Why Do You Read Blogs?

I’ve been thinking a lot likely about the why of blog reading. This question, along with others, has prompted me to think about why I first starting reading blogs, probably sometime around 2005. It’s been nine years! I could hardly believe it. I started reading blogs to entertain myself mostly. I read blogs by semi-anonymous writers who were very open about their lives and experiences, but never “outed” themselves. I had never met them and had no interest in meeting them. They were anonymous, and I was happy for them to stay that way.

After a few years, I got into “healthy-living” blogs. You know, the kind where the blogger talks about what he/she ate that day, what sort of exercises he/she completed, and general health topics. This phase lasted a while, but I finally realized these sorts of blogs were uninspiring to me. I decided to quit reading them.

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Currently

I’m a sucker for Currently posts. You know, where the writer lists what he/she is doing currently. I’m also pretty nosy. Are those two related? Couldn’t be.

Here’s what I’ve been up to … currently, I’m:

  • Watching: Homeland and Dexter. If you’re not watching these shows, you’re either busy, ignorant, or just plain weird. My favorite of the two is Homeland, which captivated me from the very first episode, but this season of Dexter is helping to wash away the bad memories from seasons five and six, which I found to be subpar (for Dexter, anyway). These two shows are both from Showtime, and I would like to offer them my sincere gratitude, in the form of wine, cheese, or both (my favorite things, you know). Dear Showtime, you make my lazy Friday/Saturday nights on the couch with my husband so much more fun.

Looking to the Future

I read a lot as a child: cereal boxes, magazines meant for middle-aged women, the entire series of The Babysitters’ Club books, The Kids’ Almanac more times than I can count. I read a lot now, and since my father owns approximately a thousand biographies, I read those, too. A lot of these biographies talk about growing up in America, about the so-called “simpler times.” You know what I mean: when kids could stay out until the streetlights came on; when the general store was the only place in town to buy your flour, milk, and eggs; when Cokes cost $0.50 and came in dusty glass bottles—those sorts of times. I find them fascinating, because my life looks nothing like that and most likely never will. Those idealized times are gone. I ask myself a lot, is that type of lifestyle gone too?

In those days, there was something to be said for consistency. You might hold the same job all your life, an honorable feat, an example of your unswerving dedication to your family. You might be born, live, and die all in the same small town. Your friends you had as a child might be the same friends you had after high school, when you had kids, when you retired, when you were elderly. Those things … they were feasible then. Are they still now?

I think of my life. I grew up in a small town in Indiana, a stone’s throw from Indianapolis. I lived in the same house from age two to age eighteen. I formed friendships in grade school that carried me through my senior year of high school. We shared a bond, a consistency, that can never be replicated.

But nowadays my life seems chaotic. Since graduating high school, I’ve lived in seven different cities, sometimes on and off. (My hometown seems to be a landing spot.) Soon enough I’ll be on to the eighth. Eight cities in seven years? The same friends I had seven years ago aren’t really the same now, nor will the ones I have now necessarily be the same in a year. Because of this, sometimes I feel off-kilter, like my life is rushing by me, and there’s nothing to grab onto, nothing consistently the same year after year.

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I’ve chosen a different life than most, I suppose. I sometimes forget this as I get lost in the blogosphere, where everyone seems to be like me—travelers, expatriates, transplants. But then I find myself firmly in the “real world,” and no one’s like me. Right now, back home for a month in my hometown, I can’t help but feel different. And by different I don’t mean superior, because who’s to say which way’s better? If I hadn’t met Mario, I know I wouldn’t be living by myself in Spain or any other country; I’m not as adventurous as I might seem.

I also read blogs of the people who have returned, who aren’t going back to Spain, and they talk about missing it. Perhaps they miss the no pasa nada way of life, perhaps they miss the food, perhaps they miss the sun and the paseando and the people they met who changed their lives … but they certainly miss something. And so I ask myself, How do you deal with a life full of longing for something that will never be the same, that you’ll never really have back? There’s no real good answer to that. It’s as difficult to answer as another question I frequently ask myself, How can I live a life where someone is always over there?

Mario, celebrating his graduation, without me. Right now, he’s “there.” I’m “here.”

Right now, my life is in yet another transition stage. Who knows what I’ll be thinking, feeling, doing in six months? I only know a few things for certain: we’ll be together, I’ll miss home, and the inexorable path toward the future will continue.

