Learning Portuguese

Over the past few semesters, I have been learning Portuguese. I think it is an interesting facet of learning a language that different portions of the language can be easier or harder to learn. In my case, translating written Portuguese to English has become the easiest while oral communication remains difficult. I think that this is because it is easier for me to recognize cognates (similar words which have the same function, like three and três both refer to 3) in written form than in spoken form, and because the immediacy of oral communication does not allow sufficient time to consult dictionaries and conjugation tables. This is obviously the sort of difficulty which is reduced by practice, as native Portuguese speakers seem to have no such trouble.

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Toys

The history of toys helps to demonstrate the complicated interactions among different parts of the world. Take the yo-yo, for instance: it originated in ancient Greece before the invention spread, eventually being made popular in the United States by a company founded by a Filipino immigrant to the United States.

Other examples include the jigsaw puzzle, which was devised by an English cartographer as a method to teach geography; Rubik’s Cube, invented by Hungarian professor Ernõ Rubik; and, of course, the boomerang, which originated as a hunting weapon of the Australian Aborigines.

This demonstrates some of the complexity of history, that something as simple as a toy can have far-flung roots.

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Policy Changes

American foreign policy often changes following elections. One interesting case of this occurred with respect to Hawaii. Shortly after the Kingdom of Hawai’i was overthrown, the provisional government offered the annexation of Hawaii to the United States. Benjamin Harrison, then president, reacted favorably. Grover Cleveland, who succeeded Harrison shortly afterward, did not, and tried to effect the reinstatement of the Kingdom. This resulted in the formation of the Republic of Hawai’i, which was annexed by way of the controversial Newlands Resolution (named after then Representative, and later Senator, Francis G. Newlands, and not the prospect of New Lands) following another change of administration, from Cleveland to William McKinley. This just goes to show what dramatic shifts in foreign policy can result from changes in administration. Therefore I hope you will all join me in planting tongue firmly in cheek, and petitioning the comments section to annex New Zealand, and make Australia pay for it.

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Packing Lightly

When I studied abroad for two weeks in Italy at the beginning of last summer, I found that my experience was greatly enhanced by traveling light. Both in boarding the trains and in carrying my luggage to and from the train station, I found myself glad that I had only to carry my backpack.

So, how can you pack lightly? One important idea is to minimize the amount of clothing that you bring. From my experience, a good way to do this is to bring fast drying clothing. This allowed me to wash my clothes in the sink in the morning, and wear them again the next day, when they were mostly dry. Another minimization that I found valuable was to take a lighter laptop and power brick than I normally use. In general, I found it useful to heed the advice “only take what you need, and leave everything else at home!”

On a related note, I almost got into trouble with security as I was leaving Italy, because I was carrying so little baggage that they found it hard to believe I had been there for a full two weeks!

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Estive em Lisboa e Lembrei de Você

On the 27th of October, I attended the showing of “Estive em Lisboa e Lembrei de Você,” [I was in Lisbon and I remembered you] a film inspired by the book of the same name, written by the recognized Brazilian author Luiz Ruffato. The showing was part of a program of events anchored by Luiz Ruffato’s visit to the University of Oklahoma. The movie depicted the experiences of a Brazilian emigrant who went to Portugal to seek his fortune. Luiz Ruffato’s visit was organized by the head of OU’s Portuguese program, Professor Paulo Moreira.

The Official Poster for the OU Screening of the Film
The Official Poster for the OU Screening of the Film

No 27 do outubro, compareci o filme “Estive em Lisboa e Lembrei de Você”, um filme que estava inspirado por o livro com o mesmo nome, escreveu por o autor Brasileiro Luiz Ruffato. O filme era um parte duma programma de uns eventos assegurado com o visito do Luiz Ruffato à Universidade da Oklahoma. O filme retratou as experiençías dum emigrante Brasileiro, que fui ao Portugal para achar sua fortuna. O visito do Luiz Ruffato era organizado por o diretor da programma do Portuguese da Universidade da Oklahoma, o Profesor Paulo Moreira.

