October 27, 2003

I've Got a Few Minutes

I've got a few minutes before I need to leave for school. I have found that waiting until 8:30 a.m. to leave does not work out so well. The trains and busses are too crowded by the time I get there and I can't study standing up, believe me, I've tried. Today I am supposed to be getting my short paper I wrote on Jhumpa Lahiri's short story "Interpreter of Maladies" and I am very anxious about that. I have a another paper due for English this coming Wednesday, a first draft of a poetry paper. I wrote about five pages of notes on the poem "The Second Coming" last night. I've been trying to get ahead in all of my other assignments to ensure I will ample time to get it done. In Western Civ I should pretty much have everything completed for next week's class by the end of tomorrow. I am finished with my Music for this week, I just have to study for the exam my professor is giving us on Monday. I'm dedicating an entire weekend day to do that, but I should start looking over the book this evening if there's time. In Religion we're still behind in the textbook so no worries there. I have everything under control.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 07:12 AM

October 25, 2003

How I Will Spend Saturday Afternoon

It is starting to feel like Christmas over here - which is highly unusual since we are only six days away from Halloween. I just came from downstairs, where we have a little storage locker. I packed all of the ornaments we wanted this year into my ornament sorter. I tried to cram the cardboard boxes they were packaged in into my miscellaneous holiday box, but not everything that was in there before fit back in. I'm going to have to break down and get another box. Unfortunately, I really have no place to put it, not in my storage locker anyway. I can take out the car stuff (cleaners, waxes, etc.) which ironically, is in another bright red and green holiday box, and put that into the car trunk so long as I can devise a way to make it so it won't move around too much. Nothing else can really come out of there that I can think of. We just have too much damn stuff. The problem is whenever we see something we want to have for our house, the one we have yet to build, we have to buy it and hang on to it for later. I guess we think the style we like so much won't be marketed by the time we both get out of school and can afford a home. It is also hard to think that far in advance, especially with both of us in college and there's no a clear end to our educations in sight. Andrew has lately been talking about going for his PhD after he finishes up his Master's in Computer Engineering. By that point, I just hope to be out and earning an income. I guess that means I'm not ready to think about getting a Master's myself just yet.

The curtain rods that Andrew and I picked up yesterday won't fit the picture windows in our living room so they will have to be exchanged. Andrew is planning on getting them hung sometime today. He brought up the drill when we came up from downstairs and he set it to charging. It should be all ready whenever he is. One of the ornaments I bought needs to get exchanged, too. Much to my disappointment, some of the paint stuck to the packaging when I pulled it out to inspect it before packing it away with the others. So those are our plans for this afternoon: making some exchanges, hanging curtains, and of course doing more homework...for me at least. Speaking of which, I should get to it. I want to have another ten pages read by the time Andrew is all finished with washing the dishes and putting the receipts into MS Money. I'll read the remaining ten in transit to and from our destinations.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 11:29 AM

How I Spent My Friday Night

I did some reading in my Western Civilization textbook today, but I didn't get as much accomplished as I would have liked because Andrew came home from work earlier than I was expecting him to. He was eager to go out and pick up a movie, specifically 28 Days Later which apparently received like 86 or 88% on RottenTomatoes.com. All the copies were checked out, but we decided to pick up some Christmas ornaments I wanted at Carlton Cards in Ballston Mall and make the long drive out to IKEA in Woodbridge afterwards to look at getting some curtains. We found everything that we were looking for and a whole lot more. We've yet to hang up the curtains, we're planning on doing that at some point tomorrow. I can try to get some more reading done tomorrow morning since I tend to wake up earlier than Andrew on weekends. I have about twenty pages in my text remaining. As a treat to myself, I just painted my fingernails a really pretty shade of red that has sparkles. I'm going to go to bed here pretty soon. I'm feeling worn out.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 01:05 AM

October 24, 2003


Well, this month is shot for keeping up with my blog. Actually, many of my resolutions went out the window over the last couple weeks. I don't even know where to begin, but I can't just simply pretend that nothing of any importance has been going on. That said, let me begin the arduous task of getting caught up.

On Wednesday the eighth I I learned that Jhumpa Lahiri would be conducting a reading from her first novel The Namesake over at a Lutheran church in the District. I had a recitation that night that I needed to attend, but I really wanted to go see this event. I asked my professor for permission to miss this one and it was granted, provided that I along with two other classmates that would be joining me, write a one page paper about the reading. We agreed. When we first arrived at the church, I sent Andrew over to the bookstore that was sponsoring the event to purchase Interpreter of Maladies (Lahiri's collection of nine stories that won her a Pulitzer in 2000, a very extraordinary achievement for a collection, a female author, and a debut work no less) and the Namesake so I could have the author autograph them afterward. My friend and I located our other classmate who was already there and reserving seats for us. We sat down in the already crowded church and waited for Andrew to join us. The pew we were sitting on was tightly packed. Someone at the other end had their dry cleaning with them and it was occupying a significant portion of space. When Andrew came back we were practically sitting on top of one another. I made a comment and someone at the other end overheard me and pushed over the tiniest bit. Things began to get underway when someone made some introductory comments about Lahiri and her recent success. We were informed that Namesake had recently made it to the number one position on the New York Times Best Seller List. It seems she has passed the litmus test for authors. We were told that the church pews were designed to hold some 800 worshipers and as a further testament to Lahiri's tremendous popularity these were all filled to capacity as well as the space above in the balcony near the organ and also the floor space below the stage was pretty full. At some point during these introductory remarks, I turned to Andrew at my left and whispered, "What was that he said? I missed it." I was trying to take some notes for the paper I would have to write later on. Andrew responded and an elderly lady seated in front of us turned around to glare at us and say, "Could you please be quiet?" in a very condescending tone. I felt my face flush with embarrassment and I resigned not to say another word. Just then Lahiri stepped in front of the microphone and explained that she would be reading from chapter two of the Namesake. She went over some details that we would need to know in order to appreciate the reading in the context of the first chapter. Taken directly from the paper I typed up for my English professor who excused me from recitation that night:

