Sin Logica

Or, how I uprooted my life and moved to Spain to get my MBA in Spanish (and eat lots of jamon)

Farewell, but not goodbye! July 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crystalbrooke @ 11:45 pm

Well, now that I’ve finally arrived in Portland, I think it’s safe to say that the business school adventure has officially come to a close. Which is to say, I won’t be maintaining this blog anymore. However, now that I’ve been bitten by the blogging bug, I’ll simply be blogging on a different page about different subject matter. In fact, I’m pretty sure that anyone who knows me can guess the subject of my next blog — that’s right, I’ll be writing about living in Portland as a grown-up, and of course, I’ll specifically be focusing on learning about beer! You can follow my exploits in Portland at

Cheers, and hope to see you over there!!!



DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! July 9, 2009

Filed under: B-school — crystalbrooke @ 2:59 pm

This morning, I took my final exam for my final class of my final term of the MBA. HOORAAAAAAY!!!

Nearly 24 months, three continents, three cities, a hundred identity crises, several failed classes, dozens of amazing new friends, $120,000 and a virtual lifetime later — I FINISHED MY MBA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (A little strange, I know — given that I graduated in April, so it feels a bit… Anti-climactic? Maybe? But only a bit!)

These last two years have been, without question, the best two years of my life. It’s been a roller coaster, and I still doubt my own judgment in choosing to do an MBA (instead of studying, say, Education? Journalism? Spanish?), but the experience has been amazing. I’ve never doubted myself so much, never had to dig so deep, never been so frustrated and so stretched. I’ve also never laughed so loud, partied so hard, learned so much, or reached so far. As a result, I feel more resilient, more humble and, actually, more professional (turns out I may have actually learned a few things along the way! weird!).

The highlight reel, in no particular order:

– AMAZING new friends! Matt, Blanca, Benj, Dan, Megan, David, Leo, Guille, Nicole, Brian, Aimee, Graci, Christopher, los Klose, los Gonzales, Brooke, Kelly, Tonni, Camilo, Heather… The list goes on and on!!!

– Visits from AMAZING old friends and family! Paddy N, Aimee, Becky and Ben, Laura and Sean, Kim and Marijn (who got engaged when they came to visit!!), Mary and Doug, Will, my parents, Jessey and Aaron — ALL awesome!

– Speaking of AMAZING old friends: in the course of these insane 24 months, I also FINALLY figured out that, duh, the love of my life is also one of my very dearest friends. Don’t know how I missed it, but turns out I’m madly in love with the guy. Who knew?

– Trips! Dublin with Aimee, Sevilla with Matt, Blanca and Ben, San Sebastian with Megan, Munich with Will and J&L, PR for Guille’s wedding with los Tompkins and los Klose, London twice! (about to make that three times!), Portland at Christmas both years, the Beach House with Micah, Boston for 4th of July AND my birthday last year, Andorra for skiing, LA for Jen and Laurent’s wedding, DC in February, Kruger Park with Megan and David… Wow! What an incredible couple of years, just for traveling!

– Living in Barcelona with Raul again, in el Gotico!

– Really living in Brooklyn with my tremendous family and realizing how awesome that is. Brooklyn rocks my world. Also, all that family time was priceless — family dinners, soccer games, movie nights, birthday parties, millions of great conversations… If it weren’t for the aforementioned love of my life, I’m pretty sure I’d be heading back to the basement in Brooklyn!

– Friday night dinners!

– Passing Finance on the first try. Passing Corporate Law on the first try. Social Entrepreneurship. Global Economics. Leadership, Power and Influence. Never having to take another accounting course ever again. Ever. The DGDW conference. Studying all night for finance with Guille and then walking all the way home at midnight.

– Hours and hours and hours at the MBPoW and the fabulous cheap tapas place (pescaitos fritos… mmm…).

– Working for the most prestigious bank in the world and making some cash for six months last year. While the work itself is not for me, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

– The last six months, while strange in some ways, have been an amazing time to relax, rejuvenate, kick Operation MM(f)PF into gear (15lbs down! woot!), and attempt to re-focus (yeah, still working on that…).

– Graduation. What an amazing, special week with my folks and Mary and Doug, and an incredible time to meet the families of my friends.

– Living in South Africa for three months. When will I ever have a chance to do THIS again??

– Testing my personal boundaries, limits, comfort zone and intellectual capacity.

