Thursday, January 28, 2010

By June

I want to be as fluent in Spanish as he is in English.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I once wrote this

"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all." --Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye

I thought about this quote earlier today when Ann sent me a story about a Czech mother who locked up and tethered her 7 yr. old son in a basement and was eating him alive. The boy was found with his 9 yr. old brother who was also abused. The children were found by chance by a neighbor who picked up images of them on his baby monitor. It was a crazy story that only began to get more complicated since the mother posed as the sister of the two victims. Ill. This is only the most recent mind boggling story to come out of these "sleepy" countries.

In April I believe, an Australian man was arrested for kidnapping and sequestering his daughter and their children for 24 years. Apparently, he built a trap room under the basement, drugged his daughter, and faked her running away with a cult. Over the course of 24 years, he had seven children with her, one of whom died. Three of the children lived with him and his wife, the daughter's mother, who claimed that she knew nothing about her husband's extra-curricular activities.

This case came on the heels of another case happening 2 years prior in the same country. A girl who was kidnapped at age 10 as she was walking to school, managed to escape her captor8 yrs. later. The dastardly kidnapper threw himself in front of a train when her learned of her escape.

Each time I read stories like these, many things run through my mind:

1. How can people so cruel?

2. If you can't trust your family, who can you trust?

3. And this is the thought that kills me more than anything, who else? The idea that there might be some poor, helpless child locked up with no chance of escape kills me which leads me back to the quote with which I started.

I want to be the catcher in the rye, not saving children from going over the precipice of childhood into adulthood, but from going over the cliff of happiness and lightheartedness into the abyss of suffering both physically and mentally. I just want to protect them, to set up a sanctuary where they can stay to live out their dreams, to be free, and pure and beautiful.

I never want to have children. There are too many children who need someone to care for them who need someone to care for them. I'd rather make the world's unloved, parentless, lonely, poor, unlucky children my children.

I want people to look at me and say, "God that girl has got a good/pure heart." She's a little mysterious/aloof/quirky/eccentric/whatever, but damn she's got a good heart.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Learning a language in 3 months??

Yup, that definitely did not happen for me. Not even in 6 months.

From previous posts, I should hope that it's pretty obvious that one of my main goals here is to become fluent in Spanish. That desire has led me to blog after blog in search of the magic method. Unfortunately, there is none. However, I have gleaned things from those blogs (and my experience here) which have helped me immensely.

1. Avoid speakers of your native language like the plague.

If you really want to learn another language, you're going to have to make yourself a little (very) uncomfortable.

2. Roadtrips are a really good time for you to practice speaking the target language.

Sure you could fill 5 hours listening to music, but it would be much more to your benefit if you took advantage of the journey to have a conversation. My housemate commented on my how much better my fluency and my accent were after returning from a long roadtrip. I was alone with someone who didn't speak English and I really have any other option but to talk to him in Spanish.

3. Read read read.

You have to pick up vocabulary from somewhere. Children learn it from their parents and in school. Since your parents probably don't speak your target language, and 3 months of schooling, even intensive schooling, can not make up for years of vocabulary deprivation, you must take other steps to acquire the vocabulary that you lack. Books, newspapers, and magazines are great sources.

4. Watch the news.

Besides being a well informed person, you will get the chance to hear proper pronunciation (the ideal) and learn new words. Also, the news is done at a pace that is faster than many of the lessons on language tapes, while not as fast as that of normal conversations.

5. Intensive language courses...

Don't work in my opinion. If you're going to take one, make sure to practice outside of class.

6. Bars are probably the best place to learn a language.

Usually in these settings, people are more relaxed and much more likely to use slang, idioms, and popular sayings which are fundamental in the transformation of the target language from a textbook language to a real, living thing.

7. Break up your language learning.

For me, that meant dedicating the first 3 months to listening and understand. I dedicated (and am currently in) the next trimester to syncing my brain and my tongue. That means taking extra care with my pronunciation and making sure to get my point across. I don't know what I'll focus on during the 3rd trimester. I'll just have to pay attention to the areas in which I am really weak.

I've found excellent advise from the following sites:

No te cortes! Sin miedo....

are probably among the phrases I hear the most (along with "etypically espanish") often directed at me. Usually the speaker is trying to pull me out of my shell and get me to speak more, to make me forget about utilizing correct grammar and and trying to pronounce things as perfectly as I can, however painstaking it may be.