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Global Engagement Fellowship Blog 2016-05-29 14:15:07

Buongiorno from Arezzo! This is our last full day in Arezzo; we are leaving tomorrow for Rome. On Tuesday, most of us will fly back to the United States, though some are continuing their travels in Europe. The first three days after my last post here were the most exciting, because we commuted to Florence on each of those days. On the first day, we visited the Galileo Museum of Science and Il Duomo, the cathedral of Florence. We walked in the rain to get to the museum. This was unfortunate because I, when I had looked at the weather that morning, had seen that the rain wasn’t supposed to start until we were at the museum. With this in mind, I left my rain jacket at the hotel so that I wouldn’t have to carry it. Alas, it began raining early, and I got wet. On the bright side, I dried off quite nicely. The museum tour was very nice. The highlights were a gigantic armillary sphere and a collection of historical maps. Afterwards, we broke into smaller groups to find lunch, then met outside Il Duomo to tour the cathedral and accompanying baptistery. Obviously, the most impressive feature here was Brunelleschi’s dome. Many members of the group went to the lantern at the top of the dome. I made it part way up, but fear got the better of me when I made it to the first balcony overlooking the interior of the cathedral. On the next day, we visited the GE Oil and Gas Nuovo Pignone facility. The facility was very impressive and clearly represented the sum of a great deal of ingenuity and effort. On the third day, we visited the Opificio delle pietre dure (or, workshop of semi-precious stones), a leading center for art restoration; the Academia which holds, among other works, Michelangelo’s David; and the Uffizi, which has one of the world’s leading collections of Renaissance art. At the Opificio, we learned about some of the methods used in art restoration. For example, when restoring a painting the restorer might use a cross hatched pattern of fine brush strokes to allow later restorers to determine the original work from the restoration, while still maintaining the appearance of the original work when viewed from a distance. The Academia was, as sites containing notable works of art tend to be, packed with people. The Uffizi, however, was much more tightly packed with people, probably because it had many more notable works of art. It was also vast, and filled with stairs. Another notable feature of our third visit to Florence, is that there was a train strike during the majority of the day. This meant that we had to take a bus to Florence, and return on a later train than we had in the past. On Thursday and Friday, I primarily worked on classwork (we have three projects to complete for this study abroad class, the first two are done and the third is due about two weeks after returning to the US) and on Saturday, I attended class in the morning, and didn’t do much for the remainder of the day.

The armillary sphere in the Galileo History of Science Museum.
The armillary sphere in the Galileo History of Science Museum.
The exterior of Brunelleschi's dome, as seen from a nearby area.
The exterior of Brunelleschi’s dome, as seen from a nearby area.
The exterior of Brunelleschi's dome, as seen from the Uffizi.
The exterior of Brunelleschi’s dome, as seen from the Uffizi.
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Further Adventures

