Tuesday, August 31, 2004

In other wor(l)ds

Today, the Discourse Analysis class began our work on charting a short
Totonac story. This will be my first discourse chart of a language other
than English. However, I didn't exactly find having English as a first
language to be entirely helpful in the last chart. I felt like I was my
own language resource person, fluent in the language but only able to
use the structures, not necessarily explain why I was using them.
Knowing the intended meaning of a clause sometimes got in the way of
simply stepping back and charting the surface structure. Somehow, the
Totonac story is more manageable to me, walking up to it with my clean
comprehension slate and a morpheme inventory. It will be interesting to
see tomorrow if I charted it correctly.

In Religion & Worldview, we read various articles as a group and tried
to glean information on the local worldview of the participants in the
articles based on their cited perspective on their situation. I related
best to the article on the rounding up of stray dogs in Greece prior to
the Olympic Games this year. This was the first I'd heard of it,
actually. They got them all off the streets, took care of any medical
needs they had, fed and housed them, with the intention of releasing
them back into the streets a happier, healthy bunch of strays than they
were before the games. Oh, and they neutered/spayed them too. Animal
rightists world-wide cried out when they heard of the rounding up of the
stray dogs, for fear that they would be "put to sleep" (sounds lovely,
when you say it like that). But authorities reassured them that this was
not the case, that they were being well cared for. I noticed that there
was no mention of further action on the part of animal rightists due to
the fact that, while the dogs were retaining their right to life, they
were being denied reproductive rights. What constitutes life? Who/what
has rights? Which rights? On what basis?

Wouldn't I love a telling peek at the foundations of some worldviews.

Balm of Gilead

A fellow classmate here at GIAL introduced me to an escharotic salve. She has used it for treatment of topical malignancies and let me borrow it for the weekend. I photocopied the instructions for use but didn't, upon reflection and research, find it necessary to use it at this time.

In the area of research, I checked the Intox toxic chemical database for reference to the salve's main ingredient, zinc chloride. On the FDA website, I found reference to use of zinc chloride in canned asparagus but in minute proportions. It is generally recognized as safe for human consumption, when used properly. There is an archived mention of a Mohis cancer paste, dated October 21, 1947 but here's all that the reference on this page says:
A related page lists this compound as inactive, but it doesn't say why it would be inactive.
The National Institute of Health site lists zinc chloride as a hazardous substance.
The quackwatch website has a section on alternative cancer treatment methods which makes mention of alternative uses of escharotic paste.
One alternative site is dedicated to the use of salves in external cancer treatment and refers to historical success rates.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Mountain of Prayers

That was the name of the church we attended yesterday. We were invited
by Sara, who lives down the hall from us. She is originally from
Mauritius but has been living in France in recent years. Man, what a
great time! Most attendees were Congolese and the service was a mixture
of French (usually translated into English) and some other language
which neither I nor Sara recognized. I was pleased to discover how much
French I've actually retained from all those years in the Canadian
school system
. My comprehension during the preaching was very high and
production was adequate during my conversations with French-speakers
following the service. The singing part of the worship service was
ultra-loud choral worship, often in call/response style, punctuated with
translated exhortations on worship offered by a man who I presume to be
the worship pastor. He didn't actually lead the singing, he just came up
onto the altar and gave mini-exhortations between songs and, sometimes,
during songs. Among the believers in the seating area, there was much
dancing, syncopated clapping, supplementary percussion (a rattle, a
tambourine) and ululating cries. Those peeps knew how to rejoice!

