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defying gravity
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Turtle

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May 23rd, 2007

Host family!!

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I got my host family today!!! They live right outside Riga, in a very small town. It looks really pretty. I have a mom, a dad and a sister and brother. I'm calling everyone I know, telling them. This is amazing!

May 22nd, 2007

Further Memorable Moments

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I add to my list these gems.
6. From a Facebook conversation
Eric: "I told your dad before that we had better pick you up fast or you would run off with one of those VMI cadets!"
Me: "oh lord, did you really? You two are just full of laughs, aren't you?"
Me: "Between that and having to shoot poor McDowell so that I could read Ghost Cadet..."
All of which I will now have to explain to Robert.

May 21st, 2007

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little things that don't fit in anywhere else, but that I would like to remember.
1. The stories about that crazy guy who used to reenact with the 3rd. Gary Greasemeyer, the rocket scientist. I'm not making this up- he worked on missiles ("Every time I hear of a rocket misfiring, I think, 'That's a Greasemeyer missile'".) He is famous for nearly attacking a college football player with a bayonet, for getting upset when they wouldn't let him wear a sword with his chaplain's uniform and for discovering a cheap canned turkey dish at the grocery which he ate for weeks before someone realized it was dog food.
2. Dad and Eric, during Sunday's battle. This was the actual reenactment of the battle of New Market, and our guys found themselves facing off against my heroes, the Cadets. Eric, good friend that he is, called through the noise to my dad, "Let's get in a good shot at those guys for Becca." It cracked me up when he told me about it, and I pondered aloud whether that might not be contrary to my ideals. Dad then felt compelled to point out that 'If we don't wound Hugh McDowell, he can't hide the watch under the wheelwright shop before he dies.' This, a reference to the book Ghost Cadet, in which McDowell returns after his death to find said watch.
3. Farby Barbie. In reenacting, 'farby' is a term used to classify things going on which do not fit with the time period. Women in uniform isn't farby if done right- that confederate lady with her hair done and makeup on, in addition to her confederate uniform, was farby. So was that girl walking around in the sleeveless red dress, looking like she was selling something illegal. (Kim: "I don't care if your sweetheart is a New Market Cadet, you can't do that." I thought, "I care if he is!") The girl in a period dress and sneakers was farby. All the women in uniform who obviously did their hair are farby. (It ought to be hidden.)
4. Talking politics at the reenactment. We sat around talking about the Iraq war and foreign policy over lunch on Sunday, and I caught myself thinking, "But I know everyone's politics! We're all pro-union here." As everyone was discussing whether it was fair of other nations to ask us to police the world, I wanted to add "Especially with the trouble we've been having with the secession" but I didn't.
5. Eric humming 'Kingdom Coming," a really racist sounding little tune, thought it isn't really intended to make fun of any one group in particular. Rather, it makes fun of everybody, but is incredibly un-PC

