1. I had a lot of free time Saturday afternoon and decided to put it to good use birding. I had low expectations, since it’s early in migration season and I didn’t want to go to Montrose (the most popular location for birding in the city, due to its reputation for attracting all sorts of birds). To my delight, I saw three (kind of) new-to-me birds (one I had seen before, but that was before my eBird tracking days)!
My first new bird was this fellow, the Hermit Thrush, distant cousin to my favorite bird, the Eastern Bluebird (!!). This was actually the first bird I saw at the park, period, and boy, did that start my birding off on the right note!
Later, I saw a woodpecker and knew right away it couldn’t be a Downy, based on its size. I assumed it was a Hairy, until it moved and I got a better look at it.
GUYS. IT’S A YELLOW BELLIED SAPSUCKER. A YELLOW BELLIED SAPSUCKER THAT DID NOT ATTACH ITSELF TO MY PURSE IN A STUNNED STATE. I much preferred seeing this bird in a tree where it belongs. This was the first time I’ve seen a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker in its natural habitat (i.e.: not on me), and I was very excited.
Towards the end of my birding adventure, I was around a bunch of robins when I heard a distinctly non-robin sound, emanating from a distinctly non-robin bird.
This is…a sparrow. I keep going back and forth on whether it’s a Song Sparrow or a Fox Sparrow. It was, in my opinion, willfully difficult and refused to cooperate with my desire to take its picture, so I didn’t get any focused shots to know for sure.
I also saw plenty of the usual suspects: the aforementioned American Robins, Northern Cardinals, Black-Capped Chickadees. I managed to catch one chickadee looking for a place to cache its sunflower seed, which I think is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
2. Since I started using Duolingo in January 2016, I’ve weathered a few changes to the platform, most of which didn’t elicit any strong feelings from me one way or the other (save for when it revamped its entire Dutch curriculum, effectively undoing well over half of the work I had done). Last week, Duolingo completely overhauled its lesson structure. Previously, each chapter (Basics, Weather, Sports, Pronouns, etc.) came with five lessons. You could work through each lesson one at a time, or you could attempt to test out of the chapter entirely. Now, each chapter has a level (a “crown”), and each level within that chapter has a seemingly random number of lessons–I’ve seen anything between four and 12 lessons. In order to level up on a chapter (going from two crowns to three crowns, for example), you have to complete all of the lessons. There is no longer an option to test out. The goal of this, according to the email I received from Duolingo explaining the change, was to give me “more to learn” and allow me to “level up skills to tackle harder and harder exercises.”
That’s all well and good in theory, but in my experience thus far, it has been absolutely MISERABLE. Instead of actually learning Dutch or dusting off my past perfect verb skills in Spanish (by which I mean verbs in the past perfect tense–“she had asked,” for example–not that my verb skills were perfect in the past 😛 ), I’m languishing away trying to “level up” on Basics 2, which has drilled me over and over and over again on how to say things like, “I am a woman,” and “He is a man.” These are concepts I had mastered within the first DAYS of learning both Dutch (via Duolingo) and Spanish (via high school). I do not need TWELVE LESSONS teaching me how to say that, or to determine whether I should use “el” or “la” in conjunction with “manzana,” the Spanish word for apple (it’s “la,” for the record, and THAT’S NOT EVEN COMPLICATED. One of the very first things you learn in Spanish is that nouns ending with the letter “a” are feminine, and therefore use “la”!! There are a few exceptions (agua, words ending in -ma), but manzana isn’t one of them!!!!). All of the lessons are hyperfocused on two or three nouns and one verb, and it is painfully boring to get through. It’s made all the more worse by the fact that I can’t test out of anything, so if I want to level up, the only way to do so is to prove to Duolingo that yes, I know the word for apple backwards and forwards in both Spanish and Dutch (because for some reason, that seems to be their noun of choice to teach your first) before I’m allowed to move forward. While it does take a lot less time to get through my daily dose of Duolingo now, it’s so dull that it doesn’t even feel worth it.
3. I have a trip to Punta Cana coming up soon, and I’m dreading it a lot more than I think someone is supposed to dread a trip to an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean.
I’ve never wanted to go to an all-inclusive resort, and I honestly still don’t want to go to an all-inclusive resort, even though I have a trip to one booked. The whole idea of an all-inclusive in a foreign country (particularly a country with a history of colonialism and slavery) makes me uncomfortable, and I planned to never go to one…until I got invited to a non-negotiable wedding at an all-inclusive.
Moral/self-righteous qualms about this trip are bad enough, but on top of that, I’m also ridiculously anxious about so many aspects of the trip. I’m anxious about traveling to a foreign country and attempting to navigate from the airport to the resort and back again. I’ve furiously Googled how best to do this, and I think I’ve found a decent option, but how are you really supposed to know? I’m anxious about the flight, period. Flying in general makes me anxious, and the longer the flight, the more anxious I feel about it. I’m also so anxious about staying healthy in Punta Cana (not in like the healthy living blogger, omg-must-eat-clean-foods-only-and-exercise-daily sense, but in the want-to-not-get-sick sense). I went to a travel doctor and got anti-malarial medication (which I am, predictably, nervous about taking) along with just-in-case antibiotics (which I’m nervous that I’ll have to take) and a plethora of advice on how to stay healthy while traveling, all of which was totally reasonable but also made me want to go even less than I wanted to go in the first place. I’m terrified of getting a mosquito bite that will lead to terrible diseases, I’m terrified of eating any food that wasn’t prepackaged in the U.S., I’m terrified of drinking anything other than bottled water, and I’m terrified of even considering exposing myself to water in any capacity, including showering, pools, or the ocean. See why I’d rather just stay home?
I know I’m being irrational, especially because, as the travel doctor pointed out, all-inclusives do not want to gain a reputation for being a place where their guests get sick. I’m also basing nearly all of my fears off the time I went to Mexico in college, which, admittedly, was about as far from an all-inclusive resort as you can get. I spent a week in a border town with a other people from my school who had traveled there to learn about immigration, where we slept on the floor of a community center and nearly all (including me) came down with a nasty stomach bug the day after we were required to cook our own dinner. So yeah, not exactly five star accommodations, but certainly enough to scar me for life in the foreign country foodborne and/or waterborne pathogen department.
Anyway, in an effort to not be the most miserable wedding guest of all time, I’m trying to focus on things I am excited for in relation to this trip, particularly:
- Being somewhere where there is a zero percent chance of snow. That’ll be a nice change of pace.
- Adding a new stamp to my sad passport.
- Having time off work for the first time all year
- Maybe having the chance to add new birds to my life list. If I could see a Ridgway’s Hawk, a hawk that only lives on Hispaniola, I’d be particularly thrilled. Any bird that doesn’t visit this part of North America will suffice, though.
- Maybe having the chance to speak Spanish. I’ve Googled the living daylights out of the resort, and several people have mentioned that not all of the staff speaks English particularly well. I took Spanish for eight years but have never really needed to use it (even in Mexico). I’d love to put my minor to use!
But if I’m being honest, even trying to focus on the things I’m looking forward to hasn’t done anything to dull the roar of dread I have in regards to the trip