12/31/2007

Welcome 2008!

Today I read random facts with Danny. The number of combinations a rubik's cube has (somewhere in the quatrillions). The longest word in the English language you can write with only your left hand on the keyboard, "stewardesses." That Bert and Ernie were modeled after the Cop and the Taxi Driver in It's A Wonderful Life. Other things.

I can imagine him in slippers. I can imagine me sipping hot chocolate on a cold, cold morning. I can imagine sprinklers and light switches and lawn-mowers humming outside the window. I love this kind of thinking about my CAPITAL "F" FUTURE! 

I first called it that in a letter to Danny, one day when I was feeling anxious. It's like...I feel a million miles away from that girl now. 

Dot and I watched an incredibly stupid movie last night called A Wedding for Bella. It was very lame. We skipped the sex scene, and ended up skipping the movie. As Joe would say, "Beekh." (He should say "bayeekh" or "baykha" but whatever). 

I tried to take pictures of me with my dog, but honestly, I wasn't too invested in it. I think it was an afterthought of looking through Sarah's three incredible scrapbooks, one devoted entirely to Marshy. 

If I have more than one daughter (the first one will be named 'Jane'), which is pretty likely, there's no way that I would ever name her, "Margie". It sounds too much like a dog.

HAPPPPPPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2000000000008!!!!!!!!!

12/29/2007

I am from Western Massachusetts.

Because the internet told me so.

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)

Northern

You have a Northern accent. That could either be the Chicago/Detroit/Cleveland/Buffalo accent (easily recognizable) or the Western New England accent that news networks go for.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

12/28/2007

Out of Step


I saw a "Mormon Movie" tonight that was absolutely adorable, called Out of Step. In a lot of ways, it paralleled my own life. So what if it was a chick flick. Danny should be thanking me for watching it. One less cheesy movie  to watch with him! "But I only like watching chick flicks because I get to cuddle with you!" "Oh! Well, you can do that any time!" Still, the thought of cuddling while watching Terminator or Metal Gear Solid is kind of...not appealing. Probably those movies are rated 'R' anyway, but that's not the point.

The point is I saw a cheesy chick flick that I really related to. Here's why:

- struggles through dating decisions, specifically choosing (in my case, luckily, the choice was not very hard!)
- dating a non-member and the feelings that brings
- dealing with consequences of dating a nonmember
- living far away from your family
- growing up and trying to stay close with your parents but it being really hard because you're so far away
- At one point during the movie, she describes her life as, "Dating Dave." Sometimes I can relate to that, although I did get an A in at least one of my classes this semester!
- not a strong desire to date the typical mormon guys available
- schoooooooooooooooooooool blues

I miss Danny. He said something hilarious today. "You know, I thought of the upside of being away from you today."
"What?" I was very curious.
"Well, it makes this vacation a LOT longer."

Possibly I'll post comics tomorrow.

12/27/2007

Shanghai

That was a crazy game of shanghai.


video

This is Sarah shuffling. She is an expert in shuffling. I often think about how if I were an inmate in a prison, and all I had was a piano, I could become a Chopin or a Beethoven. I think Sarah was born with shuffling talent, though. She's been better than me since we were five feet tall. So this whole discussion about cells and prisons is sort of stupid.

If you don't count the last two rounds, I won. Hehe.

12/26/2007

Very Funny Dreams

Recently, I've been having the most ridiculous dreams. They include screaming at my Arabic students, my Arabic students saving the world from terrorists, and my boyfriend, Danny. The last one is not restricted to night dreams. "Leaping through a field!"

We (my mom and sister) were in the mall, and I suddenly realized that I don't like shopping when it involves spending other peoples' money. But I don't really have any to spare. These next few months will be about me saving money for the future. Compared to people I know in Jordan, I don't need jeans. Or anything, really.

They built a Borders where Lord and Taylor used to be in the mall. It's competition for Barnes and Noble, our family hang-out place. I went there instead of JCPenney, to get a little reading done in a book Danny got me for Christmas. It's called Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine. She also wrote Ella Enchanted. I couldn't find it in the Young Adult Fiction section, so I asked some teenager working there where I  could find it. He showed me to the Independent Reader section.

While he lead me there, he mumbled about the difference between the two. Danny had told me that he had spend about three hours trying to figure out what to buy me, and most of that time had been spent in the Independent Reader section. "It's about nine to twelve year old readers...you know...basically the same as young adult except less sex. It's ridiculous how explicit you get once you move over to Young Adult!" he mumbled. I responded, "Yeah, I saw the warning sign: 'Titles May Contain Explicit Material!' "

That surprises/disgusts me. Thirteen year olds shouldn't be marketed to with sexually explicit material. Holy cow. I teach thirteen year olds. They don't deserve that stuff. "I didn't venture off into the 'Fiction' section, because it was scary," Danny had said. Sure, I can understand perverted never-married old women (Havishamesque), but young adults???? Middle Schoolers? Bleaugh.

About 30 pages until I finish Fairest. How does it end???



12/24/2007

Do you like my haircut?


I look like an anime character. You can call me Kyo. What the heck was I thinking?

12/09/2007

Lamb-chop's play-along!


I got a costco card! Danny, his roommate, me, and Liel all went shopping together. They were selling a dozen lambchops for $6.99. I had never cooked lamb before, so Danny and I experimented. It was so delicious - doesn't it look good????

I love cooking, and I love costco.

11/30/2007

Hanistan and Ignorant Funny Americans

Last summer, while working for StarTalk, my friend FalaH told me about his Palestinian friend Hani, who is a stand-up comic. He decided to go around BYU campus and ask people their opinions
about Hanistan, which, of course, is not a real country.

You can read Hani's blog here.

11/26/2007

Romantic Grocery Store?


Danny makes the mundane things in life so amazingly happy and exciting. We went to the grocery store, and it was super romantic. I don't know how that's...possible.

11/24/2007

I feel very stressed and nobody knows about it

There are so many things going on in my life right now. It's hard to keep track of all of them. I want very much to succeed in everything, but I don't think I am. I need positive feedback. The two areas I put most into my life right now are definitely Danny and my work. Moments I feel happy - when I'm alone, I can get to feeling like I didn't accomplish enough.

As I was praying tonight, I felt like it might be a good idea for me to study my scriptures harder. I'm reading the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon. It's definitely not my favorite. It's hard and I feel patronized by snobby people when they try to explain parts to me. Maybe I just need to trudge along and do it anyway.

11/07/2007

I had to take an online Arabic test for my teaching methods class, and this is the paper I wrote about it.

The CASLS pilot test seems to promote a communicative competence theory of teaching. According to Brown, the keystone of communicative competence theories is the interactive nature of language. “Users of a language creatively interact with other people as well as with texts (including test items). Simply put, this means that tests have to involve people in actually performing the behavior that we want to measure.” (Brown, p 259). The test put the test-taker in authentic or near-authentic situations, and asked a series of multiple choice questions about the test-taker’s comprehension. The test was careful to provide non-misleading advance organizers, which helped to more accurately simulate authentic interaction. For example, one of the test questions was about a lost cat. On the ad was a picture of the cat. The multiple choice answers included several items – but even if the test-taker had no idea what the words in the ad meant, they could use their previous knowledge and the schema activated by a picture of a cat in a newspaper to deduce a correct answer.

The CASLS pilot test also promoted whole thinking. Often, comprehension questions included words that were not included in the test itself. Instead of listening for a word, a student would have to understand the context. For example, in one listening comprehension question, Ahmed discusses his vacation with his mother. One of the comprehension questions is, “How is Ahmed traveling?” “A. boat, B. car, C. bus, D. plane.” The word is never discussed during the dialogue, but one assumes that Ahmed, traveling from Egypt to Lebanon for a short vacation, would travel by plane. The test assesses students’ ability to use language in context: Ahmed’s mom asks him if he bought his tathkara, which generally refers to plane tickets. If a student did not understand this concept, they would not be able to answer the question correctly.

