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Showing posts from March, 2016

a surprisingly empowering week away from Luganda

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About fifteen years ago, at the tender age of 16, I found myself in the living room of a Guatemalan family, trying desperately to communicate with them even though I'd only ever studied French. I wanted so badly to be able to talk to them and understand their world, and also to explain my own. It was a comedy of errors, most notably when I looked up the wrong version of "meet/meat" in the dictionary and accidentally told them that I'd eaten Jack Hanna, the TV wildlife personality.

That moment of frustration - the complete inability to communicate even basic thoughts - led me to begin studying Spanish several years later.

Fast forward fifteen years. As I've discussed earlier, I was pretty worried about my spring break trip back to Guatemala and what it would mean for my Luganda study. After several years of Spanish classes in college, Spanish is no longer very useful to me, and so I was worried about both a) being able to use my Spanish as needed in Guatemala; and…

mise en place

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I've noticed a funny little trend in my study habits: I tend to do my best work when I'm seated at a desk, table, or other flat service. Sitting down deliberately, with all the tools I need both close at hand and with some materials spread out for reading, writing, referencing, etc., makes my study sessions a lot more productive.

What I usually want to do is grab my laptop and plop on the couch. It's so nice to curl up surrounded by blankets, and still feel like I'm getting some work done. The problem is that I often get too comfortable and I lose focus. Or, my cat curls up on my arm, making it hard to type. Or -- worse -- both! And, without a place to spread out my materials, I am limited to using just online resources for my studies, which can really constrain what I do. Generally speaking, it's much better if I forgo comfort in favor of focus.


The whole situation reminds me a little bit of mise en place. As chefs know, in order to do your best work, you've g…

Mama always told me...

My poor mother spent a lot of energy trying to get me to practice the piano as a kid. I enjoyed playing piano on my own time but I hated practicing it regularly. After eventually quitting the piano, I played the french horn and I sang. Though I more or less enjoyed music, I still loathed the commitment of practicing regularly.

Mom was, and still is, a flutist. She fell in love with music as a high schooler, and threw herself into playing the flute, continuing to play into adulthood. While I was growing up, she played in the pit for musical theater productions, in ensembles at church and in a range of other orchestras. There was always music in the house. While I rarely got my act together to practice, my mom always found time for it.

"Practice makes perfect!" was an unofficial motto of our house, and my favorite piece of advice from my mother to completely ignore.

After years of turning my back on this one little piece of advice, it's time for me to acknowledge that, of …