At the beginning of this month, I traveled to Berlin, Germany to participate in the 2016 Polyglot Gathering. It was the third year of the Gathering, and my second year being a part of it.

image1For those of you who don’t know, the Polyglot Gathering (along with its more formal predecessor, the Polyglot Conference) is the physical manifestation of an online community of people around the world who have learned or are interested in learning multiple languages. The people in this community are a diverse group, but the main thing most of us seem to have in common is that we have found ways to learn languages on our own outside of school. Most of us also seem to learn languages not for the sake of career prospects or any other conventional practical reason, but more simply because we find intrinsic value in the learning itself. And many of us are downright addicted to language learning. From the point of view of the majority of people, all of these things make us seem pretty strange. We know this, and we know most people can’t understand us and our unusual hobby. But thanks to the Internet, we have found each other.

[Read the rest]


Yes, that’s right: Everywhere is boring. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s the truth.

Everywhere, there are people who wake up at the same time every morning, eat the same breakfast, and drag themselves off to the same uninspiring jobs.

They pass the same scenery they do every day, which their glazed eyes look at without seeing.

They deal with the same annoying people at work, whose annoying behaviors pile up like dust on the surface of consciousness, until nothing but the dust is visible.

They travel home at the end of the day, whether by bus or train or car or bicycle, and drown out the stress of the day with television or drinking or sleeping.

They are the weary Everyone, and they live Everywhere: In Rome, in Tokyo, in Denver, in Moscow, in Bangkok, in Mexico City.

When starry-eyed travelers exclaim in delight how wonderful Everywhere is, Everyone replies with a perplexed expression, “Why? What’s so wonderful about it?”

But the travelers know something Everyone does not: Everywhere is wonderful.

Everywhere there is delicious food, fascinating history, beautiful nature, and interesting buildings. Everywhere there are people– kind people, funny people, interesting people, perplexing people. Everywhere there is something new to discover about the world and about yourself. Everywhere there is adventure to be had.

But when you’re just another Everyone living Everywhere, it’s far too easy to forget all this. What may have once been fascinating becomes commonplace, and what may have once been inspiring becomes mundane. Before you know it, the dust of Everyday life piles up and covers the treasures all around you.

And that is why I travel, why I can’t stay put in one place– because Everywhere is boring, but it’s also not. And I never want to forget that.


So, for the past few weeks my life has been a little crazy. I’ve been traveling so much I almost feel like I live in airports, but although it’s been tiring it has been worth it. After a month hopping around different locations in the US visiting several friends and relatives I hadn’t seen in far too long, I traveled to Berlin for the Polyglot Gathering, which was just as interesting and inspirational as it was last year! And I am currently in Tbilisi, Georgia (see the above photo!) visiting a good friend of mine. I will share more about some of the things I’ve been up to in upcoming posts, but just thought I’d give you a quick update for now!

Goodbye Japan, Hello USA

April 23, 2016


“She may not look it, but actually she’s really sad that you’re leaving,” said the girl’s mother.

I knelt down to look into the face of one of my favorite kindergarten students. A shy, sensitive girl of six, she spoke perfect English and had a penchant for embellishing her handwriting with cute little curlicues. I had noticed this and taught her to write in cursive, something none of the other kids learned. We enjoyed goofing off together and had developed a special bond.

“I’m sad too,” I said, “but I know you’ll do a great job. And if I come back, I’ll make sure to visit you.”

I hugged her and almost wanted to cry. Was I breaking this poor little girl’s heart? But no, she was good and smart and talented and had a wonderful mother– she would be fine and go on with her life and probably soon forget about me, her kindergarten teacher. And I had to do the right thing for myself, right?

But was this really the right thing? Either way, it was too late to change my mind now. [Read the rest]

I slid my feet into the old leather shoes one last time. I knew I would have to get rid of them, because the right one had a little hole in its toe that let the rain in, and the soles were worn so thin that I could almost feel the pavement directly on my feet. But I had grown attached to those shoes. People often complimented me on their unique style, and the wear on the leather almost made them look better, as if they’d been made with an intentional “worn” look. They looked like they had been some places. They’d seen some things, man.

But what had they seen, really? I found myself thinking about it as I stepped outside in them, feeling the now familiar bit of leather insole curling up against my toes on the right side. I walked down the drab gray stairwell of my apartment building, onto the sidewalk past vending machines and convenience stores in the artificial glow of neon signs, and I thought, what have I done in these shoes?

oldshoes [Read the rest]

Dear Polyglot Gathering Organizers and Participants,

I have a problem, and it’s all your fault.

You see, before I decided to join the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin this year, I thought I finally had my life all figured out. I had immersed myself in making music, and it felt so right that I was sure I had found my “one true calling”. Finally, I thought, I could stop this confusing lifestyle of endless wandering and indecisiveness, and dedicate myself to one thing like normal people do. But oh no, you had to come along and tempt me by scheduling your gathering of language geeks right when I happened to have my spring vacation. How could I not go? I even had some frequent flyer miles saved up.

And since I was going to Berlin, of course I had to learn some German. It had been quite a while since I’d seriously studied a language and I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d be into it, but after going through a few online lessons I was surprised to find myself hooked. Soon I had bought textbooks and was spending all my spare time studying German, my musical instruments forgotten and gathering dust in their lonely corner of my apartment.

A couple months later, I was there in Berlin. The Gathering was a great experience. I met several people whose names and faces I’d been seeing online for years, and I was surprised and flattered that several people recognized me as well. (I honestly thought my name had long fallen into obscurity in the language learning sphere.) I have to admit it was a bit tiring sometimes, with people attempting to converse with me in just about every language I’ve ever studied, but it was very motivating and inspiring. It was also incredibly freeing to be surrounded by people who actually think learning languages for fun is “normal”. In normal circumstances, it’s very rare to be able to discuss my unusual hobby without getting blank looks or furrowed eyebrows in return! And the speakers were just… wow. I was blown away by the vast knowledge some of these people had about so many different languages. [Read the rest]