Parsing Pathways

(Photo) Essays by a Third-culture Twenty Something on Travel, Food, Languages & the Millenial Lifestyle.

Category: Writing

Copyediting from A to X

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

copyeditor-cartoonI’ve recently hung out my shingle as an editor, and it’s been fascinating to look up and confirm bits of grammar and punctuation I’m “pretty sure” I know, but am now paranoiac about getting absolutely right. Over at Medium, there’s a great rundown on commonly confused words from Random House copy chief Benjamin Dreyer, including this lovely distinction:

One’s sweetheart is “hon,” not “hun,” unless one’s sweetheart is Attila (not, by the way, Atilla) or perhaps Winnie-the-Pooh (note hyphens).

It’s a quick, fun read and you’ll want to bookmark it–if not for yourself, for reference during future arguments with your editor.

Enjoy it here!

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Missteps and Musings

It’s only Tuesday and already so much has happened.

Yesterday I began my Arabic course which will last through till January. It’s an introductory course and I am so excited to be a student again. I feel like I’m a lot more mature as a student because going to classes, doing homework no longer create this impending sense of “I need to get this amazing grade otherwise I’m just not going to make it.” I felt like this when I started my International Relations semester when I was in DC. I had also just graduated from UNC so I knew I could more than “make it.” It’s nicer to be in that stage of student-ship.

The letter Meem

On Sunday I finally left the comfy warmth of my piso, after days of feeling under the weather thanks to the drastic change of weather, to brave the nearby mountain Pico Sacro. It’s beautiful. I didn’t really hike all the way up, even though I probably could have especially with all this walking around Santiago (which is basically a mountain). It was an impromptu offer by some of my fellow auxiliaries and I’m glad I took them up on it. We drove up most of the way and once we got to the base of the peak, we walked up pathways till we reached the peak. We took photos because you get some of the most breathtaking views of greenery in Galicia as well as of Santiago. Once we spent our time exploring, we drove back down and stopped by a cafe to try the specialty cheesecake of the area: Tarta de Lesteda. It is delicious. The crust isn’t made of graham crackers and I’m not sure what they use, but it was delicious and indulgent. The cake was very light and fluffy compared to the standard NY Cheesecake and was topped with a light layer of, what I think is, strawberry jam. Before we left we got a whole cake to share as we watched some Doctor Who. Yes, I have found my people.



And today. Today started off pretty well. I was extremely productive and submitted all my required documents to finalize the last of the administrative processes so that I can get paid when November rolls around. The classes went really well and I had a lot of great participation from the students. Also there were some delicious grapes in the teacher’s lounge and of course the big thing: the weather is perfect. It’s reminiscent of a North Carolina Fall day with just enough sunlight to give you that nice warm feeling on your back. I also got to color and do art- which has definitely inspired me to get back to art while I’m in Spain.

Kandinsky’s Painting, Concentric Circles

So as you may know, I’m trying out lots of new recipes and they’re inspired from my need for comfort food. It’s the comfort food series that I hope to have lots of variations of so no matter where I travel, with a few staple ingredients I can overcome the slightest feeling of homesickness and also share with others. Comfort is always nice to share. After spending about an hour on Pinterest narrowing down some choices for menu ideas, I finalized a grocery list and got super excited to go shopping because it would end this amazing day on a perfect note. So I walk to the grocery store near the school and start stockpiling my little trolley basket with cauliflower and eggplant and broth and cheese and other yummy things. I’m so prepared because I brought my grocery bag and I was checking stuff off my list and even though it would have been a long haul, I would get to the kitchen and start experimenting. Once I get to the counter, however, I realize I may not have my wallet because I switched purses before I left the piso. So in an instant, after quickly apologizing to the cashier that I don’t have my wallet, I hurried back home, hungry and disappointed in myself. I’m glad I had to walk back because I got to calm down and not take what just happened too seriously. It’s something I’ve been working on for a couple of years now- not taking everything seriously/personally. I got home, made lunch and now I’m writing. Writing helps me process.

