Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas in the Air

I remember going to WalMart last year and being appalled because they already had Christmas stuff out. 

It was the day after Halloween.

It still makes me mad, but there's nothing I can do about it.  It's commercialized holidays.  Blech.  I prefer holidays for their traditions.

Everyone has their own holiday traditions.  At Katie's house on Thursday, we listened to a song called "Alice's Restaurant" by Arlo Guthrie during Thanksgiving dinner.  They have listened to it on Thanksgiving for forever, I guess.  Talking about their family traditions made me think of my family's day after Thanksgiving tradition.

For many, many years, the day after Thanksgiving was reserved at our house for Mom going Black Friday shopping with Lori in Fargo while Dad, Stacey, and I went and found a Christmas tree.  Oftentimes, we went to a tree farm and cut our own.  Once we had it home, in the house, and on the stand, Mom and Dad would  put the lights on.   Then, Stacey and I had the job of putting on the ornaments, of which there were hundreds, maybe thousands.  Mom's philosophy was that there is no such thing as too many ornaments on the Christmas tree. 

Sometime after I went to college, we stopped cutting a tree, and Mom bought a fake one, so it's not quite the same.  And I haven't been home for two Thanksgivings now, so I can't help decorate.  It's kind of like the first time I wasn't home for Halloween and missed having homemade pizza.  The traditions are slowly dying...

I came home last night to find my apartment decorated for Christmas, and it made me downright depressed.  Christina and Jedd had set up a Christmas tree, hung stockings, and put out other decorations.  I, on the other hand, didn't get to decorate anything for Christmas: not my house at home and not my apartment here.  I never really realized that I valued the traditions.

I'm sure that someday, I'll have my own family, and we'll have our own family traditions.  Until then, I'll either have to make my own...  (or continue writing ridiculously sad blogs about what I miss about home)  ... LAME-O!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving x2

Shockingly, I didn't write yesterday.  Or the day before.  Or the day before.  Don't worry, today will make up for it.

There were lots of questions about what Raissa should do for Thanksgiving.  After I decided to stay here, there were tons of options, but I had decided to spend it with Kenny.  When the Rudy's told me he couldn't come with us to Nancy's house, I was determined that he would not spend it alone.  After much deliberation, he decided to go home to Idaho Falls to visit his mom.

On Wednesday, Katie Ryan called to tell me that she and her Cowboy were headed to CO to surprise her parents for Thanksgiving.  She invited me to their house.  As much as I was looking forward to dinner with the Rudy's, it was more exciting to spend Thanksgiving with people who I know and am more comfortable with.

I ended up going to 2 Thanksgiving dinners.

I got up early (for me) this morning, and headed up to Windsor to hang out with Katie and her family.  We walked around the neighborhood, hung out at home, and ate a delicious traditional Thanksgiving meal.  I then had to rush back to Boulder for Thanksgiving meal #2 with the Rudy's. 

During the trek up to Nancy's house in the mountains, the Rudy's were explaining to me what each of the people who would be there do/did in their lives.  All of the people are rather well-to-do, and have all of the luxuries one could possibly want in life.  They all grew up in the city, and are socially prominent in Boulder.

Upon arriving at the mountainside house, we had the pleasure of helping to put out a fire.  Yes, a fire.  The centerpiece got a little too close to the candles, and the fire department called to make sure we were all alive.  We all mingled for a while, and I now know how international students feel when stupid Americans ask them questions about their own cultures.

To the guests at the party, being from a small town is like being from a different country, and some of the questions that they asked me offended me a little bit.  I understand that they just don't know what it's like to live in a small town, but they wanted to know how I survived in such a place, without seeing ballets and operas, and having to travel somewhere else to go clothes shopping.  I did my best to explain, and obviously I did survive, even thrived, coming from a small town, but was still a little miffed by the experience. 

Dinner was all made-from-scratch by an ex-opera singer.  We had butternut squash soup, rolls, parsnips and spinach, dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes made with celeriac, and a turkey (of course).  It was traditional with a twist.  And delicious.  Table conversation focused around the music school and my upcoming performance during the opera scenes program on Tuesday night.  (Stephanie invited 50 people and asked if it would be okay to throw roses onto the stage for me.)

