Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dickinson Summer Latin Camp

After the Conventiculum Dickinsoniense, I spent a second week at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. We read Book IV of Ovid's Fasti, a Latin calendar-related poem about the month of April. It was written in the first century B.C.

The poem is surprisingly good. Ovid is a great author. He mixes information about the constellations and weather with stories about the founding of Rome and the aetiology of Roman religious practices. He also adds descriptions of the rituals related to the Roman rites and festivals celebrated in April.

Here is a picture of our group on the last day of camp. I am sitting in the middle. The statue behind us is of Benjamin Rush, an important doctor in Boston during the Revolutionary War and a good friend of Thomas Jefferson. He founded Dickinson. His intention was to found a college that focused not only on the humanities but on the practical application of the humanities.

Dickinson Latin Camp on the last day of reading Ovid's Fasti, Book IV, with the statue of Benjamin Rush
I will carry away two things from my reading of the Fasti besides their overall quality. One is a sweet scene where Ovid playfully jokes with Venus, the patron goddess of the month of April and, in a way, Ovid's muse. She jokes right back with him, like they're old friends, which they are. Ovid previously wrote the Amores and the Ars Amatoria, poems that centered on the theme of love or perhaps lust. So he treats the goddess in his poem as an old friend. The second is a scene toward the end of the book regarding the rituals to Robigo, the goddess of corruption (mildew, including the types that adversely affect crops, and rust, among other things). I had never heard of such a goddess before, and Ovid's treatment of the ritual and the long prayer to keep the goddess away from the crops were pretty interesting.

I sure wish I could combat mildew in my own home without the use of cleaning agents and scrubbing, or find any sure way to keep the powdery mildew off the squash plants in my garden! Wouldn't that be nice?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Conventiculum Dickinsoniense, or What This Latin Teacher Did With Her Summer Vacation

I teach Latin . I suspect that if  my students ever read this post, they will think I am whackier than Ms. Frizzle, the elementary-school science teacher in the Magic School Bus children's series. For part of my summer vacation, I have been attending the "Conventiculum Dickinsoniense," a summer Latin Camp for folks who want to speak Latin, generally considered a dead language. There are, however, users of contemporary Latin, and I wanted to join that group to improve my ability to use the language. It was a worthwhile experience.

"Nostra grex," or our class, stands in front of Althouse Hall, where our classes took place.
Terence Tunberg of the University of Kentucky is not only fluent in Latin but an energetic and enthusiastic teacher

Here is Terence Tunberg in a rarely-seen pensive moment. He is truly kind to his students
Milena Minkova is Bulgarian by birth but is fluent in both English and Latin as well; she trained at the Vatican in Rome

Some folks think Latin is called a dead language because nobody speaks it, or, worse, that it's impossible to speak. But that's simply not true.

Need proof? Click this link to watch Professor Tunberg at work (on another occasion). 

The question of *why* folks desire to speak Latin is harder to explain. Some find that using the language actively helps them learn and retain it, others find it useful as a teaching technique, and some just find the spoken version of the language beautiful and fun. A few might like the challenge of proving it can be done.

Put me down for "all of the above."

Terence Tunberg told us that he wanted to experience Latin the way the great scholars of the Renaissance, men such as Erasmus, had experienced it, really not all that many centuries ago. It was a journey that took him to Germany to find the immersion experience he desired. After studying with him, I am very glad he found it.

The Conventiculum itself is a way to share enthusiasm with like-minded people. The participants are diverse in their experiences and interests, but all are interesting, intelligent, and fun to be around. One, nicknamed "Petrus Australianus," journeys every summer to this Latin-speaking convention as well as to other ones in the U.S. and abroad.

All the way from Australia, every summer, just to attend!

And Petrus is kind enough to carry around a little pouch full of plastic toy Australian animals just so we can talk in Latin about kangaroos, platypuses, Tasmanian devils, etc.

It's certainly nice to be around folks who get the T-shirts, jokes, and riddles:

Here is a riddle written and solved by classmates

Here is a second riddle written in Latin
This third Latin riddle alludes to a character from Greek mythology (Oops! No more hints!)

This T-shirt translates into Latin an old joke by Groucho Marx

Not all our learning took place in classrooms, however. Participants had sworn a solemn oath to speak nothing but Latin to each other until the Conventiculum was over. So at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as in the residence halls, lively conversations took place and friendships were formed. And just as the ancient Roman aristocracy loved to escape to the countryside, so our group enjoyed a splendid outing to and picnic at the nearby Dickinson College Farm. The farm is a model for sustainable agricultural practices and living.

