Fourth Wall

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

From the Bangor Library

Well, missed the Cwis at Cwps (sigh). Went there on Saturday, didn't see anyone we knew and clearly didn't have the right "we're interesting Welsh students, speak to us" air. This may be because Erin insisted on sitting in the back. Other than that, Aberystwyth was great fun-- hanging out with Erin, walking, visiting the exhibits at the National Library, and studiously avoiding going to campus. John, of "I work for the EPA as Transportation Bitch # 72" fame, showed up on Sunday, providing much entertainment as usual.

Took the bus up to Bangor yesterday, a lovely ride through the country. The Hotel I'm staying in, however, is full of liars. Their signs profess that they're part of the "Cymraeg yn Gyntaf" program, but this hasn't yet been proven true. And the TV doesn't get S4C.

Well, you know me. Cwino, cwino, cwino. Tomorrow I'm leaving Wales for Birmingham, and I fly home early Thursday morning. I'm missing Chicago (and y'all), but don't want to leave.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

On the Road Again...

Tomorrow morning is our last day of class, and I'm losing internet access. Erin and I are heading up to Aberystwyth, where we have a small double hotel room (this could be Dolgellau Redux) booked and pubbing advice from The Man Himself, James. Signs point to Cwps. Honestly, if it's sunny I just want to sit on the beach and relax.

"And make fun of people," added Jan.

"You know us well," I said.

Almost done with packing. The computer, of course, is the last to go.

Talk to you all in a week! I miss you.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Not getting to Edinburg, and Welsh Filmmakers Killed My Soul...

But life is still good. To Wit: Tomorrow I'm eating supper* with James a cariad James, Kate, internationally acknowledged as the world's sweetest Welsh speaker.**

Furthermore: Have I mentioned recently that Got Medieval? rocks my medieval socks? Read this post. Now.***

And that's not even counting This particular entry on Geoffrey Chaucer Hath A Blogge

And the course is coming to an end, but I'm kinda ready for a real break and a trip through the north ar fy mhen fy hunnan (on my own).

Erin got her stuff from UW Aberystwyth today, which might provide enough of a kick in the ass for me to get on top of things like, oh, rewriting my BA proposal, and looking at Grad Schools, and writing to Professor Ruddall about where on earth one can speak Welsh in Chicago.

* I've been promised Shepherd's Pie and Fruit Crumble.
** By me. Here, I'm an international, remember.
*** And now you know where I got my bad footnoting habit.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Wenglish Begins Here

Roedd tippen bach o blinder ddoe ar Erin a Kat eto y noswaith 'ma, a dydyn nhw ddim yn gallu meddal am yfed. Felly, penderfynon ni i gael noswaid dawel a weld y ffilm Willow gyda ein ffriend ni, John, yn yr ystafell teledu. Roedd tippen o broblem achos does dim chwaraewr DVD yn yr ystafell, a roedd rhaid a ni weld y ffilm Solomon ac Gaenor, ffilm am dyn Iddewig sy'n cwmpo yn cariad gyda Cymraes (paid a dweud dym byd), yn lle hi. Mae hi'n driste iawn, a dyn nin tippen bach depressed heno.

Erin and Kat were still a litte hung over this evening, and they couldn't think about drinking. Therefore, we decided to have a quiet evening and watch the film Willow with our friend John in the TV room. There was a bit of a problem as there's no DVD player in the room, and we had to watch Solomon and Gaenor, a film about a Jewish man who falls in love with a Welsh woman (don't say anything), in its place. It's very sad, and we're a little depressed tonight.

There are actually two versions of Solomon ac Gaenor-- an English one, with the Welsh, Yiddish, and Hebrew subtitled, and version we had, which is in Welsh, with Welsh subtitles on the Yiddish and Hebrew. This is something like watching an Italian opera with German supertitles.*

I went for a walk to "walk off the movie" afterwards. On my way back from the bridge (where I was watching bats), I ran into Adam and Hester. I think they thought I was a little drunk-- I was very much off in my own little pensive world--so I'm going to have an interesting time in the morning convincing the Aberystwyth kids that I was merely under the influence of a depressing movie.

* Best translation moment was seeing Bar Mitzvah with a soft mutation in the subtitles. B-->F in soft mutation, by the way, and the mnemonic for this is "Basil Fawlty". Actually, the complete mnemonic, for your amusement, is as follows:
T-->D Top Dog
C-->G Cary Grant
P-->B Paddington Bear
B-->F Basil Fawlty
G-->__ Gi Gi's gone.
D-->Dd Drink Double diamond
Ll-->L Llundain Ladies
M-->F (I can't actually remember this one, but as previously blogged, Kat has her own suggestion.
Rh-->R No Rhyme or Reason

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Holy Aberystwyth, Batman...

