مرحبا عليكم!

I study languages.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


This is my little brother Ryan. At least, this is the way I think of him.
But this is my little brother Ryan now. He's 18 years old and graduates from high school today.
Where I might be kind of awkward, Ryan is really cool. He's a state championship basketball player (#12) and one of the most athletic and popular guys in school. I can barely keep track of all of his friends (or dates). He's a fantastic student, incredibly smart (coming to BYU in the fall!), and a phenomenal writer, though in personality and attitude he does his best to downplay seeming...well, too much like me. :-) He's laid back, happy, and confident, but never arrogant.
But what makes Ryan really awesome is his heart. Cool-guy facade aside, he is thoughtful and conscientious and kind to everyone. He values integrity and is so well liked because he is so inherently likable, because he goes out of his way to crack a joke or make a comment or otherwise brighten your day. He is naturally spiritual and willing to work for the knowledge he acquires, and he will be a truly amazing missionary.
Ryan and I will miss each other on our missions--he'll leave after winter semester next year, while I'm still out, and I'm really, really going to miss him.
What can I say? He was my first friend.

I love you, Ryan! Happy graduation!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A girl who reads.

"Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You'll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She's the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore. She's the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she's kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author's making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book. Buy her another cup of coffee.

It's easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn't burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.
Or better yet, date a girl who writes."

~ excerpts from a heartwarming piece by Rosemarie Urquico
see the full quote here, many thanks to jbod

Monday, May 23, 2011


I am frustrated and on the brink of tears. Why can't an oral presentation ever go well?

This morning I had to give a speech in my best fusHa Arabic about volunteering in a Palestinian hospital. Worse yet, I had to be filmed by the National Middle East Language Resource Center. It wasn't pretty. I forgot words from my script and paused for inordinate periods of time, trying desperately to make myself recall any coherent sentence. I panicked and couldn't keep my syntax straight. And when I finally got back to my seat I slumped down and had to keep myself from running out of the room or bursting into tears.

Grading me on the way I speak--in any language--only hurts my feelings. Don't kick me when I'm already down. It has taken me twenty years of conscious, difficult work to be able to control my speech in English, and I have already had to realize that in Arabic I will have to be patient for such skills. I'm grateful for the practice. But evaluating the mistakes of which I am already so painfully conscious in a way that could potentially injure my GPA just makes me sad.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Today I went to a fireside hosted by a dude who has lived in المملكة العربية السعودية for the past sixteen years. I waited until after all the old people had had a chance to shake his hand and tell him marginally relevant run-on stories, and as he was walking out, I zoomed right up next to him. I had to say something to him in Arabic. He'd walked near me earlier, and I'd totally chickened out, saying just "Hi" in English. Despite my flawless track record in Arabic classes, I have a terrible fear of saying things out loud to native speakers or people who speak well. This has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion, as I've missed out on a lot of speaking opportunities. It's just incredibly hard for me to get up the guts to say something that I'll probably end up saying incorrectly; I beat myself up for weeks about mistakes. But this time there was no one else around--just me and the dude. We were walking out of the church, and this was my last chance.

"هل تتكلم اللغة العربية؟" I started, stuttering over the verb.
"¿Cómo?" said the man.
Confused, I repeated myself, carefully pronouncing every vowel. "هل تتكلم اللغة العربية؟"
He still looked confused.
"Arabic?" I prompted, desperate for recognition.
"Oh. I don't speak any Arabic," he replied, kind of annoyed.
My uncle, who was making conversation in the foyer, spotted us and came over. "Hey! You know what? My niece speaks Arabic!"
The man answered, "Yeah, she just did. I couldn't understand a word." And then he turned away to talk to his wife.

I was annoyed and insulted. The problem wasn't my Arabic, it was the fact that he spoke no Arabic.
And really, sixteen years in Saudi Arabia and you can't speak a word of Arabic? حرام عليك، يا رجل.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Be prepared.

