All-You-[Can’t]-Eat Sushi

Went out for sushi with some girls from the department (and a husband :)) last week. Feeling more than justified in my reluctance to take anyone’s word about Utah sushi, let alone Utah County sushi–I mean, let’s face it, “all-you-can-eat” and “sushi” are rarely a good combination, even if you’re not landlocked–I (along with three other skeptics) ordered a single roll and committed to “upgrade” if it made the grade.

One bite had Nicky melting into her chair, head lolled to one side and groaning in an undeniable state of sushi bliss. The rest of us followed suit and soon the table was a happy mass of tangled chopsticks, flying ginger and very full, yet somehow still laughing, mouths.

We must have ordered before the first bites actually made it to our stomachs, because just at the point that most of us were feeling contentedly satiated, the rest of our order arrived–three heaping platters of rolls and ngiri…

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The Demands of Agentive Psychology

I had to laugh. Writing the title to this post, I found myself chuckling: “And you wonder why nobody reads the blog anymore…” Somehow stories of butchering pigs and flirting with soccer players in Paraguay just have more appeal than learning theory or political positing. Go figure.

A fascinating discussion with Richard Williams in our Learning Theory class finally helped solidify what is really required to embrace agentive psychology, to make the shift from an acquisitional model of learning to a participatory model–you’ve got to speak in verbs instead of nouns.

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Why I’m Not a Programmer

The wordpress codex has a little tagline at the bottom of every page that reads, “Code is Poetry.” Apparently, I am not a poet.

I know I said a couple months ago that I was repenting. I changed my mind. The reason is fairly straightforward: programming makes me feel stupid. Now there are a lot of ways to feel stupid, some of which I have of necessity embraced and even come to appreciate in my life. There’s the kind of feeling stupid that comes because you did something oafish, but usually that also comes with making someone laugh, so I’m okay with that. There’s the kind of feeling stupid that comes because you don’t know something you should know, but there are few better motivators for finding out, so I’m okay with that too. There’s the kind of feeling stupid that comes because after a long, stubborn fight, you find out you really are wrong, and that kind of feeling stupid is very, very good for me. Continue reading

I Love StoryCorps!

If today is one of those days when you just need to be reminded that laughter is good, life goes on and love is possible, take a couple minutes to hear Ben and Bernice talk about their first date back in 1946. Made my morning.


Started classes on Tuesday. Yep. I’m still a freak. I love them. I’m intrigued by new new classmates, excited by new opportunities and energized by the feeling of intellectual synergy that permeates campus the first week of classes. I am glad to be here.

But every now and then something [a freshman speckled with tiny moles on his face like Araujo, the sliced lime sticker on the back of someone’s shiny new macbook, the smell of chalk] will trip my hypersensitive synapses and I feel my heart reaching, grasping, squeezing through my ribs for….what? For Paraguay? For my students, my friends? For this whole idea and what it could be…

It hurts a little.

My Million Dollar Idea

Got stuck in the Mexico City airport for about 24 hours. Seems to happen to me more often than not. I crashed out pretty well on the overnight flight from Buenos Aires, and I it hit me right about as we landed that I had left.

In such a state, it truly seems like the whole airport system; from the distracted personnel who send you lugging your carry-on in circles around the crowded hallways for hours to the frigid tile floors to the fixed metal armrests breaking up every potential elevated sleeping surface, is conspiring to make one miserable. At least once during each of these experiences, I have nearly [if not actually] dissolved into tired, frustrated tears. What I wouldn’t have given for somewhere to lay down for a few hours!

The thing is, I’ve never been alone in this predicament. There always seem to be dozens, sometimes hundreds of somewhat-worse-for-wear businessmen, families, etc. resigning themselves to a very uncomfortable “delay.”

Call me crazy, but that looks for all the world like a market. Take one of the donut shops, or a couple of the little kiosks selling the exact same handicrafts right next to each other and turn them into a little oasis for stranded travelers. I’m not talking about a 5-star hotel here. Not even a 1-star. Just a cot with a foam pad, clean sheets and a blanket in a quiet corner where I don’t have to worry about keeping one arm around my bag and the other thrown over my eyes to block out the flickering fluorescent lights. The value-adds are no-brainers too: a toothbrush and washcloth, Tylenol, a clean towel and shower. Last night I would have dropped $60 for that without even flinching.
So, why hasn’t this happened yet?!
Maybe there’s some kind of hideous legal trap I missed. Maybe the profit margin would be too tight. Or maybe the thousands of exhausted, greasy, achy, frustrated travelers simply forget about it after a nice hot shower and a good nap.

Apparently, I’m Getting Married.

Went to church this Sunday in a branch on the outskirts of Asuncion with a friend of Lili’s. His name is Danny and I’ve met him twice now—once in passing 2 months ago at church in Benjamin and once at a YSA dance Rebecca and I [I think very bravely] ventured to attend. He’s a nice guy—clean and happy—a young 20, had to come home from his mission early due to a car accident, runs a little internet café out of his house and studies English on the side.