All in all, the night was good, and memorable, and great.  But it's not the same as Thanksgiving with family.  And I didn't like some of the food, which would never happen at home.  Looking forward to Christmas meal.  Mom, get ready.  haha...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why I blog

A week off for Thanksgiving break while being employed only very-part-time means a lot of free time on my hands.  I could have gone home, and maybe should have, but it's a 14-hour drive one way, and all of that driving makes for an un-relaxing vacation.

All of this free time has translated to basically one thing for me: boredom.  I was so bored by 8:00 last night that I almost wrote a blog in the evening, after I'd already written one yesterday afternoon.  Basicaly, you all can expect at least a blog a day for the next week.  I hope that's okay with you, and if it isn't, too blad.

I've been considering writing this particular blog for quite some time, but always seemed to find events to write about instead.  Today, though, you get a blog about feelings, because there really is nothing exciting going on in my life right now.

When I started blogging, it was purely for you all, my audience.  I wanted a means of communicating my new life in Boulder without having to write personal emails to each of you.  I mean, seriously, people, I have tons of friends, and to write emails to each of you would be exhausting (that was a joke...mostly).  I wanted to be able to tell you about the interesting things that come from living in one of the most liberal cities in America (read this, this, and this), daily happenings (read this, this, and this), life as a music student (read this, this, this, and this), and anything else that struck me as interesting.

All in all, I'd say that I've done a pretty good job of it.  I post 3 or 4 times a week, with good content and length.  I'm more happy with some than others, and sometimes just don't have time to post as frequently or eloquently as I'd like, but I'm a busy student.  And I have quite a few regular readers and commenters (although I wouldn't mind a few more comments here and there... *hint hint*).  I've gotten into the habit of advertising my postings on facebook so that more people can be aware of a new posting and check out the blog.  On days when I do that, readership is way higher, especially if it's an interesting topic.

A lot of people start blogs and post a few times, then get sick of it or too busy and stop writing, but that wasn't the case for me.  Once I started, I couldn't stop.  For me, it's therapeutic to write, and it's easy to write this blog because it's my life; it's what I know about, there's no pressure to make it incredibly informative or entertaining or exciting: it's just the story of my life.  And if you don't like it, then you don't like my life.  It's fine.  (ha ha).  I make time to write, and I have a whole list of subjects to write about if for some reason I can't come up with a new one on the days I have time to write.  If I had time, I would write a blog every day.  It's awesome to get my thoughts down on paper and to have to organize them in a cohesive format so that others will understand them.

When I write, I don't just write and post.  I write, read, edit, post, edit, repost, edit, repost, etc.  I'm downright anal about the format of the posts.  I still make mistakes, but I really enjoy the process.  And I love it when people comment about the posts that I have made.

Shortly after starting the blog, I signed up for an account with sitemeter, a website that tracks visits to your website.  It's really basic stuff, and it's free, but it's addicting.  It tells me almost everything I could possibly want about each visitor's visit to my blog.  It tells me your IP address, location, duration of visit, referring website, page views, exiting webpage, etc., etc.  I call it my "stalker stalker."  I keep track of frequent visitors, locations, and especially page views.  On days when I advertise my postings on facebook, I get a ton more visitors to the page.  If I haven't advertised a posting in a while, I get way more page views, which I assume is people who visit whenever I advertise the posting notice that I've made other posts and they catch up on the ones they missed.  It's quite interesting.

Another aspect of my blog that's good for me is the ads that one can see throughout the page.  I have ads by google and through linkshare.  Google crawls my blog for topics and posts ads based on my blogs.  Every time someone clicks on one and buys stuff, I get paid commissions.  This, as of yet, has not been a significant source of income for me.  I don't get paid until I make $100.  Let's say I'm 14% of the way there.  (But if you all clicked and bought stuff, things would be different...)

Now, I blog as much for myself as I do for all of you.  I really enjoy the process and the topics and hearing feedback from you, and I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy reading it.  I hope that I continue to have time to keep it up.  For now, I'm doing fine.  And for this week, more than fine.  Any thoughts are more than welcome!!

Thanks, ya'll! :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Vacation Weekend: Denver

Yet another sober weekend for Raissa.  I'm starting to like this more and more, strangely enough.

But just because it was sober doesn't mean it wasn't fun.