The flaw in this test is the lack of student input. If the test were to truly be interactive, students would not be able to randomly guess from a list of items. In real life, there will not be options A-D to help guide comprehension and assessment of a situation. I answered questions correctly that I otherwise would not have known because the answers were in Multiple Choice format. In this way, the test falls short from testing the skills that it wants to measure, which seem to be communicative competence.

In general, this test is completely different from the other kinds of tests I have taken in Arabic. From 101-301, a staple of the test has always been translation. The tests have always been closed-book, closed-partner, with absolutely zero advance organizers. There was one time in 101 that taking a test involved watching a video-clip, but that was probably to assess our ability to understand a variety of speakers; it was basically a talking head on a video screen. These tests are far from promoting the communicative competency theory the way the CASLS pilot test does.

I agree with Brown when he writes that tests must “test for grammatical, discourse, sociolinguistic, and illocutionary competence as well as strategic competence [and] require the learner to use language naturally for genuine communication and to relate to thoughts and feelings, in short, to put authentic language to use within a context.” (Brown, p 458) How useful is our study of language if it does not accomplish the ultimate goal, which is communication? The CASLS pilot test comes closer to providing students with an authentic context and an opportunity to interact than many of the achievement-type tests I have experienced in BYU’s Arabic department. I believe that if students are expected to be competent communicators, our tests should assess communicative language proficiency. I think my students at Renaissance would love this type of test.

11/05/2007

to do list 11/5

Today is my birthday. So far it's been a pretty blah day. Here is my list of things I must do.


To do 11/5/07

Read scriptures done

Goals for technology integration done

Any other missing assignments for IP&T?

Do the first 2 chapters for Worst Case Scenario book for the Classroom Management class

Look at CM class, see if anything else was due done

Try to send the email with the disclosure in it done

Figure out when/where to get fingerprinted tomorrow

Arabic observation logs

Email Kirk about a plan of when to teach

Arabic articles – read and make a vocabulary list for 4 articles for Wednesday, 1 for today on Darfur

Call Danny

Go to IP&T class

Go to Class Management class

Go home

Make an envelope for gas money

Write check, go to Shirley’s house and pay the rent.

Clean room

Clean bathroom

Clean kitchen

Take a shower

Get dressed up

Go out with Danny <3>

Come home

Start writing the Beede 1 portfolio

Start studying for the Fam Life final

Send Shereen the articles you want her to use for the midterm

Read scriptures, say prayers, go to sleep

10/30/2007

Are you learning anything in this class?

In my Classroom Management class, my professor always gives us a quiz each week. At the end of class, we are supposed to write a reflection about something we've learned that week in class. While we're taking the quiz, she passes out the quizzes from last week, with feedback about things we've learned. On my quiz for this week, she asked me the question, "Are you learning anything in this class?"

The next reflection I wrote for her was two pages, front and back. The question made me think a LOT. Am I really learning anything? If so, what? Is it what I should be learning? Why or why not, and how can I change that? Or should I? Or is it even possible?

I feel like I've learned a lot this semester. It is my first year teaching. I go to work every day and practice the principles that I learn in class. I learn from application. I learn from experience. I learn from realities like time, energy, amount of sleep, etc. Do I learn anything from my classes?

It would be an exaggeration to say that I haven't learned anything, but that means I must have learned something. I can't figure out what that something is. I have no idea what I've been doing the past semester. It feels like I'm stuck in the same class for hours and hours - reading about how to write lesson plans, how to manage a class, how to work with students with IEP's...how can I judge whether or not I learn from reading/discussing these topics, or from my being-a-teacher-in-a-middle-school-classroom experience?

I don't know. I certainly couldn't measure for you what I've actually "learned" in Classroom Management or Foundations of Bilingual Education or large chunks of French Teaching Methodology.

Maybe this is because my subject is so spherical, and true learning is not rote memorization - which can be easily measured. How do you measure learning? How do you determine its source?

I often think about how horrible it is that I'm not learning very much in college. Is that really true? And if so, is it my fault?

I'm thinking...mostly it's not.

10/23/2007

A Red-neck weenie roast

http://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=1&attid=0.8&disp=emb&view=att&th=115cedbdffa37629

My dad sent this to me in an email of other redneck things. I bet it was sent to him by his redneck brother from Texas, Uncle Robin.

10/22/2007

10/22

Sometimes Danny and I are talking about the same thing, but we don't realize it because we say it a different way. Sometimes we assume that we know what each other is thinking, but then it turns out that isn't true. There are so many conversations that I would never have with anybody besides Danny - they just would not be possible.

Some funny typos from students' papers:

Saddam Hussein - Sodom Hussein
innocent - insistent
trial - tryle
Iraq - Irack
governizing
self esteem - self of steem
prejudiced - predigest


Yesterday it snowed. The view from my window is like London - not that I've ever been there. It reminds me of home - the slanty rooftops - and also of the Muppet Christmas Carol, hence the London association.

Danny should get an award for putting up with me. Not only that, but actually loving me! Wow!

10/20/2007

What I learned at UFLA...

Today was excellent. I went to the Utah Foreign Language Association Conference. There was food, textbooks (none in Arabic, of course!), a keynote speaker - the current President of ACTFL! - and a breakout session for all the different languages to meet together and collaborate. I am excited for Arabic in Utah. We are pioneers, but it's a great cause, and we are definitely making progress. I'm interested in the flagship Arabic K-12 Master's program offered in Dearborn, Michigan. So exciting!

We also had some humor...Check out www.engrish.com! Hehehe...I wonder if there's an equivalent site in Chinese, for all the stupid t-shirts we must be wearing!


10/17/2007

Emily and Kate, jumping in puddles

My friend Emily Petersen found me last night. I didn't want to do homework. I was sick of doing homework. So instead, we ran around and jumped in the puddles outside my apartment. It was very fun, got completely sooooooaked. It was great to see Emily!

"I'm glad that you like the rain!" says Danny. Oh boy, if he knew!

10/15/2007

muzzy aeiou

While procrastinating HW, I figured out exactly how I feel about Danny (with the help of YouTube).

10/07/2007

I had the best weekend!!!

I had the best weekend of my liiiiiiife!

Danny and I are courting! Hehehehe...that's so great to think about!!!

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!

10/05/2007

Four pages about this!?


I knew that this assignment would be interesting. Every child has a story. As I took Ting from her ESL classroom into the library where I would interview her, asking questions that would help me identify the students that I will someday teach, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Who is this person? How did she get here? What is life like for her?” She seemed excited, bouncing happily beside me down the hall – an understandable attitude considering the realities of the drudgery of High School. Had I been called aside for an interview by a strange twenty-year-old college student, I would have bounced along, too. I wondered if she was nervous to talk to me.

Rewind the scene. Jessica, possibly the only person I know with as hectic an academic and work life as me, and I had decided the previous day to find an ESL student together at Orem High. We, as idealistic junior/seniors at BYU, were probably both simulataneously imagining the good works we would most assuredly accomplish with this assignment; bridging gaps between educators and students, providing impoverished, starving children with books and resources, saving them from a destitute family situation – building bonds that would last for years and years, and possibly beyond this world. We walked into Orem High.

Our meaningless chatter stopped almost mid-sentence as we pulled the heavy front door open and walked inside. It was unlocked. There were students scurrying through the halls, apparently late for class. The corridors were lit by flickering fluorescent light; almost no natural sunlight in the high-ceilinged, maze-like building. “Where’s the office?” After walking a few unsure steps, we finally saw a depressingly brown sign proclaiming, “MAIN OFFICE,” jutting out from wall. We walked inside.

It should be noted that both Jessica and I attended school districts distinctly different from Orem High. For one, they were both far away from the security of Happy Valley. My parents both teach in public schools where in order to enter the building during the school day, someone from the office must buzz you in. The school was not locked. If we had wanted to, we could have walked straight to the ESL room, without bothering to check in at the office. Jessica and I both felt alarmed by this lack of security. Our worries continued as we entered the office.

