Homework, Procrastination, and Freak Outs

Homework sucks.  Well, no.  I understand it from a reasonable perspective.  If I only attended class, even if I listened really carefully and took diligent notes, I wouldn’t learn much.  Most of the substance comes from reading, reflecting, writing…all of that.  I get it.  Really I do.  But for some reason homework brings on this unwelcome sense of dread and anxiety.

I think it goes back to when homework started picking up – maybe 4th grade.  I used to expect to be finished with all of my assignments by about 7pm.  So when Jeopardy was coming on in the living room, and I still had more than one assignment left to finish, I would freak out.  It would start with biting my nails, progress to a racing heart, and finally escalate to full-blown tears.  It was insane.  My mother would explain that I was only wasting more time with my freak out.  But I couldn’t be reasoned with.  I was already convinced I would still be doing math word problems as the sun rose…on my 20th birthday.

I didn’t have as much time to panic over homework in high school.  I was always involved with a bunch of activities, mainly ballet, that kept me busy.  By the time I got home and had some dinner, I only had a couple of hours before I needed to be asleep.  So even though I hated it, I just had to get it done.  One night I remember eating my dinner on the way to a rehearsal, while writing a paper, relying on the light in the car.  If I had taken time for a freak out, I would have missed rehearsal, and I wouldn’t have finished the paper.

The problem became procrastination, a good friend I met in college.  More free time meant more time to waste.  If I had 2 days to complete a paper, something else of critical importance would take priority on the first day – something like cleaning my roommate’s hair out of the vacuum or sitting in a room with a few friends discussing how much work we had to do.  On the second day, I would get everything else out of the way at the beginning of the day – checking mail, having breakfast and lunch, maybe a class or rehearsal.  Nothing would be finished between any of those things.  So I wouldn’t start until they were all completed.  And that usually left me at 9 or 10pm, beginning a paper that was due the following day.  I had it worked out to a science though.  Mountain Dew, commiserating friends, and knowledge that it had been done before got me through it every time.  I lost a lot of sleep.  And I had a reasonable number of freak outs.  And none of it helped improve my relationship with homework.

Law school was just about the same, defined by procrastination and complaining.  But that complaining was warranted.

And now, here I am about a decade later, still biting my nails, wasting time, and freaking out about homework.

I handed in my first real paper last week.  Although I left myself plenty of time to write the paper, it took me far longer than I expected to finish.  At one point I had to trash my argument because it was centered around an article that turned out to be absolutely nutso (took me three reads to realize the guy was talking about magic more literally than is acceptable in an academic environment).  Researching, re-reading, and trying to make sense of it all just went on and on.  I expected to finish with plenty of time to spare.  But around midnight, the night before it was due (it was to be emailed by midnight the following night), I was making fried rice and tea, knowing I would be up for several more hours.  And then, of course, old habits came back to haunt me.  No tears were shed.  But self-doubt made an appearance.  And then there was that woman I haven’t been in touch with for 4 years on facebook – I needed to look at all 121 of her Grand Canyon vacation photos.  And then there was my phone’s ringtone – that had to be changed.  And then of course there was the discovery of Top Chef All Stars on youtube.  My goodness.  There was just so much to do in such a short period of time.

But there’s a happy ending.  I finished the paper, emailed it, and handed in the hard copy before 6pm the following day (perhaps my earliest ever).  And I think it made sense.  If it didn’t make sense, well it’s not so much a happy ending.  But it certainly felt happy to get over that hurdle.  And having spent so much time on the paper, I understood more of the concepts than I had before I began.

So finally feeling a bit smarter and more confident, I think homework and I may have reached a better place…but that’s not to say I won’t be looking at every single photo you’ve posted on facebook the night before my next paper is due.

Cycling Debacles

There’s a woman ahead of me on her cell phone. Her pace is slow. So I follow her. An old man zooms by us both, pleasantly ringing his bell. Another woman pulls up behind me, saying something in Dutch. Most likely I’m doing something wrong. So I assume she’s alerting me to the fact that my tires are on backwards or something. Then she pulls up beside me, causing me to panic at the thought of veering straight into her. “dutch…dutch…dutch” is met by my blank, nervous stare. “Oh, you’re not dutch! I was just saying you have really awesome dreads!” I offer a winded response. Something like, “hank-uh.” Then she zooms off at three times my speed.

