Thursday, September 16, 2010

Everything is Illuminated

We had our first area studies today. They have grouped all of the Baltic States with Ukraine and Poland. The reason for this, according to our instructor, is that, well they were under the Soviet Union together (but so was neighbor Belarus...) and they were somewhat together for 350 years under the Polish-Lithuanian empire. But of course, that was some time ago.

I suspect it is just a matter of convenience, though for whom, I couldn't tell you. There certainly are enough students to justify two separate classes, or at least a bigger classroom. His pre-prepared attendance sheet listed 32 students. Another 14 showed up. All of us are going to one of these five countries, so no one was there by mistake. So all 46 of us had to cram into a too small and too stuffy room...the unlucky ones who didn't get there right on time got stuck in chairs against the far wall or sitting on cabinets. I hope they get us a better room, but I am not optimistic.

Because of the setup of the room, my fallback plan for when class gets dull won't work. During my last time in area studies six years ago, we were in sort of an auditorium. The room was large enough that if I cut my 3x5 flash cards into 4, they were small enough that I could study to stay awake rather than poke my eyes out with pencils. Not sure this will work here. I am hopeful, however, that this area studies will be a bit less, uh, political, than the last. There are no unbiased opinions where the Middle East is concerned.

Speaking of flash cards, if you are in language studies, you can borrow a copy of rapid rote to put on your home computer. So I got a copy today and loaded it up...I have loaded all of my vocabulary minus today's new words on. I used it in the lab and I think it really works. At least I am willing to give it a shot.

According to my list, I have a vocabulary of roughly 200 words. And after getting a few more verbs today, I can be, speak, study, live, know and forget. Probably forgetting is what I will do the most of!

Speaking of forgetting, I almost forgot to tell you that what we did in area studies today was watch the movie "Everything is Illuminated" (hence the post title). A good movie...I recommend it.


Melissa V said...

Good movie, better book. Also, Eugene Hutz, who plays Alex in that movie, is the front man of an awesome band called Gogol Bordello. You should definitely check them out!

Anonymous said...

When I was in area studies last year, the instructor kept falling asleep anytime we had a guest speaker. Even if he was sitting next to the speaker. Fabulous introduction to what it means to be a diplomat!

Anonymous said...

Nice blog! I had to ask Kevin who this former A-100 classmate was who commented on Brand New Day. :) Great to hear from you and thanks for commenting. I hope you are enjoying life-it looks like you are.
-The' Other' Melissa V

Shannon said...

It's Friday, and that means that the Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up - and you're on it! 

Here is the link:

If I quoted your text or used your photo(s) and you would rather I had not, please let me know. Please also be sure to check the link(s) that I put up to you, in order to verify that they work properly. If you would rather that I had not referenced you please also contact me. Thanks! 

Anonymous said...

As one of the the small number students in that specific area studies who is a holdover from the spring and who is leaving for post relatively soon, I can say that there has been a lot of "selective participation" in the course. Studying from flashcards... just coming and going to do "admin" stuff during the less interesting moments... the instructor never said a peep.