Nostalgia for my Other Languages

Unfortunately, with my schedule being how it was this semester, I wasn’t able to continue learning Arabic. My scheduling did not line up at all with the classes offered and so now I’ve missed out. I can already feel what little Arabic I had a handle on slipping away, which is very disappointing. There’s just so much stuff to work on with Italian and Chemistry that it is unrealistic to expect myself to study a language as difficult as Arabic in the background. The same goes for what Swahili I learned over study abroad this last summer. By the end of the trip, I had a good handle on basic conversation, but now I don’t think I could pull it off nearly as well. I still remember scattered words, but nothing concrete. Learning a language that you really like and then watching it leave your brain is a really tough thing to do. I just wish I had more time so I could hold on to what I have. My biggest hope for these languages is the Peace Corps. I am going to request an Arabic-speaking country, like Morocco or Egypt, and Tanzania, so either way I get to practice one of these languages. Maybe some of it will come back as I have to speak it every day, and that will put me at an advantage. The only problem then would be holding onto my Italian! Man, this language stuff really is difficult.

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Baccano President In Absentia

Not gonna lie, no matter how prepared I was to be the President of Baccano this semester, I really messed up. I was not prepared for the amount of responsibility and particularly time that it would require. I thought I had it all in the bag near the start of the semester, but then I had to go back to work to pay the rent. That really took a ton of my time, and Baccano started slipping away from me. Unfortunately, between school, work, and trying not to die of starvation, Baccano was fairly low on the priority list. I wish I had had a lot more time for it, however. This was a pretty key semester for growing the club and I somewhat dropped the ball. On the other hand, however, I was there more towards the end of the semester. The beginning almost broke me, but I survived and ended up becoming more involved again. Luckily, my advisers are excellent, and I had some strong other members around to pick up my slack. I guess, then, that I did okay, seeing as I had helped get good people in the club in the past few years, so they could help out when I wasn’t able to. Either way, I am very much so looking forward to next semester, because I will have a lot more time on my hands to really help. That way, I can take the role of President on the way I should have in the past.

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Peace Corps Prep Puzzles

For the Peace Corps Prep program, one of the requirements is to do some volunteer work kin your particular sector. Initially, I decided to work in a lab on campus helping with research into steel corrosion in water. I figured that that had something to do with environmental work at least. After doing this for a while during the semester, however, I’ve found that I was really just trying to avoid doing real volunteer work, which I was a bit ashamed of. Now that I’ve been honest with myself, I am looking for a real volunteer opportunity to do next semester. I should never have avoided helping out, even if it was a time and career issue. Those were just rationalizations to make it okay to skip out on real volunteering, which is not at ALL the spirit of the Peace Corps. Anyways, I am trying to do better next semester, and am looking for a place I can volunteer. Unfortunately, I really don’t know anything about volunteer work around Norman besides the big event. If anyone has any suggestions, please comment them! I will finally have more time next semester, and I don’t want to spend it just playing video games the whole time instead of doing something valuable. Also, the time spent at research was definitely not totally wasted. I found out about the WaTER center at OU, which deals with water technologies in developing countries. This is perfect for my Peace Corps ideas, and I decided to take a class based on it. So in the end, as long as I can find somewhere to volunteer, I’ll have gotten multiple good things out of this experience, even if they weren’t what I expected.

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Tavola Italiana e Briscola Event

This year we decided to do something new with our Caffe e Conversazione events and spice it up a bit. Instead of just having everyone sit around the table and awkwardly chat, we decided to introduce some Italian card games into the mix. In years past, it almost always ended up with the strongest students telling stories or talking non-stop, and then the teachers that showed up would be interrogating the less skilled students. It made it hard for new people to feel truly welcome when so many better students were around. Now, with the Italian card games, it gives all the students a safer space to chat in peace. We would split the groups up into younger students and older students who could talk more fluently with each other. In the end, we had a lot more people come and participate by the last event. Students like me, who’ve done this whole Italian thing for a while, would talk with either the foreign exchange students or the teachers while the other kids got to chat among themselves. Plus, the card games are pretty fun, even if they are very odd by American standards. However, even with the card games, it is difficult to get the younger students to try out new stuff in conversation. They are just so shy and lack the self-confidence to try out new words and phrases. I think all language learners face similar challenges, so I will just have to work on a better way to encourage the students to practice.

