This site contains the archives of my travel blogs from 2010-2016.

I'm now blogging via Medium. For other life updates, including opportunities or requests to collaborate, visit my personal website.




Thursday, December 30, 2010

Humour in Translation

My Russian vocabulary has grown leaps and bounds during the process of translating the 20-page survey that I'll be administering to Russian college students as part of my thesis research.  I've spent hours consulting English-Russian and Russian-English dictionaries and thesauri, even Russian business articles and trade magazines, trying to find the best translation for the English expressions and nuances in my survey.  Fortunately, I've enjoyed translating stories and documents ever since my first Spanish class, a decade ago. So although this has been a lengthy and focus-intensive process, it's been fun.

I especially love finding the humour in strange, odd, or otherwise unexpected translations. Hence my past blog posts on "Untranslatable words from around the world," "The German word lippenflattern," "Language shapes how we think," "Words that don't exist in the English language," and "French words that have no direct English translation" -- to name a few.

Today I happened upon Google's translation for the Russian word определенную (say it o-pre-dyel-len-noo-you) that might be the funniest (if not completely accurate) demonstration of Russian's propensity to use many more letters than a situation seems to warrant.
Here's the translation Google Translate gave me for this 12-letter word:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No Journey Wasted

I received a Kindle (Amazon's wonderful wireless reading device) last week as a pre-Christmas gift, and ever since I've been immersing myself daily in books that have been on my "to-read" list for ages. I've named my Kindle "Oscar," after Sesame Street's "Oscar the Grouch," because when it arrived in the mail I immediately looked for a dark, cozy, small place to curl up and read. 

Oscar and I have become great friends. He can hold up to 3,500 books, can you believe it? Perfect for travelling. And the books I buy on Amazon are delivered to my Kindle in under 60 seconds. Amazing. 

My second pre-Christmas gift from this very good friend was the autobiography published this year by the one man I would consider my "celebrity role model."  I first read Huston Smith during my third term at Rogue Community College. I was young -- I had just celebrated my sixteenth birthday -- but devoured the assigned reading for my Intro to World Religions course more vigorously than most of the older students. Concurrently enrolled in an Intro to Anthropology course, I was enthralled with the connections I could draw between the two courses, and reveled in the discovery of parallel theories. I had uncovered one of my true passions: the study of world cultures.  

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Taking a break, Predators style

I haven't posted in the last week or so, mostly because breathing and sleeping are a little higher on my priority list.  I've been under the gun every day to meet another just-announced deadline.  Fortunately, I've finished developing my thesis survey and submitted my research application to the Institutional Review Board on Wednesday.  I'm going to be piloting my survey very soon (probably next week), and I would really appreciate you taking it and giving me feedback on how it goes.  It's important that we minimize respondent fatigue and make sure the directions are adequate.  More details to come on this.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Unpredictability

I revel in remembering just how excited I was that first time my passport came back with a visa in it just for me: a big sticker with shiny decals and official stamps and authoritative signatures that took up an entire page.  I was giddy with excitement as my family and friends wished me happy travels and sent me along armed with a booklet containing all of their addresses, while they waited at home hoping to receive a post card.  I was completely unafraid of the unfamiliarity that lay ahead, in fact it was the unfamiliarity, newness, and unpredictability of everything that excited me most.  I was leaving everything I had ever known and starting a completely new life.  

This time it's different.  I'm certainly intrigued by the opportunity to work in an embassy and see a country I've long wondered about, but that childlike giddiness isn't there.  Beyond the difference in my perception of what lies ahead, the reality of this trip is different as well.  I don't look at my move to Moscow as "starting anew" in the same way Belgium was.  This time it's a continuance of the life, education, and career I already have. I see this trip in context, and I think that's been making the whole experience seem more predictable, and therefore a little less enthralling, than Belgium.  My trip to Belgium had no context: I had never set foot in Europe, I had no idea what to expect, I had no specific goals (other than to learn French), no real responsibilities, and I went into it with the attitude that I'd just wait and see what happened.  The possibilities seemed endless.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Belmont's First International Entrepreneurship Course

I was approached by one of my entrepreneurship professors a few weeks ago during an event we put on for International Business Society.  It was a Food Around the World fundraiser that I think I blogged about -- it was a great success and created a great environment for faculty and students to mix and mingle, sharing thoughts and a meal.