One of the first rules of traveling (and life?) is that you can’t expect everything to go according to plan. It’s so nice to have plans though. Without all my precious previous planning I wouldn’t have been able to seamlessly go through the administrative processes here. I relied on other peoples’ wisdom and experience but I still left room so I could be prepared for the unanticipated. It’s such an important skill to practice in any field because it teaches you resilience even before you have to really experience it. So when you do have a larger than life setback, you can hold onto your surroundings and remind yourself that this too shall pass. Despite knowing this, and we probably all know this deep down, I still felt like I was completely unprepared and that it was unacceptable. In the big picture, this was a misstep that didn’t cost me a lot in the long run. It was a gentle reminder that some days are just going to be shy of what you need to get done, but it doesn’t mean that all is lost. It was a moment to first acknowledge, then accept and finally, to let go.

So, dear reader, if you had a day that just didn’t make it to its mark- either because you could have been more prepared but weren’t or because circumstances didn’t allow for it- think about the little things that did work out. For me it started with a spontaneous mountain hike, then my first Arabic class, then the beautiful weather today…you get the gist.

Let your missteps become your muse in forging the path ahead.

Happy Tuesday!

Observations I

Having lived in Spain before, in a completely different region, I have been finding lots of regional differences that one is bound to experience. Call it culture shock or moments of transition, these are from my POV and in no particular order of the thoughts I’ve had since I moved to Santiago.

1. No piropos/catcalls- Sevilla, hell even NC, is home to lots of guys who catcall women in public. It’s uncomfortable and not welcome at all. I ignore it usually. Sometimes, ok really this one time in Sevilla, I actually didn’t mind it and just did one of those random girl giggles. I felt good and I felt confident and I didn’t feel threatened or scared. But most of the time, when I have to walk alone and I see guys ahead of me, I try to walk as fast as possible and look like I mean business so no one can approach me. I felt this way once or twice in Santiago but I have not experience any sort of unwelcome and inconvenient behavior of that sort.

2. Buena gente/good folk – I have to say, Santiago is a friendly and welcoming city. Everyone I have met so far is incredibly helpful and very kind. When I was in Sevilla, there definitely seemed an air of “better than”/arrogance. I think, then, the city does a good job of reflecting the culture that is portrayed internationally. I was also a college student so maybe my experiences are naturally different because I’m in Santiago as a young professional. Most of my contact has been with people older than me. I definitely feel safe and welcome here. It’s got good people and great hospitality.

3. Fumar/Andar- everyone in Spain smokes. Ok that’s an exaggeration but it might as well be true because the amount of the population that smoke cigarettes is enough to have enough second hand smoke that everyone has maybe 2 cigs a day. Yet, given Santiago’s ridiculous terrain of inclines and hills and Spanish culture of walking everywhere, I don’t understand how the people can walk and smoke and not collapse. How on earth are these people able to smoke as they walk up inclines when I’m panting despite having done 30 mins of cardio and 30 mins of strength training in a day? Maybe their lungs have mutated to allow them to process oxygen and other important elements to facilitate their walking.

4. GímParque/Gymparks- there are lots of parks in Santiago. These parks tend to have gym equipment. What a brilliant idea. Except it rains a lot so maybe they just rust away…I hope not.

5. Washer/dryer- I wash my clothes in a machine, pretty standard. But, I hang my clothes on a rack and let them dry out in the open air. This is sort of what we did when I was in Kenya/India- except the clothes were also washed by hand. I like this idea. I think I’m going to stick with it when I get back to the States.

6. U.S.A./America – “Where are you from?” That is an awful question. It tends to get complicated in my case. I have no simple answer because I identify with different “froms”. However, I clarify with the U.S. When you mention America, Spaniards think/picture ALL of America ( Canada, USA, Central and South America).

7. Mornings- I’m a morning person (duh). The sun doesn’t rise here till about 8:30 am and that makes it difficult to keep awake. But businesses are still open and people are in transit and the city is awake. It’s a weird feeling because it feels like 6 pm and you’re walking back from work.