May 20th, 2007

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I promised I would write about the battle seperately, and I am, to satisfy myself. I'm looking forward to reliving it in writing.
Sunday afternoon, I walked down to the battlefield about half an hour early, and was lucky enough to catch a ceremony done by some of the VMI cadets. It seems that one of the Alumni found a shell on the battlefield which is believed to have been fired by the cadet battery under the command of Cadet Captain Collier Minge. (This is a big deal for me.)
When that was done, I went down to the field between the Hall of Valor and the Bushong farm and positioned myself flat against the fence for a good view, and waited impatiently for the battle to start. There was no commentary, as their had been for the Tactical on Saturday, which was nice because I didn't need it and would have been annoyed by it.
The battle began with an artillary duel, a loud, smoky affair with our guys and their shooting back and forth with little apparent casualty. Then our guys advanced forward through the orchard to the fence along the wheelwright shop, where they positioned themselves. The rebs advanced across the field, exchanging volleys with our guys as they went. I was pretty close to where the men of the 3rd (our unit) were positioned, and I could see them pretty clearly. They retreated after a bit, and after having taken some pretty heavy casualties.
At this point, most of the spectators moved to watch the battle as the Union forces were driven back across the orchard into the field on the other side.
I didn't: instead, I stayed, anxiously awaiting the Cadets' charge. My waiting paid off as they advanced across the field, toward where I was standing.
Now,this is the only small problem I have with it- I don't know how they did casualties, but I know too much about this aspect of the battle, and I know they weren't doing them totally accurately. In fact, this is the only thing I noticed that I didn't find perfectly accurate. In reality, Cabell, Jones and Crockett were killed and Wise was wounded crossing this section of the field, and I'm sure there were other casualties taken here as well. Stanard and McDowell, among others, were shot around the Bushong house, and Atwill, Haynes and Wheelwright were killed at the edge of the orchard. In the reenactment, to put it bluntly, they didn't die in the right places. There may well be a rationale for this, though- I don't happen to be privy to that knowledge.
Anyway, they marched across the field and past the wheelwright shop, then around the far side of the Bushong house, since the fence and spectators prevented their splitting, and sending two companies around each side, as was done during the battle.
From my vantage point on the fence, I had been able to see everything. Now, as they rounded the house, I took off running along the street, afraid I would miss something. I didn't, though I nearly ran into a couple of spectators, and caught up with the cadets in the orchard. I stood against another fence, watching them and wondering if they noticed I was following them. They may have- I think I got a couple looks. I mean, there's this girl in period clothes who just happens to be standing as near the cadets as possible- it's not just happenstance.
They paused for a few minutes in the orchard before recieving orders to move forward, which they did and were positioned at the fence. I stopped there, of course, maneuvering around spectators to get the best view possible. It was okay, but they were firing pretty heavily and so the air smelled sulferous.
They moved forward after several minutes, and I had to run to keep up. I couldn't lift my skirts too high, but I ran as fast as I could down the fence, my bonnet having flown off my head and hung around my neck, dodging spectators and turning every second or so to watch the cadets. I finally stopped, next to the Alumnus who had found the shell fired by the Cadets' battery, and pressed myself to the fence, in throes of excitement. I think he thought I was nuts, or overromantic about the cadets.
This was one of my favorite parts- where the Cadets capture a Union cannon. This they did to my great delight- they rushed forward and surrounded a cannon, the color bearer climbing up onto it in his best Oliver Evans. Evans was the extremely tall VMI color bearer at the time of the battle. When the cannon was captured, he climbed up on top of it, waving the flag, until friends persuaded him to get down, that it wasn't safe. The crowd was encouraged to recognize the Cadets, and I was the only one who applauded, but oh well- most people don't have my background with the topic.
And what is that background? Well, I've been doing research on them for nearly a decade. Ever since I read the novel 'Ghost Cadet', about Hugh McDowell returning as a ghost to search for a lost family heirloom, I've wanted to know more and more. I'm planning on going to VMI this summer to use their archives, and pay homage to the cadets who died at New Market and are buried at Lexington, under Moses Ezekial's statue 'Virginia Mourning Her Dead'. They are my heroes, pure and simple. I haven't overromanticized them or what they did, but I admire them very, very deeply.
Being at New Market this weekend was a spiritual experience. To be in this place where my heroes lived, earned their fame and, in some cases, died, was an honor. That's how I feel every time I visit, honored to be able to occupy the same land they did, and honored to honor them by remembering them, and hopefully by passing on what I know so that others will honor them the way I do.
To feel as close to them as I feel at New Market, as I couldn't feel any other place on earth, is an amazing, exhilarating feeling. I look forward to next time.

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The reenactment was amazing. Just... really really great. So great, in fact, that I don't know where to start. Perhaps at the beginning.
I got home from school on friday and got into my dress and petticoats and went to pick Eric up so he could come with us. As luck would have it, it was raining heavily down there, and so, though the rain had let up, the fields were soaked and after a trip to the car for our stuff, I had to dump water out of my boots. (They're canvas- they soaked immediately) We set up our tents and crawled in to try and get warm. I held my tights to the side of my lantern until they steamed, trying to dry them, and then laid out my wet things and hoped they would dry overnight.
Sleeping on the ground isn't completely comfortable, but it was okay. Mostly it was the idea that I was sleeping on the battlefield, on what I basically consider holy ground. Despite being cold and wet, I went to sleep happy and woke up happy.
The next morning (Saturday) my shoes, tights and the hem of my dress were still soaked. We were a seriously wet group of reenactors. We got up and stood around the fire, trying to stay warm and dry, through breakfast to the first drill session. While the men drilled, the women went to the sutlers to shop, and so I got to look around at the different sutlers who were there, as well as buy a pair of stockings and garters. Afterward, Leslie and I walked down to registration so I could pay the registration fee for Dad, Eric, and I, and then to the bathroom so I could change into my dry stockings.
The guys drilled all morning, then went off on a seemingly useless march, came back in time for lunch. Early in the afternoon, the ladies went back to the sutler's to buy me a bonnet, which I needed to keep the sun off my face. I found a very nice green and white one, a slat bonnet, but with short slats because the longer ones give you tunnel vision.
There was a tactical battle that afternoon. Your average battle is scripted, as the battle actually went, but a tactical is made up by the officers on the spot. Our guys won, but I didn't watch because I was in the Hall of Valor looking around (worshipping?) and watching 'Field of Lost Shoes'. That is a really well done movie- I find an error or two, but only really minor things. It's one of my favorites.
Anyway, I went to sleep early (migraine) and slept very soundly until Sunday morning, when things got really great. I woke up to Reville at six, though we didn't have to get up until seven. The idiot bugler of the 2nd decided six was more appropriate, so my first through upon waking was "Somebody shoot the damn bugler." That didn't happen, of course, and I re-awoke later to 'Peas Upon a Trencher' which is the call to breakfast. That was pancakes, and very greasy bacon, and afterward the guys drilled some more and the ladies walked again to the sutler.
Morning passed quickly, and Dad, Eric and I spent some time shopping. I tried to find a book I don't already own, but I had no luck; what there is about New Market, I already have. There was lunch, then the battle. That's special enough to get an entry of it's own, which I will write later.
This weekend was so much fun, I can't get over it. The whole atmosphere is great- you've dropped right into the 1860's, and it feels right and everything. It's really escapist, also. There's a war on, but it'll be over by monday. Monday morning, I'll be sitting in the cafeteria, asking Eric whether he died Sunday during the battle (I forgot to ask today). But for a weekend, it didn't matter what else was going on. It was 1864 and all I had to worry about was the war, not much of a worry for us.
Also, it's funny how deeply we get into this. We can walk around as though there is no outside world, no trucks running down the highway and no technology better than the porta-john at the end of the company street and across the field. We worry about the fashions of the 1860's, completely ignoring any life outside our reenacting lives. We discussed how the spectators walk around in their short shorts and tank tops, and the reenacting guys don't bat an eye, but when a reenacting lady shows her ankle, it's scandal.
This is one of my favorite things in the world- it's so much fun. I'm just sorry it's over.