Anyway, wow, I’m sure I could go on, because I’m sure I’m leaving out TONS of important, memorable things — but obviously, it’s been a very intense two years. I’m sad it’s over, terrified of the all too present future, and ready to move on to the next phase of my life. I have NO idea what the coming weeks and months will bring, other than a lot of joyful reunions with family and friends, starting in London next week, progressing to NY and finally back to Portland, my new home! I’m going to take the next few days to feel excited about this accomplishment and ignore the fact that now that I’m done with my MBA what I REALLY am is unemployed — because for the moment? I’m just EXCITED (ahem, Laura and Sean).

And? I’m DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m done I’m done I’m DONE!!!!!!!!!!!


Detox-retox-retox-detox… June 29, 2009

Filed under: Adventures in weight loss — crystalbrooke @ 4:49 pm

As predicted, I did NOT make it for a whole week on the uber-punishing maple syrup lemonade detox. My heart simply was not in it. However, I DID make it through two days of the stuff, and then transitioned into three days of only eating fresh fruit and steamed veggies (no seasoning, no olive oil, no nothin’! — that’s commitment!). Much as I love my veggies, I was pretty burned out on steamed zucchini at the end of three days — but I DO feel good about leaving the caffeine behind (ugh, again…), and I do feel detoxed. Er, rather, I DID, until I, once again, found myself making those damn carrot cake muffins! I can’t stop! It’s a compulsion! I must must must perfect the recipe, and I simply haven’t been satisfied yet. Also? Jon, my Cape Town GBF, has been around a ton since his hubby is away for several weeks. Which means: certain debauchery (read: going over my calorie limit and also indulging in a glass or two of wine) and rabble-rousing (read: laughing so loudly that it’s almost embarrassing). He’s fabulous for my soul, but not so much for the ol’ diet. And oh gawd, and don’t even get me started on Sarah’s baking projects this last week (for her mother’s birthday). I’ll just say that it ALL adds up to potential ruination, and goes totally counter to the spirit of the detox — but, as Laura will likely argue, binging is nearly inevitable after sustained deprivation.

Having spent the last two months dieting and detoxing, my conclusion is that dieting, my friends, is freaking HARD. I looooove food. Love it. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, dessert dessert dessert… And also? You KNOW I love my beer and bubbly — neither of which is tremendously diet-friendly. LAME! In addition, I loooooove my coffee — but it, I must report, does NOT love me. Every time I give up coffee I remember how good it feels to be caffeine-free: I can wake up all on my own, I feel more focused, less jittery, more even in general. However, having spoken to both my honey and Miss Laura in Boston (soon to be in Walla Walla!), I was met with rather fierce resistance to the idea of giving up the stuff. The verdict seems to be that, no no no, we do NOT drink decaf! Decaf is for losers, wimps and old ladies.

But why?? Surely it’s unhealthy to be so leashed to coffee that I get severe, crippling headaches (and yep, have even been known to vomit…) if I don’t have it. That just can’t be right. Furthermore, I’m fairly convinced that caffeine exacerbates my already outrageous ADD. Going off the stuff always always always feels GOOD. Really, really good. Independent-spirited girl that I am, I like being free of my most demanding addiction.

But, well… There’s always a but, isn’t there? And it’s this: I freaking love the stuff. I love that the idea of having a cup of coffee is the carrot that lures me out of bed in the morning. I love the ritual of making the coffee — the teasing smell as I wait those twitchy four minutes until I can push the plunger down. I even like the way my soy milk swirls and changes the color of the stuff. (Before the diet? The swirls of half and half sinking to the bottom of my cup…) I love sitting down with my hot cup of coffee and checking my email — talking to no one, just me and my ritual. This ritual describes how I most like to start my day. So what do I do now? Well, I’ve started substituting herbal tea — which is lovely, but the ritual isn’t nearly as satisfying. And I’m sorry, nothing tastes like “wake up, woman!” the way that a delicious cup of freshly brewed coffee does. So… what? I’ve been toying with the idea of making soy chai lattes at home — but then, crap, am I really THAT girl? The “no, I don’t drink coffee, I’ll have a chai latte made with soy milk, please” girl? Should I trade in my boots for Birks and my cashmere for fleece and just BE that girl? Really? Or do I quietly, shamefully, in an embarrassed whisper, start ordering decaf in coffee shops? Start brewing it at home? What is it about that that feels like… giving up? Giving in to getting (gasp!) old? My 80 year old grandmother still drinks a pot of coffee a day — surely I can’t be the wimpy granddaughter with my own pathetic little press on the side for decaf? For shame!!!! What’s a girl to do??

