The reason it’s been a little quiet here on the blog is that I’ve been preparing for my travels more intensely – I leave for Rio de Janeiro on the 28th of February.
I’m blogging about that here, on my new blog. At the moment I’m posting on Mondays and Thursdays, although that will probably change when I arrive.
It also explains all the Spanish! I’ve got a few more of my Mexican folktales to read, and then I’ll probably go back to the beginning to see if my comprehension has improved.
And to get suitably inspired, I’m re-reading some of my favourite adventure memoirs. I’ve just read Wild again, and Love with a chance of drowning. My next read is called Kiss the Sunset Pig, by Laurie Gough and so far I am very impressed. Just the sort of sleeping-on-beaches, go-where-you-please lifestyle I will shortly be trying to emulate.
On my list is Jupiter’s Travels, which is a book by a guy who motorbiked around the world. He also joins a commune in California for a while. Just sayin’.
The big question of course, is what am I going to take with me to read?! I’m only going to be taking one novel, and swapping it as often as I can, at hostels and with the people I meet. I can also buy something if I can find books in English. But it means that the original book must be really, really good. I want something I haven’t read before, quite long (my flight is 12 hours), and brilliant. Current ideas include Gone Girl or an old novel of Stephen King’s, but I’m open to suggestions.
I’ve been reading Historias de Mexico (Stories from Mexico) for a while now. It’s split up into 16 short stories, with Spanish on one side and the English translation on the other. It’s the perfect set-up for learning, as you can read as much as possible in Spanish before checking your understanding.
The stories themselves are also really funny. They’re traditional legends, so there’s a lot of Gods and Goddesses, talking animals, and magic. I’m certainly learning some interesting vocab – I can say ‘dwarf’ and ‘witch’ and even ‘torture’, but not how to get my tenses right, or ask someone for help.
I was speaking to a friend recently in Spanish (She’s much, much better than me!) and she mentioned someone’s boyfriend. Novio. I jumped up, recognising the word. “Sweetheart!” I cried, triumphant. Well, yes, she said. Or just ‘boyfriend’ if you’re living in 2014. I’d read a story from the book a few nights before about two young people who are nicknamed los novios – sweethearts. In the story, after they die (nothing if not cheery), a God turns them into volcanoes so they can be together forever.
There’s some other highlights; another princess is lying on the beach when a group of soldiers walks by. She sees the most handsome one, promptly falls in love, and then faints. They don’t waste time in Mexico.
It’s also really interesting to see how these legends compare to other myths from around the world. There’s one which is basically the story behind Chinese New Year, and another which is a form of Sleeping Beauty.
If anyone is trying to learn Spanish, or any other language, try and find some bilingual stories to read. The shorter and weirder, the better.
And may it be filled with books! I’ll be doing an end of year post soon, but in the meantime I wanted to recap the last two books I’ve read.
The Long Walk, a short novel by Stephen King, was pretty gripping, if in a fairly gruesome way. He manages to hold back far more of the story than I liked, which meant I read it very quickly, just to find out more. Unfortunately for me, that meant wishing for (fictional) boys to hurry up and die. Read it and see. It’s good, although I didn’t like the ending so much. But the thing that struck me, apart from the tension in a book that really didnt have that much going on, was how inspired it made me. There’s no doubt King is a fantastic writer and I think some of that creativity rubs off. During the days I was reading, I kept noticing little things happening that I suddenly could see how to describe. Moments that turned into sentences in my head. It’s one (of very many) reason (s) why I love reading so much. It makes me want to be a better writer.
The other book is An astronaut’s guide to life on earth, by Chris Hadfield. I really enjoyed this. Apart from being fascinating to learn more about how one goes about becoming an astronaut, there are also some bits that really made me think. For someone who holds their own mortality in such constant view, Hadfield is incredibly optimistic. He’s also clearly very capable, which is one of the qualities I most enjoy in others.
Over Christmas I did read a few more good books, including book 5 of Wheel of Time (I’ve not even come close to writing everything I want to write about this series, so be prepared for more!). And I have some good books waiting on my to-read pile, so 2014 is already looking rosy.