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Paris

After the conference in Lisbon, I spent most of the last week of June with Isabelle in Paris. I hadn’t been to Paris, or to France, since 2011, when I studied abroad in Grenoble, and it was wonderful to be back. We stayed with Isabelle’s parents in their apartment in the 16e arrondissement. Forthwith, the highlights:

Sunday

With Isabelle’s partner Olivier, we went to visit our old haunts in the Latin Quarter. First we got off at my old metro stop, and I successfully led us to the apartment building on rue des Écoles where my family lived in the fall of 2004 during my father’s first sabbatical. Then we went to Henri IV, the celebrated school where Isabelle did her prépa. (In 2004, we tried to enroll me in Henri IV’s middle school, since I lived in the neighborhood, but they didn’t have room for me.) There was a little book festival happening in the courtyard, so the school was open to the public. We checked out the books and then wandered all over the school.

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The courtyard of Henri IV

We tromped through more of the 5e arrondissement (I was impressed by how many things remained unchanged) and wound up near the Seine. We abandonned the idea of visiting Shakespeare & Co. when we saw the hordes outside and instead got gelato at Amorino and walked along the river down by the water. We had dinner at the Paradis du Fruit and returned to Passy near 10:00pm. We stopped on the bridge in hopes of watching the Eiffel Tower light up, but 10:00pm came, and…nothing! Because it was still day. The evening light in Paris was wonderful; it’s the farthest north I’ve been around the summer solstice in years, and it was glorious.

Eiffel Tower, Passy, 10:00pm

Monday

Isabelle and I walked the promenade plantée and then went to the Canal Saint-Martin, both places that were new to me. Standing on a bridge over the canal, we saw a boat approaching the lock underneath us and decided to watch it go through. There was an automobile bridge that had to move to let the boat pass, but it wasn’t a lift bridge. Instead, the part of the bridge over the canal swung around on a pivot to open a passageway. A trio of shirtless young men were frolicking in the space into which the bridge had to swing, and then one of them took a ride on the moving bridge until a testy voice amplified from somewhere asked him to please get off. While the boat waited in the lock for the water to rise, a duck and her ducklings swam about in agitation.

Canal Saint-Martin

Tuesday

We explored Passy, including the cemetery, where we found the grave of a Georgian prince and princess. We found a stand inside an indoor market that sold pasteís de nata, and they were as tasty as the ones we’d eaten in Lisbon! Then we went to the Maison de Balzac, even though I am Team Zola (Isabelle is Team Balzac). The house Balzac lived in is now a museum. We visited the room with the desk where he wrote something like 18 hours a day, fueled by coffee. Not quite the lifestyle I aspire to. We also pored over the Généalogie des Personnages de la Comédie Humaine. For dinner, we went to a crêperie in the neighborhood.

We found me in the family tree. The red line indicates a lien extraconjugal.

Wednesday

My parents and brother flew into Paris and came to Isabelle’s parents’ apartment for a grand meeting of families and lunch. My family went on to southern France, and Isabelle and I met up with her friend Alice. We walked along the quais and ate shengjianbao.

Shengjianbao!

Then Isabelle and I went on the Louvre, open late on Wednesdays, and wandered through a lot of galleries of European art, eventually getting to Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania, before the museum guards started herding us all toward the exits. We sat on the grass outside and watched the full moon rise over the Louvre, then walked to the Pont de la Concorde to catch the Eiffel Tower lighting up at 11:00pm.

Thursday

Isabelle and I went to the 13e arrondissement to visit some more of our old haunts, including Collège Rodin, where I went to middle school in 2004, and her old apartment, kindergarten, and elementary school. We had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant and then came back to the 16e to visit the Musée Guimet, the Asian art museum. I felt like we’d barely scratched the surface of the collection before the museum announced they were closing early due to the metro strikes. We ambled over to the terrace of the Musée de l’Homme to share a glace à l’italienne and take in an iconic view of the Eiffel Tower. After stopping to look inside Notre-Dame de Grâce de Passy, the church next to Isabelle’s parents’ place, we went home and helped wrap wontons for dinner.