The two main characters were a man and wife recently arrived in America from India to start a new life. The woman had recently given birth to a baby and the couple was anxiously awaiting correspondence from the matriarch of the family, for she was traditionally expected to provide the new family members with a name. The mother and father find that in America a baby cannot be released from the hospital without a birth certificate and that it is impossible to get a birth certificate until a name has been selected for the child. To temporarily resolve the problem the child is given a pet name by his father: Gogol.

It is important to mention that during Lahiri's reading the woman occupying the seat in front of us, who had earlier used that condescending tone with me when I dared to whisper to Andrew, spoke intermittently to the man beside her, that is, when he was actually conscious for it. It is so amazing how some social rules only apply to some people.

At the end of the reading, Lahiri answered some questions from the audience through a mediator. We could not hear most of these because some rude individuals were excusing themselves from their seats to hurry over to the bookstore across the street so as to reserve a good spot in line for autographs. Andrew, my friends, and I remained until the bitter end. When we finally walked over, there was a rather imposing line winding out the door. I slipped inside to establish what the line was assembled for: purchasing books or autographs. It was for autographs, but also while I was inside learned that it was possible just to leave your books there and pick them up at a later date rather than standing around and waiting. We opted to do that. My friends purchased their books and we left them there. We went off in search of a place to eat and we ended up at Charlie Chiang's Restaurant where we discussed our thoughts on the entire experience. We made light of how rude some of the other people who attended the event were. I picked up my books the next night. We had some trouble finding the place by vehicle since we had Metro-ed over the night before. When I opened my books up, I saw that the author had just signed her name on the title pages of both of my books, which was fine with me. Only one other time in my life have I gotten an autograph and that was from Johnnie M. Clark, the author of Guns Up!. I have since parted with the bookmark he had printed his name on. That man had come to speak to my Honors English class in the 6th grade. At the time we were doing a whole unit on the 1960s. Lahiri's autograph is much more special to me and I will likely keep it for as long as I live.

As far as grades go, I haven't turned in any more assignments for Western Civilization, but we did have a quiz recently. Out of five questions I managed to miss one. The question was something to the effect of name the intellectual movement of the Middle Ages and I wrote: "scholasticism? It's all running together... " The correct answer he was looking for humanism. I didn't get the extra credit question either that asked us to name two democratic candidates running for the next presidential election. Like I keep up with politics. Yeah, right. Still, from what comments I overheard before subsequent classes started from other students I did pretty well comparatively. I have turned in several assignments for my English class, including the first paper project which I chose to write about "Interpreter of Maladies" the short story featured in my Norton anthology that first introduced me to Lahiri's work, but I haven't gotten all of them back yet. My professor says he will have the paper projects ready for us on Monday to hand back. I really hope I did well. I recently submitted that paper along with two poems and a short story to a campus publication called the GMU Review. A graphic image I designed way back when was featured on the first page of the last edition. Additionally, my professor has four other papers of mine, the one on Lahiri's reading, the one I wrote on the Yellow Wallpaper (that was handed back to me once already and I got a check/check plus on it, guess he couldn't decide what to give me on it, but I handed it back in with a response to his comments), the one I handed in on Monday concerning Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy", and a paper I wrote for Wednesday on "The Second Coming" by Yeats. In Music, we recently had our mid-term exam and I received my scan-tron back with "congratulations highest score" printed at the top. When I read that, let a little gasp that got the attention of the class, though that wasn't my intention. I earned a 94 on that. Actually, a 96 because there was a listening sample (specifically Vivaldi's the Four Seasons) where we were asked to say if it was concerto grosso or concerto solo and it whether it was from the Baroque or Classical era. I marked that it was concerto gross from the Baroque because in addition to the violins I distinctly heard harpsichord playing the basso continuo (though admittedly, I did not realize it was playing the basso continuo at the time of the test). As far as I was aware, more than one instrument pitted against the orchestra did not constitute a solo performance. She gave two points to everyone who marked it as Baroque, either grosso or solo. When I lined up with everyone else who needed their grades adjusted and the professor turned to me and asked, "You too?" I said, "Yeah." She made the amendment to her grade book and commented, "So, that means you have a 96 instead of a 94." Other students waiting around overheard her and one even said, "Does that mean you'll curve the grade to 96?" The teacher told him, "No." and laughed. I wanted to say that really would only serve to help me. Anyway, I was happy with my performance because I had only made a 90 on the last exam. These are really challenging because it takes a certain amount of divination, even though we are provided with a study guide, to adequately prepare for the test. She doesn't always inform us of everything that will be on the exams within her study guide. You just have to gage the importance she places on certain things, for example she is a pianist so the section we just did on piano will be covered extensively on the next exam. For Chinese Philosophy and Religious Traditions, I have only been given one assignment so far and that was a take home mid-term. It featured five essay questions, each approximately 750 words in length. We were given a week to complete the assignment and we didn't even have to come to class for two days (which didn't help me any since I had to stay for a concert on the Monday night and I had to stay for recitation on the Wednesday night). I ended up saving the whole thing for the weekend. That was all fine and good until while I was working on it I began to have a migraine that incapacitated me for two entire days, culminating in a visit to a doctor's office for treatment.

