Have a good weekend!

Just got back from enjoying live Congolese music at a place in my neighborhood that has only just been introduced to me, two weeks before my departure. Ah well, such is life.

It’s now one in the morning. I should go to bed…. But I’ve been accumulating interesting links for a month or so, and if I don’t share them now they will become hopelessly stale. So here they are:

Non-English words for emotions the English language doesn’t have exact words for.

Sounds that babies hear in the womb affect their language learning.

In China, there was a 19th century script that only women could write.

In Liberia last year, I came to appreciate how much of my way of life is made possible by electricity, and what it’s like to go without. Here’s an interesting article on the country’s struggle to get back on the grid.

The Mystery and Occasional Poetry of, Uh, Filled Pauses.

Donald Trump’s is using the language of victimhood to position himself as America’s savior.

5 tips for conquering the “intermediate plateau” of language learning.

Calling Yourself ‘Humbled’ Doesn’t Sound as Humble as It Used To.

With thanks to Randy for passing along this animated interview with Chimamanda Adichie: What Americans get wrong about Africa.

The US is no longer a full democracy, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Perhaps this has something to do with why.

¿What’s the story with ¿ and ¡ ?

This mosque looks crazy beautiful.

I Traveled to a Magical Island — Alone.

Have a good night and enjoy your weekends!

P.S. The photo above is from the Ile de Ngor this past summer. It’s fairly chilly, relatively speaking, in Dakar in February… and NYC might have actually been warmer today!

Have a rebellious weekend!

Hey! Guess what? This morning I rejoined the news team I worked with last week, to film the first interview that Adama Barrow has done since becoming Gambia’s new president yesterday. I got to shake his hand and offer him my congratulations. Thrilling, amazing, and a very small antidote to the horror of today. The interview was supposed to air in a 3pm broadcast, but it got pushed back indefinitely because the protests in D.C. stole the spotlight. And thank God for that. To everyone out in the streets of America today, I salute you and your civil disobedience. Keep it up!

That’s about all I can write about our national tragedy without getting nauseous and sobby, so I will change the subject…

The photo above is of all the wax fabric I’ve accumulated during my sojourn in West Africa. Ready-to-wear, non-secondhand clothing stores are really few and far between in this region, and what people do instead is buy fabric and take it to a tailor with a photo of the sort of thing they want made. The tailor creates the custom order for a fraction of what it would cost in the United States.

This concept is my dream come true, but I have been paralyzed by indecision over what to make with each piece of fabric, and during 11 months in Dakar I have yet to visit a tailor. I’m not sure I’m going to stay in Senegal much longer so I really need to get to one soon, but it’s become sort of emotionally painful to commit to cutting up such beautiful fabric in one way and not another. The Vlisco fabric that includes the film strip is especially difficult for me. I bought it not only because I love the colors and the pattern but primarily because it speaks to my life’s calling. If I use it for something small like a shirt or a throw pillow, the fabric’s content will become unintelligible and thus lose its meaning. But it’s not nice enough to frame, and I don’t want to make it into a dress, and pajamas seem a waste. Finally I decided I’ll bring it back to the States uncut and use it to reupholster the chair I inherited from my grandmother about 20 years ago and that has been sitting in my parents’ basement since. As for the rest, I spent a ridiculous amount of time matching clothing styles to fabrics, changing my mind, getting annoyed at myself, and finally forcing myself into decisions that I may or may not regret later. But at least this week reminds me that fashion is just another opiate of the masses and it does not matter one bit what I am wearing when there are totalitarian new world orders to resist.

On that note, here are some things to read while you’re on your way to a protest this weekend (and if you are, I hope you stay safe and warm, and have fun!):

“Avoidance speech” is both a fascinating and terrible concept.

50 wondrous places to visit in 2017.

The most beautiful public toilet in the world is all about the view.

Here’s a BBC story about Cafe Cor Coumba that apparently inspired the story I was in. It was filmed by a friend!

Three idioms across the world.

Male applicants, feminine language. This article suggests changing the language; I would suggest changing men.

A small-world story from my favorite museum’s blog.

One of the main reasons I don’t want to return to the US is 24/7 work culture. This article offers sad evidence of that. Americans don’t use all their earned vacation days. That is so screwed up.

