising her by taking her to Texel. Oops, ruined that one. We all had a good laugh. It was her 16th birthday which is the legal drinking age here so it was a big deal.
On the ferry to the island, there were so many seagulls surrounding the boat, so of course we all fed them. They were all really impressive with their catching.
I held out a piece of rice cake in my hand and one came and grabbed it from me and bit my fingers and made me bleed HA it was awesome.
When we got there, we rented bikes and went for a ride through the country side and it was BEAUTIFUL and so surreal. Then we found a bunch of cool dunes and had a picnic among them, it was perfect. Iveta gave us a history of Antioch's downfall and restoration attempts and stuff it was interesting. When we finished eating apples and cheese and crackers and olives, we biked some more and went to the BEEEEEACH. Ahhhhh indescribable so perfect. The water was so freezing but I still swam and I'm pretty sure I got brushed by a jellyfish. Kate forgot her swimsuit so she had to pull a classic panties/bra move.
After the beach we rode our bikes around for a little while more and went to little towny parts with shops and restaurants. Got some post cards. We stopped at a little pond area for a break and saw a black swan! They actually exist. So beautiful and so evil looking and possessed by the devil but in a really pretty way. It was also totally posing for us.
Long day. So exhausting. I was going to try to go to David Byrne and St. Vincent tonight, but I would be going alone, not that I would have had a problem with that, but I also have a lot of reading to do for tomorrow. It's the start of NOISE summer school which is like a big WGS/feminism week-long conference with a bunch of PhD students. Gonna be a busy week. Apparently we go from like 9AM to about 5 each day. Only one more week in Utrecht! Sad. I love it here.
Gonna skype Mae Mae for her birthday (19!!! woo!!!!). Way too long of a post. I promise to update in like 2 or 3 days because this is absurd.