Cell phone lady must have turned. Because now I’m at the intersection alone. Every muscle is tense. My hands are tightly clenching the handle bars. And every ounce of my concentration is on the peddles. When the bike light turns green, I’ll need to have a plan for how to push off smoothly, in spite of my exhaustion, frozen fingers, and runny noise. A pitiful scene. And a typical one.

So yeah. I got a bike. But look, people. No one can be good at everything.  And I am comfortable with owning this as one of my more obvious weaknesses.  I’m even able to see the humor in the misery of it.

Before purchasing the bike, I watched the bikers really closely.  Aside from the fact that I hadn’t seriously ridden a bike since I was very young, I was most concerned by the laws of bike traffic.  Stopping, merging, navigating – there was definitely a system. And although it continued to baffle me, the cost and slow pace of the trams compelled me to put on a brave face, buy a bike, and learn by doing.

I was told not to spend more than 60 or 70 euros on a bike, knowing that it has a high likelihood of being stolen anyway. Some people even recommended going straight for a stolen bike for the lowest price guarantee. But since I feel too new to engage in criminal activity, I went to the Waterlooplein flea market, which usually seems to have a good selection of used bikes. I looked through the first guy’s selection, which seemed to be mostly the more expensive, fancy-type bikes. He walked up with a bike in tow to ask me if I needed help. When I told him I was just looking at the bikes, he said, “how about this one?”

A typical dutch bike – brown, rusty in plenty of places, and absolutely no frills. But it seemed like a good bike with the potential to be cute if I could figure out the right accent colors. As I considered the bike’s aesthetics, the guy said, “it’s a good bike. Try it.”

Internal panic. I didn’t think I would have to take my first ride in years in front of an audience – at this crowded market. But it was important to me to be cool. So I said, “okay, great.” Adjusting my gloves and shuffling things around in my bag, I stalled a bit. Then I took a deep breath and pushed off into the street behind the market. I wobbled into a turn on the sidewalk to avoid running into real traffic. Then I leveled off to go a few paces down the street. I hadn’t fallen off, so I got off before I could. 60 euros, including a new lock and some dinky lights, I bought the bike.

rusty and sexy

Although I had gotten over a huge hurdle by getting up the nerve to purchase the bike, I still didn’t have the nerve to ride it home. So we walked halfway, making a stop in the park. And then I practiced, going in circles, back and forth through the park. I felt silly. But I needed the confidence boost before I could go into the street.

Finally I forced myself to leave the park, coming to a complete stop before I had the courage to enter the bike lane. Then I was in the mix. A few people passed me. And one of those tiny cars honked at me when I didn’t know I was allowed to turn at a light. But I managed to get myself home, exhausted and relieved.

The next morning was Sunday, when hardly anyone is on the street. So I decided to take my bike to the central library, which took me about 15 or 20 minutes after getting a little lost. Two days later I took it to class. And since then, I’ve just been forcing myself to keep getting back on. I’ve come home so exhausted that I can’t even take my coat off (yeah, I’m out off shape); I fell off once in front of about 10 people waiting at a tram stop when my tire got stuck in the track (only because construction forced me out of the bike lane); I still scream out loud when other bikers merge into my lane; I sweat in spite of the freezing temperatures; and I have yet to ride at night. But each time I feel slightly calmer and less tense, which in itself makes it easier to ride. I understand how the lights and intersections work. And I haven’t run into any pedestrians (well, almost – but not really).

Once the cold weather eases up, and I can steer the bike with anything less than a death grip, I’m pretty sure my bikeriding skills will resemble my approach to driving down Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn – carefree, reckless, and impatient. But until then, I’ll be testing the limits of my comfort zone every day.

parked

Black Girl Done Gone and Got Scammed

Warning: The following contains some appropriately vulgar language.