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Karaoke Italiano Una Volta in Più!

Every semester, Baccano goes to Michaelangelo’s to do Italian Karaoke, and it was a smashing success just like every semester. This time, however, we had about twice as many people as normal, which was very encouraging! It was an absolute blast to sing with all of the students involved. Many new kids got together with the professors to try out some Italian songs which was also very good to see. Before, it was normally just me and few of the other professors singing because everyone was too scared. This time, we had even first-semester students getting up and trying it out! Also, we had some of the Italian exchange students come this year. I made a very good friend in one of them, who is sticking around next semester. Hopefully I can keep in touch with him and make sure my conversational Italian keeps improving! We started around 7:30, and we were still full of people until the place closed around 9:30. Afterwards, many of us older students went out to celebrate with professors, which is a great way to get to know all the teachers. The foreign language students came along as well which was just fantastic. During the “afterparty”, I was able to convince a new student to study abroad in Bologna like I did back in the day. I was so excited to share that experience with him and I really encourage everyone to take a look into it. Overall, I was extremely pleased with the success of the event, and so glad I came up with the idea a few years ago. Here’s to looking forward to the next one!

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Memory and Perspective

This semester I’m taking my Honors Colloquium, “History, Memory, Conflict: The Second World War since 1945”. Prior to this course, my perspective on WWII was almost entirely American, from classes scattered throughout my middle and high school education and books I’d read. Within this semester, however, I’ve experienced literature and film from not just the American viewpoint, but also Japanese, Polish, and German.

The key issue in Japanese memory of WWII is the fact that they were not victors. Their picture of the war is framed with the knowledge that they lost, and they accordingly have to decide how positively or negatively to present various events of the war. This challenge has a cultural aspect as well: because of the Japanese cultural value of “face”, which has to do with pride and one’s social standing, it is difficult for them to directly admit to some parts of their culpability in WWII. 

The Polish perspective on the war is unique because Poland was essentially “ground zero” in WWII: they were first to be conquered by Germany, and they were eventually occupied simultaneously by both the German and Soviet armies. The Polish government never officially surrendered to the Germans, which means that Poland can claim its victimhood without an equally large sense of guilt for the war. However, this also means that the losses Poland suffered in the war were staggering, and their memory of the war has to deal with that trauma.

My understanding of the German experience of the war mainly comes from the book A Woman in Berlin, a diary written by a German woman living in Berlin when it fell in 1945, signaling the end of the war. Her memory of the war has to deal with some similar issues as Japanese memory: finding a balance between the identities of perpetrator and victim. It’s clear from her description of 1945 Berlin that it was a time of destruction and pain for its citizens, but she also asks the question, to what extent is it deserved?

These are just a few specific examples of perspectives from countries around the world on WWII. Before this class, I didn’t think much about the nature of history and memory; I suppose I thought there was a “right” way to remember history, and assumed that any deviations from that were derived from biases and were therefore incorrect. However, after reading accounts of how the war played out in these different areas, I’ve realized that the war really did take on different characteristics in different places and cultures. The war affected each country and person involved differently; although there were varying degrees of culpability and victimization, everyone suffered in one way or another. The way a person remembers history is not necessarily wrong just because it comes from a different viewpoint from my own, or even a general American/Western one; it just means that through personal or national experience, their memory of the war has taken on a different meaning. This lesson can be applied to current events and cultures as well, not just history.

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Digo

This semester, I’m taking a class in the Linguistics department called Typology. Typology involves looking at trends in morphology and syntax across languages and using them to make predictions about the behavior of language in general. 

The final paper in this class is a typological study of one language in particular, and for my language I chose Digo, a Bantu language spoken in areas of Kenya and Tanzania by only 300,000 people. I’ve never studied an African language before; I have experience with Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic, but from the beginning of my research it became clear that this Bantu language was unlike anything I’d seen before. 

