Sunday, June 16, 2013

Around the World in an Eight-Hour Day

During my first week in the office of Smithsonian magazine, I left my makeshift office in the corner of the layout room and traipsed over to the digital side to talk to Beth, the magazine's digital editor. We were brainstorming ideas for stories related to the upcoming 10-day Folklife Festival on the Mall. We discussed finding a chef who could give us a recipe for hogs pudding for a story about Hungarian heritage, one of this year's themes. However, we came up short with ideas for a story about another one of our themes, language preservation.

We watched a video about an old Welsh professor and historian who talked about the importance of language in shaping cultures. Disgusted with the idea that one language for the entire world would make it a better place, he said in his rumbly accented voice, "We are just as stupid in one language as we are in many."

Beth and I burst out laughing, and she said, "You have to interview him."

It's one of my first writing assignments, and I couldn't be more excited about it. I've only been at Smithsonian for one week, and I already feel as if it's taken me all over the world. Most would think my first writing assignment, creating photo captions, would be dull. But I couldn't disagree more when you're writing photo captions for London sights in the travel section.

When I'm researching an event in the United States, like the Battle of Atlanta in the Civil War, I feel transported to another place. I can't possibly live in the same country where cannon fire once rent the air and countless lives were lost over the issue of slavery, can I? It seems as foreign to me as Hungarian hogs pudding.

In one week I've created a list of new travel destinations (I can dream, right?) and have developed a greater curiosity for history and science. Both were subjects that once elicited yawns and blank stares from me. In a city filled with historical monuments, memorials, and museums -- and a city I had never seen until last week -- I can already tell the discoveries won't be limited to the office. I can't wait to see what experiences lay ahead. Will they be as rich as hogs pudding? I can only hope.

By Colleen Connolly, DePaul University, Smithsonian
Edited by Morgan Grain, Florida A&M University, InStyle
   

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