A Travellerspoint blog

Food Update

In which I complain about too many things having too much sugar and too little fat

sunny 26 °C

Eating in the NAU dining hall (optimistically named "the Hot Spot") has been a real trip so far. I went off the regular rice and the veggie burgers, as detailed earlier, when I found out they aren't actually vegan; this is the case for some of the bean dishes as well.

But then a few days ago the bean dish and ever-present root vegetables, both marked vegan, made me feel quite unhappy several hours later, and experience very different than the nearly immediate reaction I have to dairy and possibly eggs. So I'm avoiding that particular bar as well and only eating food off the salad bar and sometimes another bar that has plain veggies and rice.

Breakfast seesaws between cereal and peanut butter sandwiches, the former being easy to eat but somewhat lacking in substance, the latter having more by the way of substance but difficult to eat. Especially since having low blood sugar in the morning makes me nauseous (as a descriptivist I am purposefully not using nauseated, so please don't leave 20 comments on this entry telling me I used the wrong word - you'll just get my hopes up). I'm shooting for one bowl of cereal and one half-sandwich.

Because my food access is so restricted and limited, I've taken to snacking in between classes. So far the only vegan bar I can easily find is Clif bars. On the one hand, they each have 25% of my RDA for protein. On the other hand, they each have 85% of my RDA for sugar. And none of my food sources have any fat whatsoever - another reason I may be feeling so hungry all the time.

This is a problem because I'm eating two a day (in half-bar intervals), and also the rice milk, peanut butter, and the fruit I also snack with also have sugar. Of course, the fruit plus bars are additionally doubling as a carb source, given the scarcity of vegan rice. And, ultimately, straight sugar seems to be the best way to keep me from bottoming out on my blood sugar for now. Given that I also normally consume epic amount of white rice at home, I've decided not to worry about it.

I'm only here for nine more days, after all.

Posted by poetisa16 14:04 Tagged food Comments (1)

Navajo Kinship Is Beast

In which I learn that Paul Platero will find me a nice Navajo boy to marry before I leave for the summer (but first I have to be adopted so we can start a new clan)

sunny 20 °C

I've been sitting in on the teaching practicum class this last week, doing little classroom exercises Irene gives out and trying to learn stuff in between the Navajo. For the last half-week we've been going over clans, listing them and drawing representations of them and going over explanations of kinship.

Basically, the Navajo are a matrilineal people. You are essentially what your mother is (so by Navajo tradition I'm German). The basic listing of clans is essentially your grandparents' clans or ethnicities, and it used to be essential to understanding who people were, especially because it is traditionally taboo to marry someone from your own clan. (I've heard at least a couple of stories about people marrying within their own clan and having cross-eyed or sickly children.)

There are four original clans and about 21 clan groups, with names like "Towering House," "One Who Walks Around," and "Bitter Water." There are also a lot of adopted clans, which are created when a girl is adopted into a Navajo family and is given her own new clan name. Loraine told us about a man she met whose clan was Kinaazt'i'í, "Houses Along the Cliff." It's not on the clan list we have, but it's a real clan that comes from a Hopi girl whose mother left her with a Navajo family during one of the epidemics about a century ago, so it's still very small.

Some adopted clans are actually not all descended form the same person, like the Mexican clan, which is a conglomerate of everyone descended from a Mexican women who was adopted into the tribe. So some young people in the same clan look at their lineage and determine that there isn't actually any blood relation, so it's okay for them to marry. Other people just marry anyway. In fact, some people have such hard time finding appropriate spouses that they purposefully look outside the clan for someone to marry. This is when Paul told me to look out, because the Navajo boys were coming for me, creating a running joke that was not let up for an entire day.)

This clan system, with a focus on matrilinearity, also has ways of determining special relationships to other people in your extended family. For instance, your mother's sister's daughters are your sisters, not your cousins. It also matters who's an older sibling and who's younger. Additionally, there's an even longer, more specific clan listing going back to one's great-great-grandparents for 16 different clans. There's also a system of terms for describing the relationship between your four clans and someone else's four clans. It gets very complicated very quickly.

