An inside Spanish holiday

My Spanish has improved in the two weeks I have stayed at home, on holidays. And I have had time to relax and do all the lazy things that make me happy. I’m making the best of a poor situation. Although I should be somewhere in the Bolivian and Chilean highland desert right about now, I’ve saved a lot of money, under considerably less stress, and possibly have learned as much Spanish.

 

I read two books, and coincidentally, they were about vampires. I read The Vampire Armand. The second, Dead Until Dark, was easier to get through. I was obligated to read the first, when I thought I would enjoy it. I felt obligated to read the second, as I had bought it, and found myself consuming it faster than I thought possible.

 

In various forms I have played the Elder Scrolls game Skyrim for years, across three platforms. I bought it for the Nintendo Switch last year and thought it an excellent way to learn Spanish (I’ve played it enough times to figure things out on my own, and it comes with its own subtitles and Spanish voice-dub).

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I’ve never finished the main quest storyline. But this time I thought, “hey, why not? Let’s really give it a go.”

I’ve nearly finished, and I’m further than I have ever been. Unfortunately I didn’t really understand what I was getting into, and somehow became a Vampire Lord (Senor de the vampiros). I’m weak to fire, which is unfortunate since the final boss appears to be a dragon.

 

Almost every evening I get some fresh air by walking around a block or two. I’ve been listening to Kraken on my Ipod. It’s a Colombian rock-metal band.

A Colombian colleague put me onto the band while I worked as a teacher in Peru.

This is the band. I mean, I used to imagine the perfect ideal style, in my head, when I would daydream about leading my own band (despite not having the musical talent). But this band has nailed it, and of course, listening in the evening to their pensive Spanish lyrics, I sometimes pick things out.

I love the song Hojarascas, particularly the bit, that translated, says:

Leaf litters about me
As frosts fall without giving up
You have filled my soul with sadness and loneliness
I'm not a puppet
That got tangled between your fingers
Don't pretend anymore
Because I feel more compassion

You know the best bit is I sense the emotion, the parts that flow, that reach out to me, and it’s like my subconsciousness knows what I may relate to. After all, I do not understand most of this in Spanish.

Then there’s part of this song, Sobre Esta Tierra.

There are men who give their lives for an ideal,
There are others who are only hurt because they are
their own dagger.

 

I tried quitting Netflix but it ended up being too expensive. I was buying individual shows (although ones I wanted) on Itunes, and in the end it was costing four times as much. There’s quite a Spanish range if you look for it. The third season of Elite came out, and it was only a fairly new discovery.

I recommend it as a high school murder mystery. It feels more relatable than Riverdale, which I lost interest in somewhere near the end of second season.

And I finished watching the first season of La Casa de Papel, in which a group of organised robbers hold hostage a mint. And as the show progressed, I found more and more fascinated by who I think is the anti-hero, El Profesor. He’s like Professor Moriarty, perhaps how I imagined him in the original Sherlock Holmes story, and a genius who can be a little too clever for his own good, or for his own conscience.

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El Profesor in La Casa De Papel. The screenshot is from Netflix, and in this moment he has to make a horrible choice.

I admire his intelligence, his rebellion combined with a righteous motivation, with ethics, and his capacity to physically defend himself while preferring to solve problems through psychology. And yet, women and sex makes him awkward. He’s extremely charming, when necessity dictates that he needs to be, and yet he has no high opinion of himself.

I’m wary about watching it in English, although it might be easier and more enjoyable. Who knows how a change of the voice-dub might interfere with the perceived character?

 

I’ve started writing again. In fact, I submitted my last manuscript, or a sample of it. And I began an exercise. I’ve been writing the same page over and over, and each day I’ll start the page (the scene) again. I want to see how it will change within 10 days. I’ve done it six times now, and I took a break one day, because it’s getting harder. I don’t know why. Perhaps I’m bored, or feeling more of a pressure to break new ground and tell the same story and share the same descriptions in a new way. Maybe I sense the limitations of my own ability.

Regardless, I realised last night, on the sixth attempt, that this could be the start of a new book, and set in Peru.

Spanish online

Huanchaco for dummies

I had a bad earache during the week, and on my way out of the chemist, I ducked into the bookstore next door. That’s when I found the travel section, and more importantly, the Spanish book for dummies. It’s been quite useful. The first chapter is taking me through pronunciation of the alphabet.

Last night I squeezed in a Spanish lesson online. I went through a website called Preply almost a week ago, picked a tutor who I thought seemed professional, booked a lesson, and paid.

Then I waited.

It was 10pm my time, and about 8am for her. I was nervous, wondering if she was going to be late, and then she appeared on my screen, adjusting her hair and looking anywhere but at me.

She couldn’t see me, my microphone and camera weren’t working. Gee, that must have been creepy for her when for 15 minutes I couldn’t get it working, because after a while she turned the screen off, and we tried switching to Skype. Even then Skype was a problem for me, I was unfamiliar with it really, but at last, with 20 minutes of the lesson to go, we had it sorted.

My tutor was Colombian, I think, and I was attracted to her. She reminded me so much of the friends I made in Peru, the beautiful colleagues who I never could really talk to for too long, the ones who looked at me curiously in a similiar way, for to each other we were exotic.

In this way she seemed familiar, except she was a more experienced teacher, and natural, but she was testing the areas of my knowledge, particularly when it came to family, and directions, and the time.

Her mannerisms were so familiar, and when I couldn’t understand her, my reactions returned to how it had been in Peru for 18 months. I would awkwardly flounder for words, and say “como?” and while it isn’t the most endearing thing to do, I found comfort because a part of myself that I had forgotten about had returned.

I left the lesson with a smile on my face, and bought more lessons, booking one for Monday and another for the next Friday.

Then I fell asleep, eventually, ready to work on Saturday.

Travelling to Peru’s Tarapoto

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A view of a back section of Tarapoto. 

The trouble with travelling without knowing the local language is not knowing what is happening as things are going on. You can only sense and adjust to the reaction.

I always hate stopping in Chiclayo (770 km north of Lima). I haven’t been there, really, except for at the bus station. The bus needs to refill and this one took almost 90 minutes and I kept feeling I must have missed the call to get back on.

I thought the bus to Tarapoto would take 24 hours from Trujillo. When we stopped after 21 hours, in the early afternoon, and when everyone left, I had to ask in clumsy Spanish if we were in Tarapoto. We were.

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The hostel room that I stayed in. 

Moto drivers wouldn’t give me time to breathe. They offered a ride but I needed to think up my plan. I finally took a ride to the Plaza De Armas (town centre) and walked from there to my hostel El Mural. For 35 Soles a night I had a private ensuite with a desk, which was good value for what I later received in my travels.

*This blog is the beginning of a collection of journal entries of my three week trip through the north east of Peru.