a Lesson on Learning Languages
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt, Citizenship In A Republic, delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France23 April, 1910
Without hesitation, I can freely admit that my español is terrible. Maybe “middling” at best. Weekly Spanish lessons have propagated a sharp increase in my everyday, conversational speech, but the eureka sensation has yet to sprout. On my own, I read poems written by the likes of Federico García Lorca and Alejandra Pizarnik, with the aid of SpanishDict! and Google Translate. Actually, this is how I came to the realization that when compared to English, Spanish is completely backwards! When everyone around you is speaking the language that you’re still in the process of learning, it’s almost impossible to be immune to the pangs of inadequacy, or even stupidity. The common Spanish phrases that are used to inoculate these pangs are “tranquilo” and “poco a poco”. The sentiment is present, though if you’re anything like me, these phrases will frustrate more than alleviate grammatical vexations.
I am ambitious. I fancy to attain fluency in a matter of weeks after first initialization, so maybe I’m more impatient than anything else. However, if I have learned anything about language-learning whilst traveling and living abroad, it would have to be that to learn, one must practice.
Fail at speaking the language!
Practicing What I Preach
The plane alighted in Sofia, Bulgaria around 1AM. De-boarding was relatively easy since I only travel with carry-on luggage, as well as the time was late enough for the tiny airport to not receive too much air traffic. I managed to find a taxi driver almost immediately, or rather, he found me. The drive to the hostel was super quick and light. Neither the taxi driver nor I had much to say to each other. In fact, even when we got to the hostel and I was duly ripped-off on the price — a price that is extremely laughable — I didn’t exchange more than a few words with him. This isn’t because of the time, our individual moods, nor due to a mutual, instantaneous disdain for one another. The onslaught of silence was perpetuated by the lack of possible words that we could’ve said to each other that would be understood. It may come as a surprise, but the Bulgarian dialect and the English language are completely different! The alphabets are different from each other too! How could we possibly have had a conversation when I couldn’t even say “hello” in the native tongue?
Well, when I got inside the hostel, I was determined to right that wrong. For five minutes upon first introductions, I had the hostel receptionist repeat “hello” in Bulgarian until I could accurately pronounce it. This was at 2AM. Bless her soul, she is a trooper for dealing with my curious antics at such an early hour.
Over the following two weeks, I acquired some basic words, greetings, and questions to add to my Bulgarian language repertoire. I committed a TON of errors, but I wouldn’t have progressed without asking questions and speaking the language.
I then translated this working theory into learning basic Turkish, Italian, and Slovenian. While I am not fluent in any of the four languages, I was able to understand the conversational flow for each of them. This was incredibly eye-opening, as well as entertaining, considering the amount of time I spent in each country.
Ambition doesn’t prohibit humility or modesty.
Re-read that last sentence again. It can be tailored for any and all goals and aspirations.
I might have a dismal Spanish vocabulary and grammatical knowledge, but I am comfortable with speaking, writing, and reading in Spanish. I might not have attained fluency yet, but I have accepted my own deficiency.
Fallar, preguntar, probar, y mas importante, estar humilde.
pizarnik__alejandra_-_poesia_completa – Poesia Completa by Alejandra Pizarnik. A huuuugggggeeeee pdf to read at your own leisure.
http://www.hostelmostel.com/ – The best hostel in Sofia, as well as Veliko Tarnovo. A bit biased, but oh well!
http://www.spanishdict.com/ – AHHHHHH, the more precise and accurate alternative to Google Translate. This company has a mobile application that works offline as well! Perfect for wandering through any Spanish-speaking country.
Здрасти (‘zdrasti) ZDRAHS-tee – hello (informal) in Bulgarian.
It’s Been Awhile.
I am terrible at updating this blog.
I apologize, friend.
Taking this website too seriously has led to its temporary demise. The more criticizing and meticulous I am about my writing, the less I publish. To be frank, I have a smorgasbord of article drafts written, just without the confidence to publish them. I am terrified of the permanence of the Web. Nothing is meant to last forever, although, that statement is proven erroneous in the Digital Age. Nonetheless, I will strive to write and publish at least one article a week. Anything more will be a bonus. Be prepared for some egregious outlines; some unfiltered language; please don’t eviscerate me in the comments. If I love to write, then write I shall! This blog was designed for the public, when all along, the stories were my own.
I am now in Milan, couch surfing with a friend that I met in Istanbul. As early as last night, the plan had been to head south to Selçuk, Turkey on the overnight bus, but a problem loomed large: my bus left an hour earlier than expected, leaving me at the bus station dumbfounded and slightly buzzed. Fate works in mysterious ways, such as bringing me to Milan to reacquaint myself with a new friend. After the catastrophe at the bus station, I called my friend at the hostel and he secured me a place to sleep for the night. If you ever go to Istanbul, I highly recommend Hostel Big Apple (http://hostelbigapple.com). You’ll book with one of two owners, either Aslan or Dan. Both are the homies, for real – mind my colloquial American speech. Tell them Christian recommended this place, and a conversation will inevitably (hopefully) materialize. Anyways, I return to the hostel and am greeted with expressions of mass confusion. I had dramatized a grand goodbye, which made explaining my mishap all the more embarrassing. Nonetheless, the friendly atmosphere of the hostel welcomed me back for the night. For hours, I was lost as to where I should go. Should I continue on the path already planned, or diverge to new pavements? I had a friend that was willing to travel to Olympos on the Southwestern Coast of Turkey, mainly because I had relentlessly talked about it throughout El Clasico. I was tempted to go, but temptations do not necessarily transpire. Instead, I booked a ticket to Milan at 4AM. Here I am now, awake at 3:06AM, stroking Rufio’s fur. As a warranted disclosure, Rufio is my friend’s cat. I believe I have a plan now, but I will keep it secured in my mind and notebook until I act on it. I will be in Milan for only a day until I travel North. The plan for tomorrow is to attend a festival outside of Milan, one that was disclosed to me over gooey pizza and creamy risotto tonight. Don’t get me started on Italian food. It is my new passion, my everything, reinvigorating memories of Grandma’s house when I was little.
Anyways, I just wanted to update this blog since it has been over a month since I published a post. As informal as this post is, this format will be seen again in the future. As I stated in the first article that I wrote (https://theblueofdistance.com/2016/07/27/preparing-for-a-life-of-travel/), this website will and does consist of an eclectic mix of writing. Buckle up and prepare for the joy ride.
I see the world.
I see the world from my tiny window.
The window may be tiny, but the scene is vast;
For the sea of clouds stretches to kiss the horizon,
Gently bowing at the mountainous base.
Oh, how the scene evolves with my forward motion,
But the profound beauty remains still.
I see the world from my tiny window.
I see the world,
But I’m only preoccupied with home.
Who dares come uninvited into my heart!
Barging through the double doors of my mind,
and constructing an impermeable fortress in my thoughts.
Only a person so despicable as you
could ever conduct this act of trespassing.
You have stolen away at night
with a piece of me,
and left a statue in your remembrance.
Treachery is your sword and,
I, the unwitting target.
Is it masochistic to say that I love the way the pointed edge feels?
Is it masochistic to say that I love the times we spent together?
Although they seem to dissolve like the root beer candies that would stick to our tongues…
Is it sadistic to hope that I have made monsoons fall from your eyes?
I hope you left in the same mindset as I,
waiting for the next time.
Preparing For A Life Of Travel
At this time on Friday evening, I will be in Baltimore-Washington International Airport awaiting the first leg of the flight to Barcelona, Spain. I have anticipated this final week for months, but now that it has crystalized into reality, the tingles from the concoction of excitement and fear have set in. I have been nonchalant about my upcoming travels whenever asked by a curious friend or family member. It may come off as indifference, or even as if I’m not excited at all, but it’s actually the complete opposite of that! I feel as if I am finally doing what I want in my life, not having to jump through hypothetical hoops to achieve my goals. My eagerness might not have been visible on the exterior, but the adrenaline from what’s about to come has been coursing through my bloodstream. I’m ready.
I realize now that it may come as a shock to whomever is reading this, knows me, but had no idea about this entire journey. This may come as a shock for whomever I told, but automatically assumed that it was tied to University, a study abroad program of sorts. To clarify, this is not affiliated with any college, this is my choice to travel alone. Six months ago I was still enrolled at Portland State University (sort of). I chose that college based on the city that it resided in, not on academics. I love PSU, I love Portland, Oregon even more. I lived there for six amazing months, none of which I’ve come to regret – minus the wasted college expenses. Upon reminiscing about Portland, I realize now that it may come as a shock to whomever I met in the city and had no idea about this entire journey. This may come as a shock for whomever I conversed with at any of the 3 jobs I was working at for the past 4 months. When I left college, I knew that I was leaving in pursuit of the seven continents. Money was an object not of desire, but of necessity for this endeavor. I quickly attained two new jobs on top of my old job as a barista. Days were long and repetitive, but I was truly humbled by the perpetual routine of work. On top of all the jobs that I worked, I was preparing for the CELTA course that I was hoping to enroll in. I had to apply, wait for my application to be accepted or rejected, then prepare for an interview via Skype, hope that the interview went successfully, then once accepted, allocate all of my free time to studying and completing all pre-course work. This has been my life for the past four months, substituting for my Associate’s degree. I could have stayed in uni since I’ve been affiliated with three different colleges in the past year and a half! From a prestigious songwriting major at Belmont University, to an unknown and unseen bout at Howard Community College, to finally end up as a Philosophy and English major at Portland State University, I can honestly admit that college was not my cup of tea. This earl-grey-connoseuir craved knowledge that came from empirical observations and a plethora of books related to whatever topic interested me that week. I was always a ghost in the classroom, reading all material given and completing all online classwork, but never a physical presence in the class. A quintessential student? I think not! I was too preoccupied with exploring the region that I was living in at the time. My fascination with exploration and the minutiae of all existence dictated my time. Upon reminiscing about skipping class and exploring the particular area that I occupied, I realize now that it may come as a shock to all the friends I made in Nashville, Tennessee and Columbia, Maryland and had no idea about this journey. This may come as a shock to all my peers that I went to high school with, to all my neighbors that grew up with me, even to the dedicated friends and family that supported my decision with their love and appraisal.
I have still been a bit vague in this first blog post, I hope it does not become a trend.
There are 196 countries in the world at this moment in time (I include Taiwan as a country) and I plan to live in every single one of them. A bold claim, but one that I will fulfill over my lifetime. Everything that I need, I will have with me and/or obtain on the road. My life fits inside my backpack now, subtracting my ever-so-kind-to-me guitar collection, and I plan to keep it that way until my backpack breaks down or gets stolen and the necessity to buy a new backpack materializes. I have a very tentative plan for the countries that I will first live in, more so improvising as I go. I covet the feeling of being lost, and I admire all past figures in history that have made a life in wandering. Every person that I have met up until this point has impacted my life to deepest depths and the furthest fault-lines; Gratitude is in my heart as compassion is in my actions.
“The return makes one love the farewell.” – Alfred de Musset
This website is a conglomeration of updates on my travels, random writings, a storage for my photography, a vessel for any videos uploaded, etcetera. I have as much of an idea for this website as I do for what I’m going to eat for breakfast tomorrow (no idea). Stay up to date with my life at your own discretion and willingness, I am sure I will see you again!