It's sunny today for the first time in what seems like forever (the news says it's rained for 39 out of the last 52 days), so this morning I decided to go on a bike ride up Provo Canyon. It was fantastic to feel the sun on my shoulders and the wind in my ponytail as I zoomed up the canyon, headphones threaded through my helmet. But on my way back down, I could tell something wasn't right.

There's just one blind corner on the bike path; it's in the middle of a shady dip that winds around and under the highway. It's actually my favorite part of the trail; it takes you out of the sun, gives your legs a break, and you get to ride right next to the river. It's easy to speed into the turn and coast out, which I usually enjoy doing. But not today. The presence of a space-consuming family on roller skates caused me to ease slowly into the turn to avoid them, and it's a good thing I did.

I arrived about thirty seconds after a terrible accident. Two girls on bikes had collided on the blind corner. One had been wearing a helmet, and she was scratched up but okay, but the other girl lay supine on the pavement, eyes open and frozen at weird angles. She was completely still. The few of us that happened to be passing through called the paramedics and stopped traffic around the corner so others wouldn't speed into the turn and hit the motionless girl. I didn't know what to do. Despite all that I've studied about acute neurological injury, I have no credentials or experience in practice, so though I wanted to help I didn't touch her and kept my diagnostic ideas to myself. Instead, at the request of the paramedics (who arrived with incredible speed), I positioned myself and my bike across the trail and asked incoming bikers to get off and walk. I described the accident to those who asked as the EMTs loaded the still-unresponsive girl onto a spine board and sped away in an ambulance. One biker a few years older than I immediately put her hands to her temples when I told her what had happened. "Oh my gosh," she exclaimed. "And I'm not wearing a helmet today."

Moral of the story: Helmets. Please wear them. Traumatic brain injury can happen to you.

Also, according to Mr. Harold Camping (yeah, his website's down...wonder why?) today is the Rapture! At 6 PM local time all over the world, righteous Christians are going to be sucked up into heaven by Jesus while everyone else suffers in a sequence of earthquakes, fires, and plagues until October 21.

I love the hype and really get a kick out of eschatology in all its forms, serious and non-. I was 10 years old during Y2K and remember watching the ball drop in Times Square from the TV in my playroom, end-of-the-world kit in hand (comprising some extra Martinelli's, a chocolate orange left over from Christmas, and a Y2K-themed Beanie Baby). I couldn't wait for my computer to explode and for the Western world to rebuild from scratch.

So we've got Camping's Rapture today (for which I indulged in a large portion of Magelby's chocolate cake last night, just in case), and then in 2012 we've got the big one, the Mayan prophecy for December 21. I just realized that I'll be on my mission for that one--I wonder if Koreans are into the whole 2012 thing? I really hope so. :-) Also, I realized that I'll miss all the fun surrounding the 2012 election. I wonder when I can register for an absentee ballot. What can I say? The world's a fun place to be right now.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Discussion of early church history (1800s) in my religion class this morning served to reassert a belief I've already articulated. The 1800s are dead to me the same way the Mayan civilization and the Ottoman caliphate are dead. They exist outside my rationale for consciousness and my image of a coherent world; history that is not my own is stories and nothing else. I can see ruins, I can touch statues and stand on old city walls and unearth shards of pottery, but I cannot believe it is real in the same way I believe my life is real. I am a product of the cultural paradigms inside which I have developed and I cannot really fathom things differently. It's like trying to think in four dimensions. Trying to comprehend history comes off as an intellectual exercise rather than a belief that it was once reality. You can make things up and tell me they were true, had been true in Spain or the Congo or Australia, and I will imagine things like I imagine when you tell me the Nabateans carved Petra and Stalin slaughtered millions.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Two o'clock is hard for me. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, that's when my Historical-Comparative Linguistics class starts, and though I like the class, I can barely keep my eyes open. Regardless, in my impaired state some part of me still attempts to take notes. With any semblance of rational judgment out of the picture, though, whatever base element of consciousness remains gets all garbled and all it can remember about taking notes is the fact that you write down some of what people are saying to you. It loses all ability to prioritize information, but in a valiant effort to maintain control it writes down things that, though very interesting to read when I wake up, are never very informative. Things like "ppl war" and "disappeared a the (triangle)s." But today I read over my first-hour notes and felt entirely pleased with myself. Because for the first time, some of my unconscious self's notes showed up in Arabic. I wrote (get ready for this):

