Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Leaves

The fall season in Utah is a beautiful time of year when the leaves change from green to an intense pallet of reds, yellows, and oranges. It is also a great time to run or hike in the mountains, and on one recent trail run with my wife, I took this picture looking down into the valley where we live.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Learning is like a Garden!

So, how is planting a garden like learning a language? Read on!

Over the years, our family has had mixed success in growing a garden, but for the most part (and as a general rule), plants flourish when you take care of them. However, from time to time, we end up with seeds that start growing on their own, originating from many possible sources: old plants from the previous year, bird droppings, the wind . . . who knows. These unplanned plants, often called "volunteers" in the garden community, are generally unwanted, and I usually just yank them out of the ground.

This year, one such plant sprouted in my onion patch, and I was very tempted to pull it out along with a bunch of other weeds. However, I hesitated, thinking of giving the plant a chance to grow. On more days than one, I stared at the plant, wondering where its sprawling leaves and vines would take it. "What could come from such plant," I grumbled, thinking that the area of the garden could be used much better for other purposes. Please understand that I didn't want to waste my time and water on some no good plant just taking up space.

As the summer passed, the unknown plant kept growing and growing, expanding itself into the onions, on to the lawn, and up a trellis supporting other vegetables. I also spotted a strange melon-like fruit growing on the ground. It didn't quite look like a cantaloupe or honeydew melon, but it seemed to be of that family. Then, it suddenly ripened. We hauled the melon into the kitchen, cut it open, and saw a seemingly bland-looking fruit. Not quite the rich-looking orange of sweet cantaloupe, but when we bit into it, we were amazed out how an ordinary, unwanted plant could turn into scrumptious  treat.

Later on in the season, two more huge fruits ripened on the vine as seen in the picture, weight about 12 pounds (5.5 kilos) each. So the next time you think something isn't worth the effort . . . that something is simply worthless . . . give it a little time, patience, and care, and you might be surprised what it turns into at the end of the harvest.

If you are a student, give your learning some time. Experiment with different learning techniques. You never know when your language skills will take off.

If you are a teacher, never give up on your students. Yes, they might seem unmotivated now, but with the right care, they might just discover your interest in them and turn out just like my melon did.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Wisdom and Knowledge: Understanding the Difference

iOn one occasion on the first day of class, some of my recent arrivals (students) wondered why they needed to go through the cultural orientation we require of all new students. In one particular case, a 18-year-old student proclaimed that he already knew a lot about "American" culture, and thus, thought it was a waste of time.

I think told him the following saying: "True wisdom is knowing that you know nothing." At first, this didn't make sense to him and the other students, and then I went on to explain that the more I had traveled over years (from Saudi Arabia, to South America, to Asia), the more I realized how little I knew. When I was 21, I thought I had the world in the palm of my hand, but 25+ years later, I realize how naive or culturally illiterate I really was.

The more I learn, the more I realize that true wisdom starts from recognizing that there is so much to learn beyond our current awareness, and though observation, patience, and some humility, we can really become teachable.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Great Lakes of Utah Relay 2011

A couple of weeks ago, our family participated in a great 49.3 mile relay near Salt Lake City. Although some of us were running in such an event for the first time, it gave us an opportunity to test our mental and physical abilities, but equally important, an opportunity to do something together as a family. Here is a video of our run. You can also read my report at