December 19, 2009

Haru Yo, Koi

This may just be my favourite song in Japanese. Although I understand only a handful of the words, it gives me such clear feelings. Somehow I feel that while there is a lot of emotion in J-Pop songs, etc, it doesn't always feel totally real and complex, but this song is very much an exception.

Awaki hikari tatsu niwakaame
Itoshi omokage no jin'chouge
Afururu namida no tsubomi kara
Hitotsu hitotsu kaori hajimeru

Sore wa sore wa sora wo koete
Yagate yagate mukae ni kuru

Haru yo tooki haru yo mabuta tojireba soko ni
Ai wo kureshi kimi no natsukashiki koe ga suru

Kimi ni azukeshi waga kokoro wa
Ima demo hen'ji wo matte imasu
Dore hodo tsukihi ga nagarete mo
Zutto zutto matte imasu

Sore wa sore wa asu wo koete
Itsuka itsuka kitto todoku

Haru yo mada minu haru mayoi tachidomaru toki
Yume wo kureshi kimi no manazashi ga kata wo daku

Yume yo asaki yume yo watashi wa koko ni imasu
Kimi wo omoinagara hitori aruite imasu
Nagaruru ame no gotoku nagaruru hana no gotoku

Haru yo tooki haru yo mabuta tojireba soko ni
Ai wo kureshi kimi no natsukashiki koe ga suru

Haru yo mada minu haru mayoi tachidomaru toki
Yume wo kureshi kimi no manazashi ga kata wo daku

- Haru yo, koi
Yumi Matsutoya

December 15, 2009


This week I'm entirely consumed with studying and reslife stuff. This morning I had to get up at 6:30 to do finals food - poor Tina had to get up way earlier to go buy the food. After all that was said and done I actually went and took an hour long nap before getting up to do more studying for Econ. Urgh... yeah, this isn't going to be my best semester. The worst of it is that most of my grades are borderline, and I'm only in four classes, so I don't really know if it's going to be about the same as next semester, or whether it's going to be bad bad bad.

Econ is the worst - I think I'll probably get a B, but a C is possible. I was very happy with the first part of the exam, it was a lot like the practice problems I did. The second part was a massacre. But, I counted how many answers I was reasonably sure of, and it came to about 72%... and I narrowed a lot of the others down and made good, educated guesses on them - so if I get even a third of those right, I'll scape a B on the final, and therefore a B in the class. There's also the 25 point, not yet graded Journalism final to add in - I usually do well (low A) on those. So a B is likely but not guaranteed. O.o

History is the one I'm most certain on, but the final essay is a third of the grade and a single essay, so I can't get too complacent. I have a low A in History as it stands (the only grades have been two essays), and I should end up with an A...

In Biological Anthropology I really deserve an A and I think my chances of getting one are very high. Assessments have been surprisingly difficult, but I've gotten mostly high B's on those, and I've done all the assignments, quizzes, labs, have perfect attendance, etc. And even with a less than stellar score on the lab final, I have an A in the lab section. Basically, I really should get an A in the class, but it's very possible for me to mess it up on the final, so I'm going to study hard tonight.

Journalism is finished - though I don't have my final grade yet I'm pretty confident I have a B - but even here the grading is 100% subjective so I don't really know.

The uncertainty is killing me.

The light at the end of the tunnel is that my classes next semester promise to be much kinder. German culture and Catalan Language and Culture should be A's, because I'll love them, Spanish Literature should be an A because I'm good at it, Anthropological Theories of Religion I think I can ace because it's interesting and I'll have Tina as a study partner, and that leaves only News which is supposedly quite hard, but if I get a B in one class I'll survive.

December 09, 2009

Hindi Update... Again...

As soon as I'd finished thinking about how many wonderful resources there were online for learning Hindi, especially in comparison to the absolute lack of materials in the bookstores here, it hit me -

Somehow, I manage to forget time and time again that I live at a University. I can check out books from a large, research library! I am happy living on a University, feeling cultured and happy, knowing that within a twenty minute walk I have dozens of cafes and restaurants and cultural events every night and a cool independant cinema and tons of cool people to hang out with, and as a backdrop to my daily activities the sophisticated facades of Jesse Hall, the J-School, and Memorial Union... one of my advising offices is even in a 200 year old building! It's all quite impressive, even more than a year in, to this little Missouri girl. But my absolute favourite part is the library, which is why I need to kick myself - hard - for not taking greater advantage of it.

