Bloomington, Ind., USA
July 4, 2010

This might be my one weekend of sanity. Today was Independence Day, meaning a three-day weekend across the U.S.. I canned my previous plan of a trip back to Chicago in favor of a full day playing Frisbee, SET, and Anagrams. Tomorrow will be the bonus day off, allowing a reprieve from the mad pace of class. Ahh...

In a picnic shelter this afternoon, Ruth E. and I introduced SET and Anagrams to Olga. We had all come to Bryan Park for a picnic hosted by the SWSEEL (Summer Workshop in Slavic, East European and Central Asian Languages) program. (It's through them I'm taking Uyghur courses this summer.) Of course, Olga picked both games up immediately: formidable despite that it was her first time playing either. Why does my sole classmate have to be so smart?

It wasn't Ruth E.'s first go at SET or Anagrams; we've gotten together frequently at cafes around Bloomington rare moments I'm not wrapped up in homework. She can hold her own at either game. I'm happy to have found her--and her family--to be so welcoming. After the picnic, her parents had me over for a traditional dinner, though dinner of a tradition far-removed from that served up in most American households on the 4th of July. Despite that they have no ancestral connection to the region, her father cooked up a complete menu of several courses: all Persian dishes. There was ghormeh sabzeh, there was hummus, there was baba ghannouj... among so many other dishes that I have already forgotten or did not know the name of to begin with. Homemade baklava was dessert. An ample platter of syrupy pastries was sent home with me--alongside a huge tub of the staple dishes.

David, Ruth E., and Olga Play
Anagrams after Playing Frisbee

The four of us played rounds of the games I'm most familiar with. They hinted that euchre, or, "Hoosier Bridge" as they know it here, is something they'd like to invite me back for.

Though I'd like nothing more than to hang out playing card games, I am so busy with studies. At least I don't feel as frantic as I did trying to keep up pace over the first couple weeks of class. Still, I feel like I have to devote the majority of my time, energy, and brainpower to this course. I've found that after long periods speaking Uyghur I find it hard to properly speak English again. My mind is in some other place, structuring sentences according to some other placement of subjects and predicates. Is this somehow a good sign, that my mind is so absorbed in the language?

Ruth E. at Supper

Busy and Bloomington-bound as I may be, there are a couple important get-out-of-town dates coming up for which I'm not going to make any exception. Sister-in-law Louise will be attending a conference in Indianapolis this Thursday. That's an hour's drive from Bloomington. I've signed up again for the Zipcar car-sharing program in order to drive up to see her. It will be so good to see family, even if it is over a brief evening.

More sacred is my birthday tradition. For decades-running I've celebrated each of my birthdays in some other country. My time isn't usually as restricted as it will be this year. Even in years that I held down a full-time job, I could schedule my vacation time around being away. A thin vacation would be a week.

However, it's going to be a mere four-day trip this year. Attending SWSEEL, I can't afford much time away. As my birthday falls on a Tuesday I'll have to miss a couple days of class. I've just bought my ticket, a jaunt to the least-expensive destination outside of the U.S. I could fly to from Indianapolis.

I'll mark this year's birthday somewhere in the Bahamas.