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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Waiting...

The classes are selected. A few books are bought - though not many...too expensive! Folders, paper, notebooks, Chinese dictionary, etc etc. The only thing I'm missing as grad school begins is a trusty lunch box. Do they still make those, like the kind I grew up with. The metal ones with bright pictures of Transformers and The Incredible Hulk?
Today, which would be a logical day for classes to begin, is actually a day of tests. I have a placement exam for Chinese. Some people will be taking tests to pass some of the core classes (we have to pass exams in two of these four classes: American Foreign Policy since 1945, Comparative National Systems, Theory of Intl Relations and...well, I'm drawing a blank on the last one.)
I will not be taking the core exams yet...plan to do that at the end of this semester and the beginning of the next. I will be plenty busy though. I happened to notice while glancing at the syllabus for my Macroecon course, which is tomorrow, that we are supposed to read chapters 1-3 of the book plus an assortment of articles. I think I will be getting well acquainted with the library.
My second class will be Thursday, International Trade Theory. I'm a little bit nervous about this one. The professor did not get great reviews (although everyone says he is very nice) and a few people said point blank "Do not take it." However, it is a required course, and the other sections conflict with my schedule. I have faith that it will work out well. And if not, I can always learn a lot reading on my own.
The classes I am most excited about (ie non-Econ courses) come Monday. One of them is at 8 AM, Contemporary Chinese Politics with David Lampton, who is supposed to be a great professor. I'm really looking forward to this course not only because of Lampton, but because there will be a lot going on in China this fall with the Communist Party having its once every five year meeting to set an agenda for the coming years and to reshuffle the Politburo / Standing Committee). The other course on Monday will be Global Climate Change Policy.
On Tuesdays, I will sit in on Comparative National Systems with Francis Fukuyama of Neocon / rejection of Neo-con fame. Im not sure about when my Chinese courses will be, but they should meet 2 or 3 times a week.
The moral of this particular post is that in the coming weeks my eyesight is going to worsen dramatically as I get used to reading 8 + hours a day. And now I must get started...Grad school is beginning and I'm wondering what I have gotten myself into.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Choosing Classes

Before I begin a short rant about how difficult it is to choose classes, I must mention that my mom turns 60 today. Its kind of strange how, when I was a kid I couldn't imagine ever being 40, and the idea of turning 60 meant automatically being a grandparent teaching the grandkids how to play bingo, or trying to throw a baseball and struggling to pick the ball up off the ground. Now, 60 seems so young compared to then. I mean, all things being equal, I plan on being retired at 60 and spending half the year traveling through West Africa or some such exotic locale. Of course, all things are not equal and I don't know how realistic that is given the school loans being taken on these days, but still...
Anyway, back to mom. Mom, Happy Birthday. I can't wait until you don't have to teach anymore and can go spoil yourself with a cruise through the Baltics and a long stay in Vancouver, or Alaska.
Now, to choosing classes. One thing about a school like SAIS for someone who is fascinated by IR, Foreign Policy, China, Africa, etc etc. There are so many bloody courses to choose from. Because of the structure of the degree, you may get to sneak three or four electives in there, but there are probably 15 or so you might like to take. By you here, I mean of course me. I think I have spent about as much time working out a plausible first year / second year combo of courses as I have studying for my Microecon. course that ended yesterday. Can you believe...20 days, almost 18 chapters of Micro. And still a final exam to go.
The thing with choosing classes, just when you think you know what you want to take, you talk to someone who mentions a course they are taking and you think..hmm, that would be interesting. And then you talk to someone else and the same thing happens. Then you meet with the career counsellor and he brings you back a bit, reminding that you are here not just to take a lot of interesting courses. The objective is to put together a combo of courses that will maximize your...no not utility, no econ references here....post-graduation employment potential (in the sense of doing what you want to do for the company/department/NGO you want to do it with at hopefully a salary that can pay off your loans). Then, after re-adjusting courses accordingly, you speak with an academic advisor who rattles the whole boat suggesting doing this course now instead of later, and reminding you that there is competition for positions in classes and you may not get into the courses you really want to get into. Then, just to really screw with you, she may even suggest doing an economics specialization, which means taking 8 econ courses instead of 6. You think to yourself, no way. Econ? 8 courses? Ha.
Then, while at home later, with your head pounding, and the knowledge that you should be studying for your final poking you in the brain, you look at all the classes again, and even the econ courses that could make up that specialization. You think, actually, that could be pretty interesting. Econ really isnt that bad, is it? You take out a new piece of paper and write a new course outline...two years of courses you would like to take, all things being equal. Finally, you think.
Then, as you get up to go study for that final, a class you somehow never noticed before peeks out at you.
Hmm, you think, that could be interesting...
And it all starts over again.

And now I really must study (right after I call my mom).

Monday, August 13, 2007

Languages

Going out to dinner the other night with a group of China Studies students, I was reminded of how nice it is to be surrounded by foreign languages. DC in general does that...it seems like every time I leave the apartment I hear at least three foreign languages (Spanish always, and then maybe a smattering of German, or Arabic, or Chinese, or some African dialect). Anyway, out at dinner the other night, all of us had at least some level of Mandarin, four people could speak a decent level of Spanish, a few were fluent in French, a couple could speak Taiwanese, and I think a couple had some German and Japanese background as well. One guy was able to speak 7 languages, at least proficiently if not fluently, and a few could do four. I felt pretty inferior. But it also made me excited about the fact that I was surrounded by people who have the same belief in the importance of having an international, multi-lingual background, and who had traveled and lived abroad. And again, with DC in general...it seems like everyone here has some connection to the international world. The fact, then, that DC feels insulated from the rest of the world - like it is its own little universe, is all the more strange. It is a dichotomy I suspect I will be thinking a lot about - at least when I have time to take a break from the Micro.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Time Management