My weekend consists of four days that I don't have class on: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. My headache started on Saturday and continued through to Sunday. I couldn't make much progress with my paper because I could not see the monitor (I was experiencing auras, bright lights that obstruct my vision when I'm having a migraine, to me it looks like just like lightning) and I kept vomiting, another unpleasant aspect of migraine headaches that I typically experience. There of course is also the pounding headache to be contended with too. There wasn't much Andrew could do for me other than bring me the trash can when I needed it, lay down with me in bed and try to console me, and eventually take me to a doctor. The doctor determined from what I had told her that my headache was stress-induced. The last one I had was at school which had started up in the middle of Music and kept going strong through my Chinese Philosophy and Religious Traditions class. I eventually had to excuse myself to go throw up. I explained to Dr. Ro after class what was wrong with me. He put and arm around my shoulders and told me to go home and feel better. I did. This is important to mention this because he was later very understanding when I couldn't hand in my mid-term on time. The time before that, my most recent migraine was on the way out to Massachusetts for my Aunt Joyce's funeral over the summer. I hadn't seen most of that side of my family in some twelve years. It was a very stressful time for me and we hadn't even made it out of Arlington when I began to toss my cookies into a shopping bag while we were stopped at a gas station. Fortunately, I didn't have another when we arrived. I'm not sure how I managed that. I think I convinced myself that I had to keep it together for my family's sake, especially my mother. I knew she would really need me and she did. I was there for her, as best as I could be. So anyway, I explained to the doctor that I sought her attention because I needed all of my facilities in order to write the three papers I had due for Monday. One of them was already finished, a short response for English on Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy", but I still wanted to write something for Western Civilization (we are given six paper assignments over the course of the semester and we only have to hand in four if we want to because only four grades will count toward our average. I had already opted not to do one of the two "freebies".) as well as complete my mid-term for Chinese Philosophy and Religious Traditions. The doctor listened to me explain all of this, along with my frustration of not knowing whether my headaches were sinus or stress-induced and she concluded that it was in fact stress that was causing my migraines. I did tell her that both < ahref="http://www.advil.com/">Advil and sinus medication did nothing for me. She prescribed me a shot of Imitrex to be administered into my arm there in the office along with an anti nausea shot to be had in my butt cheek. I was no longer feeling nauseated so I declined that second shot. I did, however, take the Imitrex which made my head feel cold and it did absolutely nothing for my sensitivity to light, which at the time, was troubling me the most. It cost a whopping $75. I was given three prescriptions, one for Imitrex (since I couldn't remember if that was what I had been given before in the past that didn't work for me), some anti-nausea pills, and an antidepressant to control my anxiety. Imitrex was so expensive I only filled three pills of the 20 she prescribed me. They were on the order of $20 each. I have yet to use them. I have also yet to use the anti-nausea pills since my nausea only accompanies my migraines and I have been fortunate enough not to have another one (yet). I think the antidepressant has been helping with that. It is called Nortriptyline and I don't know much about it other than what I have learned through my own recent and limited experience with it. Basically, I don't worry anymore. My friends say that I have been acting like someone turned the volume down on me. I don't feel anxious. My heart doesn't rage against my chest whenever I call to mind all of the papers I have due or all of the responsibilities I have shouldered. Instead, I feel a slight tingly sensation whenever I think of something that might have previously gotten me going. And I sleep so well now. The doctor wanted to make certain that would take her advice and go see a neurologist she recommended so she limited the quantity of pills she prescribed me. I only have twenty of them and the soonest appointment I could get with the neurologist was something on the order of twenty-five days away. The information that came with my antidepressant clearly said not to stop taking the medicine no matter what. I am going to have to unless this doctor returns the call I made explaining this situation. She anticipated that I would be seen sooner. Unfortunately, that didn't work out so well. Good thing I am on this antidepressant or else I'd be pretty freaked out by now. At first, I was worried that people would think I'm crazy, especially my family members, when I told them about this whole ordeal, but specifically about the drug I'm on. Surprisingly, everyone has been quite supportive. So much so that I have ventured to tell friends at school and even two of my teachers. My friends shared with me their college pressure horror stories. One hadn't slept in three days. While I was shocked that other students were feeling the effects and not exhibiting them to my awareness, I was relieved to find that there were other occupants in my boat with me. When I approached Dr. Ro on Monday to request more time for my mid-term he granted it, almost brushing the matter off. He didn't even glance at my doctor's note. When I handed in my twelve completed pages in to him on Wednesday I had stapled my doctor's note to the front so he couldn't miss it. He read it and said, "Oh, migraine." I told him yeah and explained how incapacitated I was and that I had a migraine in his class once before. He remembered and we got to discussing other things. He assured me that he would not deduct any points from my grade. I was really happy to hear that.