Inevitably, I ALWAYS go back on the stuff. Always. Every time I give it up, a month goes by, and I start sloooowly slowly letting that delicious drink start wriggling its way back into my good graces. And before I even know I’ve done it, it’s sayonara herbal tea, hola cafe con leche, and I’m right back where I started. Vicious, vicious cycle!

Adding insult to injury, I’m about to move to one of the greatest coffee cities on the planet, and no self-respecting coffee worshiper (such as myself) REALLY does a permanent dive into the dreaded world of decaf in THAT city! I mean, sure, after dinner sometimes, MAYBE, but… I am not a wimp, I am not a loser (er, let’s hope…), and I am NOT an old lady! And crap, my grandmother, the 80-year-old one, IS an old lady, and SHE doesn’t even drink decaf! Ugh. It is a conundrum, to be sure, and easily the hardest part of any detox for me.

Needless to say, the detox is over, and I do feel healthier, but… Why do I feel like I may have won the battle, but I’m nowhere near winning the war?


Detox, part deux June 19, 2009

Filed under: Adventures in weight loss,musings — crystalbrooke @ 6:02 pm

For some reason, I’ve convinced myself that it’s a GOOD idea to do the super duper detox again — you know, the maple-syrup-lemonade no-food-for-days one. The same detox that, last summer, made me violently ill for the first couple of days, and let’s not even discuss how ill I was after. But somehow, in my get-fit mania, I’ve convinced myself that this is a good idea — I’m so intent on getting healthy, I should do a cleanse, too, right?? Right. And, as luck would have it, my roommate is also interested in this cleanse, so we’re doing it together. The plan is to just do a week, though (not 10 days), since we both have plans that we don’t want to cancel next weekend (that involve eating and drinking, clearly).

I must admit, today is day 1, and my willpower is not what it was when I did this last year. I’m hungry. I’m spacey. I feel mostly good about the choices I’ve been making with food/drink lately (um, except my bizarre compulsion to make carrot cakes…), which might make a detox seem less necessary. I’m dreading the potential migraine tomorrow after 48 hours caffeine free. But still, I don’t know, the idea of a detox is appealing. I’m so stressed out about finding a job and have just been channeling that energy into getting healthy and ignoring the job search. So, I figure a little, erm, taking out of the garbage?, can’t hurt — as though, I don’t know, it’ll help to re-focus me. Plus, I’m not even doing the whole 10 days, so it can’t be THAT bad, right? Right??

But as I’ve said, my willpower is NOT what it was, so we’ll see if I can make it through the whole week. Maybe 4-5 days would be enough… Although, that’s probably not the BEST mentality to have as I kick this thing off… Well, we shall see.


Counting down, once again June 17, 2009

Filed under: Cape Town,musings — crystalbrooke @ 10:52 am

It seems I have just four weeks left in South Africa. Wow. I still feel like I’m getting acclimated here, and it’s swiftly approaching time again for me to leave. Typically, with this realization I am spiraling into a giant freak-out about What Comes Next. On Saturday, I damn near worked myself into a full blown panic attack when I realized that there are soooooo many more jobs in SF and Seattle than in Portland. Which means, of course, that the responsible thing to do would be to expand my job search. I’ve put my heart and soul into this degree, and should try to get as much benefit from it as possible. However, the mere thought of continuing to be in a long distance relationship with my awesome honey makes me feel like there’s an elephant sitting on my chest; I really, really want (need??) to be where he is. So now I’m back to the drawing board with my business plan, and I think I have a really good idea, BUT — I haven’t yet figured out how to make it profitable enough to live on. It’s still beer, just not a shop (yet!!).

Of course, What Comes Next is terrifying for a plethora of reasons — mostly having to do with uncertainty, and a lot of scary, unanswered questions. No matter how sure I feel about my relationship (and I feel pretty damn sure — 10 years of being best friends is an unbeatable foundation!) it still feels like a gamble to move halfway around the world to be with someone, especially given that I’m launching myself into an incredible sketchy job market. It’s a strange thing to be SO sure about Micah, and do terribly UN-sure about, well, EVERYTHING else.

However, I do have four weeks left in South Africa, and there are a LOT of things I should do before I go. My housemate and I are going to do a half Master Cleanse this week (so just 5 days, starting on Friday — which is to say, AFTER my dreaded finance mid-term), and then we have plans to do some hiking up Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, since I haven’t done that yet. There are restaurants I want to try before I go, too, and probably a fair amount of touristy type stuff to do. Which means, I think, that the next four weeks are going to FLY by. Then it’s off to London to hang out with my awesome “family” there, and then… Back to the US! (Um, provided that prices become reasonable. Wow, yeah, flights are CRAZY expensive right now.)