Have a good weekend!

Here are some interesting reads from this week:

The French are fighting back against 24/7 on-call work culture.

Reducing your language learning baggage, or: “All you need is to keep going.”

An interesting article about the E.U.’s swelling language roster.

The most misused words in English (I am forever getting bemused and nonplussed wrong).

And finally, the New York Times has just released its annual “52 places to go” list, and it has me feeling slightly possessive and territorial because Botswana is on there. Stay away, please; it’s all mine in 2017!

Have a great weekend!

P.S. The photo is apropos of nothing, really. I saw the can in the supermarket and thought it looked like gorgeous art. Also, this week I did roast chestnuts for the first time ever. They were delightful even though half the joy of eating them is the wintry feeling and it is in no way, shape or form winter here. (Thank you, Mark Slomiany, for that one time you made them and I saw how easy it looked!)

catching up on 2016 before it’s over

Above, a belated shot of the Los’ Christmas spread this year. I got home from my three week-long shoot just in time to celebrate with them. Note the turkey! I have managed to make my mark in Senegal… The family loved our Thanksgiving turkey so much that they decided to make it again for Noël instead of their usual mutton. Unfortunately, I think there was a bit of beginner’s luck at play with the first one, because this second attempt didn’t turn out quite as delicious. I hope they nevertheless turn this into a new Christmas tradition, so that I can leave a legacy here!

Below, lots of links I wanted to share this month but didn’t have the time to until now:

Ten food names with unusual origins.

A world map of every country’s tourism slogan.

A visualization of what each country is best (or worst) at.

Italy’s last bastion of Catalan language struggles to keep it alive.

How i became I.

As double-dutch wanes in New York, competition comes from abroad.

On non-Swedes’ obsession with “hygge” (and the ironic conspicuous consumption that accompanies it).

32 movie accents analyzed by a dialogue coach.

FOLO = fear of living offline.

Atlas Obscura’s greatest finds of 2016.

Spin the globe to listen to radio stations around the world.

This makes me so sad, and it’s one of the reasons the call back to New York has grown fainter and fainter for me.

What each country is most worried about, and how satisfied they are with the direction of their country.

Comedians from repressive countries offer words of wisdom to Americans devastated by the election.

And on that inappropriate note, happy new year to all of you! Thank you for reading my blog this year, and for encouraging and commiserating with me as I grope my way towards French proficiency (while forgetting all the Spanish I’ve ever learned). It’s been way harder than I naively thought it would be when I arrived in Dakar. Writing about the ups and downs makes it so much more bearable, perhaps because I feel a confidence in English that I lack completely in French. Nice to remind myself that I can at least speak one language well…

Anyway, I wish I were more prepared to look back at 2016 and make some sort of meaningful statement about it the way everyone else seems to do when they have a blog.. but the only thing I’ve been capable of for the past few days is listening to George Michael and wallowing in angst about my lost youth and our doomed future.

I should have quit at “Happy new year”….

It’s going to be a long week. Hang in there!

I didn’t have the energy to do much posting last week, though I had some links I wanted to share. So I’ll kick off this week with them instead:
 
I adore The New York Times’ Modern Love column. Last week’s was language-related. (And this week’s was heart-breakingly beautiful.)
 
You know you’re living in a sad world when this is the word of the year.
 
The Cockroach Hall of Fame Museum in Plano, TX is notably absent from this otherwise super list of unique and wonderful museums
 
This explains why I have so much trouble with English language programs overdubbed into French, and why in-person conversations are always easier for me than telephone calls.
 
I found this article helpful: things to keep in mind when you’re frustrated with your language learning.
Have a good week!
[PS the photo is from near my house in Dakar. There is a toy vendor who sometimes hangs dolls and action figures from trees in rather macabre fashion. It always makes me think of that motivational poster of the cat in every elementary school classroom in the 80s. This is the more cynical version, updated for adulthood / the horrors of 2016.]

weekend, weekday, what’s the difference

This has been a devastating week, and I am devastated. It would be wise for me to avoid making political statements in public forums because of my work as a quasi-journalist (I say quasi because I don’t make videos for media; I make videos for mission-driven organizations). But it’s hard to convince my professional self-interest to override my personal need to acknowledge the absolute horror of the current situation, before going back to my comparatively inane subject matter of language learning and travel loving. And also, it offends me to think about what happened on Tuesday as strictly political, as though the survival of the planet and the protection and equality of marginalized groups is a question of politics rather than one of fundamental humanity.

