Friday, June 3, 2011

Catching up

A number of things have kept me away from the computer this week, but the biggest one is that my 3-year-old HP laptop abruptly died. It had been giving me signs of discontent for some time - in recent months I hadn't been able to use the webcam, Wi-Fi, or anything requiring sound. But we persevered, HP and I. Until the morning that it simply wouldn't start.

I was persuaded to switch this week to a Mac. Why do I feel like I'm too old to be undergoing such a conversion? ...nevertheless, so far I am charmed by my little MacBook Pro, which came into my household just this morning. Apple sure does care about aesthetics. Every detail of the packaging and purchase-experience has been well-thought out. And you know, getting this machine up and running was almost comically easy. I am usually prepared to spend days trying to configure a new computer. But guess what? Here I am, blogging, instead. Yay Steve Jobs.

I have thoroughly enjoyed Pittsburgh over the last ten days or so. What an amazing city this is! I love so many things about it. It's so walkable, bike-able, and green. The bridges and rivers are beautiful. I don't normally pay much attention to architecture, but it's fascinating here - I love street scenes like this one, with a jumble of new and old buildings. ...I like the neighborhoods, the people, and the businesses I've come across here.

We spent a good amount of time this past week looking at animals, at the Pittsburgh Zoo and the National Aviary. I have to voice one complaint - the Pittsburgh Zoo seems to be completely inaccessible to pedestrians. Our trek with 4 adults and 9 children on a school field trip can only be described as arduous. How can a park, ostensibly about nature, contrive surroundings with no nearby bus routes or even sidewalks?

It's hard not to forgive them, though, when you get a close look at animals like these.

The Aviary was surprisingly great, too. (I think that should be Pittsburgh's tourism tagline. "Pittsburgh. Surprisingly great!") My mother, Isa, and I did this one, and were able to observe the most colorful tropical birds we'd ever seen. And Isa, of course, loved the penguins.

One last place I have to mention is the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. Here's something I'd never seen before - a giant, beautiful, ornate cathedral that is not a church - it never was a church - it is a university building, a place to revere education. Besides this grandiose main space, there are "Nationality Rooms" all around the perimeter - rooms that were sponsored by different cultural groups in Pittsburgh, classrooms designed in the style of a historical period in their country. To take a self-guided tour, we were handed a cassette recorder and a key. We unlocked each room, played the tape recorder, and locked the door again on our way out. Totally marvelous.

In the middle of all of this exploring, I spent a full weekend doing an intensive course in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. This pursuit is partly for fun, but I've always really loved teaching English, and it's a great chance for me to take it a little more seriously. Many of the ideas we explored are going to come in handy immediately, with my Adult English classes and Kids English classes at the Cirque tent.

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