I later went and saw my English professor to talk about short poetry paper we have coming up. I had remained after class earlier to speak with him, but there were several other students waiting for his attention and he received them first. One asked the question I had planned on asking. He gave her an answer and I slowly backed up and walked away. Before I reached the exit, I heard my name called. I turned and was asked if there as something that I needed I explained that he just answered my question and that I wasn't upset with him, just upset that what I wanted to do with my paper (an interpretation) wasn't what he was anticipating from us. He said that would actually be fine and that we could discuss it later, either in his office or via e-mail. I was following up on that when I visited him in his office. I somehow got to telling him about my migraine over the weekend and about how other students told me what they had been through over mid-terms. I told him that in retrospect it might have seen weird for me to make motions to leave the classroom like I did, but that I am on a new medication for my headaches that has been affecting my behavior in certain social situations. He said I wasn't acting weird and the look he gave me was just concern for whatever I needed from him at the time. With that clarified I think we both felt a little better. He also asked me about the English Honors Program he had recommended me for the week before. I told him that I didn't think I would do it because I'm already stressed out now (that was my jumping off point for telling him about my migraines, now that I think about it). I also said that I feel I am being challenged and when and where I don't I raise the bar myself. He expressed that he felt that was the precise reason why I should participate in the Honors Program. I mentioned that I am on two Honor Societies already and that they take up some of my free time. He assured me that it wouldn't mean more work. More work doesn't concern me, more effort does. Knowing that I up the ante on my own and that would make things overwhelming for me, I continued to decline. I eventually conceded that I still have time to think about it, the classes are 400 level so I need not take them until I'm a senior and I am only presently a sophomore. He seemed disappointed and then I divulged something that I probably shouldn't have: that I know for a fact that he recommended several other students from my class. I guess I was trying to point out that even if i don't join some other people definitely would (law of averages). He told me that he didn't ask everyone and I named a few he didn't and a several more that he did. He wanted to know if we had been discussing this amongst ourselves and I told him we had because we wanted to know how other people were confronting this enormous decision. Anyway, I guess I also did mean to say I don't really feel special for having been chosen and I may have even hurt his feelings, though that isn't quite the way to put it. I know I impress him with my abilities, maybe even more so than some of the others he asked. I can't say for sure, I don't read their papers when they are handed back. But I do read mine. Anyway, I think this decision contributed to my migraine I had over the weekend. I had received one e-mail from my professor and another from the director of the program. I felt somewhat pressured. On top of that, Andrew had said something to the effect that he would be disappointed if opted not to take this opportunity when I first informed him of it. One of my friends from class had felt flattered. I was amazed when she seemed so excited, but then again, she only takes a single solitary class at a time she can probably handle it. And I also don't know how hard she pushes herself, if it is near as hard as I do. I have no answer right now to any of these questions. I just know I have to decide what is in my very best interests when the time comes and I know this opportunity won't go away. I can always take it if I want to. On my way out of his office, I asked my professor if he knew the director of the Linguistics program. He gave me a funny look and said sure, that's him right there. We were passing a chair in the lobby with two people seated on it when he said that. I told him, oh ok, because I was going to ask you to introduce me. He made our introductions and I informed the man that I am an undergraduate English major with a Linguistics concentration. He asked if I had gotten the signature I need to get into my graduate-level courses and I told him that no, I haven't and that I was expecting Dr. Chamberlain, who taught my first General Linguistics class, to provide me with that. I was thus informed that it has to come from someone within the Linguistics dept. and Dr. Chamberlain is director of Modern and Classical Languages. He further told me to come see him and that he would provide me with what I needed. I saw him later that evening, at Recitation. We were broken up into our concentrations. I told him then that I was intent on getting my Master's from GMU in Linguistics and he lowered the boom on me: only 6 of my graduate credits that I will be taking for my concentration would apply to my Master's...boy, was I ever disappointed. Good thing I was on the antidepressant, because I couldn't feel it. Unfortunately, as a writer, I utilize those strong surges of emotion to be effective at what I do - this could turn into a bigger problem for me than it is worth to eliminate my propensity to get migraine headaches.

Other resolutions I haven't been diligent about, besides keeping up with regular entries: I've been smoking, quite a lot actually. I feel disgusting, but I also feel like I can't stop either. I feel lethargic and somewhat detached now when I don't have nicotine in my system and to me that spells a.d.d.i.c.t.i.o.n. I need to stop on my own before Andrew finds out how serious this is. I tried so hard over the summer and manged to quit and here I am, back again. My nails are now short, not because I chewed them, but because someone said something about how they vary in length. They are all of equal length now. I spent a good hour before my first class filing them into neat little squares. I hadn't done that before then because I liked being able to note how long they have gotten and really, only one nail was almost original from when I started not to bite them (my left pinkie nail). She specifically directed comments to that one. Oh well. At least I have managed some time for some more personal reading. I finished Piers Anthony's Realty Check and was disappointed with it. I think the idea behind the story was solid, but he just seems to convey to me that he is getting old and I can't exactly explain why. I also read a terrific book by Charlaine Harris titled Dead Until Dark. It kind of fits under the heading of "brain trash", but it was enjoyable brain trash. It concerns a waitress in Louisiana with a talent (or a "disability" as the character explains it) for reading minds who falls head over heels for a vampire (who are now "out of the closet", as the author puts it). I bought the two follow-on books in the series and have since started reading Living Dead in Dallas.

Another update: Darwin the iguana is recovering well from her spay surgery. She has even started to shed in the area of her stitches. She is healthy, eating well, and very active. Unfortunately, she is also still exhibiting aggressive behavior. She still has a little while longer before we just decide that is her new temperament. Spay surgery has a tendency to alleviate aggression, but in her case she might be the exception. I guess we'll see.