He met us at the parana and at some point during the walk into town asked if I had a boyfriend. By now I am accustomed to this being among the first questions in any conversation and replied in the negative. He seemed [perhaps overly] pleased and proceeded to explain that the missionaries were very curious about our relationship. [“Relationship?” I’m thinking….what relationship?] He recounted their teasing and constant questions, their impatience to meet me, etc. and concluded with what I gathered was a sort of apology for having, in exasperation, told them “Fine. Yes. We’re getting married!” We laughed and I blew it off.

That is, until we got to church. After several unusually enthusiastic ambrasos from sisters in the ward, each accompanied by “felicidades, felicidades!” [not a traditional salutation] and glowing looks of approval at Danny, I figured out that it was not just the missionaries he had told, and it wasn’t a joke. These sweet sisters, in fact, this whole sweet ward thought they were meeting their future daughter-in-law! [Danny’s the only member in his family, and the only young adult in the ward and one of the only men who has served a mission…he’s everybody’s favorite son.] People were even asking me if we had a date yet. “Good question,” I wanted to say, “Have we even had a date yet!?”

On one hand, it’s illustrative of a significant difference I have noticed here in terms of dating and marriage. Young people, particularly LDS young people, actually get married. They seem to have a more simple view of things, more along the lines of our parents; the “any two good people can make it work” sort of approach. They find someone they enjoy, with the same standards, and they get married. What’s more, they seem pretty happy. There’s something to be said for not over-complicating the process.

On the other hand, I feel I’ve had a taste of what it might be like to be, as Anne of Green Gables puts it, “devastatingly handsome.” Not sure I like it. Like when he took my hand near the end of a rather long walk only to steer me down the busiest street in town where his former high school classmates were playing futbol. I’ve never felt like a trophy before, and it felt really…cheap. When he kissed me goodbye and told me—twice—that he loved me, it was about all I could do to keep from sputtering, “how can you possibly love me!? We can’t even have a real conversation. You know nothing about me, other than the fact that I am blonde and American!”

Of course, that’s not entirely fair. There’s a lot you can learn about a person from a few interactions and there are profound languages that don’t require words. I think Danny is a great guy, and I believe he meant it. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to say it back.

En Memorium…

So, Latin American cemeteries are way cooler than ours in the states.

These photos [which I kaiphed from Rebecca’s blog because we never managed to get them onto my computer…] are documentation of one of those serendipitous side excursions that end up being some of the most memorable moments of most trips. This one was with Becca, Kim’s cousin, and the only other LDS intern, on the way to the temple last weekend. I’ll admit to having a bit of objective-tunnel-vision at the time [I just wanted to find the temple] so I am glad Becca noticed it and suggested we explore—not that I would have recognized it as a cemetery anyway. It was literally like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Apparently, in most Latin American cities people are buried in these strangely beautiful above-ground mausoleums. They’re constructed with a sort of basement with built-in shelving for anywhere from a dozen to a couple hundred caskets underneath [learned that from the construction crew that was renovating one of them—with all the caskets just kindof stacked around while they worked—didn’t feel right to just snap a photo, though I almost wish I had]. On top of that is a room with more shelves [for more recently deceased members of the family] and usually a sort of central shrine area with brightly colored silk flowers [often caked with cobwebs and dust] and family treasures [everything from antique bibles and pearl rosaries to Rugrats dolls, matchbox cars, empty beer bottles and futbol jerseys.]

The further in we wandered, the more interesting it became…

Yep, pretty sure that’s a human jaw bone.

Like I said, strangely beautiful. I actually think it would be fascinating to commission a book called “En Memorium” that’s just images of tombs, shrines, cemeteries and burial grounds from all over the world. Unexpected, intriguing, and profoundly human.


As I seem to have finally convinced [most of] the students that “no” is not my version of playing hard to get, and the jugadores have been absent these two weeks, this is the only action I get around here:

[Really, Jessika, this is a delayed response to your request for more photos of me. Hope you like them!]

Living by Bread Alone

For an agricultural school with acres of huerta [vegetable gardens], we sure eat a lot of starch! Just thought this little illustration would be amusing. This is “pan.” They’re little rolls we purchase in the town down the road. [Pretty sure we keep at least 3 bakers in business single-handedly.]

This is how much pan we go through in a single day.

We each have two or three for breakfast [with our cocido con leche], the kids in the campo have two for mid-morning snack [again, with some cocido con leche] and we all get two in the afternoon for merienda [you guessed it, with cocido con leche.] On Sundays, we have the same thing for dinner. They’re made with white flour, kneaded to death with very little yeast, and almost flash-cooked in a huge brick oven. The outsides are hard, but not crispy and the insides chewy, yet somehow insubstantial. They’re also quite dry [hence the omnipresent cocido] but otherwise tasty—thank goodness, as each of us consumes somewhere between 4 and 8 of them a day!