How to Improve Your (Already Pretty Good) Spanish

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When I first went to Spain in the spring of 2008, my Spanish wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. I got there and realized all the Spanish I knew wasn’t useful when trying to explain to the school why I needed to change rooms and how the shower head wouldn’t emit a normal stream of water. I struggled to understand the cashiers at the local grocery store when they told me how much the total was: “Cinco con dos.” Wait, what? Five with two? Does that mean seven?

I came back having improved, but not that much. I was determined to return and, while there, get better. I did so, thanks to a number of things that I would like to share with you all.

I used to think pisar meant “to piss.” Point taken.

But first, let me explain. This list is for people whose Spanish is already past the AP test and who don’t need me to explain how to conjugate the past subjunctive. If you do need that, I suggest other methods. However, undertaking mine won’t hurt you!

Even Barbie listens to me!

Practice, practice, practice. I make this mistake with Mario a lot – I revert back to English whenever there’s something I don’t know how to say (i.e., I’m too lazy to get my butt to WordReference and look it up). In college, one of my professors espoused the idea of circumlocution. If you don’t know how to say, for example, door knob, say something like “the thing that you use to open the door” or “the round thing you use to turn.” And so on. But suck it up and forget about if you’re going to make a mistake asking the lady on the street corner how to get to the train station. She’s probably heard much worse.

This is your brain on Spanish. 

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Read. I enjoy reading the Spanish newspaper, especially certain sections like the editorials where the language tends to be a bit richer. Just yesterday I read part of an editorial that used three words/phrases I didn’t understand in one sentence (ouch!): desmemoriado, irse de rositas, estropicio. Luckily, I complained to Mario and he told me all the meanings. Great for me, right? I know, it’s annoying that I can just be lazy and ask him, but I also spend a lot of time on WordReference. The forums are a godsend!

Write. I’ve just noticed this in the past few weeks. As a part of my job, I translate a newsletter for one of the teachers. Then I ask my handy dandy personal assistant to edit it for me, just to make sure my errors aren’t too egregious. When I first received them, the red marks (thanks Microsoft Word!) were a lot more frequent. Now there aren’t so many of them. As I drove home yesterday, I began to realize just what great practice this is, translating a similarly formatted document with different wording again and again. I recommend it, even if you don’t have a Mario. There are websites out there where you can write and have native speakers correct you (LiveMocha, for one).

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Listen. If you’re a newbie, try the TV, where you’ll be able to see the people’s lips move (unless it’s dubbed, not an uncommon practice in Spain). Try the 3 o’clock news if you’re actually in Spain, too. If that’s way too easy (who are you and how can I hit you in the face?) try the radio. If you’re like, “Psh, girl,” then try a soccer game. If you can understand a soccer game, you have arrived. I congratulate and perhaps even bow at your feet. I hope they do not smell.

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 Notice errors. Spanish people do this thing called leísmo, meaning they use the “le” pronoun instead of “lo” in certain circumstances. For instance, they might say “Le veo,” when it should be “Lo veo.” Another common error is when they use hubiera twice instead of habría + hubiera. For example, “Hubiera ido si me hubieras dicho.” Wrong. It should be “Habría ido si me hubieras dicho.” It’s an error that sounds okay to Spanish ears (kind of like mixing up lay/lie/laid), but I pick up on it, and ask Mario if they’re wrong. I like understanding errors and how to avoid them. Mario, like any good Spaniard, does employ leísmo from time to time, and I’ll admit, it’s rubbed off on me somewhat. Having spent so much time in Castilla León, it just rounds right to me.

So does this. Right on!

Eat at restaurants. If you want a challenge, try to learn the names of all the meats, cuts, fishes, cooking methods, and so on. I assure you, learning what morro is may ensure that you will never, ever eat it. I haven’t—and I promise you I don’t regret it.

Pick up a book. I read the Millennium series in Spanish. It felt like the best of both worlds. I was constantly immersed in dialogue in Spanish and I learned how to say things like, “La cocina daba al comedor,” that I probably wouldn’t have known otherwise. Also, I don’t think the Millennium series was especially rich in English and in Spanish it was much the same. However, I didn’t notice it in a foreign language.

Get mad. Try using a foreign language if you’re angry. I assure you, it will be difficult to continue speaking the language of Cervantes when there’s steam pouring out of your ears. Nonetheless, you will definitely learn something. You may want to pick up a few swear words here and there. Cat recently wrote a post that I found particularly amusing. I endorse it fully. A few of Mario’s friends seem to have lots of experience in swearing. Thus, their lexicon is quite impressive. (Note: Mario is far from this.)

After all, swearing mitigates pain. What more do you need?