I think that about does it. I don't want to upload the paper I wrote on Sylvia Plath's poem because I feel that it won't make a lot of sense to anyone who reads it because it also concerns three criticisms that are featured in my textbook. I don't want to upload the response to Yeats's "The Second Coming" because the assignment consisted of following some directions designed to make us read closely that my professor e-mailed to us. That also would make little sense to anyone who would read it, not having read his instructions. Everything else that comes to mind as far as updates go seem unimportant. I think I have done well at expressing what has been going on that matters. I have some homework I have to get out of the way (some reading in my Western Civilization text, about 40 pages in all) that I abandoned to compose this entry that I need to get back to. There's another ten pages or so in the primary source reader and then two papers that are due on Wednesday, one on a classical concert I saw performed at GMU last Monday (a concert report) for Music Appreciation and the other five pages on a poem (I have selected "The Second Coming" to work with) that involves explaining what makes the poem of our choice poetry for my English class. I'm not frenzied (not yet, anyway), but I really want to have everything done before the weekend is out so I can get ahead in my assignments for the next weekend. I will have to do a paper for Western Civilization because I have expended all of my opportunities to skip them and the final draft of my poetry paper will be due on that following Monday. I call this tactic stress management. Well, I am off now to go continue reading. I'll try to make time to write more entries. Don't worry, this isn't the last you'll ever hear from me. :)

-- CrystalShiloh @ 02:28 PM

October 13, 2003

"Interpreter of Maladies"

The following is my first paper assignment for my English class. I decided to write about "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri because her story was especially well crafted, and not many these days are.

Something Lost on the Translator

It is possible to read "Interpreter of Maladies" as a character study, but it is mainly a character study of Mr. Kapasi as he studies the other characters in the story. The story is presented as a snapshot of one day in the life of Mr. Kapasi and one set of people that he interacts with. He can understand their language easily enough, but that doesn't necessarily qualify him to understand them as individuals with their own distinct cultural outlook. Mr. Kapasi thinks he is a worldly sort of man because he speaks several languages and he acquires them relatively easily. He thinks that all there is to the art of communication is sharing a common vocabulary with someone else, but the story shows that really is the most insignificant aspect of communication.

Mr. Kapasi is a middle-aged married Indian man. He's worked as a tour guide for five years and during that time he has become used to encountering English-speaking tourists, like Mr. and Mrs. Das, in his line of work. The assumption on the part of his employer is that language is not a significant barrier between Mr. Kapasi and the English-speaking people that are assigned to him. Mr. Kapasi reveals that he enjoys his position as a tour guide to Mr. Das. It gets him where he wants to go and seeing the sites he likes to visit. It is also established that he has a second job in a doctor's office. To clarify what he actually does there he says, "I am not a doctor. I work with one. As an interpreter" (Lahiri 240). Though this is a rather choppy way of putting it, his carefully chosen and concise sentences seem to provide Mr. Das with not only an explanation, but also a demonstration of his work. Mr. Das hasn't considered why a doctor might be in need of an interpreter. That shows that he doesn't think language could be a barrier, either, just like Mr. Kapasi's boss. His function is "interpreting what the patients say" (240). Mr. Kapasi thinks that his job is just like any other job, very mundane. "He found nothing noble in interpreting people's maladies, assiduously translating the symptoms[]" (241). Not only did Mr. Kapasi not consider his profession important in the grand scheme of things, he was actively scornful of it. "The job was a sign of his failings" (242). He had high aspirations. They included "resolving conflicts between people and nations, settling disputes of which he alone could understand both sides" (242). All Mr. Kapasi perceives himself empowered to do with his vast inventory of languages and assemblage of assorted dictionaries is exchange one word for another. The doctor could learn how to do that himself, just like Mr. Kapasi did, if that was all there was to his job. Mr. Kapasi's boss and Mr. Das were on to something: language is not the main barrier to communication; something else must be.

Mr. Kapasi attempts to categorize the Das family using his observations. According to Mr. Kapasi, "The [Das] family looked Indian but dressed as foreigners did[]" (236). Their appearance leads Mr. Kapasi to assumes that since they look like him in one regard they must be at least somewhat like him in others. The encounter with the goat shows just how un-Indian these folks are (237). Mr. Kapasi overheard a vendor sing a line from a love song in Hindi after Mrs. Das made a purchase and was making her way back to the vehicle (238). He realized by her lack of a reaction that she did not know enough of that language to understand that the vendor was coming on to her. Even if she did have fluent command of Hindi that doesn't guarantee that she would have understood the significance of the incident any better; it was also the cultural context that was lost on her and not just the language. The Das family is Indian, but not really, so their tour guide has difficulty in not only categorizing them, but also in communicating with them. They would probably be best described as second-generation Americans. Mr. Kapasi is limited to categorizing the Das family with what he already knows about American culture. Mr. Kapasi made a mental note while watching an episode of the television show Dallas that the steering wheels in American cars are on the opposite side from what they are in India (239). This is an outdated show that the Das' daughter, Tina, has never even heard of before. Mr. Kapasi compares Mr. and Mrs. Das to other American broadcasts he has seen when he observes that though they sound different from the Texans featured on Dallas their accents still sound familiar to him (240). It was good that he was focused on language, since that is the nature of his profession, but what accent a person has does not have a whole lot to do with interpreting what a person says. About all you can learn from an accent, and only if you are experienced enough, is what areas of a country someone has lived in and Mr. Kapasi has Mr. and Mrs. Das generalized to the entire continent. "Sometimes he feared that his children knew better English than he did, just from watching television" (242). While television may be a pretty effective tool for learning a foreign vocabulary it is not so well suited to educating someone in a foreign culture.