Good afternoon from Arezzo! On the day of my last post, we visited the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum. We began with the rather long walk to the Pantheon from our hotel. As probably goes without saying, the Pantheon looks decidedly more impressive in person than it does in pictures (though I have attached a picture anyway). As you probably expect, it and the square outside were very crowded. I was, however, assured that the crowds are usually thicker yet. In contrast to other historical sites which we would visit later, we did not need to pass through security to access the interior of the Pantheon. After we visited the Pantheon, we had lunch, and gelato from a nearby gelato shop. Next we continued on to the Colosseum, which was also crowded, and required tickets for entry. I imagine that it would have been even more crowded had tickets not been required! Afterwards, we visited the adjacent Arch of Constantine, which seemed well preserved, and the Roman Forum, which showed the wear of time more clearly than either the Pantheon or the Colosseum. Of these sites, I think that the Pantheon was the most impressive. This is probably because it seemed the best preserved of all the sites. I am sure that my thoughts would be different had I the opportunity to watch a mock naval battle in the Colosseum. Admittedly, they probably would have been something like: “Can I hide in the embassy until it is time to go home?” Fortunately, the people of Italy are much too civilized to engage in such a blood sport. On the next day, we visited the Vatican. Our first stop was St. Peter’s Basilica, which was impressively vast. Afterwards, we visited the Vatican Museum, the highlight of which was Raphael’s The School of Athens. The next day, we left for Arezzo. The countryside beyond the train windows was beautiful, though oft interrupted by shrubberies and tunnels. The tunnels were the most annoying part of the train ride, because each time we passed through one my ears would pop from the increased pressure. After we arrived in Arezzo, we checked into the hotel and then toured the OU in Arezzo buildings, and a local church renowned for the fresco cycle The History of the True Cross, by Piero della Francesca. Yesterday, we had our first class period, were given our first assignment, and had a pleasant walking tour of the historical center of Arezzo given by a member of the OU in Arezzo staff. Today, I intend to do some work on my section of the project and perhaps visit some local site. Thanks for reading, and have a pleasant day!

The dome of the Pantheon
The dome of the Pantheon
The interior of the Colosseum
The interior of the Colosseum
St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica
The School of Athens
The School of Athens
A view from the wall of the Arezzo historic city center
A view from the wall of the Arezzo historic city center
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Arrival and the First Day

Good morning from Rome! Yesterday I arrived, after making my connection in Heathrow airport with only minor confusion. As a side note, the automatic machinery used at the LHR security checkpoint is cool, but actually seems to take longer than American security usually does, though perhaps I just had bad luck on that count. At any rate, this coupled with the strict requirement to be through security by a certain time in order to be allowed to board the flight made the trip through security a little bit stressful, but as I said above I made it to the flight. Once I got to Rome, I took the advice offered at the pre-departure sessions and followed the crowd. When the crowd split into multiple groups, I followed the signs marked ‘uscita/exit’ or, when we reached the border control section, the sign marked for people from outside the EU. After that, I kept following the crowd, until I suddenly realized that it had dwindled to nothing. I turned back and checked the signs, and saw that I had missed the sign for customs (nothing to declare), so I walked through that door. This took me to a room filled with people waiting for arrivals, and after a moment one of the program leaders (Dean Theresa Marks) got my attention. Soon, we boarded the train bound for Rome. There was an appalling amount of graffiti visible from the train. Fortunately, Rome proper is not defaced thusly. After arriving, I put my bag in the hotel room, and had a light late lunch with some of the other program attendees. There was a storm coming, so we headed back to the hotel where I tried, and failed, to stay awake. As I had neglected to set an alarm, I overslept and was late to the orientation. Fortunately, I don’t think I missed too much. After the orientation, we got dinner at a restaurant near the hotel and walked to the Trevi fountain. After this excursion, I went to bed fairly promptly. So far this morning, I have had a rather pleasant breakfast (provided by the hotel), and have purchased a water bottle from the vending machine, which I should be able to refill throughout the day. Today, we are going to visit some sites and have the official welcome dinner for the program.

The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain
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Awaiting the Plane

I am waiting at the airport, about to leave for the two week May Engineering in Italy class. I think that I have everything that I will need. I hope I am not wrong! I will first be flying from Houston to London, then from London to Rome. Once there, we will spend some time in Rome before continuing to the OU branch campus in Arezzo.

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My OU Cousin

Last semester, I tried to get an OU Cousin, but I was not successfully paired with anyone. This semester, I tried again and was successfully matched with Swaroop Varma of India, shown in the picture below. While we did not meet very often – due, I think, to business in our respective schedules – I enjoyed having dinner with him. Swaroop has an interest in computer science, though he is presently engaged in another primary field of study, and is a member of the OU ROTC.

My OU Cousin Swaroop Varma (left), and myself at the OU Cousins Spring “Matching Party”