Nowadays people track bloodline ethnicity also, because to be registered with the tribe you have to be one quarter Navajo regardless of lineage. This was demonstrated to me by one of my teachers, who explained to me the generation-by-generation account of the percentage Navajo her ancestors were, resulting in her daughter being only 7/32's Navajo and therefore ineligible to register with the tribe.

So here are my clans again:

Béésh bich'ahí dine'é nishłí. (I am (born to) my mother's clan the Germans.)
Bilagáana básh'íshchíín. (I am born for my father's clan the English.)
Serbian dashicheii. (All my grandfathers (on my mother's side) are Serbian.)
Bilagáana dashinálí. (All my father's fathers/grandfathers are English.)

Fun (or not-so-fun) fact: The word "bilagáana," which means English, Anglo, or just white person, may come from the word "American," but it may also have roots in the term for "the one who beats his wife with his hand." (In fact, the word "Alaska" may come from a Navajo (or some other Athabaskan language) term for "the ones who moved away" - interesting considering the very wide geographical and cultural range of the family, which has subfamilies in the southwest, in California, in western Canada, and in Alaska.)

If you want to do your own clan listing, you can try looking up your ethnicity here, or get the uTalk Navajo app and add "dine'é" after the name of a country to indicate the people from there.

Posted by poetisa16 20:24 Tagged culture navajo Comments (2)

NLA First Few Days Overview

Note: Comments now open to non-Travellerspoint members for 30 days following posting time

semi-overcast 21 °C

My adventures began last Sunday at 4 AM EST when I got up to catch a 7 AM flight from Baltimore to Phoenix, which I just barely made. Then I had a 45-minute layover until my flight to Flagstaff in a tiny little plane. Flying down to the airport, the first thing I noticed was that Flagstaff is actually less dry than Phoenix, and the whole place is covered in pines. As I was in the taxi to my dorm at Northern Arizona University (NAU), I saw a bunch of big mountains looming ahead, and the driver mentioned it looked like they were getting some rain. Where we were, it was still sunny. It was clear and dry and about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with lots of pines and shrubs around.

I got to my dorm (which is across from a cemetery I hope to visit soon), where I found Ted and Louise (our coordinator). In the midst of unpacking and making ice cubes in my refrigerator, I noticed that the rainstorm had become a thunderstorm and was now on top of us. So obviously I went outside and stood in the rain a bit, then went in to the lounge to talk with Ted and Louise; it has a bit of Western rustic charm going for it and looks like a lodge. Apparently localized thunderstorms happen very frequently, and when I say localized, I mean that while it is thunderstorming over you, the sky is bright and sunny to your left and to your right. The weather is very schizophrenic.

Then I finished unpacking and (not wanting to write) took a Little Mermaid coloring book and some crayons down to the lounge and proceeded to convince Louise that I am a total girly-girl. While in the lounge I met one of the other participants, a high school teacher of Navajo. She and Louise were discussing what seemed to be state test scores and how she'd gotten her kids up to 66% passing on the writing portion. Apparently this was an especially good number for "the red," in her words. I thought this was a particularly good instance of reclaiming terminology. (Note to self: Indians are allowed to talk about themselves in ways that you are not.)

I then found out where the dining hall was; along the way I passed a spectacular green building that was, unfortunately, not a library. I also passed a lot of local flora that is hard to describe, and decided to document it with my camera. I got to the dining hall, which claimed that only one of its entrances was open. I then followed a music camp group around to the far entrance, and walked into a room full of preppy white middle schoolers. (Okay, so it wasn't that bad.) The food wasn't so great, but it was Sunday and not everything was open. I went straight to the salad bar and found kidney beans, chickpeas, lettuce, and carrots. I also stuffed myself on rice and pinto beans.

On my way back I took pictures of all the local flora, as well as the mountains and some of the buildings (I will upload them later). The NAU waters their lawns and flowers, but they also plant local shrubs and cacti. They tend to go for the wood chip effect, only they use some local reddish sedimentary rock instead (probably good considering the fire hazard). I also heard some crows/ravens and saw a few swallows. (Crows are very large and very loud - and they like to assert themselves in the wee hours of the morning. Outside your bedroom window.)

