Sunday, September 13, 2009

Language Learning

Dear Friend,

Now that we've been reunited once again in Mostar, I'm beginning to notice us once again falling prey to the inevitable confusion which accompanies learning a foreign language. Please don't be offended by what I'm about to say...because it's likely that as long as we know each other your English will be better than my Bosanski/Hrvatski/Srpski/other world language. However, since I'm sure we're all striving for academic excellence (wink wink), I'm sure it can't hurt to address a few of the mistakes which are creeping into my own conversation and frankly, oscillate between annoying the heck out of me and being absolutely hilarious.

1. "Clumsy" and "incompetent" do not have the same meaning. At least not in English. Clumsy is what I am when I walk into your room and trip on your suitcase. Incompetent is what the bus driver is when he arrives two hours late for our Project Week excursion. In his case, I think both labels might apply, but when you call him clumsy I can't stop picturing him fumbling around on the street Three Stooges style.

2. No matter how many times you ask me, I will not "borrow" you my calculator. I will, however, lend you anything you ask for! Just make sure it doesn't fall into the black hole that seems to be sucking up our possessions from somewhere within the house.

3. "To learn" and "to teach" have opposite meanings in English. If they were the same thing, then either we or our teachers would be out of a job.

4. When the proverbial lightbulb over your head switches on, you have an "idea" not an "I.D."

5. Seb, jack and jacket are not the same when you're taking them off. (Now that one was hilarious!)

6. While we all agree that it would have been funny if the school had actually come up with a "shape of the day," what Jordanka really meant was "schedule."

And finally (but not very excitingly):

7. "In" and "on" are not quite the same. Just think of a few instances in which you might use these words and I'm sure you'll see what I mean.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

This is Why You're Fat


One of the reasons I'm so positive this year is that we've already managed to foster a healthy sense of community. This manifests itself mainly in the fact that we are already experts at helping each other procrastinate and waste time. The other day, I was sitting with Lara and Ela as they discovered www.thisiswhyyourefat.com. It's a conglomeration of photos and descriptions of the most obscenely unhealthy foods you could imagine. Several pages of Bologna fries, multiple pound burgers, and other mutant fast food disasters, and I was feeling a bit better about my own unhealthy students' diet. But then, a tragedy. Around page 6, an entry which I not only recognized, but know and love...fried ravioli! For those who don't know, that particular pasta is a specialty of the St. Louis area and is a popular appetizer served with marinara sauce. Now it's no organic low-calorie wonder, but I never considered fried ravioli a grotesque or even a guilty pleasure. Ah well, we had a good laugh, and I guess it's to each his own...especially when it comes to food!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Don't Knock It Until...

I suppose today was more significant than your average Monday in that it's the first time I've given becoming a feminist more than a passing thought. It came not as the result of a demonstration or serious philosophical consideration, but as the result of pain, a very effective teacher.
You see, Braun makes these nifty little alternatives to razors which pluck hairs out instead of just shaving them, the idea being that they will grow back much slower and generally be less of a nuisance. I hadn't heard much about them stateside, but a few of my dorm friends have them and tell me on good authority the pain is worst the first time and it's well worth the freedom of two or three razor-free weeks. Being that I'm developing a Pavlovian association between skirts and razors, and seeing as college is a time for experimentation, I decided to give the little device a try. It's far too early to call the trial a failure, but I will say that it was hands down the most painful experience of my life. More intense than taking an exam, more painful than getting a tattoo, and almost as traumatic as leaving home for the first time.
I've always been a fan of shaving as little as possible, but my preference for smooth skin and skirts is stronger. Today though, I couldn't help but dwell on the misguided thought that if ultra-feminism offers the chance for deliberate, razor-free social acceptance, I just might jump at that chance. As much of a stereotype that is, I can the link between throwing off the yoke of male domination and throwing out the need to pursue traditional beauty.
Soon after, my thoughts turned to the confused gender party we hosted this weekend and the very small number of males who were persuaded to shave their legs "to see how we feel." Now as I said, I like smooth legs as much as the next person, but I do wonder what guys would say if they realized what *pains* (uhem, pun INTENDED) for perceived beauty. So Guys, have a heart and don't knock not shaving until you've tried this.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

With New Eyes

Our first classes have started, but surprisingly that means I have more time for putting together a post than I have during this whirlwind induction week. I have to say that rather than stress or exhaustion what I feel is hope. It's nice to return to a place that feels something like home rather than a place that might as well be Mars for all you know about it. It's even nicer to see this home through the eyes of someone who's just come, when everything is new and very strange. Our first years are amazing people with a lot of potential, and they've put up with a lot of silly games, (can you believe you did yoga in the park, evacuated the house at 5am, and walked around town dressed like a transvestite?) being told what to do, and not knowing what to do. They're already becoming independent and the days of following us second years blindly are already over, but it's been refreshing for us to realize that we learned enough last year to give advice and that we've appreciated these experiences enough to make them worth sharing. I know we've come back to a slightly different Mostar and a very different UWCiM, but I'm excited to discover it together!

The week began with a day trip to the waterfalls at Kravica and a sunrise hike to the cross.