I almost forgot! My first real linkage, from Wlpan Diary. This is to be contrasted with a certain anonymity-inclined someone who has linked to this blog under the title "Kind've Catholic, At Least Right Now". Which is actually okay, because everyone's favorite Girl in Glasses has him linked as "--- is sometimes an Orthodox Jew."

On that general line, abovementioned Gal in Glasses reports that Hanna Arendt is the Philosopher of the Post-Cute age.* I'm ready to be back in Chicago.**

Oh, and Seamus reports "It was the first time I've ever been early for mass. I felt like a convert."

I've been kicking around the idea of doing a smaller Welsh-language blog, to keep up my practicing. Main problem: Wlpan teaches spoken Welsh, not literary Welsh. And then, none of you all would be able to read it, anyway...

* Larry's feces floor-hockey inclined cat Lana, "the vapid paralytic" might be the mascot of the post-cute age.
* *General disclaimer: I don't actually know Rita, and I haven't read Hannah Arendt. The first is rather extraordinary, as 1) we're in the same major, 2) we have, it turns out, actually been in a class together, and 3) everyone I know knows her. As Vee said, "It's the six degrees of Rita K.!" It doesn't matter that I haven't read Hannah Arendt, because I've taken classes with Professor Fasolt, which is almost like reading Hannah Arendt. And by "almost", I mean "not at all."

Must Keep Blogging to Stay Warm

Mae hi'n bwrw glaw ag oer, a does dim siwmper 'da fi, (It's raining and cold, and I don't have a sweatshirt), and the only heat in the room is coming from my laptop processer. Miserable, miserable, miserable. Mae'r tywydd yn friggin ddiflas.

My lunch at Sospan Fach, though, was a success. Not only did I find perhaps the only place in Lampeter that puts dressing on a side salad, I managed to do everything in Welsh. When the waitress arrived and said, "Helo, popeth yn iawn?," I assumed that she had seen the "Dw i'n Dysgu Cymreig" pin on my backpack. However, it turns out that the cafe is part of a Cymreig Cyntaf (Welsh First) program, and thus start out in Welsh with everyone. I'd never heard of it before, but it's an excellent idea. It gets over a primary handicap for Welsh learners: the first, the difficulty of changing a conversation to Welsh from English, especially with strangers. It also encourages Welsh speakers to use their native tongue in public, when some seem wary of speaking it with those they don't know (see above point).

Roxy, by the way, was right-- thick stockings and a skirt are absolutely the way to go on rainy days, if, like me, you're short enough that seatbelts don't fit right and you can't wear normal people pants (I've been informed by my British friends that "pants" are underwear, and jeans are "trousers"). I'm much more dry than I would be if my jeans had soaked up all the rain. Still, I was thinking of going out to Spar for snacky study foods, and I just don't know if I'll make it.

Home. Kinda.

I'm back, safe and sound, from the trip to the Nant-- I was neither stampeded by rampaging sheep, nor did I fall off a cliff or have a heart attack from the amount of cream in the food served to us. That said, my reaction to the return home to Lampeter was to a) insist on getting Indian food and b) sleeping for almost twelve hours. I was thinking about going on a trip today, but all the places I really want to go-- like Strata Florida--require a car. And it's pouring rain. So I've bundled up in my rainy day outfit (cotton tights and skirt, and I'm taking myself out to lunch at a Cafe I haven't yet tried. After that, I'll probably go to the Cafe Print and splurge on Hot Chocolate and study my Welsh.

Kat & Erin are out at the Castle Green, interviewing for their project. I must remember to ask John if he wants to work with me on my final presentation.

...after that little interruption from Gareth trying to convince me to buy a dictionary on sale ("I have to take it home!" "It's only ten pounds." "In price or weight?"), LUNCH.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Ble Mae Pawb?

Ok, people, I acknowledge that it's vacation time, but still-- where is everybody?

That said, I'm leaving for Nant Gwerthyn tomorrow morning, and won't have e-mail or anything until Friday night.

Went to Aberystwyth with Silvia and Mirta yesterday. They are some of my favorite people ever. I'd write more about it, but I'm exhausted from a long day of mass, studying, class, and football. Oh, and the post-football trip to the pub. I've actually gotten a little sick of beer (I know that's heretical), so the past two days I've had a rum & coke and thought of Veronica, and Carolyn, and the terrible disaster that was the "Pink Paradise".*

In other news, we were disappointed to hear that we have to take our large binders up north with us. "And if you take your binder," said Erin, "you have to take your dictionary. You can't give a mouse a cookie... because then he'll want a dictionary."

* It's probably better if you don't ask.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Darn You, Patrick,

And your memes.

1. One book that changed your life: Moby Dick, but you knew that already. No poetry sings to me like "The Lee Shore"-- and I am always trying to get as close as I can to the sea without falling in.