Anyway, I will say this and then attempt to shut up about it (only on this blog, not in my personal life): humanity got us into this mess, and humanity will now have to get us out of it. The tragedy of the human condition is that we’re constantly repeating our history and digging our own graves while convinced we’re acting in our own best interest. But the beauty is that, as a species at least, we have a huge capacity for hope, community, solidarity, inspiration, creativity, resilience, organization, mobilization, and resistance, even in the darkest of times. I am going to draw upon all of those things in the coming days and months, because God knows if I don’t, I’ll succumb to absolute and utter despair not to mention fail in my responsibility as a human being in the family of man.

Actually, just one last thing. This week has been a wake-up call for me. I’ve realized that I repeatedly acknowledge my various forms of privilege as a “Not it!” of sorts, a substitute – often though not always – for doing the much harder work of dismantling it. It’s not that I’m all talk and no action; it’s just that I don’t do nearly enough.

I’m pretty good at keeping promises to myself, as this blog attests. So this week I promised myself to do more, much more, than I am currently doing. I’m still working out what doing more will look like but I know it’ll be a four-pronged approach: education/listening, time/volunteering, money/donating, and activism/policy and legislation.

Okaaaaay…. Now for your weekend links! As though this week was all just a bad Kafka dream and you can trouble yourself with anything other than how the fuck (as Aaron Sorkin said, there is a time for this kind of language and it’s now) to mitigate the damage:

My Latina friend’s dad wore this awesome (af) hat on election day. As soon as I sufficiently master French I’m going to reward myself with one.

On the wellness vacation.

Almost a billion people have traveled abroad so far this year, and other interesting statistics on global tourism.

Colorful map depicts what languages New Yorkers speak at home.

have a nice weekend!

What are you up to this weekend? I plan to lay low in an effort to relax away my growing anxiety about the American election. Maybe I’ll spend a day sitting by the pool at Hotel Savana, above, sipping a (recently mentioned) jus de bouye. Or maybe I’ll just hide under the covers for five days / forever, depending on the outcome.

Here are some interesting reads I’ve gathered for you over the past couple weeks, to keep you distracted if you’re as stressed as I am:

I follow a blog called “About Words,” which every week describes new English words in circulation. Last week’s were fascinating. Can you guess what a bobu or a midult is?

And do you know which country is the world’s most generous to strangers?

This awesome map charts out a cross-country US road trip that visits every national park.

Speaking of maps, here is a new world map that looks bizarre but is way more accurate than the one you’re used to. (Now I understand why getting from Senegal to Ethiopia took me ten hours.)

I love this woman and I am envious of the adventure she’s on. (Though I realize I’m on a pretty awesome one of my own.)

Every Italian who turns 18 next year is eligible for 500 Euros from the government on their birthday, to spend on cultural items and experiences. Fitting for one of the most culturally spectacular places on Earth.

the weekend is here

Yesterday was an unexpected day off but today was a quite intentional one. I finally made it back to IFAN to check out the permanent exhibit, which consists mostly of amazing masks from initiation ceremonies across West Africa.

After that I came back to my neighborhood for a late afternoon aquabike session. It was a very nice culture-sport 1-2 punch.

And now after two days of faux weekend it’s the real weekend. There’s an afropop dance night uptown in Almadies tonight, and I think I may search out brunch for the first time ever in Dakar tomorrow… We shall see.

Have a lovely weekend and if the spirit moves you, check out the reads that I have enjoyed this week:

A fellow later-in-life language learner reflects on our cultural preoccupation with a fluency finish line.

Continuing the Yiddish theme from last week, this week I read, “My Mother’s Yiddish,” a one year old but timeless essay.

Get up to speed on greetings around the world, including Tibet’s very unusual custom.

Bucket list places that are going to disappear to climate change. 😦

Californians may expand the bilingual education they once curbed.

