misadventures in translation

On my first quiz in translation class a few weeks ago I had to stifle my laughter in the middle of the quiz because of the ridiculous Spanish “words” I was inventing to translate the phrase “four-wheel antilock minivan brakes.”

Today, I didn’t laugh during the quiz but did turn it in with the general sense of unease that comes when you’re nearly certain you royally butchered a key word in the text but you don’t yet know which or how badly.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my version of the short article from today’s quiz, back-translated to English from my painful rendering in Spanish. I chuckled all through lunch.

Please imagine this scene as vividly as possible:

In the results that make obvious that appetite is often a case of “the mental over the material,” a new study says that the memory of a big recent meal can fill you up. But the memory of a stingy portion of food – even an incorrect memory – can make you hungrier and cause you to eat more the next time, said the researchers.

The study published Wednesday in the journal Public Library of Science One, used a naive trick to manipulate the memory of the subject’s lunch: at the bottom of a ferret filled with cream of tomato soup, they installed a hidden pumpa* that they could use to secretly refill or take out its contents while the subjects ate it.

The researchers wondered if the subjects who were tricked by the said manipulation would then remember the sight of the big 500-mg portion of soup they ate or if they would in some manner remember the smaller 300-mg portion they ate. And they wondered if the appetite of the subjects as the hour of dinner arrived would be lead by the lunch they ate or the more satisfying food they thought they ate.

When asked how hungry the subjects were as the hour to eat dinner arrived, the memories of the food the subjects saw – not the the food they ate – had the most influence. Even when their ferrets of soup were being slowly emptied, the subjects who sat in front of a big ferret of soup were less hungry. And they who were presented with a small ferret of soup said they were more hungry – even if the researchers in back of the stage refilled their ferrets.

*I made up a word for pump. It does not exist in Spanish.

Now, the original article:

In a finding that makes clear that appetite is often a case of mind over matter, new research finds that the memory of a hearty recent meal can fill you up. But the memory of a stingy serving of victuals — even an inaccurate memory — can make you hungrier, and prompt heavier eating at the next meal, researchers found.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Public Library of Science One, used an ingenious trick to manipulate research subjects’ memories of a lunchtime meal they had: At the bottom of a soup bowl filled with cream of tomato soup, they installed a hidden pump, which could be used to surreptitiously refill the  bowl while the subject ate or draw down its contents.

The researchers wondered whether subjects tricked by such a manipulation would later remember the sight of the hefty 500-mg serving of soup they were asked to eat, or whether they would somehow register the punier 300-mg serving they actually ate. And they wondered whether, as dinnertime approached, the subjects’ appetite would be driven by the actual lunch they had eaten or the more satisfying meal they thought they ate.

When asked how hungry they were as dinnertime approached, subjects’ memories of the meal they saw — not the one they ate — seemed to be most influential. Even when their soup bowls were steadily drained, those who were seated in front of a large bowl of soup were less hungry. And those who were presented with a small bowl of soup pronounced themselves more hungry — even if researchers behind the scenes were steadily refilling their bowls.

How I came up with the word turón for bowl, I’ll never be sure. I was aware I didn’t consciously know the word, so when turón popped into my mind, I just went for it. My only guess is that it reminds me of the word tureen in English, which is indeed a bowl. And the word turrón (two Rs make all the difference) is a food and also a word I’ve been seeing a lot recently, since it’s a nut-filled Christmas nougat that appeared in grocery stores last week. I guess I combined the two in my subconscious to come up with the unfortunate turón, which literally means polecat – a ferret. It even has the same accent pattern as the actual word for bowl: tazón. Tazón tazón tazón. Heaven help.


2015 plans, in brief

"Come further up, come further in!" - The Last BattleThere has been a freedom in letting my blog lie dormant. It happened not unconsciously, as I was perfectly aware of the general guilt of unfinished blog posts weighing on the back of my brain, but I’m glad I let go. I stopped posting here, stopped travel journaling, and even eschewed my other, small-scale writing and picture outlet, Instagram. And in May, June, and July of last summer, I enjoyed Freiburg. I spent countless hours swimming in the lake an playing frisbee in the park with my friends. I made a solo, 10-day circuit of Berlin, Prague, Budapest, and Vienna. I baked dozens of as many varieties of cookies as I could think of. Living life rather than documenting it while being abroad was a refreshingly novel experience for me, and I have no regrets. I would apologize to my extended family and friends, who were certainly less clued-in about my whereabouts and actives because of my sudden indifference to my blog, but I think I won’t. I can show you pictures and tell you stories the next time I see you, if you would like. I’ll always be around to see you at some point or another. As for my other random readers, the obvious remains perennially true: I’m no famous blogger; I’m just a fickle college student, who is (apparently) apt to set down even her beloved blogging hobby at a moment’s notice when she realizes that she’s missing out on interesting conversation, good food, and wonderful people. What did you expect?

