Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 in Review

GRE Flashcards

January began our second month back in America. I sat the GRE early in the month and did pretty well. We visited my grandmother in West Virginia, found a set of dinnerware at Crate + Barrel called Samoa and discovered that soap goes a lot faster when you use it every day and you have hot water. Cale and I also found ourselves some filler jobs at Rockler and Noodles & Company (respectively).

Cale Fixing the Jeep

February was the month we gave up on the bed and moved to a mat on the floor. Cale learned one of his students had gotten a job at an internet cafe in Apia. And I took the opportunity to thank all our friends and family for their support, including April and Rob (who not only cared for our jerk cat, but gave us a car when we got back).

First Frisbee of Spring

March brought spring and our rejoicing after suffering through our first winter in four years. We ran into a friend we hadn't seen since Samoa and one we hadn't seen since our wedding (in 2003). I discovered I might be some sort of hippy. And two weeks before our flight to Bangkok, Cale discovered we might need visas after all and sent our passports off to the consulate in Chicago. Adventure would ensue.

Songkran at Uttaradit

April 1st found us on a decidedly not joking emergency road-trip to Chicago to pick up our passports from the Thai consulate. Our flight was Monday the 5th and on Thursday the 1st our passports were still in Chicago and not processed. Thankfully, everything worked out in the end and we flew out on Monday (with a layover in Chicago, oh the irony). More than 30 hours later we were in Bangkok, where the Red Shirts were in the process of rioting protesting. After some couchsurfing, we hooked up with two Peace Corps voluteers and spent Songkran in NancyMarie's village and Chiang Mai. Cale took a cooking class in Chiang Rai, where we also met up with a friend of a friend who is doing linguistic work with a local tribe. Next we moved on to Tak and visted with another Peace Corps volunteer and went to a Thai wedding.

At Angkor Wat

In May we left Thailand for Cambodia and fell in love with Siem Reap. We ended up staying for three weeks, thanks to our couchsurfing friend Clem, who works at the Green Gecko Project. We also visited a Peace Corps who lived outside of Sisiphon and became show-and-tell at her school. Then we were off to the Nature Lodge in Sen Monorom and finished the month celebrating our 7th anniversary at a Mexican restaurant in Phnom Pehn.

Dang Tung

June started off with my bus birthday wherein we traveled by packed minivan to another Peace Corps site. We went to a Khmer wedding, I got violently ill and we some how ended up in another city. We liked Kampot so much, we stayed there for three weeks too, mostly at the Green Man. We ran into another group of Peace Corps volunteers and went to Rabbit Island with Chris and his girlfriend who was visiting from California.

On the Train

By July we were back in Thailand. We took trains from the border to Chiang Mai, where we whiled away the rest of our time motoing around and watching World Cup soccer. I had a 4th of July argument about marinara sauce and found the Wild West in Thailand. By the end of the month we were back in the States and moving into Cale's grandmother's house in Poland, Indiana.

Cale's 30th Birthday

We spent August country livin' and ended it with Cale's 30th birthday and the start of school. Cale was back in undergraduate after a business degree and I was going for my master's in public administration.

Wedding Dress Shopping for Teresa

September was school, boycotting Target and wedding dress shopping with my sister.

Cale's New Motorcycle

In October grad school ate my life, Smack peed on everything and brought birds into the house, my little sister turned 22, and Cale got a motorcycle.

Annette and Katie Become Sisters

November saw Rob and Phaelen's birthdays and Cale's mom became sisters with her long-time friend Katie. Late November also began the winter suffering.

Late Solstice

December was a Very Carusillo Christmas and a Very Poopy Solstice (which is odd, typically the poop is part of a Very Carusillo something).

So there you go. Tune in for 2011 when Cale and Sara tackle semester #2, get internships and suffer through yet another winter.

— Sara

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

An important lesson I learned this semester from my statistics professor.

I will refer you to this previous post in my apology for not blogging in such a long time. Though, in all honesty, I cannot blame it all on being busy. I have been busy before and still managed to blog, as just about any blog from the last few weeks in Samoa can attest to. I think one just has to accept that grad school isn't nearly as interesting (or picturesque) as being in the Peace Corps or traveling through Southeast Asia. There are just fewer things to blog about.

Cale and I have completed our first semesters back in school and had widely different experiences. Cale has been sitting in 200+ freshmen lecture halls with kids who were in kindergarten the last time Cale was a freshman. He could go an entire day without speaking to anyone and found refuge at my school where he could have adult conversation with my classmates. There are some youngin's in my classes as well, like the girl who was in middle school when 9/11 happened. We seem to divide into two groups, those who came to grad school straight out of undergraduate and those of us dancing around on either side of 30. There are some older outliers, but not many. Not surprisingly we seemed to have formed friendships within our age groups.