When I got back I was tired and tried reading a book, but stared falling asleep instead. So I went to bed at 8 PM MST (-3 EST) after almost 20 hours of being awake.

On Monday I woke up exhausted; even though it was 50 degrees outside and my window was open all night, there was zero airflow and I slept badly in the heat. I made it to breakfast and sat with the high school teacher while eating three peanut butter sandwiches. Then I went to class.

I met Paul Platero and and Jared, another student, as well as Irene, the master director, who greeted me in Navajo ("yá'át'ééh"), but I was too nervous to respond. Loraine, another organizer, did the introduction almost completely in Navajo. Midway through I realized she had started a prayer and I recognized it as the Blessingway we translated in Ted's structure class, mostly by the repetition of "hózhǫ́." Then she introduced herself (in Navajo) and asked other people to do the same, starting with Paul. I was getting really nervous until some of the others started codeswitching into English and I got some idea of how to introduce myself.

Then we went over logistics and scheduling and, because we had run well into the first class, were given worksheets to fill out until the second class started. If you've ever experienced the first day of mid-level language class, you'll be familiar with these sheets. Ours had little boxes with things like "My name is" and "My family is," only in Navajo. Loraine helped me fill it out and I finally figured out what my clans are. For those who are interested:

Béésh bich'ahí dine'é nishłí.
Bilagáana básh'íshchíín.
Serbian dashicheii.
Bilagáana dashinálí.

Then it was time for the research class, which Ted taught this first week (Speas will be teaching us next week). I was reminded again of how Ted teaches - not that I forgot, just that I'd had a couple months' break. The next three days was spent translating (for those of us who actually know Navajo) and blundering off into the world of syntax. Apparently, Navajo makes syntacticians cry.

Then we all went to lunch. The food bars had miraculously blossomed overnight and there was rice and beans and veggies burgers and vegetables and more vegetables - yes, I was happy. Even though I had some accidental encounters with non-vegan vegetarian food (why do people put milk in rice and eggs in veggie burgers?). If you really want to know what I'm eating, you can always stalk the dining hall's menu here. Unfortunately, I've been told that it's all going to be downsized now that the music camp kids have had their final concert and all gone home. (I suspect this is true since I've only seen the same dish of vegetables for the past three days.) But I am bravely learning to appreciate kidney beans, salad, and root vegetables. Twice a day, every day.

The afternoon was less exciting. I'm in an intro ling class that is somewhat slow for me, although everyone else seems to work very hard. Moslt we go over basic linguistic principles like prescriptivism vs. descriptivism, language vs. dialect vs. idiolect, etc. We also do problem sets and rule-writing, and so far I've learned about Armenian plural, Bostonian r-dropping and r-insertion, the pin-pen merger in the South, and the Appalachian a- verb prefix (as in "I'm a-hunting for some wild strawberries"). We're also reading from The Five-Minute Linguist, which is a really awesome collection of short essays that are really accessible to non-linguists (you can also listen to them through iTunes U).

Then there's the practicum, which is about strategies for teaching Navajo in language class settings. At first I was wondering if I even wanted to stay in the class because it's mostly in Navajo and the point of the class is to develop a lesson plan. I asked Ted and he told me not to worry - we're going to be the guinea pigs they test their theories on. Which means I might actually learn some Navajo.

Dinner was the same as lunch, then I got back to my room and started dozing of around 8pm again. In fact, it wasn't until yesterday that I finally made it to 9pm without feeling like I needed to be in bed. Of course, I'm still waking up at 5am with the sun.

Tuesday was mostly the same as Monday, only I located the bookstore and promptly bought a small stash of Clif bars (no, that's not all I'm snacking on - I'm also filching apples and peaches (yeas, peaches!) out of the dining hall). Oh yeah, and also my Navajo verb class. Remember those verb charts you used to do in Spanish and French class? Well, our verb charts are like those on steroids. You thought stem changes and foot verbs and irregular conjugation were hard? Well, we have classifiers and dual and distributive plural and mods and prefixes and OMFSM the phonological rules T-T But despite all this it's still a pretty awesome class. (You can review Navajo verbs through a guide to Young and Morgan's grammar here.)

