Prairie View

Saturday, October 29, 2016

My Turn to Travel

I'm off to Bangladesh in the morning.  I will accompany my niece Christy who is going there to live for the time being--at least for the school year.  She will be teaching the children of a family originally from our area.

I am planning to visit our son's family and get introduced to the world that is home for them.

Did I write here about the river cruise that is planned--to the Sunderban?  The more I hear about his, the better it sounds.  Others on the trip are families with similar interests and goals as those of the families we know.  They're a homeschooling bunch!

Rose Nissley and Melody Nisly are filling in for me at school.  Being able to leave my students in good hands feels wonderful.

I'll be gone two weeks.  Anyone who needs to contact me can use email (  I'll keep checking it.  Also, Hiromi has a phone number where I can be reached if need be.  

I hope this trip doesn't turn out like the school year has so far--the good things that happen are buried in so much busyness that I don't have time to write about them.  That's almost as if they didn't happen.  Not really, but I often marvel at how much more "real" something is if I write about it.

Joel hears about my crazy schedule and hopes I have a transmission in good working order because he's pretty sure that relaxing as I hope to do on that river cruise will call for going from fifth gear to first gear in one shuddering whine of de-escalation.

Monday, October 10, 2016

One Good Thing

I decided that one good thing about having Hiromi gone almost two weeks is that my morning routine is simplified by not having to creep about quietly in the dark so as not to disturb him.  The alarm goes off at 5:30 and I reach up and turn on the lamp beside the bed immediately.  Then I walk to the wall switch and flood the whole bedroom with light.  I bang around at will in the kitchen as I find and swallow my thyroid pills and then thump along on my way to my devotions chair, turning on lights everywhere I go.

I can start the Vita-Mix any old time and have my ever-so-healthful breakfast smoothie ready as soon as my hot miso soup is ready.

I'm making a big deal of this ONE GOOD THING to keep from thinking too much about many bad things about having him gone.  Hiromi seldom shows up at school, but I'm learning that I depend a great deal on his help to make teaching possible for me.  One way or another, I always seem to end up with at least one class that requires gathering many supplies from home.  This year it's the Expotitions that have me scrambling to round up this and that from the shop, the yard, or the utility room.  Rather, it has Hiromi scrambling to do these things.  He's wonderful that way.  Last week I had to find the sledge hammer and Hiromi's goggles myself--to allow students to break up rocks safely.

At my suggestion, Hiromi cut his work day one hour shorter so that we could eat supper together before the evening was gone.  As it turns out, I didn't anticipate how long my work day would be, and Hiromi usually arrives home before I do.  If I plan ahead and remember to communicate with him, he can help get the meal underway before I get here.

Hiromi helps me keep track of the time.  I needed this the morning I panicked and thought it was an hour later than it actually was and I was way late for school and my comp class had already gathered and I wasn't there.  Except that I wasn't late at all.  Right on schedule, in fact.

Hiromi also gives me many safety warnings, most of which seem unnecessary to me.  There's one thing though that I won't ever be able to complain about again.  I realized this the day I got home from school and discovered a completely empty tiny cooking kettle on a burner that had been left turned on all day.  Hiromi has several times discovered a situation just like this within minutes of my placing the empty kettle back on the burner, and made many sad and solemn noises whenever it happened.  I'm not proud of it, of course, but it's not like I've ever done it on purpose.  This time he wasn't here to save me from my own mistakes.  But the Lord was.  I turned off the burner as soon as I spied the low flame and left the kettle to cool.  Then I added plain water and let it soak.  The next time I washed dishes, I swished it in soapy water and it looked completely unscathed.  No extra scrubbing was needed.

On another point, I'll need to concede that Hiromi's "uber" caution has its positive aspects.  One night before I retired I reminded myself that before I leave for school the next day I'll need to unplug the phone line from the wall since there is a chance of severe thunderstorms.  We had something like a 10% change of overnight rain, but no mention of severe night-time storms.  I woke up around 3:00 to hear wild wind and lots of thunder.  Lightening lit up the windows repeatedly.  As soon as I could bestir myself I headed for the study where the phone line is plugged in.  On my way there, there were two tremendous crashes overhead.  I unplugged things and went back to bed.  The next morning I had no internet access when I plugged things in again.

