Staying Healthy Studying Abroad

“Am I Michael John Ciszewski yet?” Some time this fall, Caroline Hoenemeyer, one of my closest friends in the Theatre Arts program at Boston University, asked me this question. Before I could respond with grimace and disgust, “why the hell would you want that?,” I noticed she was showing me a 1.5 liter Poland Spring water bottle through which she was making her way. Caroline was not, in fact, attempting to Freaky Friday me into what she’d discover to be a most regrettable identity switch; rather, she was making a warm joke with a close friend. 

In recent years, I have developed a habit of occasionally purchasing and consuming a very large bottle of spring water, then refilling it relentlessly with tap water, as a means of staying hydrated and, thus, conscious of my health and fitness as one whose artistic instrument is his physical being. 

It is a good habit, a system I’ve found that works for me. Here in London, I have been grocery shopping at a chain called Sainsbury’s. Sainsbury’s is fabulous because Sainsbury’s offers (acceptable) quality groceries to its myriad customers for prices almost low enough to relieve me of the constant anxiety that living here on the current dollar-to-euro exchange rate will savagely bleed me dry financially! 

Curiously, Sainsbury’s does not sell the classic 1.5 liter Poland Spring water bottle to which I’ve grown so accustomed. Neither do all other purveyors of bottled spring water I’ve naturally prioritized visiting this early in my time abroad. In fact, I should’ve long ago realized 1.5 liters is a fairly peculiar volume, for I have discovered that Sainsbury’s and other fine bottled water retailers seem to sell large bottled water exclusively in volumes of one and two liters. 

Initially, this realization bedewed my brow with the panic sweat I have been warned was symptomatic of the ‘culture shock’ a virgin world traveler like myself so dreads. 

However, I am resilient. My mother raised me as such. I am of Greek heritage on my mother’s side, and the Greeks, I’ve been so indoctrinated, are resilient warriors who invented democracy and refuse to figure out how to successfully run an economy. My resilient Greek heritage also tends to overpower my Polish heritage on my father’s side, and that makes it all the more easy to overcome any Brand Queen tendencies I may have and abandon loyalty to the Poland Spring 1.5 liter bottle. 

I am also open to change. Living with three (various) straight men for the past three years of my life has taught me to be mildly flexible! 

Finally, I long ago decided my study abroad experience would prioritize my trying new things… and so I took a leap of faith and purchased Sainsbury’s own two liter bottled water!

I have a tendency to initially do very well with new stimuli. Three examples:

  1. I am told my own odiousness does not reveal itself till long after my first impression! 
  2. I am over-eager enough to seem warm in new work environments!
  3. I am always excited to try new things thanks to a competitive streak caused by a latent aggressive streak!

So there we were: Sainsbury’s brand “Caledonian still Scottish water,” me, myself, and I. Twist to screw off the cap. Lift the heavy, monolithic bottle to my lips with the strength of my noodly muscles. Tilt said heavy, monolithic bottle to bring said “Caledonian still Scottish water” rushing into my mouth. Sip. “Hm,” I thought. Sip. “Well, that’s a relief. It’s just bottled water. And bottled water, after all, is just water!” Guzzle, guzzle, glug, glug. I drank all two liters as quickly and as hastily as Tom Hanks does the water inside the first island coconut he manages to break open in 2000’s Cast Away—and he won a Golden Globe for that! 

Following my first two liters of Saisnbury’s refreshing “Caledonian still Scottish water,” I happily re-engaged my innate refill-drink-repeat rhythm. 

Now, while I did admit to handling new stimuli well, everyone knows it is a much greater challenge to sustain a new relationship over time—whether with a lover or with a means by which one drinks water. 

I’m presently one month into our study abroad adventure and a third through my time at LAMDA. Two is a whole number. I can summarize multiples of two much more easily than I can multiples of 1.5, and this alone has made summarizing the liters of water I consume on a daily basis much easier than when I was formerly engaged with Poland Spring. After some calculation, I can reveal that I consume 8-10 liters of water on a daily basis at this point in my exhilarating adventures in Europe. That is a lot of water, and I am proud of my clumsy gesture towards fitness despite its mild ignorance. However, I’ve noted an interesting result in adding the half liter of water to my routine. 

Before I leave for LAMDA, I enjoy breakfast with two liters of water, just to get the juices—and my metabolism—flowing. Classes at LAMDA are hard and fast. Every day begins at 9 AM and is broken in half around an hour lunch from 1:15-2:15 PM. In the four hours and fifteen minutes that comprise our morning session, we drop in and out of three hour-long classes (acting, movement, and voice) with fifteen minute tea-breaks between. The more intense days are most definitely draining. 

On the subject of draining, I have never had to pee as frequently as I have in the past month. In addition to the two liters before class, I tend to drink another liter throughout morning session. That’s consistent with my Boston routine, but we must remember the crucial difference, and that is the absent half liter of my crude American Poland Spring water bottle. 

My Sainsbury’s behemoth is making it so that by the end of each involved hour-long class, I become possessed by my pee pee dance as if it were an otherworldly poltergeist. Here is an illustrative analogy for the powerful of my poltergeist pee possession. My pee pee dance is to Beyoncé’s “Grown Woman” choreography at double speed, as a normal human pee pee dance is to, say, Miley’s clumsy twerking or Rihanna’s soulless pussy-patting. Hell, my end-of-class need to pee is often so strong that I would easily produce and sell upwards of a million copies of a groundbreaking, surprise “visual album” while raising a toddler and satisfying Jay-Z’s carnal urges if it meant relieving myself any sooner than my fifteen minute tea-break. 

By no means is this the life-altering study abroad experience I anticipated. 

However, I often fast myself with unbreakable commitment to idealized notions I hold regarding things like romance, privacy, creativity, and, in this case, professionalism and health. Therefore, a stalemate. I am as married to remaining present in class or rehearsal until I am released by a professor or director as I am to drinking this much water, this quickly, day in and day out. 

I refuse to compromise either ‘virtuous practice’ for the other, and so I will most likely continue to toil until I find myself in the toilets during tea-break. I surrender to this fate for the foreseeable future. At the very least, if Caroline Hoenemeyer were to approach me with a full bottle of Sainsbury’s two liter “Caledonian still Scottish water” (or one refilled with tap water) and the question, “Am I Michael John Ciszewski yet?,” I’d finally have reason to respond through grimace and disgust, “why the hell would you want that?”