I’m not sure if this has come across in earlier posts. I’m not even sure I was clearly aware of it until earlier this happened. But I’m an idiot. If “idiot” offends you, feel free to refer to me as a dummy, foolish gal, stupid head, whatever you prefer.

Remember back when I almost got scammed when looking for an apartment in Amsterdam? Relying on online research led to nothing but mystery and heartache. I learned my lesson from that…or so I thought.

Immediately after I nailed down a place to live, which I’ll move into on February 1st, I set my sights on finding a place for my first couple of weeks in Amsterdam, during which time my Mom and her husband will be joining me. We were looking for a place with enough space for three people, ideally located in central Amsterdam. Hotels are great. But they’re pretty pricey. Especially considering that we’ll be staying for two weeks.

So, as I always do, I turned to the internet. I researched short-term rentals to find a number of websites advertising apartments throughout Europe – with most of the companies based in London. The system seemed to be that apartment owners work with agencies to rent their space out to vacationers. The agency does the leg-work, receiving a cut of the rent received by the owner. Sounds like a good idea. And it may actually happen.

I found a website with a cute place – two bedrooms, nice bathroom, centrally located. Comparing it to the other, similar websites, the prices were pretty much the same. So I was happy with this choice. I submitted an inquiry form, providing my name, email, and dates I would need the apartment. I received an email not too much later. The place was available. And after a bit of back and forth to clarify the cost, deposit, contract and payment process, I sent the deposit and 50% of the rental fee via bank wire transfer.

Receipt of payment and signed contract in hand, I checked this item off of my to-do list – until several days later when I received a message from the rental guy. He was sorry for the inconvenience, but the owner of the place changed her mind and now needed the full payment for the apartment in advance in order to hold the place for me. If I sent the remainder of the rent, it would confirm my reservation. No way. And what kind of business would be irresponsible enough the change the terms of an agreement so casually?

I told him I would take a refund. And I also wanted a refund for the $35 wire transfer fee. At the same time, I started researching other places to stay. Strangely, the website for my place was no longer working. But I found another one that also looked really good – same price. So as I was going back and forth with the first guy, I was making an arrangement to send a deposit to the second.

But now there was a problem. I couldn’t send the second deposit until I received the first deposit back. And the first guy was giving me problems. I was starting to worry. But the fog really started to lift when he told me his accounting department wanted to get the money to me as quickly as possible. And since wire transfers can take a few days, they would prefer to send it to my credit card. All I would need to do is send him my credit card information. Oh shit, goddamn motherfucking asshole.  At this point, I knew I had been scammed.  And not only that, he was trying everything he could think of to get as much money out of me as he possibly could.

So this goddamn motherfucking asshole thought I was dumb enough to pull out my credit card, send him all of my information, and expect to receive a deposit ?  I’m sure I was a perfect candidate for being »cleaned out: friendly, excited, bank account.  Yup – I guess I deserved it.

I’m thankful for one thing: the fact that I waited before sending money to scammer #2. His responses were eerily similar to scammer #1’s. And when I checked several days later, that site also no longer existed (though it had been up for a couple of weeks). So it’s clearly a thing. They’re not all necessarily the same person or working together. But they have at least established (and regulated) a clear process for scamming people.

My first action was to get in touch with my bank to see if there was even the slightest chance that they can track down the bank account I sent the money to and get it back for me.  But since people lose thousands of dollars everyday to assholes like this, my loss wasn’t likely to be an exception.  And sure enough, the bank reported back that the scammer’s account had insufficient funds to refund my money.

In spite of the crime that has clearly been committed, no one seems to care. I’ve reported it numerous times, in numerous ways, in numerous countries. No one even responds.

So there you have it. $850. Gone.

 

UPDATE: a Scam Is Just a Scam

Thanks to all who provided input on the scam question.  The consensus is that it was a scam.  Although just barely, I’m pleased to say I avoided some major heartbreak here.

 

This morning I sent an email to the University, asking for advice on the situation.  I sent the address, the rent, the passport and the “proof of ownership” certificate.  Here’s the response:

I had a look at the attachments and googled the address, and I get the feeling that this deal is kind of dodgy. The whole house seems to be for sale: http://www.huislijn.nl/koopwoning/amsterdam/eerste-constantijn-huygensstraat_109_f47d00a6-cca0-4f8b-91a3-e043c617f078/overzicht.html and this website also tells us that the top 3 floors are rented at the moment but it doesn’t say if this situation will continue. And the proof of ownership looks very fake to me, but I could be wrong.