I sent an email to Joel from school, and he called me later and walked me through what I could try to see if I could isolate the problem.  Apparently the surge protector had gotten fried in the storm, but when I plugged the phone line directly into the wall I had internet service again.  Then Joel had Amazon ship me a new surge protector.  It arrived today.  In the meantime, I've been doing a lot of plugging/unplugging cables in the study.  I'm ever-so-glad to let Hiromi take care of the electronics department again.

I forgot to put out the recycling bin on the once-a-month pickup day.  I also forgot to put out the trash bin--twice.  The garbage pail is fuller now than Hiromi ever lets it become.  The water for the chickens will probably last through tomorrow, but if Hiromi were here, it would be nearly full.  I'm afraid the birds may have given up on finding feed in the feeders.  I thought I was keeping tabs from the house, and didn't realize till Saturday that the seed I saw was just a very thin layer on top of a small board near the glass-wall front of the feeder.  I thought I was seeing the top of the pile covering the bottom section of the feeder.

The grass in the driveway tickles the belly of the car when I drive over it.  I didn't think Hiromi's final mowing before he left would be the last one of the season, but he was hopeful on that point.

All in all, I'm very ready for my world to be set right again when Hiromi arrives home tomorrow evening, Lord willing.


I have waited a prudent length of time--till all the approvals were secured and the arrangements made--to talk about my upcoming trip to BD to see our eldest son and his family.  Departure is planned for near the end of this month and return about two weeks later.  My ticket was purchased with air miles offered to me by J.  I will accompany my niece who plans to stay in the country to work as a teacher for a family who lives there now.

One expected highlight is being able to accompany several families on a river cruise to the Sunderbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It's the largest mangrove forest in the world, and the home of the Bengal tiger, alligators, many other animals, and a great deal of lush vegetation.  I've watched some Sunderbans features on youtube.  I think I'll be glad for the safety of the boat, but the prospect of seeing this exotic part of the natural world pleases me greatly.

Seeing the world of my loved ones makes my heart sing too.


Neither Hiromi nor I do a lot of traveling, so this traveling we're both doing within a month's time is quite a switch from the usual.  If I didn't think it was a gift from the Lord it wouldn't make much sense to compress these events into such a small sliver of time.

In the meantime, I'll need to keep my head down and my shoulder to the wheel to make things manageable at school for those who teach in my place, and for the remainder of the semester after I get back.  

Saturday, October 01, 2016

I Need a LIst

My comp class this year includes an unusual number of students who are very proficient speakers of the Pennsylvania German language--Dutch, in our parlance, which is itself a corruption of Deutsche, the word Germans use for the name of their language.

At the beginning of the year I told the students that every time I saw Dutch-influenced terminology in their writing I would point it out if it didn't sound to my ears like the way English-speaking-only people would say it.  I acknowledged that I was going by a fuzzy standard in doing so, but justified it by reminding students that I have a lot more years of listening to and reading language by "English-speaking-only" people than they have, so they should just take my word for it when I tell them that there's a better way to say this (I'm sure you can tell that I'm bossy-parent-like sometimes).

In this class, I reiterated, the writing is expected to be mostly formal, with occasional projects that allow a more casual tone.  This is the emphasis because I want them to be well-prepared for communicating with people both inside and outside our cultural enclave, and I want them to be equipped to do well in school beyond high school if that is part of their future.

"How are we supposed to know?" was the dispirited "wail" I heard from one student the other day when she saw a note on her paper about a Dutch-inspired expression.  She was especially distressed because it was the only thing marked on the paper, and she had not gotten a perfect score.  I know exactly why that would be disappointing.  It is hard to know when you're doing these things yourself.  I shudder sometimes at how often I probably do something similar.  I pointed out that I don't usually count Dutch-influenced language as an error if it fits grammatically.  In her case, I said that I had done some subjective grading when I assigned 49 points out of 50 possible--because I thought the paper was also a little shorter than was ideal, etc.  In other words, it wasn't perfect, so I didn't give it a perfect score.

