Good Meals I've Had Lately

Think Out Loud

I spent the first three months of 2018 as a production assistant intern for "Think Out Loud," OPB Radio's daily news talk show. (LIVE on the radio noon-1pm with Dave Miller!) 

I learned a couple things. For example, "talkshow" is actually two words. Also, Public Radio Emails from listeners are the best kind of emails. So kind yet intellectually condescending at the same time. 

If you want to know a secret about OPB, here are two:
1. The time zone clocks on the newsroom wall are out of order. (New York is to the left of Portland, etc...)
2. Think Out Loud is run by one of the most badass quintets of female journalists out there.

Here are some of my favorite segments I produced for them:

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This website has grown on me over the years.
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Do you fly on a plane here every day from America?*

*A very serious question from my concerned Spanish 3rd grader who is just about to find out how big and expensive the world really is. 

 

My first day of school was muggy and confusing. As I stood in front of a class of expectant 10-year-olds, I could feel two or three weighty beads of sweat slide slowly down my torso.

The teacher I was working with began the class with a question: "And what is the weather like today?"
I soon learned he started every class this way, so that his students could practice weather vocab in English.

I never understood this, because the answer on the southern coast of Spain is always the same: "It is warm and sunny today..." the class would drawl.

They were never going to learn anything new this way.

I wiped away the perspiration escaping down my stomach with the edge of my t-shirt. I didn't want my students to notice.
Am I red in the face? Can elementary schoolers smell I-have-no-fecking-idea-what-I'm-doing?

No. They can't. But what they can smell are the 3 bags of melting Reeses' Peanut Butter Cups I had smuggled across the Atlantic for them. Peanut butter is not a thing in Spain. They will never stop asking if you have any more Reeses'--and the most enterprising of your 5th graders will shout out of turn: "Can we buy these on the internet?!"

My official job description besides being a human jungle gym for clingy 6-year-olds was to teach social and natural science to 1st-5th graders in my bilingual primary school in Motril, Spain. What I ended up doing was spend my days trying to explain the unexplainable: grammar rules, American culture, and how it's possible to not have a preference between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona soccer teams.

Prior to the decision to spend my first months post-grad on the Iberian Peninsula, I had always thought my last day of elementary school would forever be in 2006. But it's actually today.

Round two of this experience included many lessons left out of my American classrooms in the early ’00s: climate change, dictators, Native American genocide, the ethics of teaching English abroad, and the medicinal merits of jamón and siestas.

Also, this time, I wasn't the one being adorable.
The precious niños at C.E.I.P Antonio Garvayo Dinelli always insisted that pizza is the best Spanish food and that the room you cook it in is called the "chicken!" I will never forget the girls from Maestra Ana's class who, for an activity about Thanksgiving, wrote they were thankful for me. Same goes for the 1st-grader who "dabbed" every time he got a question right, or his classmate who always made the sign of the cross when he walked into the room. My 2nd-graders from Señor Gaspar's class taught me that a mob of hugs from 8-year-olds is the best way to start a Monday, and that to be a good citizen you must always pick up the dog shit on the streets–a widespread problem in Spain we once spent the entirety of a very enlightening civics class discussing.

To all my immigrant, refugee, and first-generation Spanish students who juggled up to four languages seamlessly–you are the future.

To my students who would answer "How are you?" with "Yes," and a big smile–keep going. 
I hope one day you will discover, like I did, that languages are doors.

Open them, and you too may find yourself in a foreign country,
standing in front of expectant children,
sweating profusely.

Recent Nutrition

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ant:      will i ever do it
track:   what
ant:      make it all the way around
track:   yes
ant:      it could take forever
track:   cant worry about that

by Alexi Pappas

Spring Breaks in a Convent

 The Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate convent in San Antonio, Texas.

The Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate convent in San Antonio, Texas.

In 8 weeks I will graduate from college.
That gives me 7 weeks to finish my senior thesis.
Which I have spent the past 2.5 years (130 weeks) working on.
That project has included 2 weeks in a Texas convent.
With about 40 elderly Irish Catholic nuns.
More than 9 hours of recorded interviews.
Which will all hopefully culminate in 1 really great audio story.

Somehow, word got out to the university about what I've been doing. Here's their take: "Honors student brings the long story of a Texas convent to life."

Listen to a teaser of the piece here.

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It has been calculated that each copy of the Gutenburg Bible...required the skins of 300 sheep. 
--from an article on printing

 

I can see them squeezed into the holding pen
behind the stone building
where the printing press is housed.

all of them squirming around
to find a little room
and looking so much alike

it would be nearly impossible
to count them
and there is no telling

which one will carry the news
that the Lord is a shepherd,
one of the few things they already know.