My months in Freiburg danced by like so many happy butterflies. The same thing happened to 72 hours at home in Texas, three and a half days in Tennessee for the end of 20th year of Cousins’ Camp, and a week in Wilmington after eight long months away. The fall semester of my junior year was a blur of the most fascinating linguistics and language classes I ever could have dreamed up, and the spring has thus far been less interesting but more relational. If I find the perfect schoolwork-socialization balance before I graduate, it’ll be a miracle.

School will be over for me on May 1st, and I’ll leave the marvelous brick sidewalks, wide-branching oaks, and brilliant professors of Chapel Hill for the last time as an undergraduate. On May 17th I’ll depart for Germany again, and this time I will spend the summer as an intern in the communications department of an American chemicals company near Frankfurt. In September I’ll pack up my suitcase again and head over to Bilbao, Spain, where I will finish my final semester of college as a student at the Universidad de Deusto. And then, God willing, I will be finished with my undergraduate degree. There are a lot of variables, but that’s the plan.

Afterwards? Who knows. Christmas in the US, that’s for sure. And beyond that, I’m scheming up a year of teaching English somewhere else in the world, hopefully. Maybe graduate school after that? We shall see. I’m not too worried, but let me tell you: I’m excited.

I’m unsure if I will blog while I’m in Germany and Spain. I want to remember to live life – to participate and not just observe. Beyond travel, recipes and other food-focused posts don’t fit so well into the cheap and single living lifestyle. Blogging takes hours, and I may not make the time. But perhaps I will. Or maybe it’ll just be a few hastily-captioned pictures here and there. No promises. I am slightly more likely to post on Instagram, however. (Grandparents and other great-relatives: that’s a version of social media in which you share photos and captions.) You can find me here:

Until the next time!

that freshman feeling

People kept staring at my massive, black umbrella as I walked from the tram stop to the central plaza of the university in the grey drizzle. Maybe they were awed by its span. Maybe they wished both the tops of their backpacks and the tops of their heads were dry like mine. It’s a struggle to maintain both when you have a diminutive umbrella. But all my belongings were free of moisture.

However, the downside to a venti, triple-shot, extra-special, super-sized, double-the-fun umbrella is that it holds extra water when folded up. Mine drip, drip, dripped a trail of darkened rain on four floors’ worth of average stairs, across a wide breezeway, and around and around a deep-summer-strawberry-red circular staircase to the fifth floor. The two other people there in the tower-like corridor slouched against the radiator by the window. I wandered to the end of the short hall and peeked around the corner, hoping to appear nonchalantly curious rather than lost or clueless. Then I joined them and swiped at the screen of my phone, feigning a deep interest in its display.

Between serious-looking phone-staring sessions, I alternated my furtive, upward glances between door 3501 and the spiral staircase and my watch. The time displayed on my phone didn’t register in my mind. Three minutes til class time, and still none of the three professors, who had raised my hopes with their footfalls on the staircase, had entered the appointed room. One minute more and I would have to try the door myself; I would be forced to contend with its lack of a rotating door handle; I would be required to figure out what the light switch-like button to its left meant. I would surely be foiled in my attempts to enter – as I had been with previous German doors of that nature – and would turn back to hunch over my phone in embarrassment. But, wait. Hallelujah! A fourth person emerged from the stairs! She headed straight for the terrifying door, buzzed the doorbell with all the confidence of a German accustomed to dealing with a wide variety of confusingly closed entryways, and slipped into the room – a library? – when the lock clicked open to admit her.

I quickly followed her example, and inside the – sure enough – library, we exchanged whispered inquiries:

‘You looking for Byzantine–‘

‘Yeah, Byzantine Archeology. Is there a classroom in here?’

‘Not a clue.’

Our mutual confusion was reassuring, and we padded down the faded industrial carpet side by side. An older man appeared from an office beyond the end of the bookshelves, a half-dozen yards in front of us. He cheerily beckoned us to the end of the little departmental library with the glad tidings, ‘The classroom is down here.’ Success!

My fellow loiterers from out in the hall were just seconds behind us. And soon I found myself seated in a cushy chair, surrounded by nine classmates, listening with bated breath to the professor explain Introduction to Byzantine (Art History) Archeology, waiting for the axe of daunting assignments to fall, and wishing I knew the definition of every other word he uttered. I’ve never felt so much like a freshman in my life.

the coming adventure: Germany

German scenery from Europe 2012 trip


Me. Claire. And no one else. There’s not a single other UNC student going to the same university in Germany. No, I don’t mind that. In fact, I prefer it. That way there’s no expectation that I’ll be friends with other UNC in Germany. I’d much rather make friends on my own than have them forced upon me. Speaking of friends, one of my goals while I’m there is to avoid making any friends that speak English as their first language or as a nearly-perfect second language. Obviously, I have no intention of being unfriendly to English speakers, and I’m quite dubious that my resolution will hold. But nevertheless, I’m going to try to befriend people with whom I can only speak Spanish or German. Yeah, there’s no way it’s going to work.


