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Showing posts from November, 2015

Okusiima (or: to appreciate)

Maybe it's a bit cliche, but I take the traditions of Thanksgiving very seriously. Of course, the food is important, the football's fine, and spending time with loved ones is critical. But the one Thanksgiving activity that matters more than anything to me is to spend time reflecting on the things I'm grateful for.

When I lived in Ireland, my American classmates and I put together a Thanksgiving dinner for our Irish friends. It was a fun cultural sharing experience; we got to introduce them to the meaning behind the holiday, which they really had no knowledge of, as well as to quirky American foods, like puppy chow. But, when the time came to go around the table and say something they were thankful for, everyone turned their eyes downward and started shifting in their seats. This level of public earnestness made my classmates a little uncomfortable. You're really going to make us do this?

As it turns out, "acting grateful can actually make you grateful." And …

Back to the grind

After last week's high, I had a feeling that this week would be a bit more of a challenge. And I was right!

Like the week before, I was able to spend a long chunk of time working on Thursday afternoon. Unlike the week before, however, I was working on totally new material: prefixes for each of the ten noun classes. You see, in Luganda, each noun is assigned into one of ten classes, and each class has different prefixes to use for the adjectives that describe these nouns. Numbers, one of the most basic adjectives around, are where I began this journey. By the end of my session on Thursday, I was hoping to be able to do the very basic task of saying things like "five men," "three pumpkins," or "eight flowers" with some level of accuracy. After several hours of work, I certainly understood the concept, but I had to labor over each word as I wrote it down.

While I am sure that this is normal, that it's okay to approach new material so slowly and with …

The boost of a breakthrough

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I am a slow starter. When I am beginning something new, I tend to hang back, observe, and try and make sense of things from afar. And then, one day (and no one can predict what day it will be), things come together and I experience a breakthrough. And suddenly the whole world looks different for me.

My freshman year of college, I tread very carefully. I was too aware of the statistics that say that only about  65% of students who begin college actually graduate. As a first-generation college student, even though I excelled in high school, I worried that I would somehow become one of those statistics. I took only three classes that first fall, and I didn't even think about getting involved with extracurricular activities. Instead, I hung back and tried to figure out how being a college student worked. While my peers were running for student government, joining greek life, or trying to work in professors' labs, I just watched. And then, one day in spring quarter, everything sort…

A Gymnast's Guide to Balance, Learning, Evaluation, and Practice

Growing up, I was a (very unaccomplished) gymnast. I loved everything about gymnastics, but I particularly enjoyed the balance beam. I loved being up above the ground, I loved the opportunity to do fancy tricks while dismounting, and I loved the challenge of staying upright on just four inches of wood. Though I could do very few difficult moves in any of the events, on the beam I could do a 720° turn - in high school gymnastics, considered a high superior move - consistently and with ease. The skill of maintaining balance was something I enjoyed and excelled at (I think this may have leaked into other parts of my life!).

As I progress in my Luganda study, the metaphor of the balance beam has a strong resonance for me. While you are up on the beam, even the most basic movements, so easy on solid ground, become difficult. You must learn to move your body in a completely new way to suit the constraints of the beam. And, as you move across the beam you are checking in with yourself consta…