...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Planes, trains, and automobiles (and bicycles)

Today was wonderful. I had to get up at about 8 for a dentist appointment--okay, that part wasn't so wonderful. But having to get up early ensured that I actually did a ton of stuff today, instead of sleeping until 1. I rode my bike all over town and along the bike paths in Alton Baker Park, read more of The Au Pairs over coffee at Barnes & Noble (few things I love more than trashy Young Adult fiction), met with my AP Spanish teacher at my old high school, went to conversation group (see below), and packed (see below!)

When I'm in Eugene I volunteer at this conversation program for adult ESL students. It's pretty casual; from 1-2pm Tuesdays and Thursdays you just show up at this place across from the library in downtown Eugene and get in small groups--like, one native English speaker and two or three immigrants--and talk about whatever strikes your fancy. I know how much of a help the "Intercambio de Idiomas" (Language Exchange) program at La Católica, the university in Chile, was for me linguistically and culturally, and how much I appreciated and enjoyed getting to know Daniela and Nichole through that, so I'm happy to hopefully provide the same kind of support for English learners here.

It's a different experience each time because there's no structure to the groups. Today I talked with a Japanese college-age girl, and a young Korean woman who brought her two-month-old son along. Their English was great and the Korean woman, especially, was practically fluent. I mean, she had an accent, and she sometimes struggled with vocabulary, but she spoke fluently and idiomatically. It was really a pleasure to talk with the two women; we had súper buena onda (good vibes; we hit it off).

One thing I found really interesting and surprising is that apparently, in Korea, the system for determining one's age is completely different. Koreans (according to her) start calculating age starting at conception--when a baby is born, it's already a year old. Plus, everyone turns a year older on New Year's Day, not on their actual birth date. So, for instance, this woman was born December 28. On that day, she turned one. Then, on New Year's, she turned two! According to our system, she would have only been three days old; according to Koreans, she was two. Children begin school with all other kids of their birthyear, regardless of whether they were born early or late in the year. So, mothers try to time their pregnancies so that their kids are born early in the year, and therefore will be bigger and more capable than other kids by the time they start school. Really interesting stuff.

And now for something completely different: travel! Tomorrow (actually, Wednesday morning in in about two hours--our plane leaves at 6am, so I just stayed up all night) Sarah and I are going to Italy!! Her parents have been living in Genoa and working as teachers for the past two years, and she invited me to go visit them with her before they pack up and move back stateside at the end of July. We'll be in Europe for a little more than a month! Plans are tentative (we're playing it by ear, which is my favorite way to travel--it makes me miss the glory days of last fall, traveling with Carla, Julia, Mariah, Kristin, and Jon throughout Chile and the Southern Cone) but we have Eurail passes for Italy, France, and Greece. We know that at some point, we're taking a ferry from Bari, Italy to Patmas (I believe), Greece, and then a bus to Athens. I talked with Kugler, my Religious Studies advisor, and he suggested that we make a day trip to Cape Sounion, south of Athens, to see the temple of Poseiden! Then we're flying from Athens to Milan, and taking the train from Milan to Paris. Everything else we will discover as it comes.

I would love to send postcards to all of you. So, please email me your address at jobanek@lclark.edu. Updates on the road might be sporadic, but I'm thinking of all of you and wish you the very best in your own adventures!