Detail of a Japanese screen depicting books

On Friday morning, I flew to Toulouse to join my family.

Lisbon, Part II

In which I conclude the chronicle of my trip to Lisbon (you can also read Part I).

Friday

Meng and I got up bright and early to take the metro and then the train to Belém, farther west along the Tagus. We arrived at Pastéis de Belém, home of the original pastéis, long before the crowds and in time for a lovely breakfast. I had a small cup of thick, rich hot chocolate and most of a plain croissant, and of course we tried the famous pastéis. In terms of quality, it was about the same as the first pastél I’d tried.

Breakfast at Pastéis de Belém

We then walked to the Jerónimos Monastery and admired an ornate portal. We noticed a monument on the water and went to check it out. It turned out to be the Monument of the Discoveries, a massive tribute to the Portuguese explorers. From the north, it makes a very tall, narrow sword/cross, and from the sides, it’s supposed to look like a caravel.

The Monument of the Discoveries

We kept walking along the Tagus to the Torre de Belém, which is a sort of watchtower surrounded by water (but just off shore, accessible by a footbridge). After admiring the tower, we walked around Belém a little more before returning to Lisbon.

The Torre de Belém

In the afternoon, I met Isabelle outside the Cemitério dos Prazeres. We wandered around this enormous cemetery, admiring the tombs, many of which were carved with thistles, winged hourglasses (sometimes the wings were bat wings), and skulls and crossbones. There were many cats, some skittish, some happy to be petted.

Cemetery cats

We were resting on a bench when Isabelle realized it was fifteen minutes past closing. We wended our way toward the exit, wondering if we’d been locked in the cemetery but still taking the time to approach a black kitten. When we reached the gates, we found them closed, with us on the inside. However, a guard came out of the gatehouse and used an impressive metal key to open the gates for us.

We took the streetcar downhill and snuck through a restaurant terrace to the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa. From there, we paid to climb a metal spiral staircase to the upper deck, where we took in the views of Lisbon in all directions.

View of the Castelo de São Jorge from the upper deck of the Elevador de Santa Justa

Afterwards, we had dinner at a restaurant where the waiter brought us French menus and spoke to us in French (the establishment appeared to be able to handle five languages). Isabelle had sardines, and I had alheira de Mirandela, a traditional chicken and bread sausage.

After dinner, we went to the Lisbon Under Stars light show in the Ruínas do Carmo, a ruined church with walls and arches but no roof. The show consisted of narration, in Portuguese and English, from the point of view of the church itself, relating significant events of its construction and of Portuguese history; a musical score; projected video of dancers, musicians, and ordinary people; and at times spectacular light projections that lit up the inside walls of the ruins. Some of it was a little weird, but some of it was striking and impressive and beautiful.

Light show in the Ruínas do Carmo

Saturday

Before catching our flights out of Lisbon, Isabelle and I visited the Oceanário de Lisboa. There was a temporary exhibit called Florestas Submersas/Forests Underwater, by Takashi Amano, which consisted of tanks planted with (apparently) aquatic flora and tropical fish and shrimp. I recognized two kinds of fish I used to have in my aquarium back when I had fish: cardinal tetras and harlequin rasboras. The exhibit was lovely and a little mesmerizing.

Forests Underwater

Then we visited the whole permanent exhibit, which is structured around a central tank in which sharks, huge rays, ocean sunfish (very weird-looking), and many other fish swam. Visitors pass through different sections organized by geography (Atlantic, Antarctic, Indian, etc.). The highlights were the very vocal penguins (there were terns in this exhibit too!) and the adorable otters. I thought the Oceanário was as good as the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, except that the latter has seals and sea lions.

Ray

From the aquarium, we headed to the airport to fly to Paris.