There was one woman in the Main Office. She had curiously blonde hair – curious, because of its context with the rest of her old and tired body. We stood there for about two minutes, and she didn’t look up until Jessica made a small cough. “We’re BYU students, we have an appointment with Terri Martin, your ESL teacher?” “What?”

Jessica and I were not intimidated by this woman, although that seemed to be her main goal. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh; she was probably just unleashing the stress accumulated from years of stacks of papers to collate and file, phones to answer, and directions to give to various people. In the end, we got our bright neon yellow “VISOTOR” badges, and left the office in search of the ESL room.

Hall C, room 11. C-11. C-11. “Wow, that sign must have been there for centuries!” TERRI MARTIN, it proclaimed, in white letters on blue plastic. It was above the room C-11. “Well, here goes!” Jessica opened the door.

There were approximately twelve students sitting in a semi-circle around the teacher’s desk, behind which sat an old-looking lady with her hands folded on her desk. Of the twelve students, eleven were boys. Not just boys – loud Hispanic boys. Jessica, who had lived in New York City for two years, told me later that they had been swearing and using the kinds of vulgarities that would probably have made the old-looking lady send them to the office, had they been in English.

It turned out that Ms. Martin, the lady with her hands folded so neatly, had no control whatsoever over these boys. Not only were they swearing, but they poked, teased, laughed, yelled, and talked. They did not even seem to acknowledge Ms. Martin’s existence. When we popped our heads in the room, it took about forty seconds for the Hispanic boys to stop their act.

“We’re the BYU students…” Jessica said. “Oh yes! You need to interview two students who have been here for more than a year. That’s it, right?”

“Yes.”

“Who would like to go?”

The class was silent for a while, until one of the boys reached over and poked his neighbor, which set all of the Hispanic students into a fit of giggles. “I go! I go!” said a voice in the corner. I hadn’t noticed her before, but there, sitting with book open and her hands folded in an almost perfect impression of Ms. Martin, sat a small Asian-looking girl. Jessica and I had previously agreed that we would interview two separate students, and I gave her a non-verbal gesture indicating that I could take the Asian-looking girl. After Jessica found one of the Hispanic boys willing enough to play along, we exited the ESL room en route to the library.

I then started my interview with Ting. She told me that Tina is her Americanized named, but that everybody at school calls her Ting. She was born in Beijing, China, where she lived and received schooling until she was 16. She came to the United States when her mother took a nursing job in southern California, where she lived until three months ago. She has been attending Orem High since the beginning of school in September.

When I asked her how long she was planning on being here in the United States, she laughed and said, “Forever!” as if it was common knowledge, a waste of breath to ask. The assignment requires that we ask certain questions about the students’ family life, but when I tried to ask about her parents, it was very hard to understand what happened.

I wondered if it was a language barrier or if perhaps, she was embarrassed about something. Her father is still in China, where he teachers Mandarin Chinese. I decided not to ask about the last time she’s been back, or whether she’s even seen him for two years. I could tell she wanted to move away from that particular subject.

“How many brothers and sisters do you have?” Here, she really laughed at me. “One!” might as well have been, “DUH!” She explained that in China, the government controls the number of children allowed per couple.

As we continued to talk, I realized that her mother is still in California, but she is living with his brother, her Uncle, and their family in Orem. They live in white, middle-class, quiet suburbia. At home, Ting speaks Chinese with her uncle sometimes, but mostly ends up speaking English. Her aunt doesn’t understand any Chinese, “She American!” Ting has three cousins she lives with, all under the age of six. She never speaks Chinese with them.

Ting did not understand the question when I asked if she was being taught to read and write in Chinese. She replied that she can write and read Mandarin, read Cantonese, read Taiwanese, read a little Japanese, and read/write a little English. After rephrasing the question several times, she answered no, she receives no schooling in Chinese here in the United States.

When I asked her about her friends, she said that there were two other Chinese girls she likes to be with, but they never come home with her to her Uncle’s house. Ms. Martin later told me that those two students were not receiving instruction through the school’s ESL program; they were either bilingual or had previously been mainstreamed. “She really doesn’t have any friends,” Ms. Martin sighed.

In an essay Ting wrote about herself, she described her social situation: “When my first day I came to Orem High School I feel so scary, because everything is new for me, for example; I need to use my school map to find my new classes, I don’t have a friends in here, I don’t know how to use a locker, and I don’t know how to talk with each other. I still felt scary and confusion.”

I started to wonder if maybe Ting was held back in school; she was an eighteen year old junior in High School. I wondered if Ms. Martin was exaggerating Ting’s social life; if maybe her perspective was limited by times that they interacted during the school day. Later, I learned that Ms. Martin has Ting for four out of seven periods during the day. The way Ting smiled when she talked with Ms. Martin told me volumes on how important this tired woman was in her life. It’s possible she is the sole person who actively cares about Ting’s social and academic development.

There are, of course, many resources available for ESL students in Orem, Utah. Although a predominantly middle class, white, LDS city, a surprising amount of resources exist and can be made available to help people from diverse cultures. There are Asian Culture clubs, as well as cultural activities (films, panel discussions, forums, etc.) hosted by the Orem Public Library. Aside from Asian-centric activities, there is an active and prominent Recreation Center that organizes Jr. Olympics and a Halloween Corn Maze. If Ting wanted friends, she could walk into just about any LDS church building and expect a mob of grinning, bouffy-haired, blonde girls. “Welcome!” However, all of these resources end up being useless until a connection can be made between them and Ting, which hadn’t yet happened.

What expectations are there for Ting? What will her future life be like? The eleven loud Hispanic boys make her ESL class a difficult learning environment; will she be able to successfully acquire the English proficiency skills needed to get a successful job in society? Will Ting be able to rise above her difficult family circumstances? Is she set up for failure? When I went back to visit with Ms. Martin a second time, she mentioned to me that, “It’s too bad that Ting will be moving next year. She already changed schools five times since coming to the United States, and now she will have to start all over again in Draper.”

Ting has linguistic skills beyond the average ESL student. She can not only read and write in her native tongue, Mandarin Chinese, with a fairly high proficiency (having been schooled there until she was 16), but she can also read Japanese, Taiwanese, and Cantonese. Nobody seems to value these skills that she possesses; instead, they seem to reinforce the fact that she does not speak or understand English very well. She expressed embarrassment during our interview, and again, in a sample of her writing that I read. She expressed feelings of shame, stupidity, and self-deprecation for her lack of fluency in English. Ms. Martin did not seem to do much to promote her self-confidence/self-worth.

Here I sit, now, typing up a four-page paper on the experience of getting to know this ESL child. I understand the objectives of the assignment; getting to know the students that someday, if we can ever obtain that distant piece of paper (diploma) approving us as being competent beings of intelligence, we will have in our classrooms. This student has a difficult life. The more I ask myself what her future is like, and what she will be able to expect from life and the world, the more depressed I become – especially contrasting it with the affluent private school education I was able to obtain. How can this world be so unfair?

The daily challenges Ting faces seem almost insurmountable. It seems that even help from other teachers would do little to provide Ting with what she needs to get a worthwhile education. Ting needs confidence, friends, and a positive learning environment in her ESL classroom. Unfortunately, the latter item is almost entirely dependant on Orem High’s enrollment and ESL student policies/procedures. That problem is almost easier to solve than the elusiveness of self-image and sociality. You can’t force someone to feel good about themselves – you can’t force someone to be liked/likeable. Ting is in a tough spot.

Unfortunately, both Jessica and I realized that we are really not in any kind of position where we can become mentors to these children. The pace of our busy lives runs both of us thin, averaging four hours of sleep/night, both of us trying to balance teaching foreign languages by day while learning about how we should by night, through BYU’s night class program. The truth is, I have no idea what can be done in the short run to help this student.