By the way, did you know that they wrote the entire dictionary and grammar on index cards using typewriters? This is actually how the writing system developed. The special symbols were made by adding extra punctuation marks over Latin letters, so "L" or "l" plus "/" became barred-l "Ł" and "ł" - the same with apostrophes for high tones and commas for nasals. (This was all told to me by one of Ted's former students, a Swattie alumn and grad student named Elizabeth '08.) You can find more info on writing Navajo at Omniglot, sample conversations on the NLA website, support for Navajo script on this blog, and tons more resources on the Native Languages website.

Aren't you happy now that it thunderstormed this morning so I couldn't go hiking and wrote in my blog instead? I will keep my following posts short and will write by theme, not day-by-day (for the most part).

Posted by poetisa16 15:38 Tagged food nature class traveling navajo Comments (0)

That was a week?

In which I apologize profusely for not posting anything for an entire seven days

rain 19 °C

So I was meaning to post a little something every day about Arizona and Navajo, etc. On Monday I started on a very long entry about the first two days that bacame the first three days, then the first four, etc. Then I got scared and did errands instead. So it didn't work out :-(

I am so very sorry to all of you who have been waiting for news on Navajo or educational bits about the local scene or worried that the Arizona fundamentalists/homophobes/immigration-phobia people kidnapped me for ransom (don't worry, Flagstaff is a college town, they'd never do that). To make it up to you I will henceforth dedicate at least 30 minutes every day to writing here, even if it isn't as detailed as I'd like to be.

In defense of my apparent laziness, I will now describe my daily schedule (weekdays only):

5am: Wake up and bemoan the fact that the sun rises at 4:30am because Arizona doesn't believe in Daylight Savings (unless you're on the rez, apparently)

6am: Get out of bed

7am: Leave for breakfast (15 minute walk)

8:30am: Navajo verb class (AKA verb charts from hell)

10:15am: Research class (so far mostly syntax review)

12pm: Lunch

1:30pm: Intro ling class (in which I do problem sets and read the homework)

3:15pm: Teaching practicum (when I do my intro ling homework along with classroom activities like drawing posters of my clans in Navajo)

5pm: Dinner

6:30pm: Hey look, I'm back in my room!

7:30pm: Begin to get sleepy

8:15pm: Bedtime

Astute readers will notice that I have about half an hour after waking up and after lunch and after getting back to my dorm in which to spend time writing on this blog (when not checking Facebook or reading my email or going shopping for food, etc.). So hopefully I can convince myself to tell you about all the wonderful things happening here!

Posted by poetisa16 15:55 Tagged about Comments (2)

Explaining Things

In which I outline my imminent voyage westward

semi-overcast 37 °C

Hello all! I am a college undergraduate student who naïvely planned an awesome (I hope) but very stressful trip this summer. Tomorrow morning (at an absurdly early hour) I will be departing the East Coast to spend four sweltering weeks out in the West.

First I will spend three weeks at the Navajo Language Academy in Flagstaff, Arizona. Then I will spend another week with my wonderful boyfriend in Los Angeles, California (his parents' perspective: crashing at their house for the second time this summer). Finally I will attend the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' international conference, also in L.A. (that's SCBWI for short).

I am writing this blog in response to requests by friends to keep them updated on what is currently floating around these two distinct fields, since most of them can't join me there :-( I'm planning for the routine entries (I landed in blah blah blah and got to my housing blah blah blah, etc.) to be concise like this one, and for the longer entries to outline the ideas, techniques, people, and other interesting things I come across in relation to 1) linguistics and 2) children's literature. Requests for other things can be made (such as flora and fauna, vegan eating, geology, etc.), but please keep in mind that I will be very busy.


Posted by poetisa16 18:01 Tagged about Comments (2)

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