Lisbon, Part I

In the second half of June, I went to LabPhon, a phonetics and phonology conference, in Lisbon. I had never been to Portugal before, and so when I and several other colleagues from my department were accepted, I decided to go to my first international conference. In preparation, I ordered a Portuguese phrasebook from France and proceeded to study European Portuguese extremely halfheartedly for weeks. It didn’t help that the phrasebook’s explanation of Portuguese pronunciation was abominable.

LabPhon itself was good. I presented my poster and had some fulfilling conversations with fellow linguists. It was also a good place to see friends from other universities. That said, I did skip a lot of the conference to explore Lisbon. Here are the highlights:

Tuesday

Isabelle and I met up in the afternoon and walked to the Terreiro do Paço, on the estuary of the Tagus. From there, it was a short walk to the Casa dos Bicos, or House of Beaks, a 16th century house whose façade is covered in pyramid-shaped protrusions reminiscent of beaks. It reminded me a little of the beaky portal of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Iffley.

Casa dos Bicos

Inside, on the ground floor, there were remnants of the Roman walls, and upstairs was the Fundação José Saramago, the museum of one of my favorite authors! The permanent exhibit featured hundreds of copies of his novels, translated into many languages, including Georgian! There was a lovely account of how after Saramago died, as the airplane carrying his remains took off from the island of Lanzarote, his neighbors read passages of his novels aloud, to bear him away, so to speak. And then when the airplane landed in Portugal, people waved copies of his books to greet it. It was rather moving. We also learned that Saramago’s ashes were buried under the olive tree we’d admired out front before entering the museum.

We then took a break, and I ate my first pastél de nata, bought at a fancy bakery earlier. This pastry is akin to the Chinese egg tart served at dim sum, but it’s thicker and richer. I’d heard of them long ago but never had one, and my first was delicious!

Next we visited the Igreja de Santo António, where mass was being celebrated (in Spanish…?). We went down to the crypt, where a sign indicated that St. Anthony was born HERE. Just up the hill was the Sé de Lisboa, the cathedral. We climbed one of the towers to get to the treasury and found you could walk through a narrow doorway onto the balcony at the back of the sanctuary. It was rather magical when it was just us up there.

In the evening, Meng and I walked around the narrow streets of the Bairro Alto and ate at a restaurant, where we got the bacalhau (salt cod) for two. It was also delicious.

Wednesday

This was the day I presented my poster. After the conference, Meng, Jeremy, and I walked up some very steep streets in what seemed to be a sort of Chinatown. We met up with Adam, Marc, and Jamie, all graduates of our program, and their partners on a bar patio overlooking the Tagus and shared some sangria. Then we went to a restaurant in the Alfama district, where I had rabbit in a plum sauce with couscous.

Thursday

After a day at the conference, I met up with my friend Andrew and two other Berkeley grad students to visit the Castelo de São Jorge. There were splendid views, as well as peacocks, peahens, and their babies. We had fun climbing around the castle walls.

View from near the castle

The castle

We had dinner at a restaurant downhill from the castle, and I had my second salt cod dish, bacalhau à Brás. It’s sort of like fish with egg and hashbrowns, all mixed together. It was tasty and filling. Two of the Berkeley students had bacalhau com natas, which looked a bit like a lake of cream with bits of fish in it (this is how I learned that nata means ‘cream’).

My bacalhau à Brás

After dinner, we kept walking downhill, enjoying Lisbon in the evening light of midsummer.

Azulejos in a little square near the cathedral

View from the square

To be continued!

Qing Dynasty Treasures and Boundless Peaks

I am woefully behind on blogging about my adventures, but such is the way of things. In the last month or so, besides diligently writing my dissertation, I’ve returned to the aquarium, enjoyed a 4-hour “study session” at the new cat café in my neighborhood, and spent nearly three weeks in Portugal and France. This post, however, harks back to early May, when I was in Minneapolis with Isabelle for the 175th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. It was my first phonetics conference. We presented posters in the same session, and I met exactly the linguists I wanted to talk to about my somewhat perplexing study (one of them, from the University of Minnesota, lives practically down the road from my parents!). I also got to see a friend and fellow linguistics Ph.D. student I know from Swarthmore.