لا -- صعبة
(translation: no -- difficult)

I don't know what I meant. I don't know what I was supposed to be writing about. The only memory I have of this sentence is thinking something like "that's an object plural." Which is kind of comforting, I guess. If I lose the ability to focus on immediate tasks, at least I'll always remember how to decline Arabic adjectives for groups of inanimate objects.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


The last few days of warmth (it snowed last week!) have finally convinced me that it’s summer. It’s been a long time since I’ve allowed myself to have this realization—I’m generally so busy and so far away from home that the season barely registers. And in theory, this summer shouldn’t be much different—ten graded credits and two audit credits have the potential to keep me indoors for the next month or so. But now that it’s warm, I’m not so sure I’ll let them. Instead of reading Sophocles’ three Theban plays this week I went on a date with a longtime friend for Korean food, watched my little brother win summer league basketball games, had a barbecue and fire pit outside with some fantastic اصحاب من درسي العربي, helped to plan an “Amazing Race” day date for my brother’s senior ball date, went swimming yesterday morning, and hung out in my swimsuit as I ate watermelon and let my hair dry curly.

There’s just one thing I crave that I can’t let myself have. This is usually the time I dye my hair pink, but that can’t happen this time around because I’ll be a missionary in just about two months. It still doesn’t feel real, even as I send in my visa application (I look like an angry alien in my I’m-not-even-thinking-about-smiling-I-promise-Kim-Jong-Il picture), learn honorific particles of address from Rosetta Stone Korean, and start thinking about going through Preach My Gospel again. I really should be doing more preparation, but between school and summer it’s really hard to focus. I'll get it under control...after all my homework, some frozen yogurt, and maybe an America's Next Top Model marathon. :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Receiving a phone call is simple. But when your phone rings, pulling you out of your papers and study guides and busy work, you realize that the person on the other line is actively concentrating his or her attention on you and has been for at least as long as it takes to decide to call you. If it's an important call, they may have even wondered what to say or imagined how you might react.

And sometimes that's really nice to think about.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Summers of My Life
2006: Cambridge, England (lived/study abroad); London, Paris (visited)
2007: Bohol, Philippines (lived/humanitarian aid); Cebu, Manila (visited)
2008: spent between Montana, California, and Texas
2009: Israel (lived/study abroad); Palestine, Egypt, Jordan (visited)
2010: Boston (lived/biomedical research internship); DC, New York (visited)

I know, I know. I'm not really complaining. I have a year and a half in South Korea on the immediate horizon, ما شاء الله. But for now all the travel pics on Facebook are tugging at my heartstrings because I'm remembering that I haven't spent a summer here since I was 14.

by Billy Collins

How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyed camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a cafe ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Two poems beginning with F.

"For a Five-Year Old"
by Fleur Adcock

A snail is climbing up the window-sill
Into your room, after a night of rain.
You call me in to see and I explain
That it would be unkind to leave it there:
It might crawl to the floor; we must take care
That no one squashes it. You understand,
And carry it outside, with careful hand,
To eat a daffodil.

I see, then, that a kind of faith prevails:
Your gentleness is moulded still by words
From me, who have trapped mice and shot wild birds,
Your closest relatives and who purveyed
The harshest kind of truth to many another,
But that is how things are: I am your mother,
And we are kind to snails.

by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New beginnings.

I think I'll push this right to the top of to my growing list of things to do before July 27. :-)
Thanks, Uncle Stephen, for the generous gift!


"Do you want to ride Blemblow? He's very, very blue."
of course I do.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


"There is no doubt that al-Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad. As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. I've made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam, because bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al-Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."

شكرا، يا أوباما، لإيضاحك
ومع السلامة يا أوسامة!