I might have mentioned before that I've been given the privilege of creating my own major -- one that's not in the catalog -- which, to me, was one of the most appealing facets of the program when I applied to Belmont. The major I've put together is called International Entrepreneurship; I've essentially fused our International Business and Entrepreneurship programs and thrown in some language/cultural focus, a neat internship, some study abroad trips, and a relevant thesis. I'm finding that the major I've put together is very pertinent to the demands of today's global economy, and I've been pleasantly surprised at the way prospective employers have reacted to seeing it on my resume. In fact, during my first phone interview for the State Department internship, I was told that this never-before-seen major was one of the things that immediately stood out and distinguished my application from those of the standard Political Science and International Relations majors who constitute the majority of applicants. My interviewer essentially said that a global focus on entrepreneurship is a rising objective of the State Department, and my educational background uniquely prepares me to step into a role in this field.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope this holiday has found you surrounded by friends, family, and a proper feast.

I can't believe how fast this semester has flown - it doesn't seem like the holiday season should be starting so soon!  The unusually warm weather in Nashville sure hasn't helped, although this morning we woke up to temps in the thirties, so it appears that winter has finally decided to grace us with its presence.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Milestone Pictures

My friend Bennett is the boyfriend of one of my best friends, Caleigh, and also a  professional photographer.  I needed some professional headshots, plus I've never had senior pictures done, AND my 21st birthday is this week, so we thought it would be a good milestone to capture in print.  Here you are mom....finally, some photos for your wall :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Busy Day

Today has been jam-packed! I've been studying and in meetings since 6:30am, and I'm finally now getting home at 11pm.  Tuesdays are always the busiest, and today was no exception.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sunday Afternoons

Sunday has always been family day. In Medford we'd always go to church together, the eight of us taking up an entire row of seats.  Mom likes to sit near the front so we'd get there early to grab seats and then hang out for at least an hour after the service, mom and dad chatting it up with friends while the six of us spent some quality sibling time....teasing, poking, laughing, dog-piling, joking, telling stories, lounging, etc.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Change of Plans

Things have been happening so fast around here -- I've just realized I forgot to update you on my State Dept. internship...

By the end of my phone interview, back in August, it was clear that I was being recommended to the St. Petersburg Consulate, to work at the Political-Economic and Public Diplomacy desks. My education, skills, and interests lined up perfectly with the internship job description in the small St. Pete Consulate. I started researching like crazy and was really excited about spending time in the beautiful, historical city known as the cultural centre of Russia and dubbed by Russians and foreigners alike as Russia's "Window on the West." 

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Raw Foodism

It sounds like some sort of cult, doesn't it?  I'm sure you've heard of the new(ish) fad: the Raw Food Diet.  It was developed based on the theory that "a diet consisting mainly of uncooked, unprocessed plant foods leads to a leaner body, clearer skin, and higher energy." A friend was telling me the other day about how it's really helped her get her body more in balance. 

I was grabbing my daily salad in the caf today when I realized that most of what I eat qualifies on the Raw Food Diet.  
So then I thought, Why not go all the way? It's the beginning of the month, so I'll do a 30-day raw food diet.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Planning for Grad School


You're probably wondering: Already? 

Already. Last spring it hit me: I have this Fall semester, a semester in Russia, and then just two more semesters next year before I'll be out of the Belmont Bubble and living in the real world.  And I'll have decisions to make -- important decisions.  Where will I work? Where will I live? When and where will I continue my education?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A 5th Grader's Solution to Inflation

I was on the phone with my mom last night, when Raam, my youngest brother, calls out,

"Hey Mom! Tell Shirah I know how to get rid of inflation...
                     ...Just wait a while, let the earth get more populated, and then more of the money will get used."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

TED Talk: Political Cartoonist Patrick Chappatte


Using clean, simple pencil strokes, editorial cartoonist Patrick Chappatte wields globally literate and to-the-point humor on world events -- the tragic, the farcical and the absurd.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dad's New York City Début

Mom and Dad are in NYC this weekend for an awards dinner my dad was honored at last night.  As an aeronautical and design engineer, he entered and recently won a design contest sponsored by NASA Tech Briefs, one of the premier publications for engineering solutions for design and manufacturing. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

12 Reasons to Smile

1. It's the middle of October, and still 80 degrees in Nashville!  I'm soaking it in, and trying not to think about the Moscow winter ahead of me.