The service went for a couple of hours and the hanging out in the foyer
and chatting with people lasted another hour or so. We all had a long
lunch at Cici's Pizza and went to our respective homes. I came in the
door, sat on the couch and attempted to have a conversation with Rob but
he sent me off to bed as I had been nodding off during one of his
sentences. I was out for about 2 1/2 hours. I was so groggy when I got
up that we starting suspecting that I was dehydrated ... again. So, we
had smoothies for dinner. Smoothies are the best food. Throw together
pineapple, mango, ice cubes, blueberry juice, black cherry juice,
psyllium ... instant dinner. I felt much better after finishing the

Friday, August 27, 2004

Christian urban legends

There's a hefty cynic that lives in my head and doesn't always allow me to be inspired by things I can't verify. I found myself doing a little web-surfing, tracking down compiled information on these inspirational stories that get passed around by well-meaning individuals. Here are some interesting things that I found on my quest:

- a story that I was glad to hear has actually been verified in its origin
- a website called Truth Miners that calls for truth in Christian web communication
- a Christianity Today online article that addresses the urban legend as it manifests in Christian culture
- the urbanlegend.about.com site's section devoted to religious urban legend
- yet another site with links to urban legend debunking

Because if the truth sets you free, what does a load of hype and fluff do?

By the way ... if you don't visit any of the above links but you're into George W. Bush stories, check this website out.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Picture

Rob & Eshinee, after our second class of the day.

My professors

My professor for Discourse Analysis is Shin Ja Hwang. I tried to find a weblink for my Religion and Worldview professor (Shelley Ashdown) but I couldn't find one.

Rob & I got one of my classmates to take a picture of us after my class so hopefully I can get that posted in the next couple of days. Not that we will look all that different to folks who saw us within the last year. The bags under our eyes are bigger, that's all.

I'm going to try to get my homework done this morning so I can work on household paperwork this afternoon. I want to throw away as much as I can, hopefully at least 2 file-boxes worth. We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Color someone else's world

Today, we do our first discourse charting session ... woohoo! I get to use my marker set to color-code different participants in clauses to look for patterns. Takes me back to the first CanIL course set in 1999, circling parts of speech in my grammar and phonology homework with Johanna's crayons, looking for patterns. Sigh.

You can't go back but you can flog the dead horse of sentimentality until you feel like you must be getting close.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Sensitive dilemma

Was confronted with a daunting prospect in Religion & Worldview today. It is something I have thought about in the past but it seemed to leap out and bonk me on the head today. The prospect was the encountering of what I would consider to be cultural evils and my response to it, as an outsider. For example, if the people of a culture knocked three times on a door before entering to ward of evil spirits, I wouldn't get too worked up about that on any basic emotional level. But what if there was some form of ritualized abuse that was occurring before my very eyes? What if it was about to happen and I had prior knowledge of it? Should I intervene?

I debated giving the example that was given in class and am currently deciding against it. While the situation seemed morally cut and dried enough from my perspective to make a personal judgement on the matter, I don't really want to be assessing this particular culture without any personal experience with the individuals involved. Therefore, I will invent a scenario and ask for the input of anyone who would like to respond, in hopes that my views in this area will be helpfully sharpened before this theoretical issue becomes a practical one.

NOTE: Read the following only if you are interested in engaging in this exercise and will not be bothered by imagining an unpleasant circumstance.

Imagine that you are involved with a people group in some far corner of the world where you have been living and attempting to comprehend their culture. One night, you are wakened by cries in the center of the community living area. It seems that the village has gathered to perform what you would consider to be a torturous act on the physical person of a young man, who is perceived to have brought illness on a community member by allowing the shadow of a woman to touch him as he sat in the marketplace.
1) Do you intervene in some way? Why or why not?
2) What would you do or say? What wouldn't you do or say?

Using the comment link to the bottom right of this posting will enable you to post a response. If you prefer, you can email me directly.

Monday, August 23, 2004

A day of rest

Yesterday was quite the restful day. I must say, I did not do anything that needed to be done. To all those who haven't had replies to emails or letters, who probably wish that I had done some correspondence related activities instead, my apologies. Neither did I wash dishes, nor do laundry, nor tidy the endless stacks of paper that blossom in my general vicinity. I'm actually feeling like emailing friends this afternoon, I think. This Sunday, I had what my mother would call a "day in the bone". Track that idiom back to its origins.

