It took a while, but I finally made it to spring break.

http://www.wimp.com/dogbackyard/

Ain’t no spring in my step

One of my best traveling stories, one you’ve probably already heard, involved a 40-mile bike ride through southern England to watch a play. That wasn’t the good part, though. The good part was waiting until the police did their last patrol through the park across the street from the theater, then sneaking in, finding a quiet place under some trees and setting up tents. Except, we could only get one tent up, and it was designed for one person, and there were three of us. (Or was this the bad part?)

We didn’t sleep much, but nor did we get out of the tent and walk around. So it was a complete surprise when we got up in the morning and found inches—inches!—of snow on the ground. In southern England! In April! When we hadn’t seen a single snowflake all winter!

So what is it about mild climes and green grassy landscapes that get bad spring snowfalls? The Willamette Valley woke up to half a foot of snow yesterday, and let me tell you, no one here owns a shovel. By 9 it had turned to rain, and the tree branches started coming down. There lies in the collective memory of this town a mythical blizzard to which this storm cannot compare, but it’s still the worst snowfall in 75 years and it sure is messy out there.

Please, let no one in Michigan comment on this post to gloat about your 80-degrees days all this week. Speak not of your thunderstorms, your beach trips, or your patio grill-outs. I’m headed south for break next week, to San Francisco. It’s supposed to rain, and I think I’ll stay in a hostel.

Mount Pisgah-palians

Still can’t check Spencer’s Butte off the list, but today I went for a nice 4-mile hike up and down Mount Pisgah, just outside of town. The friend I went with told me about someone she knows who calls himself a Mount Pisgah-palian for his religiously frequent trips up this hill, and I liked the ring of it, not to mention the sentiment. It was a perfect length for a sunny Sunday afternoon hike with nice views of Eugene and Springfield and the farms that surround them. Have a look!

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I'm a terrible geographer and have no clear notion of what those snow-capped peaks are. Two of the Sisters, probably?

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Looking towards town. Pretty sure that's Spencer's Butte on the right, but again, terrible geographer here.

I’m a little sore and I think I’ll sleep well tonight, but I feel like I’ve finally kicked the mono. Good hike, good company, lovely afternoon. Lots to look forward to as the weather gets warmer!

Fat Tuesday

What do you do when you can’t find Dutch oliebollen or Polish paczkis for Fat Tuesday? Eat some Voodoo Donuts. I’m going to embrace that irony.

This one’s called the slug, and it was delicious.

Journaling Eugene: the assignments

Modeling this project on the assignments we had in Budapest, here’s the list of things I’m going to try to do before the start of next school year.

The collectibles:
-4 coasters, napkins or order tabs from coffee shops/bars/brew pubs/restaurants, etc. that I haven’t yet been to: what’s on the menu, who goes there, what’s the place like?
-3 photographs from parts of the city that I don’t usually frequent: trying to identify something about the landscape or the people of Eugene that I don’t always notice.
-3 different church service bulletins: paying attention to the congregation, the liturgy, and the architecture.
-1 wrapper from a snack that I’ve discovered in Eugene.

The trips
-a hike to the top of Spencer’s Butte (this is the big butte at the south end of town, not the baby butte I live on downtown).
-a ride on the bus, from one end of a route to another (I have free bus access but because the city’s is so bikeable, I’ve never ridden the bus here–which is an odd experience for me)
-a drive to the coast (I hear the sea stacks are amazing, but I’ve never seen the Pacific south of the border with Washington)
-a dip in the hot springs in the mountains (clothing optional–but I think I’ll bring a suit for this one)

The events:
-a sports event: I managed to get to one Ducks football game, but I think I should go to some kind of running event since this is Tracktown, USA.
-a symphony concert
-a neighborhood association meeting

That’s all for now, but I’m sure I’ll add to this in the future. There have to be some interesting museums here…

The Gellert Hill of Eugene

One of the difficulties of grad school has been getting used to living in Eugene. It’s a nice little town, really it is, but it’s quite a bit smaller than the cities I know, and it seems like most everyone I meet is fairly similar: white, outdoorsy, economically secure, and usually associated with the university somehow. Last quarter I let myself imagine that Eugene is monotonous, and I found myself longing for Washington, Michigan, Oxford, Budapest, anywhere! I had all kinds of complaints: you can’t even see the mountains! I can’t walk to a grocery store! Everything smells like marijuana! This quarter, I decided to enjoy the place for what it is, and on my first weekend back I went for a walk, and something clicked.

It turns out that all this time I’ve been living a five-minute walk from a gorgeous view of the city. Skinner’s Butte, which my neighborhood is named after, is a short jaunt through some cedar woods, and on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I felt like I was wandering up a miniature version of Gellert Hill, the Budapestian landmark that I frequently wandered around on when I studied in Hungary.

Looking south over Eugene

It’s nothing spectacular, but on a clear day, you can see snow-covered peaks up there, and it’s enough to remind me that Oregon has plenty of charm if I just get a little perspective.

So as I thought about Budapest, I got an idea. The professor who facilitated that semester gave us a great set of journaling assignments to complete in Budapest and other cities we visited, and I decided to replicate something like that for Eugene. I’ll give myself a series of assignments: coffee shops  and restaurants to visit, church services to attend, places to go people watch, concerts and sports events to attend—this is Tracktown after all. And even though I’m swamped, I’ll try to take a little time to write about it all so that when I eventually leave this place, I’ll have something to remember it by.

Topophilia does’t always come easily; sometimes you have to work to love a place. But I know one thing, school can be miserable enough, and there’s too much to love about Oregon to let myself be miserable about it as well.

Frosted leaves on the trail to the top of the butte

(I guess it’s worth mentioning that I don’t actually find school miserable very often; it’s fun most of the time, and sometimes it’s downright thrilling.)

Song for a Tuesday

Tuesdays are the worst, and today I had a pedagogical fail. You guys, teaching is so hard! The best I can do to pick myself up off the floor is listen to Belle Brigade on repeat.

Thankfully, Oregon’s laid back citizens are teaching me lessons that were skipped in my totally depraved Calvinist early education, and I am at least learning to forgive myself.