You know, going to a college of 800 people in a town whose main draw was Wal-Mart, and where the biggest event in my time there was the Christmas Wal-Mart decided to go 24 hours, I never really learned time management.
I'm having to learn fast.
Three chapters of reading (not three chapters of Harry Potter..this is 30 page + per of ATC, AVC, MCp, MCl, SAC, LAC, alpha, beta, change of this over change of that kind of reading. Plus the written homework, plus the trying to organize life (home, parking permit, insurance, etc), plus trying to meet people....plus plus plus. I can't even imagine what this is going to be like when Im taking four classes, auditing a fifth, and studying Mandarin.
And Im paying $31,500+ to do this???!!!
Idiot.

But Im sure it will pay off in the end, right?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Try Again

It is a bit odd to think that the last time I gave this a crack, I was in Buenos Aires consumed with the World Cup, thinking about a wedding, and not quite sure what I was going to do after coming back to America.
Now, after a sojourn in Cincinnati, here I am in Washington DC, beginning grad school at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (no - it isn't the med school. Yes, it is a top notch program) and sweltering in 100 heat. Nothing says fun like readings, homework, stress-filled tests, heat and humidity. And to think, the reading, homework, and tests part is only just beginning...one class that meets every day for a month. Microeconomics. Fun.
On the bright side, I'm meeting a lot of cool people, people with incredible backgrounds, from all parts of the world and all parts of the international working community - government, military, NGO, etc...And then there's me. Hmm...well, if nothing else, I've been to a lot of places.
So why do this again? Why start writing a blog when I'm sure to be burdened with enough reading and writing. Well, I was re-reading posts from Taipei a few weeks ago, and a flood of forgotten moments came back, and I realized that this is an excellent way to keep a journal. And I guess I can let the folks know I'm doing this again and they can keep up with the ups and downs of my new life.
So, before closing this down for the night..a few notes. Our neighborhood is incredible...the northern end of Cleveland Park, where the houses on the cross streets off Connecticut probably average 3 or 4 million. A bunch of embassies around here too. And a lot of promising looking restaurants that sadly we cannot afford!
Before coming to Washington, I was obsessed with listening to NPR and all the political shows and discussions. Since I've been here, I think I've heard 10 minutes of Diane Rehm (even though she broadcasts from about 15 minutes from the front door of our condo), no Talk of the Nation, no All Things Considered, etc etc. My experience of Washington since moving into our place...our immediate neighborhood and the short walk from Dupont Circle Metro to our school. And many trips to Target, a stop at Costco, and a few other shopping related journies. I was going to head to the ellipse in front of the White House to play soccer tonight, but too hot. Hopefully I'll get around a bit sooner or later.
That's it. Anybody who comes around to this, friends and family, and you are thinking about coming to DC...we'd love to have you.
Off to read some Micro now!

Monday, June 12, 2006

How to Stop a Country

Just have them play on a Saturday afternoon, against any nation, in the World Cup. At least, this is the recipe in Argentina.

The city stopped at four.

I watched the game at a friend of Natalia's. Their apartment is on the first floow, right above a very busy road. 3:50, still traffic. 4:00, none. Looking out the window I saw at least five cabs pulled over to the side of the road, abandoned, forgotten ignored until after the match. When Argentina scored, with the door to the balcony open, we could here shouts of "GOL!!" coming from unseen locations. The game was being shown on at least four stations, and the papers devote entire sections to the cup each day. There is even a TV station that is only covering the Cup every day, all day for the next month.

The game? The first half was awesome. Fast paced. Argentina in control..two goals (one questionable) and a third goal that wasnt given. The women I was watching the game with shouting at the screen, screaming, cheering. Women I wouldnt have even guessed knew thing one about football rattling off the names of the starting 11 for Argentina, listing clubs they once played at, etc. The second half...well, different story. Argentina shifted to a very defensive style and it got pretty boring, at least until Drogba scored to bring Costa de Marfil within one.

Of course the Celeste and White hung on, and as soon as the final whistle sounded, traffic returned to the streets, the cabs moved on, and life resumed. Apparently, as happened when Boca won the league title this year, thousands went to the Obelisk to keep the party going. All of this has got me to thinking..as much as I get disgusted by the way in which Argentines dive (and they proved a point I have been making to Natalia and her friends about just how bad they are with that by offering up some text book dives yesterday), it may well be an awesome event if they could get to the final. I can only imagine what would happen in this city (esp if the game was against Brazil, or England). Could they do it? I dont know. Off to a good start in a tough group, and without Messi. The first half was promising, the second half not. And anyway, one game is just not enough to tell (same thing goes with the uninspired second half play of England).

Now the countdown is one for Ceska and US. About 14 hours away. Damn, I love the World Cup.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Theatre Cafe

The inside of (I think it was called) the Theatre Cafe in Tandil...at any rate, the cafe was next to the theatre, and not far from the central plaza. The brownies weren't great, and neither was the tea, but the Irish Coffee was good and cheap, and they carry a local brew which isn't bad either. The interior was very inviting after a walk in the wind.
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Theatre Cafe, Black and White

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Church Reflection

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Mural Close-Up

There are several impressive wall paintings in Tandil. This one, a depiction of a story involving some very religious people killing other people for God...sorry, can't remember many details.
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Lago del Fuerte

The Lake of the Fort in Tandil...not so impressive(the fort or the lake), but a nice place to stroll around, even on a windy, cool autumn day.
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