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Archive: May 2012

Butler Visit #1

Coming home to the United States necessitated two visits: my home in Fort Wayne, and my second home at Butler University. In leaving Italy, I had these two places to look forward to, in effect distracting my mind from what I was leaving. After returning to my home in Fort Wayne, it was only a matter of time before I knew I would need to return to Butler.

It was an odd moment of returning. I was there to visit friends: friends from freshman year, from my fraternity (Phi Delta Theta), from the English Department, or just the random people that I’ve met over the years.

What my two days of visit turned into was a string of meetings that left me exhausted and with a face sore from smiling and recounting stories. The only problem was that two days was not nearly enough. Not to mention that I had actual business to take care of–meeting with my landlord, meeting with the fantastic Kristen Raves–and planning for my summer return to the Butler campus. The trip was well worth it, and left me looking forward to my return to butler as a resident.

New House New Home

After rooming with a friend for four days where I was living out of a cardboard box, I finally made the transition into my new house. It’s a wonderful house for four, but five of us will be rooming here at a discounted rate. Thank you frugality, you have saved the day again.

Nothing is more glorious than my new bed after a day of work

At the moment my entire being is energized at the thought of living in this house for the next year (I will be occupying this house from now until graduation of May next year #occupy44thstreet). I have unpacked in the kitchen, made my first grocery shop, and am currently in the process of compiling of a list of every item that I would like to make this house absolutely boss.

It’s incredible living the areas outside of Butler’s student housing but still within the Bubble. An entire community exists here of upperclassmen, all confident in the ways of the university life, and beginning to dabble in the existence beyond the university. We’re living in houses now, thinking about post-laurel jobs (or for those who relish studies and loans, grad school), and flexing out cooking muscles. Just the other day I cooked an italian feast with my roommate, who has promised to clue me into the secrets of chinese cooking. I’m giddy at the thought.

A Hard Day’s Work

So what if by 10 P.M. I’m too exhausted to keep my eyes open? So what if every muscle in my body aches with a soreness that has seeped into my bones? So what if, when taking off my shoes, I realize what it must smell like at a trash heap? I’ve had a hard day’s work.

In four days I’ve worked forty hours, and plan on having four more days like this. Oddly enough, it’s not as much as a problem as I might have expected. But here’s the way I see it: after four months of romping across Europe, I deserve some sort of back-wrenching, callus inducing labor. At the moment I’m working in houses, cleaning out the messes left by past residences before the new ones come in. This is the busy season.

I’m upset that no one tipped me off that money would be a concern starting with my collegiate career and continuing on through the rest of my life. I feel like that was a bit of worldly advice that would have served me better in kindergarten (who cares if A is for Apple?! U is for Unsubsidized Federal Loan and I need to know how I’m going to pay it of without losing my sanity). But what can I expect from a life that requires huge amounts of work to pay off what I’ve accrued?

Steer away the bad thoughts, have no fear, the way through is clear. In the solution is the resolution. Working all day, although overtly for pay, may in the end upend the notion of comfort, like Depends. Satisfaction depends on action just as the house well-used, although a fraction of the original cost, is infused with value of a different sort. So, umm, maybe my point on you is lost, but you should be entertained by this poem.

Economy

With the recent problems in Europe boiling over an election that have drew the socialist party into power in France for the first time since the 1980′s. I find myself half-afraid and half-intrigued. In America, the idea of having a socialist party legitimate enough to gain power is laughable.

One of my most shocking experiences abroad occurred in Vienna. I visited Austria after my classes had ended and before my flight home. While I visited, the Austrian Labor Day occurred, and to celebrate all of the Socialists in the surrounding regions paraded through the city. This was a huge event for me. I could never imagine something like this occurring in Indianapolis, for example. At the very least, I can’t envision itbeing without incident.

Socialist Party Colors

This granted me a bit of perspective. Although I’m still in the process of discerning my own political affiliations, I can appreciate what we do have here in America. Call me sentimental, but I like the idea of a man pulling himself by his boot straps, working hard and being rewarded in the end. I can’t bring myself to support a system which levels all people. Not that I want to make this post a political statement–my point is moderation is great, and I believe America works very hard between its two parties to achieve this.

But it all raises the question of how should a country deal with fiscal problems? Is it a matter of spending more to heal an economy, or should the spending of a government be restricted to its means? I sometimes fear that the standard of living in our country is a house built on the sand of trillions of dollars of debt, waiting for a storm to sweep us away.

What I urge my readers is to inform themselves. Nothing is more harmful to a political or economic crisis than ignorance and a population willing to believe anything it hears. I’m trying to work through this. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s quite difficult. Good thing I have a place to turn to.

Fun With Words

What is it to study abroad for a semester? My good friend Marcello summed it up as “fun with words.” I agree completely.

Let’s unpack this. Words are not considered fun by many people. They can be clumsy, large, difficult to remember, and ultimately unfit to express what one feels or thinks. This is the view of someone who has never truly experienced F.W.W. Language becomes burdensome, associated with school and grammar lessons with a stringent Ms. Wormwood (or some such curmudgeon).

Here’s how I’ll explain my experience: when I decided to take a semester off from my English major to study Italian my reasoning was that I would be taking a break from the routine. Which I did. What I didn’t expect was how it would circle back to my love of letters.

In learning a language I inevitably reflected on my own. The language to which I had become so habituated through (ironically) my studies in literature and writing came alive to me in a new light. Looking at my own abilities in the language, I note a few places lacking: primarily my vocabulary. To amend this, I will commence a study of GRE vocabulary (a two-birds-with-one-stone sort of deal) and also utilize freerice.com, a website with a good use and good cause.