I would like to think that I have made progress in this area, but perhaps what may seem like leaps and bounds to me doesn't even constitute a half step to someone else. In any case, no te cortes is easier said than done. I sometimes wonder how I would interact with people here if I didn't have the language problem. However, then I realize that language isn't the only problem. Many times in group situations, I find myself lost because someone makes a cultural reference. While said reference can bring some of the participants in the conversation closer, at the same time, it can easily exclude those who don't understand it. And that is the position in which I find myself many times. Before coming here, I didn't realize how much language was used to reference and rehash cultural facts. I figure that there is no way that I can get around being in the dark about what people are talking about except to ask. Sin miedo. Don't be afraid.

I suppose that I must do the same that I tell my students: don't worry about making a mistake. The important thing is getting your message across and if you don't understand something, ask.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wallowing in ignorance

Every now and then, my housemate refers to some Spanish idioms that have been translated to English and laughs about how funny they are while I'm at a loss as to what they mean. So, I've taken the liberty of posting the idiom, it's English translation, and what it means (based on what I've been able to find on the internet).

1. Se te ha ido la olla: Your pan has gone
To go crazy.

2. Mi gozo en un pozo: My happiness in a well.
My hopes were crushed/just my luck/my luck went south/things didn't turn out the way I would have hoped.

3. Compuesto y sin novia: Composed and without a girlfriend.
Ready to go, but missing an important piece. To be left high and dry.

4. La madre que lo/te/me pario: The mother who gave birth to him/you/me
Son of a gun. Can be used to express frustration, surprise, or anger. Depending on the context, it can have a meaning stronger than "son of a gun."

5. Vamos, no me jodas: Let's go. Don't fuck me.
Come on. Stop kidding around. Or, are you serious?

6. Marcando paquete: Marking parcel.
Showing off one's package/family jewels/male genitalia.

7. Marica de playa: Sissy of the beach
Refers to the overly muscular guys that you find at the beach prancing around in their revealing beach wear and showing off their muscles.

8. Marica el ultimo: Sissy the last
Last one's a sissy.

9. Apaga y vamanos: Switch off and let's go.
Enough already; Let's call it a wrap; I rest my case (when used to express

10. Meter un puro: To put in a cigar
To sanction someone; to punish someone.

11. Salir por piernas: Go out by legs
To make a hasty/speedy exit; to leave quickly in the face of danger or an uncomfortable situation.

12. Cantamanana: Morning singer
A fly by night; a wreckless, loquacious person, a bull shitter, a rascal, a ruffian.

13. Por si las moscas: For if the flies
Just in case.

14. No es moco de pavo: It is not turkey mucus.
Used to signal that something is important.

15. Me la suda (vulgar): It sweats me.
It's all the same to me.

16. Tienes mas cuento que Calleja: You have more story than Calleja
The stories or excuses that you give ring a bit false, seem exaggerated.

Will add more another day.

Thwarted: A mini vacation that never was

I had visions of myself getting out of the pueblo and exploring a new city, but alas that was not to be. There is something to be said about proper planning and having enough money to make decisions on the fly. My sister says I want to go everywhere and do everything, and that's true. I want to do it all. I just don't have the resources. However, this time, it was my own laziness that prevented us from going to Granada.

If I had checked the bus schedule, I would have realized that there was only one bus leaving from this town today and then I wouldn't have made a reservation at a hostel in Madrid--a non refundable reservation, and long awaited for money. Even though the blame falls on me for this one, why would a company decrease bus service on a holiday as opposed to increasing it like every other company does? People are more likely to travel when they have time off!

Anyway, I'll chalk this up to a lesson learned. There is something to be said about proper planning.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pictures for entries from way back

These next 5 or so shots are definitely my favorite from the trip. We were up in the clouds in La Peña de Francia, a mountain in the province of Salamanca.

In the past, Ávila was a city that existed behind a wall. The wall still exists and the city has become a tourist attraction for Spaniards and non-Spaniards alike.

The church within the city walls. I don't remember the name and quite frankly am not bothered by this since by this time, I had seen way too many churches.

This picture was actually taken while standing on the wall.

Another church.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy new year!

Art the III and I spent new year's day in Puerta del Sol. It was pretty sweet.

I hope everyone can say the same.