I walked out with two books: Dreaming in Hindi, a sort of novel length rant about how much fun it is to learn languages, especially Hindi, and what it does to your brain to do so, and to live in India... It's fascinating to read, and even a bit educational. It is scattered with Hindi words, many of which I already recognize, and has a lot of information about India as well. And, as if I wasn't on enough of a high with learning a new language, it's full of quotes that I would like to think would make anyone feel the need to go out and study languages.

And I also got the even more appropriate book HINDI for Non-Hindi Speakers. Yep, that's me! I also want to see HINDI for Hindi Speakers, though, just for curiosity's sake. :P

Superhuman Zahra

It's snowing today, finally, and it's also wicked cold. I've still been wearing just a sweatjacket and peacoat around... today was the last straw where that's concerned. It's 16 degrees Fahrenheit today, with -3 degrees Fahreneheit windchill... (-9 and -19 in celsius) so it's time to get serious with my down coat and something to cover my ears. My last class today was in the physics building, about a half hour walk from South. On the way back I ducked into the rec center 'to go to the bathroom'. I sat down on a bench and read a book until I could feel my cheeks again, and then finished the walk home.

And in the middle of the day I run into Zahra, of all people, looking calm and composed in her grey wool still, and she tells me that she loves the snow and seems surprised that people are acting like it's so cold out. I really do think the girl is superhuman - two months ago she seemed to freeze if the temperature dropped below 50. I think if you dropped her off on the moon without a spacesuit she'd adapt.

Hindi Update - Including Some Resources

So, Zahra and my language swap is going pretty well so far. In Spanish we've covered pronunciation, extra letters and accent marks, about 12 nouns and 6 -ar verbs, as well as how to conjugate those latter in the present tense. We've discussed gender, plural, and articles, as well as using gustar to express liking something. She thinks it's very easy so far and she's right.

Hindi is going well for me too, although a bit more slowly because it's a bit harder, at least initially. At first, when I thought I knew exactly what I was looking for (lists of words written in devanagari) and had limited time in the computer lab, I felt frustrated by the lack of materials I was finding. With a bit more patience, internet time, and random wandering, I've actually found a wealth of resources.


There's Quillpad Hindi which lets me type in Hindi without knowing how the Hindi keyboard words - I just write phonetically and it converts things for me. It has it's quirks and irregularities, and so does the transliteration I've learned, but nevertheless it works pretty well. Also, Quillpad lets you type in Nepali, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Gujarati, Bengali, and English - basically a little sample of Indian scripts, most of which are related. For comparative purposes I've sometimes selected what I've typed in Hindi and pushed the button to transliterate it into one of the other scripts. Interesting to see the similarities.

Then there's Hindi Script Tutor which originally upset me because it's distinctly unprintable. However, it's awesome for learning Devanagari if you have internet, because it shows how to write (stroke order and all) and pronounce each letter, and shows each letter in one or two examples, which are spoken by both male and female voices. The Conjunct Engine is also nice - that's what I'll be moving onto next.

In fact, the more I look around, the more I find. There are several things I've found that will be excellent for improving my Hindi once I have a basic grip on the language.

For example, this site uses clips from real Bollywood movies to teach Hindi:

This website great for learning all sorts of things about India (from their description: folk tales from India, nursery rhymes, significance of festivals, Indian Panorama, all about Olympics, magic tricks, safety and good manners for children, reference park, health awareness, online games for kids, puzzles, mathematical brain teasers, amazing facts... and much much more.) and is available in English and Hindi, as well as other languages of India. You have to enable pop-ups.

This website's "Kid Zone" also has a lot of cool things in Hindi.

Although I went to the bookstore here in Columbia and was a bit disappointed to find not so much as a Hindi phrasebook, the web seems full to bursting with resources! :D What a great language to learn over the internet!


I've almost gotten a good handle on the alphabet, which Zahra wants before she starts teaching me much grammar or vocabulary. I know all of the basic letters now, although I'm not 100% certain of my pronounciation, especially with hard and soft and aspirated and super aspirated t's and d's. (???!!) I haven't even really started with conjuncts yet, although I recognize most of them and I'm not really afraid of them - I just think I can probably get started with the language itself before I'm ready to transcribe entire novels.

Yesterday I watched two Hindi songs on Youtube, both from Bollywood films I've already seen. I actually understood a handful of words. :) Although having the English translation at the bottom helped, of course...