2. I've recently rediscovered Fido, the best coffee shop in Nashville.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

She thinks my life warrants a book?

I had the privilege of having lunch today with two of my favourite ladies in the world...my great friend Caleigh and her mama, Miss Stacie.  (We don't do first names in the South -- if a person is more than a few years older than you it's always Mr., Mrs., Miss., Dr., etc.) We went to homey, family-style Italian place called Buca di Beppo which had quite possibly the most complex floor plan I've ever seen in a restaurant.  I spent literally 3+ minutes weaving in and out of little corridors, looking for the restroom, and walked into enough broom closets and kitchen doors and off-limits rooms that the manager even chased me down and personally escorted me to the restroom. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Does Democracy Lead to Economic Growth, or Vice Versa?

I'm loving every minute of my International Business course this semester.  Both the professor and the textbook we're using are quality sources, and we've had some great class discussions.  Coming from an entrepreneurship point of view, it's been neat to see how the authors of the text approach entrepreneurship in the context of international trade and politics, and global economic growth and development.

Untranslatable Words from Around the World

I've posted a few of these "untranslatable words" lists before, and have gotten such great responses to them that when I ran across this one yesterday I knew I had to post it.

Monday, October 11, 2010


THIS is why I don't feel so bad about coming back from a year in Belgium with only a rudimentary understanding of the country's governing bodies.
The following video is a striking satire on the complexity and sometimes seemingly illogical structure of the Belgian system.

To my dear Belgian family and friends:
I may not understand your government, but I love you all the same :)

A short animated film about the Belgian political structure.

The text was written by Marcel Sel, a Belgian writer, author of Walen Buiten, a best-seller on the «Belgian Crisis».
The music was specifically composed by Laurent Aglat for the film, and Emma Dornan's beautiful voice gave the commentary its magical tone.
The film was directed by Jerome de Gerlache.
And a special thanks to Karine Quarant-Schmidt !

Pierre Bourdieu Speaks My Language

To those of you who sent kind words of encouragement after my rather flustered thesis post last Friday: Thank you, your thoughts and prayers were much appreciated.

It's Monday. And you know what that means....the craziness starts all over again!  I must say that this weekend I've taken more time off from the books than I have in months. Breakfasting with girl friends on Saturday, kayaking away the beautiful 85-degree afternoon, church and brunch with friends on Sunday, exploring a new park, and then gallivanting around a backyard campfire until 2 am...I'd say I've more than made up for the last few months of seven-day workweeks.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Letter "K"

The letter "k" is far superior to most letters of the alphabet.  

It so happens that "k"s are present in most every language, and they seem to be universally pronounced as the hard "ck" sound.  This is not so with the letter "c," which alone can say "sss," "ch," "sh," and "ck."  Vowel sounds are even worse, as their pronunciations differ drastically between languages and even between dialects of the same language. 

"I" can say short "i," "ee," "eye"...."A" can say "ay" as in "say," "aa" as in "lamb," "ah" as in the French pronunciation of "Paris."  And when combined with other vowels!?  The possibilities are endless.

So if your name starts with, or even contains, the fantastic letter "k," you are a lucky, lucky person.  For it is much more likely that your name will be pronounced correctly than if your name was Shirah. My name is currently at an all time low, being pronounced correctly (by new acquaintances) about negative 2.8% of the time.  I'm sure that if my name was Shirak, my correct-pronunciation rate would go up by at least 99%. 

But this is just speculation.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Thesis Committee Meeting

I have my first Thesis Committee meeting this afternoon....it's the first time my whole committee will have met together, and I'll be challenged to defend the development of my research model and provide strong reasoning for the individual variables I'll be testing: Social capital, social norms, and personal financial capital -- all in the context of the formation of entrepreneurial intent.

Just yesterday during a meeting with the Chair of my committee we had a big breakthrough with some new (or rather newly evaluated) network theory research -- I'm so excited about the new direction we're headed. My topic and research interests are so broad that we've had trouble narrowing it down to a very specific research question, but now it's all coming together.  

