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Shumë gjera të thënë — apo jo? November 5, 2012

Posted by KG in Albanian, Language, Running.
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Obligatory lazy blog entry.  There are a ton of things I need to write about.  Like diving deeper into the now-distant memory of running that half marathon.  And my first two months of studying Albanian.  And… well there’s the hard part.  There’s not much more, really.  Running, Albanian, running, Albanian.  Life has settled into a steady and frankly pleasant rhythm, with occasional superstorm-caused disruptions.

The race.  It was quite an experience, the largest race I’ve run ever, even larger than the 2008 Cherry Blossom 10-miler.  We (the wife, my mother-in-law, and I) made amazing time Friday evening driving from DC to Baltimore, making the packet pickup and dinner at my folks’ stress free.  We turned in early and woke up to a freezing morning, the first frost of the season.  Miserable when planning a long run, but with a 9:30 gun time I opted, wisely, to roll the dice and dress for warmer temperatures.  The large crowds on the light rail down to Baltimore were great for keeping me warm.  Unfortunately the crowd also meant those standing on the train, including me, nearly broke our necks when the conductor made a sharp turn.  Though my neck ended up fine, my sunglasses failed to survive.  Those of you who know how attached I am to my running sunglasses can predict how upset I was with that particular development.

Fortunately, that was the worst thing to happen to me until after the race.  I made it to the start with plenty of time for a pit stop, and hit the hills of the course at a faster-than-expected pace.  At Mile 7, the course flattened and I spotted the family once, and then again at Mile 8.  The back five were fast and furious (and downhill!), and I finished with a sweet negative split.  Sadly, the good feelings ended there and a series of snafus ensued: the finish had a single, tiny Gatorade stand we were hustled out of.  The finishers corral was incredibly chaotic, the food spread terrible (who wants crab chips after running 13.1 or 26.2 miles?) And to top it off, Baltimore light rail decided to run sporadically, and my family had some drama causing them to miss making it to the finish.  They were many miles away and stranded while I was waiting in downtown Baltimore, with no ID, money, phone, or Clif bars.  Thank goodness for the good hearts of my fellow runners, and for a few strokes of resourcefulness; it took a bit of time, but we were eventually reunited. All the mess didn’t diminish the race buzz completely, but it did knock it down a few notches.  Lessons learned: plan megaraces more carefully, and avoid Baltimore light rail at all costs.

Running a half felt great, just hard enough to not kill me.  Albanian?  Also not killing me, but definitely making me sore in the head.  While the lifestyle is relatively gentle, the intellectual effort is less half marathon and more Badwater Ultra.  Looming deadlines have been replaced by vocabulary words at the edges of my brain, grammar constructions I know one day only to forget the next, and an endless search for some better studying tool.  The chaos of Albanian definitely hurts.  I’ve spent most of the evening studying colors and have seen far too many words presented as the definitive one for “pink” and “blue.”  Next up: loading some vocab onto the iPod to listen to while running.  Will this be the thing to finally drive those pesky interjections into my conscious memory?


Mobile Conoff June 30, 2009

Posted by KG in Delhi, FS Life, Language.
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Fresh off a two week TDY in Calcutta, I’m on TDY with the wife in New Delhi.  Sweeping pronouncements about the three big Indian cities (sorry, Chennai) to come. 

A note to FSI students headed to language-designated consular jobs: learn the words for “left,” “right,” and the local terms for each individual finger, and learn them well.   Along with “income” and those pesky family relationship terms, these will be the most important words for your job (shocker!).  This message brought to you by the words “sajja” and “kabba”, “jamna” and “dabba,” and “dahanu” and “bahanu,” left and right in Punjabi, Gujarati, and Oriya.

Relatively Speaking July 7, 2008

Posted by KG in Family, Language, Mumbai.
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The wife is regularly amused by the Indian/South Asian/whatever concept of the cousin-brother, that is, the cousin someone grew up with who is close enough to be considered a brother. It makes a lot of sense to me. There’s no actual word in the Indian languages I know for “cousin.” They all translate into “brother/sister who’s uncle’s/aunt’s child.” And it gets infinite degrees more complex than that. The English word for “uncle” is simultaneously more rigidly and loosely defined than its Indian equivalent(s). Thinking about how to explain it without the benefit of a chart gives me a headache. Basically, we’re in a country where family relations run (or, if you believe the local media, ran) broad and deep. Imagine if everyone had a living lineage as complex and well known as European royalty. It’s kind of like that.

Cutting to the chase, yesterday my wife met some of my Indian relatives for the first time. The older one calls me nephew, his daughter calls me “dada” — the word for older brother. We’ve known each other for years, and though I can’t say we’re close, they’re definitely close to my parents and my father’s immediate family. We also met my newest relative…

If you want to get specific about it, this is my great-grandfather’s brother’s son’s son’s daughter’s daughter. The closest relative we share is my (and her mom’s) great-great-grandfather, who was living around the time of the US Civil War. I’m not exactly sure what I’d call her by Western reckoning*, but that hardly matters. She’s cute as can be, and her parents will have her call me uncle and my wife aunty (when she’s verbal).

*My know-it-all wife says “third cousin once removed.” I say “whatever.”

Google First, Ask Questions Later May 18, 2007

Posted by KG in Books, Internet, Language.
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A mixed blessing: realizing your meandering, random, seemingly fascinating thought actually has an exact historical answer that is possibly definitive.

The thought (cooked up while doing situps and watching CNN): When did we start metaphorically mapping “theater” to warfare?  Is it part of human nature to try and separate ourselves from the ugly nature of war by mapping it to the artificial world of theater?  Is this symbolic mapping only in English?

The answer: Clausewitz.  Thanks, wikibrain!

A new subject I now realize I’m completely ignorant in: Theory of War.  I guess Sun Tzu doesn’t cut it.