Persian Immersion III

David Stands in Front
of Wisconsin State Capitol
Madison, USA
June 28, 2014

I've finally begun getting off campus to see what's around Madison beyond the university. Though I've already been here for two weeks this morning was my first visit to the most obvious of tourist attractions around town.

After finishing brunch at the dining hall this morning Kayla and I rode B-cycles into the heart of the city. The streets framing the Wisconsin State Capitol had been converted into Saturday Market, a weekly affair of booths offering up mainly produce, dairy products, and baked goods.

Cheese Samples
We strolled through the booths to sample cheese and browse what-all else was on offer. We didn't do much actual purchasing; we came away with only a bouquet of flowers that Kayla bought to decorate her dorm room. When we were done walking through the marketplace Kayla suggested we go inside the capitol. I hadn't expected the building to be open on the weekend, let alone to welcome tourists up to internal and external viewing galleries up top at dome level.

We rode the elevator up as high as we could then hiked up a staircase with such a tight squeeze that it allowed traffic in only one direction at a time. Outside, we walked a circuit around the exterior of the dome with impressive view from all directions. Downtown Madison is set along a narrow isthmus separated by two lakes, a part of town the locals seem to call "The Izmus". We tried to orient where everything was laid out by using the nearby lakes as landmarks. But, unsure which body of water was which we able to place ourselves relative to the city only when we finally sighted the UW Madison campus set off to the west.

Kayla atop Wisconsin
State Capitol
Back down at ground level we toured around downtown on foot, paused to browse through a bookstore, then finally attempted to figure the city bus routes that would take us back to campus. (B-cycle would have been a far faster option it turned out.)

It's been good to have somebody to spend time with and to see a potential friendship developing. Though, it's a shame that already, just two weeks into the program, the two of us have been fudging on the "language agreement". When it's just Kayla and I spending time together we've fallen into speaking far more English than we do Farsi. We try to abide as we can, but even when describing something pretty basic (one time it was the rules of badminton) we've found that neither of us have the capacity to articulate, let alone be understood.

In addition to Kayla I'm becoming familiar with several other students in the immersion program as well. One of my classmates, Cal, seems to share a fair bit in common with me. He and I are probably of similar age. He too has lived and worked abroad for a number of years. Upon arriving here when the program began a couple weeks ago he went out and bought himself an acoustic guitar--which I borrow to strum on the occasional evening when I manage to finish up my homework early.

Fellow Summer Students: Cal and
Daniel at Marrakesh Restaurant
As to the language studies that brought me here I still feel that the level of my present class seems higher than my ability. I have spoken with enough of the right people that I think I'll be able to adjust to a more appropriate level--if I make the jump soon.

One thing that I have to remark on regarding this program, APTLII, is how well run (and funded) it has been so far. There are field trips scheduled to take us somewhere around the state of Wisconsin--and beyond--every weekend next month. The meals are a far cry from mundane eating at one dining hall three times a day. Rather, every week there is at least one catered event with food brought in from an outside restaurant. Additionally there is the occasional barbecue or picnic where we eat outside when weather permits. On top of that variety at least once a week there's a bus that brings all of us along with the students in the parallel Arabic and Turkish language programs to a restaurant somewhere around town.

This evening our dinner was at a Moroccan restaurant, Marrakesh, that served up decent couscous and tagines. This is shaping up to be quite the enjoyable summer.