On Friday, Dennis and I headed down to Denver for some people watching and hanging out.  We started out at Rock Bottom Brewery, then watched drunk people and ate gelato on Larimer Square.  Kenny joined us, and we hit up a new (to us) bar on 16th Street called Tilted Kilts.  Pretty nice place, if you don't mind staring at practically bare-chested women for the duration of your stay.  Ironic that I was there with two gay guys...  While we were there, I ran into a kid from Jamestown who lived in Watson. I was his RA...

Saturday, Dennis, Kenny, and I went to Longmont for our studio teacher's housewarming party.  It was a good time, with mostly faculty and a few students mingling and eating some delicious curry chicken on a stick.  Mmmm...

Saturday night, Pasha and I had plans with the girls we met at International Coffee Hour a few weeks ago.  We hit up a Chinese restaurant in Boulder, then headed to Denver for the highlight of my weekend: Asian-style karaoke.  I'd never actually experienced Korean karaoke, but having had many friends from there, I more or less knew what to expect.

In Asian karaoke, instead of singing for a whole bar full of people who you don't know and having to wait 2 hours to sing,you can sing for only your friends and as often as you want to.  Each group gets its own room, and each room is stocked with books, a TV, a sound system, microphones, couches, and the like, and the people in your group are the only people who hear you.  You can all sing together, dance around, laugh, sing every 5 minutes, and have a great time.  It was totally worth $5.00 for 2 hours!

The people who we met at the karaoke place wanted to go clubbing in Denver.  I wasn't given that memo before we left, so I was not appropriately dressed for clubbing.  Instead of clubbing, Michelle, Marcus, Pasha, and I walked around downtown Denver, enjoying the crowds and some conversation.

On Sunday, I was completely unproductive.  I got up at noon, watched Season 2 of ER, went to church, and hosted a movie night in my apartment.

Now I have to get to work: blech.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dinner with the Rudys

In September, I had the opportunity to meet my scholarship sponsors, Alan and Stephanie Rudy.  I told you all about them here.  They are seriously wonderful people.  Since meeting them, they have spoiled me.

In October, they picked me up for a dinner at Laudisio, a really great Italian restaurant here in Boulder.  On Wednesday night, they treated me to dinner at California Pizza Kitchen and a Metropolitan Opera Broadcast of Turandot (which was amazing).

In addition, they came to the University Choir Concert that I performed in, and plan on coming to our Opera Scenes program. (Shameless plug: If you aren't doing anything on the evening of Tuesday, December 1st, come up to Boulder for an opera scenes program featuring both graduate and undergraduate singers.  It's in the basement of the music building and is free).

They have invited me to their house for Thanksgiving and want to take me to more operas.  They rock.  In addition to helping me, they are both very, very active in the Boulder community and donate hours and hours and hours to community service projects.  I hope they keep me!  They are fantastic!

In other scholarship news, I was given an additional $6500 in scholarship for next semester.  It will allow me to stay in CO.  When I know more about it, I'll let you know!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oh, the PAIN!!!

A few nights ago, I fell asleep while reading my book.  (In case you're wondering, it was "Eclipse," the third book in the Twilight saga.)  I woke up a few hours later with my bedside light still on and my body in a really strange position.

The next day, the muscles in my back were a little sore.  I attributed it to the fact that my body should not have spent as many hours as it did in such an unusual position.  By Saturday, the pain was gone.

That is, until yesterday, when it came back with a vengeance.  I couldn't raise my arm, or stretch it forward, or move my neck, or twist my back, or breathe deeply without suffering some serious pain. 

If you know me, you know that pain and I are not friends.  We never have been.  I don't like it.  But I ignored it most of the day, thinking it would go away again.

It didn't.  By 10:00 last night, I was hurting.  Big time.  I dropped something, bent over to pick it up, and involuntarily shouted because it hurt.  I was encouraged to go to the emergency room, but was home alone, so I took a lot of drugs and went to bed. 

At some point during the night, I woke up and tried to roll over, but failed.  I wanted to cry.

So this morning I gave in and went to the ER.  Based on my symptoms, the nurse thought I may have had a partially collapsed lung, but the doctor thinks it's all in my muscles: strained from sleeping wrong, and now spasming.  He gave me vicodin, and I made it through all day without taking a nap, but I just took more and now it's bedtime. 

