Saturday, September 23, 2006

settling down in chi-town

I'm back in Hyde Park, Chicago, where I attend The University of Chicago. Due to my treatment this past year, I had to take a medical leave of absence, but now I'm here and getting ready to begin the second and final year of my M.A. program in Middle Eastern Studies.

I've been asked how I feel about being back in school. I think I can best answer that question by replying that I'm starting this academic year with few expectations at the moment, which is one way in which it differs from my first year here. At the moment at least, I'm just trying to place one foot in front of the other slowing progressing forward and in the process keeping my mind and heart open willing to see what comes along as I move forward. I'm very aware that I must submit a thesis during the spring quarter in order to graduate, but other than that important requirement there isn't anything (at least right now) that stands out sharply as of huge significance. I'm sure my relaxed attitude at the moment is in part because I'm not sure what career I want to go into afterwards. All is very porous for me at the moment.

On Thursday I registered for classes for the Fall Quarter: High-Intermediate Modern Standard Arabic (ARAB 30201), North Africa: Late Antiquity-Islam (HIST 35701), and Ottoman World/Suleyman the Magnificient (HIST 78201). The Arabic course that I signed up for is the natural successor to the second year Arabic course that I took during my first year. Other language courses are available, but I thought it best that I continue along the same road that I have been transversing. It's a three quarter course, so that means that I'll be taking it each quarter: Fall, Winter, and Spring. Consequently, my language of study for this final year is set now but the other courses that I select to fill up my schedule are open. After registering on Thursday, I reviewed the course booklet once again and came upon a history course titled, "History of Israel-Arab Conflict" (HIST 35902). I overlooked this course when I first looked at that courses offered this quarter. Now I'm thinking that I may drop the seminar on the Ottoman World/Suleyman for this one. Although the Ottoman Empire course sounds very interesting, I know less about the complexity of the Israeli-Arab crisis than I should know and I think since it's the most studied and fought over issue in international affairs (besides Iraq and the War on Terror) it's probably the more "practical" course to take. We'll see. I'll attend the first meeting of HIST 35902 on Tuesday and see how I feel.

During this final year, I must write a thesis totaling 35-50 pages. I have some ideas about what I may write about but nothing more. I had hoped to do a little research during the summer, but that didn't work out. Next quarter, I'll take what is called a thesis prep. course, which isn't a class at all. It's simply open space in one's schedule that allows the student to research their thesis ideas/topic.

I arrived here on Monday morning from LaGuardia and ever since then, I have quite busy getting my place organized and in working order. The foremost reason for selecting the residential building that I live in is because it's only a block from the closest commerical strip and then, only about four blocks from the next closest commerical area. So, for someone such as myself who doesn't have a car the location is ideal. And it's about six to seven blocks from campus. Since Monday, several times each day I have gone back and forth to the nearby stores, such as Walgreens, Ace Hardware, the Dollar Store, and the Co-op Supermarket, carrying bags full of groceries and the necessary supplies for my studio apartment. But I'm happy to say that all is in place now and ready for the rigors of the academic year to come.

My place is quite comfortable. It's cozy enough for one individual. I must admit that it feels empowering to have my own little place, where I'm responsible for everything that takes place inside it and where I have the freedom to do as I like. There isn't much flare in terms of decoration or arrangement. It's quite simple. I put up a few posters from home and bought two incense candles for relaxation, but that's about it. I don't have a TV, which I think is a good idea. Knowing myself, it would be a major distraction. Many times for me, the Internet is a big enough vacuum of misused time and energy anyway. I can watch DVDs on my labtop, play video games, listen to the radio and music, and watch certain news broadcasts. I think that's good enough, although I know the baseball postseason will begin soon during which time I'll be very eager to watch the Yankees play. Rather than having my folks send me our small TV from home or buying a cheap one here, I think I may purchase a pass for watching live online coverage of the playoffs on my computer.

I photographed a few shots of my place before sitting down to compose this post. The poster titled, "Milano" is the poster which Clare gave me while I was in the hospital undergoing the transplant and which adorned the wall in my hospital room across from my bed. I found the image but most importantly its romantic words very inspiring during my hospital stay and thus, thought it'd be great to bring along to Chicago. Addressing the city Milan, the poster reads, "I am vacationing amdist your bricks and fog. I relax in the Cathedral Square. Words, not stars, illuminate each night. There is nothing more relaxing in life than life itself." The very last photograph is of a poster that I received from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation after I was notified of my selection as a grant recipient. This poster had been tucked away in the dark for at least a year. I had forgotten all about it. (I used to be an avid collector of posters by the way, but stopped some time ago.) But in preparing for Chicago and pondering over how I'd decorate the walls of my studio, I rediscovered this small poster which brought back a bit of nostalgia. I thought it'd be a nice addition to my place.

Before settling down, I thought I'd have the time and energy to visit a museum or two before Monday. I have the time. I could, indeed, check out a place today or tomorrow, but I don't really have the necessary energy. I'm a little tired of running around the neighborhood, which I have been doing daily since arriving here. So I have decided at least for today that I'll stay in and work on a few things. I want to work on my blog a bit, email a few friends, and cleanup my labtop. I have a habit of placing saved articles and notes all over my desktop haphazardly. With classes starting Monday, it would helpful if I take care of the disorder now while I have time.


Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW the apt looks fantastic and so well organized and quaint.
Enjoy every minute of it and all the best with the start of classes and an exciting year which you certainly deserve!

8:52 AM  
Comment Blogger Duane said...

Thanks Eileen. Yes, my place is quite spiffy at moment. I just hope that in a month's time when I'm up saturated in work that it will still be so clean and neat.

9:50 AM  

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