"Flock" by Billy Collins
 

One Second Every Day

On January 1st, 2016, The New York Times featured a video on the front page of their website in which one of their journalists took a one-second video every day for a year. 'Cool,' I thought, 'I should do that for a month until I get tired of it and loose willpower and quit.'

2016 turned out different than I thought in many ways, one being that I actually remembered to record--in landscape mode, mind you--a snippet of my every single day. Did I sometimes forget to capture something I did? Yes, that's why there are so many sunset clips. Will this video be a scintillating 365 seconds for others? Maybe not. The thing about moments is that usually when the best ones happen, the last thing you're thinking about is pulling out a phone. So the following contains both the pinnacles of moments and the remnants of moments--the street signs, walls and sidewalks that were party to some of the best of my 2016. 

Enjoy.

"Spicy Food and Hard Living"

The week before myself and 14 other student journalists at the University of Oregon left for our two-week reporting trip to Sri Lanka, our professor received a one-line email from our main contact, Bandula, who lives in the capital city of Colombo. Bandula wanted to know--with warm regards--if our team was ready for "spicy food and hard living."

I might re-write that sentence to: "food that exits in all directions three hours after consumption and cold bucket-showers in dark Sri Lankan jungles."

I'd like to think we all took the food and living situations in stride...there were other, much more significant things Bandula forgot to mention that we definitely were not prepared for. Things like instant host-family love, village dance parties, spontaneous front porch interviews with rural Sri Lankan legends, getting close enough to hear an elephants breath, and the endless generosity, grace, and hospitality of the people we met and lived with. 

One of the reasons we chose to tell stories from Sri Lanka was because it's a nation in transition. For those unfamiliar with the South Asian island and its recent civil war, National Geographic did a great story a couple months back. My team's full Sri Lanka experience and the stories we told there will be published on a website we're creating in the coming months. Until then, here's some film I shot from the trip.

 A tea village near Nuwara Eliya, home to Tamils, a minority ethnic group in Sri Lanka.

A tea village near Nuwara Eliya, home to Tamils, a minority ethnic group in Sri Lanka.

 
 Photographer  Key Higdon  in action at the tea village.

Photographer Key Higdon in action at the tea village.

 
 The oldest woman in the village of Unaweruwa, 90 years old, flanked by my teammates Jake and Key. Yes, she looks terrified, but I promise this is just her go-to photo face. 

The oldest woman in the village of Unaweruwa, 90 years old, flanked by my teammates Jake and Key. Yes, she looks terrified, but I promise this is just her go-to photo face. 

 
  "Go away!" she chuckled in Sinhala, one of Sri Lanka's main languages, to some of the younger village boys who were following us to the interview. "I'm going with this nice boy to America."

"Go away!" she chuckled in Sinhala, one of Sri Lanka's main languages, to some of the younger village boys who were following us to the interview. "I'm going with this nice boy to America."

 A red tuktuk in its natural habitat.

A red tuktuk in its natural habitat.

 My host brother, Chamidu, 11 years old. 

My host brother, Chamidu, 11 years old. 

 On the way to see elephants.

On the way to see elephants.

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One of the best articles I read this past summer was about the fate of Michelangelo's David statue. But it was also about perfection, our pursuit of it, and the beauty of breaking. For the following quote to hit full resonance, I highly recommend reading the story.

 

"Finally, the compromised ankles reach their angle of maximum stress. They begin to slide along the old microfracture faults — an earthquake within the earthquake — and the David’s legs and ankles are crushed by the weight of the body above. He begins to truly fall.

The first thing to hit the floor is his bent left elbow, the arm that holds the heroic sling, and it bursts along the lines of its previous breaks, old scars left over from an incident in the 16th century involving an unruly mob and a bench. Then the rest of the marble will meet the floor, and the physics from there will be fast and simple: force, resistance, the brittleness of calcite crystals, the shearing of microscopic grains along the axes on which they align. Michelangelo’s David will explode."

Sam Anderson for The New York Times Magazine, "David’s Ankles: How Imperfections Could Bring Down the World’s Most Perfect Statue"

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"Standing under the airship, his bare feet in the grass, he was transfixed. It was, he would say, 'fearfully beautiful.' He could feel the rumble of the craft's engines tilling the air but couldn't make out the silver skin, the sweeping ribs, the finned tail. He could see only the blackness of the space it inhabited. It was not a great presence but a great absence, a geometric ocean of darkness that seemed to swallow heaven itself."

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

La Esquina

Bell lap.

My final room in Eugene and last year in college.
Lots of decisions to be made in this chair.

Vamos.

