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).

Skyrim pic.jpg

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.

El Profesor.jpg
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.

My favourite five songs in Spanish (so far)


It’s time to commit, to focus truly on the culture I live in if I wish to be a part of it. A colleague and friend from Colombia, Nox, is as good as I am at speaking English. He claims to dream in his second language.

Nox said rather bluntly to me that I actually need to make an effort learning Spanish. I was taken aback by the bluntness at first, except he was correct. I was only frustrated because I didn’t want to commit. Colleagues had given me a list of Latino American songs I should listen to weeks before, and I didn’t. I never practised my vocabulary. I kept forgetting to use Duolingo.

Music has been my escape. I listen to it at the gym, on the way to work, at lunch, and on the way home, and whenever I walk anywhere. And that’s the trouble. Not only have I isolated myself in public, I am absorbing all the songs I already know and heard a thousand times, in English.


On my new phone I downloaded the recommended music on Apple Music (I’m so bad with technology that two months ago I hadn’t heard of Apple Music, or comprehended the benefit of listening to music on the phone), and the recommendations are all I have been listening to this week.  I

My favourite song is from the band Kraken, recommended to me by Nox, and when I first heard them I thought “where have you been my entire life? I have spent years listening to bands in English that have your same style but aren’t half as good.”

The song Sobre Esta Tierra (On This Earth) has a paragraph that I absolutely love, which I will quote in Spanish, and then in the Google Translate version:

“Hay hombres 
que dan la vida, por un ideal 
hay otros que son solo herida 
porque son, su propio puñal.”

I understand this to mean (through Google):

“There are men, that give life, for an ideal. There are others who are only hurt because they are, his own dagger.”

I listen to this song constantly, not understanding most of the words, but practising the pronounciation. The more I listen to it the more the sound of each word stands out to my ear. It’s no longer blabber.

That’s number 1, but the other four songs so far would be:

2) De Musica Ligera, by Soda Stereo. (I could have sworn I’ve heard either the band or a cover when I was out drunk one night. I love it.)

3) Flaca, by Andres Calamaro.

4) Nuestros Nombres, by Heroes del Silencio.

5) Casate Conmigo, by Silvestre Dangond and Nicky Jam.

I’m starting to get a taste, or a sample, that there is far more to art in the world than that which can be understood in English, and to truly move beyond my identity (of new clothes, or a new job) then a new language is the key.