Thank goodness for insurance.

Words of advice: If you're reading and feel yourself falling asleep, put the book down, turn off the light, and go to sleep in a normal position.

Monday, November 16, 2009

North Dakotans: Nice

Let's face it: It happens. 

You know what it is.

It happens to some more than others. 

When it comes to car batteries dying, it happens to me the most.  Or at least that's how it seems. 

I know exactly why it happens to me: I tend to be careless.  Not just in leaving my car lights on, but in life.  When I cook, one might think that a bomb has gone off in the kitchen.  When I paint, my clothes and hair get just as much paint on them as the thing I'm painting does.  I drop electronics in the toilet and put them through cycles in the washing machine.  I've locked my keys in my car so many times that I have a spare in my purse and one on the body of my car in case I lock my purse in my car, too (which has happened.  several times). 

I'd like to think that these things going wrong by my own fault is because I'm such a genius that I don't have time to consider those "little" things.  But 1) I'm not that conceited, and 2) I know it's just carelessness.

Thank goodness for kind North Dakotans who have come to my rescue in innumerable situations (I'm generalizing a bit, because usually these "kind" NoDak-ers are also my friends).  We are infamously nice people.  We come from the conservative Heartland of America, where people go to church every Sunday, everyone works hard, and we are all down-to-earth.

In October, when Jettie was here (read all about her visit here and here), we went to Denver for a day of sightseeing.  We had spent all day on our feet after an early morning and needed a nap, so we headed back to the parking garage to take a nap in my car.  We turned on the radio for some tunes and fell asleep.  Wouldn't you know... when we woke up, my battery was dead.  It was getting dark in the garage, and after some running around, we located a portable jumper thingy.  Just as the two of us and a (female) security guard were hooking the thing up, a car with a whole family pulled into the space next to mine.   Don't get me wrong, because we knew what we were doing, and we weren't struggling, but did any of those 5 or 6 people even ask if they could help in any way?  Did they leave their lights on so we could see better?  Did they even look our direction?  No.  They just walked away.

Things went just fine without their help; we had no problems.  But had this happened in ND, half the city of Gwinner would have come to help without even being asked.  It happens at the Medora Musical all the time: someone leaves their lights on, and an employee drives their personal car over to jump them.  It's not a big deal, and takes maybe 5 minutes of our time.

This summer, I jumped someone's car, and they offered to pay me.  OF COURSE I refused payment.  And I'm pretty positive that had I accepted the money, the man would have bitched about it the whole way home to Fargo.  It's general knowledge that it's polite to offer money with the knowledge that the one who has helped you won't accept payment.  It's just how it works.  We do it because we're nice, and because if we were in the same situation, we would expect a free jump.

Apparently, people around here don't get that.  That won't stop me from helping whenever I can.  In fact, I helped someone jump their car today.  Did I have to?  No.  I did it because I'm a nice person.  Did I get anything out of it?  Aside from this blog topic, no.  Is it even worth blogging about?  Maybe not.  But I did anyway.  Live with it.

Keep being nice, kids.  Keep being nice.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Laid-back: Boulder style

Believe it or not, these weekends without excessive partying are starting to get on my good side.  I've now gone two whole weekends in a row without drinking more than one drink per night.  Crazy, right?

On Friday, the University Choir travelled to Denver for the American Choral Director's Association choir festival on the campus of the University of Denver (DU).  We sang show tunes the whole way there.  It made me miss the JC choir tour...  No one was really excited about the prospect of listening to a bunch of choirs sing all night, and when one of the girls was drinking on the bus, I was jealous that I hadn't thought of the idea.  That is, until we arrived at DU and she couldn't walk straight.  It was a riot, but I can't imagine trying to perform while drunk.  Despite her 0drunkenness, the performance went just fine.  I was still a little jealous.

I felt like going out on the town aftereward, but everyone else was pretty lame, so Kenny, Dennis, and I went to The Sink, one of Boulder's most famous restaurants.  Why is it famous?  True story: When Robert Redford (yes, the Robert Redford) lived in Boulder, he was a custodian there.  Yep.  He cleaned toilets.  We had one drink there, and shared some... interesting... conversation, then headed home.