Defining the Ideal Essay

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Samantha Tucker Iacovetto

A guest post from Samantha Tucker Iacovetto:

There is this leaning in that happens when I read an ideal essay. It’s like peering over the gilded edge of the Grand Canyon; like stepping on tip-toe to secret out the scent of my husband’s glorious beard; like pressing my nose to the glass at the zoo’s lion exhibit, his breath and mine steaming the opposite sides of the barrier.

When an essayist like, say, Lia Purpura drops the reader into a space like that—a space that is a precipice, a tipping point, a long and unblinking gaze into an unassuming sugar egg—I lean in, and succumb to the vertigo.

“Lean in!” My mother barks through the phone when I lament the stresses of graduate school, of teaching college composition, of finding time to write something that beckons. She is full of handy and irritating blue-collar colloquialisms: “Self-responsibility!” “You better…

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Digested Research and Nonfiction Writing

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Holy_Trinity_B_Falls_3We’ve just run across Julija Šukys’ blog “Writing.Life.” in which she adroitly examines the craft of nonfiction writing, including a recent post that delves into what she defines as the “holy trinity of creative nonfiction” – SCENE + RESEARCH + REFLECTION.  In the snippet below, she discusses the hardest part for many new writers, digesting the research:

For example, I have a student who has recently returned from a life-changing trip to Iceland, and he’s now starting to write about it. His first level of research is complete, but more work lies ahead. The second level and stage of research might mean his going to the library and reading tons about sagas and Icelandic history until this writer has mastered his subject enough to distill and retell with energy and spontaneity. Once this learning starts to belong to him in some way (as family history does) — that is, once he’s achieved a kind of…

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“A word after a word after a word is power.”

The Daily Post

Canadian author Margaret Atwood, whose résumé boasts 14 novels, 17 volumes of poetry, and eight volumes of short fiction, knows a thing or two about being productive as a writer.

Silencing “monkey mind” — the defeatist voice in your head that screams, “I’ll never get it!” à la muppet composer “Don Music” — is a critical part of being productive.

Margaret Atwood by Oksana Zhelisko Margaret Atwood by Oksana Zhelisko

For me, the following two Atwood quotes disabuse me of pretense around my writing and inspire me to keep building, word by word.

If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.

A word after a word after a word is power.

Reading these quotes, I feel empowered. As though, if I just keep working, I will (eventually) reach my goal.

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Mil Gracias – An Overdue, perhaps never-ending, thank you note.

I am thankful.

More than you can imagine. This post may not be completely grammatical because I am just writing from #allthefeelings, so I hope, if you’re reading this, you can see/feel my gratitude because, if it’s not overflowing in my words, it’s overflowing in my heart and in my head.

I am safe and sound at my final destination (the process and the journey will soon be written).

Like my grandmother says, no one comes before your parents. It’s a very common belief and it is the truth in a lot of different cultures, but recently spending time with her and watching these old VHS style Hindu Puranas/Vedic stories on tape, I’ve been reminded time and again, that parents come before everyone, even God.

So, THANK YOU to my parents. They are awesome. They make me work hard for everything and even though it can get to be extremely tense and unfailingly chaotic, they back me up 100% all the time. They will pester me with questions, they will doubt my decisions, they will make me change my behavior, they will not speak to me in kind words, yet they will follow through with me every ridiculous dream I want to make tangible, whether it’s taking piano classes (that I never finished) or making sure I’m prepped for my year abroad. We fight and we argue and we are candid with each other. According to my dad, there is no need for formality with your family – you say it as it is. When I’m upset, I don’t agree, but always after some distance, his words ring true. And my mother says even better that like pots and pans that are stacked in a kitchen – or for that matter any kitchen items – when you go to remove one, they always clash and bang, but they are still always placed together, they are family, so it’s only natural for family members to have this noise, to have these arguments. It is because of my parents sincere and strong love that I can sit here and realize and act on my dreams. I am privileged. I carry this privilege and I move through the world with it, every single day. And if I have ever taken it for granted, I was being a small person. Mom and dad, I will only make you proud, that is my promise for the whole of my life. I also want to let you know, y’all have done an AMAZING job as parents, especially within all the constraints, idiosyncrazies (new word), and unfortunate events. I can’t even begin to comprehend how you did that when you were adults and parents at my current age. I hope I can be a fraction of awesome, as you guys are. Also, I love love love you and please don’t worry about me (ok I’m sure that won’t change but still, you can try), all your best has been invested in me and your ROI (return of interest) is only going to be the best.