An exchange program! Theoretically, I am being swapped with a German student. My tuition pays for them to take classes at UNC system school, and their tuition pays for me to take classes in Germany. (That makes it a very uneven trade, since university is practically free in Germany. Oh well.) I will live in the dorms and take classes just like any German university student. And, yup, all my classes will be taught entirely in German.


From early March through July. One semester. The academic calendar in Germany is different than ours. The winter semester begins in October and goes through February, to my understanding, while the summer semester starts in April and goes through July. So why am I going in March? Well, all March long there’s an intensive language course for international students coming to the university. We study German at least four hours a day in order to – hopefully – bring our fluency up to the level necessary to survive classes in German. In April the regular German university students return and real classes begin.


Freiburg, Germany, specifically Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. It’s nearly as south and west as you can possibly go in Germany, right near the boarders with France and Switzerland. From my limited research, the weather appears to be reasonably mild and the scenery verdant and woodsy. More importantly, the university offers classes in all of my areas of study: Linguistics, Spanish, and German.


That is the question, isn’t it?

Well, I suppose the main reason is that German is my minor, though why that is, I do not really know. I’d wanted to start taking another language at some point in college, but I never intended to start so soon. However, I’m glad I did. At the only half-serious suggestion of my friend, I joined her in German 101, after swapping it for a freshman seminar that I disliked during the first week of freshman year. Of course, I enjoyed it, so I just kept taking classes, and at some point I realized that I had no intention of stopping, so I just declared German as my minor. I’m completely convinced that it’s possible to minor in a subject – especially a language – and graduate without any sort of really useful knowledge about said subject. Therefore, I suppose this exchange program is, to me, a chance to legitimize my German minor – to prove to myself and future employers that I actually have a functional knowledge of German, not just one learned for an hour a day, three days a week in an American classroom.

Besides that, I like Germany. At least, I think I do, based on the grand total of 2.5 days I spent there during our Europe 2012 trip. In fact, I think that’s the real and original reason that I began taking German in the first place. Those few hurried days in Germany in 2012 were quite frustrating: I didn’t understand the language. It’d been ages since I’d traveled somewhere where people spoke a language other than Spanish or English. Not understanding a solitary word of what I heard or read felt like a novelty all over again and frustrated me to no end. But at the same time, I really loved the part of Germany I saw. The Bavarian countryside was lush and rolling. Munich was clean, orderly, and bustling. Good bread and cheese could be found everywhere, as is true throughout much of Europe, I understand. It was all lovely. I determined that I wanted to return to live in Germany someday. Lo and behold, that’s what I’m going to do. But first I took some German. A whole three semesters of it, which brought me up through 4th semester German (that discrepancy is another story).

In addition to my desires to live in Germany, study German, and legitimize my minor, I’m looking forward to (hopefully) taking linguistics and Spanish classes, too. I suspect it will be fascinating to experience linguistics and Spanish classes being taught in German, especially from a pedagogical perspective.


Through a state-to-state student exchange between the university system of the state of North Carolina and the German state of Baden-Württemburg. Other than that, by plane, with my entire life stuffed into a suitcase in tow.


So that’s the story, people. Questions?



bits of 2013 and 2014

New year, new hair.

New year, new hair.

So 2013 has drawn to a close. Here’s some things I didn’t blog about sufficiently during our most recent journey around the sun, more or less in chronological order:

  • We found out we were moving to Houston in March.
  • In the spring I became a Linguistics and Hispanic Linguistics double major with a minor in German.
  • But we staying in Wilmington until August.
  • My younger brother graduated from high school.
  • Two of our cousins came and stayed with us for a beach-filled week in the summer.
  • Aforementioned brother left on his gap year and missed the entire moving process.
  • We moved to Houston, Texas.
  • My youngest brother started attending private school rather than being homeschooled.
  • Dad traveled the world to meet his new team.
  • I finished my second and third semesters at UNC.
  • We decided that I will stay at UNC instead of transferring to a Texas school.
  • My great-aunt and uncle let me cook in their kitchen once a week all semester long.
  • I waded through the process of  applying to be an exchange student in Germany.
  • My exchange program in Germany changed from Tübingen to Freiburg, at the very last minute.
  • I joined my church in Chapel Hill.
  • I bid goodbye to my teenage years and began to feel really old.
  • I started going to a small group at church.
  • I became an assistant coach at CrossFit UNC-CH.
  • I stayed on as the secretary/co-president of Mezcla, UNC’s Spanish-English student magazine.
  • After an entire weekend of training in Charlotte, I became a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.
  • I survived the fall semester, which wasn’t half as stressful as I expected it to be.
  • The best friend and I road tripped the 20 hours to Texas in under two days.