Saturday felt more like a Monday.  I tutored a psychology student in the morning, went grocery shopping, and had a voice lesson, then had a potluck dinner party to prepare for.  By shortly after 6:00, my apartment was the home of 5 additional people, and we enjoyed a good (albeit random) meal.

We had had plans to go dancing downtown later on, but by 9:00, almost the whole group had petered out. So instead of going downtown, Pasha, Anna, and I hit up a Mexican restaurant.  No, we didn't eat again.  They have salsa dancing there every Saturday night, and Anna is a regular.  Turns out that she's also an amazing dancer.

Neither Pasha nor I had ever salsa-ed before, and because there was an odd number of us, it was awkward at first.  Anna was teaching Pasha, and I was sitting alone until some old man named Rick came and taught me the basics.  I also danced with another old guy named Jordan and a little bit with Pasha. (I'm sure it was a sight to see us first-timers together.)  The older men were very kind about helping me through some steps and were patient when I messed up.  And yes, folks, this does mean that I danced sober.  (The Travesty!!!)

Anna stole the show.  She's a beautiful girl from Hungary, and she can dance.  Every eye on the floor was on her, and I overheard some men comparing her to a Ferrari. No joke. 

Dancing has been the theme this week, I guess.  On Wednesday, for Opera Theatre, I had the opportunity to learn how to waltz from a guy at CU who was on Broadway for like 87 years.  Now that was spectacular.  I could follow that man for hours. 

Men: anyone who ever told you that the key to a woman's heart is anything but dancing lied to you.  Dancing's the key.  Learn how to lead, and she will be smitten.  Or I will, at least.

Here's to low-key weekends.  Maybe I should see how long I last without drinking...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

In the Center

In previous posts, I have briefly mentioned my work study job.  I've had such great experiences there this week that I feel like it's time you all knew more about it.

I get a whole $900 a semester for work study.  I mean, I won't complain, because that's $900 I don't have to pay back in loans, but it's not a whole lot.  It's difficult to find an employer who wants someone to work only $900 worth of time in a whole semester.

My official position in the Center of the American West is Student Assistant, which is a catch-all for basically anything.  "The Center," as we call it, was founded in 1989, and has done nothing but grow since.  The Center brings together people from all sorts of disciplines to focus on issues that are currently affecting and will affect "The West" (which is a difficult term to define in itself). 

Most of the time, I do really routine things like mail packets, make copies, answer telephones, and inventory.  It's nothing to get shaken up about, but the atmosphere in the office is great.  Everyone is so so so nice and helpful, and we have a good time.

Wednesday night brought a student-faculty dinner at Patty's house.  Patty is the chair of The Center, and is one of the founders.  She's quite famous in the history world, and speaks all around the country on a regular basis.  She teaches, writes, speaks...  She does it all.

Back to Wednesday...  I helped set up for the dinner, then mingled and drank wine, and helped clean up.  It doesn't sound spectacular, but it was a great time.  (n.b.: Patty lives across the street from the JonBenet Ramsey house.  Literally.)

Tonight, I had the pleasure of helping out with the release for Patty's new book, "Remedies for a New West."  Again, setting up, tearing down, and having fun.

I love my coworkers, and it's really exciting to learn about the things that go on in The Center.  I've learned a lot that I didn't know before I worked there, and we all know how much I like to learn random things. 

Now if only I could work more hours there... 
For more information about The Center, please see our website:, and follow us on twitter:

To buy a copy of the book, contact me.  Because that's my job.  haha..

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

C is for Cookie

Ever since I can remember, my nickname has been Cookie.  No one seems to know where it came from or how I got it.  It's just Cookie.

In high school, almost everyone called me Cookie, except for males and teachers.

When I went to college, when I introduced myself to new people, I said something along the lines of: "I'm Raissa." 
New friend: "What's your name?"
Me: "Raissa, but you can call me Cookie."

Before long, as many people (if not more) were calling me Cookie rather than Raissa.  It didn't take long for professors to catch wind of my nickname and soon may of them were calling me Cookie, too. 

When I moved to Colorado, I made a decision not to introduce myself as Cookie.  When I told my friends back home about my plans, they were geniunely sad.  They said things like, "But you're way more of a Cookie than a Raissa," and, "You're too cute to be Raissa!"  But I stuck with my decision.