After our poster session, Isabelle and I had lunch on Eat Street and then walked over to the Minneapolis Institute of Art to see Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty. This exhibit was meant to weave objects and artwork from the Qing Dynasty into an immersive, sensory experience drawing on elements of theater. It began with ten minutes of meditation in a dark room. It was almost pitch black, but a vase placed high in one corner was illuminated. A piece by John Cage involving what sounded like pencils being dropped onto a stage played in the background. Several of the exhibit rooms included music, some of it rather strange. One of the rooms, featuring a carved wooden throne, had walls painted red with the image of a rather Western-looking dragon and a soundtrack of screams (possibly not all human?). The whole thing was rather unusual, but I liked the art.

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Look at those bats!

After emerging from the Qing Dynasty exhibit, we stumbled upon another temporary exhibit, Boundless Peaks: Ink Paintings by Minol Araki. Araki was a Japanese painter born in China who studied with Chinese painter Zhang Daqian. I was quite taken with his paintings, especially a monumental one covering several walls depicting mountains and trees.

Sea Creatures and Zines

Last week Isabelle and I went to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. It’s a splendid aquarium, and we spent a long time looking at everything. Here are some of the highlights:

Our first stop were the pools with rays, sharks, and horseshoe crabs, all of which you could pet. This is a bluespotted ribbontail ray, which has beautiful blue spots. I like how you can see the reflection of the leaves on this ray.

Then we bought nectar to feed the lorikeets!

A puffin!

Jellyfish! There were many different kinds, and they were all mesmerizing.

Blue and yellow-banded poison dart frogs

Sea turtle!

Me and Ellie the harbor seal! We caught part of the seal and sea lion show in the morning, and when one of the trainers announced that Ellie (short (?) for Elga) was 28 years old, we were quite astonished! That’s our age, basically.

In addition to the above, we saw:

  • Penguins, who did some every enthusiastic laps of their tank, leaping and diving like dolphins and swimming very fast
  • An otter
  • A petting tide pool with colorful starfish, anemones, and sea urchins. If you put a finger or two among the sea urchins’ spines, the spines gently close around your fingers–the tide pool volunteer called these hugs!
  • Seahorses and seadragons (both weedy and leafy)
  • Many, many fish, many of which have fantastic names. There are all the compounds imaginable, from rabbitfish to porcupinefish, and then there are the Korean lumpsuckers and the sarcastic fringeheads…

After visiting the aquarium, we had pho for lunch and then walked to the central public library, which has a zine collection. (We’d tried to go after the Long Beach Zine Fest, but that was a Sunday, and the library was closed.) First we found my books!

Then we browsed the zines, picked out ones that had caught our eye until we each had a stack, and sat down to read them. I had chosen a couple by and about indigenous women and one that was a collection of someone’s Livejournal entries. Isabelle passed me one in which the artist/zinester annotated the journal he’d kept on a high school trip to Paris. I like the idea of reading other people’s diary entries, I guess, though I should know from my own journal that they’re often quite boring. I’m definitely not enmeshed in zine culture, and so far zines have tended to be hit or miss for me, but every so often I stumble upon a sentence that’s so relatable it feels a little magical.

LSA in Salt Lake City

At the beginning of January, I attended the Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America in Salt Lake City. It was my second LSA; my first was Minneapolis in 2014, when I was a first-year grad student. As a fifth-year grad student, I did both more (presented, had more social meals) and less (didn’t volunteer, attended fewer talks, and certainly no sister society talks). The conference was also my second visit to Utah, the first being our road trip last summer.

My plane from Los Angeles flew in past pretty snow-dusted mountains and over a big lake that I thought was the Great Salt Lake. Looking at a map later, I realized it had almost certainly been Utah Lake; the Great Salt Lake would have been much bigger. I took the train from the Salt Lake City airport to downtown. A relative had told me that all Salt Lake City geography was structured around the Temple, and it was true! As I rode east, I saw through the train window the Madina Masjid, next door to the Pentecostals of Salt Lake.