Housing on Dickinson College Farm allows a few lucky(?) individuals to live "off the grid"

This particular Latin convention is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for beginners in Latin. But readers who can read Latin well and enthusiastically should attend at least once. They will learn what a pleasure it is to bring this ancient language back to life.

Update on 3/16/14: I am successfully using active Latin in my own classes now. I am also sharing enthusiasm for spoken Latin with a wonder regional group, the Tidewater Classical Symposium.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Virginia Zoological Park

A giant Aldabra Tortoise seemed to be having as much fun at the zoo as we were!
Yesterday my husband, Don, and I spent a day of our summer holidays at the Virginia Zoo in nearby Norfolk. We both love photography and got some decent pictures. I'll share some of our favorites.

Siamangs like to hang around a lot!

The zoo has an adorable Siamang baby. These primates swing through trees by their arms.
The biggest part of the Orangutans' day is apparently lunch, particularly the bagged lunch that they took "to go:"

Not sure if this Orangutan is eating or playing or both...

First the Orangutan grabs a bag lunch

Then the Orangutan checks out the contents: "What'd I get?"

The Orangutan decides the bag's contents are acceptable and decides to head for the hills with it!

An Asian Small-Clawed Otter at play
The "Norfolk Southern Express" is a scaled down train that can give riders an overview of the park.

Have I mentioned Don loves trains? The $2.00 fare supports the zoo's programs and exhibits
I was nervous about Tapirs after spotting this sign

Even though this Tapir was facing the "wrong" direction, it seemed pretty harmless
A Red Panda spends lots of time sleeping in a tree

A Sun Bear likes her shade, too. The day was hot and humid!
Why is the Masai Giraffe at the right staring at the other Giraffe's backside?
 Here is the entrance to the zoo with its impressive sculpture:
The Elephant-sculpture in front of the Virginia Zoo

A real Elephant takes a leisurely stroll

These frogs and turtles are not part of the exhibits but live on the zoo's grounds

These Bullfrogs look like they're snuggling
A sleeping Fennec Fox

Another sleeping Fennec Fox
What is this Prairie Dog Whispering in his friend's ear?
The Blue Duiker is a tiny little Antelope. It's extremely shy.
For people who like birds, the zoo has a colorful variety from all over the world:

A Rhinocerous Hornbill

A Sarus Crane, called Grus Antigone in scientific terms
An African Crowned Crane
A Bald Eagle lives at the zoo because it's too injured to live in the wild
This Peahen with her chicks seem a different kind of royalty
If you find reptiles creepy, you may want to stop reading here.

OK, you've been warned! Personally, Don and I loved the reptile house.

An Emerald Tree Boa? I am not sure...

A Beaded Lizard, like the larger Gila Monster, is actually a lizard with a venomous bite

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Florida and Home in North Carolina

I was recently struck by the stark yet similar beauty between the lake near my mother's house in Palmetto Palms (in Ft. Myers, Florida) and the beauty of the Great Dismal Swamp Canal closer to home here in Virginia. The canal runs between Virginia and North Carolina and was originally dug by slaves under the direction of George Washington.

Pictures from Ft. Myers, Florida:

Residents of Palmetto Palms are proud of their lake

My nieces are looking for alligators and turtles, both of which can sometimes be seen near the bridge

The bridge itself is a pretty walk through the mangroves

The mangroves add beauty to the scene

Mangrove roots provide shelter for wildlife like this little fish

 Pictures from the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia:

My husband, Don Burke, and I celebrate our anniversary with a tandem bike trip along the Great Dismal Swamp Canal

No mangroves, but the trees grow all around the water here

Despite its name, the Great Dismal Swamp harbors wildlife and is beautiful in its own right

Spring Vacation, 2013, Part 3: Sunset Cruise in Florida

Our family went on a sunset/dolphin cruise in Florida. My nieces were excited at the thought of seeing dolphins!

Their mom, my sister, Kate, is enjoying the boat trip as well.

This is a nice close-up of my stepmother, Georgia

Are there any dolphins, yet?

My stepfather, Poppy Bill, is playing around, giving his fierce sea-monster imitation (I think)

My new camera got some great close-ups of this Osprey. Look closely and you can see it fledgling on the left.

Another chance to show off the terrific zoom on my new Nikon camera. Wow! See the baby Osprey on the left.

We didn't see any dolphins, much to the nieces' dismay, but we got a beautiful view of the sunset!