May 14th, 2007

Ost Deutschland

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We had the strangest German class today. I'm still kind of freaked out by it. Normally, our class of 15 is pretty fun, very relaxed and easygoing. Our teacher is cool, and lets us goof off, and all that good stuff.
Today, I got to class and my teacher stopped me at the door and assigned me a seat. We haven't had assigned seats all year. In fact, everyone had an assigned seat, in groups we don't usually hang out in, so that we were separated from our friends. Then, there was a list of new rules on the board. Things like, 'There will be no leaving the room except in an emergency' and 'There will be no 'freewill' speaking' 'No speaking unless spoken to', that sort of thing, and there was a group point system where if you broke a rule your group got points off.
Our teacher seemed like he was in a really bad mood, to the point where we were wondering, to ourselves, what alien had taken over this person we usually like.
It was a freakish class. There was no smiling, everyone was subdued and kind of scared. The lights were off and nobody talked loudly or even talked much at all. Most of the questions were answered with 'I don't know'. Usually we talk about things, discussion style, but today HR (our teacher) just basically pumped us for answers. We were afraid to do anything wrong. So we sat and silently wondered how soon class would be over, and filled out our worksheet on the Berlin Wall.
Then, five minutes before the end of class, HR goes, "Just so you don't all go home mad at me... You've been the subject of a social experiment. This was East Germany. I was the Stazi, and I've been simulating what life might have been like. You didn't have free speech, you couldn't leave, you couldn't speak up without getting in trouble." And as we're sitting there stunned, really amazed, he starts grinning. He's like, "I've been wanting to do this for ages. My wife does this at her school." (She's a german teacher at a school across town.) And it kind of hit us that it was a cruel joke. (I'm stunned, now, but by tomorrow I'll think it was a cool idea. It really was a great demonstration.) Then we all started to kind of relax and admit how scared we had been. I was glad to know I wasn't the only one freaked out. My heart was beating really fast, and my head was spinning. It was a stressful hour.
But by tomorrow, it'll be a really cool story!

May 7th, 2007

AP

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So, I took my AP Bullshit test today. Sorry- AP government. Us Gov in the morning, and failed Comparative this afternoon. I left three out of eight of the essay questions blank. Ouch. Still, now that that's over I can concentrate on acing the German one, and English, too, since I'm not real worried about them.