Mmhm.   I don’t think you’re wrong, Renee.  I don’t think you’re wrong at all.

 

Immediately after receiving this message from Amsterdam, I received this link from a friend (thanks MYC!):

http://santacruzhomebroker.com/santa-cruz-real-estate-blog/2009/01/

It provides almost an exact replica of the “proof of ownership” I received from my scammer.

 

And finally, I took a look at the advice on scams provided by Craigslist (not sure why I didn’t do this before).  One particular bullet point stood out from the rest:

3. Someone requests wire service payment via Western Union or MoneyGram:

  • Scam “bait” items include apartments, laptops, TVs, cell phones, tickets, and other high value items
  • Often claim that an MTCN or confirmation code is needed before he can withdraw your money – this is FALSE, once you’ve wired money, it is GONE.
  • Common countries currently include: Nigeria, Romania, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Spain, Italy, Netherlands – but could be anywhere
  • Apartment listing may be local, but landlord/owner is “travelling” or “relocating” and needs you to wire money to them abroad
  • Deal often seems too good to be true, price is too low, rent is below market, etc

 

So there you have it.  I feel like I just escaped an attacker.  Dirty, hurt, and unable to trust strangers.  But I’ll get back out there.  I still have to find myself a place to live.

A Scam Is Not a Scam Is a Scam

Last week I upgraded my apartment hunting from investigative research to active outreach. And already the scammers have spotted my optimistic innocence. Fortunately, I’m still jaded enough to see reality behind rainbows. Or maybe I’m just too jaded to appreciate the beauty of a rainbow. Honestly, I don’t know what’s what anymore.

Only a few rentals and sublets have begun advertising January availability. So as I comb through November and December move-in dates, my options are still limited. But scattered throughout the various sites are rentals for 2011. Beginning with craigslist, I started reaching out to several advertisers – mostly short-term, furnished sublets.

I didn’t receive any responses for a few days. But on Friday I finally received a response regarding a 1-bedroom for 600 euros (about $850). The price would be perfect – though surprisingly low. And based on the Google street view, the apartment’s location would be dreamy – around the corner from the park and a bike ride from the University. Based on the pictures, it’s super cute, inside and out.

 

The message I received indicated that the place is still available. She just wanted me to answer a few questions about myself, for fear of renting to another bad tenant. She said she’s working for a US-based shipping company, spending much of her time in Philadelphia. She also said a number of other things. But her English wasn’t clear enough for me to get everything. But I took the Philadelphia connection as a good sign.

I responded with my answers. And she wrote back within the hour. I had given her the impression that I would be a good tenant. Her lawyer (in the UK) also agreed that my application looked good. So they were ready to give me the keys to the apartment. Wait, what?

The deposit will be 600 euros. They want me to send this to the lawyer in order to receive the keys and the papers for the apartment. Nope, nope, nope. That’s shady. I told her I would need to see more information, her lease or proof of ownership, the lease she would want me to sign, proof of her id, her lawyer’s details, a blood sample, and her mother’s cell phone number. No way I’m sending any euros to some strangers from craigslist without some assurances in place.

She immediately came back with a copy of the lease I would sign (with my name already typed in), and scans of her passport (she’s Swedish) and her attorney’s passport (he’s British). Okay, that’s impressive. And with this proof of id, she indicated that as soon as I send the money for the deposit via Western Union, her lawyer would send everything to me. But even though I have scans of passports, how do I know these are real people? These could be fake passports. I’m still not comfortable. And Western Union?

I demanded to see proof that she has a right to rent this apartment. Her lease? The owner’s information? Something. And I refused to send the money via Western Union. It’s just like sending cash. No way. I offered to send a certified check once I was comfortable with the situation. At this point, I was confident that it was a scam. She was clearly trying to trick me and would have had me show up with all of my stuff, holding a mailbox key, trying to open an old couple’s front door. Since I was onto her scam, and coming back so intelligently and sharper than any of her previous victims, I didn’t expect her to respond.