Dear Mansi, thank you. You are a wonderful sister and your support is immeasurable and I will thank you appropriately with hugs and cuddles and love and games and parks and playdates and other things you like. I won’t write a paragraph for you because you probably won’t read I’m sure you know I love you and I’m always going to thank you.

A huge, huge, shoutout to my supportive network of friends and colleagues. I was going to write out your names but since I have no idea how blog privacy rules work, I’ll send you each a personalized message (and don’t worry it won’t be long) soon. But to my friends who know me better than I know myself and who have unabashedly always supported me and my crazy ideas, thank you for anchoring me and making me commit to myself. I don’t really know how to be selfish, especially when it comes to putting myself first. So without your support, your kind words of encouragement, your constant excitement of my future plans, and most importantly the constant, ever-present reminder (verbally or otherwise) of how much you believe in me leaves me speechless. And I LOVE to talk. Whether it’s my inner demons and anxieties or my weird little pity-party tantrum thingies, or my endless jaded philosophical questioning of what life means or how we determine anything, you lot are always there to listen to me. I am going to practice a lot (and have been for a while) to become a better listener, so that I can hopefully be as good of a friend to y’all as you have been to me. In addition to listening to me, you are always there to practically help me sort out issues and work on things so I can get to that next stage. You are nothing short of family. You mean the WORLD and more to me. Without you as my companions, who read and edit my cover letters, who take 3 hour too long coffee breaks, who accompany to quaint little, expensive bars, who readily get excited to go new places, who will spend hours escaping and exploring with me, I would not be here. I am here because of you. I feel so, so loved – even though there are times I will say I don’t. Don’t listen to me (by now, I know y’all don’t). And this is a shout out to my friends ALL OVER THE WORLD. So in whatever corner we met, whether it’s that awesome Australian chick from two years ago or the Island guy who plays the guitar or the sweetest twins from Mexico or the girl who sat next to me in Civics and Economics, or the girl(s) I spent hours talking to in car driveways, please know I love you and please know how much you mean to me and please know that distance is no match for our friendship.

My cousins – I’ve got to tell you, that y’all are my equals. Basically in the same boat as I am, navigating your own personal waters of hell, uncertainty and murkiness of life. Yet, you never hesitate to answer my bazillionth question or tell me what you think unabashedly. I’m 23. I’m young and I don’t know a lot and whatever wisdom you gain, especially since you and I share the same spaces of this world (not necessarily physical) I learn a lot. And y’all know that you are the people that I love and that your advice is priceless but so are your stories of struggle and triumphs. It makes me feel less alone, especially since we share the same family. If I can ever, ever be there for you, just let me know.

My family – never ending support, constant encouragement and dher saara pyaar (tonnes of love). What more could I ask for? I can’t. I physically can’t even begin to start my thank you because the network is so old and so strong, that again, I find myself privileged and I hope you know that all your wisdom and advice and care packages of Indian food are what keep me going.

Special, special shoutout to my Spanish family in Barcelona – in emergency and when I was personally going through a rough time (the first time I visited you all), I am forever grateful for you. At a time when I needed to feel at home, you three were there. Who knew I’d be getting to meet another sister? I don’t know how to show my appreciation but if you ever need anything ever from me, and if it is in my ability to make it happen, you can count on me.

My colleagues. You wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, people. For a first year professional experience, I have been extremely lucky. To have had a chance to contribute to something bigger than myself, while working with some of the most amazing, talented and sincere people in the world is a dream come true for me. I hope you all know that I have learned so much and that without your guidance and support, I really wouldn’t be here. I mean it – I physically would not be in Spain. So thank you for your generosity, for inspiring me, for an unforgettable experience. I hope, that in my short time with you all, I was able to help you in some way possible, even if it’s just a tiny bit of how much you all have done for me.