Kal Ho Na Ho

Life changes its beauty all the time
Sometimes it’s shadow, sometimes it's sunlight
Live every moment on Earth to your heart’s content...
Tomorrow may not come.

Taking the shadow of your eyelashes, when someone comes near
You try to reason with your crazy heart
Your heart just goes on beating
But think, that which is here now
That story may not be here tomorrow
Life changes its beauty all the time
Sometimes it’s shadow, sometimes it's sunlight

Live every moment on Earth to your heart’s content
Tomorrow may not come.

- Kal Ho Na Ho

<3 Everyone

Don't forget the times we had and won't have again... and that's every time, every minute, every day.

<3 Everyone.

December 08, 2009

Bad Semester >.<

I don't think I'm going to be happy with my grades this semester. Not because they're not good - well, that too - but also because I have a feeling that they're not really going to be fair - not really going to reflect my knowledge. I'm only taking four courses, and by rights two of them should be pretty easy classes, with A's - Cross Cultural Journalism and 20th Century American History. The other two, Micro and Macro Economics and Biological Anthopology Lab, should be harder. By this I mean that I should work a moderate amount in the first two and get A's, and work fairly hard in the latter two and get B's. I would be happy with that.

However, how it's ending up is that I think I'll have worked hard in Cross Cultural Journalism and gotten a B (please not C! :(), worked not hard at all in Economics and gotten a B, worked hard in Biological Anthropology and barely gotten an A (please not B! :() and worked the normal amount in 20th Century American History and gotten an... ??? (Probably an A)

Why? Because Cross Cultural Journalism is loads of work, is mostly just memorizing jargon that exists only within the class, and is graded 100% subjectively, and I apparently have the harshest TA, by far. I'll probably get a B, but in the end it's ENTIRELY up to them, and based on my understanding of the class I should be fairly comfortable with an A, not worried about the possibility, however unlikely, of a C.

I don't know how to feel about Biological Anthropology. I've put in a good amount of work and I've felt like I understood it quite well, and that's been reflected in all of my assignments, but somehow I managed to get low A's and high B's on most of the tests... and then there was the Lab Final today. The actual Final is still ahead, but the Lab Final was incredibly hard - worse than I'd dared to imagine while studying. I don't feel like we were prepared for it, and based on the shocked, horrified, frightened expressions of my classmates, I don't think they did either. Since my A wasn't super firm before, this could possibly knock me to a B. I'm going to study hard for the actual Final, though, and keep my fingers crossed...

Econ? Fair enough. If I'd worked hard, I could have gotten an A. I didn't work hard. I wasn't interested enough in the topic, and CCJ kind of sapped my life force academically this semester. A B is fine in a class some struggle for C's in.

History? If I get an A, all is forgiven. If I get a B? Bad news. The entire grade in the class is based on three essays - two in class, one take home. They're graded by TAs very quickly and no comments are written on them. I got a 93% on the first one and an 89% on the second one. So, everything depends on the last in class one... I'll study hard.

Well, now I know I can study hard for History and Bio Anthro... that's what I can do. But I feel like so much of my grades this semester is out of my control, and it's not a good feeling.

December 04, 2009

Winter Fairly

"It's cold and raw, the north winds blow
Black in the morning early
When all the hills were covered with snow
Oh then it was winter fairly."

Winter has come and startled everyone. We had a cold October, then a very mild November, and no one was sure what would follow that. But now it's quite cold, about 20 degrees fahrenheit and a good deal colder than Oslo. It's windy too, and that's worse, but it's actually bright and sunny now after weeks of rain.

I still can't tell how Zahra's going to take the true winter, now that it's really arrived. Sometimes she seems very resilient, like when she wears open shoes and sloshes through puddles when it's 50 degrees out, but other times she seems to be dying when it's about the same temperature. I want her to get a big puffy coat, for snow play if for nothing else, but for now she's still looking elegant and stylish in her grey wool.

Last night was the first snow of the year that I felt any certainty about: walking after midnight we saw just two or three flakes at a time, slowly and steadily drifting through the lamplight. They were almost impossibly small, and disappeared before they hit the ground.