The Student in the Architecture Building

Last spring, my homework was to people-watch and write about it. This is who I saw:

It takes him 45 seconds to comb his hair in the morning, to achieve that perfect, windswept arch. Quick but calculated, a little bit of gel but not too much. To him, it's an art---just like the sculpture he is observing, just like the next building he is constructing in his head.

Art, like the carefully tailored seam on his jeans but not jeans---a little fancier, a little more 1950s convertible-driving young writer; to match his antique watch of course, probably a grandfathers.

He moves with the fluidity of a carefully trained internal metronome. Some today might call it swagger, to him, it's how a gentleman walks. He leans casually against a chalkboard in thought, percolating, his body built like one of those slim pilots from the tin-type war pictures, posing with their planes before takeoff.

The chalkboard thought has left him, he has a coffee meeting over blueprints to get to. He straightens and walks from the room, head tilted slightly to the side as if perpetually interested in the air in front of him.

11 Days as an Honorary Mississippian

 Sam Kendricks, pole vault, Ole Miss alum and Olympic qualifier.  Photo by Dillon Vibes.

Sam Kendricks, pole vault, Ole Miss alum and Olympic qualifier. Photo by Dillon Vibes.

My friends always roll their eyes at the stock of gratuitous track knowledge I carry around and occasionally spew, but it was put to good use (4 college credits, 12 bylines, unlimited media access) while I reported at the 2016 Olympic Trials at Hayward Field.

For a week and a half in July I was one of eight University of Oregon journalism students who represented the SOJC Track Bureau at the trials. We freelanced for publications across the US who were not able to send their own reporters to Eugene to cover athletes from their state. I wrote mostly for The Clarion-Ledger out of Jackson, MS, with some additional stories published in The Arizona Republic, DyeStat, the Hattiesburg-American, and on the SOJC Track Bureau's website.

 Brittney Reese, long jump, Ole Miss alum and Olympic qualifier.  Photo by Dillon Vibes.

Brittney Reese, long jump, Ole Miss alum and Olympic qualifier. Photo by Dillon Vibes.

 
 
 Tori Bowie, 100 and 200 meters, Mississippi State alum and Olympic qualifier.  Photo by Dillon Vibes.

Tori Bowie, 100 and 200 meters, Mississippi State alum and Olympic qualifier. Photo by Dillon Vibes.

 Erica Bougard, heptathlon, Mississippi State senior.  Photo by Dillon Vibes.

Erica Bougard, heptathlon, Mississippi State senior. Photo by Dillon Vibes.

 

I've been to track meets as an athlete, as a spectator and as a volunteer, but this was my first time working in the media tent. While sports reporting is not my preferred corner of the journalism world, being able to write, discuss, and observe track and field from a more critical perspective enhanced my concern and interest in important issues that aren't always apparent from the stadium. There's the touchy discussion about whether Nike keeps the sport afloat or smothers its growth and diversity through an exclusive, 23-year deal with USATF; campaigns against the International Olympic Committee's policies on an athlete's right to promote themselves during the Olympics; numerous disputes about logos; and of course doping.

But the most important takeaway: 10-hour days in the media tent require QUALITY snacks. If any apple-chip or fruit snack companies want to sponsor the SOJC Track Bureau during the next trials, let me know. Thankfully, Rule 40 doesn't apply to reporters, so we can give you shoutouts on social media.

Links to some of my stories below, plus my favorite intro I wrote from the week:

 

Hayward Field held its breath during each of her jumps. Mississippi's Brittney Reese stood at the top of the long jump runway, her mirrored glasses reflecting the sun back to the crowd. As her torso leaned back in preparation, she wiggled her fingers in an air guitar-like fashion—as if beckoning to the pit, willing some of what the athletes call that Hayward magic to rise to the surface of the sand.

She said she can feel it when there’s a big jump coming. Her blood gets running. She’s done it in practice. She wants to break the American and world records before she retires.

Before the third jump Saturday at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, a tribute to long jump record-holder Jackie Joyner-Kersee flashed up on the video board. And with Joyner-Kersee watching, Reese soared. The crowd rose with her hands.

It was the longest jump in the world this year. It meant a Hayward field record, a meet record and a place on the Olympic team.

Read the rest of the story here.

Other good ones:
Immigrants represent USA at trials
Former long jumper going to Rio in 100 and 200m
All photos taken by fellow UO student Dillon Vibes, more here. 

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"All the grays and yellows. The concrete cubes of Queens. The broken neon signs. The leaning water towers with their rotting wood. The spindlework of the elevated trains. It's a primitive city, aware of its shortcomings, its shirt stained, its teeth plaqued, its fly open."

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

Photo adapted from Vincent Desjardines, used with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.