31 December 2009

2009 Retrospective

Every year, I have plans to write retrospectives, and things always get away from me. Here it is almost 2010, and I have written nothing.

2009 was a tough one, a tough one that started out especially tough. I remember last January being particularly hard — walking in through the cold to school. Things began to turn around after I passed my driving test: Gary, my friend the photograph who's doing his PhD in Geography, came over and we drank beer and talked for a couple of hours. After that, things changed in small ways, but it was that night that it started to get better.

Mei was born, of course, in May. This was certainly the highlight. She came so quickly.

I got to the Louvre. I got to the van Gogh museum. I was in the UK, the US, Holland, and France. I started learning French. I taught my first semester at a British university. I lectured at Birmingham. I ran forty five kilometers on a Saturday morning in July. I got a second masters. I saved some money.

I will remember this the clearest: I was running one morning in Milton Keynes. I ran up the canal past where the trail ends. I came under a stone bridge and decided to stop there. I climbed up the embankment and into a field, the sun coming up over the British countryside. It was absolutely perfect.

2010 could be a big year for me. I won't say more than that, but I have a good feeling about it.

Perhaps you will continue on with me.

21 December 2009

America, America

It's Monday, which means I have been in America for a week. Some notes:
  • Ate.
  • Ate.
  • Saw Avatar.

17 December 2009

Back in the States

We are here, we are real, and we are really here. And I got some work done today. And I've eaten too much. And I exercised.

09 December 2009

Learning a language is hard

I think if you don't feel completely humiliated and incapable after a language lesson, you aren't trying hard enough. Let me explain.

The last time I was in a language classroom where I wasn't the teacher has been something like 13 years, when I was studying Spanish back in high school. And somehow, in the course of studying Spanish, I managed to hardly ever speak any of it, just memorize stupid grammar rules.

Between then and now, I have taught a load of English, learned Japanese, and learned a bit about language acquisition. All that to say, I have a lot of opinions about how to teach and learn languages, and more importantly, how I want to learn a language.

Tonight was my first French tutorial and since I did well on my first homework, I was thinking, well, this shouldn't be too bad. I realized, however, that there is quite a lot of difference between what you do by yourself at home and what you have to do when you and three people are trying to reproduce something in the spur of the moment. Oh man. I was nervous, I had the I-don't-know-how-to-say-that panic. Japanese was coming out. It was a mess.  A big, wet, silly mess.

Japanese, for as difficult as it is, is a very, very easy language to pronounce. You have all the sounds in you already if you are an English speaker. Also, because the alphabet is different. you learn all the new letters as new concepts tied to new sounds. With French, the pronunciation is more nuanced and because you have sounds linked to letters ingrained in you, it's very hard (for me at least) to look at the French particle 'de' and not pronounce it as I would in Spanish or English or even Japanese for that matter. You have to really force yourself to stay on track.

Anyway, it was fun, especially the last group I was in tonight as they were really, really trying to get around with no English.

Thoughts on teaching from the point of view of the student in a later blog, I think.

08 December 2009

Mei and new best friend

Anyone else feel like a poem?

If You Forget Me (Neruda)

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Ill all weekend

I spent Saturday in bed, something I haven't done since I was in Niigata, I don't think. I got very ill somehow, but luckily it didn't last too long and I mangaged to make my class on Monday morning which was my main concern. The Piccadilly Line was a complete disaster yesterday, owing to a bad signal at Arnos Grove, so I ended up spending like an hour on the underground, worrying that I wasn't going to be able to get to my class on time.

And last night I submitted all my essays back to Birmingham, having marked them, meaning that I only have some odds and ends to clear up before getting to the States for Christmas. An abstract, some transcribing... Some copying, a French class, some French homework... An article for a reading group. Nothing too heavy.

I do have to begin preparing for my next big project: teaching Pedagogic Grammar next semester, along with Research Methods. I have all the materials now and I have to beging thinking about what it is exactly that I want to teach... Should be interesting.

04 December 2009

It's Friday night, suddenly

Now that I teach on Monday, the week just disappears out from underneath me. And suddenly it's Friday.

We had my supervisors over for dinner yesterday, which was quite nice. It's hard to tell if they all had a good time: I think they did. Yoko and I certainly did and I enjoyed making the apple pie that turned out much better than I thought it would. And, as bonus, there was a ton of booze left over.

Naomi and I are both feeling kind of sick: Naomi's been coughing and I have a swollen something in my throat. If it doesn't clear up, I think I will have to go to the doctor before I come home for the holidays. I have a lot of things I have to take care of before then, including marking, working on an abstract, a French class, some transcription and some reading. If I can get through all of that, I may be able to have a bit more of a relaxing of a holiday. We'll see though...

02 December 2009

I'm pretty lame

My wife is blogging more than me now. I'm recycling her posts. I know, I know: I'm sorry. What am I supposed to do: I gotta make the cheese to keep the boat floating. Don't worry, though, In less than 11 days, I will be in the States, blogging none. Or more. Sorry. More.