Those of you on the facebook know that Cale and I kicked some ass and took some names in the grades department this semester. Cale beat me by 0.015 for best GPA with a 3.94 (I am sure you can do the math to figure out mine). My 4.0 goals were defeated by an A- in Public Management. Cale also had an A- (in finite math), but with five classes his was not worth as much overall in his GPA.

Public Management was probably my least favorite class of the semester. It was entirely theoretical and taught entirely in academic-ease. The few occasions I endeavored to untangle paragraph-long sentences and complex three-dimensional diagrams, I came away with things like: "There needs to be accountability" and "Try having a budget." I think my favorite was the day I was able to sum up public management as the following: "Getting smart people to do smart things."

Needless to say, I stopped paying attention in this class more than a month before the end of the semester. However, I would like to point out there was a more pressing reason for why I was no longer attentive. Someone stole my seat. I like to sit near the front of the class. Not the front row (that's too goody-two-shoes), the second row. In the middle. It helps me see the board and stay engaged in what is going on. Though there obviously isn't assigned seating, people tend to gravitate to certain seating areas and sit there every day. I sat in the second row, in the middle. Everyday. Until one day there were no seats available in the second row and I had to move back a row. By the last few weeks of the semester I was sitting in the very back of the room, on my laptop, oblivious to what was happening down front.

The seating situation wasn't just a problem in Public Management. I also seethed quietly (well, not so quietly, ask my friends) over seat movers in my Public Management Econ class as well. Don't you understand? When you sit in a different seat, you have displaced someone else, who will find a new seat, displacing yet another until the entire room is in complete chaos. Chaos I tell you. Stop fucking with my seating arrangement!

Did I mention I am anal retentive?

Public Management Econ is also the class I cried in public over (and it wasn't because someone took my seat). The professor of this class was fond of assigning case studies that had only the most tenuous connection to in-class materials and were in fact ridiculously more difficult and required concepts never discussed in class. This teaching method made me angry. I arrived at his office hours already angry after spending the entire night before hating at the assignment only to discover more than 20 other students also had no idea what was going on. As the group office hour session progressed, I kept getting angrier and angrier at his lack of help. I pointed out that the number of students in his office hours should probably indicate to him this is something that needs to be discussed in class. He didn't seem to agree. I got angrier. However, when he followed it up with a little speech about how this is what it is like in the real world, you are presented with things you don't know how to do and you just have to figure it out, my anger boiled over. For one, this professor is the same age as I am (in fact, he might be a year younger than me according to his undergraduate graduation date). What exactly does he know about the real world that I don't? Furthermore, I am paying for the privilege to be taught these things so I don't have to just muddle through in the real world. If that is how it works, why am I even bothering with grad school? I can just go figure out things on my own for free.

For those of you that don't know me well, I have an inappropriate physical response to anger, particularly anger paired with frustration. I cry. The angrier or more frustrated I get, the more I cry. It is pretty hard to be taken seriously in an argument when you are bawling. The only time I ever came close to having a fight in high school I started crying and the other girl just laughed at me and walked away.

And so I cried in anger at my professor in front of 20 other students. In my attempts to explain, I kept repeating how angry I was at him. If anything, I think I scared him. I wonder if all my good grades after that could be attributed to him protecting himself from the crying, crazy lady.

I wasn't the only person to cry in front of an audience this semester. Our first Law and Public Affairs professor cried in front of the class. He was talking about how his son wasn't injured in the 9/11 attacks and got all choked up. Later in the same class he cried a little over due process. The first half of the semester was a complete disaster in that class. The professor was terrible, he taught us nothing and then gave us a multiple-choice scantron mid-term. This is grad school here, you really shouldn't be able to assess us with a multiple-choice scantron. Several of us complained about the class and how it was wasting our time and money. The administration at SPEA responded rather quickly and found us a new professor and the class improved greatly for the second half of the semester.

That leaves Statistical Analysis for Effective Decision-Making. The only class in which nothing too crazy happened. There was the lab when our professor referred to us as fetuses and after much prompting we established that she was only six months older than I am, which is probably why we watched this video in class:


Also, for you statistics nerds out there, there is this etsy store.

So there you go, my semester in a nutshell. I will try to blog more regularly, I promise.

— Sara