Reactions I Get to Being a Black Belt

So, if you couldn’t tell from the title, I’m a black belt. More specifically, I’m a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I started in first grade, took a hiatus in high school, and started up again by joining the Rutgers Tae Kwon Do team and their demonstration team. It’s definitely built up my strength, both physical and mental, from breaking cinder blocks to dealing with the frustration of mastering tricky kicks. Movies like The Karate Kid portray martial artists as total badass warriors, so naturally, when I, a short, Starbucks-drinking girl, reveal this fact about myself, people have some interesting reactions.

1. You can totally beat someone up!

Yeah, I know the right kicks to land depending on the way someone attacks me. Especially having sparred, I know how to defend myself. But a coached sparring match and an unexpected street fight are two totally different things. Believe me, I’d be just as scared to fight someone who messes with my squad as someone with absolutely no martial arts experience.

2. You’re so tough!

I’ve learned a lot through Tae Kwon Do, like demonstrating good sportsmanship and high spinning hook kicks. But even though I learned all that, I’m just like any other person, with fears, sensitivities, and even weaknesses. Being involved in Tae Kwon Do, for as long as I have been, has made me learn to overcome those things effectively, but has not necessarily eradicated them. So yeah, sometimes (a lot of times) I really need a night like this:

English to Java?

I’m in Greece trying to tell my great aunt that I enjoy her hospitality, but my Greek’s a little rusty and I don’t know how to exactly articulate my thoughts.

Maybe, in broken Greek, I’ll indicate that her house looks beautiful or that her food tastes great, but none of these sentiments convey the same message as enjoying her cooking.

Oddly enough, writing a computer program in the Java language presents a similar dilemma. Much like communicating in a foreign language, I know what I want the program to do. Let’s say I want it to multiply two polynomials. Before writing the code in Java, the thought How do I go about telling the computer to do perform this operation in some lines of code in Java? will haunt me for hours, sometimes even days, before I attempt to write anything.

Much like attempting to convey a thought or feeling in Greek, I know exactly what I want to say in my native tongue, English, but the slightest slip-up in my words could result in something different from what I intended. If I write an inaccurate line of Java code, I could be instructing the program to subtract polynomials instead of multiplying them.

Writing my own programs reminds me of how challenging going from one language to another is, as well as the subtleties involved.

Just when I’ve thought that I wrote all my lines of code in a way that makes the program do what I want it to do, a test run frustratingly indicates that something is still off, or that there is a “bug” lurking somewhere: the code keeps running infinitely, the wrong equation may come out, or it may simply crash. A line-by-line search of the problem, which could be anything from a syntax error to misspelling a word, the error was simple, will typically reveal a simple error.

The same thing happens when I try to express myself in Greek.  Sometimes I’ll say something in a way that sounds sarcastic when I don’t mean it to or vice versa. Or just one letter can send a person to the table (trapezi) instead of to the bank (trapeza).

Even though communicating in different languages can have trying or amusing results, every blunder opens up my mind a bit more.