December 03, 2009

Adventures with Devanagari

Today I wrote my first sentences in Devanagari (in Hindi... Devanagari being the script and Hindi being the language). They were so simple that it was hard to tell, but I think I actually understood the grammar of what I was doing and knew the letters, so it wasn't just copying. Next thing I need to do is learn how to type. :P What I did today was all along the lines of "The boy writes" "I read", etc, although I stretched myself by using the verb hesitate, which literally translates to if-but-do. Clever. I also tried one more complex sentence, "The brother takes but the sister gives". These sentences barely make sense on their own and certainly not together, but just to feel accomplished I put several of them together to make a 'paragraph'. It looked very pretty.

So, Devanagari. I call it a script. It's not an alphabet because the symbols normally represent a full syllable each, not a consonant or a vowel that have to be combined to make a syllable. But it's not a syllabary, like Japanese's hiragana or katakana, because a syllabary has different syllables like "ma" "mo" "mu" "ga" "go "gu", and devanagari instead has only "ma" and "ga" and, to differentiate between different vowels, you modify these characters. So basically, it is the love child of a syllabary and an alphabet, and there's a word to describe what it is, abugida, but I usually just use the catch all word - script - when talking about it.

This is what the letters look like, although I don't think this is ALL of them:

On the top right, in that little box, it shows the matras. These are the things you add to the normal letters to change their vowel sound from the default a to something else. My feeling about this system is that it would work fine, if it was designed for a language which uses the default a a lot, other vowels slightly less often, and generally has word composed of consonant-vowel-consonant vowel, like Japanese or Hawaiian.

But that's the problem - it doesn't. Most hindi words don't end in a vowel, to start with, and they're actually reasonably fond of consonant clusters. So, to provide for this, they have a bunch of ways you can /literally/ combine two consonants, by cutting off half of the symbol. It's rather unsettling, really, because if, for example, this symbol:

makes the 'ka' sound, that doesn't mean that you can break the symbol apart into 'k' and 'a'. But, if you want to say 'kyaa', you can't have it being read as 'kayaa', so what do you do?

You take Ka...

And you take Ya...

And you sort of smash them together. Erm... okay.

The problem is that this one is relatively straightforward, you could probably even guess it and write it without ever having seen this combination, or conjunct, before. But others aren't like that. Many can be guessed when reading, but you can't really guess when you're writing. And a few seem to be completely irregular, but I'm not far enough along to speak authoritatively yet.

As for the characters themselves: I have a firm handle on about one third of them, but they seem to be used more than the ones I don't know as well, so I only need to check on every third or fourth word when reading. Still, I think it may go more slowly from here, because I'm not 100% sure of the pronunciation of some of the ones ahead, many of them don't have precise English equivalents, they're used less often, and in some cases they look a bit trickier to write.

The letters are curvy and feel sort of insubstantial, sometimes it's hard to find things to grab onto. It's sometimes hard for me to write them all distinctly, because the stroke order isn't as rigid as in Japanese so people get confused when you ask them how you're supposed to write a different character. So sometimes I start to feel like I'm just drawing squiggles and then decorating them with vowel and nasalization dots, lines, and more squiggles. It looks lovely and mysterious but also chaotic. Sounds strange but it reminds me a little of the alphabet I was trying to make for my conlang so many years ago. I wanted this curvy chaotic ornamental mess, but imposing enough order on it to make it reasonable was far beyond my capability.

I have to say this: I /love/ the line. It pulls the alphabet together, sort of reforms the chaos. All the squiggles and madness sort of hang down from it. It's so unique, distinct, and beautiful. It's not always super easy to work with, since you have to line up the characters well enough to connect them all with the line after you finish the sentence, but it's well worth it. And at least for the time being, I look forward to finishing each sentence and drawing the line. Much more satisfying than a period.

This is Alexander Arguelles, a Youtube-famous polyglot, writing in Arabic, then Sanskirt (Devanagari), then Chinese.

In Devanagari he writes this: विनाशमुखमेतत्ते केनाख्यातं दुरात्मना

I am happy to report that my handwriting is a little bit better than his. However, he writes like 3x as fast as I do. :P

This site has tons of children's poems and stories in Hindi, so it's a mid-term goal for me... :)

December 01, 2009

What a Mess

So, my study abroad plans? They were nice, weren't they? :)

....Have the summer to get my German ready and get my VISA, go to Bonn, Germany next fall, break into the study abroad experience in the country that feels more like home than the others, take mostly language and culture courses, live on campus, be centrally located to explore, be in Germany for Oktoberfest and early Christmas festivities...
.....When the cold starts getting a bit old, head to Florida for a short winter break, get my Spanish VISA, then on to Pamplona, Spain for the Spring. I won't have time to brush up on language, but I need it least for Spanish. Spend spring semester studying Journalism in the Pyrenees...
... Come back to the US for a while, maybe do an internship over the summer, go back to MU to take mostly Journalism and Spanish courses, have plenty of time to brush up on Norwegian and get my VISA...
... Go to Bergen, Norway for the next Spring, when it's getting lighter every day, I can have Syttende Mai, etc, end in the lovely Norwegian summer and maybe hop about Scandinavia for a week or two before coming home...

