September 30, 2009
September 26, 2009
September 23, 2009
September 20, 2009
September 16, 2009
Yesterday a South African and I sat in a dinghy and watched a boat sink. The boat was a big, beautiful gulet, the kind of boat that is chartered by a dozen British holiday-makers. It had been smoking for an hour when we arrived. Men pumped water into it for another hour. The smoke only stopped when the boat sunk up to the deck. We suspect it is resting on the bottom.
The South African, his name was Richard, entertained me with his country’s unique brand of English.
“He was trenched.”
“He’s not shy of money.”
These are new expressions for me. Richard also used “must” more than North Americans do. North Americans say things like,
“It’s gotta be here by tomorrow.”
“He hasta finish something first.”
Must, to us, sounds snobby. In a South African accent it was cool.
“My friend, he was a musician. I said to him, ‘You must go back.’”
And in reference to the man responsible for the sinking ship, “The skipper must be highly paralytic by now.”
September 15, 2009
Step 1: Go to the country of the language. Listen to how people talk. How do they greet each other? What are the sounds like? What do they say most often?
Step 2: Buy a grammar book. Read it when you're bored. Commit to learning 10 expressions a day. Use flashcards or fold a page of your notebook over and write English on the top, Language 2 under. Make everyone practice with you. Most local people love it, because it's a relaxed way to learn some English and they can correct your pronunciation.
Step 3: Predict conversations. When you travel, people ask you the same questions every day (Where are you from? Where are you going? Do you like my country?), so write down your answers and practice saying them. If you need to ask directions or go to the pharmacy, prepare your lines.
Step4: If you are serious, then find a local person who is patient, interesting, and willing to correct you. Then you can relax, talk about more than the weather, and actually improve.
Ta-da! Four months of Turkish this way trumped years of French in school.
September 10, 2009
After Montreal and the awkwardness of dredging up silty French for unimpressed Quebecois, I am overjoyed to be in a place where I can play in a foreign language and be patted on the back for it. In Paris, I bought a ridiculously priced café allongé (which I pronounced allonGAY for the pleasure of the barrista) and opened my tattered Turkish in Three Months. Flip flip flip, it began to come back. When the plane touched down in İstanbul, I braved my first conversations. Want to hear?
M stands for Mary, and G stands for nice girl across the aisle.
M: Affedersiniz (Excuse me)
G: [Smiling] Evet? (Yes?)
M: Türk müsünüz? (Are you Turkish?)
G: [Smiling more] Evet
M: Biliyor musunuz, havalimanıdan otobüs istasyon'a kaç dakika? (Do you know, from the airport to the bus station how many minutes it is?)
G: Hangisi? (Which one?)
M: Büyük, çünkü Bodrum'a gitmek istiyorum. (Big, because I want to go to Bodrum)
G: İki var, ama Esenler... (There are two, but Esenler...)
Now, on the metro to Esenler. B1 stands for nice boy 1, and B2--yeah.
M: Esenler terminal'a gidiyor musunuz? (Are you going to the Esenler terminal?)
B1: Evet [more stuff I didn't get]
B2: Nerelesiniz? (Where are you from?)
M: Kanadalıyım (I'm Canadian)
B1: Neeagara Falls!
M: Efendim? (Pardon me?)
B2: Niagra Falls'a gittik! (We went to Niagara Falls!)
M: Oh! Çok iyi. (Oh! Very good)
B1: Ama Amerikadan, çünkü Kanada visa vermedi. (But from America, because Canada didn't give a visa)
M: Hmm [nodding head sympathetically]
B2: [pointing at luggage] Yardım verebilir miyim? (Can I help?)
He carried a bag and helped me buy a bus ticket to Bodrum. The city is 12 hours from here. On iki hours from here. Oh wow, I love Turkish.
September 9, 2009
I just don't feel like it. People think I am traveling now. In truth I am moving and visiting familiar places along the way to my new home. Travel is a great adventure, especially when approached that way, but it can also become a hassle. It becomes a hassle when you don't embrace changing money, finding bus stations, seeking food, and avoiding harm as the day's bread and butter activities. For whatever reason, I am now looking through the hassle lens. Maybe it's because I didn't hate my last job or location, so I don't have the must-flee impetus pushing me to run through new territories. I flipped through some random photos to see if I could light the travel spark. They just remind me of beautiful places.
September 4, 2009
September 1, 2009
Thoreau is offered a carpet by a nice neighbour. Presumably the neighbour wants Thoreau to spruce up his spartan cabin, which he built with his own two hands and a borrowed axe, which he returned sharper than it was, yada yada yada. Thoreau thinks and thinks and says no. The carpet will need to be swept, aired, and eventually thrown out. The carpet's lifeline will be woven into his own lifeline. There is more (time, energy, thought) to be lost than (material pleasure) gained.