There is still hope, however. I would like to end this paper with the last paragraph from Ting’s essay. It proves that a positive attitude has the power to change bad situations into something better: “A few days ago, I am better then first day. I can quickly to find my classes with out school map. I can talk more with my teachers and my classmates. In the lunch time, I ate with my new friends. I never felt nevouse, I never felt lonely, and I never felt confusion. Now I felt so happy to come Orem High School. I hope I can have a great time in Utah.”

10/01/2007

Not enough Arabic Teachers out there...

So, I worked for Startalk Arabic at BYU this summer. It was way awesome. During the camp, there were these people walking around all the time video-taping us, probably for advertising for next year. I wanted to find the ad online, so I did a google search on "Startalk Arabic BYU", and came up with this article. I want to comment on it, as the issues are particularly important to me.

Surge in students studying Arabic outstrips supply of teachers

The title of the article alone completely catches my attention. I am the only Middle School Arabic teacher (in Public school) in all of Utah. Whoah.


A shortage of Arabic-language teachers across the country is shedding light on a classic economics question: What happens when there is plenty of demand and not enough supply?

And there definitely is not enough supply, I can tell you that.

Since 9/11, the number of students interested in the Middle Eastern language has been skyrocketing. More than 20,000 people in the USA enrolled in an Arabic-language higher-education program in 2006, double the number who signed up from 1998 to 2002, according to projections from a study the Modern Language Association expects to release this fall.

"Other languages will show an increase (in the fall report), but the only language that might be as dramatic as Arabic might be Chinese," says association executive director Rosemary Feal.

And even then, Arabic will be hard to surpass.


Interest has also trickled down to the pre-collegiate level as secondary schools and summer language camps surface across the country.

But generating student interest and enrollment is not the problem.

"There's definitely more demand for courses than there are qualified instructors," Feal says. "There's no doubt."

Absolutely none.

Education experts agree that Arabic is a difficult language to learn, more so than French or Spanish, the traditional alternatives.

That's not true. Arabic is not harder to learn than French or Spanish. It just takes more time because there are fewer cognates. It's wrong to perpetuate this idea that Arabic is "harder" than Romance languages.

Not surprisingly, the student dropout rate is high.

"We estimate that 20,000 students are studying Arabic at the collegiate level, but not even 5% are likely to graduate with functional speaking proficiency," says R. Kirk Belnap, director of the National Resource Center at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

One of the big problems with using "functional speaking proficiency" as a guideline for fluency in Arabic is that not all of the 20,000 students study Arabic with the goal of proficient speaking. Many want to be become translators, or analysts for government agencies. Right now, the most widely accepted Arabic textbooks for native English speakers prepares students to go into those kind of jobs, not become proficient speakers. I think that speaking is essential.

In an attempt to fix the problem, programs are sprouting to provide Arabic lessons to younger students.

More than 100 public, Islamic and other private schools nationwide now offer pre-collegiate Arabic-language programs of three to five sessions a week throughout the academic year, according to the National Capital Language Resource Center.

Like the two Arabic classes I teach.

Doing so does not come without risks, however. New York City this week opened its Khalil Gibran International Academy, which requires that its students study Arabic language. But the school has been greeted with protests by some who consider it a training ground for radical Islam. Others defend the school and say it helps meet the need for more Arabic speakers in the USA.

Oh yeah, well you can't study Korean, because it is a training ground for nuclear weapons creation.

This summer, STARTALK, a BYU-sponsored summer camp, offered a full session in Arabic for the first time in its 46-year history. This move represents further measures by the National Security Language Initiative — President Bush's 2006 effort to allot $114 million toward the study of Arabic, Farsi, Hindi and Urdu — to increase the learning of "critical" foreign languages. Minnesota's Concordia Language Villages recently completed its second annual Arabic language camp.

Go President Bush.

Whether creative and younger classrooms are the solutions is yet to be determined. The dropout rate at the K-12 level is 75%, says Dora Johnson of the Center for Applied Linguistics, an organization based in Washington, D.C., that researches and promotes the teaching and learning of languages.

But despite these numbers, academics say that there is potential for improvement.

Well that's the good thing about lousy results...

"I don't think they're frustrated," University of Texas Arabic professor Mahmoud al-Batal says of his "self-selected" Arabic students. "This is a national challenge for us. The most important thing is to provide teacher training for all those involved … and (create) more programs (overseas) and intensive programs in the U.S."

Concordia's director, Christine Schulze, adds: "Arabic is a language in great demand in many areas of society. … People are more interested, curious and want to reach out."

I really want to be the best teacher I can.

9/17/2007

Random dilusional thoughts

The world has gone MAD today
and good's BAD today
and black's WHITE today
and day's NIGHT today
when most GUYS today
that women PRIZE today
are just silly jig-a-lo's...

Cole Porter has been in my head for about three days straight now. Hmm. Not sure how I feel about that.

Sometimes I wonder about volume things. For example, if somebody were to put all of the hair that I've ever lost over the course of my twenty years of existence, how much space would that fill? An entire room? What about how many tears I've cried? How big of a bowl would you need - could it sustain a fishfull of saltwater fish?

I watched the first three episodes of the first season of the hit comedy, "the Office." It turns out to be hilarious, just like everyone said.

9/07/2007

MY OPI!!!!

Today, I was 14 minutes late to my French Teaching Methodology class. Dr. Maggie Nassif was giving me a mock-OPI, Oral Proficiency Interview.

She would have rated me right between Intermediate-high and Advanced-low.

ADVANCED LOW!??! WHAT!!! That's incredible! I'm so happy!!!!!! I speak Arabic!!!!!!!! She told me that I speak very fluently.

9/06/2007

More Goals

I was told that I didn't really put any goals into the last post. So here are some more. You can always have more than nothing.

10. Keep a clean room
9. Exercise regularly
8. Eat well
7. Get enough sleep
6. Magnify my calling
5. Be a good, conscientious roommate
4. Date Danny!
3. Get A's in all my classes
2. Completely kick everybody else's trash in my newspaper Arabic classes
1. BE THE BEST MIDDLE SCHOOL ARABIC TEACHER IN THE WORLD!

Sound good?

9/05/2007

Goals and the new semester

I guess there are many goals for this semester. One of which is to write on this blog every single day. I think that would be great. And get A's. That would be great, too.

The power steering fluid in my car is leaking and it sucks worse than you can imagine. Well, Danny gave me a ride to work this morning. He's also giving me a ride tomorrow, and Liel is picking me up. I have great friends.

It seems that this semester will be fun, or at least interesting. I like the two classes I have so far. Met Madame Thompson, for the first time. She's in charge of basically...the whole French program here. Way intimidating lady. She looks a little bit like a toad-shaped Mrs. Wormwood (remember Calvin and Hobbes?) with beehive hair. Her accent is so beautiful. She's a super duper grammarian stickler for correctness on everything. She'll do my OPI later this year.

Danny and I went grocery shopping and it was sooooo fun.

8/29/2007

Danny is back in town!

Danny is back in Provo! To be honest, it's completely strange that he's here. Provo is not a place where I'm used to seeing him. He got all checked in to Liberty Square. It's going to be a good semester, I think.

Everything has to do with timing.

8/27/2007

Capitol House

Liel and I live in Apartment 311. It overlooks two very awesome houses on 8th North. They are the Hollywood House, and the Capitol House.

My brother used to live in the Capitol House. We were trying to figure out why everybody who lives there is so cool, when Chris came up with, "Well, a tiny bit must have rubbed off on us, because we're pretty cool." Or something like that.

Every night when Liel and I come up from the garage underneath the apartments, we walk up a stairway that is open and looks across into their parking lot and house. Every single time we pass, the door is open. Usually one of us will yell, "STEEEEEEEVE!!!" and either Josh, Steve, Chris, or Mike will come out and hang out with us for a while.

This is fun.