And those are just the highlights. It was a marvelous year. What I’m looking forward to in 2014:

  • Being home in Texas for two months.
  • Cooking, and hopefully blogging.
  • Finally finishing the books I started last summer.
  • Being an exchange student at the Universität Freiburg in Germany, from March til July.
  • Drowning in German.
  • Returning to NC.
  • Starting junior year (whaaat?) at UNC in the fall.

gratitude lately [Job 2:10]

The week before last was a long week here at school. My friends and I agree that we’re just ready for school to be over. And it isn’t even close to fall break yet.

It’s not that I had a lot of tests that week. Or that I had an unusual amount of homework. Or that the weather was dreary. None of those things happened. The week just dragged by in a mundane succession of slowly ticking minute hands on classroom clocks and shuffling crowds between classes.

So, inspired by Today’s Letters – a collection of letters and other wonderful things, written by an ever up-beat and thankful couple  – I’m making a list of what I’ve been grateful for recently.


 Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

– Job 2:10 (NIV)

No indeed. Bring on the dense readings, mindless busywork, and 5-hour blocks of back-to-back classes. Because with them comes many good things.

Lately, I’ve been grateful for:

Almond butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. And dining halls that are usually stocked with bananas.

A bike to get me places fast and a lock that keeps my wheels from being stolen.

Exercise. And soreness, which is the reminder of hard work done well.

An aunt and uncle who live close by, who let me use their kitchen to cook off steam and their driveway to store my ride home.

My little iPod and listening to NPR as I walk to class.

Sticky-tack and how it solves all sorts of quandaries.

Re-discovered hair barrettes and how they keep my fluffy hair from taking over the world.

Study rooms and praying mantises that join me to watch the sunset.

And fall break, which is now one week closer than it was when that slow week finally ended in a glorious, sunny Friday.

hello [from] Houston!

clouds and sunshine in TX

I write from Houston, Texas. Why? We’re moving here. Yup. After spending all but two years of my life living in southeastern North Carolina, I’m being transplanted to Texas.IMG_5901

We found out in March. I haven’t mentioned it on here until now because, well, there wasn’t much to be said. The announcement would’ve been relegated to a one-liner addendum at the end of some food-focused post. This way the news has a post all to itself. white fences in Texas

Moving to Houston has been both sudden and expected, improbable and inevitable. For several years Dad had been attempting to transfer jobs within his company. On separate occasions it was possible that we would move to Italy, Japan, or even the Middle East. But nothing panned out. Then, just before spring break in March, there was an interview – for a job in Houston, of all places. It had been hovering in the background for a few months, and I had gotten suspicious when Mom didn’t plant a garden in February. Sure enough, just a day or two into our vacation, Dad hung up the phone after talking with the people down here in Houston and announced the news: we’re moving to Houston. We were a bit blindsided and bewildered, I think – or at least I was. Mom and I spent our off-day from skiing online sifting through realestate. It was surreal. driving to househunt in Texas

So now we are in Texas. Today is the the penultimate day of our house hunting and school visiting trip. Ah yes, school. Because of North Carolina’s impermeable laws regarding domicile and in-state tuition, when my parents move to Texas, I essentially lose my residency. Therefore, I will be transferring to a Texan university. Providentially,  UT Austin has the best linguistics program in the country. And I’m a linguistics and Spanish linguistics double major (with a minor in German). So, it’s perfect! I’m visiting the school for the first time tomorrow and will hopefully transfer there the fall of junior year in 2014. the yellow house

Overall, I like Houston. Before googling it and before Mom and Dad came for a preliminary visit in April, I was concerned that it would be a dry, dusty desert land. Nope. It looks and feels like home in southeast NC, minus the beach. The landscape is marked by towering pine trees that overwhelm the scrubby underbrush tied together by roaming vines, all bursting with deep verdure and pulsating with life in the heavily humid air. The flat land reminds me of home and so do the people. The Texans at the H-E-B grocery store request your return with the same friendly Southern charm as at home. Yup, I can live here. Now if only Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods would build stores in our sector of the city… Anyone know of some local odd ingredient-carrying, health food-peddling, local grocery stores in the Jersey City area where I can find unusual grains and super health-nut-y ingredients?