So, yeah, four weeks and counting!!


Passionate about…? June 4, 2009

Filed under: B-school,musings — crystalbrooke @ 7:35 pm

As I was a-jigglin’ away on the elliptical yesterday, my mind wandered to my least favorite thing to think about (um, besides the jigglin’ arms, jigglin’ booty, jigglin’ belly… ah, but I digress) — The Job Search.

Ooooh, The Job Search. Two years later, I feel no closer to knowing what I want to do with this fancy, expensive degree o’ mine. What have I considered up to now? Well, it began with the green spa, then it was HR type stuff, the it was anything at all, as long as it’s in Europe, then I got on to social enterprise, then the beer shop, and now? Now, I’m just confused. Which is awesome, because one month from now, I’m unemployed, and two months from now, I’m unemployed and living with my grandmother. Don’t get me wrong — I still looooove the idea of having a little beer shop to call my own, but have, for the time being, talked myself out of it (for cash flow reasons).

But yesterday, on the elliptical at the gym, I got to thinking about passion. All of these ideas about career have in common that they’re things I am, or I think I am, passionate about — ah, there’s the rub: things I THINK I’m passionate about. For example, I really, really love beer. So much that I’d like to make my living peddling the delicious, malty, hoppy stuff. However, since I’ve been in South Africa, I’ve been on a total hiatus from beer (since, as David will attest, the beer here is less than thrilling — like Spain, but without the oasis that is the MBPoW). And actually, it’s been okay to take a big break from the beer. In fact, I hardly miss it. So I have to wonder: am I so fickle? Out of sight, out of mind? I’m only passionate about beer if I can go down the street for it?

The question I came to (while simultaneously ellipto-sprinting my b-school weight away) is: what am I truly, consistently passionate about? Anything? Or am I so fickle that things totally come and go? (I think we know what I’m currently obsessing about — Operation MM(f)PF — when I should be obsessing about…? Um, exactly. Job search. And beer — writing that b-plan for beer. Which I am decidedly NOT doing.) I do, definitely, move through phases of obsessing about things, and I don’t want to make any career decisions based on what’s AWESOME for me today, because what’s AWESOME to me seems to vary with the seasons… And the sad thing is, I’m not even sure I know what I’m consistently passionate about. People, I guess — I never stop being excited about people, and being able to help them from time to time. Kids, definitely — I looooved working with kids, but I’m not sure I want to go back to that. Ummm… what else? Words? Language? I love to read/write/etc, and I’m pretty proud of my abilities with the ehSpanish. Consumables? (Food, beer, cava, etc…) Independence — is that something one can be passionate about? But are any of these things compatible with my post-MBA career possibilities? And are they even relevant?

Adding insult to injury, I’m not even sure it matters what I’m passionate about. The job market in Portland (like everywhere, I s’pose) has yet to show me ANYTHING that calls to me — in HR, in social enterprise, in a brewery, or in freaking Corporation X that offers me a reasonable wage to show up every day. Nearly everything I see requires 10+ years of experience and some further degree or qualification that I don’t have.  Oh, I mean, unless I want to paint houses, work in a call center, or go door to door for the Sierra Club.

But even if there were a million jobs available, I’m not convinced that I would be any more clear about what I want to do with this degree. It’s an awesome degree, and it was an amazing experience, but: I probably should have done my research a little better before I started, because I would have known what kinds of jobs people GET with an MBA. All the way through this degree, I have struggled and battled and fought with myself over the same question: what do I want to DO with the MBA? Coming to the end of it, I still don’t know. All I know is that I don’t want any kind of job like my summer job, I’d like to be as close to being my own boss as possible, I’d like to do a job I feel good about (as in, it’s socially responsible, it makes a difference, it somehow makes the world or at least a few people’s lives better), and I’d really, really like to be passionate about it. Sooo… I guess I need to figure out what that means.


Operation MM(f)PF — goes global? May 29, 2009

Filed under: Adventures in weight loss — crystalbrooke @ 10:09 am

I’m a month in to my most recent get-fit-lose-b-school-weight regimen, and I’m happy to report that, though not as quickly as I’d like, I am making progress. To date, I’m at least 2kg down, and definitely feeling generally leaner and stronger. It’s been pretty challenging to keep within the 1600 cal/day limit, especially given that this beautiful country is full of incredible, affordable wines, and I definitely don’t always feel motivated to go to the gym EVERY day (I do, though — I’m afraid if I miss for a second, I’ll lose my momentum and be back in Fat Pants City within 24 hours…). However, I’ve been sticking pretty faithfully to my goals and lifestyle adjustments, and yeah, I also think that the distance from the MBPoW has been absolutely critical to my success — I can literally count on one hand the number of beers I’ve had since I started this project. Whoa. Talk about a lifestyle change!!

