Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fighting Monolingualism

A belief that I have held from a very young age is that monolingualism is a bad thing.  Growing up in a very monolingual environment, the usual response to me saying how important I thought language learning was "But everyone speaks English!".  My initial attempts to learn foreign languages were also unsuccessful, as evidenced by the following conversation that occurred several times throughout my childhood (apparently I had hopes that the answers would magically change). 

Young Shedding: Mama, Pa, you should speak to me in a language other than English so I grow up bilingual!
Mama and Pa: We don't know any languages other than English
Young Shedding: Well, where are our ancestors from? I'll learn that language!
Mama and Pa: Um, England. 

You can imagine how delighted I was when I got to university, and discovered via Intro to Linguistics that monolingualism is actually not the norm for most of the world, and it is actually countries like the US that are abnormal rather than me. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ice Dipping Away the Pain

I first discovered ice dipping about a year ago, via The Tendonitis Expert, in one of my many quests to cure my tendonitis while constantly dancing, moving, and sprinting for airplanes I was about to miss.  I was not new to ice treatments, and was already icing my tendon with an ice pack for twenty minutes after activities likely to irritate it.  Despite this, I'd wake up the next morning and barely be able to walk, let alone dance.  Ice dipping (along with eccentric calf drops and massage) is what finally got the pain to a manageable point.  Basically, I dump 10-15 frozen water bottles in a large bucket that comes up to my knee and fill it with water.  I dip my leg in for 30-60 second and remove it.  I wait about 5-10 minutes and come back, and repeat over about a two hour period or until the water melts in the bottles or I have to go to bed or whatever.  Theoretically, this works because the ice draws the blood out and then new blood rushes in when you take it out, over and over, which is what your tendons need to heal.  It is especially affective with a tendon like the achilles that has a poor blood supply.  Whether this is true or not, I have no idea, but it works like nothing I had ever experienced.  After one week of ice dipping last summer, I could dance again.  I now mostly use it as a preventative measure (and have learned the hard way that I need to not skip it, although a day or two without is fine). 

My cats, of course, enjoy drinking from the bucket and seem to have developed quite the taste for ice water. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Politics in the Language Classroom

My assignment for the rest of the summer is revising my university's third year Arabic curriculum, which I will be teaching the in Fall.  Unlike Spanish Prof, I am not particularly into politics, and the idea of incorporating politics into the classroom is not something I find particularly exciting.  On the other hand, these are the topics from the textbook that we will cover in the Fall:

1) Journalism in the Arab world
2) The Role of the University

3) Modern Arabic Literature*
4) Pioneers of the Arab Feminist Movement

Add to this:
1) The Arab Spring
2) 9/11 and the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan
2) Most students who study Arabic in the United States are majoring in something like Political Science or International Relations
3) One of the first questions Americans are usually asked when studying abroad in the Arab world is What do you think of Obama/Bush/Israel/Palestine/the war on Iraq/Afghanistan etc?

Essentially, I simply cannot envision a decent upper level class that doesn't involve politics. 

Then there's religion.  For example, the following speaking activity from the textbook:

"What is the position of religion towards women? Discuss the opinions of different religions (Islam and Christianity and Judaisim and any other religions you know about)--on women's rights and their duties and position in society.  Remember and use the new words and expressions."

Which I'd tend to want to change to something like: "How is religion appealed to in support different attitudes towards women and their duties and position in society?" since I've seen religious justifications for just about everything.  

In the past, when dealing with controversial topics at lower levels, I've assigned different opinions rather than letting students choose their own, to make it more about using the language to express ideas rather than using the language to express your ideas and antagonize your classmates.  Also, I don't think it's ever a bad idea to have to think through an idea you disagree with. 

Then there's my opinion, which I don't have to state in the classroom, but will be pretty obvious to anyone who pays attention to the texts I choose.  On the one hand, there are certain stereotypes I (and clearly the authors of the textbook) want to combat (like Arab women are poor, oppressed victims) and this is where a chapter on the Feminist movement comes in.  On the other hand, I don't want to ignore gender-based problems in the Arab world--I would just like students to think a little bit more critically about them than the dreaded "East-West" "male-female" "powerful-oppressed" dichotomies allow.  All of that in a 3.5 week unit? rabbina yustor!

So, any ideas on this rambling post? How political would you make the class? What would you do to make students think a bit more critically?

*This tends to be fairly political

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thirty Thirty Thirty!!!!

Yes, today is my 30th birthday.  When you know, I should feel old, but instead I feel rather excited because 30 seems more exciting than 28 or 29.  Also, thus far, my life has improved with every year, and I look forward to it continuing to do so for a very long time, inshallah.  I would never want to return to 20, or even 25.  Ever.  So really, the only disadvantage as far as I can see is that I'll have to spend the next ten years being a red age instead of a blue one when I prefer blue to red.  Then again, that's just reason to look forward to my 50's when I'll be back to blue!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hip Tension

Two years ago, if you asked me about being tense, this was a feeling I would associate primarily with my shoulders.  Doing some internet browsing on alignment in dance, I happened across some articles on hip tension, which suggested using a tennis ball, or some other sort of hard rubber ball to relieve tension in the muscles surrounding the pelvis (likely at this site or this site, but I don't quite remember).  Since I was already using this technique to relieve shoulder tension (by lying on top of the tennis ball on tight spots) I figured I'd just move the ball down to my butt to check for hip tension.  I did, and wow.  Hip tension galore.  I moved the ball around a bit, and discovered tender spot after tender spot.  I removed the ball from my left side, where my hip suddenly felt much closer to the floor, and my leg longer.  I tried the right.  More tension.  Hmm, I thought, perhaps I should be doing this more often.  After a few weeks of rolling around on balls of various hardness, my pelvis felt completely realigned, like magic. 

