My roleplay with debt and poverty: The American way of life

Elmar and I have been waiting on our savings from Germany for two months. Our current salaries would be enough for us to squeak by while preserving our current, relatively non-consumerist lifestyles (especially by US standards for white, educated professionals). Except that we’re building a house.

Creative Commons photo courtesy flickr user Images_of_Money, found on

Creative Commons photo from flickr user Images_of_Money, found on

While we have great credit scores, our impermanent jobs in academia prevent us from getting a home loan. So we’re building ourselves. Continue reading

studying cacti and culture

A friend of mine from Dresden, Germany just arrived in Austin with his wife and their two daughters (ages: 2 years, 8 weeks). He’s a mechanical engineer researching the structure of cacti for his dissertation. So obviously his path led him to Texas. But it also brings my path full circle. Continue reading

Buzzing with research ideas and grad school support

Last year, I kinda fought my way through grad school. While I had supportive professors and colleagues, I felt like the last frames of this by the end of spring 2013.

Now I feel like I’m on the verge of something, like in an old school video game, when you’ve built up all your energy and you can do a special move. Now, I just have to figure out the button combinations to unleash a research fireball. Luckily, I have a great deal of support on this quest.

Photo from Wiki Commons

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Life is fleeting. So are borrowed kitties.

This time of year, I usually reflect about life and death. The November 2nd accident that killed three people in my high school marching band was a formative experience in my teen years.

In undergrad, I used to send mass emails to my high school friends. It was a way to stay connected from Boston. As the years passed, the messenger changed to myspace and facebook. Last year, I blogged: Reflect, remember, recover.

This year, I remembered, but I didn’t write about it. For the first time in years. Not sure why. Maybe I’m entrenched in life and learning and playing.

But then, Max moved away.

Max, looking toward greener pastures?

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new job starting in June

I signed my offer letter today to work as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Teaching and Learning. Specifically, I’ll be working with a group to develop resources for graduate student instructors, like workshops and web content.

While I really enjoy teaching German at the university level, and part of me is sad to not teach the whole lower division curriculum, I think moving to this office makes sense for my long term goals.

How grad school is like roller derby

I’m finishing out my first year as a PhD student in Foreign Language Education at the University of Texas at Austin. It’s been a wild ride so far, and I’ve come to realize that my grad school experience in the US is actually a lot like roller derby. I’ll briefly explain and let my alter ego, Culture Shock Her, illustrate.

Photo: Lisa Ahrens Continue reading

Brief Separation

Elmar went to Germany for two weeks without me.

I like it when he’s away. It means I can:

  1. clean the house and have it stay clean,
  2. jog or do yoga in the mornings,
  3. be a workaholic without feeling guilty, and
  4. catch up on phone calls to old friends.

But the best part about Elmar traveling without me is when he comes back. See you soon!

Boston Marathon still inspiring

As an undergrad, I played bass drum in the Boston University Marching and Pep Bands. In the spring, on Patriot’s Day, we played at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. What an inspiring event! I loved cheering for the runners with costumes or signs to raise awareness for a cause. Sometimes someone looked ready to drop from exhaustion, but if you yelled encouragement using the name or number they wrote on their arm, they would perk up and keep going. Anyone bold enough to wear Texas shorts up north got a rowdy drumline rendition of “The Stars at Night”. It was an amazing and humbling community experience.

2013. Two bombs. No answers.

One of those killed was a Boston University grad student. That student’s day-to-day worries about research, advisors, funding, and work-life balance disappeared. Senselessly. There was a memorial for this student and the other victims today at BU’s Marsh Plaza, where I attended a memorial for the victims of 9/11 back in 2001.

Photo credit, creative commons license

What strikes me the most in reading accounts of what happened is that people ran towards the explosions to help with anticipated injuries. People shared phones, gave away coats, signed up on a google doc to house runners and visitors from out of town.

Tragedies can illustrate the worst in human nature, but also bring out the best.

I love you, Bahston.