I got much course reading done on Saturday. I keep relating course work to North American culture, to an extent which would probably fry my profs' brains should they hear of my pondered application of the skills which they so lovingly entrust to me. The Non-Western Music Analysis course led me to muse upon the songsmithing abilities of Eminem and his potential usefulness as an ideal rap genre subject of analysis due to his pervasive and amplified use of rap rhythms and syllable rhyme patterns. My study in Religion and Worldview keeps connecting in my head to my perceptions of the North American Christian Church, making me wonder if the growth issues we face might be due to the lack of High Religion and the preponderance of Folk Religion both masquerading as High Religion and attempting to replicate large-scale Folk systems in small-scale societies/congregations. Discourse Analysis has led me to critically assess Reader's Digest as a form of cultural propaganda, skewing notionally hortatory material to a variety of surface forms to disguise the true intent of the publication, which is to inform the sense of humor, moral values, economic patterns and political actions of the general populace in communally beneficial behaviour.

And I get to use more big words than ever before.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

After the ball

We attended our first GIAL social event last night; an ice cream social. Basically, we played party games from 7 - 8:30 PM and then ate ice cream. The place pretty much cleared out by 9 PM, which was OK by us. I felt pretty wiped on Friday. Rob figures that's because Thursday was the first day of school after a very short break (there's something stressfull about first days of anything) and I worked Thursday evening.

I have a bowl of nectarines on the dining room table. On Wednesday, this bowl contained 4 nectarines that we had purchased at the Cox Family Farms market in Duncanville. I have eaten a nectarine on Thursday and Friday of this week. They have been barely ripe each time. I smell and prod them each day. This morning, I prodded the 2 that were left, wistfully. I want to eat them every time I see them, they are so bright and shiny. But they are not ready to be eaten. I will not be fully contented or discontented until that bowl is empty.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Prayer request: GFA missionaries

I received this prayer request via email this morning and copied the following text directly from the Gospel For Asia urgent prayer request site:

Nepali Missionary Abducted by Maoists!

GFA Nepali missionary Besh’s life is in danger as radical insurgency group Maoists forcibly abducted him a week ago for their purposes. This morning we received the urgent news. Though we do not know the details of the kidnapping or where he has been taken, we know our brother’s life is on the line. He is well known in the community as a Christian pastor and evangelist, and authorities in an area where he was ministering a year ago noticed his activity and asked him to leave. In the past, more than 200 people—teachers, students, village officials and commoners—have been abducted by the Maoists and killed without mercy. Some 9,000 lives have been claimed since the insurgency began in 1996. Missionaries are even more at risk as they travel to share the Good News. This has hindered our missionaries in their travels to reach needy villages for Christ. Elsewhere in Nepal, authorities have ordered two of our brothers, Pastor Basu and native missionary Imansingh, to vacate their area of ministry within a week.

Please pray earnestly with us for our missionary Besh’s protection and safe return.
Pray for courage for Besh and other Nepali believers in the face of persecution.
Lift up the persecutors in prayer, that they may come to know the Lord.
Pray also for the 200-plus pastors and their churches, and our 356 native missionaries in Nepal. Pray especially for the congregations that must continue on without their pastors.


Thursday, August 19, 2004

Schedule snafu

I went to my first class, Discourse Analysis, and joined 6 of my classmates at 9:00AM. We spent 15 minutes wondering where the prof was but enjoyed some get-to-know-you chat while we waited. At 9:15, a fellow student came to fetch us to the new location of class, of which we were unaware. Great class, looking forward to it. Our primary text is Robert E. Longacre's "The Grammar of Discourse". I'm pretty sure I read most of it for my Philosophy of Language course back in 2001. Yay! At least I've got some grounding headed into this course.