Don't get me wrong, because I really like the nickname, and it doesn't bother me when people call me it at all.  It's part of my identity.  But I felt that moving to Colorado was moving into a professional career, and I can't imagine a famous opera star being called Cookie.  Everyone here calls me Raissa, and I've become accustomed to it.  So much so that when Katie R. visited and called me Cookie, it sounded weird. 

My name on facebook is "Raissa Cookie Johnson," and a few people have asked me if my middle name is Cookie.  I explain to them that it's my nickname, and a few call me Cookie on occasion as a joke.  They are aware of the nickname and no longer get confused when I tell stories with Cookie in them, although it was confusing at first.

I might start introducting myself as Cookie again, just for fun.  But it might be too late, because my closest friends here already call me Raissa... 

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Crazy by Choir

Anyone who was ever in JC's Concert Choir will appreciate this post.

Anyone who was in JC's Concert Choir under my reign as President will especially appreciate this post. 

I finally realized today that I am a choir nazi.  That statement will not surprise most of you, but it kind of surprises me.  I guess I always knew that I was somewhere in the back of my mind, but it really came out this evening. 

I kind of want to apologize for my psycho-ness when it comes to choir, but I can't, because I don't necessarily think that what I've done is worthy of an apology. 

Allow me to explain:
I sometimes think that I have a slight case of OCD.  A few examples of this OCD-ish behavior:
  • My CD's are alphabetized within genres in my CD case.
  • My closet is color-coded.  Within each color are subcategories of clothing based on material weight and article of clothing.
  • When I eat, I have to eat the same amount on both sides of my mouth so that my teeth get the same exposure.  If it's small items, like SweetTarts, I have to eat an even number of them.
  •  I count my steps and stairs as I walk.
You get the picture.  I'm a freak, but I say it's only a slight case of OCD because I never make my bed in the morning, I wash my hands a million times a day, and I'm not afraid of germs.  (Forgive the stereotypes inherent in that statement.)

My OCD apparently extends to choir.

JC's Concert Choir had very strict rules governing uniforms, riser etiquette, and the like.  I expected CU to be worse, with 5 choirs and goodness knows how many singers.

I was wrong.

Apparently, the liberalism of Boulder extends to the choir world.  There are no real uniforms for women and men have to buy their own tuxedos, it's okay to wear jewelry and have your hair in your face, music doesn't have to be memorized because we can use folders, it's okay to move around on the risers, and you don't necessarily have to keep eye contact with the conductor.

Let's suffice it to say that I'm going nuts here, people.  I cannot handle this laid-back-ness.    I'm a rule-follower.  I always have been.  I don't think it's hard to follow the rules, and despise it when people think that they deserve to be above them.  I enjoy rigidness and uniformity,especially in choir.  (Maybe it's the NDakotan in me.)  
To my CO UChoir friends:  I realize that I've probably been annoying the crap about you with all of my talk about the differences in JC's Choir and CU's choir, but it's driving me psycho.  Seriously.  If I start talking about it, just tell me to shut up. I'll do my best.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


Everyone who has ever known me for more than a day knows that I have an affinity for people from other countries.  I hear jokes about it from my friends all the time. 

I can't really explain why I'm drawn to people from other countries, but my best guess is novelty.  Everyone from Gwinner is American.  And white.  So when I went to college, my eyes were opened to this whole new world filled with people from different countries, who had different cultures, languages, and beliefs.  I absolutely adore learning about all of it!

I was literally scared to talk to my first international kid because I was afraid of offending her or saying something that would make me seem stupid.  Those feelings went away quickly and before I knew it, I had more international student friends than I knew what to do with.  There were students from Nepal, Korea, Japan, Spain, India, France, Germany, Costa Rica, Ireland, etc., etc.  My family was really gracious, and I frequently brought them home for vacations and holidays. 

I loved helping those kids in any way I could if they needed it.  ND can be a difficult adjustment, especially for those from big cities.  NDakotans can sometimes be closed-minded and awkward (I was!), and there may not be anyone who speaks their native language.  Plus, there isn't much to do.  I did my best to make their adjustment as easy as possible, although it didn't always work out that way.

