Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Last night's long drive had us returning home pretty late. Not late according to my old lifestyle, of course; but any hour actually after dark is late for someone unused to waking up at seven thirty like I did for this first grueling day of Vietnamese classes this morning. At nine, after heavy traffic through the Institute's security gate, over a hundred and eighty students, studying forty-one different languages, were shuffled into a ramshackle campus gym for orientation. This was an inauspicious beginning: the dark brick-and-wood inner-city gymnasium, with retractable basketball apparatus and walls decked with thin red-and-black gymnastic mats, triggered many sinister childhood YMCA flashbacks: which group was I supposed to join? How many laps makes a mile? Was I wearing shoes that wouldn't mark the floor? The orientation speeches and obligatory multimedia presentation took on an aural hue of shouted volleyball cues or Coach rotating us through exercise stations. I'm really glad no one used a whistle. After orientation, we broke into separate classes, and I accompanied my lone classmate (she's married to Sunshine's lone classmate) to what will be our classroom for the next seven weeks, a very professional, somewhat cozy office with four chairs and faulty dry-erase board. Here we held class until our hour lunch break in the clattery Institute cafeteria. After lunch, my classmate and I were pointed to a larger room for several personality-type tests, supposedly to help us identify our learning aptitudes, after which we had one more class where I was expected to know what we'd gone over this morning. I have to admit, I left school upset today. My classmate, who speaks four languages, has already had some Vietnamese instruction, so I'm already behind. Plus, this course is more time- and work-intensive than I'd imagined it would be. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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