When I went to my 11:00AM second class, Religion and Worldview, I was surprised to find a Greek class being held there. Turns out my class had been switched to 8:00AM and I hadn't been given the updated class schedule at registration yesterday. Oopsy. Oh well, it's an audit so I'm not going to be behind on assignments. I managed to get a syllabus and course manual from the Dean so I can catch up a bit this afternoon.

I work at the school library on Thursday evenings and occasional Saturdays. With the amount of reserve readings it looks like I'm about to have, that will be an advantage this session.

Identity theft

Right, so I forgot to mention the weird news. Someone charged a bunch of stuff to our Mastercard. It's almost $1000 of unauthorized charges. However, M/C won't hold us responsible for it so we're cool. I mean, it was all stuff that was obviously not us because the service address would be different from ours: MCI and AT&T phone services, Dallas Utilities and Dish One service. Also stuff that it would be simple (I would think) to ascertain who was really using the services. We had 2 emotions about the theft: annoyance, for the obvious reasons, and kind of a gnawing sadness, that someone's utility bill had gotten high enough that they had to pull a stunt like this to pay it.

We think we know how someone got our card number (and apparently the security code on the back) but we're not going say exactly where. It suffices to say that we'll think twice before eating at a drive-in establishment where they walk into the building with your credit card. Or we'll bring cash.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

One more day ...

Well, this is the last day of rest before the next session starts. Wishing now that I had started this blog before the last session. I had such fun stories. Methinks I may log them, on days when the workload is light and I feel like reminiscing.

Here's the juice: Rob successfully completed his Language & Society course as well as the first half of both Phonetics and Grammar. His final exams were on Monday and major project in L&S was presented last week. If he feels like signing onto this puppy and sharing more on that, he can (hint, hint, Rob).

As for me, I think I did alright. I poured every last bit of my physical resources into a final project which I handed in Monday morning. The class I took was Analysis of Non-Western Music. Sounds like fun, right? It was a blast. Basically, we did 2 weeks (and a bit) of theory and class readings before getting into the analysis of the music system of the Urubu-Kaapor people group in Brazil. Not that we got to go to Brazil or anything. But we did listen to a collection of recorded songs, transcribe and analyze them. Then, we produced a Scripture song in the Urubu-Kaapor style with Urubu-Kaapor lyrics. We all presented our work on Friday by singing each others songs as a group. Corey, the T.A., videotaped our singing and plans to send a copy of the video to the Urubu-Kaapor people for their viewing pleasure. The prof, Tom Avery, has a good relationship with them so he anticipates they will enjoy our work and be both encouraged and amused. We also sang one of their traditional pieces for their (dubious) listening pleasure/amusement, which we had learned in the course of this session; a lovely little ditty called 'Arara-hu', a.k.a Red Macaw.

Yesterday was cleaning day. We did a complete relaxation thing after we returned the apartment to a 'move-in clean' state. Our air conditioning was busted all weekend so we were catching up on sleep these last couple of days from the restless nights of that time. We caught a movie ('The Village') Monday afternoon while they fixed it.

This morning, we attended a seminar on a new piece of software called Shellbook Publishing, a utility for literacy promotion and community development internationally. Right now, I'm blogging. This afternoon, we're going to register for the next session, buy groceries (we're out of milk) and rent a movie. The library system isn't quite as advanced as that of the Seattle area. Many things are different in Texas. We have become poignantly aware of how dependent we had become on lattes on every corner and free wireless, 75 free printed pages per week and a great video/music selection at every library. [sigh] We are high-maintenance.

We've enjoyed visiting various churches in the area but have not been integrated anywhere yet. We've been to a charismatic Lutheran, an independent church-plant, a mainstream ELCA and a megachurch (T.D. Jakes' church, the Potter's House ... great preaching). This Sunday? Still working on that.

Time to get lunch and prepare for the afternoon. Feel free to post comments and to get/stay in touch with us.

much love - the Dancing Sni

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