Persian Immersion V

David in Thai Pavillion
Madison, USA
July 7, 2014

"It looks like there's something else over there through the trees," Kayla said.

"You're right. It looks like... it looks like... it looks like a Thai temple!", I said in surprise, not expecting to see such a structure anywhere in the state of Wisconsin.

We were walking through a chance discovery on the other side of the Isthmus: the Olbrich Gardens. With a day free from classes on Independence Day I had the uninspired idea to go find what was still open downtown after lunch on campus. Perhaps a coffeehouse might provide pleasant surroundings in which to study. When I mentioned my afternoon plans Kayla asked if I would mind if she came along. We never did find a cafe--nor did either of us get any studying done on that day. But we did chance upon a really beautiful corner of Madison.

Kayla Rides
Bike-share Cycle
We rode aimlessly from one bike-share docking station to the next, always keeping watch on the time to make sure we returned our bikes within half an hour to avoid paying any rental charge. We found little of interest open downtown so decided to keep on pedaling through to the other side of the Isthmus. The northern shore of Lake Monona had a good span of bike lanes; the bike-share network map showed a lone docking station out at the far end of the lake.

What we found down at the furthest bicycle docking station were acres of large, impeccably-groomed, open-air botanical gardens. We had stopped into the entry foyer near the bicycle docking station just to refill our water bottles and to browse postcards at the gift shop. But, when I saw the lush scenery out in the open beyond the main building I suggested that we go on through to see what the gardens had to offer.

Winding paths skirting the occasional pond brought us from desert cacti to hanging jungle vines within a few minutes' walk. Somewhere in the center of the park we found a two-story structure that reminded me of the old Spanish missions in California. We ducked under the roof of the upper level to get out of the sunshine, to sit, to chat, and to just take in the beautiful setting until we felt like moving along.

What I had taken to be a Thai temple turned out to be referred to as a "Thai Pavillion". (I assume the distinction implies that it's not presently used for religious purposes.) The signs offering background didn't elaborate much other than to say that the structure was originally crafted in Thailand then shipped to Madison. I didn't find any explanation for just what connection these two areas on opposite points of the globe shared. Despite the mystery of (or perhaps all the more so, because of the mystery of) the unexplained temple, the botanical gardens felt like a wonderful discovery to happen upon. Kayla and I talked about inviting some of our classmates to bicycle back another weekend later on this summer.

Colin and McCrae
along Kickapoo River
Even though most of what I do every day is go to class and do my homework I have been getting familiar with areas well beyond the University: areas well outside of Madison, even. The language immersion program has a field trip scheduled every Saturday this month. I think this is a great idea. Several of the destinations are points of interest around Wisconsin that I'm sure many students on this summer program would be taking the time to visit on their own, anyway. With the program arranging buses to get everybody there and paying admission fees and equipment rentals they're doing a good job of offering different contexts for students to practice Persian.

Our field trip this weekend was a canoe trip down the Kicakpoo River. It was a fine day to be out and a good chance to connect with other students in the program. I was one of few unfortunates who rode three to a canoe. That did allow me to get to speak with two of the students in the introductory class, Colin and McCrae, and get to know both of them better. We probably spoke more English than Farsi (just what would the word in Persian for "capsize" be?)--but we did try.

I feel perpetually at one end or the other in my class. Sometimes I feel way out ahead. More often I feel way behind. Having a base of vocabulary drawn from Urdu, Uyghur and Arabic means that I can pick out so many of the words I encounter--maybe more than the rest of my classmates, even. But, I lack the basic foundation of grammar to string them together. Common sound transformations when conjugating are still shaky for me.

Classmates Canoe down
the Kickapoo River
I'm hoping time with my tutor can help firm up some of the foundation for me. She and I meet Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The local Iranian student the program arranged for me to study with seems capable and a nice-enough person--though I'd really rather be doing other things. Additional tutelage was not what I was hoping for. I'd been hoping to be placed in a class more appropriate to my ability.

It's scarcely past midnight and I'm typing this entry out now as Kayla has only just gone back to her room. The two of us have held yet another hours-long chat late into the night. She and I joke that we have to "keep things on the down low" so the other students and teachers living down the corridor won't presume we're having an affair. (We're not.) I tell her that it's all moot as her booming voice behind my door gives us away, anyway. (We speak most often in English in violation of the language agreement, no less!)

Time for me to get some sleep. As with every weekday I'll have to get up no later than 07h00 to shower, shave, dress, and get myself down to the cafeteria in time for breakfast. I suspect getting myself going come morning will be so much the harder to do after this three-day weekend.