Another student pointed out that having an adult read over your paper before you hand it in can help head off some awkward wording.  Yes.  Exactly.  I've always urged students to do this.

I reminded them again that this class is for learning.  If ever a good place exists for making Dutch-inspired errors, this is it, because it can be swiftly addressed and corrected.  Most situations outside the classroom are not like this.  Most of us don't wish to be social pariahs in the grammar department, so we keep our mouths shut when we hear such errors elsewhere, and the speaker is none the wiser.

As I had done before, I also asked them to please bring to me any examples they find in published material (I probably should have said "professionally edited" material) where something that I labeled as a "Dutchy" expression is used.  In other words, if my sense that something is Dutchy proves to be exactly like what English-speaking-only people are using, I will remove the Dutchy label from that terminology.

That brings me finally to the list I need: "Improvements on Dutchy Terminology,"  for which I am asking your help.  I had informally jotted down some things that fit such a category from papers as I came across them.  When I mentioned that I was doing this, a student begged me to give them such a list.  That was a very sensible suggestion, and I want to give them a readable version of what I have so far--if I can find the list, that is.

I'll illustrate what I have in mind by giving  an example, despite not being able to remember all the details precisely.  You'll get the idea, even with haphazard details.  In the paper that produced a wail recently, the student had written a description of another person who loves to read and adores to play with the pets.  I suggested "playing" as an improvement over "to play."  I do know that both expressions are verbals that can be used as a noun.  "To play" is an infinitive, and "playing" is a gerund.  They both fill the need for a noun in that spot in the sentence, so the grammar is not wrong.

I have noticed this before--the tendency of Dutch-influenced language to use the infinitive form when the gerund form would create a more pleasing construction.  The student had actually done it exactly "right" later in the same sentence.  How would you explain when to use which one?  I'm not sure, except to say that it doesn't sound right to me, and I don't think that's how most people say it.  It's ear training, partly--maybe even mostly this.

On my list with the "Improvements on Dutchy Terminology" title, I would have one column labeled "Dutchy Terminology."  A second column title would say "Improvement." In the above example, I would list this in the Dutchy Terminology category:  Using the wrong verbal.  Below it I would list an example:  " . . . adores to play with the pets" (infinitive form)  In the "Improvement" column I would list this:  Using the right verbal.  The example below:  " . . . adores playing with the pets.  "To play" and "playing" would be in bold font.  (See what I'm doing here--creating a handout in my head--saves time at school, but creates a long post).

The second example is the Dutchy use of "would." This site just furnished me with terminology that I never used before. "Would" is a modal verb.  A quote from the site says this:  A modal verb (also modal, modal auxiliary verb, or modal auxiliary) is a type of verb that is used to indicate modality – that is: likelihood, ability, permission, and obligation. Examples include the English verbs can/could, may/might, must, will/would, and shall/should. A student paper said that a baseball player's name "would be __________."  I suggested that he say the player's name "is __________" instead of "would be"--as if it might happen in the future or is conditional or uncertain.  I referred to the Dutch equivalent --" 's voah." He got it and laughed.

On my handout the Dutchy column will list "Using a modal verb" in the first column, and "Using a present tense verb of being" in the second column.  The examples will be "His name would be ________________."  and "His name is __________________.

I'll have to look at notes at school to extend the list.

I told  the comp class early on that I wish to affirm any student who speaks Dutch fluently.  I consider it a wonderful benefit to them, and personally love to hear it spoken.  I understand everything I hear, but am less and less fluent in speaking it.  They must be aware, however, what is required in formal writing, and avoid what doesn't belong in that category.

Am I making too big a deal of formal writing?  Possibly,   Probably.  Not a chance.  That's my current thinking on the subject.