Less than a year ago, I came across the word “blog” while reading on the internet. I didn’t know what that was, so I asked my friend, Thea, who worked at the MIIS Library with me. She didn’t know what a blog was either. Soon after, my friend, Kathy, emailed a link for a blog called “Sketchcrawl”. From there I found other artists’ blogs and wondered how I could put my artwork on the internet, too. Not too long after that, a friend in my TESOL program showed me her blog and another TESOL classmate showed me his blog. Ahh, so blogs were like journals that your friends could read, as well as being out there in public for anyone else to read. I wasn’t sure I’d like that part, but in June I decided to try it out.
I never expected blogging would be so interesting. Actually, my blog is pretty boring compared to many other blogs I read, and the few friends who comment usually email me directly rather than comment in the “public eye”. The blogs that interest me are ones about political happenings, art, science, and deep personal reflections, while I mostly talk about what I ate for lunch ☺.
Another unexpected pleasure of blogging has come via Flickr.com, the photo sharing web site. Originally, I joined Flickr in order to store my scanned in artwork (illustrations, drawings, paintings, pottery, etc) and display it on my blog site. At the time, Blogger.com did not offer a way to upload photos or graphics. In the meantime, I began to explore Flickr. I found people from all over the world using Flickr to store, display, and comment on their photos and illustrations in many languages.
I’ve been “meeting” people through Flickr who live in India, Japan, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, China, Tibet, and other places. I read the comments that Japanese native speakers write to each other and to me, and I write comments in Japanese. This helps me improve and learn more Japanese. I have fun reading the Italian, French, Portuguese, and Spanish comments, and can struggle to get the gist of some of the Chinese comments. I can enjoy photos of India and other Himalayan region nations and read the regional English dialects of a whole diverse community of World English speakers. One of my Indian contacts wrote in her blog about a rural school in India whose students are using a digital camera for the first time and posting their photos and comments (in English) on Flickr. I got excited thinking of the potential international contacts and interaction one can have in the ESL/EFL classroom. My (future) students can post their journals, photos, and drawings on personal or classroom blog sites while interacting with others via English, and learning about others’ cultures.
There’s been a scary thing, too. A person on Flickr from the United Arab Emirates using the moniker “UAE Kidnapper” listed me as one of his contacts. I went to see who that was and found comments I don’t understand because the Arabic writing doesn’t appear on my computer, only gobbledy gook. I don’t read Arabic, but at least if the script appeared as actual Arabic, it would seem less like gang tags.
Investigating further, I saw that several members had the same or a similar icon of a man wearing a long white cloth on his head encircled by a black ring. In his photostream, UAE Kidnapper had photos of UAE money, swords, guns, fancy cars, buildings, and men in flowing robes sitting together in what appeared to be a political assembly of some sort. I saw that one of the people who commented on “Kidnapper’s” photostream had a Hitler icon.
I have known people from the UAE before. I tutored English for the TOEFL exam to several UAE students a few years ago in Tucson. Yes, our cultures are very different, but they weren’t scary; they were very young students, 20 or 21 years of age, and friendly.
I can’t imagine wanting a moniker like “UAE Kidnapper”. It doesn’t feel very inviting….
In the end, I didn’t mark UAE Kidnapper as my contact. But I do wonder, why would someone want to be known as "UAE Kidnapper"? Why would someone want to use a Hitler icon? I don’t get it.
Here are some of the very interesting (damn interesting) blog sites I read. My favorites are the blogs from India or are written by Indians living outside of India. Reading these intelligent, personal, and lively writings, I am inspired even more to go to India someday.
"Indianwriting" by Uma in Mumbai.
“A Time to Reflect” written by Charukesi who lives in Bombay (Mumbai) aka “Road Blog” on Flickr.
“All Over the Map” written by a Canadian living/working in New Delhi, India, aka Eileen_Delhi on Flickr.
"Citybytes" written by a young student, Zainab Bawa, in Mumbai, who writes on public spaces.
"Balancing Life" by Sunil Laxman, an Indian living in Seattle.
"Locana" by Anand from Bombay, Maharashtra, India.
“Shallow Thoughts to Profound Insights” by Sowmya in the US.
"Trivial Matters" by Akshay, a young computer science student in India.
George Johnson's "Between Seeing" post on using Mind Maps, via Charu.
Siddharth Varadarajan, New Delhi, India, journalist and deputy editor for The Hindu
Other favorite blogs:
Keri Smith's "Wish Jar Journal"
Trevor Romain's "Trevor’s Blog"
Danny Gregory's "Everyday Matters"