A few hours later, she responded with a kind, though slightly more agitated tone. This time she explained that she owned the apartment with her husband. After his death, it became all hers. She attached the scan of a “Proof of Ownership” certificate, including the full address and official-looking signatures.  So now not only do I have two passports and a certificate, I have a sad story about a young woman’s dead husband. But how do I know this is a real certificate? And the husband could be the part of the story that gets someone like me (with a soft spot for dead people) to get up and go to Western Union. Am I falling into her trap?

I haven’t responded to this last message. I’m kind of out of rebuttals. I can’t think of anything else she could provide that would make me feel better. All the while, I’m wondering if I’m blowing my shot at living in a cute apartment, by myself, in a great location, with an affordable rent. Am I going to regret being so paranoid? Or will I end up 600 euros poorer, hating myself for not trusting my inner skeptic?

I’m sending a message to the University to get some advice. I’m also open to feedback from any of you on this. I’m at a frustrating loss on whether or not to proceed.

Black Girl Gone on Bad Dates (round 1)

I’m going to a good friend’s wedding this weekend. And now I have men (boys) on my mind, which hasn’t happened in quite some time. In fact, I’ve pretty much steered clear of them for over a year now. After my first two years of dating in New York, I figured it would be wisest to take a timeout.

Since I only have about three months left in the country, I seriously doubt I’ll be dating anymore in NY. But I thought it would be fun (sad) to reminisce about a few of my more interesting (tragic) dating experiences. More than once I’ve been told, “I’m pretty sure this is the type of thing that only happens to you.” And for every other woman’s sake, I hope that’s true.

1) Mr. Demanding

I met this guy during an event at an art gallery. He was attractive, pleasant, and seemed smart. So I threw caution to the wind and took him up on an offer to join him and a group of his friends at an after party. I had a good time. He even paid for my taxi home. And since we worked in the same neighborhood, I agreed to have lunch with him the following week.

After a decent falafel lunch, I thought I might actually have an opportunity with this one. Walking me back to my office, he wanted to make plans for the next date. For some reason I couldn’t make concrete plans at the time – maybe I was going to be away for a few days, or something. But less than an hour later I received an email trying to firm up the plans. Now although I don’t remember why I couldn’t make plans at the time, I do remember that an hour didn’t change the circumstances.

I ignored his email and his follow-up phone call. Later that night I made plans with him for a later date (maybe a week). During the course of the week, I received texts, emails and phone calls – all with the presumptuous tone of a boyfriend. It became uninteresting and stressful. His emails were constant. He was upset with me for not immediately returning his phone calls. He barely knew me, yet he wanted me to make a commitment to him. I canceled the second date before the week ended.

2) Mr. Privacy

Not too much to say about this one. He was married. But the reason he didn’t tell me right away: he didn’t talk much about his personal life.

3) Mr. Insult Meany Pants

This one was a set-up. I haven’t been on too many blind dates. But I’m pretty sure this was the worst. Before we met, we spoke on the phone. During the course of the conversation he told he was shocked that I had never met anyone with his name, since I was “afrocentric” and all. He made fun of me for having a car. And he made countless assumptions about me because I was described as being “natural.” He said, “oh, I have you all figured out.” There’s not much that I hate more than being put into a box and prejudged. And if he had actually figured me out, he would have known that I already hated him.

Against my better judgment, I still met him in person. We met in Brooklyn and I drove, agreeing to pick him up from some corner. As I looked for a parking space, he commented, “it’s probably going to be hard to find a spot since people like you all bring their cars from California.” Was that supposed to be funny?

Against my better judgment, I got out of the car with him. But since I hated him even more now (and also was not attracted to him), we didn’t have the greatest conversation. It continued. But it was forced. At one point I mentioned having a sister and remarked that we have the same sense of humor (she’s hilarious). To which he responded, “oh, you have a sense of humor?” Finally giving into my better judgment, I ended the date and we never contacted each other again.