The LSA was being held at the Grand America Hotel; the student rate rooms were across the street in the Little America (appropriate, eh?). I checked into the room I was sharing with my co-presenter and discovered that despite its younger sibling name, the Little America was probably the fanciest hotel I had ever stayed in. I headed over to the Grand America to register, spotted some familiar faces (as linguistics is a small field, the LSA feels like a family reunion), decided not to go to anything that evening, and set out in search of some dinner. I figured if I walked north into downtown I would stumble upon something.

Indeed, after walking for several blocks I noticed a sandwich board on the sidewalk advertising Curry n’ Kabobs, Indian/Afghan cuisine. I glanced through the door the arrow was pointing at and saw a restaurant counter at the back of a convenience store. This sounded perfect. But just ahead was Eborn Books, the used bookstore I’d glimpsed from the train coming in. I decided to check it out before eating.

Visiting local bookstores during conferences is becoming a habit. There was Caveat Emptor in Bloomington, IN, the Strand in New York City… Eborn Books was delightful: a quirky, labyrinthine shop stuffed with books. A sign over one doorway read: “Welcome to What We Call ‘The Ugly Room,'” which included self-help, politics, and religion. A sign pointed in one direction for LDS books while another pointed in the opposite direction for anti-LDS books. In the foreign languages section, I found a French book on given names, quite similar to one I bought at a used book market in Paris years ago, which said, of Eleanor (Éléonore): “Perhaps no other first name fascinates as much…” (clunky translation by me).

I wished I could have lingered longer in Eborn Books, but I had things to prepare that evening, so I left and went next door to order takeout. The man behind the counter was very nice and friendly, and I took an order of Afghan mantu and a mango lassi back to the Little America. They were delicious.

The LSA is an enormous conference (for our field), and I had resolved not to try to do too much. My poster was in the Friday morning session, and I gave a joint talk on Saturday afternoon as big snowflakes fell gently outside. On Saturday evening, we had a Swarthmore linguists dinner at a Nepali restaurant. There were six of us alumni, including my friend Andrew, from the classes of 2007 through 2016, and also a former Swarthmore professor who taught me semantics and typology/conlanging and also helped me navigate getting into grad school. There are a lot of young Swarthmore alumni in linguistics Ph.D. programs across the country; there were more at the LSA who couldn’t make the dinner.

On Sunday, I had lunch with Andrew and then squeezed in a last bit of sightseeing. First, I went to the public library, a five-story building with glass walls on one side that funnily enough hosted a linguistics conference (that I did not attend) a couple of years ago. The rooftop terrace was closed, to my chagrin, since I’d hoped to take pictures of the mountains from there. Still, it was a beautiful, very modern library, and there was a mobile in the atrium that consisted of many small blue book/butterflies suspended from threads that together formed a child’s head (I think). There was also a little boutique that sold vintage Utah postcards, stationery, and literary gifts.

Finally, on my way to the airport, I stopped in Temple Square and walked around. A young woman asked me if I’d like to go into the Tabernacle for the organ concert, but alas, I didn’t have time.

The Assembly Hall

The Mormon Temple

Downtown Salt Lake City had been bright and sunny, but the airport was plunged in thick fog. It created travel problems for other linguists, but I was lucky, and my flight departed. We flew out of the fog very quickly, and below, the mountaintops looked like islands in a milky ocean.

2017 in Review

Well, what do you know, apparently I began my 2016 in Review post by saying 2016 had been awful. Little did I know what 2017 had in store! -_- But again, despite the political train wreck and the grad school angst, 2017 also had its share of joys. Instead of doing a month-by-month recap of 2017, I’ve decided to just recall some highlights, in no particular order:

And 2017 is ending on an exciting note–on Friday, I learned that a short story of mine had been accepted for publication! This is my first short fiction sale. I’ll be excited to share it with you in 2018! Happy New Year!