Posts Tagged ‘languages’

After six weeks, my cast came off today, and I’m allowed to put weight on my ankle, though I will confess that these first hours are scary, and my crutches are still my best friends. I learned some lessons over these last six weeks:

  • Maintaining leg, shoulder and arm strength is important for all of us. We never know when we will need it, and I’m pleased that prior to my accident I had increased the weight exercises at the gym.
  • Time actually goes really fast, and I didn’t really have time to read all the books, watch all the TV programmes, or learn all the Spanish that I thought I would six weeks ago.
  • I need to lose weight, and I missed cooking, and I’m not sure if the two are linked.
  • It is hard to ask for help, but we will all have to do it at some stage, and we need to learn that

a) there is no shame in it, and
b) if you don’t ask, you often don’t get, and
c) in asking, we’ll learn how to better help others.

  • We should appreciate how lucky we are to be able to do things like walking, or using our hands and arms, or other basic functions that we take for granted, but shouldn’t.

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1.  Be original.  This post is a complete copy of Bridgett’s idea, and some of my items are also direct lifts from her post.  They’re here though because they spoke to me so strongly.  I wish I’d thought of this first!

2.  Wake up early, full of enthusiasm for the day, full of energy.  I’ve never been a morning person.  I love the dawn, the early morning hush, the start of activity in a community.  I especially love dawn when I am travelling.  But I don’t love getting up for it.  I don’t love the death-warmed-up feeling I have as I fall out of bed, and usually stays with me for the next half hour.  My husband can leap out of bed at 6 am and feel fine.  He doesn’t understand me, and I think he’s an alien.

3.  Speak a language fluently. I fear I am too old to ever achieve this. Yes, I speak Thai, but I’ve forgotten so much, and the more I learned, the more fluency rushed off ahead of me, daring me to try to reach it. I’ve forgotten so much Mandarin that I can’t really speak it at all now. I’m working intermittently on Spanish, and would dearly love to improve my schoolgirl French, that comes so naturally at times, and completely deserts me at others.  Italian appeals too – just because I love the way it sounds (and I could use it to order pasta and gelato, two of my favourite things).  This of course is precisely the reason why I can’t speak a language fluently!  I find them all too interesting, and too attractive, to focus just one.

4.   Ski. I would love to be able to ski. I’ve only tried it once, and the boots hurt my shin bones so dreadfully I had to give up after half a day, just as I was getting the hang of it.  I have this romantic notion of swishing  down the slopes, of jetting off for ski-ing holidays to Canada or Colorado or the French Alps or Zermatt.  The fact I don’t like heights, or the cold, is of course irrelevant in this fantasy.

5.   Ride a horse.  Oh, I dreamed of riding when I was little.  All those English girls’ books about riding and horses and ponies sucked me in completely.  But I never  got the opportunity.  Now I’d worry about the poor horse having to hold me up – but I’d still like to learn.  I love the idea of moseying along a trail somewhere in North America, or racing across lush green grass.

6.  Ditto for tennis. I can play, but I’d like to be able to play much better. Or live in a place where playing would be easier.  Ditto for golf.

7.  Stay organised and tidy.  I know how to be organised.  I know how to set up systems to be organised.  I can do all that without difficulty.  But I don’t do it.  (Another example of doing not as I say.)  Then it becomes overwhelming, too hard, and the disorganisation creates further disorganisation.  I could take a photo of my desk at the moment to prove this.  But I won’t.  The shame, the shame!

8.  Make my own patterns.  I like sewing.  Or rather, I did like sewing.  I made a lot of my own clothes when I first started working – sewed my own 1980s suits, complete with lining and shoulder pads.  I stopped when I got cats.  They liked playing with the cotton and fabric, and laying out the fabric on the floor, on the thin pattern tissue paper, was just asking for trouble.  They thought I was giving them a game.  Anyway, I often have an idea in my head of what I want to make, but when I go to buy patterns, they never have anything quite right.  I’d love to be able to make my own patterns, and sew my own ideas.  I watch Project Runway in envy.