8/24/2007

Liel and I moved into the Avenues, 311!!!!!!!!

I dunno. I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing that I have a zillion "best friends". Like, if I have a friend that I like a lot, for a while I will use the title "best friend" with them. And they don't ever really lose that title, even though freaks will tell you, "No, you can only have ONE best friend! That's the definition of BEST. Better than ALL the rest!" Ffffff.

Liel is one of my best friends in the whole world. She's probably my favorite girl to hang out with. It's fun to do just about anything with Liel, including nothing. Actually, that's probably the most fun. Tonight we watched pieces of 'Showgirls' on TV. I'm not sure how I feel about that movie. I think that mostly it qualifies as doing nothing.

video

8/18/2007

Real Life

I took my car to get fixed today, but it turned out all the mechanic did was top off my power steering fluid because that's all that was wrong.

So then, as I drove up I-15 to Renaissance Academy, the school where I will be teaching Arabic this year, I had several very good phone conversations. "So you're starting to enter real life."

Yeah. Real life! Wow!

Seriously, wow.

I stayed at my school until 11 p.m. making copies and writing stuff like my philosophy statement, and Performance/Knowledge goals for the first two weeks, and the first English Writing Assignment. On the way home, I called my friend Trevor, but of course it was around 2 a.m. his time. He talked to me for about a minute, "Hey, you woke me up. It's like 2 a.m. here."

Trevor lives in real life.

Danny is with his family on vacation. Sometimes, we'll be talking on the phone, and he'll have to go because he has to eat dinner with his family, or they'll want to play a game (ex: wii tennis!) together.

Danny lives in real life.

I've been doing some massive amounts of self-introspection and thinking recently. I want to live in real life. I want to stop pretending like I'm a little girl when I am actually an adult. This job is not scary because I can do it. I am an adult woman, and I can teach middle school. I know Arabic. I know how to teach. I can hear my mom singing to Julie Andrew's tune of, "I have confidence in sunshine..." Real life is not about a movie where things just magically somehow get better. Real life is about making choices, even if they aren't fun. It's time to stop living my life for "fun" and live it for real.

I live in real life.

8/13/2007

New Teacher

Today was my first day of work at Renaissance Academy, a charter school in Lehi, UT. We watched a movie about Anne Sullivan that made all of us choke up. Teaching is a noble profession.

I am sharing my room with one of the 6th grade math teachers - back to school night is this Friday - I need to correct the midterm test with Jameela the day after tomorrow - tomorrow I am teaching EA-10 - I need to make lesson plans and make copies and get them bound - I need to coordinate with the parent aide and the language classroom aide - I need to get my computer moved from the classroom down the hall into the prep room - I need to decorate my classroom - I need to read about 1,000 pages of stuff - I need to download RenWeb and figure out how I will be grading the students - I need to write a syllabus and a letter home to the parents - I need to make a class materials list - I need to clean my room - I need to sleep.

These are things on my mind.

"You'll love your new Arabic teacher. She's young and cute," I heard one of the front desk ladies say to a student today as he got his schedule. I kind of ran out of the building so that I wouldn't have to say hi - it was a bit unnerving. The kid was very, very, very short.

8/12/2007

Colorado

Here I am, at the Challis' computer, writing a post on my blog. It's been a great day. Sometimes I wonder a little bit about who I am and why I had the chance to have such a fantastic boyfriend as Danny. He really is the best boyfriend in the world, and I love him more than I can describe. He's my favorite person to be with, and I feel more real when I'm with him than with any other person. It will be interesting when he comes to meet my family in a few weeks. Sees my context.

8/08/2007

Startalk - Arabic

I am working as an "apprentice teacher" for a program called Startalk. Kind of nifty little catch-name; Start Talking Arabic. Startalk Arabic. Yeah.

The federal government has a ton of money set aside for this specific project. Individual schools, like BYU, and Boston University, and the University of Chicago, come up with a proposal for a program, and then get the funding from the federal government to run it. There are over a dozen Chinese and Arabic Startalk programs running around the country.

This year, 2007, is the first year of Startalk.

People are here from Washington D.C., sitting in on our classes, and interviewing various people (including myself for an hour yesterday) in pre-program-evaluation-writing efforts. These people will write reccomendations for next year, and evaluate the program overall. It's exciting. I would work for Startalk next year.

There are many pros and cons to this job, but overall it has been invaluable to me as a future Middle School Arabic teacher.

8/06/2007

So Tiiiiiired

Last night, I went to Liel's house for crepes. She didn't have any milk, so she used soymilk instead. They tasted great. Especially with strawberry icecream for the main topping.

It was probably one of the greatest feelings ever. Tons of people came. My friends. I have really missed these people. Cindy, Chris, Alexandra, Liel, Liel's roommates, Falah, two boys from Liel's ward...just tons of people laughing, talking, singing, dancing, eating crepes.

Later that night, after much talk and a mighty full stomach, my friend Matt called. Liel and I put him on speaker phone. I think I must have passed out while talking to him, because I don't remember hanging up the phone. In fact, the next definite memory that I have is of my turning off my phone alarm the next morning. But I was in pajamas, so I must have changed somewhere between there. Hmm.

Liel is such an awesome friend to me. I'm excited for us to be roommates.

8/02/2007

Shadow Reading

I am currently working at an intensive Arabic camp at BYU called Startalk. It's for High School students. One of my coworkers works in the ELC (English Language Center) on campus at BYU. He teaches students how to read.

Yesterday, he taught me how to read.

One technique that he uses to teach non-native English speakers how to read is called "Shadow Reading". Basically, this is how it goes:

You read the passage to yourself.
He (the native speaker) reads the passage out loud.
You read the passage out loud.
You read it out loud again.
You read it out loud again.
Then, you both read the passage together.
You read it together again.

We sat there reading about the bridge in Mississippi that collapsed. Al Jazeera is great. Over and over and over and over. "Officials in Washington say it was not a terrorist activity."

This method is useful for grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and reading fluency. More about it later.

7/31/2007

My Number One Fear

I don't want to end up living a boring life.

My entire childhood I was spoon-fed things like, "Reach for your dreams!" and "You can be whoever you want to be." Then, BAM, I'm suddenly an adult in an apartment by myself, dating somebody I really love a lot, and thoughts about the future start to creep into my mind. How will I reconcile my two greatest dreams? Using Arabic in an adventurous career, and being a mother and having a family.

Fortunately, I have fantastic friends who tell me things like, "Career and family are not mutually exclusive. You can do anything, Kate." and, "Quit whining. You've been in Provo for waaaaay too long. Stop listening to those Mormons." and, "You told me you wanted to talk to someone about it - try talking to God. He'll listen, and definitely understand." and "Yeah, I feel the same kind of things about the future too, sometimes." and "Remember that time when you told me that you had complete faith that everything would work out in the end? Remember how you told me to remind you of that moment when you would be crying and stressed out about the future? Yeah, I'm reminding you right now." and "I wouldn't want you to be anything but Kate. I love you." and "What do you think you're doing already, right NOW, with Arabic, in this camp?"

7/29/2007

Gastro

Last time I vomited while having diarrhea was a little more understandable/explainable. After all, it was in a foreign country and I had probably eaten something really weird. Here, there really is no telling what got me sick.

I told my friend Matt Cox that it felt like there was a hose attached to my backside.

At the pharmacy, they gave me the same anti-nausea medicine they give to pregnant women. I found this out when the pharmacist asked, "So, are you pregnant?" What made the situation funny was that Matt was standing next to me. Hehe.

7/23/2007

Colorado

I just got back from the most fabulous five days of the last two years.

DANNY IS HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

7/17/2007

The Kate's American Life pre-podcast madness!

Now you can download Kate's American Life as an mp3 to your computer! Wicked sweet!

The ultimate goal is to set this up in a way that you will be able to subscribe to the weekly audio-posts in iTunes as a super amazing fabulous kick-your-trash podcast. This is still kind of a work-in-progress, so check back regularly. Or now you can subscribe to this blog either via your personal bookmarks or via email.