Mr. Kapasi does tend focus on culture, but he clearly doesn't understand how important it is to communication. Based on physical attributes he determines that he shares an Indian heritage with the Das family. He also surmises by their manner of dress that they clearly are American, but he doesn't perceive just how different they really are. They are somewhere in between, an amalgamation of the two cultures. What Mr. Kapasi shares in common with the Das family is purely superficial. He can never hope to understand them on a deeper level because he fails to appreciate just how different they are from one another.

Mr. Kapasi also fails to appreciate just how important his job at the doctor's office is. Mrs. Das quickly determines that the patients are totally dependent on him and "In a way more dependent on [Mr. Kapasi] than on the doctor" (241). They rely on him to tell the doctor what really is wrong with them. Patients come to him "glassy-eyed and desperate, unable to sleep or breathe or urinate with ease, unable, above all, to give words to their pains" (249). Mr. Kapasi gives these people the words that they need, but language is not the only barrier between the doctor and the patients. When Mr. Das prompts him to explain why a doctor would need an interpreter he tells him that, "He has a number of Gujarati patients in this area. My father was Gujarati, but many people do not speak Gujarati in this area, including the doctor" (240). Gujarati is a region located on the other side of India. Mr. Kapasi has a familiarity with more than just the language: he was also extensively exposed to the culture since one half of his family is Gujarati. Translating for the doctor is so natural to him he just doesn't see the advantage he has that the doctor does not. That is why Mr. Kapasi thinks that "it is a job like any other" (240). This is what in turn makes his other job as a tour guide so exciting. He regularly comes into contact with English-speaking tourists, but their cultures are so far removed from his own that misunderstandings arise. Language alone is insufficient for the higher level of communication Mr. Kapasi aspires to.

Mr. Kapasi is not a complete failure. He is quite successful with his job at the doctor's office. Ironically, he feels that "the job was a sign of his failings" (242). He is in fact a great man who helps people, but he'll never understand that as long as he remains tied up with the insignificant aspect of his job. What makes Mr. Kapasi so effective in translating for the doctor and why he is not so easily replaced is that he has the cultural context for those interactions. It is so native to him he is not even cognizant of it. Cultural understanding is impossible to garner from a dictionary or even from outdated television shows. Though he doesn't see it, he is in a perfect position to act as an ambassador to other countries in his other role as a tour guide. His big dream for himself was "[] resolving conflicts between people and nations, settling disputes of which he alone could understand both sides" (242). Mr. Kapasi is not as effective at this as he could because he lacks the foundation that he has for language in his other job. He thinks that language is the only element of communication that one has to learn in order to avoid or resolve misunderstandings that arise between people and nations, when in actuality there's more to it than that, culture plays a significant role in interpretation. Toward the end of the story "Mr. Kapasi felt insulted that Mrs. Das should ask him to interpret her common, trivial little secret. She did not resemble the patients in the doctor's office []. Still, [he] believed it was his duty to assist Mrs. Das" (249). In order to be of any help to her he must first understand where she is coming from. In order to fully actualize his dream he must strive to understand people from other countries in terms of their own cultural contexts.

Works Cited

Lahiri, Jhumpa. "Interpreter of Maladies." The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Alison Booth, J. Paul Hunter, Kelly J. Mays. Shorter eighth edition. New York: Norton, 2002. 236-251.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 08:10 PM

October 04, 2003

Starting to Panic

I don't think I am going to be able to make it over to D.C. this morning for the National Book Festival as I had hoped that I would have time to. Last night's usual activities set me back on schedule and I need to catch up. I have to finish reading my block of Western Civ and one half of the online lecture notes as well as write my two page paper for that class sometime today so I have the almost entirety of tomorrow reserved for my five page paper for English. There will of course be more reading in Western Civ, but everything else should be done by that point. I hope so, anyway. I haven't been this loaded down with homework before. I am getting worn out. Ok, time for breakfast and then back to homework.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 09:39 AM

October 03, 2003

What's the Point?

On September 27th I uploaded my 100th entry (I started this blog on July 8th). I meant to mention that earlier while I was catching up on the events of the past six days. I didn't think I'd be able to keep writing for this long. I have somehow managed to surprise myself. I like it when I do that. I thought perhaps that I wouldn't much to say. Or rather, I thought that what I would say wouldn't amount to much, not anything more than simply a retelling of given day's events. Sometimes I do recap, but I don't do that for every single entry. Usually when I do, I have a point in mind. For instance:

Andrew is so sweet. He took me to dinner earlier this evening (we went to Don Pablo's in Alexandria) and afterward we went shopping. He bought me two CDs: the Enya "Only Time Collection" and Sarah McLachlan's "Mirrorball", two DVDs: The Smashing Pumpkins 1991 - 2000 Greatest Hits Video Collection and the Ultimate Edition of Cats (which we are going to go see performed live next weekend at the National Theater), and two books: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I'm spoiled rotten. Too bad I lack the time to do anything meaningful with any of this new stuff :(.

What's the point? Well, if you think about it, there's a rather insightful look into my personality somewhere in there. I like to shop, that much is evident. You also get a sense of what kind of music I listen to, what sorts of books I like to read, and that I am a very busy person at this time. Speaking of which I really need to be getting back to my homework!!

