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Monday, December 22, 2008

Exchanging Languages

Relax! That doesn't mean I'm posting in Korean from now on. Not yet anyway. What it does mean is that I've started conversing with a Korean exchange student, with the object of learning each other's languages.

Why am I doing this? you may ask. Well, a Penn undergrad I met at the ICSA conference in June, on hearing of my efforts to overcome social anxiety -- and especially my desire to get more comfortable in one-on-one interaction with people -- suggested I look for ads from people seeking English conversation. In the past month or two I've noticed a couple such ads on Penn's campus (where I use the library's computers for Net access) and responded to them. The first person had already found a conversation partner, but the second was still looking. After exchanging emails I got a call from her yesterday, and met her (with her sister) this evening. I'll be seeing her again Friday.

I got that call while receiving a ride home from a HumanLight celebration in Horsham, hosted by the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia and sponsored by PhillyCOR, the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason. HumanLight is a humanist winter holiday officially observed on 23 December. The celebration featured food and drink,a speech or two, a storyteller, live music, and the gathering of all the volunteers for a group picture. The ceremonial part involved the lighting of three candles representing reason, hope, and compassion. The mother candle was red while the daughters were green, yellow, and blue, but I don't know whether these colors symbolized anything.

The ceremonies opened with singing a song specifically written for HumanLight, and closed with John Lennon's "Imagine." I get rather emotional from that song.

Today, I was pleased to see that PhillyCOR has its own display on the mall by the National Visitors Center, set a little further back than the Hannukah menorah and the Nativity creche. PhillyCOR's display is a giant globe on a pedestal, "brought to you by your friendly neighborhood atheists, humanists, and freethinkers."

Eric Hamell

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