4) Mr. Flask

This guy I liked. We went out a few times before I invited him to my place. We were going to watch something. So I was prepared with snacks. I told him to bring something to drink.

The tone was immediately established when he was upset with me for not having dinner made for him. “I thought you were going to have a big spread ready for me.” Now since I barely cook for myself, I’m not sure what gave him that impression. But he ended up combing through my fridge and cabinets to come up with some crazy plan for a veggie burger. And though he briefly stepped aside expecting me to make it for him, I made it clear that he was on his own with the project (I was too busy counting down the minutes for him to leave). After creating his veggie burger, he pulled out a flask and fixed himself a drink. Only after he sat down with his drink and burger in his hand did he motion to his drink and say, “oh, did you want some of this?”

Through the course of the evening he told me I didn’t know how to correctly take care of my cat, mistook a beautiful abstract painting of a heartbroken woman for Prince (we all know I love Prince – but I still don’t get that), and indicated he expected me to give him a ride home. In retrospect, I wonder if these were all jokes. He couldn’t possibly have been serious.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he made a brief reappearance recently. After a couple more dates, it ended after he told me a story (laughing) about his mother abandoning a cat in a parking lot because she thought it was ugly. Now I hate him and his mother.

 

There are a few more to get off my chest that fall in the category of worse.  I’ll save those for round 2.

 

A Tense Anniversary

I always try to avoid the hype surrounding the 9/11 anniversary. That’s in no way meant to disrespect the lives lost in 2001, or the subsequent suffering of those left behind. Perhaps my feelings about the date would be more in tune if I had lost someone close to me in the attacks. But as it is, I tend to see all of the “we will never forget” and flag waving sentiments as gross patriotic masturbation. Sorry – kick me out of the country, if you must.

It seems like Americans do forget something on 9/11 (and perhaps year-round). We’re not the only ones with a death toll. About 3,000 people died as a result of the September 11th attacks. After a quick google search, I learned that more than 3,000 civilians have died in Afghanistan alone in just the first six months of 2010. And since 2003, more than 100,000 civilians have died in Iraq. Every life counts. So I’m not saying the importance of the American lives lost is diminished by the number of those lost overseas. But why does it seem like American suffering trumps that of all others – especially when September comes around? I wouldn’t mind so much if Americans ever acted like they gave a damn about anyone else. But I don’t see much of that.

And this year the September 11th hype is so much more. With the mosque/Islamic community center controversy and this clown starting the public Qur’an burning nonsense, this year’s 9/11 anniversary seems to be clouded by hatred and tension more than anything – at least in the news. It all seems so absurd.

The nastiness of it all has made me pleased that I’m taking a break from this country. People are more sane in other countries, right? Wrong.

Out of curiosity, I took a look at some Dutch headlines relating to September 11th in the U.S. I still don’t know which one is the most mainstream paper in the Netherlands. But across all the papers I read, it seems like Dutch sentiments are just as split, and in some cases twisted as Americans. And just like Americans, some Dutch people have trouble minding their own business and have decided to get involved with issues that don’t relate to them.

The leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, Geert Wilders, is one of those who’s having trouble minding his own business. I’ve mentioned him in an earlier post. But to spare you the trouble of reading that all over again (although I’m sure it was riveting the first time through), he’s an uber conservative who’s pretty close to being a part of the next coalition government. Although Wilders’ politics are extreme, for some reason he gained enough momentum in the recent June election to make him less than marginal. Doesn’t bode well for the Dutch, as far as I’m concerned.

So anyway, Wilders has hopped on a plane to come to NYC to participate in and speak at one of the protests against the Islamic community center by the WTC site. He was invited by a group called Stop Islamization of America (I haven’t even bothered to investigate what they’re about). Apparently he’s so strongly opposed to the plan, and Islam in general, that he felt compelled to be here to vocally protest. I’m all for free speech. But c’mon, man. Just stay home.

Wilders at Ground Zero. Photo courtesy of Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Fortunately, Wilders doesn’t represent all Dutch people. In fact polls indicate only 20 percent of Dutch people supported Wilders’ participation in today’s protest. But 41 percent were neutral and only 39 percent were opposed to his craziness. That’s not enough opposition for me.