It was a nice plan. But it had one fatal flaw.

The Study Abroad office made a mistake, and then assured me that the mistake was correct. You can't go to Bonn in the fall. You can't go ANYWHERE in Germany in the fall - their academic calendar goes October - March. So I can say goodbye to my little plan.

This leaves me with a few different options.

1.) Go somewhere else next fall.
Pros: Doesn't mess up Pamplona or Bergen, going somewhere new is always awesome, I could go to Asia or something! (I'd love to go to Japan, Finland, Italy... or anywhere!)
Cons: I already told my German friends I'm coming to Germany, I won't be able to minor in German, I'll have to go somewhere where I don't know the language well enough to take my classes in it.

2.) Go to Germany in the spring.
Pros: I get to go to Germany, minor in German, have not lied to my German friends, etc.
Cons: It messes up Bergen and/or Pamplona, no Christmas or Octoberfest, the Spring semester in Germany eats most of the summer, so I'll have two winter months hanging out in Florida randomly and no time for an internship that summer.

Now, number 2 is really multiple options. Just as the main Study Abroad page said I could go to Germany in the fall when I couldn't, the Journalism Study Abroad page said I couldn't go to Spain in the fall when I... can? Their academic calendar, which I looked up, goes only to December, so why can't I? I went to ask, and it turns out that the change is a recent one. By Fall 2011, students will be able to go to Spain in the fall. There's also a possibility that the program will be ready by fall 2010. So...

2.a.) Go to Spain next fall, go to Germany next Spring, and go to Norway at the original time (Spring 2012)
Pros: Doesn't mess up Norway, I get to go to all three countries, VISA situation is no more difficult than originally.
Cons: Whole plan contingent on the Journalism school.

2.b.) Stay here next fall, go to Germany next Spring, go to Spain fall 2011, and then go to Norway at the original time (Spring 2012)
Pros: Doesn't mess up Norway, not contingent on the Journalism school.
Cons: VISA situation becomes insanely difficult to work with. I'll be studying abroad for a solid year and a half, probably having to come back for a few days at a time just to apply for new visas, I'll have to rearrange my academic plan for here at Mizzou, most of my friends are studying abroad next year and graduating the year after, so I won't really see them again.

2.c.) Stay here next fall, go to Spain next Spring, go to Norway fall 2011, and then go to Germany spring 2012. (Or flip Spain and Germany in this scenario)
Pros: Christmas in Norway! :) Visa situation is easier than in 2.b.
Cons: It's dark and depressing when I'm in Norway, I'll have to rearrange my academic plan for here at Mizzou, most of my friends are studying abroad next year and graduating the year after, so I won't really see them again.

2.d.) Go to Norway next fall, go to Spain or Germany next Spring, MU fall 2011, and then Germany or Spain Spring 2012.
Pros: Don't have to rearrange my academic plan at MU, I'll see my friends like I planned, Christmas in Norway! :) Visa situation is easier than in 2.b.
Cons: It's dark and depressing when I'm in Norway, I really wanted to go to Norway last - sounds silly but I just don't feel ready to go to Norway yet this fall.


I'm crossing my fingers for 2.a. I don't like it as much as my original plan, but my original plan doesn't work, so I might as well forget about that. But, 2.a. depends on the Journalism school...

Otherwise, I'm leaning towards 2.b despite the visa madness that might ensue, as long as it's possible.

If it's /not/ possible, I'm genuinely torn between 1, 2.c and 2.d.

So I'll just have to wait and see...

There's also maybe an option 3. I could go to a program like this one:

It's not really the same as directly enrolling in a German University, and I may or may not be able to minor in German, but it's actually not very much more expensive than going through MU, it would actually be easier for me and a good way to break into study abroad, and it wouldn't upset my other plans at all.