Those international students became my closest friends, and believe me when I say that they can be difficult relationships.  Not so much when they are in the US, but when they leave...  It's hard to watch them go, knowing that there is a true possibility of never seeing them again.  And keeping touch with crazy time differences can be trying.

Despite the inherent difficulties, I relish in these relationships.  Since moving to CO, I have met quite a few international students, but the situation is entirely different.  Here in CO, the international students don't really need anyone to help them.  There are enough people from their own culture to support one another without some crazy American's assistance. 

Since moving to CO, I have missed that type of relationship, and have been desiring to make friends with more international students for a while, so when my friend Pasha (from India) told me about International Coffee Hour, I was ecstatic to go with him this week to expand my horizons.  International Student Services offers Coffee Hour every Friday from 4 - 5pm in the UMC with free snacks or drinks, raffles, and (of course) lots of chatting among international and American students alike.  I also had the opportunity to chat with one of the employees of ISS about her job and other jobs in their office.

I was in Heaven.

I didn't meet tons and tons of people, and it was a little awkward at first, but Pasha has a lot of friends and was willing to let me follow him around as he introduced me to many people.  Afterwards, we went to dinner with 5 newly-met international students.  Again, awkward at first, but as time passed we became more comfortable.

I left feeling excited and refreshed to have connected with some non-Americans, learning about other cultures and chatting with new people.  I doubt I'll get close to many of them, but it's nice to know that the option is there.  I had an amazing time at Coffee Hour, and will hopefully go back frequently.  Thanks, Pasha, you rock!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

So many options...

At Jamestown College, it was quite possible to literally attend every single concert or recital put on by the music department, and still have time to do homework, work, and go to every concert in the community as well.  When it came time for a student recital, everyone involved in the music program attended, along all of their friends and family.  It was a great support system.  When Tab and I gave our recital last year, we almost filled Voorhees Chapel at JC. 

It is physically impossible to attend every music performance at CU.  I'm not kidding you when I say that.  There are undergrad junior recitals, senior recitals, Master of Music recitals, Doctor of Music recitals, faculty recitals, guest recitals, master classes, and ensemble concerts.  And it's not just voice, it's instrumental, too.  There are recitals in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening.  There is an entire bulletin board that's completely covered from top to bottom with upcoming concert programs.  It's unbelieveable.

Lately, I've been attending lots and lots of concerts and recitals.  The main reason that I go is to support my friends.  One extra face in the audience is always helpful.  Plus, I hope that when I have recitals they will come to mine.  But there are lots of reasons to attend recitals.  First of all, watching other people perform can help you to learn about recital practices: bowing, recognizing your pianist, where to stand, etc.  That's easy stuff. 

Another advantage to attending lots of recitals is learning from other people's mistakes.  When people do things during their recital that you hate, you can learn to avoid them.  For example, I learned not to wear a dress with a slit up to my waist, because it would make me look trashy. 

One of the best things for me, having no experience in the classical music area, is learning common repertoire.  It's great to become more familiar with frequently-performed music to learn what I like and don't like, and what I want to sing and don't want to sing. 

I'm going to continue to be active in attending music performances, even though it's time-consuming and sometimes not the most fun thing in the world.  I enjoy being busy, and I enjoy hanging out with people at concerts. 

But my favorite part is listening to amazing performers.  There are so so so many talented people that it puts me into my place.  It makes me remember how hard I'll have to work if I really want to make it in this business.  Scary, but a great eye-opener...

Yay for performers.  We're a different breed.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Follow Up: Big City Homecoming

My first quote of the week blog was all about small-town homecoming, and based on the number of people who read it, I would guess that you all loved it.  A lot.

In the blog, I promised to tell you all about homecoming here at CU Boulder: homecoming in the the big city.  

There's not much to tell.

Maybe it's because I'm not a true freshman and have already done the whole college thing once, or maybe it's because this is a big school and I don't feel really connected here like I did at JC, or maybe it's just because I didn't really care, but for whatever reason, I did nothing to celebrate Homecoming.  Nothing.

As I said before, Homecoming at JC was exciting, because I knew the football players, it was really easy to get involved, and it was a big deal if you weren't involved somehow.