2. One book that you've read more than once: E.B. White's One Man's Meat-- my cure for a bad day.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island: I hate these questions. I'm going to go with Don Quixote in the original Spanish-- with a good dictionary. I'd have plenty of time to work through it.

4. One book that made you laugh:I don't get "Hitchhiker's Guide." I am, however, enough of a snob to list Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia" as one of my favorite funny books. And I do like Terry Pratchett.

5. One book that made you cry: The first and only book that has made me cry was Frances Hodgson Burnett's "A Little Princess". Mom was reading it to me at bedtime, and I have distinct memories of burying my face in the pillow to hide the fact that I was crying.

6. One book that you wish had been written: An Illustrated Introduction to Medieval Studies, with Color Charts and Extended Glossary Patrick, your "OK, I Admit That Algebraic Geometry Is A Hoax, by Robin Hartshorne." made me laugh.

7. One book that you wish had never been written: I have bad memories of wasting time reading The Chocolate War in Seventh Grade. I'm still bitter about it.*

8. One book you're currently reading: John Davies' A History of Wales. Along with Alice Hogg's God's Secret Agents and Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman's Good Omens

9. One book you've been meaning to read:I should really finish both The Brothers K and Great Expectations. Mom would probably like it if I gave in and read Middlemarch. And while I love Austen, I've never read Emma.

* I could get really triumphalist and disavow anything by Luther, but he's just too friggin** interesting.
** Yesterday, in class, Kat said "Mae hi'n friggin oer"-- "It's friggin cold". Esaiah was very confused and spent a great deal of time trying to find "friggin" in the dictionary.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Notes and Thoughts

Well, I didn't end up spending the night at the Eisteddfod, which was just fine with me. I had my night of camping amidst drunken revelry at Sesiwn Fawr, and I was glad to get a good night of sleep last night in my bed. I did buy myself a "Trafferth Mewn Tafarn" shirt, which I wore today. For those who don't know, "Trafferth Mewn Tafarn" is a Medieval Welsh poem by Dafydd Ap Gwilym, and the title means "Trouble in a Tavern". As James (He of Many Names) said (in reference to his own TMT shirt), "It's both an amazing poem, and true."

Things I did at the Eisteddfod:
Looked at Books
Sat through a competition for Baritones 25-and-older
Was bamboozled into enduring half an hour of the Patagonian-Cymru Society Meeting
Drank tea in the Learner's tent
Talked to the radicals in the CYD tent (and was given a free CD of contemporary Welsh language music)
Was wined-and-dined by the Cymru a'r Byd (Wales in the World) organization
Got wet (it rained)
Bought my amazing chrys-t, photo to be found on Facebook.

Nearing the end of the course, I have only a few regrets. I wish I'd gotten out of Lampeter more on weekends. I wish I'd written more in my journal. I wish I'd been better about listening to the CDs. I wish I'd been better about talking to people in the town in Welsh.

Oh well. Two weeks to go--I can still improve. And tomorrow I'm going to Aberystwyth with the Patagonain women. I LOVE THEM. I know where I'm going the next time I take a big trip.

All that said, I feel pretty good about my Welsh. I've been having real conversations: about cooking, about books, about family history, about history, about politics. I mean, the grammar and vocabulary aren't great, and I do salt my conversation with Spanish or English, depending, but I still feel pretty darn good. There are some things I'm still uncertain on, but I think that if I spend a good few hours practicing, I'll start getting them down.

Things that are hard to talk about in Welsh, but which I attempted anyway while walking around with Esaiah this evening:
1) The plot of The Wizard of Oz.
2) The story of escaping slaves using the constellations to navigate their way north.
3) The Northern Hemisphere tradition of making a wish when seeing a falling star.
4) The Anti-Catholic aspect of US history.

We did, of course, (because it's Esaiah) talk about family history. I told him my middle name (Phillips--very Welsh), and he called me a Cymraes, his highest compliment.

Also found at the Eisteddfod, interesting primarily because it documents part of my own family history: The National Library of Wales' Wales-Ohio Project

From the "you know you're in Lampeter when" department: Kat overheard two guys talking about her at the pub last night. "She has really small hands," one said. "She'd be great for lambing."

There's a running joke among the bechgyn Aber about translating movies into Welsh. Most common example: "Luke, dw i dy dad di" "Naaaa!" My own contribution came today, after a conversation about how hard it is to learn vocabulary. From The Matrix: "Dw i'n gwybod ju-jitsu."

We Americans just can't believe how early the British students specialize in a field (or "course"). That said, reliable sources (that is, James) relate that Adam (Warrior of Devon) chose his course by dart-board.

I don't have any good stories about (spritely) Phil (Son of Prophecy), but I wanted to mention that just so that I could call him (spritely) Phil (Son of Prophecy).

