Weeks 73 through 78

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The view outside my window at work (in Povo) last week.

The last couple of months have gone by really fast. It’s been cold and snowing, which has been quite lovely, but I am certainly looking forward to spring. This month, I started my new internship at FBK, I took an intensive Italian language course, and I’ve been training my aerial silks skills as well.

At work, my main project deals with understanding the speech of second language learners. In the Trentino area, there is an examination company which administers English proficiency exams to Italian high school students. The goal of the project is to write a program which recognizes the spontaneous speech of the students, and to give their answers a grade similar to the way a teacher would grade them. The difficulty of the project as a whole comes from the fact that we have relatively little data of the students, they are speaking with an Italian accent, and the teachers’ grades may not always be consistent.

There are further difficulties that I’ve encountered in my own work. Firstly, I’m constantly fighting with Kaldi (an open source speech recognition toolkit). It’s basically written in C++ and shell script. I have to admit to you now, that I haven’t worked much with compiled languages in general, and certainly not C++. Fortunately, I haven’t had to dig too deeply in that part of the code yet. In terms of the shell scripting, well, it gets rather messy in Kaldi. I’m certainly getting a lot more comfortable with the linux command line now, although I feel that might be a never ending process.

A few weeks ago, I started attending an intensive Italian language course. The language courses here are organized by the CEFR levels, but they further split each section into two parts. When I first came to Italy, I took a placement test, and skipped straight into level A2a. It was a little bit higher than I was necessarily comfortable at, but I find that that’s a good way to learn quickly. During the next round of intensive courses, there was no A2b (the next level) available, so the teachers let me skip straight into B1a. This was again a fair bit harder than I was entirely comfortable at, but the course was actually really good. We got a lot of practice speaking, so I began to feel like I could start making proper sentences. I still feel pretty far behind in terms of grammar, but I am at least able to reason about it, if not speak it properly in the heat of the moment. The main difficulty I had with the course was that I had to wake up super early to get to work early so that I could leave early for the course. I didn’t have much time to eat after lunch, and sometimes I went straight to aerial silks even after Italian!

Speaking of aerial, I’ve been practicing 2-3 times a week (trying to get closer to a consistent 3 times now), and I have really begun to see improvement. The week before last, I couldn’t hardly do an inversion, except from the ground with a bit of a jump. Now I’m able to get into them in the air, if I give it a bit of a swing. It still looks all wonky, since I really can’t keep my legs straight while doing it, and I still struggle to throw my legs back at the very end so I end up sort of awkwardly catching the silks with my feet and bent legs, but I am seeing progress. Now I need to work on flexibility and lifting the weight of my straight legs (rather than bent legs) during inversions. This last Sunday, I learned my first drops– three different ones!

I really like the feeling of achieving new things in aerial. It’s nice to know that something that I couldn’t do yesterday, has become routine today. It’s really cool to feel like I can hold myself up in the air long enough to start playing around and experimenting with the silks. It’s also nice to work with people who are better than you in the class, because you can see what you’re working towards. All in all, this is one of the most fun things going on right now.

Costs:

  • €225 – rent
  • €31 – trash fee
  • €50 – utilities/internet
  • €21 – phone
  • €167 – groceries
  • €6 – dining
  • €30 – education (text book)
  • €21 – gym
  • €5 – video games
  • €180 – train tickets, souvenirs, etc. in Venice
  • Total: €736
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