9.  Be brave.  It would be nice to be physically brave – to not worry about heights, to be able to hop and skip across a swing bridge, to hike the wonderful scenic routes in the southern parts of this country without fear.  And to be brave in other terms – to be brave enough to put myself out there emotionally.  I do it sometimes – I mean, taking off at 17 to live in Bangkok was pretty brave.  But other times, I don’t even want to pick up the telephone.  (I mean, it is a menacing, evil machine at times!)

10.  Not worry about what other people think.  Yes, I know this is related to #9, and being emotionally brave.  Perhaps it is worth noting a second time.  Perhaps this is why my latest crush is on Brene Brown who writes about vulnerability.  (But I’m getting ahead of myself.  More on that to come …)

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6 weeks and 1 day
56 hours in the air, 11 aeroplanes, 5 airlines
50,000 kilometres (give or take a few thousand)
2 continents
8 countries (not counting China as I was in transit only), 4 of them new destinations
6 foreign currencies
11 beds in 9 hotel rooms and 2 guest rooms
13 modes of transport
7 different languages in which to ask for “two beers please”
12 Gbs of photos (give or take a gb)
9 postcards sent to 5 countries
1 original blog post
1 alcohol free day

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The virtuous (some might say self-righteous) reasons.

Reason 8: I travel to learn.
Learning languages has always taught me more about my own language, but it also gives me a new and different insight into the people who speak that language. Even when I don’t learn the language of my destination, I find learning about culture and history is always valuable. I see life and my place in it in a different way. I know that western civilization hasn’t always been dominant, that it didn’t invent everything good (and a lot bad). I realise that life today is just a speck in the history of time. I’ve stood on a “new bridge” in France that was four hundred years old, and my mind boggled.

I’ve learned about and witnessed the results of the terrible things human beings do to each other, aghast at the things that have been done in the name of religion. Reading about this is one thing. Seeing the faces of the people of Cambodia or in the slums of Soweto, or standing on the parapet where the Cathars were thrown to their deaths simply because of their beliefs, or visiting the Budapest or Prague Holocaust Memorials, brings a sharpness and clarity to my understanding. Travelling broadens my mind; it is a cliché but it is true. I know that things are never black and white. Travelling simply confirms that, reminds me of that, and I think that knowledge and understanding makes me a better person.

Reason 9: I travel to grow.
Being thrown outside your comfort zone can be disconcerting, but it can also give you confidence in your ability to adapt. I often think of myself as shy, unadventurous, and definitely not brave. I’m not the type to go climb a mountain, and I admire those who do. But when I look back at some of the things I have done in the course of travel, whether for business or pleasure, I realise that maybe I am not such a wimp after all. Getting through all these situations – knowing I could get through them – was priceless. My next attempt to grow will be taking a balloon trip. I’m terrified of heights. If I can manage it, I’ll be ecstatic. I’m a bit more concerned I’ll spend the entire 220 Euros cowering on the floor of the wicker basket.

Reason 10: I travel to be more compassionate.
Seeing how others live, putting yourselves in their shoes, and perhaps finding a way to help them – well, it just seems to expand your heart.

My mother-in-law looked out the window of our air-conditioned jeep and said “ah, look at the peasants. What an idyllic life they leave.” This was from a woman who had lived in a centrally heated house with electricity and plumbing and washing machines and ovens for the last fifty years, without fear of running out of money, always able to provide for her family. When I was able to retrieve my jaw from the floor, I pointed out the worries that a Thai peasant might have – fear of disease, starvation, poverty, unable to provide education or a helping hand to her children, or to get medicine for aged parents. And all that after back-breaking work in the paddy fields. Then, I think she actually felt compassion. (Empathy doesn’t come naturally to her). She realised how good she had it.

I have a problem with people who say help your own country before those overseas. If you’ve seen poverty, if you’ve seen the mine victims in Cambodia, if you’ve been there and imagined what it must be like to live in a tin shack in a slum in the heat of summer in South Africa or India, or to be poor in the depths of the winter at 17 below F in Dayton, Ohio, then you learn some compassion and empathy. Humanity and compassion doesn’t end at the border. And it shouldn’t. Because if it does, we’re all doomed.

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