Monday, September 20, 2010

Eat Pray Love – the best selling book and what I learnt from it

I've just finished reading one of the most interesting books I've read in my life, which, coincidentally, discussed my favorite passions: Italy and yoga as main topics.

What is it about?
At 32 years old, Elizabeth Gilbert was educated, had a home and a husband, and a successful career as a writer. However, she was unhappy in her marriage and often spent the night crying on her bathroom floor. In the midst of an affair she separated from her husband and initiated a divorce, which her husband contested. The affair continued for some time but did not work out either leaving her devastated and alone. While writing an article on yoga vacations in Bali, she met a seventh-generation medicine man who told her she would come back and study with him. After finalizing her difficult divorce, she spent the next year traveling around the world. She spent four months in Italy, eating and enjoying life (Eat). She spent four months in India, finding her spirituality (Pray). She ended the year in Bali, Indonesia, looking for "balance" of the two and found love (Love); in the form of a dashing Brazilian factory owner. Gilbert paid for the trip with an advance she received on a book she planned to write.

The book (published in 2006) is written in a nice and understandable language, with a good sense of humor. The one thing that irritated me, was her very detailed description of the depression she was suffering from; and all I could do watching her (in photos, videos) was imagining her endless crying on bathroom floors with her forehead on the floor and the self-torture.

I could relate myself to so many moments, especially when Gilbert was describing her love for the Italian language and Italian food and also her struggle for mastering the art of meditation. 

This part could've been easily written by me:
It's kind of a fairyland of language for me here. For someone who has always wanted to speak Italian, what could be better than Rome? It's like somebody invented a city just to suit my specifications, where everyone (even the children, even the taxi drivers, even the actors on the commercials!) speaks this magical language. It's like the whole society is conspiring to teach me Italian. They'll even print the newspapers in Italian while I'm here; they don't mind! They have bookstores here that only sell books written in Italian! I found such a bookstore yesterday morning and felt I'd entered an enchanted palace. I wandered through, touching all the books, hoping that anyone watching me might think I was a native speaker.
She writes this while in Rome, living 4 months there and I felt exactly like this when I visited Italy and spent 20 days in various cities, living my daydream.
[...] bel far niente has always been a cherished Italian ideal. The beauty of doing nothing is the goal of all your work, the final accomplishment for which you are most highly congratulated. The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement. You don’t necessarily need to be rich in order to experience this, either. There’s another wonderful Italian expression: l’arte d’arrangiarsi—the art of making something out of nothing. The art of turning a few simple ingredients into a feast, or a few gathered friends into a festival. Anyone with a talent for happiness can do this, not only the rich. [...]
See the similarities with Armenia? ;)

The book was informative: I learnt quite a lot of remarkable facts about Hinduism, Indian culture, yoga, meditation, Indonesian people, Bali and its traditions... and also gruesome facts about deepest kind of depression and relationship troubles that luckily i haven't ever suffered from.

I like how she describes yoga and meditation in chapter 38.
"Yoga, in Sanskrit, can be translated as “union.” It originally comes from the root word yuj, which means “to yoke,” to attach yourself to a task at hand with ox-like discipline. And the task at hand in Yoga is to find union—between mind and body, between the individual and her God, between our thoughts and the source of our thoughts, between teacher and student, and even between ourselves and our sometimes hard-to-bend neighbors. In the West, we’ve mainly come to know Yoga through its now-famous pretzel-like exercises for the body, but this is only Hatha Yoga, one limb of the philosophy. The ancients developed these physical stretches not for personal fitness, but to loosen up their muscles and minds in order to prepare them for meditation. It is difficult to sit in stillness for many hours, after all, if your hip is aching, keeping you from contemplating your intrinsic divinity because you are too busy contemplating, “Wow . . . my hip really aches.”
Meditation is both the anchor and the wings of Yoga. Meditation is the way. There's a difference between a meditation and prayer, though both practices seek communion with the divine. I've heard it said that the prayer is the act of talking to God, while meditation is the art of listening."
This part illustrates my feelings about making plans for enjoying something in the future, sticking to the past, living with memories and anxiety towards a future event or happening:
[...] The other problem with all this swinging through the vines of thought is that you are never where you are. You are always digging in the past or poking at the future, but rarely do you rest in this moment. It’s something like the habit of my dear friend Susan, who—whenever she sees a beautiful place—exclaims in near panic, “It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!” and it takes all of my persuasive powers to try to convince her that she is already here. If you’re looking for union with the divine, this kind of forward/backward whirling is a problem. There’s a reason they call God a presence—because God is right here, right now. In the present is the only place to find Him, and now is the only time. [...]
The three main ideas I took from this book (they weren't entirely "new", however they got "confirmed" in me) are:
  • Being in the moment (like described above)
  • Enjoying the meal. Truly feeling what I am eating, and eating not for satisfying my hunger, but for enjoying the meal
  • Doing everything the best possible way and the most beautiful way.