I'll be looking at how the social networks of young entrepreneurs may predict entrepreneurial intent.  Views and opinions on entrepreneurial pursuits vary widely between my generation and that of the "old Russia;" this is largely a result of the communist ban on entrepreneurship and propaganda which condemned the pursuits of personal capital gain.  With this in mind, and considering that the people whom one value's and with whom one interacts the most, most influence his or her social norms, you can see how it would be interesting to find out what a young Russian entrepreneur's social network looks like.  To throw one more variable in there, I'm going to investigate a potential relationship between personal financial capital (monetary resources that the individual has sole authority over) and the presence of entrepreneurial intent, with regards to the entrepreneur's social network.  
This probably sounds confusing....it is. It's one of those things where sometimes I think I have a complete grasp of the picture, and then I lose it for a second, and then it's back.  I'm still in the process of solidifying the model. 

I'm also finding out, through this thesis-writing process, that I'm not very good at setting aside time to just sit and think.  In fact, I don't ever do that.  My focus is always on produce, produce, produce.....papers, presentations, powerpoints, applications to a plethora of scholarships and study abroad programs.  So now that I'm faced with an academic assignment for which the solution isn't obvious, I'm struggling to force myself to sit down, not DO anything, and just think. 
This process has been so much more demanding than I originally thought, and I can honestly say that I've never been pushed so hard academically.  It helps to have some truly encouraging faculty here.

All I'm hoping for this afternoon is that my whole prospectus isn't torn to shreds, and that a least one small bit of integrity will be found in my model. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Something is seriously wrong with me.
Monday night I got only 3.5 hours sleep, as I had two big deadlines on Tuesday: a big study abroad grant application, and a 10 page paper on Machiavelli to write & then give a 25 minute presentation on (which I found out about only last Thursday).

I met the deadline for the grant, and the presentation went really well, but then I had to face 3 hours of Marketing/Business law from 2-5 pm.  On a normal day it's hard to stay awake in Business Law, It's after lunch in a dark, warm room....one guy in the front row routinely naps through the better part of each class.  So running on half my normal sleep, I knew I needed an extra boost.  

Desperate for energy, I bought a 20 oz. sugar free AMP drink.  

Halfway into Bus. Law my leg started twitching and I was taking notes faster than ever and it was suddenly the most interesting subject ever.  I must have asked 30 or more questions, and leaving the class I was practically bouncing off the wall and could barely contain myself.  I got back to my room and got ready to go the gym, but decided to use some of that extra energy to check off some things on the to-do list first.  I was so hyper that my hand were visibly shaking. Ended up getting into a five-hour conversation, which somehow felt more like two hours, during which I was still super jittery and just all over the place.

Got back to my room and chatted for another hour....went to bed at 1:30am and didn't sleep AT ALL. Got out of bed about five times but couldn't focus enough to read or work on any one project.  It's now 7:30 am and I'm still "high" from an energy drink I had over 15 hours ago.

WHAT is in this stuff?? 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Developing Your Child's Self-Efficacy

While sifting through studies exploring the antecedents of entrepreneurial intent, I came across some statements that might help answer questions for some parents I've talked with recently. Although the following paragraph is cited in the context of an academic study, think about how the message would fit into a more personal, developmental context -- specifically, the development of your own kids or kids you often interact with.

"Actual abilities only matter if a person has self-confidence in those abilities, and also the self-confidence that they will able to effectively convert those skills into a chosen outcome (Bandura, 1989, 1997). Evidence suggests that general self-efficacy is central to most human functioning and is based more on what people believe than on what is objectively true (Markham et al, 2002)."

I get a lot of questions from people curious as to what my parents did that triggered something that drives me to succeed -- or at least try to -- in pursuits that they claim most people my age wouldn't think about and/or wouldn't try.  There are a lot of factors here, but two seem most relevant: (1) personality traits, and (2) family orientation.  