But here’s the thing — every time I recount to someone the trials, tribulations, and varied humiliations that go along with this project (28.75% body fat? REALLY?? — and let’s not even TALK about the mortifying arm jiggle that accompanies every freaking shoulder exercise I do, ugh — my roommate here calls them “Bingo Wings,” which is only hilarious until I see my own wings jiggling away in one of my gym’s nine million mirrors, and then it just makes me really, really sad), they invariably tell me that they feel inspired to get started as well. I have a girlfriend here in CT who’s planning to join a gym, I’ve got my roommate thinking about calories (taking a page out of Lauren’s book, when she kicked my a** so hard 3 summers ago!!), and Laura in Boston, Megan in NC, and Stella in MN are all threatening to start their very own MM(f)PF personal revolutions. Which, of course, I think is totally awesome.

What’s funny about this is that all I ever say is the same thing — this is hard, my body hates me, I miss pizza and beer, I was humiliated for xyz reason at the gym today, etc. But behind all of that, I guess my message gets somehow translated to: DO IT!! (Really? All my whining and complaining doesn’t just put you off and send you right back to the bar??)

Of course, as we know, I have a notorious problem with say/do ratio — I mean, how long have I been complaining about my pants NOT fitting?? (Um, yeah, that’s still mostly true, even if I am feeling leaner and stronger. A** fat is stubborn, man!) And obviously, I can now enjoy a total surplus of free time that really, really makes it easy to force my self to go to the gym (every. single. day.). But it took me the better part of a year to get really, really serious about this. And why? We KNOW I had the time in Spain, even if not in NY. And even in NY, I could (COULD!) have made it a priority (in fact, I still have a Bally’s membership in Brooklyn that I never ever used and that I keep forgetting to cancel — oops!!). But no. It’s much easier to whine, complain, bemoan an ever-diminishing wardrobe (due to an inability to FIT any of the clothing presently owned), and then have a second serving of pasta with cream sauce and another freaking beer. (Obviously, most of us LOVE the Path of Least Resistance, and I’m no exception!!) What it finally took for me to get serious was that even my so-called Fat Pants were on the cusp of not fitting, and I thought, wow, okay, I’ve let this go too far. Enough is enough, dammit!!

However, I know from my conversations with friends that I am far from alone in my frustrations with myself and my current state of fitness (um, lack thereof). My proposal is this: let’s set some collective goals for, what?, the end of the year? I mean, I’d LOVE to be bikini ready by the time I get back to the US, but, erm… Yeah. My trainer told me that it would be pretty unrealistic to drop from 28.75% to 20% body fat in just about 10 weeks, so… That’s not going to happen. But it could happen by, I don’t know, December? I hope?

Oh, and to any potential nay-sayers, let me just say: really, this is about feeling good and comfortable in my body. I don’t like to be squishy and pudgy and out of shape. As Megan would say, I don’t like to put on my favorite pair of jeans and feel like a stuffed sausage! So yeah, fine, women are always under a lot of pressure to be leaner, skinnier, more perfect, blah blah blah. But I think we can agree that MOST women (maybe all of them?) really, really like it when their favorite pair of jeans look kickass on their asses, right? And THAT is what I’m talking about. (My Citizens jeans, specifically, haven’t fit for about 2 years. And they’re my favorite and I love them and they WILL fit again!!)

Anyway, never fear, non-OMM(f)PF-participants. I am NOT going to convert Sin Logica into a weight loss blog, even if it is ALL I’m really thinking about at the moment (um, yeah — I think we know that I have a tendency to obsess… I can’t tell you how many times a day I think about how many calories I’ve consumed… and actually, I’m hoping that goes away before it becomes a real sickness — plus, it just sort of makes me uninteresting, doesn’t it?). I will continue to chronicle, as ever, my life as a b-school student/exchange student/etc.

Alright, so: who’s in? Who has a kickass, lose-that-ass, make-my-EFFING-pants-fit fitness goal to meet by the end of the year? And how are you going to do it? (Obviously, I won’t be able to keep up this personal trainer business for much longer. I love it, but man, even in SA it’s just not sustainably affordable…) And I’d love to hear some purple-faced, man-this-sucks anecdotes from those of you who are participating, because if we can’t laugh at this process, well… I think we’ll probably just cry.