And the last quote about soul mates is just.. great:
People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave.
The way she describes the countries she's visiting, Elizabeth advertises them so well that hundreds of her readers and fans are choosing to take her path and maybe also write books about it. They visit Rome, India and Bali, even finding the medicine man whom Elizabeth has met and told about.
Since the book became so popular and the movie staring Julia Roberts came out, there's a whole "eat pray love" craze going on. There's a controversial article mentioning that Elizabeth Gilbert has ruined Bali. One of the Italians she met in Rome, Luca Spaghetti, has written his own book telling about their encounter, and has got his own website.
The film also sparked pilgrimage to the Italian ice cream shop where Liz Gilbert used to eat gelatos every day.

I'd absolutely recommend this book to anyone, especially to the book's probably target group - middle aged women who would like to take a journey of self-discovery themselves; those who suffered divorce and loss; fans of Italy and everything Italian (like me), those interested in yoga and India, also for people who like traveling, learning about different cultures and are in the mood for some philosophy.

Interesting fact
Armenia and Liz
While in Bali, Liz describes meeting a Brazilian woman named Armenia, who was "gorgeous, elegantly dressed, charismatic and engaging and indeterminate in age, just insistently sexy". She runs a multinational marketing business called Novica, which supports indigenous artists all over the world by selling their products on the Internet. She speaks about seven or eight languages." As her name was so interesting, i decided to google a bit and found out that Armenia was indeed Armenian! Brazilian too, but Armenian from father's side! Armenia Nercessian de Oliveira. A very beautiful and powerful woman, indeed. Here's an interview with her on the Novica website, where when asked what inspired her to become involved in humanitarian work, she answered:
"My father was Armenian and a survivor of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. My father came to France as a refugee and in 1930 he immigrated to Brazil. Coincidentally, my second assignment with the United Nations was in the international protection of refugees."
Yes, she had 16 years of experience in humanitarian work in UN.
I can't wait to see who played her in the movie.Was she Armenian-ish at all?

Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert is an American novelist, essayist, short story writer, biographer, and memoirist. She is most known for her 2006 memoirs, "Eat, Pray, Love", which as of July 2010, has spent 180 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, and was also made into a film by the same name in 2010.

Her 1997 GQ article, "The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon", a memoir of Gilbert's time as a bartender at the very first Coyote Ugly table dancing bar located in the East Village section of New York City, was the basis for the feature film Coyote Ugly.

If you are interested, you can download the e-book in .epub and PDF formats here. 

The Movie
More than 7 million copies of this memoir have been sold in 40 different languages, and now die-hard devotees will get to see Liz's travels come to life on the big screen. The movie that just premiered in LA is featuring Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem and others and has been one of the most anticipated movies of this year. It even happened that Julia Roberts converted to Hinduism during the shootings.

Here's something from Oprah's, on Eat Pray Love book and movie.

The movie trailer

In Russia it will arrive to cinemas on October 7, my guess is that somewhere around that time we'll get it too.

Elizabeth Gilbert's talk on genius, translated by my friend Gohar who has had recommended this book to me last year, but i forgot it then. A great talk!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Սթիվ Ջոբսն ասում է` մնացեք քաղցած, մնացեք հիմար

թեև Apple-ի երկրպագու չեմ, բայց այս մարդն
ինձ մոտ շատ մեծ հարգանք է վայելում :)
Պատրաստվելով դասերիս, մտածեցի որ արժե այս հայտնի ելույթը ցույց տալ ուսանողներին: Անգլերենը չհասկանալու խնդիրը լուծելու համար, որոշեցի ենթագրերը թարգմանել հայերեն և ավելացնել տեսանյութում: Մի կերպ գտա ելույթի տրանսկրիպցիան .srt ֆայլով (իսպաներեն տարբերակը) ու տեքստային խմբագրիչում տող-առ-տող թարգմանեցի: Չգտնելով օրիգինալ տեսանյութին լեզու ավելացնելու ձևը (պարզվում է` միայն հեղինակն է կարող ուրիշ լեզվով ենթագրեր ավելացնել տեսանյութին YouTube-ում) նորից բեռնեցի տեսանյութը ինձ մոտ` ավելացնելով ենթագրերի ֆայլը:

Ամբողջական թարգմանված տեքստն այստեղ է: Սխալներ նկատելու դեպքում, խնդրում եմ իմաց տվեք` կուղղեմ (մի քիչ շտապելով եմ թարգմանել, հաստատ անթերի չէ, սակայն կուզեի, որ լիներ :)):
Հայերեն .srt ֆայլը կարելի է ներբեռնել այստեղից:

էդպես.. մտածեցի, կարող է` ուրիշ մեկին էլ պետք գա: Ի դեպ, իմ արդեն գործընկեր երիտասարդ դասախոսներին էլ խորհուրդ կտայի ցուցադրել այս տեսանյութը ուսանողներին... թե մեկ-երկուսի մոտ էլ ուղեղում որոշ բաներ արթնանան` էլի օգուտ կլինի:

New beginning (part 2)

The beginning of this post is here.

Coming true
in Manana youth center (2004),
where i used to teach kids web design
On one of the sunny August days i got the offer. My friend, who was affiliated with one of the private universities, asked me if i would like to teach :) and if my boss would like that idea too?

As someone who's equally interested in my development and realizes that this is another approaching milestone for me, he would surely agree.

So i started preparing. "Internet marketing" is not a subject i would normally consider myself a professional in. But since it is in my area of interest and was aligned with my further plans in life, having my quick-learning skills, I could definitely do it. There are not so many things that i'm this much sure in.

Seems like my long time wishes is coming true.
in EIU (my new workplace),
during some AIESEC event in 2008

I got enough time for preparation. I knew i should write a course syllabus, define the detailed plan of the classes, assignments, projects, testing methods & stuff like that.
For the start, i downloaded a dozen of internet marketing classes syllabuses and explored them. I already had a picture how my syllabus will look like (using the best examples from each) and i found out that i definitely need a course website to set up. Then found couple of online courses that i studied.. And even found Harvard Extension Program's internet marketing distant course's materials (just from the last year!). I mean ALL materials. Video lectures, assignments, study materials in PDF and doc… my heaven :)

So i'll have 2 groups: 4th year and 2nd year of Master's. 2 class hours in each group per week.
I have to develop a very interactive course, including many interesting in-class activities and assignments. Taking into account that the students' marketing knowledge, as well as English-language skills may be limited, i'll have to make sure to find appropriate materials in russian or translate some stuff myself.
Quite a challenge already. It could also be so i would have to first teach what's the internet, then what's marketing.. and so on :)

But while i was picturing myself during the classes, i identified another challenge: my look. i have some concerns regarding my look. *they say* i'm looking younger than my age, even much younger. I have a fear that it will create a faulty impression that i'm not serious enough or professional enough. I'll make sure to put some blush and lipstick before entering the class :)

The first class
my new workplace
I ran my first class in the 4th year group last Tuesday. I've been preparing for quite a while. I've already created the course website, the syllabus is ready to be finalized, i have collected and prepared all the info for the first class. Including my self-presentation, the syllabus presentation, the material on what is internet and what's internet marketing in general :) some ice-breaking acivities are also being prepared. I made a student form so that everyone can fill and i can learn more about them. I will share my impressions from the first lesson soon.

My co-workers and friends are already making fun of me. Maybe they can't imagine me being a professor, dealing with students. Can i really picture myself there? :D should i wear glasses? Dress like a nerd? Be very strict and demanding? Shout on misbehaviouring students? Use punishments? Hit with a pen on a wooden table several times to silence those who speak during the class? :D
In fact, during the first class I asked the students what works for them as a punishment, and what should i do to silence them. I'll share their answers soon :)

My little social experiment
While being very excited about my new "role" and job... i updated my status on FB. I wrote "I got a new job", keeping in mind that people know about my close ties with the current job, they will somehow assume that i got an additional one and didn't quit PanARMENIAN. I couldn't, however, imagine the huge response I got from many friends. Some of them still ask me about where do i work now, since they are convinced that i changed my job, instead of getting an additional one :) 
The experiment identified people who were interested in me, happy hearing good news for me or cared about my workplace :)

In a separate post I'll describe my first impressions on today's students and teaching in general.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New beginning (part 1)

Fall 2010
Here it comes. My beloved autumn. The 26th one I witness. It has always had a special meaning for me. It's when I get most productive, enthusiastic and innovative. It's the start of something new. New area of learning. For many years it had always been celebrated by the beginning of studies which i had managed to miss during the summer...