The Auxiliary Facebook group – thank you for never having a dull moment. Thank you for sharing your practical wisdom, your blog finds (And thanks to the blog authors) and your advice. It made a lot of difference being armed with all that knowledge and thank you for being specific. I hope to be just as specific about my experience and hopefully also as helpful as y’all have been. Special thanks to Trevor Huxham, Noe Hernandez and Jarrett McDowell.

My CEIP Family, mil, mil, mil, mil, mil gracias a la directadora del colegio y al profe, con quien trabajo. Desde el principio, con el email de JMa, me sentia mejor. El programa auxiliar que teneis aqui, aunque es el primer ano, es perfecto. Solo hace 5 dias que estoy aqui, pero en estos cinco dias no me ha dado cuento que estoy lejos de mi casa o mi familia. En cada paso, con su apoyo, podia hacerlo todo facilmente y sin problemas. Tambien, mil gracias a quedar con mi padre. Estoy segura que el y mi madre no van a ser preocupados. Es que deciros gracias no pueden caber lo que siento yo en mi corazon. Sin casa, sin saber la cultura, sin conocer la comunidad, en unos dias me habeis dado todo lo que necesitaba y todo lo que no sabia que necesitaria. No creo que es tan facil adivinar y ayudar a una persona, mejor una desconocida, en la manera que estais haciendo. Siento que no me falta nada. Para lograr este sentimiento, suele llevar anos y anos, pero con vosotros, es como conociamos desde hace siempre. Espero que les pueda ayudar en cualquier momento y que pueda contribuir a este ambiente de buena gente en el cole. En pocas palabras, Mil mil gracias por siempre.

Finally the community in Santiago. I have made lots of friends. These include hotel owners, the banker at La Caixa, a Gadis employee and two movistar employees and my awesome roommate. These people have helped me in my complete process here in Santiago – from helping me figure out which busses to take, to patiently allowing me to translate my father’s questions/conversations & their answers, and even helping me figure out housing for the next year. They went above and beyond, every time. I feel like I am part of the community and not someone from outside. They never let me feel like that at all. I cannot wait to see how these new friendships grow but I will do my best to let them know that they are some amazing people.

Ok, now to thank whatever all mighty being there is. I am thankful to the universe for listening to me and for helping me out. Maybe I’ve stumbled on some luck but it is not going unnoticed. I want the universe to hear me, loud and clear, THANK YOU. There is so, so much gratitude flowing from me and I don’t know how infectious it is, but if there’s someone you’ve been waiting to thank or express how much they have helped you, even if it’s been a while, I hope you let them know.

Before I end, another thank you. Thank you readers for reading this long, long post.

Moving to Spain 101

Check list from the conference I organized earlier this year. Look up GO! Global Orientation at UNC- Chapel Hill.


Course-Blog Description: Considering relocating? To another country? I’ve only ever moved countries & continents once, but as a wide-eyed 12 year old, a lot of the process resembled a Disney-movie adventure. Thanks to my parents, who have done this several times in their lives, I have had a chance to glean from their wisdom the tricks of the traveling trade. Moving to another country, in this case, moving to Spain consists of a lot of short-term and long-term goal management. Through this blog, I hope to provide some insight to the overwhelming yet exciting process of moving abroad. I’ll be including a lot of the resources I found especially helpful when I was going through this as well as some tidbits from what I actually did. If you’re considering a move or if you’re in the process of making your move, I hope this blog gives you some comfort, makes you feel a little less stressed out, and makes you feel as prepared as you possibly can be before you leave. I’ll also be detailing my time abroad as a Language and Culture Assistant in an elementary/primary school in Santiago de Compostela. That’s primarily why I’ll be in Spain for the next year. There’ll be posts about culture, lesson planning, children, travel, fashion, food (lots of it), languages, and random thoughts.

Required materials: Tea, wine, coffee, coffee-shop ambience, cellphone, computer/laptop, snacks – all editions.

