Persian Immersion X

David at Madison Craft Shop
Madison, USA
August 4, 2014

How much has my language ability improved with this program? I'll soon find out. I just finished my OPI: the Oral Proficiency Interview.

An OPI is a personal telephone interview conducted by a native speaker to gauge each student's level of speaking ability. Specific scenarios are given assessing fluency. Among others, I was asked to roleplay these situations carrying on the conversation in Persian:

"Your friend just bought a new car. Ask him at least four questions specifically about the vehicle."

"You are in a clothing store in Tehran shopping for winter clothes. Ask at least four questions about garments you wish to buy."

Advanced Persian
Classmates: Ryan,
Sebastian, and Cal
Other interview topics included describing the university library at my home institution and giving background on places where I've either lived or traveled. I hadn't expected the interviewer to be familiar with the places I spoke about. But, he knew where Kashgar was (and that Uyghur was spoken there) as well as that McGill was, in his words, "a good university in Montréal." I'm pretty sure I did far better today than I did on the initial OPI I took setting my benchmark at the beginning of the program. Even if I don't show much improvement at least the test felt like more of a genuine conversation, veering off-script on occasion, as opposed to the robotic exchange with a clearly bored interviewer that I held at the start of the program. I'm curious to know my results.

With just one week of classes left I'm surprised that I haven't grown tired of the routine of three meals a day shared with teachers and classmates. Breakfast and lunch are always in the same two campus dining halls. Dinner offers greater variety. At least twice every week the program brings caterers in or takes us out on excursions to local restaurants. This weekend we went to "Imperial Garden," which wasn't bad. The food was more American than Chinese (little spice; chopsticks only upon request) though their seafood noodle dish was fairly tasty. Tomorrow will be a catered dinner brought into the main hall of our dorm from a local Madison restaurant, Bunky's Cafe. I'd never thought about how much time I spend shopping for groceries and cooking for myself but have contemplated whether it might be worth it to buy into a meal plan when I'm back at McGill.

Kayla with Hennaed Hand
Perhaps I have fewer complaints about eating over and over in the same dining halls as I don't always make it down to the breakfast hall, myself. My naturally late-to-bed, late-to-rise schedule sometimes keeps me from being yet in a presentable state over breakfast hours. Fortunately, Kayla is something of an early bird. Her alarm rings a full hour ahead of the time when mine goes off. She makes it to breakfast right when it begins at 07h30. That allows ample time for her to do me a wonderful favor. Roughly a couple mornings every week she's been slipping back up to the dorm with a cup of coffee and either a muffin or a breakfast sandwich to provide me sustenance through class.

This breakfast-in-bed scenario is much more easily carried out since we've become roommates. This is unofficial, of course: we haven't modified our leases and the bulk of Kayla's things are still stashed in her old dorm down the hall. But, I finagled a spare key by telling the reception desk I had left my own key back up in my room. (Which, well, was true at that very moment.) I certainly am glad today that way back before starting the program I paid extra to have a dorm all to myself. When I arrived two months ago this double room filled with duplicates of everything--two desks, two dressers, and two beds--seemed like a space well too big and too empty for me alone to occupy. Now that each of those pieces of furniture are being used by somebody whose company I enjoy the space feels just right.

David in Classroom
Though this has felt very much like a proper summer fling, Kayla and I do talk about potentially meeting up on down the road. We joke that if we repeated APTLII next summer we could request to be roommates from the get-go to avoid paying the additional $500 single-room surcharge. Or perhaps, how about a Montréal visit over Christmas break? Hailing from the Southwest, Kayla has never experienced truly cold weather. She's seen snowfall only twice in her life. Alternately, we muse about perhaps spending next summer together in Asia. There's a program for language study in Dushanbe we're both considering applying for. Kayla has previously spent time in China but has been nowhere near the area where I was living in its far west. We could visit both countries: an overland journey from the eastern seaboard across the Pamirs sounds like fun to both of us.

We'll see just where our directions actually take the two of us. What time we do have here is short. APTLII ends this Friday and we're both extremely busy in the lead-up to that. There will be a final exam on that day. Before then, I have a term paper due: I have to compose a simple but lengthy biography of a Persian poet. It all seems like tremedously too much to get done in what time remains. At the moment I can't imagine getting to the point of it all being finished. Though, I do realize that this whole program will be over, done, and in the past before I know it.

Then, the day after summer school in Madison ends I'll start working my way back to school in Montréal. There should be at least one stop in a city I haven't visited before so am very much looking forward to being away from classes for a short time and being briefly back out on the road.