Friday, April 12, 2013

April 12: Snow, Sleet, and VACATION!

Amazingly enough, it's sleeting and snowing hard on the Friday that kicks off April vacation! We may get up to 2" tonight, though it's due to change to rain by the time we leave tomorrow to head off for a nice five day college/family tour:
one night in Greenfield just to get us mostly to Saratoga Springs, where we'll have brunch with Lyle and his friend Josh and Josh's parents;
then one night in Troy, only 30 mins. from Skidmore, so Nate can visit Rensselaer (!!) Polytechnic Institute;
then two luxurious nights in Marblehead with Andy's wonderful aunt and uncle, so Nate can visit MIT and we can see Andy's brother and his wife;
then we'll head up to Lewiston, Maine, for a tour of Bates College (alma mater of both my parents and place where my dad was a professor for forty years) and lunch with my dad!
We are borrowing Mom's car (it's a 2010 Corolla automatic, which means N can get in some good driving practice for his test and it has an ipod jack, so our audiobook fixation is secure!), so we'll see her, too.

And we'll be home on Wednesday late afternoonish. Whew!

I don't have a huge list of gotta dos for this vacation: have to get the animals to the vet for various shots, and I want to get the end of the school year planned out and some big papers corrected, but mostly I can relax. I hope to finish one sock (Retro rib socks for Andy in green yarn he chose) and start another, but I also might plan to read some papers in the back seat. Hmmmmm. Such options!  Am bringing my work, my knitting, and my running stuff--we'll see what unfolds!

**Have just started listening to Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. His writing is amazing.

But I just finished listening to:

Baking Cakes in Kigali
This book, purchased through my Audible account, presented a little bit of a challenge as an audiobook, since I had no context: was it supposed to be serious? Humorous? Sociological? Was it written by a Rwandan? How long was it? 

Right off, I was struck by its "wanna be No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" flavor and its slightly awkward style, but before long I had gotten over those characteristics, and I began to enjoy the story and the interesting perspective that Parkin gave on life in Rwanda after the genocide in the 90's: this is not an "Africa in Peril" story, I am happy to say, but it gives the reader (listener) a sense of what it's like to live in a country that has undergone such a slaughter; where AIDS is rampant; where a cutting ceremony for a young girl might be a reality. While I do think there is a strong debt to Mma Ramotswe and Alexander McCall Smith here, this novel (and, possibly, series? Though this was published in 2010 and I haven't seen any others) digs more deeply into the social issues in Rwanda than Smith's books do while at the same time showing what daily, middle class life in Rwanda is like (though the Tungarazas, the main characters, are from Tanzania). 

The book is a pleasant and interesting read; while Parkin's writing can be a tad awkward in places, she's at her best when she tells less and shows more: for example, when she makes the off-handed comment that the name written on the christening cake for a baby girl is not, in fact, "Good Enough," as the parents originally wanted, but, instead, "Perfect." Go, Angel Tungaraza!

AND I had forgotten. . . . Beowulf, A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney; read by George Guidall

Beowulf by Unknown

Read this as an audiobook to "power read" it before teaching it to my sophomores. Audible. com version, read by George Guidall--not sure why Goodreads doesn't have that listed, as it is TERRIFIC! What a great way to review (or meet!) Beowulf! Heaney's translation is fantastic, and while I'd love to hear a Irishman, a Dane, or a Scotsman read it, Guidall is skilled if neutral. The inclusion of the introduction at the end is surprising (why not include it at the start?) but fantastic, and helps enrich the whole experience. I've read and taught Beowulf before, but I never really enjoyed its story fully until I listened to it. HIGHLY recommended. Yup, even the middle section while they're all boasting and trading loot. Listen to this and skip the terrible cartoony version with Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mom!

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