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Language

Embracing the suck

— For the past four weeks, every Monday at 10 am, I’ve started a new level of Spanish classes here in Mexico City. Monday has typically been, for me, the hardest lesson of the week as my brain struggles to adjust. This Monday was the first week of lessons at the intermediate level, which was an even bigger jump than previous weeks. There were eight students in my class. Instead of starting the day with a grammar lesson, we dug right into a reading comprehension and discussion exercise.
First day of Spanish classes in Mexico City

First day of Spanish classes in Mexico City

— I’m going to skip ahead a bit and give an update on my Spanish class. It is, after all, the main reason I’m here. My commute to class was simply to walk down four flights of stairs, so I left at 8:58 am and arrived a minute early to the 9 am registration. I had deferred taking a placement exam until day of arrival, so that was my first step. I looked at the exam questions with a blank stare for several minutes before realizing I was never going to write down anything if I kept trying to think of answers in English and then write them down in Spanish.
If you’ve ever struggled with the gender of French nouns, take heart!

If you’ve ever struggled with the gender of French nouns, take heart!

— Last Saturday around midday, Kathryn and I were at the zoo here in Montpellier, and we found ourselves looking at the giraffes next to a French couple and their young children. I overheard the father saying to his children, “Les girafes sont beaux!” As soon as the words finished leaving his mouth, the mother corrected him, “Belles.” “Hein?” he grunted. “C’est une girafe,” she insisted. “Eh, ouais,” he said, now recognizing his grammatical error.

Earlier this week, I became a 47-year-old altar boy

— Back around Christmastime, the priests at our parish started running announcements in the weekly bulletin, asking all males of any age to prayerfully consider becoming altar servers. Altar servers were in short supply, particularly for the weekday Masses. From time to time, I attend the 6:30 am Mass before heading to work, and I’d witnessed the altar server shortage on a number of occasions. In fact, not too long ago, there was no altar server available twice in the same week.

Foreign sources, redux

— A couple years ago, I wrote a lengthy blog post challenging my family, friends, and followers to seek out reputable foreign news sources in languages other than English. After yesterday’s circus in Washington, I think it’s more important than ever to repeat my challenge, especially since I haven’t seen any English-language coverage of the spectacle that’s even close to impartial. If you’d like a starting point, try this article in French from Le Figaro, a Parisian daily: <http: 01003-20180927artfig00325-le-juge-kavanaugh-confronte-a-son-accusatrice.
How to order coffee at McDonald’s in Phoenix

How to order coffee at McDonald’s in Phoenix

— I like drinking coffee. I enjoy eating fast food. I live in Phoenix. You might be inclined to think I’d be a master at ordering a cup of coffee in a local McDonald’s. You’d be mistaken. Years ago, it wasn’t such a challenge. I’d visit a McDonald’s and ask for a small coffee. I’d get a Styrofoam cup with brewed coffee. I’d then turn around and find the condiment station, which would have the creamers and sweeteners and those cool plastic stirrers with the arches on the handles.