A lot of people who hear my story say, "I wish I could get my kid to do the same thing."  I think that what these parents are most often trying to say is, "I'd love to see my teenager seek out similar opportunities," but what they usually (perhaps unknowingly) convey in their attitude and speech patterns is a disappointment in their child, or a personal doubt in their child's capability of following through with projects similar to the ones I'm tackling.   I've always felt a little saddened by conversations like this, and I think that if parents could just see themselves on film, having this conversation with me, it might give them the answer to what they perceive as their children's "under-achievement" and "lack of motivation." 

I don't think I possessed any extraordinary abilities or intelligence that made me any more capable than most other 15 year-olds to sign themselves up to study abroad.  
What I did have was an inextinguishable belief that I really could do it. 
I had self-efficacy.
And according to Markham et al., this counts for a lot, because 
general self-efficacy is central to most human functioning and is based more on what people believe than on what is objectively true.  

"So what" that I had never flown before.  "So what" that I'd never touched a passport, much less owned one.  "So what" that the only official paperwork I'd ever filled out was an application for a Safeway Club Card.  According to Markham, my belief deep down inside that I was capable was more important than any training I might have received on how to go about studying abroad.  It's that deep down belief that would drive me to spend 100+ hours researching different organisations, perfecting application essays, and conjugating French verbs.  It's that deep down belief that led me to work three jobs for over a year and save every cent for the trip.  

So where does family fit into this?  In my opinion, parents play a big role in developing self-efficacy in their children.  You are the ones they look up to the most from a young age, so your continued attention to and support of their every hope and dream will allow for them to blossom into confident teenagers with an ability to make and achieve goals.

I think that a unique and wonderful gift to me has been the fact that my parents have never told me, "You can't..." in response to an idea I've had or a trip I've wanted to take.  They may say, "we can't afford to sponsor this trip," "we can't go with you," "we can't wait 'til you get home," but they've never said, "No way, you can't do that." Instead, their response to my (sometimes naive and crazy ambitious) new ideas has always been, "That sounds really interesting, you could do that," and sometimes, "Okay, great.  Have you also considered....?"  

Just try it.  The next time your kid proposes an idea for a project, idea, or career they're interested in, listen to them.  Support the constructive brain activity that went into crafting the concept.  Tell them they could do it!  Then let that affirmation soak in.  After you've established your approval, consider diplomatically voicing your rational concerns or suggesting some new perspectives and alternatives. This is a surefire way to support the development of self-efficacy.

I'll leave you with a last encouraging word from the researchers....

"Research...has consistently emphasized the importance of self-efficacy as a key factor in determining human agency (Bandura, 1989), and has shown that those with high self-efficacy for a certain task are more likely to pursue and persist in that task (Bandura, 1997)."

So today's take-away:  If you want your kids to study abroad, make them think they can do it!!

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, nor a child psychologist.  These are theories from my own experience and observation, and I will be glad to explain them further, but you should not sue me if your own attempt to test my theories ends in disaster.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Belmont Ranked #18 in Best 2010 Entrepreneurial Colleges

I don't brag on my university too often, but this one really deserves a shout out. We've moved up to the #18 Best Entrepreneurial College in the U.S., according to The Princeton Review.
Not bad, eh?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Unthinkable has happened

Two years ago, I walked into the office of Belmont's most forward-thinking Sociology professor, and told him I was planning a trip that would be the apex of my college experience and the culmination of my life schooling.  A trip that would incorporate my thesis research and result in a documentary promoting youth study abroad.

That is, a self-directed study abroad journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

21 days and 5,772 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok.

I put an initial proposal together, set out a book list of sociological, economic, political and historical volumes and other material that would provide me with a solid foundation of the area, researched a budget, read up on logistical concerns such as visa requirements and lodging.

But there were obstacles.  Time, money, credit transfer, administrators who were quick to point out risk and liability concerns, individuals who said, "cool, good luck!" but didn't buy into the dream.

....Until yesterday.  After finding out I had secured an internship in Russia with the State Dept. and would able to extend my stay for intensive language study programs through the School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS), I once again became hopeful that my Trans-Siberian dream trip might materialize in the near future.  I had not given up on it, merely put it aside for a time.  At any rate, I emailed the director of SRAS yesterday morning, explaining my vision for the trip and inquiring about any interest her organisation might have in sponsoring the trip -- not financially, but more in the way that a friend would attend  your concert for moral support.  A sponsoring organisation takes on logistical planning, helps travelers to obtain visas, arranges for lodging and other excursions, works with the traveler to set an itinerary, gives advice, purchases tickets, assumes liability, provides travel insurance, and provides emergency support.  Sponsoring a trip like this is no small matter.