Thanks for reading!

Episode 2: Things that don't Suck in Utah

video

7/14/2007

Maybe BYU Church Leaders are SUPPOSED to be freaks about dating

I went swimming in the pool at the Avenues, and met three very cool girls. One was from the Elms, and the other two were from other apartments in my complex. We got to talking about lots of things, and the topic of strange attitudes towards dating came up.

We swapped bishopric horror stories, like the girl whose bishop went through the male section of the ward director one by one, finding out which boys she would date if they would ever ask. Or the boy who had a deadline for getting a steady girlfriend. "He wanted to give me a deadline, too, but I told him no way." Or the numbers thing. "I will not be happy if they bring up engagement numbers in PEC meeting this Sunday...'Our numbers are down, guys!' It's not a competition!"

So, while some people would have been horrified by these types of things, it actually came as a gigantic relief. After all, there are people who need encouragement to date, and this is the time period of life where these issues start to become of number one importance. It also helped me realize that I'm not alone in thinking that my bishop is totally psycho.

One of the girls said something that caused me to re-evaluate my previous judgment of my bishop's insanity. Something along the lines of, "I think that our Stake must get marriage-crazy leaders on purpose."

I definitely want to give him a second chance, and it's not like my thinking he's a little bit strange would affect my ability/desire to sustain him as my ecclesiastical leader.

Sigh. I guess people just like to complain about dating wherever they are when they're single.

My Sister Sarah Vasicek ROCKS


Sarah is my way awesome, smart, funny, well-read, experienced little sister, and she rocks. She has good taste in movies, books, and friends. She is understanding, and cares about being politically correct. She is one of my closest friends. When we're home, she walks the dog more than I do. She understands all of the old inside jokes, like from Rescue Rangers and "Nobody can pop Rupert's plan to take over CAMELOT!" and she understands the new stuff, like how we're both in the same boat of my-whole-life-could-drastically-change-in-the-next-few-weeks. She ate my middle east beans. Dot teases her about being a wide-eyed baby. Now she is a wide-eyed BABE. Haha. She is the most fantastic artist. Seriously, if Pixar ever hired her, they'd raise their net worth over ten billion dollars. She has good taste in shoes, yet we can also go into places like 'Payless Shoe Source' together, which is pretty much the only American-shoe I can afford - so basically I'm saying she's not a snob. She's an inspiration to me. She's helping me be positive about Utah:
"Utah sucks and is ugly."
"Southern Utah is pretty."
[Thinking about it]
"Okay, so Utah doesn't suck and isn't all ugly."
She likes Trevor. She thinks he's hilarious. She likes Danny. She thinks he's cool. This statement is not meant to say that Trevor isn't cool and Danny isn't hilarious. When I was dating Tom, she wanted to make t-shirts that said, "TEAM DANNY!" on them.

She can stand on her head. And on her feet. She can whistle with her fingers. She can make fire out of nothing. She's like Harry Potter. She glows in the dark.

There was this hallway in the house where we grew up that was really dark. One time when I was walking down the hallway carrying a glass of water, completely in my own mind, and Sarah was walking towards me down the same hallway. She saw me the whole time, but I didn't notice her until she said, "Hi," about four inches away from my face. There was a loud shriek, which came from my mouth, followed by a cold shower of water and me falling down on the floor in shock. Sarah wasn't scared, having seen me the whole time, but when I screamed, she screamed too because she was, understandably, freaked out by the flying limbs, the water, and the loud noises.

The best part was that there was a dead bird in the wall, and that we shared a room, except that Sarah had 1/2 a room, and I had 1 1/2 rooms. One where I slept, and another where I kept all of my stuff.

The moral of the story is never carry a glass of water where there might be dead birds in the walls and it's dark and the carpet is blue (but it's pretty much black because let's face it, eyes can't distinguish hue in the dark).

Sarah is also a talented writer/narrator.

7/13/2007

Why I Love Waylon Jennings

I don't know how I could have grown up twenty years of my life without ever hearing Waylon Jennings' name. What rock was I living under? My friend Trevor made me a CD one time with one of his songs on it from a Sesame Street video called 'Follow That Bird', and I liked it, so I bought a CD called 'Ultimate Waylon Jennings' with a BestBuy gift card that I got for Christmas.

I like what it says about him in the CD Jacket: "he reinvigorated country music, took it by the scruff of its neck and walked it over to Hillbilly Central, reminding the Nashville Sound that its roots were in the lonesome moan of the wind, and the restless urge to keep moving, and a hard stompin' all-four hoofbeat. Thumb on the bass strings."

It would be neat to leave a legacy like that. "She reinvigorated the Arabic language, took it by the scruff of its neck, walked it over to Anti-Islam Central, reminding the Patriotic-borderline-Nationalist Conservative American Movement that its roots were in the pursuit of democracy, the restless urge to Manifest Destiny, and a hard resolution to uphold basic human rights and liberties. Right hand over your heart."

7/12/2007

Congress debates troop withdrawal from Iraq July 10 (Bill 2956)

I study the Middle East. Everything that has to do with that part of the world is interesting to me. I love the language, history, culture, and politics.

I deferred from BYU last semester to go to Irbid, Jordan, live with a host family, and study Arabic at Yarmouk University. This was a unique opportunity to be exposed to the language, history, culture, and...politics.

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to broaden my exposure to opinions. The people I met, conversations I had, articles I read, and understanding I gained caused me to form my own political opinions.

A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq will be a disaster. I do not support a bill that enacts a withdrawal of all American troops by April 2008. However, I cannot support allocating 80% of our forces in Iraq with the excuse that we are battling Al-Qaeda while our terrible enemy builds its strongholds in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I agree with the Democrats - we must change our strategy. I agree with the Republicans - we cannot pull out all of our troops, at least not yet.

My new apartment has C-SPAN. It's the first time in my life that watching this channel has been so interesting. I actually stood up and started screaming in frustration when Indiana's Republican Congressman Dan Burton stood up and argued against the New York Congressman's "our-troops-can't-build-or-sustain-a-democratic-Iraqi-government-
because-it-has-to-be-from-their-own-people-and-therefore-we-
should-not-waste-American-lives-on-a-war-we -can't-win" statement with, "Well, if George Washington could see what we were doing, he would understand because Congress almost gave up on HIM and HIS wars...if we gave up in World War II, there would be thousands of Holocaust victims who would have died."

PATHETIC REBUTTAL. Absolutely lame. The other Republican Congressmen had facts, not incoherent/irrelevant references to 'history'. The truth is, the person whose argument I most agreed with was the Republican Congressman from Indiana, Mike Pence. He doesn't support a withdrawal from Iraq until we can have information about what is actually going on, yet he agreed that keeping our troops there is not the ultimate solution. Pro withdrawal, but not pro precipitous withdrawal. He admitted if we fail in Iraq, we will fail in the entire Middle East, which I think is extremely true. We CAN'T risk that.

Maybe life in Provo isn't going to Suck

Liel and I signed a contract to live together in the Avenues. It was pretty funny - our landlord is an absolute space case. The good kind, that takes care of her apartment, but doesn't obsess about her tenants. She had wanted to sign up two friends together for the two empty rooms she had in the condo she owned, but for some reason decided to sign me on. It absolutely thrilled her when I showed up with Liel on her doorstep, about a week later - "I'm so happy that you two are friends and that you will sign this together!" she proclaimed. "I'm not a liar!"

Liel is an incredible person. We have similar minds. Basically, she's been living at my place for the last week. I would bet a hundred bucks that she has spent more time with me than without me over the last seven days.

She asked the question, "Do you think you have more guy friends or girl friends?"

I thought about it a little bit, and realized that my response two years later was completely different. "Girl friends. I feel very close to my guy friends, but they're hard to keep. They never last. But you, Cindy, Emily, and Alexandra - you have been my close friends for over two years. Guy friends come and go, but my close girl friends stay, and there are more of them."