Blog Format/General Info: There are several blogs and bloggers out there who’ve detailed their experiences and so I’ll be drawing from them (with due credit), hopefully consolidating information in an accessible and organized way. I’ll probably also be posting ThoughtCatalog articles, links to other pieces I read (I read a lot) with a mood I’m in – just for fun. I’ll plan to post every Sunday evening when I’m working on lesson plans/planning the week, unless I’m doing more fun, adventurous things. I tend to write about everything, especially my feelings and thoughts because it’s easier to analyse and understand when it’s in ink. Moving to another country means assimilating to a new culture, being extremely observant and learning to thrive in the inevitable chaos that is living on your own in a country.

Specifically, I plan to focus on writing narrative essays and photoessays. If I feel inspired, there may be some poetry, some nonfiction/critical analyses of articles I’m reading/contemplating or some anecdotal snippets. There may also be lesson plans & evaluation style worksheets.

Pre-requisites:  I have a Bachelor’s degree in Hispanic Linguistics and Psychology. I’ve been a tutor since primary school when I was the teacher telling my students (friends/classmates) to turn in their homework, which they did with inventively using a stick for a pencil and paper for a leaf. I have worked in an education/mentoring/instructor position for more than 5 years. Last year I organized a conference on global and cultural competency, and through that learned about international education. I love working with children, young adults, college kids and adults. I’m always learning and they’re always helping me. I’m Indian and was born in Nairobi, Kenya (lived there till about 12 years old) and moved to the US 11 years ago. I’ve been a part of four different education systems and so I look forward to exploring this one. I’m interested in access to education mental healthcare policies, specifically in Internally Displaced Communities (IDCs) and refugee populations. You’ll probably be reading a lot about this stuff.


(Mine) I want to learn how education works. I want to learn how to better work with students from anywhere in the world. The more exposure I gain as an educator, working in different education systems, the more I’ll learn about what works and what needs to be worked on. I want to observe and engage with the community around me as fully as possible without disrupting what’s around me. I want to better myself as an educator, as someone who works with kids I realize that I have a lot of things that I could be working on and it always keeps me on my toes. I hope to improve as a communicator and a writer. I am scared to be alone and in a new place, naturally. I hope to build new relationships and networks. I hope to meet people, from other auxiliaries and travelers to local people, students and colleagues. I hope to learn Gallego. I hope to stay in touch with my friends across the ocean and I hope to travel and see my friends on this side of the pond. I want to be AMAZING at Pasapalabra (don’t worry there’ll be a post about that soon). I hope to write & implement effective lesson plans.

(The reader’s) Please engage with the blog (and me)! As any educator knows, the most difficult aspect of teaching and education is ensuring that the students are engaged and productively so! So, if you’re a NALCA prospect and you found something particularly helpful please let me know! If you thought some of the information was discombobulating, please let me know! Feedback is great, especially since I’m practicing my writing and trying to be as concise and clear as possible. If you’re friends and family, comment! Tell me how much you wish you could be there with me! Or tell me how you can’t wait for me to come back! Engaging with the blog will help me tremendously improve in ways I can’t even imagine. I also tend to write a lot, so if you think my posts could be shorter then please let me know! It’s all the Jonathan Swift I used to read once upon a time (yay verbosity!)

Grading: I don’t know how grading is considered an effective way of measuring learning and growth. So assessing and evaluation are extremely crucial, especially in real life. Below is a draft of the components in which I hope to assess myself. I don’t plan to use a concrete system of A-F, but a flexible range. I’ll have a better idea of where I want to see my growth once I’ve hit the 1-month mark (or at least I hope so). So check back to see what I’ve updated!


confusing/not grammatical –> engaging, responsive, original

Communication (Gallego + Castellano)

beginner/Guiri –> mixed proficiency/hesitation –> Spanish&Proud


beginner –> effectively engaging kids —> personalizing their growth

Healthy lifestyle (food + Physical + mental)

Tourist20 —>  5 months of semi-consistency —> EatPrayLove


not-so-consistent/helfpul —> always ready Sunday pm w/ beverage

Exams/Quizzes: This is going to be cheesy y’all. In life there are no make-up exams/quizzes. I guess these will be the trying/frustrating/all the feels moments that I encounter this year. To quote Eminem:

“You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow/ This opportunity comes once in a lifetime”

Syllabus (to be updated)

Date                                       Topic

9/18/14                                 Fly out to Barcelona


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