I found the reader responses to “Advice for Solo Female Travelers” much more true and useful than the original article.

Only three people know how to make the rarest pasta on earth…

And I think I forgot to include this one in an older post, but better late than never:

The most inaccessible places in the world that people desperately want to visit.

bon week-end

I just exported the close-to-final cut of a 5-minute video I shot and edited almost entirely in French (aside from a small amount of a béninois dialect that was translated for me into French), and I’m feeling very proud of myself.

Going to the field and, in very challenging conditions, “one-man-banding” – directing, producing, shooting, recording sound, and then coming back and writing and editing a video singlehandedly – takes every ounce of everything I have. And yet I somehow found a way to do that all in French, which also requires copious amounts of my brain-space and emotional mettle. (I found a way by sacrificing some technical quality to instead concentrate on solving logistical problems in my non-native language. I’m okay with that.)

I’ve still got a lot of work to do on this particular project, which calls for a 3-minute and 1-minute version as well as the longer one. So maybe I should beware the evil eye and shut up about it…

But before I do, here’s a virtual toast to a weekend well-deserved. (Even if you didn’t work your butt off this week, I bet you made a superhuman effort not to implode emotionally while reading the news, and that is also worthy of acknowledgement.)

And here’s some news that will make you feel neither disrespected, degraded, disgusted, depressed, nor disappointed! (At least I sincerely hope not.)

How do you say “butt dial” in Yiddish? Updating a thousand year-old language’s words.

“The concept of authenticity is much over-hyped these days, and it seems to me a sad state of affairs that it’s something we need to cultivate — as if being authentic is just another act. A few weeks ago, I came across a term online that stopped me in my tracks: identity fatigue. We are getting tired, it seems, of creating and fashioning our personas in a world filled with personas. We’re confusing persona with personal life.” – Dani Shapiro on authenticity.

‘Th’ sound to vanish from English language by 2066 because of multiculturalism, say linguists

How to plan your trip using Google

What happens to languages that you understood as a kid but then forgot? Are they truly lost?

Passez un bon week-end!

have a delightful weekend

aquabike.jpg

In the two weeks since getting back to Dakar from vacation, I’ve been attempting to create a sustainable routine, something that has been lacking since I arrived here in February. It’s been hard, since my schedule has been all over the place – sometimes out of town for work, sometimes traveling, sometimes doing nothing / half-heartedly studying French. But in order for this place to feel like home, and if I want to avoid weird jags of isolation and anxiety, I need to think of myself much as I think of my nieces and nephew: little powder-kegs waiting to explode if they don’t do the same thing at the same time every day, if they don’t get enough sleep, if they don’t eat well, and if they don’t get a chance to run around like maniacs every once in awhile.

With that in mind, I went to my first ever “aquabike” class yesterday night. My usual form of exercise is running, but it’s been way too hot for that lately. I recently discovered that the place I thought was a community pool just two blocks from my house is actually a dedicated water-biking center. You’re halfway-immersed in the water and an instructor leads you through a one-hour workout that involves a combination of spinning and calisthenics-type stuff. The trial session I went to last night was awesome mostly because I got to be outside in the night air without feeling like I was going to melt or get eaten alive by mosquitos, but also because it was a just-intense-enough workout after weeks of being a couch potato. The pricing is fairly ridiculous – going twice a week would cost about half my monthly rent – but I’ve decided it’s worth it to put something regular on my schedule that’s beneficial to my mental and physical health.

Along those same lines… tonight I’m going out dancing for the first time ever in Dakar. It’s going to be a relatively early night, though, because on Saturday I fly to Benin to start my next job (!!). I – and thus my blog – will be gone for a week, but I look forward to picking up where I left off when I get back at the beginning of October.

In the meantime, here are a few interesting and relevant Web pickings for your reading and viewing pleasure. Have a good weekend / week!

Visual journeys by six photographers to six very different countries (including Ethiopia).

I just found out that Dakar’s beautiful, wonderful car rapides are on their way out and I am so, so sad.

11 funny-because-it’s-true(ish) French travel tips for visiting America.

How (and why) you should talk to strangers when traveling.

Two different writers discuss why they travel alone as married women, here and here

[Photo from Aquabike Centre Dakar]