-- CrystalShiloh @ 09:39 PM

Response to a Recitation

I'm following up on the mention of my free response made to a Recitation in my entry from earlier (that means read that other entry first so this makes sense to you). I'm posting this now for continuity and someone interested in film might actually learn something from reading it, who knows? Not sure if my citations are all where I need them to be, I'll work that out later before I print out a copy and turn it in to my ENGL 325 professor.

Response to a Recitation: Peter Brunette, "Point of View in Film"

Peter Brunette is the Director of Film and Media Studies at George Mason University. On Wednesday night he gave a lecture on point of view in film. I found it very informative. I appreciated that he made frequent comparisons between film and literature; it made concepts for me much easier grasp. He explained that as it is in literature, first and third person are used in film. There are even a few examples of second person being used; he mentioned one of them as being Lady in the Lake, filmed back in the 1940's (Brunette 1 Oct. 2003). He didn't have a clip to share with us, but he described how second person point of view was achieved in it. You never see the hero unless he is looking into a reflective surface (when he sees himself). You see everything from his perspective, for instance, if he were about to be punched you would see the fist coming toward you. Brunette explained to the crowd that, "By its very nature, film is almost always in the third person" (1 Oct. 2003). Additionally, it is almost always set in the present, even when what we are shown is a flashback.

Brunette discussed what about a flashback makes it interesting: they begin in the first person and shift to the third after it has started. Brunette went on a slight tangent when he instructed his listeners to be constantly judging what they see in film because it doesn't offer a direct representation - it can be manipulated. According to him, it is an "iconic relationship" (1 Oct. 2003). Then he connected this thought back to what he had originally been saying with regard to flashback sequences: sometimes there is cheating when you are let to believe that the person experiencing the flashback saw something he couldn't possibly have seen.

Brunette spent considerable time explaining some important elements within the film grammar that everyone has to learn to accept in order to fully enjoy a film. Perceptual point of view (aka, perceptual subjectivity) is where a character looks outside the frame and there is a cut and you are shown what the he was supposedly looking at. This is a suggestion. A great example he gave of this is in old films featuring cowboys and Indians. It is intended to appear as if occurring simultaneously, when it actuality its two separate strips of film. Eye line matching is where you have a character looking in given direction (let's say up at a kite) and the director, or whoever, cuts to the corresponding angle (looking up at the kite). Steady cam is a large camera strapped to someone's back that is controlled by a gyroscope. It is used to show perceptual subjectivity. Subjective camera is when the camera shows how the character sees things, for instance when his perception is altered by intoxication he sees everything in double. According to Brunette, mental subjectivity is a basic thing in film that doesn't have quite as much importance in film as it does in literature (1 Oct. 2003). Films, like works of literature, rely heavily on narration. Brunette told the crowd that, "Character identification relies on this [narration] and star power and not so much on point of view" (1 Oct. 2003). He enhanced his discussion through the aid of some clips. They assisted me in seeing what was meant by all of these terms he had elaborated on verbally.

I very much enjoyed this lecture - I feel that I got a lot out of it - I'm seriously considering taking his introductory class to learn more about this field.

Works Cited

Brunette, Peter. Lecture. George Mason University. Fairfax, Virginia. 1 Oct. 2003.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 10:53 AM

Six Day Hiatus

This is the longest that I have gone without posting an entry :(. Six whole days. I have been incredibly occupied with school. Right now I am pressed with two papers: a two page explanation of what the relationship between romance and marriage was back in the middle ages for Western Civilization and a five page paper on a short fiction story of my choice for English. Both are due on Monday, but the English paper needs just be a rough draft with the final copy due on the following Wednesday session. I haven't really started either one, beyond just thinking about them. I've been trying to get everything else out of the way before I start writing since both professors seemed to suggest that there could be a potential quiz on Monday to ensure that we have complete the accompanying reading assignments - they can't just load you down with a paper it has to be a paper along with 50 or so pages of not-easy reading.

I have selected my short story from the ones that we've covered in class so far. I'll be looking at miscommunication in "Interpreter of Maladies." Lifted directly from my proposal that I submitted on Monday: "I want to show that while language can be a barrier to communication, at some level it is the most insignificant - command of another language can be achieved easily enough, but learning how to interpret another human being requires a more developed skill." I really need to refine that idea a little more in order to get a thesis out of it. My proposal came back to me on Wednesday with, "Good - sounds promising!" written in my professor's script down at the bottom of my typed page. I'm glad he thinks so, right now I'm not so confident. It's my first *real* writing assignment for the class. I've done well on everything up until this point, earning a check plus on each of the four response papers I have had to hand in thus far. That is, except my last one that discussed the short fiction "The Yellow Wallpaper" (see my Sept. 19th entry). When he handed it back the first time I was in between a check and a check plus, but I responded to his comments. He wanted me to engage the text more so I provided him with some quotes that had illustrated for me that the wallpaper was characteristically yellow and that everything else she attributed to it was a product of her own imagination. I am guessing that when I get it back this next time I will see that I have been bumped up to the check plus (maybe not explicitly, but implicitly).

As far as Western Civilization goes, I know what is expected from the writing assignments we are given every-other-week. The first and only one that I have handed in so far came back to me with full credit; 25 out of 25 potential points (see my Sept. 21st entry). That's not bad at all. And I was really terrified over it, too. I'm somewhat worried over this paper because I don't have a lot of time to go around.

