Thursday, March 29, 2007

Colonial Times

Last week two of Jube's friends came to visit from Ohio. It's always lots of fun to have friends visit, for a couple of reasons:

First, you get to spend time with your buds! When BB visited us in Nice last year, I got a chance to show off my favorite parts of the city and share everything with one of my bestest friends. This past week we had a great time with some Ohio friends--we'd seen them when we went to Columbus during winter break, but it was fun to have them at our house. We took them to my favorite smoothie place and our favorite seafood place and our favorite Irish pub.

Second, you get to visit parts of your region you'd never seen before. In our case, we went to Colonial Williamsburg. It is a bit pricy to get in ($36 for a day pass) but it was really really fun. We got to hear speeches by George Washington and Benedict Arnold. Our friend Nikos, who is in law school, enjoyed the colonial courthouse, where the guide explained the difference between lots of different crimes and punishments. We also got to see a blacksmith making nails and a military exposition.

The weather was really wonderful, and we were able to fool the Ohio boys into thinking that the weather in Norfolk is balmy year-round. The day after they left the temperatures plunged 30 degrees (from 80 to 50), but they figured that it was just because they had gone back to Ohio.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Spring Break: The Good, the Bad, and... well you know the rest...!

That is a night shot from our hotel window in Brussels. Lorene and I had a great view!

So. The Good: I visited Brussels, where I was happy to see that my French was still up to snuff. I went to my favorite stores (like Zara, Camaieu, H&M, and Promod) but managed not to spend too much. I made everyone at home happy by sending nice postcards--even to work! Am I too much of a suck-up?

Here you can see a really old passageway connecting two houses in Bruges. I liked it!

The Bad: I got sick and almost "baptized" the Tube while switching trains. I managed to keep control of myself because the only thing I had to puke in was a little ziplock baggie that was already kind of gross (it had peanut-butter leftovers in it). As I was desperately searching for a trash can, I remembered that there aren't any for fear of terrorists putting bombs in them! Not only that, there are no corners in the Tube--everything is... well... tube shaped! I didn't relish crouching in full sight of everyone while retching into my disgusting baggie. I managed to hold it until the hotel...

Plus I didn't get to try mussels in Brussels. Now that is really too bad!

Here is a picture I took of a wall in the cathedral in Bruges. I like how the thanks are in French and Flemish.

The Ugly: I missed Jube's birthday while I was abroad! Of course I called and sent a postcard and bought him lots of beer and chocolate, but it couldn't really make up for my absence. And finally, I have a picture of the Ugly in Brussels:

Yum! Doesn't that make you want some Coke? Well, it's funny anyway!

Friday, March 23, 2007


We have a couple of Ohio visitors in town this week, and we've been doing some fun stuff. The other day we all toured the U.S.S. Wisconsin, a battleship commissioned during World War II that is now part of the Nauticus museum in downtown Norfolk. The ship is free to tour, and there are veterans stationed at different parts of the ship who are happy to explain the lingo, the gear, and the firepower of the ship. The museum, which includes an aquarium, isn't free, but there is a little area after exiting the ship that shows Navy history throughout American history. We walked around, checking everything out, reading about battles and looking at propaganda posters.

As we were leaving, three little kids ran in, two boys and a girl. The boys started looking at all of the models, but the girl called to them, "Don't go in!"

"Why not?" asked one of the other boys.

"If we go in, the adults will come after us, and they take so long! They have to read everything!"

I realized then that I have crossed into the land of adulthood.

Monday, March 19, 2007


I don't think I'm ready to tackle talking about my trip yet. It was pretty fun, but I am still jetlagged! I've never had such a hard time getting back on US time... usually it is easier for me, but I haven't slept in once since last Sunday. Robin asked me to talk about Norfolk, so I figured I could write a post about my new home. I'll write about my trip to Europe later, although I think that my pictures speak better than I can.

So, Norfolk! First of all, Norfolk isn't quite the American South, but it is close enough to fool the unsuspecting Northerner. On the local news, the anchors speak with the usual "Received American Accent," but when they come to the work "Norfolk," they say Nawf'ck. That is apparently the correct way to pronounce it, and pronouncing the "l" (as one would when saying "folks") will label you as a Northerner. However, Norf'k is also an accepted pronunciation.

Norfolk is part of Hampton Roads, a conglomeration of 7 or 8 cities around where the Chesapeake Bay separates Maryland from Virginia. There are innumerable rivers and inlets and estuaries that separate cities and neighborhoods from each other and
make the weather humid and changeable. The seafood is great, but the air sometimes smells marshy, no matter how far away you think you are from the nearest body of water.

Norfolk is also home to the largest naval base in America. That means that the military has a very strong presence in the city. During the recent midterm elections, all of the political commercials focused on what the other side was doing for military families. Shops advertise "free credit for military families!", and you can't go into a bar without overhearing a conversation
with (or falling into a conversation with) a member of the military. Old Dominion University provides many services for actively serving military and veterans; several of my colleagues fell into working in higher education after 20 years in the Navy.

What's more, Norfolk is a very diverse city, with no race being in the majority (although Whites come close, with 49.2% of the population). This is partly because of the military presence and partly because Norfolk is close to the South. ODU is a diverse campus as well, in part because it draws most of its students from the region.

Downtown Norfolk isn't a bad place to be. When I visited a year ago, it seemed very industrial and boring, but I have discovered that there is a little harbour with a dock that is charmingly situated near a one-stop-shop kind of restaurant/bar/nightclub building. After Ohio, Norfolk is a new slice of Americana. After France, Norfolk is a typically ugly American town with some nice features.

I will say one thing: arriving back from Europe, looking out the plane window at Norfolk rushing closer, I thought, "How glad I am to be here!" I never thought I would feel so happy to be coming back to Nawf'ck.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My Trip

Howdy folks! It's been a rough ten days in Europe, but I think I'm finally back on US time. I did a lot of things that I hadn't done before, like visit Cambridge, Oxford, Brussels, and Bruges, and a lot of things that I had done before, like take tea in Kensington Palace and drink a demi in a brasserie. I had more good moments than bad, so let me tell you about some of them.

First, Cambridge is a beautiful college. Here I saw undergraduates punting along the river Cam and lots of Gothic architecture:

I enjoyed a rainy day at Camden Lock in London...

And a sunny day in Brussels...

But the nicest town we visited was Bruges.

I had some great food while abroad too. The highlights include:

Fish and Chips from a pub in England
Indian Food near Leicester Square
French fries in a cornet with mayonnaise in Brussels
A tasty savory crepe from La Maison des Crepes
A wonderful 3 course meal in Bruges, including fresh tomato soup and pineapple chicken
Lots of beer (including one called "Forbidden Fruit" with naked people on the bottle)
One very tasty Belgian waffle

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Signing In to Sign Off

Hi guys. It's been awhile, hasn't it? It's because I've been swamped with work. Papers, classes, volunteering, and job... it all adds up. And today I'm off to Europe for class!

I should be excited, I know, but I think that Jube's and my years of long-distance relationship have ruined traveling for me. Although I know that I will only be gone for 10 days, I'm still leaving... I must be psychologically scarred, because I've been tense and on the verge of tears all day long. Jube thinks I'm crazy, because

1. It is spring break and I'm headed to Europe!!

2. We will only be apart for 10 days.

3. He's already sick of being married and is ready for me to leave (all right, I made that last one up, he would never say that).

I did file my taxes, though, and I'll be expecting my refund on my return.