So all* my friends will be here this fall (male and female), Liel and I will be living together, and DANNY WILL BE HERE!!!!!!!!

Just...TALKING again! My stomach is going insane, there are so many butterflies flittering around. I have never experienced this feeling before. It's hard to describe.

But anyway, the overall conclusion is: maybe this whole thing isn't going to suck after all.

*minus one very important friend from home...

7/11/2007

I waited for a missionary!

What!

He's back!

We talked on the phone for about two hours today!

What!

I was told that it would be awkward, but it wasn't! It was awsome!

We talked about a lot of things. At one point he referred to how I exceeded everyone's expectations, but I didn't understand what he was talking about. "Well, Kate, it's pretty awesome that you wrote me my whole mission!"

It is really awesome! That is a huge accomplishment, for both of us. I am excited for this new phase in my life.

Wow!!!!!

7/10/2007

Reflections on my new BYU Bishop

So, I've been thinking a lot about the interview I had yesterday with my new BYU bishop, and I've come to the conclusion that I dislike him. This is why:

He asked about my family. I told him about my siblings. He found out that my sister is in a rehab center in Orem. He asked if I ever struggled with the same issues as she did. WHY would that be AT ALL relevant, I wonder?

"So, can you afford your apartment?"

Liel wonders out loud what the correct response would have been to this: "Um, actually, I took out a student loan to pay for this...I could have lived in Raintree, but this one was so much prettier!"

"Um, yeah."

Later:
"So, we want to get you dating."
"Um, I don't want to date now."
"We try to encourage our young men to date."
"Just because I don't want to date doesn't mean that I will refrain from all social interaction."
"We'll see."

It gets worse. He asked for my previous bishop's email address so they can talk about me. "I just want to make sure there are no unresolved issues." He even SAID.

Plus, the question, "Is there anything else that you'd like to tell me about?" randomly asked at least three times through the course of the interview, which made me feel like he thought I did something deep, dark, secret, and evil. Which of course, I did not - but even if I HAD, isn't the gospel supposed to be about repentance and forgiveness? Ugh.

Ensha'allah this situation will change, because he will probably be my bishop for the next year.

7/09/2007

Cooking for Myself

My friend Liel says that it's empowering to cook for yourself, and that is totally true. You have complete power, control - absolute freedom when it comes to choosing what to buy and what to make, and when. So far, and it's only been 3 days, I LOVE cooking for myself.

Tonight, Joe, Cindy, Chris, Alexandra, and Liel came over for dinner and a game of Settlers. Just because my best girl-friend is married now doesn't mean that we can't still be friends!

7/08/2007

Ratatouille

I enjoyed myself during this movie. There were sequences where the entire theatre, including me, was laughing out loud. Check it out.

7/07/2007

Am I another Freak living in Provo?

Liel and I slept on the floor next to Allison's mattress. I tend to agree with what I assume is the main reason her mattress lies on the floor, not on the makeshift cinder block enhanced bed frame - comfort.

Allison is the girl whose contract I bought.

Her best friend from high school is Iranian, and got a job in England this summer. She had been inviting Allison to just come out and live with her for the next few months since something like February, but there never was a plane ticket, and things just weren't right.

Two days ago, things became right. Allison found a miraculous plane ticket, and decided to just leave. This timing was insane for both of us.

In the middle of the night, she suddenly shouted, "Where's my passport!?!?!?!"
Liel said, "Don't worry, it's on your desk where you left it."

This morning, as I watched her pack, I started to realize that there is a huge world apart from going somewhere, and going somewhere. I will never pretend that I was Jordanian. However, I did really live a Jordanian life, not an American one with a different background. The Hammouri family considered me their daughter. I didn't have the luxury, or perhaps curse, of being able to randomly shove clothes (unfolded!) from J. Crew into a designer suitcase the morning I was leaving spontaneously on a trip to England. Imagine my Arab friends in the same situation...not even close to a possibility.

Liel later said, "You know, this wouldn't make any sense if we weren't twenty. Like, in ten years, this would never happen."

Instead of being pissed at the snobbism, the richness, the elitism, the wall of difference between our cultures that we willingly build when we do ridiculous things like this - I decided to force myself into bemusement. "Hmmm...isn't she crazy?"

Hey, my apartment rocks! Complaining would be even crazier!

7/06/2007

Miracle

Mary is my mom's cousin. My dad and I slept at her house last night, with the understanding that would be the only night of using her house as a hotel.

I left her house today not knowing where I would be staying for the night, where I would be living for the next semester/year, anything at all about the High School Arabic program I am supposedly working for - whether or not I will get monetary compensation, or college credit, or anything ---- no knowledge about where I would work, or what in the heck I'm doing.

Driving down the street, wondering these things, I noticed the your-gas-tank-is-empty light flicker, and realized that my ATM card was with my little sister in Morocco.

Then, I heard my stomach growl, and realized that without money, eating could be an issue.

No food, no money, no gas, no job, but worst of all, no home.

I wandered campus, trying to find the people who could solve the "job" part of the problem, when my friend Liel called and basically said, "Hey, my friend decided yesterday to go to England for the next two months, and needs to sell her contract."

God cares about his children - not just the big life events, but our daily lives. Everything worked out. I don't know how to describe it.

Later, Liel, the girl whose contract I bought, their friends, and I went out to eat.

Two down, three to go.

7/05/2007

The Best View for Stadium of Fire July 4th Fireworks

Matt, his friend from work, and I watched the largest display of fireworks in the state of Utah from the very best view in the valley - on top of R Hall of Deseret Towers.

I was a Resident Assistant last time I was on campus at BYU. Girls aren't allowed in the guy's dorms. R Hall is a guy's dorm. Right now, it is swarming with EFY kids. We wanted to watch the fireworks from the top, so after an EFY kid let us in to the building, all three of us went together in the elevator up to the top floor.

There were already people up there, including someone who looked like a Hall Advisor with kids - as in, the person responsible for the entire building.

I realized that there was a beach towel in my car, and that with it, our butts might not have quite such a hard sitting surface. So, I descended the 7 flights of stairs and retrieved the towel from my car.

The door was locked, and the EFY kids had vanished. Matt was on his way down to let me into the building, when a brunette and a blonde in EFY-blue polo shirts, carrying clipboards, came down and said, "Hi! Where are you trying to go?"

Let's consider this scene. I'm older than these two female EFY counselors. I have been an RA for longer than they could have ever been EFY counselors, if you can go so far as to compare the two! These girls want to do their job thouroughly, but interviewing every passerby who enters a building cannot possibly on the job description.

"Where are you trying to go?"
"Um, the roof."
"Who are you with?"
"Um, my friends. We're watching the fireworks."
"Oh well, who are you going to be with?"
"Um...my friends...I think the Hall Advisor is up there, too."
"Well what are your friends names?"

I gave the girl a weird look. "Um, Matt Cox, and some other girl he brought...I'm not in EFY, just so you know."
"Oh, yeah, of course - we just wanted to open the door for you, but couldn't without knowing who you'll be with so..."
"Oh, yeah, I understand."

Ridiculous.

But the fireworks made it worth that.

7/04/2007

Mormon Handcart Visitor Center and Museum: Second Most Visited Wyoming Tourist Site

We drove past 287, the road that takes you to the Devil's Gate and Martin's Cove, two historic sites of my ancestors. If we had realized our mistake five minutes after the fact, it would have been one thing - but it wasn't until fifty miles down the road that my dad and I agreed that, "Hey, we must have missed that turn."

Wyoming in general is not very forgiving; the combination of scarcity of roads, vast open land, and high altitude make for long, windy, lonesome journeys. We literally missed one turn, and that cost us nearly three hours: accidentally going too far, turning around, only to retrace our steps when we were done being tourists.

It was worth every second.