I finished up with watching William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" early yesterday morning. I had started it on Wednesday night after arriving home from a late dinner with one of my classmates following our Recitation. Apparently, I at some point passed out snuggled with the iguana on the couch, but at least had the good sense to pause the film when I first started getting drowsy. This movie version came out in 1999 and features the acting talents of Michelle Pfieffer, Kevin Kline, Calista Flockhart, and Rupert Everett. I had never read the play before, but I enjoyed the movie even though I didn't have much time to reflect on what some of the language meant. When I sat down and read it I took the time I needed to do that and the story was a lot clearer to me. I recalled scenes from the film as I read the text and that helped. I enjoyed it so much that went past the first three acts (all that I was expected to have read by Monday for English) to complete all five acts. I was so inspired that I wrote little notes in the margin that slipped in and out of ballad form. It took me until the better part of the afternoon to finish it up and then I moved on to write another response paper for English. This one was a "free" response that can be handed in at anytime and on any topic that we have covered either in the literature portion of out class or the recitation. I was left with a lot of fodder for thought after Wednesday night's recitation lecture on P.O.V. in film so I wrote about that in 600 words or less (only double the requirement of 300). I next moved on to my Music reading assignment, about twenty pages that I had already started into on Wednesday while I was stuck from 4:15 p.m. until 5:55 p.m. waiting for my recitation to begin. I pretty much finished that, I just have listen to a selection each from Haydn and Beethoven. I'm waiting for Andrew to have a few minutes to point to what's going on in the music (we can follow along in the book, but it is not clearly started when interesting things have occurred). Today I have 57 pages of Western Civilization to delve into. I am dividing it up twenty pages a day so I don't jump out the window. I have to finish "reading" the video lecture, I'm presently halfway through. I'd like to have both Saturday and Sunday reserved entirely just for writing my papers. They may not even take me a full day a piece, I don't know, but I have to be prepared for whatever it takes.

If after all of that I have some time to spare I can do even more homework: read some more selections from Mencius (not pressure for getting that done since we are still behind in class) and study for an upcoming exam in Music. Maybe I'll even have time to pop over to the National Book Festival being held in D.C. this weekend. Frank Beilec and Paige Davis from TLC's Trading Spaces are set to be there at noon on Saturday. I really don't want to miss that. I'd really like to know what they'll be doing at a book festival of all events.

Hmmm, I know there were a few other things I wanted to mention in this catch-up entry. Oh yeah, the conversation I had the other night with my English classmate after she brought me to the Metro, I wanted to say something about that. We discussed our math issues. When I explained that I have this math block that prevents me from fully comprehending anything with numbers, it just felt like I was making an excuse for myself and I've never felt that way about it before. I shared with her my deep fear that I will go really far with my education only to be held back from graduating by math. I just felt silly. In that state of mind, she made me consider how I am so confident and good with everything else that there is really no reason why I can't be that way with math. I have decided that I just allow it to intimidate me. I used to let a 3 and 1/2 inch stick containing cancerous substance govern my life, too. I'm over that and I can get over this too. Rar! He he he.

Also - I have been updating the status of my resolutions on the first of each month, but it's not really worth doing for October - not a lot has changed. I managed to find time to color one or two more mandalas last month and I've even started to read Realty Check by Piers Anthony, but I haven't really made a significant dent in it as of yet. I wrote a total of 25 entries on this site last month, which doesn't seem too bad considering all the days I missed uploading anything at all. I visited the < ahref="http://www.ushmm.org/">Holocaust Museum last month. Sadly, that was the only time I could make time to get over to the District. See where my priorities are? It's always about my education and it is always to the detriment of my personal life. I can't wait until I graduate and get a job. I'd give anything to have consistent hours and some pay sure would be nice too. I figure it will take me another two and a half years to finish up, provided I can overcome my math problems. I plan to circumvent sitting through a math class by getting a tutor, working up to where I can test into the class I need to take for my Liberal Arts degree, then work up to clepping out of it. Oh yeah, and I have to pick out a language to study. I'm all divided up about that and I need to make a decision soon. Right now I am applying for a Fulbright Scholarship to do an intense immersion program out of the country. I'm not sure where I want to go. Perhaps Paris or Barcelona, it all depends on which language I pick. I'm eager to exercise my passport that as of yet lays inert with no stamps whatsoever. I really would prefer to visit London for my first trip out of the country, but I'm already pretty adept with English so that won't work. I do think a language program overseas would be an excellent opportunity for me to learn: I would have no other distractions and since it is intensive I can get nearly, if not all of my language credits in just one short semester. I'll have to wait and see what happens with this application.

I just had a cat hop into my lap. Aw, she looked up and kissed me, how cute.

I woke up this morning and to my surprise I had an e-mail from Allison waiting in my inbox. We had met each other through our common work place (Ruby Tuesday in Rosslyn) back in the summer of 2002 before I had started school. We became close friends and she eventually had to leave this area to live in Ohio to be closer to her family. Allison had a lot of things to work out in her life, a lot of changes to adjust to. Shortly before she went Darwin the iguana, then referred to as Princess, came to live with us. Over the time in between when she left and this very moment I've missed her terribly and so has the ig. I'm glad that she visited this webpage and was able to see for herself how her baby has been doing and what she has been through as of late (she is now off all her meds and is doing great). Anyway, I've got to write her back I haven't done so just yet. I also need to get moving on my mountain of homework.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 09:59 AM