Last week was Homecoming here, and I don't know any of the events that took place, aside from a parade and the overly-obvious football game.  I didn't go to the parade, and I didn't go to to the football game. I didn't even listen to the football game; instead, I had to ask a random pedestrian who had won.

It kind of makes me sad that I wasn't active at all in Homecoming here.  Had one of my friends not participated in Homecoming activities in Jamestown, I would have made fun of them endlessly.  Endlessly.  I really feel like Homecoming is a great way to show school spirit.  And it's fun.

Why didn't I do anything?  And why doesn't it bother me more?  I don't really have definite answers.  None of my friends here really seemed to care about it, maybe because they're musicians (?).  No one even brought it up.  For Pete's sake, I haven't even seen a football game since moving here.

New goal in life: see a football game, and maybe care more about CU athletics.

Monday, November 02, 2009

This is why I never did Halloween (not really, but it's a good excuse)

Even when I was little, I didn't really like to dress up for Halloween.  I remember dressing up as a hobo and a clown, but that's all.  Sometime between sixth and eighth grade, the "cool" (as I remember them) girls in my class put their hair in high ponytails and dressed in poodle skirts, but didn't invite me, so my mom went to the bar and got a giant bear costume wearing Coors Light apparel.  I don't think I ever dressed up after that.

Through college, people raved about what they were going to dress up as for months before Halloween actually arrived.  I never went to a single Halloween party in my four years of college, athough in my senior year Guillaume made me go to one.  I wasn't dressed up and felt incredibly awkward because of it, so I left within five minutes of my arrival.  Last year, I was excited to work at Grizzly's on Halloween night because I thought that it meant that I didn't have to dress up.  Then they told me that dressing up on Halloween was part of the job requirement.  My friend made me a nondescript costume, and I was a ... I don't know what I was.  I was a girl in a weird costume.

As time has gone on in Boulder, I've made quite a few friends.  Almost all of them are students in the School of Music, and basically all of them had plans to go to the same Halloween party.  I planned to go without dressing up until the hostess told me that I had to or she wouldn't let me in.  Thus began my Halloween saga.

Had Dennis not asked me to be his "date" for the evening, I would have sat at home alone.  But he claimed me for the evening, and I let him do all of the planning.  We started out at Pasta Jay's, drinking wine, eating pasta, and watching some random people doing the "Thriller" dance in the middle of Pearl Street.  After dinner, we headed to my house to "dress up."  For me, "dressing up" = a cape.  

Our first stop was a no-alcohol party that involved tons of people and lots of dancing.  We didn't stay long before we headed to Megan's apartment in Broomfield for the real party.  We were greeted at the door by 3 drag queens, and that pretty much set the tone for the whole night.  The party involved random alcohol (of which I drank too much), dancing (after everyone was drunk), eating (way too much), and conversing (although I don't remember much of it).  It was a pretty good time, even when Maxx came in from outside and pulled the vertical blinds right off of the wall.  I was feeling good enough to dance (if you know what I mean...) and it seemed way too early when Megan kicked us all out.

As we were leaving, Dennis and Richard got off the elevator, but Maxx and I forgot to get off with them.  We didn't realize it until we got back to the fourth floor and saw Kenny and Austin waiting for the elevator.  Needless to say, Dennis, our driver, was not too impressed.  I remember nothing of the whole drive home, except that Jettie called me and that I somehow decided to have a party at my apartment.  I clearly wasn't thinking.

When we got home, Pasha was waiting for Maxx and me to "party," but I didn't have any alcohol, so Pasha suggested we go to a party at his classmate Bridget's house.  It was within walking distance of my apartment, so we headed there, (Maxx in his jeans and tranny heels... whoa).  

The party was crazy.  We knew no one, and Pasha only knew Bridget, but that didn't stop us from having a grand old time.  We danced the night away while drinking keg beer.  When we took a break from dancing, we went to the basement to rest and were mooned repeatedly by the same man.  Finally, we decided to leave and arrived back home at about 4:30 (including the time change).  We hung out for a while before Maxx fell asleep and Pasha went home.

I went to the bathroom, where I proceeded to drop my phone into the toilet.  It was out of commission until Sunday afternoon, when the nice man at Batteries Plus fixed it for free. 

I was out of commission until I went to bed Sunday night.

Me and my favorite drag queens: Kenny and Austin