I remembered this feeling, and how magical it felt, when I finished up teaching the class as my dance teacher rushed to the hospital.  Highland is a pretty athletic form of dance, and I could tell the other dancers were pretty sore, so I figured we'd finish with some ball work.  We'd been working on alignment, so I had them work on finding tight spots in the muscles around the hip (the sides as well as the butt).  We worked three spots on the right, and then I had them compare sides.  "Woah, this feels totally different" one said.  "Mom, we need to get squishy balls for our butts!" another cried.  When they stood up, after just that little bit, I could tell in their first position alignment as well, which was pretty exciting. 

Like ballet, Highland dancing requires turnout, or dancing with your knees as far to the side as possible, so it's hardly surprising that highland dancers have tight hip muscles.  However, it's worth pointing out that my husband, who rarely engages in any sort of exercise, is also a pretty big fan of these ball hip releases (in my excitement at first discovering them, I made him do it too). 

So, yes, this is a blog post urging you to try lying down with a tennis ball under your butt--you may be pleasantly surprised at the tension-relieving affects!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Teaching Dance

My dance teacher has been dealing with a family illness, so I filled in for her yesterday and today, and will perhaps be doing the same tomorrow.  It's meant at little more time dancing and a little less dissertating, but when have I ever complained about that? :-)

One of my dreams is to someday have my own highland (and possibly dabkeh) studio.  I've been a certified Highland teacher for years, but I move too often to make setting up my own studio feasible--it's hardly fair to get a group interested in Highland, and then desert them when there is not another teacher in the area.  I'm also a judge for highland dancing, but you can't judge when you are still competing.  Again, I'm hesitant to start judging because I move so often that it makes it difficult to let anyone know what city they'd have to fly me out of six months from now, which makes it difficult to commit to a judging job.  Also, I can always show up and dance at a competition, but I can't just show up and judge.  So basically, I'm afraid that if I started judging now, I'd end up cut off from Highland because I'd move somewhere and not be able to judge and have no students. 

So instead, I've become an old lady competitor, the nearly 30-year old dancing in the 16 and over category.  It's still fun, and my legs can still manage (albeit with increased pain) and I'm still improving my technique.  But, on days like today, when practicing makes my calves burn and I can teach instead, I long for my future imagined studio!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hair Stories

My hair is an unusual shade of strawberry blonde.  I don't find it particularly remarkable, as I look at it every day and my brothers have the same color hair.  In fact, sometimes I find it quite annoying, as in Arab countries (as well as parts of the US and many places I travel), people stare at me and little kids grab my braid, which makes me want to dye my hair a less remarkable shade if only I could solve the eyebrow/eyelash problem.  Nevertheless, random strangers (in the US and elsewhere) often stop me to compliment me on my hair, and sometimes to even ask if it is a natural color.  I think this is a little weird, as I cannot imagine walking up to a random stranger and complimenting them on anything, but generally I just say "thank you" or "yes, it's natural, my brothers have the same color too" and move on. 

Sometimes, however, someone's interest in my hair results in a truly bizarre discussion that leaves me speechless.  Until this weekend, the most bizarre conversation I'd had was the following.

A new salon opened in my home county, and I decided to check it out over the summer while I was home from college.  I got the cut, and as the stylist was blow drying my hair, another stylist walked by, paused right behind my chair and proclaimed in a loud voice:
              "God's color."  I was taken aback, and so was my stylist. 
              "What?" (God has strawberry blonde hair? What on earth?). 
              "Your hair, it's God's color" she continued, "I could never get that color out of a bottle, only God can make it."
             "Thanks" (I guess? What on earth is an appropriate response to this?) 

However, this pales in comparison the the conversation I had Friday night.  I was flying from Summer Town back to University Town, and the TSA agent checking my ID before security gave me a long stare (keep in mind there was a long line behind me).
              "You have beautiful hair."
              "My hair used to be that color, but now look at it." (He pats his bald and white head)  "You can still see it in my eyebrows, though, look (points at his eyebrows, which have the faintest hint of orange).  "Do you see it?"
              "Yes." (There is a line, why are we discussing this?).
              "It's really a great color"
              "Um, yeah."  (Can I please have my ID back and go through security?)
He holds my ID out and gives me a piercing look.  Lowering his voice, he glances around and proclaims in a low voice:
              "You know, we're the minority now"
Uhhhh . . . and I grab my ID and hustle towards the conveyer belt as quickly as I can.  Should I have called him out on this? Probably, but with what? Not to mention the fact, that holding up the line even longer hardly seemed like a good idea.   At least I now have an even stranger story than the God's color one. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Blog Improvements

So, I finally got around to my blog improvements.  They are:

  • A blogroll of some of the blogs I read that are academic and primarily in English (let me know if I'm missing anything good!)
  • Re-reading all of my old posts to see if there was anything I wanted to remove given that I'm planning to become less anonymous (there wasn't much, actually, although this was interesting for other reasons)
  • So, now that I am finished my intensive teaching, prepare to hear lots and lots about 7ubay 7ayaati: Arabic and Scottish Highland Dancing!


We have only the final left.  5alla9na et-tadrees wa 5ala9t wana 5al9aana.  And I know I'm really tired because it is taking all the concentration I have to write separate sentences in separate languages with no interference.  ma7taga 2ahwa.  But tomorrow we will be done, and Friday I will fly back to University Town, and see my husband and 2u6een, and stay in one place for a glorious ten months, bizn illah! Yippee!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Video

Friday morning of the fourth week of an intensive summer session is a rough one.  So, we watched this video to finish class, which never fails to amuse me:

As a side note, I actually think some of the other parodies are funnier, but this one is easier to teach.