Hmm…

When living abroad the topic about learning the language of the place comes very often in the conversations. What I have realized recently is that the topic which everyone can handle very quickly in and outside of  the classes with having a very well equipped vocabulary is exactly about how difficult it is to learn that particular language. You know precisely to say why you don’t progress as fast as you wish or it is written in statistics, why grammar seems complicated, why words are difficult to memorize, why you can’t understand people around, why the classes are not successful and so on.

So basically the first things we know to say in a language are the reasons for which we can’t speak it (good, properly, yet …). It is like somebody who wants to avoid speaking English by saying “Sorry, I don’t speak English”. Which obviously is a lie.  That was English.

I wonder why we do that. Why we learn first justifications or excuses? Is it that dangerous to let yourself be lost in language mistakes?

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A bit of inspiration – Trey Ratcliff

I started to follow Trey Ratcliff at the time when his blog – Stuck in customs became #1 travel photography blog and before he moved from US to New Zealand. He focuses on HDR photography and uploads one new (awesome) photo per day sharing many tips. Two details that I found amazing: all his photos are under Creative Commons Non-Commercial licence and he grew up blind in one eye.

I didn’t access his blog in a while, as in the meantime my interest for photography changed. Funnily enough I never actually tried HDR, but what actually inspired me, and I was glad to find it again, is not as much the photos as his contagious enthusiasm about photography.

Head to see his portfolio,  videos or twitter stream.

Below a few of my favorite Trey Ratcliff photos.

 

New thoughts and less back pain

I’ve started to practice yoga with the simple aim to get rid of my back pain which has troubled me for some time due to (what else!) the hours spent in front of the computer.

After two months now of practice the best part is the fear I have before each session that maybe I’ll not make it through the lesson as my body would collapse or so.  And almost each time I manage to surprise myself be it forcing a limit of my body or, even more enjoyable, discovering that the limit was only in my head.

I also got the habit to take everything anew and treat each lesson like is the first. I love the idea taught in class that each day is different and you are different each day. I guess this way you have even more chances to discover something new about yourself than if you are contaminating today with yesterday’s thoughts. Reality check at its best.

Oh yes, and the back pain is barely there.

The magic of the code

I still remember when I drew a circle on a HC90 back in school while attending a few, so-called, optional classes. I was absolute curious about computers, but don’t remember if I got an answer to my question “yes, that’s a circle, but how you change it into a square now…?”

What I remember was our teacher writing weird signs on the blackboard without facing the class, trapped in his own little world, and the computers remaining a mystery to me. Yes, somehow I missed that lesson.

Later in my first year of University, the curiosity came back once with the internet kicking in. Still remember Netscape Navigator and the wait for a page to load.

Now things are bit different. Platforms such as Kahn AkademyUdacity, Coursera or now Code.org come to help where the school couldn’t or didn’t cover.

“The programmers of tomorrow are the wizards of the future” as Gabe Newell put it in this short video on why programming should be taught in school.

From Bucharest

Indeed, its been a long time since my last post… I was busy repatriating after my two years away and the adjusting process was a bit more challenging than I thought. It seems is taking longer to re-adapt than to adapt. A funny process of re-discovering your neighborhood, your city, your friends.

But I’ll talk more about this in my next posts along with other learnings. For now.. just a “wrap-up session” with Michelle’s help, friend and GSP fellow, who told us the highlights of the 2007 batch story at the Graduation Ceremony.
Thanks Meesh for allowing me to post your speech and thank you guys for the journey! Good luck with our everything else!
PS Special thanks for the photos to Flora, Samson and Michelle!
“Exactly two years ago, we were all just names on a list of students accepted to the Global Studies Program. Today, we are a family.