So leaving the U.S. for the Netherlands will not mean leaving behind conservative and sometimes hateful politics. They’re just everywhere…and apparently willing to travel as much as I am.

In spite of all that, my heart sincerely goes out to every single person affected by the September 11th attacks and subsequent violence, here and overseas. I hope at some point we’ll see that none of these losses, none of the pain, and none of the hateful words and exchanges have been worth it. At some point it has to end.

To Be a Fulbright…or Not So Bright

I’m sure you all know about the Fulbright. It’s a U.S. Government program that provides funding to teachers and scholars to teach, study and/or conduct research in all other parts of the world, spreading American joy and wisdom along the way. Putting the spreading of joy and wisdom thing aside, I would love to be a Fulbright scholar. Although the program wouldn’t provide the money for tuition (still looking for a benefactor to help me with that), it would provide enough to cover books, living expenses, and travel. Plus, I’d be in a network of smarty pants Fulbright scholars, who I imagine would become life-long friends and supporters. I’ve already got a table reserved for them at my wedding.

The funding is clearly desirable, which is why I, along with thousands of others, have had my eye on it for quite some time. When I first conceived of the idea to move to Amsterdam to study, my second thought was whether or not I could apply for a Fulbright. Could I be competitive enough? Could I come up with a genuinely interesting and compelling project? Could I even stomach the application process? So last year, with the hopes of starting school in Amsterdam right about now (I originally applied and hoped to start at the University of Amsterdam in the fall of 2010), I submitted an application for a Fulbright fellowship.

The first application (obviously) was not successful. To be fair, I had become distracted over the summer by a herniated disk in the lower part of my spine, which caused excrutiating pain and a numb right leg and foot for two months. That, among some other distractions, derailed my plan to spend two months working on my application. And although it would have been best to submit an application through my undergrad, incorporating their feedback and support, the campus deadline came and went while I was in the hospital having part of my spine removed (maybe one day I’ll share the story of the leaking spinal fluid and rush to the emergency room, which followed my surgery – but right now it would only distract you, as it did me at the time). Fortunately for me, I also had the option to apply as an “at-large” student. Sounds kind of menacing. But I was into it.

I became aware of the second deadline maybe two weeks before the date. And I mulled over whether or not it would be worthwhile to pursue at that point. So in my typical style, I left myself about 8 hours to complete my application, gather transcripts, request my recommendations (I had been in touch with professors about applying to school – so I hoped they would have something ready for me that could be copied and pasted), oh yeah and come up with an interesting project out of the ideas that had been stirring in my head for the past six months. Surprisingly, I was able to get everything in by the deadline. But, although I’m not certain, I’m pretty sure I submitted portions of it in crayon.

Now I have another chance. Having been accepted into the UvA Master’s program for 2011, I feel like I’ve been granted a pardon for my distracted ways of 2009. And this is my chance to make a real effort to make this opportunity my own. So I’m doing it right this time.

I’m almost finished with the project proposal. Well, if a jumble of paragraphs covering every thought I’ve ever had counts as almost finished. Regardless, I plan to wrap that up before this weekend ends. At that point, I will send it over to my professor friends for another round of (dreaded) recommendation requests. So I’m still on track for the campus deadline. Plus I’ve already reached out to my future academic advisor at UvA. He sent a delightful response which was very encouraging, indicating his excitement about my proposed research focus. He also referred me to a local Dutch organization, Ninsee, which could also potentially relate to my work. So in an extra bold and productive mood, I sent an email to Ninsee. You know, just trying to make some early friends. No response from them so far (it’s been less than a week). But that’s okay. Maybe they’re just playing hard to get friends. I still feel unusually inspired by this proposed study and the space that appears to be available for me to pursue it in Amsterdam. Something about all of it just feels so right. No matter where things end up with the Fulbright. And if you’re wondering what this research focus will be, please be patient with me as I continue to work through my fears of the jinx. I’ll let you know if and when it matters.

So yeah. The Fulbright. I’m really doing this. For real this time. Hopefully it’s good news. But if it’s not, at least I have practice dealing with the rejection.