The Trans-Siberian Route in Red - click map to enlarge

Yet, just hours later, I received a reply from the Director, saying "It is something that requires a lot of planning,".....but "definitely something we can help with.....And it certainly is something we would be quite interested in getting involved with."

I literally about fell out of my chair.  This is the response I did not let myself even hope for.  I read the email once, twice, a third time -- still not convinced that what I was reading was real.   I had restrained my enthusiasm in writing the first, proposal email to the Director, attempting to appear casual, calm, and nonchalant.  But now....I couldn't hold back.  My reply to her was an outpour of all the ideas and possibilities that had built up in my head for this trip.  My only request was that she somewhat sort through them, dismissing the unfeasible ideas and working with me to develop the good.

The implications of securing a sponsoring organisation go far beyond the simple logistical planning of the trip.  Having secured such a sponsor, I am now eligible to apply for a Lumos Scholarship -- a grant available through my university to students who propose a specific voyage that will enable them to "travel with a purpose."  I would never be able to pull together the resources for a trip like this without a financial sponsor as well.

As I mentioned before, an objective of this trip is to film a documentary promoting study abroad, appropriate to share with 6th graders through high school and even college students.  My next task: find a videographer. I have an idea of what I want this documentary to look like; I want it to be professional.  Belmont has an abundance of skilled film artists, but it's not simply about skill.  This person must be mentally, socially, and physically prepared for the rigors of a trip like this.  They must be able to stay calm and work well under pressure, deal with conflict well, have a desire to integrate into a new culture, and be able to handle spending 21 days in a small group in a foreign land.  Doesn't sound like much to ask, but believe me, quality travel partners can be few and far between.  

But for now, I'm still reveling in the excitement of acquiring sponsorship and moving this project onto the next step!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Paraprosdokian Humour

My mom forwarded this to me today, originally sent as an email to subscribers to the Patriot Post.
I've had one of the most academically rigorous days of my life today, and on top of that seem to be coming down with some kind of flu bug. This was exactly what I needed to keep me going :) 

A "paraprosdokian" is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect.
  • Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
  • I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
  • The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.
  • Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  • If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
  • We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.
  • War does not determine who is right -- only who is left.
  • Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
  • Evening news is where they begin with "Good evening," and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.
  • To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
  • A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. My desk is a work station.
  • How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?
  • Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  • I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted pay checks.
  • A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it.
  • Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "If an emergency, notify:" I put "DOCTOR."
  • I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
  • Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
  • Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
  • Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
  • A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  • The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!
  • Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.
  • A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  • Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.
  • Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
  • I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.
  • Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.
  • There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.
  • When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.
  • You're never too old to learn something stupid.
  • Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
  • A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.
  • If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one child?
  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"The Seduction of Achievement"

The sermon this morning at Crosspoint was on the tendency to fall prey to chasing after success and achievement at all costs.  Our society is largely performance-based; we learn from a young age that desirable behaviour and small accomplishments are met with praise from our parents.  Or, for some, they go through childhood doing everything to try to gain that parental nod of approvement, but no matter how much they achieve, they never get it.  I count myself lucky to be in the first group.

Either way, there is a lot of emphasis placed on achieving, progressing, succeeding.  Success isn't inherently bad, but, as one psychologist put it, "Achievement is the drug of our time."  A society of people whose identities are success-based is doomed to produce workaholics, people addicted to the high of achieving grand things.  I certainly thrive on the excitement of setting goals, working hard to achieve them, and watching them come to fruition, but I don't do it at the expense of a balanced life.  I work really hard to not let my days become focused on what I'm doing and what I hope to achieve, but rather on the people and relationships that bring so much joy to my day.

But one statement that Pastor Pete made this morning really stuck with me.

He said, "God didn't make a human-doing, he made a human-being." Sometimes we need to stop, take a deep breath, smell the roses, hug our loved ones, and leave that next big pursuit for another day.  At the end of it all, we shouldn't find our identity in our status, the title we've attained, the company we work for, the deals we've closed, the dollars we've banked.  Life is so much more. 