Two years ago, some of us had never experienced international travel or been away from family and friends for an extended period of time. Today we are well informed when it comes to passports, visas, and police clearances! Each one of us came to GSP from diverse backgrounds – we represent 16 countries. Our lives before the program consisted of contrasting experiences yet we were united in our pursuit of higher education and well, lets be honest – we wanted to travel!
Some see us as academic tourists, global citizens, and social scientists, and we are all of those and more. As a group, we have truly become an international family.
We have taught a lot to one another, not only through cultural exchange, discussions but ultimately, our friendship. Our similarities as well as our differences have brought us together and enhanced our understanding of the world and of ourselves. GSP serves as a platform that connects visionary people who see beyond their hometown.
Being students allowed us a distinct kind of access to each new place. The lively atmosphere of a university campus eased our transition in to Freiburg, Durban and Delhi, as we entered each new country through the doors of the university.
Every semester brought something out in each of us, whether pleasant or not, we came to know one another as sisters and brothers… or even more! At times our every emotion was exposed. We laughed, we cried and struggled together with all of bureaucracy and disorganization within the program itself….oh, oops!

In spring we arrived in Freiburg for our first semester, and familiarized ourselves with globalization, international politics, and anthropology and social thought. We remember meeting at beer gardens or Augustinerplatz or at Dreisam river, unwinding after classes. Seminars with Professor Sitas provoked us and introduced us to the facts that we would encounter in South Africa. And as we met with the challenges of daily life inDurban, learning and academic engagement intensified.

The plight and the hopes of a diverse nation, less than 20 years into democracy was a glaring reality. Transportation in the city was not easy at first– a cab to the grocery store? Minivans bouncing to local beats and people singing to lyrics in Zulu. Yebo!

Delhi, by far, was a semester of not only the beloved masala chai but masala challenges as well. Trying to fall asleep, in our freezing cold concrete rooms, zipped up in our sleeping bags. Which then transformed into trying to sleep with the fan on full blast in the 45 degree heat, along with the bucket showers, the hostel food, and of course how can I forget, the mosquitoes? But ok, no problem! The smell of incense in the shops, the sweet taste of gulab jamun, to the honking of horns in the hectic streets. A tiny cup of chai. A dog named George!
I recall our group trips to Varansi, one of the holiest cities at the Ganga river, and Dharamsala, a new holy space through the influx of refugee Tibetan monks. The excursion to villages in Rajasthan without bottled drinking water, taking pictures of school children. Learning to do without the many comforts of home… but we managed to rise to the occasion, isn’t it?
The winter in Freiburg was our last semester. And with it came the Christmas market, a trek to Boike’s house in the Black forest while it snowed, and then, the thesis. Night after night at our desks or in the library. Worrying about making a point. You have to make a point! What is my point?! What is my theory?! Ahhh I don’t have one….yet.
And well, speaking of the thesis, our own individualities manifested only the range of topics we chose, but the manner in which we actually finished. It was definitely an interesting experience marked by endless hours in front of the computer checking Facebook, oh, I mean TYPING and very few hours of sleeping as the deadline approached. But we made it. We survived thesis-sclerosis.
At the end of the day, I believe that all of us in GSP will agree that these last 2 incredible years of our lives will never be forgotten nor compared to. As we know that all good things come to an end, so to does our experience together.
Today, I would like to think of this moment in our life as not simply the end of an incredible journey, but also the beginning of forming our paths towards a better world – towards awareness, humanity and creating an understanding – a dialogue with everyone meet.
With the experiences that we have accumulated, we have not only the power, but also the responsibility to move our societies forward towards a common good. Mahatma Gandhi said, “The future depends on what we do in the present.” I know that whatever any of us do in the future, the legacy of GSP will carry on and always remain within us, reflected in our thoughts and actions.

Some of us are not sure of what the immediate future holds, but now we do possess an important and diverse set of skills for a variety of career paths. Judging by the previous batches, I don’t think we have to worry much about the value of our degree in a global or local context. Our academic background is anything but mainstream.
In closing I’d like to thank my fellow classmates for an amazing and unforgettable 2 years. I wish everyone success in the future and look forward to bumping into you anywhere on the planet.
Thank you!”
Michelle Bolourchi
GSP 2007