For one thing, Digo has 18 nominal classes – like the two genders in Romance languages. Each noun belongs in a nominal class, and any adjective or verb that refers to that noun carries a unique nominal concord that indicates the noun’s class. For native speakers of Digo, this is internalized and natural; for me, a native speaker of a language that has no classes at all, it sounds impossible to keep all these classes and concords straight.

Digo is also synthetic, which means that a lot of meaningful parts go into each individual word. For example, there are 9 parts to a verb in Digo, including things like noun concords, passive markers, tense markers, and more. This is another contrast with English, which is an analytic language, which means that most meaningful parts of the language are separate from each other.

Although learning about the typological properties of the Digo language itself hasn’t given me much insight to Digo culture, it has been interesting to see just how different a language can be from the ones I know. Additionally, in researching data in Digo, I’ve had the opportunity to read several short stories and essays translated into English. The moral lessons and storytelling techniques in these has been interesting to observe. 

I’ll be doing my capstone for Linguistics next semester, and I’m hoping that in my final paper I get the chance to look at another new and unique language – who knows what I’ll learn then!

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The Travels Pt. 3

So . . . Prague happened. Having completed my traveling for this semester, Prague is second only to Berlin in my mind. Prague was something else. Within one hour of being in the city I had fallen in love. I knew it was going to be good when I walked into a main square and saw a Christmas tree silhouetted in front of an amazing, Gothic church façade. And it was more than good; it was great. The Christmas markets had great food (especially gnocchi with sauerkraut) and high quality products that made my Christmas shopping pretty easy. Inside the castle complex I discovered my new favorite church in Europe: St. Vitus’ Cathedral. It was a spectacular example of Gothic architecture, and I am a sucker for beautiful Gothic churches. There were great views and tons of cool museums. But more than anything else, Prague had a unique atmosphere.

Prague was the perfect mix of old and new. I’ve been in cities that have felt really old (like Rome) and in cities that are ancient and magnificent (like Siena). I’ve seen cities that have embraced modern society (like Berlin). Prague was the first city that seemed to have bridged the divide between the old and new. Sections of the city, such as the castle complex, had the charm and wonder I would expect from a fairytale. Other areas, such as one near the National Monument, were modern, bustling thoroughfares. But regardless of my location, it was always uniquely Prague. The city had not lost its identity to the modern world, nor was it stuck in the past refusing to adapt to a changing world. I’ll be coming back to Prague.

Now, just to wrap everything together (as it relates to traveling), here are my top three trips of the semester: in first, Berlin; in second, Prague; in third, Bern. The one thing these cities have in common is a great ambiance and unique character. Simply being in these cities was enjoyable – sitting in a café for hours would be awesome in any one of these cities. And of all the cities I’ve visited on this trip, these are the three that I want to go back to more than any others. So, in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back.”

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN PARIS?

This past month; France has been going through major protests in their capital Paris and other major cities. In the pictures above there are some of the most memorable and heartbreaking photos from this protest. But, why is this happening? Why are the people going to the streets? The french are known for their protests but this is more than the common everyday protest.

I’m honestly shock I did not hear about this until recently and it has been happening for a month. It is crazy that I have been blind to the media outside of the United States.

After doing some research I have found out why this happening.

This all started by what is called the ” yelllow vest”  because of the high fuel taxes that the President of France established earlier last month. I mean fuel is already expensive in Europe I can’t image what they were when this all started. After the taxes on Fuel were removed people say this as way to protest the French Goverment. It is no suprise that France cost of living is extremely expesinve compare to its neighbording countries and the “yellow vest” protestors are tired of it. I just don’t know they should have taken it by breaking into stores and damanging the streets. I understand it can be frustating but Paris is such a beautiful city and they are destroying it.

Hopefully all this will end without anyone else getting hurt. I hope the french goverment is listening to their people and make some kind of changes.

If you want to learn about this visit BBC or google Paris Protests

 

citation:

“In Pictures: France’s Latest Protests.” BBC News, BBC, 8 Dec. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46492988?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.com/news/topics/cxw7q5zm562t/paris&link_location=live-reporting-gallery.

 

 

 

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Anti-Muslim camps in Western China, East Meets West & What I learned in Dance

The state of China has been doing some shifty stuff in the Xinjiang province out west.