For a few years after my graduation, I'd already missed the excitement prior to September 1. I felt the lack of celebrating the start of something new. This year it's again the beginning of studies for me. No, I'm not studying again :)
But let me share something with you.

Historical remark, i.e. my teaching experience
my first encounter with a computer. Netherlands, 1994
When it first somehow turned out that i have to start teaching, I was merely 17 years old. Just entered the university, uncertain about so many things. But luckily, i had to teach kids younger than me and things i was very confident in: computer skills. At first. Then i got offered to teach another subject: HTML. I was just started to explore the book my mother bought me from Vernissage. A soft-cover tutorial in Russian, with big red titles, describing all the magic of creating web sites. The job was tough... I had to learn first, and learn deeply, in order to be able to teach it to kids... and they may ask questions.... luckily, it was then i discovered that I can actually learn things pretty quickly. Those kids had no chance to catch up with me :)

It continued for about 7 years... when i'm now looking back, i can't imagine having a 7 years experience of teaching.. can i say that i really did master some key points of teaching art? I mean 7 years, beh!

During that period i even had an out-of-class student. She was a neighbor of ours, just married, looking for a job, but lacking any computer skills. It was a different experience, but probably also somehow notable.

Then I joined AIESEC. The title of trainer somehow again stuck on me, as i was destined to teach computer skills, effective PC/internet usage stuff to people who needed it. I loved the process. I realized that sharing knowledge is something i truly get satisfied from. I love the feeling to be the source of knowledge for someone. It adds value to my knowledge too. So in AIESEC i've been doing some trainings and presentations...

and so about the public speaking. Those who know me, can state that i'm quite a shy personality, not very talkative especially in front of more than 3-4 people. That is how I am... It took me quite a while to overcome the fear of getting on stage and voice trembling. I'm still in the process of learning it, through experiences, thanks to feedbacks. i'm constantly improving my public speaking and presentation skills because i knew it would someday become useful ...

The thought…
Some years ago i started seriously considering offering to teach in my university (SEUA). I was thinking to approach our dean and tell him that i'd be glad to teach some IT-related subject i'm confident about in my faculty. Not that i was feeling the urge to give something back to my alma mater.
Probably the main reason is that I was just feeling bad for today's students who do not have enough young and enthusiastic professors to learn from. I remember that during my studies, most of the useful skills and knowledge were gained from those few young graduates that were teaching us couple of hours a week. They were like vivid examples of successful entrepreneurs and scientists that could inspire us and teach using the language that we used. They knew much more of contemporary technology than their older, wiser colleagues with higher degrees, who were, however, stuck in the soviet-style mindset and methodic, refusing to adopt newer technologies and teaching methods in the classroom.
my diploma work, printed, ready for the defense :)
However, maybe deservingly, these old guys are still much more respected and considered to be more important by the university management, and they not only do not encourage or promote young professors, they put obstacles on their way.
If i actually approached my dean and my offer to teach got accepted, i would still have the feeling that i "own" the university for giving me the opportunity to teach. They would probably treat me like i'm too young "to know many things" and i won't get the deserved respect for the time i would take from my fulltime job and free time and devote to teaching, practically for no or very small monetary compensation. They would feel that they can exploit me, and load with lots of stuff i shouldn’t do. Maybe i'm very wrong with my assumptions but somehow i feel that it will be more or less like that.

My mom (a university professor, PhD) one advised me not to apply for postgraduate studies unless i'm planning to devote my life to teaching. No, she exactly said like this: "Do you really want to devote your time to teaching in a university? Hardly, there's no reason to study PhD for you". What she didn't know is that i actually love teaching (genes, huh), but she was assuming that she didn't want me to encounter the difficulties that the teachers and professors face today. They are way underpaid and have so few opportunities and it's not one of the most rewarding jobs.

I have my own motives for this.
1. The satisfaction from knowing that you were the source of someone's knowledge and the feeling to be helpful for several people.
2. Developing the public speaking skills, ability to handle a large audience.
3. Getting to know subject much more deeper, really mastering it.
4. Kind of recognition of the knowledge you have. You won't teach it, if you wouldn't know it good enough, true?
5. Learning 'back' from the students.