Seville

IMG_2749

So, Seville. It’s such a many-splendored city that my selects folder has 44 photos in it, even though I usually stick to a 15-image limit for any one post.

First of all, it’s a rich and therefore gilded city. Second of all, its aesthetic has been shaped by several very different cultures –  Moorish, Catholic Spanish, and Gothic European. Sometimes all three influences are visible in one structure, to fascinating effect. Third of all, the ornateness and scale of the town’s three or four big eye-poppers is such that they are impossible to do justice to in only a couple of images. But, I scrapped a bunch of photos nevertheless, in order to leave you with what I hope is a nice and concise impression of a very nice and very grandiose city. Continue reading

My plans, or lack thereof

So… I’m leaving Dakar. Which I know sounds ridiculous coming just days after I posted a love letter to the city. I meant every word of it, and I’m sure I would fall even harder the longer I stayed. But sometimes you can’t be with the one you love. Continue reading

¡progreso en español!

chatterbox.jpg

I left for Mexico City on the last day of my Spanish class, a perfect segue between theoretical practice and putting it all into actual practice. My hope was to get a full immersion experience, use English as seldom as possible, and come back speaking Spanish leaps and bounds beyond where I started.

Problem is, I don’t know that much Spanish to begin with. I’ve learned two forms of the past tense but not the one that seems most important, the simple past. Likewise, I know the easy form of the future tense (ir + infinitive), but not the more sophisticated one. I am clueless when it comes to using verbs with se at the end, because I keep projecting the French rules for reflexive verbs onto them, and they just do not follow those rules. And my vocabulary is severely limited.

It’s not easy to immerse with such a small tool set. So, my level of success was varying. Sometimes, due to accents above all, I could not understand a single word a person was saying, and they could not understand me either. Many times, I thought I was cleverly and rather poetically working my way around the words I didn’t know, when in actuality my creative expression was only further confusing things. Often, I swapped similar-sounding words and wreaked havoc on my intended meaning, as when I told a man that my job was to make girlfriends – novias – instead of the news – noticias. (Akin to when I kept referring to hair – cheveux – as horses – chevaux – in France.)

I had better luck once I accepted the fact that I had to think my words through more carefully before spitting them out, even though I was already talking at a snail’s pace. After a slooooow conversation with two local men towards the end of my trip, one commented to another, “Ella habla muy despacio pero cada palabra es perfecto.” I was thrilled at the backhanded-compliment – despite their obvious belief that I was too slow to understand what they were saying about me.

And eleven days of semi-immersion is all it takes, apparently. By the end of my trip, when I was in a taxi returning to the hotel in Mexico City after my Elsewhere adventure, I became a veritable charlatan. (Not a pretender, as in the English definition, but rather a chatterbox, as in the Spanish. Intriguing, no, that there is an etymological connection between lying and over-talking?) I was making crazy confident conversation. The words were flowing. I understood the cabbie, he understood me. It was like I had hit my Spanish flow.

The same thing happened in France, though on a much higher level. In Mexico, I was ecstatic to find I could form complete sentences with the correct tense and conjugation. In France, I was astounded when I could carry on the same conversations I would have had in English. But in both cases, I kept hitting a wall, hitting a wall, hitting a wall, and then went to bed one night and woke up the next day speaking the language.

In short: immersion makes miracles happen.

[Photo: Wendy]

lo que hice en mis vacaciones de invierno

post_officeConsidering that my command of both French and Spanish is at a grade-school level, it seems appropriate to report on my vacations to French and Spanish-speaking countries with elementary school-style essays. Today I bring you the second installment: DF and Elsewhere edition.

Please note that I did not consult Google Translate or a living, breathing Spanish speaker for this. So what follows is not pretty, but it’s an accurate representation of where I’m at when I have only my brain and Spanish spell-check to rely upon:

DF_from_the_air.jpg

He llegado por la tarde en Cuidad de México (DF) y he ido a mi hotel en el barrio Condesa. La primera noche, he conocido a mi amiga de la universidad que vive ahora en DF. En el restaurante ella me dijo que puedo beber el agua además comer los vegetales frescos, si es un bueno restaurante, porque ellos anudan ‘iodine’ a su agua y limpian todo con este agua. Aunque el más importante reglo que he escuchado para México estaba de no beber el agua, decidí de crear en mi amiga y esperar por lo mejor. O sea que la primera cosa que he comido en México estaba la más prohibida: unos hojas de una verdura con agua no-de-la-botella (no-botellado?). Continue reading

(get over the) hump day inspiration: Terry Pratchett edition

Terry_Pratchett_Travel_Quote.jpgI don’t actually need any hump day inspiration considering that I got back from vacation last night and did literally nothing at work today but hang out and hyperventilate/chatter about said vacation while extremely high on espresso and life.

I’ll share photos once I sift through all 1,500+ of them and find the gemmiest of the many, many gems… Because where I went, it was eye orgasms every which way you looked.

Hasta pronto, mis amigos! No puedo esperar para mostrar mis fotos del más magnífico vacaciones en la historia de vacaciones! (I’m still high on that coffee, fourteen hours later.)

adios, amigos!

mexico city.jpg

It’s 1:57 a.m. and I have to leave for the airport at 5:05. Part of the reason I’m still awake is that tomorrow today is the last day of my Spanish class, during which there will be a final exam. Because I won’t be there, my teacher provided me with instructions for taking the exam online on some special site. So in addition to my usual last-minute million things to do, tonight before packing I took a 1 1/2 hour Spanish test.

Which I failed miserably. Not because I did badly per se, but because something went horribly wrong when the timer ran out on Part One while I was still typing, which somehow triggered the entire exam to submit itself without giving me a chance to move on to the more heavily weighted second essay. And apparently once the exam is submitted, there’s no way to reverse course and continue working on it.

The submission confirmation page showed me what the second essay question was,  so I typed something up in Word and emailed it to my teacher, along with a little note beseeching her to show me mercy.* Since I’ll barely have Internet access during my trip, I won’t actually know whether she did or not til I return from what will be the true test of my Spanish skills.

…In approximately twelve hours I’ll be in Mexico City, trying desperately to be understood. And wishing desperately for a nap.

Back in a couple of weeks. Hasta luego!

[Photo: Eneas De Troya]

*I care about my grade not because of pride or perfectionism but because if I don’t pass the test, I don’t pass Level 3 Spanish, and I can’t move on to Level 4 if I ever come back to work here after my current contract ends.