The Uyghur group in western China is being reeducated in hopes of snuffing out any extremist behavior and encourage devotion to the state; these retention centers have been made legal in the past year and possibly hold people against their will.

Read all about it.

On a lighter note, the #MeToo movement has caught hold in the state under the hashtag “Rice Bunny” in order to subvert the country’s strict censorship laws. Why Rice Bunny?

Despite the current conservative nature of the state, some see the silver linings as a prominent professor was removed from his post after multiple allegations.


As I do, I want to share with you my experience from early October when a Beijing dance company came to the states to perform with the OU School of Dance under the name “East Meets West”.

Recycling some of the dances they had already performed just a few weeks before, “I Rise” and “Skinwalkers”, but a few new collaborative works came from the mix, which featured members from both colleges dancing across the floor in pairs. Their interactions suggested collaboration and friendship.

As expected, their performance was phenomenal. The dance majors spoke of the devotion and intensity with which the Chinese dance company performed, increasing the stakes for OU’s dance company. The mutual love for dance and healthy competition allowed for the two groups to grow and connect; it was clear during the performance.

After a small intermission, a timer brilliantly announced itself in bold white letters against a dark background. Oddly enough, this performance was quite long and cerebral. A repetitious soundbite of unintelligible words were played along with irregular rhythms, and the dancers matched the transgressive nature of the performance; they wore all black and white, and they danced with a single stool. It was quite comedic at certain points, almost turning the seat into a dancer of its own-they did an excellent job with the prop. At some points, the dancers conveyed themselves with a certain cockiness and style that you would believe that you were watching a boy band battle for your heart. The characters went through their own ebbs and flows, growing larger with their ego and shrinking back into themselves.

While I did not understand that dance in its twenty minute entirety, I was captivated.


This semester will likely be my last college dance class 🙁

I have learned so much about my body since January-what balance is, how my body moves through space, and how to stretch.

At first, I  was not sure how to feel about it. Staring at myself in the mirror for an hour and a half in tights? No thanks! (s/o to Peter for helping me get past the class anxiety)

However, this class had some AMAZING benefits of given definition to my midsection because of the heavy focus on abs, back muscles, and supporting obliques that control the motion of your core. If one’s core is not engaged during dance, one can expect to compose oneself as a wet noodle across the floor. My posture has improved leaps and bounds. There is a spring in my step, and I have more body awareness that allows me to move through space with a bit more grace than before (which I desperately needed after being such an awkward teenager).

Balance comes from fine, slow-twitch muscles all over the body. If one ignores the muscles that control the ankle, you can expect to fall over on your face. Interestingly enough, dance was just the right class that I needed to restrengthen my ankle after rolling it; it is completely back to normal despite most people saying that it will have the tendency to roll again. Sure, it has the potential to roll, but dance has given me the strength and awareness necessary to make sure that does not happen again.

Your body does not like to move a lot, so if you’re breathing hard, than you are doing it right. Your limbs might like to compensate for such movements, but don’t let your body be lazy: that is the key point in this class. If your body can be lazy, it will find the way to do it.

It is a natural mechanism to protect oneself against pushing further than one must in an environment which can challenge at any given moment, so be sure to make yourself move.

It is difficult to push yourself as much as a teacher does which makes it so difficult to retain the good form and exercises that are demanded from a knowing instructor (thanks Sara!).

I am SO FLEXIBLE!! That is a skill like anything else, and if it is on the edge of pain, then you’re doing it right. The grunts and moans that you hear from people as they stretch means that it hurts so good. Such a weird concept.

Since the end of my classes, my posture has improved significantly as well as my mood. This exercise is not as demanding as its cardio contemporaries and strengthens your joints (as long as you push yourself the right way and ice if you go too far).

Sometimes a muscle spasm isn’t the worst thing (quick aside: the worst muscle spasm I ever have was in August this semester. While trying to do pelvic raises and clench the booty for best results, I have a double-cheek, agonizingly mind-splitting muscle spasm in my gluteus maximus. It stayed contracted for what felt like 10 minutes, and I was in actual tears). Getting your foot to have the proper point is really just an temporary low-intensity muscle spasm (at least that’s where mine is at the moment).

Try it out sometime, you’ll love it.

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