I am a direct descendant of Mary Hurren, Mormon pioneer. She was 7 when she trekked out west with the ill-fated Willie Handcart Company.

The full-time senior couple missionaries had a book full of memoirs of various pioneers. Somewhat dubious of anything actually turning up, I flipped to the "H" section of the book, which, if I am not mistaken, was a version of "Tell My Story, Too" (A collection of biographical sketches of pioneers and rescuers of the Willie, Martin, Hodgett, and Hunt Companies 1856) by Jolene S. Allphin of Layton, UT.

There was an entire page about Mary Hurren. The sister missionary photocopied it for me. Here is an excerpt:

"One day, Mary and her friends, Agnes Caldwell, came to a section inhabited by rattlesnakes. They would hold hands and jump over the snakes, thinking it great fun. Agnes later wrote: "It seemed to me we were jumping for more than a mile. Due to the protecting hand of the Lord, we were not harmed."

"...When they had to climb Rocky Ridge, there were eighteen inches of snow on the ground. It was very cold and the wind was blowing hard. Mary and her best friend, Bodil Mortensen, climbed together. After arriving at camp, little Bodil died and was burried in a common grave with 12 other people who had died that day. Mary's father lifted her up so she could see the body of her friend lying among the dead.

"The weather grew colder each day, and Mary's feet eventually froze. When the family finally arrived in the Valley, their first concern was little Mary's frozen feet. They took her to a doctor and he said her legs would have to be amputated or she would die. Her father protested, "This little girl didn't walk a thousand miles to have her legs cut off. If she dies, she will die with her legs on."

"The family moved to Brigham City to make their home and an elderly lady, Mrs. Snider, told them to get some fresh steak and wrap her feet in it and call after three days. Fresh meat was not available where they lived, so Mary's father walked 20 miles to Ogden, gota steak, and walked back. When the beefsteak was removed after three days, Mrs. Snider applied homemade ointment on Mary's legs and feet. Within a few days the rotten flesh dropped off. Mary was able to walk again in two years. Her feet hurt her all her life."

The rest of the story goes that Mary's last words were the proclamation,"My feet don't hurt me anymore!" That may be family lore, but the part about my ancestors being pioneers isn't.

It's a big deal. Do you realize how far these pioneers had to walk? What they suffered? That over 70,000 Mormon pioneers left the country to seek a place where they could worship freely? I had an incredible feeling at Devil's Gate, and later, as we crossed Sweet River.

By far, the most powerful feeling was surveying the valley from the top of Independence Rock. It's an enormous rock in the middle of a valley surrounded by mountains and plains. Thousands of emigrants passed through, including California-bound gold-diggers, Oregon Trail people, and Mormon Pioneers.

They carved their names into the face of this rock. It's hard to climb to the top, but the feeling of seeing the thousands of names beneath my feet, and starting to comprehend the vastness of the journey was worth a three hour detour.

I took away from the experience that at some point, before it gets too cold, my friends and I should come camping here.

7/03/2007

Nebraska

My dad and I drove from the Iowa side of the Mississippi River to Cheyenne, Wyoming today.

This meant that we passed through Nebraska.

Nebraska is part of the Great Plains. My dad called it, "the bread-basket of America." The last time that I was here was over ten years ago, probably on a similar road trip.

We stopped for gas at a trucker's stop somewhere between Omaha and Lincoln. At every stop we've made, it's been interesting to look at the various gas station convenience store collections of CD's. Nearly every place since Ohio has had a smattering of classic country, pop country, motown, and crooners like Barry Manilow. Here, next to Lonnie's Roadside Restaurant (or was it Lorrie's? I can't remember exactly which it was), I found several compilations of "Americana" music. What exactly is that? What does it sound like? It piqued my curiosity, but my dad was less interested in buying me CD's than buying me dinner at Lonnie's.

Inside the restaurant were about a half a dozen truckers, and one or two fellow passers-through. My dad ordered an omelette from the all-day breakfast menu, while I got a cheeseburger. It ended up being delicious.

My dad and I listened to Bruce Springsteen's entire album of "Nebraska" while driving through Nebraska. I wondered what it would be like to live here, how different life would be from Western Massachusetts. Would I be able to live here? Would I like it?

At Lonnie's, there was a small bookshelf by the door with stacks of weather-beaten harlequin romance novels and a sign encouraging passers to take, read, and pass it on. I found a book by Naomi Horton called, "Born to be Bad." On the front, there is a picture of a blond girl wrapped in nothing more than a purple bathrobe, scandalously hiked up to reveal her upper thigh. She is leaning back on a shirtless man in blue jeans, the words "Tall, dark and dangerous" floating beneath. The back cover reads:

"NEVER PICK UP STRANGERS...

"The man at the truck stop didn't look threatening. And all he needed was a ride. Still, Holly Triano knew better than to trust a dark, handsome stranger...

"Col Donovan couldn't blame the pretty young widow for refusing to give him a lift. But he was a desperate, hunted man, and she was his only way back to White Poplars, where he would get revenge at last on the man who had framed him for murder.

"One moment, Holly was heading home to her children; the next, she was being kidnapped by an escaped convict. Everything about Col seemed dangerous, but it wasn't fear that made Holly quiver at his touch - it was desire."

I had hoped to use my internet search skills to find the name of the place we stopped, and whether it was Lorrie or Lonnie's restuarant. What I found was a site of travel tips. A few internet waves later, I surfed into an interesting sub-site about Nebraskan Local Customs. One of them seemed to be picking up hitch hikers, which makes Ms. Horton's book even more of a treasure.

7/02/2007

July 1st Encounters

I was filling up my fast-food medium-sized beverage cup with ice, when a tan man in a green t-shirt in his mid-30's walked by. The whole setup was poorly engineered; they put the main straws, sauces, and napkins that everybody would want easy access to on the far end of the counter, with the coffee lids and teensy-tiny straw-like things in the center, when they are not in quite as high a demand.

I had experienced the same confusion about five minutes before, whilst on my quest for silverware. I gestured my eyes in the direction of the other counter and said, "I think they're over there." The man smiled, and thanked me.

Then, he walked back. "What I really needed was a cup lid!"

"Oh, sorry I misled you." (the cup lids were attached to a rack above the soda fountain.)

"It's okay, I know your type. You're the kind to break dozens of guys hearts. You know, we have feelings, too."

"Reeeeally?"

"Of course!"

My dad and I passed a sign for a town called, "Annawan." I pointed at it, and said, "Annatwo! Annathree!"

Later on, my dad introduced me to Willie Nelson , who I didn't even know existed as a whole CD on my ipod. The best part was I knew several of the songs! "She's a good-hearted woman in love with a good-timin' maaaaan." In turn, I introduced him to Ira Glass and "This American Life" - only to experience a similar deja-vu when he pronounced, "Oh! I heard this on the radio the other day!" I guess this world is small enough for us to run into country musicians and radio show hosts before even knowing their real significance.

Which...I'm not sure exists...

6/30/2007

Utah is not a Four-letter Word

I have been dreading tomorrow for several weeks. It is the day that my father and I will start our road trip to Provo, Utah, where I go to school (Brigham Young University). There isn't one reason that this situation is so dreaded - but rather a combination of memories of Utah suck-ness, ever growing affection towards my home state and the general New England region, but what is probably most significant - the people.

In an effort to cheer me up, Trevor told me that, "Hey, Utah's not a four-letter word."

[Pause]

[Laughter]

"$#*!, I guess it is."

Other four-letter words having to do with Utah include:
dumb
boys
ring
date
love
work
(honor) code
heck
fech (okaaay, since this isn't a reeeeal word, it doesn't matter I forgot the "t")
ncmo

But do not include:
mail
arab
hike

uhhhhm...uuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmm....

If you can think of anything else, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!!!!!!

Currently, I cannot imagine a force powerful enough to convince me to remove my membership from facebook's "In Utah, but not Of Utah" group.