"And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process?"
Matthew 16:26

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I've been craving music lately.

It sounds strange, I know.  But I've felt this irrepressible desire to connect with music in a way that I haven't experienced before.  There are a lot of songs that have come up recently that I've just latched onto and haven't been able to give up.  I find myself looking them up online, playing them over and over, savoring lyrics, enjoying harmonies, and swaying to melodies. 

Maybe it's something about being back in Nashville....  :)

And this is another of my favourites....

Friday, September 17, 2010

My writing style suggests I'm a 66 year old woman?

I'm finally getting settled into the semester (which is fantastic, by the way) and starting to fall into a weekly routine.  The way my classes are set up, I have only one class on Monday and one class on Friday.  This is desirable, because packing the bulk of my courses into a three-day mid-week rush allows me to more efficiently manage my time outside of class with minimum interruptions.  However, my Tues-Weds-Thurs require more of me than is almost humanly possible, leaving me no time to blog during the week.  

Which means that Friday is BLOG DAY!  I sense that the space between is going to be spasmodically updated these next few months, but you can probably expect me to indulge in a blogging spree most Friday nights.  

Now, this is funny.
I happened upon a website that analyzes blogs.  I just entered my blog's URL, and POP! out came a series of pie charts showing the results of a computer analysis of my last twenty-two blog posts.  
Pie chart that shows the Mood, happy 78%, upset 22%

This is what the computer concluded: 

the space between is probably written by a female somewhere between 66-100 years old. The writing style is personal and happy most of the time.
Pie chart that shows the Age, 13-17 7%, 18-25 17%, 26-35 15%, 36-50 21%, 51-65 14%, 66-100 26%

I'm rather used to acquaintances over-estimating my age, but 66?  
Tu exagères! 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Words that don't exist in the English Language

A few months ago I blogged about French words that have no direct English translation.  And well, here's round two of a similar theme.  Except these ones are even more amusing, and come from all sorts of different languages.  I've always found this type of study fascinating, because the fact that there is a word to describe a very specific situation in a certain language signifies that the situation in question is either valued, very common, or very rare.  Basically, why would you have a word for something that (a) never happened, or (b) didn't matter?  

If you've read one of my earlier posts today, this logic would lead you to believe that the Germans value lippenflattern --  the act of "chattering one's lips."  :)

Anyways, take a look....

L’esprit de escalier: (French) The feeling you get after leaving a conversation, when you think of all the things you should have said. Translated it means “the spirit of the staircase.”
Waldeinsamkeit: (German) The feeling of being alone in the woods.
Meraki: (Greek) Doing something with soul, creativity, or love.
Forelsket: (Norwegian) The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love.
Gheegle: (Filipino) The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute.
Pochemuchka: (Russian) A person who asks a lot of questions.
Pena ajena: (Mexican Spanish) The embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humiliation.
Cualacino: (Italian) The mark left on a table by a cold glass.
Ilunga: (Tshiluba, Congo) A person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time.
saudade (sow-da-jee) (Portugese, Galician) the feeling one gets when realizing something one once had is lost and can never be had again
Sgriobn: (Gaelic) The itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whisky.

I'm betting it's only going to take a few days in Russia before I'm pegged as a pochemuchka.

Friday, September 10, 2010

GERMAN word of the Day

My German friend, Svea, is a Musical Education major studying abroad at Belmont this semester.  Today at lunch she was telling me that she was a little bit nervous about leading vocal warm-ups for her women's choir, as her professor had asked that she prepare one for today.

So she pulled out her prep sheet and was walking me through it.  One of the exercises was labeled "lip chattering."  I inquired as to what that was, and she couldn't describe it, but made the sound.  She meant the thing where you put your lips together and blow air through them.  I couldn't remember if there's an English word for that, but told her to say "flubber" or "blubber" your lips.  hehe

Anyways, I learned that there is a German word for precisely that action.  

It's called Lippenflattern!

Thanks, Svea, for a truly educational moment. :)

International Student Retreat 2010

In the craziness of the past few weeks I have woefully neglected my little blog.  But I have accumulated many great stories to share in the process.
Here's a snapshot from my mom's and my trip to Nashville, where she helped me move into my new dorm and, more importantly, enjoyed her first outing to Pancake Pantry, Nashville's all time favorite breakfast joint.