It is now far past my bedtime, and I absolutely must sleep tonight. Miss you all, as you know.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

There's Another One!

Today, while searching the internet for the meaning of "Wlpan" (answer at Wikipedia here, I encountered another Welsh-learning blogger, currently in the Wlpan course in Aberystwyth. Blog to be found here.

We're going to the Eisteddfod tomorrow, and I'm staying over for the night with Jo and Erin. Should be fun. I must confess that I'm looking forward to all the stuff that's going to be for sale... I desperately want a "Trafferth Mewn Tafarn" t-shirt like that of He of Many Names, but I don't think I could pull it off.

More Fun with Consonant Mutations

Those of you who spend more time than not in the linguistics department of the University of Chicago may be aware of the concept of consonant mutations in Welsh. Basically (for those of you who are not Steph), some consonants (T,C,P,B,G,D,Ll,M,Rh) mutate to other consonants at the most inconvenient times, in order to mark a) negative and interrogative verbs (Ces i swper. -> Gest ti swper? -> Ches i ddim swper.) b) possession (Father: Tad. My father: Fy nghad i. Your father: Dy dad di. Her father: Ei dad hi.) c) and gender, as well as whenever linguistic laziness calls for it, such as after vowels (Ces i dost y frecwast.) This is all part of the Welsh remnants of Indo-European*.

This week's tutor has been drilling us on the gender of nouns. Mutations are very important in gender, as feminine nouns mutate after "the", as do adjectives modifying feminine nouns mutate. Basic example:
Dog = ci (m). The big dog = Y ci mawr.
Cat = cath (f). The big cat = Y gath fawr.

Today, however, was a day of fun with exceptions. Por ejemplo:
The small garden. Yr ardd fach (gardd loses a 'g'.) BUT:
Y gem fawr, The big game, because words that come from other languages don't tend to mutate. Just to make it all the more confusing, most nouns that come from English are feminine.

The not-mutating rule holds true for the adjective braf as well, because it comes from the French. Thus the possiblity for the following:
y cwrw braf, the fine beer (cwrw being masculine, and Cwrw Braf being the name of a local bitter), BUT
y gem braf, the fine game (game being feminine).

Furthermore, "lleuad" (moon) doesn't mutate, just because it's ornery that way. Therefore, y laeth wen (the white milk), but y lleuad wen, the white moon.**

And just when you thought you were confused enough, bara (bread) is masculine, but torth (loaf) is feminine.*** And de when you mean "south" is masculine, but de when you mean "right" is feminine.

In less frustrating areas of my life, we played football/soccer last night. The McGill classicist came along and managed to introduce himself to (the ubercool) Gareth as "Hi, I'm Andrew...I'm socially awkward." Boys are so adorable when they aren't being stupid.

And I'm going over to the Patagonians' for dinner, because they've figured out that I would probably kill for Silvia's empanadas.

*This wasn't so much a footnote as a linguistic in-joke on Indo-European. Erin draws a star in the air when she talks about it.
** "white" is one of the many adjecives that has masculine and feminine forms (gwyn/gwen). As is, for those reading this blog, "fourth".
***Many methods have been created by my friends in the program in order to keep track of genders. The Aber boys (Warrior of Devon, He of many Names, and The Son of Prophecy (Hope of the People)) posit that anything bad is feminine. Example: problem (problem), llywodraeth (government), etc. Pattern is broken by the feminine tafarn (pub). Erin, for her part, claims that when she was studying Italian, she was firmly convinced that anything phallic was masculine. "Think about it," she says. "car, masculine. Garage, feminine. There has to be a reason."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Saturday Night Conversations over Cwrw Braf

"So what's your take on history?"
"Well, my BA Thesis is..."
"No, what's your view?"
"I think that we define ourselves through stories, and history's just another story we're telling."
", what's your story?"
"That's a good question."

Isn't that what I'm trying to figure out? Mordu said, "you just need someone to light a fire under you, you silly, wonderful, lazy, intelligent girl".

That's what I'm looking for.

ADDENDUM: Yesterday's extracurricular activity was Dafydd trying to teach us Americans how to play cricket. Adam, Phil (Son of Prophecy), and Esaiah also showed up. A & P are, of course, excellent.

James/Seamus/Iago (He of Many Names) was unable to attend, but has informed Erin that she is no longer allowed to call (small, athletic) Phil (Son of Prophecy) "spritely". It makes him giggle.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My next online writing project is going to be a blog with Larry.

Nawr, rhaid a mi fynd i chwarae pel-droed dros Tem y Byd.

In other problems, I've had our Alma Mater stuck in my head all day. This may or may not be an improvement on the Rugby song "Sosban Fach", which was in there yesterday.