May 6th, 2007

Something happier

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Well. This has been quite the weekend.
Friday was prom, which of course was really awesome. I ought to do what i did with the last picture and black my eyes out and put up a picture of myself from the dance.
We all met at my house, so my friends and I (and everyone's parents) stood around in my kitchen waiting for Cory and Julz, who were late because Cory was driving and he's always late for everything. We have pictures in all combinations, and I forced myself on poor Andrew so he wouldn't be alone in his picture. (I'm shocked he came, he's practically agoraphobic. He can barely make it to class without a breakdown.)
Robert had been afraid he wouldn't find a corsage (or as Annemarie kept saying, 'corset' because english isn't her first languate) so he bought me a necklace, which he gave me anyway. It was in one of those little boxes and he pulled it out of his pocket and opened it... and I realized everyone was staring at me. They thought he was proposing. It was actually fairly embarassing; my friends thought it was cute, but the parents were looking at us with 'oh my God' expressions on. It's a nice necklace, but no, I'm not getting married.
I had a migraine, of course, but I made it through the dance quite happily to fall asleep on Cory's couch and miss my friends making idiots of themselves. Myke will flirt with any and all girls, and Jackie will flirt with any and all single boys, so they were pretty embarassing all evening. I did what I could to avoid it.
When we all woke up, we went to IHOP and scattered our seperate ways. Eric came over after and we watched last weeks 'Office' and 'Sherman's March' which was an amazing documentary. When we finished, Dad tought him the Manual of Arms, in preparation for the New Market reenactment.
But this is really long, and that deserves an explaination of it's own, so perhaps tomorrow. (or perhaps not. But eventually.)

April 19th, 2007

Reporters...

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...have no souls. They've been camped outside my school for days, probably overnight. I have evidence for this, as I drove by recently, well after dark, to find them sitting outside in their directors chairs, like they're on the set of some fucking movie. "its like they think its a game or something. like a competition to see who can find the people that are hurting the most." that's exactly what it is. They're videotaping everyone they can find, and it's taking all my self restraint not to pull over and give them a very personal statement, no less than a piece of my mind, and tell them exactly what i think of their hanging around being voyeuristic bastards. They must be having a lot of fun with all this, everyone hurting like we are. This is complete bullshit. But since I don't care to get into trouble for assaulting asshole reporters, I'm on here, venting about it, and arguing on facebook. Great.

People are starting to come home, and they really look like they've been through it. Rob was standing outside the classroom where we were doing AP reviews, and we all walked out and said hello. He's usually a pretty fun guy, but he looked drained. So did Tommy, who is almost perpetually giddy. They lost two bandmates in this thing, which makes me really sad, as much as the girls from our school dying. I'm a band kid, and even though I don't always get along with my bandmates I spend enough time with them and know them well enough (willingly or not) to feel close to them. To lose one of them, no matter whether I was close to the person or not, would be absolute hell. Band isn't a cult; it's much more than that. It's a family.

I remember last year when our director died, how much that hurt. And as bad as that was, seeing my friends, people who are more like my family, hurting. So many of the people in the room that day were people who I had never seen angry, let alone so sad. And these people who never stop laughing were standing packed into the band room sobbing, and it felt like nothing would ever be the same again. So to see that the Tech band lost two musicians makes my heart break for them. It's like losing family, and nothing can replace them.

I just want everything to go back to normal. I spent my afternoon trying to read or listen to things that have nothing to do with the shootings. I actually woke up this morning to the word 'massacre' in a report on the radio. It was the first thing I thought about this morning, and it's going to be the last thing i think about before I go to sleep. I think I dreamed something about it. When this is over I will be so grateful...

April 18th, 2007

What is it about my school?

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The news came through today with the names of who had died yesterday. Two of the girls who died were from my school. Erin was on the basketball team with my brother's girlfriend, and Rema was one of the theatre kids- she was really talented.
They made an announcement this morning, first thing, that at least one and possibly two former students had been killed. Then, in seventh, they confirmed that both of them had died and told us who they were.
The shooter also graduated from my school, the year before I got there. As somebody in my German class pointed out, what is it with this school? Last year, a recent graduate murdered two police officers at the police station down the road, and now this guy. And earlier this year, a couple of kids from my sophmore gym class were arrested for armed robbery. Are we all nuts?
Stories are starting to come out about it, too. At lunch Tommy said a friend of his was in the German class that this guy was shooting into, the one that he left and came back to find they had barricaded the door. Tommy's friend said he lay down and pretended to be dead, hoping he wouldn't get shot, until the police came in and said for anyone who was alive to raise their hands so they could get them out. Tommy's friend raised his hand, but he didn't look around to see how many other people did too- that he didn't want to know.
So apparently not everybody I know is okay. It's kind of shocking to think about people my age being shot in school. Hearing about Columbine and stuff was bad, but it was removed, so it was okay. Now this is a school many of my friends are planning to go to, or already are attending. It's just about unbelieveable. I didn't know them personally, but they were the sort of people you heard about anyway, the kind of people who are involved in stuff and who everyone knows of, even if they don't know them. School was pretty subdued today, with most people a little bit in shock. Caitlin came in late, looking like a complete mess. Her boyfriend is alive, but she spent most of yesterday worrying about him. I got a call from Robert, too, late, saying that his friends are all right as well. One of my friends, Paul, who's at Tech, apparently slept through the whole thing. Some of the band girls who lived on the floor where the shooting was, in West AJ, were out of the dorm at the time. We'll probably be hearing stories about it for weeks, where everyone was and what they saw.
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