Munching away with my cousin Kelsey and her roommates.
Another of the highlights of the past few weeks was Belmont's International Student Retreat that I helped out with last weekend.  We drove down to White Bluff, TN -- about an hour south of Nashville -- and spent a day and a half at a "camp."  It's not proper camping, by my standards, since we sleep in cabins and eat every meal in a mess hall....but there was a low ropes course, volleyball nets, a pool -- plenty of fun opportunities for teambuilding and getting to know all the new exchange students.

We have five German girls this year: Senta, Svea, Cindy, Yana, and Elisabeth; three French students: Arthur, Laure, and Chloé; two from Hong Kong: Jimmy and Cherry; an adorable girl from Japan: Nozomi; a guy from Denmark: Ali; a girl Sydney from Canada; another guy named Jimmy, from London, and four other students from Moldova and Brasil that are in their second, third, or fourth years at Belmont.  The international student community at Belmont is small, but tight-knit.  I love having the opportunity to learn so much about different places and cultures through my foreign friends, and reciprocating in showing them America - our many cultures, traditions, and values.  I know exactly what it's like to enter a new school or country knowing nobody and barely knowing a few phrases in the local dialect.  Most of the foreign students who come to Belmont speak English quite well, but I know quite well the implications of the lost, dazed look on a few of their faces.  So reaching out and befriending them - especially those that are struggling with the language barrier - is a huge goal of mine.  Since coming back from the retreat last weekend, I don't think I've eaten a meal in the caf without at least one of them in tow :)

Belmont International Student Retreat 2010
Sometimes, in life, you meet a person who shares the same enthusiasm and passion that you have for a particular topic, goal, or hobby.  I've learned over the past few years to really treasure my time with these people, because you never know when a change in circumstances might see them drift right out of your daily life.  I recently met one of these people - Jimmy, from London.  We must have spent over 20 hours talking this past weekend on the retreat.  We've discussed traveling, religion, politics, philosophy, history, languages, cultures....the list goes on and on.  Our beliefs certainly differ in many ways, but I think it's our shared enthusiasm for learning and exploring, as well as a genuine respect and eagerness to understand each other's beliefs and values, that makes our friendship work.

It was really hard for me to make friends during my first semester at Belmont, back in 2008. The last few years of my life I had spent overseas, and during that specific period -- age 16 to 18 -- is when you really start to solidify who you are.  Thus, your experiences during that time become wholly integrated into your personality and the way you understand the world.  So, naturally, every new experience is going to be judged or compared to a recent similar experience you've had.  For me, the new experiences I was having in Nashville all related back to people, places, and events I had encountered during my time overseas.

Americans don't have as many opportunities to travel internationally as many citizens of other countries, so our slightly isolationist attitude can't be judged too harshly.  But with this lack of travel and exposure to other cultures comes a sort of fascination mixed with jealousy of people who do travel often.  I've found that this reaction is especially pervasive among young Americans.  And so by simply trying to find common ground and share my life experiences in the process of making friends, I found that some students here at Belmont were a little put off by my lack of "American-ness."  I felt that some were jealous that I had gotten to travel, and others were tired of hearing about my life experiences in other places and cultures.  It was just difficult.  I had become so much a different person than I was when I had left Oregon at age 16, so it's not like I could just try to remember and pull out some experiences from back home that would aptly describe my interests or personality.  My character is a conglomeration of all these different places and cultures; it's not a fad - it's just me.

So, with that in mind, imagine how I felt when I met Jimmy, whose first words to me were, "Wait, so you're from Oregon.  So why are you on the International Student Retreat?"  Of course I had to explain, and of course we discovered in about ten minutes that between the two of us we had covered every continent and most of the countries on them.  He had even more exotic stories than I did...I think I was listening to one about monkeys coming down out of the Amazon trees and drinking his beer when I decided that we were going to be very good friends.  It was like I was free again to be myself, to share the stories that are a little too "out there" for most American students.  All in all I had so much fun that weekend, and my days are now full of fun new facts that I learn from my foreign friends!

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