The next time you are trying to express yourself, take a moment to appreciate the miracle of language and what it accomplishes for us. In this way, it may be a bit harder to misuse this tool. In the words of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the pen is mightier than the sword. YouTube Preview Image

Flyin’ Thru Lightnin’

I should have known that my luck was too good when I got onto my flight from Roma Fiumincino Airport to Toronto to find a half empty airplane. I had to seats next to a window. I was living the life: I took a nap, read a note that I had written to myself at the beginning of the semester, and watched “Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy.” That last one comes highly recommended.

My luck failed me on the second flight to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. The plane was twice as small and packed to the water closets. It was here that I received a forceful reminder of the American norm. I was surrounded by business men who spent the majority of their time on their Blackberry’s, loud voiced and all just a bit overweight. I’d say culture shock, but it felt more like culture punch.

Sleeping through much of the flight, I caught bits of ominous announcements concerning “weather” and “delay.” Maybe I had hoped it was a dream, or part of my worsening sickness (when I wasn’t coughing I was blowing my nose into used tissues), but I figured I must have heard them wrong. Until we landed.

“Welcome to the Indianapolis Airport.”

Muttering multi-lingual curses I strained my ears to discern the problem. Storm. Hail. Redirecting. What had been planned as a two-hour flight was deteriorating into a four, maybe five hour flight.

The situation was redeemed when, during the return flight, we flew through a lightning storm. As odd as that sounds, I had been hoping for a lightning storm for four months and this was more than I could have asked for. Staring transfixed at the searing, undulating flares of light I remembered that there was some beautiful aspects to this land. The fact that this may turn into a fitting “silver lining” metaphor does not bother me one bit. YouTube Preview Image

Fontana di Trevi: Tradition

I’ve done it once before and I continued the tradition today, on my last full day in Italy. Going to the Trevi Fountain, I took a coin and facing away from the fountain threw it over my shoulder.

As tradition goes, this should ensure that I will come back to Rome. A necessary precaution to take. I did it when I was 12 years old and visited Italy for the first time, and I will do what I can to make it work again.

No photo record exists, thanks to me deceased camera.

I spent the final day here walking around, getting lost a little, and soaking in the Roman atmosphere. Gelato, cobblestone streets, tourists, pizzerias, churches, ruins, and more gelato. I leave this country contented with where I am, what I’ve done, and in what direction it has pointed me.

Ciao, Italia, ci vediamo fra poco.

Camera: Private Eye

The following interview occurred after the self-inflicted breakage of Andrew Erlandson’s camera on May 2, 2012. Investigators are looking to uncover anything the camera might know about a plot to ruin the end of Andrew’s trip.

One of the last photos taken at the Pantheon.

C: I honestly…I just can’t take it anymore. The pressure to do well is so great, if I just mess up a little–just a little blur!–my pictures are deleted or I’m thrown back into the pocket. Well do you want flash? Do you not? If it doesn’t work for either, why do you keep

trying?!?!…I’m sorry, this is coming from a place of insecurity. Walking around the streets of Rome, I see so many newer models, lenses five times my size. It’s…it’s intimidating.

Focus? Why do you want me to focus?! I’m not even taking a pic–oh. Right. Hehe, sorry ’bout that. Okay, so back to the question. Why? Why did I shut myself down? Why not.

I was a hand me down. I’m old, I’m tired of being dropped and covered in lint and throw into the backpack with the socks. And I’m tired of carrying all of these photos. I’ve seen cobblestone streets, castles, more churches than I can count on my buttons and I’m sick of it. I’m so sick of it I could flash somebody…no, I didn’t expect you to laugh.

The truth is Andrew’s never had a camera before.  He leans on me too much. Am I supposed to be his external memory? Why can’t he remember things on his own? And I know that even though I’m broken, he’s still going to be using me after he returns to the States to show off everything that he accomplished, all the places he went.

So I’m throwing in the towel. I don’t want to be a part of his twisted little game. If he wants to remember his journey, he can go ahead and jot them down in his diary. Excuse me, journal–I know he takes offense. He can go ahead and–wait. Stop, what are you doing?! NO!! NOT MY SD CARD– [End Interview].

Attempts at exposing the truth were unsuccessful. A more complete report will be developed in the future which will hopefully give us a clearer picture of the problem.

Journalism and Our Future

There exists a great fear and frustration in the journalism industry that the youth of today aren’t as engaged in news as past generations. Microsoft researcher and youth-culture expert Danah Boyd said, “General news is not relevant to young people because they don’t have context. It’s a lot of abstract storytelling and arguing among adults that makes no sense. So most young people end up consuming celebrity news.” I would add that sports news is another place to which youth turn.

Why is this a problem? For the news organizations it’s obviously a problem because it threatens their earnings, but the issue is more profound than that. In the United States, there’s a lack of connection to the world. Only upon leaving the country have I come to realize this. With a media and entertainment culture as powerful as ours, it isn’t a natural inclination to go out into the world searching to learn about other cultures. Why would you when the entire world seems to be turned towards us? Whatever the cause, it’s from here that stems the negative stereotypes of Americans, such as being bad at geography. Coming to Europe, every country seems more connected. Not by choice, but by the mere fact that they are close in proximity.

It’s one thing to acknowledge the problem, it’s another to fix it. While reading an Italian newspaper, I came across an article about the newspaper “Corriere Della Sera” and its efforts to put content online. This is not a feat in itself. The fact that the content was going straight to Facebook, one of the most influential tools today in regards to young people, was unique.

I find myself able to enter into international news more easily because I have met people from all around the world, turning abstractions and concepts into faces and personalities. This clearly is not an option for everyone, but it is proof that young people can enter into a relationship with news if they find a way to make it relevant. A number of American newspapers including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are already a part of this trend, and with any luck will catch the eyes of my generation and banish international/Youtube embarrassments in the future. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees.