I’m not in Washington. It’s just that COVID-19 seems so globally significant, so life-altering, so biblical, that the years ought to be ordered according to their relationship with the disease. Now we are in the D.C. era: During COVID-19. Everything that came before this novel coronavirus is B.C.; everything that will come after is A.C. Continue reading
And it’s a big one – 5 years! Half a decade of hard work to finally speak French, and to consistently write in English. But on Sunday I forgot all about it in the midst of a bunch of craziness.
Had I remembered my blogiversary on the correct day, I would have realized how perfect the timing was. On Sunday I returned to New York from South Jersey filled with renewed motivation to get back on the language horse. That’s because I spent the preceding week with my family and was amazed and inspired by how my seven year-old niece has picked up Spanish practically overnight.
When I left the United States for Senegal at the beginning of January, my niece was two days into the bilingual English-Spanish program at her new school. All her classmates had started the program a half-year earlier because their parents had signed their kids up at the end of the previous school year. But Hannah and her family moved into the school district over the summer, and by the time they tried to sign her up, the program was at capacity. My brother and sister-in-law put her on the wait list and she joined the English-only track in the meantime.
In December, Hannah got the news that a space had opened up and she could start the bilingual track in the new year. My brother told me not to mention it to Hannah before I left, because she wasn’t looking forward to leaving her new friends and starting all over again with yet another set of new classmates. I thought that was a small price to pay for becoming fluent in a second language at a young age, but of course a seven year-old (six at the time) wouldn’t share that sentiment.
Cut to three and a half months later. When I hung out with Hannah, I made sure not to bring up Spanish in case it was still a sensitive subject. Instead, it was she who randomly answered a question from her mom with a Spanish response. Thinking this was my opening, I asked her how Spanish was going. Because she is seven, she couldn’t give her parents (who were in the room) the satisfaction of thinking that she had come around to their point of view, so she insisted over and over again that she hated Spanish – in Spanish. “Why?” I asked. “Porque es un otro lenguaje,” she answered in a perfect accent. In the ten minutes of Spanish conversation that followed, I struggled to remember how to say the most basic words and phrases, and she answered flawlessly, effortlessly, mellifluously. I told her that I was both incredibly impressed and incredibly jealous of her Spanish abilities and she rolled her eyes.
Yes, Hannah, I know that feeling. When I was approximately seven my mom hired a Hebrew tutor to come to the house and give me lessons after school. I still remember it with the visceral responses I had then, of life-threatening boredom mixed with intense desperation to escape. I don’t know what happened with the tutoring – I’m pretty sure it didn’t last longer than a couple of months. Maybe I moped about it so much that my mom gave in and discontinued the lessons. Thirty years later, I would give at least one good finger to go back in time and sit through those stupid lessons no matter how mind-numbing they were.
So, even though Hannah was not in the least excited about her newfound Spanish, I could not have been more excited for her. Clearly, one of my biggest unfulfilled wishes in life is that I had been raised bilingual or at least schooled bilingually. I would have saved so much trouble and hard work that way, with a better result than what I’ve got now after years of struggle and effort: inconsistent proficiency rather than fluency in French, ridiculously grasping Spanish, and exceptionally faltering Hebrew. I’d know how it feels to have two different but equally accessible forms of expression at my disposal, to toggle between two different worlds with ease. I will never know what that’s like and it really bothers me.
But, just because I’ll never have two equally balanced fluent languages in my brain doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep trying to learn other languages to the best of my ability. Without realizing it, my niece inspired me to get back to work. I am going to sign up for a Rosetta Stone subscription so that I can learn Spanish right along with her (or a few steps behind her, more likely).
When I started this blog five years ago my goals were to move to Senegal, learn to speak French fluently, and learn Spanish and Hebrew pretty well. I would say I’ve gotten about 50% there. On my fifth blogiversary (plus a few days), it feels appropriate to set a new goal for the next five years of this blog. Here it is: Go the remaining 50%. 💪
[The photo is a drawing that Hannah gave me last week. Apparently it is the cover to a blank book about the three little pigs; I think the point was that I was supposed to fill in the book. Because she is somehow a full-on Spanish speaker after three months of immersion, she wrote the title of the book in Spanish first, and then in English.]
It’s the cusp of the new year and after a few weeks of burning the candle at both ends, I’m looking forward to ringing in 2019 on the couch, lazing about.
The change of year does not really inspire deep reflection in me the way it seems to for so many others. I don’t do much soul searching, and I certainly don’t make any resolutions. So, I have nothing profound to share here before the countdown to midnight. On the contrary, I have only one shallow musing to post, and then I plan to return to watching Netflix.
A few days ago I checked my blog stats and was delighted to see that in the past year, it has been read by people in almost 150 countries. And in the five years that I’ve been writing on this site, people in about 175 countries have visited.
Considering that there are 195 countries in the world, give or take, those numbers blow my mind. I’ve got a United Nations of blog readers. Someone in Brunei has read my blog! French Polynesia! Kuwait!
As I said, I have no resolutions for 2019, but one of my goals is to get someone from Suriname to read my blog. Also Guyana and French Guiana. Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea, too. Madagascar. Etc. It would be really, really cool if in 2019 I could say that every country in the world has visited my blog.
On that note, THANK YOU SO MUCH for taking an interest in my little corner of the internet this year. Even though this post does not make a good case for it, you are all so much more than numbers to me. I am very grateful for every post you’ve read, “like” you’ve given, and comment you’ve left. It makes me feel seen – as strange as that may seem for someone who a. barely posts pictures of herself and b. is deeply cynical about the digital world.
Happy new year! I hope 2019 brings you much joy, laughter, and magic.
Three years ago today, at home in Brooklyn, I wrote my first post for this blog, which I had conceived as an exercise in keeping my eyes on the prize. What prize? My big new dream was to spend two years saving up money while practicing my high school French and re-learning elementary Spanish, and then to move to Senegal followed by Argentina a year later. It was a ridiculously ambitious dream… but I did it all. Well, not Argentina. Not yet, anyway. Paris somehow got thrown into the mix first, the result of a post-Brexit fear that my EU citizenship might not be around to open Europe’s doors for me much longer.
The point is that I actively changed my life from one that was boring me and leaving me unfulfilled to the one I had dreamed about having since I was a kid. This blog has borne witness to all of that, and so I deeply appreciate this blog. Likewise, I deeply appreciate everyone who has followed along with my journey, whether dropping in once or reading every post.
Who knows what this year will bring. Maybe I’ll run out of steam (read: money) and go back to New York. Maybe I’ll return to Dakar. Maybe I’ll move on to Barcelona or Buenos Aires or somewhere else entirely. Maybe I’ll fall in love with Paris (I’m really, really trying) and stay. It’s all very, beautifully unclear. (And also very scary, let’s be honest.)
Whatever happens, I will write about it here.
[P.S. The photo has nothing to do with this blog post, but I took it last night when I was out in what apparently has become a hopping neighborhood of Paris. It amuses me. These poor residents just want to get some peace and quiet, but little do they realize that draping an indignant sign out your window (it says: silence, [we have] the right to sleep) is an invitation for rowdy revelers to yell even louder. At least it is in America. Maybe French young people have more respect.
So it turns out the longer you take a break from something, the harder it is to get back to doing it. I told myself I’d give myself a week off from blogging to focus on my work transition. One week turned into two and then three and now it’s been almost a month. Especially sad is that I didn’t post anything on April 21, my one year blogiversary. I had been planning to mark the occasion, but on that particular day and in the two weeks since I just felt too overwhelmed with job-related stuff. So my poor blog had to celebrate all on its own, silently and without fanfare. 😦
During my unintended hiatus, I neglected more than just the blog. I stopped doing my Spanish homework and quite frequently looked like this in class:
My last Spanish class was last night and now it’s up to me to carry on with it at home, after a month of slacking. Doesn’t bode well.
I also stopped going to my French conversation Meetups, ignored all emails and texts, and went for about one and a half runs total when in a good month I do two or three a week. In effect, all I’ve done is work, think about work, worry about work, semi-sleep, and over-eat.
Such is my way.
Luckily, my new place of employment’s foreign-ness – in every sense of the word – has been compensating for my lack of attention to all things foreign in my extracurricular life. It’s hands down the most international spot in all of New York – and really, anywhere. I’ve met people from about 20 different countries on six continents. I hear French constantly and I’ve spoken it nearly every day. I feel like I’m both at the world’s doorstep and on the world’s stage every time I walk through the doors.
Now in my third week on the job, I’m feeling a bit more acclimated and I’m starting to pick back up the other pieces of my life. Which, I hope, means I’ll be back to blogging regularly soon. We shall see…
2014 was the year in which I re-committed, after a decade of neglect, to travel the world and learn another language (or two). Pretty cool, then, that 2014 was also the year in which people from 76 countries visited the blog I started to keep me motivated towards that goal. (Mappie map above. World domination will soon be mine!) I am far, far from visiting 76 countries with my own two feet but it’s nice to know that if I can’t go to them, they’ll come to me.
Thank you to everyone who has spent time here this year! I can’t tell you how much you help keep me accountable to my dreams. (See: public declarations.) But beyond that, it’s so nice to not be writing in a vacuum, and to (virtually) meet more and more people who are like-minded in their goals.
Yesterday WordPress sent me an email to tell me, although it was already abundantly clear, that my most popular blog post this year was the one about Jordan Helton’s language learning journey in China. I had watched in delighted confusion as that post got shared via Facebook 80-something times in one week even though I only had about 2 readers at that point. I later learned that Jordan’s mom was the source of my mini-viral moment. I love that. Even though I’ve never met her, I can perfectly picture her face beaming with pride as she forwards the link to everyone she knows (and they in turn pass it on like a little Oklahoman digital chain letter). A nice image with which to close out 2014.
I have no idea what 2015 holds, but I’m excited. Happy new year!